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A Cup of Passion

For the last couple weeks, I've been delivering a hot cup of Passion to my husband first thing in the morning before he even wakes up...a cup of caffeine free Passion herbal tea. I even deliver it in one of the mugs we purchased at Edgecomb Potters during our first real vacation as a couple to Camden, Maine in 1994, the year after we got married.
January 7, 2011
Since the heart surgery, he cannot even take sips of caffeinated beverages without being uncomfortable...like his heart is trying to escape his chest or something. For several years, our morning routine has included me waking him up with the first cup of coffee and watching the talking heads CNBC together.
Now I bring him caffeine free Passion tea to bed every morning. The act of serving him that first cup of coffee/tea is something very simple that should barely even register a blip during the day, but means more to him than say...cleaning the entire house or doing his laundry. It brings him great joy to know I care enough about him to wake him up with his cup of coffee or tea and sometimes even breakfast. How do I know this? He tells me pretty much every single day how much he appreciates it. A marriage that infuses several teeny tiny acts of kindness and thoughtfulness into every single day rather than just on special occasions is a much happier marriage.

I'm Not an Expert or Anything...

however, I want to take a moment to chat about photography (and I do mean a moment because what I know about photography can be explained in just a few seconds). I am a wannabe photographer. I'm not sure what that means exactly....I don't actually want to provide a photography service or take photos to sell. I DO want to take great photos to sell my beads and jewelry. Or to share stories. Or document our daily lives. It's a hobby and it's a very important part of running an online business. And while I LOVE taking snapshots for fun, the business side of things makes me want to pull my hair out while running down the street naked and screaming. Well...maybe not the naked part. It's cold outside and I don't want to go to jail for causing people to go blind. But the pulling hair, screaming and running part is totally true. OK, maybe not the running part either because I pretty much hate running....anyway, you get the idea. It just so happens I wasn't going to chat about photography today until I uploaded this January 6, 2011 photo of the day to my handy dandy photo editing software last  night (Photoshop Elements is my poison of choice and only because it's the only one I "sort of" know how to use). Big Fluffly Flakes Unedited VersionWe had giant fluffy flakes falling softly to the ground and the pop of the red berries on our Hawthorne tree was so pretty. I love that tree...the shape, the berries, the leaves, and I take pictures of it frequently. Anyway, I uploaded it to my editing software to decrease the size and started playing with shadows/highlights, brightness/contrast. That's it. Just those two controls. It became this and I almost gasped out loud:January 6, 2011 Big Fluffy Flakes and Hawthorne treeThe picture was pretty before with a nice soft misty look to it. But this one just pops and looks alive and you can see the energy of the flakes and the berries. It makes me want to live there. Oh, wait...I do live there. The point to all this? Don't be afraid to play with your photo software. I was for a long time. Sometimes I still am. It's like trying to understand a foreign language that might gobble your photos if you can't translate it in time. HOWEVER, if you are selling online, you do not want to "edit" the photos so much you completely misrepresent your handmade creations. You will have angry customers and that is never a good thing. It's important to keep an objective eye on your creation and on your computer screen. I always have the particular bead or jewelry piece I am editing photos for sitting right here in front of me so I can compare color, etc. I still struggle with photography every single day I take pictures-whether it's jewelry, glass (talk about a real pain in the boo-taataa to get right!), people, pets or nature. I will probably always be striving to take better photos because ultimately, I want to spend as little time editing or even retaking photos as possible.Here are my personal photography quick tips (remember, I am not an expert and you try these at your own risk):-browse other online shops and look closely at the photos that draw you in. Then ask yourself why they grab your attention. Really pay attention because I think looking at other people's photos was the #1 thing that helped me.-read your camera manual. Seriously. Then play with the settings. (actually this may tie for #1 tip...)-Someone once asked me (ME!) to teach them how to get good photos. I told them to take 100 of the same picture often trying several different settings. One of them is bound to turn out. The odds are stacked in your favor, right? The good news is that piece of jewelry isn't going to get fidgety or get up and walk out of the room. (ok, this one might be a slight exagerration, but it sure feels like 100 some days).-Invest in a card with lots of memory (see above tip).-Get in as close as you can. People want to see details so well that it's almost like they are  holding it their hands.-Try different angles. Straight-on is utilitarian. And boring. However, I try to have at least one straight on shot for purposes of seeing the pieces.-Natural light when possible.-No busy backgrounds. Props are ok as long as they don't steal the spotlight.-If you're photographing jewelry, don't forget to show the clasp!-When editing, crop as close as you possibly can even though you've already zoomed in with the camera. -play with your editing software and get to know it on an intimate basis.-DON'T over-edit your photos. That's about it. Now go forth and take great photos or at least good photos that can be edited into great photos.

