Saturday, December 29, 2007

Letting Cats Outside Safely

I just have to plug this thing for a moment. . .

I wish we'd discovered it years ago. We have two cats with litter box issues. Bob - who has a broken spine, so he can't really help his problem, but it still causes messes for us to deal with, and Sheeba - who has some misfiring brain wires or something. She doesn't act like any other cat I've met, and she likes to pee all over the house.

We've arranged our lives around the problems of these cats. Litter boxes everywhere that are cleaned out all the time. We don't have a sofa or soft chairs anyplace because Bob would ruin them. All bedroom doors stay shut at all times to prevent furry intruders doing their thing on our beds.

We've seen cat behaviorists, we keep the laboratories in business with how often we send in urine samples, an acupuncturist (for Bob) etc. But I don't believe an elimination issue should equal a death sentence, and so we have lived with it (and cleaned up after it) - for years.

Our other problem was that we don't live in a safe area for the cats to go outside. We live in a townhouse with a parking lot out front, and another one behind it. These cats have been indoor cats their whole lives, I don't think they'd stand a chance out there. I know the neighborhood cats pretty well (better than I know our neighbors, my husband would say) and few of them stay around for long. It just isn't a cat-friendly environment.

After we lost Magic, we also kinda lost the heart to keep dealing with these other two troublemakers. I'm sad to admit it, but we loved Magic, and tolerated the others. Well, I love Bob too - and my husband tolerates him for my sake.

So we made the decision to start letting them outside, and I was torn up about it. I couldn't emotionally handle them anymore either, but was frightened for them. So I began to research if there were any safe ways to teach older cats some street smarts, with the goal of making a safer transition to being outdoor cats.

I found the Cat Fence-In System.



I've worked with animals for about 13 years now, longer if you count my earlier SPCA volunteer time, and I'd never heard of such a thing. It's great!! It's a netting system that goes around the top of your fence, and keeps the cats from being able to climb out. They stay safely in the yard. They still have the elements to deal with (but for now we're only putting them out on nice days) but no cars, no dogs, no cat-hating people who mean them harm. They get to sleep in the grass, chase bugs, and lay in the sun without dying.

It also keeps other cats out of the yard too - for anyone who has a problem with that. We've had our system up for about a month now, and it really works.

I have my house back.

Bob loves playing outside during the day. Sheeba doesn't love it, but, like I said before, I'm sure she has mental problems. No matter what she thinks, it's better than being locked in the bathroom the rest of her life, and that's her other option at this point.

I just had to share, because I would have loved to have known about this earlier.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pricing

This is a topic that comes up whenever two or more professional artists/crafters get together. What's a good pricing formula?
I'll admit upfront that I don't have all (or maybe any) of the answers to the pricing dilemmas, but thought I'd point you toward some resources that I've found useful.
In the Etsy Storque, there are many pricing related articles, I think the older ones are the most helpful:
Etsy Storque Pricing Articles

Also, an Etsy seller, chrisparry, developed a very detailed spreadsheet that they are offering for free that helps calculate selling price:
chrisparry blog

I have a few issues with this formula, at least for my personal situation. I'm sure it works great for some types of items. I think the spreadsheet recommends taking equipment into consideration. That part is good advice, but it says, for example, that I'd need a new sewing machine every 5 years. Don't think so. The machine I have now was my mom's, and I believe she had it since before I was born, so it's well over 30 years old, and works just dandy (thank you very much). I understand that someday it's inevitable that I'll need new equipment, and I need rotary blade, etc. rather more frequently, and all that needs to be accounted for.
I also have a bit of a philosophical problem with the "decide how much money you want to make then divide that buy how much stuff you make" philosophy. I've seen this advice in many places, and it never sits well with me. Just because I'd need to sell my I-spy blankets for $80.00 each to replace my job and live my dream of working at home does not make them 'worth' $80.00, no matter how much love I pour into them. Don't get me wrong, I love my blankets. If I could make only one thing, that's what I'd pick. My daughter still plays with hers all the time after 4 years. But, come on.
Sure, maybe someplace there is some celebrity super-high-end market for an $80.00 I spy blanket, but I have zero interest in finding, developing, or catering to such a market if one exists. It isn't me. And I don't want to change who I am for this.

Now these types of decisions are very personal. I don't presume to tell anyone how they should run their business. Pricing is complicated, and I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all formula, even for businesses that sell similar items or services.

What I've learned, for my own business, from my pricing research is that, no matter what formula I use, I will NEVER be able to give up my job to come home and sew.
I wanted to be a professional, but I'm a hobbyist. I was upset at this realization for about 30 min. Now I'm okay with it. The upside of these epiphanies is that now that I know that sewing isn't the most efficient use of my time in my quest to work from home, I'm free to move on to other endeavors. Now I can sew for fun, for family, and to sell with out all the pressure. I can make things when I want, for whom I want, and if they sell - wonderful! If not, it'll make a nice gift at the next baby shower I'm invited to. But my garbage bill won't depend on it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reviewing and Redirecting

I have so many business topics swimming around in my head that I want to discuss it's hard to know where to begin. Maybe it's an end of the year thing. A time to look back on how this year has gone, and to begin thinking about where I want to go in the future. Making changes is uncomfortable for me (and I don't think I'm alone here.) It's so much easier to just keep doing what I'm used to doing. But I'm old enough now to realise that when things aren't going the way I want them to after a time and my best effort, it's time to make changes. One of my greatest mistakes in the past, I believe, is that I tend to lose sight of the goal and get caught up or distracted by the path. I'm a creature of habit, and change has to be a thought out effort for me.
It's strange, actually. This year has gone well for me. My Etsy business has donebetter than I ever originally hoped for. My children are thriving. We're moving forward, if slowly, tword our goals. And yet, there are problems that can't be overlooked. Years ago, I never would have made changes to what I thought was a sucessful year. This is where I've grown. Now I see that while, by many standards, I'm having some successes, even this won't bring me to my ultimate goals, and that's what matters. Maybe the little successes has given me the courage to make changes where I need them. It has become easier to keep the big picture in sight.

