Tuesday, April 22, 2014

There's no place like home!

Home is where the heart is.

As well as my very own bed, and the washer and dryer, and an empty refrigerator that left me grateful my mother-in-law sent us home with lots of delicious leftovers to get us through until I could hit the grocery store this morning.  Now I'm into load #2 of laundry and have a fully restocked fridge, so I can start to relax a bit.

I need to...that this morning was a rough one!  First day in a while we were on the clock.  With Spring Break last week, including the long, fun, tiring weekend traveling to visit all of the grandparents, we'd been pretty low key in the AM.  Having to get up by a certain time, eat and dress pretty much right away, and be out the door on schedule did not make for happy campers.  I did attempt to ease the transition out of their holiday-induced sugar coma by whipping up a batch of chocolate babka french toast for breakfast, but from here on out it's detox time!  At least until I break down and we start raiding the huge stash of bunnies and jelly beans I stashed out of sight yesterday hoping for a little candy break.  That whole out of mind part, though, doesn't seem to be happening yet so the raid may not be as far off as I'd planned.

As always, our visit north was a busy one.  Both sides of the family live close enough to one another that a single trip can usually cover everybody, but far enough apart that doing so takes extremely careful time management, a lot of energy, and a dash of luck to get the stars (and schedules) in perfect alignment.  We managed it this time, though!

Arrival was as scheduled, late Thursday afternoon after an uneventful and traffic-free drive.  That night, Big and Little helped dye and decorate eggs at my in-law's house.



Friday included a trip to Carlo's Bakery's new Morristown location.  All of the yummies I remember from my visits to the Hoboken flagship store, but a much more manageable crowd.  I recommend it if you're ever in the area.  In fact, the whole area makes for a nice visit since it's very walkable with lots of cute gift shops, specialty stores, and various choices for a quick snack or full meal depending on your preference.

On Saturday, we spent the day with my family.  Tops on the agenda was a trip to the baseball field where arrived in time to catch my youngest nephew in his first at-bat of the season.  Check out that swing!  


Back at my sister's house, we hung out for a while so the adults could chat and the cousins could play.  Then it was time for my sister's family to head back to the field for round 2 (both of my nephews play so they have multiple games each weekend), so my parents, the girls, and I said goodbye and started back to Mom and Dad's house.  On the way we made a stop for dinner at a diner we all love.  I think my veggie omelet was the biggest one I've ever seen!  Big and Little, of course, had pancakes.  Any excuse to eat breakfast for dinner, and where better than a New Jersey diner?  One of the many things I miss about not living there any more.

We spent the night at my parents' so that we could head back to my in-laws house well rested and ready for the Easter festivities on Sunday.  There's always a huge crowd, amazing food, and the guest of honor -




Yep, a lamb on a spit right there in the yard. You get used to seeing it as the years pass and I do have to admit that it's tasty.  But it's sort of like the dentist...once (or twice) a year because it's the thing to do, and that's enough for me.  While it was cooking, I spent some time chatting with my sister-in-law about my next major jewelry project.  I'm making charms that will be part of her wedding favors.  Specific details are, of course, hush-hush right now, but I can say that I'm excited about it!  I'll be sure to share pictures after the wedding.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Well, that's another great Easter/Passover finished (or will be come sundown).  Hope you enjoyed whatever you celebrated!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Break

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go...

I woke up at 6:15 this morning.  On the first school day of Spring Break, when hopefully Big and Little will sleep in.  What was I thinking?  Obviously, I *wasn't* thinking.  Or maybe I was thinking too much since my to-do-list for today is way too long and seems to keep growing every minute.  Writing this blog post wasn't on that list, by the way.

Something that is high on the list is packing for a short visit to the grandparents'.  Fortunately, both sets live within 90 minutes of each other so knocking them both off with a single trip North is totally doable.  Big and Little are excited.  Little already started the process, as you can see -


We drive a minivan, but let's be realistic.  I managed to help her whittle things down to what she can fit in the backpack, plus the pillow pet in the bottom right hand corner (the purple blob...if you turn it over, it's actually a light up unicorn, a must have for any over night trip!).  She was surprisingly agreeable about it.  Oh, did you notice that there aren't actually any clothes in that pile?  At least not for a human-sized child, since there are a couple of cute doll outfits included.  My kids have their priorities.  Clothes, toiletries, basically useful stuff, are Mom's problem.

I'm ready on that front, though.  In anticipation of the trip, I spent a good part of the weekend hauling up the boxes of spring/summer clothes from the basement closet, unpacking them, and sorting the stuff into the girls' dresser drawers and closets.  You know this means we'll have snow next week.  That's ok, since  I left the boxes that I repacked with the fall/winter stuff upstairs for easy access.  I'll wait until July to bring them down two flights and force them into the closet.  And all the while I'll remind myself that's not laziness, it's being prepared.

Speaking of weather related things, did you have a lot of snow days in your school district?  We missed 11 this year.  Just found out last Friday that the school board has voted to extend the year one more day to account for all of them.  We now get out of school on Wednesday, June 25.  Crazy, if you ask me.  Since the original school calendar had the final day as Friday 6/20, everybody has vacation and camp and other plans that next week.  School is going to be a ghost town.  Big and Little can be the Sheriff and Deputy, because we're here so they're going.  Another entry on my long list of "Mother of the Year" qualities.

It's going to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood today.  I plan to try and spend some of it outdoors, exhausting...I mean entertaining!...the kids.  Maybe knock a few things off my to-do-list in the process since a big one is all new photographs of the jewelry and I'm doing that outside.  Big was an amazing photographers helper yesterday when I got started.  Here's a sample, using the pendant she designed for me -



But if I don't get much done, though, that's ok, too.  It'll all still be there later but Big and Little won't always be home for Spring Break wanting to hang out with me.  I'm going to grab onto that while I still can.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cinderella

Proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life.

I took my life in my hands today.  Well, maybe not literally, but still...I braved the mall on a Sunday afternoon and that's pretty close.

Although, I must have earned some good behavior points because things went pretty smoothly.  The goal was new shoes for all of the ladies in the family.  I didn't end up getting anything because I know what I want, and the best store for buying them doesn't have a location in this particular mall.  The girls were successful and two out of three isn't bad.  Plus I'll probably enjoy shopping for my own shoes more when I don't have an entourage.  I got the part done that requires other bodies, since I can't take their feet shopping without having the rest of them along for the ride.

We walked right into the store, immediately found something both Big and Little agreed on (which is near to impossible most of the time), and barely had to wait for an associate to be available to help us.  Miracle of miracles, they had both girls' sizes in stock!  I am NEVER this lucky when shoe shopping with the Misses Picky.  Not ten minutes after arriving, we're out the door with these -



LOVE THEM and can't believe how easy and perfect that was!  Especially since there were requirements here...these sandals are for the girls to wear in their aunt's wedding this summer.  They have gorgeous flower girl dresses, ivory with a colored sash of their choice, pale blue for Little and pale pink for Big.  On a side note, it turned out to be very appropriate that Big gave herself and her sister stealth pedis this morning.  I only had to clean up one spot of polish off the floor once I found out about the goings on.

Shoes purchased, we stopped for sustenance in the form of a Mocha Frappuccino, then hit the Lego store where we'd agreed earlier to meet their dad. For reasons that boggle the mind, he chose to forgo the shoe buying experience and spend his time in the Tesla store ogling cars.  Anyway...whenever we go there we make a beeline directly to the back corner of the store where the Lego Friends are displayed.  If you aren't familiar with them, they're a line of Legos specifically for girls, basically a bunch of structures that together form a place called Heartlake City.  In another bonus for today, we entered the store to find out that if you bought any product in the Lego Friends line, you got a free product which turned out to be a small snack bar.  We bought.  Who can turn down free Legos?  I mean, I always need more small pieces buried in my carpets to step on, right?

