When Minimalism and the Simplicity Movement Meet Off Grid Homesteading you have Vitalism.

September 12, 2016 at 7:17 pm (Eating Nature, Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, organized simplicity, Relationships, simple frugality, Travel, Uncategorized)

Vitalism is the necessary, basic and crucial needs of day to day life.

 

20160217_145306My daughter and I moved from our urban family home in San Diego a year ago. We moved to a very rural part of Colorado. High in the mountains at almost 9000’ elevation in the wooded foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range. Our home is totally off grid as there are no power or water or trash services. We do have county maintained roads…sort of.

We bought a vacation home built in 2009 and finished… well, not quite yet. We have solar and wind for power and propane for our kitchen appliances. Our water was trucked in for the first ten months we were here and put into underground cisterns. We had to have deliveries once a month at a cost of approximately $250.00. In order to conserve water we joined the community center in town about twelve miles away. There we could take hot showers and wash our hair, visit the tiny library with dodgy internet and go for a swim in the Olympic size indoor pool or use the gym and full size basketball court. We have a shower in our bathroom so we can take short showers if needed.

We produce more power than we can store so sometimes we would run out at night when the horse trough heater went on in the winter. We now know to vacuum or use the blender in peak sunshine hours and not at the same time to err on the safe side.

I moved out here with a small sports car and all my sorted, sifted and downscaled belongings. In my second week I was heading to town on a sunny day after the previous night’s rain and got stuck in a deep mud pocket about a mile down the dirt road from home. It was time to trade in the eleven year old sports car for a truck with 4 wheel drive. I have always driven sports cars so this decision was not based on the same criteria as previous vehicles but rather my new found vitalism. This has been a very different driving experience.

In late October while I was on a road trip my daughter called to tell me our county’s finest had just left after she called them out because poachers were hunting on our land…er in our driveway. Yes Elk and Deer and their corresponding predators live in our area. We have “neighbors” here and some are a half mile away others several miles and not all live here year around. Hmmm perhaps a post and 4 strip barbed wired fence is in order or the dental implants I need to have done? Vitalism dictates the fence was the priority. No question.

I will leave you reader with one thought before I end today’s chapter…Why didn’t we move to an area which is on grid or move to a town or city? We wanted to be more responsible for our carbon footprint and not subject to every power price increase, blackout, brownout or other grid failures. We no longer wanted to board our horses and wanted a big garden and woods to call our own. We are conservationists at heart.

 

 

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The Southwest and Traveling Companions

July 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm (Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, Relationships, Travel) (, , , , , , )

As the time to head out on my epic journey through mountains and deserts looms I am still scrambling to complete my Couchsurfing stays. I had a last minute reschedule in Albuquerque and Lexington so I am flexible in the fact that I may be visiting a La Quinta Inn at some point or other.

I get a notice with an invite to stay in Albuquerque and breathe a sigh of relief. Early next morning I meet my rideshare companion at the Chevron station in my neighborhood for the trip to Phoenix. I offered a ride to Phoenix since I knew exactly when I was leaving and the whole car is going so at least I can assuage my fossil fuel guilt by bringing someone along. He is a nice young man who was visiting family here due to a death and needed a ride back to a Phoenix ‘burb nearby my cousin.

20140518_125758 I drop him at his home and head over to my cousin’s for some lunch before he heads off to work.

20140518_121133This is his glorious keychain collection…well a part of it anyhow.  Next morning after a lovely visit with more cousins I head of to Albuquerque and man is it warming up! I head over to another Couchsurfer’s house to pick him up for a rideshare to Albuquerque to pick up a car. He had offered me a place to stay and we even met for coffee the day before but I was staying at my cousin’s. He mentioned going to Albuqueque sharing a ride with a 90 year old man the next day so I offered to give him a lift. Sharing took a six hour drive and made it feel like three! We shared snacks and funny stories and I promised to visit on my return route. Again, half my gas paid and a delightful companion.

20140519_132636Welcome to New Mexico!

Next episode I start driving alone on to Texas the lone star state.

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Couchsurfing, the New American Dream

July 4, 2014 at 8:41 pm (Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, Relationships, Travel) (, , , )

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When I was in the planning stages of my trip east to check on the vacant (not) lot I was faced with many decisions. Do I fly and rent a car? Do I get an extended stay hotel? Do I get in my neighbor’s hot tub time machine and never bid on the property. Scratch the flying…about the hot tub? No no that’s ridiculous no one uses a hot tub in summer!

I run the numbers and decide that I would rather drive and enjoy all the hours with myself on the open highways and byways of America aka ‘Murika. Land of my people. Now hotels and motels are pricey and we’ve all had the Facebook friend post Oprah’s warnings on bed bugs and worse at even the finest establishment. This leaves one obvious option…couchsurfing.

I have been a member since 2008 and only started hosting mid 2013 and I loved the interesting people it brought right into our sitting room. I have never actually couchsurfed up to this time.

I start planning my trip and itinerary based on miles per day. I want to get across within a week but not become big rig wrangler. Capiche? So I decide 5 to 6 hours a day of driving is the range I’m looking at and choose cities I want to visit.

First stop out of California. Phoenix. I glom onto my thoughtful, fun, generous, and did I mention fun cousin Doug. Hey Doug I’m coming your way for the first night! He quickly reminds me the epic saga of Trail of Two Brothers is about to commence in Cleveland so I have only a very small window of days. Okay okay I can do this I tell myself. This is the same self who told me to buy the vacant lot.

On the Couchsurfing.org website I begin to plot out my trip by searching for hosts with an available couch, have high response rates, positive ratings and sound like my definition of cool people I’d want to hang with before retiring after my long day. I’m also hoping they have hot water for showers! Great profiles and interesting people on here I think as I scroll through the myriad choices in big cities,  and much smaller group of hosts to choose from in places like Albuquerque and Lexington. I begin by writing why I will be in that town and then another essay on why I want to stay with a particular host. I send off several for each town with a flexible date range. and wait for the responses to come in…

Next up… (cue music here) Heading out on the open road.

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My Mythic Journey

June 27, 2014 at 5:33 pm (Eating Nature, Freedom, Letting go, Relationships, Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

What began as an attempt to find a future from my past, became a lesson in moving forward, literally.

1617144_543405139099630_39619861_o During the past few years I have cared for my elderly parents in our family home. A fulfilling time and one which often left me too exhausted to think of what I should be doing to keep my creativity unfolding.

Soooo here I was trolling the internet and auction websites when I spotted a vacant lot in the town next to where my favorite former boyfriend lives. My thought was, hey maybe I could plant a native apple orchard and set it up low maintenance and let a local permaculture group or food bank tend it and keep the produce. *Let me interject here it is clear across these here United States from where I live and my pony lives. So with a giggle the universe grants my ridiculous wish and I find myself the owner of a very cheap lot in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Brilliance or lunacy? We shall see.

Over the next months my folks are aging faster and the complications of life which come along with this keep me from thinking about the lot. The tax bill comes and frankly it is a bit high for I assume is a vacant lot in a rust belt town. I pay it and again forget about the property. Over the winter I convince two friends to drive down from Pittsburgh to check on said property and take some photos. Here is what they sent.

1618499_10152235863228081_73801170_nNOT pretty and clearly NOT VACANT!  Oh my said I! What have I gotten myself into?  So now I realize this idea falls under the heading of lunacy. I begin to think I need to go and settle this matter and make a decision about the future of this “investment”.

Meanwhile my folks are reaching the end of their lives and I put this on the back burner. Over seven weeks in the Spring I lose them both. After the memorials are over I realize I need a vacation to clear my head and I need to go handle the vacant lot (NOT) situation.

