Thursday, July 31, 2008


Miss me? The past week has been filled with love, family, relaxation and inspiration. We left Thursday morning for LA, arrived to a crisp breeze and sunshine, drove to Santa Barbara for my beautiful sister's wedding and checked into our amazing cabin at El Capitan Canyon. I'd love to say I took lots of great pictures to share with you, but, for once, I decided to experience the weekend rather than trying to capture the whole thing to experience later. Here's just a quick look at the weekend's events (with just a few pics taken by more diligent photographers than I). I apologize in advance for the ridiculous number of parentheticals that are sure to follow - chalk it up to a lack of coffee...

Thursday night - BBQ hosted by the groom's (wonderful) family

Friday morning - Watching my daughter experience the ocean for the first time, squooshing my toes in the sand (yeah, that's my tattoo)

Friday evening - Rehearsal dinner at the campground

Saturday - Wedding run-through at the incredible venue (seriously, pictures do not do it justice)

Saturday afternoon - Hair and makeup at the Bacara Resort and Spa (sheer, unadulterated decadence)

Saturday evening - Wedding and reception (here's my daughter with the adorable ring-bearers)

Sunday - Back to LA for some family time

Monday - More fun at the beach and back home

You know how sometimes you just need a break from the ordinary to start seeing things in a new way? I realized on the plane home that I'd been in a bit of a design rut and was both surprised and delighted to find my head positively bursting with new ideas and concepts for future projects. I won't lie and tell you that re-entry into our "normal" schedule hasn't been a bit of a b*tch (pardon my French), but I'm managing to catch up slowly but surely, and without that awful overwhelmed feeling that so often accompanies the end of a break from routine. For the moment at least, I find myself content, relaxed, focused and inspired. Not a bad place to be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Feature and a Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to be the featured seller on the EtsyGreetings team blog today. Stop by the blog and leave a comment for your chance to win the boxed notecard set of your choice from my shop!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stuff I Love - Sweater Edition

My printing problem persists, and therefore I've resorted to virtual window shopping to help alleviate the impending panic...

My upcoming trip to California, where it's apparently 75 degrees during the day and (brrrrrr!!!) 60 at night, has me thinking of cool fall breezes and my ongoing quest for the perfect, soft, handknit cream sweater that goes with anything and makes me look instantly chic and perfectly casual. Having only discovered Etsy in the last seven months, and not having yet had the chance to sweater-browse, I thought I'd waste a little time this morning taking a look at the potential candidates for my perfect fall sweater.

This "petal sweater" by Brendaabdullah adds a little extra personality to the traditional pullover.

This pretty lace shrug by Silvia66 is perfect for those barely-cold Texas fall evenings.

This sturdy cabled sweater by mack makes me miss those crisp, drizzly sailing days in Seattle...

And my fave of the bunch, this gorgeous cowl-neck short-sleeved belted tunic by Emilykatz is both effortless and chic.

And now to get the weather to cooperate...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Madness

So, it's 7 AM and I've spent the last 2 hours (my precious child-free morning card-making time) fighting with my printer over borderless printing. While trying to crank out my weekend orders, I come to the horrible realization that, although my terribly old and slow Gateway laptop has been producing borderless notecards by way of my beloved fancy HP printer without any issues for the last year, apparently my brand new ultrafast Dell laptop cannot. WHAT THE?!? Although I tried every semi-techie trick in my arsenal to make Vista talk nicely to my pretty pretty printer, it simply IS NOT POSSIBLE.

Ummmmmmmmm.... yeah. Just a minor problem. It's only my best-sellers that rely on borderless printing... Hehehe... I'm sure it will be fine....


And sooooooooo, since I can't, uh, make any cards this morning in support of my card-making business, I decided instead to make.....

stickers! When life hands you lemons, right? In an attempt to lighten the mood and give the day a little positive-energy kickstart, I stuck my happy little logo girl all over everything in sight, including the one outgoing order I was able to complete. Ah, well. I'd been meaning to pretty-up my packaging anyway...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lookie Where We Get To Go...

I confess that this weekend finds me highly distracted from my two highest-priority projects, designing my web site (coming soon to an internet near you!) and getting my holiday line in order. Next Saturday marks my baby sister's (sniff) much-anticipated wedding and our chance to get the h*#& out of Texas for the first time in over a year.

The wedding itself promises to be stunning, set at the gorgeous Orella Ranch in Santa Barbara.

The accommodations, though, are what really have me in a semi-daydream state.

