Posts Tagged ‘women’

The Benefits of Cooking Groups

In Your Food, Your Guest Writers on October 4, 2010 at 8:21 AM

Image Credit Michaela Kobyakov


There’s almost nothing bad that one can really say about cooking groups. Defined for the sake of this article as groups in which likeminded people gather in a single place, cook large quantities of food, and reconvene to do the same thing weekly or monthly, a cooking group provides a number of opportunities: it gives one a chance to meet new people, discover foods and ingredients that one otherwise might not have come across, and come away with leftovers for less than it would cost to eat out or cook for one.  

Cooking clubs may specify a type of food or impose a dietary restriction to attract a specific crowd; for example, a number of cooking clubs exist to produce vegan or vegetarian meals. In doing so, they help people meet others in their community who may have similar social or political interests and bring together a group that may, depending on the surrounding area, be otherwise unserved by the restaurants around them. Others may focus on a style, or each week suggest a guideline to produce variety; one, for example, may emphasize Italian cooking one week, then produce Korean or Indian food the next. In doing so, attendants are forced both to expand their repertoire and get to learn new things to make when cooking outside of the cooking club. 

Some members may have connections of some kind, which can then translate into better deals and better meals for everyone. If a club has an attendant who, for example, butchers meat, that person may be able to provide cuts at a discount as well as in bulk, then share their expertise when that meat is prepared, served, and enjoyed. If a particularly experienced baker participates in one, they can show off the ways in which they prepare certain goods in order to teach other aspiring bakers. Amateur (or professional) beer brewers, winemakers, and distillers can supply their wares as well, adding another element to a cooking club. 

Cooking clubs often also cook enough to leave everyone with leftovers. This is an obvious convenience, as one’s labors are rewarded not just once, but several times throughout the week. Better yet, some produce difficult to make condiments, sauces, reductions, and garnishes, many of which either require costly ingredients or are, for various reasons, prohibitive to make at home in small quantities. By making them for a cooking club, you can get the experience without having a mountain of something that can only last a few days, ensuring that all of it will be used before it turns, expires, or otherwise becomes inedible. 

Organizing and finding a cooking club can be easy. Groups often promote them on social networking sites, friends (and friends of friends) likely know someone involved with one, and co-ops, local grocery stores, and area coffee shops may all help locate cooking clubs. If there are none, start one: by merely talking to your friends, gauging interest, finding a big enough kitchen, and hitting up farmers’ markets and bulk foods aisles, you’ll be well on your way. 

Andrew Hall is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online schools for Guide to Online Schools.

The Science of Savvy Shopping!

In budget, Your Fashion, Your Guest Writers, Your Home on October 1, 2010 at 7:37 AM

(5 tips to a better quality of life)

By: Jennifer Brown Banks

In today’s tough times, there’s a special joy when we get a good deal for our hard earned buck. True? 

It almost feels as if we’ve cashed in at the lottery.

And with the housing crisis, double digit unemployment, and soaring consumer prices, we all need to save where we can.

But what few “divas” recognize is that being an “educated consumer” goes far beyond knowing the best stores to buy treasured items, or the debt cutting value of coupons. It’s much more.

This epiphany came to me recently when a friend of mine, while visiting my home, complimented my setting, (and the stuff I had acquired) while comparing it to hers.  Ironically, she makes more money than I do, and has similar circumstances.

For me my place is embraced as a “blessing”, while she views hers as a burdenShe often complains that her home is a money pit that she constantly puts cash into, but can’t get any real joy out of.

Because of this experience, I felt compelled to share my shopping secrets to enhance not just your ”surroundings”, but also your quality of life.

Here are a few cardinal rules.

