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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday's Tanzania

Welcome to Zanzibar! We spent a wonderful (hot, but wonderful!) four days in this beautiful part of Tanzania.  But, we also learned quickly that in Zanzibar, things aren't always what they appear.

On our first evening, Andrew introduced us to dinner at the fish market - just stroll among the vendors and pick out your supper - ahh!  But oh, the evening turned out to be so much more!

Here, Andrew and I are approaching what will be our final choice...and...

Meet, Ali...fisherman extraordinaire aka Zanzibar tour guide, taxi provider, city escort...

Ali introduced himself to us as the island fisherman who, along with his son, earlier that day had gone out in their boat and brought in the incredible assortment of seafood displayed on the tables before us.  We made our selections; Ali told his crew to begin grilling and directed us to take a seat at one of the tables over by the waterfront and to order drinks (the owner of the drink stand made sure we understood those drinks were not included with the dinner we had just paid for).  ;)

After delivering our dinners to us himself, Ali sat down with us and asked what our plans were for the following day, mentioning one of the area spice plantations, popular stops in Zanzibar.  Ali's English was excellent, and Andrew told him that we were planning to visit one through a contact our hotel owner had.  "Ahh," said Ali, smiling, as he opened his cell phone and scrolled through numbers.  We could have guessed what was coming next -- yes, Ali had another contact for a spice plantation and named a price.  When we told him that the hotel owner's price was cheaper, suddenly Ali had a new price for us and included taxi service to and from the hotel and lunch after the plantation tour - Ali was great!  By the end of the evening, he and Andrew had traded cell phone numbers - for this trip and for Andrew's future visits. You know, it just now dawned on me that I never did look over to see who took over Ali's fish stand that night...

A simple island fisherman?  Another lesson in Zanzibar's appearances can be deceiving.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Invoking Spring Rituals

You feel my pain - I've seen the weather forecasts across the entire U.S. the last 24 hours so I know you do.  It's spring and yet....  For us, we are looking at I'm estimating 5 inches of snow and it's still coming down - lightly, but still snowing.  And blowing, so that's nice a touch, too.  Spring, yeah.

So this morning when I was doing my Facebook trolling (oh, c'mon, you do it, too), I came across a link to an interesting blog article "Ten Snow Day Rituals" which I followed, thinking it might be activities for a snow day that I could share with my daughter for the grandkiddos (who aren't here as planned -- another story, thank you NOT, flu).  I discovered, however, that the "rituals" are actually researched list of practices to "bring on" a snow day.

Reviewing the list, and looking at the blanket of white stuff outside on this March 25th, I found myself wondering what practices might "bring on" our much needed spring -- now I'm aware of the common or maybe uncommon spring rituals across the world - druids awaiting the spring equinox at Stonehenge, the Hindu festival of colors - "Holi," the role of fire in celebrations in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Spain, and children tossing bird-shaped buns into the air in the Ukraine.  But this particular list of snow rituals has me wondering if maybe we might tweak our spring rituals to bring Mother Nature out of hiding this year.

Snow Ritual #1: Wear Your Pajamas Inside Out  (and backwards!) - This snow ritual advises that if the family wears their PJs inside out and backwards this will confuse the snow gods in some strange way and prompt them to send a blanket of snow for participants.*
Spring Ritual #1:  Wear Your Bathing Suit to Bed - This spring ritual a). lets the spring gods know that you've unleashed your spring and summer clothing and b). frightens the snow gods (I mean, a family pic of everyone in their bathing suits in March would probably frighten me...).

Snow Ritual #2: Leave a Spoon Under the Pillow -  This snow ritual dates back to the days of the Pilgrims and is still a  longstanding superstition.*
Spring Ritual #2: Leave a Trowel Under the Pillow - This spring ritual has no known history; however, to prevent injury, remember to place trowel points down.

