Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Max's Bath

I'm ignoring you. If I ignore you there will be no bath.....

Oh, crap, that didn't work out like I'd planned....

Rolling, rolling, rubbing!!!

Get those ears dry! Curly fur! Dry the curly fur!

And it ends perfectly with a brushy!!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Business Ethics

We had a problem recently that I wanted to write on, because it bothers me no-end and I need to get it out. Also, I think it would be interesting for discussion.

Last December or January, Matt and I went to Potomac Bead shop in Hagerstown to get a few things. Well, actually *I* went to get a few things and Matt came along for the ride. But, Matt wound up finding some things he liked and decided to get them to make a Man Necklace. He bought the following:
  • A strand of nice black onyx
  • A strand of nice green jade
  • One flat round lava bead

And he proceeded (with my help) to make a Man Necklace. He wore it constantly the rest of the winter and through the spring and then realized something.

The green was wearing off the jade.

I’m going to stop this part of the story here and talk for a few paragraphs about stone and gemstone and jewelry making. When I began making jewelry years ago, I learned that it is standard practice in the industry to treat stone to change its color. This can be done in many ways. For example, most of the citrine on the market is actually low-grade amethyst that has been heated to turn it yellow. Blue sapphire? Same thing. Do you remember those ‘power’ bracelets that were soooo popular about 10 years ago? You couldn’t walk into a store without seeing baskets full of them. I made it a point to look and every single turquoise bracelet I saw was either man-made or howlite that had been dyed turquoise. Every single one!!!

I really don’t like this practice. Once a long time ago, I purchased some gorgeous red garnet to make a necklace for my mother for Christmas. As I was stringing it, my fingers turned mulberry. I had to wash the strand 4-5 times in a mild soapy water until the water finally rinsed clear. If I hadn’t, my mother’s neck would have turned mulberry, too. Not cool, so I decided looong ago that I would not buy stone and gemstone that had been altered.

It has turned out to be very difficult to do, as most suppliers do not list details about their stone. I mean, if you are selling turquoise you can get a much higher price for it if you don’t list it as imitation or dyed, right? And besides, most of the finished jewelry is bought by people who can’t tell the difference.

But to me, that’s fraud and I will not do it. I have educated myself over the past 10 or so years to be able to tell the difference between stone and glass, to know what natural vs. fake looks like, and generally to know what the industry is doing to try to fool me. To me, heated or irradiated or dyed stone is fake. Period.

Fortunately some suppliers do mark everything. Fire Mountain Gems is the supplier I use the most because of their policy on this. They are also charter members of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA).

So, back to the ‘Jade.’ If I had known that it was dyed I would have recommended to Matt not to get it. He wouldn’t have gotten it, anyway, because he was looking for something very specific for a specific reason. It was listed as ‘BC Jade’ and since I knew that most jade on the market right now is coming out of British Columbia, we got it. Also, I knew that this shop was selling some dyed stuff without labeling it as such, but as far as I knew jade was not something that was commonly being dyed.

Matt and I talked about it and decided to take it back and talk to them about it, see what happened. Before we did, I looked up the guide that the AGTA published online regarding stone altering. I found it very enlightening: the Federal Trade Commission REQUIRES the following:

With the exception of the normal fashioning (cutting and polishing) of a gemstone, it is the seller’s

responsibility at all levels of commerce to clearly disclose to the buyer at the time of sale:

1) Whether the gemstone is natural or not;

2) All information pertinent to any enhancement process done to a natural gemstone when:

a. the treatment is not permanent and its effects are lost over time; or

b. the treatment creates special care requirements for the gemstone to retain

the benefit of the treatment; or

c. the treatment has a significant effect on the value of the gemstone.

Minimal disclosure information would include whether the gemstone is natural or man-made; if

natural, whether the gemstone has been treated in any manner where 2 (a), (b) or (c) above apply;

in such cases, the nature of the treatment, its permanence and any special care requirements.

Now, isn’t that interesting? AT ALL LEVELS OF COMMERCE. When is the last time you bought jewelry and they told you whether or not it was real?

So, I printed it out. And I took it with us, and I told them about the problem, and they credited us the amount that the strand had cost.

And before I even asked she showed me where they had posted the ‘enhancement’ guide sheet and told me that they had an ‘*’ code on each label that corresponded with the guide sheet. And there was only one guide sheet in the store and if she hadn’t pointed it out I never would have noticed it or the ‘*’ code on the labels.

Which, of course, was exactly what they’d intended.

They were doing what they were supposed to do to the letter of the law, but no more. When I asked how long they’d had that posted, she told me it was new as of this summer. So when we purchased the ‘jade’ that policy was not yet enacted.

With the very questionable products coming into this country from the likes of China, it is more important than ever to know what you are selling and CYA. We have no idea what rubbed off that ‘jade’ and on to Matt’s neck. I also have no idea what stone it actually is. It may be jade, yes, but it also could very well be something else. If this had happened to a paying customer I’d have been mortified.