  1. Know that it’s not “where” you shop, but “how” you shop that matters. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof. I’ve watched shows like Oprah and the Antique Road Show, (and no doubt you have too), where folks have scored items at garage sales, thrift stores, and specialty shops, for a couple of bucks, that were later appraised for thousands of dollars. Hello! Learn to spot quality.
  2. Recognize that there’s no value or validation in trying to keep up with the Joneses. One of the reasons that my friend “Wanda” is busted and disgusted, is that she’s constantly trying to establish her worth by buying what she feels will qualify her as being one of the “in”crowd. Big mistake. Instead, do you! As a point of reference, I don’t have cable. Never have. Though I enjoy T.V., so far it hasn’t impressed me enough to shell out extra money monthly for the idea of a few extra channels, (no matter how many million folks have it). Stop “perpetrating.”
  3. Consider that too much “impulse shopping” can lead to too little peace and buyer’s remorse. Evaluate. After you’ve taken a trip to your local mall and made purchases, how do you feel? Will your credit card payments last much longer than the life-cycle of the item (s) you’ve bought? Are you sacrificing paying an important bill to catch a deal? Your answers will determine your course of action.
  4. Keep in mind that your purchases should do more than just add to your “inventory”, they should add to your quality of life. For example, I love to buy house plants, beautiful baskets, books, fragrant candles, and unusual frames, because not only do they add to my décor, but they are reflective of my values and personal hobbies. Surround your surroundings with things that make you smile, that call to   mind special times, and are aesthetically pleasing. Make your place your personal sanctuary. 
  5. Accept that inner emptiness and low-self esteem can NOT be made better by “things.” It’s sad to say, but it’s true. Some folks shop to fill an emptiness. Whether it’s a bad marriage, a dysfunctional childhood, or feelings of inadequacy. Once they come down from their “shopper’s high” they’re in more debt and have even less that they feel good about. Don’t let this be you. There’s great truth to the adage, “Money can’t buy happiness.”

 With an uncertain economy, you can be certain that shopping habits from days of old can be detrimental to your finances and your family’s well being.  There’s no reason you can’t still be cute; just be smart as well!

And keep in mind that ain’t nothing cute about being “busted” and disgusted. 🙂


Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, columnist, professional blogger and managing editor at Coffeehouse for Writers.

Phthalates: What Are They and Are They Making You Sick?

In Your Health on August 16, 2010 at 8:57 AM

Pronunciation:  THAL-ates

“More than ever, people are worried about how all the chemicals we’re exposed to are affecting our health: among them a family of chemicals known as phthalates, which are used in everyday plastics.”

-Phthalates:  Are They Safe? CBS/60 Minutes

Phthalates are chemicals that are commonly found in items made of soft plastics.  Examples include, medical and school supplies, and  household materials  like wires and cables.  They’re also found in your everyday beauty items like nail polish, shampoo, lip balms, and perfumes.    

This previously little known chemical is taking a lot of heat.  And advocates on both sides are talking to the press. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report stating that phthalates “may present a risk” to the environment and humans.  Some studies show that phthalates cause birth defects, increased risk of  cancer and disruptions in hormonal balances of pre-pubescent girls.  

Conversely, a study released on 5 August 10, by the American Chemistry Council  (ACC) found phthalates beneficial and safe to use in all current applications and dosages.  Steve Risotto, a senior director at ACC, made their position clear in a  YouTube press release.

While both sides agree that we all have phthalates cruising around our bodies, they can’t agree on whether this is good or bad. 

It’s up to you to decide what’s best and safe for your family. 

If you’re interested in reducing your “phthalate count” or just want more information, here are links to  videos and *sites that offer  phthalate-free products.

Burt’s Bees

Ecco Bella Organics

Aubrey Organics

Tom’s of Maine

Honeybee Gardens

Phthalates Are They Safe? – CBS News Video

Benefits of Phthalates – CBS News Video

Environmental Working Group  

How do you protect your health?  Do you use natural products?  Or does it really matter?

* Information courtesy of Big Green Purse

Character Development and Teens: A Winning Combination!

In Your Guest Writers, Your Health on August 5, 2010 at 8:14 AM

by Traci S. Campbell 

The road to adulthood for most teens is a challenging one. Puberty, mood swings, insecurities, and peer pressure are just some of the hurdles young people encounter as they prepare to face the even bigger challenges lying ahead for them because of the pressure to fit in and be “popular”.  I can clearly remember when the dilemma to wear my IZOD polo shirt versus my off the shoulder sweatshirt (you gotta love the 80’s) was one of my most major decisions of the day!