Snow Ritual #3: Flushing Ice Cubes Down the Toilet - This snow ritual is meant to signify a ‘cold front’ to the snow gods. Apparently they’ll get the message through the sewer system.*
Spring Ritual #3: Flushing Hot Water Down the Toilet - This spring ritual, obviously to let the spring gods know a warm front is on the way, is best enjoyed by your favorite warm-weather drink - after leaving the bathroom.

Snow Ritual #4: Running Around the Table Five Times - There is debate as to whether or not this is to be done clockwise or counterclockwise, and I consistently found five times is the magic number.* 
Spring Ritual #5: Walking Around a Lawn Chair Five Times - First, note, there will be no running involved, ever.  Use of a lawn chair is usually sufficient, but for best results, set up the patio umbrella table.  Counterclockwise if you are in an area following DST.

Snow Ritual #5: Repeating a Snow Chant -   There is limited information on what this magical snow chant may be, but it’s likely a variation of the classic ‘Let It Snow!’ song of the season.  You may develop your own snow chant and just keep repeating it until you see snow!*
Spring Ritual #5: Repeating a Spring Chant - Be warned - once you begin this ritual, you are at risk of getting the dreaded "song in your head" syndrome (and apparently, the latest on the cure for this is to solve anagrams so have them ready).  Recommended spring chants - The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," "The Farmer Plants the Seeds" (to the tune, yep, you guessed it, "The Farmer in the Dell"), or my favorite:

Snow Ritual #6: Throwing Ice Cubes Into the Tree -   Grab a few bowls of shaved ice and sprinkle them on trees and bushes around the yard. This ritual is meant to encourage a big freeze, and send a ‘cold message’ to the snow gods as a prompt.*
Spring Ritual #6: Throwing Toilet Paper into the Trees of... oh, never mind, that's another ritual...

Snow Ritual #7: Put a white crayon in the freezer - Put it under your pillow before bed.  I found several different ideas of  people putting different things under their pillows (cotton balls, cut-out paper snowflakes, Q-tips, etc.).  By the time you put them all under there, there may not be much sleeping going on (as if there was anyways with the excitement of a snow storm looming)!*
Spring Ritual #7: Put a green crayon in the freezer - of course, this year, I'd collect every green shade of crayon, marker, paint, chalk, if it's green and will fit in your freezer, go for it.

Snow Ritual #8: Sleep on opposite ends of the bed - The idea here is that you switch ends of the bed and sleep with your head where your feet usually are and your feet where your head usually is.*
Spring Ritual #8: Put away all down comforters, heating blankets or mattress warmers - Pile on multiple cotton blankets if you must, but do not give in to the snow gods.  Convince Mother Nature that you are ready for spring.  Hint: do not combine this ritual with ritual #1.

Snow Ritual #9: Wear gloves to bed - Cozy up with a pair of mittens and pray to the snow gods!*
Spring Ritual #9:  Wear gardening gloves to bed - Even better: beauty tip, first put on good layer of your favorite hand cream.

Snow Ritual #10: Yell “Snow Day” into the freezer - Or a number of other places in the house including the bath tub, and under your bed!*
Spring Ritual #10: Yell "It's Spring" into the BBQ grill - but I'd advise only doing this once.  Frequently yelling into your grill might alienate your neighbors.

*I want to thank Mid-Mitten Kids for sharing these awesome snow rituals on her blog {even if she is from Michigan ;)  Go, Buckeyes!}.

I also want to state that I take no responsibility for anything that might happen should you choose to partake in any of the rituals explained here - disclaimer, etc.  You get the gist.  Don't call me when you roll over onto your trowel.

I just looked outside again.  It's still snowing.  Time to put some more green stuff in the freezer.  If you have some spring rituals of your own you'd like to share, post away!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Feature - Me!

Still waiting on some more artisans/bloggers who might like a spot here -- if you're interested, just follow this blog as a GFC (right hand column) and I'll be in touch.  Also, if you know of anyone who might like the opportunity to have their work or blog "highlighted," be sure to pass this information on.  Meanwhile, today's feature is me!

