Sunday, September 20, 2009

A surprise getaway!

Things have been a little on the boring side for me lately. Summer came and went and I feel like all we did all summer was work, still trying to get back on track from my year-long lay off. This is the first year since 2004 that we haven't made at least one little trip to Las Vegas. In fact, we hadn't gone anywhere this year, which I realize is probably common for people given the present economy.

The Thursday before last, my neighbor came knocking on my door, all excited and "needing" to buy a pair of earrings to match an outfit for a surprise birthday trip. Her husband had just handed her a list of things to pack for their next morning flight and he told her that he had arranged for her to be off work for a long weekend. Everyone in her office was in on it. He didn't tell her where he was taking her. So, she did her shopping and went back home.

I went upstairs to tell my husband about what her husband had set up and he got a really strange exasperated look on his face, saying, "he did? Are you kidding me?!?" Why would I kid about that, right? Then he says to me, "honey, we're going away on a surprise trip for your birthday next Wednesday." You can imagine my shock. It was also pretty funny. He said he had to tell me so it wouldn't look like he was copying our neighbor. lol He didn't tell me where we were headed either.

Long story short, we ended up making an 8 hour drive down to Tunica, MS, which is maybe 30 minutes or so south of Memphis, TN. As usual, we got off to a late start, leaving around 10:30 am, then we ran into construction 3 or 4 times around Louisville, KY. By the time we got into Nashville, TN, it was raining buckets, there was an accident and it was getting into rush hour. Thankfully, we made it through all of that without adding too much time to our travel and we arrived at the Horseshoe Casino Hotel around 6:30 pm local time.

We valet parked the car, got our luggage checked and checked into our room in no time at all. The bellman was an older gentleman, who actually walked us up to our room with our luggage. Everyone was incredibly nice and made us feel very welcome. Our room was nice, nothing too fancy, but nice. It was immaculate! (It was one of the more comfy nights' sleep away from home too, with the pillow-top mattress on the bed. Good pillows too, which seem hard to find in hotels.) We got freshened up and decided to head downstairs to check out the buffet. Turns out Horseshoe is very much into comping food for their guests. If you sign up for a Total Rewards card (which you can use to accrue comps at any Harrah's property across the country) and play anything for a half hour, you get a free buffet. We were reading that on the sign near the buffet and trying to decide if we wanted to wait a half hour to eat when we were approached by a man who wanted to sell us a comp for two free buffets for $20 (I think it turns out to be around $36 if you actually pay for two). We took him up on it and enjoyed a discounted dinner! Their dinner buffet was okay, no Bellagio, but then, neither of us like any seafood and there was plenty of fish, shrimp and of course, crawfish! Ick.

After dinner, we played some craps at the Horseshoe and then we walked next door to the Gold Strike to check that out. My husband played craps there for a little bit and then we walked back next door. There aren't any shows or anything down there like there are in Vegas. They'll have a band or singer on tour here or there at a couple of the casinos, but nothing that plays nightly like Cirque du Soleil, etc. They did have local bands on stage at both of those places which was fun. They were playing older covers and added a fun energy to the casinos. All the dealers were very friendly and engaging our entire trip. In fact everyone we encountered working down there was friendly. It was really nice.

Thursday morning we headed to the buffet for breakfast, and using our comps we ate free. Breakfast was great. Waffles and omelets made to order, fresh fruit, bacon, grits, biscuits & gravy and of course fried catfish and chicken fried something too. After breakfast, we decided to walk over and check out the Sheraton, which was a little dead, so we headed back over to the Horseshoe to play some black jack and then to the poker room. We played there into the lunch hour at which time I headed to the front desk of the poker room and got more comps for the Ace High Snack Bar. I got the BLT and waffle fries and my husband got a Philly cheesesteak. Everything was awesome there! Very tasty. We went back to the Horseshoe and played poker more until my set of aces got cracked by a flush on the turn, busting me out. Luckily, my husband had made a tidy profit, so we headed up to the room to change for my birthday dinner at the Fairbanks Steakhouse at the Hollywood Casino.

Dinner at the Fairbanks was phenomenal! Service was outstanding, complete with a Maître d'. Adrian and Luke, our servers took great care of us... our water glasses were never empty and we were entertained as well with lively conversation. I had the small filet and my husband had the Chicken a la Fairbanks. Both were very tasty, as was the key lime pie and chocolate gateau, a rich chocolate cake with Grand Marnier and raspberry sauce. After dinner, we waddled down to the casino to play a little more.

From Hollywood, as is our tradition, we checked out all the other casinos in the area... Resorts, Sam's Town, Fitzgerald's, Bally's and finally Harrah's, which was by far the most swanky and upscale casino in the area. It reminds me of Planet Hollywood in Vegas, or MGM Grand Detroit. Very nice. It was getting late by then, so we stopped at the Dunkin' Donuts in Harrah's for a snack and then headed home to the Horseshoe to rest up for the drive home the next day.

The next morning we had another comped buffet breakfast, packed up and headed for home. Unfortunately, we left even later to go back and again hit some really heavy rain around Nashville. They were really getting pounded by the rain down there! But, we made it home just fine. We would definitely head back down there sometime in the future! It was really fun.

This little guy was on the side of the building at Bally's, enjoying the light rain with a few of his buddies. I couldn't resist snapping pics of them. They were so cute!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ah, metal stamping...

I am one of those people who sees something and has that (sometimes idiotic) thought "I could do that". Okay, most times it pans out okay for me. Other times I finally figure out that I might actually benefit from some instruction or guidance. Yeah.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had purchased a metal letter stamping set and some sterling silver stamping blanks. I know, I know "buy some inexpensive copper sheet or aluminum to practice with first instead of ruining more expensive sterling silver". I can't tell you how many times I've read that! Well, I mean, who needs practice metal, right? As you can see below, I needed it. Badly.

WISH. Right. I wish I was able to pull this off. WISH I had purchased a cheap sheet of copper. You know what they say about hindsight. So these were my first couple attempts. I ended up experimenting with my hammer, too, for texture, and stamping both sides of these. May as well, right?

Then last weekend, I went to the Intergalactic Bead Show which comes to town 2 or 3 times a year. I love it. There are so many great vendors and I usually find something I've been 'needing', so that's always cool. Well, as luck would have it, there was a lady there selling various tools for use in metal stamping (and actually cutting the discs as well)! I was very excited. She did a stamping demo for me, so I found out some of the secrets to success.

First, I found out I was using a hammer that was way too light-weight for the task. It was some cheapy I picked up at Michael's – I didn't want to ruin my good hammer on the metal stamps. (See, sometimes I do think ahead!) She also had her bench block set up on top of a sand bag to absorb some of the force. I believe she said it helps keep the stamps from jumping around so much too. I wasn't really in the market to make a large investment that day (after all, I was there for the beads!) so I asked her some questions, watched a couple demos and ended up buying some polishing cloths and a metal hole punch.

So, this weekend, I finally got a chance to test out what I had learned. I ended up using a household hammer and I set my bench block on top of a phone book. (Yea! Finally a use for a phone book! lol) I'm certainly not an expert yet, but I had much better luck after picking up some tips from that nice lady! I really like the hammered texture on the pieces too. Soon, you may just see some pieces show up in my Etsy shop. Maybe even ones with something other than WISH on them!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Custom orders and something new

Lately, my Etsy shop has been getting steady traffic, I think, plenty of views, but not many more sales. Now, I haven't been adding many pieces lately because I've been getting ready for the show last weekend more than anything, so I'm sure that's not helping, you know, not getting into the new items feed. That should change this weekend though, as I have a few new pieces coming soon.

In the meantime, I seem to be having a little luck with custom orders, thanks to my mom! Apparently she's been selling my services to all the ladies at work, which is very nice of her. I've made her a couple necklaces, which I'm pretty sure she wears on a regular basis and shows around too.

This earring and necklace set is a mother-of-the-bride ensemble for, of all people, my 2nd grade teacher, who actually works with mom these days. It's so weird when I think about it. I remember her from when I was so young and now she's buying jewelry from me? Anyway, from what I hear she loved the set, but her oldest daughter snagged it from her, telling her she could borrow it for her sister's upcoming wedding. Too funny! The focal points of both the earrings and necklace are (one of my new favorite stones) chalcedony. It is just so pretty! Oddly, the Swarovski crystals that appear more brown here in this pic are green. Not sure why they looked that way, but everything was very cool and water-like in tone, paired with sterling silver.

