Monday, August 26, 2013

Trading Up

Not much to report around here.  We are gearing up for a long weekend in New Orleans for Labor Day.  James is off Monday and taking an extra vacation day for Tuesday.  We're leaving Friday after he gets home from work, and driving as far as Mobile, Alabama that first night.  We've got plenty planned for NOLA.  The last time we were there, it was for a football game and we only had one day to go sightseeing.  We're going to hit all the highlights this time- the aquarium, the zoo.  We've got a few other places on the list too, like Mardi Gras World where we can watch them actually building floats for the next parade.  Also the National WWII Museum.  Most of the places we're going have the penny machines, so they get first priority as far as our limited time.  If we can squeeze it in, we'll ride the trolley on St. Charles Avenue and perhaps take a steamboat up the Mississippi.  As for me, I'm most interested in food and art, and want plenty of time to stroll around the French Market.  And of course, I'm bringing an empty bag that I can load up with a few cans of Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee!   (Yes, I'm sorry, it's better than Community.)

Once we get back from our trip, I'll have one week to get my house in order, because my wrist surgery will be the following week.  I don't expect a painful recovery, it's a simple procedure, but I know I will have to wear my big awkward brace 24/7 for at least two weeks.  I imagine the first few days I may be a little sore, and James is always super protective of me.  He won't allow me to do anything around the house for awhile.  So before Tuesday 9/10, I'll be busy cleaning up the house, cooking up extra food for my hubby to have good dinners that week, and finishing up any of my pottery for Etsy.

I'm working on the last batch of beads that need to be glazed, and I hope to get them in the kiln this week.  I'll have all the next week to photograph them and get them listed.  I have a huge job ahead of me as far as cleaning up the studio, because when I'm glazing I just drag every jar of glaze out of the cabinets so that I can look at everything.  My work table is covered with jars, paintbrushes, wires, the boards I use for letting pieces dry.  When those beads are done, I don't think I'm going to make anymore for awhile, since they aren't selling.  I've got a few new ideas in my head I want to work on instead, as soon as I can.  The beads have been great for right now with my wrist issues, but I'm ready to move on to other things.  I've got a friend who requested two small dishes from me, so I have to get those done.  I also want to get more into upcycling, we go to so many auctions and flea markets and I see so many cool things but think to myself, wow what could I do with that??  Look on Etsy folks, you will see all sorts of very cool "new" items made from vintage things.

Michaels has awesome classes, and I've been wanting to take their jewelry and beading classes, but they are fairly pricey.  But once my wrist heals completely, I want to take a course.  I also plan to start making my tiles again.  Not just the ones where I use my rubber stamps, but also ones where I have relief images.  I've been collecting old wooden butter molds for about a year now, and they make spectacular designs in relief.  I've bought a few very cool ones lately- last week I got one with a cat on it, and this weekend at the auction I got a big one with a milkmaid and cow.  As soon as I can use my wrist to roll out the clay and pound the molds, I'll be working on these.  I am trying to convince James to learn how to make frames for my tiles, but then again, why can't I learn how to use the power tools and do it myself??  The sample below- NOT my tile- is the type of frame I'm looking to make.  It seems simple enough.  The tile itself is similar to what the relief tiles would look like made from the butter molds.  I've been buying a lot of other items that I can use, mostly old vintage kitchen molds (tin) and cookie cutters, and even some Wilton cake decorating tools.  I'm think about trying to create my own molds too- I recently took several Brighton hearts, smashed them into clay blocks, and after they came out of the kiln I now have molds I can use to make relief images for jewelry or tiles.

I want to have a better game plan for the next year, which is right around the corner.  Etsy is great, but I want to be able to make bigger items that I wouldn't necessarily want to ship. I've got some great ideas using repurposed old picture frames and some pottery letters from cookie cutters.  I would like to be able to set up at some of the local art festivals and street fairs.  The once a month Market Days here in Newnan is quite expensive to set up at, but if I get my act together- tables, tent, enough items to cover said tables- then I don't see why I shouldn't be able to do it.  We have plenty of Farmers Markets in the area as well.  And one nearby town just started a monthly street fair that is free to set up at, although last month was their first time doing it.  Some of the bigger annual festivals in the area- the Powers Ferry Festival, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, the Yellow Daisy Festival- these are only dreams at this point.  Not only are they terribly expensive to get a booth space, but because they are attended by thousands of people from all over the country, I would have to have a poopload of items to sell.  I am not at that point right now, but boy I sure would love to be!  So these last two months of "playing" on Etsy have been fun, but 2014 needs to have a good business plan in place.  I have a retirement fantasy of traveling around the South to craft fairs and beach art festivals, and selling pottery and paintings.  Hey, why not!

