31 August 2012

Pack your bags!

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
~ Laozi

The journey starts here.... tomorrow.... Saturday, September 1st!

28 August 2012

Autumn Tapestry... and my Virtual Home

Sneak Peek!
Today is my day to share over at Earrings Everyday. Come on over and see an outfit inspired by my Autumn Tapestry earrings  (above) for sale in my webstore.

I have decided that I only going to be selling the simple truths or possibly items made from the simple truths on my Etsy site. All other jewelry sales will be handled through my new website at www.tesoritrovati.com. You can also see my blog posts, view galleries of my work, read testimonials from {more than} satisfied customers, and coming soon will be my Artist Statement and links to publications and press as well as linking to my Etsy storefront. I needed that one-stop for all things Tesori Trovati, and I think that I have found it through my new IndieMade website. It is a work in progress but I like the clean look of it, and hopefully someday soon I will be able to have a spiffy banner created rather than just the temporary one that I whipped up. But it feels good to have a home that I can direct people to, and my virtual home is always open to you, gentle reader!

And look! On my Etsy front page, 'Items Matching Your Taste', I spotted my very own Story Beads! Sometimes my taste test has yielded the strangest things. This is the first thing I have ever found on that feature that actually IS my taste! ;-) That is not true...lately I have actually found some of my favorite bead makers showing up. Maybe Etsy really is paying attention to my tastes.

Of course, that would also mean that I am into olive colored felted slippers, a printed hobo slouch purse that looks exactly like the pattern on the couch in our family room when I was 6 and blue pressed glass. (Not! ;-)

What is matching your Etsy tastes today? Or what is the wackiest item you have ever had on your Etsy taste wall?

27 August 2012

I Care About this Alot

I read a lot of blogs to get my mind off the things that I would rather not deal with.... like where I sit every single day.... Sometimes it is just to laugh, sometimes it is to feel inspired, sometimes it is just to pass the time. But no matter where I land virtually every day, I always find something new to make me smile, and I am amazed at how I can hop on one blog and then get linked up to a dozen others. Falling through the rabbit hole...

Today I stopped by two of my favorites, and I thought I would share them with you.

Surely Sonsy is a blog written by Jessica who is a 'shapely girl shaping her world.' She seems to be a very hip and trendy young woman with a great eye for fashion and especially fashion that fits her curvy girl body. I can appreciate that, being a curvy girl  woman and all. Her job requires her to be a lot more dressed up than I have to be on a daily basis, but I love that she posts her great outfit combos and also where all the pieces from her earrings to her shoes come from. Every time I see her outfit I think that maybe I could pull together something similar from what is in my own closet, except that my own closet doesn't have nearly as many shoes or purses or cute tops and skirts. (And I so want to make her a necklace to wear with one of her cute outfits...) I really want to dress nicer, because I have always believed that what you do on the outside reflects the inside, and I think that if I look better I will feel better. So I have been doing a little retail therapy this month (okay, really more like ALOT... teehee!) and I have been keeping this cute girl's style in my mind. In fact I bought a Divine Knit pencil skirt from Eloquii and tried it on today and it was a knockout. Very shapely and sexy and I can't wait to wear it.

In a recent post, Jessica supplied a link to Hyperbole and a Half. That blog is so very snort-out-loud funny. I had seen it before but for some reason never followed it. Sometimes you just need to laugh.

As a former English teacher I do have to say that grammatical errors to irk me, but not so much that I will go all ape-shit on you about it. This one happens to be one of my biggest peeves, and it seems that Hyperbole shares my cringe-worthy moments.

Do you like this Alot? I do, too! ;-)

Unfortunately, the blogger behind Hyperbole has not been posting since 2011. Her last post discusses her bouts with depression. I sure hope that she is okay. Because I think that the 4264 commenters on that post care about her... Alot.

Your turn...
I know that you all read blogs that are concerned with your creative self-expression (like this one, here!), but is there a blog that you read that might be surprising to those who know you, that has nothing to do with your art or your interests? One that is funny, or touching, or just a guilty pleasure? Do share!

P.S. Stay tuned for the big Challenge of Travel blog hop happening right here on Saturday, September 1st! I finished up my pieces last night and I am so excited to share them with you and take you on my virtual armchair journey around the world. And 59 other creative souls are excited to share with you, too!

23 August 2012

Chasing Big Dreams

"The arts are not a way to make a living.  They are a very human way of making life more bearable.  Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.  Sing in the shower.  Dance to the radio.  Tell stories.  Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.  Do it as well as you possibly can.  You will get an enormous reward.  You will have created some thing."  
~ Kurt Vonnegut    

I am a stalker of Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth fame. Her no-holds-barred-tell-it-like-it-is style is so attractive to me. Whenever I need a dose of kick-in-the-pants, I stampede over to her blog and poke around for awhile. I would love to meet this woman and have her light shine on me. I think that just soaking up her presence would inspire confidence in my own dream making.

I have been thinking a lot about just these things that she posted on her blog today:

3 questions for easier living.

1. Out of what needs to be done in your life — work, household, creativity – what do you do best?
2. What space do you have access to — in your home, work, city — that makes you feel the most peaceful and/or inspired?
3. What are you doing that you resent, and how can you phase out of that?

