31 May 2011

Blogger Stats: What's Going on With Your Blog Right Now



A lot of etsy sellers feel intimidated by Google Analytics, considering it too techy. While there is no other alternative for keeping track of the traffic of your etsy store, you can use Blogger Stats to be updated on the visits to your Blogger blog. 

Stats for Blogger have been around for almost a year now and apart from the simple, easy to understand user interface, the 2 most sensible  reasons why you should use it are:

1. You don't need to do anything to enable it.
2. You get real-time information of your blog traffic.

Since Stats are part of Blogger, you don't need to do anything to get access - no signing up for another service, no embedding codes, no adding gadgets. You can find the Stats Tab right on your blog's dashboard.


You can see who is viewing your blog right at the moment and what they are viewing!

What is more, you can get much more information, like the country your visitors come from, what keywords lead them to your blog how they ended up on your blog, and which of your posts are the most popular. You can even get to information about the operation system or browser your readers are using.



For example, if anyone shares a link to your blog on their blog/Facebook page/Tweeter, you can see almost instantly the clicks you are getting from them, with the particular link mentioning your post as the traffic source.

Of course, you can keep track of traffic data not only for the present moment but also for the day/week/month or all time. 


A very important feature for the achievement of accuracy is the exclusion of your own pageviews. While this is considerably hard to do in Google Analytics, in Blogger Stats you only need to click!


In the Overview tab of Stats, click on the Don’t track your own pageviews link and select Don’t track my pageviews.


I have read in the etsy forums that people who use Google Analytics for their blog find differences in information. This is because of the different collection mechanisms and actually I haven't seen quite so much of a difference.

How are you following your blog's traffic? Do you have any tips to add?



30 May 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Raw & Repurposed



Today's guest in A Portrait of The Artist is Jessie Anderson runs her Raw & Repurposed store from North Carolina, USA. She believes she was given the talent to turn trash into treasure. She is creating lovely aromatherapy eye pillows, rustic frames and earth-friendly home decoration. Her items are eco, organic, upcycled, and repurposed. In her strive to make the world a better place she provides greener options for everyone.

In her own words: "Just like diamonds, my pieces are uncovered and refinished to be made beautiful. Some of my items are simply restored into a new look and some are complete transformations. I do use new materials for some of my items but they are always organic or have earth friendly properties. That is my PROMISE to myself and my customer."
Tell us a bit about your background. From your blog we have learned that you have grown up on a farm in the country and have had many different jobs. What is the weirdest job you’ve had?  
I am so thankful to have grown up on a farm and to have such nature loving parents. I contribute most of my interests, creativity and work ethic to the farm. When I first realized I was living a little differently, I was in high school. A private catholic school, and I had brought home a girlfriend to stay the night. We were upstairs talking about boys or music in my room and my mom called us to dinner. I sat down at the table and was ready to dig into the pan fried doves and gravy, when my friend let out a high pitch scream and said “What…..is……that!”. The whole table burst into laughter. Haha I still laugh telling the story. She didn’t eat the dove but she enjoyed the fresh corn on the cob and fried apples.

The first lesson I seemed to learn and take to heart was if you want something you have to work for it. I hated asking my parents for money so from age 11 or 12 on I was working to buy the things I wanted. I babysat a lot, became a camp counselor during high school summers, coffee barista several times over, retail sales associate, house cleaner and a lot of other random jobs but the weirdest job for me was Jimmy Johns Sub Delivery Girl! HAHA. Let me explain! I was scrambling to find a job after coming back to college from winter break and finding out that the coffee shop I worked at before break “no longer needed me”. I think they were mad I left town during busy Christmas season to be with my family. I worked for them again a year later so there were no hard feelings. But for a week I was driving all over town trying to find someone to hire me and because it was after Christmas during the beginning of the recession people just weren’t hiring.

I came across Jimmy Johns and saw the hiring sign in the window and just said to myself “it’s only temporary”. Haha. I delivered subs for 4 months and when it got warmer I would roll down the windows and blast music during the deliveries. Well I had a guy yell to me through his window “JIIIIMMYY JOOOHNSS….you looking good.. you can bring me my sub any day” HAHA. I quit soon after that. But I met some cool people there that I am still friends with today, and would eat at Jimmy Johns anytime because their subs really are good.

How did your recycling and upcycling begin and when in time did you decide to start your etsy shop? 
My mom is the main influence behind all my interests. I grew up recycling and reusing. We had a whole utility room full of plastic containers at one point. She sparked my interest in Interior Design in high school after I helped her make updates and redo a home she had purchased to rent out. She also loves thrift store shopping and is known for the phrase “I could make this into…”.

So after majoring in interior design in college and then sustainability coming into popularity while I was there I was learning more and more on how reuse what we already have. The summer of my junior year I ran my own design and organizing business and also began revamping thrift store items to decorate with on the job and also to sell.

Art classes in college also taught me to think outside the box and create art pieces with items that are laying around and that are free. In a college town, that means beer cans and bottles. Those art projects made me realize the amount of waste in a college town. Most of the waste is recyclable, but goes to landfills because there isn’t an immediate option for recycling offered. I began recycling in my apartment complex and carrying it all to the local recycle center every week after that.

When all three of those forces really combined, recycling, reusing, and repurposing, was after I graduated and moved to where I am living now. I began nesting in my home with my fiancé and making our house a home. I was working as a furniture sales associate and saw a stack of discontinued fabric samples about to be dumped in the trash. I couldn’t believe it! So I snatched them right up and started collecting all the samples we were going to throw out.

Soon after leaving that job in October 2010 I began making eye pillows from the fabric swatches. Friends loved them and told me I should sell them. I knew of Etsy and had shopped there a time or two and decided to give it try. It became so addicting. I just kept creating and haven’t stopped! Ideas for new upcycled and repurposed items pop in my head all the time. I have to take a sketch book with me everywhere so I can jot down thoughts as they come to mind and so to not forget them.
Glass Jars with Chalk Label - Country Living Decor

You seem to be a free spirit. Can you share with us how this is helping you with the running of your business? 
I think if you are doing what you love and happy with the results you are a free spirit. I always keep an open mind which allows for learning and experiencing new ways of thinking. I never stop learning. Most times ideas for my new items come from learning a new earth friendly concept or organic way of life. I go at my own pace and I always play music when I’m working. Stress free work is the only way to work.

You have grown up close to nature on a farm, and you have learned early in life how to respect animals and the environment. This surely has given you balance in a variety of life situations. What is the knowledge from later life that you have added to all you already knew? 
Ultimately I do a lot of research on subjects I may know some but not enough about. Even after growing up on the farm I’m amazed at all I’ve forgtton. Could have been those extra years at school making up for those first outrageously fun years. But all of my organic eating and gardening is something I researched how to do properly and then combined it with my gardening practices I learned from home.

My mom saved a lot of cans, plastic containers, and jars but I rarely saw them being used. It drove me nuts! That is something I don’t like, clutter! I design or scheme up an idea for my pile of re-do’s and then I do it and send them off to local shops or list them on Etsy.
Spring Vintage Coastal Frame Set
You are interested in organic eating and homeopathic remedies, tell us more about what you eat and how you cure yourself? 
I can’t say I am completely organic but I try very hard. Everything from our meat to the butter we use I try and get organically or farm raised. We eat locally and since we are on a beach all types of fish are always in season. We just make sure we get organic fish or sea caught that day. It’s hard to swear off fish from the ocean, because even though it’s not farm raised it really isn’t organic. Think about all the boats, and oil, gasoline and chemicals they pump into our oceans. But we limit our intake and enjoy local seasonal fruits and veggies from the farmers market when our garden is not harvesting.

I recently have read an amazing book about healing food that tells you to use the whole part of a fruit or vegetable. So if your going to make a smoothie and use apple, use the seeds and core! Blend the whole thing. The seeds contain an amazing amount of enzymes and nutrients you body needs.

Healing holistically and homeopathically all depends on the problem at hand. I use a homeopathic kit I purchased with about 50 vials that heal various problems. Homeopathy is based on the idea that “Like cure Like”. So I always use this example: if you are suffering from Hay Fever you would be given a dose of homeopathic onion. I also use tinctures, essential oils, and salves.

My fiancé gets swollen and torn muscles often from his many activities, I rub Arnica Salve on the inflamed area and he says it warms the spot and reduces the pain and inflammation within an hour. I have been rubbing Lavender essential oil all over before going outside because it keeps the mosquitoes away. Bugs can’t stand the smell of Lavender or Lemon Balm so if you have any of those handy just rub them on. I have healed several minor health problems on friends and family with my kit so I take it with me everywhere! As for me I seem to keep myself healthy enough to not have to use it… yet.

Lavender Flax Eye Pillow
Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years? 
I would love to have my own workshop with a small retail front. I have had this vision for years and even presented it to a college professor as an end of the year project. She sorta laughed at the idea and gave me a C but I know how that goes… teacher thinks it’s crap and then you make it big! Haha. No plans to make it big, just want to have my own space to work and display my own creations.

What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller? 
I really enjoy Raven’s Roost which is a variety of organic breads, teas, herbal mixes, jams, and vintage items. I sent my best friend some of her bread as a get well present and she loved it! Also find myself browsing through Betsy & Bess quite often. They offer upcycled purses and accessories. (If you have missed it, read Betsy & Bess's A Portrait of The Artist here.)