Liability comes in to this, too. I would have to have a case of Your Necklace Caused My Cancer. Keeping receipts that actually document the altered stones is very important to me now. Fortunately, I have in most of my listings made sure to mention that I do not use altered stone. I DO use dyed pearls. I just like them, I have no other reason why.

So, I'm curious:

  1. What do you think of all this?
  2. Would you buy altered gemstones knowing they were altered? Why or why not?
  3. Should I do business with these people again?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yorkie Pics of the Week

Max in the lawn....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gorgeous Weekend

It was a lovely, glorious weekend complete with junk, banks, trash-to-treasure, planting, wine and new people, and no homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream. Maybe next weekend we'll have time.

Saturday morning, we got up early and took a load of metal scrap to our local bulk recycling center. I always enjoy going there, it is a working farm but the barn closest to the house is only for weighing and storing bulk aluminum, copper, brass, etc. I would love to go scavenger hunting through there! But, no. We left with over $200, which is fantastic. Prices are up right now. Lovely.

From there, we went to our new bank and opened up another checking account. We had the most wonderful conversation with the lady who handles that, we must have sat there talking for over 2 hours! She told us about her time in the Air Force, she was in Germany when Libya was getting boisterous and we retaliated. BOY did we retaliate!

From there, we went to close our accounts at our old bank. They were feeing us to death. Goodbye!

Then, lunch. We headed home from there with full intentions of going over to help Matt’s mom, who is cleaning out his recently deceased uncle’s rental house. I believe the rent is paid up for another month or so, but I know they want to clean it out and be done with it. Well, we decided to wait and go over on Sunday instead.

Mid-afternoon, I went to a local greenhouse to get some replacement plants for things that didn’t make it. It turns out they were having quite a sale! Peppers and tomatoes were all $.50, and a lot of flowers were on sale, too. I came home with three peppers, a dill, four tomatillos, and a Forget-Me-Not for Matt. I also eyed up the yuccas. They were blooming, and I noticed one pot had two plants in it. That’s a little trick I do, look for pots that have more than one plant.
I came home and found that Matt had delivered my squash mound dirt for me.

Around 5, we left for another Meetup event, this time with the Chambersburg Meetup Group. Hauser Estate Winery has an event every week this summer complete with a band and catered dinner. Admission is free, you have to pay for your food and drink, though. It turned out that only one other meetup person was coming. Ah, well.

I’ve been told that Hauser is very ‘young’ for a winery. They are new, yes, but they specialize in hard ciders and apple or peach wines. They are built in the middle of Apple Country here in PA, what else could they do? They put their building on a hill, it is a FANTASTIC view! Really incredible. They have outdoor tables with umbrellas and they sell sandwiches and things in a cooler. So, you could go up, get a bottle of your favorite wine or cider, a sandwich, and sit out on the patio or deck and take it all in.

Can you tell I’m really tickled with this place? I’m already trying to decide when Matt and I can get up there next for a nice, leisurely lunch.

Anyway, Matt and I had a mini-wine tasting. He really liked the Merlot, and I wound up really liking the Apple Wine, which is fantastic ice-cold. Their ciders were good, too, fairly light and beer-y. The band was a bit loud, but our meetup guy was nice, talkative, and above all – normal. I always worry about meeting people for the first time, especially if no one else you know is there, that they’re all going to be wackos. We wound up staying until almost 9.

Sunday, Matt went over to his uncle’s house with his parents to help work. I was planning on going, too, but I realized how much I had to do at home. So, I set off the dishwasher, raked out the squash mounds to get the weeds, rocks, and sticks out, then planted the squash. I also planted the 4 tomatillos I’d gotten, and I wound up going back over and getting a yucca, a Box Car Willie tomato to fill in a spot where one of my tomatoes died, and a watermelon. Not a vine, the melon itself. You know, to eat.

Matt called about mid-morning to tell me that the refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher at his uncles were ours if we wanted them for a combined price of about what we got for our scrap metal the previous day. I did the measurements and yeah, it seemed it would work out. So, looks like we’ll be storing some appliances in the garage for a bit. It’s a good deal, they’re fairly new. The stove is a glass (ceramic?) top and will go in the kitchen, while the current electric stove was destined for the garage, anyway, as that is where we’re planning on doing the canning. We also wound up with about a dozen and a half quart canning jars, with a pint and a half-gallon jar thrown in, and a mix of other things. Anything that doesn’t go to family will be going to a yard sale sometime this summer.

General clean-up commenced along with pea picking. We burned our paper trash, Max scared the bejezus out of a baby bird, and we watched the fireflies while having a drinky on the back porch.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Objects in Motion

I got some more pictures of Foxy, Matt's parent's dog. She's weighing in at 5lb now, and it's all hair. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Long Weekend

I had a 3-day weekend, but not because of the holiday. Yup, I have to work Memorial Day. Stinks, but I do get to take the holiday whenever I want. We call it a ‘floating’ holiday. They do come in handy sometimes.

