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Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Little Sale With a Big Heart

A little over four years ago, I became my grandmother's primary caregiver because our family could not afford 24-hour live-in care for her. I volunteered for this service because it was my grandma and she needed the help.

In February of '06, after many tests and blood transfusions you could set your watch by, they finally discovered that my grandmother had colon cancer and that a rather large tumor was blocking her intestinal tract. They did surgery to remove the tumor, but by this point the cancer had spread to other organs. She was given 6 months to live, and chemo wasn't recommended since the cancer was terminal and the chemo would only make her dying days worse. In August, after my grandma suffered a bad fall and couldn't get up until my uncle got there in the morning to check on her and take the trash out, I moved in to help her out. Mind, this is the 6 month point the doctor told us about and my grandmother was still walking around. I moved in just in case she fell and needed help in the night.

Over the next couple months I watched my grandmother go from walking on her own, to using a walker, eventually to needing a wheelchair, and in the last three days she was bedridden. Hospice came in three times a week to check her vitals and to help her bathe. I spent many a sleepless night wondering if she was going to have to get up in the middle of the night. I'm a heavy sleeper, or was at the time, and didn't want to not wake up if she called me. It took a week of this and then I borrowed a child monitor from my cousin who had just stopped using it with her youngest. This helped immensely but I still stayed up most of the night. For me, this was one of the hardest times of my life. I had just been discharged from the Navy and had to come back home and swallow a lot of pride to move back in with my parents. That was nothing compared to watching my grandmother die painfully.

In that short three months that I took care of my grandma, I learned that Hospice used to be able to provide much more equipment to their patients. We had to buy the adult diapers and the pads to protect the bed. A few years before we needed the services of Hospice, they had been able to provide everything the patient would need. They can no longer afford to do this. They were able to provide an older model hospital style bed and the bedside toilet, but that was about it. We bought a chair for her shower and donated it to Hospice when she passed away.

Hospice is a great service. These people get paid a pittance to drive all over to care for their patients. They never see a patient go into remission. For a heartache and a few bucks they care for the patients even the hospitals won't care for for long. They need all the help and donations we can give them. That is why I am doing this sale:

Until Sunday June 13th, which is two weeks from today, I am having a 25% off sale in my Etsy shop. If you buy anything, make sure to put "Hospice Blog" in the notes to seller to get in on this great deal. All the proceeds from the purchase of earrings will be donated to Hospice, and $10 from all necklaces and bracelets will be donated. Every little bit helps, and I have been donating to Hospice whenever possible for the past 4 and a half years. This is your chance to do your small part.

Remember, go to my Etsy shop and when you go through the checkout procedure enter "Hospice Blog" in the notes to seller. The 25% will be donated via PayPal.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Full Product Review - Absinthe Sugar Body Polish - Wicked Soaps

Earlier I did a short feature on the Absinthe Body Polish by Wicked Soaps of Etsy. I mentioned how good the liquor smells and how absolutely disgusting it tastes.
Well, I am happy to say I was finally able to order myself this amazing soap. I must admit, Texas summer heat is not conducive to receiving this kind of product. My package arrived just fine but I picked it up from the office on the way to my mother's, which is 30-45 minutes away. The soap melted in transit. I know this because I could not wait to fill my nose with the aroma of anise and juniper and had to open it when I got to my mothers. It was liquefied but smelled amazing. I cannot describe this scent to you if you have never smelled Absinthe, so I recommend you go out and smell yourself some Absinthe.

When I got home, finally, after leaving my monster child with her Nana, I stuck the lovely concoction in the fridge. At this point, me and a friend went out to get ready for our night out, but that's a whole different story. We got home and she went up to shower and get ready and I took the now solid soap out of the fridge and went at it with a fork. When it was the frothy blueness that you see in the picture, I left it alone and put it on the kitchen counter for later deliberation.

Well, after a series of spectacularly unfortunate events I got to use this soap (just for the heck of it) before I even took a shower. My friend had to be carried into the apartment by my husband and myself and in the process I wound up with vomit on my hand and partway down my arm. Oh, yeah. I needed soap. In my drunken state, I took off my ring for my husband to rinse off while I took my shirt off so it didn't get dirtier than it already was. He dropped it down the disposal, so I got to dig it out. At this point I am thoroughly dirty so I reach for this wonderful soap. It's thick, it smells heavenly, and I swear it made the headache a little better just by smelling it.

This soap made my hands so soft and they smelled so good, that it made the 4 hours of sleep that I got before I got up to go pick up my daughter heavenly. I got my daughter and then I got to try the soap for the real deal. If it could make my hands that soft, what would it do to me if I put it on while I was nekkid? It did everything it had done to my hands, and more. This soap is seriously amazing, and the light scent lasted most of the day in our horrendous heat. The sugar acts as a great exfoliator and then melts into the overall mix of the soap. It rinses squeaky clean and doesn't make the floor of the shower slippery. As it turns out, however, due to a very unfortunate splash I discovered that this soap tastes just as disgusting as the liquor it's named after.

With all the joking and funny stuff aside, I seriously and highly recommend this soap to all of you. If you don't care for this scent, I'm reasonably positive that all of her other scents are just as tantalizing. This is a shop that will be in my favorites forever, or until the Earth disintegrates, whichever comes first.

Again, this cane be found at Wicked Soaps on Etsy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lovin' It

I ordered a brocade drawstring bag from Lucy Moon Glow that is black with silver and gold accents. It came in a couple days after I bought it and it is exactly what I wanted. It's satiny and gorgeous and I plan to use it on a multi-strand pearl necklace I have planned. Since pearls are delicate, the satiny fabric of this bag will be the perfect as a free gift for the customer to store their necklace in. She let me know she would send it on Monday, and I got it on Monday because she was able to get to the post office earlier than she thought she would. So it was a nice surprise and very fast shipping. The bag arrived flat and wrapped in tissue paper with a nice thank you note. You gotta love great service like that and the person who takes to time to write thank you. I would recommend this shop to anyone in the market for a handmade drawstring bag.

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I also ordered a clasp, link, and two slider beads to finish my leather bracelet. The bracelet in question is the leather and moss agate one in my shop. Since the moss agate is a very understated stone, I did not want to overpower it with an ostentatious clasp and hardware. I bought the clasp from Cathy Dailey and it is perfect. It arrived very quickly, same time as the bag I ordered, and was very well packaged to prevent the silver from possibly being dented or bent. A flat clasp would not have been a good thing, especially since when I ordered their caster was on vacation which would have made any problems on my end just that much worse. It did come with two packing peanuts to help fill out the envelope a bit that my daughter promptly tore into itty bitty pieces, but it wasn't anything my vacuum didn't fix. The service was great, too, since before I bought the pieces I had some questions and their answers were very quick. Great customer service is always a draw. If you need rustic looking jewelry supplies that are cast silver, this is definitely the place to go.


Monday, May 24, 2010

More Stuff I Like

Ok. So I'm not off my soap box yet, but I promise it's slowing down. This first one is just too cute to pass up, though, so here we go.

All That Glitters by KML on Etsy makes these adorable little soaps. I have them hearted for later consumption... er... use. A friend of mine, when I sent her the link to the shop, said she would buy some just to see how many people tried to eat them in the bathroom. I told her that wouldn't work because she would be tired one day and forget, and eat it herself. She laughed, and good times were had all around. But for those of us that love to soak in the tub with a good bath bomb, this is just the treat for us.

