Friday, January 31, 2014

January Challenge #1: Low-Spend Goals Final Update

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***If you are still hopping for the "2014 Grow Your Blog" Party and GIVEAWAY, click on this link... but of course you are also welcome to visit this post***

This is my final report in conjunction with the No-Low Spend Challenge hosted by Carla of My 1/2 Dozen Daily. I chose five easy "baby steps" to focus on this month:

1/ Limit my shopping to two days per week (Tuesdays and Fridays);

2/ Plan all my meals ahead of time, preferably weekly;

3/ Develop a savings plan;

4/ Investigate part-time work which will not interfere with my home responsibilities;

5/ Set aside a "bumper" for unplanned or emergency spending in the budget.

I had varying, but mostly positive, success with my goals, as discussed on previous updates. The important result, for me, is returning to more considered and conscientious spending habits.

I want to thank Carla for inviting me along for this painless and fun challenge. Hopefully my new habits will be easy to maintain going forward. After all, judicious spending and saving CAN result in having more to divert to what really matters (duh, BEADS of course... among other things LOL).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

100 Pairs 100 Days: Part 3

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***If you are looking for the "2014 Grow Your Blog" Party and GIVEAWAY, click on this link... but of course you are also welcome to visit this post***

***If you are looking for the "Creative Continuum of 7 Artists" January Reveal, click here***

Today is my third installment for the "100 Pairs 100 Days" Challenge hosted by Amy Freeland of  Copper Diem. Amy is a longtime booster for Ears to You,  an organization which distributes earrings to women undergoing cancer treatments. 

Here is my third set of 10 pairs (if they look familiar, that's because these were made as part of my Creative Continuum of Seven Artists January reveal, using challenge components, but designed with Amy's donation in mind... 2birds1stone):

Faux abalone on silver-plated posts

It's never too late to join Amy as she creates for a great cause :) I will be back on February 9th to share Part 4. Hint: It will be a heartfelt collection :)

**Close-ups, and details on components, are on the 100 Pairs 100 Days Pinterest board**

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Leather and Lace: CC7A January Reveal

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***If you are looking for the "2014 Grow Your Blog" Party and GIVEAWAY, click on this link... but of course you are also welcome to visit this post***


Once upon a time, a lovely Blogging Sister named Alicia kindly invited me, along with five other practitioners of the Beady Arts, to participate in a brand new adventure, which was to be named the Creative Continuum of Seven Artists. We Seven were to exchange mysterious beady gift bags with all the Sisterhood, and meet at an appointed time to share our creations.

This is the appointed time...

And these are the goodies I sent to the Sisterhood:


See my inspiration post to read about the early 20th century designs that got me in the mood!

**I previously referenced, at that post, links to information on the Cindy Lietz tutorials, which I used and adapted for my PC (polymer clay) focals, but I feel it bears repeating: the methods for faux burl woodfaux abalone/paua and micro-mosaic are all by Cindy Leitz. Anyone interested in the art of polymer clay, whether beginner or experienced, would be well-served by accessing her paid tutorials, and/or her Youtube channel, where Cindy has 100+ free videos to help PC behave as it should :)** 

For your viewing pleasure, I present two necklaces, Leather and Lace:

Length 20"

A little leather, some glass pearls, touch of silver...

Length 16-24" adjustable with polymer clay barrel beads above pendant

Lacy hollow tube plays peekaboo with PC barrel beads...

And I had wooden beads aplenty to make another set of themed earrings for my ongoing project, 100 pairs 100 days:

These faux abalone studs sneaked in...

And the Tale of the Creative Continuum of Seven Artists shall be continued...

at the blogs of the Sisterhood, which can be visited forthwith:

Alicia... All the Pretty Things
**Thank you so much for inviting us, Alicia** 

Christine... One Kiss Creations 
Cynthia... Antiquity Travelers 
Emma... A Polymer Penchant 
Sally... The Studio Sublime 
Therese... Therese's Treasures

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Grow Your Blog" Event and My First Giveaway!

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Welcome to "Grow Your Blog" Day, coordinated by by Vicki Boster of 2 Bags Full. This is Vicki's second annual event helping bloggers get to know one another. This year almost 600 bloggers have asked to participate! I firstly wish to thank Vicki for the enormous labour of love she has undertaken; the complete list of participating blogs are to be found at the above link to Vicki's post.

I will get right to task and introduce myself (hopefully as briefly as I can... not my strongest suit LOL.)

My name is Monique, I live in beautiful New Brunswick, Canada and I have been on blogger since May 2012. I was still an internet newbie then, but I have learned to love the blogosphere and the many generous bloggers here. I started my own blog on my birthday exactly 18 months ago today, and I've been loving it and learning ever since! 

Here is a recent picture of me:

OK, not so recent. Circa 1961... that's me on the right
with my lovely Mum, in France, military posting.

That little girl loved to explore her small apartment, and Mum knew I was somewhere I shouldn't be whenever she heard me proclaim, "Monique fait rien"... Monique isn't doing anything!

Eventually, Mum broke down and let me "help" with the baking. Yum! I was hooked!

We moved back to Canada and I began training as a nurse:

Well, that actually only happened in 1979 :)

I showed musical talent  quite young:

Yes, I did get a "real" piano much later, and I really do still love to play and sing :)

Fast forward...

I have been married for 25 years and today, January 25th, (and Happy Bobby Burns Day to all who claim Scottish ancestry) is actually my 25th anniversary. That's right, we married in the coldest month of the year. We have four sons and are fortunate to have the two youngest still at home. The oldest lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he is in his gazillionth year at university (or so it seems). Son #2 is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, and serves in the Canadian military, presently in CFB Petawawa, Ontario.

The last time we were all present for a photo op (May 2011):

Me with my five "boys". Son #1 receiving his first degree.

I loved my childhood traveling near and far as a "pigeon" (military brat)... but I am so happy to be in Maritime Canada to grow my roots again. 

I have enjoyed many crafts and arts throughout my life: drawing, embroidery, cross stitch, sewing, quilting, baking, music... but my latest loves are jewelry-making and polymer clay crafting. As I noted, I started blogging 18 months ago, primarily to learn from the wonderful artisans in the jewelry field, and I HAVE learned PLENTY! I use crafting as a stress-buster against life's occasional tribulations, and for my own pleasure, and I do not sell my work, but rather I donate to several charities (you can find some of them in the right-hand margin). But I also follow blogs in many other creative fields, and dedicate part of each day to an ever growing list of blogs. I especially look forward to meeting other bloggers and reading your stories!


I feel the "secret" to being a successful blogger is to get out there and visit, support, follow and especially comment at other blogs. Get involved in blog hops that interest you, or start your own with a few online friends. Encourage others! I would guess the words I have typed, at the blogs of others, are at least 10 times what I have written here on my own blog. I have at least 150 followers, but I follow over 350 blogs... and plan to increase that!

In the 18 months since I began my blog, I have published 150+ posts, received 1100+ comments, and this morning passed 32,000 pageviews, from 108 countries around the world. Not bad, as this is my only consistent online presense (I don't much care for Facebook and I don't sell online). All this is not to "brag", but rather to show how supportive other bloggers can be; but it needs to be mutual. More important than mere numbers, are the wonderful online friendships I have know who you are, ladies!


Finally, there is a **GIVEAWAY** (my first ever). I participated in the Art Jewelry Elements Earring Challenge last year, and would like to offer three pairs of handmade earrings to a randomly selected reader who leaves a comment. You DO NOT have to follow my blog, nor do you need to HAVE YOUR OWN BLOG in order to participate in this giveaway, and it is open to all, regardless of where you live. However, I must be able to contact you. If your email is in your blogging profile, that will work. If not, please include your email (preferable) OR your Facebook name in your comment, so I can get the message to you if you are the winner. The winner will be chosen and announced on February 15th.

Below are the earrings I will be giving away; since it is difficult to know what would appeal to others, I decided to include my three designs which received the most "Re-pins" and "Loves" on the AJE Pinterest board. However, you are welcome to check my year-end post, where all the pairs I created are displayed. If you are the winner and would like a substitute pair, I will be happy to oblige, if the alternate pair(s) are available. Hopefully you will enjoy wearing and/or sharing these as gifts:


Thank you for visiting, and I hope to return the favour in the next days and weeks!

**IMPORTANT UPDATE: if you commented between Jan. 25 and Feb.2, you may be wondering why your comment is no longer visible. :( I am trying to find out! Please know I have a record of ALL 45 MISSING COMMENTS FOR THIS POST, both on my email and at my Intense Debate account. You WILL all be included in my giveaway! Your comments are ALL very important to me and I thank you :) SO SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE :(

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January Challenge #1: Low-Spend Goals Third Update

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This is my third check-in for the No-Low Spend Challenge hosted by Carla of My 1/2 Dozen Daily. To recap my goals (actions in italics):

1/ Limit my shopping to two days per week (Tuesdays and Fridays): **I had to double-check my receipts to be sure... I finally had a week with NO unplanned spending. Yay!**

2/ Plan all my meals ahead of time, preferably weekly: **I succeeded in meal-planning 6/7. We had a "leftovers banquet" on the weekend.**

3/ Develop a savings plan: **A new account was opened last week. I think, going forward, I will make small deposits on biweekly paydays.** 

4/ Investigate part-time work which will not interfere with my home responsibilities: **I am investigating two new job postings which suit my limited availability, and for fields in which I have experience.**

5/ Set aside a "bumper" for unplanned or emergency spending in the budget: **I now have a $100./month space in the budget for emergency/unplanned. For now I will roll this into savings, but still need to separate it from long-term savings as its goal is different.**

Hope everyone else is having a prosperous January!


This will be my last KIVA update. I felt January was a good time to examine my past loans since joining this great organization in September 2012. I have been able to lend 33 times since then, so an average of 2 loans per month. At first this money was coming out of the budget... which I have to admit was not missed, I just cut back a little on take-out coffee. It is amazing how much I used to spend on coffee: $25./month is less than $1./day.

Now that I am carrying multiple loans, the repayments every month, though small, allow me to make new loans without cost, IF I WISH. 

I hope anyone interested will check out KIVA today... I am happy I did, and have never felt pressure to lend more than I am comfortable doing. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

100 Pairs 100 Days: Part 2

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Today is my second installment for the "100 Pairs 100 Days" Challenge hosted by Amy Freeland of  Copper Diem. Amy is a longtime booster for Ears to You,  an organization which distributes earrings to women undergoing cancer treatments. 

Here is my second set of 10 pairs:


It's never too late to join Amy as she creates for a great cause :) I will be back on January 30 for Part 3.

**Details on components are on the 100 Pairs 100 Days Pinterest board**

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January Challenge #1: Low-Spend Goals Second Update

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This is my second check-in for the No-Low Spend Challenge hosted by Carla of My 1/2 Dozen Daily. To recap my goals (actions in italics... as I thought the CAPS just way too annoying...):

1/ Limit my shopping to two days per week (Tuesdays and Fridays) **: I was too lazy to gas up the car on Tuesday night, so I went Wednesday morning. Straight there and back, no shopping :) This is a psychological sticking point for me, as I always try to combine trips and hate leaving the driveway for a SINGLE errand. In the past, that has turned into an excuse to shop for things I "need" :(**

2/ Plan all my meals ahead of time, preferably weekly **I succeeded in meal-planning 7/7**

3/ Develop a savings plan **This morning, I opened a new account in ANOTHER BANK and deposited a small amount ($50). As soon as I got home, I registered online for paperless statements. There is actually a $2./month charge for printed statements. I think this is pretty common in most banks. Check to see if your bank does this!

IMHO, they are smart to force people to do all that online. Last year I bought a cheap paper shredder to destroy old statements, bills, etc., and it was an all-day job (let's just say I am a person who kept ALL that stuff... for years. No more.) 

