Friday, December 28, 2012

Remembering 2012

Along the path of the Walk-n-Roll for Spina Bifida
It's hard to believe another year is coming to a close since Stephanie's passing in 2010.  At the end of 2010 I remember feeling guilty about starting a new year without her.  It just didn't feel right.  At the end of 2011 I remember thinking, "Wow.  I can't believe I made it one full year without her."  What I came to realize in 2012 is that I'm not without her. Her spirit lives on and Stephanie will always be a part of my life.

2012 was a year of healing, growth, and new adventures.  Stephanie's continued presence in my life has inspired me to try new things and to enjoy the basic pleasures of life.  Quite honestly, I'm not at the emotional point of where I'd like to be.  Perhaps I'll never be.  That's o.k., though, because once you've reached your destination your journey has ended.  This is not what life is to me.  It's about continued growth.  So while I may never reach that ultimate point of contentment in this life, I know that each day is another opportunity to  learn, heal and grow.  That alone is a reason to get up in the morning and face the day with gusto and gratitude.  That is happiness.

My nephew insisted we make monster cupcakes for him.
Here are a few of my standout "happies" from 2012.

1.  Yoga
I was introduced to the practice of yoga late in 2011.  The few poses I did on my own were challenging, but beneficial.  I could tell I would build strength and improve my balance if I continued to this with some guidance.  I searched on line for yoga centers and found one closeby.  Each semester they offer a week of free classes, so I decided to try the therapeutics yoga in early January 2012.  When I called to get more information this was the one that was recommended for me.  I was impressed not only with yoga itself, but also with the instructor.  She was willing to work with me and that makes all the difference in the world.  Therapeutics is a very small class which allows for much individualized instruction.  Not only has yoga improved my balance and strengthened my muscles, it has made me more aware of what I can and cannot do.  More often than not I'm amazed at what I can do.  Therapeutics is a perfect fit for me and I plan on continuing with it well into the future.

2.  Blog
Castle in the Sky Beaded Charm Bracelet
I launched my Etsy business, StringtownBeads on July 25, 2011, exactly one year after Stephanie's passing.  Since then I've made it my annual goal to "bring something to life" on that date.  This year it was my blog.  This has allowed me to have a creative outlet besides my beading.  I love to write and I love to share what I write. 

3.  Family Events
In the summer my niece made her regular July trip to visit.  We enjoyed beading together, going to the movies, dining out, and spending time at home with my brother's family.  In September my youngest nephew was born, and in October we celebrated my oldest nephew's third birthday.  It was a beautiful fall day which made me feel like a kid again.  I enjoyed being among nature in the park and swinging on the swing set.  I think I probably had just as much fun as the birthday boy did.

Mom's Birthday Card
Dad's Birthday Cake
During the summer I simultaneously planned separate surprise birthday parties for my parents.  For my mom we had a not so quiet gathering at home.  It was during Ramadan, so it was a joyous occasion for more reasons than one.  About 50 family members gathered at my parents' house to celebrate.  In September we celebrated my dad's 70th birthday at a local favorite Indian restaurant.  Both my mom and my dad were surprised and grateful for their respective celebrations.  Good times were had by all. 

4.  Walk-n-Roll
In October I participated in the Walk-n-Roll for Spina Bifida.  This is an annual event that raises money and awareness for people like me who are living with spina bifida.  The money goes to research and care for us.  It was a beautiful fall day in a local park.  We walked and in my case rolled in my wheelchair on the mile-long trail.  We then enjoyed brunch at a local restaurant.  My youngest nephew who was one month young at the time even attended!

5.  Etsy Team
In August I was invited to join a Maryland Promotions team on Etsy and a few months later I was asked to become a team leader.  I gladly accepted.  From this team I have gained practical knowledge about owning an Etsy business and I have gained friendships that are sure to last a lifetime.  All of this has breathed new life into my shop.

What a great year!  I can't wait to see which beads of life we string together in 2013!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Take Thirty Seconds to Change your Life

“‎Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.” - Buddha

Take 30 seconds to think about all of the people in your life - your family, your friends, and your colleagues.  Think about the cashier you briefly spoke with at the store last week and the customer service representative you spoke with on the phone the other day.  Think about as many people as you can with whom you have somehow interacted, even the the ones you think have negatively impacted your life.  Now imagine for a moment that they are all here for a reason, and that reason is to make you a better person.

This is what I did when a friend recently introduced me to this quote.  Like many people, it's easy for me to feel discouraged when people don't follow through on things the way I believe they could have.  The way I expected them to.  But what if they are doing exactly what they should be doing to make me a better person?  We cannot learn patience if we never have to wait.  We cannot become wiser if we always stay within our own little world.  We cannot learn compassion if we ourselves never experience some kind of suffering.

To let go of expectations and our ego is not easy, but if we can do this even just briefly once a day we would see the world from a different perspective and we would live our lives differently.  Instead of expecting we would be more accepting.  As 2012 comes to a close and we string the beads of life in the new year, will you join me in this challenge to at least once a day for thirty seconds think of the every single person besides yourself as the enlightened ones and your teachers?       

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Mommy-inspired Chicken Curry

Growing up, my favorite dish was chicken curry.  Not just any chicken curry. My mommy's chicken curry.  I could and did eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I've had many versions of chicken curry, but hers is by far the best.  Fact.  : )

When I recently told some friends about her magical concoction they were curious and wanted the recipe.  I believe that all good things should be shared whenever possible, and so does my mommy.  When I asked her for permission to share her recipe she did not hesitate to say, "Yes."  So she told me how she makes it and I stored it in my phone.  I then made it myself.  It was close to the taste of hers, but definitely not the same.  That's because hers has mommy's magical touch, which cannot be duplicated.  And so I share with you my Mommy-inspired Chicken Curry.  The actual perfect recipe cannot be duplicated unless my mommy comes to cook for you and adds her magical touch.  This is why I call it mommy-inspired.

The recipe below is how I made it.  You can change the amount of chicken or use dark meat.  You can also adjust the amount of spices to suit your taste.  I like it medium spicy.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
oil (one turn of the pan)
1/4 cup curry powder
4 teaspoons garam masala
1 clove garlic, minced
2 wiri wiri peppers (or whichever peppers your prefer)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tomato, diced
Sprinkle of ground cumin
Salt to taste (a little goes a long way)
Water - enough to cover the chicken

1.  Fry the chicken with salt and onions.  Add oil if you are using white meat.
2.  Add curry powder, garam masala, garlic, and tomato paste.  Let it fry until dry.
3.  Add enough water to cover the chicken.
4.  Cover pan.  Let it simmer on low.
5.  Add tomato.
6.  Sprinkle with ground cumin.
7.  Serve with white rice or Indian bread.
8.  Devour!
Mommy-inspired chicken curry with white rice and wild rice,
served on a plate given to me by Stephanie.
 I would love to know what your favorite dishes are.  Please share below!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Five Feline Life Lessons

Meet Candy.  In January she will be eight years old.  It's hard to believe it's been that long since the summer day I walked into the animal shelter looking to adopt a kitten.  She was six months old when we met.  The volunteers at the animal shelter seemed to know Candy and I were meant for each other.  That was her given name at the shelter.  It seemed to suit her well, as sweet as she is. 

I sat in a chair and they gently set her in my lap.  Candy did what has become her trademark drop and roll in my lap, twisting her head as if trying to see the world from a different point of view.  She began purring as she drifted off to her dreams.  That was it.  I didn't need to look anymore.  Candy had already chosen me as her catmom and I was honored to take on this responsibility. 

Humans can learn so much from their pets if we just take the time to really observe them.  Candy is no exception.  She has taught me so much in her almost eight years of life.  Here are a few valuable lessons she has taught me.

Sleep on your back as often as possible.

Get your vitamin D.  You don't need a lot.
Smile often, even when you've made a mess of things.

Look important and sit up straight.

Take time to just sit and observe the world.
I may never meet the person who found Candy and brought her into the warmth of the animal shelter to help her find a home, but I will be forever grateful for that caring soul.

Do you have pets?  If so, what have you learned from them?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

MD Promo Team - "Fall Into Autumn Sale" and Giveaway!

Fall into savings with the Maryland Promotions Team on Etsy ! Over 40 Maryland Etsy shops are having a Fall Into Autumn Sale from now through the end of August. Save anywhere from 5%-30%! Be sure to use the coupon code MDFIAS when you checkout. You can find the full list of participating shops at The Crafty Panda Girl.

In addition to this we are having a giveaway! Who doesn't like a freebie? Enter here for a chance to win some awesome prizes!

What do you do for fun in the fall? I love to bead all year long, but the colors, shapes, and patterns of fall are especially inspiring to me. This necklace, available for sale at StringtownBeads is one piece that was inspired by autumn colors, shapes and patterns.

 Please share your thoughts below about your favorite fall crafts or activities, and don't forget to check out the shops particpating in the Maryland Fall into Autumn Sale on Etsy!  Remember to use coupon code MDFIAS when you checkout!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Imperfect Olympic Trifle Fruit Salad

The Olympics as most of us know it are almost over, but Olympic season will continue.  The Paraolympics will begin in London on August 29th and last through September 9th.  This is where athletes with physical disabilities compete and go for the gold. 

I was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in my back.  I walk with crutches most of the time, and for longer distances I use a wheelchair.  Although I spent many childhood summers in the hospital and at home recovering from countless surgeries, it has never stopped me from setting and achieving my goals.  Like Olympic athletes, physically challenged or not, I have always strived for my personal best.  I am grateful to my parents for raising me this way.

My mom recently celebrated her birthday and guess who the party planner was.  That's right.  Me!  :)  As stressful as it can be at times, I enjoy event planning, and I was honored to do this for my mom.  Since it is Olympic season and my parents raised me to go for my own gold I decided to celebrate the season and make an Olympic Fruit Salad.

So I gathered up some of my favorite fruits in Olympic colors - blueberries, pineapple, blackberries, green grapes, and raspberries.