I'm working on a business plan, and will write more details about that as I go. I think it's a good tool for any business. I probably should have made one from the beginning, but I had more of a hobbist attitude when I began. If you're wanting to get more serious with your business, and don't know how to start - a business plan is a must. It isn't a little project - it's huge, and it's hard, but it's also important. I'll provide some better information on how to write one in a comming entry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gifts for the Hard to Buy For

Getting back our Grand Opening Week, I wanted to start with one of our more popular items around the holidays. The Gift Album.
It's a little like a gift card, but more personal. It's a little catalog of products, and your lucky gift recipient gets to pick out what they want. Simple. They come in just about any value range you could want, or they also come by product type. There are teen albums, guy albums, jewelry, even a chocolate one!
My sister-in-law gets these for all the teenagers on her list because she never know what they want, but she doesn't like giving cash as a gift.
They're also great for long distance gifts because they're cheep to ship.
A Gift Album also makes a nice year-end gift from an employer to their workers.



To see the whole selection of albums, click here:
https://greatlife.mychoices.biz/Retail/Products.aspx?PG=3
and type - gift album - in the search bar.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My 15 Minutes

Parents Magazine (yes THE Parents magazine) did a little blurb on Etsy, and included my Soft Fabric Animal book.
Excuse me for a moment while I do a happy dance.

*dances*



Yep - I'm kinda excited.
The other items are cool too. I actually just bought some toys from Stumppondtoy for my kids. His shop has been on my favorite list for awhile now.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Grand Opening!

We held a live, in-person Grand Opening for our online Quixtar store yesterday here at out home. It was a lot of fun, and went very well. We learned a little more about each of the product lines, and got to play with and taste some stuff.

It makes logical sense to us that an online business deserves an online Grand Opening too. Plus we need about three more clients to meet our goal. Here's what we've decided to do:

Because of the nature of the Internet, we don't think it would be convenient for people to have a virtual meeting for a small window of an hour or so, like we did at our home. So the online version of our Grand Opening, is going to run for one week.

In order for our guests (that's you!) to browse around out product lines, you can go to our website:
Serious Energy

Now the fun of a Grand Opening is trying the stuff out, right? On our website there is a link that says "Contact me". If you look around and see something you'd like to try, use that button to send us a message. We don't have samples of every product, but we have some. We can send off some samples to you. Or if you don't know where to start, just send us a message through the "Contact me" link and we'll send a little variety of samples and information for you.

We're trying to make this as similar as possible to our real life Grand Opening, so that means a door prize too. Again, we're using that little "Contact Me" button as our way to know who 'attended' our opening. So even if you just look around, send us a message to be entered into the door prize drawing.

My blog has been neglected this month due to my novel writing efforts, but I plan to write a short update daily (or at least every other day) with some of the interesting information about the products and the business.

Thanks everyone!
Have fun.

Monday, November 5, 2007

NaNoWriMo

I've been MIA from my blog, so I thought I'd drop in and tell you why.

I decided to join the National Novel Writing Month this November. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never thought I had the time. This year I realised that I won't ever feel like I 'have the time' to write a novel. No one does. That's why NaNoWriMo exists in the first place.

The goal is to write at least 50,000 words in a novel during the month of November. That works out to be 1,667 words a day. So for someone with an already full life - a very lot of writing! I'm getting some pretty late bedtimes so far this week.

Here's my NaNo profile on the website if you'd like to learn more about it:
http://www.nanowrimo.org/user/204442

Now so far when I tell people I'm doing this, they ask about my novel. The short version is that it's a Sci-Fi novel about a ship of 1000 people going off to colonise a new planet. It's a story I was supposed to write 2 years ago. I joined an anthology contest on writing.com about 10 ships that left earth in search of new planets. We wrote a story proposal about what happened to one ship. My story got picked, and I began writing the full story. Then life got in the way and I basically stopped.
Now I'm starting over and using it for my NaNo novel. I don't think I really want the finial version to be 50,000 or more words long, but I'm writing a lot of background and more in depth character stuff that I probably don't really need, so when November is over, I hope to have enough material to edit it down to 20-30,000 words worth of good stuff.

That's the plan.

If you've ever Nano-ed, or are Nano-ing now, let me know! Share your tips for getting through the month - and tell me about your novel!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Diversifying

I wanted to write this entry awhile ago, but I was hoping to link it to the original source articles where I got my information. Since I can't find them again (darnit!) I'm posting without.

The article talked about the importance of diversifying in online marketing. The old, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" idea.

I'm generally happy with Etys, but the article did make good points. I don't run Etsy. I have little to no control in what changes they may choose to make. It is in my best interest not to connect my entire business future on something I have so little control over. Diversifying helps buffer the risk of changes that may negatively affect my business in any one venue.

So I started several other easy to operate online shops in other venues. I've linked these so that you can see how they look if these are venues you are interested in as well, but bear in mind that I have very little added to my other shops yet. I just don't make things fast enough, I'm afraid.

Mintd.com - http://www.mintd.com/stores/show/1032-Karabu-s-Creations

eCrater - http://karabu.ecrater.com/

Lov.Li - http://lov.li/users/2886

There are more sites out there, but these are more than enough for me to deal with right now.
On all of these sites, there are no listing fees, and the selling commission runs from about 5% to 7.5%. On eCrater there are no fees at all. eCrater also has a neat page with promotion tools that tell you how to add your site into various search engines, and other great tips.

