Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Irreplaceables – Fresh Flowers!

I try to have fresh flowers at home year-round. They don’t need to be elaborate – in fact, my great-grandmother loved wild flowers best, and I’ve always liked the simpler kind myself. You can buy a modest bouquet of mums or several branches of orchids for $4 or less, and they will last for weeks.

Recession or not, this investment is well worth it for me – fresh flowers make our home cozy and brighten my day every time I lay my eye on them! There is something so moving in their subtle beauty. I don’t spend hours arranging the flowers in vases; I like the slightly disorganized free-falling look of simple bouquets. Some day, I’d love to put fresh flowers in every room!

Today we went to Trader Joe’s. The staff placed baskets full of fresh daffodil bunches at every register – how pretty they looked - so delicate, so bright yellow! When we were checking out, I noticed that some of the flowers were starting to wilt as the baskets had no water in them. (I understand why – the daffodils would open up as soon as you put them in water). I bought a bunch right away (10 prettiest buds for only $1.29) and told Husband that I felt bad and wished I could buy them all before the wilted away! A few hours after I brought them home, the buds opened up, and now I have the most beautiful spring bouquet on our coffee table right now.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Perfect Spring Day

After days of rain and overcast skies, yesterday we finally had a perfect spring day – it was sunny and comfortably warm. Early afternoon we went for a long walk. We saw several trees covered in pink blossoms – a sure sign that spring is here to stay (or am I just telling myself that?).

I got a shot of a wasp who did not like being photographed as he proceeded to fly directly into my face, but I escaped without injuries.

We saw some turtles relaxing by the pond.

This is my favorite picture of the day – look at this turtle, comfortably stretched out in the sunshine!
We also saw some ducks nearby.

What a wonderful Sunday afternoon it was!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Writing with Style

As a reader, writer and communicator, I enjoy clear, concise and grammatically correct written correspondence, be it a casual e-mail, a research piece for a client or a term paper.

My favorite writing reference is Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. It reviews the basic principles of the English language in only 80 pages. This succinct guide is an excellent timeless reference; I highly recommend it regardless of your age, profession or communication style. The five sections of the guide are:

1. Elementary Rules of Usage
2. Elementary Principles of Composition
3. A Few Matters of Form
4. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused
5. An Approach to Style

It has helped me better express myself. I pick it up once in a while to refresh my memory and polish my writing.

The edition pictured here is especially fantastic because its illustrator Maira Kalman is my all-time favorite artist. You can purchase a regular paperback edition for half the price.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Receivables – Silo Planters

I am growing a basil plant (a second one – I didn’t realize how much water they need, and the first one died rather quickly). I keep the temporary plastic container immersed in water, and my little herb plant is loving it! The only problem is that this arrangement is quite unsightly.

These fantastic silo planters I recently discovered in Susan’s shop, upintheairsomewhere, are the perfect solution! At 4” tall, these simple, yet hip and modern planters come with drainage holes in the bottom. You know what’s even better? They compliment these IKEA Kapa planters I have!

I’d love to have several of these silo planters filled with various fresh herbs. If you’d like a tiny matching vase, check out these light gray silo votives.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Wearables – My Favorite Color Combinations: Red and White

It is not surprising that my favorite color combinations make their way into my jewelry. I thought it would be fun to highlight such combinations on Fridays!

Today’s combination is red and white – while I love both colors on their own, they are fabulous and dressy together!

Take these stunning Red Crystal Princess Earrings - White Keshi Pearl, Red Swarovski Crystal and Sterling Silver Earrings. The white keshi pearls and red Swarovski crystals of three different sizes come together in perfect unison to form these sassy cluster earrings. At 1.5” long, they are the perfect length – not too long or too short, and as always, versatile. Imagine wearing these with a long red dress and a silver clutch. I have a gorgeous red BCBG gown hanging in my closet – maybe I subconsciously used it as inspiration for this design! For a more casual occasion, can’t you see yourself wearing these with a pair of jeans, white cotton tank top and a pair of red stilettos?

This exquisite Redberries in the Snow Necklace - White Stick Pearls and Red Rice Pearls Necklace would look great with a pair of white pants, white purse and a red top or a solid red or white sun dress. I love the contrast of the red rice and white stick pearls. These white stick pearls of this size and superior quality are impossible to find, so here I am, rationing the last strand again!

Stay tuned for more color combinations on select Fridays!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Edibles – Spicy White Turkey Chili Soup

If you didn’t get your chili fill with the two recipes I previously posted – the regular chili and spicy red lentil and chicken chili – here is another one of my favorites! I figured I can post it while it’s still semi-cold some places, despite the official season change to spring.

I discovered this recipe on Wegmans.com and have made it multiple times in the winter! It is flavorful and easy to make. Enjoy it for lunch with a small side salad or half a sandwich.

