Free Bling Friday Number 18!

Time for Free Bling Friday! Last week's winner is B.J. H. of Orange Park, Florida. Congratulations, B.J.!

Here's this week's selection: I came across some really pretty abalone recently so I've been doing a lot of things with it. This pair mixes abalone rectangles with deep purple inclusions with lavender freshwater pearls and sterling silver. They hang approximately 1 1/4" from sterling french wires.

To be eligible for this week's Free Bling, email me by midnight, September 6, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. Good luck! Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Sign up for free weekly email updates here!

Follow Your Bliss...

This picture really spoke to me in many ways....the child walking to the beach, not a care in the world, and the title "Follow Your Bliss"....whatever it may be or wherever it may lead you. The photo was taken by award-winning photographer Irene Suchocki, and it won the monthly National Photo Award Contest in February 2007. Check out more of Irene's beautiful photographs, some hauntingly so, here.

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budanArt: Abstracting the Landscape

I've found another artist whose ACEO's I need to start collecting! Don't you just love these bright colors? This work is by Canadian artist Mandy Budan. The homepage of her website includes a Van Gogh quote that suits me to a tee: "Color in a picture is like enthusiasm for life". You can purchase prints of her work and a few originals in her Etsy shop here. Her ACEO's are finished as magnets. What a great little gift they would make! She also writes a great blog about her work and her Etsy success. Check it out here.

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Free Bling Friday Number 17 a Day Early!

Time for Free Bling Friday, a day early! We're heading out of town this afternoon to visit my great Aunt Livy for the weekend for her 86th birthday, so I need to get this week's entry posted early. However, not to fret! You still have until midnight tonight to register for last Friday's entry, so no winner announced on that one till Monday! Scroll down for Free Bling Friday Number Sixteen.

Here's this week's selection: I've paired cute as a button petite lampwork beads torched by Darleen Michael Baker with lt. Colorado topaz Swarovski crystals and 14K gold-filled accents. They hang approximately 1" on 14K gold-filled posts. To be eligible for this week's Free Bling,
email me by midnight, August 30, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. Good luck! Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Sign up for free weekly email updates here!

Laughing Cat to Brighten your Day!

I love this guy! Melissa Szymanski has some of the cutest notecards in her shop and this was my absolute favorite. And get this! Melissa is the youngest of 16 children! Oh my gosh! God Bless your mother, Melissa! :-) This kitty looks a lot like my Kitty as she is throwing herself up against the glass on our French doors taunting our puppy Isabelle. My sister calls her "Evil Kitty" and probably for good reason. If you could see me in person right now, I'd demonstrate her antics for you and I promise I'd have you rolling on the floor laughing hysterically. Though I'm not sure which is funnier, the cat or me imitating the cat. Hmmm... Anywho, check out Melissa's shop here!

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The Things They Say

Apparently the curriculum in Sarah and Olivia’s pre-K class they started yesterday is very progressive. When I picked them up from school today, Sarah ran up to me and said, “Come here and give me a hug, you big love machine!” I am not making this up. Where she learned the phrase “love machine” I’ve not figured out yet.

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Mermaid's Ball

I promised to get down to the work bench for some new pieces and some camera time, and I finally did it yesterday! It'll take me a week or two to get all my new pieces loaded on the website, but here's a sneak peek. Isn't this just yummy? I've had these large turquoise chunks for a while now and inspiration hit me when I came across these brass starfish. Glamour magazine (my vice) tells me that long chunky pendants will be in this fall, and this piece certainly fits the bill. The turquoise stone itself measures about 1 1/2" x 2", and the starfish is about the size of a silver dollar. I've brought out the gold flecks in the stone with the starfish and the gold-tone chain, and used smaller turquoise stones and lt. Colorado topaz Swarovski crystals for accents. Total length of the piece is 22" with another 3" worth of adjustment available in the clasp. All findings with the exception of the chain itself are either 14K gold-filled or 24K gold vermeil. I used very nice gold-plated brass chain to keep it affordable, but if you fall in the love with the piece and want it in 14K gold-fill, email me for a price. I'll have two available with the brass chain at $75.

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The World's Shortest Fairy Tale

I'm happily married, but this cracked me up. I must admit I can relate!

Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl, "Will you marry me?" The girl replied, "No," and she lived happily ever after, went shopping, drank martinis with friends, always had a clean house, never had to cook, had a closet full of shoes and handbags, stayed in shape, and was never farted on. The End.

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Behind the Camera: Milestones...

We finally got our 4th-birthday-party pictures developed so here’s a few for you. I actually even got a picture of the DH with the girls! It’s VERY rare he lets me take his picture!

The girls start voluntary pre-K Monday. We went to the open house at the school Thursday night to meet with their teacher and see their classroom. Though all it really is to them is a change of classroom and teacher because they’ve been at this school since they were six months old, Livvie in particular is having some trouble adjusting. Their current teachers, Ms. Belinda and Ms. Barbara, have been working on preparing all the kids for the change for about two weeks. I’ve been talking with the girls about it at home for about a week or so. Sarah has been a wonderful “big” sister (by a whopping 3 minutes). Any time Livvie starts to get upset about the move, Sarah tells her, “It’s okay, Liv, there’s nothing to be scared of! I’ll be with you!” One morning last week, I was getting them dressed for school when, all of the sudden, Livvie’s little faced scrunched up and she starting crying. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I’m going to miss Ms. Belinda!” Then Sarah reached over and gave her a hug and told her everything was going to be okay.

We went through this last year at this time as well, when they were preparing to move into their 3-year-old class. The kicker there was they had to be potty trained, and Livvie wasn’t quite there yet. We went through weeks and weeks of night terrors last year, and I can only imagine that Livvie was dreaming about that big potty chasing her. :-) Not much sleep last summer! I walked around looking like a zombie for a couple months, but once we got her potty trained and started in her new class, she was fine after a day or two. We've had some middle of the night trials this year as well, but at least no terrors. She's woken up a few times and wanted to climb in bed with us, but I'm able to get her right back to bed. Of course, then I have a hard time going back to sleep....

And I’m sure she’ll be fine, they’ll both be fine, with this new change too. It’s always harder for Mommy, isn’t it? You Mommies out there know what I mean. I’m sure there will be some tears from all three of us, but the difference will be that Sarah’s and Livvie’s tears will be dry by the time I pull out of the parking lot; mine will probably linger a little while!

Random thoughts: my goal for tomorrow is to get back to the work bench and then take some pictures! I'll do my best! This summer has been tough! By the time we get the girls to bed between 8-8:30pm, I'm worn out and ready for bed myself!

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Free Bling Friday Number Sixteen!

Time for Free Bling Friday! picked Brittany L. of Jacksonville, FL, as this week's winner. Congratulations, Brittany!

Here's this week's selection: I've paired whimsical lampwork beads torched by Angela Dose with lt. Colorado topaz Swarovski crystals, Balinese sterling bead caps and sterling accents for sparkle. They hang approximately 1 1/2" from sterling french wires.

To be eligible for this week's Free Bling, email me by midnight, August 23, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. Good luck! Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Sign up for free weekly email updates here!

Sites to See...

I got an email today with the subject line "awwwwwwww". When I opened it, I saw what "awwwwwwww" was all about! These are my three favorites of the heartwarming pictures included. If you want to see the full collection, just email me and I'll send them on!

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Old But New

My DH always gives me a hard time when I buy jewelry from other designers when I'm a designer myself, but sometimes I come across something I just have to have! Thus was the case with this necklace from "Old But New". It's called the Lorelai, named for the designer's favorite childhood poem about a siren who lures ship captains to their doom. I like the first few lines of the designer's bio: "oldbutnew is just me, Samantha. I live in Fort Worth with my husband, 3 cats, and a hedgehog named Penelope. I love old jewelry, old books, old movies... Sensing a pattern?" Though I snagged this piece, Samantha has lots of other lovelies as well, so check her out right here. And then don't forget to check out the latest on the Happy Shack website while you're shopping for new pieces coming soon! I just need to break out my camera and photo tent!

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Free Bling Friday Number Fifteen!

Time for Free Bling Friday! picked Lisa S. of Jacksonville, FL, as this week's winner. Congratulations, Lisa! And for the special bonus, Brenda Schoen of Sioux City, IA, is our winner! Congratulations, Brenda! Here's this week's selection: rainbow quartz semi-precious gems in a rectangular shape paired with light sapphire and silk Swarovski crystals, all hanging from a sterling silver wire hoop. These have lots of fun swing and hang approximately 1 1/2" total in length.

To be eligible for this week's Free Bling, email me by midnight, August 16, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. Good luck! Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Sign up for free weekly email updates here!

Through Fresh Eyes

Visiting New York City for the first time can definitely be an overwhelming experience. Though I’ve been half a dozen times over the years, the students who attended the APCA conference with me this past weekend had never been, so it was fun seeing the city through their eyes for the first time. In addition to dutifully participating in all aspects of the conference, we did all the usual tourist things…Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Chinatown, World Trade Center site, etc…and stayed smack dab in the middle of Times Square at the Marriot Marquis. While I wouldn’t recommend staying in Times Square, it’s definitely a unique experience!