The other thing I did was buy my own domain: Karabu's Pathcwork Creations
It only cost about $18.00 or $19.00 for two years thru GoDaddy.com. I'm a far cry from being ready to start up my own website, but because I have my domain, I will be able to have that option later of if I so choose. Right now all that site does is forward to my Etsy shop, because that's the main place I want to sell right now. The larger benefit, though, is that I can put all my effort into promoting my own site instead of another (like Etsy for example) What that does for me is if and when at some later time I choose to change the focus of where I sell, I don't have to start promoting all over again. I just change where my site forwards to, or actually start my own site. The point is, with my own url, I have a lot more options and control over how my business runs and grows.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Baby Cold Medicine

Sadly, I wasn't surprised to hear this story on the radio this morning:
http://www.kcbs.com/Infant-Cold-Meds-Pulled-From-Shelves/1079962

About a month ago, my baby had a cold. My pediatrician told me years ago with my first born that there were no safe cold medicines for babies, so when I saw "Infant Cold and Cough" medicine in the pharmacy I was happily surprised. It had a picture of an infant in diapers on the package and all. "They must have found a safe baby medicine!" I excitedly told myself.

Now, at the time I was in the unusual, and fortunate circumstance to be shopping alone, so I took the time to read the back of the package. "Not for children under 2 years old".
Sorry. I thought it was for "Infants" as displayed in the title. Since when did 2 year olds qualify as infants?

I'm sure that had I had my two wonderful, yet distracting children, I would have bought the medicine without reading the fine print. Yes, I would have read the dosing instructions before giving it to my baby and then would have seen I couldn't use it, (and been damn mad that I'd been tricked into buying it!) I'm not excusing the parents who didn't bother to read instructions or who changed the dosage they were supposed to give, but I think the drug companies are obviously trying to be deceitful in their marketing.

After I returned the package to the shelf, I saw there were many other brands (probably all part of this recall now) that had similar deceptive labeling. The Bold front packaging implying or outright stating that the medicine was for babies, and only in the fine print in the rear do they admit it really isn't.

Not cool.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oops - I was tagged

Shell Mitchell tagged me several weeks back, and I forgot to do my duty by posting six things about myself. Hopefully this is better late than never.

1. I love Mars, and anything Mars related. I'm fascinated by it.

2. I once worked in a medical research lab taking care of baby monkeys. My views on animal rights didn't come from propaganda leaflets - they came from what I experienced in real life.

3. When I was 11 years old I picked up a rare liver fluke from swimming in a hot spring. I was hospitalized and they brought medical students in to see me.

4. I lived in 4 different states growing up and went to 8 different schools.

5. I love to sit outside at night, but I almost never do it anymore. (makes mental note to self to go sit outside tonight)

6. My big sister is the coolest person I know.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Learning Something New

I decided I want to learn to draw. I used to draw when I was young, and don't really remember why I stopped.

treasurefield on Etsy reccomended the book "Drawing with Children" to me as a good beginning drawing book. I'm a little bumed because I got it on an interlibrary loan and so they won't let me renew it and I'm only about 1/3 the way through. Due today.

Anyhow, I wasn't very happy with the drawings I made as I worked on the exercises in the book, so last night I decided I'd break the 'rules' (or at least the suggestions in my book) and just draw something I was interested in. Sneaking over to my baby's crib, and using what I learned so far, I drew this:

Sleeping Baby
Sleeping Baby

I broke another guideline too. The book reccomends that beginners use a felt tiped pen to draw so they can't worry about fixing mistakes - they just have to keep drawing. But I used a pencil, and erased a lot before I was satisfed with how it looked. I would have quit before finishing if I couldn't erase, I think. It really is a great book though, I'm glad I did those exercises or else I wouldn't have been brave enough to even try drawing a person.

Maybe not the Mona Lisa, but for my first drawing that I did on my own, I'm proud of my little old self. I really like how the ear turned out.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Time to vote! (don't worry, it isn't political)

The California Crafter Club of Etsy (CCCOE) has just completed our first ever monthly member challenge. To enter, we had to make an item fitting the monthly theme, it was "Typography" for August.

One random voter will win a beautiful pair of earrings made by Sandy Simone, like these: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6721902

Don't worry, I won't be offended if you don't vote for me - my favorite in the challenge isn't my own creation. There's some really cool stuff.

Here's the forum thread on Etsy where you can see all the imtems and vote:

http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=5218080&page=1

Sunday, September 2, 2007

And the Winner is. . .

Natalie from Naked Tile on Etys:

*thunderous applause*

Congratulations!

Chosen randomly from a hat (okay, it was really a bowl) by my daughter.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered for making this giveaway so fun. Whenever I get issue #2 put together (I know, I know, I've been talking about that for awhile now, but it'll happen, I've got big plans that take awhile), I'll do it again.

Hugs and High Fives to all entrants for being such cool people.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greeting Cards

I've wanted to make greeting cards ever since I had the idea to start a second shop for my writing. Not the typical cards that you learn how to make in scrapbook stores and such. Although I like those cards, I've bought them on Etsy before, that isn't what I wanted to do with my own shop. My shop was for my writing. I want my cards to say something; I want to write them myself.
I'm planning a line with some humor (those are my favorite kinds of cards), silly rhyming poetry (that's the only poetry I write), and inspiring famous quotations. I made my first two cards (actually I made three because the first one sold already - Whoo Hoo!) today and posted them in my shop.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not Made in China

So I was at Target over the weekend looking for a hard baby toy that my daughter could chew on. My first born wasn't much of a chewer, even when she was teething, but the new baby's reason for being seems to be to get everything possible into her mouth. Like so many, I'm hesitant to buy something from China and learn next week that it isn't safe, so I read the packaging for all the baby chew toys they had. Every single one was made in China. Every single one.

Now I'm on a mission. For some reason, the fact that I couldn't find something not made in China has made it that much more important to me to do so. I'm happy to say that I have success finding some great toys made in America and Europe, and I want to share.

