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Archive for April, 2013

Meatless May - Trial Period Over

April 30th, 2013 at 10:31 am

Giving up meat for the month of May, anyone want to join me? The local morning radio jock (a very typical dad) announced he wanted to go red meatless for better health. It was all I needed to jump on the bandwagon. Easy for me, hard I assume for him.

I'm already fairly meatless, but want to take the next step for environmental reasons. It is obvious that industrial farming has gone too far away from wholesome practice. Genetic voodoo, overfishing, water resource destruction, fuel and air impacts. Enough. I will do at least what one person can - stop using those things in my life.

The past 10 days have been a trial run. It's going to be easy to take out red meat. I have no desire for beef, pork. What came up?

No BBQ! ok, sad but will give up ribs, tri tip
No Greek Gyros! ok, but yes to the mousaka!!

Our house has a permanent supply of salami, sausage, and ham. Mostly because of my Italian descended husband. They are also good for getting some veges into my kids when made into a sub sandwich. However, I was not raised with those cured meats as much, and truthfully don't crave them EVER. Vege subs for me!!

Chicken is going to be hard to take out of my diet. It's not on the plan, but that is the way I'm going. Except for the occasional backyard bird (my neighbor raises) I'm not trying to be vegan, just almost vegetarian. Same for fish. Nothing except what we might catch on occasion or perhaps that is absolutely approved by the Monterey Bay SeaWatch list.

Maybe I need to coin a new word that means 99.9% vegetarian; how about


Thanks for checking in, here's a look at my latest work from Pretty Cheap Jewelry -

Updated Vintage
Classic wrist length gloves spruced up with fresh florals and sparkling swarovski crystals.

Pink heirloom roses and dotted pink sparkles with an eyelet edge.

Yellow roses, tiny bows, and a scalloped edge with a swirl of diamond flash.

7 Inches Silver

April 25th, 2013 at 01:34 pm

Silver prices hit a short term low day before yesterday. I've been watching and trying to pounce on the time to restock my sterling wire. It's been at least a couple years since I bought, and much as I wish and wait, those prices are never going to return.

Though I was lucky on other occasions to obtain some silver wire from super duper close outs, or hit a good deal at the LA jewelry mart and wholesale shows, the same opportunities haven't materialized lately.

And I'm running low on it.

So I took the plunge and got 10 feet from a well known jewelry supply that gives the best everyday price everyday (all the metalsmiths use them).

See, the price is not too many times more than what I paid some years ago:

Compare the last price ~ $23 / oz with two years before. About $23 / oz !!

Maybe I should have bought more?

Well, here's what I can do with 7"!

Simple Flourish Adjustable Ring

Center crystal is set between hammered flourishes on an adjustable sterling silver ring. (shown: champagne crystal)

Can you do it? No meat May

April 23rd, 2013 at 10:08 am

Good for your health, good for the Earth, good for your bank account.

WHat is it? eating no red meat. I realized yesterday, Earth Day, that I already am slowly but gradually already giving up meat. This article, more of an opinion than news, nevertheless put my own thoughts into black and white:

What I learned from a month of going vegan

She writes it's hard, but not THAT hard. And that you better be able to cook for yourself most of the time. And, like any new diet, don't do it fad-style, do it gradually to be successful.

"Forcing yourself to think harder about what youíre eating and where it comes from is habit-forming. And thatís a very good thing."

and, like the author, I also have become more critical of where, how and what are the foods I do buy.

"Four out of four of us also realized we wanted to raise the bar for the animal products we did eat."

Now the local morning radio jock on KVTA AM1590 is going to go meatless in May. This is a down to earth, typical dad (who I've met many times). I said I'd join in!

I am not trying vegan, but just taking out land based meat and probably most of the seafood. I'll allow myself the occasional backyard chicken or turkey, or fish my husband catches himself. ALso, eggs and cheese are ok, especially LOCAL!!

But I'm doing it for environmental reasons. 'Diet for a Small Planet' was the first of many books about what impacts farming and livestock have on land and water resources. That was 30 or 40 years ago. Now you can fill a big bookcase with the issues in industrial farming. Overfished seas. Genetic altering. Etc.

Would you do it? What is your reason? I'll write about my progress here as time permits.

Thanks for reading, here's a little free spirited copper ring lately from Pretty Cheap Jewelry - a little messy, expect the next few to be a bit more refined.

Oh! Surprise Free Coffee

April 19th, 2013 at 08:39 am

saw on twitter that Starbucks house coffee is free Fri morn til noon (not widely advertised but true). Funny, I have a $5 starbucks card in my wallet that has yet to be used. I guess it will stay put!

Prompted by last post about recouping some lost income from a jewelry lesson I wrote for an adjustable ring, I went to the site and saw several recent feedbacks:

"I just made this ring in a matter of minutes. It was very easy to make. The instructions were clear and concise...Most important the ring is comfortable to wear. I have made several rings that were pretty but did not wear well. The fact that this ring is adjustable is a big plus."

The point about comfort is of interest, I'm glad the customer reminded me to raise that issue in future marketing!

Here are some other comfortable rings I have for sale -

Silver Pearl Eco Circle

Olive Flow

Now go get your Starbucks!

On the Way to Fixing Big Boo Boo

April 17th, 2013 at 09:39 am

About a month ago I wrote a funny but foolish story how I missed out making a lot of money. It involved writing a 'how-to make an adjustable ring' on a jewelry lesson website. Normally those lessons are available for a small price, but there are a good number of free lessons. I had put that one on the website free sort of as a return favor and to pass on the good karma.

I didn't think about it much once it went public, except to enjoy watching the number of people who downloaded the lesson...100 then 200 then 450 then...you get the picture. It was up to about 1500 almost 2 years after the start when my daughter remarked casually, 'You should make that for pay'. OH!

*slap forehead* See above where it says -->I didn't think??!!

Of course, you are allowed to change the price (or the contents or the photos). It was just in my head that once the price was free, that was fixed. NOT!

So immediately I changed the price to a very nominal $2 (I get half).

Obviously some of the original audience took the lesson because it was free, and would never have paid anything regardless of price. But my guess is that somewhere between 1% and 10% would have paid the fee.

That means I realistically lost at least
1% x $1500 = 15

or as much as:
10% x $1500 = $150

It's been 2 months since the price change and I'm happily watching people BUY the lesson at a nice steady rate!

Month 1 earnings = $ 8
Month 2 earnings = $ 9

So I feel I'm recouping that lost opportunity! Phew!

In the meantime, take a look at the latest hand built box off the work bench from Pretty Cheap Jewelry where obviously it's not all about just jewelry.

Victorian Friend - Flask Style Round Box
Edged with little white pompoms and covered with engraved look floral paper outside. Lid rim says 'Friend Friend Friend' all around. Top features a bouquet of artifical heirloom style pink roses, buds and leaves.

Thnks for looking and see me on twitter @PrettyCheap

Store Closing Sale ... Awaiting Bigger Discounts

April 16th, 2013 at 10:48 am

About 2 weeks ago I wrote about a nearby bead supply store that lost its' lease and was going to close. This shop is on my lunchtime beat, I easily walk there and loved the convenience of getting small jewelry parts within a day of needing them. Their prices were not great, but the selection was different and sometimes better than the big craft stores.

Though it was sad to know they would be gone, I was excited about getting a load of supplies at major reduced prices. But alas! The markdowns were very modest the first two weeks, eg 20% and 30% at most. Some items went down 50% the third week, but not on the most desirable supplies. I was hoping to stock up on precious metal wire (sterling or gold filled) and special stone beads, such as gemstone or exotic types. Nope.

Their last day is Saturday and I will give it a last try on Friday. If big discounts are not going to happen then, I'll save my money!!

In the meantime, I've been busy with a new love!