Makes 15 cups
Preparation time: 40 minutes

2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 cup flour
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
64 oz chicken stock
1 medium (about 1/2 lb) sweet red pepper, diced small
2 cans (15.5 oz ea) Cannellini Beans (or any other beans, as desired)
1 medium (about 1/2 lb) green pepper, diced small
1 cup (6 oz) cooked turkey or turkey off-the-bone, diced small (I usually use smoked or honey smoked turkey cold cuts, cut small)
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter and olive oil in large stockpot on medium, until oil/butter mixture faintly smokes. Add celery and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 min, until translucent but not brown. Stir in flour, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Cook 1 min, stirring continuously.

2. Add stock. Bring to simmer; simmer 10 min. Add Cannellini beans, peppers, turkey, and heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper; simmer 2 to 3 min until heated through. Ladle into warmed bowls.

Add croutons and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Multi-Usables – A French Press

Whether you are a tea or coffee drinker, this handy device will prepare the most delicious cup of tea or coffee in five minutes! It is a must for our kitchen.
We got a Bodum French press for our wedding and use it daily. In fact, we got rid of our coffee maker last week! A good cup of coffee is crucial for me in the morning, and the French press brews the most delicious full-bodied coffee from coarsely ground beans.

If you like tea, the French press is excellent for loose tea leaves! I got the most delicious loose white and green tea with Jasmine, and have been brewing it on cold winter nights. Delicious! I am sure it will work with regular tea bags as well; you will probably need to adjust the brewing time downward as black tea can get pretty strong after five minutes of brewing.

If you don’t want to spend $39.95 on a Bodum, you can purchase a decent French press for less than half the price at Ross boutique, TJ Maxx or Marshalls. Ours makes about four cups (or two very large cups, or eight very tiny cups). I’ve also seen the tiny one-cup presses that are just adorable! I think I’ll look around for one next time I am at a store, because the only thing better than one French press is two French presses!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Irreplaceables – Cute Rubber Gloves!

My grandmother says that a woman’s hands and neck are what gives away her age. There isn’t much you can do about wrinkles on your neck except cover it as much as possible and use sun block to avoid sun damage, although I have heard that now there is plastic surgery for necks, too… but I don’t know about that. I personally don’t get why someone would want to look younger than her age anyway, but that’s just me. I digress… In addition to being exposed to the sun, our hands are subject to abuse from cleaning supplies. To keep your hands looking good and protect them from the chemicals we encounter while cleaning and doing dishes, it is a good idea to wear gloves when doing household chores. I personally don’t like the way my hands feel after regular latex gloves, and they are so short that water gets in them and makes the whole experience even more unpleasant.

The day I got my wisdom teeth taken out, I turned to shopping online (what else can you do when you are in pain, on bed rest and can’t eat?). My find was these adorable Pink Polka Dot Gloveables! They arrived shortly after I placed the order, and I have used them to protect my hands from chemicals – they are fantastic! I love how stylish I look when I clean, and these gloves are nice and long, so water doesn’t get inside, and my forearms are protected. There are multiple designs, all adorable – see for yourself! In fact, I am thinking of getting another pair for the kitchen for when I have a lot of dishes to do. These gloves are $13.95, but I have seen similar ones at Ross boutique for as little as $3.99. Think I’ll pick up a pair next time I am there!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Are my Taste Buds on Vacation?

I used to enjoy a glass of wine now and then with dinner. Over the years, we found a few wonderful reds and whites that we particularly enjoyed.

Recently I took a sip of a nice Cabernet at dinner, and it didn’t taste good. We tried another one next time – the same thing. I struggled through the first few sips, then gave up altogether. As of yet, I have not been able to enjoy a glass of wine, red or white - they all taste acidic, even the few favorites that we’ve enjoyed for years.

Not that I am particularly hurting or anything – I’m more curious as to why I am unable to drink wine anymore. I think my taste buds went on a very long vacation and did not take me along. :) Do you have any idea what’s wrong?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Winnables – Elegant Sterling Silver, White Coin Pearl and Amazonite Necklace

It has been a while since the last giveaway, but I promised you another one, and it is finally here! To make it worth the wait, I am giving away this beautiful spring-inspired necklace pictured here. It is made with sterling silver chain, beautiful amazonite beads and white coin pearls. This dainty elegant design will go with a dressy and a casual outfit.

To enter the giveaway:

Leave a comment to this post with your name and e-mail address. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address directly in the Comments field, so that I have a way to get in touch with you!

The giveaway will run for two weeks; the winner will be chosen at random and announced here on 5 April 09. One entry per person only. Good luck!

Also, the fourth and final week of the anniversary sale starts today, and it’s the perfect time to start or expand your jaC Jewelry collection! Starting today and until Tuesday, 31 March 09, everything in my shop is 10% off! Also, you will receive a free pair of sterling silver earrings chosen by me with every purchase over $45 (before shipping). Hurry and get your favorite one-of-a-kind jewels now, because it will be a while until the next sale! To receive exclusive monthly specials and sales, sign up for my newsletter.
*This giveaway is closed. The winner is Cindi! Thanks for entering, everyone!*

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Receivables - Ceramics by Heather Knight

Lately I have had the urge to decorate, even though there is not a free wall at home. I think it’s because we are moving in just a few months, and I am ready for our new home!

I love to accessorize – pictures, vases and other home d├ęcor items turn a new place into a cozy home. I usually create highly textured oil paintings to match the furniture whenever we move – I love anything 3-D, and the more textured elements, the better! I have been eyeing Heather Knight’s incredible work ever since I first saw it in her Etsy shop a few months ago; not only is it plenty textured, but it is also nature-inspired!

While it is hard to pick out a favorite, I am in awe of this Micro Tile Succulent (top picture); it is also available in a larger size. This ceramic 3-d textured wall tile, Lichen (bottom picture) is also stunning! The raw beauty of this natural and unglazed porcelain makes it look clean and crisp, and I can just see how terrific it would look on a deep purple or navy blue wall.

How great would an entire collection of these beauties look in our new place?!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Wearables – Expect the Unexpected!

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said: “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.

Luckily for you, this is not the case in the Earrings section of my shop – you will certainly find a line of Unexpected earrings when you least expect it (or don’t expect it at all)!

The concept is simple – once in a while, I wanted to take a break from the usual matching earrings and wear something that’s off beam. That’s how the idea of the Unexpected earrings was born! Each pair isn’t quite right in one way or another.

For example, one earring is an upside down version of the other, as is the case with these Silly Upside Down Earrings - White Coral and Black Onyx Sterling Silver Earrings. A buyer of a sterling silver and tiger eye upside down pair said that when another lady saw her wearing these once, she thought they were broken! How great is that - I love it!

There are also earrings with reversed colors. The unexpected thing about these Unexpected Earrings - Fire Agate and Sterling Silver Earrings is that one bead is mostly red/orange with white pattern, and the other one is just the opposite - mostly white, with red patterns! Brighten up your outfit with these cute earrings.

Similarly, this pair of playful Unexpected Earrings - Silver Leaf Jasper Earrings is terrific for every day.

Take a look at my shop and see what other fun pairs you may find!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Edibles – Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Bagel

Tired of the same old bagel with cream cheese? I've got a wonderful alternative for you to try out!

One of the first breakfast foods I made for Husband is this delectable recipe from Wegmans! He instantly loved it, and it remains our breakfast favorite. I really like the freshly baked honey wheat bagels from Trader Joe’s or freshly baked wheat or multi-grain bagels from your grocery store bakery, but you can use any bagels you like! This recipe takes 5 minutes.

1 bagel, split and toasted (optional)
1/2 tablespoon soft goat cheese
½ tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto (I will post a recipe for this eventually… for now, you can purchase it in a jar at most grocery stores)
3 tablespoons sprouts (alfalfa, clover or any other kind, as desired)

Toast bagel.

Spread goat cheese on one bagel half; top with tomato pesto and sprouts. Replace top of bagel.

Enjoy! Mini-bagels are also great – simply reduce the goat cheese, pesto and sprout amounts as needed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Multi-Usables – Glass Vases!

Today’s post will give you several ideas for using glass vases! I have been a fan of glass vases of all shapes and forms for a long time, but my favorites are rectangular ones.

These REKTANGEL vases from IKEA are the perfect size – not to big or too small. They are 6” tall, 4” wide and 3” deep, and are only $2.49! You do have to go to an IKEA store to buy these as they are not available online.

Here are a few suggested uses:

Candleholders: When I picked out large rectangular vases for my wedding reception, I wanted lots of matching candle holders to match. I looked everywhere and finally found there vases at IKEA. What’s even better is that I found unscented ivory pillar candles, also at IKEA, that fit the vases just so! I stocked up on both, and each table had four candle holders that matched the large vases. At the end of the reception, I offered the guests to take the vases home as mementos, and they loved them! (These were not in lieu of wedding favors – I had “official” wedding favors, made by yours truly, to give out to each guest.) I got several of the vases left, and I use them quite a bit.

Flower Vases: I love that you can see the flower stems through the glass, and the size is great if you don’t have room for tall bouquets or large vases. I put a few of these all around the house – on the dining table, on the side table next to the couch and even on my desk, and they barely take any room! Both small and large flowers (such as these gorgeous sunflowers) look fantastic in them. Although you can't see it too well, I filled the vase pictured here with river rock before I added water.

Makeup Brush Holders: These vases are very handy for holding your makeup brushes – I added a few sea shells to mine, and my sister put colorful glass marbles into hers. You can also hold various bathroom accessories in them.

Plant Pots:
I’ve used these to plant orchids, but you can plant any other type of plant too. I’ve got a huge zizi plant growing in a large glass vase for years, and it is loving it!

Be creative and have fun with these!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Irreplaceables – It’s all about the Eyes!

