Change number one:
In an effort to support under-marketed and underrepresented artists, I will use this particular blog space to present the works of some fabulous artists I've become acquainted with. I plan to try and feature a different artist from several different genres (not just jewelry) every week. The first one I have lined up is an extremely talented silversmith from across the pond...I think you'll like him.
Change number two:
I am opening a new shop with a new name, a new image and a new line of jewelry. The shop will be called JoiaBela, which is Portuguese for Beautiful Jewel. As many of you know, I was lucky enough to live in Brazil for a while and love everything related to that country to this day: the people, the food, the music, the atmosphere. So my new line will have a little taste of samba, a little feijoada and a little South American soul. The website is still under construction, but watch for a grand opening announcement soon. I will also be posting a second blog featuring my own jewelry where I can post new item alerts, sale announcements and specials just for blog subscribers. I'm considering a third blog where I can just ramble on about what's on my mind (sort of like I've done here for the past year and a half), but that's still undecided (feel free to weigh in on that).
Change number three:
m.o.d. custom jewelry, aka "missouri ocean," will be a venue where I feature only a few pieces of jewelry for sale, the proceeds of which will be donated to my favorite charity, Reef.org.
Soapbox Alert...woop, woop, woop...Soapbox Alert...
It disgusts me that I live in a country that spends 18.7 billion dollars a year exploring space and less than one tenth of that exploring our oceans.
Oceans cover 71% of the surface of the Earth. 97% of the Earth's water is in the ocean. One-sixth of the jobs in the U.S. are marine-related and one-third of the United States' GNP originates from coastal areas. Yet those same oceans which support 50% of all species on the planet are 95% unexplored!
I truly believe that the answers to many of our planet's biggest problems are to be found in our seas. The cure for cancer, the remedy for world hunger and the solution to global warming are most likely all right there, just waiting to be discovered. But we're not under there looking for them. Instead, we're blowing holes in the Moon to see if there was water there 100 million years ago.
(Steps down from soapbox)
Technically, I am not sure if the new decade begins tomorrow or a year from tomorrow. I remember that debate in 2000 about when the actual new millenium began. I'll leave those debates to more intelligent beings than I. Meanwhile, I want to thank all my customers, friends and family for your support and love over the past year. I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010!
I was curious, looking at this stack of 40 or 50 room keys, about exactly how many nights I spent in a hotel in 2009, so I went back through my schedule.
As closely as I can tell, I spent at least 176 nights in a hotel in 2009 (probably more). Most of them were spent in Hilton properties (Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites), about 30 or so were Marriott, a few Omni, some Renaissance. Hilton was my brand of choice due to the fact that you can "double dip" there: earning both frequent flier miles and hotel points.
People who don't travel much always think it's glamorous and fun. I admit that I do like to travel, but it's rarely glamorous and the travel itself is seldom fun. Being somewhere I've never been is fun, or seeing family and friends is fun, but the travel itself--not so much.
So the points you get, the miles, the little perks and bennies of being a frequent flier or frequent guest or whatever, become like a little game you play. How can I best maximize my points? If I have to do a three-leg trip tomorrow, how can I get the best benefit with the fewest hassles? (Hint to anyone: avoiding Chicago O'Hare Airport is always a good call).
I've seen the ads for the new George Clooney movie, Up In the Air. I suspect that I'll find a little of myself in his character.
Sorry to break it to you, but I have the "just before Winter blues." I don't think they existed until I just invented them, but trust me...I've got 'em.
The trees are all nekked and dead looking. It gets dark way too early. Between the economy and my lack of time to do anything, my jewelry business is not doing well this year. My husband's been sick. My dogs have been sick. I ain't getting any younger and there isn't enough money in the world to fight what gravity is doing to me.
So if you're waiting for grand revelations, deep philosophical wisdom and witty repartee from me this week, sorry to ruin your day!
Better luck next week.
Rosie had splenic torsion last week and had to have an emergency splenectomy (her spleen twisted and had to be removed), so she's recovering from very major surgery.
Yesterday, Jeff started acting funny (not in a ha-ha way) and I thought he was having a heart attack. As he's not one to joke around about stuff like that, I took it seriously and immediately called for an ambulance. Very long story short, he had a TIA or "mini-stroke." We have no idea why. They have him in the hospital, running every test known to man. He should be home tomorrow, but it scared the crap out of us both.
Then today, I found out my "baby," Ruby, is pregnant. For those who don't know, Ruby is my 16 month old Swissy. She is nonstandard, and therefore not one we ever want to breed. Unfortunately, while we were on vacation and she was at the breeder's, she went into heat for the first time (we like to wait until they've had one heat cycle before spaying). As soon as the breeder realized she was in heat, which was at most a few days, she separated her from her intact male. Apparently not quickly enough though, as the little tramp got knocked up. So she'll be going in Monday for a full hysterectomy and gastropexy (stomach tacking) and she'll have a large healing incision for a few weeks like her big sister.
So I'm going to have one knocked up, one laid up and one laid out all at the same time.
Oh the joy that is my life right now!
Hope your world is a little brighter...
The Dutch are far superior to the rest of us and I'm surprised they don't rule the world. If it was up to me, they would.
I know what you're thinking, that this one is from way out in left field, even for me. But stick with me for a minute while I explain. I think you'll see that I'm 100% correct.
Is it because they are so socially progressive?
No. While I think it's great that they are, that's not why they should rule the world.
Is it because they are generally so open-minded and accepting of other cultures, races, religions and points of view?
No. Again, it's great that they are and I wish we Americans were more accepting of others too, but that isn't reason enough to rule the world.
Is it because marijuana and prostitution are legal in the Netherlands?
First of all, I have to stress that I don't smoke pot or participate in prostitution (I do, after all work for the government), nor do I necessarily condone either one. I do think, however, that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes. As for the oldest profession, it is always going to be here, we might as well acknowledge it. So I think both marijuana and prostitution should be legal, regulated, monitored and taxed. This would protect all involved: customers, providers and workers and, as a bonus, the government could get their cut of this previously untapped (pun intended) revenue stream.
But I digress, that isn't it either.
Is it because about 99% of the Dutch population are tall, well-educated and gorgeous (and the other 1% apparently aren't allowed to get a passport)?
While that's a great reason, it's not the one I'm talking about.
It's very simple. The Dutch eat chocolate paste on their toast in the morning. Okay, well, maybe not ALL of them do, but they could and that's what matters.
How is it that I've gone this many years without this? Without even an inkling of its existence? I'm convinced that somewhere in the deepest, darkest bowels of the offices of the Republican National Committee is a group of grumpy smelly old chocolate-hating right wingers staffed by a bunch of government day weenies who don't want us to actually enjoy our breakfasts. It's a plot, I tell you, a plot!
What about Nutella, you may ask? You mean that mysteriously overpriced grayish paste in the supermarket on the bottom shelf with an inch of dust on top of the jar? That's just a decoy…no one actually eats that stuff (hence the dust). The Republicans let that one slip through the cracks because it's expensive, it's made of hazelnuts and, alas, it just doesn't taste that good. They knew that if we ever did get brave enough to spend half a paycheck to try it, it would turn us off from buying breakfast paste again. But they figure if we'd get to eat chocolate for breakfast every day, we might look forward to getting up early, we might be late for work, we might start actually enjoying mornings. It could somehow negatively affect our GDP.
Get thee behind me, peanut butter! Begone thy demon concord grape jelly!
Bring me chocolate paste for breakfast and the Dutch can rule the world!
Once there, we watched a short video, which outlined the rules of the road: don't touch the whalesharks, stay 2 meters away from them, swim in groups of
The four of us opted for the VIP package. This meant we had the entire boat and crew to ourselves. The other 14 boats we saw had anywhere from 8-10 passengers plus crew aboard. The VIP option was definitely worth the extra money. Additionally, our boat and crew would stay out with us and let us swim with the sharks as long as we could stand while the regular boat passengers were restricted to one to two swims apiece. Split four ways, this wasn't a bad deal at all.
After being served some yummy breakfast empanadas by Captain David and our guide CheChe, our boat launched out toward the open sea. There was a long string of boats headed in the same direction. This is a very long trip, approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on where they find thefish. The sea was virtually flat, however, so it was a nice smooth ride. Along the way we saw several sea turtles and huge schools of golden rays. Our crew was willing to stop and look at whatever we wanted.
We arrived at the first whale shark and were among 14 boats total. In spite of this large of a crowd, all of the boat captains were very courteous and organized, each taking its turn lining up and dropping off one set of swimmers (two guests and a guide per set) just in front of the whaleshark. As that group of swimmers wore out, the next captain was dropping off their guests. In a very orderly manner, everyone got to swim with the shark at least twice. The boat captains communicate by radio and they know exactly where and when to drop the swimmers so no one is left out and everyone gets a great view.
We then left the large group of boats to look for manta rays. We found one and slipped into the water as quietly as possible with it, but it dove deep so we couldn't photograph it. We dove with manta rays in Hawai'i, but the ones in the Caribbean appeared to be larger and darker in color.
We eventually joined another group of about 7 boats to swim with another whaleshark. This one turned out to be the biggest one of the day, probably around 30 feet. After each of us swam twice we took a break and joined another group of maybe 4 boats around another whaleshark. With each group we joined, there were fewer and fewer boats there, as the large group boats all had a set time they had to be back. Our final shark swim was just us and the whaleshark. We got some fantastic photos and were worn out from all the swimming.
If you've ever seen a 747 get ready to land, or a cruise ship under way, you know how slow they appear to be going. They're not really, but the optical illusion caused by their enormous size makes them appear slow. Whalesharks are a lot like that. They hardly move their giant tail fin and it propels them through the water at a pretty good clip. All four of us are excellent swimmers, but swimming full out for just a few minutes at a time wore us out!
Our crew then took us near the shore of a part of Isla Holbox that's a restricted bird sanctuary. There are thousands of nesting pelicans, flamingos and frigates there. No humans are allowed to set foot on that part of the island, but we waded around in the bath-warm water and tossed sardines to the seagulls. We had a lunch of sandwiches, fresh fruit, and cold drinks.
Finally, we reluctantly agreed to go back to the island and call it a day. We got back to the hotel, cleaned up and walked downtown for a nice dinner and drinks. After dinner we went back out to the beach to enjoy a gorgeous sunset and dream about the next time we could come back to this gorgeous place.
This was a fantastic trip. We decided to go on the spur of the moment and I'm so glad we did. I feel so lucky to be able to have seen some the things I have and even luckier to have been able to see them with people I love. Our friends Anna and Scott have been with us on some of our best trips and we've checked off many of our "bucket list" items together. It's great to have good friends with whom to share these wonderful memories.
Please click on the blog title or any colored links in this entry for links to the Holbox Whale Shark Tours website and our other photos from this trip and others we've taken. Or click on any of my links in the left hand menu to see Jeff's photos (which are much better than mine) or the rest of our photos.
Lest you think that Mexico is all either tourist-trappy or dumpy, let me assure you, there are still phenomenally gorgeous, unsullied places to be seen there. And Isla Holbox is one of those places.
But it's not easy to get to, and I hope for the sake of the natural beauty of the place, it stays that way.
A two-hour van ride, much of it over dirt roads, leads you to the tiny Mexican town of Chiquilá. You then board a ferry that takes you another 45 minutes over to the island.
We were met by a golf-cart taxi (painted yellow, complete with illuminated "taxi" sign) which took us to our lodging.
The trip to the Casa Iguana took about 5 minutes (the island is only about 3km wide) and all the island's roads are sand.
It wasn't fancy or big (only had 9 rooms), but it was clean and had a hot shower and enough air conditioning to keep the room tolerable.
Anna and I immediately went to the beach (about a 50 yard walk) and got in the water.
Let me digress: I am a beach connoisseur. I've been to green beaches, pink beaches, white, tan, gray, black and salt-and-pepper beaches. But I have never seen a nicer, cleaner beach than the ones that surround Holbox. Nor have I ever truly seen "sugary white sand" like they have there. It is so incredibly soft and white, almost impossibly powdery. Prior to this trip, 7-mile beach on Grand Cayman came the closest, but the Holbox beaches blew them all out of the water (pun intended).
Anyway, so while we were basking in the gin-clear 90-ish degree water, our husbands had walked down the beach another 50 yards to a bar. Actually it was a tarp thrown over four poles with a tiny screened tent kitchen next to it. They had two brands of ice-cold beer (XX and Sol) for 20 pesos each (about $1.50) and a small menu of Mexican appetizers.
Let me summarize the trip for you so far:
best beach ever
white powdery sand
ice cold cheap beer
clear clean warm water
sun-filled blue skies
great friends to share it with
So far, so good.
We eventually dragged ourselves "downtown" to find a restaurant. The one we found was just okay, but we really didn't look very hard.
We walked back to our little inn and hit the sack early, in anticipation of a very early wakeup and long day ahead.
Stay tuned for parte dos!
Most of the photos above were taken by Jeff. You can see all of our photos of the trip by clicking on the title of the blog entry.
The aerial photo of Holbox and the photo of the taxi were taken by Scott Mitchell...the rest of his photos of the trip can be found by clicking on his name.
I got in last night after the 8-hour flight from Dallas, tired and jet-lagged. Rented my car and headed to Waikiki to the hotel. Without traffic that would be about a 15 minute drive. Unfortunately, it was rush hour so it was more like a 45 minute drive. I skipped the freeway for the slower Nimitz Highway route, which gave me lots of gawking time to see what had changed in the 10 years and 1 month since I left.
First thing I noticed was the plethora of high rises that have gone up since we left. It's almost sad, you can hardly see the Ko'Olau's (mountains) from Waikiki anymore. I mean the buildings are beautiful, but the mountains were prettier. One bright spot was the double rainbow shining over the mountains just for me. Almost as if it was welcoming me home.
And I do feel like I'm home. Of course, home when I lived here was definitely not an oceanfront suite in the Ali'i Tower of the Hilton. It was more like a tiny house on a tiny plot of land in the 'burbs, but it was still here on this same rock.
Traveling as much as I do has certainly paid off in spades for this trip. I'm a diamond member of Hilton, so they upgraded my room. I'm in the Ali'i Tower, which is the "VIP" tower here, on the 13th floor right on the beach. The Ali'i Tower has it's own pool and a private lounge with breakfast, snacks and drinks and all kinds of other treats not available to the other 5 or so high-rise towers full of guests (I think there are something like 3500 rooms here).
Hopefully I'll get a card reader today when I go out so I can post some of the photos of and from my room. It is almost a waste for just one person, but I'm not complaining!
I walked over to the Hale Koa, which is the next resort down the beach. It's a very nice two-tower hotel and resort exclusively for military members and their families. They have a fantastic bar there, called the Barefoot Bar, which is right on the beach and has the cheapest drink prices in Waikiki.
When Jeff and I first moved here, the Hale Koa only had one tower and it was always full (damned retirees...like us...booked up all the rooms a year in advance and active duty folks couldn't get a room). So we stayed down the road at the Alana and walked to the Barefoot Bar almost every night for cocktails before (or after...or, well, sometimes for) dinner.
So anyway, I walked over there to watch the sunset and have my own little welcome party. I sat at the bar and was waited on by the best mai-tai maker in the universe, Virgil.
Virgil was the bartender there when we moved to Hawai'i in 1995. He makes a killer mai-tai and as far as I know has been at the Hale Koa since it was built. Hell, he may have been there longer than that for all I know. The weird thing is that he looks exactly like he did 14 years ago when we moved here. I think he may have sold his soul to the devil or something.
Be that as it may, he still whips up the best of the best in liquid refreshment and I sat at the bar sipping mine throughout the sunset and the Friday night fireworks. It was heavenly.
I spoke to a very nice young soldier stationed in Tokyo. He said he comes to Honolulu a few times a year for training and that he never has trouble getting a room at the Hale Koa. Apparently the Hale Koa is really hurting in this economy and can't keep its rooms full like it used to. That's sad to hear, but I can certainly see why military families and retirees can't afford to take vacations in Hawaii.
Today I've been lazing around the room, trying to get my internal clock reset. I went down to breakfast (after waking up at 4 am...which was 9 to me) and watched the sunrise over Diamond Head.
In a bit I'm leaving for Waianae to visit my friend Mary. Mary's husband Willie is a controller I worked with at Honolulu and they lived in the same neighborhood we did. They've now built a new house on a hill overlooking the ocean. All of her kids, who were about 11, 14 and 16 when we were here, are grown up and she's got a grandchild now.
I was wondering if coming here would dispel my illusions of this being where my heart wanted me to live. You know how sometimes you go to a place that you loved once and it's not the same? Well, Honolulu is not the same, that's for sure. But the island and the ocean and the mountains are. And it's still where my heart wants to be.
My heart is home.
I've given away more business cards in airports and on airplanes than almost anywhere else.
Everyone wants to know what you're making...I keep a little bag of chain weave "starters" with me to show them the types of things I make.
I've had flight attendants later become customers.
