A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Friday, 27 February 2015

I love Mii

Although I'm a diehard Pandora fan, and haven't purchased any other brands - not that there's anything wrong with that - I have recently discovered Mii homemade bracelets for stacking with my Pandora. (All Mii photos published with permission)

This is my first Mii bracelet with my red "Always and Forever" marriage bracelet and my red smooth triple leather bracelet. When the smooth triple leathers first came out they had names, like the Essence charms do now; the red was "Energy."
With each Mii bracelet comes a little card explaining the properties of the semiprecious stone. So I chose this bracelet, not just for the colour and the beauty, but because red turquoise is a protection amulet known as the "Stone of Strength" good for exhaustion, depression or panic attacks. Check, check.... and check.

My stack: plain bangle, all-silver bracelet with Pandora timebead,
red "Always and Forever" bracelet,
"Energy" red triple smooth leather bracelet (all Pandora)
and red turquoise Mii bracelet
Once I received my first Mii bracelet I wanted to find out more about the woman behind the name. Not long ago I spent some time writing for our local paper so I put on my journalist hat and asked some questions by Messenger. Here's what I found out.

Mii bracelets are handmade by Veronika Mikalova in the Czech Republic. Veronika is a documentary director and screenwriter by profession, stay-at-home mom by choice. You can meet Veronika and her son in this video she made for Jamie Oliver's "Search for a Food Tube Star with Uncle Ben's" and see her film-making skills!

Veronika is five months pregnant with her next "little miracle" so it may be some time before she goes back to work outside the home. Veronika tells me she is a "quite creative person" - which is "quite the understatement." So after some time doing "nothing creative," just changing nappies, cooking, cleaning etc, she went to a local shop and saw some nice purple string and thought it would look great with her Pandora. Veronica is a self-confessed Pandora addict. She made a bracelet to wear with her Pandora and some friends saw it and wanted some themselves. She set up a Facebook page, and shared some photos, and "somehow" people started writing to her.

Purple Mii "Elegant" bracelets
In answering my question as to how she went from film-making to bracelet-making, Veronika explains, "I really didn´t plan to make bracelets. It just somehow escalated on its own. And what I like about it is that it is quite personal. I talk to every customer and try to deal individually with their needs and visions. It´s also great that I can spend good quality time with my son throughout the day and make bracelets at night, when he sleeps. It´s also relaxing for me and it really makes me happy when people share pictures of their Mii bracelet or just write me that they like it. That´s the most satisfying part. I´m also so grateful that people all over the world like my bracelets." She has now sent special Mii bracelets to such far-flung places as USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Asia, Arab Emirates, Australia and New Zealand.
Veronika has quite a line-up of colours for her string bracelets, which she calls "Elegant." She uses stainless steel beads because they are hypoallergenic and should never tarnish. She also make "Satin" bracelets with mini glass muranos. Recently she started the line of bracelets using semi-precious stones.

I asked Veronika the origin of the name "Mii." She shares, "At the beginning Mii was meant to be Mikalova's interest, but now I also like how it sounds when you say, 'I like Mii,' it can also mean 'I like me,' and I think every woman should love herself. And sometimes when you wear nice jewellery, you can feel better and more attractive."
If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm all about learning to love ourselves, so after chatting with Veronika, "I love Mii" even more.

Veronika is a busy mom so she doesn't have a website. But you can find everything you want to know about Mii.bracelets on her Facebook page. "Like" the page to see new photos from satisfied customers. Send her a private message to place an order or discuss a custom-designed Mii bracelet.

Just in case you need one more reason to wear Mii bracelets with your Pandora, I've included some photos (below) by the talented Amelia Pearson-Vickers.

Which semiprecious bracelet should I get next? (this photo was from a Christmas giveaway)

 "Satin" Mii homemade bracelet with mini murano.
Jewellery and photo property of Amelia Pearson-Vickers
(published with permission)

"Satin" Mii homemade bracelet with mini murano.
Jewellery and photo property of Amelia Pearson-Vickers
(published with permission)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Chinese New Year hong bao that symbolizes good marriages and prosperity

My twins Taylor and Mitchell, Christmas Eve 2009
Greetings on Chinese New Year, from my family to yours. Gung Hay Fat Choy! Which means, "Wishing you a prosperous New Year."

