29 April 2011

The Royal Wedding - YouTube Edition

For months Prince William and Catherine Middleton's wedding has been the main focus of interest in the media. Now we are only a few hours from the great event and maybe it is the right time to talk about reducing (energy, costs, etc.) but I am sure the young couple know enough about that. Did you know that William and Kate have created a charitable gift fund to help celebrate their wedding?

They have chosen to support five causes, which reflect the experiences, passions and values of their lives so far. Having been touched by the goodwill shown to them since their engagement, they have asked that anyone wishing to send them a wedding gift do so in the form of a donation to the fund.

You can also follow the charitable couple's wedding live on The Royal Channel in YouTube where you can even upload a video message to the bride and groom.


Are you already camping in front of Buckingham Palace? Will you watch the wedding live, on TV, or in YouTube?

28 April 2011

How To Reduce the Waste of Water in Your Home

We have all learned in school that 70% of our planet Earth is water. But can you imagine that only 1% of this amount is drinkable and more that half of it is polluted! This leaves us with an insignificant 0,5% of drinkable water

This easy but shocking math sends shivers down my spine and makes me wonder what is it that hinders us from being responsible and caring. Let us stop wasting water today!

The following infographic shows how we normally use water at home and leads us through the steps we can take to reduce the use of water in our homes.

Home Water Conservation Infographic 
Source: eLocal.com

 How do you reduce the waste of water in your home?

27 April 2011

Huge Mother's Day Sale

I am offering 15% off in my Etsy Shop until Mother's Day. So, come on over, choose any of my unique organic bracelets and bring a smile to the face of the most important woman in your life!

Would you buy an organic felted bracelet for Moder's Day? Let me know in the comments below.

26 April 2011

How To Grab Someone's Button

So, you have seen the beautiful squares on blog sidebars with the unreadable HTML code underneath and have read the blog authors' words encouraging you to GRAB THEIR BUTTON! But how can you do that? Here is an easy and fast step-by-step tutorial which will help you show the things that are important to you and strengthen your social contacts in Blog World.

HTML is the backbone of every blog and website, it lies behind each color, photo or any element you can think of on your blog. But thanks to blogging platforms such as Blogger, you don't need to know what that is in order to use it!

Now, imagine you are taking part in a Blog Hop which requires you to publish the badge for the period of the blog hop, or you want to host some blogger's button on your page. you can do this in 10 easy steps:

1. Go to the Design Tab of your Blogger page and click on Page Elements. As you have noticed, it is a representation of your actual blog page. You can add, remove and rearrange the page elements in order to customize your blog according to your taste. 

2. You want to place the button on your sidebar and not as a regular post, because you need it to stay on the front page for everyone to see. Then click on the Add Gadget option on the right sidebar.

3. When you find the HTML/Java Script gadget, which you actually need, just click on it and a small window will open, very similar to the one you get when you write your blog posts.

4. It is very important to see Rich Text on that window. It means that you are in the right mode for adding an HTML code.

5. Now go to the blog which holds the button you are interested in. Select and copy the html code under the button you want to use.

6. Then go back to the small window and paste the code. If you want to have a title, go ahead and write it. I chose not to have one and left the field empty.

On the left you can see the HTML code and on the right is how it actually looks. Press on Rich Text and Edit Html to switch between views.

7. Save the changes.

8. Take a look at the Page Elements tab. The latest gadget is at the top of the sidebar. Here again click on Save.

9. If you want to move the gadget, just click on it and hold to drag it to the position of your choice. 

10. Save again and off to enjoy your blog page!

24 April 2011

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, everyone! Be well and fill your hearts with love!

22 April 2011

A Billion Acts Of Green

Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. 41 years later, the global appreciation for the Earth's natural environment is observed by more than 500 million eco minded people.

Source: http://earthday2011.com/
What was started by one man - the US Senator Gaylord Nelson - as a political support for an environmental agenda is now a conscious effort of millions.

The Earth Day theme for 2011 focuses around A Billion Acts of Green and the belief that every person's actions in support of our planet make a difference. The Billion Acts of Green campaign focuses on the pledge to live sustainably.

How to act green for Earth Day and beyond:
  • walk or ride your bicycle rather than driving your car
  • reuse paper
  • avoid plastic
  • use natural cleaners
  • buy local produce
  • use energy saving light bulbs
  • unplug appliances when they are not in use
  • take shorter showers
  • use bath water to water plants
  • reduce, reuse, recycle
  • teach your kids to reduce, reuse and recycle
  • buy recycled

And most importantly, do not restrict your green acts to a single special day,  every day is an earth day! Be consistent in your sustainability, engage others in conversations about the environment and remember - together our actions add up.

How are you celebrating Earth Day? Share your suggestions for the list of green actions.

21 April 2011

Green Your Easter

Easter is only a few days away and with Earth Day coming tomorrow it is just the right time to share some fine sustainable and organic ideas for egg coloring and decorating.

You may be surprised to learn how many plants are willing to share their dye with the Easter eggs. Natural dyes produce even more shades and firmer colors than the traditional decorating kits. Here is how you can get the basic colors:

  • Red - red onion skins, red beetroot, red pepper, almond leaves, chilly powder. 
  • Yellow - yellow onion skins, lemon peels, birch leaves.
  • Orange - orange peels, carrot tops, carrot juice.
  • Green - spinach, parsley.
  • Blue - red cabbage, cranberries, red wine.
  • Brown - walnut shells, black tea. 

Just put the ingredient of choice in a saucepan, add the eggs, some water to cover them fully, add 1 soup spoon of vinegar to 1 liter of water, bring to the boil and let simmer for 20 minutes.

The intensity of the color depends on how many of the leaves/skins, etc you put in the water and how long you keep the eggs in the mixture.

There are so many inspiring ideas for eco friendly egg decoration but here are a few of my personal favorites.

You can press herb leaves to your eggs, enwrap tightly with a piece of stocking which you tie in the back and boil. Here you can follow the whole process.   
Photo: http://cafechocolada.blogspot.com

Use duct tape in a similar way to achieve impressive geometrical shapes.

Another sustainable idea is to draw on the eggs with a thin wax candle after boiling and before coloring them.
Photo: Kanelstrand
Photo: http://www.teener1416.etsy.com

Another amazingly beautiful technique for decorating hollow eggs is using silk ties - follow this easy tutorial by Jany Claire to transfer the ties' patterns on your eggs.
Photo: Jany Claire

If you are really patient you can try your hand at Japanese washi eggs using this tutorial.
Photo: Carol Browne

And now, for the most daring - you can try drilling your eggshells to create unique Easter eggs just like the Slovenian artist Franc Grom.
Photo: Rag & Bone

How are you coloring your eggs this Easter?

If you are ready with your Easter decorations, leave a link in the comments for all to find and see.

19 April 2011

I Spy (or how to know when somebody has blogged about you)

Cultivating a successful online business is an aim for everyone on Etsy. And we know it - fabulous products and proper photographs are merely the base from which we start building our business. We need to make our works visible and easily accessible. But once we have done this, how do we know when our brand name has been mentioned on the web?

The easiest way is to set a Google Alert.

How it works: Once you have specified your search word, Google will start checking regularly for new results that match your query. Then every time Google finds a new result (blog, web page, newspaper/magazine article), an email will be automatically generated and sent over to you. By the way, you can use Google Alerts to monitor anything you think of.

Here is how to do it:

1. Go to: http://www.google.com/alerts

2. Type in your search term (f.ex. my brand name is kanelstrand, and I want to know when and who mentions me on the web). Then decide on the Type (i.e. where you are mentioned - in a blog, a discussion, etc.; for best results choose "Everything").

3. Specify how often you want to receive the email alert.

4. If you are signed in your Google Account, you will have to choose where you want the results to be delivered - in your email inbox or as an RSS Feed in your Google Reader.

5. If you are not signed in, after you type in your email address a verification email will be sent. (it is not compulsory to have a gmail)

6. And now you know!

Are you using Google Alert? Share your experiences and suggestions!

18 April 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Tscarf

Today, in A Portrait of The Artist meet Corry van Tricht who lives in the Netherlands and is the creative mind behind Tscarf, where you can find upcycled fashionable scarves, jewelry and other unexpected goodies. If you are wondering how she got the upcycling bug, read on, I promise you a very entertaining time with her interview and be sure to read all the way to the end because there you will get a precious upcycling tip from her.

Corry started actively upcycling a year ago and as she says: I've become an addict... My friends and colleagues have begun to understand that they are not allowed to throw anything away, that there might always be a possibility I will want it for one of my projects. Sometimes people start collecting things for me of which I hadn't even thought beforehand, but which turn out to be great objects to work with.

My friend Judith gave me a couple of old men's ties, the other day, and at first I wasn't very much interested, but when I took a closer look at them and saw the beautiful colors and patterns, I decided I could easily combine them with the felt from the old woolen sweaters, and voilà, another object was born: an identity/public transport holder...

How did you set your mind to give second life to T-shirts and other textiles?
To tell you the truth, it was my sister who found this idea. She started upcycling way before I did, and sells bags (www.upcycled.nl). She showed me how to do it. My first two T-scarf projects were an utter disaster, didn't work the way I wanted them, but still, I was hooked. A couple of months ago I saw these big duvet covers that our kids found far too childish to put on their beds, and started browsing the internet for ideas. I soon stumbled upon rag knitting, and a very cute bag was born. One thing leads to another, in my experience...

Tscarf, big, soft and comfy

Finding new use for old stuff requires creativity. How does it transfer to your daily life? Has it boosted your imagination in a way?
As I said, I've really become addicted to making things, and I have become more and more aware of all the stuff we throw out, day in, day out. Even more than before, I try to avoid packaging, accepting plastic bags, etcetera.

I've recently been asked to organise a recycle workshop for young kids, so now I'm looking at the world with this idea in mind, trying to make young people aware of both trash and art. I'm bursting with ideas, my only problem is that there are just 24 hours in a day, and that sometimes trivial things like going to work, cooking and cleaning have to be done as well. ;-))

What is your first memory of recycling, did your parents require you to recycle or to save energy?
My parents were from a very frugal generation, the waste not want not kind; so, while we had enough, we never bought or got things that were not necessary. Of course, we were taught to close doors to keep the warmth in (we didn't have central heating in the house I grew up in) and turn off the lights, whenever possible, but I can't remember actively recycling or upcycling stuff. My sister and I recently concluded that in a former life we must have lived on a landfill, or something like that, though, both of us being so infected by the upcycling virus...

Upcycled Tscarf Elly

Talking about parents and requirements, tell us more about yourself, what did you wish to become when you were a kid?
Ha, as a young kid, from the age of four, I knew for sure I wanted to become a teacher, and everybody always told me I was a born teacher. Don't know if that was just a kind way of telling me I was annoyingly bossy...

Anyway, I went to university, studied English, and became a teacher! I did that for about 15 years, and then found it time for a change. I now am the proud co-owner of a bagel store, but have started to give workshops again.....

What do you want people to remember, after closing the web page with your etsy shop?
What I would like people to remember is that the best way to deal with trash is not to produce it, but when it can't be avoided, to turn it into something beautiful and/or practical. You can do that yourself, or visit one of the great etsy shops in which upcycled objects are sold.

Eco upcycled black knit ottoman

We noticed that you have just opened a second Etsy shop, what are your creative plans?
Now and again I feel the urge to simply make something beautiful, using existing material. I just go to the store, buy yarn, and create something. Upcycling takes a lot more time and energy, and sometimes I just feel like producing something like a scarf or earrings, just because I find the outcome beautiful. I decided it would be best to separate that from my upcycled shop, to show the difference. I guess I'll keep on doing both, although my heart lies with the upcycled stuff.

Now, tell us about upcycling cakes, this sounds even crazier than making scarves out of Tshirts!
I love browsing the internet and find it great to look up tutorials on youtube etc. I happened to hear about cake pops, so I decided to give that a go. You take a home baked cake (shop bought cakes don't work, they're too greasy or something), crumble it, mix it with enough icing to make it stick together, roll balls, stick them on a stick and dip them into chocolate. You can see the process and the result on my blog. After I had made these I suddenly realised that this is upcycling too, at least the first cake was, because it was an officially ruined cake (it was broken), and then turned into something even more beautiful. And just like upcycling, it does take an effort and some time...

What is your current favorite item from another etsy seller?
My current favorite item is this keychain by LowlandOriginals. She made three varieties, and I just bought one! Very original!

Get in touch with Corry and follow her creative development:
She has two beautiful websites, in Dutch: www.tscarf.nl and www.workshopsalkmaar.nl
Blog, in English: http://tscarf.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/T-scarfs/116164445088098

You can check out other editions of A Portrait of The Artist here.  

17 April 2011

And The Winner Is...

In March the creative community of Norway started the ultimate competition that was to define the best Norwegian handmade artists in 8 categories: 

1. Redesign
2. Children
3. Clothes
4. Jewelry
5. For The Home
6. Accessories
7. Picture
8. Handmade blog

My picture Midgard was nominated and guess what - I won! So, the badge you see on the right of the blog says exactly that I am the winner of Håndlaga 2011 in the picture category and possibly the best picture hand-maker in Norway!

The winner of Handmade Norway 2011
It is heartwarming to know that my work has been appreciated by so many people and I am very thankful to all of you, who voted for me!

To see the winners in all categories, follow this link.

15 April 2011

Scandinavian Spring

Scandinavian spring is a shy little thing. Wandering through the woods these days I have been reminded how delicate and hesitant she is, how beautiful and fragrant.


After this very long and hard winter, which we spent hibernating under thick whiteness, we are all - humans, beasts and plants - so impatient to greet the warmth of the sun that we are not wasting any moment.

While wandering through the forest this morning I was thinking of this amazing epic novel called Independent People, written by the Icelandic Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness and published in 1934. Although the main theme of the novel is independence and what is worth giving up to achieve it, the narrative is saturated with divine, airy lyricism, turning this complex novel into a poem in prose.

Laxness's depiction of the spring night and her delicate character were sounding in my head all morning:

"It was after midnight, wearing slowly on for one o'clock. The spring night reigned over the valley like a young girl. Should she come or should she not come? She hesitated, stole forward on her toes - and it was day. The feathery mists over the marshes rose twining up the slopes and lay, like a veil, in innocent modesty about the mountain's waist."

How is spring going on in your part of the world?

14 April 2011

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants

As much as I love spring and the boost of colors, bird songs and aromas it brings to our forest each year, there is one aspect of it which freaked me out some weeks ago. This year spring came with a bonus for the nature lovers - we got some really hardworking unexpected guests - small, delicate and black. Yes, you guessed right, our house was the top dining venue for hundreds of ants for a good 5 day period.

Our neighbors were sure we were literally stumbling over big chunks of food scattered on the carpet, which were attracting the ants. Now, I must admit there is the occasional breadcrumb under the table, but we do not, I repeat, we do not eat in the bathroom, or at the front door, or under the sink. None of us. For sure. Never.

Anyway, we were invaded. At a certain point I started considering adding "pets" to my Etsy descriptions. It was going to be something along the lines of: "Produced in a smoke-free and extremely ant friendly home." Truth be told, everything was alright as long as they kept to their paths and we to ours. The food from the cupboards was well packed and hanging joyfully around the house and we managed to keep a friendly relationship with our guests while frantically looking for an ecological way to part with them.

But the moment came when the ants started to get proactive. I mean, they wanted to get to know us better, maybe even hug a little... Obviously, the time for action had come. I want to make it clear that  we did not want to use any chemicals on our ants for two reasons:

1. Chemicals have long term effects on the natural balance.
2. Chemicals are expensive.

Naturally, we love ants. Not only because they are an important part of the environment and they keep the ecological balance by feeding on pests, dead insects and decomposing tissue from dead animals. We also love them because of the image they have earned of hard workers and team players. But good as they are, our friendship could not continue. Not in our house that is.

A room with a view - I still wonder why the ants would come to our house if they have settled in this old stump overlooking the sea.

So, my husband and I remembered something our grandmothers used to do and we put it to action. We sprinkled salt along their paths and put some basil bouquets (we are romantic) in the holes they were coming out of. Lovely and friendly. And cheap. Although the ants did not miraculously disappear and at first it looked like nothing was changing, after two days we were left to ourselves and have been ever since. Thank you, grandma!

I have also heard that the strong smell of vinegar repels the ants and that they hate cucumbers, but I am not sure if that really works. What experiences do you have with ants?

12 April 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Betsyandbess

Please, welcome to A Portrait of The Artist Elizabeth. She designs eco-friendly handbags, purses and accessories out of repurposed, upcycled, and recycled materials. She approaches her creations rather sustainably, utilizing already used zippers, buttons, pockets and belts. As she herself points out, “Nothing goes to waste!” Her etsy shop betsyandbess is full of bright and patterned eco-friendly items that attract not only with their beautiful forms but also with the idea of being produced with the environment in mind.


When did you first feel the need to be eco-friendly and how does this affect your daily life, apart from your creativity?
I don’t remember an exact time or event that prompted me to start considering my impact on the earth. I do remember when the town I grew up in implemented city-wide recycling, and provided color-coded recycling bins. Perhaps that is what got me thinking about recycling and eco-friendliness.

In my home, I clean almost exclusively with vinegar. It’s good for almost everything! It deodorizes, it disinfects, it’s seriously fabulous! Whenever vinegar isn’t doing the job, I search the internet for an eco cleaning solution to my problem. The only paper product I use in my home is toilet paper, but of course I purchase the recycled variety. My husband and I also have a vegetable garden, which is fertilized from our compost.

When did you start upcycling and were handbags your first choice?
The first upcycled bag I made was quite a long time ago. In high school, my mother shrank my favorite cargo pants. This broke my heart, so I cut the pockets off and made them into a small purse, using the drawstring as a strap.

Many years later, I was really pining for a new bag, but it just simply wasn’t in the budget. In order to be economical, and of course, eco-friendly, I made a shoulder bag from a pair of dress pants that I no longer wore. And thus, my bag-making business was born.

You are using repurposed and upcycled materials to create beautiful one of a kind bags. Where do you get so much materials from? Do the members of your family often wake up to find a belt or any other piece of clothing missing?
Where I live we have a local thrift store that is run by a non-profit that employs and guides disadvantaged teenagers. They have an awesome selection of clothing, rack after rack, and often have fabulous vintage items.

My husband has, on occasion, recognized something I’ve made as an item of clothing formerly hanging in his closet. I also must give far warning that anyone who gives me something with the intention that I wear it will probably see it later repurposed into something else. That being said, my family and friends are incredibly generous when it comes time for them to clean out their closets. 

What do you do in your spare time? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My full-time job is as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher to elementary school students. Between that and my sewing, my spare time is spent with my two Dobermans, playing the piano, and working in the garden. 

Your patterns are so versatile, where do you get your inspiration from?
I love browsing the vintage bags on Etsy. I also carry a small notebook and when I see someone carrying a purse I’m drawn to (pun intended) I try to make a note of it.

We are loving the professional look of your creations. How did you learn to sew?
My mother is an expert. She made her own wedding dress, many of my and my siblings’ clothes, and my prom dress, among many other things. Though at the time I wasn’t keen on learning, she taught me to sew. She still offers a critical eye to the things that I make and gives me helpful and constructive feedback on improving my technique.

Tell us about your brand new addition to your etsy shop, the Eco-Friendly Floral Sun & Garden Hat, we thought you were mostly into handbags!
Sigh, my attention is so easily diverted to other things! My family has a vacation planned for the beach this summer, and I can never find a hat that suits me. I made one, loved it, and took a look around Etsy to see what the market was for hats. I decided that hats would be a lovely addition to my shop.

What are your plans for developing your brand?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and pondering on this exact topic. My plans are to focus my bags into a few select styles, with a variety of details. (Laughing at myself as I write this seeing as I just made a hat - note to self - that is the opposite of ‘narrowing your focus’.) I’m working on finding my “niche”. 

Which is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
Right now I’m loving the embroidery in this shop - whatnomints. I will probably buy this one, loving it!

Follow Elizabeth from Betsyandbess:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/betsynbess
Twitter: http://twitter.com/betsyandbess
Shop: http://betsyandbess.etsy.com

You can check out other editions of A Portrait of The Artist here.  

11 April 2011

Google Reader for Crafty Bloggers

I have recently joined quite a few new blogs, expanding my already packed reading list with 50 (!!) new blogs and counting, all written by creative people I met on Etsy. While I don’t normally comment on the other blogs I am following, keeping in touch with my new Etsy friends and trends is closely related to discussing, sharing ideas, and taking an active part in the creative life of the community.

If I visit each of these 50 new blogs at least once a day to check for new blog posts or replies to my previous comments, I will have spent roughly about 4 hours of my day only on that! And I have to consider my family, taking care of the house, my creative process, my online business and hopefully squeezing some time to relax. Pretty overwhelming, right?

Luckily for me, some years ago I discovered Google Reader and have been using it heavily in my strive to keep well informed about any important news, updates from my favorite blogs, etc. Let me tell you about Google Reader if you are still unacquainted to it.

Google Reader is a web based aggregator that is not only able to read RSS and ATOM feeds but also to organize them, providing you with a very neat way to follow the blogs you are interested in. It is extremely useful for keeping up to date with real time uploads of information on the web.

With Google Reader you will be able to:
  • Stay well informed in just a few steps.
  • Read your very own newspaper, tailored by you to suit you and only you.
  • Optimize your time, by adding the blogs you are following to your Google Reader.
  • Enjoy the freedom to choose what to read and when to read it.
  • Share your favorite posts with your friends.
Being informed in the era of information is of key importance! Find the RSS feed icon on any website that triggers your imagination and follow the simple steps for adding the feed to your reader. You can add news sites, flickr accounts, the etsy storque, or just anything you are interested in following.

In Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, even if you don't see a "Subscribe via RSS" button, you can click the RSS icon in the address bar and subscribe!

Google Reader can become your very own personalized newspaper. Add the RSS feeds you are interested in and organize them according to your liking. The new posts from those feeds will be shown on the left hand side of your Google Reader screen, and the full posts will be on the right hand side. Click on a header and it will lead you to the original website. You can order the list of feeds by date or relevance, you can create labels or star your favorite posts.

The number of new posts and the name of the blog are shown on the left hand side, the full posts are on the right hand side.

If you are already “following” your friends in Blogger, you know that their blogs are automatically added to your Reading List on your Blogger dashboard. Guess what, they are neatly added to your Google Reader as well, in a folder called Blogs I’m Following. So, you can take advantage of the organizational talent of Google Reader and have your favorite blogs, comment feeds, news sites, etc. in a single window.

The blogs you have been following in Blogger will be added automatically to your list in Google Reader.

You know how annoying email newsletters can get, packing your email account with unread messages. Well, if you subscribe via RSS you will get all the news, at the moment of publishing and you will be free to choose when to read it. You can take a quick look at the header of the post and decide whether to read, to mark as read/unread, or to star for later reference.

After each post there are the options to star the post, to like it, to share it, to email it and to keep it unread.
Did you know that Google Reader is social? It provides an easy way to share favorite posts with your gmail contacts. Under each post you will find the option to share or even share with a note - a great way to keep your friends and followers informed on what you are reading.

And, read carefully now, you get the chance to spread the love! When you are reading a good post in Google Reader you can share it - a quick and effortless gesture of love to your fellow bloggers. Why? Because when you share a post it gets a chance to be found and appreciated by others.

The good news is that you get this massive enhancement of your online experience for free and you don’t even need to install anything because Google Reader is an online tool. You only need to have a gmail account. For those of you, using Mozilla Firefox, life will be even easier, because Google Reader is included in the feed recognition of Mozilla Firefox, and will automatically redirect you to an Add Suscription Screen, shortening the time and lessening the clicks to an easy, carefree access to information.

Saving the best for last, here is a quick video to get you started: Google Reader in Plain English

Go ahead and try it out, subscribe via RSS to Kanelstrand Blog and come back to tell me what you think. Those of you who are already Google Reader users, tell me, how do you organize your reading lists?