Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Giclees

I decided to make more of my card designs available as limited edition giclees (A giclee is a reproduction of an original work and is a high end digital print that is done with archival inks and in my case radiant watercolor paper. Prints, if taken care of should last for decades if not longer). I went back to see what designs were the most popular and here is one of them:

"English Rose" now available as a Limited Edition giclee in my Etsy store.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Baby Shower

My 44 year-old friend is due in less than two months. Been there, done that and glad that it is not me. Though, I am very happy for my friend who already has a grown daughter and wanted to give her new husband who has never been married, a child. The baby shower is tonight.

Our Girls Nite Out group of 10 women have known each other for several years. 6 of us started the group 15 years ago and met once a month. We went to dinner, plays, concerts or just had parties in our homes. Lately, with everyone going in different directions, it has been difficult to get together.

The few times we have met this year, I could not as I was attending to my son. Since he is doing very well, I will be able to go to the shower tonite and it will be fun to see everyone and get caught up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Improving the Shot

I know nothing about photography but decided I needed a crash course on how to improve my shots. After reading, I was able to make an inexpensive but very functional light box. Lighting was another challenge and also figuring out how to read the directions for my point and shoot digital camera was something I dreaded having to do. I tried to shoot against white paper but it came out dark and yellowish. I adjusted the white balance on my camera, trying first the fluorescent and then the incandescent setting. I switched to a darker background and that gave the best shot. I still have a ways to go but the picture is improving.

Here is my latest ceramic tile pendant with muted flowers called Valentine Roses in my Etsy Store.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Return to Ebay

I haven't sold on ebay for a year or two and it has been great. I used to sell clothing, toys,and art and had a couple of stores. The fees just killed me. I was working like a dog and had nothing to show for it. Also I would tweak my stores and auctions and then ebay would come along, make a change and everything that I worked on to improve sales just went out the window. It was very frustrating.

In the meantime, I have been selling on Etsy and Ecrater. Although, at times these sites have been good, especially Etsy, original art just doesn't sell as well or at least my art. I decided to give Ebay another chance. This time, however, I am being very discriminatory on what I put on there. I will only list one painting at a time. Dog and cat art seems to sell better at least for me and if the painting does not sell the first time on, that's it, I won't list it again. Also I will probably not list every week. Not sure I can even produce that much art that quickly. This way, I hope to keep the fees to a minimum.

I just put up my Siberian Husky painting this last week and it sold so I was very happy about that.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Purrfectly Persian

I just finished a new watercolor, acrylic, ink cat painting. Long haired cats are challenging to paint and this is my first one.

My new painting can be found in my Etsy Store

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are Vaccinations Safe?

There is a huge debate on whether or not vaccinations are safe for our children. In the past, I would have naively said yes, they are. My kids have had numerous vaccines without any visible effects. However, this past year my 13 year old child was told that he needed the DPT, Hepatitis B, and Meningococcal vaccines. Within two days of receiving these shots, he had such severe abdominal pain that we had to take him to the ER. It continued off and on for the last 4 months . He cannot eat many foods, he is dairy intolerant, he had lost 12 lbs and he has had continuous problems with diarrhea. I had to put him on high calorie dairy free smoothies for the last 2 months. He has now gained back about 6 of those pounds but it's a struggle to keep the weight on. I have changed his entire diet to a low fat one, put him on calcium caltrate to control his diarrhea, digestive advantage for ibs probiotics for the gas and cramping, b complex vitamins for the cramping and digestive enzymes. He is doing much better now but his problem has been a life altering one and I still feel in my gut that the vaccinations played a part in all of this somehow.

I am trying to find information on vaccine reactions in teen-agers. I have found a lot on autism and younger children. Lately there has been information on Gardasil and Meningococcal vaccines. It seems when girls get those two vaccines together there is a much great risk of getting Guillain-Barre Syndrome (inflammation of the brain and spinal chord which can damage nerves and result in possibly paralysis).

My son was given 3 vaccines together and who the heck knows what kind of havoc that has wreaked on his system.

It angers me that the medical establishment will not acknowledge that there is a problem here.

In 1900, children received 1 vaccination for small pox. Today, they receive 20 vaccinations and more. ADHD, autism, asthma have dramatically increased. Is it because of vaccines? I don't know but vaccines are suspect.

All I can say is that if you are planning on having your child vaccinated, do the research and then make up your own mind on what is the best course of action to take with your child.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Secret to High Rankings on Search Engines

One of the services that I have found is Self Promotion. com. I have used this site for several years and it has given me the best rankings in search engines like yahoo and others. My watercolor site is number two on Yahoo for watercolor works and has been on top for several years as well as many of my other websites.

Just click through the link above and sign up. The first 4 weeks are free so you can see how it works. Robert gives tons of advice and tutorials on how to fine tune your site so that it will be search engine friendly. After the 4 weeks, you can pay Robert whatever you think the service is worth to you. If you pay $10.00 and up, you get some secret tools that will help you even more in obtaining the high rankings. Once you find the keywords and hone your site, selfpromotion will automatically resubmit your site to several search engines periodically. You don't have to do a thing. I have found this service to be worth every penny and more plus I don't have the headache of having to remember to submit my site every month. I can't highly recommend this site enough!

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Traffic

I signed up for It will drive targeted traffic to your site so we will see how it works. From what I have been reading, people have been getting 100 hits or more. The problem is , it's one thing to get more traffic, quite another to get more sales. I listed my two ecrater stores on there for now. I have to actually review up to 10 sites and visit 60 in order to get a certain ranking for my two sites. It may be that every one on there is just trying to get people to visit their site and have no interest in the sites that they are visiting. We will see. I am getting reviewed but that's about it. I will let you know if this works!

Here is another ceramic tile pendant that I have finished finally:

This is an iris watercolor ceramic tile pendant (front and back) for sale in my etsy store.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On the Mend?!

Andy came to me and was all excited. He gained 6.8 lbs. I was overjoyed. The many weeks of high calorie shakes are finally starting to pay off. He was at 2 to 4 lbs for so long, I didn't think he was capable of gaining any more weight. I am wondering if his "IBS" or whatever it is, is on the mend.

I have been driving him to and from school every single day. Now he thinks he can ride the school bus in the morning. Also he was only eating just a piece of toast for breakfast. He did not want to take any chances with his sensitive GI system at school but today he says he wants to eat omelets and a low fat version of the egg mcmuffin.

Still, I am a little hesitant about jumping in and giving him anything he wants. His condition has stabilized and I don't want to rock the boat. I will have to proceed with caution.

Our grocery bill has gone up $400.00 every month just because of the special foods and supplements I have had to give him. It would be nice to be able to pare it down.

I have him on so many things that I am not sure what has helped him the most but I am keeping him on the Digestive Advantage for IBS no matter what. The lacto bacillus will always be beneficial to him even when he is healthy. I was given information from Ganeden, the company that makes Digestive Advantage, and they said that their powerful probiotic can" bring the digestive system back into balance." Their cultures have a "protected hardened layer of organic material that enables their (lacto bacillus) survival through the acidic stomach environment and arrive in the intestines alive." I do think this product in combination with some of the other things I have done has made a difference.

I also put him on B complex vitamins which is supposed to help with the GI tract. A friend of mine had years of terrible stomach cramping and pain. Got no help from the doctors and so she read about vitamin B12 and decided to start taking the B vitamins. She said she has had very little cramping in the last year.

I am very grateful that my son is doing well although still not normal. However, this is his second bout with a GI problem. I am not sure what the future will hold. My friend who has Crohn's Disease warned me that hers started out with a few problems here and there before it became full blown Crohn's. I hope that with careful management, we will prevent it from becoming a
full blown whatever it is!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Deflating the Spare Tire

I am a pretty disciplined person. I work out about 5 to 6 days a week and have been for the last year or two. I spend 30 minutes each day riding my bike which is mounted on a trainer. I ride hard and work up a sweat every time. I've been doing bicep curls with 2 lb weights, 100 each side and also tricep exercises. I am not always good about doing the abdominal crunches on my exercise ball every day but I do do them several times a week. About 100 per day. I've lost about 4 lbs in the past several months and I cannot for the life of me get rid of the flab around my stomach. Since my son has been ill, we have also switched to an extremely low fat diet. I don't mean to complain as I have never had any weight issues. All I have wanted to do was get rid of the pregnancy fat around my middle. It has been a challenge.

I was just reading that I need to continue doing lots of cardio exercises as that will burn the fat. Also I need to incorporate not just ab crunches but work other muscle groups as well. It seems like diet is a big factor in all this and maybe even more important than exercise. I haven't sat down and figured out all the calories I am eating. I know that I have cut my portions down considerably but I am thinking that I may have to go to the 5 -6 small meals a day schedule. I need to research more about what proportions of fat to protein to carbohydrates I should be eating and when I should be eating them. That's going to be hard to do.

I was watching the Biggest Loser and although I have never walked in these people's shoes with weight issues, I did feel for them. I only want to lose a few pounds in certain places and am having a tough time. I can't even imagine what it's like to have to lose 100 lbs or more. It must seem insurmountable.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is It All Overkill?

I spent the weekend on a home tour going through beautiful houses some worth up to a $1,000,000.00 to get some ideas on what to do with my rather modest master bedroom and bath. I have to say that even though the houses were impressive and very nicely decorated, it just didn't do a whole lot for me. Some of the houses had 5 to 6 bedrooms with their own private baths. It seemed a little excessive. The one 7000 square foot house had tons of storage, it was unbelievable! The storage room had so much shelf space, you probably could have put a couple years supply of food in there and still have room left over. I did see one master bedroom that had a library separated with french doors that I liked and that could perhaps work in the space that I have although on a much smaller scale.

I spent 16 hours cleaning out my spare bedroom and most of the closets in the house. I think I ended up with 30 garbage bags of items. Most of which will go to the Goodwill or some outfit like that. 50% of my clothing that was in my closet and in my drawers ended up in those bags. I am not one to spend a lot of money on clothes, yet I did have items that were not worn very much.

Which brings me to this PBS show that I saw on Wayne Dyer. He was promoting his new book, "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life."He talked about the excesses we have in our life and that we should really think about simplifying. According to him, we only use about 20% of everything we own. The 80% just sits there and takes up space. A couple of years ago he sold his townhouse complete with all his possessions including his awards, books and many other things that were of great value to him.

Anyway, it did get me thinking about whether or not I really needed all these things to make myself happy and also if it was necessary to remodel my bedroom. I'm not sure I will take it as far as Wayne Dyer did but I do want to declutter my life. I will be reading his book.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Decluttering the Clutter

I decided that my house needs to be decluttered. My bedroom especially. The master bedroom is small and has no walk-in closet. A contractor is supposed to come over and give us an estimate on what it would cost to knock out walls between the master and spare bedrooms and the bathroom. I really don't want him in these rooms until I have had a chance to get rid of a lot of junk. My spare room has all my art supplies and ex ebay items in there. The things I still have not sold. You can't even open the door to get in the room because it is that packed. My husband keeps asking me where am I going to put all these things if we enlarge our bedroom and get rid of the spare. Good question! That's why I need to go through everything and get rid of whatever I can.

If we can get the contractor to take out and rebuild new walls, my husband can do the rest. He is so handy. He will be able to tile in a new shower, put in a double vanity in the bathroom and redo all the wood flooring. He's done plumbing and electrical work when we added our addition 13 years ago, so I know he can handle this project too. We are going to look at model homes this weekend to get some ideas on new master bedrooms with bath and walk-in closets.

