Summertime Begins

So how was everyone's Memorial Day?
Pat and I spent every day of the long weekend on the water.
Styx River in LA (lower Alabama)

We never quite made it to the Gulf, but I'm sure we'll be headed down there in the next few days for sure.  Since summer break has officially started for the nieces and their day camp doesn't start until Monday, I offered to let them stay with us for most of the week. The oldest had other plans to stay with a friend (at 13, this has already started. . .GAH!) But the youngest was more than happy to spend her week with me. As such, my blogging and creating has suffered, but we're having a blast nonetheless.

We spent Tuesday afternoon on Styx River (see picture at top of page) with my MIL and BIL. Yesterday, we started off with some Geocaching. Little-bit thought she would go in disguise, but that didn't last long.
This fake mustache would have MELTED off her face had she worn it much longer

It was HOT as all get-out yesterday so by lunchtime we were D.O.N.E. with the outside...well, except to walk around downtown to Mr Gene's Beans for a cool treat.
I just love all the colors as the melty mini M&Ms.

After spending some time in the air conditioned theater watching Epic (it was awesome!), we ended the day with a few rounds of Rummikub. It was little-bit's first time playing and I had to re-learn it myself (it's been so long since I played.)
We each won a round. I think that's fair.

All in all, we're having a great time. I'm not sure exactly what today will hold (maybe some car-washing, maybe time at the bookstore, maybe some arts & crafts, maybe a trip to the Gulf), but I do know we'll have some more fun.

What activities do you have planned this summer? Here's hoping it's starting off with a bang too!!

BTW: Industrial Chic

I've been going in quite a few different directions over the past few days. It seems like the hours and minutes just slip away from me. I don't know how it happens.

In the meantime, I've got all these Industrial Chic goodies sitting on my desk beckoning to me, wanting attention, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Anybody seen my muse?

What's on your desk this Bead Table Wednesday?

Link up in the BTW Flickr Group.

Thrift Store Finds

Last week I was feeling the need to hunt for treasures at thrift and antique stores. I try not to suppress this urge as I feel like it's a sign of some sort that I'll find something fabulous while out hunting. As usual, I was pleasantly surprised by what I was able to bring home.
Glass jar, metal belt (that will be taken apart for its individual pieces), see the rest better in a picture below
It may not look like much, but I was really pleased that I came away with all these treasures for about $15.

Here's a better view of the drawer handles, religious medals, and crystals I discovered while thrifting.
I just love finding odd little bits that I can use in my decorating and jewelry-making. These finds have all found a new home in the craft room.

I'm smitten!

In fact, I've already started playing around with a design idea for one of the drawer handles!!

What cool bits have you found lately while out thrifting?

ZnetShows Contest and Meal Plan Monday

Ever have one of those weekends that's completely fun and busy, but by the end of it you need another weekend to recover from it? THAT'S the weekend I just had and I'm looking toward another busy one to come. I guess I could say I'm living life to its fullest.

Anyway. . .

On Wednesday/Thursday I shared with you my reveal for the ZnetShows "Diamonds in the Rough" Challenge.
A peek at one of my designs in the Diamonds in the Rough reveal
I hope you found the list of Challenge participants on the ZnetShows Blog. Just in case you didn't, here's the list.

In my reveal for the Challenge, I failed to mention that it was also a contest (for both you and me. . .keep reading)! The team at ZnetShows picked out what they thought were the top 20 designs. (I have no idea how they did it, there were so many beautiful designs.) You get to vote on your favorite designs from those twenty. Make sure you LIKE ZnetShows on Facebook and then scroll through the photos of the top 20 designs. You can vote for more than one design, but they ask that you don't vote for ALL the designs as that is the same as not voting at all. To vote for a design, just like the photo. It's as simple as that (for the me portion. . .keep reading.)

{I will mention that two of my designs were selected for the top 20, but I DO NOT expect you to vote for my designs. I want you to vote for the designs you think are the best. I want this contest to be fair.}

In addition, by voting YOU also get a chance to win something. The crew at ZnetShows is going to randomly draw the names of FIVE people who vote, those five will win $20 gift cards to ZnetShows. How awesome is that?? So, go and like some photos! What do you have to lose? Voting ends on May 23rd.

I'll wrap up this post quickly with my Meal Plan for the week.
Breakfasts: Cereal/oatmeal, Juice, Breakfast burritos, Hashbrown baskets, Muffins

Lunches: Leftovers, Soup & grilled cheese, Juice, Tuna noodles, PB&J

Vegetarian Spaghetti
Lemon Chicken Breasts w/mashed potatoes & peas
Home style tofu and rice w/steamed broccoli

Happy Monday y'all!! I hope you're recovering from the weekend better than I am.

Diamonds in the Rough: ZnetShows Design Team Reveal

**Welcome! This is a picture-heavy post. As well, all photos can be clicked on for a better view.**

I was invited once again by ZnetShows to be part of their design team for another creative challenge. This one involved some of their wholesale beads and they're calling it a "Diamonds in the Rough" Challenge to showcase some of their older and overlooked stock. We were given the chance to select some items from a LONG list of options and then they threw in a few surprises as well. Let me start by showing you what I received.
Yup, they sent me OODLES of goodies!
Here's a better look at the pendants, both the ones I requested and a few surprises.
I requested the Bone Chinese knot (PDG215-04) and the Abalone square (PDG257-06). And. ZnetShows also included the Bamboo coral tube (CB25-17), Natural oval shell (PDG76-07), and the Synthetic amber dobut (PT17-03) as surprises.

These are the bead strands I requested
Left to right: Labradorite chips (SB2-06), Opalescent glass rounds (BDG58-44), Amazonite pebbles (BDS1413-06), Green-dyed fire agate rounds (BDS1591-06), Dyed-gray fire agate rondelles (BDS1595-05), Peridot rounds (BDS1461-01), and Black onyx glass rounds (BDG58-31)

Here are the beads they surprised me with (or what's left of them)
Left to right: Olive jade oval puffs (BDG65-01), Dyed-yellow fire agate rounds (BDS1593-02), Rose quartz cubes (SCBDG142-18B), and Olive jade rounds (BDG66-04)

Yeah, I felt totally spoiled! I included the product codes in the captions so that you can find them easier in the ZnetShows site, but I've also linked to them throughout this post.

Now for what I did with all that goodness.

I decided to start with the bits I thought would pose the hardest challenge (the surprises they threw at me). In this case, the rose quartz cubes and natural shell oval pendant boggled me. I don't usually work with much pink and haven't used cubes in a while. But, these items seemed to go well together so I started with that.
As I played around with the loose cubes on my desk, I liked the semi-triangular shape they made when I stacked two and then one of them. I contemplated how to make a chain of one-two-one-two, and ended up achieving that with some black waxed linen cord. I looped the ends of the cord through the hole in the natural shell pendant, added some black glass seed beads and small silver beads, and knotted the ends.
For the back of the necklace, I tied on some black leather cord and knotted the ends of those. The suede simply ties in a bow so that the whole necklace's length is adjustable.

From there, I moved onto another color I'm not usually fond of (but one that has been making more and more appearances in my wardrobe and bead box here lately); coral/orange. I knew I really wanted to do something interesting with that coral tube so I paired it with the knotted bone pendant.
I darkened the bone pendant a little with some watered-down black acrylic paint so that the details in the pendant are a little more visible. I then sealed it with some Renaissance Wax. The coral tube got turned on its side with some Vintaj Artisan Copper wire and was attached it to the bone pendant.
To add just a little more interest to the simple aged copper chain, I painted Vintaj Patina in rust on a few copper charms. I'll admit the patina came out a little more orange than I had hoped, but I still like the addition of it.

Next I moved onto two of my favorite strands of beads in the bunch, the amazonite pebbles and the labradorite chips. With some Vintaj Arte Metal wire, I made a chain out of wire wrapping an alternating pattern from these stone beads.
Since the chain was so striking, the addition of a few small bits (a key, a chippy vintage glass pearl, an altered circular charm, and a glass button) was all that was needed for the focal.
I really, really love this necklace!

I wanted to make sure I created something with each of the pendants, so I turned to the beautiful Abalone shell pendant next. There are so many colors that shine through on the shell that I had a hard time deciding which colors to accent. After a while, I realized that the green-dyed fire agate rounds and the labradorite chips included in my package were perfect compliments.
In addition to the stones, I took a few oval links from a chain and wire wrapped just one side of them with some seed beads. The necklace was finished off with a short length of chain. The shininess of it all works so well.