Jan’s makeup tips from a few days ago inspired me to share my two favorite eye makeup products with you!

I don’t use mascara often at all, but when I do, it’s BADgal Lash Mascara by Benefit Cosmetics! I’ve tried a bunch of different brands and types, and this one is my favorite. I love everything about it – the name, the thickness and fullness it gives my lashes, and that it comes off just fine with gentle eye makeup remover (waterproof ones stay on for weeks, and even then I have to scrub it off with a Brillo pad!). You can purchase it for $19 at Sephora. I have only used the rich black one, but it also comes in deep blue violet and deep plum.

Another terrific product is shu uemura Eyelash Curler. Again, I don’t use it often, but when I do, my eyes really open up, and my lashes look fantastic! Jan introduced me to it and told me that shu uemura’s curlers are top of the line. A note about eyelash curlers. My friend thinks they look like medieval torturing devices. I don’t think they’re quite that bad, but I was a bit nervous when I first started using mine. I was paranoid about being provoked to suddenly jerk my arm while curling my lashes (by, say, a loud fire alarm), and having all my eye lashes come out as a result. Not a pretty visual, I know. I can assure you that this has never happened, and all my lashes are still intact! Anyway, I just love this particular one, and highly recommend it. It is available for $19 at Sephora as well. You’d be surprised what a difference it makes! I only have the patience to hold the curler for 10 seconds per eye, and it’s plenty, while the directions suggest 20-30 seconds per eye, if I remember correctly.

Now it’s your turn! Share your favorite makeup products with us!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Let It Snow!

Last week, we visited DC for a few days. We timed our visit to coincide with the biggest snow storm of the season, which made it hard to get around. What did we do amid all that snow, you ask? Went out to eat! It doesn’t take much to keep us happy even when the weather misbehaves.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to our favorite tiny sushi restaurant that seats 20 tables at best. Look at all this delicious sushi roll goodness! The hand rolls in the background were incredible, as always.

Another day we stopped in for a quick lunch at Fish Market restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. I enjoyed a delicious Neptune Seafood Garden Salad with greens, spiced shrimp, crabettes (little bites of crab cake, as far as I could tell) and fresh fruit. It was served in a magnificent bowl shaped like a clam shell – isn’t it beautiful?

Since we were close to the water front, we took a quick stroll to see it. We didn’t stay long because it was windy and freezing, but I did enjoy this adorable snow man (who was missing an eye but still cute) and a dog whose whiskers were made from twigs. Genius! I was never this good at snow sculpting.

I very much enjoyed our brief encounter with the snow!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 3 of One-Year Etsy Anniversary Sale – All Bracelets are on Sale!

March marks one year since I opened my Etsy shop. The third week of the anniversary sale starts today, and it’s time to switch up the specials!

I accessorize my outfits with bracelets quite a bit. I love big dangly earrings; when a necklace and matching earrings can be a bit much at times, a bracelet and coordinating earrings are a perfect solution – they are spread out far enough to not overpower your outfit! There is a story behind every piece, and I’d like to share two of them with you today.

This summer, in search of ideal bracelet components, I procured some lovely handmade lampwork beads. I searched and searched the right compliments to these little glass masterpieces, and then one day I came up with the perfect combination: lampwork beads and white keshi pearls! Several magnificent pieces, such as this Little Mermaid Bracelet - Blue Lampwork Beads, White Keshi Pearls, Sterling Silver and Blue Swarovski Crystals Bracelet shown above were born as a result.

One of my customers bought a pearl and ocean jasper bracelet because it reminded her of the bracelet her father sent her mother from Europe during World War II. I was so moved by that story that I was inspired to create this Delicate Ocean Jasper, Pearl and Sterling Silver Bracelet in memory of the families separated by war.

To view the rest of the bracelets and buy your favorite, visit my Etsy shop and browse the bracelets section. Starting today and through next Saturday, all bracelets are 10% off! Hurry and get yours now, because all designs are one-of-a-kind!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Let’s Talk Makeup: Jan, Makeup Artist Extraordinaire, Answers your Questions!

Meet Jan – an exceptional and kind woman and brilliant artist who works her magic and makes brides look absolutely breathtaking on their special day! I had the pleasure of meeting Jan a few months before my wedding. Jan told me that her vision for applying makeup is to enhance a person’s natural beauty, and that was exactly what I had in mind. I was in awe of both my trial and my wedding day makeup application – Jan made me look the best I have ever looked! My friends and family have expressed the same sentiment. Aside from her incredible makeup application skills, her attention to detail, punctiality and professionalism set her apart from the rest!
We have kept in touch since the wedding, and I value Jan’s friendship and wisdom. Today, in addition to working as an independent professional artist, Jan serves as a Certified Volunteer with the ‘Look Good...Feel Better’ program sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Jan teaches women experiencing effects of chemotherapy how to apply makeup and shares skin care tips. To learn more about Jan, view her incredible portfolio and contact her, please visit http://www.janmakeupartist.com/.

