Wednesday, December 31, 2008

After Christmas Sale!!

Our Art Fire shop is having a huge after-Christmas sale to clear out all of our older inventory to make way for all the AWESOME new items coming up this year!!

We'll be discounting blankets anywhere from 50 - 75% in our efforts to clear some space in my home -- you simply can't beat these prices!! Today alone we listed six items up for clearance in our shop -- check out the links and descriptions below... Don't see something that strikes your fancy? We'll be adding quite a few more blankets over the next few days -- keep checking back :).

Blue Flowers Medium Snuggle Blanket -- Reg. $20, Clearance $10

Red Trains Medium Snuggle Blanket -- Reg. $20, Clearance $10
Flowers and Minky Blanket -- Reg. $25, Clearance $10
White Butterfly Brocade and Minky -- Reg. $40, Clearance $18
Blue and Green Mod Dot Silk and Minky -- Reg. $35, Clearance $15
Large (43" x 62") Green Swirl Quilt (channel quilted) -- Reg. $80, Clearance $30

If you have any questions about these blankets or their prices, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Take care and happy shopping!

Comings and Goings...

Just thought I'd pop in and wish every a Happy (and safe) New Year! Tonight is low-key for us -- playing penny ante poker with the family, eating food and drinking beer with the various siblings. Nothing wild and crazy, but that's the way we enjoy New Years!

I figured I'd take today and reflect over the past year while focusing more on what I'd like to do in 2009... I can't believe how far we've come -- we did our first little farmer's market in March, started selling on Etsy in April/May, and I really feel like we've come a far way. We've refined our products, morphing through different styles, shapes, sizes and prices before we settled on something we truly think is a great deal. We're diving into the world of online advertising -- first with this blog, then with getting our banners posted on other blogs -- though we've got a long way to go.

Above all the changes, though, I think my photography has definitely been the one thing that's improved the most. I definitely don't have an eye for photography -- I'm lucky I can get my objects centered, nevermind in focus. Lighting? Pshaw, yeah right.

Let's laugh a bit, shall we?

First disasterous attempt at photography -- full sun... in the spring... in Florida... Notice the hand shadow and camera cord in the picture? Notice the blindingly white backdrop? Oy vey.

Then, I took it inside and tried to set a nice area up in my spare bedroom. There isn't a ton of natural light in there, so I imported a bunch of lamps and tried to focus them on the black backdrop. Throw in the fact that my camera was a very mediocre, not very good in poor lighting, Nikon and you have a photograph that might actually be slightly worse than the first photos outside. The colors in the blanket are all off, there are shadows everywhere and, well, it's just bad.

Finally, there's this one. It's still not the *best*, but it's heads and tails better than the first two. The lighting is better -- it's in indirect light in my office. The props are nicer -- an antique wooden chair -- and the overall ambience (with the window in the background) is much improved over a flat backdrop. It showcases the sheen and colors of the blanket truthfully without too much glare and the angle seems nice. Plus, I have a better camera so the actual picture quality is improved. It's not perfect, but it's improved.

I'd like to think I've improved a lot of things this year, from my designs to my descriptions on Etsy to my photographs, but I also acknowledge there's a long way to go before I can say that I've done well.

Anyway, after reflection I realized how much work I'd like to get done this year... Just as a treat, I'll let you know what's in store for Made By Moms in 2009 (this is, of course, if the CPSIA gets amended)...

1. We'll be putting out a catalog (like Avon's catalog) that will be distributed to teacher lounges and hair salons throughout the Central Florida area. If you're interested in one, just let me know and I'll mail it to you when I'm done. This is set for release early February!

2. We're starting our organic line of bibs, blankets and burp cloths. This is set for release early February!

3. We're designing a line of plush blocks that will have a ton of stimulating activities for baby -- including rattles, doors and crinkly noises -- they're going to be awesome. We'll be releasing those sometime in May (if this sounds interesting to you, keep an eye on the blog because we'll be giving away a few sets for FREE to those who are willing to review them!).

4. We'll be working on a line of baby loungewear that'll include applique tops and matching pants. This is set to be released sometime near August!

5. We'll be increasing our exposure and advertising by networking with mommy blogs (especially Mom Dot and Mod Mom), increasing our consignment opportunities in Central Florida and working more craft fairs.

So, even with the economy down, we've got an eye on growth!

Thank you to EVERYONE who has helped support our business, either by frequenting our blogs, making us a favorite on Art Fire or Etsy or purchased from us, in 2008. We look forward to meeting so many more people in the upcoming year and hope you'll stick with us as we move along our journey.

You all rock!

Jen

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Etsy Seller Review -- KeetaCollection

Way back in October, I was searching Etsy and the internet to find someone to custom create two purses for me. They were for my two second-cousins and I needed something cute and fun for two college-age women who had completely different senses of style. One is an upscale college student and the other loved California chic. Boom, I found Vicki, owner of Keetacollection and a good relationship soon ensued. I loved the first two purses so much, I ordered three more for my mother, mother-in-law and stepmother-in-law for Christmas. It wasn't only me who loved it -- every single person who received them as gifts were ecstatic *and* there have been a few people who have contacted Vicki about special orders.

So, let's get into the review, shall we?

Where you can find KeetaCollection:
Her website: http://www.keetacollection.com
Her Etsy Site: http://keetacollection.etsy.com

Communication and Customer Service:
Vicki is definitely a 10 on the customer service scale. Her email replies are fast, her completion time is short and she's willing to go the extra mile for her customers. She makes it easy to pay through PayPal and her website is fantastic!!

Her Eye for Style:

Both of my orders were custom and both orders involved vague ideas like "my mom is more classic in style," or "my stepmother-in-law is a fan of Thomas Kincaide." My first order involved the UCF bag and the California-chic bag, and she knocked both of them out of the park. I was so impressed with her ability to match the fabrics with the theme/idea proposed that I ordered the next three bags with the same vague style ideas. She created bags that matched the idea perfectly. She's definitely someone who can create fantastic styles for those who aren't quite sure what they're looking for.

Her eye for style gets a 10.

Quality, Value and Workmanship:

As one sew-er to another, her workmanship is top-notch. Her stitches are straight and even, the seams are matched well and her bags are ultra-sturdy. The quality of the fabrics she uses is second-to-none and she even includes special little touches like a key clip inside the purse. When you look at the quality of fabrics she uses and the care she takes creating her items, I'd say her items are worth every penny she charges. When you look at the cost of even purses and totes at Target, which can easily reach $50 - $70, her prices are absolutely affordable.

Quality and workmanship get 10. Her value is definitely a 10.

Her Overall Score:

I don't know, what do you think her overall score should be? I'd say she's the best seller I've dealt with on Etsy and the internet in general -- and that's high praise, as I've purchased items from some amazing sellers and I'm not trying to take away from them... I'm just saying that she's amazing. She has a great combination of friendly customer service, fantastic quality and value that is lacking when you shop at even the high-end large-scale stores.... *plus* her items are all handmade!!!

She's definitely a 10 out of 10 -- if you ever need to find purses from small clutches to large diaper bags, kitchen towels or changing pads, you definitely need to check out the KeetaCollection.

Take care and have a great day

Jen

PS: I don't have pictures of all the purses because I forgot to take them on Christmas!! Ha Ha! I'm dumb!!!

We had a Merry Christmas!

I just wanted this to be a quick post letting everyone know that our Christmas went well! It had some highs and lows -- with the lows being that my aunt, who rocks, is in hospice care and is not going to make it much longer -- but we came through it ok. We visited with her on Christmas Eve and she enjoyed seeing my son... :-/

It started out with a fun family dinner at a restaurant for Christmas eve (always a tradition to eat out on Christmas Eve)... You can see how seriously I take life in this picture taken by my three-year-old (that's my brother on the right, with the evil red eyes... yeah, I always knew he was put on this earth to torment me... now I have proof he's evil!!!):

He's actually pretty good for 3 -- I think he takes better pictures than I do! I got a nice new camera for Christmas (actually, I got it last month but it was my Christmas present), so he got my old Nikon Coolpix and he was more than thrilled. I have so many close-ups of his nose, lips and cheeks that it's not even funny.

Santa, mommy and grandma were all very good to my son -- he was inundated with all things Pirates. My brother got him a dress-up kit from Disney, which grandma and child immediately used to dress up...

Anyway, we hope your holidays have been the most merry, the most bright and the happiest that any season can offer. From our home to yours, Happy Holidays!!!

