Many Hats of Me: 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Metal Clay and Tourmaline Ring

Designing a Tourmaline Ring Using Metal Clay

Last week, I used metal clay for the first time and made a ring made of metal clay and Argentium silver.  Although this first attempt was a failure since I couldn't set the stone it was designed for, I did learn the following:

  • how metal clay can be fired successfully with Argentium silver; 
  • how metal clay shrinks during firing; 
  • and how NOT to set a stone in metal clay.

You can read about it in my post Metal Clay and Argentium Silver Ring.

For my second project with metal clay, I decided to try ring design by Hattie Sanderson, called Hattie Texture Mat #55109. This texture mat has a graduated ring shank and beautiful textured pieces that are easily customized. I will be using this design to create a ring to set the tourmaline from my first metal clay experiment. This would be third attempt at setting this particular stone, having tried wirework and metal clay already!

Hattie Texture Mat #55109 for metal clay

Monday, December 2, 2013

Metal Clay and Argentium Silver Ring

In my last post, Fabricating Jewelry Settings With Wirework and Metal Clay, I explored wirework gemstone ring settings and introduced the idea of using metal clay to create a gemstone setting. I completed some of the pre-work for the ring: investment slugs made from plaster of Paris, and soldering   jump ring to the ring shank to create an armature to hold the metal clay in place.

Argentium silver ring shank with jump ring armature

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fabricating Jewelry Settings With Wirework and Metal Clay

In my last blog, Jewelry Findings from Tripps and Rio Grande Arrived Today! I purchased a variety of settings from and None of the settings were a perfect fit for my native cut gemstones. I began to research ways to create settings for rings and I found two methods that did not require years of jewelry training: wirework settings and metal clay settings.

Wirework Settings

I Googled "wirework settings" and found two settings that could work with my stones, the Classic Prong Ring from and the Solitaire Faceted Ring, from

Classic Prong Setting

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Locarno Beach and Spanish Banks, Vancouver BC

I finally love the beach...after moving to the Midwest

In 1980, we moved from Burnaby to a Vancouver neighborhood close to the beach called Point Grey. During the first summer at my new house, I explored the beaches and parks with my brother and cousins. We fished on the docks, picked blackberries, and climbed the apple tree in the park. From that year onwards, I didn't make any effort to visit the beach again.

I avoided the beach in my teenage years, complaining to my mother that it was "boring" and I didn't like sand between my shoes. As I grew older, my visits to the beach were limited to bike rides along the Vancouver waterfront. I loved looking at the water and smelling the sea in the air as I madly pedaled my mountain bike. However, I never stopped my bike to walk and explore.

I've always lived near large bodies of water, even after I moved from Vancouver to Toronto and then later to San Diego. Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes in Toronto, isn't the ocean, but it looks like one because of its vast size. In San Diego, we would often drive by the beaches, but we never actually set foot upon one. I know, shame on me!

Since moving to the Midwest, which is thousands of miles from any Sea or Great Lake, I now crave to see and experience my hometown beaches.

A Visit to Locarno Beach, Vancouver, BC

The morning after our plane landed in Vancouver, we decided to take walk to Locarno beach. We didn't even pause to eat breakfast, as we were so excited to see the beach again.

Jericho Beach Map

Monday, August 5, 2013

Albino Bristlenose Pleco Eggs and Babies!

New Shrimp Tank with Plecos (plecostomus)

I decided to try something new and set up a shrimp tank using a 29-gallon glass tank I purchased from Petco during their 1$ a gallon sale. I placed a sponge filter and a red shrimp and 2 juvenile albino bristlenose plecos, measuring 1 inch. Six months later we discovered that we had purchased a male and female pleco. Male plecos grow many bristles on their nose while the female plecos grow few or no bristles on their nose. 

A year and a half later, the shrimp have multiplied into the hundreds and the plecos are now fully grown at 3.5 inches. 

Aquarium Tank Maintenance

My tank maintenance is less than ideal at 50% every 2.5 weeks. Often, I change the water when its starts to turn a murky green and the hair moss starts to take over the tank.

After a particularly long spell of 3 weeks where I didn't do any water changes except topping up evaporated water, my tank was completely thick and green with green water and my java and Christmas moss were almost completely overtaken by the hair moss. I couldn't even see the fish. I did a massive water changes by both siphoning water out and filling the tank with fresh water at the same time until the water turned clear. I pulled out 75% of all the moss, since it was mostly hair moss, and cleaned out the filters. 

