Saturday, January 19, 2013

Las Vegas / Grand Canyon Trip

I just came back from a fabulous weekend trip to Las Vegas to meet my friends from Etsy and can't wait to share these pictures with you. I have been talking with these successful artists / entrepreneurs online since 2008, and this was the first time we finally got to meet each other in person and spend some time together, so I was super excited. This was the day when my "virtual friends" turned into "real friends". It's amazing to finally be able to look into their eyes and know they are real people in real world, and as awesome in person as online!

Most people (including me) don't realize it actually can get a little chilly in Las Vegas in winter. In fact, there was a cold front during the time of our stay, and the temperature dropped to 20s at night. Mike and I spent most of the time inside the hotels on the strip because of that. I am really glad we finally put on our thick jackets and walked down the strip one night to see the famous Ballagio Fountains. I felt like I could just stand there watching the fountains all night long.

I would say the best meal we had there was at the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. At close to $20, their burgers are pretty pricey, but in my opinion they're worth every penny. The ingredients are very fresh and full of flavors. I also love how I can choose between regular fries, sweet potato fries and zuccini fries (in fact, I had half zuccini fries and half sweet potato fries to go with my turkey burger). Their service is also excellent.
We saw some street artists during the day, and this guy was my favorite, probably because I've always been intrigued by ventriloquism.Both him and his dummy have these super shiny teeth and gorgeous smiles which I envy.
The highlight of our trip is to the Grand Canyon. I booked a tour online that included bus ride from and back to Vegas, a helicopter ride from the West Rim down to the Colorado River, and a 15 min boat ride. We had to get up at 5 for the 6.10 bus pick-up at the hotel. The company offered our choice of a honey bun or protein bar as the morning snack as well as some coffee while we were waiting for the tour bus to Grand Canyon. Originally I was a little concerned about getting bored on the bus, but our bus driver/tour guide Cassie kept the whole trip interesting with tons of stories and jokes. Plus there were plenty of beautiful scenery along the way, so I really enjoyed the whole drive. 
After we arrived at the West Rim, we checked in at a counter for the helicopter ride. They weighed each one of us, and stamped "FRONT SEAT" on the back of my left hand (woohoo!). So, here you go, my view from the front seat. --
 I have seen so many pictures of the Grand Canyon before, but just like so many things in life, it is more amazing when you experience it in person. It's such a beautiful thing to feel so small, young, and unimportant when you stand in front of this sheer greatness.

 Of course one must not forget  to take a "I-have-been-here" tourist shot before leaving. I think I look rather happy here despite being totally freezing --

I found it funny there were Chinese signs everywhere at Grand Canyon. But, seeing so many Asian tourists there, I guess this shouldn't be a surprise. On our way back to Vegas, the bus stopped at this funky place called "Last Stop" so we could take a bathroom break. Cassie said they had the best burger ever, but since we were not hungry, we didn't get to try it. Mike did get to shoot some machine gun , and he seemed to really enjoy that 2 min of adrenaline rush. Before we left, I was surprised to find one of the 15 flags or so outside of their shop was a Taiwanese national flag (the one next to the sun), so I had to take a picture. They must have tons of Taiwanese tourists for some reason. 

This was my second trip to Vegas, and the first time to Grand Canyon. If  I could do it all over again, here are what I would do differently ....

1. I would rent a car in Vegas so I could go see downtown or other places instead of getting stuck on the Strip. There are many things to do and see around Vegas that would require a car. Being stuck on the strip means one is more likely to participate in activities that involve more money (such as gambling).
2. Instead of sitting inside the hotel buildings and buy water at $3 per bottle, walk down the strip to those gift shops where the same bottle would only cost 50 cents.
3. I would try to see some famous shows, even through they are a little costly.  
4. I would want to stay at Grand Canyon overnight.
5. Restaurants right next to casinos tend to have very horrible service. Do not eat there.
6. Write down the taxi driver's name or license number, because some of them are dishonest and will take you through a long route just to make more money (ask how I know!).

Also, in case you didn't know, the shark reef aquarium at Mandalay Bay is too small and boring for the price they're charging. I have been to quite a few aquariums and this one is among the least exciting one.

I guess that sums up my whole trip! I'm in a pretty good mood today because my facebook page
just reached 1000 likes yesterday. Yay!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year my friends! Thank you so much for your immense support throughout the past year. After a super busy holiday season, I spent the last 10 days sitting at home doing absolutely nothing except sleeping and watching junk TV!   Oh well, I confess I did spend some time planning the new year, but before I get to that, let's start this post with a gallery of the well loved Mother's Birthstone Jewelry  that I made in December (click images to enlarge them) --

These birthstone necklaces, along with my custom pea pod necklaces, were definitely the big hits throughout the holiday season. I imagined each one of them going to a happy new home when I was making them and was very happy every time I had positive feedback from customers.

I still cannot believe it has been over 5 years since I started my jewelry business. 2012 was a very successful year. In fact, more successful than I could have ever imagined. For the longest time I thought that was what I wanted, so I was surprised to realize that deep down I want something different. I want to be challenged creatively.

Last year, I was approached by a publisher in Taiwan to write a book about my jewelry business. My first thought was, "why would anyone be interested in my story? I have a small business, not a big one. There are plenty of people out there who have a better story to tell than me." Living my own story, I have never felt there to be anything special about it, other than the fact that I started (and still remain) online and established a full time business within a very short time. After some long discussions on the content and direction of the book with the publisher, I decided to start writing a few months ago. I had worked through the first two chapters but then got too busy with orders and had to stop. That was when I realized my jewelry business had grown bigger than I wanted it to be. I knew I would not be able to finish my book in time if I did not scale down my jewelry business in 2013.

"Too successful? That's a good problem to have, isn't it? The economy is bad and so many people are unemployed. You should be grateful and try to make as much as money as possible while you can!" You probably wonder.

But a tiny voice inside me tells me money is not the reason I am in this business. It is a wonderful outcome of my passion for jewelry making, and I do truly appreciate my customers' continuous support. Looking back, I have been extremely lucky on this journey. I have only made very little effort to market my designs, but somehow you found me. It's almost like magic. 

Don't panic -- I'll still be here in the new year. I'll just be spending less time making jewelry so I can finish writing the book. I may become a little quieter (as if I wasn't quiet enough in 2012 already!) here and on facebook, but I will still be here. I may also be taking a few longer breaks throughout the year ranging from 1~3 weeks, so please be sure to plan ahead to ensure you receive the jewelry in time for your gift giving occasions.  

Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year! 


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