Before and After - Ollie's Saloon

 Last week I went to Goodwill intending to buy a few pieces for my display for a craft fair I am in this Saturday (more about that later in the week). When I was there, I glanced in the furniture room (I couldn’t help it) and saw a possible perfect piece of furniture.

It was a bar that someone had crafted from a basic cabinet. I didn’t need a bar, but I needed a cabinet to house my jewelry, makeup, etc and it was only $45….so, I bought it, sanded it, and painted it.

The doors of the cabinet had at one time been fitted with circular holders – probably meant for glasses. And, the top had been made to pop up and a faux marble shelf was built into the top section – probably meant for making drinks.

When you raise the top up, there is a mirrored sign that reads “Ollie’s Saloon.” My original thought was to take that sign out and completely paint the inside white, but as I was sanding the piece, I changed my mind.

(This is where I get crazily attached to material things.)

I started to think about Ollie. Who was he? Why did he make this bar? Was he an older man who made this when he retired and then invited his friends over and proudly fixed them a drink? Then, I started to imagine him making drinks at a Christmas party, showing everyone the bar he made.

Where is he now? Is he dead?  Why is his precious bar at Goodwill?

Basically, I became attached to Ollie and could not take down the sign. (I hope he wasn’t an asshole or my whole sentiment is ruined.) I left the sign and didn’t paint the inside of the lid because I was on a time crunch and because I ran out of sand paper.

Eventually I want to sand and paint around the "Ollie’s Saloon" sign. I also want to fit in a fabric lined shelf over the faux marble one.

I am not crazy about the knobs with the paint color, but I had them on hand (I buy clearance knobs at Anthropologie all the time) and they are better than the ones that came with the piece, so they will do for now. In the next few weeks, it will improve.

I ended up painting the inside white and the outside pale green (also known as sea foam, sea green, pistachio, you get the idea).  I love this piece of furniture. And I love the Ollie I created in my imagination.

Before - brown and drab

After - pale green and soothing

The glass holders that were built into the doors.


The inside was painted white and I am using the former glass holders to hold hair accessories and large necklaces.

 The handles that I am not crazy about...they're ok, I just think I would like two in a darker color.
 Pictures on top.
 The faux marble shelf that will eventually be changed to a fabric lined shelf.  I mentioned to my husband that I could make a padded shelf and then this would one day make a fantastic changing table for a baby....he ignored me!
Ollie's Saloon - This is staying.  Babies love mirrors....

Article on Meylah and The Hills Final Season

Hey all my fellow Etsy sellers, I wrote an article for MeylahMeylah is a fantastic website dedicated to helping creative business owners build a successful business online and beyond!

Check out my article: 5 Tips for Achieving Success on a Small Budget

Enjoy!


Also, the final season of The Hills starts tomorrow.  Should we care?


Ok, ok, I'll probably watch.  I cannot help myself!

Anniversaries

Tomorrow is my two year wedding anniversary and today is the one year anniversary of when I took home my puppy, Finn.  {Finn was my anniversary present last year.}  I had been begging and begging my husband to get another dog, and he finally agreed to get one as an anniversary present.  So, on April 25, 2009, we went out looking at my hubby fell in looooooove with a little blonde collie/golden retriever mix. 

Who knew collie/golden mixes were so crazy and high energy?  I definitely did not know this.  Finn is crazy and high energy but also the sweetest boy and super smart.

The day we brought Finn home (the other dog is my princess, Gordita).

That sweet little baby turned into this handsome (and wild) 65 pound boy!

Cows and Earth Day

Lat summer I was in Ireland (my husband is Irish and we go back to visit his family every year) and the home of one of my husband's best friends.  This particular friend has a house built on land owned by his father in law and all the in-laws live on the block!  (Can you imagine...I know land is expensive in Ireland, but, well, never mind....)

I was looking out a huge window into a big huge field and saw about 50-75 cows grazing.  I said "Oh! You have cows?" and  my husband's friend responded "No, my father in law rents out his land to a local farmer.  The farmer keeps his cows here and they rotate them from field to field."

I was impressed.  "Beef that is raised free range and grass fed?  That's awesome!"

Our Irish friend looked at me in shock, "How else is beef raised?"


Oh America, such a lovely country with a screwed up food system. 

Since it's Earth Day, and I don't want to get too preachy, I am simply going to recommend the author Michael Pollan.  If you are an Oprah watcher, he has been on her show (and this is how I first heard of him). 

He has written books on food. How we produce it and consume it in the United States and why we are pretty much all screwed up.

So, if you want to know what you can do and how your family can make a difference, then read these books. They are interesting and insightful and they might make you think twice about why we grow our beef (and everything else) the way we do.  (If you aren't really interested in heavy reading, then at least read Food Rules. It was made for the lazy person that exists in us all.)

An Interview with Aught {a new Etsy vintage shop}

Last week, I decided to run a series of interviews with other Etsy sellers. Often Sometimes I feel like I know everything, but I don’t and I assume you all don’t either. Everyone has a unique experience or idea that we can all learn from to better our businesses. In addition to gaining advice from fellow Etsy sellers, I also wanted to feature newish sellers with less than 30 sales. If I have learned anything these past five months is that one thing all Esty sellers can use is promotion!



I found Aught on Etsy and loved everything in her shop. Aught is a vintage shop with feminine and unique pieces that are reasonably priced and beautifully photographed. Aught’s owner has been a pleasure to work with and has graciously shared with me (and all of you!) some tips. I am extremely intrigued by #10, her photography tips. Seriously, I would love for my photos to look like hers and I am definitely going to take her tips to heart.

1. Q. Why did you start selling on Etsy?
    A. I picked Etsy because it's the best. None of the other online market places compare, IMHO.

2. Q. Do you sell anywhere else (on or off line)?
    A. No. Etsy is my one and only, for the time being.

3. Q. Do you have long term plans for your shop and business, or do you just kind of play it by ear?
    A. Well, my short term plans are to learn all the ins and outs of online marketing. Etsy is a wonderful          platform for learning, experimenting and finding out what works for you. Once I have Aught running smoothly, with steady traffic and sales, I'll know I'm ready to expand into other areas.


4. Q. What do you think is the best way to market your shop, both on and off line?
    A. I'm really too new to this to be qualified to answer this question, but I will say, doing nothing gets you nothing. My first attempt at promoting has been to sign up for a advertising campaign at Wall of Jewels. I'm excited to see what it leads to. As far as offline promoting goes, I've made sure to let all my friends and family know about my shop, and encourage them to spread the word.

5. Q. Are you solely an Etsy seller, or do you also buy? If you buy, what elements of other shops appeal to  you?
    A. I have made one purchase, and am planning on making many, many, many, many, many more. I love shops with bright, eye catching photos, and a good variety of items to choose from.

6. Q. Do you have a desire to quit your “day job” and make a full time living off your Etsy shop {I know I  do!}? If so, what do you think is necessary for you to achieve that goal?
    A. Being a stay at home mom, I am lucky enough not to have to work a 9 to 5. I do plan on building my business to the point of making a living from it. I love staying home, and I don't plan on ever going back to the grind again. In this day and age, there is no reason why one can't make a living doing what they love. I am baby stepping my way in that direction.


7. Q. Where do you find inspiration for the items you create or renew?
    A. Every piece in my shop is something I would love to wear myself or have in my home. When I'm out picking and I find a piece that makes me drool a little bit, I know I've found something worthy of going into my shop.

8. Q. Do you have any tips or ideas for successful selling that are out of the ordinary, meaning we all know we must provide quality products and good photos, but what else??
    A. Sell what you love and you'll sell it well. (Although at times you might get separation anxiety.)


9. Q. What have you learned in your short time of selling on Etsy that you wish you would have known the first day?
    A. When cancelling a sale due to nonpayment, make sure to relist before you submit it. It just disappears! I thought for sure it would go into the inactive listings. Oh well, lesson learned.

10. Q. The photographs in your fine art photography shop are fantastic. I know that many Etsy sellers {myself included} struggle with taking photos that are “Etsy front page” worthy. What do you feel is the most important thing amateur photographers should focus on to take amazing photos?
      A. Are you suggesting that my photos are "Etsy front page" worthy?! I think that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you! Like anything else, there are a lot of little steps to take to end up with a great photograph. All are equally important.

