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Look what a Customer made with my beads!

I have the honor of showing off what a customer made with this set of beads:
Look at these fun and funky earrings created by Jaclyn using 2 of the 6 beads from the set:
Jaclyn also has a blog called Snap, Crackle, Pop in which she told an entertaining tale of how these earrings finally came to be. You really must read it. I totally sympathize with the trials and tribulations of jewelry design and getting it "right"

March of Dimes Fundraiser

Last week was the Fort Wayne March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction. My husband was the chairman for the event this year and I was so nervous for him! However, there was no need to be nervous. It was a huge success! The location was perfect and decorated beautifully, the food delicious, the silent auction packages the best I've ever seen (I've been to a few of these now), the auctioneer hilarious and so much more.The highlight of the entire thing for me was getting to have some of my family members there with me while James was off running around being a good host. Another highlight was Tanya Hand, the director of the March of Dimes Indiana Chapter and her husband Jon, the former Indianapolis Colts player sitting at our table. Both were incredibly wonderful people and Jon so patient with making the trip to all 11 of these events in Indiana with Tanya. That must get a bit tiresome. However, he was gracious and pleasant about it. I told him it was good for his wife to have him as arm candy for these things ;o)Speaking of the silent auction packages, I offered two. The first was a bracelet and earrings set. I chose purple because that is the color for the March of Dimes (notice the one bead with murrini applied? LOVE that stuff! It's Lady Slipper by Lori and Kim if you want some for yourself). I got two more orders for these after the silent auction closed and they lost. My step mom bid on these a couple times and I don't think anyone wanted to bid against her. LOL!
The second auction package I donated was this necklace designed specifically for the event. I am offering this same necklace on a made to order basis with a $5 donation going to the March of Dimes for every one of these necklaces I sell. I am also offering free worldwide shipping.
After making the original, I decided I wanted to also offer a simpler version for those that don't want the extra beads or just prefer a more sleek, modern look. So I am offering a hammered and a non hammered variation in my etsy shop. These are also on a made to order basis, $5 donation to the March of Dimes, and free shipping. These would make excellent Christmas gifts too! I will even throw in free gift wrapping. Your shopping and wrapping would be finished in a couple quick clicks and you would be helping the March of Dimes.

Murrini

I have an addiction. Ok, yes, I know you know I am addicted to glass. That one is obvious. However, this addiction is new. I am not admitting this as part of some 12 step program because it's an addiction I am not ready to let go of just quite yet. The addictions is murrini. Not martini, but MURRINI. I am not going to go into a big long explanation of that it is, but will tell you it's glass, created with different colors of glass being layered together into a cane and then cut into usable pieces. These pieces are then used to decorate other glass things...like beads! Because of this new addiction, I have been buying lots of murrini in just about every color combo I can get my hands on. Theoretically, I could make it myself. However, my time at the torch is limited. murrini are time intensive, and there are others that make and sell fun color combos that I am more than happy to buy from. A couple of the sellers I have personally purchased from are Lori and Kim and Feng Frit Factory. Both have fast shipping and gorgeous selections. One thing to keep in mind is half of the Feng Frit Factory duo lives in the Netherlands. The murrini she creates ships directly from there. However, the portion of the order from the Netherlands arrived more quickly than I thought it would. One of the other issues of collecting lots of different colors of murrini is organization and storage. I am obsessed with organization. I think mostly because I am so unorganized myself and don't like it. Here is what I came up with for the murrini: Using my 40% off coupon at Michael's I purchased this bead organizer. And look at that! I have room to expand! I LOVE it when I have extra space to fill! Because I am so anal retentive about stuff, I also peeled the labels off the baggies the murrini came in and attached them to the jar where they were relocated. Some labels did not peel off very well, so I will need to make labels for those jars. This will help me with reordering in the future.
For those of you who do not work with glass, you may not realize that the type of glass I work with is called "soft glass" and it shocks more easily than borosilicate (aka pyrex). See the photo below for proof with all the bits and pieces of glass on my bench in front of my torch from shocking. The worst is when a tiny piece shocks off and lands on the arm, or down the shirt....
The murrini likes to shock, even with gentle heat introduction (hold it far out in the coolest part of the flame, wave it in and out of the flame). So I solved this problem by placing a candle warmer next to my torch. I plug it in and turn it on when I start ramping up the kiln for the day. I haven't had a single murrini shock since using this candle warmer. Perhaps I should start using it for all my glass rods!
The bead shown at the top of this post was created using murrini and completely melting it flat. This next one the murrini were melted in, but left slightly raised, then a blob of clear added on top to magnify. A very cool effect! Both beads can be found in my etsy shop.

