Monday, January 7, 2013

Managing a Home, a Business and a BABY!

As a homeschooling mom who is also trying to run a business, there are days when I feel like I'm constantly busy, yet never get anything done. It can be discouraging. I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers. I'm not even going to pretend to be an organized person. I just thought I'd share a little tip that's been helping me get things accomplished (therefore feel sane) recently.

Having a schedule is great, except for the fact that I have a baby, and babies can't tell time. So I decided to make his schedule work for me. I made a list of his usual activities and used them as categories that I could fit my daily tasks into. Here's what it looks like:

Baby Napping:
phone calls

Baby Happily Playing


Baby On My Back in Ergo

Baby Nursing

any business-related computer work

I have a loose routine that I follow, but I was very easily sidetracked whenever I had to stop what I was doing to take care of the baby. Having this list makes it easier to move from one task to the next more seamlessly. You can see that some tasks fit into more than one place. I work on whichever is the highest priority. These exact categories might not work for anybody else, but hopefully they will provide you with a basic framework to help you get organized and get stuff done.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Guide to Thoughtful Gift Giving

Please stop buying us crap.

Every year I make this plea, and every year it falls on deaf ears. Ok, please don't quit reading now, I promise this is actually a thoughtful post, not me being a spoiled brat demanding that people spend lots of money on us.

I don't know what has happened to gift giving, but I don't like it. It's not personal anymore. First of all, there is the obsession with opening gifts and the thought that the more gifts there are to open, the better. Some people seem to think that ten cheap items are better than one quality item because it gives more presents to open. Instead of quality, thoughtful gifts, people are spending money so that others can tear paper off of boxes that contain items that they will likely forget about in a few months.

Giving cash is considered tacky, even though it might be the thing a person needs the very most, yet giving them something they don't need just because it can be wrapped is acceptable. Does anybody else think this mentality is all wrong?

Some believe that one should be thankful for any gift and not complain, that a crappy gift  is better than no gift at all. I disagree. Thoughtless gifts can be a burden if they take up space and add clutter to your home. Getting rid of them can induce guilt because we've been conditioned to feel ungrateful for not appreciating every gift, not matter how thoughtless it might be. The worst gifts are the impersonal ones like bath and body gift sets and candles (unless you know the person really likes them).

Thoughtful gifts are not necessarily more expensive ones. They are gifts that reflect the person's likes, interests and needs. The best gifts I've received aren't the ones that cost the most, they are the ones that are the most useful to me. They show that the gift giver either took the time to make or took the time to really think about what I would like. My husband's grandparents are awesome gift givers. They know I love to cook, and have gotten me several things for the kitchen over the last few years. I use the stuff every day. The most thoughtful gifts I've received (or would like to receive) fall into these categories:


Your time is one of the best gifts you can give. Everybody has some kind of talent. Woodworking, sewing, photography, crocheting, graphic design, baking- whatever your specialty is, share it with others. One of the best gifts I've received was a huge basket filled with eight different kinds of homemade cookies. Ok, so maybe that one wasn't the most useful, but it was delicious. If you truly don't have the time, you can buy something handmade from somebody else (just don't try to pass it off as your own!).

Consumable (Gift Cards):

I really love the whole idea of consumable gifts (which usually come in the form of gift cards). Consumable gifts are usually frowned upon because they can't be wrapped and there is nothing physical to show for them once they are used. I see this as a good thing though! Let's face it, most of us have enough "stuff" already. Especially kids! Is anybody reading this really thinking about how they need more knick-knacks or that their kids could use a few more loud annoying plastic toys? I didn't think so! Some of the best gifts can't be put into a box and wrapped! The memories of consumable gifts will be there long after toys have been thrown in the trash and forgotten about. Consumable gifts are also great for the environment because nothing ends up in a landfill. Some great consumable gift ideas are: tickets/memberships to a museum, zoo, aquarium, sporting event, theatre or ballet. If you live too far away from places like these, you can still buy passes for fun things like mini golf, batting cages, arcades, ice skating, bowling, restaurant or movie theater. If  the gift is for a niece, nephew or grandchild, you can be part of the present by taking them to do one of these things.

Some people consider gift cards to be impersonal (and they mean one less gift to be opened), but I think they are awesome gifts as long as it's to a place that the recipient likes. Many people are struggling financially and have had to cut back on dining and entertainment, so a restaurant or movie theater gift card would be a real treat! Just make sure the gift card is for enough to cover the meal or movie.

Gift Baskets:

I really love the idea of personalized gift bags or baskets. They show that you know the person's interests, and the bag or basket can be reused. For the coffee lover, put a bag of coffee (or box of k-cups), and a mug into a basket or resuable bag. You can also add a mug cozy and a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. For the wine enthusiast, buy a bottle or two of wine, a corkscrew and a couple of glasses. You can even put them in a wine tote.

I've done themed baskets before, too. One time I made "breakfast in a basket" gifts. I put homemade pancake mix into a jar and printed the pancake recipe on some decorative paper. I also included a bottle of high-end real maple syrup, a mug, tea bags, hot chocolate packets, a piece of fruit, and a small loaf of homemade banana bread. Another year, I did an apple theme with homemade canned applesauce and apple butter, a loaf of apple butter bread made from scratch, and some apples. I've also made cookie/candy baskets with a variety of homemade cookies and candies. All of these baskets took a great deal of time to put together, but they were not expensive.

Christmas Decor:

If you are really stumped about what to get somebody, you can't go wrong with Christmas Decorations! I just took a gaze around my living room and the majority of our Christmas decor have come to us as gifts. Our Christmas tree skirt was crocheted by my grandma who passed away 18 years ago. The decorations become weaved into their traditions; how awesome to be a part of that! You could even make your own tradition of giving ornaments and decorations each year.

I hope this has given a new perspective about gift-giving and given you lots of ideas for gifts that will be loved and appreciated!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homeschool Paint Activity

I got this neat and fun idea from the Little Hands to Heaven book. It's a simple, fun way to teach the Creation story to young children. You probably already have the supplies!

White paper
White crayons
Black paint (watercolor works best, but poster paint can be watered down)
Paint brushes
Posterboard (or something to protect the painting surface)
Aprons or smocks (which you notice my kids aren't wearing- learn from my mistake)
Container of water for rinsing brushes
Paper towels or cloths to blot brushes and clean messes.


Let your kids draw on the paper. I let mine write/draw whatever they wanted, and I made a drawing that corresponded with the lesson (sky, trees, land, people, ocean animals). If your little ones get frustrated because they can't see their drawing, reassure them that it's all part of a special surprise.

Have them paint over their illustrations with black paint (the thinner, the better). As the images they drew emerge from the black paint, you can explain to them how the earth came forth out of the darkness.

One fun variation is for you to write words or draw pictures on the paper and have your kids paint over it to reveal your secret message. They can use other paint colors (though yellow probably wouldn't contrast enough).

Have fun exploring different variations!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Packaging Your Etsy Items to Increase Customer Loyalty

People shop on Etsy because they value unique, handmade items. Most likely your customer could have bought a similar version of your item for cheaper at Walmart. Remind your customers why they chose your shop and show them that you care about their business by putting some personal touches into your packaging. Just a little extra time and money can really show your customer how much you appreciate them.

First, make sure your item is properly packaged so your item will arrive without damage. Second, make your packaging beautiful. I use tissue paper and ribbon, and include a hand-written Thank You note. It's not complicated or expensive, but it reminds the shopper that their item was handmade with care. It gives your customer the personalized experience they expect when they buy handmade.

I use special wrapping for holidays: cellophane wrap with hearts for Valentine's Day, and wrapping paper for Christmas and birthdays. I also include cards for the holidays. The pennies these extra supplies cost can go a long way toward increasing customer loyalty.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Etsy Sellers: Don't Overlook Your Most Valuable Marketing Tool!

I'm talking about your kids! If you are a seller of kids clothing, your kids can be a great marketing asset! Dress your kids in your shop's clothing line every time you go out in public, and make sure you have business cards on hand. You just might earn some new customers while doing your regular errands.

I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but if you're like me, you are so busy filling orders that you don't make anything for your own kids. Carve out time to make outfits for your own kids well in advance of any holidays.

You can also get your friends and family in on the action! Give them garments from your clothing line for birthday and Christmas presents. You don't have to be the pushy salesperson everybody hates to be around, but if somebody asks if you sell the clothing you make, it's not rude to give them your business card.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Creative (and Free!) Marketing Ideas

I've already talked about one free way to promote your business. If you are a small business with a tight budget, bartering (especially with other small businesses) is an excellent way to gain exposure.

You can barter items for professional photography. Professional photos of your clothing with models of different ages can help sell your items. The photographer gets free items for her kids and exposure for her business, and you get beautiful, professional pictures of her items.

If you sell accessories that would make good photography props (tutus, diaper covers, baby hats or cocoons), make a deal with photographers. You can supply them with some photo props in exchange for professional photos of your items. You would also be promoting their photography business when you put their pics in your listings, and they can keep a stack of your business cards on hand in case any of their clients want to purchase your cute accessories.

Business card/Promotional Materials Swap- You can swap promotional materials with other businesses who sell different items to your desired market to include in customer packaging. For example, if you sell children's clothing, you could swap with somebody who sells children's shoes, decor or toys.

Blogging- If you have a blog, you can swap blog features with another shop. There are lots of bloggers who are looking for people/shops to write about.

Giveaways- I don't recommend participating in online giveaways, but sponsoring giveaways at fundraisers or events is a great way to gain exposure. Just make sure the event will be attended by people in your target market.

Teams- Etsy has teams that work together to promote each other. I've posted before about EtsyKids. You can see more Etsy Teams here.

I hope these are helpful! Let me know if you have any other free marketing ideas!

Friday, August 10, 2012

No, I'm Not 14 Months Pregnant

I'm sure you all know that I had my baby. I've been so busy taking care of all his needs, plus my other two kids, the house, my shop and EtsyKids that I haven't been able to blog. It would be weird though to come back after 4.5 months of blog silence and not give the details though, so here it is.

Jacob August was born on March 24, 2012 (my 31st Birthday) at 9:21 A.M. He weighed 10 pounds and was 21.75 inches long. His birth didn't go exactly as planned, but I'm happy with it. You'd think by baby #3 I'd have a good idea of how progressed my labor was, but when I felt like I had a few more hours to go, I was actually 20 minutes away from having a baby in my bathroom. Oops!

He is now 4.5 months old and is finally letting me put him down, so I hope to be able to spend more time sewing and blogging. I actually have plans to launch a new product soon!