What would you do with:

- empty corrugated cardboard boxes
- cartons from cereal, soda, shoes, and you name it
- fabric scraps
- little crafty supplies such as artificial flowers, ribbon

Well, I seem to have loads of those things. So at no cost but time, here's what I'm doing:

Hand Built Decorated Boxes
Using a pattern from a 'how to make fabric covered boxes' book, these boxes are built from reused packages. The book contains 20+ patterns, shown are a couple with lids and the diamond shape.

Purple Daisy Box

Purple and white dotted fabric outside, mint green satin inside (not shown). A field of white daisies is scattered on the front and lid. Tiny purple beaded trim edges the top and bottom. The lid pull is a ceramic bead.

Green Berry Box

Covered in a forest leaf themed fabric of gold, green and wine red outside. Wine red velvet inside. Wine red rope trim at the top and bottom edges, felt green stencil trim also at the top edge. Artificial berries and leaves decorate the lid, sage green ceramic lid pull.

To be honest, I am batting .500! Shown are the two boxes that came out great, there are two boxes that came out less nicely and I am going to give away.

The time involved is fairly lengthy, but the cost? NOTHING!!

Next up! Boxes decorated with paper. Stay tuned!

An empty box. Still playing with after all these years.

April 15th, 2013 at 01:34 pm

One of the all time top 10 toys is a big empty cardboard box. The kind copy paper comes in, or with stratospheric luck, the kind a new washing machine or refrigerator comes in!

For a birthday party with a dozen moms and 3 year olds a long time ago (my kids are now 15 or so), I once snagged a big tall box and made a puppet theater. The idea was to have the kids make a puppet out of a glove or sock and then put on a show. I cut out a window a little above where the kids' height was, attached a rod and a split piece of fabric to slide along for the curtain, and covered the outside with brick pattern contact paper. The contact paper was really the only expense.

It turned out nice enough that I donated to a preschool class after the party.

Well, I am still playing with boxes!

By sheer luck I picked up this book at the library sale shelf on making fabric covered boxes some months ago:

Making Fabric Covered Boxes

The original purpose was for giving as a birthday gift, with some supplies to a friend of my daughter. But we went another route, and I realized I WANTED THE BOOK.

Inside are patterns for many many box shapes and sizes. A brief read of the instructions and there was NOTHING terribly hard or unusual. It called for various kinds of cardboard, hot glue and a razor blade to make good cuts.

It seems I have an endless supply of cardboard! Cereal boxes, cracker boxes, soda cartons, corrugated boxes from house project hardware, and on and on - all FREE. AND I LOVE reusing and recycling!!

Also by sheer luck I have been loaded up with surplus beaded trims by a sewing friend and by my sister. (This is what happens when people know you make stuff, they give you lots of supplies!). The book is lush in decorating ideas, but I have plenty of ideas of my own!

A perfect use for the trims, the fabric scraps and my endless supply of cardboard. I would give box making a try.

So here's a teaser of a date with my scissors and glue over the weekend. This was a diamond shaped lidded box.

Come back and see it done tomorrow!

Calling all Librarians!

April 10th, 2013 at 09:34 am

The middle school library turned down my offer to donate the books below. I have put them on www.paperbackswap.com - request from me if you want them for your school or town library. They are hard-bound for library (reinforced and have clear cover); I got them from our city library sale shelf.

If you are not on paperbackswap but a blogger here on saving advice and I recognize your name, comment below and I will get with you over email to do a swap.

Stephen Hawking, A Life in Science
by Michael White, John Gribben
see it here on paperbackswap

LeMond, The Incredible Comeback of an American Hero
by Samuel Abt
see it here on Amazon
see it here on paperbackswap

Also this one which I did not offer the librarian, but a good middle school/high school level topic:

Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise
Gaylord Nelson
see it here on paperbackswap

Thx for reading!

Had a Cheap Date!

April 9th, 2013 at 01:48 pm

Actually, had a couple cheap dates. Alot of areas hold 'First Friday' open houses at local art businesses. Many are happy hour type gatherings with music, light refreshments, entertainment, and speakers. Most of the artistic shops in the area work together and make a 'map' of where to go, what to do. Check your town events, do you have one? You probably do!!

