Irish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins


We woke up our second day feeling refreshed and ready to explore. After a lovely breakfast at our BnB, Diamond Hill Country House, we set out for Waterford to check out the crystal factory and sights. Once in town we discovered our digital SLR camera was out of batteries because someone left it on. (My bad). Womp womp. A shopkeeper offered to let us charge the battery at his store, and we weren’t even buying anything!  So most of the Waterford pictures I have were mostly taken with our backup point and shoot camera, which I was glad I brought along.

We stopped at a bakery to buy some fresh bread for our picnic lunch and the baker told us we must definitely see the artisans making colored blown glass figurines and such at a particular glassworks. He proceeded to give us some rather convoluted directions to said glass blowing place and we had trouble following them. (Asking the Irish for directions is always interesting.) Just as we were about to give up, by some stroke of luck, we stumbled upon it and were so glad that we did.

I watched one of the craftsman make a blown glass penguin with blue and clear glass inside the studio. After he finished, I joined Wes over in front of one of the display cases which was filled with fire department memorabilia and the most remarkable engraved glass sculpture.

The artist, Sean Egan, noticed our interest and came over to talk with us. It turns out that he used to be an engraver with Waterford Crystal, but when the manufacturing in Waterford shut down in 2009, he was laid off. Soon after, he started his own glassworks, Sean Egan Art Glass. When Waterford wanted him to come back, he actually turned them down. While he was still with Waterford he worked on a larger version of the same engraved sculpture that was in front of us. The sculpture was a 9/11 tribute, depicting the FDNY firefighters carrying the body of fire department Chaplain, Father Mychal Judge from the steel wreckage. Sean told us how that when 9/11 happened, we Americans thought that we were all alone. But every other country felt for us, stood with us. The Irish stood with us.  I was so touched, I actually cried.

There’s some better photos on Sean’s website, Sean Egan Art Glass. Here’s an article about Sean donating one of the sculptures to FDNY.

In 2009, Waterford Crystal closed down their big factory and outsourced most of their crystal making. Most of the specialty commissioned pieces are still created at the scaled down factory in Ireland, though I suspect that this is mostly so the visitor tour can operate. The tour is regularly 12 euro, but if you stop in at the tourist office, you can get a county guide with a 2 for 1 coupon. For the 2 for 1 price, it was worth it.

We watched the craftsmen blow glass bowls and sand off the rough edges.

Next they marked lines on each pieces and engraved them by hand. There are a finite number of engraving patterns that each craftsman learns as an apprentice (I think it was 6 or 7) and these patterns can be used in different combinations to make an infinite number of different designs.


The neatest things they made were some of the custom pieces. They use wood molds for stuff they are only making one or a few of. There was even a crystal fire helmet that was actually commissioned for Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera (below right).  I liked the Cinderella carriage too.


Oh my god-the gift shop. Major candelier envy. Someday I want to own a set of cut crystal wine glasses. Everything was really just stunning. We’ll take one of each, thanks.

On our way out of Waterford we happened to drive past the fire station. Being huge dorks, of course we stopped. The guys were happy to show us around and let us take pictures. Actually, they insisted on taking our picture. And then they gave me a t-shirt. Seriously, the Irish are the nicest people on the planet.

We left Waterford and detoured inland to visit the spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins. And was the detour worth it. These ruins were the most spectacular man-made thing we saw on our entire trip. I think it was only 6 euro to enter. The ruins are perched up on a big hill overlooking the town and countryside. The cathedral was fought over for hundreds of years until 1101 when Mutagh O’Brien strategically donated it to the church.

The scale of the ruins is hard to convey in a photograph, but I’m going to try. This is a view from inside the main cathedral, looking up.

The exterior of Cormac’s Chapel was being restored when we visited, but you could still go inside to view the frescoes (rare in Ireland) and stonework. The frescoes were covered with whitewash at one time and were painstakingly restored. The archway below is actually covered with little heads. Supposedly their expressions get more angelic as they go up, but I think they all look a little creepy.

My favorite part was the huge corner of the wall that fell in 1848 during what they called “Night of the Big Wind.”

It wasn’t just the scale of the place, but the detail work too. Apparently, whenever I see intricately carved stone I have to touch it.

The ruins were surrounded by old gravestones, idyllic pastures, and even more ruins (outside the stone wall, see picture at the top of this post). Inside the mini museum was a photo and the guestbook that Queen Elizabeth signed when she visited in 2011. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “So what, what’s the big deal?” Well, it was a freaking big deal. Prior to the Queen’s visit in 2011, no British monarch had visited Ireland since Irish independence 100 years before. I’ll tell you more about what we learned about Irish history when we get to Dublin. Also found in the museum-more cowbell?


We tried to visit the Jameson Distillery for a tour, but just missed the last one. I was sort of fascinated by this bottle light fixture in the gift shop. No whiskey tasting for us-on to Kinsale.

When we arrived in Kinsale we dropped off our stuff at our BnB,  The Olde Bakery. The house was charming and host Chrissie was so sweet and happy to welcome us. We had dinner at The Stolen Pizza, which was conveniently right across the street and deliciously amazing. Very reasonably priced, we enjoyed one of the specials which was a seafood pasta dish. The restaurant seemed a little understaffed, but we didn’t mind lingering in the cozy restaurant. You come in on the top floor of a loft and look down over the seated diners surrounded by stone walls with a fireplace at the front of the room. They had a spectacular chandelier too. (Anyone else noticing my sudden fascination with light fixtures?) Anyway-really just a very nice setting. The photo below is the best the point and shoot could do-showing the view from the loft.

After dinner we explored town a bit. We window shopped through a light drizzle (most of the stores were closed as it was late). Wes admired this print.

I liked the brightly colored buildings and architectural details like these hinges.


At the pub, I attempted to drink an entire pint of Bulmers. An English pint is 23 ounces, so quit judging me. It was a lot. From here on, I stuck to a “glass” which is half a pint (or just went with the Bailey’s and coffee. Mmm.)

If you’ve ever had the hard apple cider Magners here in the states, Bulmers is the same thing. The bartender told us when the company went to export the cider to England, they already had a cider named Bulmers there (small world I guess), so they had to change the name to Magners for export. Logo and lettering are exactly the same, just the different name! After a nightcap, we walked back along the harbor and up the hill to our BnB.

Following our progress on the map, we’ve made our second stopover in Kinsale.

Coming up: Exploring Charles Fort in Kinsale, traveling by boat to Garnish Island, our first mountain pass, stopping through Kenmare, an adorable market town, and our first listen to traditional music while overnighting in Dingle.



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Irish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roads


At 5:30 in the morning we landed in Dublin, bright eyed and bushy tailed. We picked up the rental car (including it’s uber essential GPS) at the airport counter first thing. The woman at the rental car counter told us we could get a diesel car for the same price as a regular fuel car (diesel fuel is cheaper, so if you have the option-get the diesel), we were like, sweet! The car we got, however, actually wasn’t diesel. Luckily we noticed that it was regular fuel on the key chain before we put the wrong type in, because that could have been a major bummer, yeah?

Driving through Dublin was stressful, especially when you have just picked up your rental car and you haven’t slept and have never before driven on the left side of the road. We safely navigated thorugh several weird traffic circles (whew!) before coming to a tunnel of some sort. Near panic attack. 10 euro toll to go through the tunnel, but thankfully they took credit cards because we had exactly zero euro. We neglected to stop at an ATM before leaving the airport, clearly a near catastrophic mistake. A mile down the road was another toll. We had to park and get out of the car to pay them in credit here, but the toll collector was very understanding. Once out of Dublin, the going was a little easier. We stopped in the beachside town, Bray, for a breather. We snapped a few photos on the rocky beach there and continued on our way to find breakfast.

We intended to visit the Powerscourt gardens first, so we stopped enroute in the town Enniscourt for breakfast. Fortified with eggs, pancakes and (lots of) coffee we figured out our route of travel for the day. The proprieter of the cafe was very nice and made a point of telling us that we must definitely not miss the monastic ruins at Glendalough on our way to Waterford. If an Irishman reccomends it, it must be good. We decided to head there after the gardens.

The Powerscourt gardens was like being a a manicured forest surrounded by walled gardens. There was not a weed anywhere on the whole property. We took a stroll through there (I think the entrance fee was 6 euro per person) and admired the statues, small castle tower, rose garden, fountains, and view of Sugarloaf Mountain. You can cover the grounds in about 30-45 minutes, even on the “long” walk.

I thought this status looked like it was surfing. In the nude. Interesting choice.

You could actually climb to the top of the castle tower and look out over the forest and Sugarloaf Mountain, which was neat. I feel like Rapunzel should live in there. (Ironically, I watched Tangled on the plane.)

There were some freaking huge trees. A lot were even taller than the castle; they towered over you even while at the top. Makes me really want to see the redwoods in California some day. There was a really awkward picture of me hugging this tree that I spared you from. You’re welcome.

There was also a weird and old but strangely interesting pet cemetery. There were stones in there from the 1700s.

My favorite part was the walled perennial gardens. It felt very Secret Garden to me, which I love. Despite the rep Ireland has for being cold all the time, it’s actually rather temperate in the winter and it rarely snows, so lots of tropical-ish plants can flourish. (In the summer the weather is around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.) Speaking of the weather, no Irish rain for us as of yet!

This the the view facing towards where the first garden picture was taken, toward the grand house you enter through.

We took the Military road over Sally Gap on our way to Glendalough. This was the best ever first day decision because while the road was winding and a little narrow (great for getting used to the roads in the rest of the country), the terrain was such that you could see any other car coming from a good distance away. It was the perfect road for Wes to hone his driving-on-the-wrong-sode-of-the-road skills and for me to hone my keep-left shouting skills. The scenery was nice; lots of greenery, mountains, and sheep. Compared to some of the mountain passes and seaside cliff roads we traversed later on our journey, it was easy street. (We’ll get to all this good stuff later.)

As the guidebook suggests, don’t think of it as our side of the road and their side of the road, it’s just the road. That sounds really touchy feely, like yay-sharing! Until you are coming up on an opposing car withstone walls on either side and vegetation right up next time/invading the road. It gets a little hairy at that point. Pur strategy was to slow down, go as far left as possible and try not to die. It seemed to work.

One of the coolest things we saw this day was a stream running down a steep embankment down from the road and meandering through the fields below. I couldn’t figure out how to make my photos panoramic, but you can get the gist below. (I’ll have to ask Wes to show me because I know the computer does it, then I can post the panoramas.)

Next, we arrived at Glendalough (pronounced Glen-Da-Lock), really old ruins of a really old monastery. We were too tired to peruse the small museum there, so I can’t tell you if it was worthwhile or not, but the stopover itself definately was. Our first view of the ruins was from a small bridge over a picturesque stream where we could see the small round tower through the woods.

There was also some really ancient tombstones which Wes was particularly interested in.

I was really into the  patterns on the Celtic crosses. We want to do a stained glass transom over our front door and I’ll be looking back at these images for some inspiration.

Once we finished wandering the ruins and skillfully avoiding the small tourist trap alley where I imagine one could purchase crappy t-shirts and plastic shamrocks, we headed up the mountain where there were some more monastic ruins. These were not in as nearly good of shape as the ones below, but it was still fun to wander. There was literally no nobody else at these ruins, so we had the place to ourselves, and it had a great view back down the mountain.

When traveling in Ireland, don’t hesitate to stop when you see something neat. We saw a church off to the side of some random road and when we stopped to take a gander found a trail leading down to a creek, a rickety old bridge, and a small shrine to the Virgin Mary.

I think the water color comes from the peat. It looks like the water from the cliffside stream we stopped at on the Military road.

From Glendalough, it was basically a straight shot on the motorway (read: 120kph (75 mph) speed limit, boring highway) to Waterford. Due to our severe lack of sleep, driving this distance on this big ass highway was probably a little unsafe. Cue more coffee. If I had to do it over, it would probably be best to stay somewhere a little closer to Dublin or to do our couple of days in Dublin first (we did ours at the end). Even driving along the highway, every now and again there were some random ruins on the side of the road. That’s how they roll in Ireland.

We did do a little stopover in Kilkenny to take a couple of pictures outside the castle. (Like most castles we visited, we found it wasn’t really necessary to go inside for the full tour, so we saved the 6 euro.)

Wes was insistent that we take a photo to send to the Merchandiser, the local ad newspaper. He pulled the most recent copy out of his bag and all I could say was, “You actually PACKED that?!” Yes, yes he did. Because everyone reads the Merch, or so they say in the weekly travel photo section. And also because if you send in your photo, holding said paper in an exotic local, and they publish it they send you $25. So we set up our tripod with everyone staring at us and took an obligatory Merch photo.

We arrived at our BnB, Diamond Hill Country House, which was just outside Waterford at around 7pm. There were beautiful gardens in the front yard. We were the only guests at the time and they upgraded our room to this guy for no charge.

Photo from the Diamond Hill Country House website.

There was a huge bathtub and I took a very relaxing bath. Breakfast the next morning was nice. We tried the full Irish breakfast (you have to, at least once). There were eggs, bacon, sausage, a broiled tomato and white and black pudding. The puddings are like little sausages that were shaped like mini muffins. They were ok, but I think I’m just a bacon girl at heart (as evidenced here.)

The next day the innkeeper spent 10 or 15 minutes telling us all about the best things to see in Ireland. We took careful notes and headed into Waterford town to see the sights. When we left, we left our electic plug adaptor thing in the room. The innkeeper tracked us down in Waterford, which is several miles away, to give it back. He was such a nice guy and went out of his way (literally) to help us. As I’ll tell you about, so will most Irish.

Following our progress on the map below, we’ve made it to our first stopover in Waterford. Coming up: Day 2 in Ireland. Waterford city, The Rock of Cashel (not to be missed!), and arrival in Kinsale. Check back!



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Pack your suitcase: Ireland


Ok get ready, I’m taking you on an awesome trip. Well, not literally, but as close to literally as possible. Wes and I spent 8 days travelling in Ireland exploring the countryside and taking a lot of pictures of sheep, the ocean, and ruined castles and I’m going to tell you all about it. The country is greener than green, the countryside and coasts are gorgeous, and there are a lot of sheep. Not a day went by that we didn’t see at least a few sights that made us say WOW.

Planning your own trip? It’s not cheap, let’s be real. Anytime you fly across an ocean, there’s a lot of investment, so stay at least a week (plan for spending two days travelling). We rented a car and stayed in BnB’s throughout out trip (BnB’s are actually cheaper that hotels in Ireland, unlike in the US, where they’re often considered more luxurious). I’ve shared a few planning tips below and our overall itinerary. I’ll be back with the day by day details and tons more pictures in later posts, so check back.

Book airfare. I suggest using, especially if you know you want to travel in a certain window, but don’t care exactly which days you fly. It saved us $200 or $300 to leave on a Monday as opposed to a Saturday.

Hire a car. We used Alamo, but they were a little incompetent, so maybe try your luck with another company. Definitely book in advance. Remember, they drive on the left in Ireland, so if you’re going the car rental route, you’ve got to be bold. It’ll be worth it-we saw so many more places, many of which were very rural, than you would if you were on a tour bus. GET THE GPS. No really,a lot of the streets aren’t labeled. Do it.

Buy the guidebook. Buy Rick Steves’ Ireland. You can thank me later. My best friend Kathleen told me, “Take it with you everywhere and do everything it says. He is always right.” She wasn’t kidding, best $14 I ever spent.

Decide where you can reasonably travel to each night. The guidebook has a nifty map showing the driving distances between each town. Make a list of your must-sees and figure out where you’ll spend each night. We decided to arrive at our destination cities late-7pm or later. The only down side to this is that when you arrive most everything will be closed and a lot of shops and attractions don’t open until 10am-ish, so if you want to get an early start it sort of throws you off a bit.

Book accommodation. Using the guidebook recommendations and trip advisor, I picked BnB’s for each night and a hotel in Dublin. We didn’t spend much time in any of our BnB’s since we arrived so late, so we didn’t stress about picking the fanciest accommodations possible since we never unpacked our suitcases!

Loosely plan a day to day itinerary. You don’t want to miss any of your must-sees, so you’ll want to lay out your general itinerary below. My general itinerary for our trip included all the stuff between each evening destination that we might possibly be interested in seeing. As we went along we had to pick and choose between some of the minor attractions, but we never compromised if there was something we really wanted to see. Make sure you’re not too ambitious, or you’ll be so stressed about trying to see everything that you won’t have time to enjoy anything. And you really don’t want to miss the cheese, trust me.

Our trip was pretty packed and we got an early start each morning, but we never passed up a waterfall or a scenic view or an interesting shop (or another pint) for the sake of getting to the next place. Below you’ll find a quick summary of all the stuff we visited and a map. Pink is our general route of travel with places we stayed the night in blue. It was quite a whirlwind, but we’re so glad we got to see so much of the country in such a short time.

Monday, June 18


Tuesday, June 19

Land in Dublin at 0530, pick up car. Visit Powerscourt Gardens, Glendalough monastic ruins, take the military road over Sally Gap, visit Kilkenny castle, and sleep in Waterford.

Wednesday, June 20

See Waterford sights including crystal tour. Visit Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins. Sleep in Kinsale.

Thursday, June 21

See Charles Fort in Kinsale. Stop in Macroom. Take boat to Garnish Island and travel through the Healy pass on the Beara Peninsula. Stop in Kenmare, an adorable market town and visit the ancient stone circle. Pass through Killarney National Park. Experience traditional music and sleep in Dingle.

Friday, June 22

Visit Minnard Castle, right on the beach. Explore Dingle town with great shopping and a nice farmers’ market. Spend most of the day on the Dingle Peninsula and visit the Great Blasket Center. Pass through Tralee, take the Tarbert Kilimer ferry over the Shannon River and sleep in Ennis.

Saturday, June 23

Visit Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Explore and sleep in Galway.

Sunday, June 24

Explore the coastline northwest of Galway up to Clifden and travel to Mullingar (just to have somewhere to stay that’s close to Dublin).

Monday, June 25

Return car in the morning in Dublin. Tour Dublin Castle. Visit National Library, the archaeology museum with it’s bog mummies. Explore shops and squares. Free comedy show. Sleep in Dublin.

Tuesday, June 26

Guinness Storehouse tour. Tour Number 29 Fitzwilliam Street Visit Book of Kells and the amazing Trinity College Library. Tour of Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). Traditional music pub crawl. Sleep in Dublin.

Wednesday, June 27

Fly home.

Coming up, I’ll share all the details for each day of the trip, so check back.



Elephant Baby Shower Card


Saturday I attended a lovely jungle-themed baby shower for my friend Jackie. Being practical, I bought the diaper pail off the registry. Since this isn’t exactly the kind of thing people ooh and ahh over, I wanted to make something cute to go along with it. I intended to mod podge the elephant mod onto a little 8″ x 8″ canvas, but ran out of time to run to AC Moore to pick up the canvas. So I settled on using this basic Martha Stewart template to make a card.

If you follow the template exactly, you can make the little elephant or owl pictured above. I modified the template to add an extra water droplet, the bakers’ twine tail, the google eye, and some flowers growing in the empty spot under his trunk. To make the tail, wrap a length of twine around your thumb about 4 times and pinch this bundle in the middle. Cut the twine, then tie a short length of twine around the middle of the bundle. Once secure, cut the loops and give it a fluff. The flowers are scrapbooking embellishments that I just added paper stems and leaves to.

I wanted to add a little somethin somethin to the blank and boring inside of the card, so I decided to make a length of bunting in baby boy colors to add some color and texture. (Real motive may have been to use more of the bakers’ twine, which I have a slight obsession with.)

The bunting was so easy to do. You just need a piece of twine, kraft paper, glue stick, and a hot glue gun or tacky glue. For each flag, cut out a rectangle of paper twice as long as you want the flag to be from top to point. Fold the rectangle in half longways, and cut off the edges at a angle to form two triangles joined together at the top. Sandwich the flag over the twine and secure with a glue stick or tacky glue. I used a glue gun to adhere the bunting to the inside of the card. Use two (tiny tiny) dabs on either end and a couple underneath some of the flags, as needed.

Can we talk about cake pops for a second? I thought I was immune to adorable cake pops, but apparently I was wrong. Wish I had my camera at the party–there were giraffe and lion ones in additon to the little chocolate flavored monkey above that I took home as a favor. Too cute to eat? I don’t think so.



Cocktail of the Month: Rosemary Rosé Spritzer


Nothing says helllllllllllooooooooooo Friday like a refreshing adult beverage. What I like about this cocktail is just that-it feels so adult.  Nothing says, “I’ve come so far since college,” like herbs in your drink.

This spritzer is also a great summer cocktail. Perfect to enjoy while sunning yourself on the dock, for example. Puppies enjoy sunning themselves pretty much anywhere. In the yard, by the window in the kitchen, sittin’ on a dock on the bay…


  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 10  fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2  bottles sparkling rosé (we used Yellow Tail)

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, rosemary, and ½ cup water and bring just to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar then remove from heat and let cool.

Put about a tablespoons of the simple syrup in a tall skinny glass, top off with the sparkling rosé, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary left over from making the syrup.
Any extra simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Recipe adapted slightly from Real Simple.
Want more summery home-grown cocktailness? Check out these 10 garden grown cocktails from Camille Styles.

Fresh figs with goat cheese and prosciutto


Fresh figs are in season! You can find them from late summer into the fall. Until yesterday, I had actually never had  a fresh fig, only dried ones. I actually picked these up at our local (annoyingly under construction and in disarray) Giant, but I’m looking for a local source. I’m actually thinking about planting a fig tree in my embarrassingly stark front yard-they have such nice foliage and some varieties stay compact enough for our small space. Plus, you get the bonus of actually getting to eat real live figs you grew yourself. That sounds pretty kickass.

Anyway, on to the appetizer du jour. I sliced a medium sized fig in quarters and topped with a hunk of creamy goat cheese and a little bit of prosciutto (cured Italian ham). It was tasty, but I think next time I’ll add a drizzle of honey on top to really bring out the sweetness of the fig in contrast to the salty prosciutto.



Typeset Drawer Shadow Box


Lil’ sis and I were at the biannual Gettysburg antiques flea market on the square a couple of weeks ago, and I picked up two of these vintage typeset drawers. They were only $5 apiece, and I could envision them as future wall art in my living room. Then, I saw this papered shadowbox on Pinterest and I got to thinking…this could be like a scrapbook for teeny keepsakes, YES! I wasn’t in a painting-stuff mood, so I pulled a bunch of my scrapbooking stuff I haven’t touched in a while out of the craft closet and went to town. Note: Wes contends that just because the closet is currently full of craft stuff, doesn’t make it the craft closet. He does have a guitar in there. And there is a set of gigantic carved wooden tiki style utencils. (Don’t ask.) But I digress.

Here’s the the drawers looked like before. I’ve only gotten to the one on top so far. The most fun part of making the shadow box was “curating” all the miniature collections, including selecting some shells I brought back from Australia when I studied abroad in 2007.


I used rubber cement to affix trimmed paper of all sorts to the back of each section. I used scrapbook paper, bits of greeting cards, and even a liquor bottle label. I’ll show you how I organize this stuff another time. I did leave some sections unlined. It adds a little texture to have some plain wood, and I can always add something to those later. I decided to go with rubber cement in case I ever decide to return the drawer to it’s natural wood state or to paint it.  Any items I needed to attach to the papered inside for display purposes, I used hot glue. You can look for your own typeset drawer at flea markets, antique stores or online.

Some of the  more memorable spots I filled with wine corks from the stash I’ve been saving-(I may need a pintervention due to my obsession with wine cork craft ideas. I’ve considering devoting an entire pin board to the cause.)

I lined one rectangle with white cardstock with a wax letter seal on it. Wes and I got the sealing wax and stamp when we honeymooned in Williamsburg, VA.

Miniature collections of shells, rocks, and scraps of patterned greeting cards made up some of the other spaces.

I think my favorite one-if I have to pick (from the 38!) was the neat row of pennies, from shiny to not

so shiny.

I also picked up some of the jumbo headline sized typeset letters. I want to do a gallery wall and put these guys up above some of our wedding pics.

There are some mega-cute repurposed typeset drawers on Etsy, like this jewelry organizer. Smart! I do still have one more drawer…

(Jewelry organizer by Etsy shop Aurea.)