Thursday, August 25, 2016

Etsy + Blogging Can be Like Running a Vertical Marathon

Photo Credit - Neeta Lind
I recently found an article on a Vertical Marathon challenge that was very interesting and reminded me of how I feel on some of my days as an Etsy Shop Owner, not to mention being the sole designer, production crew, shipping department, marketing team, and Chief Financial Officer.

Speed, endurance, and goal orientation are disciplines that both an athlete and business owner need. I can't imagine physically running up 2, 041 stairs in 10 minutes, but, when I contemplate my design, production, and site management goals for the day, the climb is definitely straight up.

Having stated this, the question now arises, WHY add blogging to all those labor intensive pursuits? Truth is, I was a blogger long before I opened my Etsy shop and, after doing both for a few months, I began to see how beautifully they compliment each other. But to accomplish both I've found that time management is the illusive key. I say illusive because mine keep slipping out the back door...

Tablet Cover or Stylish Clutch - New at Icky Chic Designs
Time is precious and it's a commodity we could all use more of. So scheduling and prioritizing are the only tools I've found that help me conserve this resource. A fair division of labor between my two pursuits is also necessary. As a blogger, I think consistency makes it easier to focus on the goal and not the individual steps it takes to get there.

The upside to running an Etsy business, Icky Chic Designs, and blogging is that they are great soulmates. They compliment each other, offering support and meaningful content. Blogging not only allows me to showcase my own work, but It gives me a stage on which I can spotlight other talented artisans and innovators as well.

How do you manage multiple pursuits?


Check out these new blogs from two of my fellow Etsy friends:


My Six Years of Experience As An Etsy Team Captain
Etsy Shop - Markets of Sunshine

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Zebras and Zucchinis with Author Luanna Stewart

My guest today is Author Luanna Stewart.

Luanna has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered her grandmother's stash of romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Luanna now lives in Maine with her dear husband, two college boys, and two cats. When she's not torturing her heroes and heroines, she’s in her kitchen baking something delicious.


Writing under the pen name Grace Hood, she has two novellas published with The Wild Rose Press. She is excited to have a book published under her own name with Entangled Publishing.




Zebras and Zucchinis – a match made in heaven.
~Luanna Stewart~

Ha!

So, what do zebras and zucchinis have in common? I searched and searched and the only thing I could come up with was they both start with the letter zed. (I’m Canadian.) There are many interesting facts about zebras, like under all those stripes their skin is black, and no two stripe patterns are the same (just like fingerprints in humans). They have one toe on each foot, and cannot see the colour orange. (The poor things would be at a disadvantage when encountering road construction.)

The zucchini, on the other hand, seems to be best known for growing into behemoths that could potentially be hollowed out and used as canoes. But if gotten when they are young, they make some good eating. (Not sure how tasty zebras are, nor am I interested in finding out.) [Actually, there are a few items of note about the zucchini. For instance, the flowers are edible and make tasty vehicles for stuffing. The zucchini contains more potassium than a banana, but has far fewer calories than a baked potato, 25 as compared to 130. Definitely a worthy vegetable.]

Here is a recipe I’m making at least once a week this time of year.

Zucchini Patties

2 cups grated zucchini (approximately, a bit more won’t hurt)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter (you could use oil, but the butter gives the patties a nice flavour)

Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs, onion, flour, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Heat a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick (or seasoned cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Drop zucchini mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls, and cook until golden, a few minutes per side.

Serve hot, warm, or room temperature – yummy any way.

(Recipe slightly adapted from Allrecipes)


Visit Luanna at these locations:
Luanna Stewart Facebook Twitter Pinterest Amazon Author Page


Luanna's Newest Book


Portrait of a Girl blurb:

When her wealthy art dealer father died, Heather James was expecting a fortune. Instead, his bank account was empty and Heather’s working in a bakery, wondering exactly what happened to her father's millions...until someone tries to kill her.

