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.