Glass fusing art project

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For Panda’s birthday, he found a deal for a glass fusing class. At first we were looking at stained glass classes, but once I heard about glass fusing, I knew that’s what we wanted to do. I also figured that we could make plate or bowl-like ones that the cats could then use for their food. Our normal bowls were a bit too deep for their liking whereas they’d lick food right off a plate onto the floor, so neither ware worked well.

Firehouse Pottery and Arts is in Mt. Airy, MD (near Damascus) and it’s a cute shop that does pottery painting, clay pottery sculpting, and canvas painting classes in addition to their glass fusing ones. When we arrived, there was a bit of confusion and it turns out that they’d booked us for one month later. We were an hour too early for their jewelry glass fusion class and about 2 hours too late for their trivet glass fusion class that day, but since we were already there (and far from home), they cleared a table and showed us the ropes to make the geometric trivets that we thought we’d signed up for.

Take a look at the experience and what we made!

firehouse pottery and arts studio in mt airy

There are a couple of areas to work in. So many colors everywhere!

glass scoring station at firehouse pottery and arts

For larger pieces, you can score your glass at the station to get a long straight line.

glass fusing samples of tack, contour, and full fuses

We were shown sample pieces to decide the fusing we wanted – tack (bumpy), contour (moderately fused), or full (smooth).

glass piece with tack fusion - the most bumpy option with minimal fusing

The tack fuse piece was quite bumpy!

glass piece with full fusion and slump

We gravitated towards the full fuse (with slump, which gives it a shape so it isn’t flat).

glass cutting tools and work space

We got some tools, a piece of 6×6 clear glass for our base, and some instructions. Always use the nipper “eyes up!”

pieces of colored glass sorted into plastic tubs

There were a lot of glass pieces to pick out!

designing trivet with three layers of colored glass

I started layering to see what color combos I liked.

standing up to score the glass with hand glass cutter

Scoring the glass can be hard work so standing up for greater leverage helped.

piece of purple colored glass with dfferent shades of layers

Most pieces were the same color all the way through, but the purple (incidentally my fav color) was unique.

breaking glass (watch how easy it is to break the glass along the scored line)

layers of colored glass cut and layered into design

After finally getting all the pieces I wanted and making sure the bottom colors fit with almost no gap, I was ready to start gluing.

gluing colored glass to clear glass base

We had white glue and hair spray to adhere the glass together. I tried both!

other students' glass fusion trivets ready to go in the kiln

As we were wrapping up, I checked out some other people’s work.

completed glass trivets ready to go in kiln

Our completed pieces, ready to go in the kiln! It takes a long time to first fuse, then slump glass and they had a queue of pottery going in too.

completed fused glass projects with gift bag and cat in background

Weeks later (actually exactly 2 months) I finally got them! They’d had to get a new (bigger) mold for our pieces, which were larger than normal.

fused glass piece of house, tree, sun, driveway, and yard

Panda’s creative landscape (aka Smokey’s plate).

colorful fused glass piece of geometric design

My modern art piece dubbed “straight edge” (aka Missy’s plate).

geometric glass plate layered over house glass plate

Don’t they look cool? I look forward to doing this again sometime.

house glass plate layered over geometric glass plate

Panda decided they were too nice for the cats to use, so there goes that plan.

They weren’t perfectly smooth the way I thought, which is probably because our pieces were thicker than they expected. I wonder if we could have them re-fused and slumped to make them oh so smooth… alas, the place is too far and these are fine, especially given that they won’t be used as plates! I think we’ll end up treating them partly as art and partly as trays. In fact, mine currently holds a bit of money and a receipt.

Tide PODS Plus Febreze review

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I’ve tried a different type of Tide Pod before, which was fun in itself. This new Febreze version is even better! I love the colors and upon opening the pack, you immediately get that refreshing scent. You just have to be careful if you have kids or pets, in case they mistake these adorable pods for a treat. Be sure to store them away from reach and sealed in the resealable package!

tide pods with febreze over clothes in washerI’m typically not motivated to do laundry, so I try to get large loads ready to maximize the effort each time. It’s always so messy trying to measure out the amount of detergent to use and I end up with a sticky cap and detergent drawer. I love that these pods not only take out the guesswork, but the mess too. All I have to is drop one in a load and set the machine to go! My clothes come out smelling amazing and it lingers on the clothes, keeping that fresh feel over many wears. In fact, I went out once and thought that the restaurant was using a special perfume, but then I realized the whiff I got was my own clothing’s Febreze scent.