Follow along with Jessie:
Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/rawNrepuposed

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



28 May 2011

The Stress-free Method to Sharpen Your Knife



Knives (axes) have been the moving force behind human evolution ever since a sharp stone was first tied to a wooden stick. But have you thought about how you could keep your knives sharp if you didn’t have any of the following tools?
Photos: Leeds Museums and Galeries, 7bikeframesweldedtogether, brhefele

There is a very simple solution which I will share with you - the Kanelstrand way of sharpening knives right on the beach! First and foremost, get your hat with a feather! Without it you are doomed to a shameful failure.






Then you need to have:

1. a blunt knife
2. a solid piece of rock that will fit in your fist
3. a handful of sand
4. water







We are using sandstone, which is particularly appropriate. The hardness of its grains and the uniformity of the grain size makes the sandstone a perfect material for grindstones and for sharpening blades and other implements.


Start by wetting the stone and placing some sand on it. Then rub the blade of your knife against the wet sand with circular movements. Take your time and inhale the beneficial air at the beach. This is an exercise for nature loving as well.




You can alternate between forward/backward and circular movements. Just don’t forget to sharpen the whole blade from both sides. When the sand gets dry, sprinkle some more water and continue.







At the end of the process you will have succeeded to:
  • sharpen your knife
  • get some tan
  • fill your lungs with fresh and beneficial sea air
  • relax!

I am sure you have never thought how stress-free a knife sharpening procedure can be! Now go back home and kiss your spouse (just don’t hold the freshly sharpened knife behind your back, it will surely look suspicious)



27 May 2011

8 Tips for Writing Quality Blog Posts



So everyone around you has a blog, you constantly read in all the etsy forums and on every other website about the benefits of having a blog not only for you but for you business as well. There are so many people who appear to always know what to write and when to write it, and you wonder how on earth do they do it? How do they come up with so many interesting posts and even have plenty of comments?
Photo: churl

There comes the day when you finally succumb to the idea, regardless of your prejudices or fears. You sign up for a blog, come up with the cutest name and there you are, all alone in front of the vast Internet empire with the empty space of your brand new blog. Feel inspired? 

The truth is that people are not born with the knowledge. It takes hard work, a lot of research and consistency to become successful in any field of life. But hey, don't feel intimidated, everybody has started small! Take every life challenge one step at a time and you will be surprised when you turn back and see how far you have reached by simply following yourself!

Before I give you the 8 tips for writing quality blog posts, let me stress on the fact that people come to your blog to take something from you. Be aware of that and give it to them! Whatever it is - fun, information, tutorials, etc. And don't be afraid - the more you give, the more you will get in return!

Here are the 8 tips for writing quality blog posts:

1. Target
Determine your target audience. Which groups of people would be interested in your blog and what would their expectations be? Pick up an appropriate tone for your audience.

2. Read
Every successful writer is a very experienced reader. Read extensively blogs and websites with a similar theme to yours, learn from them and put to practice what you have learned.

3. Write
Share your own opinion, don't risk of being accused of plagiarism or violating copyright laws. There is no point to copy and paste text from another website. The problem is that not only the author will soon find that out but that once Google finds duplicated content, your page rank wouldn't have a chance to get high.

4. Link
If you find something interesting on the web which you would like to share, do so! But don't just post links! Talk about your experience, and your point of view.

5. Illustrate
Everyone loves eye candy! Strive to have at least one picture on every blog post. If you haven't taken appropriate pictures yourself, the web is full of photographs licensed under Creative Commons, i.e. free to use as long as you link back to their author. 

6. Interact
Do not limit yourself to posting. If you want to encourage your readers to comment, do that yourself! Reply to their comments on your blog, visit their own blogs and take the time to comment as well, everybody loves feedback! Plus, out of that interaction you will get many ideas for new posts!

7. Schedule
If you know in advance when the holidays are, you can easily prepare appropriate posts not only about Christmas and Easter but for Mother's day or any other special international or national occasion.

8. Keep it simple
Your blog's appearance is even more important than its content. You can create brilliant content but if you don't present it in a pleasant way it will not be read. Try to have a clean and uncluttered blog template. The more widgets and gadgets you put, the longer it takes for your blog to load which can turn readers off. Try to have your posts reasonably long and with short paragraphs. In the age of information you need to get to the point quickly and sharply if you want to attract your readers' attention. 

Want to know more? Read all articles in the How to Blog Like a Pro series. 

Is there a tip that you follow and don't see in the list? Please, share it with us in the comments! We love interaction!