The problem is we also wanted to go to Australia next year and that is going to be quite expensive. My oldest son is in college and we are taking no loans out to pay for that. Money will be tight so we will have to weigh all the options and see what is feasible.

My son came home for Labor Day and it was so nice to see his smiling face. He ate a lot, slept a lot, asked for money and hung out with friends .We had to buy a HP laptop computer at Best Buy at the spur-of-the-moment because the one my son ordered from Dell for school was put on back order and shipping was delayed twice. I was not happy about that. The HP looks like it will work out great and it has a webcam so we will be able to communicate with my boy if he ever decides to get on.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lesser Known GI Disturbances

I spent the weekend talking to a mom whose daughter was having GI problems. I wanted to compare notes to see if there were any similarities between what her daughter and my son have been experiencing. It turns out the daughter's symptoms were quite different from Andy's. She was having severe abdominal pain and nothing else. Her mom did tell me that she heard of a condition called the Habba Syndrome where excessive bile was being dumped into the small intestine which would cause constant diarrhea. The treatment was to go on anti-cholesterol medication that would bind the bile and stop the D. This condition was named after Dr. Habba and there could possibly be millions of people who think they have IBS when in fact they have this particular problem.

What are the cardinal symptoms of this syndrome?
  1. Post-prandial diarrhea (varying from simple urgency to incontinence) and fear of eating to avoid diarrhea
  2. Dysfunctional gallbladder as determined by radiological testing
  3. Failure to respond to standard therapy of IBS or spastic colon
  4. Favorable response to bile acid binding agents

It is possible that my son could have this.

The other condition I have found is called collagenous microscopic colitis. Normally when one says colitis, it usually means ulcerative colitis or infectious colitis which often times involves visible inflammation of the colon and bleeding. It still is a possibility that my son has UC although so far all the tests have been negative. The interesting thing about the microscopic colitis which is supposedly rare although they are now thinking that perhaps 10-20% of people with chronic D may have this, is that even with a colonoscopy, the colon will look normal. The intestinal wall has to actually be biopsied for confirmation of inflammation and not only one side but both sides as it could be more prevalent on one side. Also people with this inflammatory bowel disease will have weight loss, severe intolerances to many foods especially dairy and gluten. Although gluten tests will many times come back negative. They have diarrhea several times a day and they cannot tolerate fat. Onset of symptoms can be sudden. One lady that I read about said that she thought it might have been the mercury in her fillings that set it off. She had dental work done and then had symptoms shortly afterwards. When my son had vaccinations, he had severe symptoms within two days. The meningococcal vaccine has thimerosal in it, a mercury derivative and I was highly suspicious at the time that it might have been a trigger to my son's problems. Doctors think that the colitis could be autoimmune in nature. Treatment is usually steroids ie, Entocort, Prednisone which will control the D. Changes to a low-fat, dairy free, gluten free diet can help tremendously. My son's symptoms and onset of his problems fit rather closely to this particular colitis. So Bette Jo, you may be right!

My GI doctors, nurse practitioner never mentioned any of these conditions as a possibility. I am finding that one has to be extremely proactive and become their own detective in order to get any kind of answers. The medical profession is not going to do it, that is for sure!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

New Watercolor Ceramic Pendants

I have been working on some new items for my store the last several weeks. It has been slow going as I was trying different material and different size items and it wasn't working out very well. I had to keep sending things I ordered back to the store and I finally got the right size rings, bails and etc. I also tried polymer clay and didn't like the end result. I finally found ceramic tile and just finished my first pendant piece. I was trying to figure out a way to put my artwork on jewelry and I had some challenges initially. Now I am trying to figure out how to photograph it. I did it all in natural light but there is too much of a shadow. I'll keep working on it. Anyway, here is my finished product: