Tuesday, December 30, 2008
There it is, you can read it, right? Ha ha. Alright, this was just me scribbling a few thoughts, let me try to organize myself and translate for you.
Rather than make a list of firm resolutions, I decided to instead make a list of areas I want to focus on, and make a rough schedule for my weekly chunks of time to work on them. This post will be about my focus areas.
Family/Household needs- The first thing I will do to address these is to block out time daily for cleaning, and try to get back to a good baseline of cleanliness and then be able to maintain it. Rather than promising to "have a spotless house", I am going for cleaning for a certain amount of time daily. Secondly, I need to work on finishing up some painting/decorating projects. I will block out some time weekly for this. Finally, we need a new focus on saving money and paying down our debts. One way I will be working on this is by planning out weekly what dinners I will make for the week, so we can avoid eating out too much, or just grabbing something easy from the store. The part of meal prep I hate the most is that "what are we having for dinner?" moment.
Business needs- I started my year end inventory today, and that process made it clear to me that I have a lot of stuff made, but not currently listed for sale anywhere. That needs to be remedied as quickly as possible, so I am going to commit to listing something daily. Hopefully I can get on a roll and get it done quickly. I want to reaffirm my commitment to doing something daily to further my craft business. I need to concentrate on getting my sites marketed effectively so my items can sell. I will block out time twice a week to focus only on the marketing aspects.
Personal improvement goals- OK, like probably 80% of the adult population of the US, I need to get serious about my diet and exercise. I will start visiting both the Weight Watchers website and the gym with more regularity. (I am intimidated by the teens at the gym, so will wait until they return to school.) Also, I want to really stretch myself creatively, both in areas of fiber arts and metalsmithing. I plan to take a metalsmithing class in the spring, so the beginning of the year will have a fiber art focus. I need to figure out how much time, but I feel like some time weekly should be dedicated to working on techniques with no thought of selling.
I have grand intentions, but I wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew??
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I want some more time to enjoy the decorations, including my extensive Santa collection:
One can accumulate a boatload of Santas over the years!
Starting tomorrow night, I need to come up with my goals/resolutions for the new year. I am trying to think of a way to do that so I will not just start, mess up, then abandon the whole idea by the second week of January. I am thinking that maybe I will make it more like a schedule, where I will work on certain aspects of my life/business for the agreed upon time (the agreement being between me, myself and I!). Anyway, I am going to scribble some notes to myself regarding what I want to work on in my life, my family and my business, and will come back before the new year to post about it.
Monday, December 22, 2008
(your costs may vary slightly)
(2) 12 pack boxes of candy canes ($.88 each)
(1) package chenille stems (pipe cleaners) ($1/50 pack)
(1) bag 5mm googly eyes ($.89/60 pack)
(1) bag 10mm red pom poms ($.89/100 pack)
Regular white glue (no cost, we had some at home)
Total: $4.54 for 24 reindeer
The only real time associated with this project is the glue drying time.
-Add a tiny dot of glue for each eye and allow at least 1/2 an hour to dry before trying to add the pom pom nose. (If you add too much glue, the eyes will slide down, so it's best to do the gluing in stages.)
-Once the eyes are dried, add the pom poms and again, allow at least 1/2 an hour of drying time.
-Finally, the antlers- fold one chenile stem in half, loop it around the hook of the candy cane and twist it tightly to keep it in place.
-Grab both ends of the stem and fold in a zig zag motion, then seperate the two pieces and pull out from ends slightly to adjust them.
Aidan had a lot of fun with this- he calls them "Oobi eye Rudolphs" (anyone with preschoolers who watch Noggin will get his analogy)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I finally wound up borrowing a camera that does have a flash because I was desperate to take some photos of the kiddos for holiday cards. (yes I know it is the 21st and Christmas is in 4 days but better late than never!) One problem with the camera though- my card reader will read the photos but not transfer them to the dern computer! That's not really very helpful now is it?
So anyway, Friday was my mom's 62nd birthday. I made her some beaded bell ornaments and gave her some yummy peach infused white tea- her favorite flavor! The bell ornaments were quite nostalgic for both of us. About a month ago she said to me "Gee, I used to make such pretty ornaments. I wish I could remember how to do those bells we had on the tree when you were growing up..." (Sets the wheels in Tara's head turning and an online hunt for a pattern soon follows.)
I finally found a site that carried a kit- supplies to make 4 ornaments and printed directions. They take about an hour a piece to make, but are not overly complicated, so I had fun doing them. She was thrilled, which made me happy; I really wanted to stick to "handmade" this year!
The boys and I took her out to lunch and then sang "Happy Birthday" over a lovely chocolate eclair with a candle in it. We barely managed to hit the road and get home before the snow started to pour down on us. All in all I think we have around 10-12 inches outside (which is a giant amount for the coast) and I took a pile of pictures of the boys playing on Friday afternoon (these shots are within the first hour the snow was coming down) and on Saturday I took the entire lot of them up to CVS and used the photo kiosk thingy to burn a CD and print out copies of the ones that came out the best. I have now successfully filled out, photo'd and mailed all my cards!
These are my favorite shots
The Christmas card
I found a cute frame that has a nice little blurb about grandchildren carved onto it and will give this to my mom from the boys for Christmas
This is my (almost) 3 year old, Avery
This is my 5 year old, Aidan (love this shot!)
And this is my big kid, almost a teenager, Austin (Aus)
On Saturday afternoon, after a ton of shoveling, Ed (hubby) and I took the boys sledding. I had such a wonderful time. Ed has honestly not had a day off since November, this was his first break from work and I was so excited that he had energy left to come play with us after digging out both cars from the mountain of snow the plows pushed against them. There was minimal fighting, optimum sledding conditions and hot cocoa when we came home. Couldn't have asked for a more perfect day with my guys!
Okay, enough blogging for me, I have a bunch of sugar cookies that need tending to, I better get back to it!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
These are my husband's favorites... so rich and buttery they melt in your mouth!
1 cup softened butter or margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
In a large bowl combine ingredients on low speed of mixer about 1 minute. Blend well. Gradually add flour at low speed until just combined; stir in nuts.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls; place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes until firm to the touch; note from experience:
Do not overbake- they will crumble when you try to pick them up if they're cooked even a minute too long. These cookies don't brown when done!
While warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool; re-roll in powdered sugar before serving.
***I tripled this recipe and made 10 dozen cookies***
Friday, December 12, 2008
Morning everyone! Here's my second recipe for some pretty easy but snazzy looking cookies:
1 (1 pound 1.5 ounce) pouch Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup white chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, egg and flour until soft dough forms.
Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls; place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Take the backside of your 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, dip in sugar (before each impression) and make an indentation in the center of each cookie. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon jam into each indentation.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
Melt white chocolate chips over a double boiler until smooth then spoon melted chips into a small ziptop plastic bag; cut a tiny hole in corner of bag. Squeeze bag gently to drizzle melted chips over cookies.
***one batch yields approximately 5 dozen cookies***
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I was whining to Tara -"My food photos stink!" but she was having none of that since she managed her fabulous pinwheel picture with no flash on her camera! So I decided to go ahead and blog about my cookie adventure of the day. If nothing else this will show how very different Tara and I are! Tara's cookies are works of art in every way, while mine are more utilitarian - meant only to feed my giant and perpetually starving teenagers.
Scroll down and you will see that Tara has taken a wonderful picture of her cookies on a lovely plate. Well, cookies at my house rarely touch a plate. I usually put them in ziplocks as they cool and then my family grabs them out of the bag. Only if I am taking some to a party or family event do they see a plate. I am pretty sure if I put them on a plate around here, no one would eat them because they would be afraid they were not meant for our family, but for some event! I took the portrait of my chocolate chip cookies on the wire cooling rack. Oh, and the recipe? You can find it on the Nestle chocolate chip bag just like I did! I actually have a recipe I usually use, but for some reason today just made the one on the bag.
A few weeks ago, I went looking for cookie recipes that would be good to mail, because I was making cookies to include in care packages that were to be mailed to the college students from our church. I found this nice site, Recipe4living, which had this great article about mailable foods. I made the Butter Pecan Bars , and they were super fast and really very good. My 13 year old was sad that all those cookies got baked and then immediately left the house, so I promised him I would remake some. I chose those Butter Pecan Bars and this batch was better than the first! (Oh and see, Tara, I told you my food photos stink!)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely ground cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons milk
In a large mixing bowl, combine first four ingredients; beat until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl occasionally. Combine the dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture; form into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine cranberries, walnuts and orange peel; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 10-inch square; combine brown sugar and milk; spread over the dough then sprinkle with the cranberry mixture, leaving about a 1/2-inch edge at both ends of the dough; roll up tightly, jelly-roll style. Wrap with waxed paper; chill several hours or overnight.
Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut roll into 1/4-inch slices and place on a well-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 14-15 minutes, or until edges are light brown.
** *I made a double batch (two jelly-roll logs) and it yielded 5 dozen cookies***
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My husband has 16 employees- add that to my childrens' teachers and all our distant family relatives and it adds up to several dozen more gifts to pass out at Christmas time.
My approach this year is to bake cookies. My financial investment was minimal (most of the ingredients are found readily in your pantry cupboards)- and I grabbed up the rest of the stuff I needed on sale at the grocery store. To package them, I found these terrific little tote bags from The Lakeside Collection for around $1.15 each.
Today is my cookie baking day- Cookie-o-rama to coin a term Maggie uses. I thought as I baked, I'd take some photos and share the recipes here in our blog for anyone who might be looking for some affordable gifts that people will appreciate. Who doesn't love a fresh baked cookie?! :)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I think the important thing is that we continue to forge ahead and try to keep the project going. We started on this journey for a reason, and it is still valid, even when our lives might get in the way a little bit. If it takes us 2 years to get 365 days, so be it, we will still be better off than had we sat on our butts and not even attempted it.
Monday, December 1, 2008
An the winner is (drumroll....)
Thanks to everyone who reads our blog and entered the contest, we love getting your feedback! And stay tuned for our next giveaway which will be in early 2009!
-Maggie and Tara
Saturday, November 22, 2008
25% of the winning bids will be donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Please check them out!
Auction 1: Genuine Aqua Sea Glass Pendant and Earrings Set
Auction 2: Set of 3 Handmade Sea Glass Angel Ornaments
Auction 3: Design Your Own Sea Glass Bracelet
Auction 4: Design Your Own Sea Glass Anklet
Friday, November 21, 2008
If you follow our blog, you know that Maggie and I are work at home moms. I personally have 3 boys- ages 2, 5 and 12. I own an eBay store, an Etsy shop and a website. I make jewelry, assorted craft items from sea life and sell seashells. I also do all the typical homemaker stuff- clean the house, do the errands, cook the meals etc. Needless to say I live on coffee and steam- most nights going to bed between the hours of 2 and 3 in the morning.
So why would someone with as much going on as me (in a tiny house with no dining room and barely an eat-in kitchen) offer to host Thanksgiving dinner for 12? Well part of it is really because -ironically- even with all I have going on, I am the only one in the position to do it. The other part of it is because tradition is big for me.
My mom is getting older and lives in a tiny, crowded little house, my sister works until 3 in the afternoon so has no time to cook, my bachelor brother is, well, my bachelor brother and all of the other guests who join us for food and conversation have their own back stories that find them at my house as opposed to being home alone.
So that answers the "Why?" of it. Now the "How?" of it. I am sure there are tons of people who are as busy as me (or busier!) and the idea of making a giant meal for people is super stressful, yet they find themselves in the position of having to do just that. I thought in the spirit of giving and sharing I would do a bit of a "my tips for making things easier" blog post.
(How's that for a long winded intro?!)
1. Prep a night (or two) before. This is probably one of the best things I've learned to do- things like mashed potatoes, butternut squash, even your stuffing can all be made the night before and put into oven-safe casserole dishes. Pop them in the fridge overnight and warm them in the oven or microwave when you're ready. This also frees up stove top space and keeps your sink less cluttered with dirty pots and pans.
2. Keep it casual. You can still set a pretty table and use your nice dishes, but let go of the feeling that everyone must be in their "Sunday Best". My kids inevitably get covered in markers and various foods throughout the day anyway- why make it more stressful on myself wanting to run around with a damp cloth scrubbing them clean all day long? It will also set the mood for a more relaxed atmosphere- your guests will see that you are laid back and that allows them to relax more.
3. Share the duties. Just because my mom can't host a dinner at her house doesn't mean she can't help out. She is my official butternut squash maker. Other people contribute by bringing a pie or something to drink, etc. (This also helps alleviate the financial burden that feeding several people can present.)
4. Start a tradition. In my house I buy two rolls of Pillsbury cinnamon buns and pop them in the oven as soon as we wake up. We turn on the TV and watch the Macy's parade and have coffee and chill out. Clean up is simple and it keeps the kids happy and out of my hair while I start the cooking- they also know what to expect, we do it every year, so the nagging is kept to a dull roar.
The other main tradition we have is to give the kids "jobs". Even the littest one can carry toys up to a bedroom or color a festive picture to decorate. My two youngest boys love it when I print out pictures of turkeys for them to color. Then my older son can supervise (a job he loves!) and they cut them out and we stick them on every window, door and wall with a free space.
5. Serve appetizers. (And put them in another room besides the kitchen if space is tight!) Even with the best laid plans, dinner never get served on time at my house. Appetizers keep the wolves at bay. ;)
6. Take time to enjoy the day. The thing I love probably the most about hosting holidays is that I don't have to feel rushed to load all the kids into the car and hop from one family member's house to the next "making the rounds". I am at home, with no shoes on and I can move at my own pace. Who cares if the dishes are still dirty? You can clean them after your guests go home. (You can also leave them until the next morning if you really want to!)
Thanksgiving (and all holidays) should be about family, traditions and creating good memories. Don't let the tasks at hand become larger than the day itself.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Today I spent some time working on my website and I created two new listings for custom sea glass rings. I thought it made sense to do it this way so that I don't make a truly fabulous ring in a size 5 only to wind up with a customer who loves it but wears a size 8. The rings will come in two styles- a larger, chunkier cocktail style ring and a smaller, more classic style ring.
Customers can email me with special requests, they will have their choice of 8 different sea glass colors and metal finish. Whole and half sizes are also offered.
Shop now through January 31st, 2009 and save 10% off your purchase! Enter code: Handmade08 at checkout.
I am excited to finally be able to bring these rings to the public, I hope people love them as much as I do!
Monday, November 17, 2008
Check out Tara's website, Scarborough Seashells, for a great assortment of shells, sea glass, crafting supplies, jewelry and home decor items with an organic, beachy feel. Her site advertises that Scarborough Seashells is "where every day in life is a day at the beach" and who doesn't want that?
All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment for us here! We will choose a winner at random on Friday, November 28, 2008. Please be sure you leave us a way to contact you in your comment.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Go me! It feels good to know that someone besides me actually likes and wants my work. :)
So without further ado here they are:
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I have had similar issues before. I don't know which comes first- the funky mood or the messy house, but they are definitely connected. Previous battles with this led me to find FlyLady.net, a site filled with advice for people like me. There is a treasure trove of information there for digging out from under your clutter and establishing routines.
One thing I found really useful before was to set my timer for doing tasks. For example, I look at my dining room table covered with piles o stuff, and if I just think "I have to clean off that table", I will become instantly overwhelmed at the thought and not even start. Somehow if I tell myself "work for 20 minutes on the table", I can make myself do it. I know the job is too huge to finish in 20 minutes, and often I get on a roll and just finish the job, but it is really nice to know I have an out in 20 minutes if I need it.
OH, and another confession before I go- I had to buy a new timer because my old one is under a pile here somewhere...
Monday, November 3, 2008
I bought a Gentec small torch kit that runs on oxygen and MAPP gas. At first I thought I was doomed to never make a thing, I got lost trying to find the shop where I was supposed to pick up the torch I ordered (like an hour driving around the same block lost!), then the first oxygen tank I picked up from the welding supply place had a leak (they made me swap my new tank for a pre-filled one). Then, the first piece I soldered just wouldn't solder no matter what I did! It ended up scorched, blobby and resembling crumpled tin foil much more so than a sterling silver bezel setting. I cried and was ready to give up. "You would think I hadn't learned how to do this before, what am I missing?!" I showed the piece to my husband and his reply was simply "ouch".
The next day was Halloween so I put the torch away and decided I'd think on it over the weekend and just spend time reading every tutorial I could come across on the subject. I read up on flame types (neutral, carburizing, oxidizing, who knew there was this much to a simple flame?!) I read up on soldering techniques- heat the piece over a gap so that air can circulate and it doesn't get too hot before the solder liquefies. I read polishing techniques, I watched YouTube videos, I shopped at Home Depot for some 220, 400 and 600 grit sand paper to polish with.
Armed with my fresh knowledge, I decided I was ready to wield the torch for a second time. I took my time, got the flame just right and in a couple of minutes I had my first piece successfully soldered together! I soldered a second piece in the same manner and that, too was successful! Phew, I didn't waste all this time and materials for nothing!
While I am not completely finished with these pieces yet, they are a far cry from the burnt toast piece I originally made. The first is a setting for sea glass. I have purposely left a large free form backing because I will be drilling holes and attaching jump rings; it will be the focal on a sterling silver Viking Knit bracelet made by my friend, Paula. The triangle shaped piece has not been filed, sanded or polished yet; this photo is right after I removed it from the pickle. It is for a piece of Blue Willow China I found on the beach this summer. I think I will make a pendant out of it.
So while I am not yet the ahteest I dream of becoming, I am at the very least, taking baby steps to get there. Much like my jewelry, I am a work in progress.
Well, the following day I was getting ready for a road trip, so on day 2 of this new endeavor I left some stuff on my to do list undone. Then I went off and had a fabulous weekend with a friend, where we shopped crafty shops, saw a glass blowing demonstration, drove a piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the fabulous views, stayed at a lovely hotel and heard my firstborn sing in a concert. (Let's not mention the part where we got lost every time we got in the car in Roanoke!)
(This is an artsy photo I took of water plants and the sun reflected on Otter Lake, on the Blue Ridge parkway.)
My lesson learned? I left undone stuff on a to do list for the entire weekend, and nothing blew up. In fact, my son has the day off school today, and we are still here in our jammies at 1pm. We have had a super busy fall, and can both use some relaxation. I circled the undone stuff with my trusty pen, and added a few more things, and I am just going to dig in now and see how far I get.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
One thing I did not know before buying wholesale was that it sometimes takes a very long time for orders to arrive. For many of my supply sources I can get replenished in a week or less, but that is not true from the fabric wholesale houses.
Finally last week my last batch arrived! I have a whole list of bags I want to offer, but have only made a few so far in any of the fabric collection. I decided I need to just dive in with what I have, and add more items as I get samples made. If I wait until every last thing is ready, I will never move forward.
I am pretty excited to offer my laptop sleeves, which will be made to order based on customer supplied measurements. I also have eyeglass cases in the whole line of fabrics!
I made a new page on my website to show the available fabrics and styles, which I will be updating as new models are ready!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Some of it might be because of a generally super stressed out feeling I have had lately. (See my blog post about it here. )
Some of it I think is the work that it on the top of my pile to work on. I had a number of items to make where someone else had chosen the materials, and then I was told "no rush". So, since I had no sense of having a deadline, and the materials were not necessarily calling out to me, nothing spurred me to action. These were at the top of my list, so I got no joy when I worked on something else because these were sitting there making me feel guilty. Jobs #2 and #3 on the list were repairs of someone else's work, which were not calling out to me joyfully either.
I read this thread on etsy today, about being true to yourself, even if it means you might miss out on making a sale. The original poster was saying that she never made stuff in Fall colors because those colors do not inspire her. I can be inspired by almost any color. I have lately been accepting any work I can get just to keep some money coming in and with hopes of growing my business. At the moment, though I feel like I am not inspired by anything. I wonder, do I want my business to grow in directions that leave me feeling so deflated?
I know I can find joy in projects that are not of epoch proportions- I can make some earrings where the materials call out to me and I love the results, or even put together simple projects that make me smile for a minute, and hopefully these things will find a home where they can make someone else smile. So it is not necessary for my to make my business grow away from simple projects- more that I have to figure out what direction I need it to take.
OK, this blog was supposed to be about us being accountable, so here is my kick Maggie's butt plan:
- I will finish projects 1,2 and 3 on my pile- o- stuff to do, so they stop mocking me and making me feel like crap. This will happen TODAY and they will go to the post office where I can't hear them anymore. UPDATE: I finished all three projects today (10/13), but when I went to drop them at the post office, the big bin for the APC was jammed shut! So they can mock me from their boxes for one more night.
- I will clean my jewelry work area by Wednesday afternoon. I think less clutter will help my attitude immensely. I felt so much better sewing once I organized that are more.
- I will solve my ink colorfastness problem for my Magsbags line and get at least one prototype bag made by Friday.
- I will sneak in some work this week on something I have no intention of selling but I just want to make for the fun of it.
I will try to come back and add updates in the comments section...
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Heck yes! I've got absolutely nothing crafty on deck today and it's a rare quiet moment in the house. She wanted something with the earth and/or the symbol for recycling- I got an idea instantly. I showed her my initial concept and she said it was just what she was picturing! The photo mosaic above depicts the evolution of the MagsBags (great name btw, Maggie!) logo from concept to 2 of her 3 final options.
Posted below is the winning logo design. I think it is clean and crisp and represents her products well- cute and practical reusable shopping bags that are environmentally responsible!*
*I think her grand plan may include other products down the line which will offer us some green boutique style. Made -at least in part- with either vintage fabrics or sustainable/renewable resources and are recyclable/reusable.
Keep your eye out for what comes next!
Monday, October 6, 2008
Anyway, for months I have had plans in the works to make some shopping bags, but today's experienced made me resolve to do it and do it as soon as possible! By the time I got home, my mind was swimming with ideas for this new line of environmentally friendly bags. Ideas include bags meant to replace disposable items like grocery bags, and also bags made with recycled or sustainable materials. My mind is still reeling with the possibilities!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The collection includes lavender, green and rare English Channel sea urchins, white pencil and white amored starfish, pearl abalone shells, sand dollars and two different kissing ball style ornaments. The ornaments are elegantly adorned with Swarovski crystals, sheer ribbons and pearl embellishments.
Available now at www.scarboroughseashells.com