Don't Drown the Bead!

Want to hear a strangely satisfying noise? Take a blob of molten glass that is simply NOT BENDING TO YOUR WILL to become a beautiful bead, and dunk it in a cup of cold water. Sizzling bacon is quiet compared to the sizzle of a water baby bead.I *almost* dunked this one. It was frustrating me from the first moment I started winding glass on the mandrel. But I kept going because I'm stubborn like that. I added the fine silver mesh and the frustration continued to mount as I couldn't get the glass to form a nice shape. I wanted to dunk that sucker so bad. However, the day's spot price for silver started dancing in my head and with silver flirting with the $30 mark (the spot price of silver was about $6.50 when I placed my very first wire order!).  I kept going with that #%@&*#! bead.Looking back now, after a full  night's sleep and then seeing the magic the kiln wrought upon this spawn of satan, I can see I might have been having overly harsh thoughts and words for this poor misunderstood bead. What do you think?

Goals and Resolutions

A photo from New Year's Day of the lights and ornaments of our tree being reflected in the window and the sunset beyond. I keep thinking of the song "New Year's Day" by U2
New Years Day
Happy 2011! I am still in total and complete shock that 2010 is over. OVER! Where did it go? Last year was an interesting year. We traveled more than ever. My husband had heart surgery. My son started a new school late fall (a Montessori school and I canNOT say enough good things about it!). Homeschooling, but losing energy fast! P90X. I let my little business flounder due to time and lack of organization.In the last month, I have frequently heard the saying that people "overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year." That quote sums me up perfectly. I have big plans almost every day until life happens. But looking back over a year, it feels like I've hardly accomplished anything. That is changing this year. I've never been big on resolutions or goals. Ever. However, I have been working on a checklist of sorts including the resolutions I want to tackle and the goals that will get me there. If I have it in black and white and review it daily or weekly, I will be more likely to check off each goal met.  And because I am such a generous person, I am going to share a very brief list with you. Business: create every day -list at least one new thing on etsy 6 days a week-get something published in a magazine through submitting a minimum of 12 designs (average 1/month)-participate in a minimum of 12 challenges, blog hops, contests-do 3 shows-organize the studio so I feel better about being in it and spend less time looking for things-make 1000 beads to send to Beads of Courage. I will send 500 in June and 500 in December.-create a specific daily schedule that includes time to work on the business every single day. This should go under personal and household too. The kids function better when there is a set schedule. I do not. However, if they function better, than that means I should function better as well plus I will have studio/marketing/etc time scheduled into the day.Household:-the clutter in certain areas of the house is KILLING me. ...kitchen counters and table: keep these clear of all the daily crap that lands there. Involve entire family...keep sink clear of dishes. Involve entire family...master bedroom closet: remove everything and only put back what we use and that belongs there...extra unused rooms: get rid of everything not used in the last 2 years...get rid of DVD's and other electronic stuff no one watches or uses-Plan meals a week in advance and have dinner on the table by 6pm every day. No more 10pm dinners!Personal:-have each family member participate in the one sentence journal every single day-train for and finish first half marathon (registered for the Flying Pig in Cincinnati. Why we chose that one will be a story for another day)-complete entire 13 week P90X program twice-drink 6 glasses of water (killer!)-participate in and complete all Drawing Lab assignments on time-read at least 12 books. Six of them will be classics or Pulitzer prize (or other award) winners-listen to at least 12 audiobooks of any genre-take at least one photo every single day and upload it to Flickr-have both sides of the extended family over at least once a monthThere are several other goals and resolutions I have jotted down, but won't go into an exhaustive list because it might get kind of boring for you. However, you get the idea.Have you made a list of goals and resolutions for the year? Do you have suggestions for how we can help meet our goals? Please do tell!

