Friday, January 11, 2019

Creativity and the Cluttered Mind: Guiding Words

Creativity and the Cluttered Mind: Guiding Words: Last year I saw an ad online for a piece of jewelry that asked "what's your word" for the year, with the intent that you ...

Guiding Words


Last year I saw an ad online for a piece of jewelry that asked "what's your word" for the year, with the intent that you would have this word embossed into the jewelry as a reminder.   I thought it was a neat idea to come up with a word to guide me through 2018 so I gave it some thought and chose the word "Change."  I wrote a list of what types of changes I wanted to make and I set about doing them for a little while.  Now that I look back at the blog post on this subject, I am sad to see that I wasn't very consistent with my changes and the word didn't guide me as much as I had hoped.  

This year I didn't start with a word, but I did think about new changes I wanted to make.  I always set goals for myself instead of making resolutions, that way I am not disappointed when I fail the first few times.  Instead, I have all year to strive for these new habits (or removal old ones).  One of my goals for this year was to be less timid.  Over time I have found myself retreating back in conversations, not offering much because I feared I would sound stupid or not have anything to offer.  When people ask me about myself, my typical answer revolves around being a mom and crafting, but nothing much outside of that.  I am in my late forties and still feel intimidated by others, therefore I don't want to participate in a conversation for fear I have nothing of value to add.  If I don't understand what is being said, I just smile and nod, hoping the discussion would be over soon and I can move on.  I wasn't always like this, so why did I feel this way now after so many years?  

That's why I decided one of my goals for the year was to be a little more confident and try to speak more, and with substance.  I want to learn more, read more, absorb more, so I gain that confidence in conversations.  If I don't understand what is being said, I will ask for clarification so I can really participate fully and with relevance.  I still want to talk about my son, husband, or crafting business, but do it in an interesting way so others will want to listen.  I want to become more profound, more engaging!

It was shortly after I decided on this goal when a friend who is a Pastor in Washington, posted about a project she does each year at Epiphany (January 6th) called Star Words. "As the Magi followed the star, so we find light that guides us."  She was offering to randomly select a "star word" for people to help guide them through 2019.  This sounded exciting, so I asked for one, and this is what was chosen: 
 


Depth: Complexity and profundity of thought.  Deepness, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, discernment, insight, acumen.  

How perfect was this?  It just seemed to fit right into my plan! Immediately I started engaging with people more.  I enjoyed socializing again.  I make it a point of starting meaningful, thought-provoking conversations with my husband, more than just recaps of our day.  At work I don't shy away when peers gather around my desk to chat.  It's not an instant change, but I definitely feel my confidence coming back.  So for the next 11.5 months (and beyond), I plan to have more: 

Depth in my conversations
Depth in my relationships
Depth in my business acumen
Depth in my planning

There are so many ways that this word can guide me this year in my personal and professional life, and it has lit a fire under me that I needed!  

I highly recommend everyone do a search on Guiding Words and randomly pick one for yourself.  Even if it doesn't make sense for you at first, really think about it and I am sure you will come up with multiple ways that it will lead your way through 2019.  If you do this, please comment and let me know what your word is.  I'd love to check back as the year progresses to see how it is going for you.

Happy 2019!!



Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 Goals

Happy New Year!!

I cannot believe we are already one week into 2019!  I know I say it every year, but I just don't understand how 2018 went by so fast!  It could be because the last two months were a blur for me. I always tend to be very busy at the holidays, but this past November and December I was completely blown away by how my Christmas ornaments really took off! I first did glitter and vinyl ornaments in 2017, with some success, but for some reason this year after custom designing one for my high school alma matter, it snowballed into close to 200 customized ornaments depicting school mascots, favorite sports teams, movie characters, and more! My ornaments were even part of several fundraisers for different organizations!!

A sample of some of my custom designed ornaments in 2018

The best part of it all?  I never got bored.  Frustrated, maybe, but never bored.  Often times if I am doing the same thing over and over I just yearn for a change, but because there were so many designs to work with, that feeling never came over me. Of course some of the designs were really difficult to recreate and I wanted to quit many, many times, but I found that if I put the file aside for a day or two, then went back to it, I was able to take an "I just can't" and turn it into a "look what I did!!!"  What a great sense of accomplishment and pride!!