Explain the story behind your store or trade name.
My shop names are SignatureSterling.  That came from my own leanings toward sterling silver jewelry, and because of that, when I first began my journey in designing and creating jewelry, a dedication to the quality of working with sterling.  The "signature" part grew out of my first pieces generally being more custom in nature - the "Scarlet and Gray" series for Buckeye fans, the "Heirlooms to Order" series ("Mama's Gems," "Morgan's Heirloom," Grandma's Gems"), the "Hope Bracelet") and also stressed my intention for my jewelry to be unique - but "for everyday...for every occasion."
Explain how and why, if applicable, your work has changed in the last 5 years.
I think my earlier work was "safe," more traditional - not that there's anything wrong with classic - there's still room in my shop for that.  But, I believe I've moved into more playful, perhaps even more "signature" designs over the last few years.  I've signed up for some online classes in wire-working and am looking forward to learning more about that area.
What and/or who influences your work?  What and/or who motivates you in your work?  How do you find your muse?
My early influences and motivation came from some extremely talented artisans who were team members with me on Etsy - Vicki Potter of OrionDesigns, Donna Mayer of  Ctbydonna, Robin of BeadNestDesigns, Lee of FivetonineDesign, Ainse of Beajoux, Brenda Smith of  Brenda's Jewellry Box, Patty Woodland of BrokenTeepeeDesigns, Kristy of ShinyAdornments, and Marcy Lamberson of StudioMarcy.  Some of us even met almost weekly at one point for an online chat with the purpose of focusing on our work but usually sharing our lives with each other over virtual and real glasses of wine.  I will always cherish those conversations and those ladies - they helped to really guide and motivate me.
Finding my muse can sometimes be a struggle - she likes to go into hiding (or rather I let myself get distracted and let her run off somewhere).  But I can usually draw her back if I just make myself take the time to "play with the beads" as I call it -- that was my first initial thrill when I made my first pair of earrings with a dear friend at a bead shop in Toronto almost seven years ago - "playing with the beads," all the colors, the textures, the patterns - it was like I was a kid again.  I was never an artist when it came to drawing, but with the beads, I feel like I've got a chance to let the artist inside me come out.
 What do you enjoy most about your work?
Well, besides the "playing with the beads" part, lol - I really enjoy my repeat customers - knowing that they've connected with my work in a way that brings them back again.
What is your favorite piece in your shop right now?  Why?
Since I'm doing this feature on myself, I'm going to cheat and pick 2 - one from each shop. :)
First, from the Artfire shop -- "Diving In"  Earrings   I love the teal blue color with just a hint of that green that is "in" this season.  Perfect for this spring and summer.

 And from the Etsy shop --  "Night and Day" Earrings   Showing there is still room for the classic in my shops, I love the look of snowflake obsidian rounds here.

You can find me on:

Artfire at SignatureSterling
Etsy at SignatureSterling
Email at
Facebook at
Pinterest at Mimi3Smiles
Twitter at Mimi_Three

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tullamore Dew, This One's for You, Gram!

This past Monday evening, hubby and I enjoyed an Irish Whiskey Dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  This restaurant does "theme dinners" every two to three months but this was the first one we had attended -- and a bit reluctantly, as neither of us have really been hard liquor drinkers.  Wine, yes.  Margaritas, yes. Baileys in some coffee, yes.  Straight whiskey?  Me?  Never.  But, with our Irish roots and planning our weekend around hubby's birthday - and seeing the menu ahead of time, we decided to take the plunge.

I figured I'd be okay with the Irish coffee and the dessert drink - but what really surprised me was the "Whiskey Pairing" for the Guinness Stew - "Tullamore Dew muddled with Sun-dried Cherries & Ginger Beer."  One sip and I immediately was in the presence of my grandmother and her 5-o'clock highball.  Amazing!