So here are my off-the-cuff-no-editing-allowed answers:
1 :: Creativity. Without question. My household seems like it is a shambles at all times, literally things are falling down or failing that shouldn't in this home, there are too many piles, and the quote we got to make the tiny changes we want made me choke just a bit. Of course, I never promised that I would be a domestic goddess, but it doesn't help that no one but me sees the mass of crumbs on the counters, or the empty wrappers littering every room and the dirty dishes lying around. It squashes my ability to enjoy being there. And don't even get me started on work. This is the part of the question that is not easy. Being creative makes me feel so very free and alive. Sharing my creativity with the world and even more so bringing out the creativity in others gives me purpose. It is my passion and it is what I want to share with others to find the creative well and tap into it.

2 :: I would like to say that it is being outdoors, but truthfully I don't have a lot of time to actually be outside. More often than not I watch the day pass in all its glory outside the huge picture windows in my office on the Wisconsin River. So pretty and changeable every single day. But yet here I sit. (Back to question one). But I do feel that a lot is clicking in my own studio even with just that little sliver of daylight. But I have also been spending so much time in there, in a subterranean cave, that I know I am missing out on other things.

3 :: My job (again, back to question one). I sit at this desk, this computer for hours every single day, but it is a lot of wasted time as far as I am concerned. I know that I am not the only one that has faced soul crushing futility but sometimes when you are in it you feel very much alone. I have tried to phase out of it... I only work here 4 days a week, but that is not enough for me to do all that I need to do to make my own dreams a reality. So do I try for less time here, pulling back more hours? Do I seek something else that won't pay me nearly as much? Both options are fraught with issues. The truth is that my family depends on the income whether I like it or not. So unless I win the lottery or find a wealthy backer, that resentment continues to fester and suck the life out of me making it hard for me to see there there is a way out.

Whew. That was hard to write...and maybe to read. I would not say that these three questions make for easier living. In fact, the answers to them for me are downright scary. Shocking, really. Maybe if I were to take the steps that are in my heart and on my mind then I would find my life would be easier to live, or maybe harder. But what it comes down to is that it is really hard to jump off that cliff without a net. And I am not sure that there are others around me who would believe in this dream. It highlights for me that there is a big imbalance in my life and that time is ticking that I cannot get back. And also that I am doing things every day that I regret. Something has to give.

But just because I have that resentment at the current state of my affairs, it doesn't mean that I stop dreaming. On my radar and in my {big} dreams is this building...

This building is for sale in downtown Stevens Point {now sold :-( and not to me}. I have been in love with this since they fully renovated it in 2009-ish and opened a specialty bakeshop called A Dash of Delicious. I tried for years - years! - to go to this shop but they were never open during the week and had odd weekend hours. It is so very cute inside when I peek through the windows and aside from getting rid of the bakery equipment and adding a ton more lighting, tables, chairs and displays, it is turn-key. 

Lest you think that I have abandoned my usual creative pursuits and decided to add baking to my list (although I do make a mean Chocolate Chunk Banana Nut Crunch bread), let me assure you that I have grander plans than making cupcakes in this building.

I have been very influenced by the art experiences that I have had the past few years. I didn't realize until just now that all those experiences have been adding up to this moment.

Attending classes at the Bead & Button show opened my eyes to the myriad of opportunities there are to learn new things. And I know that people travel to far flung destinations like Art & Soul and Squam . I traveled by myself to DC for ArtBliss last year. Cindy and Jeanette saw a need and filled it in a grand style. It is a premiere destination now. It is incredible to me how far they have come with it.

Just last month down in the southern part of the state for the Valley Ridge Art Studio class with Richard Salley. Katherine Engen of Valley Ridge told me that this is her last season of running the studio. That made me so very sad because I had finally found my place and my people. I remember that I looked around at all the people who had been there multiple times and who kept coming back for more, the ones with multiple button name tags pinned to their messy aprons, and I wondered where they would go now. Katherine has built this amazing community, in part because of the special place and the wonderful instructors, but also because she herself is so encouraging and engaging. Katherine Engen is my hero. The space she had was not much bigger than this one with tables and chairs set up and stations for working on things like drills and torches and even a bit of display for retail sales. 

I am influenced by the few times I have been to the quaint shops in downtown Galena, IL and the way the classes were run by the ladies of Vintaj made me long for that sort of creativity to be more homegrown. In October I am making South Haven, MI my destination for the second Inspired by Nature retreat and this time I even get to help by teaching a bit. That harkens back to my roots as a teacher and gives me even more fuel to my entrepreneurial yearnings. And it makes me wonder if I have what it takes to do this.

So what does this building mean to me? It is a concrete embodiment of the fulfillment of a dream.