I swear, I will update the garden blog later today, but I have to find time to edit the pictures. I keep thinking that by the time I get around to that the veggies in the pictures will be grown, harvested, and eaten! I hope to get to it tonight. But, we RAN this weekend. No extra time to do much of anything that didn’t absolutely NEED doing.

Friday, I had off. We had one of those wonderful early morning phonecalls that you know is bad news and, yup, Matt’s uncle died Thursday night of a massive heart attack. This is the same uncle that fell down the stairs a year and a half ago, and since he’d recovered from that he’d taken to treating himself like crap, ignoring the diabetes, gaining all the weight back, and drinking hard liquor practically by the case. So it wasn’t exactly unexpected, but still. He also leaves a mess with 5 ex wives, children by those wives, and no will. One of the sons has already pretty much cleaned the house out. Stay tuned.

I liked him. He was a bit raw, don’t get me wrong, but he was what you saw and was unapologetic about it. You have to admire that. He was well-traveled and appreciated the finer things in life, good food and wine, etc, and went out the way he wanted to: after a great meal and good drink.

I filled the car up with gas, drove by the dentist and paid the $1 that my insurance wouldn’t pay from my last checkup and cleaning. The office manager at the dentist and I had a good laugh over that: $1.

I took my dad to breakfast, where he talked motors, lawn mowers, and carburetors. Oh, and my new cousin. It seems that my uncle who died in 1981 had a daughter that has been trying to find his family for years, and finally she did. She’s 29, lives in the New Orleans area, and dad has been corresponding with her, sending her pictures of her dad, etc. She also sent pictures of herself and her family. It is very interesting to look at her pictures. It’s like looking at me, but it isn’t me. There is a TV show Matt and I like called Dead Like Me where these ‘ghosts’ go around helping people through passing into the next (whatever it is we go to when we die). The main character keeps going back to see her family, but when she’s within sight of her family they use a different actress to play the character (to represent that the family doesn’t recognize her as their dead daughter). She looks similar to the main actress, but not quite. That’s how it is to look at my ‘new’ cousin: very similar, but not quite. It is really strange.

Anyway, we did that. I hung out with mom and dad for a bit and talked, then went to get my hair cut. MUCH needed haircut, it’s been about 3 months. Turned out nice, too. The salon is in the outlet shops here in town, so I also went to Dress Barn to see if I could find a nice top to go with my black pants or skirt for the funeral/memorial. I did, but I didn’t want to pay $35 for it. I’ll manage with something else.

We went to our favorite Asian/sushi restaurant for dinner to check out how it is after its new management took over. Very nice! We were really pleased. Then, grocery shopping.

Saturday, we met Barbara from Virginia for breakfast, she was up to go to her son’s wedding (which was going to be big, fat, and Greek). It was a really nice visit. Then, we went to a winery to meet some total strangers to drink wine with.

Let me explain. Matt and I decided we needed more socialization. We were becoming like Max. He doesn’t know he’s a dog, he thinks he’s a person, and he doesn’t understand why he doesn’t quite act like we do. He hasn’t been socialized with other dogs to know how to act with dogs, either, so he’s sort of in his own in-between world. Well, Matt and I need to be a bit more socialized with people, because we don’t know we’re people and we don’t understand why we don’t quite act like other people. We don’t think we’re dogs, though, don’t worry! So, we joined up with a local fun-times group through Meetup.com. They go on hikes, they go on bike rides, they go to wineries, they go to brewfests, they have get-togethers at people’s houses, sporting events, etc. You go to what you want to and don’t go to the rest.

This was our first Meetup. We had a great time! It is a new winery called Serpent Ridge, south of Westminster, MD. They only have 5 wines right now, all dry. I don’t particularly like dry wines, but these were really good! We got one bottle and will probably keep an eye on them as they grow. Very nice. And the group was nice, too! I think there were maybe 14 people there (the group itself has over 300 people), most of them we liked. A few were much more interested in subtly explaining to us how much money they had. The rest were wonderful. Our next Meetup will be kayaking and picnicking sometime in July and we’re really looking forward to that. New Meetups are posted all the time, so we might go to some of those, too.

After that, we went home and cooked up the crab legs we’d gotten. I think that it has been almost a year since we’d had a crab leg feast. It was lovely. Later, margaritas enjoyed while we burned up some hemlock branches and watched the stars come out.

Sunday was a work day. Garden and garage. Both will be explained more fully in the other blog. Also, I made Rustic Rhubarb Tarts and they were wonderful. I really couldn’t taste the vanilla in the compote, but they were still good. Also, the pressure tank for the well died, so we had to run and get another one, which Matt will install sometime today.