Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Goals Followup

1. Visit a museum or art exhibit.

Oh yeah... forgot about that...

2. Go to the free summer movies that are starting up in July (even if I have to go alone!).

Um.... I started watching the Olympics. Does that count?

3. Get some stickers & colored paper from the Dollar Store & make something with them.

Oops. Totally spaced on this too. Maybe I should print out my Goals so I don't forget about them. ;P

4. Walk down to the lake at least once a week.

Does walking to and from the refrigerator count? Oh! But I did start doing my Wii Fit again. So that's good.

5. Finish 4 books.

I finished one book that took me way longer than it should have. I feel like every spare second has been taken up with knitting or designing, but I really should make more of an effort to relax this summer, shouldn't I?

6. Sleep outside under the stars (of course, this requires that it actually stops raining!).

Well... we've had the coldest summer in a looooong time around here. It did finally stop raining, but the nights have still stayed around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Not exactly sleeping outside weather.

7. Visit the local farmer's market.

I keep forgetting about this, too. I'm used to farmer's markets being on Saturday mornings, which is when I think about going. In this town, they're on Thursday afternoons. Go figure.

8. Watch 4 movies from my birth year (1979!).

I'm honestly not even sure I've watched four movies total this month. I know that's very strange for me - I told you I've been busy!

9. Start brainstorming Christmas card designs.

I'm kind of carded out. I had a bunch of cool ones in my shop for awhile, but then I started doing the math on printing them, shipping them, etc... Yeah... Let's just say I was losing money every time one sold.

10. Work on a YouTube tutorial about using a Wacom tablet.

Oh yeah! Good idea!! I have been getting better at using my tablet, although I completely spaced it on doing a tutorial for it. I've been meaning to do a how-to-knit tutorial too. Would anyone be interested in that?

11. Browse through a used bookstore.

Does Amazon.com count?

12. Knit 10 hats for my knitting shop.

YES!! Finally something I completed!! I've knit a BUNCH of new hats for my shop, as well as had my friend Anna model for me. My shop is looking so good now!!

13. Get 5 more template designs and 10 more Etsy banner designs into my design shop.

I actually sold a custom blog design this month (I can't tell you for who yet!!) so haven't had any time to focus on creating blog templates. I'm starting to think templates are a bad idea though - everyone has their own idea of what they want - is it really worth it to make generic templates? Would people even buy those? I'll have to think on that.

I did make a gazillion new Etsy banners though. Those are pretty quick to whip out and a fun way to wind down in the evening. I also made a few super cute Halloween banners!

14. Try again to get a really good star trails photo.

Hmm... another goal that I missed. Oh well. Maybe next month. ;)

Do you set goals? How'd you do this month? {See my original July goals here}

Monday, July 30, 2012

Where in the world is... Slovenia?

Today's tour of nations will take us to Slovenia! Isn't that a fun country to say? Slovenia can be found in Central Europe at the hub of the European trade routes. It borders Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Croatia. According to Wikipedia, Slovenia has a very diverse culture and a high economic and social level.

The Short and Sweet of It All

Slovenia is situated in a unique juncture geographically-speaking. It's got some of the Alps in it, as well as a Mediterranean coastline. The country has a very rich, watered landscape, as well as many dense forests. Their climate varies depending on location from Alpine to sub-Mediterranean.

Slovenia has been occupied by many countries over the years, including the Bavarian Empire, the Carolingian Empire, and the Roman Empire (this was all pre-1st Century AD). Slovenians started self-identifying as their own people-group around the time of the Protestant Reformation (1600's), but weren't their own country until the early 1900's. Since then, they have been absorbed into Yugoslavia and Croatia and some other places (there's like half a page on this in Wikipedia), but around 1991, Slovenia became it's own independent country again. Slovenia is now a parliamentary democracy that has a president and Prime Minister.

Slovenian culture is quite diverse and interesting, due to its varied climates and people groups. Slovene is the main language spoken here, although Italian and Hungarian come in close behind that. Religion tends to be pretty important to Slovenians, with most of them being either Roman Catholic or Lutheran.

Lutheran Church in Bodonci

The Basilica of the Virgin Mary in Brezje

Serbian Orthodox Church in Ljubljana 

Some Cute Animals that can be Found Here

Alpine Lynx
Alpine Ibex
European Hedgehog

Other Interesting Things to Note

Slovenia is the richest Slavic (Eastern European) nation, but they do have an aging population overall, so that's somewhat of a concern for their economic future. Their main exports are cars and car parts. They also are a huge tourist destination, especially for European travelers.

Lake Bled, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Slovenia

Postojna Cave

Piran, a port town in Southern Slovenia

Alpine landscape near Kranjska Gora

During the Protestant Reformation and Romantic eras, Slovenia had a high amount of music and art flourishing. These creative expressions are still very important to the Slovenian culture.

Commons foods in Slovenia are sausage, porridge, chicken soup, and pastries.

"The Sower" (1907), by Impressionistic painter and musician Ivan Grohar
Prekmurska gibanica is a typical pastry of the Prekmurje region.

Slovenia is also a top international sport contender in areas such as handball, football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, ice hockey, rowing, and swimming (as well as many other). They take sports very seriously there and many of their citizens are employed as professional athletes. They regularly qualify for the football (soccer) World Cup, as well as for the Olympic games.

Zlatin Ljubijankic

New Blog Design!

I have come to terms with the fact that I love changing my blog design. It's fun and interesting to me to try out new looks. And hey... I probably wouldn't be well on my way to being a graphic designer if I didn't enjoy playing with designs!! ;)

So yes... in case you were wondering... I changed my blog design again this weekend! I've been seeing so many clean, more easily navigated blogs around lately that I was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic with my old design.

There are remnants of my old design lying around still, but overall I'm all new and spiffed up now!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Etsy Tips: Pricing your products for profit

What are you charging for your creative products? On Etsy or otherwise, doesn't matter. I would bet you it isn't enough. The thing is... YOU wouldn't ever pay what your item is worth because you can make it.

You are not your ideal customer.

Let me repeat that... YOU are not your ideal customer.

Your ideal customer thinks that what you create is amazing and wonderful, in part because they couldn't (or don't care to) make it themselves. You need to be pricing accordingly.

I know I, for one, am always tempted to set a price based on 1) what other Etsians are charging, 2) what I would pay for such an item, and 3) how much it feels to me like it's worth. While I think my gut feelings are usually pretty trustworthy, I'm beginning to wonder if, where money is concerned, I'm a little scared to charge what something is worth.

How do you know what something is worth?

It's all about perceived value. Not cost of materials. A purse can retail for $10 or $30,000 - both are made with approximately the same materials.

Perceived value is very important. What would your ideal customer pay for your item?

Visualize where you want to be in 5 years.

At the risk of sounding like a yogi, take a minute to envision your ideal "work" situation, whatever that means to you, five years from now. Where are you? What are you doing? What equipment do you see around you? Who is working with you? How does this environment make you feel?

Now, price your work accordingly. Price your work with that goal in mind, or you'll never reach it.

What does your future self charge? What type of lifestyle are you living? Step forward into those shoes, if you will, because that's the only only way to grow and develop as a businesswoman.

Oh, and one more thing...

If you ever feel guilty about charging anyone anything for your art, remember this... businesses exist to make a profit... and are entitled to do so (that's a quote by somebody smart, although I'm not sure who). The bottom line is... your art is important and valuable. You don't need to feel like you can't make a living doing what you love. The two are not mutually exclusive. However... if you never charge enough for your work... you're probably going to need to go back to your day job.

What would your future self say about that?

I was largely inspired by this lovely video by Megan Auman and Tara Gentileon about how to price for profit in your creative business. It's definitely worth a watch.

Watch live streaming video from etsy at livestream.com

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Where in the world is... the United Arab Emirates?

In light of the Olympic games starting this week, I thought it'd be fun to research some of the countries participating that I know little to nothing about. Today's spotlight will be on the United Arab Emirates!

According to Wikipedia, UAE is a federation of 7 emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Am I the only one that didn't realize these places were in the same country? I've heard of them both but never put that together. Anyway...

UAE is in the Middle East, nestled in next to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

A Brief History Lesson... 7000 Years Consolidated into One Paragraph

Apparently people have lived in this region since about 5000 BC. That's... a LONG time!! Foreign trade by caravan and by seafaring has always been huge for them, and by the first century AD, they were exporting pearls as far away as China. Around 630 AD, Muslim prophets came to this region and the country became mostly Islamic (and still is, to this day). Portugal and Great Britain ruled them throughout the 16th-19th centuries AD, but they now rule themselves. The pearl industry eventually faded away after the Second World War, and their main export business is currently in oil.

Bani Yas Island

A desert on the outskirts of Dubai

Other Things You Might Like to Know about the United Arab Emirates

The current president of UAE, Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
From what I can understand, UAE is a presidential system of monarchies... or something like that... Wikipedia explains it better. Basically each of the 7 emirates has a hereditary monarchy (like England does... each king is born into the job). Then there's a president and prime minister who run the country as a whole. The system has it's roots in the tribal history of the area. There are around 8 million people living there now, 80% of which are non-citizen workers (mainly coming from Southern Asia: India, Pakistan, Thailand, etc).

The main language there is Arabic, with a large emphasis on learning English as a second language in school. Unemployment is low and literacy rates and health care are high in UAE, although they do have one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world. Overall though, they're a very rich nation, with Dubai being the richest city in Western Asia. They are quite a modern society, although they have very ancient, multi-cultural roots, largely because of the trade routes that they've had going through there for millennia. As a Muslim nation, they also take a lot of cultural and holiday cues from the Islam religion.

Rice, fish, lamb, and mutton are staples of food in UAE. Coffee and tea are popular, especially when flavored with cardamom, saffron, or mint. The main crops grown there are date palm, acacia trees, and eucalyptus trees. Native animals include the Arabian oryx and the leopard, as well as coastal mammals like tuna, sharks, and whales.

Tradition Emirate tea



Football (or soccer, as we like to call it) and cricket are the most popular sports in UAE, largely due to the high number of Brits and Indian ex-pats living there. Other popular sports include camel riding, falconry, endurance riding, and tennis.

2009 Camel World Cup (yes, there is such a thing!)

More photos of UAE

As you can see, the culture in the United Arab Emirates seems to be both modern and old-school. It seems like it'd be a very interesting place to visit!

A souk (open-air marketplace) in Dubai

A mall in Dubai

Abu Dhabi skyline at night

Dubai skyline at night

What I've Read #3

I have a huge stack of books sitting on my TV all summer that I've been meaning to read... and of course, I haven't had time to read any of them.

I've been feeling this drive while I'm out of school for the summer to get my Etsy shops rolling. The goal being to have them making somewhat of an income while I'm busy in school this fall. It's amazing how much time organizing, designing, creating, and marketing take up!

Anyway... I actually have finished one book recently: Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, which is the second book in a dystopian trilogy set in a future Chicago.

It was actually an interesting story, but for some reason I had trouble picking it up to finish it. The first in the series, Divergent, held my interest much better, though I am still looking forward to the sequel, which I believe comes out in about a year.

Essentially the premise behind this trilogy is that there are 5 factions of people in this country (all living within the former metropolis region of Chicago), each faction grouped together based on their personality and belief system. When each person becomes a teenager, they are tested to determine which faction they best fit in, and if their test shows that they would be suited for another faction, they can choose to move there. The main character of the story, Beatrice, is part of a minority of citizens called Divergent, whose test results display that they have the aptitude for two or more factions (most person's test results display an aptitude for only one faction). Beatrice, in fact, has aptitude for three factions, which makes her very dangerous to the country's leaders, and... you'll have to read this series to find out why! ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interacting with Readers and Twitter Followers

When growing your blog, it's important to interact with the people who are helping you grow your blog... your readers! If you're quiet like me, you may not relish the idea of being social, even online, but I promise it doesn't have to be painful, and it can go a long way towards making you seem open and approachable. This in turn will make people happy when they visit your blog and that much more likely to stick around!

Step 1: Reply to Comments

Taking the time to reply to your reader's comments goes a long way to making them feel at home. I can't tell you how many times I've asked a question on a blog and not received an answer. While I understand that bloggers are busy people, it really makes you seem antisocial (and/or rude) if you hole up and never respond to people.

Remember that you're not committing to marry this person, you simply want to acknowledge that they exist and that you honor and respect the fact that they took the time to comment on your blog. As your blog gets larger, you can be more selective in choosing who you respond to, but especially when someone writes more than the obligatory, "Nice post!", please take a moment to write them back. People really like knowing that their favorite blogger is a real person, and nothing says "real" like an actual email conversation!

Make sure you actually email the reader back, too. Don't just leave a comment on your blog below their comment; 99.9% of readers won't actually come back to see what you've responded, and they'll still end up feeling like you've ignored them.

Step 2: @Reply Them on Twitter

You don't need to Twitter-stalk people, but if you genuinely have a remark or comment to say about something they've tweeted, jump right in! Worse thing that'll happen is that they'll block you and think you're weird (and if they already read your blog, chances are good that that won't happen). Best thing that'll happen is that you'll have made a new friend!

Remember that when Twittering, make sure to intersperse your @replies with genuine random Tweets about what you're thinking and doing. People are more like to want to follow you &/or interact with you if you're actually interesting. Don't worry about being overly clever or brilliant - I find that sometimes the most interesting people to follow on Twitter are simply posting about their day!

Step 3: Ask & Receive Questions

It always makes me want to comment on a blog post when a blogger asks a question at the end of the post. It lets me know that they genuinely want to know what I think! I've also seen posts where the question to the reader is the entire point of the post; I love those because it makes the blog feel so much more interactive.

If you ever receive a really good question from a reader, consider turning it into a blog post! I've made some of my best tutorial posts all because someone asked me how to do something and I figured the answer might be helpful for everyone. Even if you don't end up turning their question into a blog post, taking the time to write out a mini-tutorial for someone who emails you can really make them feel special!

Step 3: Dealing with Trolls, Bullies, & Spammers

I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you, but not everyone is nice and kind and pleasant to deal with. Take a minute and consider how you'll react/respond when someone says mean things about you on your blog or to you on Twitter. How will you deal with spam comments? What do you even consider to be spam?

How you deal with these things will depend quite a bit on how tough your skin is and also on the environment you want to cultivate on your blog. I don't know about other blog platforms, but Blogger has very good spam protection on their comments. If a comment gets through that makes you feel icky, attacked, or intruded upon, go into your Comment Moderation screen and "Mark as Spam". Blogger learns what you consider spam as you go along, so as long as you train it the first couple times, you'll end up getting very little spam on your blog.

On Twitter, remember that you always have the option to either Block or Report a user for spamming. Don't do this every time someone annoys you, but if you feel genuinely threatened by them or feel that they are probably just a spam-bot and not an actual human, please don't hesitate to take action. (And of course, you can always just un-follow them if you don't like reading what they say!).


This concludes week five of the Build Your Blog! series. Next week we'll talk about making friends with other bloggers! If you haven't already, don't forget to subscribe to this blog so you know when the next edition of the blog series is ready!

Questions or comments about this week's topic? Leave them below & I will try to answer them all in a follow-up post later this summer!

Grab a button and spread the word!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

29 Ways To Stay Creative

I've seen this creativity list before in list form, but today I ran across it in video form and felt so inspired by it! There's definitely something to be said for merging design and music.

The tip to take breaks really stood out to me this time. I've worked in the corporate world for so long that I automatically feel guilty if I'm not working, working, working my little fingers to the bone. Unlike data entry or filing, creativity doesn't really thrive when you do that. Lol.

Some other great tips from the list...

Drink coffee.
Quit beating yourself up.
Sing in the shower.

I sometimes forget that creativity is sort of a state of mind. You have to let yourself get into that dreamy headspace, where anything is possible, and unicorns prance around. Creativity isn't always something you can just beat yourself over the head to accomplish. It has to swell up and overflow from your very center. Getting yourself into that creative headspace is half the battle! The rest just sort of happens naturally.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recipe: S'mores Treats

Hey all you fabulous readers! I hope that you are having a wonderful Tuesday!

My name is Keely and I have a special treat for you today, so make sure to thank Jennifer for letting me hang out here! You can find some more recipes over on my blog, Hairbows and Butter, hope to see you there soon!

So we all know that rice krispie treats are delicious, agreed? Well I took the idea to the next level and created for you a S'mores treat (no rice krispies needed!).

So these treats are made with Golden Grahams, butter, marshmallows and broken up Hershey's bars! How can we really go wrong here?

Let's get to it then!

S'mores treats

1 stick butter
1 1/2 bags mini marshmallows
5 cups Golden Grahams
2 Hershey's bars

Wow! Only 4 ingredients!

Before we get started make sure to grease a 9x9 pan, we want these babies to come out!

Now, in a large sauce pan, melt the stick of butter. Once the butter is melted, add in one bag of marshmallows, and stir, stir, stir! Stir until the the marshmalllows are completely melted.

Now, add in the Golden Grahams and stir until everything is well combined.

Before adding in to the pan add the pieces of the Hershey's bars.

Smush into the greased pan and let cool.

Take out of the pan and cut into 12 pieces. Enjoy!

Have a great day!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Etsy Tips: Using models in your product shots

Available on Etsy

I got to thinking about the overall branding of my knit shop this past month, and decided that it would give it a little more polished feel to show my hats being used. I know when I search through Etsy for knit hats (market research!!), I'm always more tempted to click on the happy, smiling faces of beautiful women wearing beautiful hats than I am to click on a featureless, white mannequin. Somehow the hat seems more lovely when it's shown on someone that looks happy wearing it. Not sure why that is exactly, but it seems to be true.

So... as painfully shy as I am, it took me awhile to ask one of my friends to model for me. But I finally did, and to my surprise she readily agreed! We did the shoot outdoors one afternoon this past week when the sky was a bit overcast. I love how it gave the photos a sort of autumn-y feel to them, even though we don't have any fall leaves in the background.

I guess my point is, don't be afraid to aim a little higher in marketing your shop. Learn how to take good photos. Use models (even if they're "just" your friends). It really does make your shop instantly seem that much higher in quality!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guess Those 80's Movies! (Part 3)

This is the last round of my 80's movie guess game. How did you do? {round 1} {round 2} This week I tried to pick from some of my favorite tv movies, so don't expect this to be easy!! ;D Place your answers in the comment section (and don't cheat by checking other people's answers!)

I'm thinking about continuing this game in different themes. What do you think? Or would you like me to just continue doing 80's movies for awhile?

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