Engineer by day, beadweaver by night (mostly), I like to look for answers to questions.
How do things work? What inspires you? What do you wonder about?
Explore the journey to creativity together.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making Beaded Snowflakes

At this time of year, I particularly enjoy making snowflakes.  Even though they are a relatively small project for me, they completely take over my beading space when I work on them.  My beading mat fills up with dozens of tiny piles of beads.  

I like to mix many different textures, shapes, sizes and colors.  I mostly use glass beads, but sometimes I add a pearl, shell or gemstone bead.  So far I have used bright colors sparingly, which is why some of my bead piles are so small.

It is amazing how many different kinds of white there are.  So far my work has been strictly in cool whites; I haven't even broken into my boxes of warm cream colors yet.  I want to make some ivory snowflakes too, maybe with amber touches.

Each snowflake has been unique - I make up the pattern as I go along.  This takes longer than working from a set pattern.  Sometimes I try something that doesn't work very well and it takes me several tries to get the get a snowflake to look right.  I keep meaning to make copies of some of my favorite snowflakes so far, but it's more fun to try something new.

How about you?  Do you have a favorite winter project?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for the Happy Memories

Thanksgiving is a holiday about remembering your blessings and being together with the people you treasure.  My mother recently gave me a thumb drive full of old family photos she had scanned into the computer.   I thought I would share some of the pictures that bring back lots of happy memories for me.

Here are my older brother, my younger sister and I.  I especially like the photo of  my sister looking through the window - it really captures her sweet personality.

These are my grandparents.  They lived on a farm.  When we came to visit, they let us drive the tractor, most of the cars, and an Honda 3 wheeler (they were legal in those days).

Here are my brother and sister riding the 3 wheeler together.

My parents took us on lots of camping trips when we were growing up, which is probably why I love camping and areas of natural beauty so much as an adult.

Of course, we had the trip to Disneyland.  I remember riding in that giant tea cup with my mother made me feel so special. 

This collage is a group of special memories that didn't fit with the rest:  my childhood best friend (notice the Pinto in the background?), a trip to Mt. Palamar, me wearing a red dress my great grandmother made in 1928, and the family dog.  I think I still have that pillow she is laying on.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and make some wonderful memories this weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thank You Thursday

I'd like to show my appreciation to the people you have included me in their treasuries in the last few weeks.

Thanks to VariousGeekery for featuring my Winter Ornament Snowflake in Cold Snap.  VariousGeekery does not have a shop, so I will post the treasury itself.

Please help me thank VariousGeekery (who loves to make treasuries on Etsy) by visiting and commenting on any of their treasuries.

Thanks to Josephine of Josephine Brooks Design for including my Grapevine Necklace in her lovely treasury Wine Country.  Josephine makes beautiful lampwork beads.  I really love her Purple Dragonfly Lampwork Bead

Thanks to Sharri of the Beaded Bead for including my Leaf Earrings in her stunning Warm Thanksgiving Wishes from the Treasury Challenge NonTeam.  Sharri makes gorgeous beadwork beads, jewelry and patterns.  Her Sea Anemone Pendant with tiger's eye, green garnet, tourmaline and pearls is absolutely amazing!

Thanks to Guildedhedgie for including my Unique Snowflake Ornament in the exquisite Sparkly Silver and Blue Holiday Decor treasury.  Guildedhedgie makes fun and quirky crafts; talents include sewing, knitting and jewelry.  Like me, Guildedhedgie is an engineer who needs a creative outlet :)  This Autumn Colors Scarf is perfect for fall!

 Thanks to Karen of Mystic Wynd for including my Beautiful Snowflake Ornament in her very lovely First Snowflakes of the Season treasury.  Karen makes wonderful jewelry.  I especially love her Autumn Charm Bracelet.  I am a big fan of both copper and moss agate.

As always, thanks to all of you for being an awesome community!  I hope you have enjoyed these features as much as I have :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Avoiding Sinus Infections

I haven't been very active in any social media for the last week, including blogging.  I've had a sinus infection that has left me wiped out.  I could not afford to stay home sick for the last week, so I've just been working and resting.  Now I am finally starting to feel better.

I have a history of having lots of sinus infections.  Over the years, I have learned tricks to prevent illness and to shorten the duration when I do get sick.  This year I have only had 2 sinus infections (in years past, I have had one every 6 weeks or so).