Thank you to my friend who suggested cool whip
to represent the white background on the Olympic flag!

I began alternating fruit and cool whip in the trifle bowl in the order of the Olympic ring colors.  The final result:

What a delicious mess!

As suggested by a friend, I added
 an Olympic chainmaille bracelet
to the bottom of the trifle bowl for a
decorative touch.  An identical bracelet
 is available at StringtownBeads.
So why would I want to share such a catastrophe?  I wasn't striving for
perfection.  I was striving for my personal best and I achieved that.  This is why I can say this dessert turned out exactly the way I wanted it to.

Now, while I believe in striving for one's personal best, I also believe in personal growth.  This is why I am asking you how you think I can improve this recipe and make it better next time.  Less cool whip and more fruit?  Is there a technique you use when making layered recipes like this one?  I am a beader, not a chef, so I don't know the tricks of the trade in the kitchen.  Please share your thoughts below and next time I can make this Imperfect Olympic Trifle Fruit Salad even better.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Eight Fulfilling Ways to Be Creative

Taking a little time to be creative is a great way to relieve stress.  It can also be fulfilling when you share your creativity with others.  Here are some of my favorite ways to be creative and share it with others.

1.  Create a piece of jewelry and give it away as a gift.
2.  Design a card for someone special.
3.  Draw or paint a picture.  Display it or give it away as a gift.
4.  Make a scrapbook that includes yourself and someone else. 
5.  Compose a poem for someone.
6.  Assemble a care package for someone.
7.  Create a blog or add to an existing one.
8.  Cook a new dish.

Perfection is not the goal here.  The creative thinking and sharing with others is what matters most.  The most valuable gift you can give anyone is the gift of your time.  Also, when you think creatively you are sharpening your mind and relieving stress in a fun and healthy way.  Everyone benefits! 

Now it's time for you to show me a little of your creative thinking.  When you see the beads pictured below what does it remind you of?  Please share your thoughts below and feel free to tell me some ways you like to be creative!

What do you think of when you look at these beads?

Challenge yourself to use the five senses.

What do you see, hear, taste, feel and smell in your mind's eye?


 Who knows! Maybe you will see your idea come to life on StringtownBeads !

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Ugly Bracelet

I was recently given the challenge to look at an object I consider beautiful and find its imperfections.  Why would I want to focus on the negative?  Are they really imperfections or are they aspects that complete the object and actually make it "perfect"?  I felt that this challenge needed a twist so I decided to do a switcharoo.  Rather than taking a beautiful object and discover it's imperfections I did exactly the opposite.  I took some of my least favorite beads in my collection and attempted to create something beautiful. 


I put them all in one section of my bead tray. They came to life.

So I went to work and strung them together.

I finished it with a lobster-claw clasp on each end.

Finally, I attached it to my medical identification tag.

And I created The Ugly Bracelet.

You might think this is such a negative name, but this is how I refer to it when I tell people about it.  It just seems to come naturally.  I created it using beads that at one time did not appeal to me.  They were "ugly" beads and I turned it into something very meaningful.  It's definitely a conversation piece when I tell people what I call it and it makes me smile everytime. :)

I have several interchangeable bracelets I've made for my medical identification tag, but this is the one I wear most often.  Besides the fact that the colors are neutral and match almost anything I wear, when I look at it I think of the beach.  I think of the colors and textures of the sand and seashells.  It reminds me of sitting on the beach and watching the ocean.  It brings to me a lot of peace. 

Stephanie loved the beach, so I wear her memory when I wear this bracelet.  It is also a reminder that with a little bit of effort and creativity the negative can be turned into a positive. Like countless others, I do have my share of medical needs.  However, when I look at this bracelet I'm reminded that these are all just the beads of life contributing to the bigger picture.  When strung together they take on a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stringing Beads

Welcome to Stringtown!  I'm so glad you stopped by!  The Emerson quote above is the essence of Stringtown. Each experience colors our world in a different way causing us to feel a rainbow of emotions throughout life. One pivotal moment in my life happened two years ago today with the passing of my best friend. We were friends since childhood and never lost touch even beyond the day she left this world.

Stephanie and me with her childhood dog, Dutchess.
Thank you to Stephanie's parents for providing this picture.

Stephanie sparked my passion for beading and she continues to inspire me everyday. Five years ago my brother was planning his wedding and I was looking for a unique shower gift for my soon-to-be sister in law. I remembered that Stephanie had some jewelry-making tools and beads. What is more unique than a handmade gift? Thus began my love of beading. It was an interest Stephanie and I shared.



And more beads!

Stephanie and I drove on Stringtown Road many times as we embarked on countless shopping adventures, many of which included the hunt for beads. The name Stringtown fits well with the main technique I use in my beading, which is stringing. Last July 25th I opened StringtownBeads in Stephanie's memory. I am making it my annual goal to "bring something to life" every year on that date in her memory. This year I have chosen to begin this blog and dedicate it to my Best Friend Forever, Stephanie.

In memory of Stephanie...

I invite you to join me on this train of moods as we string the beads of life together!