This is Big once we arrived home, putting together the Turtle's Little Oasis set she chose -


Construction done, it was time to find a place for it in Heartlake City.  Did I forget to mention that we actually *have* a Heartlake City in our house (aka a corner of Big's bedroom...please forgive the unmade bed, that's a battle I've chosen not to fight on a regular basis)?





Yeah, you see correctly.  Those Lego Friends have their own private CRUISE SHIP, people.  With dolphins.  And a sundeck.  Plus a high school and riding camp.  And a house, camper, sports car, hedgehog hideaway, outdoor bakery, and various other places to visit.




And that's not all.  I have to share that we also have a Heartlake Town, which is our version of Heartlake City's younger, smaller, sister.  In this corner of Little's room you'll find the neighborhood pool, tree house, speed boat, bakery, pet salon, bunny hutch, roadside picnic area and there's a pony in there somewhere, too.



But not a shoe store to be found in either location.  Somebody needs to write to those Lego people and get that situation rectified.  :-)

Hope you enjoyed whatever it is you did today!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Three R's

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Millions of people switched off their lights on Saturday night (3/29) between 8:30 and 9:30 PM, local time in celebration of Earth Hour.  Organized by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour is a grassroots movement to raise awareness about protecting our planet that started as a small-scale lights out in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and has now grown to include over 150 countries on all seven continents.

While we didn't participate this year, Big and I did take part in Earth Hour 2013.  It was an amazing experience to experience life without electricity, and to sit in the quiet darkness with my daughter.  At first we never thought we'd make it an entire hour, but within just a few minutes we were playing word games and sharing stories, and the time went by so fast she didn't want to turn the lights back on when it was over.  I'm sorry to have been otherwise occupied this year and can't wait until March 28, 2015 to try it again...mark your calendars!

Things like that tend to be Big's idea.  This is a kid I have to hold back from collecting garbage along the side of the road.  On one hand, I so admire her dedication to the planet, but on the other there's the whole germ factor when your 10 year old tries to pick up used cigarette butts.  It's so different from when I was Big and Little's ages, when the three r's were reading, writing, and 'rithmetic.  Now it's all about sustainability and the environment (and Big isn't complaining...she's much more interested in the damage we're doing to our planet than she is in long division or parts of speech that don't involve Mad Libs).

My two most recent projects would make her proud, because both involve recycled/upcycled material.  I'd like to take credit for being green, but let's be honest here.  It's as much about my fledgling business' budget constraints as it is about being kind to Mother Earth.  I can't afford to waste so much as a jump ring if I can help it!

The first project was inspired by a conversation on a Facebook group for jewelry artists that I follow.  There was some talk about good sources for wire, and someone mentioned that they get theirs from, of all places, the hardware store.  Forget craft shops, jewelry-oriented on line sites...who knew that there's treasure to be had in the aisles of Home Depot?  Or, if you're married to my husband (oh, wait, I am...yay!), in the corner of the garage where he collects scrap metal left over from his many projects requiring a "Home Depot run" until there's enough to take to the recycling facility.  He did all of the electrical work for our home addition/renovation himself which means there's lots of odds and ends lying around.

So I scavenged a bit, dug into my stash of blanks for some things to go with it, and this is the end result -



The infinity symbols are made from the upcycled copper, which I formed, hammered, and added patina to for a rustic look.  Did you know you can do that using a hard boiled egg?  I didn't, either, until I started looking on line for ways other than the toxic, icky smelling chemicals I didn't own anyway.  And the sources I found weren't kidding.  A hard boiled egg, a zippered baggie, and voila!


It was quick, easy, inexpensive, non-toxic, and actually sort of therapeutic when I smashed the egg.  Plus I made some extra eggs at the same time for Big and her dad to snack on.  A win all around, I'd say.  I put the antiqued pieces on some copper chain, with hand stamped brass tags for "mother" and "daughter".  