Look what a customer made with my beads!

Kristen Latimer makes GORGEOUS jewelry utilizing lampwork in her designs. You may remember when her studio and work were featured on Open Studio Friday. I really appreciate Kristen for buying her lampwork beads from artisans rather than from mega craft sellers that sell cheap, poorly made import lampwork.
Kristen bought this focal from me a couple months ago and I have been waiting very (im)patiently to see what she does with it. A couple days ago my (im)patience paid off when she unveiled this beauty! She really made that focal look awesome. She might list it in her etsy shop, so keep an eye out and while you're there, check out what other jewels she has available for personal adornment or gift giving.
Also, if you are on Facebook, I highly recommend you become a fan of her page because you will get to see Kristen's designs there before anywhere else and she sometimes has contests just for her fans. In fact, I won the pendant below from her last summer. I meant to show it off here, and totally forgot. I know...I totally dropped the ball on that one! It is so fun to wear, I just love it!

March of Dimes

The internet is a funny thing. You hear about internet evils every day in the media. However, I want to tell you a good story about social networking. Remember the Open Studio Friday about Ken Rieves the photographer? I "met" Ken on Twitter, even though he lives in the same city as me.
My husband is on the board for the Northeast Indiana Chapter of the March of Dimes. He is also the committee chair for the big fundraiser of the year, the Chefs Signature Auction. I am not on the committee and didn't volunteer to help. However, I was volunteered anyway ;o) I am happy to help because the March of Dimes is a program that is close to my heart, but I will explain why in a minute-just bear with me.
I emailed Ken about possibly donating a photography service to the silent auction portion of the fundraiser and maybe even taking some photos in a local NICU for a slideshow to run during the "tasting" portion of the event. He agreed immediately and has already put in SEVERAL hours working on this project. Here are a couple photos he posted on his blog. You can see more here

Photo by Ken Rieves

Photo by Ken Rieves
If you are within the greater Ft Wayne area, please consider attending the chefs signature auction. It really is lots of fun! It's like going to several restaurants for one meal. Each local chef serves a "signature" dish in small portions. The food is delicious, the desserts awesome and this year will include a wine tasting! There will be a silent auction during the "eating" portion of the event, followed by a short presentation and a live auction. Usually each chef offers up a package for a party of 8 (give or take) people in their restaurant. There will also be some other fun stuff. Even if you are not interested in supporting the March of Dimes, it will be a fun evening and a great date night! I already have my outfit picked out ;o) OK, it's the same outfit I wear every year because it's the only time each year I need to dress up. LOL!
I promised to tell you why the March of Dimes is important to me. The next couple photos were taken by my husband 12 years ago. Our first child was born 16 weeks premature. We named him Caleb. He weighed a whopping 2 pounds and lived 11 days. I have better (although very few) photos of him, but I like this one because this was the first time I got to see him. When I touched his little hand, his fingers curled around my one finger.
And this here is why I support the March of Dimes...because if we can prevent one family from going through the same heartache that we went through, it will be worth it. That casket hidden beneath the spray of flowers? It's the size of a shoebox.

I am able to talk about my experience because we have been blessed in more ways than I could possibly count in the last 12 years. And, quite frankly, time heals. It does. I will admit that most of the time when I think about it, it seems more like a really bad dream that didn't actually happen. But when I look at these photos, the memories and the pain all come rushing back.

There are a few photos that are so beyond my ability to cope that I cannot look at them, I don't share them with anybody, and those stay boxed up. Maybe someday I can look at them...but probably not because they show the pain etched upon our faces as we held our dying son for the last...and only time.