A Beady Story

I've been away far more than I wanted to over the last several weeks because I have been mentally and physically drained and had nothing left over to give to anybody or anything-including this blog. However, my husband is doing well enough that he went back to work today. It isn't his full schedule yet, but he's working up to that.
Last week we took advantage of him feeling better during his last week off work to try to get some Christmas shopping done. We walked into Toys R Us, which is a place I generally avoid like the plague...but he wanted to go. He rarely does any of the Christmas shopping due to his crazy work schedule and I try to do it all online. I don't think he considers that "real" shopping, but whatever. Amazon.com is my best friend at Christmastime.
Anyway, back to the point of this story...a woman starts calling our names and running up to us. I recognized her face, but couldn't remember from where or what her name was. Then she starts raving about the bead I gave her and how she shows it to everyone and even when she doesn't show it off, people stop her and comment on it. She was even wearing it at that moment and can she please have some business cards to give out.
Of course I said "sure!" and started to dig through my handbag. That's when the unthinkable happened. I couldn't find my little card case. Shame on me. I'm already a horrible businesswoman. I rarely wear jewelry and apparently I can't even manage to carry my little business card case in my purse. Doh! Learn from my mistakes and don't leave them at home.
However, there is something else I want to point out. I gave that woman a bead. A single glass bead and an inexpensive steel cable with which to wear it that cost me $2 wholesale. I gave it to her because she was at my home last February with a caterer. We don't generally hire caterers. Actually, the only time we've ever hired a caterer was for our wedding reception 17+ years ago. But we bid on and won a dinner for 8 from this company at an auction benefitting the March of Dimes. I had just finished this particular set of beads and they were piled on the counter waiting to be photographed and listed.
The woman mentioned how green is her favorite color and how much she loved these beads, so I gave her one plus the cable necklace to wear it on. One simple bead has brought her so much joy as to tell everyone she can about it and to wear it all the time. Meeting her unexpectedly at Toys R Us a few nights ago didn't just make my day, but my entire month. Something I created with some glass and fire and gave freely without expectation made someone that happy... I forgive myself for being a crappy businesswoman and not carrying business cards or for insisting she buy one of those beads.

Room to Think

We got home from the hospital yesterday. It was a rough night to say the least consisting of about 4 hours in bed and sleeping a combined total of 2 hours. This after 5 days at the hospital and rooming in (meaning not sleeping well) and assisting in taking care of the patient
I needed to take my daughter to a play rehearsal this afternoon while my husband's brother came over to "babysit" him. The place where the rehearsal is happens to have a track and today was a gorgeous crisp autumn day. I decided I would take advantage of the time I was stuck at the rehearsal to walk around the track and do some thinking. By myself. Without interruption. I've been stressed and constantly around people and staying in a hospital even though I happen to be perfectly healthy. I needed the space to just think.
Often I get some of my best ideas and inspiration doing just mundane things where my mind is free to wander. So, I started walking. I walked and walked and then realized something weird. I wasn't thinking. I wasn't thinking about a single thing. So then I started thinking about not thinking and how weird it was I was thinking about not thinking. I mean, who thinks about not thinking?
I guess a person's thoughts can get so...backed up they aren't able to flow freely when given the chance. Or I'm just losing my mind which is entirely possible. What do you do to get the thoughts flowing freely again?