I envision this place to be a destination for creativity. All sorts of creativity... from fiber arts and bookbinding, to journaling and scrapbooking, mosaics and painting, and yes, {of course}, jewelry. A place where where creative sojourners could come to take in-depth classes with artists and teachers {national or local} who are tops in their fields in a warm and inviting setting. A space that would be filled with light and laughter and some really yummy lunches catered by the local cafes. Selling art beads as well as other harder to find art supplies that would make it very special like my favorite shop, Anthology, on State Street in Madison. With a fully updated and equipped apartment upstairs to host the lunches and even house the instructor (bonus!). A place that fits in with the three art galleries in the downtown area, supports the renowned children's museum and even complements the local paint-your-own-pottery art studio. I would encourage participation by the very talented art department from the local university, perhaps offering scholarships to students there or at the local h.s. to take classes with these masters. The location is ideal. The new technical college is moving in down the block and the Portage County Arts Alliance is just around the corner down Main Street. It overlooks the newly revamped square with a great farmer's market and a beautiful fountain. And it is just one block from the beauty of the Wisconsin River and the walking trails and parks.

It has become so real in my head that I can't seem to think about anything else. 

I actually drove by it again yesterday. And there was a parking spot right outside on the street. A sign that I took to mean that I needed to get out and look closer.

I walked up and down the street and looked at it from all angles. I spent time with the online tour of the realtor. I envisioned it filled with people getting creatively messy, sharing laughter and lunches. I pictured hosting events for each new instructor. I even wrote up a faux description of what I would do there, what it would be called, how it would work with existing art opportunities in the downtown area. I made a short list of instructors that I have taken or that I know that I would love to invite as well as local artists who could teach here. There is also a list of people who might be good resources to turn to for advice or help or hand-holding. I have this whole place fully fleshed out in my mind. The only thing I can't seem to do is get out of this dream state and into a real plan. My feet are planted in the right direction, but I can't will my legs to move me forward. I feel a bit paralyzed, unsure of what to do. I know that eventually (probably sooner rather than later) someone else will see the potential of this space and it will open as something else entirely. Who knows? It might already be claimed. Then I will taste the bitter pill of even more regret. Hopefully it won't be another tattoo parlor. We have enough of those in the downtown area.

Money is by far the biggest obstacle. And time. That and the fact that I have little to no business acumen. But I am sure that there are people out there that can do all the things I can't, right? And I have yet to even share the seed of this idea with my own husband and family. I am not sure if they will roll their eyes and not believe or just shut me down completely as a flake. Maybe that is what I dread the most...I would hate to disappoint them or have them feel that I am just on to my next crazy idea. But I am feeling very strongly pulled by this quaint little building. And even though it is bordered by a tatoo parlor on the left and bars on the right, it just feels like me and I am loving the dreaming aspect of this. The stepping-off-the-ledge-and-flying part is a whole different matter. That scares the crap out of me.

I am my own worst critic when it comes to {big} dreams. My PersonalDNA profile says that I am an 'encouraging visionary.' I have always been a loud and strong cheerleader for encouraging others to spread their wings and fly (just tell me your dream and I will be there with my sparkly pom-poms and megaphone). So why is it so hard for me to be my own ra-ra kick-in-the-pants cheerleader? 

I ask myself, would anyone come to a place like this? Would you? We are smack dab in the middle of one of the prettiest states around. Four hours from Minneapolis and Chicago. Three hours from Milwaukee. Two hours from Madison. Would there be instructors who would want to travel here? I have taken classes with some of the best, but I wonder if I could convince them to take their show on the road here. Would it be looked on as a crazy notion by the locals? I know that my friend who ran an art studio in downtown Stevens Point never felt like her vision clicked with the locals, so what makes this one different? Am I prepared for the hard work, long hours and sacrifices that would come with owning my own business? I like hard work, if it is something I believe in. And it is not about the money to me as much as the fulfillment of what is in my soul. (My family may beg to differ on that one.) And the best question of all...Am I nuts? 

But then again, I was willing to fly to the other side of the country just to take a class. I have made a lot of connections and acquaintances through each new experience that could be that wind beneath my wings. We have an Arts Alliance and a group of focused artists in this area and there is a big push to make this city an arts destination. I want to put in the hard work and the long hours for something that I believe in, that I know can make a difference.

If only I could breath in the air of inspiration every day and embrace the warmth of camaraderie of like-minded souls bringing them out of their creative caves and into the light that their own God-given talents, I would feel fulfilled, at peace. I have had those fleeting moments in all these experiences that has led to this point, but I want a way to sustain that, to make it an everyday thing, instead of just a few times a year. I feel that it is a calling. But am I prepared to answer that?

I believe that the first step to realizing the {big} dreams is to put it out to the Universe. So that is what I am doing right now...you, gentle reader, are part of my Universe. This blog is my journal of creative discovery, but I am unlocking this diary and putting this crazy notion out to the Universe so that its seed may somehow take root perhaps in hearts other than my own. It has been eating me up inside for the past few days, and I just have to get it out there or I might burst. Perhaps nothing will come of it, maybe it is already being sold as we speak, but just verbalizing what is on my heart and mind helps a tiny bit. 

I can almost taste it. And I am not talking about the baked goods. Or the bitter.

Now if I would just win the lottery......

20 August 2012

Pity Party Extended...and Opportunity Knocking

It sounds like those who did make it to Bead Fest have some fun tales to tell...and some awesome beady deals to show for it! 

Thanks to all your pity this weekend I now have a boatload of orders to get busy creating. Since I will be adding a host of custom made orders to my growing to-do list this week, and have decided that the party can continue until Tuesday. Feel free to use the code PITYPARTY in my Etsy shop for that 15% off.

{sea themes now made to order!}

I had a run on some beach theme pendants that I resuscitated from last year as well as the ever popular dragonfly. Some were disappointed that they missed out. I hate it when people are disappointed, so I fixed that problem by making these popular pendants a MADE TO ORDER item. Huzzah! So go ahead and order them if you like, you can even have your very own saying on them. But since the sea sometimes whispers my name, don't be surprised if yours looks a little different than the ones pictured. After all the waves move things like shells and seahorses and starfish around and dragonflies are very flitty creatures!

{new 'sari snapshots'}

Some of my new simple truths were so popular that they sold out within minutes of listing them! Like the new 'Sari Snapshots' with these ethnically inspired and brightly hued floral and paisley shapes. I will be making more 'Sari Snapshots' this week in different shapes as well. I guess have ethnic inspired jewelry on the brain since I am working on creating my Nepali-inspired necklace for the Challenge of Travel reveal on Saturday, September 1st, and also because I had an assignment to complete for Halcraft that consists of jewel tones.

I guess that is something that I haven't shared with you yet. But I am oh so excited about it!

It really does come down to making connections and seeing opportunities.

A few years ago at the Bead & Button show, I was sitting in a class taught by Sherri Haab and as we went around the room to introduce ourselves, I recognized the name of the lovely lady on the other side of the room: Molly Schaller. I had been a long admirer of her work in the pages of Stringing Magazine and I vowed that I would go and introduce myself. Miss Molly had the same thought and approached me first. We hit it off from the start. We ended up having lunch together and it was marvelous to share with someone so talented. We stayed in touch by email occasionally and through Facebook.

Flash forward to spring of this year....

It turns out that Miss Molly had been working for Halcraft USA along with another friend of mine - Denise Yezbak Moore - in creating looks using the Halcraft line of beads. You might be more familiar with Halcraft under the Bead Gallery line of beads that is present in every Michaels store nationwide. I know that it is a favorite haunt of mine nearly every week!

Sure, I have some very extraordinary beads (and precious) from all around the world, but what it comes down to for me is that I am always looking for color or shape or style that suits my mood or plan or whim. My Michaels has a better selection than almost anywhere else that I have access to around here. I do believe that given the same materials we would all approach them differently (as has been shown in countless hops) and you seriously don't have to spend a lot to make something fabulous. It is not what you have but what you do with what you have that makes your designs special.

Molly was tasked with putting together a team of designers to act as brand ambassadors for the Halcraft line and she asked me if I would be interested. Miss Molly knocked and I answered that door of opportunity! Since I am a power user of my Michaels store I jumped at the chance to design for them. Miss Molly really used her connections well... this group she rounded up is filled with a dream team of designers that I have long admired: Denise Yezbak Moore, Michelle Mach, Barb Switzer, Katie Hacker and of course, Molly Schaller. And now me...pinch!

As a team we have been given the task of creating virtually anything we want as long as we make the Halcraft Bead Gallery beads and components the star of our design. I have been making earrings and bracelets and necklaces for Halcraft since May. It is incredibly to see what this group has been creating. And now the fruits of our labors has started to show up in the Halcraft Facebook page as well as on the Michaels website.
{'Moon Over Albuquerque' designed exclusively for Halcraft and Michaels}
I was at my local Michaels buying some products to use for my August projects and I went to the Michaels site to see if there were any coupons (did you know that you can just show them the coupon to scan on your smartphone? How cool is that?) and I clicked on a link to a gallery of suggested jewelry inspirations. And lo and behold my "Moon Over Albuquerque" bracelet (above) popped up! Of course, I had to share that with anyone within an arm's length of me at the store! ;-) You, too, can make that using the instructions on the Michaels site. I love the visual impact of this bracelet with just a few simple beads.

{What would you wear to a party hosted by Willy Wonka and Dr. Seuss? Why, this 'Bubble Gum Ball necklace'! Created exclusively for Halcraft and Michaels}
I just finished my three projects for Halcraft this month and I am preparing to send them on their way. You can check out more awesomeness on the Halcraft Pinterest board. I can't show you what they are yet, but you can watch for them to show up in October. And speaking of October, there will be something very special showing up on the Michaels.com website featuring yours truly... but you will have to wait to see!

Miss Molly will be introducing each of us soon with a special project that we are each completing this week... so stay tuned for more about that!

I am off to work on my Challenge of Travel piece and to get started on a special project with my friend Miss Marcie Carroll as well starting to get some things cranked out for that one and only show I do each year. And the first football game is on Saturday and I am one of 8 moms this week cooking for the entire team supper (80 hungry young men!). Oh yeah, and making up those orders from the PITYPARTY sale. Still time to get your order in!

What is keeping you busy this week?

17 August 2012

Bead Fest Pity Party

There's a pity party happening around here! Watching all my favorite bead peeps getting excited for the Bead Fest Philly happening this weekend has left me wishing there weren't like a dozen states between me and Pennsylvania. There is so much excitement going on! I know that my sweet friend Miss Erin Siegel will be teaching a class there and so many others are exhibiting or just going to soak up the fun and good deals. I can totally tell what it feels like to those who can't make it out here to Wisconsin for the Bead & Button show each year.