I think what I most enjoyed about this trip was seeing the city through the eyes of my student Emily Dale. That’s Emily there in the front left in this picture of us in Times Square after several hours of walking the city Monday night. It was interesting listening to all of them talk to each other about what they were seeing and hearing the questions they asked me, particularly regarding some strange (but normal for NYC) sites on the subway, but I think the one conversation that really sticks out in my mind was one Emily had with her mom via cell phone while we were walking through Times Square. Because of the general noise of the city, she had to yell on the phone so we could pretty much hear every word. :-) To the best of my memory it went something like this: “Mom! We went to Chinatown tonight! And they have all these little secret back rooms where all the really good stuff is! And Hailey and I got to go back there, Mom! It was awesome! I got a Dolce and Gabbana bag for $25, Mom! TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS! And it’s real! [oh the naivety of a 20-year-old girl on her first trip to the big city….] And I got a Tiffany necklace for you, the exact one you wanted, Mom! And I got my friend a Chanel bag from one of the street vendors down by the Bodies exhibit! It was so cool! They had all their purses wrapped up in a big sheet and they just layed them all out on the sidewalk for you to pick them out! I got her Chanel bag for $32, Mom! I totally blew it out of the water! I keep telling Jeff [another one of our students there] that we need to buy a bunch of bags up here and then take them home and sell them on the internet! We could call it! Ms. Kelly tells me that would be illegal but I have a lawyer friend who I’m going to ask about it. I was kinda wondering because when we were buying the bags off the street, the man selling them kept looking around like he was watching for someone to come or something. Anyways, Mom, I totally slayed the shopping. This place is sooooo coooool!”

Brooklyn Bridge pictured here....As for me, yes, I did break down and buy a couple things in Chinatown myself: one Dolce & Gabbana knock off tote bag and one Tiffany knockoff necklace. I was actually pretty impressed with the quality of the bag when I thoroughly examined it in the hotel. Good quality leather on the exterior, though the interior fabric is a bit flimsy. Of course, the D & G metal emblem popped off while we were waiting for our shuttle bus back to long term parking once we got back home to Jacksonville last night, but it was an easy fix this morning. We’ll see if my neck turns green the first time I wear the necklace. The students did have an interesting conversation with a couple of our van mates from the Marriot to LaGuardia though. One of the gentlemen sharing the van with us was wearing an NYPD t-shirt, so Emily asked him about her idea and whether or not he thought it would be illegal. Though just a tourist who bought an NYPD t-shirt, he did offer his professional opinion and told her it probably was. One of the other riders did make an interesting point, though, and I had to agree with her. Yes, selling those bags on the street is illegal, yet the cops tend to turn a blind eye to it most of the time; at least the Chinatown vendors are actually running a real business with a store front (in addition, of course, to their back rooms). But when it comes down to it, one of my students pointed out that illegal or not, the money used to purchase those bags goes back into the economy in the long run anyway (no, we aren’t going to get started on the long rumored debate that those sales support terrorism…the jury is still out on that). Moreover, as our fellow rider pointed out, the average person who buys a street bag is not taking any business away from Dolce & Gabbana, Coach, or Louis Vuitton because they cannot afford to purchase the real thing anyway….and the type of individual who can afford to purchase the real thing is probably not going to purchase a street bag, so we are really dealing with two different markets. Interesting observation, huh?

Anywho…I had a couple other interesting observations this trip. First, I would not bring small children to New York City, particularly to Times Square. Yes, I understand that children can get lost or taken anywhere, even from their own backyards, but the sheer mass of humanity in such a densely crowded area makes that so incredibly easy I was scared to death for every child I saw, particularly when they themselves looked terrified by the crowds surrounding them and the realization that they could so easily get separated from their parents. I also wondered what life was like for the children of those street vendors, one of whom I saw sleeping in a stroller next to who I suppose was her father selling illegal DVD copies on the street corner.