I don’t think these could be any more convenient and I’d love to see them start to offer other Febreze fragrances to spice things up. I’m totally grabbing these in the aisle whenever I need more detergent for my washing needs. Why make laundry more complicated than it needs to be?

[I received these products free from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions are my own.]

Escape Monthly April: Japan Box review

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Who could say no to Japan? I totally had to see what kawaii things might come in this box. I totally thought there’d be those funky little erasers shaped like sushi or other food. Alas, maybe next time. While waiting for this, I got an email that Escape Monthly had changed their billing and I needed to re-subscribe. To entice me, they offered 30% off for life… I decided to go with it, though I seriously debated letting that be a rather natural cutoff with this box. But I like it enough to keep it at the lower price point.

Escape Monthly is just under $40 per box (with code for 20% off your subscription – see end of post) and comes with a variety of food, home, skincare items themed around a city/region. Each box comes with a guide for that area. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral commission program.

escape monthly april japan box products showing escape monthly april japan box info card escape monthly april japan box info card opened with fact sheet showingescape monthly april japan box info card opened with details of products included (click to enlarge and read full messaging)

It’s great to see a mix of items so I have things for the home, personal care, kitchen, and of course my tummy. Some things reminded me of home and others were new to me.

Here’s what came in the box:

Moon Handbooks guide to Living Abroad in Japan – While I’ve been through the airport two or three times, I’ve never truly visited Japan. I even stayed at an airport hotel when I was a young teen, being escorted by airport personnel since I was traveling solo. I just never went further than that and other than a van driving on the other side of the road, some smoking Japanese airport workers watching strange game shows, and a hotel I no longer recall, I haven’t gotten to experience Japan. I do look forward to it though, and I’m sure Panda and I will make our way there in our coming trips so I’ll see what this booklet has to offer then.

The Tao of Tea Japanese Sencha tea – I love the packaging of this tea. This brand is new to me, though I think I’ve seen it before. The tea is well-preserved in a tin that doesn’t let in light and has an inner lid for extra sealing power. The scent is a nice, rich green tea. Just the type of thing I can bring to work and sip on all day long.

The Japanese Konjac Sponge bamboo charcoal – I still don’t quite understand konjac sponges, but this is already my third. The first I got in the UK at a Boots, the second I got from Julep (and am currently using), and funny enough, I received my fourth in my latest Petit Vour box today! So I am now quite well-stocked on these and really hope that they help my acne-prone skin. It definitely feels like a good oil absorber and it’s so gentle on skin. I love that it’s eco-friendly too.

Glico Pocky Matcha biscuit sticks – I love Pocky and matcha green tea! So of course it makes sense that I love matcha Pocky too. I wish they would have gone for something a little harder to find, since Japanese candies and treats are quite plentiful. While this flavor isn’t super easy to find, many Asian markets do carry it. I guess it’s a mostly safe bet for those completely new to them though, whereas some things might be unusual enough that people wouldn’t want to try it.

Syokuzen chopsticks – I could always use a pair of chopsticks. I’m thinking of taking this pair to work, since I feel bad with all the disposable ones that I end up using when I carry out for lunch. These are nice simple chopsticks with a minimal design and thin points that help with picking up small pieces of food.

sandalwood fan – I’ve had many of these in my childhood and I never knew the scent was sandalwood. It totally makes me think of China and my grandma. Such a soothing smell to enjoy. The intricate carvings on the side allow some air to flow through and it offers a really cool design. I’ve had ones like this and some with painted images too. Maybe I’ll lay around and fan myself this summer!

Japanese wind chime – This is a hefty little bell that I believe is made of cast iron. It makes a nice tinkling sound that I think I will try to train the cats to respond to for feeding time. Or maybe I’ll hang it on our porch somewhere and let it do its thing.

Culturally, there’s enough overlap that it feels much like a Chinese box to me and I’m comfortable with that. Plenty of good memories! Which items in the Japan Escape Monthly box would you want? If you want to sign up, try one of these codes (not sure which ones are still active): YOURESCAPE or JAPAN for 20% off the lifetime of your subscription or GIFTESCAPE for 25% off.

Next month is themed Rocky Mountain and I’m excited for nature-y stuff. I haven’t been, so that should be fun!

escape monthly april japan box info card back with chance to win a trip details

Looks like they started customizing the back image to match the destination instead of using a generic beach image.