However, when I look back, I also remember traits and habits that were instilled in me that served as “tools” I have used to weather the storms I have faced in adulthood. These traits and habits can be summed up in two words …. Great Character. This may sound like a trivial (maybe even slightly abstract) concept on the surface, when we talk about practical life skills. But, the effect of having and being mindful of one’s character has far-reaching benefits. Character determines the course of our lives because it is simply the application of certain habits that become “fixed” in our psyche. We then begin to act like we think. And the sooner we develop those certain habits, the better off we are on the road of life.

Just think if character development was just as important and emphasized in school as, say, history or math?  We could change the whole shape of future generations, and ultimately the future of us all, by taking the issue of character development in teens more seriously. But, the good news is that we CAN take baby steps and start with the character development of your own tween or teen at home. And what’s even more good news….the road to instilling great character in your tween or teen is very simple to do:

1. Be a Character MODEL: Your teens and tweens are around you more often than anyone … well … if you exclude the time they spend on the phone or at the mall. 😉  And what they regularly see will surely rub off. Practice good character yourself and they will soak it in like a sponge!  Also practice, and openly discuss your values and morals. It will set up a firm foundation of not only being conscientious of what they do, but it will help to foster open communication between parent and teen as well.

2. Training Begins at Home:  The basic things we all learn to do at home at 10 will affect our lives at 30. Saying thank you, opening the door for an older person or lady, or making up  beds, etc.  sounds insignificant. But the enforcement of these very basic things have long reaching effects later, on how a teen or tween may view life and/or treat others.

3.  Practice Prayer Power: Regardless of your chosen religion or faith, the need for a spiritual foundation is vital to you and your teens (or tweens) mental and emotional health, (and studies have shown that those who practice some form of spirituality have a lower incident of heart disease and depression). So, why not make this an activity you do together on a regular basis?  This provides two benefits: not only will you spend quality time together, but you can grow together spiritually too.

 3. Take Action…Together:  While my own mother is no longer with me, the times I spent doing things with her as a teenager are some of my fondest memories. Make it a point to carve out a specific day and time on a regular basis to do fun things together. Make it a top priority and stick to it…no excuses and no cancellations. Memories will be captured for a lifetime and the bond between you and your teen or tween will be strengthened.

4. Credit Card 101:  While is it “trendy” to sport the latest fashions and “hip” to have the latest cell phone model, the bill that comes later is FAR from trendy or hip! Teach your teens to be a wiser consumer. Limit their spending and at the same time, teach them money management skills. And remember, how you spend and manage your money will truly influence your teen or tween. Help them to understand that they can still have SOME of the newest material things out there…but they surely don’t need to have ALL of them.  🙂

5. More Chores, Please:  Another way of looking at chores is to “assign responsibilities”.  The assignment and completion of these “responsibilities” will set the stage in your teen and tween’s mind that they have obligations to not only themselves, but to others as well.  This will go a long way in how they view their responsibilities in the future. And, like most things, responsibility begins at home, first.

6. Mean What You Say…:   especially when the answer is “NO!”  As a parent, you will be tested by your teen. All parents have experienced this phenomenon. However, stick to your guns and do not back down when your answer of “NO” is truly in their best interest. Sometimes saying “no” is actually saying “yes” to their overall safety and well being and at the same time, instilling true respect for authority.

7. Be the Boss:  Teens really WANT someone they can look up to (whether they admit it or not). They want and need someone that will make them feel protected. And they want and need someone they can get guidance from, especially during the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Establish your ground as a parent and boss…first.

Character development does not have to be complicated or difficult. But it must be consistent and made a priority in your tween’s or teen’s life. Years down the road, they will reflect (as I have) on these teachings and be eternally grateful for the positive impact it will have on their lives.

Traci S. Campbell is an author, public speaker, coach and creator of  The C.H.A.M.P Within, an interactive program that fosters strong mental, and emotional health in young people.  She  also hosts, Heros At Home Radio, a site dedicated to helping and “Celebrating Single Parent Success”.

12 Simple Separates: Your Guide to Lookin’ Good and Feeling Great!

In Your Fashion, Your Guest Writers on August 1, 2010 at 11:03 AM

 by Heather Claus of 365 Days of Style



It’s a tough economy and times are tight. Everyone wants to cut expenses without giving up quality of life.

I do, too.

In fact, I’ve been learning to “tightwad” for over a decade. Sadly, I’ve not mastered it, but I have found a balance in my life. I prefer to spend money on priorities, rather than having it just dribble away with each purchase.

Thing is, I love fashion.

Well, not fashion, exactly. I love style. Personal style. I love to create my own style from what’s in fashion, what’s out of fashion (I’ve been a fan of vintage for 25 years), fun accessories, and even garments I design and sew myself. All that can get expensive.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

Add on top of that many of us live multiple lives. Home life, mommy life, social life, business life… that’s a lot of wardrobe – and a lot of moolah, if you’re not careful.

That’s why I created 12 Simple Separates. The goal behind this PDF is to teach you to purchase (or thrift or sew) just 12 basic garments that can be combined into 80 combinations. That’s FOUR MONTHS of work weeks without duplication. 12 garments make 90% of a work wardrobe. Just add shoes and accessories.

It’s not just about money, though. It’s also about time. Having a million options every morning can make getting dressed MORE complicated, not less. Having a set of clothing that you know fits, looks good and will work for the office makes hectic AM dressing a breeze.

Of course, this doesn’t just work for the office. A wardrobe for SAHM duty would use the same combinations of tops and bottoms, just in a more comfortable, casual style.

Are you a small business owner? It’s easy to put together a professional wardrobe on a budget, even when most of your time is spent working at home in your yoga pants (guilty!).

Thing is, getting your 12 basics together is cost-effective, and once you have them, you’ll have the time and money to put towards other priorities – like cute shoes! *smiles* Or gorgeous jewelry, a family vacation, car repairs…

This PDF will get you started. If you have questions, feel free to ask me here, or to email me directly at You can also visit and register at my site for weekly style lessons and new PDF files as I add them!

I’m Heather Claus, and I love style. I didn’t always, but once I learned I knew anyone could, so I taught. Register at for weekly style lessons, fashion giveaways, and daily style resources – and don’t forget to follow me on twitter! *smiles*

Vitamin D-fense

In Your Health, Your World on July 5, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Vitamin C’s reign as  MVP may soon be over.  Recent studies show that vitamin D is now the most sought after player.  In fact, this year the guys at the Institute of Medicine are reviewing scientific data to determine if our daily requirements of vitamin D need adjusting. 

The science gurus have surmised that in addition to its dynamic duo role with calcium in warding off osteoporosis, the sunshine vitamin may play  key roles in preventing certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart disease, birth defects, postmenopausal weight gain and a host of other ailments. Pretty good news – right? 

The bad news is that according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine; worldwide more than 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient.  Scientific American estimates that three-quarters of American teens and adults are vitamin D “challenged”.  

Why We’re Lacking

  • Health care professionals tell us to stay out of the sun, to wear hats and bathe in sun block to protect against skin cancer.  However, we’re also told that we need sun exposure to help our bodies start making vitamin D.  With all the contradictory advice floating around, it’s no wonder we’re D-ficient!
  • It’s also tougher for some people to make enough vitamin D from sun exposure, like those with darker skins, folks that are overweight, and older.
  • It’s next to impossible to eat enough food to satisfy our daily D requirement. Only a handful of foods  naturally contain vitamin D; salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good sources. Egg yolks, cheese, beef and fortified milks and cereals have some D, but really don’t do much to fill the void.

What To Do

  • Prudent pill poppers seek out easy to swallow and metabolize Vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Some folks choose to catch a few rays between the hours of 10 – 4.  Studies suggest that 10 – 15 minutes of UV ray exposure are enough to kick-start vitamin D production – sorry, no sun screen allowed.
  • Those with an iron will and stomach take a daily dose of cod liver oil – one tablespoon seems to do the trick.   

Simple Ways To Boost Your Intake

• Drink at least 2 cups of vitamin D-fortified milk a day.

• Use milk instead of water in making hot chocolate mix, soups and sauces.

• Choose vitamin D-fortified yogurts and cheeses whenever possible.

• Check labels and choose breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.