Grand Central Station pictured here...The other thing that really fascinated me yet again this time was the homeless, the mentally unstable, and the drug addicts that roam the city. There were so many times when I wanted to walk up to one of them and just have a conversation with them…ask them how they got there. I had a woman sit down next to me on the subway who was definitely high on something. Her clothing was fine, but she was extremely fidgety. When walking onto the train, she had stood behind Emily and just kinda kept shaking her arms until Emily moved out of the way. When she sat down next to me, my group all looked at me, wondering if I was going to be okay or if I was going to get up. I didn’t get up. To me that would have been a slap in the face to that woman, who obviously already had some major issues and didn’t need another slap in the face. We were on a train full of people and she was harmless. The next day, we saw one woman just laying on the ground with a blanket over her and people just walked by her like she wasn’t even there. This was on 5th Avenue in broad daylight. This was my 6th trip to NYC, and scenes like that trouble me every time. Does the city harden residents so badly that they don’t even see those people? It saddens me. Walter, Jeff and I were talking about it while we were waiting for our flight, and maybe because Walter and I are a little older we definitely had a different view on it. We know we can’t save the world, but we also think that more could be done to help these people, at least the ones who want to find a way off the street. Jeff came around after a while when Walter talked about the fact that our current government couldn’t find any money to help education or social service programs yet it could find billions of dollars to go fight someone else’s war. Even though he is a veteran, Jeff said he had to agree with that. Not to get on my soapbox or anything…

If you’ve never been to New York City, go, at least once. Window shop 5th Avenue, grab some bargains in Chinatown, catch a show in the theatre district and have a milkshake at Junior's just off Times Square in Shubert Alley. I’d love to go back every year for a dose of the big city. Maybe I’ll start taking my girls there yearly when they get older. We could do some shopping, see some shows, let them experience life in the big city (and pray they don’t want to move there!), just the girls. That’s definitely something to look forward too. Have any great NYC memories? Click on the comments box and share them!

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Off to the Big Apple

Well, I’m off to New York City before dawn tomorrow morning. I’m taking two students to the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities Leadership Workshop and will get home late Tuesday night. Our flight leaves at 7:45am in the morning so that means I have to be at the airport by 6:15am. Yikes! My good friend and colleague Walter "Professional Shopper" Fitzpatrick is also coming and bringing two students as well, so I'm sure we'll be hitting the streets in our spare time! Since I never have figured how to make posts appear while I'm away, I won't have any posts until Wednesday. Have a great week!

Free Bling Friday Fourteen..With a Bonus!

Time for Free Bling Friday! I decided to throw in a little surprise this week! Since we had a slow week on Free Bling Friday registrations and I had the supplies to do so, I decide to reward everyone who registered with Free Bling! Yeah! So congratulations to Nancy M. and Maurie H. of Jacksonville, FL; Sandi S. of Tallahassee, FL; Cindi H. of Edwardsville, IL; and Brenda S. of Sioux City, IA!

Here's this week's entry. Lovely black based lampwork with light blue floral swirls combined with jet Swarovski crystals and Balinese sterling silver accents, all hanging on sterling french wires. This pair is on the petite side, hanging just about 1 1/4" total. To be eligible for this week's Free Bling, email me by midnight, August 9, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. And since I'll be out of town most of this week, I'm also adding a little twist to this week's entry! We all know word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so I'm counting on all of you. Please send the Happy Shack Designs website and blog to your friends and family who love jewelry, ask them to register for Free Bling and include your name along with their location. Whomever's name appears the most will win their pick of whatever earrings I currently have listed on the website or a $15 credit towards a bracelet or necklace purchase, your choice. If this goes well, I'll start adding this little bonus the first Friday of every month! Good luck!

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A Place to Bark

I've had the blog for A Place to Bark listed in my favorite links for quite a while now, but you may not have had a chance to check it out. The mission of A Place to Bark is "to provide assistance and care to animals in need. Working together with other animal welfare agencies to help end the needless killing of adoptable animals. Proactively working to save lives, by spaying and neutering, eliminates needless deaths." Today I read Bernie's blog post about Keoshi, and it reminded me of my recent Counting My Blessings post below. Take a look at Keoshi's story here. If you go to the A Place to Bark website, there's a really nice news story about the organization on the homepage, and if the urge hits to you make a donation, just click on the How You Can Help link at the bottom of the page.

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Artpaw says Bow Wow Baby!

You know how I love animal art...I found the most adorable little bookmarks from Artpaw and ordered a slew of them for gifts. They are top notch and dirt cheap for such fun little gifts! This print here is an 8 x 10" of Georgia and Pudge. I know someone who would love it! Here's the skinny on Artpaw, straight from their website: "The humans in charge at are Dan and Rebecca Collins. Art Paw has been around since 1998. The business was the very first of its kind on the web and continues to offer the largest contemporary Art Gallery for hip and cool urban animals. Both Dan and Rebecca have a lifelong passion for Art and Animals. Art Paw allows them to join these two passions along with their ongoing affair with their Macintosh." Check out their website here or their Etsy shop here.

Random thoughts: Had a couple days off yesterday and today so I've been reorganizing my workshop and hanging out with Isabelle...and apparently not keeping close enough eye on her. So what happens when a puppy eats a big yellow crayon? Hmmm...I guess we'll find out soon enough.

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