I could finally see the plecos and the shrimp clearly. The bad water affected the shrimp population quite a bit, and their color was was no longer bright red but a reddish brown. The plecos seemed unaffected by the bad water.

The following day, I had a wonderful surprise in the tank: the male pleco was behind the moss screen with what looked like a lovely clutch of yellow eggs. 

Albino Pleco with eggs

Friday, July 19, 2013

Daiso Japan at Aberdeen Center, Richmond, BC

Shopping and Eating Out in Richmond, BC

Dim Sum at Continental Seafood

Since moving the US Midwest, I dearly miss the weekly dim sum lunches I enjoyed with my family. In Minnesota, there was a local dim sum restaurant in Bloomington, but it closed down 2 years ago. Since then, we only eat dim sum during our visits to either Toronto or Vancouver.

The morning after we arrived in Vancouver, we had dim sum at Sun Sui Wah restaurant in Vancouver.  Our next dim sum adventure was at Continental Seafood Restaurant located on Cambie street in Richmond. It is situated in a strip mall with lots of parking. This restaurant is "family style" meaning that it's not fancy or expensive.

 Continental Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver, BC
Continental Seafood Restaurant

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Richmond Night Market, Richmond, British Columbia

The Richmond Night Market is an outdoor Asian bazaar held in a large parking lot behind the River Rock Casino on No. 3 Road in Richmond. The Market is held every year from May 17 to October 14 and runs from Monday to Saturday from 7 PM to 12 AM, and Sundays and stat holidays from 6 PM to 11 PM. You can take the Skytrain to Bridgeport station and walk or you can drive. There is also adequate parking although it can be a bit of a traffic jam. Luckily there are parking attendants that guide you in and out of the parking lots. Parking is free, but there is a $2/person entrance charge, with free entrance for seniors (age 60 and above) and children under 10.

View Larger Map

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dim Sum at Sun Sui Wah Restaurant, Vancouver, BC

Eating Brunch, Chinese Style

The morning after we arrived in Vancouver, BC, Canada, we went out for dim sum brunch at Sun Sui Wah Chinese Restaurant. It is located at the corner of Main Street and 23rd Avenue East.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dr. Who Tardis and Giant Cupcake Birthday Cakes

Hello Kitty banned

Last Minute Birthday Party

My two children celebrated their birthdays over the weekend. It was a last minute party with the invites distributed a week before. We decided to hold a combined party since my son's birthday is in July when his friends are out of town for the summer. Surprisingly, my kids didn't mind the idea at all.

We booked a party room at a local "bounce house" where the kids can jump and play on inflatable slides. Since the venue supplied the pizza, drinks, and ice cream, we only had to order the cakes.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jewelry Findings from Tripps and Rio Grande Arrived Today!

red round zircon stone

Untreated Red Zircon

In my last gemology article, "Gem Setting Challenges When Designing Jewelry with Native Cut Stones", I discussed the difficulty setting hand-cut, uncalibrated gemstones in Snap-Set settings. 

This week, I'm going to try and set some stones in settings designed for deeper cut stones. I ordered a variety of different settings from Tripps and Rio Grande and they arrived a few days ago.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gem Setting Challenges When Designing Jewelry with Native Cut Stones

Native Cut VS. Calibrated Gemstones

Most of my gemstones are purchased from eBay stores from Chanthaburi, Thailand, an area famous for its gem trading. I buy all sizes, shapes, and types; most are purchased for under $50.  Although beautiful, these stones are "native" cut stones: uncalibrated, hand-cut stones, that do not fit standard settings.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Morean Arts Center: Glass Studio, Hotshop and Chihuly Collection Gallery

Morean Art Center, St. Petersburg, Florida

We stopped by St. Petersburg on our way from Fort Myers to Orlando. The weather turned wet during our stay there, so we decided to see  something new and unique. Not far from our hotel was a glass blowing demonstration and museum at the Morean Art Center, a community-focused organization that supports the visual arts through its galleries and studios.

The Morean Art Center is made up of four buildings:

  1. Morean Art Center (719 Central Avenue), a community-based art gallery and studio that exhibits both local and national artists and provides art courses to the community. 
  2. Glass Studio and Hotshop (located across the alleyway from the Morean Art Center) is a store and glass forge where artists can create glass artwork and demonstrate their craft. The Hotshop also offers glass blowing courses.
  3. The Center for Clay (420 22nd Street South) is a center for ceramic education, offering ceramic courses for people of all ages.
  4. Chihuly Collection Gallery (400 Beach Drive NE), opened in 2010, is a 10,000 square foot building that was specially designed to house the works of the famous Seattle glass artist, Dale Chihuly.