Another score from mom was this pair of larkavite and sterling silver drop earrings. Larkavite is sometimes called black labradorite. It's also from the feldspar family. These were made for another co-worker of my mom, who was looking for a birthday gift for a friend. She didn't want to give them away, but did. She reported back to mom that the lady wears them all the time. Always nice to hear! I liked them enough to make a second pair for my store which you can check out here.

Some may remember these earrings from my store. They sold over the weekend at Ladies Fair, to the mother-daughter pair. The daughter actually got them and her mom liked them a lot also, but she wanted the same earrings in a smaller scale, so I made her up a smaller pair and shipped those out to her this past Monday. They've always been a favorite pair of mine. I really like the way the copper works with the carnelian and the turquoise.

And finally, I'm going to try something new. Metal stamping! I bought a set of metal letter stamps from m.a.t.'s beads, a fellow Etsy seller, and I've been picking up sterling silver stamping blanks whenever I see them. I know, everyone says to "practice on inexpensive copper"... I probably should too, because I have no idea what I'm doing, really, but, eh, what the heck. I'll figure it out. I'll be sure to post an update and some pics. This should be interesting, to say the least. I'd be happy to hear any advice from my readers about stamping!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A few snags, but overall a successful show.

For the last few weeks, I've been frantically running around trying to prepare for my next show. Well, this past Saturday was Ladies Fair 2009. Leading up to it, there were vendors meetings and several emails back and forth with the two ladies who were coordinating the event. It was the first year for it. It was the first time I have actually run a printed ad for a show or my business, which I submitted well in advance of the deadline, so I was pretty excited at the idea of that.

Saturday morning I picked up my mom at about 8:40 am. This was the first time she was joining at a show and she was a little keyed up about it, I think. In fact, I don't think she'd ever been to anything like a craft/art show before, so this was all new to her. She is the type of person who has to be doing something and it was a little challenging for me to keep giving her tasks. I'll just say it – I'm a total control freak. I'm very bad at delegating. Very bad. I managed to keep her somewhat busy during set-up though, so she was happy being useful.

When we arrived at Crossroads Community Church, the auditorium was pretty dark, there were people running around and there was no central location for vendor check-in. "Hmmm..." I thought. I started looking for my contacts and quickly located one of the ladies. We were told that booth spaces would be 8' x 8', and that they would be numbered and assigned because the booth numbers would direct people from your ad in their handout booklets to its corresponding booth. Well, there were no numbers. They were deciding as people arrived where to put them. I was asked if I would need electricity, and normally I do so I can light my pieces, but in the midst of everything going on and in the interest of time, I said it wasn't necessary. So I was positioned right where she happened to be standing, which happened to be under one of the canned spot lights. That turned out to be a blessing because they never did turn the lights up all day! Apparently they were not allowed or didn't know how. As you can see from the pics below, a lot of vendors were pretty much in the dark. It was not good.

Mom and I got everything set up in our booth that was not even nearly 8' deep. We were bumping into the people from the booth behind us. It was fairly uncomfortable actually. There wasn't much room to move around or get bags and boxes out from under the table for my customers' purchases. Thank goodness my tables are on the small side and that my set up is somewhat flexible. I took a few minutes to thumb through the booklet and, to my surprise, my half-page ad was nowhere to be found! I was furious. I spoke to one of the coordinators and she told me that I was not the only one whose ad didn't make it into the book. She blamed the printer, but I think they just sold more space than they had available. Pretty sure that's what happened with the booth sizes as well. It was very frustrating. 

There was no time to even worry about it though. They had a steady flow of people the entire time (10 am - 3 pm). I had one very good experience with a mom and her daughter who were so fun. Very friendly and good to chat with while they were shopping. They ended up buying several pairs of earrings, a necklace and the mom even ordered a custom pair of earrings, which I dropped in the mail to her this afternoon. They were awesome and seemed to really like my designs. Throughout the day I also sold another bracelet and a few pairs of earrings, and had lots of lookers take my cards. My sales were just under $200, which is awesome. The space was only $25, so that is a tidy little profit to reinvest into what else... more supplies! :)

Below is my booth set-up and that is my mom sitting there behind the table. She would probably love to know that she's all over the internet! We just won't tell her. See how dark it was in there though? Yikes!