Billed as "luxury camping," El Capitan Canyon is "located in a seaside pocket on 300 plus acres on the picturesque Pacific coast. The nature lodging experience at El Capitan Canyon was created for those who have the desire to totally unwind, relax and commune with nature." Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh, nature, I've missed you so.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Totally Unsolicited Product Endorsement - Volume 1

Ok, so I'm like a giant nerd about my health and beauty products. I tend to be perfectionistic about these things (what? me?) and often try lots of different brands looking for the magic potion that does exactly what I need it to do - hold my hair in place without being sticky, get my nails dry in 5 minutes, make my wrinkles disappear instantly, whatever. Furthermore, while I once thought nothing of popping over to the Nordstrom beauty counter to check out the latest and greatest designer beauty technology, I am no longer the shopaholic "dink" (double-income-no-kids) I used to be. As we've discussed here before, I'm cheap. And cheap and perfectionistic, as you might imagine, can be a deadly combination when it comes to health and beauty products.

All of that said, I occasionally come across something that fulfills both my desire to be thrifty and my need to be fabulous, and when I do, I'm positively ecstatic. Often, after extolling the virtues of some amazing new thing or other, I'll proclaim to a friend that "I love it so much, I should write a product review!"

Well, it has suddenly occurred to me that I have a blog. And what better place than your blog to share glowing reviews of all the amazing and incredible new products that come into your life?! So, welcome to the first installment of my new Totally Unsolicited Product Endorsement series. These entries will have nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with my Etsy shop, crafts, cards, politics, or really anything of substance. So I won't be insulted should you choose to ignore these particular posts. But at least I'll feel that I've done my duty by shouting from the virtual rooftops that "I love ......!!!"

By the way, expect future TUPE installments to be much shorter as I will not feel the need to justify my slightly out-of-character obsession with the superficial after this initial post.

I had a difficult time determining which product to endorse this morning, as there are several things I've recently discovered that I absolutely cannot live without. But I've settled on the Incoco Dry Nail Applique Complete Manicure Kit, available for $4.99 at Walgreens, for the sheer wow! factor.

While they look like those horrible press-on nails, these little strips are actually partially-dried nail polish that you simply peel off its backing and press onto your nails. Smooth across the nail, stretch and tear off the extra, and your nails are completely dry instantly. Seriously!

Now, I had seen these things in a magazine months before I tried them and was absolutely convinced there was no way they could possibly work and look as good as regular nail polish. I only brought them home because I thought they might travel well to my sister's wedding next weekend. I fully expected to feel as though I'd wasted $4.99 and end up with a lumpy, thick, amateurish mess on then ends of my fingers. In a moment of uncharacteristic beauty bravery, I whipped them out last weekend just a few minutes in advance of a friend's dinner/pool party, when my nails were a disaster and time didn't permit the usual manicure routine. The result was truly astounding - completely dry nails in literally three minutes that look exactly as though you've painted them, with no liquids to spill, no mistakes to correct around the nail bed, no bubbles, basically no drawbacks. I've since done my toes with the same great success. In short, much to my suprise and amazement, they actually work as advertised. And, therefore, you should buy them.

And there ya go! We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Feature - A Keeper's Jackpot

This month's featured EtsyBlogger is A Keeper's Jackpot, maker of gorgeous "statement" jewelry and blogger extraordinaire. A hiking enthusiast, AKJ posted an awesome article yesterday on bear safety. Congrats, AKJ, and enjoy your month of fame!

Take a look at some of my favorite pieces from the shop:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not My Kid...

Three things I'm not:

1. A native Texan
2. A country music fan
3. A person who thinks pageants for preschoolers are OK.

So, imagine my surprise when my daughter picked up a pink foam cowgirl hat at the craft store recently and proclaimed it, "the most beautiful craft I'll ever make!"

Ever the supportive mom, I bit my tongue (she WAS being quiet and keeping herself occupied, after all, while I endlessly browsed the pretty papers...) and shelled out the $1.99 to bring it home. I figured she'd show it to Daddy and her baby cousin, squish it in a fit of over-enthusiasm, and then forget about it within 24 hours.

Yeah, right. This hat turned into a MAJOR project around here. As soon as we got it home, she started going through all her most sparkly craft supplies and adding adornments til we ended up with this (yes, I tied the ribbon - albeit reluctantly):

The hat has now been worn proudly to Target, out to dinner, and to my parents house, although (thankfully) a bit of the bling has started to fall off. Amazing how much entertainment you can get out of a buck ninety-nine, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Bright, natural(ish) light? Check. Skillful use of props to create a cohesive shop environment? Maybe - we'll see after I've updated all my pics. Slight Photoshop adjustments to make the pic as true-to-life as possible and special Etsy-friendly cropping? Check.

Over the weekend, I finally got around to making a ("hillbilly," as Annie Howes would say) light cube, thanks to the highly amusing tutorial over at Elegant Bloggery (one of my faves!), which ultimately led me to this other, less amusing, tutorial by Strobist.

Once I had my cardboard and tissue paper monstrosity assembled (while enduring the endless heckling from my husband), I set the whole thing up in the craft closet, closed the door, turned out the lights and voila! The end result is a bright and white as if I'd been outside on a crystal clear morning. Here are a few more examples:

What do you think? Better? They're still not perfect, but I feel like I'm getting there. At least they're in focus and my whites are white. What are your feelings on the props? Leave an opinion if you wouldn't mind - I definitely need some input. Be brutal. I'm a big girl!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bloggus Interruptus

Every now and then, thankfully rarely, even my beloved schedule falls apart when thrown a curve ball like the early waking of my 2-year-old and/or a technical difficulty experienced while attempting to get a proof finished for a new client within the promised 24-hour window. This morning, due to the simultaneous occurrence of the events outlined above, finds me cracking open Blogger with only a few minutes left in my allotted blogging "window" and an un-breakfasted preschooler with a 'tude begging "PLEASE can you get me my Gogurt?!"

And so, instead of a thrilling report on the building of my brand spankin' new light box and the gorgeously bright, white photos it enables me to take, I'll simply say, "good morning" and show you the showcase I so lovingly curated yesterday over at Trunkt (my first - hooray for finally installing Firefox!). Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Stuff I Love - Monday Morning Edition

Monday morning has always been an excuse for a little retail therapy, but an upcoming wedding weekend offers a legitimate reason to head off into the Etsy-verse looking for a few fashion-forward (i.e. slightly less "mom" than my usual) pieces. Here are some of the highlights from my shopping expedition:

Clio Love Rio dress by Wildewear.

Love 50s repro floral dress by MaisyBrownReproRetro.

Simple and brilliantly-designed Da Da Bubble Dress by wearit.

Sigh... I adore shopping. So much desire to be fabulous, so little clothing money in the budget... Time is running out to decide what in the world I'm wearing for this big event, so stay tuned to see if I actually pull the trigger on any of these fantastic finds.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Me? A Drama Queen?! How Dare You!

I've spent the morning thus far (2 hours or so) sourcing free vector shapes for some holiday design projects I'm working on. Yes, it's that time of year already...

Sourcing is always a drama. Licensing varies greatly from one site/artist to the next. Let's start with the premise that, unless I'm working on a corporate project, I don't even bother with pay sites - too 'spensive and I'm not interested in just plopping somebody else's elaborate digital artwork onto a card and reselling it. So I'm going to a site that advertises "free" or "royalty-free" vectors. What I'm generally looking for are simple shapes that I can stretch, skew, recolor, chop up, and render completely unrecognizable. But because the licensing issue is so complicated, when I come across something I need, I have to go through this whole big process of determining whether my intended use is acceptable. Can I use it commercially? Yes, great. Ok, can I alter it so as to make it unrecognizable? Yes? Fabulous! Can I use it on a greeting card for resale? No?! But it's just a little swirly thing that won't even look the same! Ok, so how much would it cost for me to be able to use it in my design? 100 dollars?!? What the?!

I know it's a touchy topic. I know everybody deserves to get paid for their work, and I'm definitely not attempting to make the point that all design elements should be free. But I also know that there are lots and lots and LOTS of designers out there that simply ignore the rules without consequence - the buyer certainly doesn't know the difference. You see threads about it all the time in the Etsy forums. We all pretty much use the same sources for our images, so when someone recognizes a design element in another seller's work, the assumption is usually made that an infringement has occurred. But in fact, there's no way to whether someone has paid an extended license fee or not. It's a mess.

I'm very very very careful about the imagery I use in my designs. My vintage graphics are all, to the very best of my knowledge, copyright-free and come from either public domain sites or "share" sites. I use fonts and vector "dingbats" that I've purchased legally, and then read and re-read the contracts to make sure they're ok for resale. And there most certainly ARE benevolent graphic artists out there that will allow you to use their shapes, callouts, dingbats, whatever in any way you like. And when I find them? Woohoo!! So what's my point? That it takes an incredible amount of searching and fine-print-reading to find even the simplest little design elements. And, really, who has that kind of time?

Alrighty, I'm done. PMS? Why do you ask?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Great Product Pics - Scraps Of Time

The quest for the perfect product pics continues and my constant perusal of other Etsy shops is starting to get out of control. Take a look at these great pics from fellow paper crafter, ScrapsOfTime. Very simple, eye-catching, using props creatively but not distractingly. Love it.

How adorable are those tags, by the way? ScrapsOfTime is an Etsy veteran with a gorgeous store and lots of unique and fabulously vintage paper offerings. If you're a scrapper or a paper addict with a penchant for days gone by, you'll LOVE her shop. Check out more of my ScrapsOfTime faves here and here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fun In The (Slight Lack Of) Sun

This is how I know I've acclimated to the Texas weather. My husband and I determined that since it was such a "nice day" on Monday (95 degrees), we should take advantage of his very rare vacation day and have some family fun at a local farm that has a petting zoo-type area and lots of room to roam around and act all countryfied. If I haven't mentioned it before, we relocated from Seattle about a year ago to a suburb of Dallas that is quickly becoming fairly cosmopolitan, but that still has a working ranch here and there scattered among the office parks, Central Markets, nightmare quantities of chain restaurants... you get the picture.

Anyway, although I grew up in a rural area and am very used to the whole "cow" scene, a farm was a bit of a novelty for my daughter, who spends most of her summers indoors or in the pool (they all do here - too hot for anything else).

We paid our $5 each and did the whole touristy thing, including feeding the chickens, goats and sheep, marveling at the longhorns, petting the horses, and a quick hay ride around the pond, all the while talking about how "pleasant" it was with the "breeze," which pretty much felt like a blow dryer.

Family fun accomplished! We avoided, however, discussing the adjacent sausage plant. Although I'm sure the significance would have been lost on my daughter, somehow it just didn't seem right...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm a Sucker for Great Product Pics...

Ok, so I've been a bit obsessed of late with my product pics. I don't like them. There's no other way to say it. And I'm not sure exactly how to improve them... Light box? Better staging? Creative props? Really, there's only so much you can do. Ultimately, I'm going to have to get a rectangle-shaped object to look good within a square frame, all without losing any detail. Further, I'm just going to have to accept that the pics that work well within a teeny tiny product list on Etsy simply may not work in my Trunkt portfolio, where the pics are NOT square and display much larger than the pics in my shop.

Anywho, while I continue to stew about this most important topic, I spend a fair amount of time perusing other shops looking for the most clickable and creative product pics. Some of the best I've come across belong to dorijenn, jewelry designer from Israel. Her pics show her products in subtle, artsy, vintage-y settings, creating an entire virtual atmosphere for her shop. While her banner's cool too, it's really the product pics that make you feel like you've walked into a really hip antique store when you visit. You can almost smell every element of each pic. Really, it's almost impossible not to click. See for yourself.

If not for an influx of custom orders, I'd surely be locked in a room with my camera by now, trying anything and everything to get my pics to even approach this level of fabulousness. But alas, time constraints are limiting my ability to pursue my obsession for the moment. Rest assured that if I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Etsy Finds in Action - My Photography Obsession Pays Off

If you're keeping track, yes, it's the 9th of July and my 9th post in July. I've resolved to update daily this month, and by golly, I'm going to do it!

You may recall a recent feature with Hilary Hitchcock wherein I confessed that I'd make a couple of (ahem) purchases in her shop. As actual purchases (as opposed to trades or SNS secrets) are a bit of a rare occurrence for me, it was a pretty big deal. Well, I'm thrilled to announce that I finally managed to acquire some frames and have prominently placed my fabulous Etsy finds on the poor lonely white wall in my dining room. Pretty much the first things you see when you walk in the door. Take a look.

At the far right of this arrangement is one of my all-time faves from LJ Design & Photo, "Which Way Today" from her Route 66 series. Across the room, I'm proud to show off another LJ original, "Ladybug and Bee," which my daughter is positively obsessed with.

My apologies to Hilary and Lorissa for not doing their work justice with my horrible lighting and atrocious fake tree (please don't judge me too harshly - absolutely NOTHING will grow in that corner). I suggest you check out their work for yourself! The Hilary Hitchcock prints can be found here, here, here, and here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ah, Yes. Front Page. That's Good Stuff.

Yesterday afternoon I returned to my computer to find a series of convos and this fabulous image:

Sweet sweet sweet! Fourth time, actually. But why do I always miss it?!? It's not as though I don't spend enough time on Etsy. Sheesh. Thanks so much to funkychicboutique for the screenshot.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Macaroni and Glue Corporate Headquarters (aka The Craft Closet)

I keep meaning to share these pics as I find them, for some unknown reason, endlessly amusing... About a month or so ago, I turned one of our pantries (yes, we have two - why??) into a little office for myself. I say "little" because it actually is VERY little - 4' x 3' inside. But I was going crazy trying to keep my supplies neat and tidy on the kitchen counters and my back was killing me from being hunched over my laptop on the couch all the time. Plus, my husband has an office at home, so why shouldn't I? He doesn't even work here! So, I re-organized a bit and... voila! Welcome to my new corporate headquarters.

Here's the view from the outside:

And the grand foyer... Oh no, wait, that's the whole office.

Supplies and lighting (note the laminated first aid posters on the wall - a nice touch, don't you think?):

More supplies. Are you getting a sense of scope?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, that completes our tour. Luckily, I'm a fairly small person (5'0" on my tiptoes), and not too terribly claustrophobic. Can you imagine if I made something really big for a living rather than nice, compact notecards? Sheesh.

My friends and family think the arrangement is hysterical, particularly when I tell them that sometimes I actually close the door just to get a little peace and quiet (like now). My husband said I wouldn't last a week in here, but I'm proud to say I'm still toughing it out. I confess, though, that it does get a bit stuffy...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pretty Little Paper Things

A custom order this week allowed me to briefly return to my cardmaking roots (no cracks about those other roots please) - pretty papers, glue, ribbon, brads... Although I adore digital design, it's soooooooo much fun now and then to break out all the old scrapbooking stuff and start punching holes in things, pounding on eyelets, stacking papers, rounding corners, and generally being crafty. Although the mess I made to create just one 5 x 7 card was truly astounding, I love the way these congrats cards turned out.

I liked them so much, I've added them to my Etsy shop.

In other news, you'll notice the updated banner and page layout to go along with the updated avatars and ads. Blame it on insomnia and OCD, but I just couldn't walk away from the computer til I'd pulled off a complete and total image makeover. Now I can move on and get to work on the new invitation line...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Extreme Makeover - Trunkt Edition

I took advantage of the holiday downtime by giving my newly-upgraded Trunkt portfolio a facelift. I got my images in order, finally tagged everything correctly, and added more detailed product descriptions.

I also updated my wholesale info and even (shhhhh.....) created a "Deals and Discounts" ad for Trunkt shoppers.

While it's certainly flattering to have been accepted, I confess that I've found this whole Trunkt business a little intimidating and slightly confusing. I've had click-throughs and views, but not many, and I was starting to wonder if maybe I was missing something. Well, I must have done something right this time because my portfolio views increased by 23 in about 12 hours. Hopefully that's a sign of good things to come!

P.S. Five posts in five days. Aren'tcha proud of me?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July from Texas!

This morning we braved the 95 degree heat and blazin' Texas sun to attend the Plano Independence Day parade, which never fails to thrill and amaze (especially if you're three...). As usual, the parade route was packed, the flags were flyin' high, and the locals were positively bursting with patriotism.

I'm happy to report that this year the Dems had a decent presence, there were actually a few cheers when they came by (besides just my husband and I), and no one gave me any grief about my Obama Mama pendant. Happy 4th to you and your family!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Identity Crisis

Procrastination? Maybe. Completely necessary image makeover? Probably not. But fun, anyway!

I spent last night avoiding some "administrative" Mac & Glue stuff by playing around with my avatars and ads. After a great conversation recently with my PR/marketing guru friend (a great friend to have, by the way), I determined that I needed to work on my branding a bit. The goal is to use those little square images to a) compel someone to click, and b) offer a glimpse of what can be found behind the click. I determined that the vintage-y writing hand (see image top right) may not be doing the job. Plus, I've been feeling like I'm simply taking myself too seriously. My friend (let's call her "Linda"... you know, 'cause her name's Linda) suggested I choose one of the graphics from my boxed sets and work on connecting the vintage concept with the idea of a paper product. The result?

What do you think? I love it, actually. I updated my Project Wonderful ad with the new look and saw an immediate increase in clicks, so apparently it's more appealing than my same old, same old. Stay tuned to see if the banner gets a makeover too. Like the next time I'm supposed to be doing the books...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flourish Boutique Blog - Wicked Cool Fashion Coming Soon to South Bend

Flourish has officially entered the blogosphere! Check out info on store happenings and recent events at Yesterday's post showed off some of the fabulous Flourish fashions recently featured on the WSBT morning news.

Flourish will feature such fashion forward brands as Betsey Johnson, Rebecca Taylor, Yoana Boraschi, Tarina Tarantino, Style, Body Language, Samuel Dong, La Cite, Level 99 Denim, Love Quotes, Spanx and more. All available in-shop and online.

Um, yeah... did I mention that Flourish will also be carrying my stationery line? Can you tell I'm excited?