Monday, August 31, 2009

EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival #2 for Aug. 28, 2009

Back to school. What a loaded phrase! After so many years of detesting those dreaded words, they finally dwindled into obscurity after college. But this year they took on another meaning as I was cleaning out our spare room. I stumbled across all of these old school supplies that had never been used, but we had been lugging around from apartment to apartment to house over the years. I decided I should donate them to someone who could use them - part of my "big clean" mentality that went beyond the spare room. I had been collecting tchatchkas of all sorts from all sorts of places, and it was time to streamline my life. So I ransacked my pen collection that I had amassed over the past 15+ years from various vacation spots. Just a ridiculous number of them. They weren't doing me any good, but what kid wouldn't love to do their homework with pens adorned with Mickey Mouse or Disney princesses or the Texas state flower?

So now all I had to do was find the right place to take my pens and college notebooks and lined paper. But at that point it was evening on a Saturday, and nowhere that came to mind was open. So I popped online to decide where to go the next day. Imagine my frustration when every place I researched insisted on "new" item donations only. Or money. Then I remembered those commercials from "Sleep Country USA" - they accept donations of school supplies at all of their stores.

But instead of going straight there, I stopped by Target. I don't know if it was my love of shopping, the crazy-cheap prices (24 cents for a box of crayons???), the fact that my sister-in-law was pregnant, or that I wanted to be. I bought two of everything, and stuffed it all into two backpacks - one collection slightly more feminine than the other. It's amazing what $30 can buy in the back-to-school section of Target. So I put together the backpacks, and quickly grabbed my old-yet-unused school supplies that were just an afterthought at this point, and headed out to my nearest mattress discount store.

Walking in with my booty, I became nervous about the remnants of my ransacked pen collection. What if the lack of pretty packaging kept them out of the hands of those Disney-loving kids? After a quick discussion with the guy behind the counter, we decided that if the powers-that-be decided my pens weren't good enough for the kids, at least they could be used in some office somewhere. So I put everything on the counter, gave it one last look, and walked out. Kind of anti-climactic after the soul-searching required to give away those pens. But there was some relief to have them gone. And the excitement that some lucky kids were going to get those shiny new backpacks.

I think I'm going to make this a yearly ritual from now on. :)

EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival #1 for Aug. 28, 2009

I have this amazing ability to procrastinate on projects until the very last minute or, in this case, until days after the deadline. Better late than never, right? I promise this recipe is worth the wait!

Is it really possible for anyone to pick a favorite food? I'm a notoriously picky eater, and yet there are so many foods that I love! Every restaurant I go to, I always have the same thing on the menu: Il Fornaio's Mushroom Risotto, Yasuko's Pork Teriyaki, Zaika's Butter Chicken, Spiro's Pepperoni Sub Sandwich, Family Pancake House's Eggs Benedict, Andaluca's Hot Chocolate Lava Cake... you get the idea. Desserts are my weakness however, especially since quite often I get a craving for "pastry" - cake or pie just won't do, doughnuts are acceptable only if nothing else is available, but I'm really not happy unless puff pastry is involved. This is how I stumbled onto the fact that I absolutely love almond flavoring: searching for Pastry (capital "P"!) at Whole Foods, the only thing that looked acceptable was an almond croissant. I think I will remember the ensuing food-orgasm for the rest of my life.

Of course, the quickest and easiest way to my heart is through chocolate - but only the sweet white or milk chocolates. Semi-sweet chips are the quickest way to ruin a chocolate chip cookie, and dark chocolate I find absolutely disgusting. Dessert should be sweet, should it not? So I think this is where my decision lies: my old standby favorite food are thick, gooey chocolate brownies. If you like your brownies cakey, and/or with frosting, then head on over to the cake aisle and pick up a mix for chocolate cake, ok? What's the point of brownies if they're not impossibly moist and gooey?! It was a delicious day in our home when my mother found a brownie recipe by Hershey's that we all loved, and since I moved out I try to make a batch at least once a year. Here is the recipe, which we always double to make sure the brownies are really thick!

Hershey's Deep Dish Brownies
3/4 C. melted margarine or butter
1 & 1/2 C. sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoons (tsp.) vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 C. unsifted, all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 C. Hershey's Cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking powerder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F.
Blend melted margarine with sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, beat well with a spoon. In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add this to your egg mixture until well blended. Spread into a greased 8" square pan (a 10" x 14" pan works great when doubling the recipe). Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until brownie begins to pull away from the edges of the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come away clean when they are done. Let brownies cool most of the way, cut into squares, and serve while still slightly warm.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

EtsyBloggers Street Team: Featured Shop for August 2009

I recently joined the Etsy Bloggers Street Team, where each month a member is selected for everyone to feature in their blogs. I'm very excited that my first opportunity to participate is for such a great Etsy shop!