I want to share with you the story behind this charm that I added to my bracelet on New Year's Day of 2013 in celebration of the fact that we are free of debt! Yup, you read it correctly NO MORE DEBT!!

In January of 2013 we wrote the last cheque to pay off our debts - and we had accumulated ALOT of debt! We weren't bankrupt but we were damn close!

My husband and I had worked very hard, together, over 5 years, to pay off ALL of our debts. I had purchased this charm from a friend because I knew that this "unforgettable moment" was coming up at the end of December, 2012. And I thought that this accomplishment warranted a Pandora charm - of course! Financial problems were a huge issue in my mother's marriage, and hence in my childhood and beyond. So I am very happy - no proud - to put this on my love and marriage bracelet to signify that, unlike my father, "we are financially responsible." Best part? We did it together!

This charm, called the "hong bao" is like the Pandora "money bags" charm but it has the Chinese character for "blessings and good fortune" or "abundance." The term "hong bao," meaning "red packet," refers to the Chinese tradition of adults giving children little red paper envelopes filled with money. According to the China Folklore Society, the original meaning of the envelope ritual is a New Year's blessing passed from the old to the young, and the "lucky money" inside a hong bao can ward off evil spirits and maintain children in peace and safety for a whole year. It seems appropriate to have this charm on my red "Always and Forever" bracelet because the red colour of the hong bao envelopes symbolizes good luck, and the giving of money signifies a fresh start in the New Year.

With our debts paid off we are making a "fresh start," celebrating our ability to "maintain our children in peace and safety," and welcoming good fortune and abundance.

My twins, Mitchell and Taylor hanging their stockings when they were five
(and just a little excited about Santa coming)
My twins, who are now thirteen and in grade 8, went to an urban Elementary school that is very multicultural. Rather than have a Christmas concert this school had a "Holiday Sing-a-long" and they learned songs from different countries and different religions. Imagine if you will, my two twins, who celebrate all things Christmas, running around our house in December singing not just Christmas songs like Rudolph and Frosty, but songs about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan, including the Chinese New Year song "Gung Hay Fat Choy" (lyrics below).

So when I say Gung Hay Fat Choy, I am sending New Year's blessings to all my friends and family, and also sending (as the children's song explains), "wishes of happiness... longevity... good marriages... and prosperity."

My red Always and Forever bracelet

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Gung Hay Fat Choy, Gung Hay Fat Choy
Gung Hay Fat Choy, it's Chinese New Year

Come a little closer and sit right here

I'd like to tell you all about Chinese New Year
Begins each year when the moon is new
Please listen closely I have a lot to tell you

First the whole house we need to clean
Put up decorations so they can be seen
Buy some presents and buy some new clothes
Paint the door red so that everybody knows

Gung Hay Fat Choy, Gung Hay Fat Choy
Gung Hay Fat Choy, it's Chinese New Year
On New Year's Eve we are with our family
We talk and play games or we might watch TV
Through the whole night we keep the lights on
The fireworks at midnight fill the sky with song

At morning our parents we politely greet
They give us each money in red paper wrapped neat
We visit with our neighbours, we visit with our friends
Any grudges that we had will now come to an end

With wishes of happiness (happiness)
longevity (longevity)
good marriages (good marriages)
and prosperity (prosperity)

For fifteen days everyone celebrates
We hang up lanterns in the windows on the gates
We eat yummy dumplings made of flour and rice
They are boiled in water and they taste very nice

So that is the end of our Chinese New Year
Thank you all for listening and sitting right here
Wishing you prosperity and happiness to all
Please stay and enjoy our lantern festival

Lanterns aglow, everywhere you go
Lanterns aglow, everywhere you go
Lanterns aglow, everywhere you go

This is the end of our Chinese New Year
Gung Hay Fat Choy

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Advice from a fish... and a few flowers

Last week was a rough week. But I wanted to tell you how the "happy little fish" charm helped pull me through.
The happy little fish charm (top left) on my all-silver timebead bracelet.

On Tuesday night my son Mitchell came home from basketball practice with a swollen knee. The next day my husband Mike had an early morning dentist appointment and was out the door before we'd all finished getting dressed. Once our doctor's office was open I called, and they wouldn't be able to see Mitchell (and his knee) til the end of the day. So when my husband got home from his appointment he drove us to the Emergency Room at CHEO (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario). And hubbie headed back to the dentist - for an emergency root canal! 