Obvious solution…roadtrip! I could easily have a booked a cheap ticket on SouthWest airlines and squeezed my horse riding booty self into a toddler sized seat in a flying tin can for a few hours with affable flight attendants bearing cookies and cocktails after a solid groping by the TSA’s finest, or…I could drive my trusty nine year old Acura RSX Type S car across this beautiful country, visit places, folks and meet new friends. I chose to take the longer route. Was it cheaper?…not by a long shot. Was it a fulfilling adventure I will cherish forever? Yes.

Sometimes life takes us down roads we can’t understand until we have driven over them. What I got in the long run from a late night auction mistake moved me forward and left the past on the road behind me.

Next episode…planning the trip and why I chose to use Couchsurfer.org as my hotel accommodations.

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Never Underestimate Your Opponent: Life Lessons From the Polo Field

October 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm (Excellence in Business, Freedom, Letting go, Polo, Relationships) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Yes you have heard it before but, are you sure you know their weakness and it is your strength. Is it? Maybe thinking you have sized it all up is your weak link?

I have stated before I’m no Nacho Figueras but I am constantly improving my skills through riding outside of polo, learning more about the ten zillion rules we have in the United States Polo Association (USPA) and watching  playbacks from our Go Pro to analyze what I need to work on. What I notice is that as my riding improves I am still not in a rush to join the dusty cloud of ponies with riders all vying for the ball like a pack of dogs with a tennis ball. I am content to play defense and watch it all go down at a safe distance analyzing how each player is handling their opportunities and ready for one of my team mates to back shot the ball back towards our goal or at least away from the fray!

Often even my trusty team mates are so focused on ball ball ball that they are missing the bigger picture of changing the line and getting the ball to the side even…anywhere but in the fray. It is assumed you will shoot towards your goal and when you take it to the sides and out of the middle it takes a second for it to register with the ball followers. Our motto in polo is Man/line/ball although arguably it may be more accurate to say line/man/ball. The point here is ball is not the first priority. Mind the man (staying on your opponent to point of shadowing) and you he will lead you to the ball as you try to ride him off or keep him from said ball. Line means PAY ATTENTION to the actual invisible line the ball makes as it travels across the field or arena. There are very specific rules regarding rights of way and traffic patterns Follow the line and you lower the risk of fouling your way along as well as it will lead you to the ball and in good position to take advantage of making a play on it.

Because I play defense and don’t ride full throttle after every hit some assume (wrongly) that I’m just poking along in the background. I’m not, but I am a-okay with my opponents thinking that!  I am playing smart being in a position to assume control of the ball when it gets shot back out of the crowd. I am often alone back nearer our goal because of being overlooked. Once I am on the line and ball it is unlikely I will let you have it back. I will counter hook, dribble, back shot and nearside shot to keep control all while your team mates are still half way across the field galloping ever nearer.

1383605_10202021229272274_130187807_n So next time in business or life you think you have the sure advantage as you play offense remember somebody out there is playing defense and watching your plays waiting to make their move on your play.

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Life Lessons From the Polo Field. Polo is Played for a Short Season and Therefore Every Match is Precious.

October 2, 2013 at 4:01 am (Freedom, Health, Letting go, LoVe, Polo, Relationships) (, , , , , , )

When I went on the San Diego Polo club website back in March to check on opening day I saw something I had never noticed before…Polo School.  Immediately my blood started rushing through my veins, my heart beat faster and I could hear the hooves pounding the grass beneath the ponies. What was this sensation I felt? I called and reached no one so I drove by the clubhouse one day and inquired as to when the school opened. I was told by a very nice lady that it would be soon and to call the number on the card she gave me for updates. I did check back…weekly.

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Finally opening day for Polo school. and I was out of town! I came the second week ready to play (well sort of ready anyhow). I played foot and ball and took my first lesson and it was love at first chukker. I had a great first game and signed up for more lessons that same day happily tossing my American Express card to Gillian the school goddess and coordinator.

Week two and I realized already this game was changing me at a very basic level. I was whistling during the week, happily getting my dailies accomplished and thankful I had the opportunity each week to be an athlete while riding a four legged athlete.

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Many of the people I learned to play polo with dropped out at some point and new people came to see what polo was all about. Schedules and other factors constantly changed the teams and opponents from class to class.
photo (16)Sami shown here was an early horse I rode after Chester and, often as not Sox (of unscheduled dismount during the Red Baron bash fame) and so I got a little better each week as the summer warmed up and the weeks passed. I also took riding lessons during the week near my home to strengthen my muscles and balance my seat.

There is something about understanding that this life is seasonal and the players and ponies change in time that reminds me that this is the same in my life. I must be fully present in the match in front of me. It will never be repeated. This is the game, the only one that exists in space and time…the one I am in right now on the horse I am on and with these players. Even the dirt in the arena changes as hooves stomp it down and divot holes as well as marks from hitting the ball or the dirt as happens also changes the earth upon which we ride.

The thing about polo is everybody wins. Just showing up and playing is winning. We only lose when we fail to show up and keep learning and playing and more importantly learning from our mistakes. Polo is a complex game with a zillion rules and possibilities since it is a high action contact sport. It has been referred to as “a bone crushing sport” . When we are playing even at a trot we feel the wind in our hair and picture ourselves galloping across the grass at top speed making the goal all while looking perfectly coiffed in the saddle. The more reality based version would involve massive amounts of sweat coming from deep within our cells pouring down our backs and fronts as well as near misses and unscheduled dismounts (read thumping the ground).

When I am not playing and sweating and loving every minute there is the beautiful thing called a pro match held on Sundays at clubs around the world in various seasons. Ours ended on Sunday but we went out with a bang! Eight chukkers sudden death with a tied match 11-11. The crowd was on the edge of their seats for every minute of this match as it was played full throttle as it was for the USPA Spreckles Cup. It ended as it started full energy and everything that makes polo the great and enduring sport it is.

Charity stomps the divots

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You Never Know How Amazing You Can Be Until You are Willing to Let it All Go

August 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm (Excellence in Business, Freedom, LoVe, Polo, Relationships) (, , , , , , , , )

Now let me start out by saying that I am in no way shape or form a great polo player or even an okay one. I am an amateur who has spent her Spring and Summer trying to stay on a cantering, jogging, standing, galloping, trotting, and rearing polo pony all while learning to swing a mallot and score a goal now and again while preventing others the same. Riding off versus falling off and of course no discussion of polo would be complete without a discussion on hooking. This is where you prevent your opponent from getting a good swing at a ball we both have the right to…The only sport where a woman smiles proudly when you yell at her and say she is a great hooker!

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The hook is coming from the near side and you can see the player is leaning way out to reach the other player’s mallet. Often in this situation newbies will instead just attempt to ride off the opponent and in doing so foul by being too late, and end up running over the ball and now neither has the ball.

This week was Aloha Sunday at the polo club and so my Hawaiian coach was getting ready for the festivities and we had Graham Bray as our coach…on horseback. I knew then it was going to be a full throttle growth experience and was glad I had my light breakfast. Full throttle was an understatement. Graham Bray is the #2 all time top polo player out of New Zealand…gettin’ the picture?

For starters we were banned from ride-offs for the hour and had to use anything else legal to gain control of the direction of the ball and to control our opponent.

photo (10)This is harder than it sounds. So now we have to strategize and think longer term. Like just flicking the ball away to change the direction and therefore the invisible lanes…knowing the likelihood that any given player can make that shot, hook that shot or flick it away all happens in nano seconds as you approach the situation. Are you watching your man (this is your designated opponent)? Are you covering your team mate in case it gets hooked and is left for the next rider in line?  All on horseback under the ever warming sun… Just as I was thinking a break in the shade would be in order here comes Coach Bray and he gives a little whip tap to Sami and we are off to the races “get up there and get to the wall” he shouts as I rocket across the dirt toward the fast traveling ball heading for the arena wall and past the pack of players in the middle of the field. So much for my nap in the shade! I do make the shot get us closer to goal and all while the competition was under the proverbial shade tree napping. By the time the hour was over for us Coach Bray was galloping over to the barn to ready himself for his matches and we were dripping in sweat dribbling the balls toward the gate with floppy arms and red skin and jelly legs. I stood much more in my stirrups during the match than ever thanks to my weekday equitation lessons, and my thighs can tell you all about it…

20130616_100058I was exhausted in the best possible way and learned a whole lot more about life and polo today than I knew when I awoke in the morning.