This achievement also gave me greater confidence in marketing myself.  I often post my creations on both my business and my personal Facebook pages, but sometimes feel silly (or guilty) for flooding my friend's timelines with "crafts."  However when I started getting messages from strangers that saw what I was making for other people, I realized my work was getting out there and recognized.  People were sharing my creations because they loved them so much!!  This led me to approaching a friend  on the committee for our town's summer festival about making an ornament to sell as a fundraiser.  I figured I could offer one ornament that had the name of the festival on it which they would buy at a discount and mark up a few dollars to raise some money.  My friend had the brilliant idea to take it a step further and asked me to create 10 different designs, one for each of the events happening during the two weeks leading up to July 4th!  So, no longer will my ornaments be just a Christmas product, but I'll be selling them in the summer as well!!

With this great new opportunity, I started to think about how I can make 2019 my best year ever for Joatmon Creations.  What can I do to sustain a profit all year round, instead of just making most of my money at Christmastime?  How can I make my hobby business into something a little bit more?

While I was giving this some thought I stumbled upon a challenge on Facebook.  The timing could not have been more perfect!   I actually cannot even remember how I found out about this or what group she posted in, but I joined this three day online seminar of sorts called Create Your Profitable Craft Business.  The challenge is now over, but if anyone is interested in checking it out, perhaps she will be offering it again in the future.

The challenge really did not take up much time, but it did cause me to really think things through.  The first thing I needed to do was pick my right goals for 2019, figure out what sales channels to focus on, how to create a bigger impact, and how I can give more value to my customers.  These are some things that I never really sat down and thought about before. It made me realize that by utilizing my blog more or posting questions on my Facebook page, I can really engage my customers and see what kinds of things they are looking for all year round. The reason I have so many product lines is because customers are constantly asking me if I can make certain new things for them.

This brings me to where I disagree with the challenge facilitator slightly.  She has excellent points about creating products for just one specific customer, but I feel that my business has grown exponentially by being able to customize and cater to a wide range of people.  When I recently did a craft fair at a microbrewery I was exposed to more male customers than ever.  They weren't interested in my headbands, but they did like my beer mugs and ornaments.  If I just stuck with my original ribbon items, I would have lost out on a lot of sales (or not gone to this fair at all, which ended up being one of my more profitable ones this season).  The description of my business is "handmade novelties and gifts" but it really should be "customized solutions for what you really need right now."

Now, see, I have digressed from the important information I gleaned from this challenge, but that actually segues back into our second day assignment... creating a project calendar.  I am so easily distracted, as you could see above.  This happens mostly when I am telling stories, but also when I am crafting.  I see a shiny object and I start focusing on it, until something else catches my eye.  It also sometimes results in lack of follow-through.  Not because I don't want to finish a project, but because I am too afraid to start it, or don't know what the right time to start would be.

By creating a six-month  plan I could see what big projects are on the horizon (like the 100 piece order for a local high school hockey team or the ornaments for the two-week family festival in June).  Then I can plan out when I need to start working on these projects to be successful.  Interspersed through those will be my regular sales and promotions.  I have a bad habit of advertising my products the week before a big holiday, but now I can see when there will be some down time while I wait for the hockey ribbon to be made, so I can whip up some Valentine items and put them in my shop, like this frame I made today.

With this project plan I can also see when I may have time to fit in some craft fairs, something I want to add to my calendar all year round, not just at Christmas time.  I've looked into new fairs that I'd like to participate in, as well as their deadlines so I am not jumping in last minute.  By doing this, I'm guaranteeing a little income throughout the year, but I am also getting my name out there and my products noticed.  Just today I got an email from a customer that bought an ornament from me in November based on a posting in a local Facebook group, and now she is looking for some matching decals.  There is nothing that I love more than a repeat customer!!

Finally, one of my biggest takeaways from all of this is that I need to give back a little, so if you order from me in 2019, expect to find a small token of appreciation with each order.  It could be a small decal or a little bookmark, but just something to say "thank you and I really appreciate that you thought of me for your handmade items."  So far, I think 2019 is already shaping up to be pretty great.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cricut Easy Press

So, I am a huge fan of Amazon Prime Day, even though I know that I buy too many things that I don't really need, but momentarily tell myself I must have.  In other words, I am the sucker they look for every July.

However this year I got something on my wish list and I have no regrets!  It's the Cricut Easy Press which is a 9" x 9" mini heat press.



Since I've started using my cutting machines (both the Cricut Expression and the Silhouette Cameo) I've wondered about making t-shirts, but was always intimidated.  There are too many variables and a lot of opportunity to make a less than stellar product, which I won't sell. Plus the market for custom shirts seems to be oversaturated, so it's not a ring I cared to throw my hat into.  Nonetheless, I still thought it may be fun to eventually make a few shirts for myself and my family. 

Now I am addicted!  So far I've only made three identical shirts because I only had one color heat transfer vinyl, but I have an order expected this week with 8 more colors.  I also have a rhinestone starter kit that I can't wait to try out. 
T-shirt for our upcoming trip to Hershey Park


Then this morning I realized I could probably use this for my notecards!!  I used to love cutting scraps into different designs and then using heat bond to adhere them to cardstock.  


It would take a while to make sure the glue warmed up enough, but now with the Easy Press, it's going to be a piece of cake!  I tried it out with this piece of Belle fabric just to see how it worked, and 30 seconds later I have a cute little card. 


I asked my almost ten year old son if I could make customized t-shirts for his upcoming birthday party that includes an overnight and he emphatically said NO!  But I do still plan on making something..... even if it's just for myself.  I am thinking of a shirt that says:
Sleepover for 9?
Where's the Wine!



Stay tuned.....




Friday, July 13, 2018

Video of Wine Glass Decal Application

As I was finishing the final addition to the 80 wine glass order I was doing, I thought I should video the steps for posterity...or at least to remind myself of what I did in case I need to remember in the future.

Note that I did not include the decal design (using Silhouette Studio), the cutting (using my Silhouette Cameo), or the weeding (removing the parts of the vinyl surrounding the cut or the tiny pieces that lurk inside the 'h' or the teeny triangle that separates the 'y' and 'e' into separate letters, etc).  Honestly, in this case the weeding took the longest time in this process.

Finally, I also did not film the cleaning of the glasses, but that is a must.  They should be washed and free of any fingerprints or smudges before applying the decal.  I did all of that the previous night so they could air dry upside down without needing to use a towel (and risk lint).  In the past I've used alcohol as a final cleaner, but I found that it made adherence of the vinyl difficult this time around. 

So, here is a video of the actual application of the decal to the glass. 


Monday, July 9, 2018

Mulberry Recipes

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I was planning to try several mulberry recipes with my recent "harvest" from our tree.  I had about 2 3/4 large mason jars filled, which was probably 6 cups of berries.  


I had to start by trying to remove the little green stems that were on every berry.  Some recipes say it's okay to keep them and others suggest removing them by using your fingernails as a little "clipper".  Just pulling the stem out didn't work since it's so long and deeply embedded, the berry would just fall apart with the pull.  I will admit that I did give up and only about half of the berries were de-stemmed.  Since I eat them right off the tree, stem and all, this really did not bother me.  And my hands are now a lovely shade of purple... 



The first recipe I tried was this Mulberry Cobbler, which I adapted from: http://sharonglasgow.com/2013/06/mulberry-harvesting-10-ideas-of-what-to-do-with-them/

The original was very health conscious, using gluten-free baking flour, organic sugar, raw milk, etc.  All the stuff I do not ever use.  So, my version was basically this: 

1 cup self rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup 1% milk 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1 stick of butter. 

Directions:
1.      Melt butter in bottom of baking dish (I used a 9x13 glass dish). 
2.      Mix flour, sugar, milk and vanilla together then spread on top of melted butter. 
3.      Mix 2 cups of mulberries in 1/3 cup of sugar- heat to melt sugar.  
4.      Pour on top of flour mixture in baking dish. 
5.      Bake for 35-40 minutes in 375 oven–or until done.