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

The Madagascar hissing cockroach

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holding madagascar hissing cockroach to faceIt’s been almost exactly a year since I started volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo & Butterfly Pavilion! It’s hard to believe and I’m happy that my volunteer time is still going strong. Every time I go volunteer, there is so much to preoccupy me that I hardly ever get pictures. I’m slowly working on that so I can share more of what you’d be able to experience there!

Let’s start off with the Madasgascar hissing cockroach, one of the staples found on the insect cart. These are hardy creatures that don’t require much maintenance. We keep two tiny slices of sweet potato in a jar for them and I can’t even tell they’ve been eaten. While they may look scary, they’re actually really safe and quite clean. I’m sure that’s why they’re popular in TV shows that have them crawl all over people or offer them up as creepy snacks to contestants.

Hissing cockroaches don’t fly, jump, or bite. They are not toxic, have no stingers, and their only defense is to hiss. So really, there’s no way they can hurt you. At all. Even when people know this, they get creeped out. I guess many phobias are rather irrational. I admit they aren’t the prettiest of species, but they’re cute in their own way.

You’ll only find them hissing when they’re feeling upset/threatened (or for males, also when they want to mate). They domesticate pretty easily and the ones we have hardly ever hiss. Usually it’s just a brief “Ugh, why are you picking me up again? Just leave me alone” sort of hiss that vaguely resembles a rattlesnake. To create the noise, they have spiracles along their abdomen – look closely and you’ll see dots lining the sides. They push air through these spiracles to hiss, which is kind of like whistling through your sides. This is pretty unique in the insect world, since most of them create noise by rubbing body parts together, like wings. Obviously, the Madagascar hissing cockroach does not have wings, so it found a different way.

Here I’m holding a male up to my face to show you how large he’d gotten. You can tell he’s a male by the horns on his head, which are quite pronounced. Females have tiny bumps there and their antennae don’t get nearly as fuzzy. They grow to similar sizes and colors vary from about as dark as this guy to far lighter, almost golden yellow. They can live a good 2-5 years (females tend to live longer), which makes them a long-lived insect. Their longevity combined with their ease of domestication and lack of harmfulness make them great pets! I’ve had many schoolteachers and students tell me they had them in their classrooms.

It’s always fun to see who is willing to hold these guys and who freaks out. It’s usually the children running up all wide-eyed and excited while the adults stay back. The larger the person, the greater the fear it seems. I had a towering giant of a man scream when he tried to hold one, which was actually quite terrifying. Some people actually shake and jerk as they try to not throw it off their hands. Then there are the babies who jut out their little hands and I can barely get the hissing cockroach on their tiny palms. Usually people go away with a new appreciation for these creatures, and a little less fear/misunderstanding of them. That’s always my goal!

Hello Fresh July 2 Delivery review

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Whoa, I can hardly believe it’s been a year and a half since we started getting these boxes. I somehow totally slacked on reviews and didn’t do any of our 2014 ones! So here we go, a look at some of the dishes that we once cooked. This delivery came because I forgot to keep pausing and I happened to forget to do the same for Blue Apron at the same time, so we suddenly had TWO boxes to cook, right before our weekend trip to Pittsburgh! Luckily we planned it out and cooked & ate like crazy for a few days. (Interested in trying Hello Fresh? Use my referral code to get $40 off your first order: 9CAMJS)

Hello Fresh is just under $70 per box and comes with 3 meals of 2 servings each. That’s less than $12 per meal serving. Boxes are sent weekly unless you choose to skip (which is very easy to do). They offer a referral code that gives $40 off to the person you referred and $20 off your next order.

collage of hello fresh bbq chicken with cole slaw recipe card

We cooked this one right before leaving for the weekend.

collage of hello fresh bbq chicken with cole slaw ingredients and meal being made

It’s relatively simple and just takes some time for the sauce and baking.

hello fresh bbq chicken with cole slaw finished product

I enjoyed the sauce and would want to try it with drumsticks in the future, since I don’t like eating around all that bone.

collage of hello fresh cheddar stuffed sliders with german potato salad recipe card

As soon as we returned from the weekend, we set to making the other two dishes.

collage of hello fresh cheddar stuffed sliders with german potato salad ingredients and meal being made

I liked the concept of a patty stuffed with cheese, though it didn’t quite ooze the way I imagined.

hello fresh cheddar stuffed sliders with german potato salad finished product

The sliders were tasty, but the potato salad was odd.

collage of hello fresh lemon grilled shrimp with pineapple salsa recipe card

Yum, more shrimp skewers! The Blue Apron box had a similar offering.

collage of hello fresh lemon grilled shrimp with pineapple salsa ingredients and meal being made

I somehow neglected to take many photos (must have been too distracted with the slider ones).

hello fresh lemon grilled shrimp with pineapple salsa finished product

I like the combo of skewer, rice, and pineapple salsa.

These dishes were well-curated and certainly made me feel like it was time for a summer barbeque. We’ll have to bring out some of these recipes as the warm weather arrives again!

[This post contains affiliate codes. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Beauty Box 5 April 2015 review

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Alas, this will be my last BB5 for now and I really liked it! It’ll be a good break though since I’m just getting too many products to keep up with.

Beauty Box 5 is $12 per box (or as discounted as $99 for an entire year, with an option in between) and comes with 5 cosmetic products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. You also have the option of buying it as a gift your box to a friend. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards products or boxes.

april 2015 beauty box 5 contents beauty box 5 april 2015 information card

Lasting Smiles Passionfruit Mango organic lip balm: Who doesn’t like a brand with a mission to help children? This is a rather expensive lip balm though. I’m not a huge fan of mango, so I am hesitant to open this and try it just yet while I have so many other products to use. I might share it with someone else!

Dancin’ Goat Hula Bliss hand & body lotion: What a fun brand. This is a great little bottle of lotion to have in the car or at my desk. I love the relaxing scent and it’s a great formula that feels great. It absorbs well and doesn’t leave any oiliness so I don’t leave my prints all over my screens.

Incoco Nail Polish Applique Set: I’m totally applying these on my nails this weekend. They’re fun and a nice change for spring. I like nail polish strips since they’re not messy and they can have really cool, intricate designs.

Style Essentials TwinGloss lip gloss: At first I thought it was the shadow making me think one side was darker. Then I thought it was the packaging. Imagine my surprise when I found it’s actually two shades of lip gloss! How fun. I’m all about these types of products that mix as it comes out. This gloss is also awesome because it’s not sticky and applies so smoothly.

First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser: I’ve seen this brand and was curious about it, so I’m glad to have these samples.

The “bloom” theme is quite appropriate and I enjoyed this final box. Which items do you like most?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

cracked

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cover image for cracked poem by mary qin

I fell through the cracks

I lay all alone

And I quietly hoped they’d help me

As others stumbled, they were helped up

“Soon it will be my turn,” I thought

Soon it will be my turn.

But the seconds dragged to minutes

And nothing

So I timidly hollered.

They peered down at me

I waved

They turned their noses – quiet, you!

Back to the ones above board!

Help them, help them instead

 

I fell through the cracks and it broke me

 

 

Epilogue

Now I choose to sit in the shadows

A tainted spirit and soul.

One day I might explode

Break open the boards above

Let everyone fall down here too

 

Or if I’m feeling generous

I’ll swim off to the sea

There’s a wide world out there

As soon as I’m strong enough to swim

As soon as the tide comes in

Yogi Surprise April 2015 review

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It’s spring and time to focus on energy! I feel like all the items here are good for that. Not my favorite box so far, but I’m learning a lot and trying some new items.

Yogi Surprise is just under $36 per box (with code for 20% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with yoga gear, skincare, food, and other lifestyle products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

contents of yogi surprise april 2015 box with info card yogi surprise april 2015 info card with product details

Essential Living Foods Superfood Trail Mix – Trail mix (or anything with nuts and dried fruit) isn’t much of my thing, but I’ll still eat it! It’s nice and sweet on its own, without any added sweetener.

Grey sage smudge stick bundle – I certainly like the light, healing smell of this stick. Now if someone could please explain what smudging is, I’ll happily go about smudging my home! Or I’ll just inhale this lovely stick’s scent whenever I need to clear my mind.

Essence of Nature Paradise Papers notebook – This is such a cool notebook, made completely from plants and NOT trees. There are four distinct sections where you can tell it was made from one of the four plants: banana, coffee, lemon, and mango. If I was still journaling this would be the perfect item to use next. Maybe I’ll start up again.

GoodOnYa breakfast bar – I’m very hesitant about this bar, so I’ll probably give it to someone else to eat and try a piece then. I just don’t like breakfast bars, energy bars, granola bars (you name it). But I’d absolutely bring this on a hike for an energizing boost.

Frisky Fish Essentials Exhale roll on perfume – Is this really a perfume? This essential oil roll-on is just so relaxing I can’t imagine using it for perfume. I find it perfect to roll on at night to help me sleep easier, or during the day to calm down. The combination of eucalyptus and lavender is cleansing and soothing.