The back drop is key to displaying your item to its best advantage. Finding a set up that works well with all your items is even more challenging, but so important if you want your shop to have a cohesive look. This also happens to be the first step in branding yourself, so you see, two birds with one stone. My background is an old jewelry chest I found at a garage sale, and my kitchen cabinets. (Yes, I painted them blue, and they rock.) Nothing fancy, but it seems to work.

Keep the camera steady. I found a tripod to be too confining, so I use books to rest my camera on when taking pics.

Don't be afraid of photo editing software. I use the tools built into windows photo gallery, and they serve me well when fine tuning a good picture.   Be creative, experiment and have fun with it. Photography is an art form, treat it as such.

Just Don't....

I am aware that this post is a little random, but....

I have a gripe (or two or three). 

If you are at work (and you do not work in a puppy salon) please do not utilize Microsoft Outlook's fancy schmancy background of paw prints as your email background.   Now that I think about it, stripes are bad too, as are polka dots.   For one, it makes the email hard to read.  Two, it just irritates me.

Fancy font also irritates me.  So just.stop.it.

And writing in ALL CAPS IS REALLY ANNOYING!  Isn't it?  Please stop that as well.

I don't need to see this at work.  (Yes, I am serious.  People I work with do this.  And, they think it's "cute.")

Also, please refrain from sending Jesus themed forwards to your co-workers.  They might not all be on JC's team. (On that note, do not invite co-workers to church.  Again, I might not be on your side of the religious scale.)


No, I don't want to go to connect, belong, or grow at your church.


Lastly, if you make more money than me, you really need to know the difference between their, there, and they're and your and you're.

I so need Acute Designs to take off so that I can quit my job...

Acute Luxe

I have decided to introduce a new section to my shop called Acute Luxe.  The items in this section will be at a higher price point and will feature higher quality "ingredients."  Many vintage and antique items will be incorporated into these designs, as well as silk, lace, and feathers.

My first batch will be sold in a local salon and I hope to make more over the next few weeks and slowly add them to my shop.  If you are in the San Diego area, head to Belli Belli Salon in Crown Point to get one of these beauties.


Spring inspired, with a hint of luxury.  Check out my Etsy shop {Acute Designs} for more items like this.

Advertise on a Blog, Part Two

As noted earlier in the week, I decided to buy an ad on a popular blog to advertise my Etsy shop. The blog I am currently advertising on is called Down and Out Chic. I have been reading this blog for a few months and loving every post. The advertising rates are really reasonable (cheaper than Craftcult and Craftopolis) and the blog owner, Christina is super nice and helpful.

My ad has been up for a few days and I have noticed traffic trickling in from Down and Out Chic. It isn’t an overwhelming amount, but for the price, I feel that it is worth it. Currently, Down and Out Chic is running a sale of 10% off all ad rates and your ad stays up for a month. For this month of advertising, I only paid $36…I think that’s quite a good deal and I am happy to sponsor a blog that I love.

If you want to advertise or sponsor one of your favorite blogs, this is what I suggest doing:

-Make a list of 5-10 of your favorite blogs. Look for blogs that you read and feel are useful. Also, if they have a high number of followers and a lot of traffic, then they are extra desirable. Think about it, a blog with 30 followers won’t see as much traffic as a blog with a thousand followers and the idea is more traffic + more clicks on your shop = more possible sales.

-I put the blogs I was interested in, into Alexa and picked the three with the highest traffic ranking (number of followers is not the only indication of traffic).

-Once I decided which blogs I wanted to advertise with, I checked them out in detail to make sure they offer ad or sponsorship spots (some blogs don’t do this). Then, I sent the blog owner an email and asked about rates. One blog that I love and hope to sponsor in the future was a bit beyond my price range, but Down and Out Chic fit my budget and needs.

-I have the other blog rates saved and plan to advertise on them in the future.

-The bloggers often ask you to email them a button or banner (Craftopolis and Craftcult ask for this too). Each site will specify button size. I have read that these can be made on Photoshop, but I don’t have this program. So, I made mine on a super easy website called Banner Fans.  I am sure there are a million other sites.  If you know of one, please post it in the comments because banner Fans is easy and free, but I would like to check out other options.

That’s it! Overall it is an easy process of emailing back and forth. You will find that the blogs you love are run by friendly and helpful people who have a passion to support handmade and indie businesses.

Lemon and Arugula Pasta Salad

Ever since I had the genius idea of making a quinoa and arugula salad with the flavors of my favorite beef carpaccio dish, I have been obsessed. I quickly devoured the 5 servings of quinoa and arugula salad (in three days…) and wanted more.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me until last week to take the flavors of my favorite dish (minus the beef) and add them to every salad!

I used all of those ingredients and a few more to make a whole wheat pasta salad that is fresh, healthy, and perfect for the warm spring weather.

P.S. You might think eating raw beef is gross, but that is probably because you have never tried it. Trust me, it is to die for.  And this is coming from a former vegetarian!


Lemon and Arugula Pasta Salad (serves 4)
-1 1/2 cups dry rotini (or penne, macaroni, etc) whole wheat pasta
-1 cup grape tomatoes
-1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
-4 ounces fresh parmesan cheese, shaved
-juice from 3 lemons
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-a package of fresh arugula (or spinach)

1. Cook the pasta and allow it to cool.  Toss it with the olive oil and lemon juice so that it doesn't stick together while it cools.
2. Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, cheese, arugula, salt, and pepper.
3. Eat!  This makes a fantastic light lunch.

LC - More than just a reality star....

As readers of this blog know, I have a slight (read, huge) obsession with reality TV. I also am all about being budget friendly. Luckily, these two worlds have collided and Lauren Conrad’s (from the Hills) line for Kohl’s was born.

LC’s line has been out for a while and Kohl’s has recently released the Spring/Summer collection. I know what you are thinking, “LC has a clothing line because she was on a stupid reality show {True} and I am not buying her clothes just because she was on said reality show.”

Point taken. Don’t buy them because she is a reality TV star, buy them because they are ca-uute and budget friendly.

Last October, I bought the black strapless dress {with pockets!} and have worn it so many times.  It is really well made for a $29 dress and the cut is cute – not too short and tight in all the right places.

Own it. Love it.

After checking out Kohl’s, these are the newest items I dig, and will most likely buy. {Note - everything at Kohl’s ends up on sale; wait a week, go back, and it will be at least 30% off.}



This skirt is just so cute.  It's not even my style, but I am all about it.

I am slightly obsessed with this floral top.

 
I don't usually sport ruffles, but I am willing to give the trend a try in this top.
 
 
Srsly, I am loving this stuff.

Are you obsessed {literally, beyond} yet? 

This is New York City..........

This season of The Real Housewives of New York City might be a little bit sad, but it is miles better than the OC, so I cannot complain.

I haven’t been in the mood for full on recaps. They do feel a bit useless at times. Instead, I am going to just run down a few thoughts on all the ladies.

1. Ramona – She admits that she needs an IV of pinot grigio. It would have been funny, except it was so sad. That lady is a druuunk. (Which is fine. Aren’t we all? Just handle yourself. Gawd.) One glass and she will say anything she wants because “That’s who I am! I tell it like it is!”

Who told these ladies it was ok to tell anyone anything that is on their minds? It is rude. Ramona is rude and her eyes are out of control. And the sparkly cross jewelry? I cannot handle the WASP-iness. Please stop.
I thought my husband drank a lot of pinot grigio, and he does, (shut.up.) but Ramona really takes the cake. In good news, drunk Ramona makes for good TV, so I assume Bravo will keep her veins pumping with sweet, sweet, Cavit.

 Where is the pinot grigio?!

2. Kelly – Where to begin? Playboy…who cares. She really likes to discuss it and it has completely defined her this season. I would love to read the interview just to see what the reporter was able to pull from all her hair flipping and giggling. The best was when she admitted that she doesn’t read – no shit. At least she didn’t pull a Sarah Palin and pretend to be well read.

Other than the Playboy stuff, Kelly has been pretty tame. She is still an idiot. I think she might have a speech impediment or a brain impediment that slows down her speech, or something. I can’t quite figure it out.
My one beef with her (pun intended) is when she was asked if she was a vegetarian and her response was, “No! I am from the Midwest. Meat and Potatoes.”  I hate when people say this!

I am from the Midwest and I did not just eat meat and potatoes my whole life. She makes it sound like we all sit around in straw hats and burlap sacks sucking back bowls of Hormel. That might be the way her family does it, but not mine.

Just say “No, I eat meat.” Don’t throw in “Meat! Potatoes! Midwest! Yuuuuum!” I guess this is where her brain impediment holds her back.

I know it's just a bad picture, but can't you just see the brain impediment?

3. Lulu – Well, Mrs. Countess is now Ms. Countess and lives in the Hamptons. She is looking for a teeny tiny little place in Manhattan because she misses the social life she had there.  Lu has always been a woman that I dislike. I can just tell by her mannerisms and the way she speaks that I have worked for her in a past life and despised her the entire time. She is turrible. Just turrible.

I have tried to put my finger on what exactly it is about her that I dislike. This is what I have come up with:
  •  The way she brags about being Native American. I think Native Americans rock, but don’t use it to your advantage.
  • On the flip side, she pretends to be so European because she was betrothed to a European for several years. What are you Miss Lulu?! Whatever is “in” in the moment is what you are.
  • She thinks her use of scattered French words makes her sound classy. It does the exact opposite.
  • “Daaaahhhhling”
  • Anyone who has to talk about how polite and classy they are is just the opposite.
  • The way her eyes bulged in excitement when her daughter told her that her 14 year old friend think she is a MILF.
  • That scene from last season when she went to the boys and girls club of America and played basketball with the girls, then asked them what they wanted to be “Actor? Singer? Athlete?” Everything about that scene made me want to die. (I don’t remember if that’s exactly what happened, but it was basically that bad.)
So, just those few things are why I don’t like her.  (I have more, but you are probably already bored.)

4. Bethenny and Jill – (I am combining these two because they broke up.)

Here is my take on it….we all have (or maybe had) a friend that was the fun, single girl. One day, fun single girl gets a boyfriend. An actual boyfriend, not just some guy she stalks and labels as her boyfriend. When this happens, fun friend spends every waking moment with new boyfriend and has no time for any of her friends.
One day, fun single girl realizes that she doesn’t need to leave her old life in order to have the boyfriend and she attempts to call all those old friends again. A mature friend would happily start up the friendship again. An immature friend would do no such thing.

In fairness to Bethenny, her career also took off and I am sure she was really busy.

In fairness to Jill, it does suck when a good friend gets stuck up her new boyfriend’s ass. But, you realize that’s all it is and move on. You don’t freak out over one snarky voice mail (I am sure Bethenny has left snarkier voice mails…she’s just so snarky).

The thing about Bethenny not caring if Bobby has cancer is bull shit. Bethenny cares, she just didn’t lie in Jill’s bed all summer canoodling her so in Jill’s mind she doesn’t care.

I think Jill has a different idea of what should happen and in her “world,” all of the happenings of errybody should revolve around her.

I used to love JZ. Now, I kind of hate her. And, I used to love Bethenny, now I kind of hate her too.  And Lulu just lurves all of this. She is all about the gossip and listening in on Beth’s phone calls. During that scene, I could almost see her little devil horns popping out and her eyes swirling around in delight.

I am on neither team.

5. I nearly forgot about Alex. She is such an afterthought. Right now, she’s probably my favorite, but what is this new “day gay” all about? Did Simon and Alex put an ad on Craigslist or something?
               
“Wanted (Brooklyn, $250 a week!): One day gay to accompany us to parties and afternoon cocktails. Must dress like a hot mess. Must not mind creepy winks form husband, shopping for overpriced, young hip designer clothing, or pseudo-French children climbing up his legs.”

Srsly, they must have found that guy through a Craigslist ad…the same way they found each other. (True story!)

I love the NYC gals. They are so much less depressing than the OC women. What is it about the OC that is so depressing? (I don’t want to offend any OC readers, so I won’t go there, but you must admit, Bravo does not paint a pretty picture.)