I don't know about the rest of you girls out there, but I am constantly looking for that next great bed set for my bedroom. Since I live in an apartment right now, curtains and bedclothes are really the only ways for me to express my style in the place. If we paint, it has to be a shade light enough that they can cover it with a light coat of off-white when we move. That is not at all conducive to the artistic side of me, so we have left them blank. This next item is a handmade duvet cover that I think would make an awesome edition to that adult hide-away-at-home. Design Your Home's shop on Etsy is loaded with amazing handmade duvet covers. Read the announcement, descriptions, and shop policies for info on how to get the whole set. Their prices are actually much more reasonable than big box stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They use 100% cotton, and I wold love to have a removable duvet cover that I could wash easily. I've melted the batting in enough of the store bought comforters in my dryer to know that a zipper would make it that much easier. Considering I have a Cali king size bed (my hubs is a giant) finding quality bedding that is affordable is a GODSEND.

This last bit is for those other jewelers out there. I don't use a lot of lampwork beads in my designs. I honestly don't have many ideas when I see the beads. However, when I did a search for lampwork sellers on Etsy and saw these babies, I had to post them here. I absolutely love hibiscus flowers. My husband has no say in it, but when we finally get into a house there will be at least two hibiscus trees in the front. I love them that much, and Texas weather is surprisingly conducive since our winters are mild. Kyoto Studio Lampwork Beads on Etsy has an amazing selection of beads, but these caught my eye real quick.

Check out all these great shops on Etsy! :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't Mess With Texas

I love my home state. I have not gone to any other state where the people that live there love being there as much as being in Texas. I have, however, met people that came to Texas and didn't like it. It does take a certain personality, I guess. Depending on where you live it also takes a certain quirk of style. I'm talking we're heavy on leather and turquoise. Not all of us, mind, but it is a definite majority.

Another major thing here is the rodeo. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is the largest in the states. It started in 1854, and became the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo in 1950, held in the recently opened Freeman Colliseum. Now, the rodeo isn't in the Freeman anymore, it's in the AT&T Center (previously the SBC Center) which is right next to the Freeman. Maybe it's an inbred Texas thing, but I love the rodeo. I never loved it more than when I was 17 and showed my yearling stallion there. That's where this first photo comes in. We had been doing the small local APHA/PtHA shows and had just been using regular leads and harnesses. When we went to the SA Rodeo, however, we needed to step it up but couldn't really afford to. So we borrowed our gear from our vet (she was awesome). Now, I showed a yearling stallion. They are notoriously mean and high strung. Not my boy, though. Nope, he was unusually calm and content to stand there and let people look at him. It was almost as though he knew he was pretty. He was a sorrel and white sabino patterned Overo paint and looked just like his sire. Before the rodeo, I had never used a chain lead or leather halter on him. I had never had to. We got there and the harness for him fit just fine, but the end of the lead was too large to fit through under his chin. So he didn't have to feel the chain on him. He did great and while the other colts were rearing and basically giving their handlers hell, I had my hands full trying to keep mine AWAKE. This gorgeous leather lead line would have made me proud had I had it when I was showing horses. It is made by 23horses on Etsy and well worth the price. Why go to a tack store when you can get quality handmade tack right here?

All horse business aside, I also like the western style home decor. I especially like it if it is Texas theme. I have stars all over my home, and this next item would be right at home above my front door. Made by PalmerFalls on Etsy, it is more true than most people think. I mean, they wrote a song about how "God Blessed Texas" and this sign is just perfect.


When I walk into almost any store, I see big, bold jewelry all over the place. Most of the time in western stores, it's turquoise and silver (or poor imitations of both) with ostentatious prices. I flat out refuse to pay turquoise and silver prices for dyed howlite and silver plate. However, when that piece is described with the right materials, I will happily pay the price. Especially for a carefully handcrafted piece of wearable art such as this magnesite and copper necklace by WillowCreekJewelry on Etsy. Magnesite is naturally white, and in this necklace it has been dyed a wonderful blue-green shade and paired with oxidized copper. I would be happy to buy it as a gift for my mother in law who loves unique jewelry. I also love that in the mess of faux turquoise jewelry on Etsy, WillowCreek actually told the truth and didn't try to pass this off. Honesty is always the best policy and in this case the honesty is a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Thinking of a New Venture

Don't worry, I won't stop making jewelry. That's just too much fun for me. However, I have a nice harness for my dog. It is reversible and heavy duty and does NOT strangle him when I pull on his leash. I made it with our last Sheltie (RIP Hatchet) and it has survived until now. It is made with parachute-type material that I got on sale somewhere and heavy duty nylon webbing. I used velcro, and it's awesome.

I was thinking that Etsy doesn't have many useful dog items. I'm not going to make beds or anything, so that's out of the question. But I sure can make some more of those harnesses in many sizes and colors/patterns for those of us that love to dress our fuzzy friends up but don't want to look like a fool doing it. I'm looking at you, Paris. Dressing your dog up. Pffft. I also used a large D ring for the leash connect, which is awesome because Chaos outgrew his collar so all his tags are on the harness. Not bad since even off leash they're still on there, but he doesn't jingle when he's walking through the house or running up and down the stairs.

Here's our guy. He's 3 years old, full-bred registered Sheltie that everyone thinks is a girl. He's a big pansy, but great with the baby.

I'll have to get shots of him in his harness and talk to the hubs about getting supplies and "borrowing" my moms sewing machine. Of course, I will then have to figure out how to USE the sewing machine. Can't be too hard, right? Heh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reviewing My Own Stuff

Hmmm... I never thought I would be writing a review of my own product. I mean, isn't someone else supposed to do this? Well, maybe they are, but not this time. If I sold a product to be used in a review, or gave it on a rare occasion, it would not have been this bracelet. Why? I love it too much. This is my bracelet. Sorry folks, y'all will get the one with the rustic looking sterling silver clasp, I'm keepin' the one you have to tie. I just like it that much.

This bracelet wraps around my wrist twice and depending on how tight I tie it, it doesn't move much. I wore it all day today and it was comfortable, even with the leather tails sticking out. Which reminds me, I need to cut those so they're not so long. There are 58 6mm moss agate beads strung onto the leather. Since I didn't use thread to string the beads, they do move a bit, but it's not uncomfortable. Even though I have to tie it, this bracelet is not difficult to secure. Not including the "tails," this bracelet is 15 inches long. The beads have a kind of waxy feel to them, not the glassy feel of some of the agates with more quartz inclusions in them. You can get moss agate like that, but this isn't that kind. Since this is mine, I have no desire to put any silver on it.

I've seen these bracelets, or similar ones, made with thread instead of thin leather. These do tend to be more uniform in the way the beads face because the thread passes through each one at least twice. On this bracelet, the 0.5mm leather passes through each bead once. I did glue the knots. I'm not ashamed to say it. Yes, there are ends out there that have prongs that bite into the leather, but I am of the mind that even those will fail. Leather is flesh, and flesh tears. Simple. Even if I one day use these sharp ends on my leather, I will still use glue just in case. On this particular bracelet, you have to be looking to see the glue. Most people don't look that close. I will be attempting to hide the knots as good as I can on the second one that will have the clasp. There will be pictures. I know the clasp left Orlando today, but so far I don't know where it is on it's way to me. Could be in Timbuktu for all I know, though I hope not since that's a bit out of the way.

I'm really hoping this clasp is as great as I think it will be. It is hand cast silver from an Etsy shop, as is the ring it will hook onto and the slider bead I will be using the secure the ends around the loop. If it is, I will most likely be going to that shop again. It's the best clasp I've found for this since I don't particularly care for the button clasp.

When this bracelet sells, or if there is a demand for it, I will most likely have several of them up with different stones and different colors of leather. I do want to do one with turquoise and maybe some charms and silver beads, but with the price of turquoise that will be one pricey bracelet. It would only be a single wrap bracelet, though, unless custom. I also think malachite and amethyst would be great candidates for this kind of thing. As would onyx, but I would need turquoise or metallic leather for the onyx. It wouldn't go well with the brown, I don't think.

Anyway, after wearing this all day and sweating on it (I'm in south Texas, if you don't sweat down here, something's wrong) I have decided I like it too much to give it up. So if you like it, but don't like the stone, just make a request. I can and will do custom orders happily and as speedily as possible.