This was the booth next door to mine. The lady wasn't in it at the time of this pic, but she was very sweet and she just happens to be an Etsy seller, Ariel Michelle with the most adorable cosmetic bags on earth (that she makes herself, of course)! She just opened her shop on Etsy and doesn't have any bags listed yet, but you can see how great they are here and send her a convo! I suggested to mom that they'd make great gifts for all the granddaughters for Christmas, and she ended up buying 6 sets for them (they were in sets of a large and a smaller bag). 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh boy, searching for a new bank...

I hope this doesn't come across as too much of a rant. I'm actually much calmer about it than I was last week when I received a letter from Fifth Third Bank regarding a credit card account I had with them. The letter came to me on Tuesday, June 30. It had the "Important changes to your credit account" note on the envelope, but I tossed it in the pile of mail to open later. Naturally I forgot to open it that night. I did, however, think of it Wednesday and remembered to open it when I got home from work. More times than not when I get letters like this, they are telling me about changes to terms that really don't affect me, like cash advance rules and such. Much to my surprise, this one was informing me that they were increasing my rate to Prime + 14.99% but never less than 19.99%! Do what now?

A little background... I do have a good amount of revolving debt, I won't deny that. I actually opened this card a few years ago and consolidated a few others with it. It is one of two credit cards that I have that I actually use still and really only when I'm in a pinch for cash for something like dog food and I'm somewhere that doesn't accept AmEx. I generally like to use my American Express card because I have to pay it off every month, so that keeps me from using it excessively. All of the cards I have have been getting paid down for probably 2 years now. I don't even use them, because I've been busy trying to get out of debt once and for all!

Anyway, Fifth Third decided all of the sudden that the couple hundred dollars they already get from me in interest every month was not enough. In a nutshell, they don't like the way I've used my account, my balance is too high and I don't keep enough money in my checking account to suit them. It really infuriates me. They set the limit. I've never gone over that limit. I've never been late on a payment and I always pay at least a few bucks more than the minimum due. I was instructed that I had 7 days to reject the new terms, which would result in my account being closed. Fine by me. Really. It was a little bit odd to me that the 7 days included a 3 day long weekend. As I fired off my rejection letter on Thursday, I wondered how many people would miss their 7 day window and end up paying some ridiculously inflated rate of interest. 

I'm positive I am not alone in this. So anyway, I told them I don't feel it's fair and a whole lot of other stuff in that letter. That I am a good customer, albeit small in comparison to some, I'd imagine. And that up until this point I had recommended them to pretty much everyone I knew. Well that is over now. Now I have to find a new home for my checking accounts, mostly because I told them I would. lol. I am not really looking forward to that.

Here's some advice from my dad that I really wish I'd have taken to heart sooner: Pay as you go and you'll never owe.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A peek into my day job.

Not that it's super impressive or anything, but I thought I'd share a few things that have come across my desk recently at work. Below are stock photography images that I've had to alter to varying degrees. These are the types of things that tend to take up a lot of my day (sometimes days) when they pop up. Retouching photos used to really intimidate me, but a couple years ago, I got thrown into it and learned some tricks from a former co-worker who was probably expert level. Now, I don't claim to be at his Photoshop skill level, but I'm getting more comfortable with it and don't panic when I send out final artwork anymore.

The blond lady was missing the side and top of her hair and her left shoulder. The brunette was missing the top and some of the right side of her hair. Not too bad as far as retouching goes, but hair can be a little tricky to work around. I added hair to both, dropped out the background and adjusted the color a little bit, just to make them look a little less flat. They have a little rosy glow now.

For this image the art director made lots of changes. A couple of which I initially overlooked and had to go back and adjust more once I realized. Sometimes they forget to tell me everything they'd like for me to do to the photos! Anyway, the obvious change was the removal of the prescription bottles. Then the blurry cotton swab jar in front of her right shoulder had to go too. This pretty much came down to recreating the front of her lab coat. That was interesting. There just wasn't much to work with there. After that, I had to nix the IV bag and rack and replace the background because the image wasn't quite wide enough for the project. I think I ended up adding a smidge to the beakers and laptop as well. 

This one was involved! It wasn't really a problem to get rid of the little floating platform. Unfortunately this image was way too skinny for the art director's vision. I had to make up the deck and the arm of the chair on the left and add a bit to the right side as well. There's not much to say about it, other than it took me a while to get it to where you might not notice if it weren't pointed out to you. Water generally has a nice ripple to it, but you have to be careful not to have it look too much like a pattern. At least I got to look at a cute cat for a while. :)

So that sort of stuff is probably the most challenging part of my day job. Not too bad for a day's work, although I spend a lot of time with jewelry design in the back of my mind...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Two Saturdays ago, my mom and I decided to make the short drive to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. We used to go at least once every summer with her sister and my cousin, who is a year younger than me. We would really look forward to it, I mean, it was a big deal to us as kids! Neither my mom nor I had been there in years and a lot has changed since I was a kid. There are some new exhibits as well as some that have been completely revamped with beautiful results. We're very fortunate to have such a wonderful zoo here in Cincinnati. I realize this looks like a lengthy post, but it is made up mostly of photos and captions. Enjoy!

There always seems to be a peacock everywhere you look when you're there. Some of them hide, some are in plain sight like this lovely guy below. He's standing alongside the track of the train that you can ride around the zoo. There is a tram as well that visits the places not requiring a track. Nice features if you're looking to sit down for a little bit and still keep moving and sight-seeing. 

These little guys were inside the petting zoo. Am I the only one surprised to see penguins outside in the sunny 80º weather? I always thought they were all cold-loving. See? Plenty of learning opportunities at the zoo...

The giraffe area is one that is completely different from when I was a kid. They have lots more room to run around now. It used to be they were in a smaller roundish area, and you could pick leaves off the bushes surrounding it and hold them on the palm of your hand and they would lick them up! It was so cool! I suppose that was a hazard to both children and the giraffes. They now have specific times throughout the day where you can purchase giraffe food for a $1 and feed them while supervised by a zoo keeper. Much better idea!

Same sort of changes for the elephant area as well. More room – yea!

I wish I had taken the bigger camera. The dark lump on the ground behind this big male western lowland gorilla is actually a mom and her baby! She was lying on her back in the shade and baby was on top of her. It was the cutest thing!

The cat house has always been one of my favorite exhibits. It was done up really well probably 10 years ago. We caught this guy snoozing!

These little sweeties were in the nocturnal house... the fennec fox. One side note on the nocturnal house: I was super-annoyed by people who were not turning off the flashes on their cameras in there. People! These animals come out mainly at night. How do you think bright flashes make them feel?!? I mean, there are signs all over in there lit with black lights. Sometimes I just want to smack people...

This guy seemed to be waiting for a photo-op. The Yellow-backed Duiker. I don't remember seeing them before...

Greater Flamingos

No one saw this guy until I started taking photos of him. He was nestled quietly up in the trees under the railroad bridge. I tried to get the full length shot, but I think I need some practice! Too many people started to stop too, so he started to stir...

We've had white tigers as long as I can remember. Here is one, doing what cats will do.

This cheetah was sleeping and all of the sudden popped its head up and let out a meow that sounded like one of my house cats! It was so cute to hear. I don't think of big cats meowing, but I guess some do.

Beautiful snoozing Malayan Tiger.

Three good-size red ear slider turtles who reside outside the manatee exhibit.

The manatees! This was the first time I'd seen these guys. They've been at the zoo for a few years. A funny thing, they have these machines where you put a penny in along with two quarters (for the fee) and turn the crank and it will flatten the penny and stamp a zoo image on it, then spits it out. Beside that was one that made quarters. (I've seen them before at MGM Grand in Vegas, and I usually throw in a penny to see what I get out.) Well, my mom thought it was the greatest thing ever! She must have spent $10 between the two and we actually had to go back outside the manatee exhibit to the snack stand to get change for a five dollar bill so she could take it back inside and make more pennies and quarters. It was making me laugh.

This is one of my favorite exhibits and I'm thrilled that Siegfried and Roy chose our zoo for some of their cats. Really cool, if you ask me!

The white lions... I know he doesn't look snow white, but he's definitely much lighter in color than the ones you generally see. So majestic and beautiful. He was waking up from a nap and shifting to a different spot. Then, back to sleep. They have rotations for the males and females to be out in this area on different days. We were there on the male day, obviously.

This Sumatran Orangutan was awake and alert and checking everyone out.

Polar bears, taking a dip.

I thought it was nice of this little one to pose above his sign for easy identification – the scarlet-chested parakeet.