Vanessa Valente Crystals Quartz starter kit – I was surprised at the small size of the quartz included, but I guess that makes it easier to bring along in anything. I’m not sure how effective such a small one would be, but it doesn’t hurt to carry it around and adopt a mantra to stay in tune with positive energy.

Rosewood Mala bracelet – What a light bracelet! I might use it for meditation, or just wear it as an anklet since it’s rather large. It makes me think of monks from Thailand.

I’ll make good use of these items to recalibrate myself for the season. It’s been a rough start and I’m still trying to find my footing as everything blossoms around me.

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Homegrown Collective March 2015 review

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Homegrown Collective is trying something new and instead of printing out inserts with the projects for the box, they’re posting all the info on their site! I think that’s a great idea and it certainly offered them a chance to share a ton of information. This month’s theme is “Vim & Vinegar!” and they showcase three types of vinegar, all with amazing uses. This is great timing since Panda and I were planning on some spring cleaning this weekend.

The Homegrown Collective GREENBOX is $39 per box + $9 shipping (or as discounted as $429 for an entire year, with options in between) and comes with fun and easy projects to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program you can apply to join.

contents of the homegrown collective march 2015 box with vim & vinegar theme note in the homegrown collective box indicating no more paper inserts

Project #1, orange peel white vinegar: I can’t believe I never considered infusing vinegar with other scents to help with the odor. I’m pretty sensitive to the scent, so cleaning with vinegar has been something I avoided. This is perfect and I can’t wait to see how the orange peel helps with the vinegar smell! I won’t have to hold my breath when using white vinegar to clean. :) They also laid out over a dozen ways to use it, from removing scents to conditioning hair and of course plenty of cleaning remedies. A spray bottle of this stuff is going to be a total life saver around the house.

Project #2, baking soda & white vinegar cleanser: Combine two power cleaning products and the effects have got to be amazing! I’ve heard of all the things baking soda can do, so it totally makes sense for both of these to be key ingredients to cleaning just about anything. Surprisingly, I haven’t tried using them for removing stains before. I really need to try that on the ones the cats have created.

Project #3, apple cider vinegar: Wow, they wrote up another extensive list of ways to use this kind of vinegar. I’m totally adding this to my daily drinking habit (I go through a good 10 mugs of water and/or tea on weekdays). I never knew it could be good for digestion! Maybe it will help with my stomachaches. Other uses that jumped out at me were skincare related, including using it for a facial toner, applying it to work against acne, and rubbing it in to help with cellulite. The hair care benefits reminded me of what I learned from the January box.

Project #4, pasillo pepper spicy vinegar: The final use is about infusing vinegar, which takes advantage of the balsamic vinegar. I did a cold infusion before, so this hot style will be new and should provide a strong flavor. I’ve never tried pasillo peppers and I hope they aren’t too spicy or I’ll have to give this to someone else to actually consume.

What an assortment of vinegars and their respective uses! This will certainly keep me busy for awhile, trying out all the ways vinegar (and baking soda) can power my cleaning needs. I love the simplicity of these natural items that are so easy to buy.

Subscribe to the Homegrown Collective today and start living a greener lifestyle!

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Drywall patching

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Our home is now over a year old and for our one year, we had our drywall patched up for the areas showing signs of popped nails. Panda and I made a list of everything we noticed so when the guy came, I was able to point them all out. It took a good portion of the morning, with a break in between for the new drywall to dry. I’m always curious about how these things are done and it was totally not what I expected! Granted, I wasn’t really sure how they’d patch things up so I guess breaking off the pieces and filling them in sort of makes sense.

Here’s the damage we observed:

set of nails popping underneath drywall causing bumps

We were seeing some movement underneath.

crack in drywall from shifting walls in home

Some cracks presented themselves.

popped nail under drywall creating obvious dent

A few nails popped quite clearly.

When the guy came, he quickly set out to fix up all those parts of the walls and ceiling.

plastic protectant laid on ground to catch drywall pieces

He carefully laid down plastic to cover areas where he was working.

exposed drywall patch being fixed and redone

The cracks got chipped away and new drywall was put on top. The netting thing was to help things stabilize and adhere.

cat hiding in closet by hanging dress shirt sleeves

Smokey was not happy about the intrusion, so she went to hide in the closet.

wet drywall drying out after patching popped nails

When he left, everything was still drying.

fresh drywall needing paint

Once dry, this is how it looked. For the most part I hardly ever notice the patches, but every now and then they become obvious. Eventually we’ll paint them!

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