Yesterday we drove around to several Ford dealerships to look at new vehicles.  By the way, they were all closed on Sunday so if you are car shopping and don't want to be followed around by the pesky salesman, go on Sunday!  We were not the only ones out doing this.  James has been thinking about getting a new truck.  His 2010 F150 already has over 85,000 miles on it, because this is the vehicle we use for all our traveling.  Plus he puts 250 miles a week on it just driving back and forth to work.  The 2004 Mustang is still our "fun" car, but it has 104,000 miles on it.  And that leaves my Saturn Vue- the 2006 SUV only has about 84,000 miles on it and now that I'm not working, I don't do much driving except into town once or twice a week.  A full gas tank can last me 2 months these days.  But, even though it's a comfortable drive for me (it's a 4 cylinder and handles like a car), James does not like driving it at all.  He said it's very uncomfortable for him, plus he said he doesn't trust it to drive long distances.

So we always take the truck, which is SO big I have trouble driving it- the few times I've been behind its wheel.  While we were out yesterday, looking at 2013 F150's (couldn't find any 2014 so they may not be out yet), I told James wow these new 2014 Explorers are super cute and nice.  He said, well then instead of a new truck, let's get you a new SUV.  The Explorer is bigger than the Saturn (the Saturn is about the same size as the Escape, which is much smaller) so James said it would be more comfortable and roomy for him.  We looked at a few, and found a nice black one with no extras, and it would be cheaper than a new F150 and with better gas mileage, and it's a V6.  James said if we get this, then this would be our new traveling car.  Since I won't put many miles on it around town, it makes sense. I'm not sure we will get it, it cost about twice what my Saturn did back in 2005, but it cost a lot less than a new truck.  So we'll see, I'm not getting too excited about it, James said unless they can meet his "magic number" that he has in his head for the price, we won't do it.  He wants to pay it off in only one year.  I doubt I'll get a good trade-in amount for my Saturn, although we recently got it repainted.  I think it's hard to sell a car from a company that doesn't exist anymore.  I do see a lot of Saturns still on the road, and my car runs fine, there are no problems with it whatsoever. 

A new car would be cool, but since I don't hate my Saturn, if I don't get the Explorer it's not a big deal.  But it sure is cute!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bead Overflow

Well I didn't mean to let so much time pass between posts on here.  We had a wonderful vacation recently in Canada, and spent some time in Detroit as well (above, at the Henry Ford Museum).  We were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful weather- low 70's- in July.  Not something we are used to down here in the south, it will be many long weeks before we see our temps drop to that low.  And I am looking forward to it.  I always enjoy spring, when my flowers are blooming, but right now my flower bed is for the most part, winding down.  My spring bulbs are long past blooming, and I have a sea of waving green (but browning) fronds all over the garden.  My few summer flowers are wilting under the August heat.  I will be happy to see fall get here, and soon.

I've been staying busy at home with my pottery.  My wrist pain is still preventing me from making too much, as far as being able to work the clay.  I've been focusing on beads lately, because I can pinch off a tiny piece of clay and roll it around in the palm of my hand.  I do not need to bend my wrist at all, although when it comes time to glaze them, holding the paintbrush for too long has become an issue.  I've had one cortisone shot, I've had fluid drained from my wrist, and on Monday I go back for another cortisone shot.  I've been wearing my brace as often as possible, sometimes even sleeping in it.  I've gone through a ton of pain patches and Motrin with not much relief.  If the shot on Monday continues to leave me in pain, I will have to buck up and have the surgery.  I'm going to give the shot until the end of September, as the doctor said it can take a few weeks before the cortisone can do its work.  This DeQuervain syndrome has been hanging around since January of this year, and every time I go see my ortho, it's about $400 out of pocket for me.  At that rate, I should have had the surgery at the start!