With love,

Jen

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Organics are Coming, Organics are Coming!!!

Just thought you guys would want to be the first to know -- it's official. Starting in mid-January we will be offering products made with only 100% certified organic materials (with the exception of the snaps we use to close our bibs). We'll have our snuggle blankets made out of flannel, sateen prints by Harmony Art, sherpa, fleece and terry cloth. They are going to be amazing!!! The organic fabrics we're purchasing are truly top-notch, premium quality, you're going to be astounded.

I can't wait to get them on the market!

If you'd like to pre-order, the two prints from
Harmony Art we're getting in are Fields of Honey (a sateen)...


and Moon (a lightweight flannel.






Both will come with matching onesies, burp cloths and bibs, and all are available for pre-order. The reason we're offering pre-orders is to gauge the desire for these products. We only ordered a small amount of the fabric, so there will only be limited quantities available (at first). If the demand is high enough, we'll order more fabric. The pre-order will just be a reservation system -- you won't pay anything until I send you pictures of the completed items (**unless** it's something that I will only make on custom, like a large blanket). If you're interested in reserving yourself a blanket, bib, burp cloth or full set, check out the prices below!!

The prices for pre-orders will be a little less expensive than our regular price:

Small Snuggle Blankets (17 - 18") -- Backed with organic flannel, with squares of sherpa, fleece, and two panels of flannel/sateen print -- $27.00 (Reg Price = $30)

Medium Snuggle Blanket (20 - 21") -- Backed with organic flannel, with squares of sherpa, fleece and two panels of flannel/sateen print -- $32.50 (Reg Price = $36.00) ... These are custom orders only!

Large Blanket (30" x 36") -- One side flannel/sateen print, one side regular flannel -- $40.00 (Reg Price = $45) ... These are custom orders only!

Receiving Blanket (38" x 38") -- One piece of flannel bound by a binding of sateen or flannel print -- $48.00 (Reg Price = $55.00) ... These are custom orders only!

Premium Receiving Blanket (38" x 38") -- Two-sided blanket with one side flannel/sateen print and the other side regular flannel -- $60.00 (Reg Price = $70.00) ... These are custom orders only!

Bibs (large -- 8 x 12", snap closure) -- One side flannel/sateen print, one side flannel, fleece or terry cloth (won't be in until late February!) -- $10.00 (Reg Price -- $12.00)

Burp Cloths (11" x 18", eco-friendly batting inside instead of cloth diaper) -- One side flannel/sateen print, one side flannel/fleece/terry cloth/sherpa -- $11.00 (Reg Price = $14.00)

Organic Onesies (natural color, sizes 6-12, 12-18 and 18-24 in stock... name brand Bella onesies) -- Appliqued with either 100% recycled felt in an Earth design, the Moon flannel in a crescent moon, or the Fields of Honey in a flower design -- $18.00

All fabric will be pre-washed to prevent shrinkage at home (as organic fibers are rarely treated against shrinkage), in an all-natural wash from Seventh Generation. They will come shipped to you using the USPS's boxes made from 100% recycled materials with no tissue paper (unless requested) to save waste.

As always, your products will be handmade in a smoke-free (but pet-friendly!) home.

For our local customers, we hope to have these in the Evolve store (these will be a bit more than we charge online to cover consignment expenses) on Thornton Ave, by the end of January!

Take care and Merry Christmas :) :)

Jen

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Poll -- Please vote !!!!

Hey everyone -- I don't have much time this morning, but I wanted to post a new poll...

Would you (or do you know anyone who would) purchase 100% organic baby items if they cost more money?

The reason I'm asking is that we recently had some requests for more organic items, but the expense of purchasing organic fabrics like terry, fleece, sherpa, flannel and sateen prints is astronomical (we're talking in the ballpark of $20 a yard). This would mean our "Snuggle Blankets," which usually retail for $15 would have to retail for $30 - $35, our bibs would be $12 - $14 and our burp cloths would be around $11 - $13.

Even with the added expense, would you purchase those items? Is that important to you?

Please log your vote to the left and comment here with thoughts or suggestions!

Thanks a bunch and take care, all!!

Jen

PS: The poll will close on 1/01! Thanks :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Homegrown for the Holidays -- a Wrap-Up

Whew! That really sums up today -- busy, stressful, long, but so rewarding! This was really a great show, one that I look forward to visiting again next year :).

First, I got there at 8:45 to set up, by myself! I didn't know where half my stuff was (as we haven't done a show since October), couldn't find my table cloths (I purchased two holiday cream ones on clearance from Target for $7) and was generally frazzled as I tried to get everything set up and looking pretty before showtime... I don't think I did too horribly bad on my own...


So, I get myself set up and decide to wander around and who do I see but some of my fellow Orlando Arts Team members -- Pinka, Le Petit Poussin, Raven's Repose Soaps, Baby Bow Madness, Bollinger and Surpreyes !!! Yay :), I love hanging out and chatting with friends :).

Since everyone but Surpreyes were across the way from me, I chatted with them first... their shop looked awesome when completed ! I love them all! I've used Raven's Repose soaps and they are fantastic -- the quality of Le Petit Poussin and Pinka's items are so high (oh, if it were only socially acceptable to stick my son in cute skirts... I'd have blown all the money I made. My husband is thankful).


I went down the hallway to where Surpreyes was creating her craft -- she was recently honered with a POW award and selected to go to the Craft & Hobby Association’s Indie Crafter booth!! Awesome! Her work truly is marvelous, I'm seriously in awe of her mad creating skills. This is Heather humoring me in her booth!


Oh, yeah, this is my Santa. Back off and no one gets hurt.



I'm thinking I might be able to sucker her into trading me that Santa for my OOAK vintage silk sari quilt -- what do you think?

One final shot -- her beautiful chakra dolls made from scraps of fabric... aren't they amazing?


Anyway, pretty much at 11 am, people starting coming. In droves! We were busy pretty much all day long. Not overwhelmingly, pull-your-hair-out busy, but pleasantly occupied. Everyone we met was fantastic -- from the fellow vendors to every customer. I've never been to a craft show yet where there wasn't one negative nancy, but *not* today. Maybe everyone was in the holiday spirit, the stars were aligned properly or the clientelle at this event draws from a happier segment of the population, but everyone smiled... many shook my hand, everyone stopped to chitchat, and no one was rude! Amazing! Anyway, we did really well today. The hubby stopped by with little man, and they played around with the "soap snow" and listened to the musicians and entertainers over by the Dandelion Cafe.

At 7 pm, it was time to close shop after a long 8 hours there. Honestly, I *wouldn't* have closed up, but my toddler was there and he was getting a little hungry... so I made the executive decision to close. We could have stayed open til 10 pm but the area we were in closed at 7 because the drum circle and dancing started next door.
We ate at the fantastic Dandelion Cafe (yummy vegan food... mmmm.....) and danced at bit at the Winter Solstice drum festival before leaving at around 9 pm. The toddler was *definitely* at the end of his rope (even though he wouldn't admit it to himself!).

All in all, a wonderful day. I got to sit outside in beautiful weather, meet fantastic people, chat a bit with friends, pet some fun dogs (including an adorable welsh corgi) and make some money. You can't ask for a better day than that, now can you?

Take care all and Merry Christmas if I can't get back to blog before then!

Jen

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My goals for 2009

Thanks to the kind people over at We Love Art Fire, I've decided to put some thought into my business goals for 2009. I figured that if I put it on my blog, for all to see, it might spur me to accomplish it!

Here we go:

**Streamline my record keeping by creating an inventory database through Excel, and sales data through Quick Books.

**Create a catalog to distribute (like an Avon catalog) through hair salons, teacher's lounges and other places that target women.

**Spend more on online advertising and get advertising for my blog, which will then enable me to get more online advertising ;)

**List everything through Art Fire and have as much of my inventory as possible online.
**Have 50 followers to my blog by the end of the year (I have 2 now)

**Do one craft show or farmer's market per month and try out some medium-sized craft fairs this year (I have done small, one-day and huge four-day)... perhaps branch myself out to go a little farther away to get better craft fairs

**Get into some sort of buying co-op or agreement so I can purchase my fabric wholesale

**Create an actual business "plan" and get more organized overall. Right now everything is spread to the high hills in my house... nothing is centralized and my sales folder is a disaster. I keep accurate tax records, but I need to be better organized!!! I feel to be more profitable, I need to become more organized.

I can say that I'm already done with inventory and I'm working on the catalog... so I'm, at least, getting some important things done. Now I'm off to go and create some sales logs with QuickBooks.

Take care all and thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ode to Art Fire...

I'm bored (actually... technically, I'm avoiding housework), so I thought I'd write a tribute to Art Fire and why I love the new site so much...

** Oh Art Fire, you only charge me $7 a month and I can list and sell an unlimited amount. You are giving me access to a blog and the ability to attach 10 pictures to every listing... you are a great deal.

**Oh Art Fire, you allow me to see who (like Google or Yahoo) is referencing both my shop and my specific items. I can see how many people view my studio, not just individual items.

**Oh Art Fire, you not only published my article on craft fairs, here, but you also visit my blog and comment. You make me feel like a valued member of a community, rather than seller number 1,052.

**Oh Art Fire, your search function makes me swoon! While there are always room for improvements (such as a list in ABC order function), the simple fact that you have a search function by PRICE is amazing! I love it!

**Oh Art Fire, you make it so easy for me to sign up new customers. When I only listed on Etsy, all custom orders that we received from friends and previous customers never got listed -- why pay their listing and selling fee if they didn't find the customer???!!! By not charging us listing or selling fees, I can list an unlimited number of custom orders and get my friends, family and previous clients signed up. More buyers means more purchases all around!!!!! YAY!

**Oh, Art Fire, your selling process is fantastic! I love how I can add the tracking information right to the invoice and I love your "Recent Sales" box on the front page. It makes everything so organized and easy to manage! I love your karma system that allows you to mark your experience on a 1 - 10 scale instead of relying on "positive, negative, neutral" system that Ebay realized was inadequate on the selling end years ago. I love how I can add notes about the progress of an order !!!

I know that Art Fire is a new site, I know they're still working on kinks, and I know that the best is yet to come... I guess that's why I'm so excited! I already feel more at home, and happier, at Art Fire than I ever did at Etsy. At Etsy, I felt like an insignificant number and, truthfully, I was. I didn't spend the ridiculous amounts of money needed to update or add my products constantly, attempting in vain to stay at the top of the search, so I just wasn't important. At AF, I feel valued and that makes me feel good as an artist. I hope it succeeds -- in this type of economy, success isn't even assured for the most rooted of businesses -- because I truly like the people working for Art Fire. Can't say the same for Etsy.

Jen

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

Pictures of my custom orders :)

Ok, so I promised you pictures and here they are:

The elephant burp cloth and bib set:





The University of Florida burp cloth and blanket set:





The paisley burp cloth, bib and blanket set:

Enjoy and let me know what you think!!!

Jen

YAY -- My article was FEATURED :)

See, this is why I love Art Fire (and their employee, Sara) -- grassroots who care about their members. They feature their verified vendors and you can write for their Art Daily magazine.

Anyway, we wrote a featured article here:

Art Daily Article

It's on the basic differences between craft shows and online, so definitely take a look at it even if you're a craft show veteran. Post comments there to help me, because it's intended to be a series. If I left something out or there is something I should touch on, please let me know! Any feedback is highly, highly appreciated :)

Take care all

Jen

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yay Custom orders...

Whew, has today been productive! I've sewn:

Four UF burp cloths and one UF snuggle blanket
One paisley burp cloth, one paisley bib and one paisley snuggle blanket

*and*

One pink elephant burp cloth and bib

All for custom orders! Plus, I've started on my catalog that I'm going to start distributing to local hair salons and in teacher's lounges.

I won't be able to post pictures of my custom orders until tomorrow, since I have just enough time to shower before I pick up my son.

Just thought I'd let you all know how good I've been today!

Jen

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Someone explain this to me...

Ok, I'll admit it... I have the soul of an engineer. I'm very artistic in my own way, but my true heart and soul belong to logic, reasoning, mathematics and science. Forget art class, I wanted Physics.

I'm weird, so sue me.

Anyway, I've never understood the whole "family recipe" thing... as in "this stays in the family and you can NEVER, NEVER EVER give it out to anyone... ever. Period." To me, there simply is no rational to it and it feels selfish (I have something that's mine, all mine, and I won't share it with you... nahny nahny boo boo). Why am I discussing this?

Well, I was baking anise biscuits with my cousin... it was my grandmother's recipe that we've spent two Christmases perfecting. Why? Well, her measurements aren't really 6 cups of flour, it's 6 cups of flour more or less. It isn't 8 oz of juice, it's a "glass of juice." It took us a while to discover her glasses were 10 oz, not 8. A handful, well... her hands are bigger than mine! A "demitasse cup of baking powder" but we can't find her demitasse cups... ACK.

Cooking might be an art, but baking is definitely a science (which is probably why I prefer baking). If you add too much liquid, your cookies won't set... too much flour and they'll be dry rocks.

Anyway, we think we've hit on the correct amounts of everything (perhaps a bit more anise next year) and I laughed about how I wanted to take grandma's recipe card and scan it to put it on the internet... just so people could see what we were working with. She was scandalized -- put Grandma's recipe on the INTERNET so EVERYONE could see it? Holy jeez, you would have thought I was proposing putting nuclear secrets on the internet. This shock and adamant refusal started a discussion as to WHY it's taboo to share her biscuit or butter cookie recipe (which, oddly enough, doesn't include butter... go figure)... All we ever got to is because "it's a family thing."

Yeah, I'm sorry, not good enough. Sentimentality doesn't trump logic, which to me is "If someone appreciates something of yours enough to ask for the recipe, use what you learned in kindergarten and share." It's the right thing to do. I share every single recipe I have -- from my mother's tomato sauce to my eggplant parmesan, lasagna and chicken salad recipes -- when people ask. My best friend shared her grandmother's tea cakes recipe with me when I told her how much I liked them.

So what if people make them for their family or make it to bring to parties? The rational was: "If you give out the recipe, everyone will bring the same thing." What? With Food TV, AllRecipes.com, Epicurious and the thousands of websites and blogs devoted to recipes... everyone will bring my grandmother's anise biscuits to the same party? Not rational. Not logical.

So come on, blogosphere... are you like that? Do you not share "secret" family recipes? Why? How about the other coin -- why do you share? I share because it makes me feel good that someone liked what I made (same reason why I sew stuff for people... I like the appreciation). I can understand not sharing a recipe you make money off of (like if you owned a bakery!), but if you're not profitting from it... uh....

Help me out here, give me your reasons!

Jen

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's official

I have traumatized my dog. Poor Molly, I really do feel sorry for her. She won't eat, won't drink and when I put the collar around her head this morning, she stood up in her crate, staring straight ahead for a full hour.

Then I took her outside to go potty, brought her back in... and she did the *same* thing while we ate breakfast -- just stood in the doorway, drooling on the floor and staring into nothingness. Now (four hours after we woke up), she is standing in my son's playroom (I moved her in there so she could be with us while we played) and she did the same thing.

It's like the collar puts her into a trance... I think she truly is traumatized. I would feel bad and take it off *BUT* she's a hardcore licker. You can't imagine the number of bladder infections she's given herself because she licks ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Darn it. And she's got toys and we have an acre she runs around like a crazy dog daily plus a toddler who tires her out, she's not bored... she just likes to lick.

Take a look at her and TELL me that's not pathetic.




Jen

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ewwww.....

Ok, so two things... the first is that I pulled a ridiculously large dog tick off one of my cats today. She's an indoor/outdoor cat (out during the day so she can molest and digest small woodland creatures and inside at night so she can sleep on my head) and I was petting her when I felt a large pebble lodged on her neck. Now, usually pebbles don't lodge themselves on a cat's neck, so I inspected it a little further and saw what appeared to be a greenish-grayish pebble the size of a penny. I managed to pop it off (freaking out the ENTIRE TIME) and called my vet to find out that dog ticks don't carry lyme disease. Whew. I have her on Advantage, but apparently the kind I use doesn't cover ticks. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

Ew.

THEN, I go to pick up my toddler (who spent a wonderful week with his grandparents at Disney) and they gave me back a defective model. I gave them a healthy child and they returned a child running a fever with a clogged nose. No thank you, I don't accept returns for defective merchandise!!!

I'll be honest when I say this is the *second* time in his three years that he's been sick. Of course, they stuffed him with *way* too much junk food (well, I'm an organic nutjob... so any junk food is bad), took him to Disney way to much and he didn't sleep nearly enough -- no wonder he got sick! I think he went to bed at 7 pm tonight he was so sick, the poor kid (though the sickness didn't stop him from running around my house like a maniac a few hours earlier).

*sigh*

Molly, our Great Dane, came out of her spay surgery just fine... but she's not liking the Buster collar one bit -- the first time I tried to put it on she freaked out and started running around like a crazy dog... and she's a licker... I don't know how I'll be able to keep her away from her stitches. She's been mopey and tired today, though, so I'll try the collar again tomorrow.

Anyway, before the chaos of the tick, sick toddler and mopey dog, I managed to finish up our latest custom project -- a memory blanket that will be a Christmas gift (don't worry, I know they don't read this blog... Hey... does anyone read this blog?). I did it without sashing (which, in my opinion, is *harder* because tshirts have a tendency to stretch and it's hard to get the corners to mesh nicely). I tried to get the green and gold of USF, but the gold was a little off -- it was either this or yellow... I think the mustard is more "gold" than yellow, I so chose a nice soft fleece to match with the hunter green snuggle flannel.

Let me know what you think!

Oh, AND, I added new items to my Art Fire listings:

Amy Butler Coriander and Paisley Blanket

Heather Bailey Pop Garden Blanket
Winnie the Pooh Blanket
"Pretty in Pink" Burp Cloth and Bib Gift Set

I'll be adding MORE items over the weekend *and* I'll be writing a few articles for their "Art Daily" newsletter... I'll post the link when I'm published :)

Take care and have a wonderful day !!!

Jen

PS: We'll be at Homegrown for the Holidays -- a local artisan-based craft fair in Orlando on December 20th. More info tomorrow :)

Yay :)

Today will be a busy day... I have to finish up the latest memory quilt -- pictures to come -- start on a few other projects, my son is coming home from grandma's house and my puppy is off to get spayed.

Whew... I'll post pictures of the FANTASTIC new fabric I've gotten lately and my finished projects soon.

Oh, and I'm going to be the featured artist on Art Fire soon... so keep your eyes out!!!

Take care!

Jen

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Check this out...

Ok, I don't really know how accurate her "facts" are, but this is an interesting video that makes a *lot* of sense when you sit down and think about our culture.

Story of Stuff

At 20 minutes, it's a bit long... but it's fast-paced and fascinating. These concepts are really a large part in why I've gone more organic through the years and stopped buying so much *stuff* ...

Take care and let me know what you think!

Jen

Now for something positive!

I am seriously stoked about a new place I have found lately -- it's a handmade website called Art Fire. They seem like they took everything I dislike about Etsy and fixed it -- creating a whole website with a great search function and a fun atmosphere. The admins are very active and the whole place keeps getting better and better. I really like the people there.

You can bet your bippie that I'll be adding a whole schmeal of stuff to that site soon!

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

I did jump right in and buy a Verified Account badge -- they're offering around 4,000 more at the discounted price of $7 / month for the life of your membership. It entitles you to 10 pictures, a blog, access to the guilds and *so* much more! It's really not a bad cost when you think about it -- plus you get a Charter Member badge for your profile. Oh, and did I mention there are no fees? No listing, no selling, no fees at all. How refreshing!

If you do decide to join Art Fire and become verified, please let them know that you heard about it from me. Why? I'm not shy -- if I refer 10 people who become verified members, I'll get a free membership FOR LIFE. I think it's a great way of drumming up interest in a fledgling online venture. My link for referrals is below, or you can simply type in my user name: MadeByMoms.

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

Also, I have a new marketing and promotion site at My Craft. If you're on My Craft, come and be my friend!

Anyway, what do you think about Art Fire? Positives? Negatives? The traffic is low, but it's a new venture. I feel with the right amount of marketing and promotion, traffic will be up in a bit.

Comments? Discuss!

HELP SAVE HANDMADE ITEMS FOR CHILDREN!

Please, everyone, spread the word... talk to your congressman or woman and help save us small handmade artisans !!

Why the plea for help? Apparently, back in August 2008 a new law was signed on to the books -- the Consumers Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). It mandates that EVERY single manufacturer of items for children under the age of 12 must test every component of their items at certified testing labs for levels of lead and phthalates. This means that every ribbon, every fabric, every button, every bead -- everything that goes into my items will have to be tested for lead. This will cost hundreds of dollars per test and would effectively put me, and most other small businesses catering to children completely out of business. We can't even rely on suppliers testing their materials (which, it should be THEIR responsibility ANYWAY), the onus of certification is on our head. The cost of noncompliance? Thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time.

My choice is between completely shutting my doors or violating the law.

Please check out the following websites for more information :

http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/ (this site has an option to sign a petition! Sign it PLEASE)
http://www.fashion-incubator.com/ (has good information in their Recent Posts)
http://www.cpsc.gov/ABOUT/Cpsia/cpsia.html

If you like buying handmade and supporting local artisans, please rally to this cause. While I am the first one to admit that there are far too many chemicals in our lives today, it shouldn't be the job of small business manufacturers to test. Testing should be done in batches by the large-scale manufacturers. It's sheer stupidity that if I and three friends go to a fabric store and each buy three yards of the *same* fabric, we'd each be forced to run the same tests for lead and phthalates. If the manufacturer batch tests their fabric to conform to the new safety regulations that SHOULD BE ENOUGH. No need to shift the onus to July Seamstress or Bobby Wooden Toy Maker.

This is far-reaching regulation. It impacts everyone -- you make hair bows? Wooden toys? Felt toys? Stuffed animals? You crochet baby clothing? Make blankets? Bibs? Burp cloths? Knit baby booties? How about child's clothing? Stockings? Socks?

Do you make, or know someone who makes ANYTHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE USED BY A CHILD UNDER 12? They will be impacted by this.

Please help, fixing this legislation is the only way to keep reputable businesses from choosing to close down or operate outside the law.

Thank you!

Jen

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New auctions on Ebay...

Ok, so I've held off on doing this for a while... but I feel like I need to try and sell on Ebay. I know, I know, the dark side with crushing fees, but so much stuff sells on there... I figured I'd splurge about $3.00 in fees and list two items.

One is my satin and cream blanket, listed here.

The other is a burp cloth, bib and blanket gift set in Michael Miller's Retro Rocket print, here.

Both auctions end around the same time -- December 16th at 12:50ish EST. So about 6 days and 22 hours, lol. With the satin blanket, we'll donate 10% (or minimum of $5) to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and with the gift set we'll donate 5%. We are also still doing the "Donate 1 can for every $5 you spend" promotion, so make sure to keep us in mind for holiday gifts.

Have a great day and don't forget to check those auctions out!!!

Jen

Recipe Time -- Rum-flavored Cheesecake, a perennial favorite!

Ok, so I know I promised some major recipes when I started this blog and, months in, I have yet to deliver. Bad Jennifer, I know! Anyway, I thought I'd post a holiday favorite in my household -- my rum cheesecake. It's an old recipe that I've adapted throughout the years and goes wonderfully paired with either a chocolate or caramel sauce. If you're a novice cheesecake baker, make sure to read up on both cooking methods to see which one you'd like to try (you should always read the whole recipe first, but you already know that ;) )...

Anywhere, here goes...

Ingredients:

1 c finely crushed chocolate wafer or shortbread cookies, (about 10 - 13)
3 T dark brown sugar, packed
2 T unsalted butter, melted
5 packages cream cheese, softened (40 oz)
1 1/4 c sugar
1/3 c heavy whipping cream
1 T rum extract
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
3 eggs

Notes:

*You can usually find chocolate wafers in the ice cream aisle of Publix, next to the hot fudge sauce and marashino cherries. Some grocery stores don't stock these cookies and some only stock them around the holidays, so call around to find them -- the brand is Nabisco and the name is "Famous Chocolate Wafers" . Worse comes to worse, you can find them online.

*You'll be able to find "Imitation Rum Extract" in the baking aisle near the other extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint. Don't use real rum because it's not concentrated enough to pack in the flavor and if you use too much rum your cheesecake won't set.

*It's always best to use fresh, whole spices -- grate a cinnamon stick and put nutmeg through a mill.

*Best way of cooking? I'll give two directions, one for normal bake and one for a waterbath. The difference? Waterbaths don't produce the heavy, dense cheesecakes that normal baking does. They are a little lighter and a little more moist, with a less intense flavor -- which is better? Personal preference. Also, water baths have a tendency to avoid the cracks along the top (which are caused by overbaking and cooling too quickly) -- it's not a guarantee, though, just less likely to happen. Also, your crust won't be as crisp (as it's been almost steamed) in a water bath vs. the traditional cheesecake cooking method. So, in all? The waterbath method makes it easier to produce evenly baked cheesecakes with no cracks *but* it will yield a softer, more moist cheesecake that occasionally lacks the deep, intense flavor that many people love about cheesecakes!

* If you're doing the waterbath method, wrap the cheesecake with ONE PIECE of aluminum foil and wrap it tightly. DO NOT USE TWO PIECES IF YOUR ALUMINUM ISN"T LARGE ENOUGH, go out and buy extra-large foil. It needs to reach all the way up every side to prevent water from seeping in and ruining your cheesecake. You might even want to double-wrap to ensure no water gets in. This is the biggest problem people have when making cheesecakes and it'll even happen if you're careful if you accidently break a hole in your foil (yes, this did happen to me).

*If you like crispier cheesecake crusts you can bake your crust first. Preheat the oven to 350 and bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before adding filling.

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and take out a 9" Springform pan. If using the water bath method, wrap with foil now.

2. Mix cookies, butter and brown sugar by hand. Press into the bottom of the pan. Follow directions above if you'd like to prebake your crust, otherwise set aside.

3. Using a stand mixer, beat your cream cheese (medium-low to medium speed) just until smooth (only a minute or so, as it should be softened already). Scrape the sides and add in the sugar, cream, rum extract and spices. Beat on Medium speed until smooth and creamy (about 1 - 2 minutes), scraping the sides to avoid lumps. Beat the eggs in on Low speed, one at a time, until well blended.

4. Pour over crust and smooth the top.

**NORMAL METHOD: Place pan on a baking sheet (this will make it easier to hold and it'll catch the grease that will escape from the pan, making your oven less messy) and put into the oven (middle rack, please). Bake until the sides of the cheesecake are set, but the center still jiggles a little when the pan is tapped (about an hour but start checking the cheesecake at 50 minutes to avoid overbaking... can be as long as 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on your oven). Be careful not to overcook or your cheesecake will crack. Prop the door open a little and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for an hour or so. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cheesecake. Put on a rack and let cool completely before unmolding.

**WATERBATH METHOD: Set the wrapped pan in a large roasting pan or baking dish and place in the oven (middle rack, please). Pour boiling water (or extremely hot water) into the baking dish, being careful not to get it on your cheesecake, enough to come 1/2 way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for around 55 - 60 minutes, or until the edges look puffed but the center still jiggles a little when pan is tapped. Waterbath baking is a little more forgiving than normal baking, so don't worry if you think you've left it in too long. Prop the door open and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for an hour or so. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cheesecake. Put on a rack and let cook completely before unmolding.

5. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours, at least, but 24 hours is best.

Cracked your cheesecake? Don't worry, it happens to the best of us... cheesecakes are finicky creatures and don't believe anyone who says they can produce a perfect, non-cracked cheesecake every single time -- they're lying. I've been baking cheesecakes for eight years and I *still* get cracks occasionally. IF you crack your cheesecake, don't worry... steal a trick from professional bakers and cover the cheesecake with something. Chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, whipped cream, sprinkles, fruit -- no one will notice because your cheesecake will look fantastic!

So, how was it? If anyone tries this recipe, please let me know. How was the recipe? Easy to follow? Clear and concise?

Let me know by rating and happy eating everyone!

Jen

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ok... I really... really... really want to go....

You know, the more I sit here and sew... the more I realize I really want to go to the BCS Championship game in Miami. I didn't really feel this way about the Fiesta Bowl a few years ago because it was out in Arizona... but this is in Miami.

Seriously, how many times will I have the opportunity to go see MY TEAM play in the Championship game mere hours away from where I live? No travel expenses, only one night at a hotel... Overall expenses not so bad... but those tickets!?!

ACK!

So, here it is... I have only one month to find the money so I can make it to the game. $1,000 for tickets for my husband and I. While we can do it, that money just doesn't fit into our budget and I'm not willing to break the budget in this economy... SO, instead of budget busting...

I'm going to reduce all of our prices on Art Fire and Etsy by anywhere from 25% to 75% (on NON-CUSTOM ITEMS to clear our inventory). It's a huge fire sale with the money dedicated to getting me to the BCS Championship game on January 8th! Buy Christmas gifts, shower gifts or "welcome home" gifts for your friends, neighbors and family members and help a Gator fan out!!!

PS: I will still be donating 5% of every sale to the Second Harvest Food Bank AND I'll still be doing the "Spend $5, donate a can of food" deal to help the hungry in Central Florida... So you'll be helping my community out as well!

Go to my shop: http://madebymoms.etsy.com or http://madebymoms.artfire.com

For the specials and deals!

Jen

We're busy as bees!

Man, the end of November and start of December have been crazy busy in the Jen Household portion of Made By Moms! My son turned three at the end of November, we had Thanksgiving, we took my son ice skating for the first time, the Gators played in the SEC championship and we went to Disney.

Wow. And I still haven't filled out my silly Christmas cards. *sigh*

Anyway, let's start with the ice skating! Holy funkiness, that was fun! It was his first time skating and, I must say for myself, he did a great job! For someone who learned how to walk a little over two years ago, it only took him an hour and a half to be able to propel himself forward (hanging on to the wall only a little bit!). His father isn't capable of much more than that (just kidding, hunny). He was so excited about it, he still won't stop asking when we're going back. What a great way to spend time with your loved ones during the holidays.



Then, there's Disney! We went over the weekend to celebrate my son's third birthday. We went to the Spectacle of Lights at MGM (now Hollywood Studios) and the Magic Kingdom over the course of the three days and had a blast. Perhaps the only disappointing part of the vacation was eating at the Brown Derby (in MGM)... it just wasn't what we expected -- the service was negligent and the food was abysmal... such an odd thing for me to say, as Disney often offers the finest dining in the Orlando area. I might write a true review in a bit, but let me briefly state how disappointed I was!!! I won't dwell on the negatives, though, because the Spectacle of Lights was AMAZING!! I swear, every year I see it, it gets better. The lights dance to music and this year they offered 3-D glasses to annual passholders for free, which were pretty neat.



We went to the ESPN Zone on Saturday to watch the Gator/Tide game, sat around, drank beer and watched football... you can't ask for more than that considering the GATORS WON!! WOO HOO!!! I can't wait for the Gators to meet the Sooners (sorry, Bob Stoops, love ya... always wished you well, but not against my Gators) in January!!! It'll be an awesome game.



Anyway, that's about it... I just set up shop on Art Fire:

http://madebymoms.artfire.com

And I have a MyCraft Site:

http://www.mycraft.com/madebymoms

The MyCraft site has another blog where I'll post favorite recipes and reviews of toys, etc. Plus... keep tuned for our newest line... the Jolly Rogers!!!

Jen

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, before I head off to bed to get some semblance of sleep before a busy day tomorrow... I wanted to pop in and write for a bit...

First, I'm really upset at myself. I've been baking cheesecakes for almost seven years (mostly at holidays and special events) and this has been the first time I really, royally messed up. I've had the occasional cracked cheesecake top (mostly at the beginning, or when I leave it in a minute or two too long), but I've never ruined a whole cheesecake. Well, tonight I did.

How, you ask? I will, occasionally, bake my cheesecakes in a water bath. It helps to cook the cheesecake evenly, will aid in preventing cracked tops, and leaves a moister cheesecake than traditional baking. HOWEVER, since you usually bake cheesecakes in a springform pan you need to wrap the cheesecake tightly. Tonight, apparently, I did not (I think I might have torn the aluminum foil). Water seeped into my pan and sogged up the crust and the cheesecake. Boooooo!!!!!!!!! An entire rum cheesecake gone. :( :( :(

Second, I just wanted to talk about thinks I am thankful for... Namely, my husband and son. I met my husband seven and a half years ago, we were engaged approximately six months after we met and got married about eight months after that. He is, truthfully, my soul mate. I couldn't ask for a better best friend, partner and mate. He is loving, caring, intelligent, funny, geeky, helpful and a great husband and father. I'm also thankful for my little boy, who lights up my days and nights and fills them with so much love that sometimes I think I'm going to explode.

I am truly blessed to be surrounded by the best friends and family a person could hope for. I'm not the most outgoing person and I tend to only have a few really good friends at a time, but the ones I have... well, I wouldn't trade them for all the money in the world. Thank you Heidi, Betsy, Phil and Lisa. You four are my best friends and my life would be less without you.

Well, that's about all I have... On a more business-y note, I'm starting to create a line of Jolly Roger Shirts for infants and toddlers -- trust me when I say these pieces of clothing are going to be fantastically unique, fun and quirky. I can't wait to get you all some scans!

Take care, everyone, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Jen

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sales and free shipping and new products, OH MY!

Alrighty folks, I'm starting to get into the holiday spirit and it's going to benefit all of you!!! :)

Right now we've got a bunch of great promotions going on in our Etsy store (and only our Etsy store!)... We're offering:

*FREE US SHIPPING (and discounted international shipping) on every order until Monday, December 1st

*FREE goodie bag with every purchase

*Free gift wrapping on orders over $25

**PLUS**

We just listed four new gift sets -- with items ranging from blankets to bib, burp cloths to onesies -- and they're ALL on sale until the end of December. All of our gift sets (regardless of cost) come gift wrapped, in a box, and I'll even fill out a little tag for you! Seriously, these are amazing deals when you factor in the free shipping!

But you have to hurry! The free shipping is going to end on Monday!!!

Take care,

Jen

PS: Here are the links for the new gift sets:

Here they are:

Pretty in Pink: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=17798678

Red and Green Ladybug: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=17800199

Retro Rocket: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=17801025

Almond, Orange and Brown Aviary: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=17801501

Friday, November 21, 2008

Adding more and more items...

This is just a quick blog shout out to let you all know that I'm still adding items! The most recent add has been Ralphie -- the lesser-known red-nosed reindeer. He's a custom-designed felt reindeer, hand-painted and hand-appliqued on to a white onesie. He's awesome!

Go check him out:

Ralphie the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Oh, yes, more updates tonight!!!!

Jen

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yay, I'm back!

Ok, total craziness in the Made By Moms' households recently! I'm proud to say that Heidi recently introduced her second little girl to the world, so I'm a little short-handed right now...

Needless to say, that's not keeping me away from my sewing machine... or Etsy. I've been adding things like CRAZY to our Etsy shop including our:

Aviary Blanket
Butterfly Snuggle Blanket
Elephant Snuggle Blanket
Rainbow Quilt
Red Satin and Cream Minky Blanket
Shannon the Owl Gift Set

We're also having a HUGE Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale right now! Shop our store from now until December 1st and receive FREE US SHIPPING and free goodies with every purchase. International buyers can still get in on the fun -- you'll receive the exact dollar amount discount of US shipping off your shipping costs. In addition, spend more than $25 and you'll receive free gift wrapping upon request. Not only will you be getting a great deal, you'll already have the wrapping job done!!

I also wanted to pop in and tell you guys about some wonderful people and shops that I met this past weekend. First and foremost is Red Marionette, who (in addition to being a wonderful and fun person) makes the cutest little animals you've ever seen. I wish I could have bought everything there! Then we have Raven's Repose Soaps whose soaps are brilliant (trust me), Surpreyes whose craftsmanship and attention to detail blew my mind, Rixie Pixie who specializes in recycled decor, and TheOphany whose artwork is amazing. Seriously, check out their shops on Etsy.

I am hoping to get some time this weekend to review purchases I've made recently over Etsy and during the craft event we attended together, so definitely check back soon if you're looking for great Christmas ideas!

Take care and happy shopping,

Jen

Saturday, October 18, 2008

R,I.P Tyson Peace

I don't usually discuss sad things, but today I feel like I need to do a bit of writing to let my sadness go. A few days ago I discovered that a good friend in high school passed away (Facebook is good for some things, not just wasting time). I had kept in contact with Tyson up until I went away to college, but I really hadn't spoken to him for a while. He was a nice guy, though, with a beautiful family.

I just thought that since I can't go to the funeral today that I'd send some memories out into the blogosphere as a dedication to my old friend...

*Remember when we went to the 3rd Halloween Horror Nights at Universal? I was a freshman that year... we partied at the huge McDonalds by Universal... ate candy until we were wired and were some of the first people at the gates when they opened them.

Remember running with the hoard of people towards a haunted house -- the People Under the Stairs? Remember Darryl tripping and falling end over end in an almost comical way before jumping back up and continuing to run?

Remember when Universal still had the cool Bates Motel and Psycho house that they'd use as a haunted house? Remember a pneumatic "Mother" jumping out at you and scaring you so badly that you reached out, stole the wig and took off running? Hysterical. Freaking hysterical. Seriously.

Remember when, completely bored from waiting in line 40 minutes, you stomped on a ketchup packet and it exploded all over everyone? Remember going to Dennys at like 2 am when it closed and stuffing ourselves silly? I still remember HHN 3 as one of the best nights ever -- it was a night full of fun and abandon, doing dangerous stunts (like passing candy between cars speeding down I-4 at 5 pm in the afternoon) because we were young and stupid but never crossing the line.

*Remember my birthday party where you helped my dad with our ac? Seriously, I couldn't even tell you what an air handler WAS at the age of 14.

*Remember going to midnight mass on December 24th/25th one year so we could see the church dressed up in Christmas decor, with hundreds of candles and listen to it in Latin? Do you remember driving back on Alafaya Trail when there was literally *nothing* between Mitchell Hammock and my community (Stillwater) but Publix and a gas station? Do you remember your transmission going?

In the age before cell phones, do you remember having to walk to that *one* gas station with no lights and very little traffic? Do you remember me freaking out completely because I was worried my parents would ground me for being home later than I told them I would be?

*Do you remember playing Nintendo's Street Fighter for hours on end?

Well, Tyson, I remember them.

Rest in Peace, Tyson Peace.

Jen

Friday, October 17, 2008

Donation Update!

Thanks to all the generous shoppers at the Southern Women's Show who purchased our items, we collected almost $70 to give to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Beginning with that show, we will continue to donate 5% of every sale to one of two charities (St. Jude's being the second one). I augmented it with a few extra dollars of my own to make the total a clean $100 to help the hungry in our area. While both Heidi and I donate regularly in our personal lives, we are trying to find ways to give *more* to charity, hence the 5% of every sale.

Please keep that in mind and think of us whenever baby needs arise!

November and December will be devoted solely to the Second Harvest Food Bank because of the Thanksgiving and holiday season. If you would like your donation to go to St. Jude's, please note that in your orders! Take care all and don't forget the CONTEST!!!

Jen

Well...

I'm headed off to bed. I finished the work that disappeared earlier, plus the entire Burp Cloths page... yuck. I hate HTML...

I still have to update the Onesie, Blankets and Holidays pages... but those will just wait until the weekend!!! Check out the site, it's getting better every day! :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When, oh when, will I learn?

The answer is, quite obviously, never.

A little known fact -- I used to review items on a site called Epinions for money... Top Reviewer, Advisor, the whole shebang. I'd spend hours tweaking reviews and getting them just right in the Epinions editor... then I'd push the button and watch them magically disappear, never to return. It was a glitch that popped up with the Epinions' system and many writers had taken to writing their reviews in Word or Notepad to avoid potential deletions.

I, of course, lost a few reviews that way. Eventually I started writing in Word, but inevitably I'd forget one day and, inevitably, I'd lose that review.

Now, of course, I've written the *entire* Made By Moms website using basic HTML written in Notepad. Every single page is written by me, which is why it's taken so long to get it up and running. It takes a long time to write code, but this old dog doesn't feel like learning how to use our server's fancy website creator so she does it the hard way. That hasn't really bothered me until today.

Why today? Well, I decided it was time to clean up a few pages. I fixed the Bibs page, adding new inventory and deleting stuff we sold at the Southern Women's Show, then I moved on to Gift Sets, where we have around 15 new sets to add. I literally worked on the Gift Sets page for 2 hours... but did I write it into Notepad first? Oh no, I used the HTML editor IPower's control panel... After I was done, I hit "Save" and it takes me back to the log in screen.

My stuff was lost to the ether forever. Apparently I had taken so long to write the darned html that IPower logged me out... two hours of work and all I had to show was a migraine. Great.

Now I'm staying up late tonight to redo the work... it's a kind of punishment. Anyway, take care all and remember to always save your work periodically... I probably never will.

Jen

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Contesterrific!

Ok, before I went on vacation I promised you all a contest. Well, I'm now delivering!!!

I'm posting this a few days ahead of telling everyone on Etsy so you can get your votes in first...

Here's the deal... I'm a huge Gator fan -- I graduated from the University of Florida in 2001 -- and I am psyched about our domination of LSU this past weekend. While I'm not exactly looking past Kentucky, because they are 4-2 losing to the Tide and SC (Spurrier has always owned the Wildcats, sorry, Kentucky), the game against Georgia is going to be huge... not as big as if Florida hadn't lost their minds against Ole Miss and Georgia was still undefeated (though their loss to one of the powerhouses in the country can be excused far more easily than Florida's funk against the Rebs), but it still has huge national championship/BCS bowl implications for the two teams.

So, what does that have to do with the contest? Well, it *is* the contest, in a certain sense. Here's the deal:

*You comment on this post, and this post only, by October 31st (the game is November 1st) and tell me A) who do you think is going to win and B) the total points scored between both teams.

*After the game on the 1st, I'll check this post... In order to win you must be the person who not only picked the correct winner but also came the closest to the actual point total. For instance, let's say Florida wins and the final score is 21 - 10... Whoever picked Florida to win with a the closest to the point total of 31 wins.

*In the event of a tie, the person who posted FIRST will be picked as the winner.

*I will list the contest as an Etsy purchase and the winner should "purchase" it within a few days. I will ship the prize to you as soon as I get the winner's information.

**Please note: This contest is only open to residents of the CONTINENTAL United States. Sorry :(**

So, what do you win? You win a fantastic burp cloth and bib combination in a beautiful blue toile fabric. The fabric has a whitish cream background with blue babies and is a super soft quilter's flannel. The burp cloth has a reinforced cloth diaper on the inside and the softest white minky on the back, while the bib has white minky and a button closure. The picture I have up is of the burp cloth and I will be adding a picture of the bib in about a week -- the picture below is of the burp cloth so you can see the style and quality of the fabric. This fabric is great for a boy or a girl, it really is unisex.

I will pay for the shipping to you, so no worries. I also have additional pieces you can add to this set, such as a small snuggle blanket and extra burp cloths that you (and only you) can purchase at a discount.

Good luck and Go Gators!!!!!!!!!!!!


By the way, this prize is worth $12.50 plus shipping... so it'll be worth around $18!! Even if you don't have kids, this would make a great baby shower gift!!! :)

Holy schnikes!

Ok, so seriously, does work ever end? I took yesterday off in an effort to spend more time with my son and detox after the Southern Women's Show in Orlando thinking that my work load wasn't truly that heavy. Ha!

I have to start work on two custom orders, quite a few people have been emailing us after the Women's Show, my husband just asked me to write his business plan *and* it's time for my fall cleaning of the house! Whew!!!

Anyway, the Southern Women's Show was fantastic. There were so many great vendors there (I got my anniversary present from a jewelry designer) and great people just shopping. It was fantastic to hear all the praise for the quality and attractiveness of our products -- they kept asking us who the designer was... Um, it's US! While Heidi and I aren't exactly in our college years anymore, we're still fairly young and people seemed surprised to think that our products actually came from people as young as we are. That was definitely a confidence booster. We've struggled a little on Etsy because there are so many great people selling the same things, but we're starting to carve out a great niche in the Central Florida area catering to the local community. We sold such an amazing amount that we were worried we wouldn't have enough stock for Sunday (thankfully Sunday was slow, lol). I, Jen, want to thank each and every single person who stopped by and talked to us -- you made our show spectacular and we hope to talk to you all soon. We also want to thank everyone who purchased from us -- because of you we are able to donate $70 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orlando. We drew the winner for the raffle (a $25 gift certificate), and I'll be notifying them later on today through email (yay for Titusville!).

We do want to plug three great vendors whom we dealt with over the four day show -- Bucket & Co, Resident Chef and Cherish Bound. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have such friendly and supportive people around us, we were truly lucky to be placed with such wonderful people.

The first is Bucket & Co located at 1804 N. Goldenrod Road in Orlando, FL. The owner is a truly wonderful lady (with a great daughter) who sells soybean wax candles and country Christmas items at great prices. I bought two candles -- Pumpkin Vanilla and Lemon Icebox Cookie that are simply to-die-for. Seriously, especially the lemon one.... it makes me hungry every time I open it to smell it! If you're in the Orlando area, check them out by calling 407-277-8377 and getting directions to their store.

The second is the wonderful creator of Resident Chef foods. Though I can probably thank them for adding another inch around my waistline, I've never eaten such fantastic food that is make-at-home. The best part is that she's not a part of a huge conglomerate marketing food with a bunch of crap and preservatives in them... she's the creator of every recipe! They're reasonably priced, completely delicious and a whiz to make (Heidi just made the potato soup last night and her husband ate three full bowls)... and you can have them shipped to you... yum. What did I buy? Heck, what didn't I buy?! By far the best dip was the BLT dip, though it was closely followed by the Chili Cheese and Bacon dip, so I bought both of those. I also bought the Parmesan Italian and the Simply Salsa (it's worlds better than jarred salsa). In the dessert cheeseball category, I chose the White Chocolate Cranberry but that was a tough decision. It barely beat out the White Chocolate Peppermint (which would be great on cupcakes... mmm) and Butter Pecan.... I'm still probably going to order the White Chocolate Peppermint now that I'm thinking about it. I also purchased the Potato Soup because it seriously rocks. Check out The Resident Chef for prices and ordering information and remember you're supporting a another home-based, handmade business!

We also fell in love with Cherish Bound and Tara Brown -- she was a lot of fun. She introduced us to the wonderful ways her company creates memory books for their clients -- kind of a digital version of scrapbooking with more orientation on the storytelling aspect versus straight pictures. I purchased a book that I'll be using for my father, to thank him for all the wonderful ways he's influenced and cared for me throughout the years. I'll probably end up purchasing a book for my husband to document our son's journey through the turbulent times of toddlerhood. She was great and her company seems fantastic -- you should contact her if you're interested in hosting a party or becoming a consultant. Yes, it's one of *those* companies but they're reasonable as far as their prices go. I purchased a hard cover, 24 page book for around $50 including tax... which isn't bad for a large company. I'll let you all know how easy setting up the book is and what the final product looks like when I'm done.

In all, we talked to some amazing people, purchased fun things and ate delicious food (no thanks to the Orange County Convention Center). We made some money (enough so that it wasn't a complete bust) and spread the word about our company. I can't think of any way the four days at the Southern Women's Show could have gone any better.

Take care,

Jen

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nothing Like Vegas, Baby!


While I have a few minutes this morning, I thought I'd fill you all in on Vegas. I'm from New York and I know they call NYC the "City that Never Sleeps," but I truly think that moniker is more appropriate to Las Vegas. I've never seen a city where there's just as much traffic at 4:30 am as 5 pm, the bars have no closing time and are jumping at 4 am and the stores stay open until 1 or 2 in the morning... it's amazing. The lights, the people -- it's like Disney for adults and we enjoyed every minute of it. The drivers are insane (though I think that's usual with a tourist-oriented town) and the locals are a pretty cool lot. We went downtown a lot to escape the $10 minimum bet at the casinos on the strip ($3 blackjack, baby) and most of the people there are locals, so we had a blast. I thought it was pretty busy but many people told me Vegas is suffering as much as the rest of the nation right now in terms of capacity.

On the first day there we went hiking at Red Rock Canyon -- it was beautiful in this very alien sort of way. Having lived in Florida for almost 20 years I'm used to green foliage, water and tons of bugs... hiking in the desert is, essentially, the polar opposite. It was really beautiful. I did realize one thing while hiking -- while people may make fun, dry heat is SO much better than humidity. My curly hair never frizzed out, once, and 90 degrees in dry heat feels almost cool to a Floridian. When we hiked it hit 94 degrees and I barely broke a sweat... it was AWESOME. It's amazing how fast the weather can change over there, as well... It went from a high of 94 to 78 in a matter of days... and a few days after we left the high was only 59... that's a 35 degree in a matter of a week. I complain when Orlando swings twenty degrees, so maybe I shouldn't be complaining anymore (lol).

We also ate... a lot. I think I gained five pounds even though I walked a couple of miles daily. Let's talk surprises and disappointments...

Surprise: Bellagio buffet is amazingly good. It's around $27 a person but it comes with prime rib, buffalo, duck, lobster, crab legs, lamb... it seriously was worth every penny of the $27 price tag. The desserts were out of this world and the random dishes were delicious (especially the creamy pea and prosciutto pasta... yum YUM). The decor was nice and the waiters were attentive. The coffee was awesome (note: the price includes a regular-type of drink).

Disappointment: The Wynn buffet was nowhere near as good as the Bellagio buffet and cost $33 a person. They sported prime rib and crab legs but the selection wasn't anywhere near as extensive and the food nowhere near as good. I'm sure they're a good buffet, but they aren't worth anywhere near the $33 asking price (which I believe goes more to keeping the decor updated and modern than to the food). The decor was amazing, but I don't go to a buffet to look at the pretty decor... I'd put this buffet in the range of $23 - $25 (tops) as far as quality-to-value goes.

Surprise: Paris' breakfast buffet hits a grand slam. At $14 a person, this buffet might seem expensive until you look at the restaurants on the strip and realize that everywhere from Mandalay Bay to Planet Hollywood is charging around $10 for breakfast. You can still get good deals at the Dennys by Bill's Gamblin Hall, but it's Dennys for pete's sake. Anyway, amazingly good (which is a relief seeing as the line was off the hook to get in). The coffee was fantastic and they had a huge selection of food. Their eggs were even delicious (usually buffet eggs don't equal delicious). They had biscuits and gravy, carved ham, custom omeletts, pancakes, belgium waffles and custom crepes (and that is only the tip of the iceberg!). Those custom crepes were to die for! I had a problem walking out of there, I think they needed to roll me out.

Disappointment: Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay. Since we were celebrating my birthday in Vegas, I got to choose one ridiculously expensive place to dine as my birthday present. This was the one I chose over Alize, Aureole, Robechaun and the slew of other high-class restaurants. What a flop! We spent $240 on the meal (two appetizers, two entrees, two glasses of wine and one dessert, plus tip) and it was ok. I mean, it was good... but nothing better than can be found in Orlando for less. I think there is so much culinary competition in Las Vegas that chefs feel the need to go way, way, way outside the box to satisfy. As an appetizer, my husband got the onion soup, which was a creamier version than we're used to, and that was very good, if very heavy. I got the Ahi Tuna Tartare, which was a major flop. The tuna was uber-fresh and cooked perfectly (ie: not at all, really), but it sat on this bed of overpoweringly strong sauce. It killed the taste of the tuna instead of enhancing it and ruined the dish. The same would be said of my slow roasted salmon, which was only two pieces of ridiculously good salmon warmed slowly without cooking it (amazing!) that sat on this too-herby slaw. All I could taste was herb and it killed the salmon. The presentation was amazing but the portions small and mine came with nothing except the obnoxious slaw (which the salmon sat on). I'm not griping about the portion size, I'm griping about the inability to properly season food. My husband enjoyed his but it wasn't anything special. The desserts were truly amazing, as we got a great black cherry mousse for my birthday along with a Grand Marnier souffle. Holy gods, the souffle was good but I don't think it was worth the $18 price tag attached to it as I've gotten similar souffles at french restaurants in Orlando and St. Augustine. They also presented us with a little dessert mini platter at the end, which was delicious. The service was top-notch, attentive but not overbearing. The wine recommendations were excellent and the decor was very pretty -- classic, elegant and refined. Was it good? Sure. Was it worth the hype and the $120/person price? Not really. Please note: the menu online is not the current menu we received.

Surpise: Burger Bar was, holy cow, the best burger I've ever eaten. The Kobe beef melts in your mouth, they can actually cook the burger medium-rare and medium and the sweet potato fries were DELICIOUS. The service was fun. Yum. One of the best meals here (though don't be surprised to pay $50 for two people to eat burgers and fries with coffee and water).

Disappointment: Ghostbar was nice, but boring. There really isn't anything to separate this "ultra-lounge" from the dozens of others in Vegas. Yes, there are pretty views. Yes, there is a very small glass floor that allows you to see the full 55 floors below. Yes, it is funny to watch drunk people try to push each other on to the glass floor like it'll break... But really, what's to separate this from Mix? Nothing much. Not worth the price of admission unless you want to go to *one* ultra-lounge and this is it. NB: I am married, so I wasn't looking to mix and mingle... maybe this would be nice to mingle and hook up but keep in mind that all tables are reserved for bottle service and unless you're willing to shell out $150 for a bottle of Captain Morgan's, you won't be sitting here.

Surprise: Moon and Playboy Club were really neat. Playboy Club was a nice ultra-lounge that had a few low-minimum video poker booths overlooking the club... minimums at table games are $50, so it's nice to watch. Pretty views from the other tower in the Palms.... at least Hef hires good looking women who actually have bodies instead of sickly stick chicks. Moon actually played good dance music (!!!!!), had a sizeable dance floor and a fairly open top floor with a retractable roof. Very fun!

Anyway, those are some quick captions of our trip to Vegas! We had a blast and even got some work in while we partied... Up next: Southern Women's Show :).

Take care all!

Jen

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wow....

Ok, loyal readers... I have so much to fill you in on!!!! It's certainly been a whirlwind few weeks with the Vegas vacation backing into the Southern Women's Show in Orlando. Tomorrow during Aidan's nap I'll be on to tell you guys all about both... but here are some pointers to keep you eagerly awaiting more (laugh) :):

*We lost money in Vegas, but I knew it wouldn't be my week when I threw away 2 2 before the flop in a no limit cash game and the flop comes 2 2 8. Yeah, would have won the $400 jackpot in addition to the hand. I hate poker.

*We ate in some great places in Vegas, won't say the thumbs up or down until tomorrow! ;)

*We did very well at the Southern Women's Show and met some great people -- especially those from Cherish Bound, Resident Chef and The Bucket Co.... and I can't wait to plug them, their products and stuff tomorrow.

*We also met some rude people, so I'll be griping about the Orange County Convention Center staff and operations in general...

Stay tuned for an action-packed, no-holds-barred blogaganza tomorrow!!!

Take care :) -- Jen

Monday, September 15, 2008

Woo Hoo, I'm back!

Let me just start this out with the fact that my vacation was fantastic. We had a great time visiting my two best friends -- Aunt and Uncle to my son -- up in Atlanta. We went to Chuck E Cheese, the Atlanta Zoo, a splash park... you name it, we visited it (including Fabric.com's warehouse... but that was for mommy). We had a blast.

Until Saturday evening.

You see, I always drive at night because my toddler is asleep and there isn't any traffic -- I can put it on cruise control and relax, knowing I'll meet very few cars on the road. Unfortunately, my son decided to pick Saturday evening (about 30 minutes into the trip) to throw up all over himself, his car seat and his blankie. Oh. My. Lord. He didn't eat dinner that evening but I chalked that up to not liking chicken quesadillas and he didn't show any signs of feeling ill that whole day. I pulled into a gas station, stripped off his PJs (threw them into the trash) and picked up the fantasticness with another tshirt (trashed as well). I took everyone into the dirty gas station bathroom and tried to wash us all but I don't think I managed to accomplish anything because we both still smelled like throw up. Blankie went into a plastic bag for immediate washing upon the return home and I had to make up my mind as to what to do.

I decided to press on and we got back at 2:30 am without any further incidences (except that I tried to hold my bladder for so long I almost wet myself). As I was taking a shower at 2:30 am, my husband informs me that his car won't start so he'll have to take mine to work. It's fortunate that I have someone meeting me at a mall to discuss a memory blanket on Monday (sarcasm). I figure "no big deal, I'll just go and get a battery Monday morning after my brother jumps the car)."

I slept the whole next day so it wasn't until this Morning that I realized my check card was missing. Great. Still don't know where it is but no one's tried to use it yet (thank god).

Then I couldn't jump my husband's car, effectively stranding me at home and away from the business contact I had to meet.

Then, the irreplaceable $100 hand-embroidered blanket I shipped on 8/27 STILL wasn't at its destination in Canada.

Seriously, this morning has been poor.

BUT, things are starting to look up. The memory quilt customer graciously came to my house and dropped off everything... and the package arrived in Canada (and he LOVED THE BLANKET!!). My hubby is bringing home a new battery, so we'll install that tonight. Now, all I need to do is find my check card and everything will be right in the world.

Ok, I know I promised you guys a contest and new listings and the contest will be up on Wednesday :).

Take care and I'll update again soon with all sorts of cool goodies that I am making ;)

Jen