Tony Simons is on the trail of an art theft cold case that's practically giving him frostbite. He's hoping that by sticking close to Heather—the daughter of his deceased prime suspect—he'll find the answers he needs. Instead, he's finding himself distracted by a gorgeous woman who drives him crazy in every way imaginable…

Now Tony's in serious trouble. Even if Heather can't—or won't—tell him where the stolen paintings and money are, she may well have stolen his heart.

And now someone wants her dead…







Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Overview: Margaret Truman's DEADLY MEDICINE (Donald Bain)

Instead of the traditional review, I strive to provide a few simple factors about the book that I hope prospective readers will find interesting and informative. I won't be giving a rating, as I think those are very misleading in general. So read over the SYNOPSIS, FACTORS OF INTEREST, and, if you want, use the Amazon link to find traditional book reviews. Then make your own assumption as to whether this book is for you or not. ~Lynda~

  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books 
  • ASIN: B0182BW4VQ
  • AMAZON

Story Synopsis:

If someone in the pharmaceutical industry came upon a cheaper, non-addictive, and more effective painkiller, would he kill for it?

Washington D.C. private detective Robert "Don't call me Bobby" Brixton, along with his mentors, attorneys Mac and Annabel Smith, discover that the answer is a resounding "Yes," as they try to help Jayla King, a medical researcher at a small D.C. pharmaceutical firm, carry on the work of her father. His experiments in the jungles of Papua New Guinea in search of such a breakthrough product led to his brutal murder and the theft of his papers.

Did Jayla's father's lab assistant kill the doctor and steal his research? Is this shadowy figure prepared to kill again to keep Jayla from profiting from her father's work? Does her recent paramour's romantic interest reflect his true feelings―or will he sell her out and reap the rewards for himself? And to what lengths would Big Pharma's leading lobbyist go to cover up his involvement, and to protect a leading champion of the pharmaceutical industry―a Georgia senator with a shady past?

As Mac, Annabel, and Brixton soon realize, no pill can ease the pain that the answers to these questions inflict on everyone in this tale of greed, betrayal―and murder.


FACTORS OF INTEREST:
  • You will definitely learn more about the Capital than you probably knew existed and get an up-close view of the city's law enforcement, lawyers, high-powered politicians, pharmaceutical decision makers, and a few quirky characters that people this story.
  • This book falls easily under the Mystery Genre.
  • What is the ultimate price of a cheaper, non-additive pain reliever in terms of money, desire, greed, and integrity?
  • Medicine and new research should help people, right? Then why are corruption and murder in close pursuit?
  • Multiple story threads keep the plot moving in this suspenseful book.
  • Latest story in the Capital Crimes Series. 





Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Five Ways to Regenerate Your Creative Spark

Photo Credit: Shyn Darkly
Could it be that your mind didn't suddenly GO blank, but rather, it was already empty? Don’t get offended, I’m not saying that you’re lacking in brain cells or creative genius. Maybe the problem goes deeper. Every creative person, when they stop and analyze the process, realizes that there is a force or catalyst that drives their pattern of thought along a creative path. It's mysterious, invisible, and sometimes takes on a life of its own, much as when a writer credits their muses for much of their fictional endeavors. When that force weakens, for whatever reason, the spark of ingenuity fades with it, leaving us feeling empty and tired. We cease to produce anything new, in fact, we cease to even have the WILL TO BEGIN a new project.

It's not surprising that this should happen when you think about how hard you've worked for months, even years. As an artisan or innovator, you've transformed ideas into beautiful products or concepts day after day. You've researched, imagined, and auditioned a myriad of materials, designs, functional uses, audiences,  and the list is never ending. Using that mysterious force that actuates your mind, you've poured every bit of  your imagination into your work. You do this every day as if that force were a perpetual resource.

GET REAL! You can’t drink a glass of wine out of the same bottle every day and it not end up empty. What’s the solution? Get another bottle or refill the one you have.

Now some of you may think you’re blessed with more than one functioning brain, or, that a brain transplant is possible, but a little more research will convince you otherwise. The only remedy is to refill the bottle. That means, gently tickling our imaginations until the spark begins to grow again with new ideas, visions, and fantasies.

I heard that groan... And you’re right, you do have to get off the couch. So quit procrastinating and try at least one of these activities. I call them Mind Sparklers because when one of them works, you'll feel a burst of creative energy, in fact, new ideas will explode from synapses to synapses. You won't be able to stop the excitement!

1.     This one is easy. Think about something or somewhere in your locality that offers you an entirely new experience. Reach high, HIGHER! Get out of your comfort zone – A little further, a little further, a little further... Now you're getting the idea.  Some Examples: Rock climbing, volunteering, cooking class, small engine repair class, learn a new language, etc.

2.     Read a new book that is totally out of your preferred genre. Example: Dictionary, Astrophysics, The care of Exotic Animals, Build a Tree House, etc. Look for ideas, colors, shapes, alternative uses and adaptable concepts. Ask yourself questions like WHY? Why do tree houses fascinate us? Why are we drawn to exotic animals? Why do we want to know HOW the universe works? When we begin to comprehend the WHYS, we get to know people better, their needs, desires, and wants. As artisans and innovators, aren't people the very ones we want to connect to our product or idea?

3.     This next one is one of my favorites: Take a trip to your local mall, hardware store, farmer's market, hobby store, pawn shop, etc. NO, don’t buy anything! What I want you to do is feel everything that catches your eye. Note the texture, shape, color, and weight. Then determine how you feel about that object in an emotional way. Are you apathetic, desirous, envious, happier, confused, etc?

Evaluating our human capacity to relate to objects and ideas on an emotional level will unlock a treasure house of understanding. What kind of understanding? Well, have you ever wondered why some colors sell better than others. Everything we can see, feel, and touch registers a response in our brains. We don't just assimilate the obvious, we relate memories, fantasies, desires, people, places, events, and so on.

Example: Let's say you see a beautifully patterned beach towel. Instead of just giving it a glance and passing on, pick it up! Measure it's weight, try to name every shade and hue of color. Envision the artist as they created the fabric design, what were they feeling? Now, try to bring up in your mind a memory that involved a beach towel. YES, that one. You're in Destin, Florida with your husband and three kids. You remember the dark clouds forming on the far horizon and wondered if the storm was going to come ashore and ruin the joy of the day. Then, you remember the absolute beauty of the scene. The dark grey clouds in the background, the dark cobalt blue of the water beneath them. But close to shore, the sunlight still filtered through gloriously clear aquamarine waves that rushed onto unblemished white sand. The kids played in the surf without a thought of the darkness that laid outside their focus. What a contrast!!!

Now ask yourself, could you try to capture that scene, contrast, feeling, in whatever medium you work in? OOPS! You've just lit a Sparkler!

4.     Are you ready for lunch? I know I’m starving. Let’s go to a completely new eatery. There is only one rule, you can’t take anyone but me along, of course, I’m an imaginary friend, so you’ll be the only one at the table. Don’t be shy. Eating alone in a public place is a wonderful opportunity to watch people, enjoy some great food, and muse about the menu.

Musing over the menu is the real reason for this trip. Food generates memories. 
NO KIDDING! While you eat, and it would really be nice if you’d order something you've never tried before, study the entrees listed on the menu. Conjure up the last memory you have of that food. Where did you eat it and with whom? Is it something you prepare? Do you serve it to your guests? Had any bad experiences with this food? What textures do you prefer. How does color affect your appetite? In other words, analyze your emotional response to an everyday occurrence. Don't just be satisfied with the thought, I love Chicken Fried Steak. Ask yourself, why you LOVE that dish. You're going to end up with an answer that has an emotional foundation. The lesson here is, if you react this way, so do other people. It's that emotional response that will, in the end, sell a product or idea.

5.     This one is easy because there are so many to choose from. Think of a problem, any problem. It might be the price of beef, violence in schools, single parenting, religious disunity, etc. Now that you have your problem, think about your own beliefs, reactions, perceptions to this problem. Here comes the hard part. Change your point-of-view three times and try to consider how your beliefs, reactions, and perceptions would change. Example: Say your problem is the price of beef, think of it from your standpoint as a consumer first. Then you might consider the problem from the viewpoint of the rancher who raises the beef cattle, the USDA responsible for the safety of our food chain,  or a person who lives in poverty and rarely eats meat.

When you've got the knack of this, apply it to your product or ideas. WOW! Amazing! Now, you can put yourself into the shoes of your perspective clients. You can see your creative ideas from their perspective and adapt accordingly, if you so desire.

If you follow through, doing one or all of these things, you’ll start to form new memories, new viewpoints, new perceptions, and new emotional responses.  And guess where all of these things are stored for later use. YOU GOT IT! They are now fueling the force that actuates your mind and ready to go to work.. 

The simple fact is that for any of us to create or innovate on a regular basis, we must constantly replenish our unique, exclusive, and personal  life experiences. It doesn't need to be hard, expensive, or complicated. It just needs to be new in some vital way.

When you go to your closet, do you put the same clothes on every time in exactly the same manner? Of course you don’t. You mix and match, creating new ensembles. In the same manner, little changes in routine, preference, and perception create new ideas that will sometimes boggle your mind. And in my opinion, a boggled mind is a creative mind...

OKAY, IT'S YOUR TURN: Share with us some of the ways you regenerate that spark of creativity/




Saturday, July 30, 2016

How often do you scan a QR Code? Marketing Tools

How often do you scan a QR Code when shopping or just looking for information: Never, Seldom, Often? I use a QR app reader on my phone quite often. QR codes get me to sites I might never find on my own. They often lead me to important data, instructions, tips, advice, etc.

Just the other day, I was given a business card while waiting at the doctors office. I noticed the QR code on the back and went ahead and scanned it while I had time. I found the most amazing site on sun-dyed fabrics. While I'm sure that wouldn't excite a lot of you, it certainly did me, as I've been wanting to try that for myself. So what is the point of all this rambling? It suddenly dawned on me that I'm missing out on a very effective tool for promoting my Etsy shop, where I showcase my Artfully Designed Handbags.

Does it work? Statistics seem to show that retailers are still saying that the QR codes they use are effective promotional vehicles. The easy transition from a static code to an active online site is a fast, efficient, and profitable tool. But let's not just talk about these codes, let's actually use one. GO AHEAD! Scan this little box with the QR reader on your phone, NOW!

Don't have a QR reader app on your phone, no problem, just download one from your favorite app store, they're free!

So okay, I've now convinced you that you just might find a use for these strange little doodle boxes for promoting your business, but where do you get one of your own. NO PROBLEM... You can get one free.

Now that you've created your own QR Code. Where can you use it for the greatest impact. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Commercial Magazine or Catalog Ads
  • Back of Business Cards
  • Your Business Thank You Cards
  • Your Newsletter
  • Flyers
  • Promotional Hand-outs and freebies
  • Advertising Posters, Post Cards, etc.
  • Your Packaging
Do you have an additional suggestion for using these codes? If so, why not take a moment and share those with us.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Versatile is Better - Clutches, Tablet Sleeves, or Phone Pouches - NEW at Icky Chic Designs

12" x 8.5" - Perfect as a Clutch or Tablet Sleeve
 Don't you love to buy something that has versatile uses? I know I do. It makes me feel like I'm going to get my money's worth from that purchase. The same goes for fashion accessories. Clutch purses are very popular and fit both the casual and professional needs of women everywhere.

I'll be adding several new clutch designs at Icky Chic between now and the end of November, when I'll be changing my focus to a new design. So, if you are a lady who isn't shy about making her own fashion statement and love one-of-a-kind designs, visit the shop often to see what's new.

Don't forget to sign up for my VIP Shopping Club to receive exclusive discounts and reward dollars on your purchases at Icky Chic Designs.








Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meet the Artisan of Goldenberry



My Guest today is TINA, the inspiration behind the Etsy Shop, Goldenberry.
Tina ships her beautiful creations from Cyprus, a place I've always wanted to visit. Let's visit with Tina and learn what influences her creativity.



Hi!

I’m Tina, a former Web Developer gone crafter. I’ve always enjoyed making things, building something and having a finished product at the end that I know I have worked to create. It gives me a big sense of achievement and satisfaction. I’m a big fan of recycling and embroidery and try to incorporate both into my handmade purses. I love fabrics, colours, yarn, crochet, sewing, nature, growing my own food, travel, books, music and sleep :)


Tina, what got you interested in art?

My grandmother. She was constantly crocheting something and I loved watching her work. She used to crochet with the tiniest hook and very fine cotton to create bed spreads and table covers. She would hardly look at what she was doing, it was so natural and automatic, she would watch TV whilst crocheting and rarely make a mistake. One day, I finally built up the courage to ask her to show me how to crochet and she did :) Every now and then, I use crochet as my breakaway medium, when I need a change and something a bit more relaxing.

Do you work alone? 

Yes, I work on my own. Another reason why I love crafting so much is that it gives me time to think, not only about my projects but also about everyday life. I enjoy the quiet, the sound of the scissors cutting the fabric, the “chuka chuka" of the sewing machine and the sound of the embroidery thread being pulled through the fabric. All these small noises help me to focus and makes me enjoy it all the more.

What are your can’t-live-without craft-room essentials?

Number 1 is definitely my unpicker! Sometimes, I think I spend more time unpicking than sewing. I also can’t do without a pair of scissors, a ruler, a fabric pencil, a needle and a collection of buttons.

What's your favourite colour and why?

Yellow. It’s so bright and sunny. It makes me feel happy, confident, inspired, energetic and ready to go.

What does the colour red inspire in your imagination and emotions?

Red has always been a negative colour for me. I’m not entirely sure why but it makes me feel sad, vulnerable and sometimes angry. In my mind it brings very negative imagery.


Do you prefer straight or curvy lines?

When I draw my embroidery patterns, my pencil always comes out with curves first. I need to make a real conscious effort to draw straight lines. I recently handmade a geometric purse with triangular embroidery and found it much harder than my usual curves or flowers.

Do you travel for inspiration?

My husband and I only recently came back from a 9 month trip around the world. We started off in Italy, travelled through various european countries, went over to Cambodia and Singapore, then down to Australia and New Zealand and then finished in Japan. It was such an amazing experience and I saw so many types of craft, colours and designs that I think it does come into my work. I would love to make travel my main source of inspiration! Wouldn’t we all?

How do you achieve texture and depth in your work?

I think my embroidery gives both depth and texture to my purses. I use the natural colours of the faded upcycled denim I use to create new embroidered patterns.

How do you know when a work is finished?

When I am happy with it :) If I look at my handmade pouch and feel like it is still missing something, then I continue until I feel like it is at a stage that I would use it for myself. If I am happy with it and I would be willing to pay for it, then it’s finished.



What’s your favorite piece of work that you've created?

My favourite is my upcycled flower purse (pictured). I really like the green embroidery along the top that brings out the seam that was there at the base of the trousers. I also love how the flowers turned out and I really enjoyed making them.






Visit Tina at the following Links:

Etsy Shop - https://www.etsy.com/shop/goldnberry
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/handmadebygoldenberry/
Pinterest - https://uk.pinterest.com/costantina/love-for-handmade/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/_costantina/





Thursday, July 14, 2016

First Update - Sewing Room Is a Disaster: Organization Challenge

Isn't this pathetic? I'm down to working on one small corner
Of my cutting table. And lately I've found some garage sales
with fabric and trims that I just couldn't pass up. BUT, as you
can see, my space is runneth over with stuff...
~CHECK back often to follow my progress as I post the AFTER photos.~ 

I'm joining the creative buzz Marsha has started over at Markets of Sunshine. Marsha has issued a Four Weeks to a Clutter Free Room Challenge  which I'm in desperate need to tackle. My sewing room is in a state of deep depression from neglect...well, not neglect exactly, but a lack of organizing-as-you-go-skills.
I have two of these
closets to tackle. The
second once is worse,
believe me!

I seem to run on two modes: Hyper Creative and Non-Hyper Creative. In the first mode, I run on adrenaline with loads of inspiration and project ideas with no time or thought to the mess I'm building around me. In the second mode, I'm exhausted and in no mood to organize the disaster. Eventually, however, the chaos begins to take on a life of its own with one goal...to trap and 
suffocate me! 

I'm starting here first since this area
isn't as bad as some of the others. The
biggest problem is, I'm running out
of space to put things. And heaven
forbid I should have to get rid of
anything! I might need it...
Hence the need for some outside motivation. Thank You, Marsha!

Okay, as bad as I hate to expose my clutter to all my dear readers, (I fear you may suffer from shock effect), I know you wont appreciate the task I've set for myself without
some visual
BEFORE: I can't even find a pin or
needle on my desk area. This is where I
 sketch project ideas and sit down to 
finish the hand work on my 
sewing projects.
proof, so here are a few areas in my sewing room that are in dire need of organization. Although Marsha has set a limit of four weeks to accomplish her challenge, I think mine will take all summer! Anyway, I'll post updates as I transform these calamitous areas.

AFTER: I can actually see the top of
the desk and have room to work.
I love it!
Since it's a well known fact that Misery Loves Company, why don't you join us. And be sure to leave a comment about your project so we can cheer you on!





Saturday, July 9, 2016

CATCHING THE LIGHT BULB MOMENT with Author Rico Lamoureux

Writers often draw from real life experiences, those exceptional moments that bring a plot twist, setting, conflict, resolution, motivation, or characterization into clear focus in a way we never before envisioned. It's an awe inspiring occasion, to say the least. These instances happen at all points in a writer's life and at the most unexpected moments. In this new series of blogs, we'll get a replay of such moments from the writer's personal perspective. 

Let me introduce my guest today, Author Rico Lamoureux.

Rico Lamoureux is an author who believes in substance over cliche writing, diversity over genre. He's a life-long lover of story, and has been a storyteller for over thirty years. His stories of substance engage, excite, and enlighten, as reflected by the critical acclaim they have received. “Great storytelling isn't easy to find. Whether it be in film, literature, music, or so on. I always feel grateful when I come upon a tale that moves me, and have made it my life's work to create such for those seeking the same.”
 

Rico, the page is all yours:

Thank you, Lynda.

There’s an ancient Japanese saying, “Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo,” which basically means anything that crosses our path, no matter how grand or how mundane, could be the missing piece to the puzzle we’re currently trying to complete. In other words, answers to questions we might have at any given time are often surrounding us, if we just learn how to observe with an open mind.

These light bulb moments have super-charged my creative process more times than I can recall, but one thing is certain; I’m grateful for each and every moment of illumination!
One instance I do remember is back when I was writing Destined, a dramatic story about a pair of soul mates trying to find each other after being separated by passing away from their previous lives. I had the skeleton for the tale and a solid beginning, but the one missing piece to this epic puzzle was still eluding me. It was a piece, that, once fit perfectly into place, would take care of everything else to follow. A location that would bring the two destined souls closer, yet still keep them apart for a bit more struggle.

The time of year happen to be March, and as I surfed through the channels of my cable provider I came upon news footage of New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras party. Watching the festive group of people celebrate among the floats, beads, food and drink, it was as if I was right there in the French Quarter, my two main characters nearby, so close yet unable to reconnect due to the subplot going on within the buzzing streets of The Big Easy.

BAM! The flood gates had burst open, the light bulb moment shining so bright that it kept me up all night, my pen waving across one sheet of paper after another like a magic wand!

As storytellers, these are the extraordinary moments we live for, creating with the art of words masterpieces that will burn on like an eternal flame long after we’re gone.


Additional Link for Author Rico Lamoureux: