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Friday, August 31, 2012

Sponsor Spotlight + Giveaway: Megan E Sass

Today I want to introduce you to Megan! She has the sweetest shop of handmade knitted goodies. My personal favorite is the slouchy beanie she offers which would be perfect for the approaching Fall season! And I sort of die over this bow tie collar for your pet. She even offers the pattern for it here! Here's what Megan has to say about Megan E Sass Handknits:

"Hi, I'm Megan! I own a shop, megan E sass handknits, and I've recently launched my blog of the same name. In my shop you can find the outpouring of my knitting obsession: everything from scarves and hats to home decor and wedding centerpieces. On my blog I share DIY tutorials, travels, recipes, and my favorites from around the web. When I'm not knitting, I love to write, ride my bike, and cuddle with my two dogs. Hope you'll pay me a visit!"

Today Megan is offering one lucky reader this adorable set of 3 Lace Knit Mason Jar Centerpieces! The winner gets to pick the color of their choice! I love these, they give off such a warm feel!
Shop // Twitter // Facebook // Blog

**Please note: The mandatory entry is to follow Megan's blog by GFC.
If you do not do this your entry will not be accepted!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway closes Friday, September 7th. The winner will be notified by e-mail. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Thought of Freedom

Well, I feel weird. Knowing that my days of freedom are right around the corner, I have been sort of jumbled. I have had ideas stashed away for "when I quit my job" and therefor had more time to devote to the exploration of new things. And now, with the opportunity so close, I've found myself feeling pulled in multiple directions at once.

As much as I'm excited to pursue new things, I feel like at first I need to just.....adjust. I can't imagine how it's going to feel waking up and not going to work. I mean, I've basically been doing that 5 days a week since I was 15. (That sounds depressing.) It's really possible this new-found freedom is going to throw me out of wack for a bit. I definitely want to concentrate on developing a new groove with my usual routine before getting all experimental and test driving some new ideas.

For the most part, I feel really excited to start this new adventure. But I have to admit there are moments when I forget the excitement and the fear sets in. I have been dreaming this for so long and now that there is no turning back, I'm seriously wrapping my head around my new responsibilities. The thought of not having steady income, not having a reliable job to depend on....it's a scary thing. But it could also be the best decision I have ever made. Who knows?

I just want to thank you guys again. The response I got on this blog post was so uplifting and it really has helped to keep my nerves at bay. Now whenever I have a freak out moment I can go back over your comments to remind myself I'm not alone in this. For all the comments, tweets, card orders, e-mails, ad space purchases........Thank you. :] xo JA

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Weekend In Instagrams

I had a really nice weekend. My dad came to CA for a work conference and he got to spend some time with us. It was his first time visiting since I've moved here so I was sort of feeling the pressure in making sure he enjoyed his time in CA.

We decided to bike to show him a nice view of the harbor here. We also went to Laguna Beach so he could feel the sand between his toes.
He stayed for two nights and after he left I got sort of sad. Spending that time with him made me realize how long it had been since we had done that. After my parents divorced (I was 18) I saw my dad very seldom, usually only meeting at a restaurant for a meal on holidays. I honestly can't remember the last time I saw my dad for longer than an hour or so at a time. So it was really special for him to come spend some time with us and see what my life is like here.

I also just wanted to share my new nails! I got some black and white striped vinyl nail shields from Jamberry Nails. They have a ton of patterns to choose from and right now sheets are Buy 3 Get 1 Free! So fun!

What did you do this weekend?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beaded Bracelet Tutorial

I got a request from a reader to share how I made the turquoise bracelet that I sent to Erika. Now that I know how easy it was to make (combined with my new obsession with wearing bracelets) I'm sort of addicted to making them!

What you'll need:

20-30 Colored Beads
(depends on wrist size)
Super Glue

Wrap the elastic around your wrist to get an idea of how much you will need. I recommend giving yourself a good amount of slack however, to make it easier to knot when you are done.
Once you have your piece of elastic,  put the noodle tube bead on first. Then string the same amount of your colored beads on each side of the noodle tube.
I wrapped my bracelet around my wrist once the elastic string was getting full to get an idea if I need more or less beads. (Mine has 11 on each side.) Once you have the right amount of beads in place, tie a double knot with the elastic and pull it tight. Then, while keeping the beads away from the knot, stick a dot of super glue on it. I blew on it to make sure it was dry before putting it on. Trim the extra elastic and you're good to go! So easy right?
I think it looks so fun next to the bracelet my homegirl Leo made me (her beads are even handmade, whaaa?). 

