Monday, March 31, 2008

The birthday girl's workshop...

I can now say I am IN my 40's. Last year was kind of exciting hitting the big 4-0 and the year has just zoomed by. So now that I'm 41, I am proud to say in am IN my 40's. *Pause* I still don't feel any different. Maybe just a wee bit smarter... ☺

Well, I would like to offer YOU a gift on my birthday. With any purchase of up to $25 in my Etsy shop , choose one of the following cards for free:
Positivity or Happy Thoughts, Happy Doxie, Bunny Blue, Chick Little, or Sakura in Bloom .


... And - for my blog readers only - purchase more than $25 and pick any 3 cards for free, or a free pair of sushi earrings! Please mention "Blog" in the note to seller at checkout.

Where it all happens...
Now I thought I'd show you where I work. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home (I am a self-admitted mole who can stay home without leaving the house very happily for days on end) and have my own little work space. I feel a little more comfortable with calling it my workspace or workshop, since "studio" makes it sound like I'm an artist or something.

On one side of my little room is my polymer clay and jewellery set-up, which tends to get pretty messy and accumulated with piles. This is after a clean-up, when you can actually see the table surfaces. The added square table for my jewellery assembly and the hardware storage for all my beads and stones was the best investment I made three months ago; before that I had all of this in a huge plastic wheely bin that I was working out of. I had to rummage through containers of beads and pull out the ones I needed, and then put everything back in the bin at the end of the day. Not fun. Very happy with this layout.

This is my paper table, which is also usually covered. Eventually when I have my humungous dream workshop, I will have a sprawling table that is solely for working; right now it also serves as a bit of storage space and paper cutter stand, but it's pretty functional. I think I just have to learn to clean up after every project and not wait for an accumulation of 4 or 5 sittings of mess.

Just next to my paper table are two big storage units for supplies; the third storage unit is out of viewing range, to the right of the recycling box. The recycling box is in front of the closet door, which remains closed at all times to contain a rumbling avalanche.

This is how my tables are laid out. I can just wheel around to whatever station I need to work at. And that's Chibi the cat's little spot at the window on top of the radiator.

Hope you enjoyed my little birthday workshop tour ☺ To work I go!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging, starring Ebi aka "Le Gros"

Ebi has been living with us for five months now and I think he's pretty settled in. Our other cat, Chibi, knows he's STILL there when she opens her eyes in the morning so she's given up on trying to scream him away. They take regular swipes at each other, but they generally just stay out of each other's way. Much better than it was.

My sister and I bought Ebi for my mom in 1999; although we had cats when we were kids and my mom loves cats - and all animals for that matter - she insisted she didn't want or "need" one. So, dutiful daughters we were, we totally disregarded her wishes and brought tiny little Ebi home. He was so named because he was such a small ("hey, little shrimp!") kitten. Of course my mom fell in love with him, but not before giving us both "the look." Here, I think he's around 4 months old.
My mom was hospitalized in March 2006 with a severe stroke, and the first thing she asked about when she was able to mouth the words was, "How's Ebi?" We promised her we would look after him well, and when she passed away three months later, my two nieces wanted to be his caretakers since they were so close to their grandmother. The girls are competitive rhythmic gymnasts, and are at the gym 30 hours a week after school and on week-ends, so poor Ebi was often left alone and howling.

Fast-forward a year and a bit and Ebi was getting cranky and irritable at being alone all the time - he had lost what little social grace he had. JF and I agreed to try him out with Chibi last fall and although it was tough at first for poor Chibi (he even peed/sprayed in her food bowl), it's worked out well and we cannot imagine not having him around.

He's definitely not a "little shrimp" anymore. He is a big boy. He actually thinks he fits in his beloved bed.

JF calls Ebi "le gros" which means "big guy" but can also mean "fatso" so we've made sure he understands we mean "big guy" (English is his first language after all). He is so sturdy that you can really hug and squeeze him without worrying you'll hurt him.

He's a pretty happy and contented cat, hence the inspiration for my "Happy Cat" stamp which I carved a couple years ago.

One of his favourite treats that my mom would give him was dried seaweed, or nori. As soon as he hears it tearing, he comes charging into the kitchen. Here I was rolling a maki and he tried to pull the sheet of nori off the rolling mat.

Even if he begs at the table at mealtime we've made it a point NOT to give table scraps, but a little bit of nori now and again as a treat isn't a bad thing... right?