In the words of Kelly Bensimon, “This is New York City. New.York.City.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Etsy Advertising Experiment - Blog Advertising

After two weeks of busy-ness, I am back and ready to delve further into my Etsy advertising experiment. Here is a little recap of what I have done:

1. I have submitted a million items to Craftgawker and have been denied each time. Per many of your comments, you have experienced the same with Craftgawker. And, I have heard from those who have been accepted say that it doesn’t drive much traffic to their site. For now, I am done wasting my time with Craftgawker.   I might try again in the future - no one likes rejection!

2. Craftopolis….great site to work with, everything as far as submitting my ad was seamless. The only down side is that they just don’t get as many visitors as Craftcult. Per my Google Analytics data, Craftopolis sent visitors than my Facebook Fanpage and that is free. I don’t think Craftopolis was a waste of money, just not a huge success.

3. Craftcult was a success. The amount of traffic to my Etsy shop increased and Crafcult was the number one source of traffic. Also, I got a sale during the time my ad was up. I am not sure if this was due to the ad, but I will take it! Craftcult was also very easy to work with and I am planning on buying a $15 week long ad from them this month.

4. Craigslist – Free, but a waste of time. This didn’t send one visitor to my shop.

What next? Well, I mentioned buying an ad on a popular blog and I am still leaning towards that. The great thing about Craftcult and Craftopolis is that they are user friendly and inexpensive, however I wonder if the audience is just other sellers?  I want to reach the next realm of potential customers, not just other Etsy sellers or people who are already hip to the handmade/indie products movement.

I know there are a lot of potential customers who would love my stuff, but their idea of shopping might be limited to the typical mall. SO, my challenge is to reach this group of customers. …and a widely read blog might be the answer. I will never be able to reach them all, and truthfully a lot of people would rather buy a $5 headband from Forever 21 than a $20 handmade one from me. But, if I can reach a slightly wider customer base, then the potential for more traffic and sales will increase.

Off to contact a few blogs….

I impressed myself...

with how handy I am! Seriously, I am shocked that Bob Vila hasn't offered me a job.

Here's the story -

A few months ago, I was walking my dogs.  It was night and I could see in a neighbor's house (I wasn't spying, they had their blinds open) and I noticed that they had shelves above their washer and dryer.   Really, I wasn't spying, I was waiting for my dog to pee and just started staring...it happens.

Anyway, their shelves got me thinking, "I need shelves above my washer and dryer. Genius!"

That weekend, I went to one of my favorite places, Ikea, and bought these simple, inexpensive shelves and hung them sans husband (no surprise here, Neil isn't much of a "work around the house" kind of guy). 

Simple, but I guess my walls aren't capable of holding them (or I don't know the proper way to hand things).

I was very proud of myself until a month later.... when I heard them fall.  Ahhhh!!!!  At that point I was annoyed and decided the project was useless.  A few days later, I got over it and went back to Ikea looking for a solution.

I found this cheap contraption and figured it would fit behind my washer and dryer (bottom shelves excluded).  I get home, assemble it, realize that the two front plans need to be removed (I should measure things first), got blisters screwing and unscrewing, finally got it all to fit and...success!

I start to place random crap on the shelves and realize that if I put so much as a roll of toilet paper on the two lower shelves, they would sag.  Ok, so this is what those front planks did, they reinforced the shelves.  Duh.
I just bought the tall one on the left.

So, I thought for a while and came up with the solution of brackets to reinforce the shelves.  I installed the brackets and happily placed all of my crap on each of the shelves.

All my junk has a place...and the shelves are sturdy!


Notice the brackets? I took the ones from the first Ikea shelves and used them for the second shelves.  I know, you want to hire me, right?

I really love when a household fix-it project is a success.  Hopefully these don't fall.  Since they are essentiallly standing and nailed to the wall, I think I'm good.

I impressed myself today, now it's time for a beer!

Hope you all had a good weekend.

Happy Easter

Yes, I am obsessed with Picasa collages and yes I am obsessed with dressing up my pups.

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.  Holidays like today always make me wish I lived a little closer to home.  To ease the homesickness, I am going to spend the day cooking (and eating)....perfect.

{HopHop}

I always love the weekend, but I am especially excited for this one.  I have been happily busy with visitors for the past two weeks and am looking forward to a relaxing Easter weekend.

I hope the Easter bunny comes...if he (it?) does, this is what I would like:


I have a major candy addiction!



The cutest bunny I know!
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