I'm getting really into gold for some reason lately. I used to never EVER wear gold but I've bought a few things on Etsy and now I'm getting all metal mix-matchy. Which color metal do you prefer? And do you ever mix them?

Also today is the last day to get 25% off in my shop with the coupon code HELLYEAH in celebration of quitting my day job! Don't miss out! xo JA

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sponsor Giveaway from SeptemberWren

If you guys haven't met Meg, from SeptemberWren yet, well you need to. She is awesome. Upon discussing this giveaway post with her, we realized that we first started working together almost an entire year ago when she first sponsored my blog. Since then we have kept in touch, as much as two really busy working ladies can! When asked for a super quick bio from Meg (because I know she's a busy woman!) she said:

"I am a stay-at-home mama to two beautiful babies and a rescue pit bull. Recently moved back to California from Boston, and I dropped my camera in the Pacific on the first day!"

Today Meg is offering one lucky reader this amazing set of 12 8x8 prints! They are professionally printed on Kodak Professional Supra Endura paper, with archival inks to last a lifetime. This is a $225 value! So gorgeous!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway closes Friday, August 31st. The winner will be notified by e-mail Good luck!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Day I Quit My Day Job

So um, did you read the title of this post? Because um, I did it!! Eek! Friday I put in my letter of resignation at work. Holy crap. I'm freaking the eff out. It is a really weird feeling right now. I don't think it has completely set in.
I have been dreaming about this for about 6 months now. Contemplating. Brainstorming. Wondering. Wishing. But mostly....procrastinating. I was putting it off. I kept coming up with excuses NOT to follow my dream. (ex: the timing at work wasn't right; it's slow season in my shop) This was mostly because I was scared of failing. Obviously.

So the day that I finally decided to put in my letter of resignation I was a wreck, drinking peppermint tea all day in hopes of soothing my nervous stomach. I knew that there was no turning back, no more excuses to keep me from an uncertain (but potentially awesome) future.

But I did it. I left work, I rolled the car windows down, I put on Mumford and Sons. I smiled. I, admittedly, even cried a little. I felt so many emotions at one time. There was happiness, excitement, disbelief, denial, fear, panic. But mostly....relief. The relief of getting out of something that was holding me back. Now I can fully pursue something that I love.

This is honestly beyond my dreams and I never imagined this would ever be possible up until about 6 months ago. I am so thankful to have the base of a business that is *hopefully* going to continue to grow. Now that I will be working on it full-time, I'm fully accepting that challenge.

So I just wanted to say.......I couldn't have done it without you! Thank you for your overwhelming support for my blog, my shop, and this huge decision.

In appreciation (and celebration) please enjoy:
(Ad space applies for any month, it doesn't matter if this month is booked)

Click here to advertise.

**NOTE: Offer valid until 8/24/12**

WOOT, get on that! And THANK YOU!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer Time Arm Party

I participated in the Summer Time Arm Party thrown by Illy, of Much Love Illy, and Leonora, of Yellow Heart Art. I mean, how could I not? We all totally bonded a few months back at a blogging conference and they are pretty much my best interweb friends. (I like to say interweb, I don't know why).

I got paired up with Erika, of Rouge +Whimsy, my other best interweb friend. Extra excitement! And she made me the cutest bracelets! She used coral and turquoise, two of my favorite colors right now and added a little gold bling as well. Love love!
So cute right?! :] I love them and her!

When it came to making bracelets, a nervousness set in because I didn't know if my lack of jewelry making skills would keep me from making a quality bracelet for my friend. But I *think* I did an ok job. I sent Erika these two babies:

I had so much fun participating in this and I hope that Illy and Leo host another Arm Party in the future  (*hint hint*). You can check out this link up to see what other bracelets were exchanged!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bloody Mary Recipe

So, if you know Jordan, you know he loves his Bloody Mary'. When I first met him, dare I say, I had not tried one. And then I did try one and I didn't like it. (I don't like tomatoes.) But after a lot of taste testing I've realized that they are an acquired taste and you truly have to figure out "how" you like your Bloodys. These days, I'll enjoy a spicy Bloody or two.
As far as mixes go, Jordan's favorite is Zing Zang but I prefer The Works (it is actually no longer available in California and Jordan bought me some offline). As far as what to put on the rim, we switch it up. For a while we used Old Bay Seasoning, moved on to Lawry's Seasoning Salt, and most recently have been going with straight Sea Salt.

When it comes to garnishes, Jordan stays pretty basic with a couple olives and a stalk of celery. I sort of despise celery so I go with pickles for my stirrer. I also enjoy olives, a touch of Worcestershire and even  a dot of horseradish (gimme that spice!)
First wet the rim of your glass. Then rub it in your choice of salt mixture. (Old Bay seen here.)  Then add a lot of ice to the glass.
Next it's time to add the liquids. Jordan's ratios are estimated at 1 part vodka, 1 part mix, 1/2 part water. Start by pouring in the vodka. I recently got him some Bloody Mary flavored vodka (yes he loves Bloody Mary's that much) but any vodka will do.  Follow the vodka with the Bloody Mary mix, then a splash of cold water. 
 Then it's time for garnishes. They can be completely customized to your own liking! And enjoy! :]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sponsor Spotlight + Giveaway: Through the Eyes of the Mrs

Today I'm happy to introduce you to Beth, of Through the Eyes of the Mrs.!
I've been a lover of creating beautiful things all of my life. Handmade is always sweeter and I finally decided to follow my heart and open my own shop. You will find all things pretty here including jewelry that will make you feel special and lots of accessories to add to your own personal style. I'm a writer and have been blogging for years. My heart feels complete when I'm creating or writing. You will find me at www.throughtheeyesofthemrs.com talking about parenting, style, crafting, marriage and daily life. I'm amazed at the friendships I share with my readers. I would love to get to know you and hear from you.

Blog // Twitter // Facebook // Shop

Today Beth is offering one lucky reader $25 credit to her cute jewelry shop!

Please Note: The mandatory entry is to follow Beth's blog using GFC!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway closes Friday, August 24th. Good luck!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handmade Business Talk

My friend Gina, over at Acute Designs, has a great series called "Handmade 101: 3 Things I Wish I Had Known." Through it she hopes to provide tips and inspiration for others and create a discussion around running a handmade business or blog. Gina asked me if I'd like to contribute a post and of course I jumped on it!

In case you missed the post on Gina's blog, I wanted to also share it here because a lot of people who filled out my feedback survey were interested in more business topic posts!

So here we go, 3 things I wish I had known when I started my Etsy shop.

"1. Utilize social media.

No-brainer these days right? But hear me out. When I started my shop I scoured the Etsy forums searching for "ways to promote my shop." Fellow sellers recommended a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a blog, and, let me date myself a bit, a Myspace page. Oh! AND a newsletter. Yes, making all these pages was sure to get me sales! So what did I do? I made every single one.

Then what happened? They all just....sat there. It has taken me a long time to find what I believe is a good balance between social media sites. Do I think they are all important? Yes. But only if they are used properly. By this, I mean that you need to use these sites to build relationships with followers. Go beyond sharing new items or announcing a special sale and use these sites on a more personal level.

I always try to incorporate a personal tid bit along with a business update on my Facebook status. Being more personal with your followers will help them to care more about you and your business. Creating my blog was the best business decision I ever made. It definitely helps people relate to me on a more personal level, and vice versa.

2. Be desirable but different.

This has become extremely important as the amount of Etsy sellers, and therefore competition, continues to increase. Originality and creativity are two key factors in having a shop that stands out on Etsy. You have to think about what makes your product desirable, yet unique.

When I started selling on Etsy, I sold original paintings. I quickly learned however, that original paintings were not exactly desirable. You can make a super awesome fantastic product but if it's not in demand, it's not going to sell. I started to think about how I could still make art, but in a form that would be more desirable to a buyer. I landed on cards.

Once you have settled on a product that you know there's a market for it's time to set yourself apart from similar products with a style that's your own. And here's the thing. It takes time. Your product evolves. Your brand evolves. You evolve. Multiple times. So keep trying, keep changing, keep at it. You'll find it.

3. Be fair to yourself.

I think it's easy for new sellers to get so sucked into "sale count" that it's easy to sell themselves short. Maybe they have offer big discounts often, or do a lot of trades with other sellers, because they are focusing so much on getting more sales, rather than making an actual profit. Or maybe, they are selling their product at a price that is too low. This is definitely something that I was guilty of.

When I first started selling greeting cards, I painted them individually....and charged $5. $5 for an original painted card that took me an hour to make. But I wanted the sales and I didn't think anyone would pay more than $5 for a card, original or not. As demand picked up and I was having a hard time keeping up with orders I realized I was selling myself short. I also realized I need to look into making my work process more efficient, and therefore, more rewarding.

Don't devalue your time. Be fair to yourself. And if you think there is no possible way to charge more for your product, then work on making your work time more efficient."

Several Handmade 101 posts are available here. You can find tips from fellow bloggers and Etsy shop owners (some of my favorites in fact!). Read up and get inspired!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weekend In Instagrams

This weekend Jordan went out of town and I enjoyed the house to myself. I had time for super laziness and super productiveness. But now I'm starting to feel guilty for the laziness part. Do you ever feel bad for taking time off?
Unfortunately, as of right now the weekends are my main opportunity for getting work done. I obviously work on weekdays and my week nights are devoted to Etsy shop orders. Plus, the photographer in me won't take blog post photos in the evening because I'm a natural light devotee.

Because of this, even when I try to take time off on the weekends, I'm still thinking about what I "should" be doing. "I should do a recipe post" "I should do a DIY project" so that I will have content to post during the week. (In fairness, I did attempt a smoothie recipe post but I didn't think it tasted good enough to share.)
It's not like I sat on my ass all weekend. Although I did enjoy some kiddie pool time with Penny (aka: me sitting in the pool while Penny stares at me from just outside because she is my shadow but doesn't like water). I certainly felt ridiculously productive on Sunday, waking up before 8:00, cleaning the house for Jordan's return, busting out all my orders, wholesale orders, and the bracelets I'm sending to Erika for the Blogger's Arm Party. But part of me still feels bad for not tackling blog content for the week.
I talked to my Dad on the phone and he was like "You sound worn out. Are you doing too much?" I said "Well, I'd like to have one job rather than two." When I started this blog (March 2011) my handmade business was not where it is today. The past year has shown so much more growth than I could've imagined. It's been incredible and inspiring, and I know so much of that is thanks to this little blog, and therefor, thanks to you.

So I guess when I'm stressing out on a Saturday about what quality post I'm going to come up with for the week, well I really just want to make sure you are getting back from me what I have gotten from you. xo JA

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Couples Halloween Costume: DIY Pacman

As Halloween approaches, I have been seeing our Halloween costume from last year spread across Pinterest. This makes me feel a little awkward, considering I'm hanging out in a tutu with pink tights.

While I loved this costume, I wanted to share my favorite costume we made (and give you an idea of how we made it). This was our first Halloween together and I'm not sure where we came up with the idea, but after a lot of brainstorming (we take this holiday seriously) we landed on Pacman and Miss Pacman.
Let me give you an idea of how we made these. We started at Home Depot. We ended up buying huge pieces of foam board (it appears they serve some kind of insect insulation purpose....gross). Then, we snuck the lid of a garbage can from the store and brought it outside to trace the circle shape onto the foam board. We used a box cutter to cut out the shape, and added a triangular mouth. (We returned the lid, I swear.)
Then we stocked up on: scissors, yellow felt, black felt, red felt, yellow embroidery thread, needles, glue, and thick bands to use for the straps. We were coming up with ideas as we went along so there was no real plan. There was a lot of measuring and cutting, a lot of trial and error.
We glued the yellow felt onto the foam circles first. (If I was going to do anything different I would've covered both sides of the foam). Then we sewed yellow felt rectangles to each circle in order to connect them. This was probably the most difficult step, as we had to be sure there our bodies would fit between. We connected the triangular mouth are using black felt. Then we added the straps at the top that would help the costume hang from our shoulders. This was all done with a quick and dirty stitch, we weren't trying to be perfect.
Then comes the part....adding the eyes, lips, tongues and don't forget the mole for Ms. Pacman!

These photos were taking more recently, but on that Halloween we also wore white gloves, and I had a red bow in my hair. We were a huge hit and kept getting asked to take our photos.

I hope you liked this! Do you know what you're going to be for Halloween yet? Do you make your own? Jordan and I have been brainstorming for this year's costume!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sponsor Spotlight + Giveaway: KV's Confessions

Have you guys met Kristen yet? She's pretty awesome so if you haven't yet, I'm happy to introduce her to you today!
Hey ladies & gents! I'm Kristen Victoria aka "KV" and my rambles can be found on my blog, KV's Confessions. I'm your average 25 year old with above average dreams; my blog documents my journey as I attempt to make them a reality. I love typography, sarcasm, strong coffee, winged eyeliner, and anything vintage, but most of all I love to design pretty things. I hope to get my design shop launched this fall! Come say hello, won't you?
This is a gorgeous wedding invitation Kristen designed!

Blog // Twitter // Facebook // Bloglovin

Today Kristen is offering one lucky reader this amazing Circus Girl Art Print ($35 value)! I seriously love this print. It has such a unique look and there's just something magical about the circus.

Please Note:
The mandatory entry is to follow Kristen's blog using GFC!

I am now using Rafflecopter for my giveaways. Please let me know if you have any questions!

This giveaway closes Friday, August 17th. Good luck!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chocolate Chip Pie Recipe

This weekend I had the urge to bake, but I did not have the urge to go to the store to buy ingredients. I remembered I had some frozen crust left over from that time I made Raspberry Almond Tart. I wanted to use the crust but had no fruit for a nice fruity pie. Then I remembered I had chocolate chips left over from my Peanut Butter Brownie Bites and decided to google "pie with chocolate chips." When I came across the Chocolate Chip Pie I couldn't help but think it was weird that a chocolate lover such as myself had never tried or even heard of such a pie.
What you'll need:

Unbaked pie crust
2 large eggs
1/2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
3/4 c softened butter
1 c chocolate chips
1 c chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs in a large bowl on high. Beat in flour, sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in chocolates and nuts. Pour mixture into crusted pie plate.
Bake 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool and then enjoy! I added a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top of a warm slice. I really love the mixture of cold and warm!
To prevent myself from eating this whole pie, I brought it into work to push it onto my coworkers. It got destroyed. ;] Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Australia Trip Video

I'm so excited to share this video today! When Jordan showed it to me I literally smiled the entire time watching it. It was just such an amazing experience and he did such a good job with the editing. My talented bub! I'm so proud of him and his videography business! (Can I brag about him a little?) :]

Seriously can we just go back there?

I love that we have these fun sneak peeks of our lives. My dad always had a video camera while I was growing up. Of course it was the size of a baby kangaroo and he had to lug it around on his shoulder, but still, it did the job. My friends and I would put on "dance shows" (that is the fancy term for "running around in circles, yelling").

Now we will always have these memories to look back on. So special! Guess we will have to take another vacation and do some more sweet stuff. You reading this J? :]

You can also check out the video of our Hawaii trip here.

See you tomorrow with a nomnom recipe post! xo JA

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weekend In Instagrams

I really want to get more of my daily life in this blog. I seriously always plan to take my camera with us wherever we go but I never end up taking any photos! I don't understand myself! I need to attack this goal (with more than just my iPhone camera) once and for all.
We had a really good weekend. The thing about Jordan and I, is that we're often busy and we work a lot, but we also are so good at doing nothing. Saturday I did nothing. When I say nothing, I mean, nothing involving my shop or my blog. This is not to say that I didn't think about them. But I did make a conscious effort to sit outside, give myself a pedicure with a homemade foot scrub, and drink some rum and cokes.
We also made it to the OC Fair this weekend, where my one goal (besides taking photos #fail) was to win a fish. Jordan asked for directions and we learned the fishies were in the kiddie section (what is that supposed to mean?) so we made our way there. The game itself looked completely impossible. I knew there was NO way I was getting the ping pong ball into the narrow bowl. But, we were in kidding land! You don't have to win the game to win the prize! Zero ping pong balls made it into the bowls and I still got a fishy! His name is Fish.
Penny wants to eat Fish. Well, that's not true. She would probably only pick it up with her mouth and then spit it out and stare at it and then pick it up again, repeat. She's a lover not a fighter.
Sunday I got to work. My morning was spent printing shipping envelopes and cards. I also made a dessert for a recipe post I'll share later this week. The dessert itself was devoured by my coworkers in a matter of hours (minutes?) so apparently it's a good one! My afternoon was spent sketching potential logos. I'm working on a rebranding for my entire business, the blog and the shop. It has been ridiculously hard. This project is probably going to be the biggest and most time consuming thing I have done so far but I know it will be worth it to have one cohesive look throughout my shop and blog. If I ever EVER come up with something I like that is a good portrayal of myself and my business, well I hope you will like it too. :]

How was your weekend? Do you work on weekends or do you enjoy time off?

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