I cannot boil water

I seem to have a problem with the simple task of boiling water. Perhaps it's the waiting. Perhaps it's my nature of multi-tasking. Perhaps it is our smooth glass-top electric stove that heats to temperatures that rival the earth's core! The fact is, I leave pots of water unattended, get busy with something else, then end up filling the house with noxious metal fumes and melting the pot on the stove. I try to remember to put the stove timer on when boiling water, but this time, I had a phone call which distracted me from my timer setting and required me to head downstairs to my studio to dig out some paperwork. An hour and a half later, I was wanting a refill of tea...hmmm, where's my cup....I haven't had a cuppa tea yet this morning....OH MY GOD!!! NOT AGAIN! Luckily, the stovetop is unharmed...this time.

One deterrent of dry pot syndrome is to have a whistling tea kettle, which I love for the functionality but I also find incredibly annoying. I had one for many years until the whistle stopped whistling and I melted it on the stove.

Another thing I find interesting is that I've never melted a pot on a gas stove, only on electric stoves and only on glass-top electrics. These things, in my eyes are extremely hazardous. I never bought these things. I seem to have a knack for finding rentals that offer these stoves, and they are NEVER a selling point when it comes to my decision to rent or not. Ceiling fans aren't a good selling point for me either ...but that's another story.

Forgive me blogger, for I have sinned

It has been over a year since my last post. In that time, I have coveted many material goods on Etsy (oooh, such pretty things). I have regularly used profane language nearly every morning as I woke to my neighbors' chain saws, lawn mowers, brush hogs, leaf blowers, and the irritating revving of his vintage Mustang engine. Needless to say, I have also been inclined to plot murder on this early rising lawn-loving 2-stroke engine collecting individual. Honestly people, I have never before seen anyone so anal retentive about his lawn, nor have I ever witnessed anyone use a leaf-blower to blow dust off his roof two to three times a week. He poisons the entire neighborhood with his chemical sprayer, and fills the air with noxious smoke from his constant leaf and garbage burning.
Ooops, forgive me.....I seem to have gone off on a rant.

I have said my Hail Mary's and I now vow to post regularly, to keep readers abreast of my whereabouts, my thoughts, my favorite things, my not-so favorite things, and who knows what else. We'll see what each day brings us!

I Love Ethiopian Food!

Eric and I stopped at Tajitu, a new Ethiopian restaurant in Frederick, MD. Thru the door we noticed normal dining room tables and chairs, a bar, and then some colorful handwoven straw lidded tables called mesobs circled with stools. I pointed us in the direction of the mesobs. Hooray!!! NO sports TVs or loud music...just how I like it!

The service was super friendly and helpful to us newbies as we had no idea what to order or what to expect. The server removed the lid on the mesob and brought us some hot towels to wash our hands with which felt quite refreshing. We ordered a couple of Ethiopian stout beers called Hakim stout. Eric wasn't impressed with it but I loved it. It poured light with tan head and the slightly sweet taste combination reminded me of caramel, scotch, slightly roasted, milky, buttery and chocolatey. Certainly not a typical stout, but I liked it for what it was...and I even drank Eric's beer.

We weren't sure what to order so we asked the server for assistance. He recommended a vegetarian sampler and lamb tibs. MMM, sounds great! The meal came on a large round platter that sat inside the concave mesob. All of the food was placed on top injera, a large (~20 inch in diameter) spongy sourdough flatbread which is made from fermented teff flour. We also were served a basket of rolled injera. There are no forks or spoons. You tear off a piece of injera, and holding the piece in your right hand, you scoop or pinch up some of the tasty food. Yum!!

Our vegetarian sampler consisted of Yemisir Wot (lentils cooked in traditional spicey pepper sauce with blend of spices), Tikel Gomen (cabbage cooked in vegetable oil, onion, fresh garlic, ginger roots, and a blend of Ethiopian spices and potatoes), Fosolia (Green beans, carrots and onion sautéed in exotic herbs), Kinche (Crushed wheat salad like tabouli), and a couple of other things I can't remember. The lamb tibs (small hunks of boneless leg of lamb sauteed with rosemary, onions and green peppers) arrived sizzling hot. There were also 3 additional side dishes! We went through 2 baskets of injera and finished the entire platter of food. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to visit Tajitu again soon.

The prices were reasonable, and because we ordered so much, our check was about $70.00. We were a bit shocked as we usually try to never spend more than $50.00 when we eat out, but this was totally worth it. The food was terrific and the experience memorable. If you're ever in Frederick, MD, check this place out!

Events: Fun at the Reggae Festival at Linganore Winery

The Linganore Winery in Mt. Airy, MD has a two-day wine festival nearly every month in the spring and summer season and each is based on a different theme. This month's theme was a Reggae Festival. I previously tried to get into the festival as a vendor, but was turned down as they said they were completely booked. However, last week I received a call from Linganore and they said that they had a vendor cancel and I was invited to take their place. Hooray!! I knew it was going to be a blast! (no pun intended!) I had to rush as I only had two days to blast some new items and get everything else together. I made some etched Reggae-themed wine glasses with a likeness of Bob Marley and some of his well known quotes, and some others with lyrics to Red, Red, Wine sung by UB40.

I was happy that Eric wanted to go with me, help with set up, and keep me company. Plus, he volunteered to stand in line and purchase bottles of wine to share.

The turn-out was much more than I expected. There were people everywhere with their lawnchairs, tents, ice chests, and kids set up in the grassy area to watch and dance to two headlining reggae bands: the Passion Reggae Band and the Image Band.

The weather was sunny, partly cloudy, and perfect, I liked my booth-space, people were friendly, the wine was tasty, and sales were good...I couldn't ask for more. I was disappointed though that some of the vendors were resellers, not selling handcarfted items. One in particular under a giant military-style canvas tent sold all kinds of hats: floppy hats, newsboy hats, french-cut hats, cowboy hats, felt hats, straw hats, derbys, Australian style hats, urban-style hats, caps, etc. Their sales were phenomenal for a festival venue and most of the hats I picked up were $39.00-49.00 each! I guess most festival-goers left their hats at home.
There were some vendors with handcrafted items like jewelry, stained glass, soaps, and even another sandblaster with a shop called High Ground Etch. The 2 young guys at High Ground Etch were super great to talk to and it seems they got into the business for many of the same reasons I did...they were tired of their jobs and needed to try something different. They did some lovely etching on glassware, bottles, ceramic, and even lava lamps. Good on ya, guys!!

Over the two-day festival, we got to try several of Linganore's fine wines. Eric first brought us back a glass of Linganore's Abisso wine which was dark red, oak-aged, sweet, and very tasty...however, I'm glad he only brought back a glass. The Abisso would have been too strong for such a warm day...and it wasn't even noon yet! On a warm sunny summer day, I prefer a lighter sweeter wine compared to a drier wine which I prefer in the evenings. We next tried a bottle of SkipJack Reisling which was more to my liking for the atmosphere. It was light, refreshing, crisp, and slightly sweet...YUM! Unfortunately, that bottle didn't last long. The next bottle we tried was a Sangria..mmmm! There's nothing like a really good fruity Sangria on a hot day! Although we didn't have any fruit to add, the chilled Sangria was fruity and citrusy (is that a word?), semi-sweet, and tasty. The last one I tried was the Chardonnay, which was had more body, and was crisp and dry...this would be really nice with a grilled swordfish dinner.

I generally stay away from Festival Food, but the Carribean cuisine was fabulous! We had a nice dinner of roasted goat (like cabrito), potatoes, and plantains. The second day we enjoyed a pit turkey sandwich loaded with horseradish! Yum! I can get used to that kind of festival fare!

Eric was happy that he got to attend one of the wine tours, especially because he is an avid home brewer and loves fermentation science. He also likes looking at big shiny equipment, pipes, and valves and piles of oak barrels and hearing about the process involved with producing a fine fermented beverage. He hopes to purchase a used oak barrel from Linganore for aging some of his home brews in.

I was stunned after looking at the aftermath of the first day of the festival...overflowing porta-johns, tons of scattered garbage, broken mangled tents, abandoned blankets, and wine bottles everywhere...which is somewhat typical of festivals and concerts! However, what was even more amazing was how clean everything was the next morning when we arrived again. It was like nothing had happened and the grounds were lovely again. Those poor folks at Linganore must have worked hard into the night to clean up...but they did an excellent job and are to be highly commended. What a hard job that must be to clean up after literally thousands of people in one evening.

All in all, we had a terrific time at the Reggae Wine Festival at Linganore Winery and I highly recommend their wine and their wine festivals. I really hope I get invited to vend at the last two festivals of the season: a Country festival in August, and a Jazz festival in October. I can't wait!

Cheers to Linganore Winery!

Link to news story about the Linganore Reggae Festival:

Shepherdstown Comes Alive!

The 3rd annual Shepherdstown Street Fest was a fun-filled day of fine art, crafts, music, history, bratwursts, buttery pirogis, hot dogs, beer, balloons, dogs of all sizes, colors, and breeds, families, a book sale, a childrens' art show, giddy paint-faced kids, a clown on a unicycle juggling toilet plungers, martial arts demonstrations, and even an underground art show and pirate dance party (which I had to peek into!). The town of Shepherdstown, WV blocked off two blocks of German Street (the main street thru downtown) and allowed vendors to set up their tents and displays along each side of the street.

My assigned booth space was situated at the very end of the block, far away from most of the action. Eric, my boyfriend, and I arrived to set up about 8:30 am so we had plenty of time to get situated before the 10:00 start. The Church of Joyful Living was supposed to occupy a space next to me at the last space, but unfortunately they were a no-show, so I ended up being the last booth on the street. I was a bit disappointed that the Joyful Living didn't participate as I was curious to know who they were...apparently, the founder does readings of some sort.
Luckily for me, many made the trek down the street toward my booth, so I didn't feel left out of the activities, fun, and sales. Even the clown made an appearance at my booth and entertained and/or perhaps frightened young shy children with his juggling and awesome deep Australian- man accent. I must say, he was the coolest clown ever, and I don't usually like clowns. The underground pirate dance party, located down an alley directly behind my booth, offered a mix of cool abstract art, hacky-sack, and very loud off the wall alternative garage band music which melded into a discordant cacophony with the live music in the street as well as the loud music inside the coffee shop two doors down.

It seems the majority of Shepherdstown's chain-smoking youth hang out in front of the Lost Dog coffee shop, as could be told by the plethora of cigarette butts along the curbside, and the clouds of second-hand smoke that made its way into our airspace. At first, we didn't mind the wafting smoke from the grilled hamburger stand as it masked the concentration of cigarette smoke, until we noticed that tiny grease droplets rained from the smoke clouds and coated everything in my booth. As the grease accumulated, I had continuously clean my items as the grease spots were really evident on my frosted glass pieces. Auuurgh! By the afternoon, our faces felt as if we had eaten 20 greasy burgers and we smelled like it too. It'll be awhile before I can stomach the smell of grilled burgers.

Eric got to peruse the festivities and purchased a really cool handmade hat from an unknown vendor that made gorgeous handmade baskets, hats and fans. Eric also discovered a CD dealer that carried rare editions of his favorite bands, Fish (not Phish) and Marillion. He also visited a booth occupied by Bill Watson, a digital artist specializing in pop culture and my favorite...TIKI! I really wish I could have visited his booth...it's not often I get to meet another tiki enthusiast in this neck of the woods. DOH! Check out Bill's webpage for cool art, and links to his CafePress Store full of T-shirts, messenger bags, and more adorned with his creations!

All in all, I had a great day. I had terrific sales, ate great food, drank some tasty beer, and met lots of really nice people. Eric even stayed and hung out with me all day, watched my booth during potty breaks, retrieved food and beer, and was terrific company, so that in itself made it a very special day. I wish I would have strolled around and seen everyone's creations. Needless to say, I was exhausted today...although I still wished that the festival could have been a 2-day event. A big thank you to all the event organizers and the friendly Shepherdstown police who kept a watchful eye on things. I hope to be able to show at next year's event!

The Next Big Idea!


It's not everyday that I find something new and think..."Whoa! That's absolutely brilliant!" Why didn't I think of this! These adorable and innovative thought bubble and bright idea barrettes are handmade by Mel Bell and could be the next big idea. So cute and so many possibilities...so much to say and a novel way to make a statement! I think Mel Bell's ingenious and artsy hair accessories are worthy of Donny Deutsch's Big Idea show, or Oprah's search for the next big idea. You can see more of Mel Bell's creative felt barrettes HERE at her Etsy shop . Who know's...maybe you're next big idea is just a thought bubble away.

Photos and designs copyright by Mel Bell.

Holy Moly!! That was a Close Call

Yesterday, I was sitting on my couch with laptop on my lap answering an email. There was NO indication a storm was coming. Suddenly, in one instant there was a huge BOOM and then a GIANT white flash of light in my lap... my laptop cord shot out of my laptop and whipped and singed my arm....the laptop flew across the room onto the hard floor...the lights went out...and I was buzzing from a large shock that seemed to last a few seconds and i was screaming this horrid deep-throaty scream. After the shock, the left side of my body felt like I had it on a hot stove and I was shaking like crazy. I think the lighting hit a nearby transformer, went thru the plug, thru the surge protector, to my cord, and laptop.

I thought to check my pulse and my heartbeat was really irregular, so I drove myself my nearby physician just to get checked out. My irregular heartbeat calmed down and became regular after about 45 minutes. My blood pressure was high but they sent me home anyway. All ok.

Amazingly, my laptop still works! However, my shift key came off and I can't get it back on. I never realized how much i needed my shift key. I called Gateway to see if there is a trick to getting the shift key back on and they said they have to replace the WHOLE keyboard!! Luckily, I purchased additional insurance to protect me against accidents like spilled coffee, drops, crases, and well, things like this. So, Gateway is sending a computer tech to my home to replace the entire keyboard this week and bring me a new cord. Sweet!

Wow, all in all, I feel really lucky as it could've turned out a lot worse...and I think 'someone' trying to tell me to not to spend so much time on my computer.

Shepherdstown, WV Streetfest July 30th, 2007


I will have a booth at the Shepherdstown Streetfest on June 30th, 2007. The streetfest is located at German and King streets in downtown Shepherdstown, WV. There will be a lot of other artisans and vendors set up along the street as well as the cute and quaint shops and restaurants that Shepherdstown is known for.

For more information and to see what other vendors will be participating, check out this site: http://www.shepherdstownstreetfest.org/

I hope to see you there!

Craft Show Hell - Part 2

June 16th 2007 -- Church-Sponsored Festival/Craft Show - Charles Town, West Virginia

The night before the church-sponsored craft show, I completed 18 Christian-themed glass pendants, only to have tripped the moment I took them out of my sandblasting cabinet and dropped them all out on the concrete. I managed to salvage one. Could this be bad Ju-ju?? Is God trying to tell me (a non-church goer) to stay away from the church-sponsored event? I mean, I was condemned by a catholic preacher once, but that's another story.

I arrived at the church grounds at 7:00 am and began set-up. All was fine, even though I realized many of the booths were not crafts, but were flea market (dollar store type items),used household items, and baked goods. A nice local landscaper occupied the booth behind me and was selling hanging plants and shrubs. They not only provided more shade for me, but lively colors, and a nice fresh flowery scent.

Another seller close-by had some used lawnmowers and started them up periodically to show that they really worked. There was also the "Right to Life" booth but I never went near there to see what they were selling. I did notice the presence of security near their booth quite often though.

Things started to pick up and I made a few sales (enought to cover booth fee, gas, and still be able to give 15% to the church) and all was good, until about the last 10 minutes of the festival. There was a dunk-the-Deacon booth full of kids and as the Deacon was trying to shut it down, about 50-60 kids started chasing him with water balloons. The Deacon ran thru the craft show area, up and down and hiding between the booths while kids chunked water balloons everywhere. I saw an elderly woman get hit in the face. I was just trying to protect 3 tables full of my glass wares from flying water missles!!! Aaaaugh! I immediately started packing up and ducking for cover.

The last thing to do was fold up my brand spanking new craft show tent that I purchased 2 days prior for about $200.00. Some helpful church volunteers came over to help me fold it up, but I wasn't quite ready as the stabilizer bars were still attached. I'm underneath the tent while these people are pushing and I'm politely yelling "Wait, please! I have to unhook these and put these down!" Well with 4 people pushing this thing together and telling me it's just stiff because it's new and I'm saying "NOOoo!! Please wait just a moment!". One person said "heck, I know what I'm doing, I just closed up 4 of these things". Sigh. The next thing I see underneath is the frame bending and snapping and it completely broke in 4 places!!!! NOoooo! I was speechless! I was soooo bummed! One person said "that's not supposed to happen, it's defective, take it back!" Some really nice people offered to help me pack my jeep and I politely declined...."I've got it, thank you". I mean, they were really trying to be helpful. But....grrrrrr.....
I politely donated my requisite 15% of my sales and went home to an empty house.

Craft show hell - Part 1

June 10th 2007 - June Jubilee, Martinsburg, West Virginia

The June Jubilee is a local town event that includes a car show, craft show, kiddie events, and an abysmal petting zoo. I was super excited to set up my booth for the first time. My boyfriend Eric helped me the entire time which was absolutely wonderful. I had a great space, and I thought my display looked really nice. The show started at 11:00 and at 11:01, I had made my first sale. Things were good. However, that was also my last sale. I wasn't really all that disappointed as I did give out a lot of cards and brochures as I was trying to drum up some custom orders for glass etching.

The food concessions made a killing selling enormous sugar-coated funnelcakes, giant sodas, greasy sausages, and the usual festival fare to thousands of already unhealthy looking people. It is disheartening when someone approaches passing a greasy turkey leg from one hand to the other and then handling your hand-made items with the leg hanging out of their mouth...or kids dripping blue colored snowcones all over your display....

The biggest draw or main event that I could see was a Ronald McDonald clone on a trailer telling really bad jokes, performing mundane magic tricks, and making balloon animals. Other kids jumped their way to nauseousness and vomitous in the oddly shaped (you be the judge) space shuttle airjump. The silliest and most annoying of the attractions was the mini plywood-constructed train apparently powered by a riding lawnmower that transported young and old paying riders around the park.

The so-called petting zoo was the worst I'd seen and begged for animal activists to come in and save the animals. There was a pot-belly pig that was most unhappy in a very small enclosure. I never saw him move. A goat kid was placed in a small plastic poorly made enclosure which I saw a 2-year old lean over and fall into, thus collapsing the enclosure, bumping his head on the ground, and nearly crushing the baby goat. Then there was the rabbit in a tiny rusted bent-up wire cage without water. In another rusted bent wire cage were 2 ducks sitting in a tupperware bowl of filthy water. Two "fuzzy" chickens occupied another cage and pecked at the dirt ground..although I didn't notice any seed there. Parents paid money to let their kids ride miniature ponies around in a circle, led around by seemingly uninterested animal handlers.

