Birthstones projects

My friends are enjoying their mother-daughter pendants so much that I got to work on two more birthstone projects. The first was a pendant based on a collar I made a while back. The collar has been dibbed, so I made the closest replica the wire would allow.


Not all the ‘traditional’ birth stones were available in beaded (stringable) form, so I had to consult a gem bible for alternatives, which made for a fun scavenger hunt at Dave’s Down To Earth Rock Shop.


Once I gathered the stones I looked up their meanings, which come as a printout with each piece.


I strung them onto wire and placed them in the pendant.


I almost wanted to keep it for myself.


The next project was a bangle for a grandmother, also based on a bangle I had created before, with 15 family members represented.



I don’t have a proper mandrel yet, so I use what is on hand.


I learned that circumference measurements can be misleading, as the bracelet barely fit over my knuckles.


So we consulted back and forth on the best measurement and I went with another bangle’s circumference for comfort.


Getting the stones spaced out right with the right amount of wire took a few tries.




Off they went to their new happy owners.


Happy Birthday!


It was a joy to create these two pieces, and I am looking forward to creating a beaded bangle for myself in the future.


The energy and healing power of stones and crystals fascinates me, and I like the idea that these pieces radiate some of that earthy energy to their owners and their tribe.


Are there stones that call to you?


Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today, and
creates a vision for tomorrow.

~ Melody Beattie

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and it always is a nice time to reflect on gratitude.

I started my professional life as a rookie reporter which meant I began the day with the police report and obituaries before dawn. Not the most optimistic news to wake up to. The responses of two funeral directors have stuck with me for life.

One would greet me with: “Any day above ground is a good one.” Another, upon being asked how he felt that morning, said: “I got up and someone else didn’t.”

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”
Thornton Wilder

So I am grateful to wake up to a new day each day. Life is a precious gift, and waking up healthy is a blessing we often take for granted.

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh, (Peace Is Every Step)

I will always be grateful for the people in my life. Some are lifelong companions, and others were only meant to be around me for a chapter or a season. But those seasonal people taught me something, whether in a good way or as an example of how not to be.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
~ Marcel Proust

After the “Tornado Outbreak”  we had on a recent Sunday, I considered all my possessions a lot. What would I take with me in case of evacuation, what did I want to protect from the elements? Seeing the aftermath of the tornadoes’ paths made me realize that shoving things in closets wouldn’t really matter. Still, I have spent the past decades gathering things that bring me joy and inspiration, and weeding out what doesn’t, and I am grateful for my possessions.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for.”

~ Epicurus

My home is my sanctuary and my workplace, and I treasure what is in it, replaceable or not. These material things don’t define who I am, but I appreciate the idea of them being a reflection of me. Yes, sometimes it feels like I might have too much clutter, but it is all meaningful in some way beyond the ‘stuff’ part of it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend.”
~ Melody Beattie

I am grateful to live where I live at this time. In spite of all the human rights work still to be done, as a woman it is better to be alive now than centuries ago. I have choices and opportunities, even if some of those involve choosing not to go somewhere at certain times.

Mostly I am grateful for spirit. We are all connected, and love and compassion prevails over ideologies. In moments of complete powerlessness that spirit of resilience and generosity and helpfulness has buoyed me and kept me from losing faith in the world as it is right now.

“In the end, though, maybe
we must all give up trying to pay back the people
in this world who sustain our lives.

In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender
before the miraculous scope of human generosity and
to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely,
for as long as we have voices.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert, (Eat, Pray, Love)

Gratitude is powerful. Gratitude is grace.

May you be filled with love and joy and peace this Thanksgiving feast, whether you celebrate it surrounded by loved ones or in solitude.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel
to say your nightly prayer.
And let faith be the bridge you build
to overcome evil and welcome good.”

Maya Angelou, (Celebrations)

Shop the Winter EXPO

The Evanston Art Center’s Winter Arts & Crafts Expo opened on Friday evening and I am thrilled to be included.


I’ve admired the talented artists on display in past years, so being part of it is such an honor.


This year’s artistry is even better than before, and I enjoyed the variety of jewelry on display in ‘my’ room.


The ceramics, glassware and wood work is lovely as well.


Another room holds fiber arts and whimsy.


I met fellow FUSEDChicago artist Robin Samiljan who has some lovely encaustic paintings and watercolors in the EXPO.


The Winter Arts & Crafts Expo is one of the largest craft shows in the Chicago area.