New Give Away!

If you like to enter give aways and win new and interesting things, check this one out: http://burningmoonproducts.blogspot.com/2010/05/charm-factory-giveaway-review.html
You get your choice of a Charm Factory charm bracelet. Just read through the post and follow the directions to enter. :) I've participated (as a giver) in one of her give aways and they truly are awesome.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Works in Progress

Yep. I tried posting this about the viking knit. I always call my viking knit ugly, and if you see it right after it comes off the mandrel (I use a clicky Sharpie) before I draw it down, you would understand. It's kind of like making a real buttercream icing. It gets ugly before it gets beautiful (and delicious!).

Anyway, I digress. I have not made any icing lately, and if I had I would not share. It's MY icing! :) Nope, I made two bracelets. On the viking knit, I need to go to the shop, again, to get a clasp. I seem to always make stuff and forget you have to be able to secure the piece in order to wear it. So I forget the clasps all the time. Sue me.

This first bracelet is made using 3mm red-brown leather cord, wrapped with 0.5mm red-brown leather cord and creamy moss agate rounds (6mm). I'm actually waiting for the clasp to this one to come in the mail. The clasp will be a hammered sterling hook clasp that will go through a sterling loop. I will secure the leather ends with a slider bead that will be attached to the leather via a bit of glue. I know, there are fasteners and ends out there that bite into the leather and forgo the need for glue. I don't like those. If you stick a knife into a piece of leather and rub that leather for a long time, eventually the knife is going to rip through the leather from sheer stress. The glue helps make sure nothing will be coming off. I will be doing this to 2 bracelets and wearing one so I can make sure I'm right and that it won't fall apart. This bracelet will be listed for $40. I got the agate on sale (40% off) and can pass those savings on to you, the buyer. However, the sterling ain't cheap and this bugger took an hour and a half to make. It wraps around my wrist twice.

This second bracelet is a bit less rustic, and a bit more costly. It is a viking knit bracelet, done in the double weave so it is deliciously dense but still very flexible. I made it with 26 gauge sterling wire, and it has not been oxidized, so it's bright and vibrant right now. As it is worn by whoever buys it, it will tarnish and get that dark look going on. The end caps are aged sterling, oxidized and polished to bring out the shine on the high points and give a dark relief to the low points for contrast. Eventually, the whole bracelet will look this way. A quick swipe with a polishing cloth will help the high points stay bright while the oxidation sets into all the nooks and crannies. This will eventually (by the end of this weekend I'm hoping) have a sterling silver toggle or S-hook clasp on it. I have a personal hatred of all things lobster clasped, so you will probably never see those used on my jewelry. I am most likely going to add a Seraphinite dangle to this bracelet. If it is not long enough, I may just add a few bead links to it with the seraphinite. The next one of these I do will be paired with turquoise. This bracelet will be priced at $80. It took a little over 3 hours to make.

Since neither of these are fully finished, I can customize them if you would like. The prices are set for the completed product, not for what is pictured. On either one I can add charms or a beaded dangle if you would like. Want the leather bracelet but your kids birthstones aren't even remotely related to agate? I can add dangles at the clasp with their birthstones. Want the silver bracelet but don't care for Seraphinite? I can change the stone since the bracelet is not yet finished. This is an especially good thing if you need a certain size. Maybe they are too small, so you'd need a bigger size, I can do that to either one. If you want any Pandora style (big-hole lampwork beads) added to the viking knit, let me know. I can get some (or you can send me the ones you want added, if you prefer) and put them on. However, please be aware that those beads cannot come off the bracelet once they are on there without some serious wire cutting.


Yet Another Creator Feature.

I've featured soap and various other crafted items on this blog and it's time for something new. No, this doesn't mean I'm off my soap box. Not yet. Maybe not ever. It's an addiction, and, I have to go to, like, meetings and shit... but I digress. Today I'm going to share with you the fine art of glass. It's not all blown glass, so I can't say it's glass blowing. :)


This first photo is a set of blown glass pitcher plants. These little buggers in real life catch water and produce a sap that is just irresistible to little bugs everywhere. This sap is also a digestive fluid and slicks up the side of the plant something awful. The little bug goes in, but the little bug does not come out. They struggle and struggle, but inexorably they slide down the inside of the plant to be digested. Yep, a carnivorous plant. Have no fear, though, there is no chance outside of a controlled situation where these guys could get big enough to eat you. These beauties can be found at the shop of Wolf Art Glass. The picture itself links to the actual listing. You also don't have to worry about these babies eating any bugs in your house. Unless you have spiders. Spiders might like to reside in them and eat the bugs, making it seem as though your newly acquired sculpture is indeed alive and eating bugs. I could, however, see these on my bar in my apartment, holding irises and orchids or some other exotic flower. They are that beautiful, and are truly inspired by nature.

Clearly, I like glass in many bold colors. First, the pitcher plants in bright green and brown, and now this amazing vase in red, purple, and white. If you have the immaculate house I dream of with that empty niche in the wall right by the front door that is just begging to be filled, this may just be that focal piece you're after. Handblown by Glass Happy Studios this is sure to be the eye catcher in any collection. Again, the photo links back to the Etsy item listing.





And now, I know I have been a bit verbose at times in this post. I get that way. It's a character flaw, I just know it. Sometimes I wonder, though, what blogs would have been like a couple hundred years ago. I think Glasmagie figured it out. We would have been writing on papyrus or leather hide with this gorgeous glass pen dipped in an ink well. My journals would have been messy, no doubt. Full of ink splotches to rival Rorschach.


Please understand that making glass is not perfect. Don't get mad if you order a glass piece and there's a bubble in it. I don't know how to work with glass, but I'm pretty sure it's hard to get rid of a bubble or two without scrapping the whole project. Also remember some bubbles are intentional and add to the uniqueness of the piece. It is my humble advice that if you order a glass piece made, pay the extra cost for the best shipping available. It will be well worth it when your new addition arrives in pristine condition and not just as fragments in the bottom of the box.

Until next time...

If you would like to be featured in my blog, just let me know. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just When I Meant To...

I made yet another Viking Knit bracelet today. I *meant* to take pictures of the process, or at least take pictures of what the weave looks like before and after being drawn. Did I do it? Of course not. You must forgive me, I was watching a movie at the same time...

Anywho, the bracelet is not quite finished yet. I went to the shop today and got end caps for it, and walked out without a clasp. Yet again, I cannot finish a piece because of lack of something I would obviously need for it. Not to worry, though. I will go back to the shop tomorrow and get a clasp for it. The bracelet is about 7"-8" in length, I haven't measured it yet. It started out as 15 feet of 26 gauge sterling silver wire, and I wove it in the double weave so it's lusciously dense but still flexible.

The bracelet is unsupported. What does that mean, you ask? A supported viking knit bracelet has a heavy gauge piece of wire in the middle of it to help it hold its shape. You don't see the wire unless you look close, so it doesn't do anything to the aesthetics of the piece. An unsupported piece of viking knit does not have this extra wire in the middle. I may be turning out a set of bangles that will have this wire through the middle, probably in 12 gauge. That way I can finish them off with some end caps and maybe a couple bead dangles on the end, and that's it. The 12 gauge wire will be heavy and stiff enough to hold the bent shape of a bangle.

Another set I plan to come out with will be heavy gauge wire (again, probably 12 gauge) and will be wire wrapped with different beads. Give me some sales, and you'll probably start seeing more turquoise and malachite in my shop. *shamelessly begs for sales* That aside, I have many plans for things to be sold in my shop. Multi-strand necklaces and viking knit necklaces among them. Now I just need to find a silversmith to make me some Mobius strip links to incorporate into my jewelry and I will be a happy camper. Until I take classes or lessons I will not be able to make them myself.