 (Here's a picture of Gram and me, 4 1/2 years ago, during our birthday week)

Gram, healthy, independent, and active all of her life, lived to be 100 years old.  And, every day, at 5 o'clock sharp (believe me, she'd remind you if she was visiting with you and you forgot), she had a highball (bourbon and ginger ale).  Just one.

The Tullamore Dew is a blended whiskey which to me, tasted very much like bourbon, and when combined with ginger beer -- well, a highball, it was, in smell, looks, and taste.  So after the group toast, I raised my glass again and said a silent, heartfelt "this one's for you, Gram!"  Might have to get a bottle of the TD to have on hand for some special 5 o'clocks.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday's Tanzania

I know, I know - last week I promised Zanzibar today, and clearly that is not remotely close.  But I realized before leaving our safari journey, I needed to share some "special" photos with you.

Now remember that we were in Africa visiting our 27-year-old son, who has always had a great sense of humor...think "Calvin & Hobbes" and you'll pretty much understand Andrew growing up as a kid (I think he did have every one of the C&K books, come to think of it).  So, as we were on safari we did come upon some "special moments" when Andrew would grab the camera and say, "Oh, yeah, we need a shot of this!"

So, before we leave our safari - first, some of what I call "Andrew's Special Pics."  You can title them yourself.  I will tell you that one photo did not come out - the one of the leopard puking.  Yeah...

A few more fun safari photos I would like to make into a photo book for the grandkiddos - a kind of "Where's Waldo?" but animal version.  Let's see how you do!





Next week - Zanzibar, Part I (promise!)

Answers (in case you need a little help): 1. Lion; 2. Giraffe; 3. Leopard; 4. Crocodile

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oh, Danny Boy

A belated St.Patrick's Day to all! The "wearin' of the green" has always been a tradition for me with a family heritage of 1/4 Irish.  Now my Auntie Kaye had always claimed our Irish ancestors were the ones who built the Blarney Castle. However, my dad (Kaye's brother) would explain that was pure "blarney" or if true they were the builders not the royal inhabitants and would then remind us that his sister also had claimed to trace our family back to Jesus Christ Himself.

But now that I've "married" Irish, we celebrate St. Patrick's a bit more...yesterday we found a wonderful Irish pub, complete with music and seats by a hearth.  And the highlight of the day was this performance of my dad's favorite song, "Danny Boy."  Make sure you listen all the way through for the "clogging" version. It brought tears to my eyes, remembering Dad - our sweet waiter even asked if I was ok.  But it is a song that in any version will always tug at my heart

Warning - bagpipes tend to be a wee bit loud. Make sure to check your volume before playing video. :-)

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Dad! :-)

P.S.   As we are traveling a bit, the traditional corned beef WILL be served tomorrow night :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Feature - Crocheted Little Things

It's Friday and that means I bring you another wonderful, talented artist to meet.  Want to know how you can get this spot some Friday?  If you are a blogger or artist, just become a Google "friend/follower" of this "Mid-Life Greater Expectations" (right hand column) and I'll contact you with the information.

Right now, please meet Luisa Patterson - call her "Lu," of Crocheted Little Things.  Personally, I've fallen in love with her crocheted cupcakes - and think my granddaughter would think they are pretty neat, too!

Explain the story behind your store or trade name.
My business name is Crocheted Little things. It was really a no-brainer as when I started crocheting everybody kept telling me how they liked my 'little things'.
Explain how and why, if applicable, your work has changed in the last 5 years.
I started by selling jewelry and it was a really slow sale, so I tried something new like the cupcakes at first. From there I developed a whole line of fake food items that range from sweets and treats to cute animals to fake plants (my latest addition). My photographic skills improved as well. While there is always room for improvement, I think my pictures went from dark and fuzzy to finally acceptable!
What and/or who influences your work?  What and/or who motivates you in your work?  How do you find your muse?
My inspiration comes from the daily, little things: a need for a wash cloth for the dishes, a warm garment for the Winter or the want to embellish the house.  My kids and their spirited natures are also a huge source of inspiration-They are the cause of how my cupcake obsession came about in the first place!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like the thrill of a sale like any other seller, but I think the most warm and fuzzy feeling comes from the feedback from my customers, seeing and hearing from them that they are using, gifting, loving and smiling at my pieces.
What is your favorite piece in your shop right now?  Why?
I think if I had to pick ONE piece that would be the frog pincushion as it's cute, funny and useful.