Plus it helps pass otherwise useless nonproductive time.
TSA rules state that your pliers can't exceed 7" in overall length, so keep that in mind. I also carry a small velour pad to use as a working surface so my rings don't slide all over in turbulence. You'd be surprised how good the overhead reading light is too!
So next time you're stuck on an airplane, make yourself useful and you might just expand your customer base at the same time!
Today I got to spend the entire day doing something I love:
It's been so long since I just spent the day in the studio...too long. I feel like I'm finally home.
I made two thumb rings. Simple pretty things, just to get the soldering torch back in shape and work on my skills a little before tackling some bigger things.
They'll be for sale in my Etsy shop shortly, as soon as they get out of the spa (i.e., the tumbler) and get photographed and listed.
I still have some stuff that needs to be put away and organized, but I'm about 85% back together.
It feels good to be "home."
I signed up for FB a few years ago, at the prompting of my stepdaugher, Maegan. But I noticed pretty quickly that being on Facebook gave me the same feeling I've gotten each time I've gone into a dance club in the last 10 years or so: everyone was young and hip and I was old and, well, not.
Then, slowly, the demographics began to change. I noticed a lot more people my age, and even older, joining up. I connected with people I haven't seen, heard from, or thought about in 30 years. I even read an article in a newspaper somewhere (yes, I still occasionally drag myself away from my laptop to read those) that college-aged kids are getting pissed at Facebook for letting us old farts in.
Why should all the best timesucks be reserved only for those under the age of 30? Don't the rest of us deserve to know what it's like to sit around and chat with everyone we've ever met?
Don't get me wrong, it's really cool to see how some of my high-school friends turned out. I'm sure they all get a kick out of the fact that the skinniest girl in school is now a fatty. I know that I was pleasantly surprised that one of the "unpopular" girls whom the cheerleaders and jocks picked on turned out to be a successful business owner and is pretty, healthy and happily married. Aging well truly is the best revenge...not that I'd know!
I know I should be doing something productive instead of hanging out on Facebook, but it's worth it if I tick off even one college student by doing it!
Okay, so that was a bit annoying.
Today while walking through Denver airport...walking. slowly. leisurely...my calf (same one) cramped up so hard that I crumpled to the floor in tears. It cramped so hard I actually heard it pop! I laid on the floor in a ball in excruciating pain for about 5 minutes (during which time NOT ONE person stopped to ask if I was dying...but I digress).
I then limped, in horrific pain, got my bag, went to the hotel, dropped off my crap and took a cab to the nearest Doc in a Box. The doctor I saw was very concerned that I may have had a deep vein thrombosis...a potentially deadly blood clot...so he sent me to the hospital for a sonogram.
Luckily, the sonogram was clear. So his tentative diagnosis was that I had a Baker's cyst rupture. That's a cyst usually associated with knee issues that, when it bursts, can inject liquid into the muscle and cause severe pain. But it's usually associated with knee issues (of which I have none) so I have to have an MRI of the area once I get home to know for sure. I don't know if that's what it is, and it really doesn't matter because there's apparently nothing they can do for it.
So why am I posting this? I'm hoping that I can gather some home remedies for muscle cramps to possibly prevent this from happening again. You might be wondering why I'm making such a big deal about a leg cramp. But here's the thing...saying this was just a leg cramp is like saying a Lamborghini is just a car, like a pair of Manolo Blahnik's is just a pair of shoes, like a Stradivarius is just a fiddle....get the picture?
I've heard that kidney stones are worse than giving birth. I've never given birth, but I've had kidney stones (and I believe if childbirth was that painful the human species would have died out, but I digress) Up until today, that was the worst pain I've ever felt. I'd put my little old "leg cramp" up against kidney stones any day on the pain meter. It was that bad.
I'll drink tons of fluids and electrolytes. I'll eat bananas every day. I'll take an aspirin every day. I'll take magnesium supplements. I'll eat tofu. I'll learn to speak Romanian. I'll do almost anything to never have to go through that pain again.
This is where you come in...leave me comments with your home remedy. If it's legal and not disgusting (i.e., I won't eat bugs), I'll try it. And if anything works really well, I'll post an entry about it, singing your praises to the skies.
For the record, I am sitting in the hotel with my leg on an ice bag. The doc subscribed an NSID for inflammation and pain pills for pain. I still can't walk without a seriously fake-looking limp.
It's a bird!