I thought I would share what has worked for me, since we are coming into cold and flu season.   The basic strategy is to keep mucus thin.  When mucus is more fluid, it washes viruses and bacteria down to the stomach, where they are destroyed by stomach acids.  Thinning mucus also helps relieve the awful stuffy head caused by sinus infection.

1.  Vitamin D:  This has probably made the biggest difference for me.  I now take 4000 IU per day of vitamin D (10 times the USDA recommended level).  Several times, I have run out and stopped taking it for a week or so - each time I get sick.  There is a ton of research going on right now about all the ways vitamin D is beneficial to many different aspects of health.  Many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially in my part of the world.  It is possible to take too much of this vitamin, so it is important to talk to your doctor.  When I have blood work done to check my cholesterol and so forth, I ask them to check the level of vitamin D in my blood and adjust my dose as needed.

2.  Diet:  I try to make sure I eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  They say you should eat 5 servings - I shoot for 9.  I also try to make sure I eat enough protein, which is hard for me because I am a picky eater when it comes to meat.  I really limit my carbs, especially sugar and flour - no sodas, no candy, and very little bread.

3.  Exercise:  I play soccer twice a week and try to walk every day.  Sometimes when I am getting sick exercising hard in a soccer game makes me feel better.

4.  Hydrate:  When I am dehydrated I get more stuffy.  Drinking lots of water helps keep mucus thin.

5.  Saline Nasal Irrigation:  This will sound kind of weird if you have never done it, but rinsing my sinuses with a saline wash can really help remove infections and even relieve allergy symptoms.  The rinsing action of the water helps carry away allergens and invading virus or bacteria, and the water itself helps thin mucus.  Irrigation also helps reduce inflammation, allowing a wider passage for mucus to drain to the stomach.
6.  Kelp (iodine):  I was going to an acupuncturist for help at one point, and he suggested taking an iodine supplement.  I learned that iodine helps thin mucus, and I was amazed how well it worked.   Kelp has a lot of iodine in it, so nowadays I take a kelp supplement instead of iodine drops.  I read up on iodine (I think it is always a good idea to do your own research on supplements) and found out that if you take too much it can cause thyroid problems.  I ask my doctor to check my thyroid function when I get blood work done.

7.  Hot Tea/Water:  Both green and black tea are very healthy in different ways.  I drink both. I find that hot tea or hot water is soothing when I am stuffed up; it helps to thin mucus. If I am feeling too dehydrated for tea but still want something hot and steamy, I drink hot water, sometimes with peppermint extract added.  I am careful when I decide to add peppermint - the first few seconds after I add the extract to the hot water, the peppermint is strong enough to be uncomfortable.

8.  Steam:  Inhaling steam, especially though your nose if you can, can help a stuffy head and thin mucus.  Sometimes I add a few drops of peppermint extract to the hot water.   I am careful when I decide to add peppermint - the first few seconds after I add the extract to the hot water, the peppermint is strong enough to be uncomfortable.

9.  Hot Pack:  A hot pack improves circulation, allowing more of the antibodies in the blood to reach the infection.  I recently got a hot pack with a mixture of flax seeds and peppermint leaves.  The peppermint really magnifies the effect of the hot pack.  I like it, but it might be uncomfortable for some people.

10.  Other Supplements:  Taking other supplements does not make as a clear a difference as vitamin D does, but I think they do help.  I take a good quality multivitamin every day.  When I am sick, I also take extra vitamin A, C and E, extra zinc, echinacea and goldenseal.

11.  Gargle:  When I have a sore throat I gargle with salt water.  It helps for a while.  Sometimes I have to gargle pretty frequently.  I keep a box of kosher salt in my desk at work.  I have read one should use non-iodized salt to gargle, but I am not sure why.

12.  Get Help:  I prefer to take care of my illnesses myself using more gentle, natural methods.  But I also need to know when to use pharmaceuticals or go to the doctor to get an antibiotic.

This is what works for me - I really believe everyone's body works a little different, so it is important to experiment and see what works for you.  Do you have any tips for cold and flu season?  I would love to hear about them - I might add them to my repertoire!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thank You Thursday

I was very fortunate to be featured in two beautiful treasuries this week.  I'd like to take a moment to thank the curators of these treasuries.

The first treasury is Pablo Picasso Turns 130 by Alexia of Porcuprints.  Thank you for including my Dance of the Veils bracelet, which, as it happens, was my entry in the Etsy Beadweavers Picasso Challenge.  Alexia designs and prints beautiful wood engraving and letterpress fine art prints.  I just love this elegant Flamingos Wood Engraving Print:

The next treasury is White White Snow on Blue Christmas by Katinytis.  Thank you for including my Icy Snowflake Ornament.  At Katinytis you can find wonderful felted scarves, brooches, earrings and more.  This Felted Scarf-Collar looks very warm and stylish for a crisp autumn day!

