Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oh Pinterest...

I'll admit, when I first scored a Pinterest account I had no idea what was going on.  All I saw was this chaotic mess of vibrant colours, fashion forward ideas, and things like dieting advice juxtaposed to the 'to die for cheesecake' made with 3 lbs of cream cheese (no joke...that is 6, 8 oz containers of cream cheese).  

It was fair to say that my first exposure to Pinterest resulted in major sensory overload and to make matters worst, I had no clue how pinning worked or what would be a good idea to pin.  My mind was full of thoughts like, "Do I just copy what everyone else pins onto a board somewhere (and how does one make a board exactly) and how in the world can I turn off that annoying feature that shows all your friends on Facebook what you are discovering on Pinterest so they aren't bombarded with your new DIY obsessions?"  As I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all, I decided to take about a 3 month hiatus from my Pinterest account letting it lay dormant.

Then one summer day a few months ago, I decided to bravely venture into Pinterest Land again.   I was going to be a bridesmaid in 2 summer weddings and wanted to see if I could learn some inexpensive tricks to look my best.  So, I eased myself in by searching for ideas like at home beauty remedies with the wonderful search bar in the top left corner of the page I happily discovered.  By simply searching things I wanted to learn how to cook or make, I realized that I could find almost anything I wanted on Pinterest.  From there I started exploring the Pinterest categories like Beauty and DIY and from then on I was hooked!

For this post, I wanted to share with you my top 3 favourite pins from this past summer: 2 Home Beauty Recipes and 1 Foodie Goody!  Despite it being winter in my corner of the world, they are applicable all year around especially one of the beauty pins which can help you have soft skin despite living in a dry climate.

So whether you're a Pinterest virgin like I was and are still learning to navigate though the endless sea of pins and boards or you're a seasoned veteran, I hope you enjoy these little pins and they show you how easy it can be to find your own Pinspiration!

Although I prefer to wax when I can, this is my new 'go to' recipe I use when I need to shave.  And this beauty trick is not only a physical exfoliant but also makes your skin feel as soft as butter because of one key ingredient and my new beauty staple...coconut oil.  In the pin, the author uses olive oil but I used coconut oil instead (which I bought in the Natural Food section at Superstore).  So don't hide your legs under long johns and knee high ski socks this winter!  Pamper them instead with this at home spa experience!  

Just had a rough day at work and want to take out your aggression on something?  How about fighting some pesky blackheads while simultaneously releasing your tension with the soothing aroma of lavender?  Sounds good doesn't it?!  This pin features a lavender oil recipe to help remove blackheads and it works (and smells) amazing.  (You can find lavender oil from stores like Planet Organic.)  You'll feel much better after trying this, I promise!

I first made this nom-worthy popcorn recipe when I was at a weekend getaway for my friend right before her wedding and all of us bridesmaids just devoured it!  It's simple, delicious, and highly addictive.  It would also be a delightful Christmas treat!

Movie Night Treat Marshmallow Caramel Popcorn:

- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 9-10 large marshmallows
- 12 cups of air popped popcorn

1.  Microwave the brown sugar and butter for 2 minutes.
2.  Add marshmallows to the sugar/butter mixture and microwave until melted (about 90 seconds).
3.  Pour over popcorn and coat popcorn thoroughly.

If you liked these pins and would like to see what else I've been up to on Pinterest, you can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New Perspective & Some Perseverance

Japanese Proverb
Last week during an exploration of my new Vancouver neighbourhood, I came across a lovely store that captured my attention right away.  They carry whimsical Canadian labels like Pink Martini and Button but what peaked my interest is that they feature jewellery by local designers.

I've been toying with the idea of getting my jewellery into local stores for quite some time now but I wasn't quite ready to commit.  However, since I was new in town and eager to try something different, I decided to ask how a designer like myself could get my jewellery showcased in their store.  The saleswoman was hesitant at first but when I explained to her what type of jewellery I make, she kindly booked me an appointment with the store owner to show her a sampling of my wares to see if they would be a fit for the store.

I was ecstatic.  Only having moved the week before, I was already networking in my community and there was the very real possibility of having a physical location for my jewellery to be displayed that shoppers could easily peruse.  I excitedly called my Mom and asked if she could send my jewellery to me (since I did not have room in the 2 suitcases I had brought with me when I moved to Vancouver) and my jewellery was on the Greyhound that day.

The day of my appointment, (which was yesterday), was an ordinary, overcast day (typical weather as most rain weathered Vancouverites would say) but I was beaming with excitement.  I met with the store owner in the early afternoon and as I laid out my pieces on the wooden counter in front of her, I tried to simultaneously read her expressions to see if any of my jewellery looked appealing to her.  After I had finished my explanations and showed her all I had, she told me that while my jewellery was beautiful, it wasn't a fit for the store.

My initial reaction understandably was disappointment.  I had really looked forward to this appointment and was now watching the door of opportunity slowly closing in front of me and feeling like a little girl guide who failed to sell cookies to an uninterested neighbour.  But as quickly as I felt the sting of rejection, I felt the need to think of something positive and I started to focus on thoughts like, "It's ok.  I tried my best and this was just an experiment.  I'm going to take this as a learning experience."  And as I ran these words through my mind, I began to feel uplifted.  As my conversation with the store owner continued, she told me of another store that was in a nearby neighbourhood and to see if they would feature my jewellery there.  I politely thanked her for the meeting and walked back to my car.  I realized that although a door had been closed for me, there had been a window cracked opened and instead of heading back home, I plugged the address for the new store into google maps (another app I don't think I would function well without) and drove off to the next destination.

As I arrived there, I decided to turn down my anticipation a few notches.  I wanted to go into the store with curiosity instead of holding great expectations for it...treat it more objectively like an experiment.  I walked into the little boutique and was greeted by the owner warmly and told her I was interested in learning more about selling my jewellery at her store.  She eagerly looked at my jewellery and within 10 minutes, I had been invited to sell my jewellery just in time for the Holiday Party and Christmas Season.  As an added bonus, this store owner loves to help small businesses thrive and had many ideas of how she would like to introduce me and my jewellery to her clients.

I worked well into the evening last night designing, printing, and cutting custom tags for my jewellery and I'm proud to say that my jewellery has been dropped off and will be on display soon at the jewellery bar at Changes Vancouver! 

As I reflect back on this recent experience, I realize that it held two great life lessons for me.  The first is how powerful a person's thoughts are in affecting their perspective.  It was hard hearing 'no' at the first store I presented my jewellery to and I could have easily packed up, called it a day, and labelled myself a failure.  But as I explained in my intro post, I've finally began to grasp the importance of treating myself with kindness even when things don't always go as I've planned.  So, I decided to leave that store with a smile on my face and keep pressing on, which leads me to my second lesson: perseverance is worth the effort.  Like the quote in the picture above says, when you fall, get back up again and continue pursuing what you think is important.

So, if you've been feeling a bit down today, I encourage you to do 2 simple things:
1) Take a moment to pause and listen to the messages you're telling yourself.  If they're negative and defeating, try replacing them with kind words and a positive perspective.  As you practice this, it will become easier to do and you'll start to feel much better about yourself.
2) Look for the windows that have been opened for you.  You'll never know what opportunities lie ahead for you if you don't look up to find them.

Good night,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gooey, Chewy Chocolate Chip Goodness

One activity I've been able to pursue much more fervently since taking time off from my studies is baking. I think my baking skills have improved tenfold since obtaining my degree in Chemistry which required me to be in labs for about nine hours a week and follow 'chemical recipes' to the letter. I had no idea that my lab skills would pay off in my everyday life but surprisingly the practice I gained in the lab transferred into confidence in the kitchen. I find baking relaxing as it rarely matters if you added exactly 1 cup of sugar or precisely 2 teaspoons of vanilla. And the best part is that you can eat your final product whereas in a Chemistry lab, you're lucky if you're allowed to smell your end product without getting lightheaded or nauseated.

So on this rainy, blustery Sunday evening, I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies for my husband as we had run out of his favourite 'Chips Ahoy' cookies and I promised him a homemade replacement. I know that chocolate chip cookies are one of the most basic treats that any baker should have in their arsenal of recipes but sadly, I had not yet found my 'go to' chocolate chip cookie recipe.

As I was searching through food gawker (one of my absolute favourite apps) for a suitable recipe, I came across a link to a blog by Scientifically Sweet that gave tips about how to make chocolate chip cookies taste amazing. Among them was something so simple yet (as I discovered tonight) works wonders for your cookies...refrigerate the dough for at least one hour before baking them. As Christina from Scientifically Sweet explains, it enhances the flavour of the cookies and after adding this little step to a recipe I found on another blog thanks to my faithful food gawker app, (recipe found here) I was ready to bake!

With some slight modifications, I made the most gooey, chewy, chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. And the best part was that after one bite my husband declared them better than his store bought cookies and swore he would never buy Chips Ahoy cookies again ('till death do us part). After my first bite, I decided they tasted like something I've tried at Cookies By George and wish I knew my neighbours in our building well enough so I could share my joy and cookies with them! But since we're not BFF's with the people down the hall, I decided I would share this recipe with you, my virtual neighbours. I hope you carve out a little bit of time from your busy schedule to make some of these delicious, decadent cookies because you will not be disappointed with the results!


Gooey, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Heather Homemade's 'Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies' Recipe)


2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Chipits Milk Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Skor Chipits

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl with whisk; set aside.
3. Melt butter in the microwave and let it cool until it is warm.
4. By hand, or with an electric mixer, mix butter and sugars together until well combined.
5. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until incorporated.
6. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until combined (by hand will work too – it just takes a little more effort).
7. Stir in the chocolate chips and skor chipits.
8. Place the dough in a sealed container and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
9. Go do homework, read a book, exercise, run some errands, or do whatever you need to do in an hour so that you can feel both domestic and productive by the end of this recipe ;)
10. If you have a stoneware bar pan (like the one from Pampered Chef shown here) this is what I used for this recipe and I didn't need to butter the pan before use. Otherwise, prepare two large baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or buttering the pan before use.
11. After the 1 hour is up, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
12. Roll the dough into golf ball sized balls and place them on the baking sheet.
13. Place one baking sheet/pan into the oven once it has reached 325 degrees and bake for 15-18 minutes.
14. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, the edges start to harden, and the centres of the cookies are soft and puffy.
15. Cool cookies completely on baking sheet and repeat the baking process with the remainder of the dough.
16. Remove cookies from sheets with a flat, metal spatula.
17. Store in an air-tight container.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How It All Started...

I've been asked on quite a few occasions about how The Refurbished Ruby was started and so I thought it would be appropriate for my first post to share with you the story of how my little jewellery business came to be.

Most of my friends were surprised to hear that I started making jewellery because to them, I'm a science nerd that gets the geeky jokes in The Big Bang Theory, has a chemistry degree, and married an awesome guy who happens to have a PhD in Chemistry.  Contrary to what people may see on the surface, there is a creative part of me but I had forgotten about it for quite some time.  

Growing up, I used to love to walk through the craft fairs in small towns outside of my city and admire the handmade goods vendors had meticulously displayed with pride.  Some of my most cherished childhood memories involved making jewellery from kits and learning from books how to weave bracelets and bead necklaces.  Music also became an essential part of my life as I started singing solos at my Church when I was about 7 years old.  My Mom and I would sing duets together and I was involved in choirs and bands for many years.  Stemming from my love for music was a desire to dance and I was in multiple dance groups in junior high and high school and taught choreography on a number of occasions.  I also had a passion for creative writing, and I can recall the surprise on my high school English teacher’s face when I told him I was going to pursue a Science degree in University, not an English major as he had hoped.  

As I entered University life, it was as if the creativity I had nurtured in my school years was slowly being removed from me to make room for chemical equations, laboratory data, and integrals.  But hints of my artistic spark still popped up once in awhile.  I was given an invitation to join the English department from my University and I excelled at my Sign Language and Spanish classes.  But I continued to push these talents aside to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.  I replaced whimsy with logic, passion with deductive reasoning, and creative writing with rote memorization.

Fast forward 7 years and I had achieved my goal of getting into medical school and I was entering my third year of the program.  It was then I began the most gruelling part of my education called clerkship…the unpaid, sleep deprived medical internship that required me to be up for 28 hours or more at a time, do physical exams on hallucinating patients, and stand in an operating theatre for 6 hours straight just to name a few.  Through this exhausting time, I experienced some of the darkest hours of my life, but from it came the rebirth of my creative spirit and the beginning of The Refurbished Ruby.   

With having completed almost half of the third year of my medical training (and the hardest rotations to boot), I made one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life...I decided I needed to take time off from my training.  I was feeling completely miserable and knew that there was something going on with my health that I needed to address before I myself would wind up as a patient in the hospital.  I did not want to be hypocritical and tell my patients to take care of themselves while I myself was delaying in dealing with my own ailments.

So, while my personal treatment team was trying to sort through my symptoms to come up with a diagnosis, I was sitting at home feeling an overwhelming urge to do something with my time.  I was used to working at the hospital for about 12 hours/day and I wanted to do something to fight back the terrifying feeling of going crazy with nothing to do at home.  That's when I came up with the idea to take my Mom's abandoned jewellery collection and modernize it.  With her permission, I started searching for pieces I felt had the potential to be remade into something more updated and beautiful but would still hold its character.  With some tools I purchased from a local craft store, I started dismantling pieces and recreating them into ‘modern artifacts’ as Michael Margolis so eloquently puts it.

The love I had for making jewellery from my childhood was rekindled along with my creativity and within a few days I had created about 20 pieces of jewellery.  I started showing only my closest friends and family my jewellery and shared with them my new secret love affair with jewellery design.  I decided that I would like to make a little business for myself and start selling my wares on Etsy.  I came up with the name of The Refurbished Ruby which I thought was quite fitting for the type of jewellery I was making and the rest is history.    

Through collecting pieces of old and vintage jewelry that have been tossed aside and upcycling them, I find that I am rediscovering who I am.  I have great joy in pouring meaning back into unloved pieces by reviving them into new, inspired, ‘Refurbished Rubies’ if you will and feel the process I go through in creating jewellery is a metaphor for how my life is becoming renewed daily.

Upcycling is also a way to be good to this beautiful earth that God gave us.  I’m not a tree hugger but I have learned through my studies that our environment is delicate and we should be good stewards of it by making little changes where we can.  This is why I try to do my part to use recyclable packaging and 100% recycled paper for my business cards.

My life has changed considerably from almost a year ago when I decided to take time off from medical school and although it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life, it was also the best gift I have given myself.  Although my doctors have come up with a diagnosis, they are still trying to tailor my treatment so that I can live a healthier life and start a career.  But more important than school or a job, I am learning through this experience to be good to myself.  I've beaten myself up for too much of my life thinking I wasn't smart enough, tough enough, or good enough for x, y, and z.  It is refreshing to gain a new perspective on life and to treat myself with the kindness I deserve...that we all deserve.

So if there's one thing that you've gained from reading my blog today I hope it's this: to learn to love yourself enough that if you know you need to make some changes in your life to take better care of yourself, even if those changes may be difficult to implement, I encourage you to take the chance.  In doing so, you will be giving yourself an invaluable gift and the opportunity to become the best version of yourself instead of drifting through life.  You may find that you gain much more than you ever expected.  

Happy Friday and I hope you have a beautiful weekend!