This month's featured shop/blogger is memoriesforlifesb, who makes the cutest little scrapbooks and notebooks in many fun different shapes. In fact, I can only find one album in her shop that uses the standard 12x12 format - which is a wedding scrapbook album that she will personalize just for you. What busy scrapper hasn't wished there was someone else they could dump some of their scrapbooking on?

But if you do have the time on your hands to scrapbook regularly, then definitely look into her other offerings. It's hard for me to pick a favorite from all the fun designs, but I'm very tempted to grab this mini baby-boy scrapbook so I can start an album for my one-day-old nephew!

New line: Tropicana

I left last weekend's gem show with a brilliant collection of gemstones that inspired design after design this week. Mostly gorgeous tropical shades of chalcedony, so I named the line "Tropicana" - all designed with bright gemstones saturated with colors reminiscent of warm beaches, tropical fruit, and cocktails adorned with little umbrellas.

I've also implemented an old design with some of them so that they can use interchangeable pendants. The trick is to use slender beads, a small clasp, and attaching the pendant to a split-ring large enough to slip over the clasp and slide without resistance along the beads of the necklace. Using a split-ring allows you to use it with different pendants, or you can just use a different split-ring for each pendant.

So without further ado, here are the new designs I've just listed at Etsy. More to come in the upcoming weeks!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Welcome to the new blog for Miao Miao by Mysie!

I finally decided to separate my jewelry business posts and put them into a new blog. Now all I have to do is find a reasonable layout.

So, down to business. I spent all day wrapping up my application to the Phinney Neighborhood Association's Winter Festival and Crafts Fair. I've been wanting to do that show for years - it's quite a big event and, unlike so many other local holiday markets, actually does a fair bit of advertising. I've always missed the deadline in the past - who on earth is planning their holiday schedule in August? Apparently, the PNA does. But no complaining, because it's done. Turned in. Deadline met. Hallelujah!

Now to wait. I'm pretty confident in my application, despite the intimidating skills of last year's jewelry sellers. I have my own niche, with a a very reasonable price range. And I have a bit over 3 months to make all sorts of stock. I think I'll be focusing on earrings - need lots of flashy but affordable items if you want to make lots of sales.

So I'm going to log off now. Thought I would post my application pages for posterity. :)

I do not patronize bunny rabbits... or How to put your worry to bed

It has been an amazingly productive weekend. I designed 4 different necklaces and have ideas for at least two more to start right away. I only managed to string and finish one of them, but I decided the day would be better spent taking photos. Took lots and lots of pics, and I've been hashing through them in Photoshop. As always, when there is a deadline looming, I am worried that I will not finish in time, or I didn't read the instructions right, or I forgot to do something vitally important. Not to mention the second-guessing myself.

I have discovered that my camera's self-timer is my new best friend. Despite all my research, every time I try to manually adjust the shutter speed or ISO or f-stop my pictures are still hit-and-miss at best. I think I've found a good setting, I take shots of all my items, and when I upload them they're all out of focus. All my work is for naught because my hands shake so much - it's so bad that using a tripod isn't enough. Nothing can secure the camera enough to keep it absolutely still as I press the button. So I finally worked out how to turn on my self-timer.

I tried to look online for a remote trigger, but all the ones that say they work for my camera brand conspicuously leave out my model. I'm pretty sure this means I'm SOL in that department, esp. since my manual assures me there is no trigger available for this camera. So here I am, experimenting with my auto-timer. And it's working like a charm! Unfortunately, I'm still taking a dozen or so pics of each piece at different settings just to be sure. I so very much hate the lighting in this damn room. What was I thinking with dark walls?

But back to the shaking hands. A few months before our trip to Italy last year, I noticed some weird stuff going on with me, but ignored it until I got to Italy. Pretty much ZERO percent of my pictures taken in churches turned out because my hands were too shakey. My hands shake and are weakening while becoming slightly arthritic. I am clumsier than ever, I'm forgetting things all the time, and quite often I stop mid-sentence when talking to someone because my mind just suddenly goes blank. I finally went to a neurologist, and I passed the cursory examination with flying colors - the doctor told me she was surprised because usually people who come in with so many symptoms get at least a few red flags when they undergo testing. Imagine that, one of my doctors has no idea what's wrong with me. Hoo-rah!

So as I was stringing my necklace this morning I noticed my hands were cramping and shaking, and also exhibiting a definite loss of strength and dexterity in my left hand. Which of course has me thinking about the future.

Doing this show in November has changed me pretty much over-night. I am so excited and motivated. And part of it is this feeling that it may be my last hoo-rah before my hands deteriorate to the point that I can't make jewelry anymore. So I could at least go out with a bang, right? Except today it ocurred to me that it is just as likely, if not more, that my hands will become too bad before the event. And with my iffy health, any number of things could go wrong between now and then to fuck me up. Not to mention I might be pregnant and experiencing morning sickness by then.