My son and I spent the morning moving from one hospital waiting room to the next... triage, registration, ambulatory care, X-ray... and finally a doctor. She said there was nothing broken but Mitchell should stop sports for at least a week and follow up with our family doctor or a sports med doctor.  But he could go back to school.

Add to my crazy Wednesday the fact that Mike was in pain the rest of the day (after the freezing wore off) and had to cancel basketball practice and simply went to bed. Which of course meant I was single parenting the remainder of the day.

So... after such an exhausting day on Wednesday, when the alarm went off on Thursday morning I REALLY wanted to stay in bed. To go back to sleep. And to NOT think about all the things I needed to do! But I decided to listen to my fishy friend here who tells me to "just keep swimming..."

It's kind of like saying, "just keep putting one foot in front of the other," but it's much more fun to picture Dory (from Finding Nemo) and sing along with her! Here's the lyrics so you can sing along too! (WARNING: it might get stuck in your head too)

Hey Mr Grumpy Gills
when life gets you down,
you know what you got to do?

Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming swimming swimming

What do we do?
We swim, swim, swim

YouTube video of "Just Keep Swimming" from Finding Nemo 

So on Thursday morning, when I woke up, I reminded myself that I already had a detailed agenda on my phone, with lists of all the things I needed to do. So I trusted. I trusted that if I "just keep swimming..." I will get everything done.

Mitchell was allowed to walk around school but needed a drive TO school. I'd have to email the basketball coach and let him know what happened, because Mitchell couldn't play in the tournament that afternoon. And his Phys. Ed. teacher needed to know he had to sit out gym class and couldn't do outdoor skating. His home room teacher needed to know he couldn't do DPA (daily physical activity) and might need a key for the elevator. And he couldn't participate in the ski club that started that night, so I had to send an email to cancel asap so we could get a refund.

But Mitchell's twin sister Taylor was still going skiing, and over breakfast Thursday morning she reminded me that she'd be leaving right after school, so she needed to bring supper as well as lunch. And she needed to find her snowpants. And warm socks. And she discovered that her warm gloves were now too small (she ended up borrowing my husband's.) And she'd forgotten to put skiing on her agenda, so she hadn't told her tutor that she wasn't coming on Thursdays for the next four weeks. Which meant I should email the tutor, and hope we wouldn't get dinged for the appointments because we gave such short notice.
And wouldn't you know it, just as Mitchell was getting dressed to go outside, he said, "You have to fill those forms out or I can't go to high school!" Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! 

Needless to say, he went without the forms. But I did send an email to this teacher asking her to please reassure Mitchell that he would in fact still get to go to high school if the forms came in the next day.

And... they are out the door!

OK that brings us to 8:00 am. And MY day begins. Remember, "just keep swimming..."

The agenda says clean up the kitchen, do phone calls and email, do your journal work, do your morning exercises, have a shower and get dressed, have a morning snack, "just keep swimming..."

Get ready for your ten o'clock appointment, get your homework done for Thursday night group therapy, get outside for a walk in the snow, "just keep swimming..."

You get the idea!

This happy little guy got me through last week, and many previous situations, oftentimes much more stressful or emotionally difficult. Such simple, yet effective, advice: "just keep swimming..."
In fact, this is what I posted almost three years ago:

I am now 19 weeks symptom-free with my eating disorder - which means no bingeing, purging or restricting. My reward was the "happy fish" charm. I had a bit of a rough week last week - feeling down, discouraged, tired - so the goal was simply to remain symptom-free by telling myself, to quote Dory from Finding Nemo, "just keep swimming..."

When I shared that story about earning my fish charm, someone told me that there will be times when even "just keep swimming..." will feel like too much. At those times, she said, it's ok to simply float!

The large and small blue topaz ribbon flower charms.
And when I think of floating I visualize a flower floating on the surface of the water. It's a little precarious. If you wiggle it too much it will get swamped and go under. If we struggle too much, we can get swamped, go under. Instead. Be still. Just float.
And there have been... oh... a few times in the last three years of my recovery when I had to "just float."
At those times I needed to tell myself that the only goal is to get through this situation. Like a get-together with family members that push my buttons. A difficult medical procedure. A confrontational meeting. A funeral. And at those times I gave myself one of these blue topaz "ribbon flower" charms - just the kind you might want to gently lay in a bowl of water and let it be still. And just float.