Those were finished and posted to the shop just the other day so it was time to move on.  On Saturday morning, I was itching to start a new project but couldn't get outside to my work bench...I had to drop Big off at her Tae Kwon Do class, then come home to take Little to her Girl Scout activity.  Something I could do at the kitchen table in a narrow window of time was called for.  Then I remembered that I had pieces lying around from a steampunk-inspired necklace I'd made.  The customer who ultimately bought it asked me to re-tool the pendant into something appropriate for a man.  Not my typical target audience, but girls on a budget can't be choosy, right?  A few tweaks here and there, and it transformed from a necklace fit for a modern-day princess to a keychain.


That had left me with the "imagine" plaque lying around (and I won't tell you how many tries it took me to get it right in the first place so I was determined not to waste it!) plus some extra gear pieces from the original package.  A little brainstorming (and a major need to use my riveter!) left me here -



Brass cogs, with recycled copper swirls.  The Swarovski crystal is purple, the color of imagination.  Needs a few tweaks, I think.  I might redo the copper swirls attaching the imagine plaque since the one on the left in the picture shows a tool mark, but that's also part of the charm.  It's perfectly imperfect, all done by hand, and still has possibilities.  What do you think?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Advice from a Dragonfly

Zoom in on your dreams.

For some reason, I have always loved dragonflies.  I can't explain it, but when I see something depicting one, I have to bring it home.  I have wrapped wire dragonflies on one bathroom wall and a dragonfly themed tooth brush holder in another, a candle holder and small plate in the kitchen, hooks for our car keys in the front hall.  My jewelry box holds a pair of earrings, three necklaces, a bracelet, and anklet.  There's a dragonfly on one of my t-shirts and a gorgeous pin on my winter coat (thanks Mom and Dad!).  There are more scattered about, but you get the picture.

Ironically, now that I'm making jewelry aimed at encouraging young girls to dream and succeed, I've finally looked up the symbolism of the dragonfly and found that it represents strength, self-realization, happiness, transformation, peace, harmony and living in the moment.  Basically everything I'm trying to teach my children and, by extension through my jewelry, every girl out there I can reach.

All of which boils down to the fact that I can now justify putting dragonflies on my jewelry.  Yay!

So I just got my fancy-schmancy new dragonfly stamp (thanks so much to The Urban Beader...they have an amazing selection of stamps and it was hard to control myself!).  Now I'm on a tear, stamping this bad boy everywhere I can.  Here are a few pieces in progress that will be hitting the Etsy shop soon.  Heck, I'm so in love with this thing I'm considering having an entire dragonfly-themed section in the shop.  What do you think?



I'm planning on a leather cord for at least one of them, maybe a crystal or pearl dangle on the "dream" one?  The other charm is convex so I doubt one would lay well against it but I can try.  And I have to say that the "Brave/Strong" one was designed by Big...she got hold of my design notebook one day and this is what I found -


I made a couple of changes, as you can see, but overall the idea was hers and I love it.  Could it be that I'm running a future mother/daughter business?  As long as we avoid glue sticks and/or trifold boards we should do just fine!

Happy Spring!  Today finally feels like it's really here (I'm ignoring the forecast for possible snow tomorrow into Monday!).  If you see a dragonfly, may it bring you peace, harmony and joy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Science: It's a Girl Thing

Girls can do science!  Putting together a tri-fold board presenting your results, on the other hand, is something of a challenge.

- me, last night (and in reality, probably more rudely put than that)

Big has a science project due next week.  She came up with a topic, made hypotheses, came up with a workable procedure, and conducted the experiment itself just fine.  Now it's time to summarize the results, type everything up, and put together the presentation.

This process was accompanied by much growling and complaining and gnashing of teeth.  And that was just me...I'm not sure how Big felt about it.  I assume close to the same since the evening ended with a mess in my living room and a kid who locked herself in her room far, far away from anything resembling either the experiment or her mother.

It's morning now.  Just after 7AM on a Sunday, which is an hour no one should ever have to see, in my humble opinion.  But here I am because my brain didn't get that memo and has been racing all night.  Major thoughts about the science project debacle, minor ones about a custom jewelry order I had all ready to ship out today but decided wasn't quite finished.  So I had to completely unpack it, make the change, and box it all back up.  Shredded packing material is nice and cushy, but gets EVERYWHERE, by the way.

Mission accomplished on the shipment (I like to get the small jobs out of the way so I can focus all of my energy on doing my best worrying about the big ones!) so now I can get back to telling you about last night.

We left off with Big locked in her room.  I was sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by various pieces of paper that somehow had to find their way onto a display board.  The gold standard trifold (the mere mention of which strikes terror in the hearts of most of my mom friends!) was too large for what Big had planned.  She hated having all of that empty white space so we'd tried something different, and basically it backfired.  As the architect of that particular plan, the outcome was obviously all my fault, as was everything else from her hatred of broccoli to the melting of the Polar ice caps.  When I screw up, apparently I don't mess around according to my kid.

Slowly it occurs to me that my child's love of and aptitude for science was being overshadowed by the fact that she fails Glue Stick 101.  A perfectly good experiment about which she'd been completely excited just five minutes prior was in pieces around me because she's can't attach one piece of paper to another piece of paper and make it look pretty.  Really?  Not on my watch.

I'm not proud of it, but what I ended up doing was reprinting the messed up pieces, fixing a few poorly cut and/or glued spots, and laying everything out so that it sort of filled the board.  All Big needed to do was actually glue everything in place.  Which I then went up to her room and told her I would help with in the morning.  Earned me MAJOR mom points, I even got hugs out of the deal.

It's done now.  Looks good, if you ask me.  But more importantly, the science part is solid and she still wants to work in a related field - marine biology - when she grows up.

I'm working on a custom piece right now, a charm necklace celebrating a young lady who, to quote her mom, is "a viola playing fencer who wants to be a malacologist (they study snails) and play with the National Symphony."   I'm having the best time working with that!  Who wants that kind of creativity squelched by a two inch tall tube of glue?  So keep on doing science, and all of those other unique things you do, girls...Mom's got your back when you need it!

Since I'm not even ready to give a sneak peek at that necklace, I'll leave you with another charm I just shipped out (not the one that had me up all night!).  This one shares more of those positive vibes I'm constantly sending my girls' way, hoping they'll sink in via osmosis or something.


Wishing you a day full of dreams, life, hope and love!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ban Bossy!

When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a "leader."  Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded "bossy."  Words like bossy send a message:  don't raise your hand or speak up.  By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys - a trend that continues into adulthood.  Together we can encourage girls to lead.

- from www.banbossy.com

One of the main reasons I decided to turn my metal stamping hobby into a small business was the chance that a piece of my jewelry could reach out to a young girl and encourage her to find the modern-day princess inside.  The part of herself that not only was strong and brave, but wasn't afraid to show it to the world.  I wanted my daughters and girls like them to grow up confident in themselves and their ability to do whatever they put their minds to.

So when I came across mention of Ban Bossy, a public service campaign sponsored by groups like Lean In, the Girl Scouts, and many others (you can find a list here if you want to join me in supporting these pro-girl organizations! - http://banbossy.com/partners/), I was thrilled.  Anything that promotes girl power definitely gets my vote.  I knew I had to share it with as many people as possible.

Please check out the Ban Bossy website at the link below the quote.  You'll find wonderful tips for girls, parents, teachers, managers and troop leaders.  And take the time to spread the word.  Tell everyone you know about it.  The more support girls have, the more likely we can raise a generation of strong and confident women who know they are capable of anything and aren't afraid to lead!