Instead of moping in the corner and hoping for fun status updates on Facebook from that crazy Diana Ptazynski of the East Coast Bead Mafia fame, my friend Heather Powers of Humblebeads suggested that we throw ourselves a pity party complete with good deals, inspiration sharing, learning something new and having a blast no matter where we are at.

There are some great shops holding pity party sales this weekend. Check them out...I know I will!

Humblebeads - PITYPARTY - 20% off  + she is giving away gift certificates each day!

Earthenwood Studio Website & Etsy Shop - PITYPARTY - 15% off 

More Skye Jewels - PHILLYFEST - 15%

Tesori Trovati -  PITYPARTY - 15% 

Clay Buttons - PITYPARTY - 20% off minimum $20 order. Tari is traveling and orders will be filled after 8/28.

Song Bead - PITYPARTY - 20% off

Marla's Mud - BFW20 - 20% off

Genena Beadsbfetsy - 20% off

Bo Hulley Beads - PITY15 - 15% off


Here are some of the other things that Heather Powers has planned for us.

Friday - Bust your Stash.  On Friday we going to go into our bead stashes and pull out something that hasn't seen the light of day for a while. If you'd been to a big bead show, I challenge you to find something from a past bead show purchase.  You can share a photo and story about it.  Create something with it or give it away on your blog or Facebook page.

Saturday - Inspiration Adventure.
  Get out of the house and find something to inspire you.  You can go to a farmer's market, craft show, festival, museum, gallery, bead store, antique store, walk in the park - whatever you can fit into your weekend that will inspire you.  I'm planning to attend a Fiber Fest that is not too far away.  Share photos from your adventure.

Sunday - Class of One.
  Pull out a jewelry book and try one of the projects in the book. Go through a few books and pick a project.  How often do we really do that?  For me the answer is hardly ever!   I'm going to pull out Kerry Bogert's Rustic Wrappings and try my hand at one of the new techniques in her book.  Share your results with us.  We'll also share links of our favorite online tutorials. 

How fun is that?

I will be going home this afternoon and popping in some more Simple Truths that have just been waiting for me to add them to the Etsy shop, so there will be some fresh pieces there soon! And I think that there should be some giveaways this weekend, too...so watch for more here!

13 August 2012

Inspired by Nature Retreat II

"The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration."
~Claude Monet

Miss Heather Power wrote one of my all-time favorite books for inspiration called Jewelry Designs from Nature in 2011. These pages feature some of the most lovely jewelry designs inspired by the woodlands, the gardens and the sea, all things that inspire Heather. In September of last year she invited a wonderful group of ladies to join her down in a little cottage by the sea (okay, the shores of Lake Michigan ;-), to take trips through gardens and the local Farmer's Market and to experience the bounty of nature along the trails in South Haven. Of course there was beading to be done as well!

This year Heather is back at it again with another Inspired by Nature retreat in quaint South Haven at a retreat center aptly named the Riverbend Retreat Resort. This beautiful facility will be the site of three days (and nights!) of relaxing, reconnecting and beading of course!

Heather has put together a whole new line-up of classes for each day of the retreat. These are can't miss for sure!

There will be walks in the woods to find natural treasures to cast in molds and recreate in resin with an awesome new patina effect (I cannot wait to make these!),

wool felted and bead embroidered leaves fit for a woodland fairy princess,

transforming ho-hum metal blanks into really cool 'sketched' designs using nothing but a hammer and your imagination!

Oh, and did I happen to mention that I will be a guest instructor? Me! Sqa-weeeeeee!

On Saturday night, Heather invited me to lead a fun party that I am calling a U.F.O. Party. Click here to read all about it!

There will be goodie bags and food and of course chocolate and maybe a little wine, too. And did I mention chocolate? Heather and I will also be hosting a little trunk show to share our beads and jewelry designs with this nature-loving crew. I am working on some new designs and some fresh Simple Truths just for the event.

Are you excited yet? You should be! If you need some more inspiration on what a great event this will be, please check out this post I did on the Art Bead Scene from last year sharing the fun and three slideshows of pictures from the weekend.

Reservations are being taken now but don't delay! There is a limit of 20 participants and I have a feeling that this will fill up fast.

Come and join me and Heather Powers as we take a walk in the woods for the Inspired By Nature Retreat II!

10 August 2012

Around the World...Americas

Final stop: Americas

Since the Americas is my home continent, there is much that I love about it. The wide open spaces of the West, the soaring mountains, the deep forests, the rugged coastlines, the towering skyscrapers. Having only traveled to 19 of the 50 states, there is so much that I have yet to see. And let's not forget our neighbors Canada to the north, Mexico to the south and Central and Southern Americas as well. This land is rich in people and cultures and landscapes and experiences. Here are but a few of the things that I would dearly love to see for myself in the Americas: Grand Canyon, New York City, Canadian Rockies, Costa Rican rainforests, rainforests of Costa Rica, and the ruins of Macchu Picchu. 