I did meet some nice sellers there and I know they didn't do well there either. Hopefully their next shows will make up for it. Personally, I don't think I'll try next years June Jubilee.

Stuff I like on Etsy

Etsy.com is a collection of the most intriguing, useful, colorful, artistic, and humorous items that are individually handcrafted by talented indie artisans from all over the world. I'm very proud to be a part of the Etsy community. Here, I showcase some of my recent favorite picks. Enjoy!

Dogs Playing Poker

I love springtime! I love witnessing the emergence of green leaves and colorful flowers, the warming of the air, the singing and nest building of birds, the buzzing of bees, and the appearance of peoples stuff gathered in their yards on the weekends. Yes, it's finally Yard Sale time in West Virginia and I'm so excited to plow through peoples things to purchase and collect lots of stuff I don't really need, but must have at that moment. It's true instant gratification. I take garage sales seriously. Armed with my newspaper, my map, my boyfriend Eric (if he's game that day) a full tank of gas, my dog sPoT!, and a pocket wad full of cash I set off.

Last weekend we drove across the Potomac and stopped at a few places in the Sharpsburg area.
We didn't find anything worth having and were ready to call it a day when we ran across a couple with all their items lined up along the narrow sidewalk in front of their pre-1900 colonial home. Eric reached for 3 framed prints "Here, we'll take these!" I took a look and there were 3 small prints of dogs playing poker by Collidge in wood frames for $2.00 each. "Yep, I said".

Cassius Coolidge painted 16 anthropormorphized dog paintings in 1903 for an advertising firm in St. Paul, MN. Nine of those prints were dogs playing poker. The 3 prints I got are called Pinched with 4 Aces, Waterloo, and His Station and 4 Aces. In 2005, two of Coolidge's original paintings (A Bold Bluff, and Waterloo Two) sold for $590,000 to a private art collector.

A quick look on Ebay for dogs playing poker yielded hundreds of knock-off, reproductions, and kitchy poker dog items such as posters, shirts, tin signs, playing cards, totebags, neckties, poker chips, trays, figurines, mousepads (yeah, that's mine in the pic) curtains and clocks. There's even a movie called Four Dogs Playing Poker.

My new fun kitchy prints will grace our fake wood-paneled den along with my tiki mug collection, and assorted tiki art such as my giant print of Tikis Playing Poker originally created by Slacks Ferret.

The Mess

I woke up yesterday morning, wandered into my studio, GASPED, shook my head, swung myself around, and made a bee-line back upstairs to the kitchen to make a steaming hot strong carafe of Yerba Mate. "I just can't work in there" I told sPoT!, the dog. It's time to take serious action and reorganize that awful disgusting mess. Empty boxes, dog toys, paper bits, wadded up tape, design books, shoes and socks, bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts, tools, CDs, beads, old books and maps, moldy tea mugs, and dirty beer glasses, photos, paint, drill bits, chocolate wrappers, colored pencils, piles of credit card junk mail, exacto knives, Sharpie pens, and about 20 pairs of scissors (and it never seems that I can't find a pair) were strewn everywhere. Not to mention that damn exercise ball that always gets in my way. "Hey! There's my bra!!!"

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It's day 2 and Oh, what a feeling it is to sit in my studio again! Luckily, I found an old usable small drafting table in the garbage pile behind the big town church. I think that was the only time I've been dumpster diving and felt like I was committing a sin. But, I always wanted a tilting table to draw on.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Another highlight was the moment I shredded that last page of old documents from my last job and that felt terrific....ah, closure!! Was it worth 3 hours of shredding?? YES IT WAS! Why was I keeping all that stuff? Like I was really going to need that February timesheet from 2003, or that approved travel voucher from 2004! It's all gone! And now I have closet space for my creations!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

sPot! wasn't amused at all with the whole situation as I neglected his walk, or shall I say his sniff and poop at the park.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket