Saturday, February 23, 2013

Focusing on Life - Week 8

“This week look deeper through the lens to the story your photo daring and shoot in black & white.”

I had no real plan or idea what I was going to do when I grabbed my camera and went over to the Mill Pond Park in town this week. I was, however, wondering how a black & white photo could tell a story better than a colour photo.

I took a few shots of inanimate objects and some of trees. Then from the corner of my eye, I saw something that I simply had to snap a photo of. It wasn’t until I got home, downloaded all the photos from my camera and modified them from colour to B&W that this one particular photo stood out among them.

It was an unplanned photo, the scene that had captured my attention from the corner of my eye. At that moment, I understood how powerful a monochromatic photo could be. This one picture speaks volumes with its simplicity. It makes a powerful statement in B&W. The colour version did not have the same kind of impact. See for yourself.

Enduring Love

An elderly couple

Hand in hand

Walking down the path of life

Together still

In the winter of their lives.

P.S. I purchased a book at the thrift store last year and inside of it were two old B&W photographs, forgotten by the person who donated the book. I wrote about them here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bead Soup Arrived

A very generous helping of Bead Soup arrived in my mailbox today. Why is it that my partner received her package from me within a week from Canada but it took hers to me from the U.S. more than twice that long? I was getting anxious about its arrival. It had been so long since she sent it.

I could hardly wait to tear into the package the moment I got home. I did stop long enough to take a photo of the box it came in.

I held my breath in anticipation as I opened the box. Lots of goodies awaited, all individually packaged in small ziplock bags. I pulled each of them out and poured out the contents.  So many wonderful ingredients combined to make this special Bead Soup.

Now it’s time to get the creative brain working on a design or two that will do justice to all these fabulous components. I have some ideas brewing already.

Thank you, Shai. I am delighted with my Bead Soup. It's going to be so much fun to work with.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SEO Seminar

I attended a free seminar last week at the local small business centre on SEO – Search Engine Optimization. What exactly is SEO? According to Wikipedia, it is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results.

It is much more complex than I ever imagined and constantly changing so it can be hard to keep up. I did learn a few things at the seminar though, and I am trying to implement some of them as I move forward. It’s all a bit overwhelming but I figure if I take one step at a time, I will finally get there.

I have started by being more careful and precise in naming the photos for my Etsy shop. Then, the search engines can more easily find the images. For example, a file name like IMG47-35.jpg will not be as effective as tree-of-life-pendant.jpg would be. In the first instance, the search engine has no idea what the subject matter is. Separating the words in your file names with hyphens is also important, apparently.

My website will need a complete over-haul to optimize it for the search engines too. I did a lot of things right on it but the whole thing is very haphazard and hard to navigate. It will be easier and smarter to start from scratch than to try to go back and ‘fix’ it. The first step is to research the keywords relevant to what I do and then try to incorporate them on the new website in the most effective way possible.

I have a lot of work ahead of me. With a bit of help and encouragement from my friends, I will move ahead with this huge project. Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Focusing on Life - Week 7

Here is our photo prompt from Sally for week 7...

‘This week take a moment to bring a little happiness to your soul and enhance your well being. Take a moment to enjoy the beauty of flowers.’

My grandmothers’ peonies gave her a lot of pleasure for many years.  She planted a row of them, three different colours, after her marriage to my grandfather in 1926. In the beginning, they were white, pale pink and red, alternating colours along the row.

My grandfather, besides being a market gardener, was a bee keeper. Over the years, those bees cross pollinated the peonies to the point that they all ended up being the same bright pink colour.

After my grandmother passed away and the house was being put up for sale, several family members went and dug up some of the tubers to plant in our yards. Surprisingly, they actually flowered that first year after they were transplanted. We really were not expecting that.

Because they are a heritage species, grandma’s peonies are very fragrant unlike the modern hybrids. I’m so glad that we were able to retrieve them before the old house & property were leveled and replaced with a townhouse complex.

This photo is from last summer. I know it’s cheating a bit to use an old photo but it’s the middle of winter and the peonies are not blooming right now.  My grandma’s peonies do bring a lot of happiness to my soul and enhance my well being though.  *smile*  And it seemed right to share that with you all this week.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Linkit's 1500 Fan Giveaway - Now Open

The doors are now open, as they say. It’s time to enter to win Linkit’s 1500 Fan Giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment on the item you want to win and like both her page & the hosting page for your chance in the draw. I have a couple of sets of pocket prayer beads up for grabs.

This promotion is sponsored by Linkit who invited other local vendors to join in the venture. It is designed to help us all get exposure in markets we would otherwise not have access to. The hope is that we will all benefit with new followers to our Facebook pages, and in turn, more sales of our products.

There are lots of goodies to win so hop over there soon to enter! Linkit's 1500 Fan Giveaway is open for one week only, after which the random drawings will take place.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bead Soup Is Ready to Go

For someone who could not decide if she wanted to participate in the Bead Soup Blog Hop this time, I sure am having fun putting together this package for my partner, Shaiha Williams.  Just a few finishing touches to go and it will be ready to go to the post office.

Here’s a teaser photo. I don’t want to reveal what I’m sending right now. It has to be a surprise for her. *smile*

This is a photo of her bead soup just before wrapping it up.

There will be a couple of little ‘extras’ in the box for Shai too. I’m not going to show those at all.

Check out Shai’s blog, Shaiha's Ramblings.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Focusing on Life - Week 6

'Since love is in the air in February, this week keep your heart open, breath in the air and feel the love, then capture it in a photo.'

My first thought when I read this week’s photo prompt was ‘Rudy & Minoux'.

“Who or what are Rudy & Minoux?” you ask.

Rudy is a Russian Blue cat that I rescued from a shelter two years ago. He is a big boy but a ‘gentle giant’ in every way. He has a perpetual smile on his face, one of the physical characteristics this breed is known for, along with the bright green eyes.


Minoux is a tiny, brown tabby, girl cat with attitude. She is another rescue cat that came to live with me about 7 years ago. I hadn't gone into the pet store that day expecting to leave with a cat but it was love at first sight...for me at least. She loves me when it is time to eat. She 'tolerates' me the rest of the time.


When I brought Rudy home, Minoux was NOT amused. She wouldn’t ‘speak’ to me, or even look at me for days. She ‘held court’ on the back of the couch and just glared at Rudy. Any time he tried to get on the couch, she hissed at him and he would back off. We started calling her the ‘Queen of the Couch’.

All Rudy wanted to do was be her friend. It was quite comical to watch the interaction between them that first two weeks. Thankfully, Minoux eventually got over it and they have become friends.

He keeps her active, playfully chasing her back & forth through the house. Whenever she gets tired of playing, she stops dead in her tracks, turns around and swats him in the head as if to say, “Leave me alone now, kid.” It’s hilarious. He takes the hint and leaves her alone for awhile.

She still likes to maintain her ‘higher position’ in the house though and make sure he knows that she is the ‘top cat’. There are always two food bowls put out but, invariably, Minoux wants to nibble from the one he is eating from. Like a true gentleman, he backs off and lets her eat from her bowl of choice.

So, I spent this week trying to ‘feel the love’ between Rudy & Minoux and capture it with my camera. Not the easiest thing to do, cats are not the most co-operative subjects, but I managed to get a couple of photos.

Can you feel the love? *smile*

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Beginner's Mindset

I'm currently reading a book, 'Crafts For The Spirit: 30 Beautiful Projects to Enhance Your Personal Journey' by Ronni Lundy. The unique crafts and rituals are inspired by a variety of cultures and are designed to promote peace, harmony & personal well-being.

While reading the book, I came across a quote from Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, a Zen Buddhist monk, that got me thinking. 

'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few'.

That is so true, isn't it? When you are in the first stages of learning something new, the options seem limitless. Everything is bright and shiny and exciting. You can hardly wait to experience it all. You have no fear.

But at some point, you stop questioning the existence of new possibilities because you have grown comfortable with the skills you have and are afraid to go outside of that realm. You no longer explore or experiment with alternate ideas or techniques. You stop moving forward.

I want to try to approach everything with a beginner's mindset from now on. Not to limit myself within the self-imposed boundaries I created because they only really exist in my mind. I want to step outside my comfort zone. We should all do that, in all aspects of our life, shouldn't we?

Who knows what we may discover further down the line?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

This (Necklace, Bracelet, Artwork) Looks Different

An online, jewelry-making friend posted a comment/status on Facebook last night that I can really understand & relate to.

“Why doesn’t this look as good as it did in my head?”

So many times, that very same question has passed my lips as I have completed a project and it really doesn’t look anything like the picture in my mind. Why does that happen?

There are several reasons that I can see:

1. Different materials create a different ‘look’. I can’t tell you how often I have been unable to find the supplies (beads, findings, charms) that I want for the conceptual image of a project that I have in my head. The substitutions you must settle with can give your creation a completely different look & feel.  It can be extremely frustrating, and at times, discouraging.

2. Your skill level in the technique or method you are using is not what it needs to be. The value of ‘practice, practice, practice’ is highlighted in these circumstances. Formal training from an expert may be required too. I have tried following along with the step-by-step instructions in a tutorial but there are times that until I SEE someone doing it in front of me, it doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t matter how good the photos & instructions are.

3. The creative process lends itself to wandering off in directions not planned or expected, that goes without saying. Sometimes those meanderings turn out great, better than your original vision, sometimes they don’t.

4. There could be a fundamental design flaw that, for any number of reasons, will not work in the real world. What you ‘think’ could or should work, frequently doesn’t. A complete or partial re-design would be required in this case.

Isn't it amusing how a random comment can generate a complex examination of a process or technique? And it turns into a blog post. *smile*

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Focusing on Life - Week 5

Our photo prompt for this week was CAPTURE A HEART. Have you ever taken a moment to notice all the hearts that come into your life everyday?  This week we were challenged to pay attention to our surroundings, think outside the box and capture a heart! 

At first, I thought that this was going to be really easy. I mean, the Valentine's Day merchandise has been on store shelves since Boxing Day (December 26th). Hearts are EVERYWHERE! Right?

But how weird would it be though to walk into the local Hallmark or Dollarama to take photos of hearts? What kind of reaction would you get? There must be an easier way, I thought.

While looking for a pen in my desk drawer, I came across the little heart shaped tin that my cousin had used as table favours at her wedding last year. They had contained small, after-dinner mints in soft pastel colours. 

It originally had a ribbon bow on it which went missing along the way, so I added a three dimensional heart sticker where the bow had once been. I filled it with cinnamon hearts, my favourite Valentine treat, for this photo.

The table centrepieces were heart shaped too; clear glass bowls from Pier 1 with bright, yellow daisies floating in water. They were very simple, yet elegant. I wish I had a photo of one to show you. The couple were married on a private chartered boat cruise on Lake Ontario with a select few family and friends in attendance. 

I enjoyed taking time to remember that wedding this week. My cousin married for the first time at 50 years old. She'd spent so many years caring for her ailing parents and others that she had not allowed herself the time to find her own happiness. Now, she has, and I couldn't be more delighted for her.