Friday, January 20, 2012

Camera Giveaway: Canon 5D MKII or Nikon D700 (you choose!)

This is an awesome giveaway, and it's really easy to enter - just give your name and email address. If you want additional entries, you can share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. and like MCP Actions' Facebook page, like the blog post, or +1 it. No need to leave separate comments for each share or like; the site will give you a custom URL to use, which takes all the work out of counting your entries. Here are the full details on MCP Actions' blog.

In addition to the entries you get for shares and likes, you also get one entry for each person who clicks on your link, and 5 entries if they enter too. So please click the link even if you aren't interested in winning, though you may change your mind when you see how simple it is to enter. :) They are also giving away a $100 Amazon gift card.

Good luck!

Update: If the link doesn't work, it probably means there's too much traffic. Just try again later.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pinterest Love

Are you a visual person? Do you wish you could easily save all your inspiration photos and links in one place? Check out Pinterest! You can create collections (pinboards) about anything - photography, products, recipes, wedding ideas, you name it. Think of it like an Etsy treasury, only you can select things from anywhere on the internet. Here's a collection I'm working on right now, Christmas craft ideas:

 I've known about Pinterest for a long time now, but only joined recently. I don't know why, but when I heard people talk about it, I thought it was something completely different. I'm so mad at myself because this really would've simplified things! I have so many bookmarks (they're categorized but it's still overwhelming to see a giant list of text), plus a pictures folder called "Inspiration" with tons of subfolders (food, party planning, fashion, crafts, etc.). It's a lot easier to browse through the photos, but still not totally convenient when you have to select a category first, then scroll to see everything in the folder. And I've always hated that I can't go back to the website later if I want to, because I never remember where I got the picture. It'd be nice to add some kind of personal note too.

Pinterest eliminates all those problems. When you view your page, you will see an overview of all your pinboards, each made up of tiny thumbnails. When you pin something, it saves the original URL and also links back to the Pinterest member you got it from (if applicable). You can add a description too. Best of all, you can get even more ideas by browsing others' pins. You can view your friends', or search the whole site. My only complaints are that you can't rearrange your pins to be more aesthetically pleasing and that you can't make some boards private.

If this sounds like your kind of thing, join the fun! Follow me and I'll follow you back. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

Monday, October 31, 2011

DIY Halloween Decorations

I lost track of time this year and was going to put up my Halloween decorations this weekend, but then we got hit with a snowstorm. So instead I'll show you pictures of last year's decorations. We had a very low budget, so most things were handmade. The rest came from the supermarket or the Dollar Store. As usual, click on the pictures to view them full size.

We carved our pumpkins with a simple kit from the supermarket. It came with stencils, but you can find a lot of free templates online too. My husband chose a bird with spooky branches, and I picked a witch stencil. Now that we've had some practice, we hope to get fancier next year and try shading. We used glowsticks or battery-operated tealights for light - much safer than real candles.

We put cobwebs all over the deck out front (see first picture), and I made a ghost out of a garbage bag to hang from a tree. I put a tombstone underneath him, made out of an old cereal box and acrylic paints (I made a triangle out of leftover cardboard and glued it to the back to hold the tombstone up, and put rocks on it to weigh it down). I also turned the front windows into eyes, to make it look like the house was watching you.

Ghost made from a trash bag, cotton stuffing, and a rubber band. Face (not visible here) drawn with sharpie.
Cereal box tombstone
Eyes made from posterboard. Measured, sketched, then cut out.

Inside, I drew a sign for the door, and put up some construction paper bats. I used the leftover paper to make festive magnets. I also made candle holders out of vellum and drew or traced designs with a sharpie (you can also make candle holders by cutting shapes out of brown lunch bags, or by drawing shapes on white ones). Then I put fake branches in vases and strung up pumpkin lights.

Some drawn, some traced, using clipart for inspiration and markers.
Easy to make! Fold paper in half, draw outline, cut
Paper magnets. If I'd had more time, I would've used Shrinky Dinks
Display by the front door
Vellum witch candle holder
Everything lit up at night
Another vellum candle holder
Luna says Happy Halloween! :)
I hope this post is helpful to anyone who thinks they can't afford to decorate. A lot of these decorations were done with existing household items; I hardly bought anything new. Most of them can be done with kids, too. If you want more detailed instructions for any of these projects, let me know. You can also find more inspiration and tutorials online.

I know some people go all out with their decorations, turning their home into a haunted house, but I'm proud of what I accomplished with limited resources. This was our first time handing out candy and decorating (previously lived in an apartment building), so we can always step it up next year...provided it doesn't snow again.

What are all of you doing for Halloween? Any creative decorations, treats, or costumes?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 25th Birthday

I'm back! And slowly trying to catch up on everything I want to accomplish with this blog and my Etsy shop.

As I said in my last post, I've been busy with other hobbies and projects. One of them was planning my 25th birthday party. I've always wanted to have a really put-together, Martha-Stewart-like party (who am I kidding? I wish all my parties were like that!). I love coming up with themes and color schemes, choosing coordinated foods and decorations, and thinking of every detail. Maybe I'll consider a career as a party planner in the future.

I figured 25 is enough of a milestone to justify a big bash, though I didn't want to get too ambitious, since it was my first time hosting such an event. I wanted to keep it casual and comfortable, too. If it were a more formal event, I would've sent invitations, as I had so much fun making the invitations for our wedding (I also made our wedding favors). Eventually I'd like to get into floral arranging so I can make centerpieces too.

I'm happy to report that my first event was a success! The decorations came out perfect - exactly as I imagined them, the food was delicious, and everyone had fun. What more could you want out of a party?

Here are some pictures:

(To view the full size pic, right click and select "view image")

DIY sign, very easy to make! Tell me if you want instructions.
L to R: napkins, silverware, plates, veggies & dip, chips & dip
L to R: chips & dip, potato salad, empanadas, coleslaw, & burger toppings
Here's a hint about the theme. :)
I pretty much love anything lemon.
Lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, topped with lemon candies
L to R: coleslaw, burger toppings, lemon ricotta cookies, lemon cupcakes
Drinks table and bar. The wine glasses have different patterns.
 Homemade lemonade
Other drinks
Festive wine glasses
Another view of the bar
Polka dot napkins
Blowing out the candles
Lemon wedge jello shots
I love my friends! Even the gift wrapping matched the party. :)
My niece enjoyed all the tissue paper. Isn't she cute?

And finally, the birthday girl - me!

Hope all of you had memorable summers too!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm still here!

Just a quick post to say that I haven't abandoned my blog (or my Etsy shop). I will have real updates again soon. I've just been focusing on other things, like bird watching, enjoying the weather/outdoors (or huddling in front of the AC when it's 90 degrees), and spending time with my family. My mom has been in and out of the hospital lately, and my uncle visited from Louisiana. My husband and I also celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary (and 7 years together total).

One of the complaints I hear most often from new Etsy sellers is that they are overwhelmed trying to run and promote their shop. Not only do you have to design products, create them, photograph them, measure & weigh them, and type up descriptions...then there's all the work you have to do to get your shop noticed if you want any hope of making a sale one day. There's SEO keywords, Etsy teams, treasuries, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. You have to be active in so many different communities and websites. I know sometimes I feel like I spend more time promoting my shop than I do making jewelry. Promoting an Etsy shop could easily be a full time job all on its own. I admire anyone who works outside the home and still finds the time and energy to run a successful Etsy shop (especially if they have kids too).

Is all the work worth it? The short answer is yes. This is my second time around selling on Etsy and I had more views and sales within a few weeks than I had in months last time because I knew nothing about networking then. But you need to have a life outside of Etsy too. I'm sure all of us started making stuff because it was fun, and it should still be fun now. If it's causing you too much stress, then it's time to take a step back. Either do what you've been doing less often, or take a break completely. I justify it to myself by realizing that even when I go crazy promoting my shop, I'm not guaranteed a sale, so I'm not necessarily losing out on anything if I don't do that stuff for a while.

When I do start again, it always helps me to have a list. It's best if you focus on one thing at a time, and set some limits for yourself. I'll talk about that in more detail another time, though, so I can share more specific tips. I admit that I still haven't found a good balance for everything -- I feel like I'm either doing all Etsy stuff or nothing at all (hence my absence here) -- but I'm working on it. If I figure out the secret, I'll let you know!