We purchased a combo ticket from the Morean Art Gallery that included the glass blowing demonstration at the Hotshop, and entry into the Chihuly Museum. Since we didn't have time to visit the Center for Clay, we plan to visit again and sign up for some courses. 

Hotshop Glass Studio

The Hotshop Glass Studio is a large, semi-outdoor workspace that has two walls made of chain link fence that allows natural ventilation. The forges are on one side of the room and seating on the other.

Although the forge is over 20 feet away, when the forge doors open, you can feel and hear the flames. The sound is very much like the roar of the Balrog in the movie the Fellowship of the Ring. 

Roar of the Balrog

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fort Myers and Sanibel Island - Places to Eat

Places to Eat at Fort Myers and Sanibel Island

Wisteria Tea Room and Cafe, Downtown, Fort Myers

Wisteria Tea Room and Cafe (2512 Second Street, Fort Myers 33901 (239) 689-4436) is a 30-minute drive northeast of the Fort Myers beach area, in downtown Fort Myers. It is a southern-style tea house serving salads, soups, and sandwiches for brunch. Their specialty is the Tea Time Menu, where they serve sweet and savory dainty delights.

Their Tea Time specials are beautifully presented on a layered plate holder. The orders also include an endless pot of tea where you can order multiple pots of tea of different flavors.
We ordered the Royal Tea and the Savory Tea with a pot of chocolate cherry tea and caramel tea. We also ordered homemade mac-and-cheese for the children. The portions are small but filling.
The restaurant is open from 11AM-3PM daily. Reservations are recommended for the weekends.

Wisteria Room Menu, detail
Wisteria Room Menu, detail

Beautifully served on tiered serving platters
Beautifully served on tiered serving platters

Tea is served with fine British bone china
Tea is served with fine British bone china

Chocolate cherry scones served with sliced strawberries and clotted cream
Chocolate cherry scones served with sliced strawberries and clotted cream

Creme Brulee with fresh blueberries, chocolate cheesecake, and a lemon pound cake
Creme Brulee with fresh blueberries, chocolate cheesecake, and a lemon pound cake

Crostinis with cucumber and goat cheese spread, and sun-dried tapenade, egg salad in pastry, and a hearts-of-palm and mushroom quiche
Crostinis with cucumber and goat cheese spread, and sun-dried tapenade, egg salad in pastry, and a hearts-of-palm and mushroom quiche

Doc Ford's Sanibel Island Rum Bar and Grille, Sanibel Island

After our visit to the Bailey-Matthew Shell Museum, we drove 1 mile east to Doc Ford's, a restaurant recommended by the museum staff.

Doc Ford's is a large seafood restaurant and bar located in a large strip mall with parking. It has both indoor and outdoor seating. The portions are large and the prices are surprisingly low; best of all, the food is expertly prepared and cooked. My son's breaded fish was still moist in the center and our steamed prawns were perfectly cooked. We are planning on a second visit to Sanibel so that we can eat at Doc Ford's again.

Doc Ford's address is 975 Rabbit Road, Sanibel Island, FL 33957 phone: (239) 472-8311. After the Causeway, turnRIGHT onto Periwinkle Drive.

Doc Ford's Restaurant exterior
Doc Ford's

Doc Ford's menu
Doc Ford's Menu

Detail of Doc Ford's extensive menu. Check out the raw oysters at $12.95 a dozen!! The second it arrived at my table, I started eating. I realized that I forgot to take a picture only after I ate the last oyster! I would have ordered another 12 if we hadn't ordered a pound of peel and eat shrimp!

One pound of peel and eat shrimp
Doc Ford's One pound of peel and eat shrimp

Peel and Eat Shrimp with spicy hot chili and cilantro dip at $13.95 a half pound, $24.95 a pound. The shrimp were thick and juicy at 3"+ long.

Grilled grouper sandwich with black beans for $13.95.
Doc Ford's Grilled grouper sandwich with black beans for $13.95.

Mixed Salad with honey mustard dressing and bread sticks for $5.95
Mixed Salad with honey mustard dressing and breadsticks for $5.95

Gatorbites Tail and Ale Restaurant, Fort Myers

This restaurant was across the street from our hotel, but we had avoided it since we thought it was just a bar. Our last night in Fort Myers, we decided to try it out since it was getting late and we were tired. To our delight and surprise, Gatorbites serves its namesake, Alligator! We smiled all the way to our table.

We ordered a beer recommended by the server, Yuengling, which I presumed was a Chinese brewery. I learn later that it's an old Pennsylvania brewery (established in 1831) that has been operating since before Prohibition. I ordered a pint and my hubby ordered a glass. Despite my small stature, I can drink! :)

The beer is a sweeter variety that's a bit on the heavy side with no bitter aftertaste.

We order the "Bloody Mary Seared" alligator, grilled scallops (an amazing $9.95 for 6!) and a hearts-of-palm salad. The alligator was juicy, tasting a little like chicken. The scallops were large, sweet and "just-cooked."

Gatorbites Restaurant Menu
Gatorbites Menu

The menu has the usual bar items like burgers, wings, and fries. However, this amazing restaurant offers a gourmet seafood selections and of course, Alligator!

Gatorbites Menu, detail

Gatorbites Blood Mary Seared Alligator
Gatorbites Blood Mary Seared Alligator

Gatorbites grilled scallops

Grilled Scallops

Gatorbites Hearts-of-Palm salad
Gatorbites Hearts-of-Palm salad

Gastronomic Disappointment in Fort Myers

Like most tourists, we conduct some research on the area we are about to visit, especially places to eat. We usually start with TripAdvisor and then if we are not satisfied with the info, we refine with Yelp or Urbanspoon. For most places that we've been to, TripAdvisor has been very helpful with hotel and restaurant information. However, in Fort Myers, TripAdvisor has failed miserably.

Since we were heading to a seaside town, and the fact that were-were coming from the Midwest, we were very interested in seafood. TripAdvisor only had 30 seafood restaurants in Fort Myers; Doc Ford's and Gatorbites were not listed at all. A search for "restaurants" in Fort Myers comes up with a selection of local favorites, including Ruby Tuesday at #25! Gatorbites was #51, and Doc Ford's didn't even register because it is categorized at Fort Myers Beach or Sanibel Island.

Another frustrating fact about Fort Myers is that most restaurants close at 8 PM on weekdays. We tried to eat at a Clambake, another TripAdvisor top 10 recommendation that was a 25-minute drive from our hotel, only to be turned away. We had made an 8 pm reservation, but we arrived at 8:25 PM. They failed to inform us that we would be their last customers. We were so angry, we were speechless.

We sat in our car for the next 15 minutes Googling for a restaurant that would be opened. We found that the rib place, Rib City, we had lunch two days before was opened until 9 pm, so we called and ordered take-out. Their ribs are nicely smoked, with tender meat that falls off the bone and the prices are very good, with children 5 and under eating for free. However, we wanted a change from the red meat meals we are accustomed to in the MidWest.

Rib City Restaurant, Fort Meyers

Rib City Restaurant Menu
Rib City Restaurant Menu

We weren't the only ones who were disappointed with Fort Myers cuisine. We spoke to a few families at our hotel, and they also complained about the lack of high-quality restaurants in the area. They did mention the Lighthouse Waterfront Restaurant as a good choice and about a mile from the hotel. We plan to try it when we visit Fort Meyers again. Also, they close at 10 PM!

More Reading:

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sanibel Island - Lighthouse Beach and the Seashell Museum

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island is located just off the western coast of Fort Meyers. It's a narrow piece of land approximately 10.5 miles long. We had planned to wake at dawn every day to go shelling, but there was a full moon during our visit and low tide was only late at night. 

With this in mind, we decided to try Lighthouse Beach on the eastern side of the island since it has ample parking, washrooms, showers, and is the closest beach to the Causeway. Please check to help plan your Sanibel Island holiday. Low tides are the best time to visit.

Map of Sanibel and Captiva Island, from the Shell Museum
Map of Sanibel and Captiva Island, from the Shell Museum

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Meyers, Florida

Fort Meyers, Florida

This Spring Break, we are escaping our Minnesota cold weather for the sun and surf of Florida. We arrived last week to Fort Meyers, Florida, located at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was established in the 1800’s to support the war against the Seminole Indians.

The Edison and Ford Estates

Much to the dismay of our young children, we decided to skip the beach, and start our holiday with a visit to the Edison and Ford Estates. Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric, and inventor of the light bulb (and about a thousand more inventions) purchased a large parcel of along the Caloosahatchee River in 1885 to build his summer home and scientific laboratory, named Seminole Lodge. His good buddy, and former employee, Henry Ford, the inventor of the first mass produced automobile, purchased the neighboring house, the Mangoes, in 1916.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Quarantine Process for New Aquarium Fish

Buying Fish from the Pet Store

Today I bought 3 cory cats from the Petco today. They were quite inexpensive at $3.45 each! After I buy new fish, I always drive home directly so that their time in the bag is minimized. 

New Aquarium Fish Quarantine Tank

One of the biggest mistakes for beginner fish-keepers is to dump the new fish, water and all, into an already established tank. Pet store fish are usually stressed from their trip from the breeder to the store, causing their immune systems to weaken. They are further stressed from the the trip from the store to your house. Many fish fall sick and die within the first two weeks of their purchase. How do we prevent our new fish from dying? The answer: Quarantine Tank (QT for short)!

From reading the fish forums, I learned that many fish-keepers complain that they have no space for a quarantine tank, or it seems that a QT is too expensive since it's used so rarely. Why use an expensive, large, fragile glass tank, when you can use a small plastic storage bin? I use a Sterilite plastic container from Target. 

5 galling plastic container from Target

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Aquarium Water Change System

Love Affair with Fish

I set up my first tank when I was 10 years old. It was a standard 10 gallon and I filled it immediately with colorful gravel and plastic water plants, and about 20 fish. Every fish was dead in the next two weeks. I was extremely disappointed. A few years later, a school friend was moving to live with her father in California and she gave me all her fish. She assured me that her fish will survive since she does nothing to keep them alive except feed them. She never changed the water. Ever. Her tank water was thick and green so that you couldn't really see the fish.

To my great surprise, her fish survived in my old 10 gallon tank and did so for about a year until my heater broke and caused the tank temperature to rise to 100 degrees and literally cooked my fish. I've learned a lot about fish and fish tanks since then.

Today, I have 5 tanks in my house: 
  1. A 1 gallon bowl filled with freshwater plants
  2. A 10 gallon that houses a 4" orange parrot fish and 2 corycats
  3. A 29 gallon with cherry shrimp tank and 2 albino bristlenose plecos
  4. A 40 gallon with 3 discus fish, 2 German Rams, 3 albino bristlenose plecos, 3 assorted cory cats, and about 18 black tetras

Water Changing the 40 Gallon

Discus thrive in clean water, and they LOVE water changes. I change 75% of my water every other day using a semi-automatic water change system.

Materials List

Water Draining

I used 3/4" PVC pipe and elbow connectors, and a hose barb to attach the Python water change hose and the Quiet One water pump. The percentage of water you wish to change determines the overall length of the PVC pipe. For example, if you wish to make a 50% water change, the pipe (on both the water and dry side) will measure 50% of the height of your tank. The best thing to do is to bring your pump, Python hose, and tank measurements to the home improvement store so that you can discuss the overall dimensions with the retail assistant. You can piece together the entire contraption at the store and make fine adjustments on the spot.

I also suggest that you consider which side of the pump will be facing the tank glass and which side will be facing the fish. I placed the side that sucks the water facing the glass to prevent fish from being sucked into the pump.

To ensure the pipe never falls off the hose barb, I use a hose clamp. The suction cups are attached to the pipe using zip ties; it keeps the pipe and pump from banging into the glass.

What's great about this system is that when I turn on the water pump, I just walk away from my tank until I hear the pump complaining that the water level is too low (it makes a lot of noises).  I don't need to babysit  this stage of the process because it will ever drain more than the length of the PVC pipe. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Home Remedies for the Common Cold and Flu

Cactus  growing just outside Tucson Convention Center

When You Feel Sick As A Dog

Since returning home from Tucson, I've come down with a severe cold accompanied with high fever and, of all things, hives. For the past 4 mornings, I wake up with sniffles, high fever, incredible thirst, and hives. When my son was 1 years old, he had a fever accompanied with hives. It's quite a rare occurrence for an adult to have hives along with a fever; and even after speaking to a nurse, I still don't know what I have, except that it's probably a virus. I don't like taking unnecessary drugs, so I'm limiting myself to Acetometophin to reduce my fever.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tucson Gem Show 2013 - TGMS Show Year of Fluorite

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the first and oldest gem show in Tucson and is run by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society (TGMS) and is held every year on the 2nd weekend in February. The cover charge this year is $10. It is both a retail show and an exhibit that provides an opportunity for the public to purchase jewelry, gemstones, fossils, and minerals, and to view mineral exhibits made up of private collections from around the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tucson Gem Show 2013 Day 2 – G & LW Show at the Holiday Inn Holidome

Today is the last day for the famous G & LW (Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers) show at the Holiday Inn Holidome (4550 Palo Verde Rd.). This wholesale-only show comprises of the Gem Mall that is housed in two soccer sized tents and the Holiday Inn Holidome ballroom. I only managed to see most of the vendors of Tent 1, three vendors in Tent 2, and none in the Holidome. Next year!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tucson Gem Show 2013 - Fossils and Beads

I arrived in Tucson yesterday evening, having spent the entire day travelling. My flight was purchased using points, so I didn’t have a direct flight that would have shaved hours off my travel time. But free is good!

I had booked my rental car months ago at a good rate, but rebooked just before I left to get even a better rate. I used Budget Rental's Fast Break program for the first time. It allows you to skip the line and get your car within minutes of arriving at the airport. Since it was my first time using this program, I also got a free upgrade.

I forgot my toothbrush and sunglasses so after I dropped off my luggage in my room, I visited the hotel lobby store. Instead of personal hygiene supplies, there were scorpion lollipops in a variety of flavors.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New (but OLD!) Rayner Gem Refractometer

In my last Gemology post, I mentioned that I had returned the GIA refractometer and was planning to buy a Gempro. However, an expert from mentioned that a circa 1950's British-made Rayner refractometer was selling on eBay for less than $200. I emailed the seller about the condition of the glass surfaces but he did not reply to any of my emails. When an eBay seller refuses to discuss an item, it usually is a warning sign and one should stay away. I thought about it for another day and decided to take the risk and purchase the refractometer. It came in the mail yesterday.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Home Economics Class - A Highschool Subject Deserving of an Overhaul

After a lengthy online discussion about bankruptcy with a fellow blogger +Jared Strauss, I was inspired to write the following blog about the shortcomings of the high-school subject, Home Economics.

I admit that I never took Home Economics Class in high school. Instead, I took Fine Arts, which, as it turns out, became the more practical subject for me, since my past career was Creative Director in a communications department.

Boiling Eggs and Darning Socks

So what does Home Economics teach? Some of my friends took this class, and this is what they learned:

1. Basic cooking, like how to boil and fry and egg
2. How to follow a pattern and sew a dress.
3. How to take stains out of clothes.
4. How create a dinner menu and cook it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Photographing Gems with a Microscope

Sourcing a Microscope Photo-adaptor

Since purchasing my new (used) microscope in early January, it has taken over a month to source all the components to attach my digital SLR to the microscope. The main problem is the microscope's photo-port: it has no tube and the opening is a non-standard 27mm wide, which is just over an inch.

Trial and Error

I Googled "aluminum tube"and came up with a company, Online, that sells tubes of various shapes, size, and materials at specific cut lengths. I purchased a 1"OD (outside diameter) and .91" ID (inside diameter). 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gia Refractometer from eBay - Review

Gemological Refractometer is the Essential Tool for Gemologists

Since December, I have been searching eBay for a used GIA refractometer. It is the essential tool of gemologists to identify stones by measuring a stone's refractive index. I finally managed to purchase one last week and it arrived two days ago. The first thing I noticed was that it was light; in fact, my Ipod weighs more. Under closer inspection, I noticed a few things:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Investing In the Stock Market As A Family

Investing Money Is a Family Affair

We often see children begging their parents for toys. I tell my children, "if we spend all our money on toys, we won't have enough to buy the really important things." This reply is usually followed by more requests and grumbling.

After watching a toy advertisement on TV, my five-year-old daughter declares that she would like to go to work to earn money for toys. I smile and explain that she is too young to work, to which she replies that it's not fair and I should buy her toys if she can't. That night, after I recounted this incident to my husband, and we decided to see if there was a way for her to earn money and learn the value of investing.

I know, many of you are shaking your heads, saying that she's far too young to understand. However, I believe that if children can see their money work for them, they will appreciate the value of money more, and not waste it on frivolous purchases.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Investing in the Stock Market - Year 3

My Investing Year Started off with a Bang

When I went to check my Roth portfolio at the end of January to see how my new purchases were doing, I noticed that my Estee Lauder stock had halved in price! The last I looked it had risen to a heady $112, an incredible doubling of my original purchase price. My heart dropped, and I wondered what happened. Staring at the screen for nearly five minutes, I realized that the quantity of the stock had  doubled, meaning that the stock had split! My mood swung from utter devastation to joyous yelling and dancing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Investing in the Stock Market - Year 2

A year of learning (and making mistakes) 

The beginning of the year is always chaotic for me. We frantically collect all the tax receipts and other documents for the upcoming tax return. We budget to ensure there are enough funds for our life insurance policies. By the time spring comes around, I haven't paid any attention to the stocks in my Roth account. Ford had plummeted from $15 to just over $10, GE had recovered most of its value, Kimberly-Clark had a moderate gain, and Pepsi was see-sawing all over the place. Estee Lauder continued to be star at a 60% gain.

I felt a little braver and thought about the next stock I would purchase. I read the newspaper, listened to my friends, and watched advertisements on TV. I felt that the trend with an aging population is vanity: companies that provide products that help us look and feel better and younger. I already had a cosmetics company, so I decided to purchase a pharmaceutical stock, Allergan, the maker of Botox and breast implants.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Everyone's travel nightmare: bedbugs

When my son was 2 months old, we took a trip to Quebec city with my Mom and Dad who were visiting from Vancouver. I was not working and my husband was a medical resident so we chose a suite hotel that was moderately priced (around $120/night). My parents had their own hotel room next door to us.

Photo of Quebec City from

That night at around 3 AM in the morning, my son awoke, crying. Since my husband was also awake too, I turned on the bedroom lights, placed the baby on the bed to change his diaper. As I was finishing up, I noticed that there were some tiny black dots on the bed next to the baby that was...moving! I quickly handed the baby to my husband and took a closer look. There were tiny dots the size of pepper moving very slowly towards the center of the bed. I jumped back and did a little yelp. I then turned around and stripped the baby of his clothes and checked his body. He had two small bites on one leg, and another on the other. I looked at my husband and he quickly whipped off  his shirt. He had over 30 bites on his back! I was livid. I myself had not slept in the bed yet since I am a night owl and like to watch TV. Thank heavens!

Investing in the Stock Market - from Fear to Action

My New Roth Account - What to do?

Spring of 2010, my husband asked me to move a small amount of money into a Roth account since I was eligible to do so. What do I do with it? In the past, I purchased mutual funds from my bank or from my employer's list of chosen funds. With this Roth account, I had an opportunity to buy something other than mutual funds. I started a wish list of stocks in Yahoo Finance and began tracking their performance. I filled it with companies that I knew like McDonalds, Nike, Microsoft, and Amazon. In a few weeks, I had about 30 stocks in my fantasy portfolio and I checked it every week. Most did well, a few did not. I started looking into the financial performance of the companies that seems to perform well. But still I waited. In fact, it took another 4 months before I decided to take the plunge and buy some stocks.

What Stocks to Buy?

I began with companies that I could afford a sizable number of stocks (which was anything under $50/stock): GE, Ford, Pepsi, Kimberly Clark, and Estee Lauder. My criteria were that they had historically done well and I felt I knew what they did. GE made appliances, Ford made cars, Pepsi made soft drinks, Kimberly Clark made toilet paper, and Estee Lauder owned lots of companies that produced beauty products. In fact, Estee Lauder was the only company I understand well since I am familiar with the products associated with Estee such as Aveda and Clinique.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My new (used) microscope

My microscope stand arrived from BMI Surplus a few days ago. It is a Bausch and Lomb "B" stand with a transmitted light base. It cost 3 times as much as the original fake stand I purchased, but it's heavy and sturdy and has an XY base that allows the specimen to be moved around incrementally.

Bausch and Lomb "B" stand
Bausch and Lomb "B" stand

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gemology instruments

It started with a stone

I became interested in gems and gemology when my sister announced that she was getting married. In my culture, giving jewelry to the relative who is getting married is customary. During my endless  Google searches, I found a website that sold gemstones from Thailand called Gemselect. This website sells loose gemstones that are offered at fair to high prices. I was really intrigued and called the owner, who is an American living in Thailand. He was very helpful and I decided to buy some stones from him. I purchased a large green tourmaline, and pairs of smaller gemstones that are sized to fit in standard rings.

Dark Green Tourmaline

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