In the interview below, Jan shares her tips and advice on all things makeup-related. Get ready, ladies – you are in for a treat! Let’s hear it all, Jan!

1. Your approach to makeup application is to enhance people’s best features – this was attractive to me as your client, because I very much wanted to look like myself (only better :)) on my wedding day. Without having a professional by our side, how can we figure out our best features?

I really do think that everybody knows what their best feature is. I just think they feel it is conceited to declare it. It is not conceit, it is only fact. When we look into the mirror, most of us zone in on the things we dislike. Try doing it the other way.....look away from the things you do not like and voila, there are your best features!!!!

I'm sure, during the course of your lives, people have complimented one or more features on your face. You must start believing this! And, when all else fails, just pick one! Make it your favorite feature and always play it up! If you believe it, so will everyone else.

2. Is there an easy way to figure out how to use the right products and colors that compliment a person’s skin tone, eye color, etc.?

This question can get very complicated: When trying to figure out the proper products and colors to compliment a person's skin tone and eye color... I think the easiest thing to do is first figure out if you are light, fair, medium or dark. The lighter your skin tone, the softer your colors should be. The darker your skin tone, the darker your makeup colors should be.

In order to decide on the texture of products, you need to be honest about your age and condition of your skin and then go for age appropriate products and colors. One item that I would recommend buying in a store where you can try it on, is foundation. Everything else you can buy in a drug store if that is what you want to do.

3. Stacy asks: I'd like to know how to create the very dramatic "smoky eye" look that you see on models and celebrities.

The smokey eye is not as difficult as you may think. The key to the smokey eye is BLENDING. You can use pastel colors and still get a smokey eye. Just Blend, blend, blend. There are no hard lines. Eyeliner should be smudged into your eye shadow. Do not use liquid liners. Use either gels that can be smudged, pencils that can be smudged, or dark eye shadows as your eyeliner. It just takes a little practice.

4. Alison would love to know if you have any tips on using eye liner. For large eye, do you line only the top or the bottom too? Also, how to prevent it from smudging, and what eye liners are best to use?

Using eyeliner is so important to defining your eye shape. If you want to use eyeliner on the upper lids, it is a personal preference whether you put it on your lower lids, though I do think it completes the eye definition. But, please do not just use eyeliner on the lower lids only. This makes your eyes droop, when all we really want to do is lift our eyes up!

If you are using eye pencils for your eyeliner, there is a great chance that they will not stay put unless they are waterproof or long-lasting. The reason for this is because most pencils have wax in them which tends to melt down. That is why I would never use a pencil as my under eye-liner. I use powder eye shadow with a small brush which gives a much softer shadow effect. There are such great products out there. Long -wear gel eyeliners are easy to use and stay put all day. Try Smashbox, M.A.C. or Bobbi Brown. They are all good and there are plenty of colors to choose from. Prescriptives and Tarte have long-wear pencils.

5. Holly’s question is: What's the best way to conceal undereye bags? Do you recommend a particular concealer? What's the best way to use it? I have fair skin and like a natural look, although I do use a little foundation, powder, and blush/bronzer. (The bags are not from stress, water retention, weight issues, or lack of sleep. They always there, worse with bright light or squinting, and could only be removed by plastic surgery. Cucumbers, tea bags, and cold compresses do not make a difference.)

Holly's question about under eye bags. :( If you know for a fact, that your bags can only be surgically removed, then I can only suggest that you use a concealer that it is not too light. The lighter the color, the more pronounced your bags will be. You must obtain a color that will make them recede without making them look like dark bags. This is where you really need professional help. Go to a reputable makeup counter and have them help you. All concealers are not made equal. You really have to feel the texture to decide if it is something you will be comfortable wearing. I actually like Mally Beauty concealer. It is a concealer that comes with a special finishing powder to set the concealer. M.A.C. has a few different texture concealers to choose from. Bobbi Brown has a correct and conceal kit.

In regard to application: make sure you use the concealer all the up under your lower lashes and on the inside of the bridge of the nose. Always tap the product into the skin.....no pulling or tugging!

6. Let’s talk about sun screen. What is the minimum SPF you recommend? Is it OK to skip it in the winter, or should we apply it daily regardless of the season? Finally, does it go under or on top of the foundation?

SPF is one of my pet peeves!!! SPF 30 EVERY SINGLE DAY. It should be applied under your foundation.

7. I heard that it’s good to stick to the same line of facial care because the products in a given line are developed to compliment each other. What are your thoughts on this? Also, is it important to use the same line for facial care and makeup, or is it OK to switch them up?

About using the same product lines for everything: Unless you are layering products, you can use whatever you want. For instance, if you are using a face serum under your moisturizer, I would suggest sticking with the same line. But, if you only use eye cream and moisturizer, then you do not need to stick with the same line. With makeup - all bets are off! Use whatever you like with whatever you like. Just make sure they work well together.

8. What are your favorite makeup products and/or must-haves that provide a great value?

My favorites! One of my favorites is M.A.C. Mineralize Skin Finish Powder. This product is so amazing for all skin types and gives your skin such a smooth finish without looking dry at all. It comes in many different shades. You can wear this over foundation or alone and it still makes your skin look beautiful.
Another one of favorites is Joey New York Lip Pencil. This is the perfect 'lip color' pencil for lining and filling in the entire lip. Then apply your lipstick and/or gloss and you never need to wear a liner. (One of my least favorites is lip liner).
Another favorite is Smashbox Photofinish Face Primer. Foundation primers keep your makeup from sinking into your skin. If your foundation is not staying on all day, you probably need to use a primer.

Trish McEvoy Eye Base are great primers that will keep your eye makeup on. You can wear these alone or under your shadows and they come in different colors.
Touche Eclat Highlighter by Yves Saint Laurent. This product is expensive but sooo worth it. It banishes shadows and dark circles while softening the look of lines. This is probably my one Must Have!!! Others have tried to duplicate this product, but no one has.
9. I invested in two MAC makeup brushes over a year ago and use a drop or two of shampoo to clean them. It seems to work well. Am I committing makeup brush murder by doing so, or is shampoo acceptable?

Good brushes are the best way to get a great application. I'm glad you made the investment. Clean your brushes with mild shampoo such as Baby Shampoo.

10. Some mornings I am in a rush and only have 2-3 minutes to apply makeup. If you had only a couple of minutes and had to choose where to apply makeup, where would you choose to apply it to have the most effect?

If you have very limited time to put on your morning makeup, here's what I would suggest: Under eye concealer, mascara, blush and tinted lip gloss. This way, your face is balanced.

11. I read in a magazine that $8 moisturizers and $300 ones are made from the same ingredients and work equally well. Is this the case with makeup, or do you get what you pay for?

Lots of makeup products are made in the same labs, but.......today there is more emphasis on ingredients. I have no problem with drugstore makeup i.e. Revlon, Maybelline, Almay, etc. etc. My only problem is that I cannot try them on. I cannot see the color or feel the texture, so for me as an artist I prefer buying where I can try on the product. That does not mean that I do not have any drugstore products, but I do prefer spending a little more to have the luxury of not having to toss a product once I got it home, opened the package and did not like it.

12. Finally, if it is worth investing more in quality makeup, are there any particular brands or products you recommend?

I think most makeup lines that your find in Sephora and in the department stores are great, great products. Keep in mind that some lines are makeup lines and some lines are skin care lines. Again, this is a personal preference, but I usually never buy makeup from a skin care line. It's like ordering Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce at a Diner :)

Thanks, Girls!!!

Jan, thank you for this terrific interview! I really appreciate your taking the time to share these great tips with us and looking forward to using your sage advice!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Wearables – Who Loves Flip Flops?

One of the suggestions I got from my customers was to make spring and summer-themed jewelry. When I found these adorable sterling silver flip flop charms, I knew that they would be perfect for my Beach Lover and Fun in the Sun lines. So far, I have created three pieces – two pairs of earrings and one anklet. I combined the flip flops with Swarovski bicones in five various shades of blue and aqua, and love the way they turned out. Is it warm enough to wear flip flops yet? Probably not, depending on where you live, but if it’s still too cold, why wait until the weather cooperates? You can wear these miniatures right now! Let’s have a look.

These cute little Beach Lover Earrings - Sterling Silver Flip Flop and Blue Swarovski Crystal Earrings are subtly accented with dark blue single Swarovski crystals. They will look great with a pair of jeans and a simple top.

If you like anklets, check out this adorable Fun in the Sun Anklet - Sterling Silver Flip Flop and Aqua/Blue Swarovski Crystal Anklet. It is delicate and dainty, and will go with just about any outfit. It will match the earrings, but if an exact match isn’t your thing, these beautiful White Lily - Silver, Swarovski Crystal and White Biwa Stick Pearls Earrings coordinate perfectly.

For a bit more sparkle, take a look at these Fun in the Sun Earrings - Sterling Silver Flip Flop and Aqua/Blue Swarovski Crystal Earrings. Aren’t they fantastic?

I’m working on several more pieces to add to the collection - some with a mix of brown and blue crystals, and a few with light and airy crystal mix of blues and yellows.

Also, just a quick reminder that all necklaces and sets are 10% off, and everything in my shop ships free through tomorrow (Saturday, March 14)!

Be sure to check back tomorrow - Jan, a makeup extraordinaire, will be here to answer our questions about makeup! You will not want to miss this.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And the Winner of the Guess the Price Contest Is...

Baroness Bijoutery! While nobody guessed the price of this Think Pink bracelet exactly, Baroness Bijoutery was closest with a guess of $50! The actual price is $53.