Now when I have to get through something difficult I wear these charms, and give them a spin. They remind me that sometimes it's ok to just tread water, just keep your head above water, just don't drown. Be still and just float.

The ribbon flower charms on my Beat the Winter Blues bracelet

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Pandora bras and butts, oh my!

Sometimes you just buy a charm because you like it. You haven't "earned" it. You don't have a "meaning" for the charm. It's just pretty. Maybe one of your favourite colours. And you'd like to have it. And sometimes the meaning comes after you buy the charm, as it did for me with the teal "studded lights," on the bangle above. It's similar to the other "whimsical lights" except it has the extra bumps or "studs." I think I can wear it with all three bracelets in this photo.

One of my favourite stones is the dark blue topaz. It hasn't been used in very many Pandora charms, but it's in the daisy dangle, top left on "My #1 Son" bracelet below. So, when Pandora released the teal studded lights, I really wanted it. But I already had a teal bracelet - my Lucerne Recovery bracelet. And I have a turquoise bracelet (below), my mother-son bracelet, with the turquoise enamel on the #1 blue ribbon, butterflies, Zen, and mother-son dangles. I couldn't justify another whole bracelet just because I loved this teal charm. So I didn't buy it. And every time I saw a photo of it on someone else's bracelet I yearned for it.

Then, last week, I saw a photo where a woman had a single pendant, the treasured hearts, on her bangle. I had the same pendant! And I was never quite happy with it's placement on my rhodolite "Treasured Hearts" bracelet. So I tried it on my bangle. Perfect! It's not heavy so it doesn't flip the bangle so that the charms are always under my wrist. It slides around and doesn't get stuck on the threads because it's not threaded. Perfect! I even took a picture!

This opened up a whole new world of Pandora possibilities. I could use openwork charms on bangles too! I had been using some on leathers and liked the effect, but I don't typically buy a charm that hasn't been planned, as part of a vision of a full bracelet. Now there was the opportunity to have some random charms. And then, as luck would have it, the teal studded whimsical was for sale on one of the Pandora buy~sell pages on Facebook.

And wouldn't you know, it was being sold by my friend Shauna. I've never met Shauna in person. We've never even talked on the phone. But we are Facebook friends. And we're both Canadians. And I really enjoy her company. She's a hoot. Over the last three years, since I started collecting Pandora, some of the funniest conversations I've had have been with Shauna on the Pandora pages, mostly on Pandora's Angels. We had a very silly talk one day about the "hypnotic" clip (below). She called it the "tittie" clip, because it's shaped like the famous "cone bra" that Madonna wore in the 80's - thus revealing both my age and Shauna's! Although not our maturity level!

There was also the time Shauna said the "puffy heart" charm always flips upside down when you're wearing it on a bracelet, and it looks like a bare butt - like someone's mooning you! My husband, by the way, has also thought it looked like a bare butt, but didn't say anything until I was writing this post! So immature! You can see below that Pandora does make some pretty cute butts!

I was reminiscing with Shauna about this the other night, and Shauna said, "my gawd, there were times when we burned the midnight oil, chatting and laughing on the boards... not suitable for younger audiences" to which I replied "Yup very silly! And inappropriate!" And she came back with "and proud of it..." 

So when I saw the charm Shauna had for sale I commented on her post saying, "I'm interested in your teal studded." Well, that was what I meant to say! The autocorrect on my iPad left the comment, "I'm interested in your real stud." To which - of course - Shauna asked, "you're interested in my real stud?!" She later told me, "because it was you, I thought I would have a bit of fun with it." After some banter back and forth I told her I would never buy a "stud" sight unseen!

When this charm arrived in the mail I was so excited! It will always remind me to not take life too seriously! How could I, when I look at this charm?! Thanks to Shauna it will make me think of bare butts and titties and studs! It will also make me smile when I think of the friends I've met through Pandora, and of the fun I've had with them on Facebook, especially that crazy chicka from the prairies!

Shauna has always had lovely things to say about my "stories" when I shared them on the Pandora fan page, even asking me to tag her so she doesn't miss any. And as you can see below, she even complemented me on my stories in the card she sent with my new "real stud" charm! Shauna is not just a funny friend, she is also one of my biggest supporters. And I know she could take the word "supporter" and run with it!

The teal studded lights also matches the stones in the dangle fish and sea star charms on my "Gifts from the Sea" bracelet, as well as the faceted teal and sea glass muranos.