Now obviously - I make baby and kid toys, and I'm in America. My baby loves her blocks and her I-spy security blanket - she studies it and chomps away at it. I'm a big fan of simple, stimulating, home-made toys, but I can't make everything I want. So this is where the search comes in.

1. Etsy.com
This is always the first place I shop. I'm a part of the Etsykids street team, and if you just enter "Etsykids" into the search box you'll find a ton of great handmade kids stuff. So if you're looking for blocks, you can enter "blocks etyskids". This will help a lot because of the way the Etsy search function works, if you were to enter 'blocks' by itself, you end up with a lot of 'block prints' and other non-kid items. Using the Etsykids search will make sure you only get kid related results. There is one, non-etsykids shop I want to mention because of his cool toys: Stump Pond Woodworks

2. I found this cool list of Websites that sell mass-produced baby toys that are not made in China, if that's what you're looking for:
80% of toys are made in China, but not these!

I'm sure there are more resources out there - feel free to share any you've found in the comments section. Together we can avoid buying from China.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Giveaways are fun.

I want to give away a copy of my zine. Would you like it? If so then just comment on this entry (as long as your comment links me back to someplace I can contact you if you win) or send an e-mail to me at karabu74@yahoo.com with Zine Giveaway in the subject line.

I will collect entries through the end of Aug, and announce a winner at the beginning of Sept. This is a kind of 'Thank You' to everyone for giving me such encouragement at Etsy, and with my blog. It really means a lot to me. Plus - giveaways are fun.

and, as promised, here's the link to my story published at A Long Story Short:
http://www.alongstoryshort.net/athiefinthenight.html

Monday, August 13, 2007

About me - sorry.

I've been tagged by Jen at Mama's Magic. So I'm supposed to list 6 weird things about myself. I don't really consider myself 'weird', though others may - so I'm interpreting this to mean 'unusual'.

Here goes:
1. I'm a huge Sci-Fi fan. I've even been to a Star Trek Convention. Now while I consider this perfectly normal- other people seem to think I'm a bit odd because of it.

2. I used to be a wild animal trainer - yet my favorite animals to work with were the llamas.

3. My dad and I once invented and built a wheelchair for a paralyzed cat. We were in the newspaper for that.

4. I'm not afraid of snakes or spiders - I even like them, but I can't stand ants, yet I'm considering getting an ant farm for my daughter. I guess they feel safer to me trapped in the farm.

5. I'm addicted to paper and fabric. I love having it around - looking at it and touching it, even if I don't make anything from it. In fact, I'm always just a little bit sad to cut into a pattern that I particularly love.

6. I have an odd sense of humor. I am frequently to only one laughing in a theater at an odd moment, or I tell jokes and only receive blank stares in return. I get it from my dad. We laugh with each other a lot.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

What I've Learned So Far.

I've been reading marketing books, reading marketing blogs, and lurking in business forums for several months now. I've also been trying to get my own home business off the ground while assisting my husband with marketing his Network Consulting business. I still have a lot to learn. But I want to share some of what I've learned so far.

I see similar questions in a lot of the forums I've visited, along the lines of "Where can I promote my business?" Sometimes people give a list of websites to use, or more often, just some generic advice to talk to everyone you meet about your business, post about it everywhere, etc. etc. While this shotgun sort of approach, as one of my marketing book calls it, may get your name out there, who knows if it's getting to the people who may actually be interested in your services or not? I started out this way too. Just looking to see what others were doing, and following suit. I guess it's a natural approach for a beginner. There's the thought that they wouldn't be doing it if it didn't work, right? Some flawed logic there, I'm learning.

So if that method isn't efficient, what are we to do? Step one is something I didn't bother to do when I started, but needed to be done. Identifying our target market. Who are we trying to sell our goods or services to? Without pinning that down as specifically as possible, we send a lot of time marketing to potentially the wrong groups. I've used Craigslist to place ads for both my handmade baby toys, and my husbands Consulting business. It has worked to some degree for him, but done nothing for me. Likewise, some of my online networking (myspace, forum posts on various sites) has brought my shop some traffic, but would be silly for my husband to do since he can only take jobs that he can drive to - online marketing to the whole world isn't what he should be using his energy on.

Even more closely related businesses should have a different marketing strategy. My target market may not be the same as that of someone who sells baby slings, or children's clothing. We may have some overlap, but we are looking to fill different needs, and as such we should be tailoring our marketing message for our specific ideal audience. Now finding that specific audience is something I'm still working on. However, know who I'm looking for is really helping me find them. I don't have a lot of free time. I don't want to use that precious marketing time telling people who couldn't care less about toys for small children. It would be like sending one of my Sci-Fi stories in to "Time Magazine". Just wastes everyone's time.

So that's my advice. Think about your product. Who needs it? If you think "everyone", you need to rethink. Even things that everyone truly does need, like toilet paper, have specific markets. For example, I only buy recycled toilet paper. Other people only want super soft and fluffy paper, other only care about cost. If you think enough about what you have to offer, and how it's special, you'll start to see the type of person you're trying to find.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Marketing Writing

I'm currently working on issue #2 of my zine, "Little Tales". It's going to be a bit more on the serious side, with some longer stories (some approaching 1000 words, while there was nothing over 300 words long in issue #1). The theme will be animals. I've worked as a wild animal trainer, veterinary nurse, and with primates in a medical research lab, as well as volunteering over the years in a zoo, the SPCA, and a farm animal sanctuary. This is where my stories will come from. In fact, unlike issue #1, these will all be non-fiction and semi-autobiographical. So as you can imagine from my list of experiences, they don't all have a happy ending. I can't stand things to be completely depressing though, so there will be some humor and hope mixed in too.

Anyway, as part of my mission with this blog, to share some of what I've learned, I wanted to offer some market resources out there for other writers. I had a subscription to Writer's Market online for a year that I got as a gift. It's a great website, but a bit overwhelming, and a lot of work to try to narrow things down to the types of markets who would be interested in something specific. Here's two of my favorite market lists (for fiction) that are free, and still very good:
http://www.duotrope.com/
http://www.ralan.com/
As far as non-fiction goes, I've mostly concentrated on local publications that I'm semi-familiar with or online markets that are easier to research. I suppose I'll try to get the courage to go for the big bucks and big markets someday, but I'm not ready just yet.

Some great advice I got once was that it's easier to pick a publication and write something to fit it than it is to write something and then try to find a market to fit. I know, I know, artistically this seems to be the wrong way to go about things, but when I approach my writing in this manner, I have had more success getting into print.

One problem is that many publications have a very specific feel and vibe that they are trying to create with each issue. You can have an amazing story, but if it doesn't fit the editor's vision for that publication, it isn't going to be accepted. Now, I'm hardly an expert or else I wouldn't still be working a job outside the house, but when I've written an article with a market in mind, my rate of acceptance has gone up a lot.

Now, if I can just get my rear in gear and edit some of my stories to get them ready to submit, then I can get back on the right track for coming home from that outside job thing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I love Harry Potter, but. . .

Yep, I'm a Harry Potter fan. Love him. We, my husband and I, started reading the book, one chapter a night, during then last months of my first pregnancy. We read all the books this way, I think there were four at the time, and when a new book came out, we'd snuggle as a family in bed and read a chapter each night. It's become a nice tradition for us.
When we were expecting our second baby, we decided to start the series over again (yes, we liked it that much) Now we just got our pre-ordered copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows", but we're only about halfway through book six. We aren't ready for the new book just yet. I admit, I'm tempted to just whisk through the rest of six on my own so I can quickly read book seven to find out what happens. There's so much hype and peer pressure to read it right away, it sounds like a fun thing to do, but we're resisting the peer pressure. So even though we may not even start on the new, exciting book for over a week or so, we love our special family story time, and we're keeping out tradition.
Just don't dare try to talk to me about book seven for at least a month! I'm doing my darnedest to avoid spoilers.
I do love the Harry Potter books, but I love our special family time even more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A new line

You know I love good quotes. Well, I made some quotation bookmarks for my paperandwords shop, but they were so simple, they look, well, just . . . bla. No fun. Then I got the idea to make them out of fabric. They are still simple (I'm a simple gal, what can I say) but I think the turned out really cool. I'm keeping one for myself.

They are cotton fabric (my favorite) with a stiff interfacing in them so they aren't floppy.



The quotes I started with -

"I cannot live without books." - Thomas Jefferson

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. . ." - Albert Einstein

I have a few more in mind, but have to pick out neat fabric that goes well with the quotes.


I love it when I find ways to combine things that I love. In this case: books, and sewing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thank You (part one)

I was part of Etsy's most recent baby shower. Sellers signed up to either donate to pregnant women and new moms, or they signed up as recipients. Since I sell baby items, and I have a new baby - I signed up for both ends. It's been a blast. I want to show off all the cool gifts I've received so far:


First, from Keiki Boutique - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=62359ser_id=62359, I got this really nice, and incredibly handy diaper and wipes pouch:




It's one of those things that once you use it for awhile, you wonder how you ever got along without it!


Then I got all these beautiful crochet items from AprilAdriance - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=82334 :




She told me that the shawl can also be use around her waist as a cover-up. I hadn't thought of that - but it would be perfect! I also got a yellow headband with a flower, but I left it at Grandma's house when we last visited there. Gotta get that back! Isn't this too cute?


And from ficklefaerie, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=108801, and made by mamaziel, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5089760, I got these great burp cloths -




These have been used non-stop since I opened the package. So great!




I can't thank these great sellers enough. Thank you thank you thank you!!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

When I Need Inspiration

Quote inspire me, and there never seems to come a time when I don't need a little inspiration. Even when things are going well, as they are now, I always know how much room there is for improvement within myself. I don't think I'll ever be fully happy with the way I am, I always want to be a better person.

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
-Bill Cosby

I often try to please everyone. I hate to say, "No." While wanting to make others happy is a nice thing, it can take too much away from what else I need to do. As so many other things in life - there is a balance that needs to be found. I'm still looking.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
-Thomas A. Edison

One of my all time favorite quotes. It keeps me moving.

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
-Sir Winston Churchill

I still write when I get rejection letters, I still sew when things don't sell because I love to. But in other areas, I need to remember that failure isn't an end.

"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy."
-Norman Vincent Peale

Self-confidence. . . here I need mucho work.

"The only place where success comes before work is a dictionary."
-Vidal Sassoon

I'm very lazy by nature. I should post this on my mirror - or better yet, near my bed.

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway."
-John Wayne

As with self-confidence, I let fear hold me back from doing much that I need to do. I want to be brave. I'm still hoping that bravery can be learned, and that I'm not a hopeless cause.

"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails."
-Bertha Calloway

On days like today, when life takes over and my plans are completely taken out of my hands, I try to remember that I may not be able to control everything, but I can control how I react. That little thought really does make me feel powerful.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Book Review Continued

We covered the lesson on "Teachability" this week from the book "Talent is Never Enough" by John C. Maxwell.

Now this is one area I don't feel like I need much help on. I love learning, and am almost always open to suggestion for improvement. The book warns that pride is an enemy of teachability, but I have little to no pride. I could probably stand to work more on pride than teachability actually. Basically being teachable is being open to growth, and no one should ever be done growing.

I though I was fairly comfortable on the computer until I opened my Etsy shop. Then I had to learn about online marketing, about blogs, and HTML, banners. . . well, all kinds of stuff I didn't know or care about a year ago. And its been fun, because I love to learn. Finally I found a personality trait I have that should serve me well.

I have to share some quotes from the book that really gave me the giggles. Maxwell gives a list of quote that supposedly came from real employee evaluations. My goal is to never be one of these people. I'm just going to give a few of my favorites - there are a bunch:

"Works well when under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat."

"When she opens her mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet."

"He sets low personal standards and consistently fails to achieve them."

"If you see two people talking and one looks bored, he's the other one."

And my personal favorite, "This young lady had delusions of adequacy."

Monday, June 25, 2007

My Writing World

Well, I've reconnected with my writing in this short time I've been trying to get joy back from my hobbies. Some of the writing is stuff I 'have' to do - I write a newsletter for three veterinary hospitals, and I enjoyed doing it for the first time in a long time. Some I 'want' to do - I'm currently involved with a small group of Sci-Fi writers who are all working on stories for an anthology together. My story is finally starting to come together for me.

I just completed an online writing course from Coffeehouse for Writers (http://www.coffeehouseforwriters.com/) called, "How to Quit Your Day Job: Making a Living as a Full-time Freelance Writer". I didn't get out of it what they advertised, "By the end of the course, you will have at least two pieces (and their respective query letters) ready to be submitted.", but I did learn a few things. I'm a little disappointed, but am still happy with the things I did get out of it. I'd always been afraid to write a query, and I do feel like I have a good handle on that now. The class is over now and I'm still waiting on some critiques from the instructor.

To do a bit of bragging, one of my short stories was accepted for publication on the webzine, Long Story Short" (http://www.alongstoryshort.net/) for their August edition. Fear not - I'll put the link to my story here once it's published. I'd tell you what it's about- but that would ruin the surprise ending. You shall have to wait.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Burning out?

I'm back to working outside the house (I'm a Registered Veterinary Technician) part-time, so my already over-full schedule is just that much tighter now. And I've found myself not enjoying working on my Etsy shops, or even my writing. I get stressed out doing these things that used to be how I relaxed. Very troubling.

I believe that in my quest to make money so that I can come back home to be with my kids I've sapped the fun out of what I used to love. I won't let myself work on anything that I can't make money on. This isn't right. For one thing, I spend all of my sewing time re-making things that have sold, instead of experimenting with my ideas. At this rate I'll never create truly new items, and it's the 'creating something new' part that I love. I stress over saleable articles and don't work on my beloved fiction.

So I may become 'unproductive' for awhile, in that I plan to work on things I've wanted to work on - a baby quilt for a friend, a grab ball for my baby, a wall hanging quilt for my oldest daughter, fiction writing, and scrapbooking - but haven't let myself do because they aren't a source of income. But if the ball and the wall hanging turn out as I hope, I may make more for my shop, and in the long run improve the variety of my offerings and make my shop even better. That's the hope anyway. My hope is that a short break from pressuring myself to make a profit on everything will leave me refreshed, and ready to keep going even stronger.

In case you think I'm really insightful or anything like that - I actually had this idea while watching "Surf's Up" with my daughter yesterday. A cute movie. Maybe one or two more poo jokes than I needed, but overall a good message. To do something really well, you need to find your joy in it.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

My Street teams

I just wanted to give a little shout out to the various street teams I belong to at Etsy. If you're an Etsy seller and considering joining a team, I highly recommend it. I know it has helped with my sales, but more than that is the educational and emotional support, cross promotions, and even group discounts that go a long way to making this whole online commerce thing doable and fun.




First off is Etsy for Animals. A group of sellers dedicated to helping animals and who donate individually or collectively to animal charities. I give 10% of my sales to the charity of the month at http://www.etsyforanimals.com/









Next, is the California Crafter's CLub of Etsy. It's a team made up of artists ans crafters who live in California. http://cccoe.socalblog.org/







And last is actually the first team I joined. A wonderful group of crafters who make items for babies and kids. I've bought some really cool stuff for my girls from EtsyKids sellers. http://www.etsykids.com/

You can search for items from any of these groups at Etsy by using the tags: EFA, CCCOE, or Etsykids.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How the whole focus thing is going. . .

Well, I've taken a few baby steps in the right direction toward getting myself more organized and focused - and so far without giving up any of the things that I love.

How did I do it, I hear you ask. Well, I took a bit of advice from those books I mentioned before, as well as one I read awhile ago called, "Refuse to Choose" (I added it to the recommended reading list if you want a link) It's basically about a certain personality type that the author calls a "scanner", or a person who loves a variety of topics and activity and has an unusually difficult time focusing or picking one single life path, career, goal, etc. It's me 100%. I really loved it when I read it because it stressed that I didn't need to give up anything or "pick something" to do with my life in order to be successful - pretty much the opposite of what is implied in the other books I mentioned, and in my previous entry. However, it does say that keeping organized is important to success for a scanner. Now, I only ever implemented a few of the tools she suggested to help me fit the things I LOVE to do into my life around the things I WANT to do, but I'm trying to get back to that.

What I've done in the past several days is to plan my day a little ahead of time, and not try to do it all every day ( so I can focus on each thing I want to accomplish - see it all coming together here?) Yesterday I ran errands in the morning and in the evening I worked on items for my Karabu Etsy shop. Today I'm cleaning house and tonight I'll write. Granted, my Etsy projects aren't finished yet, my house could always use more cleaning, and there are other projects I haven't gotten to yet, but I have to say, I've made more progress on each of these areas than if I'd gone about things in my normal fashion of fluttering around trying to do five things at once. We even spent several hours at a playdate with my daughter's friends and I did a little craft project with my kiddo too today!

So far I feel really good about this, and since my extended maternity leave ends next week I'll really need to have a time management system in place in order to work, have time with my family and accomplish my other goals as well. I'll keep you posted on how it all goes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New shop. New zine.

I finished my first zine. It has super short stories - all with a family theme (about kids, parents, husbands, family memories, etc.)
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6084172



I was afraid people might assume that my zines were children's stories if I put them in my Karabu shop (everthing else there is for kids) so I opened a second Etsy store: Paper and Words - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5162914
I plan to add other paper items - more zines, greeting cards, blank books, and so forth, in future.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Focus

One piece of advice has been coming at me from every direction this week. Despite my best efforts, I can't ignore it anymore. With our WWDB mentors, we have been listening to and reading a training program from John C. Maxwell based on his book, "Talent is Never Enough"



This week's lesson was about focus - something I'm lacking in. I like to do a million things at once. And I frequently move on to new and exciting things before I've finished what I started. So I have half-finished projects all over the place, a half-cleaned house, and the feeling that there is never enough time in a day. Now knowing I have a focus problem and doing something about i may be two very different things. But I'm learning the tools to try.

The last few chapter's in "Duct Tape Marketing"



have been about making sure you know why your in business. Having a narrow market that you're targeting, and getting as specialized as you can. This helps make your marketing efforts more effective, and gives your business more prestige. I can't explain it like the book does - so I guess I just highly recommend reading the book. It helped me come to the decision not to add other types of product lines to my Etsy shop (http://karabu.etsy.com). I wanted to make pet stuff, some zines,and note cards, just to name a few. My zine is what I'm most excited about, and it's almost done. I have two more in the planning stages too. But I think I've done a decent job of creating an image and theme for Karabu's Patchwork Creations and I don't want to muddy it up. So I'm going to open a second shop for my zine, and I'll add other paper products later on. It's called Paper and Words (http://paperandwords.etsy.com). Nothing there yet, but my zine and some cards will show up soon.

I'm also taking an online writing class (did I mention my focus problem?) and the teacher stressed in the last lesson about how much easier it is to be successful if you fine a nitch and specialize versus being a generalist. They recommended that I focus on Pets and Parenting because of my strong knowledge and experience in these areas.

Now, my problem is that I love all the different things I do. I don't want to give anything up to focus on just one thing. As a compromise to start with, I'm trying to work on just one thing at a time and finish it before moving on. May not sound like much - but it's huge for me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Slow learner

I've been involved with the online direct marketing group World Wide Dreambuilders for a few years now. We make a little bit of money, but we really haven't been trying very hard to do much with our business. As evidence of that - here I've been talking about my writing, and my Etsy business in this blog, and have never mentioned it before. Yet they teach us that we should talk about it all the time - to anyone we can get to listen. I didn't listen.

So, why am I bringing it up now? Well, the more I learn and research about marketing in my efforts to grow my Etsy business, the more I see I should have been paying better attention to all the free guidance, lessons and mentorship I've gotten over the years from our online business. The marketing book that I'm reading now sounds almost like a script from the many speakers I've gone to hear. It never occurred to me that the knowledge they were sharing was good for anything other than expanding that one business. Turns out they really know what they're talking about for marketing and business in general - if I'd bothered to pay better attention. I've had a business available to me all this time that I've ignored because I just thought I wasn't good at "that type of thing". Now I see that if I want to be successful at any business of my own, I'd better learn to love "that type of thing". As it happens, "that" is self promotion. It's uncomfortable, feels pushy, and doesn't come naturally to a lot of people (me included), but it is essential to having your own business. No one else cares if my business grows - only I do. SO waiting for others to promote me isn't a great way to go about this thing. *smacks head*

It's easy to work for someone else. We don't have to put ourselves out there and risk failure the way we do when working for our self. When things don't work out, we get to gripe about our boss or co-workers. If things get really bad, and we don't know how, or don't want to fix them, we can quit and get another job. Not so for owning our own business. If we give up - that's it. I'm learning (albeit slowly) that if I want this - if I REALLY want this - I need to be much more serious. I need to do the things I've been scared or uncomfortable doing. And I need to listen better.

As a first step - I'll urge you to check out our online business at http://www.seriousenergy.com and contact me if you'd like more info. If nothing else, I've figured out that they have awesome business training advice. Just wish it hadn't taken me so long to learn.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

7 Random Things

Happy House Quilts (see blog links) "tagged" me. So, as I understand the game, I'm supposed to tell seven random things about myself and "tag" someone else to do the same. Here goes:

1. I hate cleaning.

2. I love to do so many things that most of the time I never do any of it. I just can't pick what to do when I have the time.

3. I'm also a wimp who is scared to really do most of what I want to do.

4. I love deep male singing voices.

5. My favorite flower is the daisy

6. I hope one day to own llamas

7. I usually read more than one book at a time - I think I have four going right now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

To-Do list

Always more to do than I can really keep up with - but I enjoy trying! (Well, at least I enjoy it more that I would giving something up.)
I sold four items in my Etsy shop in one day. That's a big day for me. Since I tend to produce things slowly, they super excitement I get with a sale is tempered by a "Wow - I'd better get busy making more" kick-in-the-pants kind of feeling. So today I worked a little on some new soft books, on a new I-Spy Security Blanket, and I worked a little on binding the quilt I made for my own daughter. It may not sound like much, but it was a very productive day for me.

I'm afraid that I may not get as much done tomorrow as I have to go into my 'real' job for a few hours. I also set myself a writing goal of 1000 words a week. If any other writers are reading that, they're probably thinking, "You mean 1000 words a DAY - right?" Alas, no. Just every week. The thinking is, I haven't been writing much at all. I was hoping a small goal would get me back into daily writing without being overwhelming. However - I am considering add a small zine of some of my "family" themed short stories to my shop. What do you think about that?

By the way, I'm not done with the marketing book yet, but here's a good quote:
"As you've probably observed, price is a terrible place to compete. There's always someone willing to go out of business faster than you."
(That may not be word for word, but it's close.)

Monday, April 30, 2007

I'm Sorry

This blog has been exactally what I didn't want it to be.

So far I've just been babbling about myself in a way that isn't interesting or useful to anyone. That isn't what I intended to do with this blog. I don't mind sharing personal experiences if they illistrate something, but so far I'm just ranting. The original goal of this blog was to share what I was learning as I try to grow my baby and kid toy crafting business, and as I expand my freelance writing.
I've learned so much from reading about people who've done what I'm trying to do. I wanted to help others the same way.
So, I will strive to supply this blog, and hopefully my readers (if there are any) with something more substantial than the amunt of sleep I'm getting or how may dirty dishes are in my sink. Now, I may be likely to stry occasionally and get of topic - this is one of my special skills, but I'll try to be educational as much as possible.

Right now I'm reading a very good book called "Duct Tape Marketing". I'll post a book review when I'm done.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A few fun bloggy things

You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer

Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.
And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.
Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...
Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!








Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Check out the map!

I just visited Happy House Quilt's Blog (http://www.happyhousequilts.blogspot.com/) and put myself on the very fun map there. Couldn't resist playing with it further, so I've added one to my page too. Scroll to the bottom, and add yourself!
Then visit Happy's blog - it's very cool.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A relaxing evening?

Well, Hubby is off at a business conference tonight. Usually I go with him, but it's just too soon for me to leave the baby yet. I'm looking forward to hearing all he learned when he gets home. Our older girl is having a sleepover with grandma, so it's just me and baby home tonight.
Strangely relaxing.
I guess just having one thing to do is an unusual luxury for me lately. Although I'm also working on a custom Etsy order while she sleeps. At least I can do that. Normally I'd use baby sleep time to clean, or play with the big kid - or cook dinner, etc. This is nice.
Guess I shouldn't waste all this peaceful time on the computer. I want to get that order in the mail tomorrow.
Goodnight all. Hope you have peace too.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Moving on

Taxes are finally done, so I can let myself sew again.

The new baby has fallen into a semi-routine. She likes to nap a lot in the mornings, and be held (and eat) almost constantly in the evenings. So looks like I'll be doing more work in the mornings than I used to. The important point is though, that I can actually think about working again. Even a few hours a day will make a big difference. Don't think it'll be enough to keep me home when I'm due back at my outside job, but if I can lay a good foundation and grow into working completely from home, I'll take it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

One more thing to juggle

Well, now that we're finally getting into a nice routine for sleeping, and my cold is starting to fade, I feel ready to start trying to get some work done again. I have a half dozen projects near completion that I haven't been able to get to in weeks. Thanks to grandmas - the house isn't a total disaster, but it could definitely use some work.

So I'm looking forward to getting my new listings up on Etsy - my mom gave me a new castle to list, I have a doll quilt almost done, as well as a soft fabric shape book. I'm making one for numbers too while I'm at it. Have several new tooth pillows started in different colors, and I finished drafting patterns for the pocket quilts I want to make.

On top of that, I'm combining my passions a bit, and creating a zine with some of my short stories around a 'family' theme. This won't be for kids - but some of the stories are about kids - and about parents, grandparents -husbands, and so on. When I begin listing my pet items, I want to do another zine with an animal theme. Now that I'm feeling more like myself again, it all feel exciting - not overwhelming like before.

I've spent a lot of my 'down' time reading and learning about marketing. I'll share what I've learned in another post soon.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I had the best of intentions

Well - I blew it.
Decided that I was silly to feel hesitant about going to the book signing - I knew I really wanted to go. So while we were out shopping last night I stopped in at the bookshop where it was going to be held to make sure I had the day and time right.
Didn't see any signs advertising for it, and that was worrisome.
Had to break down and ask.
The signing was the night before.
Figures.
I did buy one of the autographed copies of the new book.
If I can get my life organised after the baby, I'll try to request an interview with him, I think. That's what I wanted to do with the first book, but ran out of time. How cool would that be. (and good growth for wimpy little me too, I should think)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I'm such a wimp

I recently wrote a book review for "Done for a Dime" by David Corbett (very good book btw) for "Listen and Be Heard" http://listenandbeheard.net. The editor sent me a comment from the author, and it mentioned that I should introduce myself if I attend his book signing at a local independent bookstore for his newest novel. Now I'd already planned on going (or at least trying to go - life is fairly unpredictable lately), but I'm suddenly nervous. Why am I such a wimp about meeting people? He's sort of a friend of a friend, and from my understanding, a very cool guy - so just because he's a successful author, I make myself stress. Why isn't it fun for me to meet new people?

I envy people who thrive on companionship - on community. When I'm forced into it, I do enjoy socializing, but it wears me out too. I think even if it's fun, it's just still stressful for me. I don't like being this way. What can be done? Just keep making myself go out and talk to people? Is it something I'll get over if I power onward for long enough? It's just so easy to sit quietly on the sidelines - and it feels safer. But I know that my life would be more rewarding, and reaching my goals would be easier if I wasn't terrified of people.

Anyone with great people skills - please feel free to leave me your comments. Otherwise, I guess I'm off to read "Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway". . . again.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Millions of ideas, but much less time.

I have an entry I've wanted to write for a few days now. Since I'm not sure when I'll actually get to it - I wanted to at least share some of my newer listings at http://karabu.etsy.com
With the baby due in just a few weeks now, I'm trying to take my creations and my marketing seriously. If all goes well, I won't have to leave her and go back to work later on.

I have so many ideas for new things to make and new stories to write, but I have no time (and not much energy either) I'm trying to make notes, so I can get to everything as time allows. Makes me feel slightly better that the ideas won't get lost. Thank goodness for the book, "Refuse to Choose!". Helps keep everything I want to do in order.

Alas - I have other endevors calling, but I'll be back.
Oh yea - the Etsy listings I wanted to share. . . well - check out the photos over there to the right. I'll try to be more interesting next time!