Halloween Photo Essay

We left for Indianapolis super early the morning after Halloween and life has been..."fuzzy" since then as the days all kind of run together while sleeping in a hospital room with a post-op cardiac patient who likes to keep me on my toes.
Here is the patient dressed as Dr. Death. Yes, this is what greeted all the little kids that came to our door. One child told Dr. Death he was not scary, so he said "boo!" and the kid responded with "You're still not scary!" Bwahahaha!
Husband getting into the spirit of things
Unknown Trick or Treater leaving the domain of Dr. Death. I would show a photo of my daughter the goth girl, but the neighbor girls are in the photo and haven't asked their parents' permission to post it here.
Unknown Trick or Treater
The hubster thought handing out movie theater sized candy this year was a brilliant idea! The next two photos are of the loot before trick or treating started:
Candy Before Trick or Treaters
Candy Before Trick or Treaters
The loot after approximately one hour later. I SWEAR someone heard Dr. Death was handing out movie sized candy boxes and chartered tour buses to our neighborhood because we don't have anywhere near that many kids that actually reside in the 'hood.
1 hour into Trick or Treating
With everything that's been going on in our lives, I've found it very difficult to enjoy autumn, which is my absolute favorite time of year and this makes me sad. Here is the Halloween sunset view from our backyard. The sunset is my absolute favorite time of day and in autumn it seems more fiery than other seasons. The colors are always so vibrant and vary from day to day that I always take time to study this gift from nature and think of ways to replicate the beauty. But really, you can't replicate perfection.
Hawthorne tree, bridge over creek, lamp, sunset
Halloween Sunset as seen from front yard:
Maple Tree Sunset in the background

Jewelry Designer Using a Glass Addictions Bead in Contest Entry Piece

Sarah of The Beaded Lily created this incredible necklace (although necklace hardly seems like the correct word to use for this piece...) that is DRIPPING with art beads. Some of my favorite art bead artists are represented in this necklace and I am very honored to be included among them. Here is the bead she purchased from my etsy shop:
And here is a mosaic of the various sections of the necklace she created. My bead is shown in the upper right photo.
The necklace is called Final Frontier Collections IV and is her entry into the NASA & Etsy Space Craft Contest: To the Moon and Beyond. I have admired the I Want to Believe cuff by Sarah for a while now and that would also make a fun entry into the contest.

Example of Gorgeous Jewelry made using one of MY beads

I am very excited that Cindy Wimmer of Sweet Bead Studio used one of my lampwork beads made out of the no longer in production Terra in this gorgeous charm bracelet. The bracelet sold very quickly and I can see why because it's beautiful.
Visit Cindy's Autumn Splendor and More blog post to see additional photos and read more about the bracelet. It's a beautiful post and includes information about the book she used as a prop.
I still have a stash of Terra that I pull out when I feel the need to make special beads. I think I might have to pull some out of the stash in the next couple weeks when I can get back to the studio.

Beauty in the Aftermath

What is more beautiful than light transmitting through a group of empty wine bottles after a family gathering filled with laughter, music, food, and apparently lots of wine drinking? I took this photo at about 2am after everyone had left and I was getting things cleaned up. I had kind of shoved all the bottles together and was putting crackers back into the box when I was inspired to grab the camera, use the cracker box as a "tripod" (mostly just to steady the camera in such low light) and capture the memory forever. It wasn't the same as throwing the annual pumpkin party, but in my opinion, it was better because it was more intimate and low key and not the the frenzy of kids and adults trying to get their pumpkins finished and try to win a prize. Of course, that's fun too, just a different kind of fun. The kind of fun that causes me stress.

End of Party #3

Yesterday was a bit crazy and in the midst of a soccer tournament (3 games!), drama class on the other end of town, plus a party and errands that HAD to get done. I managed to get to the post office to mail the Best Little Bead Box to California. That box weighed in at more than 14 pounds! If you want to see the goodies I took from the box, the goodies I added to the box, plus find out why I'm now on the FedEx terror watchlist, you'll want to read the post I wrote over at the Best Little Bead Box Blog (say THAT 10 times fast!)

Best Bead Box Given13

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