So after convincing myself I wanted to do this and I was capable of it, after convincing Eric that I am capable of doing it so he is willing to pay the entrance fee (the highest I've ever paid!), now I am questioning myself. Again. Imagine that.

But tonight I decided to just fuck it. The worst that could happen is that I cancel and get our money back - I have until the day before the event to back out and get nearly a full refund. Plus, I have been so lacking in enthusiasm and motivation to do just about anything lately, I think this might be just what I need.

So I'm doubting myself. But I'm just telling Self to fuck-off. I've got enough on my plate without adding another heaping serving of worry on the side - especially about things that may not even happen.

Most useful lesson I got from therapy: worry (and guilt) is a useless emotion. Worrying about the future does absolutely nothing for you but make your present miserable. It is surprisingly easy to stop worrying when I tell myself this.

Well, at least for a few hours, after which it's bound to pop into my head again... But at least this way I can catch some sleep between then and now. Ciao baby - I've got to motor if I want to beat Eric turning the bedroom light off for the night.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Designs!

The gem show was amazing! I picked up a lot of stuff that I've never seen before - most of it various shades of chalcedony. Chalcedony has officially replaced moonstone as my favorite stone. It comes in so many amazing colors, and the murky/creamy translucency makes them appear to glow from within when the light hits them.

So I spent all day designing, mostly with the chalcedony. There is a lot about jewelry making that is calm and mind-numbing, but in a good, zen sort of way. I let my mind wander all over the place, inevitably coming around to whatever story I'm trying to plot out enough to write down. Today was no exception, but I kept coming back to the beads - I love these new beads so much, I want desperately to go back and get another set of everything so I can make duplicate pieces for myself! I was such a good girl yesterday trying so hard to stay within my budget, I don't want to blow it all by tempting myself going back into that building. I just have to make it until 6pm tomorrow night, then the show will be gone!

Anyway, here's some of the stuff I designed today, pre-assembly. Per usual, the camera was not cooperating, but I only took the pics about an hour and this room sucks for light during the day, so taking pics in here at night-time is a fool's errand. The deep-red walls just suck in the light like greedy little sponges.

Uh-oh, I brought up the walls. I will not rant about my living room fiasco. Nope. I will stay on task!

Anyway, here they are, just a sneak peak!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

oh yah, change... i kinda forgot about that

I'm trying to learn to live in the light, stop embracing my darkness and hiding out until the rain returns. I love the darkness, I love the rain. But there's only so much misery and self-pity and loneliness I can take. I promised myself last year that everything would be changing, and I meant it. I just haven't done that great of a job so far. It's so damn easy to slip into old patterns.

I want to write more often, even if it's just in this silly blog, so I searched high and low for an acceptable layout that would be bright and inviting and representative of who I've been and who I'm trying to become.

I want to create more in general. This has been a better year for that than previous, but I'm still only working in spurts, letting the laziness suck me in. Having no regular reason to leave the house is an invitation to disaster. I've discovered that I like to be alone, that I can often be more productive in solitude. But staying at home, it's so damn easy to turn on the TV and forget to turn it off. I really need to police my TV time.

So today I drove into town to pick up a copy of my brand new City of Seattle Business License! I am now officially a sole proprietorship, a small business owner, an entrepreneur! Of course, I've been operating without a license for awhile - I never really stopped after dissolving my previous partnership. But it's nice to be all official-like. Plus, it's required for the event I'm going to be applying to.

If I have my way, this November I will be having my first public event in about two years. I don't want to say anymore right now - don't want to jinx it! But thanks, Michelle, for putting it in my head. :)

So this weekend is going to be all about creating. I'm putting the finishing touches on a piece tonight. Then tomorrow I'm going to be working with this amazing chalcedony dyed a vibrant purple. Absolutely nothing comes close to matching it in color, so finding accents to go with them has been a challenge. Then, hopefully, I will create at least 2 more pieces by the end of the weekend. And preferably have it all photographed by then as well. That will leave Monday to put together the application packet.

Coming up with designs is just amazing. Implementing them is challenging. Photographing the results can drive me nuts, but in the end it's very rewarding. Putting together an application packet for an arts & crafts show is hell. No matter how much you think you know your way around photoshop, no matter how stocked on ink and paper you think you are, the process always takes at least twice as long as you set-aside. Because you DON'T know photoshop to do this one simple thing that you can't understand why the program wasn't made to do at the press of a button. And your printer hates you. I'm pretty sure that as soon as you open Photoshop, your printer catches on and begins binge-drinking your ink in the hopes that your project will totally bomb and it can laugh at you.

But right now I need to catch some Zzzzzzs so I'm off like a prom dress. 'night.