There was only one focal left, the synthetic amber donut. I don't usually work well with donuts, but I realized that this one had a small hole on either side of it for stringing. That made a whole world of design possibilities open up for me.

As you can see, I finally settled on using it as the focal in a bracelet with some more black waxed linen cord, some amber-colored glass beads I had on hand, and the black onyx glass beads from ZnetShows. As a closure, I pulled out a vintage shank button from my stash.

After using all the focals, I felt like I could play with the beads a little more. I loved the tiny peridot beads, but their size made them kinda intimidating. I knew I didn't want to hide them in a piece, but was puzzled as how to make them front and center. Flipping through my sketchbook, I found a design that would suit those little gems perfectly.
I hole punched, textured, and colored (with more Vintaj Patinas) a Vintaj copper blank then strung the peridot beads onto two lengths of beading wire. A medium length of chain finished off the focal.
For the rest of the (very long) necklace, I wire wrapped some frosted green glass beads and copper beads intermittently between the same chain. Even though this necklace fits easily over the head, I added a clasp so that it can be wrapped twice.

I really wanted to work with those yellow-dyed fire agates next but was clueless as to what I should do with them. Since they have little bits of green in them, I knew it needed to be included in the design. After some thought, I turned to Design Seeds for color inspiration. {I thought I had saved a link to the palette I ended up using, but cannot find it anywhere (isn't that always the way?).} I ended up going through my beads and just tossing ones in that palette into a bowl and stirring it around for a while before this beauty emerged.
This lovely, long necklace not only includes the yellow fire agate from ZnetShows but also the rose quartz cubes, olive jade oval puffs, and olive jade rounds from there . . .along with a variety of beads from my existing stash. I strung all the beads onto some 20 gauge dark annealed steel wire that I sealed with Renaissance Wax and just made simple loops to connect them.
The necklace will even wrap a few times (3-4) to make a pretty bracelet.

The opalescent glass beads were some of the first ones I chose when Bill at ZnetShows gave us a choice, but then I was stumped as how to best display them. After some thought, this simple but elegant bracelet came together.
Strand one is made up of the opalescent glass and some small silver beads, strand two is seed beads, and strand three is a silver chain. A chandelier crystal and a glass pearl hang from the bracelet.

I finished out my designs with a few pairs of earrings.
The soothing color of the gray-dyed fire agate rondelles reminded me of some shells I had gathered at the beach the week before. With that in mind, I combined the two for a unique pair of dangly earrings. They're even topped off with levered ear wires that have a shell design on them.

I tried my hand at wire wrapping the olive jade oval puff beads with some Vintaj brass wire. From those, I hung one of the olive jade rounds. Simple, but pretty.

For my last pair of earrings, I used more of the yellow-dyed fire agate rounds. With some scrap green leather, I cutout a pair of leaf shapes and added an eyelet/grommet in gold to prevent them from tearing. I think they're kinda fun.

So. . .that's it. I hope you made it through this whole post. I'm pretty proud of what I designed and even a little surprised at how well it all came together. I'd like to thank Bill and the whole team at ZnetShows for selecting me to be on the Design Team for these awesome wholesale beads and making me push my limits with their 'surprises'. It was GREAT!

You should be able to find a complete list of the Design Team members and links to their reveals on the ZnetShows Blog.
Thanks y'all for hanging in until the end!

Feb, March, April 2013 Goal Review

Good Gracious Almighty!! Apparently it's been THREE MONTHS since I've done a Goal Review. I'm guessing it's time to catch up.

Those three months included two vacations and one long stint without a computer so I've got gaps in my record-keeping for the goals. I'm just going with what I did record. Without further ado, here we go!