The 11th annual Expo features original, handmade arts and crafts by more than 100 selected artisans, featuring original, handmade works of jewelry, ceramics, fiber, metal, glass, painting, photography, and mixed-media.


When I did the student show 2 winters ago I had no idea where my artistic journey would take me, and this year has been a whirlwind of growth, inspiration and change.


Being at this opening had me flashing back to the changes that have taken place interpersonally as well as artistically.


The show is open to the public from November 23 to December 22 from 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 pm on Sundays.


Special shopping events include:

  • Girl’s Night Out – Wednesday, December 4 from 6 to 9 pm (Who’s coming out for this?)
    “Enjoy wine and cheese with friends while shopping for gifts”
  • Jewelry Fest – Saturday, December 7 from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Shop Your Cause Night – Wednesday, December 11 from 6 to 9 pm
    “20% of the night’s profits will be going to participating non-profit organizations”

Men’s Shopping Day – Saturday, December 21 from 10 am to 4 pm
    “Featuring free gift wrapping and ‘helpers’ to find the perfect gifts”
  • The EAC Student Expo will be on the second floor from December 7 to December 22


In addition to these events at the main site (next to the Gross Pointe Lighthouse), there will be a pop-up shop in the new AMLI building at 731 Chicago Avenue. From December 1 through December 22, EAC will be programming various special events south of Main Street.


The AMLI shop opens on Sunday, December 1 from noon to 4 pm. After that its hours are 4 to 8 pm on Thursdays and Fridays and from noon to 4 pm on Sundays until December 22.


I’ll be volunteering at the AMLI location on December 19 from 4 to 6 pm, so come on out and show local artisans some love.


Introducing NEW to Lemont

Last week the Network of Entrepreneurial Women had a blast at Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont.


I was excited to showcase this shop to our members, since I knew it would be a good fit.


We got to sample delicious goodies from Tastefully Simple, had chocolate Martinis provided by Dove Chocolates, and sampled the new Tiesta Teas Aurora Rose Boutique just started carrying.


During our introductions we enjoyed meeting new ladies and learning what’s new in each others’ lives since our Halloween party.


NetworkHoncho announced new features to their up-and-coming small business networking platform.


Everyone was delighted by the plethora of gift ideas in the store.


Some of us couldn’t resist taking something home.


Aurora Rose has some fun holiday activities planned, so like their Facebook page to get the scoop on announcements and new products.


The next Network of Entrepreneurial Women event is on December 11 at Anna Shae’s Chocolates in Barrington. The combined Meet & Munch and Wine, Women and Wellness event features Nifty Educational Wisewoman Trivia, where we break up into teams, make up awesome team names, and then test our knowledge of women and winter themed trivia.


There will also be a Holiday Recipe Exchange, with goodies to sample. This will be our only event for the month to give everyone time to close out the year and enjoy quality time with their families.


Have a great weekend!


All photos courtesy

Winged Love

I was hoping to get some nature shots this week to break up the Maraviglia-heavy content these days, but the weather was (more than) nasty over the weekend.


My indoor environs aren’t photogenic right now, so the intended respite from studio shots and creations had me flipping though my old photos instead.


I am not ready to post other entries in the works (good news!), so it’s a light reading day for you.



These beauties are from last year’s Butterflies and Blooms in the Chicago Botanic Garden.


Have a bright day!


Feeling Ornamental

It’s a bit early for Advent, but I am having a blast caroling and making holiday ornaments for December.


Making snowmen has taught me all the lyrics to Frosty the Snowman.


Meanwhile angelic songs are humming in my brain as well.


’Tis the season to be jolly, two months ahead of schedule. Snow arrived early, too, but it will hopefully hold off after last week’s fluke. Technically I should have started Christmas preparations in June, but it’s my first year in retail world so I am still learning the ropes.


Peaceful Parlour was first to light a fire under me when they requested that I bring in ornaments in October. This is the selection I brought in, though some pieces may have already been adopted.


Located at 212 S. Third Street in Geneva, Illinois, Peaceful Parlour is Chicagoland’s most expansive Eco-Chic Boutique. The future-friendly store carries a wide variety of herbal remedies and offers a numerous hand-blended teas designed to enhance wellness and positive energy. The kid’s playroom offers a variety of earth-friendly, no-batteries-required toys that kids can experiment with while parents peruse the rest of the store.


