Monday, November 29, 2010

Muddy Fingers Pottery on Etsy

Edited to add: In late 2013 Etsy changed their sellers policy allowing goods not made solely by a shop owner/designer to flood its marketplace. What was once unique, handmade, (usually) high quality merchandise is now harder to find amongst the multiple listings for products that are, at least in part, mass produced, often overseas. The individual designers are still there, they're just harder to find. 

For quite some time (years actually) I have kept my eye open for a cooking utensil holder for some of my baking utensils that I like to keep on my countertop for easy use. I had purchased the two gorgeous ceramic pieces years ago on the right side of this image and hadn't been able to find a matching holder to place alongside them so I've been using the clear container to the left of them...

If I turn it around you can see it's an empty dog treat container. LOL. I have looked at malls, independent shops, thrift stores, yard sales and online. I've looked in the States and in Canada and had never located just the right size, shape and colors in a holder so I'd stuck with recycling this "Chicken  Nibbles" container because it was working out ok even if it looked ugly.

Last week I went on Etsy.com (again) and took a peek at the ceramics page to see if anything new had been added. Etsy is a website where designers, artists and crafters can set up virtual store fronts and list the products they have for sale using both photos and text descriptions. The cool thing is you're supporting small business owners when you shop on Etsy and though there can be a wide range of prices, they are usually really reasonable because there is no middle man mark up. It's a win-win for sellers and consumers.

Oh My Gosh! This would be perfect! I quickly ordered this "Sky Blue Utensil Holder" from Barbara Rog at Muddy Fingers Pottery and waited for my package to arrive. I was shocked when shortly after ordering I received a credit back on the excess shipping I had paid for when I placed the order. Very cool that Muddy Fingers charges actual shipping costs and refunded the rest to me. Definitely noticed that and will be more likely to order from them again.

So, today the box arrived. There was plenty of packing to keep the piece safe during transit.

I couldn't wait to unwrap it and put it to use!

And here it is. Ooooooooh it looks so much prettier than the plastic dog treat container!

Love it! It's a perfect finishing touch and was worth the long wait. If you would like to visit Muddy Fingers Pottery on Etsy just CLICK HERE. Thank you so much to Barbara for creating this gorgeous piece! It will have a very happy home here and I'll enjoy it each day when I walk into my kitchen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate Small Business Saturday by Saving with Spencer Weddings

In case you didn't know... In an effort to support small businesses nationwide, this weekend is the inaugural launch of Small Business Saturday! Check out their Facebook page for more details and special promotions.

In celebration of Small Business Satruday and the holidays Jason Spencer of Spencer Weddings and Entertainment will be participating with a special promotion for their Wedding DJ and MC services that begins this Saturday and lasts through the close of business on Tuesday, November 30th:

Save 30% on Nov 27th
Save 25% Nov, 28th, 29th and 30th

All you have to do is give Jason a call at (408) 426-8117 or (831) 531-7008 or CLICK HERE and visit his Request Information page online to begin scheduling your free consultation.

Is he available on your date?
CLICK HERE to check on the righthand sidebar of his Request Information page.

Where will you meet?
Over a hot cup of coffee or tea supporting Jason's favorite local (small business) coffee shop, Mission City Coffee Roasting Co. in Santa Clara.

What happens at this meeting?
During your complimentary consultation you'll be able to discuss details about how you and your fiance envision your wedding ceremony and reception will be. Jason will be there to answer your questions regarding pricing, the packages he offers and system requirements. He'll walk-through his planning materials, how he structures additional planning sessions, and discuss additional services, such as event lighting. This meeting usually takes about an hour giving you the opportunity to get to know each other. At the end of the hour you can determine if Spencer Weddings and Entertainment is the right fit to make your special day memorable.

Don't dawdle! Consultations must take place and your booking must be reserved before the end of November to save up to $1000 from Spencer Weddings!.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hyperbole and a Half is Hilarious!

The other day my friend Katherine posted a link to Hyperbole and a Half and said "If you do not currently read this blog, you should start this absolute minute." So I did.

I was literally laughing out loud. The writing is superb. Allie Brosh, the blog's author, is an amazing storyteller who shares random tales from her past and present illustrated with hilarious, badly drawn cartoons (because she thinks badly drawn ones are funnier than good ones). Her sense of humor sometimes borders between demented and twisted, but the good kind of twisted, not the bad creepy kind. For instance I don't care to read about vomit in people's blogs, Facebook updates or in their tweets. But she somehow made her dog's bout of motion sickness hilarious!

There is a smidge of profanity, un-PC moments and what some may consider blasphemy so if these things offend you consider yourself warned that Hyperbole may not be for you. Normally I don't care for any of those things but I love this blog. I'm not gong to over analyze why. I'm chalking it up to a guilty pleasure. That works for me.

So, last night hubby and I were sitting on the couch and I commented about the Hyperbole website meaning I said the word "hyperbole" out loud, like with my real voice. Hubby looked at me and said "What did you just call it?" I said it the way I thought the word (which I basically had put no thought into whatsoever) was pronounced meaning I said "hyperbowl." Hubby couldn't stop laughing at me. Turns out it's pronounced "Hi-per-bo-lee" which is a word I've heard on tv once or twice but I've never had an occasion to spell it, read it or even hear it used in casual conversation so I knew it was a word but I didn't make the connection. To be honest I didn't even know what it meant.

Turns out hyperbole means "exaggerated claims or statements not meant to be taken literally." Ah ha! That explained everything. Hubby is no stranger to hyperbole. It's no wonder he knew how to spell and pronounce it.

He thought it was so funny that I mispronounced the word that he immediately went on FB and posted the status update above. Never mind that what he means when he says he pronounces things "the Canadian way" means pronouncing words like "epoch" as "e-pok." When I asked do you mean epoch/epic?  His immediate reply was that's how they say it in Canada. Or when he calls skinny emaciated dogs on Animal Cops "emancipated." He says that's Canadian too. LOL The thing is he does this on an almost constant basis but you don't see me making fun of him on Facebook. Not that I'm making fun of him here on my blog. I'm just responding to his FB update here instead of there :)

One day we were driving in the car giving each other super hero names and I named him "The Exaggerator" because he can be very over dramatic most of the time. He loves to exaggerate something I've just said to him. Like I'll say something in a calm and civil voice/tone and he'll repeat it back to me adding in a shrieking voice, some profanity and accusations for dramatic effect. He thinks he's being hilarious. He's "The Exaggerator" who posses "hyperbolic" super powers!

Back to Hyperbole and a Half.... Here are some of my favorite posts:

If you want to know more about Allie skip her "About" pages and go straight to the Hyperbole FAQ page. Her about pages do tell you something about her, just probably not what you were you were looking for.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Allied Arts Guild Open House in Menlo Park

On a recent cool and overcast autumn afternoon I attended an open house hosted at the Allied Arts Guild just down the way from the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA.

Established in 1929, the property is available for weddings, receptions, seminars, workshops, meetings and luncheons. The range of available spaces, both indoors and outdoors, is quite extensive. The Spanish Colonial architecture of the buildings blends perfectly with the extensive gardens that surround them. Guests can meander through both the gardens and artisan studios and shops tucked away in bungalows around the perimeter of the property amidst trailing vines and lush foliage.

A new addition to the property in 2010 was the conversion of this empty room into a beautifully appointed board room, available to rent by the hour. The conference room features include:
  • 750 square feet of space
  • 106" projection screen with built in projector
  • Blu Ray DVD player is available to screen movies or films
  • Wireless microphone is available
  • In-room copier/fax/scanner for your exclusive use
  • Conference seating for up to 24 with 20 additional upholstered chairs available
  • High speed internet access and full AV services
  • 6 different lighting schemes to perfectly complement your presentations or group activities
  • Outdoor garden court available for team building activities or for breaking sessions
  • Full service catering available onsite
  • Event Director onsite for support during your meeting
You will seriously love this space!

Another plus is that the proceeds to rent the facility for any purpose benefits the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary, which owns the entire property. Their mission is to raise funds to support uncompensated care at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The Artisan Shop is staffed entirely by volunteers and all of their profits are also donated to the hospital.

The conference room is easy to access as it is adjacent to the private parking lot on the grounds (there is no charge for parking) which makes it easy to unload and set up any display pieces you may need for your presentation. And the bonus is there are no stairs or elevators!

I really love this space and would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone in need of a conference or board room to rent on the Peninsula or near the South Bay. CLICK HERE for more details about renting the conference room.

Guests that afternoon were offered both libations, a light lunch and candy buffet. I enjoyed a really tasty pasta salad which I should have taken a picture of but I was so hungry I forgot to!

I took the photo on the left at the Open House and the image on the right, set up for a wedding ceremony, at the Bella Intima wedding showcase held on the property in 2009. It's the same tree though from slightly different angles.

A second outdoor location taken at the open house is (pictured above) and at the same wedding showcase displayed for a wedding the year before (below). This is a larger space without a fountain but it has beautiful tile work that creates an aisle and ceremony area in which the bride, groom and their officiant can stand during the vows.

The main path in the back garden leads to many of the artisan studios and retail gift shops.

The property is so charming! I love the rustic look of some of the studios.

Where to go... There's something around every corner.

There are plenty of signs and this map to point out which way to go.

I counted 4 different fountains on the property but there may be even more.

And these dahlias were undoubtedly some of the last of the lingering blooms for guests to enjoy before the cold winter weather hit.

Looking for fresh persimmons? I'm not sure if 3 for a dollar is a good deal or not but they're available and payment is based on the honor system.

Echinacea Blossoms

Autumnal pumpkins in a beautifully carved wheelbarrow.

If you've never been to the Allied Arts Guild before it's just down the street and around the corner from Stanford Mall. Just head west on El Camino and make a left turn on Cambridge Avenue.

You'll drive through a quaint and quiet residential neighborhood. Where the street ends is where you'll find the entrance to the Allied Arts Guild. If you like to support local artisans you should go take a peek at the gift shops and make an afternoon of it having lunch at Cafe Primavera, a restaurant on the property.

My thanks to Tiana Wong for inviting me to attend the open house. I really enjoyed taking my time perusing the artist's studios and wandering through the gardens that day :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Cheated Death with a Little Help from a Friend

Twelve years ago I went to bed one evening expecting the following day would be the first day of the rest of my life.

I was sound asleep early in the morning when my furnace broke. The worst part was that the safety to shut off the gas failed too. Oddly, only my bedroom filled with gas. The rest of the entire house, two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom remained gas free. Talk about the universe sending a message.

As the minutes ticked by the fumes became more thick. As it turned out it's not an exaggeration to say it was like death was coming for me. How could all the fumes end up only in my room?

So here's where things took a strange turn. I was dreaming and incorporated the smell of the gas into my dream. I dreamt I had picked up some dry cleaning and opened the plastic garment bag. The dry cleaning odor escaped and blasted me in the face. I was dreaming that I wanted to get away from the dry cleaning smell when all of a sudden I realized something was wrong with my leg. It hurt and I kept scratching at it and the pain was so sharp it caused me to wake up...

What the heck? My leg itched and hurt! I awoke to the sensation of a large welt forming on my inner right thigh and realized that I hadn't just dreamt the odor, my room was full of natural gas! The air, my hair, the blankets and drapes all reeked. In my somewhat lucid (but mostly gas induced) state I became convinced that the welt on my leg was some type of allergic reaction from inhaling so much gas.

When I sat on the edge of my bed I could see the large, oval shaped welt on my thigh. I stumbled through the dark room to open the sliding glass door for ventilation then manually turned off the gas to the furnace. If I had a computer I could have gone on Google to figure out what to do next. But I wouldn't purchase my first computer for 4 more years so I went back to my bedroom, grabbed the phone and called a hospital emergency room. "Go look in the mirror and tell me what you see" the ER person said.

Whoa. My lips looked weird. I told the person the phone, "My lips are purple." "Get in here as soon as you can" the voice on the phone replied.