Grand Canyon

The grandeur of this natural wonder is breathtaking in pictures. I can just imagine how awesome it would be in person. The fact that is gorge started out as a river and drop by drop it eroded the earth to the form that we see today is incredible.
Just outside of the Grand Canyon is Havasu Falls. These turquoise waters and the striations of orange and red and yellow and brown on the surrounding rocks is just gorgeous. This is the most photographed spot in the Grand Canyon. Can you imagine the first explorers to find this wonder? They would have thought that they found paradise in the middle of the desert.


New York City

I traveled to NYC once when I was about 19. I was suffering from pneumonia, it was winter. It was fun to see the sights like the Statue of Liberty and to ride in a taxicab (crazy!). We didn't get to see any big shows which I fully regret, but we did get to go shopping. I would love to see Central Park and to ride the subway, eat hot dogs from a street vendor and to take in as many shows as possible. But this shot I found of New York City as seen from a hotel room during a storm gives me another view of the City that Never Sleeps.

{Photo by Jim Richardson}


Canadian Rockies

I have been to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. They are a magnificent site to see. The majesty of each peak is rivaled by the next. Traveling high into the mountains felt like climbing closer to heaven. It was incredible the change that the land went through. You would think that the mountains would all be the same, but it is so intriguing to see how the different levels change, the landscape, the wildlife.

{Photo by Sharon Foster}
 Mount Robson is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Only about 10% of those that attempt to scale the face of this foreboding mountain make it to the top. I would prefer to stay on the ground and marvel at its beauty instead.

Costa Rican Rainforests

My very favorite coffee is Costa Rican with cream. And while it would be nice to visit a fair trade coffee plantation, I think that diving on into the ecosystem in Costa Rica would be divine.

{Glass frog photographed by Raymond Pauly}
This tiny little guy with the bulbous eyes is one of 13 different frog species native to Costa Rica. The skin of this amphibian is translucent giving it the appearance of glass. All the flora and fauna and birds and reptiles and creatures and living things in the Costa Rican rainforest would be spectacular to witness first hand.


Machu Picchu

The Lost City of Machu Picchu in Peru is so remote that it is a wonder that potentially 1200 people could have lived here. This stepped village 7,000 feet above sea level is even more incredible when you know that they built this engineering marvel without the aid of draft animals, iron tools or the wheel.

{Photo by Frank Tophoven}


Thanks for taking a birthday trip around the world with me! Stay tuned later this month for the reveal of the Challenge of Travel blog hop on September 1st!

Your turn...
What images do you associate with Americas? What countries would you long to see on this wide open continent?

09 August 2012

Around the World...Oceania

Fourth stop: Oceania

Oceania is that big ole blue area on the map. The one that is mostly liquid. And all the island nations that dot it. There are atolls and coral reefs and volcanic islands. The areas of this vast region are called Micronesia, Melenesia and Polynesia. From the huge country of Australia at nearly 8 million km to the tiny Wake Islands at just 2 km, the region of Oceania may be very far flung, but still boasts 35 million people.

Blame it on movies of my youth like The Swiss Family Robinson and more recent additions like Castaway and the Pirates franchise, but there is something intriguing about island living. The fact is that you would need to rely solely on yourself and be self-sufficient in these places. Yes, they might look tropical and balmy, but that is deceiving. Still, I wouldn't mind being marooned on an island from time to time. Provided I could have electricity and cell service. And a butler who brings me drinks with little umbrellas in them ;-)

There are two places that I would like to travel in Oceania: Tahiti and Fiji Islands. 


French Polynesia, home of the island group Tahiti, is comprised of 120 different islands. This lush paradise is what I think of when I hear the word 'tropical'. There is a reason why the islands are a haven for honeymooners. Who wouldn't want to start out their life in paradise?

Known as 'The Pearl of the Pacific' I can totally tell what Captain Cook meant. This spot is a true jewel in the world! From the volcano that commands it to the crystal clear water, the sandy beaches and the swaying palm trees, it is a wonder that you can get anyone to leave once they come there.

{That is a little slice of heaven, right there.}
I love the idea of an island vacation so much. Particularly if I can stay ON TOP of the water in a hut such as these. Can you imagine the feeling of ease from staying in such a place? The fact that you could just step off your front porch into the clear blue waters is amazing to me. There are glass floors so you can view the water underfoot and you can even have your breakfast delivered by canoe!

I have never gone snorkeling or scuba diving, but I think that of all the places in the world to do it, Tahiti would be the place. Hidden among the rocks and crags of the coral reef are some amazing creatures like this tubastrea sea anemone. What a sight to see!


Fiji Islands

Just so you  know... I don't do camping. 'Roughing it' would be the Holiday Inn Express. If I am going to travel, I want to have accommodations that are elegant, relaxing, luxurious and quiet. That does come at a cost, but since I don't travel often, and never this exotic, I figure that it is worth it.

While I was seeking out inspiration, I knew that the Fiji Islands would be on my must-see list. Perhaps it could be any tropical destination, but there is something very exotic about travel to an island. That whole Robinson Crusoe sort of vibe.

I discovered that there is a brand new resort in Fiji created by L. Bruce Jones called Poseidon Undersea Resort. This spectacular hotel features 24 luxury suites and assorted 5-star restaurants and common areas that are underwater. Forty feet underwater. They also have some topside rooms on a private beach, but really this would be a once in a lifetime chance. They lower you by an elevator and it is fully pressurized so you don't have to worry. The suites jut into the reef and are somehow shielded so only you can see the fish, no one else can see you. You can stay in these suites for $30,000 per couple per week. Gah! A steal (if you are Paris Hilton)! But what a view! This gives a whole new meaning to "sleeping with the fishes" when you can look out your acrylic bubble at the coral reef and even press a button to feed the fish from your pod.

{Poseidon Undersea Resort}

But really I think that the view on an island is so amazing. The way the light plays off the water and the tropical breezes billowing your hair, it would be a spectacular way to spend some time.

{Fiji Sunset - photo by Mark Casslett}

I think that I could get used to sand between my toes, wearing a sarong, warm breezes and tropical flora.Oh, and drinks with little umbrellas in them ;-)

So there you have it. Two places in Oceania that capture my fancy.


Next stop: Americas

Your turn...
What images do you associate with Oceania? What countries would you long to see on this tropical region?

08 August 2012

Around the World...Europe

Third stop: Europe

Europe is the second smallest continent comprised of 50 nations and home to 11% of the world's population.

There is a rich tradition on this continent, with each nation boasting something special. I would love to investigate where my ancestors came from in Poland and (even though I don't care for it) drink beer Germany.... see the famous tulip fields in Holland and visit the Prague Castle.... attend Mass at St Peter's Basilica in Rome and climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There are so many other places and sights that I would love to see, but I am narrowing my focus to just two nations and that is so very hard!

There are two places that I would like to travel in Europe: Italy and Greece. 


My parents traveled to Italy in the 1990s. I remember just thinking what a romantic and elegant trip that must have been. They saw the Tuscan countryside, toured Rome and floated through Venice. I think that Venice is such a unique place with its maze of canals and the beauty of carnivale, that I would really love to go there, even if it were the most touristy.
{Venice gondolas - photo by gnuckx on Flickr}
The art in Italy would be my next desire to experience. My mother was an art history major, and sometimes I feel that I should have gone that route myself. All I know about art is just what I like, but to see these famous works up close and personal would be a dream. From the massive carved fountains and statues that pop up around every corner to the frescoes and paintings and stained glass, there is such a wealth of art history in Italy that I know my inner library geek would really revel in it all.

{Trevi Fountain - Rome - photo by gnuckx on Flickr}

Not to mention the food. I am sure that the pizza and pasta that is so commercialized here in the United States could not compare to the fresh flavors and unique dishes that would be served in Italy. With amazing wine, no doubt. And then there is gelato. Don't even get me started!



Greece is the birthplace of western civilization so you know that it is steeped in history and that would make my research mode go off the charts. Greek mythology used to capture my attention when I was young. I still have an original book of myths that is all but crumbling with the fascinating stories and colorful illustrations. Seeing some of the most ancient structures in the world would be really awesome.

{Temple of Olympian Zeus from navin75 on Flickr}
I swear that life must be more colorful in Greece. These houses on the cliffside nestled so close together look so cozy in the fading daylight. With the sharp angles, the domed roofs, the colorful tiles they look like so magical.

I would love to see the churches of Santorini. This famous blue dome is one of the most photographed. The light is different here, too. I see it as being harder and more sharp in the daytime and softer and ethereal in the twilight. The colors are so saturated and soothing. I imagine that Greece would be a place to delight the senses.

{Santorini dome by navin 75 on Flickr}

And I think that I would really love the cuisine in Greece. The freshness and the simplicity of it appeals to me. I would love to stroll the streets and find local cafes and markets and just sit and stare at the view for hours on end. I am sure that I would never want to leave.

So there you have it. Two places in Europe I would like to see.


Next stop: Oceania

Your turn...
What images do you associate with Europe? What countries would you long to see on this cosmopolitan continent?

07 August 2012

Around the World...Asia

Second stop: Asia

Asia is the largest and most populated continent on earth home to 60% of the worlds' entire population, or 3.9 billion. I found out that in the 20th century alone the population of Asia quadrupled.

Some of the worlds' oldest civilizations are found here, originating in the fertile river valleys across this vast continent. There are 48 countries in Asia with distinct personalities.

There are two places that I would like to travel in Asia: Thailand and India. 


Thailand is one of the oldest nations, with human habitation dating to 40,000 years ago. It is a sprawling country influenced by its geography: from mountains in the north to a fertile river valley in the northeast with the border of the Mekong River and the flatlands leading to the Gulf of Thailand and the southern isthmus of the Malay Peninsula.

{Interesting architecture. Photo by mykaul}
The architecture does it for me once again but this time with the fanciful buildings and temples in Thailand. Meticulous details are everywhere. Tiled roofs, elegant facades, carved details and everything with a touch of gold. Buildings have a sense of national pride about them compared to most buildings that I see each day do not. Of course I am sure that to go shopping for beads in Thailand would be an ultimate dream come true. I have some hand fabricated Thai silver beads that were carried back for me from a local professor who went there a few years ago, and I can just imagine what a shopping trip that must have been! I gave him $50 and said bring me back anything with a hole! I still have hand made dragonflies, hand carved jade frogs and some amazing silver origami box beads that I am hoarding.

