Monday, April 14, 2014

DC Cherry Blossoms and the MLK Memorial

On Saturday we decided to brave the crowds and take in the beautiful cherry blossoms that were blooming along Tidal Basin in DC. We had not been down that way for the blooms in a couple of years, and since the weekend had brought with it such beautiful weather, it seemed like a fun enough way to spend a leisurely afternoon.

The blooms were beautiful as they are each year, and walking amongst these old trees makes you feel as though you're in a winter wonderland of petals instead of snow. It's hard not to sigh a few times here and there as you take in the beauty.

At the end of our walk around Tidal Basin we paused for a bit to take in the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial. We had not had a chance to visit the relatively new memorial since it was installed.

While reading some of his most famous quotes, that had been engraved on the memorial, I thought of how powerful his words are still today. So many of the quotes deal with us understanding each other and placing the importance of all of humanity above anything else. And here we were, amongst the beautiful cherry blossoms with thousands of others from all over the world, and at that moment none of the strife, or conflict, or inequality that exists in the world mattered. We were all there together just to take in beauty-- and there was nothing complicated about that.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Oregon Ridge Park

Yesterday morning, The Beast died. The Beast, also known as my printer, was four years old and had finally decided that it had fulfilled its duty after printing thousands of cards and stationery sets in that time period. This left me at a standstill yesterday until my new printer would arrive. The weather was gorgeous, and so I decided that it only made sense that I spent my new found extra time outdoors.

I decided to make a quick 20 minute drive just north of Baltimore to Oregon Ridge Park. We first went to Oregon Ridge for the Hot August Blues Festival a few years back, and subsequently found out that there are plenty of trails to hike there as well. It's a nice place to head to in the Baltimore area if you want some decent hiking without having to drive about an hour away.

Oregon Ridge was full of sunshine, but at first felt disappointingly dead to me. The brown colors and crunchy leaves under my feet made me feel as if it were November. And then slowly, but surely, I began to find peeks of green amidst the brown. Spring may have arrived later than it usually does, but it certainly was making itself visible in a small way.

What I had hoped would be an hour hike, turned into a two hour, 3.68 mile hike throughout the park. My hike was followed by a stop at the coffee shop for an iced coffee and some reading. While my day began with a stressful event, it ended with time off that I realized had been greatly needed. And this morning, I have felt newly energized and recharged.

Has your spring finally arrived? Have you had some time off to spend outdoors lately?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Richmond Weekend Wrap-Up

We spent this past weekend in Richmond, Virginia as I was participating in the Richmond Craft Mafia's Spring Bada-Bing. You may remember from back in December, that we were in Richmond for a day for their Handmade Holiday. We had previously never been to Richmond before our one day in and out in December, so this time we decided to stay for an overnight and do a little exploring on Sunday before heading back to Baltimore.

The show itself on Saturday was held at the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which meant that we were able to enjoy the fabulous smells and tastes of their craft brews. My booth was set up directly next to one of the many large fermenters. Oak barrels line the walls, and two bars were open for customers and vendors alike to enjoy in a few libations. The show went exceedingly well (I feel a lot of love from Richmond in the last several months!) and the general atmosphere was something that left me feeling incredibly happy to be doing what I do.
I was also able to briefly meet Karl of Blackbird Tees. He and his girlfriend Jody create the best screen printed tees and and other such textiles. I have to admit, I truly look up to them in terms of the way they carry their handmade business as a lifestyle, so it was awesome to finally meet! Not to mention, I was able to snag one of their Share the Road tees for Andrew, the semi-avid cyclist, who may now have about one of their shirts in one form or another for every day of the week.

After a successful day at Hardywood, we stopped at Legend Brewing to enjoy a pint and some outdoor time in the beautiful weather. We noticed in December that Legend has a fabulous patio that overlooks the river and the city, and so we decided to test it out this time around. After a quick pint, we headed downtown to the Capital Ale House for dinner and more brews. The food was delicious and the selection of local beer on tap was the highlight for us. The weekend was definitely a good one for us craft beer lovers!

We stayed overnight at an apartment we had found through AirBnB, and then spent a lazy Sunday morning at Lamplighter, an amazing coffeehouse nearby. If you ever find yourself in Richmond, do yourself a favor and get your morning coffee and breakfast there. You won't regret it!

After fueling up on coffee and food, we spent some time exploring the Historic Fan District, which is filled with beautiful homes and architecture. Lastly, we spent the early afternoon meandering through Carytown, popping into a few boutiques and browsing through records at a local record store before heading back up 95 to Baltimore.

This weekend was incredibly exhausting, but it a good way. And now that Wednesday has arrived, I'm finally feeling reenergized and ready for another adventure. 

Did you do anything fun this past weekend? Do you have any adventures planned for the near future?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mother's Day Cards

2014 Mother's Day cards have arrived! I listed them in the shop a while ago, and posted a few here and there on Instagram, but I wanted to make it official. These are some of my favorite cards to date. I picked up some new pens to draw with and they have been absolutely inspiring to work with. It took me a while to come up with the concepts for this line of cards, but once I started drawing, the ideas began flowing.

I love these five cards because the designs are bright and bold, but the concepts in the cards themselves are incredibly easy to relate to-- they're jam packed with plenty of truth, you know?

Don't forget! Mother's Day is May 11th! Which is your favorite of these new cards?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Renewing Expired Listings on Etsy

A few weeks ago, I posed this question on twitter:

I was in the midst of cleaning up my shop, and realized that a) I had grown emotionally attached to designs that just weren't making it big and b) I was spending a lot of money renewing these items and it didn't seem to make sense to do so anymore.

My questions led to a lot of response from many Etsy sellers in my handmade community-- a very mixed response. Some suggested that I keep renewing until I sold the card. Some said I needed to let go and just let it expire. And others felt that I should keep renewing items simply to have more outlets for customers to enter my shop-- in other words, that I should think of it as advertising.

As I work toward streamlining and making my business stronger, renewing items on Etsy is a legitimate concern. I realized that I had no system in place in terms of keeping track of how many times a card was selling and how many times I was renewing a card with or without sales in between. For me, not having a system to keep track of these things seemed like a possible source of losing income and spending money that didn't need to be spent.

Selling a card for $4 when I had renewed it 5 times, suddenly meant that I had already cut $1 off from the price of the sale. For this reason, it just doesn't seem to make sense to keep renewing cards for sale if they don't sell. Additionally, I don't know that I could justify renewing a card's listing simply from a traffic standpoint when there are other ways that you can advertise that are much more cost effective.

That meant only one thing-- I would have to let go. While there are some cards that I love, they just might not be popular or they may never sell. And it simply doesn't seem to be good business practice to spend money simply because a design is near and dear to my heart. In turn, I've been starting to develop ways of keeping track of these things, and I've set limits for myself. If I've renewed a card a couple times and it just hasn't taken off, or it has never sold, it has to go.

In addition, focusing on the more popular designs has helped me to get a better idea of what sorts of inventory I should take with me to craft fairs. It has also sparked my creativity in terms of building a focus for new designs. I spend more time thinking about which ideas are truly great ideas. I'm less quick to make a card with just any old thing that pops into my head. And to honest, it's been freeing! I see the number of available designs in my shop dwindle, but at the same time, I know that what I am producing is truly something I am proud of and am completely satisfied with sharing with others.

I'm learning. Slowly, but surely, I'm figuring out this whole running a business thing. I still have a lot to soak up, but at least I'm making small steps of progress here and there.

What do you think? How do you decide whether or not to renew expired listings? Do you have a way to keep track of these statistics for your inventory? I'd love to hear your point of view!

Monday, March 31, 2014

5 Reasons Why Not to Wear Yoga Pants

Unless your job requires you to dress professionally, you are probably sitting there reading this blog post while sporting a stretchy, oh so comfy, pair of yoga pants that have seen better days. Let's be honest-- I don't blame you. Those things are probably the comfiest damn things on the face of the earth.

However, after wearing yoga pants most days for a couple of months into self-employment, I realized that it needed to end. Wearing yoga pants was quite possibly one of the worst things that I could be doing for myself, and I needed to break the habit. If you think I've totally lost my mind at this point, I'll convince you otherwise.

1. You shower. Think about it. How many times do you crawl out of bed, throw on some yoga pants, and then stumble to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, never to change out of those yoga pants for the rest of the day? Yup. That was me. And quite honestly, after a while I just started to feel dirty if I still hadn't taken a shower by late afternoon.

2. You feel better about yourself. If you've showered, taken the time to put on a nice outfit, and have accomplished this by 9am, then that's a win. You will feel 200% better about yourself. You won't feel like a slob. You'll feel put together and most likely have a better body image of yourself, which only leads to a better outlook for the rest of your day. It's a confidence booster.

3. You become more productive. Getting out of those yoga pants and into a nice outfit will make you feel like you're on a mission. If you can accomplish that, I guarantee you'll start your day with more motivation to accomplish your goals for the rest of the day. I have noticed that on days that I don't shower and put on real clothes by 9am, my entire day slowly becomes a complete waste. I often like to throw on a cute pair of shoes in addition to getting nicely dressed. Cute shoes always up the ante.

4. They're an incentive to work out. If you're like me, you love fashionable workout clothes just as much as any other type of clothes. Choosing a few pairs of yoga pants that you really love can be an added incentive to be active and sweat it out. If you work out, then you get to wear your yoga pants. Use them as an incentive to be active, not to lounge around the house.

5. You have more reason to shop for cute clothes. What's the point of shopping or buying fashionable items when you never wear them? Not wearing yoga pants all day makes me more excited about what I can do with my day to day wardrobe. I love being able to dress for my mood. For example, if I'm feeling like a rock star businesswoman that day, I choose a blazer and pumps. And, knowing that I'll actually be wearing the clothes I purchase makes it easier for me to justify buying them.

I've stuck my guns with the No Yoga Pants rule for a few months now and it's a game changer. Of course I indulge on the weekends and have at least one lazy day because we all deserve that. However, I've jumped ship on the yoga pants during the week. Have I convinced you yet? Are you guilty of wearing yoga pants non-stop?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Homemade Dog Biscuits

This past Sunday was Lilah's fifth birthday. While she is starting to grey a little in the chin, when most people ask us how old she is, they are shocked to find out that she's not one or two years of age. We've been told by many of our friends that she has mellowed out considerably in these five years, but she truly is one of the happiest dogs I've ever met and just doesn't slow down.

Andrew and I usually give Lilah something special for her birthday, so this year we decided to make her some biscuits. They were quick and simple to make and boy does she love them! Between her high level of energy and the fact that she snarfed her biscuit down so quickly, I gave up all hope of capturing a photo of her for this blog post. After glancing at several recipes, I decided that I could have a go at making my own concoction that would please Lilah based on some of her very favorite things. This recipe includes simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, and is fairly healthy. Lilah will eat just about anything and can put on a few extra pounds quite quickly if we're not too careful, so I kept that in mind. In addition, we've still only been giving her one biscuit about every other day so as not to overdo it.

Homemade Dog Biscuits

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (please make sure it is low sodium! too much salt is not good!)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 mashed banana

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix flour, oats, and baking powder. Stir in the broth, peanut butter, and banana until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball on a floured counter. Kneed the dough for about 30 seconds to make the dough smooth. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about a third of an inch thickness. Use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter to cut biscuits and place the biscuits on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until the biscuits are crunchy.

And from one dog family to another, we hope that your pups enjoy these biscuits as much as Lilah does!

Do you celebrate your dog's birthday? Have you made dog biscuits before? I'd love to hear about your recipes!
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