Peaceful Parlour’s focus is to find products with environmental and community benefits, supporting local artists, small businesses, fair trade and women co-op groups around the world. These products include household items such as recycled-glass water bottles, cork bowls; gardening accessories; personal adornments such as scarves, hats, jewelry and purses; and home decorative items including lamps, paintings and chimes. With its focus on positive energy flow, Peaceful Parlour also offers incense, purifying sprays and other meditative tools.


The woman-owned store hosts a variety of pop-up events, including a psychic medium, meet the artisan, outdoor music in the summer and tie-ins to Geneva’s special holiday festivities. The store will hold hourly ‘Blue Light Specials‘ on Small Business Saturday (November 30).  Geneva’s Christmas Walk and House Tour on Dec 6th and Dec 7th marks the arrival of Santa Lucia  and the mayor is presented with the first candy cane of the season on Friday night. Stores stay open late and Peaceful Parlour will be serving some organic herbal teas and homemade cookies. A guy’s night out is planned on December 17th at which they can shop for their ladies (Peaceful Parlour will have them fill out a wish list in advance).


The Evanston Art Center’s Winter EXPO, opening on November 23, will have select pieces on display as well.


So while I am ambivalent about jumping on the Christmas-before-December retail bandwagon, I do need to sell and promote my wares. So peruse my Holiday collection at Peaceful Parlour in Geneva and at Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont.


You can order your custom ornaments or pendants via e-mail. This set just got shipped overseas. Overseas orders need to be in by November 20 in order to arrive by Christmas, or they might get stuck in customs until the New Year.


I can make angels, snowmen and trees in any color combination, and incorporating the carols you favor. Wire cages get quirky at times, so those will be a blend of your choices and the wire’s personality. Since these will all be made by hand, my last day of taking custom holiday orders is December 9. Local and Etsy orders should be made by December 18 to ensure on-time Christmas delivery.


The three pieces below will be up for dibs on Facebook before they go to Etsy (trees may be a one-season-only offer, they’re complicated!):


Fun at the Neighbor-to-Neighbor fair

My first exhibits were filled with high expectations. My first big outdoor fair wasn’t what I anticipated it to be. My second fair literally washed out. As I learned with each expo/show/exhibit my expectations went down this road:

  1. “I am going to sell out and get loads of commissions.”
  2. “I am going to make double the amount of what I spent to get into this venue/show.”
  3. “I am going to recoup my entry fee.”
  4. “Oh hey, I didn’t lose money this time!”
  5. “Woohoo, I am actually making a little money.”


Technically, if I were to add up my hourly wages, I probably would be in the red again, but the Lemont Fair was a good boost to my soul to keep doing what I am doing.


Being an artist is not the easiest of career choices. I knew that going in, and like this blog post eloquently says, there are no shortcuts (#3 is a toughie). What attracted me to the Neighbor to Neighbor market is its mission to help out families in need. I am fortunate to have financial leeway on this journey (this year at least), so to contribute to someone else’s well-being is just being a good steward of blessings.


Since I visit Lemont monthly now thanks to Aurora Rose (who introduced me to this fair) I wanted to interact with more community members, which was a pleasure.  I still have a lot to learn and explore in Lemont, but this town does draw me, with affirmations, with fun events, and with intriguing vistas and outing opportunities.


I sold my first angel ornament.


Three Pearls of Wisdom and Psalms 103:15 Were adopted as siblings and are moving to Boston.


The Open Heart collar joined them as a raffle prize.


Meanwhile Infinite Love and Gratitude (which is now getting some traction on Pinterest) will carry its energy and message into a blended family.


I know that each of my creations have a special place to be. Seeing them matched up with their new owners in person is such a gratifying experience.


As roller-coaster as the fairs can be, I am grateful to have so many venues to explore here in Chicagoland. I am also super-grateful for the retailers who believe in me — Aurora Rose, The Sugar Path, Stella Boutique and Peaceful Parlour — and give my creations the exposure that connects them to their intended owners.


It may sound anthropomorphic, But I do believe that ’the spirit is in all things’, and that the energy we put into the world emotionally, physically and with our vocation has a ripple effect outside of our own sphere.


It’s a blessed life I lead. 🙂

New Additions at Aurora Rose Boutique

After Saturday’s fair I swung by Aurora Rose Boutique to stock up some Holiday inventory. The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is stopping by at 2 p.m. today for its combined November gathering so I wanted to give our attendees some pieces to peruse for our pre-holiday shopping spree.