JF told my brothers who were in town last week-end that I am turnng into my mother. There are worse things I could do.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

3 column blog made easy-peasey... and a new piece

After giving my blog three columns last week-end, and feeling very capable and a little proud of myself, I then proceeded to change High Desert Diva's as well (thanks for featuring me yesterday, Diva!). So we are both pretty happy with the three columns since, as you may well know, it gets rather cramped jamming all the bloggy extras into one column...

And here is how I did it: I followed Ishan De Silva's step by step instructions on his blog, The Blogger Guide. He has various articles on the subject, including if you want 2 right sidebars instead of a right and left sidebar. This link http://bguide.blogspot.com/2008/03/3-columns-minima-left-and-right.html is for the right and left sidebars in the "minima" style layout, which many bloggers choose.

Html boggles my wee little brain, but the whole thing was straightforward and surprisingly easy to follow. This after trying two other sets of instructions that had me wanting to throw myself down the stairs.

Try it and let me know how it goes - and the 3-column blogs will take over the world, mwahahahahaaaaaaaa...
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The stamped image in my blog banner above is of a jizo, a figure that is said to bring comfort to those mourning and strength to those needing it.
We took this photo in Kyoto last October. You can read more about jizo here.

I carved that jizo stamp at a time when I needed some comfort myself, and so I thought it would be nice to have it in a wearable form. Here is the "Positivity or Happy Thoughts" pendant.

I've kind of been hanging onto this for a bit, so it may take me a few days to post it in my Etsy shop. I'm weird that way.

I was also featured in The Shadow Cats blog yesterday too - many thanks for all the l♥ve!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

FA-VOUR-ITES!

Here are some of my latest Etsy faves...

I let out a definite squeal when I saw Felix. You'll find him, along with the Migraine Kid and Sing Fatboy Sing at TheShadowCat.

The Amnesia pendant, a collaborative work by Jennifer Mulcahy and Joanna of My Word. This is calling me...

I already see myself wearing this Branch Blossom tank this summer, by muttsywonder.


Flip Cat Mini Kitty Screenprint Pins by lookability. Perfect for my jean jacket...

Pig in the kitchen greeting card. You'll find lots of other Richard Scarry and Dr. Seuss images on cards at eggmoney's shop. Love all of 'em!

Now... let's see if any of these end up in my "Purchases" list... ☺

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just had to have this... and this... and this too

Business has been going pretty well since the beginning of the year, so I've been spoiling myself. I think I'm pretty reasonable since I rarely buy clothes anymore - working from home I get to be in jeans and t-shirts all the time, yay! I do like fun tees though, so it's my main clothing indulgence now.

This t-shirt is so soft and comfy, and I’ll be able to wear it in the spring too, since it's nice and thin. It’s by Mary at maryink.

The superbirds make me smile. You can scroll down a bit to see me wearing this shirt with my new necklace.

And even if I'm in jeans I always wear jewellery, so there's always jewellery in my favourites list. I love bracelets even though I usually make my own since I'm pretty fussy. Very happy with the two I recently bought:

Bright and lively “Reef” from Tracy of polishedtwo
And the earthy and feel-good “Forest Floor” from sandcastlejewels.
I like my bracelets on the close-fitting side, so I removed two stones and spacers and was able to make earrings with them ☺ Here I am trying to look natural in an obviously unnatural pose.

And my very favourite, this Ohm necklace by Cheryl at chendric. As soon as I saw this piece, I could so totally see myself wearing it. Now I AM wearing it (at this very moment, yes!). I know material things can only bring you fleeting happiness in the grand scheme of things, but oh, what joy, such joy from a lovely bauble around my neck ...


Tomorrow will be some of my most recent Etsy favourites... yet to be purchased ;)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Family pic from the week-end

Just wanted to post this pic my bro, Doug, e-mailed me (he's back home in Ontario now), taken with his excellent camera (timer). My nieces in the front look like giants since they are closest to the camera :)

Whew - the eating fest is winding down

We just ate our way through the week-end and made it out at the other end intact, although bursting at the seams.

Two of my three brothers were in town - Doug and Karen, from Ontario (not too far from Toronto) who comes in at holiday time, and Ron from British Columbia who has to move on to Ottawa (Canada's capital and about two hours from Montreal)) today for a work-related conference.

Saturday we skipped taiko, which we never do, but we did have cleaning and cooking to do since we were having everyone over for supper that night. I felt bad about missing it, but we had a really good practice on Friday night, so it's all good.