Although I haven't sold any of my beads on Etsy, I continue to see other similar shops selling beads as fast as they can get them listed.  These are obviously established shops with committed followers, and I notice, a lot of custom orders.  I can pay to advertise on Etsy, instead of just hoping people stumble upon my shop.  I have made enough beads that are ready to glaze, to load up my kiln at least two more times.  After that, I'm taking a break from making beads, as I have plenty listed for sell.  I may consider advertising on Etsy, so that my beads show up prominently during searches.  My prices are fair, and I believe my quality equals much of what I am seeing in other shops.

James said, shouldn't you go back to making your tiles?  He is right, my tiles used to sell like crazy, back when I was on eBay and before I moved over to Etsy.  After I get my shot on Monday, I'm going to rest my hand as much as possible, to let the shot do its thing and let the inflammation heal.  I've been working on my beads every day, so I'm going to take next week off from pottery.  It's been a lot of fun though, and I love the glazing process the best.  What a glaze looks like out of the jar, sometimes has no correlation to what color it will be once it's fired, and opening up my kiln to see how everything came out, has been the most fun part of making them.  (See below photos, glaze before and after it's fired.)

Also on the books is the arrival of our new bedroom furniture in a few days.  And most importantly a new mattress.  Finally.  Our current one is sadly ready for the trash dump.  It's saggy and lumpy and worn down.  I (we) picked out bedroom furniture to match the living room set we got not too long ago.  I love it.  It was pricey, but it's time for us to have some grown up furniture instead of using the bedroom set I had before we were married.  This will be the set we keep for a lifetime.  And I'm hoping that in the mornings when I get out of bed, I will not be stooped over like a 90-year-old anymore.  Of course, now I am making James' head spin by saying we need all new linens and a comforter....  :)  Still shopping around on that one to find exactly what I want.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yay, It Worked!

I am excited to say, my first attempt at handmade buttons was a success.  My nichrome wire arrived the other day, and I immediately loaded my kiln.  I only put in a few buttons, just to see the outcome and answer my questions- would the wire support everything, would the glaze drip, would the beads and buttons stick to the wire?  Everything came out great, and no bad surprises!  Most of the buttons I've seen on Etsy, that I've admired so much, use homemade glazes, so the colors and tones are much richer and earthier than mine.   But for now, I'm still working in the realm of commercial glazes that I buy online.  I am a long way from learning how to make my own.

So now that I have this new venture to focus on- to add to my repertoire of tiles and small bowls- I was trying to think about presentation and how to "package" them in groups to sell. Recently when James was working in the yard, he found a wire that was sticking up out of the ground.  Oddly enough, we followed it to find, it was buried but wasn't attached to anything at all! We pulled it up, yards and yards of it, and when I saw the bundle of four small copper wires insulated and sticking out of the end, I decided to save it and see if I could use it for anything.

Stripping it to get to the tiny copper strands inside, has been monumental and SO time consuming, but once it's done and cleaned up (there is some kind of greasy goo inside the black covering)- I've ended up with tons of these perfectly shiny wires snipped down to usable pieces. I am sure at some point, I will use them in another craft project. But I thought, the way these bend, they are perfect for threading through the button holes and attaching the buttons to something.

The idea for that "something" came to me the other day at Hobby Lobby when I was strolling through the scrapbook section, and found a paper punch in the shape of an old-fashioned price tag.  I have a lot of paper leftover from the days when I used to scrapbook obsessively, so made up a few tags with the punch, adding a second stronger piece of paper square.  I am going to thread the wire through the paper, through the button holes, and tie it off in the back.  When I'm done, I'll have 3-4 buttons attached to the card stock, ready to go.  I haven't made any completed ones yet, since I just have the one set of buttons glazed.  But I spent a day punching out and assembling a few dozen of these tags- one of those days where I wanted something mindless to do while I watched a few reruns of Bones on TNT in the afternoon.

I will post again soon when I have bunches of buttons to show off and ready to list on Etsy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Buttons And Beads

Has anyone else heard anything about Blogger going away on July 1st?  I'm not sure, I've read a few articles and saw on someone else's blog that they were redoing theirs and getting it off Google before they lost it.  I am going to carry on as though Blogger is here to stay- I don't know enough of what to do, to move the blog anyhow.  :(

I unloaded my kiln this morning, after the first firing of all the jewelry pieces I've been making.  Pendants, charms, beads, buttons.  Whatever you want to call them.  Now they are ready for glazing.  Last night I ordered the wire that I will need to use, to suspend the beads and buttons for the glaze firing- so the glaze won't stick to anything in the kiln, like the shelves.  I had ordered a bead rack from a pottery supply website, but the wire that came with it, had a diameter that was at least twice as big as the holes in my beads.  So I went direct to an electrical supply outlet online, and ordered much smaller wire.

The wire is nichrome wire, which I think it short for nickel chromium?  This type of wire can withstand the heat of the kiln, and seems to be what everyone uses to make beads and buttons. The glaze, I guess, does not stick to the wire- at least I hope not. But, since this is just still experimenting, I will find out soon!  The downside of a smaller diameter wire, is that the heat will make it bend more than the thicker wire, especially when the weight of the beads is added.  I think I will have to use very short pieces of wire and support them well on both ends.  This is why I wanted my own kiln- so I can learn and experiment and not worry about screwing up someone else's kiln.  But, I sure do miss the expertise and guidance from my old pottery teacher Dianna back in South Carolina.  I don't have anyone here to ask questions, and I have to rely on what I can find online.

Other than pottery, James and I have still been working in the yard.  I have a few more plants that are in pots, that I'm getting into the ground in the new flower beds. It's been slow going for me, because I have to wear the brace on my right wrist whenever I'm working in the yard right now.  But after I get all the plants in the ground, we'll get everything mulched for the summer.  Then it will be on to the never-ending maintenance of trimming the shrubs and pulling weeds.  But I am trying to look at it as great exercise and a daily dose of Vitamin D.

I may plant a few more perennials later on this year, depending on what fun things I find at Lowe's.  Every year they seem to have plants that I've never seen before, and throughout the summer they get in new plants every few weeks.  I will probably wait until later in the summer, to see what arrives.  It seems like every year I buy up plants early, and say I won't plant anything else, then in August and September I start seeing new perennials in the garden center that weren't out earlier in the year.

This past weekend we went to a flea market in Atlanta, and James lucked up and found a nice Troybilt rototiller at a great price- about a third of what they cost new at Lowe's.  We've been wanting one for awhile, and have been watching to see if they went on sale anywhere, but never could find one in our price range.  And for something we will only use a few times a year, we didn't want to pay $600 or $700, or worse, the inconvenience and cost of renting one every time we needed it.  So, this is a fantastic- and budget friendly- addition to our garden equipment.  It will come in handy later on this year when we go to dig up and make beds around our new trees in the front yard.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Roof, The Roof !

Well it's not on fire, thank goodness.  Just a leak that is becoming a pain in the butt.  We noticed cracks in the paint of this arch a long time ago, very subtle at first.  It's right at the door to the back deck, and we blamed it on our closing the door too hard.  We thought it was just the paint only.  The other day when my folks were here, my mom said, are you sure you don't have a leak in the roof?  We said no, the paint has been cracking for a long time now, probably a year at least.  Again, it wasn't anywhere near as bad as the photo below, from today.

Last week we had a hard hard rain, and to our surprise, we watched water running down our walls inside the arch.  Oops. Guess we do have a leak.  Monday James called our home owners insurance company, and they sent a team out right away.  One team to dry everything, and another team to patch up the roof. Turns out there is no hole, it's just where several different roof angles meet, and water is gathering up under the flashing.  He said it's quite common on a house with so many steep pitches. They sealed the area and put on a tarp for good measure.

The blowers and dehumidifier have been running nonstop since Monday, and someone comes to the house every day to check the progress of the drying.  So far, this is all that's been done.  The repairs haven't even started, and that will entail replacing drywall, trim, hardwood floors, and carpet- and repainting.  Joy. The blowers put off an insufferable amount of heat, during our first week of weather in the 90's.  They are so loud, I feel like I'm at a Nascar race when I try to talk to James at the dinner table- we have to yell.  

I will be glad when they are gone.  However, it's kept the cats entertained.  The air bubbles and water moving through the clear plastic tube of the dehumidifier have become a fascination for them, especially Romeo, and he has spent almost every minute of every day, perched over the tube chasing the bubbles as they travel on their way to the sink.  Yes, my kitchen sink has been commandeered all week too, for drainage.

So lesson learned.  If we had gotten this checked last year, when it was simply a very minor issue, I am sure it would have been a lot less headache.  Not sure when it will be over with, but as James said, it's a minor inconvenience and thank goodness we have insurance!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I've been looking for new ideas for my pottery.  Since I still don't have a wheel (or have any idea of how to use one!), everything I am doing right now- from bowls to tiles- is still by hand.  I've seen some beautiful jewelry on Etsy made with pottery pieces, and I've decided to give it a try.  I have a huge collection of rubber stamps so I've been making a few pieces to use for necklaces or bracelets. I have no experience in jewelry making, so I haven't decided yet if I will try to finish these pieces off into actual jewelry, or just sell the pieces as is for anyone else out there who makes jewelry.  

Everything is still in the drying stage (below), so once I have everything fired and glazed, I'll see how it all turns out.  I see that Michael stores offer jewelry making classes, I may go see about signing up for one.  The last one they had was way way too expensive for me, plus I don't have any jewelry making tools currently.

I've also decided to try making my own beads as well.  I made these not long ago but got stumped on how to glaze them all over. So I've ordered a small bead tree that will fit in my kiln.  It's basically just a rack with wires that will withstand the high temperatures of the kiln.  That way I can have glaze all over the bead and suspend it on the wire, and not worry about the glaze dripping or sticking to the kiln shelves.  If that works out, I might make more beads to sell, or to use for myself if I decide to make jewelry.

Right now I am struggling with the pottery, since I developed problems with my right wrist that will require surgery- soon.  I have a brace I have to wear, which makes it totally impossible to work with the clay.  If I take the brace off, it's very painful to use my right hand to do anything that requires me grasping or holding objects.  Sigh.  

Well, the Etsy store is still empty, but I continue to plow forward with hopes of finding my niche.  Now that I am home full time, I feel this is my one shot at making a "real" attempt at any kind of success online.  But, gotta have something to sell!  Carry on!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Camping in Bama

Well, camping for us was a small but tidy cabin with A/C and TV, but it was still a fun time and at a campground. My in-laws were in their RV with the two pups, and James' aunt and uncle were in another cabin.  We had a great time of relaxing during the day, and coming together in the evenings for dinner al fresco- on the picnic table that is- with a great view of Lake Guntersville.  It was a large campground, with a lot of permanent campers who decorated their little spots just like home.

On the way back to Georgia we were able to take quick side trips to a few state parks, and I took a number of pics of this huge lake from different areas, as well as DeSoto Falls. Beautiful homes up in that area, perched high up on the cliffs and looking down over the valley. Several were for sale, and I'm sure they had beautiful prices to go along with that miles-long view.

I haven't spent much time in northern Alabama before, but it was very very pretty, probably more so than I anticipated.  I know his parents go camping there every year, and James went last year.  I was unable to go because I didn't have enough vacation time to take off from work, but that wasn't an issue this year.  So I was pleased to be able to go have this extra visit with the family, and time with my husband.  And I look forward to going there again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Spring Projects in Process

We've had really odd weather here for the last week or so, that's kept me inside every day.  It's been very cloudy, very very windy, and quite cool.  Our temperatures haven't been above the low 60's for days now.  I've kept the windows open and the A/C off to get all the fresh air I can, and I'm still wearing long pants! Rain threatens every day, but so far we haven't seen any since Sunday.

Sunday our yard work was cut short by a torrential storm that lasted all day long and most of the night.  James was literally digging below, expanding the flower bed at the garage, when it started raining so hard we had to come inside.  He was almost finished, and we're almost ready to go get a truckload of soil and get on with planting.

Our project from the previous weekend below, is now completely in my hands.  James did his part, all the heavy lifting, digging it all up and then preparing it with a load of soil.  I spent an afternoon putting the pavers down as edging, but when I look at it from the house, you can't even see the pavers they are so low.  So I'm going to raise them.  Next weekend when we go to Knoxville for Mother's Day, we will be bringing back several of the azaleas from his grandmother's old home, and maybe some of her bulbs too.  We will put at least two or three of the azaleas here at the mailbox.

Lowe's had all their pavers and bricks on sale for 20% off, plus we used our Lowe's credit card to get an extra 5% off.  We decided to go ahead and take on a few unplanned projects as well, and bought a whole pallet of the pavers.  Our main flower beds in front of the house, the ones the builders put in, have a tendency to wash away over the sidewalk whenever it rains.  We bought enough pavers to go ahead and line the beds to hold everything in.  Plus we think it will look really nice and "finished".  Not much to do here, except to just put them in and make sure they are level.  This will be my job, to work on brick by brick, as I can.

The last new project for the spring will be the bed below.  It's sort of overgrown with all the shrubs the builder threw in there, and I haven't worked on this bed very much over the years.  I've planted very few bulbs, and a hydrangea, that's it.  I've let it get way too shaggy, and we think we picked up enough pavers that we can put them down here as well.  We plan to expand the bed in the front further out into the yard.

We don't have many spring bulbs planted, ours are mostly summer bulbs.  But the irises I got from my mother-in-law are blooming right now, and we've been able to enjoy them, even from the window on days like today when I don't go outside.  I have a ton of bulbs in the garage right now that I need to get in the ground.

Our new trees continue to do well, I think they like this cool and cloudy damp weather, but not so much the strong breezes- they are staked but the wind always looks like it's beating these guys to death.  We've had a few minor broken branches already, but they will have to get used to it- the wind is always blowing hard up here on "the hill" where we live.  Later on in the fall, we'll create giant flower beds to encompass all the trees, instead of just the little patches of mulch you see now.

It's supposed to rain for the next few days, so I'm not sure we'll be able to get out there this weekend and finish anything.  But now that I'm staying home, I have more than enough time during the week to work on everything.  If my old back can hold up through all of it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

And Hello Again Here!

Wow here I am again.  I posted on my weight loss blog yesterday for the first time in a year.  And I want to get back to regularly posting here as well.  I started this blog in 2009 when we first moved here and I wasn't working.  Once I went to work full time, I didn't have time for the blog, and I really did miss it.  I know only a handful of folks read it- mostly my dad and friend Dawn- but I still got a great deal of enjoyment out of it.  This Friday is my last day at my job- by my choice- so I will be back home full time again.  Like my other blog, I plan to get this cleaned up and converted over to a new template, and update all the info.

I am still working on pottery, but sporadically as time has allowed. Now it's going to be my "new" job, and I should have my old Etsy store up and running soon.  I know I'm not a great artist, but I have fun with it, and now that I have more time I hope to develop new skills and try to experiment with different media.

I had given up the blog in favor of Facebook, because it was so quick and I could post on the run from my phone.  But at some point, FB becomes boring.  The blog is way more creative.  I do plan to start a new FB page once I have items for sale in my Etsy shop, to share with the rest of my friends and family who don't blog.

Life is going well here, as far as excitement around the house we have been doing a tremendous amount of yard work.  Planting new trees in the front yard and hill, and growing lots of other small trees that will eventually go in the back yard- we are going to attempt to block the view of our neighbor's yard as they are letting junk pile up back there and we are tired of looking at it.  I found a deal on some fast growing willow trees- 20 of them for $25- but as you can see from the last photo of pots, they are too small to plant in the ground right now.  We're aiming for Fall.  Today we'll be building a flower bed at our mailbox, and I have a gazillion new bulbs to plant.

So I hope everyone is having a wonderful Spring so far.  It's still chilly here, I have a fire going in the living room right now!  The weather here in mid-Georgia can't seem to make up its mind right now.  Can't wait to check out everyone else's blogs and get caught up.