Tag Archives: bracelet

Great Gifts………….

I am usually done by now – with Christmas shopping that is. Yep, I am one of those somewhat annoying organized people who used to make my own Christmas cards and have all my shopping pretty much done before Black Friday.

No More.

I am scrambling with the rest of the planet. Augh. Which is great because it’s 10 degrees here with the wind chill and the parking lots are full. I wish the economists would spend five minutes trying to find a parking spot at any mall in northern Virginia before they give their next economic outlook report. There’s a lot of spending going on.

Fortunately, at least our Christmas cards are sent out – I can say Christmas cards not holiday cards because I also sent out Hanukkah cards. So please don’t think I am insensitive. I bought all the cards at the store rather than making them (and not even a fancy card store) and forced allowed my youngest to help me put stamps on the envelopes.

And, woe is me, I hate giving gift cards because I think they are the easy way out. The perfect gift is out there for everyone – I just have to find it.

For my new writing gig at the Examiner.com, I wrote about the gift of forgiveness. And I am giving that this year too – hopefully I will be getting some too – but I also needs me a few things that fit under the tree and aren’t so symbolic.

This year I found a couple of things that I think are pretty cool – so I thought I would share them with you in case you are scrambling too.

The first one is for me. Yeah me! Yes, I am guilty of the “one for you, one for me” modus operandis of Christmas gift shopping.

It is this pitcher from Free Spirit Studio. I love this pitcher for a number of reasons. First of all it’s gorgeous! And the artist grows her own plants that she uses to embellish the pottery and  creates all of the pottery pieces herself.

I also love this piece because I know the artist. She is the mother of a very good friend of mine from junior high and high school. She even used to take me to craft shows with her when she was a vendor. My friend and I would spend the weekend “helping” and shopping. Mrs. Hooten definitely lit a creative spark in me.

The next one is from Uncommon Goods. It is a recycled windshield wine decanter from Colombia. Try saying that 5 times fast.

It’s tres cool because it is so uncommon (duh). Please know that this is not for your Waterford-preferring friends – it is tinted green (like a windshield might be to block out the sun) and it has bubbles and blemishes. It is also not for your friends who don’t prefer wine. Although – if they don’t prefer wine, you might want to seriously reconsider why they are your friends. 😉 It also has a little pocket to hold ice so that your wine stays cool but does not get watered down. Brilliant.

 

The only downside of these decanters is that they are kind of tallish. So they may not be great for someone with limited cabinet space. But if they drink enough wine, maybe they won’t notice that it’s kind of tallish. See, there is always an up side.

This next one is simple. Jewelry. Yeah! Jewelry doesn’t really require an explanation does it?

Just in case – it’s from Kohl’s and it’s called an inspiration bracelet. It is sterling silver and had the words “hope”, “peace”, “believe”, and “love” inscribed on the links. I am getting this for two of my dearest friends who have always encouraged me to hope, believe, and love. And they are a “peace” of me.

The last gift is for my Dad. He grew up in a teeny, tiny little town called Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The last time I was there only about 300 people lived in Fort Laramie. Even so, it has a rich history and someone took the time to write about it.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that a book about Fort Laramie would be perfect for anyone on your gift list – it’s just the idea of it. For those people who are hard to find a present for, a book about a place or time that is important to them might be just the gift that would make Santa proud.

So that’s it for now. Four down – four hundred to go. Wish me luck – I am off to find a parking space.

 

Buyer Beware…….

You might remember that I had two friends come visit from the United States in February. We had an amazing time and traveled through quite a bit of India. One of the places we visited was Jaipur. One of the things you are “supposed” to do when you visit Jaipur is go jewelry shopping.

So, we went to the historical sites first – then on the the sparkly stuff. We eeeew’d and awwww’d and tried on lots of fabulous jewelry. We joked how marvelous we would look in this piece or that piece. We tried on necklaces that cost more than a car and we laughed.

We also bought some jewelry. Yep, you know exactly where this is going. Downhill fast.

I want to be careful here not to say that we were not completely swindled. We were taken advantage of – no doubt. But to be honest, my friends trusted me to take them to a reputable place and then we all trusted that we weren’t totally being taken. When we handed over our credit cards, we did it willingly and after negotiating much better prices than we were originally quoted. We even got some free gifts – and yes, that should have been our very first of several warning signs.

The jeweler we met was charming and I am sure he saw us coming a kilometer away – we looked just like tourists straight off the elephant ride and I am sure he smelt rupees. He was patient and explained everything to us. He joked with us and, oddly enough, it turns out  he way over charged us. And like I said, we were happy to pay him because we foolishly trusted him.

Our first mistake was listening to me. I trusted someone with a jewelry referral who has done well by me in the past. But I should have gotten several names and we should have absolutely gone to more than one shop. And my friends and I don’t k.n.o.w. jewelry. Sure we know what we like and we know our price (breaking) points – but we didn’t really understand how the two coincided. That is what we call a big fat recipe for disaster.

So we bought jewelry. And a decent amount of it.

In fact, this ring was so fab that I decided to bring it home. I planned to wait on the bracelet and get it for a special occasion – perhaps my funeral when my hubby learned the full details of the story or my friends realized how badly I misdirected them.

I know, it is pretty, huh?

When we returned to Delhi and spread out our sparklees, my friend noticed that the ring she bought for her daughter was slightly off center. So, we called our guy. No problem. He had a friend traveling to Jaipur the next day and we could just give it to him and the jeweler would fix it and, yes, he would make sure we got it back in time for my friend to return to America with it in hand. Just as charming as we remembered. Promises, promises.

We were slightly concerned about giving this total stranger a pretty expensive ring and were having a hard time believing that it would actually end up at the jeweler in Jaipur. But we were armed with the knowledge that we paid with credit cards and had some protection. That turned out to be about the only thing we did right – pay with credit cards.

That same night we went to a party. My friend was standing with her new bracelet on her arm and it simply broke in 3 places. Nope, she didn’t bang it against a wall – and no, a kid on a skateboard didn’t rip it off her arm while scooting by – and no,  monkeys didn’t fly out of the sky and try to steal it – it just simply fell to the ground in 3 places. She had been wearing it for all of two hours.

That was also not a good sign.

So I called the jeweler and explained that we were not happy. No problem. He would gladly fix it. We asked what would happen if my friend wanted to simply return the bracelet – now that we are none too sure about the quality. We were starting to second guess ourselves about 2 days too late. “Oh,” he said, “that would take about 15 days.” When we explained that was not the right answer because my friend was leaving in less than a week, he simply replied, “that is how it works here. Fifteen days. Or I could bring you cash.”

Holy sapphire Batman.

I had never purchased a large item on a credit card in India and I had not returned anything. So, I didn’t know if this guy was pulling a (nother) fast one or if that was just the way it worked.

There is a jeweler that a lot of expats use in Delhi and I suggested we give him a visit. While there, we asked about the value of our remaining items. The Delhi jeweler (who is well known and well trusted) said that some of the pieces we had he would not even buy – no matter how low the price. It turns out they were hollow and not solid gold/silver pieces – that apparently lowers the value s.i.g.n.i.f.i.c.a.n.t.l.y. hmpf.

So, just for giggles, we asked him to tell us what he would have paid, if he had been so foolish to buy them. None of the pieces appraised at even fifty percent of what we paid.

Yep, I know there is a double sided game going on – if we return the jewelry to jeweler A, we might just have some rupees to spend at jeweler B. But the appraisals were so far off from the prices that we paid. We felt sick to our stomachs and really angry. And of course, I felt the worst of all.

We also asked the Delhi jeweler what would happen if we paid by credit card and decided to return something. That part of the story actually checked out. It appears that it takes about 2 weeks in India to get a credit back on a return. Yikes. Yeah that would have been good to know as well.

(Just a side note – This makes jewelry shopping in India pretty fun though – because the jewelers will let you take pieces home and think about them without paying for them yet. They don’t like dealing with the hassle of returns, so they want you to be sure you like it. And even if a few months after purchasing something, you decide it’s not for you, you can just bring it back and exchange it.)

We left the Delhi jeweler after learning lots and trying on more fun stuff – shhh, don’t tell hubby that part. And we called the Jaipur jeweler. I firmly explained that this was no way to do business with Americans and that I would truly understand if the items were valued 20 or even 30 percent less what we paid – after all, prices are somewhat subjective. But, one piece appraised at 10 percent of what my friend paid. I was shaking. I was furious. And I told him so.

He tried to explain that the price of jewelry is in the eye of the beholder and I further explained that the eyes of these beholders were steaming mad. He (wisely) offered to bring cash to Delhi the next day and pick up the jewelry. Excuse me? You will do what? Okay then. So we set up a time and crossed our ever-loving, ring-encrusted fingers. We laughed that if he offered to reduce the price, we might just keep the jewelry. We did love it after all.

Hubby – ever the pessimist – could not believe that this guy was really going to show up. Now it’s a funny story – but then – hubby was none too amused. My friends had the luxury of having their husbands in the U.S . – 8,000 miles away – and not knowing all the details. Me, I had Mr. Pessimist in all his glory. Not that he didn’t have reason to be doubtful. It didn’t sound or look good.

But half an hour early – God Bless him – that jeweler pulled up in front of the house. He had American $100 bills and he returned our money and took the jewelry back with him. He did not even offer to reduce the prices. I think it was fair to say that he was as done with us as we were with him. It was a pleasant enough exchange that ended with us both agreeing that we simply weren’t meant to do business together.

After he walked out the door and we all started breathing again, my friend looked up and said, “any chance these are counterfeit”?

“Only one way to find out,” I said and we marched ourselves right back to the jeweler in Delhi and bought some replacement pieces.

I guess it really is hard to teach an old mom new tricks. 😉

Over 100,000 served daily……………

Wouldn’t that be fun if that was the number of people who read my blog everyday? Alas, it is not.  In fact, a year and a half into this great blog adventure, I am barely approaching 100k visitors. One hundred thousand is the number of people that are served free food every single day at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. I did not realize until this trip that every single Sikh Temple (Gurudwara) has a kitchen to feed anyone who comes there to eat. No one who is hungry is turned away. That is amazing. I only have to feed five people and sometimes I struggle with that – and I have a cook. Yikes.

I had heard so much about the magnificence of the Golden Temple – the highest of all Sikh Temples – and was thrilled Ann and Julia were up for the trip. They survived the overnight train and we all really enjoyed Amritsar.

Everyone who enters the Golden Temple must cover their head (yep, the men too), remove their shoes, and wash their feet. Because the water was in a marble basin area, I thought it was going to be freezing – but it was delightfully warm.

These guards stand watch and I believe they know the history of the Golden Temple and are also meant to help anyone with questions.

The name Amritsar means “nectar of mortality” and the man-made lake around the Golden Temple is thought to be filled with immortal nectar. While we were visiting the temple, we saw many men bathing in the water, drinking the water, and/or placing droplets of water on their heads. The women have their own section that is in a building to ensure their privacy and so that crazy bloggers won’t take their picture and post them on the internet for all the world to see.

You might notice that these men have daggers in their turbans. Many Sikh men carry with them 5 things that symbolize their allegiance to the Sikh faith. These things are known as the 5 Ks and they are:

Kesh is uncut hair on the head and body, symbolizing acceptance of God’s will. Apparently more contemporary Sikh’s do not necessarily follow this rule.
Kachh is a white cotton undergarment. It is practical in battle, and therefore symbolizes moral strength and chastity.
Kara is a steel bracelet symbolizing responsibility and allegiance to God. It is also my understanding that the bracelet can protect the owner’s wrist in battle and is a constant reminder to do the right thing – the hand shall not be used for any wrong-doing.
Kangha
is a wo0den comb that represents personal care and cleanliness. Plastic combs cannot be used because they are more likely to pull out hairs.
Kirpan is a steel dagger, a symbol of resistance against evil and defense of truth.

Every Sikh is asked to do all that they can to make a pilgrimage to the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at least once in their lifetime. And the temple receives 200,000 visitors each day. To accommodate those traveling to the Golden Temple, there is an entire building with rooms for sleeping and the most unbelievable soup kitchen I have ever seen. Both of which are free to visitors. These are just some of the plates.

I know some of my germ-o-phobic friends are thinking Holy Swine Flu, Batman, how many hands are touching those plates. But each plate, cup, and all utensils are washed 5 times before they are put back into rotation. The temple has 3,000 volunteers who come everyday to help out.

I think this might have been the dahl.

This is the main dining hall. You bring an empty plate and sit on the floor and you can have as many helpings as you would like.

Julia asked if we could help out and they put us to work making chapatis. The woman helping me just shook her head and laughed (a lot). I don’t think I will be opening a chapati stall anytime soon. They were all crooked and uneven. I finally got up when I realized she could make 10 chapatis in the time she was “helping” me make one. I was way dumbin’ her way, way down. But I would sincerely argue that it was difficult to keep my big arse scarf out of the way – they should really just consider hair nets. 😉 Julia was much, much better at it. They were actually sad to see her go.

After we made handmade chapatis for the masses, they showed us this machine that can make something like 3,000 chapatis an hour.

There are some things at the temple that are supposed to bring you good luck. One is if fish swim up to where you are standing. Notice 3 fish – 3 friends. That was lovely.

Then this blackbird landed on the branch while we were standing nearby. There was only one bird, but we took three pictures of it just in case.

And then there is this tree. It is the jubi tree and was planted by the first head priest over 450 years ago. It is believed to have very special powers and women who do not have children tie a ribbon on it for good luck. (Please do not even ask me if we tied ribbons.) It still grows fruit but no one is allowed to pick it. It is simply amazing to me that this tree is older than the United States.

This post is getting much longer than I thought it would be so I am going to say goodbye for now and finish up tomorrow. Nite nite.

out to lunch…………

Today I am hosting a very casual luncheon. So I am just a wee bit busy. I’ll catch you up on how it goes very soon. But I’ll give you a snipet of how it has begun….

We have 6 chairs around our table. I invited more than 6 people. hmmmmmmmm. No biggie, right? Right. So I rented tables. 3 of them. And several chairs.

The tables were delivered at 11p – yes, at night. No, I am not kidding. 4 men came to setup 3 tables and it took an hour to set them up. Nope, not kidding.

As is typical with any kind of rented table, they looked terrible as a bare table. So we requested table cloths. The first suggestion made by the rental company was white table cloths with red satin bows. Yea. Not so much. We decided to just go with just the white table cloths.

The two round tables have white striped satin cloths on them. I am not a huge fan of satin – but it looks better than the bare table. The rectangular table has a solid white fabric cloth draped around the sides and – wait for it – a piece of cream colored paper (think butcher paper) on the top. Again, not kidding.

They also draped the chairs with white satin covers. It looked like cotton candy exploded on the tables and chairs. So, I am dumbing it way down and using my own table covers – call them table covers because they are actually bed covers, but they look way better – I’ll take pictures so you can see – I also took the covers off the chairs – they are red and black. Expect the unexpected.

Just as the tent wallas (that’s what they are called) were getting ready to leave, I realized that the rectangular table is completely slanted at one corner. I sat in a chair to look at it from another angle and realized the chair was also completely crooked.

Have no fear, I am a creative hostess – I am serving wine before lunch and a lot of it. By the time my guests sit down, they will think something is wrong with them – not the table/chair.

I did have a fun idea – I am using bracelets from an Indian market as napkin holders and the guests will all get to take theirs home as a party favor. I’ll let you know how it all goes.