You'll recall my reason for opening an account in another bank was A/ to make it less accessible/visible, and B/ get out of the habit of transferring money out of savings.**

4/ Investigate part-time work which will not interfere with my home responsibilities **No new action taken. All the jobs I saw the previous week were full-time or nearly.**

5/ NEW GOAL from last check-in: Set aside a "bumper" for unplanned or emergency spending in the budget: **I now have a $100./month space in the budget for emergency/unplanned. I refuse to call it "miscellaneous". I haven't yet decided what to do with this amount in the long run.**


And a thumbs up to Nan of Wired Nan, who took me up on my invitation to join KIVA last week. Nan got a FREE loan, I got a FREE loan, plus Nan recruited another member, so the good work is growing! KIVA was awarded the Charity Navigator's highest rating. I want a huge bang for my buck when it comes to giving!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blog Hop Reminder and New Giveaway

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I just wanted to remind everyone that today, JANUARY 15th, is the LAST DAY to sign up for Vicki's Grow Your Blog event. I just checked and she has almost 500 comments. If you have forgotten and intend to sign up, get over there NOW. The link above will take you to the correct post.

The photo on the right is the beautiful etched copper bracelet being given away by Deborah Read this month. Click here to enter and see more pics. I believe the draw is the last day of the month and is open to everyone.  Deb has regular giveaways and is even planning an EXTRA one in conjunction with the Grow Your Blog event. 

See you all at Grow Your Blog!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Upcoming CC7A Blog Hop January 26

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Today I'd like to share my inspiration for an upcoming blog hop event, specially created by the gracious Alicia Marinache of All the Pretty Things. Back in October, Alicia proposed a small group of us exchange components and choose themes for a friendly design challenge. After a remarkably quick and intense bit of brainstorming by email, the The Creative Continuum of Seven Artists (CC7A) was born. You will find Alicia's introduction of the artists at her blog link above. 

We have set the monthly reveals on the 26th of each month, from January to July. My components, and the pieces made from them by the members, will be unveiled in two weeks,  Sunday, January 26, 2014.

As I have long admired Alicia's beautiful wirework and unique designs, and I love reading the wonderful stories and positive reflections on her blog (not to mention MUSIC). I am also a fan of the other amazing designers in our little group. Unlike the other members, I create beads and jewelry ONLY as craft "therapy", for my own enjoyment and for friends. The others in the "CC7A" group are all successful artisans who sell their work. I am beyond thrilled that Alicia sought to include me, and extremely excited (also a bit nervous) to see what the ladies have created using the components I sent them :)

This is a link to the National Gallery of Canada's Artists, Architects, Artisans: Canadian Art 1890–1918 exhibit, where I initially started searching for inspiration. The video is a short overview by Charles C. Hill, Curator of Canadian Art.

"The exhibition will explore how architecture, monumental sculpture, urban planning, mural and decorative painting, graphic design, decorative arts and photography came together in Canada during these prosperous decades."

Don't you want to offer Mr. Hill some beads for his MANY ear hoops? I know I did :)

My curiosity was piqued by the room glimpsed at 1:30 in the video, and I set about learning a bit about it. Flavelle House was built in 1902 by Sir Joseph Flavelle (1858-1939), a Canadian businessman and philanthropist. The photo below shows the Great Hall; it has a ceiling featuring four angels by immigrant muralist Gustav Hahn. Flavelle House is actually used daily by students at the University of Toronto Law School (it stands on U of T land and was donated to them in 1940).

It is the wood design which truly draws me in. I have always loved wood textures, as my father was an amateur woodworker and I recall with pleasure the sights, sounds and even smells of cut wood. I naturally wanted to create a design in polymer clay, my favorite medium, and chose a couple of PC techniques by Cindy Lietz  to create some pendants/cabochon for use in jewelry.

Here are the focals I sent, one to each of the CC7A ladies... I'm not sure who has what, as I placed them in envelopes with intentional randomness :)

Pendants/cabochon from polymer clay in faux burl wood
and adorned with faux abalone/paua. 

*Here are links to information about the tutorials by Cindy Lietz, for faux burl wood and faux abalone/paua*

In keeping with my wood theme, I also included actual wood beads in various types.