New Friend in the Garden

It's that time of year...the time to cut back some of the unruly perennials. I had started selectively "dead heading" the hydrangea bushes late in the evening last week. (I like to leave many of the blooms on the bush all winter because it makes for a more interesting landscape, particularly after it snows!)Anyway, I was about to cut this particular bloom off because it is so much higher than the rest. I don't like ball shaped bushes, but I also can't stand it if one branch is really long. As I was getting ready to snip, I noticed in the twilight that there was a weird green spot in the center. I looked a little closer...and it's a bright green little frog. Isn't he cute? So I tortured him by taking like 50 pictures-using the flash because it was way too dark and I didn't have a tripod handy.
Then I left the bloom intact. I couldn't destroy his resting spot!

Happy Father's Day

To all the awesome dads out there, I hope you have a great day of pampering or at least doing what you love most.
Dad and me:
Dearest Husband (see, DH really DOES mean dearest husband and not what you think it means!) with our 2 monsters, niece and nephew.

Ireland

It's been less than two weeks since we got home, but sifting though all the photos, it seems like forever ago. How quickly we fall back into routine! Anyway, I managed to pick out 28 photos (rather than the 100 or so I wanted to show!) of the Ireland portion of our vacation.When we got to Dublin, the first thing we had to was get our rental car, which was scary...more for James than for me. After all, not only was he driving in a foreign country with different signs, but it was on the opposite side of the street, driving a MANUAL car. The stick shift was on the left, the rearview mirror to the left, etc. For a moment he started to panic before getting in that the pedals may be reversed too. Luckily that was not the case.So, I am the official navigator...right? This proves to be a problem because the airport is not on any of the maps we have and we had to get to the center of the city because we were staying at the Clarence Hotel our first night in Ireland. We got turned around once or maybe twice and quite possibly more than that because no one who gave us directions would give us street names. It was just "go straight here and follow around and then you will figure it out" ummm....okaaaaayyy.... I discovered the reason why they don't give street names to lost people in Dublin. It's because the street name changes every block. I am not making this up.We finally find our way to the Clarence and the car still has all its paint and we haven't killed anybody. Huge deal. Here is the view from the window of our room. Another view from our room. I loved this hotel. I think it might be my most favorite hotel ever. We were there on a Sat. night of a bank holiday weekend. It was hot the entire time we were in Ireland and there is no a/c. Our windows were open, it was noisy with all the partying, and when we finally fell asleep, they were still going at 4:30 am.We ate in the Tea Room of the Clarence. It was amazing food, service, etc. My only complaint was having to sit on the "stage" looking section of the restaurant. I felt like we were on display. You can see what that area looks like if you go to this link.The only thing that would have made our stay here better was if James got to meet Bono (co-owner of the Clarence).The next day we set off for Ashford Castle, which is the opposite side of the country. No problem right? Well...we quickly learned that you shouldn't pay too much attention to the street names on the map. We were given very good advice by a couple men at a pub where we stopped to use the facilities and ask directions. They said go by town names and ignore the street names. So my navigation tactics completely changed after that and we got there! The car still had all the paint, no dents, no deaths. My hands were stiff after gripping the dash for several hours...This is the view from our room at Ashford: Here I circled the windows of the room where we stayed: One of the best things about staying at Ashford was the grounds. There were several gardens and structures. I could only imagine being a kid here. I was excited to explore the acres of nooks and crannies, it would have to be a magical place for a kid.We took hundreds of photos just in the gardens. I won't bore you with ALL of them, but here are a few:

The back of the castle:

Two New Focals

I know I promised photos of the Ireland portion of our vacation. However, the weekend was way crazier than I anticipated and there are so many photos to sift through, it is something I will need a bigger block of time to accomplish than I have had so far. So, patience my friends. They will be shown sometime this week. I promise.In the meantime, how about some beady eye candy? I made these before we left for our vacation and they've been sitting on the counter, neglected, waiting for a new home. The poor things were finally listed on etsy tonight.

Where I've Been Hiding

Way back in March I spilled the beans about the awesome Christmas gift my husband gave me and the journal I got to go with that trip. We spent four days in London and then six days in Ireland and had 2 travel days. We walked in the door of our house Saturday, but I have been trying to catch up ever since and still feel behind-not that it matters all that much because it was the best vacation ever...
One of the frustrating things was that I REALLY wanted to blog about it every night. However, we left the laptop with the kids at their Aunt Stacy's in Chicago to do their schoolwork while we were gone and I wasn't going to England and Ireland to spend the entire time in internet cafes. We emailed the kids a couple times, but outside that, we stayed away from computers.
I just loaded the photos onto the computer tonight. I admit to feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of sifting through the 800 or so photos that we took. It is nearly impossible to narrow the photos down to a few favorites. So, for the sake of my sanity and your boredom, I am showing the London portion of our vacation tonight and Ireland will have to wait until Saturday because tomorrow is Open Studio Friday.
Sit back, relax, maybe turn the lights off so you can imagine you are watching the annoying relative's slideshow. I promise to keep the number of photos to less than 400....
In London we stayed at Charing Cross Hotel. It was about a 2 block walk to Trafalgar Square (and the National Gallery). After passing out for 4 or 5 hours after checking in in the middle of the afternoon (I couldn't sleep on the plane!) We walked to Pitcher and Piano for dinner, then made our way to Trafalgar Square. It was so beautiful lit up at night.

We passed the "Texas Embassy" Restaurant (in the background of the photo). I found it humorous. No, I wasn't drinking. I just look drunk all the time. Just ask the lady at the post office that was doing the paperwork for me to get a passport....

The only reason we didn't die in London:

Standing on the steps of National Gallery looking out over Trafalgar Square. That was the only day it rained our entire trip.

We tried to eat local at pubs and restaurants. The only "taste of home" we indulged in was a single trip to Starbucks when we were walking from Charing Cross to the Tower of London. I think there are more Starbucks in London than I've ever seen anyplace else. I was holding my husband's cup while he was taking some pictures. I didn't need that much caffeine...

We walked 10-15 miles each day we were in London. At the end of our stay, we were looking at going on one of those tour buses. When I looked at the places they stop, I realized we had walked to all the places on the list! You get to see so much more on foot. We came across the millenium bridge while walking. We didn't know what it was at the time, we just thought it looked cool.

St. Pauls Cathedral. We didn't intend to stop there, but passed it while walking, took photos and went in during a service.

I just loved the name of this restaurant. We did not eat here-just admired the name.

We had breakfast at this restaurant one morning. I am sure they thought I was nuts because I took a ton of photos in here. I loved the bright blue and red and the light fixtures made out of giant fruit can looking things (not shown here)

I thought this was a very interesting tree with all those puffball things on it. "Discovered" while walking along Thames River.

I loved these light posts along the Thames.

Another shot of stuff along the Thames.

Tower of London and Tower Bridge in background.

I was excited to see the Ravens of the Tower. Perhaps you have heard the story of how if the Ravens leave the tower, the Tower and the Crown will fall? I thought it would be cool to see these ravens.

Except, guess what? It's a total tourist trap. They are kept in cages, fed, wings clipped. How dumb is that? Of course they will never leave. These cages are right next to the bird shown above.

I make it a goal to witness or attend a demonstration whenever visiting a new city-especially in a foreign country. Once my family started a riot in a foreign city (Seoul) just by being in a park. This was pretty calm in comparison.

Oh please! I have to show Big Ben and my husband's handsome face!

I noticed the moon after taking the previous photo and had to zoom in.

This is my handsome husband inside Westminster Abbey. I love history and looking at the tombs of dead people as much as the next person. However, I can only take so much before I start getting reallllllllly tired of trying to read every memorial. I didn't know DH would enjoy it so much. We spent hours here. My favorite part was the old chapel inside with the medieval mural on the wall that is fading. Obviously, no picture taking allowed of that gem. I had to touch the oldest door in London while we were there. There wasn't a "do not touch" sign on it or anything...

I can totally see a design inspiration here.

Buckingham Palace didn't excite me all that much. I was more impressed with the ballsy people wanting to get their picture taken with these guys:

DH was more impressed with what this guy was carrying. I took this one on the sly. I didn't want him to aim that thing at me...

OK, kids, that's enough for today. Tomorrow is Open Studio Friday and then Saturday I will show some pictures from the Ireland portion of our vacation.

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