Monday, March 31, 2008

The owls are back

I can't get over the cuteness of these little guys. Every time I look into their tiny little faces I just want to squeeze them silly.

The owls are back in the form of the "Joy" necklace. Paired with white jade beads and sterling silver rings, this piece is a fun way to greet the new season. More details and pictures of the Joy necklace are available at the shop!

1. After years of resistance, Mr Hazel finally got a cell phone.

2. I went to the gym today. And instead of watching TV there, I actually got on the treadmill. My coworkers were shocked.

The dinner surprise last night was to a fancy French restaurant. It was very Frenchy. Mr Hazel had the onion soup and then the duck confit, and I had the smoked salmon (lox!) with caviar, and then the rack of lamb. I requested it rare and it was as good as can be. I was vacillating between that and the Dover sole, because in every single one of my Regency novels they are always eating Dover sole with a sauce boat. And I wanted to taste what they ate in England in 1815. They also had squab on the menu, but I don't know if I can eat a pigeon (this from the girl who eats anything and everything). Pigeons are rats with wings.

For dessert, we shared a crepe with strawberries. We staggered out of there afterwards and it was a good thing I was wearing a dress - no constricting waistbands to deal with.

We finally got around to watching season 6 of the Sopranos. And I had forgotten what an excellent show this is. Nail-biting moments, laugh out loud dialogue, heart-in-your-throat scenes. In fact, it's so good that we can't just watch one episode a night - tonight we watched two in succession. It's impossible to stop. We have 3 more episodes to go on this DVD set and then we start on the final half, which includes the series finale!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peridot chandelier earrings

Today's new shop item is a pair of peridot chandelier earrings, named "Camille" after one of my friends. This is the first pair of chandeliers I've made and the ones I picked are really pretty - lots of filigree and the silver is very bright and clear.

More details and pictures of Camille are available at the shop!

Tonight, Mr Hazel is taking me out for an early birthday dinner. It's a secret, though - he won't tell me where it is or what it's called. He takes his surprises very seriously. Except how am I supposed to know what outfit to wear if I don't know what kind of a place it is? I may just have to wing it...


And here is an Etsy find that I'm very, very excited about. I bought this adorable skirt from Kaching Design. I can't wait to get it!

(Photo courtesy of Kaching Design)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

More cherry blossoms

Smoky quartz earrings

So I really wanted to name something after my cousin Ryan, who is Highmaintenancemom's little bro, but I couldn't come up with a good girl's derivative of his name. I decided to call this piece "Camryn" after his girlfriend instead. This one's for you, too, Ryan!

She is made of these gorgeous smoky quartz faceted briolettes, hand wrapped in gold-filled wire. I then added gold-filled jump rings to dress her up and put the whole lot on vermeil earwires.

More pictures and details of Camryn are available at the shop! (Also notice the debut of the French poetry book from Mr Hazel in these pictures.)

And in the good news front, Margaret, Bella and another pair of Ahila have all sold! Thanks, Lisa!

Yesterday also saw the arrival of the dress form that I had ordered. I've been looking for one of these for a while now for displaying and photographing my necklaces because I realized it's hard to gauge the length and the overall look just by using those busts. But with the dress forms, they are in proportion to a real person so you can see where the necklaces will hang in relation to the neck and bust. My sister also was the one to tell me that they are called "dress forms" and not mannequins (which are different things), so I knew what to search for.

The one I bought is gorgeous, has a wooden base and neck, and can be extended up to 6'. It also has a really huge pair of boobs. The one I originally wanted to get didn't have nearly as big a pair, but Mr Hazel thought this one was better because it has, according to him, "more of a form." Yes, we all know what he meant by that!

Also, I think this makes for nice decoration. Gives a room that chic, "Paris atelier" sort of a look.

I've retaken shots of some of the necklaces and will continue doing so until all of the existing necklaces have this picture. Here are some I've put up already:

I kind of feel like I ought to put some clothes on her.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pearl bracelet

This is the pearl bracelet that I worked on forever last weekend. I finally got some good photos of her, named "Margaret" after a cousin. She is made up of approximately 30 button and nugget pearls, on a sterling link chain and toggle clasp.

This piece turned out to be rather pricey, definitely one of the priciest in the shop and the priciest bracelet yet. Blame it on the huge number of pearls involved!

More details and pictures of Margaret are now available.

And be sure to check out that "hand model" in the pictures!

I also finally finished a second custom order: another pair of the Ahila earrings, requested by my friend Meridith for mother's day. I think I may offer Ahila again, as she seems to be a popular item; this is the third Ahila I will have sold. Thanks Meridith!

Blossom time

Overnight, it seems like all the cherry trees around my neighborhood have burst into bloom, creating a gentle pink paradise as soon as you drive in. They also planted daffodils in the little park, making for a decidedly cheerful space.

As it is a gorgeously warm day today, I took my camera around and took pictures of the long-awaited blossoms. I may take a walk later on to snap more of my neighbors' trees. There are a lot of varieties of pink to be seen.

Here are some front yard shots.

View from our back deck.

Nomad and Moxie enjoying the view from their perch.

And this is the view from my craft room/home office.

And both hyacinths are finally in bloom!

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It's raining gemstones

My gemstones arrived today!

And they are even more gorgeous in person.

Instead of reading my book like I usually do, I spent the entire train ride home staring off into space, my mind on design overdrive, dreaming about how I wanted to arrange the stones, what I wanted to make with them, and how they would look.

I just finished cataloging the lot of them and now I'm going to play!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Chalcedony and pearl earrings

A very exciting thing happened today! Last night I started posting this pair of "Leslie" earrings (named after my cousin, who is Mom2Amara's sister), but then took it down because I wanted to tweak some of the pictures. However, this morning I received an Etsy convo from a buyer asking where they went, because she wanted to buy them!

So Leslie has been sold. But here is a picture anyway, so you can see what she looked like.

The best part is that the buyer maintains a blog where she features various artists and crafters as well as sells advertising for Etsy stores. The blog is called The Downtown Boutique, and I'm hoping she features me on her blog! At the least, I am definitely buying some advertising space here. It looks like a great resource for handmade items.

I was not as productive as usual with my jewelrymaking this past weekend owing to a pretty busy one, so I don't have much to post this week. The other reason why my productivity level was on the low side was because I made this gorgeous pearl bracelet that took up a lot of time. It turned out really well. But I can't post it yet because the pictures didn't come out well, so I have to wait until I get another chance at a photo shoot. I also finished a custom order for another Abigail!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

One of my more memorable Easters was the one I spent in Paris, sick as a dog. I had planned on taking the train to Rome to meet up with a friend for Easter, but since I got sick I was forced to stay in my apartment in Paris with my ramen and my applesauce (there was no access to arroz caldo there). I remember being bewildered at the profusion of chocolate chickens in stores and on TV, not realizing that the French don't do Easter bunnies. They do Easter chickens. Which, if you think about it, makes a whole lot more sense than bunnies. Or Peeps.

Speaking of Peeps, check out the winners of this year's Peeps Diorama contest. I look forward to this each Easter since they started the contests. There are some truly clever ones submitted.

Last night the "10 Commandments" was on TV, the one with Charlton Heston. Glossing over the fact that this movie was made before the advent of CGI, thus forgiving the laughable special effects (the angel of death looked like Slimer from Ghost Busters), it really is a remarkable, classic, enduring story. Everything that makes for a great story is included: lust, revenge, hubris, love, adventure, schadenfreude, redemption, and a happy ending. It was just too bad Moses didn't have a TomTom at his disposal ("At the end of the oasis, turn left"). And how unfair that he never got to see the land of milk and honey after wandering around for 40 years? And how would he feel if he were alive today and saw that Mt Sinai has now become the ubiquitous name for every hospital in America?

Still, Charlton Heston sure made for a pretty dreamy Moses.

And I realized that Lent is over and I ended up not giving anything up, not even meat on Fridays. In the past I've given up swearing (very hard to do) and chocolate, but this year it seems like Lent and Easter came too early to prepare.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


So, so excited - one of my favorite jewelry designers is selling off her excess gemstones and supplies, so I snapped up a whole lot of them yesterday. I got aqua quartz, lemon chalcedony, peridot, smokey quartz, blue chalcedony, and amethyst nuggets. They are just gorgeous and I can't wait to get them. I wanted to get more - perhaps next time.