{Wouldn't it be cool to live in a building with mosaic tiled dragons on the roof? Photo by mykaul}
While looking for places that would be cool to visit in Thailand, I came across a statistic that Thailand is the leading exporter of rice in the world. I love the look of those stepped rice paddies and the climate must be just right in that fertile river valley.

I also found out that there is a floating food market that is very popular in Bangkok. What started as a few boats with fresh produce now is like a little floating city with snacks and meals prepared daily. Visiting this would be like pretending I am Anthony Bourdain ;-) This would be the best way to experience the vibrancy of spirit and immerse yourself in the culture of a people!



The Taj Mahal is arguably the most beautiful and recognizable structure on the planet. The graceful lines of the roof, the spires standing sentinel, the meticulously groomed gardens and the meeting between sky and water are all iconic. I have seen so many images of this place and they are never the same. The way the light hits it is magnificent.

Traditional Indian rituals, like those to get married, are fascinating to me. I love the rich color of sari fabrics and would one day love to wear one. I think you could not help but feel regal in it!

I am not a big fan of tattoos. But I have always wanted to get a henna mehndi painted on me. There is something so lovely about the patterns and intricate swirls and the way the artists do this freehand. I also love the impermanence of it all. That reminds me that nothing lasts forever. Maybe this fall when our community celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Festival of India, I will have to get one!

So there you have it. Two places in Asia that fascinate me.


Next stop: Europe

Your turn...
What images do you associate with Asia? What countries would you long to see on this vast and ancient continent?

06 August 2012

Around the World...Africa

I can feel the excitement from all who have signed up for the Challenge of Travel. The closet librarian in me loves the fact that there will be a little bit of research to be done to participate in this challenge, the armchair traveler in me is stoked to be {virtually} visiting all these places I might never have a chance to see otherwise, and the jewelry rock star in me is welcoming all the inspiration that will come my way from seeing what everyone will do. If you signed up, I will be sending out an official email on Tuesday with all the countries that have been assigned.

As part of doing all this virtual globe-trotting, I have been spying some amazing pictures. Miss Marcie turned me on to the website Lonely Planet. And Google Images is my constant companion. There is a wealth of great eye candy on Pinterest and Flickr as well.  I feel so cosmopolitan as if I am planning a safari in the African veldt or a ski trip in the Swiss Alps. There is a lot of information on just about anyplace that you care to search for and tons of really cool pictures. So that got me thinking... if I could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

So I decided that since this is my birthday week {yep, turning another year older on Saturday} that it was time for a celebration. This week I will share with you one place on each of the six continental regions in the world (Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, Oceania and North America) that I dream of seeing one day in person, complete with some color palettes {courtesy of Brandi Hussey's free color palette template} and my observations. If you are like me in that you have no passport, the internet is a gateway to the whole wide world just waiting to be explored.

First stop: Africa

Africa is the second largest and second most populous land mass in the world. This giant of a continent is home to 1 billion people. There are 47 countries that make up the continent, but 53 if you include the outlying islands.

The climate of Africa ranges from subarctic to tropical. It is host to deserts, tropical rainforests, savannas. The largest population of free range wildlife can be found here and are some of the most storied animals on the planet.

There are two places that I would like to travel in Africa: Tanzania and Morocco. 


My daughter is nuts about elephants. Sometime a few years ago she became obsessed with the largest land animal. If you want to get in her good graces just buy her anything with an elephant on it, and if it is orange, you score even more points!

{African elephants traverse the plains of the Serengheti under the looming Mount Kilimanjaro}
She has professed that she would like go on an African safari one day. I never had a clear idea of where I wanted to go in my lifetime, so why not start with her dream? If I can make that happen for us one day, I think that would be the trip of a lifetime.

{This is a restaurant called The Rock that is just off the coast of the Zanzibar beaches. You can wade out there for your gourmet dining experience, or there is small boat that will ferry you across.}
Tanzania is the quintessential African nation to me. Home to the the Serengheti National Park, the beaches of Zanzibar, and the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro... those are names that speak to me of this vast continent.



Culture and history and architecture are things that I really enjoy. To experience all three in one place, Morocco would be my choice of destination. It has an ancient, timeless appeal. Traders and nomads are the norm and it would be really intriguing to immerse myself in this rich culture.

{Ben Youssef Madrasah, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo from SEIER+SEIER}
The details that I see in my mind when I think about Morocco are scrolling patterns and mosaics, onion topped archways, getting lost in a maze of limestone back alleys and bazaar stalls. The tile work and the textiles are fascinating in their unique patterns and intricate details.

{Spices in a Marrakech stall. Photo from JoshFassBind}

Everywhere there seems to be color. The people wear brightly hued textiles, the buildings are painted in rainbow hues, spices seems plucked from a crayon box. I can just imagine what a pungent smell this stall must have! The colors are so saturated and rich. To stroll among the people and take in the sights and sounds and smells and beauty of this nation would be a dream.

So there you have it. Two places in Africa that capture my fancy.


Next stop: Asia

Your turn...
What images do you associate with Africa? What countries would you long to see on this sprawling continent?


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