Kim had asked me about scarf pendants a while back, and I finally got to make a few (after learning more about them).


Requests for Christmas ornaments have also been made already, so I provided a batch of those. I am taking custom orders for these now.


I spruced up my shelf with a little Christmas tree.


Since Kim was drawn to a few of the pendants while at the fair I decided to leave those with her too.


The birthstone project inspired me to spruce up some collars that felt a bit blah to me. Sometimes you have to let pieces sit for a while before knowing what to do with them.


So my infinity collar got an infinity rainbow and the oval cage is now holding semiprecious stones.


It is always such fun to visit the store and see the new quirky items in stock. My wallet is anticipating a slim-down, but it will go toward supporting other artisans and give me a head start on the Christmas shopping list.


Aurora Rose, A Unique Boutique is a gallery-style boutique featuring the wares of the most magnificent locally handcrafted businesses found in the Chicagoland area. Founded in 2011 and owned by mother-daughter duo Kim and Amber Peters, the store offers diverse handcrafted products including soaps, lotions, candles, baby blankets, jewelry, fairy dolls, parasols, wall and home decor, greeting cards, hair adornments, children’s clothes, stuffed animals, quirky decorative items, handbags, doll clothes and select food products. These one-of-a-kind and customizable pieces are created by 36 vendors, 28 of whom are female owned (this number may have been boosted since the November fair at which more artisans were recruited). Aurora Rose also offers art classes on a regular basis.


Aurora Rose Boutique is located at at 111 Stephen Street in Lemont, IL. Today’s event is open to any woman entrepreneur or business woman in the area, so stop on in! Store hours are Monday: 11am-7pm, Tuesday: 9am-4pm, Wednesday: 11am-7pm, Thursday: 11am-7pm, Friday: 11am-6pm, Saturday: 11am-5pm, Sunday: closed.

a (messy) glimpse at fair preparations

What it looks like when I am in pre-fair production mode:


Preparing and bending wire:




Adding embellishments:





Keeping track of labor and materials:


Determining what to send to the Evanston Art Center Winter EXPO.


Lemont fair re-cap coming soon…



Visit Aurora Rose between 2 and 4 p.m. on Wednesday to meet entrepreneurial women, try some tasteful snacks, and order custom pieces from me while trying on Aurora Rose inventory.


It’ll be fun!

The Samaria Gorge, a new hiking benchmark

When I returned from Greece in May 2011 I thought I would faithfully recount a travelogue in chronological order right away. But that didn’t happen.


I had to process the intensity of the trip, and then life happened, and here we are two years later where the Samaria Gorge is my most recent reference to that adventure. So I guess the Samaria Gorge day wants to go first. Technically it was day 12 of the 17-day multi-island trip, but a blog is flexible so I will figure out a way to create a chronological reading order later.


Getting the Gorge group tour booked was a adventure in and of itself, but that is for my Day 11 post.


I was told to board the bus outside my hotel in Hersonnisos on Crete at 5:30, and fortunately two other hiking-looking ladies made their way to the spot as we waited in the dark, reassuring me I was in the right place.


Everyone was snoozing and there were several other stops along the way. I overheard some Dutch people holding conversations, but they were too far for me to introduce myself (we chatted later). We stopped for breakfast at 8 a.m. in a rest stop, and then meandered up a very steep road with a few creepy turns at 10:30 a.m.


At that point the tour guide mentioned that if we had any medical issues like pregnancy, weak knees, heart problems etc., we should talk to her. Because letting us know about that before the 5-hour bus ride (longer for some) might just be too logical… We were told that because we were in the off-season, only 3 medical donkeys were available, and that about 1/3 of the way was the last point to turn back, after that the only way out was to walk the full trail.


Overly practical me had decided that given my island-hopping hand-luggage limitation taking my hiking boots and walking sticks for just one day was ‘frivolous’, so I had reinforced my red Merrell walking shoes with ankle braces. As Pretty Woman told the boutique ladies “Mistake…BIG mistake.”


The terrain was extremely gravelly from the get-go, and steep to boot. There were railings to get us started, but the speed at which some people leapt down the path made it hard to take one’s time. We were on a firm time schedule, since our ferry would depart at 5 p.m. and it would take 5-6 hours to walk the trail, so there was a sense of urgency initially.


We started at the mountain top (1250 meters altitude) and went down, down, down. It was an amazing descent that doesn’t really come out in the photos.


