Capitol City Visit

Capitol City Visit
Madison Wisconsin

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A trip to the city! Madison, Wisconsin!

We've lived a lot of different places.  Currently, and for over the past decade, we have settled in a rural farming community of the mid-west.  We love where we live.  It is picturesque and generally, low key.

However, recently this past week, we had occasion to go to Madison, Wisconsin and stay overnight.  Our oldest child had been accepted to play with the State Honors Band last spring. This was a huge accomplishment!  The concert, and culmination of months of practice, was this past Thursday.  So, off we went to stay in our capitol city.

As many know, Madison is a college town.  It is also quite famous for its politics.  Our school children all visit the capitol during their elementary years.  It is a gorgeous building....politics aside.  Many of our high schoolers decide to return to the capitol for the outstanding education that is offered there at UW-Madison.

I'll be honest.  We haven't always enjoyed our visits to Madison.  It is, after all, a city.  With that comes noise, congestion, chaos, and sometimes confusion.  Our high school senior, really being talented enough to choose anywhere in the country to attend college, has not chosen Madison.  Not that there is anything wrong with it, just that particular campus is not a good fit for him.

But, being there for 36 hours this past week was very enjoyable!  I came home liking Madison more than I ever have.  And I have to admit, I do miss some aspects of city life.  My husband and I do know what it is like to live in a city, as we have lived and worked in the larger urban areas of Philadelphia and Baltimore, and called smaller cities such as Buffalo, New York home, as well.

You see being in Madison reminded me that a city offers diversity of many kinds.
Area of Diversity #1- FOOD
The food was great and there was a lot to choose from!  We chose Ginos Italian Restaurant, which is known as a Madison institution.  But, there was sushi, Indian, thai, you name it and Madison has a restaurant for it!  We have missed that diversity of flavor, living in a small mid-western community that doesn't stray far from its bratwurst.  Coffee houses abound, as towards the end of our weary walking tour (waiting for concert time), we found ourselves taking refuge in Michelangelo's on State Street for an afternoon tea.  All of this was with two middle schoolers in tow.  Oh, and I can't forget about the ice cream!

Area of Diversity #2 - PEOPLE
What a great place to people watch.  All kinds of people can be seen everywhere you go!  Students, professors, community members, all mixing and interacting with tolerance for one another.

Area of Diversity #3 - ARCHITECTURE
We walked for six hours on the city and campus streets during our Madison visit.  Luckily, the weather (and no one can complain about our fall), was on the comfortably warm side and while not sunny, not raining, either.  It was so enjoyable to see so many kinds of buildings.  From the Old Lutheran Church with its door flung open, to the newly built place of worship that seemed just as inviting.  The Overture Center for the Arts is a stunning example of modern architecture set amidst all the shops and restaurants downtown, but fitting in beautifully as it offers free admission for the Contemporary Museum of Art and a wonderful concert venue that our family was privileged to experience first hand as audience members and a performer, as well.  

While we were visiting Madison, we needed to find activities to occupy our boys while we were waiting to arrive at the concert venue.  We decided upon the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. I wanted, in the very least, to show them this gorgeous building that I had seen last spring during a campus visit.  Luckily, they were hosting a FREE drop-in field trip for any interested K-12 student on four different science topics!  WOW!  We walked the mile from our hotel to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.   First our boys got to experiment with feral fluid and find out how nano technology is used in material science.  Next, one went to the anatomy lab to dissect a cow eye ball while the other (more squeamish son) went to use pipettes and find out about stem cell research. Finally, there was a video game lab experimenting on how to teach mindfulness to our students.  All of the labs were run by enthusiastic adults, anxious to enrich our youth! Oh, how I miss the opportunities found in a city! Especially a city as educationally based and forward thinking as Madison.  The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery understands that the private sector and public section has to work together to advance society and find solutions for some of the most complex issues of today!  Kudos to them for putting this idea to work!  

As we ended our trip with enjoying some wonderful music, played by the most talented high school musicians in the state of Wisconsin, I found myself missing all that a city has to offer.  It energized me to be around other adults who want to offer enrichment to today's youth and do that in a way everyone can enjoy!  I am bringing that enthusiasm back to my own community this week.  If you have read any of my other non-jewelry blog posts, you know that I have been an avid volunteer educating our youth in a variety of areas; horticulture, science, and writing.  I am thankful to have enjoyed Madison and return home invigorated to provide educational opportunities for local youth, outside a classroom setting.  While I know I don't have to live in a city, I think I've realized that visiting one more often than I have in the last few years can be very enjoyable!  

Thanks for stopping by! Have a GREAT week!

P.S. Some of my love of photography can be seen in my etsy shop where select pieces are sold!
Check it out!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blog Feature!

Good Morning!

Today, I'd like to share another blog with you!  My shop has been featured on the blog Eyelah!

Here is the link:

In the feature you will find out a little more about me and my jewelry making, as well as be able to check out some of my pieces!  Eyelah is a fellow etsian.  Check out her blog and then check out her shop, too!  Etsians are fabulous at supporting each other's small business ventures in the hand-made community!  I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stats on the importance of an online presences for small business

Good Morning! Today, I am shaing an info graphic from Vistaprint on the importance of an online presence for small business.  I found it interesting!  I hope you do too!  Having just come off a weekend craft show in which my jewelry shop, Carol's Jewelry Orchard, had a booth, I spent many conversations explaining to potential customers that I had a website via etsy and weebly, through which I sold my jewelry.  Look at the information, see where you fit.  What do you use, online, to increase your small business sales?

Don't forget to check out my Think Pink Sale, also.....going on all October. Prices already reduced on anything pink in my shop.  A portion (20%) of the Pink items sold will be donated to charity for breast cancer research.

Have a great day!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Drowning in Photographs...........

I have to admit it!  I take too many pictures!  I photograph all the jewelry I design and create, I photograph my kids, my yard, school functions, vacations, landscapes, fruit on the trees, etc.

I am literally drowning in pictures!  

This year my eldest son graduates from high school.  I don't know where the time has gone but I do know that I want to make some kind of keepsake for him.  He is an extraordinary young man! I know every parent feels that way, so I am not alone!  Due to all the wonderful accomplishments he has, I want to make some photo books that will preserve what he has already accomplished in the first part of his life.

I have decided to do this via online scrap books and photo stories, as well as home made DVD's.  Of course to be able to do justice to his school years, I need to have some kind of organization to the whole thing.  This is precisely where I come into a problem.  

UGH!  I need to sort and be able to categorize the thousands of photographs I've acquired.  This will take extra time, but I'm intent on doing it.  I've decided to make one photo book for his elementary years, one for middle school, and one for each year of high school.  This series of books will include family memories such as our trips to Bermuda, Hawaii, The Florida Keys, Gettysburg, Mt. Rushmore, and Rocky Mountain National Park.  The books will also commemorate 8 years of piano recitals, solo/ensembles, concerts, theater productions, National History Day Finals in Washington, D.C., and other performance events.  Of course, holidays and birthdays, visits with family and relatives will all be thrown in for good measure.  

It is a huge project to undertake but one that he can take with him if he wants when he leaves for college next year.  My heart is swelled with pride for him and the young man his has become.  The books will be a small token of our parental pride in him; one that he can cherish and keep as close as necessary.

I look forward to doing it!  However, right now it is somewhat daunting! So, I better get cracking!
The time is now to start organizing my pool of pictures!  

Thanks for stopping by!  Don't forget that I have a giveaway running at Pixel Berry Designs Blog, until 10/14/12.  Here is the link for that;

Also, my shop will be "on vacation" next Friday through Sunday (10/12- 10/14) to enable me to participate in a large local craft show.  If you are interested in purchasing a piece of jewelry in my shop, be sure to do it before Friday at

Thanks, again!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Win A Swarovski Crystal Button Ring from my shop!

Good Morning!

It is time for a giveaway from my shop!  In the past, I have always run the giveaways myself.  They never generated the attention I desired.  So this time, I am having another blog, a blog I advertise my shop through, run the giveaway!  

Please check out Pixel Berry Pie Designs Blog for the Swarovski Button Ring Giveaway!
Rules for entering are on her blog page, along with many pictures of the rings you could choose.

The giveaway runs through 10/14/12.

The winner will be able to choose the color of Swarovski Button from those available and weather to wrap it in sterling wire or craft wire.  The value is $18.00-$30.00 depending on the ring choosen.

Today, instead of posting the rings (I'd like you to go to the Pixel Berry Pie Designs Blog or my shop to check them out), I'm posting pictures of some of the pieces I've created that coordinate well with the rings!

Enjoy!  ~Carol~

Friday, September 28, 2012

What's recharging my batteries????

Well, hello!

If you read my post from a couple of weeks ago, you'll note that at the end I promised to let you know the outcome to my being overwhelmed by my volunteer activities in our school district and community!

What's recharging my batteries?  The answer is writing!  

Shortly after my last post, I saw an advertisement for a short story contest offered by NPR or National Public Radio.  Three minute fiction.  The topic of your writing had to include a US President!  After thinking of my idea for a few days, I sat down and wrote it up in 45 minutes!  The words just easily flowed on to my computer!  Good thing because by the time I saw the advertisement, I only had a week left to make my submission.  So, on Sunday, 9/23/12, after about 7 edits, I submitted my story!  

It was fun. It was useful!  It made me feel good!   My kids liked the story!   My batteries were recharging!

So, on Tuesday, I contacted the teacher who organizes the third grade writer's circle for me.  Yes! Yes, I told her!  I am sure I still want to hold a writer's circle this year!  I am excited to know that in less than a week, I will find out what 6 third graders I'll be writing with this year! For the last two years, we've done units on poetry, persuasive writing, narrative writing, and more.  For the last two years, the student's with me have had their poetry accepted to be published by the National Schools Project!  

For the first time, in a while; my batteries are charging and more is going in that is coming out!  I think I'll keep it this way for now!  

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to stop in tomorrow, 9/29/12, for an announcement about a giveaway from my Etsy shop!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reflection....Seeing a Need.

Today, I'd like to share some very introspective musings with you.  

Lately, I've been engaging in a lot of self reflection.  I'm at a point in my life that I'm questioning what I'm doing and why, exactly, I'm doing "it".  The need for reflection arose due to a feeling I had last fall, that intensified during this past spring, of being over committed and thus, over whelmed by the volunteer activities I had taken on.

So, without getting into too many details, let's just say that I was running two separate groups for our school district. One such assemblage was a new advocacy group for the parents/families of our district's talented and gifted students.  This was a group I had started the previous year, based on a  perceived need that arose from other parents asking me what was going on with TAG education at various levels in our district.  The group met once a month, however a lot of background information needed to be gathered as well as writing mission and vision statements, setting forth goals, and meeting with various district and building administrators.  Needless to say, it has been a difficult and stressful road mostly because the topic of giftedness is, in general, one that people, even educators (or maybe, especially educators) are reluctant to discuss.  All children are gifts, not all children are gifted.  There is a difference. However, this difference is not recognized universally and can be polarizing.

The second group I led is near and dear to my heart.  Nine years ago this fall, I started an elementary, after school garden club.  It was an idea that came to me so I could easily bank volunteer hours. The hours were necessary to hold my Master Gardener Certification in good standing.  I had the support of the principal and a vision.  Bear in mind this idea was well before the current popularity existed for environmental education and outdoor classrooms.  It seems everyone has jumped on this band wagon that no one cared about or barely existed 10 short years ago.  Over the course of the last eight years, I have developed my own curriculum and have been able to attract an average of 30 students per year to an elective educational activity. Wow!  Again, I saw a that I still believe exists to develop engaging community activities for our youth.  I strongly believe that not all learning takes place in a classroom.  I have seen some of my garden club students blossom with confidence and a sense of pride in accomplishing something good, like our school based butterfly garden, for the entire community.  I've also witnessed the empowerment that knowledge enables some children to be able to say, "I know that, because I learned it in garden club".  Yes, Evergreen Garden Club was a good thing.  

In addition to holding monthly meetings for both of these groups, I spent time holding a book club for first graders, a writing circle for third graders, reading with forth graders, and working on language arts with 6th graders, all on a weekly basis.  Lastly, I did what I could to support our local high school band.

Whew, even in writing this, I feel a sense of being overwhelmed.  So, it should be no surprise that when August rolled around and I began to "organize" for these two groups, I started feeling stressed. I knew I needed to make a change.  On the advice of some friends, I sat down and made a list of what I was doing.  To quote one of those friends, I needed to decide, what drained my batteries (so to speak) and what recharged them.  I was to keep what recharged my personal batteries and let the draining activities go.  If you knew me, you'd realize this was so much easier said than done.  

I've always been a person with a strong sense of obligation and loyalty.  How do you stop something you feel committed to?  Well, let me tell you, it is hard!    I saw a need for both of the groups I started, I saw a need for the other activities as well.  All of the activities with the exception of the fourth grade reading and sixth grade language arts classroom volunteer duties, were activities solely being conducted by me.  They were developed by seeing a need, speaking to the involved teacher or administrator, being organized, and starting the groups.  

So, what has happened you ask?  What have I decided?  Well, the outcome is different than I even imagined.  I hope you'll stop back later this week to see what is going to keep by batteries charged!  I'll give you a hint; I've realized that I'm good at seeing what is needed and addressing those needs.  The question is what is needed now?  For me? For our community?  I hope you'll stop back to find out!

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!