Like when the big stores have a grand opening and give away freebies and whatnot, a very high objective of First Fridays is simply to get you in the door. Why? Once you've visited, the place is on your mental map.

There is NO sales pressure!! The arts community is supremely happy to just increase attendence and attract new (hopefully future) customers.

It's FUN! I have no art education, and still went this past Friday. The first stop was to hear an artist talk about the show of her aerial photography. Nothing abstract or complicated, easy to understand! The gallery is a fairly formal setting, but the people very warm and interesting! The artist's spouse poured his home brew beer! How interesting is that!! Big Grin

My guess is this artist was only a couple years out of college, and was very appreciative of the 20 or so in attendence. There was a simple raffle of one photo, $2 a ticket. Very nice to have won (but we didn't).

We walked to a second venue which was having a bike themed show. Easy subject again. We missed a video and a band but saw the art.

Happily ended the night at a little bistro near where we parked. Pulled out my (school fundraiser) discount card, and shared a 25% off ricotta/spinach pizza with my sweet guy and one glass of wine between us. There was an upbeat dance'able band and it was a delight to hang out for awhile.

Date #2 was with my sewing machine! I finally had a Sunday to get these mini silk bags done:

Daddy's Little Purse Strings
Made for the smart phone, by the smart and Frugal Artisan using fine retired silk men's ties.

A few of the variety of patterns and beaded enclosures. All with shoulder strap. Contact me to order, $15 ea. (plus shipping)

'Off' Work but not off duty

April 5th, 2013 at 07:57 am

What did you do on your spring break? Four days 'off' work but not off family stuff! BORING READING ALERT: The past few days were the once a year time I take care of the kitchen/dining/den tile floor. Y'know we put that tile in ourselves!! Ok, ok, maybe it was 15 years ago, but I must have that picture in my mind of it brand new. Nah, it is the frugalista in me that appreciates BRAND NEW stuff and wants to keep it like that forever (almost). It's a cream color, but you guessed it, the grout is no longer cream. More like MUD COLORED, especially in the high traffic area. I don the junk clothes, and get the gallon of bleach and rubber gloves. AND it's nice and nearly cream colored again. At least for a week....

FUN READING ALERT: After another couple days of taking kid's to appointments, I MADE a block of time to devote to my small business. Each of these 3 things I wanted to work on needed a good block of 2~4 hours-

a. Hand bind books
b. Learn to make wire prong settings
c. Make fabric covered fancy keepsake boxes

I only had time for one. I knew the prong setting would take some weeks/months to get good at and I decided to let that one go for now. The boxes looked like great fun, but a pretty big time commitment.

So I picked 'a' because I had a box of high quality linen content paper that has been awaiting book making for a year or so. Also, I had gotten the "BookWorks" book from paperback swap a few weeks ago which has instructions for many kinds of journal binding.

Here is the step making the 'signatures' - those are folded sets that are sewn together, then stacked and sewed/glued at the spine to make a book. Just making the signatures took the couple hour block I had:

Signatures for bookmaking-there will be 8 books

Making and attaching the cover is a whole separate step which is reserved for another time block of hours!

Keeping the momentum, I decided to make booklets with the heavy scrapbook pages in my supplies that were originally bought for that purpose (over a year ago!).

Booklets are fast and easy, just using 1 'signature'. You sew the cover right along with the signature.

I also have been given lots of trims lately, not to mention the stock of accents I have already. So here's how I put them to work:


Vintage Beauty
Features lace doily and velvet trim, beaded tail binding

Daisy Days
Features beaded tail binding and fiber flowers

Travel Pop
Features fabric wheels and sheer red ribbon spine

Inside View
All booklets are 6" x 6" with 20 unlined pages, 30% recycled content paper Forest Stewardship Certified (sustainable practice)

The booklets are destined for summer shows and shops, and retail for $10 ea.

Lots of other stories to come! Watch for 'How Do they STAY in Business?!' and other spring break sound bites from The Frugal Artisan.