We made kari-raisu (curry rice), a mild Japanese style curry, sushi, gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) and salad. While rolling the makizushi, Ebi the cat was harrassing me for nori, or seaweed, which he loves. My mom would always give him some, so as soon as he hears it crinkle, he's howling. He also tries to pull it down off the sushi mat.

Here, he is clearly taking on the roll of "quality control," checking to see if I did a decent job rolling the sushi.



Also made manju, the little red bean paste filled dessert. We also had biscotti and Italian cookies and a lovely & refreshing lemon cake - all from our cousin Gerry's bakery (one of our Italian cousins) as well as French pastries - lots of great places in Montreal for good pastry.

Did I ever tell you that our family loves dessert?

The last time my brother Ron from BC was here, was when my mom died in 2006, so it was nice just to be together, hang out and laugh. I'm always amazed at how loud we can be when we are all together. Lots of cackling and roaring.

Yesterday we went out for lunch with some of my dad's side of the family, which we hadn't done in too long. Before that, we went to the cemetary to see my parents and grandparents, and because of the crazy amounts of snow we've had, we could just see the top of the plot marker poking out from the snow. Because of the recent cold temperature, the 3 feet of snow was solid enough that we could actually get on top of if and walk out to the grave without sinking in.


Here Ron and JF are trying to dig out the Christmas wreath before digging about 2 inches and reaching solid ice.

We went out for a huge Chinese meal (good place even though it wasn't in Chinatown) and then back to my aunt and uncle's for coffee and dessert. I'll have to wait for my brother to send me his group picture (yay, for camera timers) and I'll post it here. For now, here's one of the four siblings together. From the left, that's Ron, me, Pats and Doug:

Family gatherings remind me how lucky we are.

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Did you notice - I now have three columns in my blog, and I'm proud to say I did all by myself. Wanted to throw myself off the balcony a few times, but I did it and I am thrilled! And, it took me awhile, but embarrassingly, you can finally click on my photos and see them in full size. Oh the woes of html...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging ...starring my Chibi

Friday is now the delegated day for me to go on about my cats. I think I'll try to be more organized about my other days too, like have one day to feature Etsy favourites. Thanks to Joanna at http://mywordjewelry.blogspot.com/ for being a model Friday Cat Blogger ☺ You can head on over there to read about her cats too!

We've got two cats, Chibi and Ebi - I'll tell you about Chibi today.

Chibi has been with us since July 2006. My cat Jerzy passed away in March of that year at the age of 19, and that was tough to bear, but then just days later my mom had a stroke and was in the hospital, so that obviously became my priority. The following week, my husband was bedridden, diagnosed with an acute case of colitis. I didn't know who to worry about and take care of first.

We missed having a cat in the house, we missed our Jerzy, but oddly, I think he knew it was his time to go - we wouldn't have had time to take care of him in his weakened state, since I was always at the hospital and Jean-Fran├žois was not up and around. We thought we would wait until fall to start looking for another cat, but I was poking around on the SPCA website and here is the picture I saw.
I had received emails from a friend and a cousin who were helping to look for homes for kittens and although it was very tempting, I was not as touched as when I saw this photo and read the story of this cat, who was brought to the SPCA because she was pregnant and the owners didn't want to deal with that. I contacted the foster home where she was staying (wonderfully devoted foster mom, Andrea) and arrangements were made for Chibi to come and live with us once her kittens were weaned.

My mom passed away on June 22nd, 2006 and even though it was a terribly difficult time, Chibi helped us through it when she came home with us on July 11th. I know my mom would have just loved her ☺

Wearing the dreaded "collar" after surgery... Like any crazy cat owner, I'm always singing to her, incorporating her name into songs, calling her ridiculous names like, Cheebster, Cheeb-cheeb, Cheeb-a-weeb, Chilli Vanilli, Chichi-bibi - the list is endless. On breaks from working in my studio I can come out visit her and nuzzle my face in her soft white neck as she leans her head back for me. Doesn't get any better than that.
Here she's playing with her sushi toy from Needle Noodles

We saw another side of her last October, when Ebi came to live with us; she is still not enamoured of him, but she tolerates him and even allows him to share the sofa or the bed with her.
She is the best.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I hope my parents are watching...