1.    Eat right/better: I was good or okay about half the time and awful the other half of the time. I really need to be good ALL the time and cheat only now and again. Blarg.
A healthy lunch I did eat
2.    Read more books: I read Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (started and finished in Feb), started The BFG by Roald Dahl (on hold at the moment), read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and started Voices from Chernobyl. I am also working on The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald and James Potter and the Hall of Elder's Crossing by G. Norman Lippert, fan fiction book. It looks like I'm reading more, but just not finishing it.
3.    Make a real effort to keep the house clean: I did awesome on this over the past three months. I've come to realize just how much I like a clean house and how rewarding it is to have it nice.
How refreshing, the beach!
4.    Take better care of my face and skin: Dismal failure. I actually did the best while on vacation and away from normal routines. Sigh.
5.    Make a real effort with my blog: I did some work on my sidebar, added a link to my Instagram page, and re-did my header. However, posting was sporadic especially while the laptop was in the shop. I got WAY behind on weekly challenges and am trying to catch up.
6.    Be Grateful/Thankful: FAIL!!
7.    Declutter/organize at least one drawer/cabinet/area a week: Feb was awful, not much accomplished in this area. March was similar. In April I started kicking some butt and conquered some areas that were intimidating. This included FINALLY starting on the craft room!! I'm getting there I think. I'm actually running out of 'hidden' areas and need to start on some of the more visible ones.
8.    Include more tutorials on the blog: The only time in those three whole months that I came even CLOSE to a tutorial was when I shared the links for the Pintrest Pins that inspired how I decorated my Foyer for St. Patty's day.
Mardi Gras 2013
9.    Continue to work on getting published: I've been trying to keep my calendar updated with submission deadline dates, but I'm a little behind at the moment. In March, I DID submit to Bead Trends but am waiting to hear back. I also have another piece that I think would be perfect for a certain publication but I need to wrap my head around their submission requirements. I'll definitely continue to work on this.
10.    Think outside of the box: I feel like I didn't completely fail at this one. While I don't think I was exactly thinking outside the box, I was truly THINKING more about the designs I've been making as well as playing with some materials a bit more. I like the direction I'm progressing for sure.
11.    Learn to operate my nice camera better: I really haven't done MUCH on this goal. I did discover a few settings in early Feb that I had forgotten about until I read over my notes. As well, I've apparently got a few photo tutorials pinned that I need to read. This is a skill I desperately want to work on some more.
12.    Craft other items than jewelry: In Feb, I did pretty well with my Bead Soup packaging and all the work I did on the Foyer decorations. In March, my 'other' crafting was nil, but in April I made a ton of decorations and whatnot for a wedding shower I co-hosted. This still needs a bit of work as I realize how much I enjoy breaking out of my jewelry confines now and again.
Bridal Shower decoration and pin
13.    Use analytics more efficiently: I've done NOTHING with this. Totally need to work on it.
14.    Grow some plants inside and out: This just hasn't worked out for me so well. I think about it often. In fact, I was thinking about it while at the Farmer's market earlier today. Alas, I need to work on it.
15.    Make my visions of my dream house and this house co-exist: I did OKAY on this one. Basically, I've kept the Foyer decorated for the seasons/holidays and kept the kitchen window sill looking nice. I also found some watercolors painted by my grandmother and my sister and plan on framing them at some point.
Foyer decorations

16.    Go to the doctor/dentist: Sigh. no.
17.    Explore other venue options for selling my jewelry: Have donated to a few silent auctions, but not much more than that. Since I haven't really sold anything in my Etsy shop in ages, I need to try a bit harder on this front.
18.    Find some confidence and exert it: I handed out a few business cards at a dinner with some friends, but that's the most of me EXERTING my confidence. Yikes.
Waterfall in Northern Georgia
19.    Learn to sew: I looked up a local place online to see if they offered lessons, but came up with nothing. Now I need to start calling to check it out.
20.    Learn Photoshop better: This is one skill I can say I've worked on a little more in the past few months. And, I'm really happy with what I've learned. Now to just learn how to work some more of the controls so I don't have to ask the hubs every time I want to alter/create an image.
21.    Start buying presents earlier in the year: Still not doing great at this. It seems like these dates just sneak up on me or something.
Fancy wrapping for a friend's birthday gift.
22.    Support my local bead shops and other Etsy sellers more: I haven't done much bead shopping at all, but have purchased some from local businesses and Etsy artists. Yet, my impulses make it hard for me not to visit the chain retailers from time to time. However, I have backed off on even shopping there lately.

It looks as though I need to take some time to focus on these goals more in the coming months as I've let them fall to the wayside a little too much. Now that I've actually done this review and can see it all laid out, I'm hoping to become re-committed to them.
Cute sign at friends' wedding

How are you doing on your goals/resolutions/word for the year thus far?

My BSBP Process and a Meal Plan

I have to admit that I'm still dutifully hopping the Bead Soup Blog Party list. Since I had computer issues and was out of town for a bit, this process started much later than I had anticipated. I think I've made it through all the participants in the second reveal (my reveal), but am now working my way through the first reveal. It really is a process for me. Let me break down how I do it so you can understand why I may not have hopped your blog yet.