Until next time, happy crafting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ok... So I'm Still on a Soap Box

Not literally... This isn't going to be a rant. However, I did want to bring more soaps to the table. And not the mushy, really-bad-acting variety of soaps, either. I used to watch those with my grandmother and some of the characters STILL haven't died. Sheesh. But I digress.

I love soap, in case you couldn't tell. But until lately, I have been the grocery-store liquid-body-wash-and-plastic-loofa girl. That's right, but I hadn't discovered Etsy yet so it should be forgivable. I never tried homemade soap because all the ones I ever found seemed boring. I'm not kidding. They smelled like ass and there was no way I was going to wash myself with something that smelled like ass. Don't judge.


The first soap I bring you is from theDirty Sanchez Etsy shop. With a slogan like "Clean That Shit Off!" you must know I would find it eventually, and like it immensely. For $6.50 a bar, or $24 for 4 bars, you get some serious kick-ass cleaning power. This first soap (to the right) is called Stain. If you are easily offended by "colorful" language and whatnot, refrain from reading her descriptions. However, if you are in desperate need of a laugh, read them all like I did. Stain stood out in my mind the best, and I totally intend to buy some.

The second soap is not a bar, but a scrub. It is from Wicked Soaps' Sinful Bath and Body Shop. Who doesn't like absinthe? If you raised your hand, stop reading. The first bottle of Absinthe that I ever bought was the DAY it became legal in the United States. I am still the only person who has ever bought it from that little liquor store. It cost me $65 for the bottle, and it has been well worth it. He threw in a slotted sugar spoon with the purchase, but I had to go elsewhere for the sugar cubes. As I watched that intense green liquid sit in the bottom of the glass as I slowly dripped ice cold water onto the sugar cube and into it, I knew I was in heaven. I promptly plummeted my ass back to Earth with the first sip of that nasty concoction and vowed never to drink it again. Luckily, my husband loves the licorice tasting booze from hell so the $65 bottle wasn't a total waste. However much I hate the taste of the liquid, I ADORED how it smelled. I haven't tried this scrub yet, but if it smells anything like the real deal, it will be sinfully wicked and probably make your bathroom smell nice for a week. Visit this shop and check out their entire line of soaps. I have hearted this one for myself when I have the cash to buy some. Or maybe when I don't... I need to get jewelry supplies, but I may pass them up for this soap. For $12.00, it may just be worth it.

When I think of strawberries, I think of that song "Strawberry Wine". It is still my all time favorite slow dance song. Strawberries also make me think of this great scent of open fields full of ripe strawberries just waiting to be picked. Why not put all that in my bath and enjoy the hell out of it? Well, Crafty Moon Crab did just that. They made a bath salt that will make you want to run through an open field with a bottle of wine singing at the top of your lungs. Or maybe that's just me... Oh, wait... I've done that before. Anyway, for $2.00 you get your own little baggy of 2oz bath salty goodness. Sprinkle this in your bath and your significant other will think of good times. Just make sure the kids are with a sitter or grandparent. :)

Summer is Officially Here

OK... maybe it's not here according to the weather man that can never seem to get anything right (I mean, light cold front? Who's he kidding? It was 88F!). But according to me, summer starts when the watermelons become available. That's right, as soon as those large, green, stripey balls of juicy goodness are available at my local grocery store, it is summer. I don't care what anyone says.

My dad would always come home from work on the weekends with a huge watermelon or two. And when I say huge, I don't mean that little 8 pound melon your kid grew in the backyard. I'm talking almost 20 pounds of the sweetest, juiciest watermelon you've ever laid lips... er... eyes on.

If we had been especially good that week, he would go out of his way to get the sought after and coveted black diamond watermelon. You have not tasted watermelon until you sink chompers into this bad boy. It was a special treat, seen in our house less than the yellow meat watermelon. Dad would always cut it in half long ways and then in quarters, that way we would all get a chunk of the heart of this wonderful fruit. I bet you've never seen three kids devour a watermelon so fast as we did, all the way down to the nasty white stuff. It took less than an hour for that watermelon to meet its demise at our hands.

But what if you don't live in an area where watermelon is as common as dirt? You go to that farmer's market or world market and you see this odd looking melon and wonder, how do I even know if it's good? Well, you knock on it, of course! Not hard, you don't want to bust it open. You want to knock just hard enough to know the elves that live inside have vacated. Just kidding. The elves never leave. Knock and see if it sounds hollow. Does it? Then it's ripe. The rind should also be firm and not squishy. If it shows any sign that it might be going bad (discolored skin, brown or dark spots, it smells nasty in that big box they put it in at the store...) don't buy it. It will just lead to disappointment. It should not be light when you pick it up. Even the small ones meant to serve one person should have some heft to it. They are, after all, full of water. Water has weight to it. A large melon that is not heavier than it looks probably didn't get enough water and won't taste good. Same with a small melon. The weight should be disproportionate to the size, just like any other melon. Once you have picked out your melon (found one like the one in the picture? Oh, boy! You're in for a treat!)

Now, unless it's marked otherwise, you probably have a red watermelon on your hands. However, if you get home and you crack that sucker open and it's yellow (OMG! WTF?!) don't worry. This is perfectly normal and it is just a yellow meat watermelon. They tend to be a bit sweeter than the red ones, but are just as delicious. Enjoy it the same way you would the red one.

Now, for those adults out there looking for a jolly good time, take a thin, sharp knife and cut a plug out of the side of your watermelon. Then take your vodka of choice, open the bottle, and stuff the open end down into the melon. Make sure you have plenty of room in the fridge, though, because this bad boy takes up a lot of room. Put it in the fridge until you are ready to serve. The vodka will soak into the melon, making it an awesome way to spend the 4th of July! But wait! Make sure the kiddies don't eat this! When serving this, cut it in half long ways and put them melon side up so the vodka doesn't leak all over the ground. Cut the melon for the kids any way you want, but make sure they don't touch the good one. :)

***

No is where I show you a great little thing for your business. It's called a business card holder and is located in SuziMoose's Etsy Shop. She has plenty more than just that one, and takes custom orders. Check her out! She will most likely be in another later blog with a fuller blurb, but this was a blog about watermelons... and that's what's on her business card holder. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why my daughter will hate me in a couple hours...

When you have a child, you MUST take them to the doctor and let the nurses inflict major pain on them in your presence. Why this archaic ritual still continues is beyond me. They need to make it the obligation of babysitters and nannies to be the ones in the room when they shove that needle in your child's leg.

My first encounter with this was my daughter's PKU test. They made me hold my sweet one-week-old baby girl while they poked the bottom of her feet for the blood sample. It was the most horrible experience in my life. She screamed and screamed and I wanted to cry with her. The next time was her first vaccinations at the pediatricians office. Thankfully, the nurse made me sign the paper while she did the shots real quick. I didn't have to hold her for this. But, when she administered the shots and my baby started crying, I signed the wrong line on the paper... Jumpy, who, me? It is the worst feeling in the world to know that you have willingly inflicted this pain on your child. However, she won't be getting sick and the pain is short lived.

Last month would have been my daughter's 15 month checkup and vaccines. However, I was forced to cancel and reschedule the appointment for later because my car had a flat tire and we didn't have time to get it fixed. So, in fifteen minutes, I will be taking her in for those shots, a full month late. Since she's older and more squirmy, I get to hold her for these shots. This is not a fun experience for either party. The nurses hate doing it because then the kids hate the nurses, and the mothers hate it for obvious reasons. I don't like needles. Holding my daughter down while she has to get a shot is uncomfortable for me in many ways.

At least this time it isn't raining. Last time, it was raining so hard, and I was in my husbands car, that the road to the office was flooded. Some of the larger trucks and SUVs were making it through the low water crossing just fine, but my little car was not going to make it without a ferry. Luckily, the cars behind me stopped and let me turn around and go the wrong way for the couple yards it took to get back to the crossover on the street. I was able to make my way back to the light and thankfully get to the doctors office via the next block which was on a hill so the water wasn't high on the road. But it is an experience I don't wish to repeat.

I also don't see the point in there being parking fees at a doctors office. Seriously, now. They suck enough money out of us anyway. Yeah, it only costs $2-$3 for the whole visit time, but still. I don't see the point. It costs my husband $36 to park at the hospital when I gave birth. I was there for 4 days. I find it ridiculous. But it's a price we pay for living in a city. The little community hospital in the area we lived in before moving to San Antonio didn't have paid parking, no matter how long you were there.

And that is my rant for today, I now have to start getting ready. We'll be leaving in about 10 minutes for an appointment at 230pm. Why leave so early? Because people in this city do not understand the concept of driving and the traffic is going to suck balls.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Undiscovered on Etsy

It takes a lot of bravery to put your items on Etsy, or EBay, or in a craft show to sell. While craft shows are always so much fun, even the bad ones, it is my opinion that it is harder to sell online than in person. After all, at a craft show or in a shop the customer and see and touch the product being offered. That is not possible online, and I am beginning to understand the importance of stellar photos.

Anyway, I love the Pounce feature of Etsy. It allows you to see artists that have either just sold an item, or artists that have not sold an item. I like looking through the undiscovered artists, and today I found some great ones.


First, this quilt is from Quilted Arts by MJARE. I've always remembered having the big quilts on my bed that my granmothers made. I actually still have the quilt my mother made for me before I was born. At the time my parents weren't exactly wealthy so she made a patchwork out of washcloths. All those textures and colors, it is still my favorite quilt. So many people don't understand the hard work and sheer amount of time that goes into making a quilt of any size. I picked this quilt because it is one I would love to have for my daughter. I don't have nearly enough patience to make a quilt, so I would happily buy this from someone. Quilts are a work of art that need to be cherished and an artform that is all too often forgotten.

Another craft that takes a lot of time is the art of raising bonsai trees. For those of us not qualified or just lacking the time to grow a proper bonsai, we can go to a handful of specialized shops that make them out of various materials. Sure, you can get the one with plastic components that looks very close to being a real tree, or you can go to AksaBeading and get this exquisitely beaded bonsai.

However, if you have a young child or are about to welcome that little bundle of joy into your life, a decorative bonsai may not be the thing for you. Not unless you have some high shelves. When I had my daughter I wanted padded walls in my house and clouds for the floor so she wouldn't hurt herself. We can't all bring the sky down to pad our floors, so if you're not a Greek deity you can visit on Etsy and have a fit over this baby bedding. I know I did. It's a bit pricey, but look at all the cushioning! My husband insisted we have a bumper in the baby's crib. When he was a baby he almost died because his head was pushed up against the slats of his bed. As much as my baby girls moves at night, I am very glad I agreed to have a bumper. One moment she's at one side of the bed and a couple minutes later she's at the other end. It's kept us from taking the rails off her bed. I'm so scared she'll fall off in the middle of the night and get hurt. You won't have to worry about your baby getting hurt in the crib with this bedding. This is the Rolls Royce of handmade baby bedding, and I will definitely be visiting her shop when I have my next baby.




Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mother's Day Giveaway

This time the prize is nothing made by me. Instead, it's being held by TheEveryDayDiva from Etsy. She is holding the giveaway on her blog, just click the link to read about everything in the gift basket prize and how to enter to win.

With my latest obsession for homemade soaps, I found TheEveryDayDiva and her soaps look absolutely gorgeous. However, due to the lack of fundulation, I still am not able to give in to this obsession. She is in my favorites, though, for later indulgence.

She also tells a craft show horror story in the blog post, and I think we can all relate to that at some point, either as a buyer or a seller.

Again, her Etsy shop is here.
The contest rules are here.

Cake in the Mail?











Every once in a while I see that one thing and I think to myself, "Why didn't I think of that?" This is one of those times.

On the front page of Etsy, I rarely actually see something that piques my interest. Lately, though, I have seen several things and added several new shops to my favorites list.

One of those new favorites is this totally AWESOME keyboard from WoodGuy32 on Etsy. He handmakes these himself, and if the pictures are any indication they are worth the price if your office is in this style and you need that extra something.


Another item I found to be extremely awesome was this Cake Mail from TangBaby. I would buy these just to see the look on the post master's face when I tried sending it through the mail.
The description on this item is priceless and made me laugh and share it with my husband. I plan on buying one for my mother in law for her birthday later in the year.

The last item today is some soap. Now, I'm a liquid soap from the grocery store kind of girl, but when I saw this soap I decided I may be a handmade convert. The folks at DECAcandle have ingeniously named this particular soap "Butt Naked". It is a multi-color block of clean goodness and is said to smell like banana and berries. I have not tried it yet since I'm broke, but I fully intend to buy some in the near future. They also have a raspberry jasmine spice soap called "Lick Me All Over." I must admit, I hearted this soap for the name alone and then fell in love with the description.

I do fully intend to purchase some of these items, such as the soap or the postcard cake, and post a more in depth review of them. For now, though, this is just some of the finds I stumbled across on Etsy. The Cake Mail and keyboard were both on the front page in the last few days, and the soap I found by going to a shop from the forums.

Bad Weather

Apparently, I jinxed my trip home by posting about it. The Bad Weather Gods decided to take out the drain plug in their bathtub this weekend, and since home is down river I would probably be pushing my luck by going. May Feast is fun for those of us who like to sit around a BBQ pit and bullshit all day, but it is not worth getting there and risking the rivers flooding so I'm stranded.

Yep, good ol' Nordheim, TX is the highest point above sea level between Houston, San Antonio, and Corpus. It is also close enough to the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers to make flooding interesting. While the Guadalupe is miles away, looping around Cuero, the San Antonio is closer by a few miles just outside of Runge. Yeah, Nordheim will never flood unless the water level reaches 300+ feet above sea level. But that doesn't mean the surrounding areas don't get inundated and cut that little slice of heaven off from the rest of the civilized world. And this is just the rivers; I'm not even talking about the various creeks in the area that feed those rivers.

Yesterday it started raining at about 9 am and it didn't stop until almost 2 pm. It slowed down every once in a while, but it never fully stopped raining. All that water has to go somewhere. From here, it goes into the San Antonio river. North of us in Gruene and New Braunfels it all goes to the Guadalupe.

When the Guadalupe floods, Cuero makes headline news. Oh, the poor people that live there don't know what to do when it floods. They should be used to it. The founders of the town thought it was a novel idea to situate the town in the bend of the river. For the most part she stays within her banks and meanders around the town. When we get heavy rains up here, though, the Guadalupe likes to jump her banks and go THROUGH Cuero, obliterating some of it. I still marvel at the fact that people move there to live and don't expect to get flooded at least once every other year. In a bad year, the Guadalupe will jump her banks a couple times. Water has gotten as high as 17 feet in some parts, the waterline marked by the dirty line across the tops of the taller buildings. Living there is like living on top of the San Andreas fault and expecting never to experience an earthquake.

On the other side of Runge away from Nordheim, the San Antonio river runs in deep banks and for the most part a shallow valley. While Cuero is IN the shallow valley of the Guadalupe, Runge is not so close to the San Antonio. However, you do have to cross it at least once to get out of Runge going toward any other major sign of life on the highway. When it rains - like it did yesterday - enough in San Antonio, the river named after the city of the Alamo floods. The town of Runge does not flood, but there is no way to get to Kenedy, Goliad, or Floresville without crossing that river. The only place you can go from Runge when the San Antonio floods is Nordheim, or Yorktown. But past Yorktown is Cuero, and between Yorktown and Goliad is the Guadalupe... again. These little towns are totally blockaded in flood season.

So, we are not making our trek to Nordheim's May Feast this year. I do not want to get there, have the rivers swell up, and have no way of getting home until they recede. Damn the luck.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

SALE


That's right!