I would also like to thank Rose of Random Creative for inspiring me to do a Thank You Thursday feature.  I've had a great response from the blogging community and the artists who are featured.  I saw it first on her blog The Beadings and Buttons of Random Creative.  Rose makes intricate jewelry from beads and buttons.  Her Autumn Colored Button Bracelet is so appealing!  The colors are perfect for fall!

As always, thank you to all of you for being an awesome community!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Donating to a Silent Auction

My friends and relatives know that I am always ready to donate my jewelry to a silent auction.  I really enjoy being able to contribute to a good cause.  This month I've been working on a necklace to donate for Inspirational Sounds, a gospel choir that my mother-in-law is in.  I wanted to make something that had a musical or Christian theme, but I was not feeling inspired. 

About a month ago, I caught a terrible stomach flu.  I was sick in bed, unable to move, when the idea hit me - I could bead a necklace inspired by sheet music.  I could see it all in my mind, the technical aspects of how I would make the necklace.

I had to buy some supplies because I did not have any 5 hole spacers.  I had never made beaded notes before, so I wasn't sure how big they would be or how the spacing would work out on the beaded "staff".  I chose an easy hymn to depict, one that is well known:  Jesus Loves Me
I had a few problems making this necklace.  When I was a child, I had a tendency to copy musical notes backward.  Evidently, I still do that, because I attached the first two measures backward!  I had to cut to notes off and start over. 

Now I need to get this necklace in the mail in time for the auction. 
Do any of you ever donate your work to charity?  What are your favorite charities?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thank You Thursday

I've been honored to be included in several treasuries this week - I'd like to thank the curators by featuring them in my blog.

Thank you to Rose of Baskets by Rose for including my Intricate Beadwork Snowflake in her Flakes treasury!  Rose makes beautiful woven baskets with reeds she has dyed herself.  Rose also sews lovely quilts.  I particularly love this Bun Basket - perfect for Thanksgiving dinner!

Thank you to Natasha of Looped with Love for including my Icy Snowflake Ornament in her  Snowflakes in October treasury!  Natasha crochets hats, cell phone cozies or cases, totes and bags, crocheted scarves and stuffed animals.  She has such a wonderful variety of items in her shop!  I just love these cute Baby Booties and Beanie Hat!  Aren't the colors beautiful?

Thank you to Justine of Justine Sanchez for including my Unique Snowflake in her Winter's Little Miracles treasury.  Justine uses her talents for scrapbooks to make decorative frames.   I really like this romantic Embellished Frame:

Thank you to my blogging friend Duni of PeriDot by Duni for including my Floral Necklace in her Melange of Pink and Grey treasury!  A while back Duni had written a post about this color scheme, which inspired me to make the necklace.  How marvelous to see it in her treasury!  Duni makes feminine, romantic sleepwear using designer fabrics.  I just love colors, the pattern and the style of this Peasant Blouse Set!

 As always, thank you to all of you for being a great community!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Family Pumpkin Patch

Each year, my parents grow pumpkins for their grandkids to carve at Halloween.  My parents live on 5 acres now, so they have room to grow plenty of pumpkins for us and our friends.  The pumpkins look especially good this year.

There were a couple of flowers still in bloom on the vines.  It's too late for them to turn into pumpkins!

Normally we carve the pumpkins together too, but this year our schedules worked out so that we harvested a little too early to carve on the same day.  Of course we started out with lunch and cookie decorating for the kids.

I couldn't resist sampling the parsley in the garden.  It was so juicy and sweet!

The dogs got a chance to play too.  My parents' place is fenced, so they can safely run and play chase in a large area.  Here they are running through an area that was tilled for planting next year.

The black and white dog is Glacier, and the brown dog is Gobi.  Chase is their favorite game.  They ran for hours.

After we played around for a while, we decided it was time to load up the pumpkins.  My dad cut them off the vines.

 Then we washed the dirt off.

The next part was fun - we loaded them into a trailer and used my parent's little tractor to haul them over to the cars.

At the end of the day, we each drove home with a load of pumpkins.

Do you have any harvest or seasonal activities for autumn?  I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thank You Thursday

I have been very fortunate this week to be featured in several treasuries.  I'd like to take a moment to thank the curators and show you some of their fabulous creations.