Sometimes just when you want a break is when you really are on fire and it is time to persevere and learn the lesson of hard work.

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How Playing Polo has Forever Altered How I Conduct Business and Life.

May 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm (Excellence in Business, Health, Polo, Relationships) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

It all started innocent enough a sincere desire to learn a new skill or sport each and every year and become competent in said new discovery.

One year it was learning to speak French well enough that French people could understand me even in the Camargue.

Another year or three it was learning to cab and freeform gemstones and rocks for use in jewelry.

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This year was going to be flying…somewhere along the road to flight school I was waylayed while looking up the opening day for Polo season. There it was a notice for polo school. I have always loved watching polo as it is about a skilled rider and horse team as well as being a team sport which is fast paced, challenges your personal best and involves picnics and fashion! This had me written all over it. It was love at first glance.

I have western style cowboy boots…made in Texas of course and stretchy blue jeans but no helmet, mallet or breeches. They provided the helmet, mallet, and polo pony as well as a highly skilled pro coach. All I needed was bravery and a signed waiver releasing my life and cause of death and I was good to go. Life is a fatal sport, that I accept and embrace whole heartedly. I have faced death a few times in my life on short notice and it allows you the freedom to fully live knowing that this moment is all we have. It truly is not just what your yoga teacher told you. My most recent brush with death was in January outside my gym…not a pretty way to go after a great workout.

I prefer green sports which have little or no carbon footprint as earth ethics are forefront in my business and life. Sailing is my other passion. I like speed, skill and luck in my sports. Excitement and adrenaline pave the way to my deeper relaxation and it is a bonding experience with your teammates including the four legged ones. It is a game of polite aggression.  Winning is always important but scoring goals and not committing fouls is as important. One skill is called “riding off” which is where you come in and match your opponent’s speed and bring the angle in to meet and push them off the ball. Done properly it is very effective and a skill all its own.

20130525_111013Last week I played against a young woman who was a level two player but having been off a season was playing with us so the coach could place her for the summer. She was a great hooker and by that I don’t mean what your naughty little mind is thinking! It is a technique to keep your opponent from hitting the ball. She stopped my ball more than once so I continued to watch her and this week got in quite a bit of hooking on my own and once used it to capture the ball and play back my direction! Whoo hoo!

Today we had an old grass player with us who hadn’t played for six seasons and again was playing with us for placement. He taught me a lot about riding off and hooking too. It makes the game more competitive having some variation in skill level on the teams and you quickly know who is your one, two or three player. I tend to play second or third and enjoy defense as well as offence. Which is how I play in real life too.

We are always learning from our competitors and our colleagues and in business you can let your ego get in the way of that lesson…or at least I know I can. In polo you don’t have the luxury of a bruised ego as the game is too fast paced not to learn, incorporate the lesson and keep riding toward your next goal. Business is the same and remember there is always another match to play if you didn’t win this one. I scored one goal and my team lost this week but I am always a winner having played and learning to change my weaknesses into strengths.

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Following Your Dream Without All the Baggage

April 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm (Art, Excellence in Business, Freedom, Local Made, organized simplicity, Relationships, Style, Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

A few years back when my then husband and I were doing trunk shows as vendors with Nordstrom we developed a philosophy of never checking our baggage. We needed to carry on the jewelry for obvious security reasons and being parents we never had an extra minute to spare in our 48 hour sales weekends. We would fly out of San Diego first flight on Friday, race to the rent a car location at our destination and find our way to the Nordstrom store in time to be set up and ready to sell when the doors opened. In this we were successful.

I had parents who, although somewhat supportive made it clear they did not want to be burdened with picking up our children and minding them while we were as they put it “gallivanting off somewhere”. My dad would drop us at the airport every other weekend and say “okay have fun on your vacation”. He was not being funny, I think he honestly thought we were flying out for fun and frolic.  Airport, rent-a-car, store, quick meal, hotel rinse and repeat then fly home. Not a whole lot of sightseeing going on unless you count how many rent-a-car kiosks or Nordstrom lunch rooms I have toured.

I had a leopard print chiffon over cotton sheath dress (remember the Debra McGuire style of the mid ninties)and heels (with a back up pair of Dr. Scholl’s sandals) and grey Anne Klein suit with golden blouse that were my uniform to show off my delicious jewels and maintain some sense of conservative decorum. One outfit on, one in the bag and my business partner cum husband just changed his skivvies, tie  and dress shirt. This time saving and aggravation saving philosophy saved us numerous hours and headaches. Many of our colleagues would travel as if they were heading to Europe for the season with steamer trunk size bags containing who knew what! I remember one occasion when one woman’s suitcase went to Chicago when we all went to Salt Lake City. She had nothing to change into and worse nothing to sell except her matrix, store owned merchandise. We cringed for her as she stood over her case of treasures pulling back stock to display up top and trying not to look like she came unprepared. She spent a small fortune on a new outfit to wear day two.

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Fast forward a few years and I had fired my partner (as sales rep and husband) and was preparing to leave for six months at a French business school. I brought my eighteen year old son along for the first couple of weeks for a vacation. He had a large backpack. I had a carry on bag and a backpack which contained my laptop, my zillion files and documents for the French government and my university. The carry on had all my clothes and shoes. I did not need to bring a lot since I was going to be in France the couture capital of the world (je suis desole NY c’est vraiment.)  I ended up shipping clothes home to avoid being a pack mule on my return that summer. Those early lessons in traveling light have always served me well.

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How does all this have anything to do with following your dream your ask? All of life is a journey…yes I know you know that…so with that in mind we need to carry on only…it just simplifies things allowing us to receive all the good things we deserve in life without being weighed down by the safe and known.

Happy travels.

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Art and the Way of the Goddess

February 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm (Art, gemstones and Jewels, LoVe, Relationships) (, , , , , , , )

So in spending time inventorying my current offerings in gems and necklaces I am again renewed in my quest for beauty and uniqueness. I am happy with every single piece in my current collections and see myriad reasons to build on each of these varied themes within the vision of conversation I have begun.

Jewelry is an emotional token in a material world of a spiritual meaning. Meaning it carries with it love and faith and friendship and status and culture. Because of its ability to impact not only the wearer, but those who gaze upon it I want me mine to be about starting conversations…about love, about meaning, and the true nature of happiness. I also want it start conversations about the violence with which it is torn from the earth, shaped into something through cutting and polishing and heat, often by an exploited population using toxic methods on the land…and yet there is no denying its beauty so we must rethink how and why we make jewelry…or at least I do.ImageThis is a piece of fire agate matrix retrieved from a dump after the mine lease holder separated their highest grade fire agate rough from the mine yield. Those gems which will retrieve the highest market price will be cut to maximize their beauty and size. I on the other hand am far more interested in the story the stones seek to tell me…Imagejade necklaceThese are vintage American jade which were retrieved from a scratched and chipped antique pen holder for a wealthy man’s desktop. I made them into spikes and pendants.Image© Michael J Walters 2009These opals are from the Shewa area of Ethiopia. They were part of a parcel of samples brought to the US over a decade ago and the finest stones were sold. These had been in a plastic box for years. Some are drilled and were made into pendants on leather.

So you see I really can find a lot of beauty in what has already been deemed second class…it is all relative. I have surprised even those from whom I have bought with the grace and beauty revealed in their castoffs.

So now you know why I do what I do and with what I do it. I can be reached on occasion at ESGJewelryDesigns@gmail.com if you want to know where to purchase my jeweled art.

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