First and foremost, I create a word document for each reveal date with the links to each blog. Then, I go through the following routine.

1. Click on a random link within the document and locate the BSBP reveal in that blog.
2. Read and comment on the Bead Soup post.
3. Go back to my word document and highlight the link in yellow as read, or highlight in another color to indicate there was no post (so I can remember to check back later).
4. Look through the artist's blog for Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter, Etsy, Google friend connect/Google+, and any other social media links and follow them there.
5. Determine if the blog is one I want/need to follow in my RSS Reader. (Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of people involved in the BSBP, I cannot follow ALL the blogs participating. I do apologize.)
6. Repeat.

It is a lengthy process to undertake, but I want to give each blog hop participant the attention they deserve. And, now that Lori is only doing this once a year, it seems worth it just to discover some new blogs I may be missing out on. Yeah, I'm a little crazy that way, but I do enjoy spreading the love.

I guess the hardest part of doing this is working my way through it while trying to juggle all the other tasks I want to accomplish on a daily basis. Today I've only hopped 3-4 blogs but I've also made my meal plan, done some chores, finished two necklaces, and run errands. It's going to take me a bit longer to get through the 500+ blogs that participated this time around.

Anyway, since I did take the time to make my menu for the week, let me go ahead and share it.
Breakfasts: Cereal/oatmeal, Juice, Healthy Banana Bread, Breakfast burritos

Lunches: Leftovers, Juice, Bean burritos, tuna noodles, PB&J

Guiltless Cheesy Mac w/green beans
BBQ Tofu pizza w/salad
Vegetarian Spaghetti

Whew! That took more time away from my hopping than I thought. Time to get back to it. If I still haven't hopped your blog, be patient. I'll be visiting soon. If you cannot wait, just leave me a comment with your blog link and I'll come on by ASAP!

Focusing on Life Week 18: Abstract

With all of my attention focused on clearing out the clutter, I almost let this week's photo challenge slip by me.

However, I figured that the prompt of Abstract could be anything at all so I grabbed the camera and a few items from my desk and went to snapping.

In Sally's e-mail about the prompt, she mentioned that Abstract is all about form, color, and line. With the help of a post-it note in my favorite color and this odd seed-pod-branch-thing I found, I think I might have just accomplished abstract. . .maybe.

Check out how the other participants interpreted this week's prompt over at Sally's blog, The Studio Sublime.

My Top Five Tips for Getting Organized (in related news, I got the craft room cleaned)

**Edited: Just realized this would be more appropriately titled "My Top 5 Tips for Clearing out Clutter". Ooops!**

Oh holy cow. How is it possible that I blinked and suddenly it's Friday? At least I was productive in a sense. I spent the ENTIRE WEEK cleaning the craft room. The entire week!! Before I show you the results of my labor, you can check out Monday's post see the mess I made just trying to get it clean.

And, here's how far it's come. (Let me go ahead and say I didn't take any pictures from the doorway where Monday's photo was taken because now it's just an open carpet area. Trust me, it would have been a fairly boring picture.)
My craft desk
Now, I know I didn't show you the disarray that any of these areas were in, but trust me it was bad. You could not see surfaces at all.

Area behind my craft desk
In order to clean the room I used the method I tend to always use when cleaning. . .left to right, bottom to top. Basically, I worked my way around the room in sections. And, once I got started it was difficult to quit.
Side table (next to craft desk)
I also made a point of sorting everything I put my hands on into keep, toss, or donate piles. Actually, the KEEP items found a home in the craft room or elsewhere in the house while TRASH went in a bag and DONATE went into boxes/bags. I've already dropped off 4 boxes and 3 bags of items for donation and have 2 more to be donated a little later. The whole house feels lighter!
Craft Hutch (to someday be painted that yellow color you see on the little paint can)
It was pretty hard to part with some items, but if I couldn't think of a project I could use the supply for in the immediate future then it was donated. My resolve began to dwindle as the days wore on so I know I'll have to go through the process again before long.

Anyway, here are my main tips for organizing, especially when you're trying to go a purge like I did.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I do hope this helps you with your Spring Cleaning! Best of luck to you.

Winding down the 100DayProject

I awoke the other day with many thoughts about the 100 Day project and decided to jot them down here to share with you. Some of the bits I g...