I sent along a few extras and alternative focals in micro-mosaic, but those will stay secret until the reveal date (I'll just say the focals have something to do with a certain event in February LOL).

I hope you will join with Alicia, Christine, Cynthia, Emma, Sally, Therese and I on January 26th, as we reveal the first round of creations by the Creative Continuum of Seven Artists. See you then!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

May the Forest Be With You

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Hello, and welcome to my reveal for the Into the Forest Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Lodge of A Grateful Artist/Pine Ridge Treasures. Late last summer, Lisa offered creative kits filled with beautiful assorted beads specially chosen to challenge and inspire. I received a gorgeous lime and olive green mixture:

When I think of forests, I immediately see rain-forest... I was also inspired, not by a photo, but by some quilting cotton in my stash:

Y'all know I LOVE fibre, and any excuse to employ it in jewelry design; but I was disappointed to find my sewing machine very disagreeable to the prospect (overworked and long overdue for a maintenance appointment). I regretfully put aside the strips of colourful fabric I had cut and decided to get back to basics with some straightforward stringing (a technique I seldom use but enjoy very much).

Here is a 26" slip-on necklace I call Amazon Midnight:

**I apologize for the photo quality. It seems my technology is not in love with me right now, and the feeling is mutual :(*

I could talk at length about my love/hate relationship with seed beads. They were a lovely adjunct when I was doing cross-stitch... now more like a reminder of failing eyesight :( However, I DID manage to string the little darlings, adding some of my old stock of seeds and bugles, randomly aligned, recalling the varied muted shades of an equatorial forest. This lariat style necklace/bracelet I have named Forest as Medicine, a nod to the many seads, pods, leaves, etc., harvested for use as life-giving therapies, often adapted from traditional remedies:

**P.S. Take THAT, seed beads!**

And, of course, we must have a couple of earrings :) These will be part of my donation to Amy Freeland's 100 Pairs 100 Days in support of the beautiful Ears to You organization, providing much-needed morale boosters to women undergoing cancer treatments.


In closing I would like to share the words of an American-born nun who chose to live in solidarity with the poor of Brazil, helping peasants make a living by farming small plots and extracting forest products without deforestation, while protecting them from criminal gangs working on behalf of ranchers who were after their land: 

"A Morte da floresta é o fim da nossa vida" which is Portuguese for "The death of the forest is the end of our life." 

In 2005 her support for the poor of her adopted country would lead to the end of her own life, when she was murdered to silence her powerful and influential advocacy. Her words are a chilling reminder that the loss of our precious forests may indeed be the end of all life.

RIP Sr. Dorothy Stang


Here are the other artists who have chosen to reveal the many beauties of our forests:

Your hostess:  Lisa Lodge, A Grateful Artist
Melissa Trudinger, Bead Recipes
Kathy Zeigler Lindemer, Bay Moon Design
Eleanor Burian Moore, The Charmed Life 
  Jo-Ann Woolverton, It's a Beadiful Creation
Chris Eisenberg, Wanderware

 Christine Stonefield, Sweet Girl Design
Carolyn Lawson, Carolyn's Creations
Janine Lucas, Esfera Travel Blog
Jasvanti Patel, Jewelry by Jasvanti
Shaiha Williams,   Shaiha's Ramblings
Kay Thomerson, Kayz Kreationz
Karla Morgan, Texas Pepper Jams
Veralynne Malone, Designed by Vera
Toltec  Jewels, Jewel School Friends
Christie Searle Murrow, Charis Designs Jewelry
Molly Alexander, Beautifully Broken Me
Monique Urquhart (YEP, THAT'S ME) A Half-Baked Notion
Janet Bocciardi, Honey from the Bee
Dini Bruinsma, Angaza by Changes
Heather Richter, Desert Jewelry Designs
Christina Miles, Wings n Scales
Elizabeth Engriser, Bead Contagion
Alice Peterson, Alice Dreaming
Alicia Marinache, All the Pretty Things
Catherine Yvonne King, Catherine's Musings
Alice Craddick, Alice's Beads and Baubles
Ema Kilroy, Ema KDesigns

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