I will admit that the 1 stick of butter seemed so excessive.  I almost was going to pour some out, especially when I added my flour mixture in and so much of the butter was rising to the top.  I swirled it around to try and mix everything and it made a very rich base.   I added the berries, and swirled some more. 




I cooked it for 40 minutes, but probably could have cut it down by a few.  It has a nice brown top and was definitely cooked through.  And all that butter?  It definitely was perfect, although I do notice it still sticks to the bottom a little, which I thought the butter may help, but maybe now when it is melted? We aren't about eating pretty in our house, so as long as I can scrape every last morsel off the pan the family is happy.This one is a keeper!  I love the mild flavor of the cobbler, with just a little sweetness.  It ended up being my dinner last night!






Next up were Mulberry Muffins, adapted from: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/18516/mulberry-muffins/
Boy, did I screw this one up. My dad always says to try a recipe exactly as it is written the first time around, then you can start making adjustments the next time. I wish I did that with this one.  Instead, I listened to a few of the commenters and made some of my own tweaks.  I saw that the original recipe only made 6 muffins, so I doubled it right off the bat.  Then I added brown sugar based on some suggestions, and finally the original called for applesauce, which I didn't put in and that was a mistake!  These were stuck to the paper wrappers and very dry!  My husband slathered them with butter and said he would definitely eat them again, but I am not sure that I will.  Here is the original recipe without my changes....I will probably make them again, but definitely follow exactly as stated.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup mulberries

Directions
1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).Grease 6 jumbo muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
2.      Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, milk, applesauce, egg and almond extract. Stir in flour mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in mulberries. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
3.      Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.




My final experiment was Mulberry Jam which I found here: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/mulberry-jam.html. This one was so simple, it was easy for me to follow it exactly.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups mulberries, rinsed (the tiny green stems do not need to be removed)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
  
Directions
1.      Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop heat to medium-low and add jars and their lids. Simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars and lids and place on a clean towel to let cool.
2.      In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, combine mulberries, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, boil for one minute, then drop to a simmer. Cook fruit, stirring occasionally, until foam subsides and mixture thickens slightly, about 7 minutes.
3.      Using a ladle, carefully transfer hot jam to sterilized jars. Wipe mouths of jars clean and screw on lids very tightly. Let cool at room temperature for at least 8 hours before using.


This was my first time canning anything, so I am glad I found a very easy recipe to start with.  I sterilized my little jars just like it told me.



And melted my sugar into the berries and water.  So pretty to watch it boil down!

 



Then I let it cool overnight, just in time to have some on my Dave's Killer Bread this morning. 





OMG, YUMMY!  Not too sweet (I may actually cut back on a little bit of sugar next time) and it spread on nicely without being too runny, which I feared.  This was a definite make again!



So, here are the FRUITS of my labor on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.







I've already started picking more berries, and I can't wait to see what other recipes I can find. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Mulberries!!!

So, last year we discovered that we have a mulberry bush.  Well, not really a bush, but a tree.  There weren't many berries on there, but what we saw, we would pick and eat right then and there.  However this year, the tree seems to be BURSTING with berries.  Unfortunately part of the tree hangs over our pool, so cleanup has been a nightmare.  The berries are constantly falling and staining our patio, unless the birds -- or our bulldog -- get to them first. For some reason, it never occured to me to pick them in bulk and do something with them!

This morning during my "pool walk" (I literally just walk back and forth beside the pool while reading my Kindle so I can start the day with some extra steps) I decided to grab a mason jar, throw on some rubber gloves (these suckers stain), and see what I could pick.  It took no time to fill this jar up ..and that was even with three berries falling to the ground for every one that I picked. 





I then decided to put a towel on the ground and shake the branches gently.  SO MUCH EASIER.  I wish I had more time...and another jar....to continue, but I had to get ready for work.  But I do plan to grab some old sheets, lay them down under the tree and shake like crazy later on.  I cannot wait to try mulberry cobbler, pie, and granola!!  I found some great recipes on Pinterest, of course.  If I try some that are real winners, I'll post them here and on my new "Favorite Recipes" page on my website!!