I've also been looking into taking more jewelry classes, particularly in color theory and metalsmithing. I really want to develop my skills in metalsmithing - working with metal would be so much fun and would open up a whole new world of designs for me.

Then, lo and behold, I came across a jewelry certificate program at a very prestigious art and design school, which luckily is local for me, so I am looking into enrolling. The classes are a lot of metalsmithing, but I'll also learn casting techniques, stone setting, enameling, and glass bead making. They'll teach me how to use a kiln. I really want to learn how to use a kiln.

As well as how to solder properly. Right now I'm teaching myself soldering, and it's slow going and harder than I thought, mostly because I didn't have the proper tools at first and it took me a while to assemble them through research.

I'm really excited about this certificate program. I will be required to take ten classes total. I hope the scheduling works out!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring!

It's finally here!

Though it was a windy and blustery day, I was in high spirits. The best part was I could still see the sun when I left work. Yay for daylight!

To celebrate, I wanted to post a few of my favorite spring things.

Check out this wildly colorful Balenciaga purse, which I wildly covet. It looks to be in the same style as their Motorcycle purse, just a different material and color palette.

And then I saw this pair of Prada shoes and thought, "Nice classic peep toes," until I noticed the heel. And then I promptly fell in love. Flower heels! How awesome is that?

I also love this strapless dress by Tibi.

And this pretty, fresh yellow dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim, one of my new favorite designers.

This pair of Linea Paolo shoes I am contemplating getting for real. I love Linea Paolo. If I could marry this brand and tuck it away in my pocket forever, I would. I own several pairs of Linea Paolos and I dust them off and coo at them and talk to them as if they were my precious babies (which they are!) You see, Linea Paolo has every one of their styles in size 4. Do you know how hard it is to find grown up shoes in size 4s? Not only grown up shoes, but flirty, cute, and funky shoes? Very hard. Very, very hard. So when I discovered Linea Paolo, it was like manna from heaven. I wish I could buy a pair in every style. But this is the pair I am eyeing for spring; it has 3 1/2" heels!

Lastly, I love love love this green dress by Alice + Olivia.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Robin's egg blue and gold

Robin's egg blue is one of my favorite colors. It's very light and pretty, and so refreshing and cool to the eyes. This pair, similar to the Lauren and Victoria, is "Lorna", after my aunt (the sisters series is hereby complete!)

So a few posts back I was talking about this jewelrymaker who knew a lot of celebrities and got them to wear her designs for her. Well, I completely forgot that I, too, know a celebrity - my friend Lisa, who is a meteorologist and weather anchor for a local TV station (she gets recognized everywhere she goes around town). She told me that last Friday, she had worn the Stephanie earrings on air, and that her co-anchor had complimented them without any prompting! I was so excited. Lisa is going to send me a DVD of the newscast so I can see the on-air debut of the earrings.

And a huge thank you to Meridith, who, in addition to custom ordering Lauren, also bought Nikki and Alissa. Yay! This brings my total sales to 28, which is a nice, fat, even number, if you ask me.

Today was the draft for my fantasy baseball team. I always love draft time because it means spring is here. Hopefully my players will do well this season!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Earrings, a bracelet, and a book

First up, the earrings that are a custom order for Meridith, which feature sapphire blue faceted briolettes in the style of the Victoria. I named these "Lauren" in honor of the recipient. I hope she likes them!

Next up is a chrysoprase bracelet, named "Melanie" after an aunt (I am slowly making my way through the names of my mom and her sisters: Bella, Mila, Kathleen, now Melanie, and then Lorna will be the last in the series).

I love these aunts - my mom and her sisters are, to me, the epitome of all that is competent, fierce, brave, commanding, kind, and capable, all perfect examples of what motherhood and womanhood should be. My sister, my cousins and I all stand in fear and awe of these wonderful women. So I'm proud to name my designs after all of them!

And last up, Mr Hazel's mystery Valentine's gift finally arrived in the mail. Remember when I was unsuccessfully searching for a French novel to use for my photographs? My search is done! Because his gift is a book of French love poems:

Quelle merveilleuse!

Monday, March 17, 2008


Today I am the featured artist on the Etsy CREST (Capital Region Etsy Street Team) blog! You can find the write up here.

I also forgot to mention that the Victoria earrings featured there were inspired by the colors of Natalie Portman's costume as Anne Boleyn in "The Other Boleyn Girl." You can't see it very well in this picture, but she is also wearing interesting jewelry here - one of her necklaces is the letter "B" with gemstones hanging off of it. Decadent!

Oh and hey! I didn't even realize, but this is all great timing for St. Patrick's Day. Funny coincidence.

Aaaand...!!!!! My alma mater made it into the NCAA tournament for the first time ever! Congratulations basketball team!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Carnelian bracelet

I finished and photographed this piece and I think it came out well. I love the reddish-brown hue of the stones. This is a bracelet made of carnelian, named "Susan" after one of my funniest cousins.

I'm currently finishing up a few custom projects in the works. My friend Meridith was thinking of getting "Victoria" for a friend's birthday, but was concerned that the green stones might clash with her friend's coloring (she has blonde hair and blue eyes.) So I told her I have several blue stones that may work better, so I'm finishing those up in the same style as Victoria for her to choose from.

Speaking of, Meridith is an assistant editor for TV and her current project, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, is airing on April 12th on the Lifetime channel. So set your Tivos and mark your calendars!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Red and white bracelet

A new bracelet added to the shop today, featuring a mixture of red shell, dark carnelian, pearls, coral, and white jade. I named her "Pia" after my cousin's baby girl. More details and pictures of Pia are available on Etsy!

And for some exciting spring news, one of my hyacinths has finally BLOOMED! Check her out, isn't this a lovely sight?

The tulips, however, have not yet bloomed (I can't see the bulbs appearing yet), so I decided to wait until I can see some measurable progress before taking more pictures, lest my neighbors think I'm casing the joint.

I am also watching the cherry blossom tree on my front yard like a hawk. The buds have begun to appear on the branches a couple of weeks ago, so every day I am scrutinizing them to see if they're any closer to blooming. I think they said the cherry blossoms are supposed to peak in late March/early April.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A flower garden!

Moxie is making it impossible to type because she decided that my keyboard makes for a nice, cozy bed to curl up on for her nap.

Here is a new shop item for you - a cascade of flowers disguised as earrings! These feature three blue glass flowers each, adorned with three amazonite beads and all dangling from base metal earwires. I decided to use base metal components for this piece instead of sterling silver to give it an antiqued, vintage look, and a well-loved air. I named this one "Christine" after my cousin's wife, who is one of the coolest chicks I know.

I finished filing my business tax for February. You should've seen my face as I tried to make sense of it - scrunched up, pained, and bewildered. This is my second month of filing but it hasn't gotten any easier. Why are tax forms not written in plain English, I ask you? Why do they insist on writing out the instructions as if they're taking bets on how many people they can confuse in the least amount of time? Anyway, it's filed and paid, and I hope I did it right.

I am very excited - our baseball team has a new stadium and Mr Hazel and I went in with a group of people to get season tickets! Our share is five games, and the seats are amazing - second row, main level, between second and third base (I think that's what Mr Hazel told me). I can't wait for the season to start - 17 days!

I'm now off to scrounge up some lunch...happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

All about Mr Hazel

My cousin, Highmaintenancemom, tagged me!

What is his name? Mr Hazel
How long have you been married? 3 years
How long did you date? 3 years, and we lived together for one year before getting engaged
How old is he? Age of consent
Who eats more? Definitely me
Who said I love you first? He did
Who is taller? Definitely him, by a good foot and a half
Who pays the bills? He is the money manager in our household
Who can sing better? I think I do, but Mr Hazel disagrees and calls me “noisy”
Who is smarter? Moxie
Who does the laundry? Me
Who sleeps on the right side? I do (funny enough, so do a lot of women in my family)
Who mows the lawn? Our homeowners' association, yippee!
Who cooks dinner? I do, but he does the dishes after
Who is a better cook? I think me, by default, since I do the cooking, but Mr Hazel makes a mean taco
Who drives? He does – I’m too lazy and his car has heated seats
Who is more stubborn? That would be both of us. You should hear us argue.
Who kissed who first? He did
Who asked who out first? I think this was by mutual agreement
Who proposed? He did, in our new house
Who is more sensitive? Me for sure
Who has more friends? Me – I keep in touch with everyone
Who has more siblings? Him – a brother and a sister, whereas I have one sister

And now here is a recent picture of my man...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Green and gold earrings

These opulent earrings are "Victoria," named after a very special person. It took me a huge part of the weekend to complete these because they were very difficult. Talk about labor of love. I wanted to feature them on the EtsyCREST blog on March 17, and the way they're setting this up required me to have the earrings posted to my shop beforehand. More lovely pictures and details of Victoria are available at the shop.

So, I have been sick the past two days. An awful cold, non-stop sneezing, and a fever that comes and goes. At least I don't have the flu because I got a flu shot in the fall, but it still sucks. I was hoping to avoid a whole winter season without getting sick to no avail. My fever is finally gone, and though I'm still not 100% I figured I should get my butt to work tomorrow anyway.

At least I had CNN and Eliot Spitzer to keep me entertained during my sick-in. I love how the NY Post was all, "couldn't he at least have booked her on the Acela?" Hahahaha.

A note: I took down a few pieces from my shop because I would like to solder a few of the fastenings of those pieces shut. I just bought a soldering gun and I'm teaching myself how to solder, but I'm waiting on the solder I ordered to arrive in the mail before I can complete the work. I should have those pieces back up in a few days.

And a final note: a huge thanks to my mother-in-law, who bought Astrid! She also gave me an article about a local jewelry designer who was featured in our paper. I'm jealous - I wish my jewelry was featured in the paper. Apparently this jewelry designer has celebrity connections so she had them wear her designs. Maybe I should mail some of my earrings to Paris Hilton.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Peach coin pearl bracelet

I've been meaning to add the matching "Linda" bracelet to the shop all weekend but it has been a very busy weekend all around. But here she is! You can see a full-length picture at the shop, as well as more details.

Last night my sister dragged me to see "Step Up 2 the Streets," where I was fully expecting a cheese fest, but to my surprise, it ended up being a really enjoyable movie! All the dance moves were so impressive and made me want to boogie down myself. Of course, it didn't hurt that the lead actor was a total hottie (he looked like a younger Sark with rhythm) and the lead actress was pretty awesome. I even cried at the end. (Granted, I also cried at the end of Con Air so that's not saying much.)

I've been thinking of my friends and family who are buried under 20 inches of snow in Ohio this past weekend, especially as I stepped outside yesterday morning to sunshine and without a coat on. It was around 60 degrees here (I'm sorry guys, I know I'm rubbing it in) and it's days like these that make me really glad I no longer live in Ohio.

Tulip watch: look how much taller they are from last week!

And my hyacinths are definitely coming out as well:

And on that note, I gotta run - busy weekend steaming along...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Green flower earrings

These are fun - green flower glass earrings with white jade beads dangling from sterling earwires. I called this pair "Jem," after my cousin - who happens to be a boy - but he's funny and a total cutie, so I thought these fun earrings were a good fit.

Jem is now available at the shop!

So after the new year Mr Hazel went into a health kick where he gave up soda and became very careful about my sugar intake (no more donuts, Cinnabon, cake, or sugary drinks - but I did put my foot down on banning dark chocolate. I can't live without dark chocolate - besides, it's good for your heart). Though I highly resent not having my weekly dose of plain glazed Dunkin Donut treats, I see the wisdom of reduced sugar, and today I also decided that it's a good idea to start exercising again.

The only problem is I am allergic to exercise. I did try in fits and starts in the past - I swam and ran on the track in college, took up golf, kickboxing, skiing, and rock climbing in my 20s, and did the treadmill thing for a while. The problem was that I got bored and lazy and would stop. I thought when I took up kickboxing with a friend it would motivate me to keep going, but what ended up happening was I used that hour of class to talk about where I wanted to go for dinner afterwards. It got to the point where I would get so hungry that I wanted to skip kickboxing and go straight to dinner. We also have a recumbent bike in our basement, but I'm currently using it as a laundry hanger.

But this isn't really healthy, so today I decided to pick up my workouts again. My sister is a fitness instructor in her free time (whereas in my free time, I am a couch instructor), so she gave me some good ideas about how to jump start my fitness routine. I thought either I could go to our gym at work - which, if you think about it, you have to be seriously lazy not to take advantage of a gym in the very same building where you work (true story: my old office building also had a gym on the premises - full service, state-of-the-art - and the only time I set foot in it was to get a free piece of cake.) My friend Michele and I were also talking about going to group classes at a private gym, which I admit would be a lot of fun. Additionally, Mr Hazel and I discussed buying a treadmill to put in our basement - um, next to the laundry bike - so I can work out in the comfort of home. Or I could take up running around my neighborhood.

I'm mulling my options.

Let's see how long this lasts before laziness wins once again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Peach coin pearl earrings

I've had these peach coin pearls for a long time but I kept hesitating over what to do with them, until finally inspiration struck. These earrings are "Linda," named after both my aunt and my mother-in-law (also not the same person - that would be really weird otherwise). She features five champagne/peach/pink/goldish coin pearls on each earring, dangling from sterling earwires. The color is really pretty and as you can tell, a bit hard to describe.

More details and pictures of Linda are available at the shop, and over the next few days I also will be debuting the matching bracelet!

And here is a picture of my friend Mandy's order for her mom's birthday all ready to be shipped out. I included a little gift card with it, which I think I'll also start offering to customers at no extra charge should they wish to give the jewelry as gifts.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

White bead necklace

Today I have a pretty necklace featuring white carved beads on sterling chain, named "Emmanuelle" after my favorite uncle (my dad's brother). I hope he doesn't mind that he looks very feminine in these pictures!

Emmanuelle is now available at the shop.

I also switched around the front picture for the Mila earrings because I think the flower shot might be more successful in luring people in to take a look at her. We'll see if this is the case!

So today I've been trying not to read the news too much on the Ohio and Texas primaries. I don't want to have a nervous breakdown. Though I have to admit this is nail-biter politics at its best! Right now it looks like Ohio is too close to call. The nail biting continues...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chalcedony earrings

Today's new shop addition is a pair of aqua chalcedony earrings, named "Mila" after one of my aunts. She is wire wrapped in sterling earwires.

Chalcedony has to be one of my all-time favorite stones, especially this pretty aqua color. More details and pictures of Mila are available at the shop!

I also finally developed my store policies on warranties, as well as on returns and exchanges. Basically I am now offering a one-year warranty, from date of purchase, for repair work on all jewelry pieces from my shop, as well as a 30-day policy on returns and exchanges. You can find more details and information about these under the Profile section of my shop.

Tonight was the season finale of the Sarah Connor Chronicles. The last hour was amazing! The cliffhanger wasn't bad either. I feel a bit bereft, but consoling myself that The Office is coming back soon.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New shop item: pink briolette earrings

Today's new shop addition is the "Lourdes" earrings, named after my grandmother and my aunt (not the same person!). She features three sparkly, luminous pink briolettes each, wire wrapped and dangling from sterling earwires.

More details and pictures of Lourdes are available at the shop!

In very exciting news, I sold five items today!!! A buyer bought three items, the Pamela bracelet, the Claire necklace, and the Ahila earrings. The Ahila earrings seem a popular item (I've sold two now) so it looks like I'll be stocking the shop with more of this item.

Also, my friend Mandy bought the Meridith earrings and matching necklace as a birthday gift for her mom. I feel so touched and privileged at having one of my designs picked for this special occasion.

Thank you so much to both customers!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Spring countdown

My neighbor's tulips are slowly but surely coming out of the ground! I feel like coaxing them along so they'll hurry it up. You can do it, tulips!

And in another sign of spring coming, the hyacinths in my yard are also coming out!

You can even see the little purple bud already peeking out from its leaves. How exciting!

As I was surveying our yard this morning I was dismayed to note that my two azalea bushes have turned all brown and shriveled up. I think I forgot to fertilize them in the fall in preparation for the winter season, as I was told to do by the nursery guy. I am very fond of my azaleas because I planted them myself with my own two hands the summer after we moved into our house, and I was the proudest little gardener when the flowers actually bloomed in profusion.

But now I'm afraid I have killed them this winter. We will see - I'm holding my breath.