You can find more of Lu's fun work at her Artfire studio, Crocheted Little Things and her two Etsy shops, Crocheted Little Thing and CLT Vintage.

Find out more about Lu and follow her on her blog, Crocheted Little Things, her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Next week?  We'll see - follow this blog!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Not Just an Ordinary Day

Today is Hubby's Birthday.  And ever since I've known him, his response to this date has been, "It's just an ordinary day."  When I say, "Happy Birthday," he replies, "it's not special - it's just another day."  Of course, I have tried each year to show him how wrong he is, how special this day is, indeed - there was a surprise party with family and friends the year he turned 50 (he really was surprised - and I think a bit disappointed that there was no actual sale going on at the golf club...).  After years of being a single dad and bachelorhood, we've celebrated alone, with family, at home, weekends away....and yet, still the same "it's just an ordinary day."  My humble Irishman will never change.

But that won't stop me from trying to convince him how special this day is to me, how much his birthday celebrates the life that has come into my life.  Being the Pin-a-holic that I am, I have a board devoted just to hubby, where most of the pins are simply special quotes that warm my heart, reminding me of him.  So today, in honor of my Irishman's not-so-ordinary birthday, I'll share some of those with you, hoping he'll check in and see them as well. :)



Happy birthday, to my best friend, my soul mate, my clown ninja, my always humble Irishman.  I love you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...almost

 Enough already...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday's Tanzania

Our final safari day brought us an incredible sunrise at the crater's rim on Ngorongoro - once, again, a photo can't capture the beauty of what we experienced but here are a couple that try.

Crater Sunrise 2 by signaturesterling

Crater Sunrise 2, a photo by signaturesterling on Flickr.

Crater Sunrise 4 by signaturesterling

Crater Sunrise 4, a photo by signaturesterling on Flickr.
The white clouds surrounding the crater cradled the soft pink sunrise as it came up over a new beautiful day - a day where we would come face-to-face with the reality of life in the wild.  This is the day where I would finally have to see what I never would see in a zoo and what I would switch the channel on if it appeared on television - yep, I'm a squeamish one, not good with the realities of blood and violence in any setting.  But as they say, the circle of life...
We first noticed this herd of zebra who had come to complete "attention," across a ravine from our jeep.   
They were standing perfectly still because this lioness, who had just fed on a zebra (we found the carcass later - no pic, yuck), was approaching on the other side of the ravine.
Yes, that is what it looks like in and around her mouth
In case you really needed a close-up
While most of the herd remained at attention, out of the shot, we watched a few adult zebras shepherd a baby zebra far out of harm's way.
The lioness got closer and closer.
But the herd remained completely still.
And as the lioness began growling for her pride, we saw not just zebra, but also, wildebeests and gazelles standing perfectly still.
For quite a while, it looked like it would be a stand-off.
When we finally left her, the lioness had claimed her spot this side of the ravine, still growling, calling for her pride.
A little later in the day, we came across another pride where two lionesses had taken down a wildebeest.  Here was an example of the hierarchy of "the kill and the feast."  After the lionesses had made the kill and their lion had eaten (see last photo, right), the lionesses shared a meal.
I think either hubby or Andrew was taking the photos at this point as I remember one of them saying, "Ooh, they're pulling off its leg! Cool!"  Yeah, I was covering my eyes.
The cubs were off to the side, waiting for their turn.

And, pacing "patiently" back and forth in the background, waiting for everyone to be done so that he could pick at the leftovers was a jackal.
A place for everyone in the circle of life.
Next week - the exotic and historic Zanzibar