I'm having a sale. This sale is only good through Sunday the 16th at 6pm CST (I think that's GMT -5). This discount is taken off before shipping, but my shipping is fairly cheap anyway. It applies to the total purchase price, not just one item. I will have single item coupons up in the following months, but this isn't one of them. :) You must cite this blog in the notes to seller or in a convo (on Etsy), message (on facebook) or in an email.

Going Home to a Ghost Town


Down old highway 72 is the small town of Nordheim, TX. The population has been 300 or less as long as I lived there and now that I'm gone it's got one less person to count. The "city hall" is located behind the fire department which still has $5 BBQ plates some Sundays, and for a while my uncle was actually mayor. He got tired of the politics of dealing with the antiquated county commissioner and moved out of the city limits in order to avoid being re-elected.

On Broadway - the main drag through the town - is a tiny restaurant and bar that has been closed down for several years now. My brothers and I used to go there when our mother was at the bar across the street and the owner would let us in the back to make burgers. She made the best burgers according to any of us because she let us stand on chairs and help her cook them. Several years ago some men got into a fight and she tried breaking them up when she was struck in the head with the thick end of a pool cue. She was hospitalized and slipped into a coma and never came out. I think about her every time I pass her bar, which is sadly getting less and less often.

The town always had the three bars while I was growing up, and when I was 5 one of the two restaurants shut down. I remember getting a burger, fries, and a drink for less than $3 at that restaurant with my grandfather. The Cactus - the second restaurant - was only good to eat at when a certain cook was there, but no matter who was working they had the best battered fries in the area. They're closed now, too. I go home now and the old general store is still open, one bar has changed management yet again, and the other one is getting more and more new things because the owners struck it rich when oil was found - and drilled - on their land. A building that has never known air conditioning now does, but the big plate glass windows still have the original paint on them. Me and my cousins went in one of the back storerooms there once with a Ouija board and found out there is a ghost named Dan haunting the place.

Down the street across from the school is the park with its huge gazeebo and merry-go-round that my grandpa used to oil all the time. They used to plan town-wide Easter egg hunts in that park, and each store in town would put in prizes. One of the bars also rented movies, so they'd throw in a free rental. The feed lot would throw in a free candy, and the general store would put in a free ice cream. I once won free tacos from the Cactus. It was an explosion of plastic Easter eggs and kids in their church clothes running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I don't even know if they still do that anymore.

At the end of Broadway is the town dance hall. All these old towns have dance halls and most of them are easier to find than almost anything else in the town. Take Garfield, TX for example. I've never actually seen the town of Garfield but I have volunteered for many years at the sausage dinners. You have to drive through Nordheim - if you can find the town - in order to get to their dance hall.

May Feast used to be a huge thing in the town. It was our only source of fun for the year. The seniors would have a dunking booth, the church always had homemade ice cream, and the softball teams would play. There were also always craft booths, too. They stopped the Dunking Booth several years ago and everyone who remembers it misses it. The seniors do still do the sno-cones to raise money for their class, and the church still does the ice cream. The softball teams still play through the weekend, and they still have polka all through Sunday. But it's not the same. Last year, they had 1 craft booth. They used to have a popular live band play for the dances on Friday and Saturday, now it's a not-so-popular new band on Friday and a local DJ on Saturday. They are putting an effort into attracting more craft booths - it's free to set up a booth this year and it was free last year, just please donate for the upkeep of the hall. Now, though, the only draw of May Feast is the cook-off, and it's not as big as it used to be.

I'll be at May Feast this weekend visiting family and I hope they have a May Feast next year. It's a tradition I want my daughter to be able to participate in. If they have one next year, I do plan on having enough stock to have a booth. But you should really try to support your local small towns. There are memories there that most cities don't come close to.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Arrivals

I must say, when I stumble across a new online supplier I'm a bit dubious. I've had my fair share of bad experiences - take the ten 16-inch strands of sodalite chips from Fire Mountain Gems. Most of them are all but unusable. They're either too small, or the hole is drilled so close to the side of the bead that it will (and has on a couple pieces) without doubt break with even the slightest pressure put on it by other beads. I'm not bad mouthing Fire Mountain Gems. They are a large supplier and have many, many loyal followers and customers. However, for me, their stone quality leaves a lot to be desired. I do still order my tigertail and other stringing materials from them, so it just depends on what you order. Now, I pretty much check with my local supplier to see if she has had any luck with a big online supplier or if anyone in the shop at the time has bought from them. So far as I know, Rio Grande is a reputable dealer of supplies. My local supplier buys all her silver from them. I have yet to order from them, but that's only because I have yet to have enough money to get everything I want. :)

Needless to say, though, I was a bit dubious ordering from a new supplier. Would the product be of good quality, or was I in for an unpleasant surprise as I was with the sodalite? How long would their shipping take? Would the package arrive unmolested or would it look as though my 15 month old had wrapped it and shipped it?

But, I was in the market for leather for future projects so I did a Google search for leather cord. Many, many, many search results came up, which I expected. I also did some research on different types of leather cord since it had been a while since I had not used leather for anything other than horsemanship. I found that Indian leathers tend to be unevenly dyed and the diameter of the cord itself may vary along the entire length. Greek leather, on the other hand, tends to be much more even in terms of dye and overall cord diameter. Good to know.

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I clicked on the top Google search result. As I do with any new site, I looked around and tested the checkout process as far as I could without actually buying something. I then waited a while and mulled it over. What would I be making with this leather? Would I get tired of it before I was done with the spool? Would I make enough pieces with it - and sell them - to warrant buying more in the future?

The site I found was Leather Cord USA. While I don't have any pictures of my product to put up yet, I am very happy with my purchase. I ordered the 10-meter length of round leather in the 3mm size in red-brown, and the same amount in the same color in 0.5mm. I ordered them on Monday and today is Wednesday, and they came in already. I paid for the cheap shipping because let's face it, I'm cheap. Or maybe I'm frugal. I think I prefer frugal. Anyway, I was surprised that the shipping took such a short amount of time.

The leather arrived in a small box - maybe a 5" cube. I opened it up and on top was the invoice complete with actual check marks where someone had made sure my order was correct before it was shipped. That was a nice touch. The cord is on plastic spools, neatly wound, in its own plastic baggy with a silicone gel pack. There was a piece of packing paper wadded on top to keep the spools from moving in the box, but otherwise it was very simple. I must say this is the best packaging from a large (I guess they're large) company that I have received.

I very highly recommend them if you are ordering leather cord. Again, check them out at: Leather Cord USA.

My Pretties

I am participating in a give away hosted by Burning Moon Products. For more specific drawing information, read this blog. My contribution are the following 3 pairs of earrings, copies of which are available in my Etsy shop.



These fluorite and Swarovski crystal dangles are so light that I had to take the picture flat because they were blowing in the wind, blurring the image. I used purple, blue, green, and clear fluorite to make these earrings really fun and colorful. Because of the nature of the stone, the colors and shades vary between each. The Swarovski crystals catch the light wonderfully, making these the perfect fun addition to any outfit.








Black and white is a classic, and classy, color combination. You can almost never go wrong with it. In these dangle earrings, I paired black onyx with white freshwater pearls for a twist on the timeless combo. I used sterling silver lever back earrings so they will stay secure in your ear and you don't have to worry about losing them. The earrings have a nice flourish detail on the front for extra appeal.







For a touch of simplicity in an otherwise complicated world, put these sweet posts in and let them do all the talking. Sterling post earrings with a half-ball on top showcase deep purple amethyst dangles. These will light up even the cloudiest of days.





I have more jewelry I will be posting here pretty soon. I also plan on doing showcases of my finds on Etsy from different shops. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bead Stores

Bead shop owners, listen up. When I walk into a bead store, I look for several things. Before I get into what I look for in a bead store, I want to say that by far my favorite San Antonio shop is owned by Ann Pearce.

*ORGANIZED
The moment I walk into a bead store, the first thing I see is whether it is well organized or not. If it's not, I may walk around so I don't seem totally rude, but I'm not staying long and I definitely won't be buying anything. Whether you first organize your store by color and then by stones within that color, or just alphabetically by stone, keep it straight. Don't put your agates with your obsidians. It's ugly and distracting.

*RIGHT PRICE
If I walk in and pull a strand of, say, amethyst off the wall, I don't want to look at the price tag and see $50. Especially if I pulled a strand of 4mm rounds that are better priced around $10 or less. If your prices are wrong, I will walk out with nary a look back. That goes both ways, though. Don't undercut yourself.

*FINDINGS
I can't help it. I LOVE looking at findings. Earwires, clasps, metal beads, you name it and I'll probably look at it for half an hour. Don't put pewter with the sterling. It's tacky and pewter just isn't as pretty. Also, don't put steel anywhere near me unless you are a big-box craft store like Michael's. I don't see why you should be selling steel components, or plated components, when sterling or gold-fill lasts longer. Brass and copper aren't as bad, but keep them in their own section and not mixed in with other metals.

*DO YOU HAVE LOOSE STONES?
If you have large loose stones (pendants, wire-wrap-worthy cabochons) do you have them in an attractive setting? If you have them pushed off in one dark corner, you're not doing them justice. Put them in a prominent place. You will attract the people that love to wire-wrap and use large bead pendants as focal pieces just with these components.

*IS IT A COMFORTABLE ATMOSPHERE/ENVIRONMENT?
If I walk in and feel a lot of tension, or the owner/manager is up in my face all the time, I am more likely to leave than spend time there. I don't want to look for beads, which for me is a relaxing endeavor, in a place that stresses me out.

*CAN I WORK THERE, OR DO YOU CHARGE FOR THE USE OF YOUR TOOLS?
This is a big one, and the main reason I go to Ann's as opposed to other places. I can use her bead boards, tools, even stringing wire for free. If I get sterling wire, she weighs it for me (sold by the gram) before I start using it. I don't have to pay for anything until I have finished the piece, and if I run out of time I can put it to the side and return the next day to finish. She also doesn't give formal classes. If I don't know how to do something I just need to ask and she'll show me the proper technique. No charge.

*CAN I BRING MY DAUGHTER WITH ME?
This is a big one for me personally as a stay-at-home-mom. I'm not asking if your shop is kid friendly. Most bead shops aren't and you would be hard-pressed to make it so. I'm asking if I can bring my 15 month old daughter to your shop and still be welcome. My daughter goes with me to Ann's most every time I'm there. She walks around and touches the beads she can reach and pulls the packaged findings off the hooks. I get up every so often and pick up after her, but she never makes a horrible mess or pulls the beads off the wall.

When it comes to going to a bead store, it's generally an exciting experience for me. I like seeing if I can find that next strand of gemstones that will wow my customers or family if I'm giving a gift. I love going to Ann's because her prices are right, and she charges by the bead, inch, or full strand. The best part is, I can bring my daughter. One day, however, I may be doing a show out of town and have to find a store for that last minute thing. Then, I'll have to find a store that stands up to my standards.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Displaying Your Personal Jewelry

I have one jewelry box, and in it is a bunch of costume jewelry, or some of my more favorite pieces that I have made. Since I don't wear jewelry I intend to sell, I will make a close duplicate or keep the first one that had something wrong with it. However, I have been known to sell it off my wrist or neck when asked in public... Embarrasses the living bejeezus out of my husband when I do it, too. :)

But that's beside the point. I think all women have some jewelry at home, and if they don't, they should. Jewelry has that all-healing power to make us feel better about ourselves when we adorn our bodies with it. I know I feel better just by throwing on a pretty bracelet with a pair of jeans and going to the supermarket. But I still have just the one dinky jewelry box my youngest brother gave me as a gift once. It's on of those with multiple drawers and a door on either side where you can hang chains. I love it.

But some of us have enough nice jewelry that we like to show it off a little bit, even when we're not wearing it. For those women that do, a jewelry stand is a great addition to the collection. Claudine's Limited makes jewelry stands, and even some that hang on the wall out of heavy gauge wire. They look like twisting trees and are quite decorative and easy on the eye. If you have several pieces of jewelry that are better displayed than stuffed away in a drawer, these displays are $35 and very affordable.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Precious Pearls x2

CARING FOR PEARLS:

Because salt water pearls have only a thin layer of nacre, caring for them should be at the top of your jewelry-care to-do list. This doesn't mean, however, that you should ignore those gorgeous freshwater pearls.

Pearls are an organic gemstone. Organic gemstones are those stones like pearls and coral that are acquired from animals, and not stones that formed after years of certain heat and pressure criteria. Organic gemstones are softer and more fragile than other stones and therefore need a bit more attention and care.

The use of cosmetics, hair sprays, perfumes, and the like can dull the luster of your pearls over time. Even your own body oils and perspiration can affect the brilliance of them. That said, it is always good practice to apply any perfumes, hair sprays, or other cosmetics before you put on your pearls. This will help ensure that the pearls come into contact with the products as little as possible. After wearing your pearls, it is good practice to wipe them off with a soft damp cloth to clean off any cosmetics residue. To remove any buildup that's accumulated over time, wash your pearls with a mild soap and water.

Since pearls are relatively soft and fragile, it is best to store them away from your other jewelry. For this reason all my pearl jewelry is packaged in a soft cloth bag that makes it easy to keep it apart from your other stones and metal but allows you to keep it in the same jewelry box. I also send a soft cloth so you can clean your pearls.

In the case of a knotted pearl necklace - which is generally strung on silk cord - it is a good idea to get it restrung every so often. This is so that you avoid the string eventually breaking. If you notice the cord fraying at any point, stop wearing the pearls and get them restrung. The technique of knotting the strand after each pearl comes from when pearls were found more by chance, and later when they were cultivated but still muy expensive, to keep the loss of the gems down should the cord break. Keep in mind a necklace is most likely to break at the clasp or at a point that is constantly messed with. So, if you're a person who like to twirl their necklaces, don't do it. That's most likely the spot the necklace will break.

Precious Pearls

FRESHWATER PEARL PRODUCTION:

Freshwater pearl production is surgical. The mollusk is opened a couple centimeters and an incision is made into the fleshy mantle of the mussel. The worker then inserts a piece of mantle from a donor mussel. This piece of mantle is square, and once it is inserted it is twisted to round off the edges. This gives the freshwater pearl it's off-round shape. Most freshwater mollusks are "seeded" with 12-16 pieces in either valve, for a total production of 24-32 pearls. After the nucleation process is done the mollusk is returned to the habitat and tended for 2-6 years.

China is the world leader in freshwater pearl production. They produced 1,500 tons of freshwater pearls in 2006. I think that makes them the clear leader no matter what. Someone has enough time to seed and harvest that many pearls should be named leader. The world's pearl trading hub is also the largest marketplace for freshwater pearls and is located in Hong Kong.

Today's freshwater pearl quality is much better than it has been in past decades. This is due in large part to the switch from Cockscomb pearl mussel to the Triangle shell in the '90s. The Cockscomb is responsible for the rice-crispy freshwater pearls of the '70s and '80s. Cultivators also went from inserting up to 25 grafts into each mussel to only inserting 12-16. This stressed the mussels less and resulted in better quality pearls.

Where fresh water pearls differ from saltwater - other than the cultivation differences - is that a fresh water pearl is pure nacre. There is no nucleus once the pearl is formed. That little piece of mantle inserted in the nucleation process is no longer present. Salt water pearls actually have very little nacre whereas freshwater pearls are solid. Because of this, freshwater pearls are very long lasting. They are also somewhat easier to cultivate than the seed-nucleated saltwater pearls.

The harvest of freshwater pearls is the final act of the mussel. The flesh and shell are discarded or used for another purpose. Oysters, anyone? After the pearls are harvested they are cleaned of debris and then polished. They are then sorted by size and quality. Depending on the farm or factory, the pearls may then be subject to other treatments such as bleaching and dyeing or "pinking," where they are soaked in a red dye to enhance the pink color.

SALTWATER PEARLS:

Again, the cultivation of these pearls is surgical. The marine mollusk is opened a few centimeters and an incision is made into the gonad (the sexual organs) of the mollusk. Unlike the freshwater pearl, which is nucleated with a donor piece of mantle and then returned to the water, the marine mollusk is nucleated with a rather large bead and a piece of donor material behind it. The epithelial cells form a pearl pocket around the bead and nacre is secreted around it to form the pearl.

After the bead nucleation is done, the mollusk is allowed to recover. Because the nucleation process is more traumatic, there is a high fatality rate. Once the recovery period is over, the mollusk is returned to the habitat and tended for up to 6 years depending on the pearls being cultivated. Akoya pearls are cultivated from 8 months to 2 years, while South Sea or Tahitian pearls are cultivated from 2-6 years.

Akoya oysters can be nucleated with up to 5 beads, but the use of only 2 is the most common. The Akoya dies at harvest. South Sea and Tahitian mollusks can produce only 1 pearl at a time, but they do not die at harvest so they can be nucleated many times. A South Sea or Tahitian mollusk that has produced many high-quality pearls may be released back into the wild to contribute to the next generation.

Because of the larger size of the nucleus in saltwater pearls, there is significantly less nacre on them than the solid nacre freshwater pearl. Due to this, the nacre will wear down to the nucleus with wear. In x-ray, the nucleus is clearly visible in a saltwater pearl while there is no nucleus in a freshwater pearl.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tacky Turquoise

We've all been to Michaels and viewed their strands and strands of dyed howlite and magnesite that the store clerks tout as real turquoise. Ri-ight. I generally roll my eyes every time one of them tells a customer that, and there have been times when I straight up told them to stop lying. You are NOT going to find quality turquoise for under $10. Even the really bad stuff that is basically powdered bits and pieces that have been glued together is sold for more than that. One lady even gave the store clerk the stink eye when she couldn't come back with anything and asked what I paid for my "real" turquoise when she left. I told her about the shop I go to (because I am more than happy to advertise for her whenever possible) and that the cheapest strand of turquoise chips she had was about $20. She raised her eyebrows and shot back with the whole, she didn't want chips, she wanted chunks. I reached in my purse and pulled out my pair of turquoise earrings that I made, nicely packaged in their ziploc bag, and told her that the two 12mm rounds I used cost about $6 together. I was only able to buy two of them at the time because the whole 16" strand was $55. She said that was ridiculous and turned her nose up. I told her to go ahead and buy the dyed stones off the hanger and make whatever she wanted because she obviously didn't want them to be genuine.

This is my BIGGEST pet peeve - when people sell stones that aren't actually what they're advertised as. If I'm going to fork over full price for an expensive strand of cultured saltwater pearls, they damn well better be saltwater pearls and of high quality. I am not going to make a piece of crap and sell it to a customer. 1) I wouldn't want to buy it and 2) that's just bad for business. I make and sell quality pieces and your poor quality standards would hurt my business to no end.

That said, there are those that buy (even if it's wholesale to use for their own jewelry lines) GREAT turquoise that is real. They put a lot of time and effort into pairing it with the perfect stone and metal to make a piece of jewelry that you will fall in love with and (hopefully) purchase from them. Even if it is a single chunk of turquoise on a tiny silver chain, that turquoise still needs to be cared for. Here is the paper I send with every piece of turquoise I sell about taking care of it:

CARING FOR TURQUOISE:
Turquoise in its natural state can be white to powdery blue to sky blue, and blue-green to yellow-green. This is due to the variable nature of the minerals that make up the stone. However, turquoise can never be red, orange or pink or other such colors. Dyeing turquoise is considered fraudulent by some. The dyeing can be done to enhance the original color of the stone or to darken the veins. These dyes are very likely to fade or rub off on the wearer’s skin.

Turquoise is not much harder than the glass that is used to make the windows in your house. Because of this it is recommended that you keep your turquoise jewelry in its own container to avoid it being chipped and damaged by harder stones. Turquoise may fade when exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time. Applying sunscreen or hairspray before going out with your turquoise can help to prevent this fading in the color. When you return home and remove the jewelry, wipe it off with a soft dry cloth and put it away until next time.

Common “turquoise imposters” are howlite and magnesite. Howlite is most popular because of its very convincing veins that resemble turquoise. This is the stone most often used to make red or pink or other brightly colored “turquoise.” Howlite is a naturally white stone, as is magnesite, and takes well to dyeing. Turquoise will always be more expensive than these other stones, so don’t make the mistake of paying turquoise prices for non-turquoise items.

Jewelry cleaners, chemicals, and the chemistry of your own skin can cause changes to natural turquoise. Turquoise has copper in it, and just as copper gains a patina over time due to chemical changes, turquoise can change as well. Some turquoise is even waxed or oiled to give it a better shine and make it more appealing. This is not frowned upon as it does not change the make up of the stone. However, when the stone is exposed to heat or the sun this waxing or oiling may cause a blooming effect or eventually leave a white film on the stone that clouds the color. Don’t fear, this can be remedied and does not hurt the stone.

So don’t go to the beach with your turquoise necklace. If you suspect that the stone may have been dyed, don’t get it wet at a pool or anything. Even sweat may cause the dye of the stone to stain your skin, so be careful. There are non-damaging ways to tell if your turquoise is real, however none of them can be done at home unless you are a gemologist. The methods require a microscope or jewelers loupe and a knowledge of the structure of the stone as opposed to a fake.

Very little turquoise is actually mined in China. Most “Chinese” turquoise is fake.


That's all for tonight, folks. I will try to post other care information this coming week. I hope this helped!

Hello There!

Hi! My name is Sara Jones.

I live with my husband, my daughter, and our 3 year old Sheltie. He sheds a lot, but I make sure none of the jewelry I make has hair on it before I bag it, and I check again before I send anything. My mother-in-law asked where I came up with the name "Viking Jones" and I sat and thought about it for a while and then it dawned on me: I make a LOT of viking knit jewelry.

I will try my best to blog 3 times a week. If I don't think I have anything to write about that involves my own jewelry, I will most likely pick an artist on Etsy to blog about. I have no problem giving someone else screen time. :) If you have a shop on Etsy when I have more of a following on here, I would be happy to feature you on my blog. I know it doesn't get me any extra views on my shop, but that's ok. Helping others is good and fun, too.

I started making jewelry when I was younger. Plastic pony beads and the plastic cord used for macrame and stuff. I graduated to actually doing elementary macrame keychains and cheap necklaces with beads that caught my eye at Hobby Lobby. I had never seen a Michael's before I was 20. Honest. I go there now if I need bead containers, though Harbor Freight has better ones.

I learned how to do viking knit about a year ago and fell in love with it. Although, I HATE starting the knit. Once I get it going, however, it's smooth and easy. I like using copper because I don't use it much in any other jewelry. This gives me something to use the metal on since it has such great properties and color. Like sterling or fine silver, copper gains a patina over time, but I personally think it just gives it more of a personality. Once learning the weaving technique, I read a few forums and figured out how to do double stitch and even a triple stitch. I love mixing a short piece of the chain with beads to add something special to the bracelet or necklace.

Every once in a while I will post about the care of certain stones and jewelry pieces since it is good knowledge to have when you may be in the market to buy an expensive piece. You will obviously want to know how to care for it if you paid a pretty penny for it. As an artist, I know I want you to care for it since I put a lot of time, energy, and heart into making it for you to enjoy.

Thank you for reading, I will return soon.