Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wedding Day!

Dream.  Love.                                

I've been hiding a pretty big project for a while, but now I can finally share it!

My sister-in-law got engaged last July.  The wedding was set for 7/7/14 (love the date!) in Greece and my family was looking forward to an amazing trip.  Especially Big and Little, who had fancy new dresses for their roles as flower girls.

As if that wasn't all exciting enough, back around Easter, my sister-in-law and her fiance asked me to make charms that could be attached to their wedding favors.  I was incredibly honored, and thrilled to do it.  They had great ideas about what they wanted, so between that and a few suggestions from me I was off and running!

It started with 100 circles, each 7/8" diameter, in copper and aluminum.  Here they are after I've removed the protective coating and counted them (more than once) to be sure I had enough!

First, I hammered each one with at texturing hammer.  Then the aluminum ones were stamped "DREAM" with a swirl design, and the copper blanks said "LOVE" with a heart.  Fortunately for my sanity, the bride and groom wanted things a bit whimsical so the design stamps didn't need to be perfectly aligned and exactly the same from one charm to another!

No matter how often I washed my hands after adding color to the words and designs for depth/contrast, they still looked like this for about a week.  Well worth it, though!

Finally, I punched a hole in each charm, curved it, and added a jump ring and channel round Swarovski crystal (blue for the aluminum, red for the copper).

The final result -

All that was left was for me to get them safely to the wedding, which was being held in Greece.  I had many a nightmare about being stopped at security with a box full of metal in my carry on, let me tell you!  The wedding invitation was packed in there right along with the charms, just in case, but I made it through security in three different countries/airports without getting flagged.  Not sure if that's a good thing or not...on one hand, I got them there without a hitch but on the other, yeah...I just carried a whole lot of metal on two international and one domestic flight with no questions asked.  Apparently a whole lot of tissue paper can confuse the x-ray machine, in case you're wondering.

It was a huge relief to hand them over to my sister-in-law so she could take them to the florist.  Next time I saw them, they were at each place setting at the reception attached to bouboniera (traditional Greek favors given at celebrations like weddings and christenings, filled with koufeta - Jordan almonds).

Congratulations to my sister-in-law and her new husband!  Wishing them a lifetime of happy dreams and much love.  And of course I have to add a shout out to their gorgeous flower girls for doing such a great job.  Mommy is very proud of you!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything.    - John Grossman

I'm beyond impressed at the ability so many bloggers have to put something out there, sometimes as regularly as  And it's stuff people enjoy reading, they aren't just typing out the phone book or sharing obscure poetry (although I'm sure, somewhere in the world, there's an audience for even that).

I haven't posted in almost a month.  Obviously, I am not one of those people.  But if the quote I cited above is true, then I'm very present, right?  That's got to be worth something.

I find blogging to be something of a challenge.  It feels strange to write about myself, and the things I'm doing.  Why would anyone who doesn't know me want to read about it?  Does the fact that Little is finally getting the hang of spelling, or that Big has started her state standardized testing and, for the first year, isn't stressed to the point of tears, mean anything to anyone outside of my family?  Confidence has always been a sticking point for me.  I'm not especially interesting or worthy in my opinion; I'm just a wife and a mom who does what has to be done.  To me, the fact that my house is clean and my kids are, too, along with them being healthy, well-fed, and reasonably decent human beings, is just every day kind of stuff that anyone could do if she wanted to.

Which, I suppose, brings me back to why I blog even though I don't love it.  I started designing jewelry so that my girls grow up realizing that who and what they are is good enough.  That they have the ability to do anything and everything they want in life if only they're willing.  That you don't need to wear a tiara or a cape (or both, if you'd like!) to have super powers.  And the blog is an extension of that, where I get to explain some of the behind-the-scenes stuff and keep a record of the process.

The hope is that they grow up with a quiet, strong confidence in themselves.  I want them to have what I still struggle to find on a daily basis.  I'm getting there, with their help, and this is my way of returning the favor.

I made these for them today -

Sculpey clay hearts, with the handwritten word Love and a crystal.  I'm going to add a cord so that they can wear them as necklaces.  The plan was to try something new that I could possibly add to my jewelry designs, only to realize that while I'd bought the clay, I had no tools to use with it!  So I did the best I could, just to see how I felt about the process.  Props to people who do this a lot.  I'm going to have some serious muscles in my arms from conditioning this stuff!  It was sort of fun to play with, but I'm not sure I want to invest in the items I'd need to really make an attempt at a marketable product.  Regardless, the kids will be excited.

They'll be home any minute.  Can't wait to see their smiling faces!  Unless, of course, somebody got hit, kicked, yelled at or stepped on during the bus ride, or has too much homework.  In which case I'll be seriously tempted to chase down the driver and ask if he'll take them back now, instead of waiting for morning.  :-)  Just kidding, but I will be locking myself in a bathroom in that case, for a little Mommy Time Out.

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

You don't take a photograph, you make it.
- Ansel Adams

I've learned lately that there is definitely a difference between "taking" a photograph and "making" one.  The latter requires a lot more work than I ever dreamed.  I've never been a great photographer.  Oh, I've read books like Digital Photograph for Dummies, and even took a half-day hands-on course.  It all went right over my head...terms like depth of focus and white balance and shutter speed went in one ear and out the other.  Things got much better once I embraced my camera-illiteracy.  Compensation comes in the form of a fancy-shmancy DSLR that is decidedly smarter than I am, and on which I rely to make up for my many shortcomings.  For a long time, things were good in picture-land.

That's because with kids, the combo of ignorance and good equipment works pretty well for me.  Big and Little never stand still for pictures anyway.  So the fact that I didn't know an f-stop from a truck stop was never a big problem until I realized that a jewelry business wasn't going to work out too well if I couldn't show my pieces to potential customers.

This was one of my original attempts.  I was all about the backgrounds, and props.  Notice the pinkish white blob in the upper right hand corner - that's the petal of a fairly ugly silk rose.  And the lovely, crinkly purple paper I let Big and Little talk me into (in their defense, it didn't take much convincing...I was thinking my business color scheme, sparkly like fairies, all that jazz).  Would you buy this piece?  I wouldn't, and I 1) made it, and 2) consider it one of my favorites!  But this was the look of my entire Etsy shop when I opened it and I thought I'd done this amazing thing, finally getting everything photographed and cohesive.

After a couple of weeks, during which time I actually managed to sell a couple of items in spite of the photographs, I realized I needed to step up my game.  A lot of Googling tips and tricks helped me decide to simplify things.

Round two turned my dining room table into a photography studio. Immediately I noticed one thing...the background made a difference. Without the deep purple and the sparkly glare, my pieces stood out more.  I still couldn't let go of my prop obsession, which had me painting twigs I scavenged in the yard and using them.   You know, because of that princess in the woods thing (I mean, the company is called Fairietale Designs, after all).  Sleeping Beauty lived in a cottage in the woods, Snow White escaped to them, Merida followed the will o' the wisps through woods, Rapunzel's tower was hidden in the forest.

Well, it sort of made sense and seemed appropriate at the time.  The shop still didn't have that clean, as-close-to-professional as I was going to get look that I wanted, that I saw in so many other shops.  I decided to try again.  This time I used a new approach...clean, simple, outdoors in natural light.  Nothing fancy, just me, my camera, and the jewelry.  What I didn't realize was just how much went into this "simple looking" way of making a picture...the right time of day, knowing where the light was coming from, the dreaded "white balance" (which I'm honestly still faking any true knowledge of!).

This is where I am now.  Perfect? Far from it.  But light years from those original photos!  When I look at my shop, I'm happy with what I see.  It's cohesive.  It's clean.  What jumps out at you is the jewelry, not the colors or the staging or the props.

I'll still never be a pro.  I trash far more pictures then I keep, and I'm grateful if an hour's work yields one or two decent pictures.  But I'm learning.  And as I try to teach my girls, that's what life is all about.  You can teach an old dog new tricks (or, more accurately, the new dog can teach herself as long as she wants to learn).  I hope that Big and Little eventually understand and embrace that idea for themselves.

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


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

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! -, 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!

Friday, March 7, 2014

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You Are My Sunshine To the Moon and Back

There's a party goin' on right here.
A celebration to last throughout the years.

Speaking of celebrations, it seems to be making the rounds on Facebook that this is "National Daughter's Week".  I've never heard of it so I did what any self respecting truth-seeker would do...I Googled it.  While singing Kool & the Gang in my head, something I will now be doing for at least the next few hours.  There's a reason so many weddings and parties end with that take the party with you.  But I digress, as usual.

Google had nothing confirming this "Daughter's Week" business as an official thing.  Which is good when I think about it.  First, I've got enough Mommy Guilt about other issues...I am, after all, about to serve baked potato wedges to the only two children on the planet who don't like french fries (HOW are they mine again?).   I don't need to realize I've been neglectful of my daughters' special "holiday week" on top of that.  Second, why only a week?  Why not a month or a year or a lifetime?  There's supposed to be a starting and stopping point for celebrating those always amazing, often annoying, children of mine?  But what if  I want to do that  Because I do.  The girls would certainly be thrilled to hear that.  When you're their age it's not a REAL celebration unless there's cake, so if I'm celebrating then we get to have one.  Every night.  Right?  Um, yeah, that's not going to happen.

Instead, I avoid the sugar coma and dental bills and celebrate them in my own, non-cake dependent, ways.  The kids see them as just "regular stuff we do" rather than as celebrations, but to me each of them is worth treasuring.  We read stories at bedtime and go on weekend "working breakfasts" at Wegmans (world's best grocery store, for those of you not lucky enough to have one where you live) where we catch up on reading and homework and each other's lives while we nibble.  I put notes in their lunches on big test days or other special occasions and sneak kisses and hugs whenever I can manage.  Big, especially, is in a major "NO KISSES!" phase but if I ask nicely she might deign to allow me to fake it.  Both of them took fifth birthday trips to Disney World with me.  We do breakfast for dinner when their Dad is out of town, have tea parties on weekends, and flash each other the ASL sign for "I Love You" across crowded rooms.  Big is "my sunshine" and I love Little "to the moon and back", songs and books and sentiments that go back to when each of them was an infant and have lasted ever since in our day-to-day lives.

Developing all of those little traditions that help define my relationships with my girls has made me realize that my parents did the same in their own ways, way back when.  We had Wednesday dinners out as soon as my dad got home from work (ahhh, I miss the York Steak House!), Dairy Queen sundaes on hot summer nights, the annual vacation to Disney World.  Does anybody else remember E-ticket attractions?  I never thought of those as rituals that made four people a family but that's exactly what they were.  I'm constantly amazed at how much I learn about being a daughter the longer I spend being a mother.

In honor of National Daughter's Lifetime, which is a holiday I can get behind, here's a little something inspired by my girls, an aluminum crescent moon riveted to a brass cog and hand stamped "To the Moon & Back" -

A "You Are My Sunshine" pendant is tops on the to-do list, and I've got an ASL "I Love You" stamp that has definite possibilities, too.  Just so that they never, ever forget they've always got a cheerleader named Mom in their corner.  Even if she does serve them glorified french fries with dinner.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Big and Little

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.

Right now, I'm thinking it's more of a jungle than a garden.  My two little hooligans are upstairs arguing over Lego's definitely not coming up roses.  Hard to believe sometimes that I actually wished for this!

If I haven't mentioned it before, I have two daughters.  Big is 10 and Little is 7 (and would definitely be giving me the stink eye if she knew I'd called her "Little").  When Big was born, I was so glad she was a girl because I knew absolutely nothing about little boys.  My nephew was only four months old at the time and we lived several states apart, so I didn't have a whole lot of experience with that flavor.  "Snips and snails and puppy dog tails" frightened me.

When Little finally came around, again I hoped for a girl.  By this time I knew plenty about little boys, and while they still scared me it was now for different reasons and not because I was worried about taking care of one.  Why I wanted another girl had everything to do with my own sister.  Sure, we spent a lot of years as the "crab grass of each other's life", to borrow a phrase from Charlie Brown, but eventually we grew up and for a long time now I've been proud to call her not only my sister, but my friend.  I wanted that possibility to exists in my own girls' lives.

Sometimes I see glimpses of that possibility.  They were four and seven here, and a little put out that I'd managed not only to catch them holding hands, but to have everlasting photographic proof of their momentary lapse in reason.  We were in "The Happiest Place on Earth" (if you can get past the thought that there's a giant talking mouse in the house!) so they were feeling pretty friendly.  That's not the norm.  Even now, a few years later, we're still definitely talking crab grass.  But it took me until I hit college to figure it all out, so there's still hope for them. (By the way, did you know you could ferment the seeds of some crab grass to make beer?  I didn't!  Always gotta look for the up side; after all, I make stuff aimed at encouraging strength and love, right?  But I digress.).

The reason all of this sisterly love business is swirling around in my brain is that my current jewelry project is a necklace for my own sister.  She saw a piece I'd made and asked if I could modify it a little for her.  I love custom work.  It's fun to bring my own designs to life, but I like taking someone's vision and seeing if I can turn it into reality for them.  Plus, there's an added bonus.  I don't get to see my sister much these days.  Making something for her that encourages love and hope and life and dreams, knowing she'll wear it close to her heart now and again, is sort of like being able to hold hands with her for a little while.  Someday, hopefully, my girls will grow up to realize the amazingness of that.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Who's on first?

Getting there first is not what it’s all about. What matters always is execution. Always.

- Chris Cox, head of product for Facebook

My daughter and I had an interesting conversation the other night.  It seems she knows a girl who gets extremely upset if she's not "first".  Fastest in a race, best at whatever activity is going on, first in line.  "Why is that so important?" my daughter wanted to know.  She didn't understand, because in her opinion, first, last, somewhere in the middle...everyone eventually gets their chance, it's just a matter of whether you wait after you've gone, or before you go.  What really matters is what you do with your turn whenever it comes.

I had no explanation for her, just lots of support for her beliefs.  That and a spark of happiness thinking "Hey, here's a subject for my next blog post!  Thanks, kid!"  It made me wonder about how often in life our kids have to line up...going to the lunchroom, heading to specials, waiting while Mom or Dad goes about their business at the bank or grocery store or pretty much anywhere (at least, according to them!).  Out of curiosity I Googled some information about how much of our lives are spent waiting in line.  Came across an interesting NY Times story published on 8/18/12 referencing a study done by a Houston airport in response to numerous complaints of long waits at baggage claim.  In the study, the airport made some minor changes and the number of complaints subsequently dropped to nearly zero.  The striking part was that the changes weren't about getting the baggage out to passengers faster...instead, they moved the arrival gates farther away from baggage claim and used the outermost available carousel, in effect increasing the time elapsed between deplaning and reaching baggage claim.  The wait time for the bags themselves remained the same.  The important factor wasn't the amount of time spent waiting in line; it was how that wait was perceived compared to the rest of the experience.

I guess I found an answer to my daughters question.  Being at the front of the line isn't what's important.  What matters is your perspective on the line itself.  So being at the back of the line and using your wait to observe what's going on around you, take things in and learn from your environment, can be just as powerful if not more so than being first.  I wish more people understood that.  I'm amazed that my 10 year old does.  I watch her do it in her Tae Kwon Do classes.  She never rushes to line up when the class is practicing a skill.  She's usually toward the back.  But she spends that wait watching the students in front of her.  She listens to the instructor when he gives advice or makes corrections.  When she finally gets to the front of the line, she puts all of that to use in improving her own technique.

Now that I've sung her praises, I'll admit that I'm not deluded into thinking she's this amazingly wonderful kid all the time.  Let's be honest, she's 10 and her sister is seven...more often than not they're really more like little animals who have just escaped from the zoo.  They fight, and poke each other, and refuse to eat the dinner I put on the table then cry about how mean I am because I'm starving them.  I'm not always at my best dealing with that.  But flashes of brilliance are in there, and when I'm not bribing them into cooperating by promising extra screen time or a cookie, I'm looking for ways to remind them they will get over the wild animal phase someday.  They *are* capable of rational thought, and they *are* strong enough to face the world and solve problems in ways that don't involve pinching their sister.  And I really do love them even when I'm reminding them to eat their vegetables or docking their allowance because an extremely localized tornado apparently just touched down in their rooms.  So this necklace is for them, and for all of the other daughters out there who haven't yet gotten to where I am, where I look back and think with wonder that I adore them, and that they've come so far from babyhood, and that although I never realized it at the time, this is how my own mother felt about me when I was growing up.  It's humbling.  And beautiful, just like they are.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Girl Power

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

I guess I've developed a habit of starting my blog posts with a quote.  Not shocking to those who know me.  I've been collecting quotes, mostly about love, for years.  I'm a life-long reader (I learned when I was three, and my third grade teacher told me once that I was the only student she'd ever had to ask to *stop* reading!).  My bachelor's degree is in English with a focus on 19th Century British Literature.   When you think about it, not only the quote business but the whole interest in love and gender issues definitely tie in to my background.  Makes sense that one of my passions would be empowering young women to start with loving themselves, and to break some of the gender issues that have faced them throughout history.  To put it simply..."Girl Power"!

It's coming soon to the Etsy store!

Anyway, getting back to the quote I used to introduce this post.  It's from the book All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.  And I think it's so true!  Fulghum reminds us that when we were back in that sandbox, it wasn't all fun and games.  We learned some important stuff while we built castles and pushed around dump trucks, things like share everything, say you're sorry when you hurt someone, be aware of wonder, live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Those lessons apply just as much when you're 60 as when you're 6.  I love the idea of reminding our kids about these basic ideas, keeping them part of their lives as they grow up.  It seems that so many adults I've come across have forgotten the simplest ways to be happy and live that balanced life.  I'll admit right up front that I'm one of them.  I mean, Fulghum reminds us to take a nap every afternoon...where did that one go????  Got to get some of that back on my daily to-do list!  Maybe I should make a pendant reminding us all to take the occasional time out (does anybody else call it that when they lock themselves in the bathroom to escape the kids long enough to take a deep breath?  Does anybody else ever lock themselves in the bathroom, or is that just me?).

If a piece of jewelry that I make reminds just one girl to remember those things, to feel loved and brave and strong and happy, then that's all I need.  I'll consider my "little business" a huge success.   My own bit of Girl Power!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love and Bravery

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

- Mahatma Gandhi

The bravest person I know lives next door to me.  You wouldn't think it to look at her.  She's a petite, well-mannered, white-haired mother of five, grandmother of twelve, who walks with a cane and has a soft-spot for Starbucks.

Long story short (since it's not really my tale to tell), she's quietly and with great strength been battling cancer for the past few years.  At this point, her doctors say there's little they can do.  They might be able to give her a little more time with treatment, but she wants her remaining time with friends and family to be quality rather than quantity.  And there's that "prerogative of the brave"...she loves those around her enough that she can face the end bravely if it means having even that little bit of time with them.  Let me tell you, from the traffic in and out of her driveway these days, they love her back in equal measure.  Her children and grandchildren are taking time out of their own lives to visit her in droves.

It works the other way, too.  Not only does love make us brave, but we must be brave in order to love.  Because loving someone puts us in a position to get hurt.  We become invested, and face the very real possibility of losing that person.  My children are in this position right now although they don't know it.  My neighbor and her husband have nicknames; they are my daughters' "next door Nana and Pop Pop".  The girls have no idea that she's sick (they think nothing of her greeting them at the door in her pajamas at lunchtime; pajama day is something to aspire to among the elementary school set) .  At some point I'm going to have to explain, and I have no idea how.  It will be the first time their little lives have been touched by the death of someone they love.

But for right now, I'm trying to focus on the positive.  I'm trying to learn from her grace and bravery and love.  Appropriate given that it was just Valentine's Day.  Despite everything else she is facing, she had the usual bag of goodies for each of my girls.  There hasn't been a holiday or birthday in the four years we've lived next door to them that she's missed.  We brought them gifts, as well.  Chocolate heart-shaped cookies with icing and sprinkles for Pop Pop, who is also known as "the Cookie Monster", and a little something special for Nana...

It's a textured copper circle stamped NANA with two rosebuds.  Twelve pewter bali beads represent her twelve grandchildren.  When I made it, I wanted to honor the garden that this amazing woman had grown and cultivated with such love for so many years.  She cried when I explained that.

She convinces me every day that Ghandi was right; bravery is intertwined with love.  It's a lesson I hope I've learned, and that I am determined to teach my daughters.  May they grow to have that much grace and strength every day of their lives.  Let them be brave enough to love, and love enough that it gives them bravery.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Deer in the Yard!

Walking in a winter wonderland...

At least, that's what two deer were doing in my yard at 12:30 this morning.  I, personally, will not be walking anywhere any time soon.  Stuck a ruler in the snow on my front porch...we're at 10 inches so far and it's still falling.

This is the view out my back door right now (or, more accurately, after I had to rush to deactivate the alarm because I forgot to turn it off *before* I opened the door!) -


Beautiful.  Peaceful.  Truly a winter wonderland.  You can't see them in either of those shots, but the tracks left by those early morning visiting deer are visible in the back corner of the yard as a reminder that nature survives and continues on.

And then the deer put their little deer lips down to the cool clear water...BAM!

Let's not forget, deep down I am and forever will be a Jersey girl, often accused of having a New York-strength accent.  I've got no problem channeling my inner Mona Lisa Vito (and if you don't understand that reference, get yourself a copy of My Cousin Vinny and watch it RIGHT NOW!  Or as soon as you get shoveled out.).

What a snow day really means to me is two kids who originally cheered about no school but still have homework to finish, who will have cabin fever by lunchtime, and who will eventually realize that they have to make this up in June when they'd rather be on summer vacation.  It means digging out the car and shoveling the driveway, which is probably not what my physical therapists had in mind when they discharged me with orders to "ease into" activities "in moderation".  It means freezing all day because I'm always cold anyway, and I live in a house with a heat pump that's great in moderately cold weather but starts failing miserably below about 20 degrees F.

How does all of this relate to jewelry, you ask?  Because fortunately, I just received a new supply order consisting of a much-coveted pair of stepped-nose pliers and these -

Copper, aluminum and brass petals.  You combine these with my new riveter (amazing tool!) and you end up with flowers.  So that's how I plan to deal with this winter weather.  I'm going to start planting a Springtime garden in jewelry.  That will keep me wishing and dreaming and feeling strong today, which is what I'd like the result of my jewelry making to be for people.

Hope everyone out there stays warm and finds something to bring them happiness today.  For me, that's going to be wishes for warmth and sun and growing things.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Throwing like a girl.

Fight like a girl!

A friend from high school used to tell me I "threw like a girl".  My response was "sounds good to me, since I am a girl!"  Besides, why is throwing like a girl a bad thing?

My last post got me thinking about that, and a few other things as well.  One was the fact that I'd mentioned not being sure why I tried jewelry making as a hobby, other than that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  But looking back more closely I've remembered that's not entirely true.