• Flake tuna on top of a salad for a hearty lunch … or make tuna salad sandwiches.

• If you drink soy beverage, choose a vitamin D-fortified brand.

• Grill or bake salmon for a vitamin D-rich meal once a week 

Source:  Vitamin D What You Need to Know About the “Sunshine” Vitamin – Dairy Council of California

Recommended Daily Intake of Calcium and Vitamin D From Food and Supplements

Age Calcium Vitamin D
1-3 500mg  400 IU
4-8 800mg  400 IU
9-18 1300mg  400 IU
19-50 1000mg  800 IU
Over 50 1200mg 1200 IU

 Source: Upstate Medical University

The Verdict …

… is still out.  More studies are needed to decide the best way to get our daily fix and to confirm or deny the health benefits of vitamin D.  Until results are in, strike a balance and use common sense.  

It’s also a good idea to get your vitamin D levels measured.  If you’re like most, your level may be too low. My deficiency was discovered during a routine physical and now I take 2000IUs a day.  It’s important to have a chat with your doctor before making any dietary changes.  

What do you think?  How do you get your daily D?    Is it better to meet nutritional requirements through the foods we eat, or are supplements the better choice? 

 Additional Resources

Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health offers information about Vitamin D

The Nutrition Source – Harvard School of Public Medicine offers information about boosting your daily multi-vitamin with vitamin D

Organic Food: Help! I’m sooo confused!

In Your Health, Your World on June 25, 2010 at 8:57 AM


If you’re like most folks you probably try, (or at least think about :)) taking care of your body  by eating “right”.  You may even be the type that occasionally buys foods that conserve Mother Earth’s resources.  But, if you’re like me, with dietitians, nutritionists, and green experts throwing around terms like hormone-free, free-range, natural, and organic, you don’t know what to buy or eat!

 After-all, isn’t organic just a fancy word for natural?  

After doing a bit of research, I found the answer … No!  Even though these terms often appear on food labels they don’t have the same meanings. 

What is organic food? 

Organic refers to the way agricultural products such as grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, poultry, and meat are grown, raised and processed.  For example, organic farmers don’t use conventional methods to fertilize crops or feed animals.  Instead of using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, techniques like crop rotation, adding compost and even beneficial insects are utilized.  Animals raised on organic farms are fed organic foods, allowed access to the outdoors and kept in clean living quarters.  And unlike conventionally raised livestock, they’re not given antibiotics, or growth hormones.    

In addition, organic farms and companies that process organic foods must be certified by the government that they meet United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) organic standards.  The only exceptions to this law is are business that sell less than $5000.00 a year in  organic products. Violators face a stiff penalty of $11000.00 per  incident.

How Can You Tell If Food is Organic? 

Read the label.  Most, (though not required), certified farms and businesses label their products with USDA Organic Seal. 

Use the guide below to help identify  organic agricultural products.  

100% Organic

  • Product must be 100% organically produced; this does not include added water or salt
  • Product label must list: the ingredients when the product has more than one ingredient, the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, etc, of the finished product and the name of the certifying agent
  • Product may display USDA Organic Seal 

95% Organic

  • Product must be 95% organic; this doesn’t include added water or salt. 
  • 5% of the product may contain non-organic products that are not commercially available in organic forms.
  • May use the word “Organic” in the product name  
  • Product label must list the ingredients, noting the organic ingredients, the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, etc, of the finished product, and the name of the certifying agent
  • Product cannot contain sulfites  (a food preservative)
  • Product may display USDA Organic Seal 

Made With Organic

  • 70% of the product must be organic; this doesn’t include added water or salt
  • 30% of the product may contain non-organic products that are not commercially available in organic forms
  • May use the words, “Made with organic …”  
  • Wine products may contain added sulfites in the form of sulfur dioxide
  • The product label must list the ingredients, noting the organic ingredients, the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, etc, of the finished product, and the name of the certifying agent
  • The USDA Organic Seal may not be used 

Some Organic Ingredients

  • 70% or less of the product may be organic
  • 30% or more of the product may contain non-organic agricultural ingredients 
  • The product label must list the ingredients, noting the organic products 
  • The USDA Organic Seal or certifying agent seal may not be used 

While natural, hormone-free, and free-range are important product labels, don’t confuse them with certified organic foods – they’re not the same nor are the words interchangeable. Be a smart shopper by familiarizing yourself with all these terms.  Understanding product symbols and labels allows you to make better nutritional decisions for you and your family. 


USDA National Organic Program  – Find practical educational material about “going organic”.  Also, has fun activities for kids.  

Local Harvest – Find organic farmers’ markets, and family farms in your area.

What are your thoughts on organic foods?  Are they really better for your health?  Are they worth the expense?  Or, are they over-rated?

A Date With Rubybliss!

In You on June 22, 2010 at 7:11 AM

When Lisa Lazarus is not out playing with her dogs or roasting golden beets, she’s  in her studio creating extraordinary works of art.   She’s someone who  followed her dreams and made them come true.  Here, Lisa shares her loves, her passions, things that make her laugh, and  the things that make this  silversmith tick.


1. Your shop’s called Ruby Bliss – that’s an intriguing name that must have a fascinating story behind it. What’s the scoop?

You’re right; the name Rubybliss does have a funny story… though it has nothing to do with jewelry! Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s when I was studying architecture at Rhode Island School of Design, one of my friends decided he was going to become a filmmaker. He set up a whole studio in his attic where a group of us would go over and make these hilariously bad films. Of course we needed “screen names”, and that’s when Ruby Bliss was born. I really just liked the sound of the words and thought it was a perfect name for a starlet. She actually became a character in some of the films; Ruby was a southern woman with a deep drawl and her mama’s name was Pearline! Then when I started making jewelry, it just seemed like a perfect fit. Ruby for the gemstones and bliss for all the joy and contentment that I get from making art/jewelry… and hopefully that you all get from wearing it!

2. What influenced you to begin creating jewelry? And how long have you been an artist?

I have always been an artist. I think being an artist is really about who you are inside, in your heart and soul, and not a profession or job. By the time I was 8 yrs old, my mom had already signed me up for very advanced painting lessons, which I loved, and I was also taking cooking classes where we made everything from meringues and soufflés to chicken and meat dishes – all kinds of complicated stuff. We were even featured in ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ and ‘The Boston Globe’ for doing such advanced cooking at a young age! The point being, if it was creative and I could get in there and express myself somehow, then I was all over it. I wanted nothing to do with ballet or soccer or things like that, but candle making or needle point? Yes, please! Nothing has really changed in the 36 years since then. I studied fine art as an undergrad and went to Paris for a semester to study printmaking and ceramics. Then I went to grad school and tried to do something I thought I could make a living at. Big mistake! Never go against your heart. I quickly realized that if I am not directly involved in the process of making art every day, my life becomes very empty. Making art, or being an artist, is just who I am. Right now I happen to be expressing myself through the medium of jewelry, but it is only one of many media I work in. What I do like so much about jewelry is that each piece is like a miniature sculpture. I can focus on every little detail and I know that those things will be noticed. I also like the fact that women and some men really LOVE to wear jewelry. It is wonderful to make something that you know will be so appreciated and treasured by your audience!

3. A lot of silver jewelry is mass produced; what makes your work unique?

Great question. I would say that by and large, the majority of all jewelry we come across has been mass-made, meaning millions of the same pieces made by machine. Even much of what we see that is called handmade or artisanal is really just mass produced components that have been put together by a crafts person. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking anyone who does that! It is great fun to go to your local bead shop and find cool beads and all the supplies and put them together yourself… but it is not the same thing as making jewelry from scratch. I make all of the silver pieces that I use right in my studio. Occasionally I will use a machine made clasp for certain designs, but mostly I make all of my own clasps, pendants, connectors, etc. Larger chains I also make myself, but fine chains are always machine made. The cost would be prohibitive if it was handmade- none of us would ever be able to wear a necklace! I still source my gemstone beads from suppliers, but would really love to take a gemology course and also learn to cut my own stones. That would put my work at a very different price point though, and I’m not ready to make that jump!

 4. What drew you to these materials?

Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about it! They’re just sooo beautiful… don’t they draw you in too? 🙂  I mean, for starters, the cost of gold is just too high for me at this point. I don’t like to feel nervous that I’m going to screw up while I’m creating something, because OF COURSE I’m going to screw up! That’s just how the creative process works. So if I’m constantly worried about the price of the gold that I’m wasting it is going to impede my natural creativity. By the way, as of June 7, 2010, silver costs $17.38 an ounce; gold costs $1,249.00 an ounce… that’s a BIG difference! I have always loved silver though. I love the look of it; the fact that it can be very elegant or super casual. I like the different tarnishes it can have; how easy it is to work with. And gemstones and beautiful beads are just irresistible! Often I like to make very plain pieces just from silver, but the gemstones are always calling my name. Their colors, cuts, everything. When I see beautiful stones, my mouth starts to water-really! I want to make things with them, but also lick them and eat them… sometimes I just want to jump in a big pile of them and roll around!!  

7. It sounds like you have a lot of fun in your studio!  What qualities should consumers look for when purchasing silver jewelry?

Well, I think it all depends what you are looking for. Obviously if you are looking for good quality, then you want to make sure that the silver is either sterling or fine silver. Most silver is sterling and should be stamped somewhere on the back, either “sterling silver” or “.925” which means that it is 92.5% silver. Fine silver, which I use, is .999%, or 99.9% pure, but you are not likely to see that around as much. It would be at a jewelry store or through an artist directly and they will be able to tell you what the pieces are made from. Anything that is not marked or has not been vouched for by a jeweler is NOT silver… you are just getting some kind of base metal. That is fine, and I absolutely believe that there is a place for cheap, fun jewelry that you can wear once or twice and then get rid of as long as it’s cheap! Just make sure you’re not paying silver prices for base metals.

5.  I can imagine you have many sources of inspiration – care to share?

I find inspiration for my work everywhere, but definitely a lot in nature and in food. I really like organic shapes and color combinations. Often times I see something that makes me want to paint, but then I don’t want to make such a literal translation. Jewelry is perfect because I can take the beauty that I have seen and transform it. A painting of a sunset might be very mundane, but a necklace of a sunset… wow! Just the other day I was washing some golden beets before roasting them and the colors of the deep bright orange and yellow and a little bit of spring green just awed me. I wanted to capture that beauty somehow, but I didn’t feel moved by the idea of painting or photographing beets. I can assure you… those colors will be showing up together in my jewelry palette very soon!

6. What are your favorite pieces to create?

By far my favorite pieces to create are custom orders that mean something to someone else. Of course it is always fun as an artist to be able to have free reign… just to make whatever you feel like… but, I hate to say it, sometimes that can be a little bit boring, or empty. When you have to take into account someone else’s desires and needs, it makes the work much more challenging, and for me, much more fun. I recently helped a young guy surprise his wife with a 5th anniversary gift it was a necklace and earring set. I was sooo into it, I felt almost as nervous as he did by the time he presented it. Luckily it was such a huge success; his wife says he’ll “never be able to top that gift”! I don’t know… maybe he and I will try to come up with something next year! Another one that stands out was a birthday gift a man ordered for his wife. Her dad had recently passed away and he wanted to somehow represent her and her dad in the necklace. They both loved topaz, so I used couplets of smoky topaz and London blue topaz to represent her and her father. It is very special and meaningful to work on a project that you know will mean so much to someone, forever probably.

8. What’s next, creative wise?

I’m pretty happy with the direction my jewelry is going right now, so I don’t want to lose any momentum here. But I am always itching to get my fingers in something else, too. I have about 100 project ideas at a time. Right now there are baby quilts that I want to make. I probably have enough fabric to put a blanket on every baby in the U.S.A.  There is a series of very colorful porcelain bowls I want to continue, and I have a collection of pen and ink drawings of women that I’ve been doing for a long time and I would like to make them into prints. That’s just for starters…

9. Where can our readers find your work?

Rubybliss On Etsy

Rubybliss On Facebook

10. Before we let you go, give us three “Good to Know” facts about you.

a. I’d sell my soul, my right arm, and anything else of possible value for a good cup of coffee. I’ve been known to drive miles and miles out of the way to get my daily “fix”.

b. I’ve had dogs in my life since the day I was born. To me, my dogs are family members… love me, love my dogs. I don’t dress them in little outfits though!

c. I am possibly the least competitive person on the planet. As a kid I used to like to go to swim team practice, just as long as I never had to participate in a swim meet! I still don’t like watching sports because even if “my team” wins, I always feel terrible for the team that loses.

11. Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d just like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with your readers. Anyone who wants to buy some Rubybliss jewelry and mentions that they learned about me here on Live Well For Less will get a 15% discount!

Thanks so much Lisa!  I really had a wonderful time getting to know you and Rubybliss these past few weeks.  Your work is exceptional and I know you will continue to have much success.

Don’t forget to take advantage of Lisa’s 15% off deal!  🙂


Everyone has a story to tell and we want to share yours.     Please contact us at to share your passions, inspirational stories, and handmade creations.  We’re looking forward to featuring YOU!

What’s In Your Beach Bag?

In Your Books on June 20, 2010 at 10:04 AM

As you head out this summer to lounge poolside and on sun drenched beaches, don’t forget to pack a few great reads along with your sunscreen, towels, and beach balls. 🙂

Following, are a few suggestions to get you started.  Enjoy, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Jenniemae and James A Memoir in Black and White by Brooke Newman

This true and heartwarming story is about the extraordinary friendship between an illiterate but,  number savvy black maid and her employer, mathematician and friend of Albert Einstein, James R. Newman.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A heartwarming, heart breaking, and yet at times, funny tale of family, love, and hope told from a dog’s point of view.

In a Heartbeat by Leigh Ann and Stan Touhy

The extraordinary couple depicted in The Blind Side tells their remarkable story.

Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner

The lives of three women connect and intertwine in this suspenseful story as  secrets and sins from the past are reveled.

Total Money Makeover by  Dave Ramsey

Best selling author, and radio talk show host, Dave Ramsey shares financial advice and tips.  “The bedrock of his system is simple: work hard, pay what you owe and stay out of debt.”

What’s on your summer reading list?

Find Your Frugal Mojo

In budget, Your World on June 15, 2010 at 8:12 AM

Many folks are searching for smart and creative ways to stretch their hard-earned dollars while riding out this economic recession. 

Here are two snippets from budget-stretching articles we wrote that were featured on Inexpensively.comClick on the title links to read the full versions.

Organization:  The Key to Savings

Have you ever paid a hefty late fee because your mortgage statement was buried under heaps of coupons or pyramids of free sample packs of gum?

Or paid a fine for an overdue library book, simply because it was hidden under piles of BOGO ads from 2006? 

You’re not alone in your battle with clutter.

Disorganization clogs the pipelines of many homes. It’s frustrating, it’s expensive and it destroys household budgets. Studies have shown that 98% percent of moms are disorganized. Actually, I made that last part up; it’s probably more like 56. 🙂

Start With Baby Steps

It doesn’t make much sense to clip coupons and pour over weekly circulars, only to have your savings eaten up by late fees. Starting today, make a vow to stop wasting time and money, searching for coupons, invoices, cell phones and keys. Throw out those ancient magazines and piles of junk mail that occupy prime real estate on your office desk. Empty those overflowing trash cans and wastebaskets and stop playing hop-scotch with the heaps of catalogs sprawled across your office floor. Organization is the key to saving money and it’s really not as difficult as you might think…

Save More and Waste Less

Everyday living expenses can easily get out-of-hand.  Money spent on paper towels, single use cleaning supplies, carbonated drinks and similar household staples could be put to better use.

Follow these five  tried, true. and green ways to stretch your household budget.

1. Use Smart Products. Use multi-tasking products that save time and money.

  • For Body:  Look for foundations and moisturizers that contain sunscreen (at least 15 SPF), and shampoos with built-in conditioners.
  • For Home: Make your own, or use versatile cleaning products that work on windows, countertops, appliances, and mirrors.  Make your dollars work smarter by choosing products that are safe to use on the interiors of cars.

2. Turn On the Tap.  Put the kibosh on soda and other expensive drinks.  Next to air, water is the most important (and cheapest) element our bodies need…