Two blue and gold macaws.

Another peacock, this one a female. She must be a greeter. She was right inside the entrance and let me get up close to her to get her pic! No zoom here. Maybe it wasn't the best idea I had all day, looking back. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

A short stay in Waynesville

I was a participant in a show yesterday that I actually found by browsing the Etsy forums. It's called Second Sunday Stroll and it's an arts and crafts fair series that takes place in the quaint village of Waynesville, OH. I thought it was farther away than it actually was, but turns out it's just a 40 minute or so drive from where we live. Not too bad.

It was a nice day for a drive and the show didn't open until noon and ran until 5 pm, so I wasn't rushed to get out of bed early, which was nice. Naturally I was up later than expected the night before finishing up tasks like making business cards and labels for my boxes, so a little extra sleep was helpful. I honestly don't know where time goes sometimes. I had a week to replenish my supplies from last week's show, but never seemed to find the spare time.

I arrived in Waynesville in plenty of time to get unloaded and set up, and one of the shop owners (there are many antique and boutique type shops up there... very cute little town!) and another vendor helped me set up my tent in no time at all. (No, couldn't convince my husband to tag along this time. lol) It ended up being around 85º and sunny with a bit of a cool breeze now and then. There was a relatively steady flow of small groups and couples walking around. I was one of 5 jewelry vendors on the short block where my booth was set up. I still managed to do alright though, considering. I ended up with around $75 in sales, with the space fee being only $15. I was happy to have sales when some others had lots of window shoppers. 

Around 3:40ish, I started hearing drops of rain hitting my canopy. No big deal, I thought, it was just drizzle. No sooner had I thought it, the sky turned dark and thunder started rolling through, which was all followed by a nice steady, relatively heavy rain. I mean, not a lovely shower, but a downpour. Fortunately I had gotten all of my jewelry and display pieces packed safely away in my plastic bins. I decided to make a run for it and get the car pulled around. By the time I got there and back to my tent it was really coming down and I was soaked. I was trying to get the covers off of my tables and my tent decided to take a walk down the street. (I didn't realize going in that we weren't going to be on grass, so I had no way of weighing down my tent, along with a few other vendors.) That sucker was moving on all four legs like it was on wheels, right toward my neighbor's shiny red truck! For a second it was like it was playing in slow motion, then I snapped out of it quick enough to grab one of the legs before it got to the truck. That's when I looked back and saw my neighbor on the other side's tent following mine! Then the lady who was running the show saw me struggling and grabbed the other tent. That vendor had walked away to get some lunch with her daughter moments before it started raining heavily. Her display (also jewelry) was still intact, aside from a little jostling around from the tent pulling it along. Finally we got my tent down and I shoved it in the back of our SUV. I still need to get that canopy out so it can dry... 

It was really getting to be pretty funny. The runaway tent makes me laugh aloud, since nothing was damaged and no one injured. But I felt like I looked like someone in a movie, on a boat in a storm or something. Calling for help, holding on to that tent pole for life. LOL It was ridiculous. Had to look hysterical.

Needless to say, that show wrapped up about an hour earlier than scheduled. Sorry I don't have any photos this time. I forgot to even take my camera along for this one. I'm now 50/50 on outdoor shows. Last week the weather was flawless, this week not so much. It was still nicely put together and run though, despite the weather not cooperating. (They are looking for more vendors as well, so if you're interested, check out the link above! It doesn't always rain there!) I think I'll probably do it again in the future. If anyone is up that way, you really should check out Waynesville sometime!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Busy weekend with a very successful show!

Last week, my 4-day work week turned into 5 days. (Nope, didn't take long.) I really don't mind but I was hoping to get to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens with my mom on Friday because it was supposed to be sunny and a mild 80º. Well, that didn't happen so I decided to see if she wanted to go on Saturday instead. We did go and it was awesome. I'll post more on that later though. After the zoo, my husband and I went to see The Hangover. We thought it was really funny and we enjoyed the gratuitous shots of Las Vegas. (Kinda goofy/stupid guy humor, I guess... I don't know who out there would appreciate it...)

Sunday had me at the first ever Trillium Art Fair in Glenwood Gardens. It's not too far from our house, so I didn't have to get up and head out terribly early. It started at 11 am and I managed to drag my husband there to help me set up my brand new tent. It went up in a snap, even without the directions which I didn't realize were tucked in the bag with the stakes. (Got a funny look from my husband when I found those. It's okay, I get that look from him a lot. lol) I might need to add a table next time I do an outdoor show. Looking at my display like this makes me feel it's on the small side.

I guess they publicized the event pretty well because all day long it was a steady stream of people, sometimes lots at a time. People were there before it opened and were already shopping. The weather held up nicely - not too hot and not a cloud in the sky. It was awesome! Lots of people had their dogs with them (many walk their dogs there daily on the trails, from what I learned), so next year if I get in again I'll have some doggie treats there for all my four-legged browsers. They had a really nice set-up and it's just an amazing park that I never even knew existed. Various local bands played throughout the day and I was set-up near the stage. Below is the first band, Jake Speed and the Freddies, who are awesome, by the way.

I thought I got really lucky when the first thing I sold was a necklace. From there it just never slowed down. I actually had to call my husband to bring me more $1's and $5's. I ended up with over $500 in sales, eight of them credit card transactions (thank you, Propay!), making it my most successful show so far. I never could have anticipated those kinds of numbers. Most times, I'm thrilled if I make $150 or so. They already have the date set for next year and I am definitely going to try to get in again.

Below is the view from my booth when the fair first opened at 11. There wasn't much time after that to take photos! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Trying to stay within a budget. Sorta.

It's hard to believe it's Wednesday already. This week seems to be zipping by and I don't feel like I'm getting much done. Last night I listed a couple pairs of earrings in my shop and tonight I was feeling a little uninspired so I thought I'd leave the jewelry design for tomorrow night and catch up on reading some of my favorite blogs. Everyone seems so busy and productive! I do have a show this Sunday. It's a juried one that I managed to get into a bit late (like last week. eek!). I've got a brand new tent that looks pretty nice. It's even got UV protection, of which I am a big proponent. I still need to set that up in the yard and make sure I know what the heck to do with it. 

Since I don't have a whole lot to report on the jewelry design front, I thought I'd share one of my new favorite recipes. We've been trying very hard lately to eat at home the majority of the time rather than out at restaurants in an effort to save money. Our kitchen is in the midst of a remodel and, by that I mean, it's barely a kitchen at all. There is a sink cabinet, a small table and chairs, refrigerator and a newer range. It's been like that for about 5 years. Yep, big stall in the funding... it's a long story. We found out just last week that we need to replace the stack of our plumbing configuration. We've been wanting to redo our bathroom, which sits directly above the kitchen with the pipes in the kitchen ceiling, and we can't redo the kitchen until the bathroom is done, so we're really trying to scrape up some money for the repairs that lie ahead.

(I know this is a long way to go for a recipe, isn't it?)

I picked up a copy of Real Simple magazine a month or so ago and saw a recipe for Gingery Glazed Asian Ribs. I tried it out that week. The sauce is amazing! I think I picked a bad rack of ribs or they needed to be cooked for way longer than the recipe suggested. Either way, I picked up a pork tenderloin the following week and followed the recipe again with that. It was outstanding! Very easy to make and delicious. I make basmati rice with it and lima beans. 

Note: If you've never worked with fresh ginger, which I hadn't, you peel it first like a potato before grating it. It's pretty easy to work with and I think the fresh flavor is worth the little extra effort.

If anyone tries it, please let me know how you liked it and if you used ribs or tenderloin! I'd love to know if I just did something wrong!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Got to find some balance

I'm pretty sure this could be classified as a transitional period in my life. There seems to be a ton going on, just in day to day life. I know it has a lot to do with starting back to work. Right now I'm feeling like there are not enough hours in the day. I can't seem to fit in much time for jewelry design or production (much less tending to my blog), and when I do manage to get some pieces made, it seems that it takes days for me to find time to list each one. It's feeling pretty ridiculous. It's not like I have kids running around demanding my attention. (Well, my dogs and cats seem pretty demanding, but that's my own fault. lol) I don't know, I'll figure out a system or it will work itself out, it's just driving me a bit crazy right now.

In the meantime, at least I have my gardens for some peace and tranquility. From a distance, I can't even see all the weeds I need to pull. :P  This little beauty (Lithodora) is a newish plant that my mom picked up for me a few weeks back. We've had lots of rain lately and it's just flourishing. This pic is from the day it was planted though.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time to catch up...

With the blog, that is. I'm not even sure how I got this far behind this time! It makes me a little crazy...

Work is going pretty well, so far, which is good. It's been a little less busy than I like it, but it should pick up soon with the addition of a couple new clients. Hopefully they like print advertising (which is mainly the area where I specialize). I feel like I'm back in the swing of things there. That's a nice feeling for sure.

A lot of time this week seems to have been devoted to getting some more shows lined up for the upcoming spring/summer months. At the middle school show last weekend, I did have a chance to talk to some really nice vendors and I got some good show leads. A photographer mentioned one that is being put on by Hamilton County Parks District at Glenview Gardens on June 7. I figured it's worth a try to get in, plus it's an art fair, so maybe I'll have a little better luck, who knows. Anyway, I went to their website and found out that it is a juried show and the submission deadline – well, I missed it by a mile – was February 6. That's right, I'm 3 months late. I have a knack. I sent an email to the organizer and she said they are trying to fill a couple more spaces if I want to submit photos and an application. I sent those materials off today. I would think I'd hear pretty soon one way or the other.

Then I found another one online that is at a local community church in July. They have over 10,000 members within their combined locations and are going to do radio, tv, print and internet advertising, not to mention they are inviting the local news and vendors also have the option of purchasing ad space in a booklet that they will hand out to everyone who walks in the door. Love it! I'm in! It sounds really promising. At least there should be plenty of people to not buy my stuff this time. :P

Other than that, I have some new loose beads and strands that I picked up a couple weekends ago at a traveling bead and gem show. I'm impressed with this batch. Lots of sparklies. Take a look:

Left to right: Thai silver toggles and links, flower amazonite, lodalite, green amethyst, chalcedony, opal, serpentine, sunstone, Mexican fire opal and amazonite. I already have some of the green amethyst and the serpentine in my shop. Just trying to find the time to work with the rest!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading my rambling. :)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I guess you can't win ’em all.

Today was the Woodland Middle School Spring Fever Fair, in which I was a vendor. It was the first annual show there. I was approached by one of the organizers via email weeks ago and then again at the last craft show I did a couple weeks back. I decided that for $30 for booth space, I'd go ahead and give it a whirl. 

Unbeknownst to me, it was slated to be an outdoor event. (Panic!) I've never done one of those before and was completely unprepared... no tent! Fortunately for me, I guess, it had been raining all week and they were forced to move it inside (thankfully). That let me off the hook for running out and purchasing a tent that would either be of good quality and more than I'd like to invest right now, or cheap and probably not that great.

At any rate, the show was today. From 9 am to 4 pm. That is a long show. My goodness, was it a long show. Good thing I was only feet away from one of those big white school clocks with the big black numbers and the slow-as-molasses moving hands so I never lost track of time. (Remember when you were in school and the clock felt like it never moved? Seriously, it felt like that.)

It poured and dumped rain most of the day, so I'm not sure if that kept away shoppers or if the event just wasn't advertised much. I think over the course of 7 (l-o-n-g) hours, we maybe had 60 people through there. Needless to say, no sales for me. Other vendors were having the same luck. It was sad. And boring. Oh dear.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's back to work for me.

Last week I wrote that my former employer called me with an offer to return, which I happily accepted. "Do you want to think about it over the weekend?..." asked my HR Manager. "No way! I'm there, see you Monday!" (not in those exact words, of course) was my reply. Initially, it is for 4 days or 30 hours per week, still considered full-time, with the hope that later this year it goes back to 5 days or 37.50+ hours per week.

I returned to work Monday after a year and one week. Lots of people I once worked with are no longer employed there, some victims of the initial lay-off like me, some who left over the course of the year. But then, there are quite a few familiar faces and some new ones as well. It was a little strange and not everyone knew I was returning, so some were surprised to see me. It didn't take long for me to get back into the old swing of things. I have done some freelance work for them over the course of my year off, so that helped, I'm sure.

I can't put into words how relieved I am to be working again. Although I enjoyed much of my time off and being able to put lots of work and thought into my Etsy store and jewelry design, I'm completely enamored by the thought of a steady paycheck. It was getting a little tough there in spots, but things are definitely looking up. I even woke up to an earring sale this morning. What more could I ask for? :)


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