The process started a little over a year and a half ago, with my older daughter.  When people ask what her hobbies are, they're often surprised to hear that Tae Kwon Do is up there at the top of the list.  They're even more surprised to find out that she's a first degree black belt.  Yep, she could take me down in five seconds or less if she wanted to...makes me think twice before asking her to take out the garbage or do some other icky chore.  :-)

Here she is at black belt graduation.  Not the greatest picture, I know.  But hugely important to me.  She's bowing in respect to a fellow student, the pair having just sparred for two minutes.  She'd probably use some of those skills on me if she found out that 1) I'd posted her picture here, and/or 2) I mentioned that her opponent (who was a good six inches taller and two+ years older) knocked her on her butt twice.  I was never so proud as when my kid stood right up each time and got back into it.  She held her own.

This is a kid who, in general, is the shy, quiet type  She rarely calls attention to herself if she can help it.  Put her in the dojang, though, and she's a different person.  I wanted to recognize that when she graduated to her black belt by getting her a necklace listing the five tenets of Tae Kwon Do:  courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit.  All of the qualities that were emerging in her as a result of her participation in martial arts.  But I couldn't find anything like what I wanted out in the marketplace.  I even contacted a few jewelry vendors asking about custom work.  While their initial response was "What a great idea!", in the end nobody ever followed through with a workable design.  I ended up giving my daughter a collage of photos from her various colored belt graduations, and making her a photo book of the black belt graduation afterward.  She loved them, but as she approached the time when she'd be ready to start preparing for graduation to second degree black belt, I still wanted that necklace.  I decided I had plenty of time, so I'd try to make it myself.  I ordered a stamped metal starter kit and had at it.

Stamping turned out to be more fun than I'd thought, and I ended up making a lot of other things.  Initial necklaces for my cousins, charms for my girls in the shapes of their favorite animals and accented with their birthstones, bracelets for my mom.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.  So much so that I gave myself a rotator cuff injury before Christmas, from repetitive motion (in other words, too much hammering!) trying to finish up a bunch of projects.  The bad news is that I haven't been able to make many new pieces since then.  The good news is that I graduate from physical therapy next Friday and get the go ahead to work as long as I'm careful and don't over-do.  That means just over a week until the jewelry-making will be gearing up.  Hooray!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Every dream begins with a single wish.

Every dream begins with a single wish.

When I was growing up, it seemed like all the girls I know (yep, even me!) wished to be Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.  Someday, our Prince would come and give us a kiss of true love.

I'm a stay at home mom to two amazing girls.  Their heroines are Mulan, Merida, Rapunzel, and Elsa.  Modern-day princesses who are strong, and brave, and self-saving.  And my dreams for them starts with the wish that they, too, will have such determination and independence.

That independence has been showing a lot more these days, as the girls need me for less and less.  It's a double-edged sword.  On one hand, I'm sad that my babies are growing up and can do so much more for themselves.  On the other hand, I'm so proud of their strength and the fact that they're becoming these amazing young women.

They're still young, though, and I need to find that balance between providing both roots and wings.  I started to think about finding a new way to teach not only my own girls, but maybe others as well, that they *can* be self-sufficient.  That they should continue to have faith in themselves and believe in the power of their dreams.

And, of course, now that I've got this extra free time on my  hands, having a hobby I enjoyed wouldn't hurt.

So I decided to make a few pieces of jewelry for fun.  Don't ask me why I settled on that, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.  I ordered a stamped metal starter kit and things just kind of went from there.  My first piece sort of summarized what was driving me -

That was about six months ago.  A lot has changed since then and my little hobby has taken on a life of it's own.  Landed me in physical therapy, too, but those are stories for another time.  That's why I decided to start this have a place to talk about the evolution of a dream (if only so that some day, my girls can read it), find a place to share some ideas, and make sense of what my ultimate goals really are.   I can't wait to see where it leads me.