The gorge is an 8 mile trail (12.8 km) but the ferry port of Agia Roumeli is another 2 miles from the exit, totaling a 10 mile (16 km) strenuous hike that is indeed hard on the knees.


I saw a donkey move up the trail, which didn’t bode well.


Mysterious flowers intrigued me along the way.


The water was so clear, and important to the local water supply.


Along the way the scale of the gorge and the trees and the boulders is awe-inspiring.




Walking the trail is a geologist’s dream, seeing the different strata exposed so clearly.



There was an old settlement where the park rangers live during the summer season. We looked out for the indigenous kri-kri goat, but we only saw them from afar if I remember correctly.We did pause here for a little bit, and it was nice to take in some of the botany.





At kilometer 6 a man in his late 50s who had bounded down the trail initially suddenly blacked out and was being tended to by his friend, which was a little disconcerting. A few people who had medical expertise surrounded the pair, so all I could do was march on and motion others of the group to keep going as well.


You can tell the scale by how tiny humans are in comparison to the surroundings (and the passage of time).




The slippery terrain was giving my ankles a lot of work, and around kilometer 11 the nagging pain started for real. At that point all I could do was keep hobbling on. I allowed numerous impatient teenagers to pass me along slippery sections in the river bed, and envied their ankle strength as most of them wore Keds or even lighter shoes.




All I could tell my legs was that it was “just another 20 minutes, just another 20 minutes…” (for 2 more hours!)


Being in such pain I didn’t document the end of the trail we reached at 4:40 p.m., nor the refreshing orange juice an observant Englishman bought me (he kept tabs on me once he saw me hobbling along and ensured I made it to the end). He also took the non-selfie photos of tiny me in my white hat and yellow t-shirt.


I opted for the short bus ride to the Kri-Kri village where our ferry would dock instead of walking those extra miles. There I sat on the steps outside a restaurant as our group gathered, trying not to cry and concentrating all my energy on not throwing up from the harsh sun and pain.


Finally the ferry arrived and we alighted at 5:40. Everyone was ushered upstairs, but when I whinced at the sight of the stairs the ferry steward had pity on me and told me I could stay in a certain area below deck. Another steward pulled a plastic chair out for me, and the kind Englishman procured some ice for me upstairs which helped alleviate the dizziness I was now experiencing.


Needless to say, I have only memories of the ferry ride but no photos. The shade and sea air did make me feel better though, and above deck the shoreline vistas must have been gorgeous. The tour guides had huddled below deck as well and decided I could ride with them on the back of a pick-up truck that took them to the tourbuses (another 15-minute walk otherwise).


There my tour guide proceeded to direct me to the public buses further down the road, which was quite surreal. I asserted that I had arrived with her group, and she lamented that all three donkeys had been deployed for her group, so she was definitely having a bad day injury-wise. The man who had collapsed was doing better, apparently this episode had never happened before, and they didn’t know what caused it (he was very fit).


I was relieved to finally be able to sit for an extended period of time. We stopped for dinner and a bio-break along the way, and the phrase “Samaria Gorge” was all people needed to hear as they questioned my painful pace and nodded in understanding.


When the first people disembarked at their hotel, our tour guide instructed us to go to the bar, get three shots of a certain drink I forgot the name of, and then go to our rooms. There we were to drink one shot, and use the other two shots to rub over our legs.


At 11 p.m. I hobbled to my hotel bar to get some ice, which I was mercifully given even thought it was against the rules, then took a shower and proceeded to use the flask of Metaxa I had purchased the night before on my legs and to ingest. I elevated my feet thanks to having ample pillows, and once the cubes started dripping I settled into bed and slept.


The tour guide had also told us not to give into the urge to just laze the next day, but to walk off the soreness. Thankfully my ankle was much better the next day, though I still had to walk gingerly.


Being in a resort I was able to book a massage for that afternoon and they allowed me to linger in their hot tub for a bit prior, which soothed my aching muscles more. I wandered around the town a little bit and then sat at the beach until it was time for the next leg of my journey.


So even though people say that sneakers are fine, I totally would bring the hiking boots next time. Even though Crete and I didn’t have the best of vibes, I am glad I had this experience.


I learned to really push past pain on this hike, but I also learned that people look out for you and that, as Mr. Rogers said, there are always helpers. I saw that along the way with the people who had more serious health issues than me, and I experienced it for myself with tiny acts of kindness that made all the difference in preventing a pain-induced breakdown for me at the end of this journey.