Saturday, November 22, 2008

Charity Auctions on eBay

In the spirit of giving, I am running a few charity auctions through Mission Fish on eBay. The auctions run from tonight (Saturday 11/22) through next Saturday (11/29).

25% of the winning bids will be donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Please check them out!

Auction 1: Genuine Aqua Sea Glass Pendant and Earrings Set

Auction 2: Set of 3 Handmade Sea Glass Angel Ornaments

Auction 3: Design Your Own Sea Glass Bracelet

Auction 4: Design Your Own Sea Glass Anklet

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving- How I am trying to manage what can surely be a hectic holiday...

If you follow our blog, you know that Maggie and I are work at home moms. I personally have 3 boys- ages 2, 5 and 12. I own an eBay store, an Etsy shop and a website. I make jewelry, assorted craft items from sea life and sell seashells. I also do all the typical homemaker stuff- clean the house, do the errands, cook the meals etc. Needless to say I live on coffee and steam- most nights going to bed between the hours of 2 and 3 in the morning.

So why would someone with as much going on as me (in a tiny house with no dining room and barely an eat-in kitchen) offer to host Thanksgiving dinner for 12? Well part of it is really because -ironically- even with all I have going on, I am the only one in the position to do it. The other part of it is because tradition is big for me.

My mom is getting older and lives in a tiny, crowded little house, my sister works until 3 in the afternoon so has no time to cook, my bachelor brother is, well, my bachelor brother and all of the other guests who join us for food and conversation have their own back stories that find them at my house as opposed to being home alone.

So that answers the "Why?" of it. Now the "How?" of it. I am sure there are tons of people who are as busy as me (or busier!) and the idea of making a giant meal for people is super stressful, yet they find themselves in the position of having to do just that. I thought in the spirit of giving and sharing I would do a bit of a "my tips for making things easier" blog post.

(How's that for a long winded intro?!)

1. Prep a night (or two) before. This is probably one of the best things I've learned to do- things like mashed potatoes, butternut squash, even your stuffing can all be made the night before and put into oven-safe casserole dishes. Pop them in the fridge overnight and warm them in the oven or microwave when you're ready. This also frees up stove top space and keeps your sink less cluttered with dirty pots and pans.

2. Keep it casual. You can still set a pretty table and use your nice dishes, but let go of the feeling that everyone must be in their "Sunday Best". My kids inevitably get covered in markers and various foods throughout the day anyway- why make it more stressful on myself wanting to run around with a damp cloth scrubbing them clean all day long? It will also set the mood for a more relaxed atmosphere- your guests will see that you are laid back and that allows them to relax more.

3. Share the duties. Just because my mom can't host a dinner at her house doesn't mean she can't help out. She is my official butternut squash maker. Other people contribute by bringing a pie or something to drink, etc. (This also helps alleviate the financial burden that feeding several people can present.)

4. Start a tradition. In my house I buy two rolls of Pillsbury cinnamon buns and pop them in the oven as soon as we wake up. We turn on the TV and watch the Macy's parade and have coffee and chill out. Clean up is simple and it keeps the kids happy and out of my hair while I start the cooking- they also know what to expect, we do it every year, so the nagging is kept to a dull roar.

The other main tradition we have is to give the kids "jobs". Even the littest one can carry toys up to a bedroom or color a festive picture to decorate. My two youngest boys love it when I print out pictures of turkeys for them to color. Then my older son can supervise (a job he loves!) and they cut them out and we stick them on every window, door and wall with a free space.

5. Serve appetizers. (And put them in another room besides the kitchen if space is tight!) Even with the best laid plans, dinner never get served on time at my house. Appetizers keep the wolves at bay. ;)

6. Take time to enjoy the day. The thing I love probably the most about hosting holidays is that I don't have to feel rushed to load all the kids into the car and hop from one family member's house to the next "making the rounds". I am at home, with no shoes on and I can move at my own pace. Who cares if the dishes are still dirty? You can clean them after your guests go home. (You can also leave them until the next morning if you really want to!)

Thanksgiving (and all holidays) should be about family, traditions and creating good memories. Don't let the tasks at hand become larger than the day itself.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My rings are now for sale!

I really didn't want this blog to turn into shameless self promotion- I mean it's great that we make stuff to sell, but I want to talk about stuff that we work on for improving our businesses as well. I guess it only makes sense, though, that sometimes those things cross paths.

Today I spent some time working on my website and I created two new listings for custom sea glass rings. I thought it made sense to do it this way so that I don't make a truly fabulous ring in a size 5 only to wind up with a customer who loves it but wears a size 8. The rings will come in two styles- a larger, chunkier cocktail style ring and a smaller, more classic style ring.

Customers can email me with special requests, they will have their choice of 8 different sea glass colors and metal finish. Whole and half sizes are also offered.

Shop now through January 31st, 2009 and save 10% off your purchase! Enter code: Handmade08 at checkout.

I am excited to finally be able to bring these rings to the public, I hope people love them as much as I do!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Enter Our Deck the Halls Blog Giveaway!

giveaway photo
Originally uploaded by magscrafts
I am excited that Tara has agreed to give away one of her fabulous sand dollar ornaments to one of our readers here on Success Bound. She has a cool line of shell ornaments, with just the right amount of "bling" to make your tree look elegant. Perfect if your home is decorated for coastal living, and also if, like me, you decorate in a different style and just love unique ornaments!

Check out Tara's website, Scarborough Seashells, for a great assortment of shells, sea glass, crafting supplies, jewelry and home decor items with an organic, beachy feel. Her site advertises that Scarborough Seashells is "where every day in life is a day at the beach" and who doesn't want that?

All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment for us here! We will choose a winner at random on Friday, November 28, 2008. Please be sure you leave us a way to contact you in your comment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some finished pieces

It's been pointed out to me that I haven't posted any "finished piece" photos in a while and I have, actually, managed to get a few things completed. I don't have a ton to say about them except I love them, I love my new found soldering skills and I have an order for four new pieces (from paying customers!) this week!

Go me! It feels good to know that someone besides me actually likes and wants my work. :)

So without further ado here they are:

My giant cobalt blue sea glass ring

My Blue Willow china pendant

A thumb ring I made for Maggie

And the finished sample Viking Knit Bracelet

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Can Do *Anything* For 20 Minutes

Confession time...I have let my housework slip and now I am in a pit! Not that it is ever perfect around here, but it has gotten particularly bad. So I need to catch up before the holidays.

I have had similar issues before. I don't know which comes first- the funky mood or the messy house, but they are definitely connected. Previous battles with this led me to find, a site filled with advice for people like me. There is a treasure trove of information there for digging out from under your clutter and establishing routines.

One thing I found really useful before was to set my timer for doing tasks. For example, I look at my dining room table covered with piles o stuff, and if I just think "I have to clean off that table", I will become instantly overwhelmed at the thought and not even start. Somehow if I tell myself "work for 20 minutes on the table", I can make myself do it. I know the job is too huge to finish in 20 minutes, and often I get on a roll and just finish the job, but it is really nice to know I have an out in 20 minutes if I need it.

OH, and another confession before I go- I had to buy a new timer because my old one is under a pile here somewhere...

Monday, November 3, 2008

A work in progress

So October was a really long and tiring month. First my kids had the flu, then I had it, then I had to get through 6 birthdays; two of which were hosted by me for two of my 3 boys! Needless to say all of this led to my "ahteesty-ness" falling to the wayside. Finally, between my hubby's generous donation of his entire CD collection (put up to auction on eBay) and the little bits of money I managed to save, we scraped together enough to finally buy me the torch kit I'd been dying to get since my soldering classes this summer.

I bought a Gentec small torch kit that runs on oxygen and MAPP gas. At first I thought I was doomed to never make a thing, I got lost trying to find the shop where I was supposed to pick up the torch I ordered (like an hour driving around the same block lost!), then the first oxygen tank I picked up from the welding supply place had a leak (they made me swap my new tank for a pre-filled one). Then, the first piece I soldered just wouldn't solder no matter what I did! It ended up scorched, blobby and resembling crumpled tin foil much more so than a sterling silver bezel setting. I cried and was ready to give up. "You would think I hadn't learned how to do this before, what am I missing?!" I showed the piece to my husband and his reply was simply "ouch".

The next day was Halloween so I put the torch away and decided I'd think on it over the weekend and just spend time reading every tutorial I could come across on the subject. I read up on flame types (neutral, carburizing, oxidizing, who knew there was this much to a simple flame?!) I read up on soldering techniques- heat the piece over a gap so that air can circulate and it doesn't get too hot before the solder liquefies. I read polishing techniques, I watched YouTube videos, I shopped at Home Depot for some 220, 400 and 600 grit sand paper to polish with.

Armed with my fresh knowledge, I decided I was ready to wield the torch for a second time. I took my time, got the flame just right and in a couple of minutes I had my first piece successfully soldered together! I soldered a second piece in the same manner and that, too was successful! Phew, I didn't waste all this time and materials for nothing!

While I am not completely finished with these pieces yet, they are a far cry from the burnt toast piece I originally made. The first is a setting for sea glass. I have purposely left a large free form backing because I will be drilling holes and attaching jump rings; it will be the focal on a sterling silver Viking Knit bracelet made by my friend, Paula. The triangle shaped piece has not been filed, sanded or polished yet; this photo is right after I removed it from the pickle. It is for a piece of Blue Willow China I found on the beach this summer. I think I will make a pendant out of it.

So while I am not yet the ahteest I dream of becoming, I am at the very least, taking baby steps to get there. Much like my jewelry, I am a work in progress.

New Attitude?

I made a post on my Maggie's Crafting Adventures blog the other day about trying to strike a better, more realistic balance between work and home and being a mom and an artist/businesswoman. In that post, I talked about making my to do lists contain items from all aspects of my life and to make them more manageable.

Well, the following day I was getting ready for a road trip, so on day 2 of this new endeavor I left some stuff on my to do list undone. Then I went off and had a fabulous weekend with a friend, where we shopped crafty shops, saw a glass blowing demonstration, drove a piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the fabulous views, stayed at a lovely hotel and heard my firstborn sing in a concert. (Let's not mention the part where we got lost every time we got in the car in Roanoke!)
(This is an artsy photo I took of water plants and the sun reflected on Otter Lake, on the Blue Ridge parkway.)

My lesson learned? I left undone stuff on a to do list for the entire weekend, and nothing blew up. In fact, my son has the day off school today, and we are still here in our jammies at 1pm. We have had a super busy fall, and can both use some relaxation. I circled the undone stuff with my trusty pen, and added a few more things, and I am just going to dig in now and see how far I get.