Thanks to everyone for participating in the Guess the Price contest! I am going to get in touch with Baroness Bijoutery with information on how she can redeem her $10 gift certificate to my shop. :)

Thursday Edibles – Key Lime Pie

I had never had a homemade key lime pie until one day last fall Husband decided to give it a try. It turned out so well – it was by far the best key lime pie I’ve ever had (and I am not just saying that because the cook is my husband)! Try it and see for yourself! He found the recipe here and added fresh strawberries. Click on this link if you are not sure what the difference between key limes and regular limes is – there is a nice visual towards the bottom of the page. If you aren’t able to find key limes in the grocery store, don’t worry – regular limes are OK too! You will need a zester.

By the time I remembered to take the picture, half the pie was consumed by yours truly - but I'm sure you will understand. :)

Key Lime Pie (serves at least 8)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (3 to 4 regular limes or 12 key limes)
4 teaspoons grated lime zest
4 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
11 graham crackers
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh strawberries (or as many as desired), sliced

Remove the lime zest from whole limes. Set zest aside. Cut the limes in half and squeeze out the juice being careful not to include any pits.

Process the graham crackers in a food processor or blender.

Melt the butter and have it at the ready. Whisk the egg yolks and lime zest together in a bowl until tinted light green (about 2 minutes). Beat in milk, then juice and set aside at room temperature till it thickens.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar in another bowl. Add butter and stir with a fork until well blended.

Pour this mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and press over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Try using the bottom of a measuring cup to make sure the graham cracker mixture forms a firm crust on the bottom of the pie pan.

Bake on the center rack for about 15 minutes until the crust is lightly brown, remove and let cool to room temperature.

Pour the lime filling into crust, spread evenly, and then bake for 15 minutes until the center sets, but still wiggles when shaken. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least three hours until well chilled.

Spread the sliced strawberries on top of the pie before serving.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let’s Talk Makeup: Submit Your Makeup-Related Questions!

When you were little, how many of you put on your mom’s lipstick when she wasn’t home? How excited were you to get your very own mascara? I definitely have come a long way with applying makeup since I first started using it, but I still have so many questions about the right products, colors and application techniques for my skin tone and features… I am sure you do too.

Jan, a professional makeup artist and one of the nicest and talented people I know, has graciously agreed to answer our questions right here on my blog!

I have come up with a list of my own questions, but would love to hear from you. What questions do you have? It could be anything from products and colors to application techniques to whatever else you’re curious about. Please leave a comment to this post by Wednesday, March 11, and I will add your question to the list! I am very excited about this great opportunity to get our questions answered by a real pro.

Ask away – Jan and I are looking forward to your questions!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Contest: Guess the Price!

Today, we're going to take a break from our usual Tuesday Irreplaceables and do something else! The Irreplaceables will be back next week.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, sterling silver frame beads are one of my absolute favorite components. As with all my favorites, I have a tendency to stash them away and use them sparingly. With my last order of sterling silver, I got four different frame bead styles, and a healthy supply of the gorgeous brushed ones. I am excited to tell you that I am now in a de-stash mode – I’ve made TWO bracelets from frame beads! One is already listed in my shop; the other one is waiting patiently until this contest is over.

It’s pretty simple – guess the price of the bracelet pictured here! In the interest of full disclosure, here are the ingredients:

Sterling silver brushed frame beads
Pink coral round beads
Sterling silver spacers and a toggle clasp

It matches these earrings.

The first person to guess correctly will win a $10 gift certificate to my shop!

Here is what to do to enter:

1. Leave a comment with your guessed price.

2. Be sure to leave your name and e-mail address right in the comments section, so that I have a way to get in touch with you.

Now, hurry and guess the price, so that you can enjoy the $10 gift certificate, and I can list this stunner in my shop!

*This contest is now closed. The winner is Baroness Bijoutery! Thanks to all for participating.*

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dumb Luck

Did you hear? By 2-something this afternoon, there had been 20 direction changes in the stock market, and the world is coming to an end.

You know what else changes direction constantly? My weight. Except that it happens so often that I don’t think of it as a cataclysmic event that is likely to end the world – at least not my world.

I have a week off and don’t have much to do except clean my place. Well, yesterday, I didn’t feel like cleaning and created an excuse – I really should work out! It has been a while since I worked out – such a long while that I can’t even remember when I worked out last. This was a once-in-a-year opportunity. I put on my workout clothes, filled a bottle with water and headed to a fitness center in my apartment complex.

Guess what, it was CLOSED! The note on the door read: “Fitness is closed temporarily.” Yes, it would have made a lot more sense if it said “the fitness center” – but I’m quoting directly. It would also have been nice if the note said when the gym would reopen. I was really bummed! (Never thought I would say this).

This morning, I called to inquire about the re-opening. “It’s open now – it was just closed yesterday.” What?! While the management could have chosen any day to close the center (there are 365 days in a year for them to choose from), they chose yesterday – the only day in the last and next 365 days I had the urge to go work out! It is now gone… It’s just like the whole compulsive buying thing – if I decide to buy something, I want it right there and then, but wouldn’t go back to buy it the day after if it isn’t available now. I guess I have no choice but to go clean now…

In the meantime, I will wait for the next window of opportunity – maybe it’ll come sooner than I think!

jaC Procures on Etsy – Mermaid Card

One of my closest friends decided to leave me for the West Coast and headed to AZ – just like that, packed up her car and drove off! OK, not quite. She didn’t declare hatred towards me or anything like that – she was just tired of the East Coast and needed a change. And it wasn’t just like that – there was a little planning involved. Either way, I still can’t imagine that she’s so far away! The great thing about her being so far away is she writes me letters! Every month or so, a card from her will show up in my mailbox, filled with news and details of her new life! I just love that because nobody writes letters anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting here thinking that I should write her back at least once (I’ve called and e-mailed, and sent her a Christmas package, but not actually written her a snail mail letter). My existing cards seemed rather boring, so I pounced on Etsy, and there it was: an amazingly beautiful reproduction of Morgyn Stranahan’s mermaid drawing! I was drawn to it, and the rest of her amazing work, immediately. Her style is quirky and unique, and I can see her art on my living room walls. Take a look at her full portfolio here. While it is hard to pick favorites, I am especially in awe of this black and white Frida Kahlo drawing print and this silk screen print of a bee drawing.

Thank you, Morgyn, for your beautiful work - I know my friend is going to love the Mermaid card!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Week 2 of One-Year Etsy Anniversary Sale – Necklace Specials and Free Shipping on All Orders!

As you know from last week’s post, March marks one year since I opened my Etsy shop. Every week I will offer a new special for the entire month of March! Thanks to everyone who took advantage of last week's earring specials! Today is Sunday, which means it’s time for a new special.

The first piece I ever designed and made was a necklace. It was a simple one-stranded necklace with large bluish-grey pearls and a few silver accents. I was mesmerized by the beauty and mysterious color of those pearls – that’s when my “obsession” with pearls began. :) I still have the necklace, and it is extra special to me not only because it is absolutely stunning, but also for sentimental reasons.

To commemorate my first necklace, starting today and through March 14, all necklaces are 10% off! But wait, that's not all – in addition to the necklace special, all orders ship for free! This is a deal you simply can’t pass up.

Visit my shop and pick out your favorite necklace today! There is a variety of colors and styles, from this delicate white pearl and purple Swarovski crystal lariat to the romantic and glamorous golden pearl necklace with Swarovski crystal pendant to this bold and beautiful white coral necklace.

Be sure to check back here in the next few days – I’ve got a fun little surprise planned for you!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

When the Cow Goes “Moo!”

A couple of weeks ago we went on a road trip. I had woken up at 4 am to get on the road, but had fallen asleep as soon as I got in the car. I woke up at around 7:30 from being cold. It was so frosty out – I am pretty sure it was below freezing. I looked out the window and saw all kinds of cows – big, little, brown, black, light brown… They were milling around a big field and looked like they were having a good time. “How are they not cold?!” I asked Husband, feeling sorry for the poor creatures. “Because they’re wearing leather coats!” he answered. I started laughing, and I think that is the only thing I have ever found funny that early in the morning. Just ask Husband – he will tell you that I am NOT a morning person, and it is best to not speak to me until about 10 am.

After that little episode, I thought it would be fun to visit some cows. Where did I find them, you ask? Right across the street from my apartment building – I can see them from my window! The land where my complex is built used to be an enormous farm back in the day. The owners have since developed some of it but have a small farm just for fun (I don’t think they milk the cows or anything).

These four cows have been here for about a year now; I see them eating hay and walking around every day. It was raining when I went to visit them the first time; they were lying down. I ran up to them to take a picture or two, and they immediately stood up and looked kind of scary. Here they are - not exactly the friendliest animals I’ve ever seen…

Here is where they sleep and maybe eat. I think that’s where they sleep…

Well, seeing the cows in the rain wasn’t good enough, so yesterday I went back to get up close and personal. They weren’t amused. They look mean, don’t they?!

After a little while, though, they got used to us and weren’t as suspicious. I did try to pet them, but they wouldn’t let me. It’s hard to tell who was more scared of whom!

I love this picture the best – the littlest one looks so cute, doesn’t she? She is my favorite. I always pick runts of the litter as favorites. The flash ruined the picture and blinded the poor thing (I am no Ansel Adams), but you can still see how cute she is.

We made friends with the cows in the end. No more such sitings after we move to the big city in just a couple of months - then it'll be all skyscrapers!

Oh, and this is the dandelion I found on the way back. Dandelions are technically weeds and aren’t good for agriculture and gardening, but I loved how bright and yellow it was – like a little Sun amid the grass that’s still mostly brown.