First up is a beautiful, wintery collection, So Many Snowflakes by Melissa of BinskyB.  Thank you for including my beaded snowflake ornament!  Melissa makes beautiful decorations, such as this lovely origami ornament made from sheet music. 

The next treasury is the very romantic Love in White by Gala of Gala Filc.  Thank you for including my sparkling snowflake ornament!  Gala using felting and other techniques to make scarves, handbags and other handmade treasures.  I just love this felted scarf.

Next is bright and cheerful Orange and Olive by Maya of The Parthecraft.  Thank you for including my fall necklace.  Maya sews and knits handmade pet toys, hats, aprons, totes and so much more!  I really love this wildrose beaded cowl.

Lastly, I would like to thank Nicole for including my Horsetail Falls bracelet in her lovely Summer Storm treasury.  Nicole does not have a shop, so I will feature her treasury instead.  Please stop by for a look - she has done a wonderful job of curating.

I would also like to thank all of you for being a wonderful community!  Have a great weekend :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Spiderweb in Oaks

Voting for the Picasso Challenge

A few weeks ago, I posted about my progress on my entry in the Etsy Beadweavers Picasso Challenge.  At the time, I was not quite finished.  I was worried about what kind of clasp I would put on the bracelet.  As it turns out, a box clasp worked quite well.  I was able to finish the Dance of Veils and enter the Challenge.

The entries in this Challenge are amazing!  I would really like to encourage you to stop by and see for yourself.  You can vote for your favorite on the Etsy Beadweavers Blog.  Please stop by and participate - anyone can vote!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Search Words, Keywords and Statistics

I'd like to share some thoughts about ad stats on Etsy.

(For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, Etsy sellers can use search ads to buy spots on searches. The searches you get a spot in have to match the keywords you use in your shop descriptions. You can choose not to use some of your keywords if you think they will not be effective. You can also choose to only include sections of your shop or even just individual items. Quick definitions: 
Click through rate (CTR) = views divided  by impressions. 
Impressions are the number of times your ad was displayed. 
Views are the number of times people clicked on your ad.)

Search ads have been available on Etsy since 9/28/11. If you started using them right away you will have 10 days of data at the time I am writing this. I have read several posts about how to calculate click through rates and eliminate the key words that are not performing. I think this is a great idea in principal, as long as you make sure that you are basing your decisions on a large enough sample size. How do you know how much data is enough? I'm glad you asked!

Good data is not affected by things you don't want to measure. For example, when search ads first started, click through rates were pretty low. This may have been because a lot of sellers were doing searches to see if they could find their own ads, so there was not a lot of clicking happening. My click through rates were all over the place, as you can see from the graph below. After about 10/3 my click through rates leveled out at around 0.5 %, despite the fact that I have not made any changes to the way I set up my ads.

If I use the data from 9/28 to 10/2 to make decisions, I am using data that does not represent the long term performance of search ads. It would be smarter to use the data from 10/3 onward. The reason for this becomes even more clear when you look at how my top keywords preformed day by day.

Most of my promising words did not have good click through rates until after 10/3. If I had been eliminating words early on, I might be missing out on some really good keywords now.

Looking more closely at this graph leads into my next subject. Notice that the click through rates for some of these words are really high: 15% or more. This is because the number of daily impressions were so low, it only took one more two clicks to reach a very high click through rate. When you only have a few impressions, it is very difficult to determine whether one word is actually better than another.

The sad fact is that when you are looking at an either/or situation (i.e. click/ no click), it takes a lot of data to be able to tell what is going on. For example, look at the data from 10/3 through 10/7 for these two words:

It looks like “snowflake” is not as good a keyword as “bracelet”. But is this really the case? How do I know that it's not just chance? Statistics has a way to find out called the test of proportions. Using the test of proportions I was able to determine that there is not enough data to tell whether these two keywords are performing differently (in statistics, you don't prove two things are the same so much as you prove that they are not different).

The reason I can't tell the difference between these keywords is that “bracelet” does not have enough impressions. The next question on my mind is how many impressions do I need before I can tell if the keywords are different?

The answer depends on how great a difference you are trying to find. By playing around with the Test of Proportions a little bit I came up with the following table for comparing keywords to a baseline click through rate of 0.5%.  I can use these values as a rule of thumb for how many impressions I should have collected on that particular keyword before I make a decision.

So I need about 530 more impressions for "bracelet" to know whether or not it is different than "snowflake".   It will cost me about 50 cents to get that information; I think it will be worth it.