I didn't feel great but I didn't feel that bad either so I grabbed my keys and drove myself to the ER. In retrospect I should have asked someone else to drive me but who do you call for a ride at 4:30 AM? I showed the nurse my welt. I think because I wasn't having trouble breathing, my color had improved and I wasn't vomiting it was determined in the initial exam that I wouldn't need a blood gas test. The nurse told me I was lucky because the test is painful. So that was some good news I thought.

When the doctor was done examining me he said: "You may be one of the luckiest people to ever walk into this ER." Seriously? Hmm, was he joking? I wasn't feeling lucky at all. I hope I had my poker face on because I thought he was nuts. LUCKY? He had to be kidding.

"That welt on your leg" he explained, "It's not an allergic reaction to the gas. In fact, it's not related to the gas at all." I didn't believe him. He pressed on to help me understand. "It's a spider bite. I don't know what kind but had that spider not bitten you, and had the bite not been so painful that it woke you up, you probably wouldn't have ever woken up again." For real? Yup, he was totally serious. A spider had saved my life.

My lips turning purple was an indicator that I was suffering from "Central Cyanosis" which means my lungs were not getting enough oxygen. As a result my blood had become deoxygenated (from either breathing in the natural gas and/or possibly carbon monoxide that is often present with it). This discolored my oxygen deprived red blood cells causing them to turn blue which caused my lips to look purple.

The next few days I was pretty miserable. Breathing in the gas/carbon monoxide combined with the toxins from the spider bite made me feel nauseous, feverish, my leg hurt and I was in a lot of discomfort. After a few days the welt, which eventually covered an area about 4" by 6" wide, became super shiny. My skin looked like plastic right before it began to peel away like a sunburn. It was really crazy.

So if you see a spider in your house, please don't be too quick to kill it. Even before this happened I didn't kill spiders and to this day I still don't. I catch and release them outside. If I see them outside I let them be.

Catching and releasing them is easy to do. You can use an upside down jar or a drinking glass with a an unopened piece of mail to slip under it. I purchased a kid's, toy, bug catcher that looks like a dust buster and use it when I see anything creeping around the house. I guess along with being a marrow donor program and shelter dog advocate I'm also a spider advocate as well.

So because Thanksgiving is this week I wanted to share with  you why I am thankful for spiders. Even as I lay in bed a wretched heap for several days I could only feel grateful. I had cheated death yet again. This was my fourth close call. Twice in the past I'd suffered from sepsis with 104º and 105ª fevers and once I was in a tour vehicle that slid off a high country mountain road (in Colorado on black ice) and flew off a 30 ft cliff. I survived even though I wasn't wearing a seat belt. Maybe I'll share that story with you later this week... Surviving with just a few small cuts, bruises, hypothermia and a really bad cold was definitely another reason to be thankful.

If you enjoyed this bizzare tale of survival you'll probably also enjoy learning about the time I survived falling off a 30 foot cliff!

A Colorado Vacation Horror Story: I fell off a thirty foot cliff!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pasquale Esposito in Concert, Dec. 19th

Looking for a special night out? A real treat? Pasquale Esposito, my favorite tenor, will be performing opera arias, Neapolitan songs and original compositions along with the Mission Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Emily Ray) at the at the Bayside Performing Arts Center in San Mateo, California on Sunday December 19, 2010. A nice Italian dinner out followed by the show or a late dinner after sounds like a great time to me. Take your sweetie or make it a girl's night out. It will be a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season!

This is a fund raising concert for the inaugural "One Dollar, One Event, One Profound Impact Concert" to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties. This means $1.00 from each ticket and CD sold will be donated to Second Harvest to help families in need. Second Harvest Food Bank will also be providing food bin containers at the venues entrances to provide concert attendees with an opportunity to donate nonperishable food items.

For tickets call 408-528-6308 or visit the Notable Inc website

CLICK HERE to read all about a previous Pasquale Esposito concert I attended in San Jose with the launch of his then new CD A Brand New Me. I've been a Pasquale fan for almost a decade now, have seen him in countless shows, have all of his CD's and hubby and I even hired him to perform at our wedding reception.