I was contacted yesterday by the publishers of 1000 Handmade Greeting Cards (Quarry Books), who let me know that three of my card designs have been selected for their publication! Can you believe it? Here are the ones they chose (*please click on them for detail - finally figured that out!):

One in my Happy Doxie series

My origami crane decoration/card combo

My Splashing Koi

I submitted some cards back in January and mentioned it here in my blog, but figured since I hadn't heard back then I hadn't been chosen. I was totally shocked yesterday since I thought the deadline was long passed. Nice shock. Lots of other Etsy card-makers will also be published ☺

Last year some of my pieces were selected for another book in this series, 1000 Jewelry Inspirations, set to come out in June (also chock-full of Etsy jewellery makers).


It's actually available for preorder now on http://www.amazon.ca/, and I guess http://www.amazon.com/ too! I guess this book will come out some time next year - can't wait to see it.

Mom, Dad... can you see me? ☺

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

So I'm "IT" ...

I've been tagged by fellow Canadian Etsy seller, piggy-tails, who makes the cheeriest cards ever - love her stuff! Here's her shop and her blog

So I'm supposed to share 7 weird or random facts about myself; just so you know, it was hard to just choose 7.

1 - I don’t know how to drive and don’t have a license. Yes, it’s possible to live this way in Montreal, since our public transportation system is great.

2 - I am missing an enzyme in my blood that helps to digest alcohol, which apparently many Asians are also lacking; this means I turn a crazy shade of red if I drink and I get short of breath. Although this didn’t stop me from drinking when I was in college and university, I just don’t bother drinking anymore.

3 - When I was little I had a short-lived collection of cooked fish eyeballs. You probably don’t know this, but once a fish is cooked, the eye’s centre is a hard little transluscent ball. Don’t ask me why I even started this, but I would pluck out the eyes, and scrape off the white outer coating to get to the sort of transluscent white centre, which I thought would make a nice necklace. When I was 8. And NO, there’s nothing like that in my Etsy shop.

4 - I snore. Not so weird, but annoying for my poor husband. My friend who would sleep over in high school, would take out a pile of my socks before we went to sleep , so that she could ball them up and throw them at me during the night in a futile attempt to silence the beast.

5 - I cried both times I saw Paul Simon live in concert and the one time I saw James Taylor. Not just tearing up, I mean “whaaaaa” snively, sobby, ugly crying. I just got tickets yesterday to see James Taylor this summer and I’m gearing up for another cry.

6 - I’m a bag hoarder – plastic, paper whatever, to be reused. Not so odd, but even in the spirit of recycling, there are some bags that I’ve deemed “too nice” to re-use, so I have BAGS of bags that I save and never use...

7 - I have a pretty bad caterpillar phobia – our trees would get infested with these awful webby nests, light brown but dark at the bottom since they were heavy with disgusting clumps of tent caterpillars. I will still wear a hat all summer long if it’s a bad caterpillar year, and I will NOT sit under a tree if there’s any risk of one falling on me (shade, schmade!) . I will squint if I see one at a distance so I don’t have to see it clearly. When I was in my early twenties, a caterpillar fell onto my shoulder in the Dairy Queen parking lot, I sprang up, screaming “Get it off, get if off!” but of course I couldn’t stop running like a maniac for my friend to remove it. And I dropped my ice-cream cone. The thing with tent caterpillars is you know there’s never just one – they’re part of a huge collective, like the Borg or something. (I wanted to be brave and post a pic here, but had to squint after googling it for fear of having to see a photo; just google "tent caterpillar", if you must see them.)


This was taken in around 1975, I think. I was around this age when I was doing the fish eyeball thing and the caterpillar phobia started...

Now I have to go off and tag a bunch of other people! Here we go:

CJ's Woodland Shed: http://cjswoodlandshed.blogspot.com/

Cyndie Smith Designs: http://cyndiesmithdesigns.blogspot.com/

By the airport: http://bytheairport.blogspot.com/

The Broken Plate: http://craftherapy.blogspot.com/

Fabriquer: http://fabriquer.blogspot.com/

Diva Dea: http://divadea.blogspot.com/

Jewel Street Designs: http://jewelstreetdesigns.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 17, 2008

Arashi Daiko, my drumming family... (and I got tickets to see James Taylor!!!)

I'm trying to catch my breath. Woke up to the radio annoucing that James Taylor would be coming to Montreal as part of the International Jazz Festival this summer and that tickets would be on sale this morning at 10!!! Already scouted the tickets I want. This will be my birthday present from JF ☺ James Taylor was here around 10 years ago and my sister and I went to see the show; he puts on a great show - likes to chat and is sooo good at it. I cried when he sang "Up on the Roof" because that's just the kind of gal I am. Can't wait until July 6th!

These are the folks I spend much of my time with when I'm not in my workshop. We are Arashi Daiko, a Japanese drumming ensemble, and this past Saturday was our first practice this year with all members present (some were travelling). Had a really good practice, everyone was pretty zonked at the end, or at least I was. I'm on the right, second from the back. JF is also on the right, second from the front. You can click on it to see it a little better.


Pretty goofy picture since we were waiting for the camera timer to take the durn picture.

At the beginning of each practice we sit facing each other like this with our drumsticks, or bachi, lined up, to officially open the practice and leave our outside lives behind and focus our energy on our taiko. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

We end each practice in this position as well, to close the practice session and be thankful for the opportunity to drum. Domo arigato gozaimashita!

(STOPPED BLOGGING FOR A TICKET BUYING BREAK: All set, got our tickets for the James Taylor show, yay! Pretty good seats, although we could've gotten better seats if I hadn't been such a weiner, checking to see other sections of the arena... I'm happy though!)

Now where was I...

This is Calvin, Hisako's son (she's right in front on the right side in the above pic), who could not keep his eyes open after practice. He's got towels around his ears held on by his trusty beaver hat (this is Canada, whaddya expect?) because of the loudness of the taiko. He even sleeps through our playing just like his older sister Kira did!

A couple weeks ago I hit my front tooth while playing; it was these bachi below that made me think I had knocked my tooth loose (turns out all is fine - amazing how hard our teeth are!). The stains on the bottom are actually my blood (we often get blisters or raw patches on our hands which eventually harden and callus over), which I chose to leave on to remind me to play hard. Yes, taiko players are a strange lot who like to suffer.

We have a full roster of performances coming up this summer, and some already on our calendar for spring; you can see that here: http://www.arashidaiko.org/calendar/calendar.htm

Ok, I'm heading to my workshop now, to work on some fresh sushi and other new pieces.

I'll be doing a small show in a month's time, so I've got to get some inventory going for that too...

Tomorrow... I've been tagged, so I'll be tagging others!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A brief synopsis of the past few days and YAY! Friday Cat Blogging

My computer crashed on Monday, which is why I haven't blogged in the past few days. My photos, my documents, all my business stuff, potentially gone in one poof.

Well, my husband worked diligently for the past three days and managed to recover and transfer everything (oh, my precious photos!) onto a new hard drive and external back up. Yay for super husbands who save computers! JF truly is the best.

Tuesday
Quickie update on my front tooth: Went to the dentist and it's not cracked (I hit hard it a couple of weeks ago with a big wooden stick - don't ask). No cavities, must floss more, happy with my free orange toothbrush and floss. I love freebies.

Wednesday
Gave a jewellery making demo and talk on starting a home-based business for a women's group on Montreal's south shore. Lots of fun and I even made some sales. I'll write about this more in another post, when I get some photos (someone was taking pics there).

Thursday
Took some photos of new pieces in my favourite light - sun masked by clouds so the light was warm but not glaring. I know I should make a lightbox so that I can take photos anytime, but I love the natural daylight.

Here are some examples of that lovely light :) These will be up in my Etsy shop
shortly.




Friday Cat Blogging
This is an idea I got from another blogger, Joanna at http://mywordjewelry.blogspot.com/ As a cat lover, I tend to want to talk about my cats all the time - ALL THE TIME - so instead of babbling too much, I will try to restrain my thoughts and musings on my cats to one day, and jam it all in on Fridays.

Ebi and Chibi, as you may know, have been adjusting to each other since October, when Ebi came to join our household. They still avoid each other and occasionally slap each other, but it's getting better all the time.

With last week-end's snowfall, the winds had pushed a huge snowdrift onto our back balcony, right up agains the window. You can see it a couple of blog posts back. The temperature dropped the days after the storm, so the snow solidified. It was blocking the sun from the kitchen so Ebi had no sunny spot on the floor, and Chibi had no sun coming in on her ledge. There was no way to open the door with all the snow, so we opened the window on the door and JF shovelled some of the snow off; the snow had gotten so hard, he had cuts on his knuckles. Dug a litle burrow in the snow and wanted to see what the cats thought...

This last shot cracks me up. These are my kids.