26 May 2011

4 Steps to Your Natural Beauty



I love how much blogging has helped me expand my interests and gain knowledge in so many fields. Who would have thought some years ago that technology can actually be an aid in getting a more ecological and natural way of life!

Today I want to share with you several tutorials on making natural substitutes for well-known commercially successful products. Of course, "substitute" is quite an inappropriate word to use in this case, because when you come to think of it, people have used and developed the natural products for quite a long time before "upgrading" them into factory-produced chemical mixtures.

Let me start with my greatest shock for the past month. I was absolutely unaware that I could wash my hair with simple baking soda but here I am, doing exactly that for 4 weeks and my hair is clean, sparkling and strong as never before!
And there you are, 4 easy to achieve steps to keeping yourself fresh, clean and natural from head to toe!

Do you have more recipes for natural beauty? Share them with us in the comments, so that we can grow together.



25 May 2011

A Wonderfully Magical Giveaway With JessicaC



This giveaway is now closed. Thank you all for participating, the winner is announced here.

Today, my dear friends, I am honored to announce a truly magical giveaway sponsored by JessicaC. If you have missed her interview on Monday, please take a moment to get to know her, so that you can fully appreciate her talent.

Jessica lives and works in Alaska and influenced by the country's unique nature creates jewelry using exclusively pure metals and natural stones. She cares not only about the piece of jewelry itself but how it feels and looks on and tries to create jewelry that is not only beautiful by itself, but compliments the body as well.



So, can you guess? Jessica created this eerie sterling silver necklace specifically for the winner of the giveaway! It has a freshwater pearl and is adjustable from 17 to 19 inches long, the pendant measures about 3/4 of an inch across and it is worth $60!



I bet you can't wait to enter already, and here are the rules.

HOW TO ENTER:
  • Heart Jessica's etsy shop and leave a comment here with your favorite item from her shop - 1 entry
  • Follow Kanelstrand blog publicly via Google Friend Connect and leave a comment saying that you are a follower. (If you are already following, say so in the comments) - 1 entry

ОPTIONAL:
You must complete the two mandatory entries before doing the optional. Also, leave a separate comment for each one. You can gain one additional entry for each of the following:
  • Like JCJewelry on Facebook and leave a comment here (If you are already following, just say so in the comments) - 1 entry
  • Follow both Frozenartist and kanelstrand on twitter (leave a comment) - 1 entry
  • Tweet about the giveaway and leave a comment here  - 1 entry - You can use my tweet if you like: #Win a sterling silver necklace by @Frozenartist at http://goo.gl/OLsiF @kanelstrand #Giveaway
  • Post about the giveaway on Facebook (leave a comment with the link) - 1 entry

TERMS & CONDITIONS:
  • It is possible to have up to 6 entries.
  • You must leave a way for me to contact you if you win (have your email address listed in your profile, post your email address with your comment, email me or convo me in etsy).
  • The deadline to enter is Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 23:00 CET.
  • This giveaway is open worldwide!

Comment date stamps must be recorded by 23:00 CET on Saturday, June 4, 2011 to be eligible. The winner's name will be drawn via random.org on June 5, 2011 and will be announced shortly after, so make sure you check back to see if you won!

Good luck to all of you!



24 May 2011

Inspired by Earth, Wind and Fire



In the past week I have been working on my new line of organic jewelry called Earth, Wind and Fire and you can already see three of my creations on etsy. The line got its name from the three "elements" that I use: cotton, wool and glass beads. Cotton needs the vital juices of the earth to grow, wool gets blown by the winds while still on the sheep and glass is formed by the fire! I am writing this post while crocheting the wool bases for some awesome necklaces that are to get felted any minute now. Ah, the excitement of inspiration!


Meanwhile, have you heard about this pretty accurate test by the Psychologies Magazine, which I saw mentioned over at the Flourish and Debonair blog. The test aims at analyzing your creative style and my results truly inspired me! That is why I recommend you to try it out even just for the fun of exploring your own emotions!

And please, do share with us your results - as a comment or in a post on your blog!

Update: Right now there is an awesome Etsy Workshop on the Etsy Livestream Channel lead by Duct Tape Marketing's John Jantsch. He is talking about how to create a simple marketing system for your business - one which will allow you to view the world of marketing, and your business, in an entirely new light. Now, meaning Tuesday, May 24th from 7 - 8:30 p.m. ET. Hoping you won't miss it, see you there!



Giveaway Winner Announced And a Discount!



Thank you to everyone who entered the eco-friendly giveaway sponsored by Belle Terre!


Before I announce the winner I have to tell you yet another great news from the wonderful Belle Terre. They are offering a coupon code for all Kanelstrand Orgnaic Living readers! So now, all of you who liked the Avocado Lavender Lotion can have one at 15% less! That is what I call generosity!

Just write GIVEAWAY15 at check out, after you have chosen your favorite item from the Belle Terre etsy shop and you will have it with a 15% discount.

Now, on to the other happy news! The winner of the beautiful eco friendly gift box containing all natural soap, lotion and lip balm of your choice is:
Yes Alessandra, one could tell you wanted this prize really badly! Congratulations, it's yours! An email is already flying to you! 
The rest of you who did not win, don't be discouraged, check by the Kanelstrand blog tomorrow and you will be surprised!



23 May 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: JessicaC



I am so excited to present to continue with A Portrait of The Artist and present to you Jessica Cox who lives in breathtaking Alaska, and that can be easily noticed, looking at her stunning jewelry. The forms, smells and sounds of her native land combine in a single spirit that guides Jessica’s hands through the process of creating ethereal silver dreams that can be worn proudly. I recommend you to read her etsy profile if you want to know more about her truly magical process of creating.

And after you come back bedazzled by her etsy store - JessicaC, let me tell you that although it is packed with beauty Jessica decided to make  a very special piece of jewelry specifically for you, the readers of  Kanelstrand Organic Living! Starting Wednesday, you will have the opportunity to take part in a magical giveaway, but I am not yet telling what exactly Jessica will be donating!
Jessica in the woods close to her home, at work, and in the middle - her dog trying to chase a moose away from her yard
How did you start making jewelry? What was the first piece you created?
I started making jewelry after discovering something called Precious metal clay (PMC). It’s a clay consisting of small silver particles suspended in an organic binder. It can be formed by hand and once it’s fired, is a solid piece of metal. The discovery of this new medium inspired me to learn more about metal and jewelry making. Since I lived in a small condo at the time, it was difficult for me to fire the PMC, so I began practicing wire working instead. Starting out, I did a lot of chainmaille weaving also, and my first official piece was a woven chainmaille bracelet.

It seems that you are very passionate about your jewelry and this can be felt looking at every single piece! You say that you try to create jewelry that is not only beautiful by itself, but compliments the body. How do you incorporate the natural forms of beautiful Alaska in your works?
The Alaskan environment inspires a sense of freedom in a person. I think that growing up here gave me a sense of no boundaries that shows through in my work. What also influences me is my connection to the land. I believe nothing can be more beautiful than the simplest things of nature. In artistic expression we are only trying to capture a piece of that divine beauty. My work tends to convey these simple forms. If I ever get stuck on a design, many times I will just imagine what it would look like if it were growing! Even the most mechanical, industrial designs must have a sense of nature in them or they would feel cold and emotionless.
New Beginnings - Labradorite Cocktail Ring
On the Kanelstrand blog we love earth friendly artists and you take special care to use only pure metals and natural stones for your jewelry. Do you feel a special connection to nature on the basis of this close collaboration?
Absolutely! I believe that wearing materials from the earth heightens our connection to it, which is something that is soul feeding, and often missing in our daily lives. Even if all that means to you is staring in awe at the most beautiful stone that was once formed in the earth’s crust, and knowing that it’s a wonder of nature. I feel lucky to be sharing that gift with people.

You have a beautiful and diverse line of jewelry. What is your driving force and your major inspiration?
Well thank you :) This is a difficult question for me, since I have been creating since I can remember. I was born with it in my blood I think. My whole family consists of artists and construction workers, so that is the driving force I suppose. My inspiration comes from all over the place, but my major inspiration? I would say it’s wanting to make women feel like goddesses. There is just nothing like seeing someone try on one of my pieces and seeing their face light up.
Branch Necklace - Sterling Silver and Freshwater Pearls

Can you take us through your creative process. What kind of equipment do you use?
Well the process depends on the piece I’m making, but I usually turn an idea into a drawing. This is the first step, on paper I can see problems that may arise later and tweak the design. Then I usually use wire and sheet. The design is cut out using shears, or a jewelers saw. It may also be punched with a hole punch, or drilled to achieve the right shape. Then from there it is formed, I use pliers, dapping blocks, steel forms and hammers to shape the metal. At this point if there was a stone in the design I would also build the setting and any embellishments.

Many times to build a setting requires use of a flex shaft and burs, (like what your dentist uses on your teeth). Once all pieces are cut and shaped, soldering can begin. Flux, and solder are used in combination with an oxygen/propane torch system for soldering the pieces together. The soldered pieces go into an acid bath to remove oxidation from the fire. Afterwards they are hardened in a tumbler then are ready to be polished with a special compound. Then any stones set into the piece using traditional hand setting tools. Whew. Just wanted to add that I also do work that is purely wire wrapping, these designs require much fewer processes. I usually try the design on (except earrings) to see if they look and hang right and don’t have any balance issues or fit issues.

Your etsy profile informs us that when you create you think about the person who might be wearing the piece someday, why they would like the piece and what it might say about them, why it would speak to them. This is a very sincere way to charge your creations with positive energy, what is the feedback you get from your customers?
I have the most wonderful customers, I get great feedback from them. It really makes my day to hear back from my customers about how much they love their new jewelry. I have received stories from customers about what the piece was for and what it meant to them, or how much a loved one liked their gift. I have created custom pieces for people who are celebrating milestones or fighting for their lives. I feel so lucky to be a part of people’s lives in such a positive way. I would like to quote some of my customers but it’s too hard to choose, so here is a link to my feedback.
Moon Spell - Sterling Silver and Rainbow Moonstone Earrings

Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years? Do you have any new pieces that you are working on?
In five years I plan to be making more amazing jewelry than I am now. I am continuously learning new techniques and working to improve my skills. I would like to be casting and have my own casting equipment by then, which would allow me even more freedom to make absolutely anything. Mostly I would like to make more of a profit by then so I can keep doing this.

What is your current favorite item from another etsy seller?
Hmm, this may be the most difficult question! I really like some of the amazing fantasy art on etsy. But being the practical girl that I am, I would have to go with spices. I love to cook gourmet type food, pretty much anything from this shop will probably be my next purchase. But I love this print from one of my favorite fantasy artists too!

Follow Jessica:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JCJewelry
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Frozenartist

You can check out previous editions of A Portrait of The Artist here 




22 May 2011

Iceland's Most Active Volcano Erupts



Luckily, the end of the world didn't come upon us yesterday as predicted by American preacher and radio broadcaster Harold Camping, who in March was reported by The Independent to have warned that at 6 pm on May 21 as little as 2% of the world's population will be immediately transported to Heaven and the rest of us will get straight to the Other Place.

As weird as it may sound, quite a lot of people believed him, and there were even cameras set up in some major cities (like Oslo) to record the last hours of humanity but luckily, those last hours didn't come. Instead, a large number of small earthquakes in Iceland preceded the start of another volcano eruption at about 6 pm.
Photo: eir@si
Grímsvötn is Iceland's most active volcano, with at least 60 eruptions over the past 800 years, the last one recorded in 2004 but it is known as a "gentle" volcano with mild and short eruptions. The Icelandic authorities are stressing that the Grímsvötn eruption which began last evening is not as strong as last year's Eyjafjallajökull, and will hardly cause any air travel chaos.

As a precaution a no fly zone of 120 nautical miles over the volcano was set up last night but there were no delays or cancellations to flights into and out of Iceland and international aviation can easily fly around the volcano zone.

Considerable flooding is expected today, because Grímsvötn is located under the Vatnajökull glacier, which is the largest ice cap by volume in Europe. But since flooding is usual when Grímsvötn erupts, the infrastructure of south Iceland is built to cope with it. Iceland's ring road, Route 1 highway is closed in the area of the glacier in preparation for the flood and due to poor visibility. According to the reports the ash cloud has risen to 45 000 feet and a great amount of it has been falling around the Vatnajökull glacier and the towns in the area. The ash is reportedly much coarser than the one from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which will prevent it from spreading and disrupting air traffic.

You can read a description of the 2004 Grímsvötn eruption here. And for the more adventurous, here is a flight over the volcano - a video composed by our very own contributing writer and consultant Marin Ívan PhD, expert in the field of eco-technologies from Islandia Geomatics.




20 May 2011

My Day Is Friday




Oh, who doesn't love Friday? The day when the great weekend anticipation reaches its peak, when the sun shines brighter and the winds are warmer... Do you want to know how I spend my Fridays and get to know me better? Come to My Day Is Friday and spend the day with me! 

Looking forward to your feedback!



18 May 2011

An Eco-Friendly Giveaway with Belle Terre



The giveaway is now closed! Check out the winner here and if you are not the lucky one, you can get a discount when shopping at the Belle Terre etsy shop!

Last Monday I presented to you the sustainable family behind Belle Terre's amazing eco-conscious hygiene products. As they put it: "We want to prove that a small business can operate profitably while having no negative impact on the environment. Our commitment to our customers, our community, and the world at large is that we will provide great, all natural products while improving the environment and the community around us." 

Julia and Wayne were so excited by the positive feedback their interview received that today they are donating an amazing prize pack!

 


All of Belle Terre's items are handmade by them. They use only 100% natural ingredients and select organic and/or sustainably harvested ingredients when possible. They also use minimal packaging and  post-consumer recycled materials whenever they use packaging.

Belle Terre's commitment to their customers, their community, and the world at large is that they will provide great, all natural products while improving the environment and the community.

And YES! One lucky Kanelstrand Organic Living reader will receive a beautiful eco friendly gift box containing all natural soap, lotion and lip balm worth $20!

But this is not all! The winner gets to choose the ingredients from the Belle Terre's list! So, all of you who loved the Avocado Lavender Natural Lotion now have the chance to own it!


HOW TO ENTER:


OPTIONAL:
You must complete the first mandatory entry before doing the optional. Also, leave a separate comment for each one. You can gain one additional entry for each of the following:
  • Like Belle Terre on Facebook (Leave a comment here) - 1 entry
  • Follow the Kanelstrand blog publicly via Google Friend Connect (Leave a comment saying that you are a follower; if you are already following, say so in the comments) - 1 entry
  • Blog, tweet or post on Facebook about this giveaway (Post a link here) - 1 entry

ADDITIONAL:
All 13 readers who left comments (before the giveaway was published) under the Belle Terre interview, get ONE EXTRA ENTRY (just post a comment, saying that you commented on the interview).  


TERMS & CONDITIONS:
  • The deadline to enter is Monday, May 23, 2011 at 23:00 CET.
  • It is possible to have up to 4 entries (5 entries for the 13 readers who have already commented under the Belle Terre interview before the start of the giveaway).
  • You must leave a way for me to contact you if you win (have your email address listed in your profile, post your email address with your comment, email me or convo me in etsy).
  • This giveaway is open to US residents!

The giveaway ends on Monday, May 23, 2011 at 23:00 CET. Comment date stamps must be recorded by that date/time to be eligible. The winner's name will be randomly drawn via random.org on May 24, 2011 and will be announced shortly after, so make sure you check back to see if you won!

Best of luck to everyone!



Time to Save Superwoman From Her Make-Up



A guest post by Anya of Anya's Green Baby

As women so often we make sacrifices for beauty. We give up comfort for glamour, junk food for skinny jeans and quiet time for make-up time. I will admit that I am at fault for all of these just as I am sure many of you are as well. In our quest for perfection it is important that our health is one thing that we never sacrifice. 
Photo: Happy Worker


A few years ago I was first discovering that my husband and I had infertility problems. I bought a book called The Infertility Diet thinking that I might be able to make small changes on my own before consulting a doctor. There was a whole chapter devoted to beauty products and the dangerous chemicals that fill our favorite make-up, perfumes and hair care. I was horrified. This was the first time I ever heard about parabens and their effect on our bodies. It was almost midnight but I dropped the book and ran to my bathroom to check the ingredients of my make-up. Sure enough my supposedly healthy mineral make-up was full of three different parabens! I tossed ALL my products and began to rigorously research the best for my health as well as my beauty. 

Here are some important reasons to do a beauty overhaul:
  1. 99% of beauty products contain parabens which are preservatives that help extend the shelf life. Parabens are a cause for concern because over and over they have been linked to cancer, hormone disorders and infertility in many different studies. They are a xenoestrogen which mimics real estrogen in our bodies creating an imbalance.
  2. The color in beauty products has to come from somewhere and often it comes from bituminous coal which is a carcinogen. These colors are usually referred to as FD&C and D&C. 
  3. Most lipstick and lipgloss is made with petroleum, the same base as gasoline! I know that I typically “eat” my lipstick throughout the day unintentionally and I shutter to think that before I became green I was ingesting the same chemical I put in my car!
Photo: Corey Balazowich

There are not many make-up brands to choose from in conventional stores, you will need to go to a specialty store like Whole Foods or online. I tried a few different brands before I found one that worked well with my skin. I am not a fan of wearing a lot of make-up and looking overly done. I have that “hippie chic” look most of the time so I wanted something light just to cover up any skin blemishes. I settled on a brand called MyChelle for make-up and John Masters for hair and face products such as cleansers and sunscreen. I like these products because they met my criteria for beauty as well as overall health and eco-friendlyness. There are other trustworthy brands with all different price points. Other great choices are Dr. Hauschka and Pangea.
The most beautiful face
There is a saying that “Beauty is only skin deep” usually this is meant to deter you from paying too much attention to your looks. I will argue that beauty IS your skin and your skin is the largest organ on your body. It needs to be loved and nurtured. In our effort to save the world, pinch every penny, take care of our families and be an amazing career woman all while looking like a super model I ask you to pause for a moment and consider your health. We cannot do all these amazing things without a well functioning body so I will change the saying and create a new mantra for us, “Beauty is only my healthy skin”. Now go forth and continue to be Superwoman!

For more information on the research studies and beauty product brands you can glance at the resources below:

Anya of Anya's Green Baby is passionate about eco living and prides herself in her all-green home - from cleaning to food, to laundry. Anya is a college Professor teaching American Sign Language and together with her husband is currently waiting for their adopted baby to come home. 

In her etsy store you will find handmade artistic baby clothing and bedding  created using friendly materials and a lot of love. Visit her blog for more organic ideas and rest assured that all her tips are investigated and tested by her.



17 May 2011

How To Back-Up Your Blogger Blog



Blogging - It's a passion
All bloggers suffered from the Blogger crash at the end of last week, that kept us away from our blogs for more than two days. We all lost posts and precious comments but I decided to look on the bright side of the crash and find something positive in it, and I wrote a timely post about how to back-up and restore your blogger blog in just 3 steps.

It is a very easy process that will take no more than 5 minutes and if you don't know how to do it, head on to the Handmadeology site to read my guest post  Handmadeology in full: How to back-up and restore your Blogger blog in 3 easy steps.

Do you have the habit of backing-up your blog regularly? Have you ever lost important posts?



16 May 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Belle Terre



Today, in A Portrait of The Artist meet Julia and Wayne - a North Carolina eco-minded family using natural organic products to create lovely handcrafted soaps, lip balms and related products. They contribute to a better and cleaner world not only by using minimal and recycled packaging, but also by donating 5% of their sales to charity. And I believe that because of their sincere commitment to sustainability their brand Belle Terre is steadily gaining popularity.
Julia and Wayne


We are loving your natural hygiene products! How did you come up with the idea of handcrafting soaps, lip balms, lotions, etc.? 
We started making soaps because Julia has really sensitive skin and we thought it would be something fun for us to do together. It turns out that it isn't too hard and we really enjoyed the process. We gave away a good bit of our first batch and got positive feedback from friends and family. At the time we were both finishing grad school and were interested in starting a business. It seemed like a great fit.

Which of the products you sell is the most time consuming? Can you take us through the steps of the creative process? 
Ironically, none of the products we make are particularly challenging. Soap is probably the most time-consuming product. Basically, you mix lye and water and then heat your oils. These get very hot and have to cool to the same temperature before mixing. The cooling process takes a lot of time, especially in the summer. Once cooled, they are mixed together until trace is formed, you add any additional ingredients (ex: shea butter, essential oils, clays), then pour into pre-lined molds.

In total, it takes about two hours, start to finish, to make a batch of 38 bars of soap. This is before you cut, cure, and label them. We have just built some additional soap molds so we will be able to start doing multiple batches at once. This will cut down on the time requirements a bit. 
Sweet orange all natural handcrafted soap
We noticed that you are in transition to a lifestyle in which you grow your own food and use the energy you collect. What are the challenges of the sustainable lifestyle?
I think the biggest adjustment is time. If you are eating from the grocery store, you just swing by on the way home and pick something up that you can throw in the microwave and have ready in 10 minutes.

When you are growing your own food you have to think about what you will want to have available to eat months in advance. You have to care for the soil, plan crop plantings and crop rotations, coordinate harvesting and preserving efforts and much more. Even if it is as simple as going out and clipping some lettuce to make a salad, a lot more thought and effort goes into the process than picking up a frozen dinner.

Being eco minded and having an eco friendly family business requires a lot of resources. What does it take to keep your products pure and natural? 
More than anything, it takes commitment to a concept and principles that some people just don't get. The flip side of this is that there are quite a few who totally understand what you are doing and why you are doing it and wish that more companies were doing the same. When you meet these folks, you make a real connection and know that you not only have a long term customer but that you also have someone who is believes in you and what you are doing. Knowing that you have this kind of support really helps get you through tough times.
Avocado lavender natural lotion

When did you first feel the need to be eco-friendly, is this a result of your upbringing or it is a conscious effort and a deliberate choice? 
This is something that has evolved over time. There was no epiphany, we have just come to understand that we are healthier and the environment around us is more enjoyable if we are a bit more thoughtful about the decisions we make. We feel like we have a long way to go but we are making progress.

You donate 5% of your sales to charity, what is the feedback you get from your customers? 
This is a great question. It really depends on where we are. At some markets and festivals people smile and say "that's nice". Recently, in Asheville, we were telling a customer about what we do with charities, packaging, ingredients, carbon credits, etc and he was like "Dude, you are totally blowing my mind!". It just depends on the customer and the market.

Ironically, we have had other businesses suggest we should reconsider the donation. It was a shop owner and we weren't doing particularly well in that location. The owner suggested if we didn't donate the 5% it would be easier to make more money. We had to explain that if we couldn't be the kind of company that gave back then we didn't want to be in business. He just shook his head and walked away. Some don't get it, but most do and are supportive.
How do you promote your works and how much time do you spend on etsy? 
Currently we promote through the use of facebook, twitter, newsletters, blogs (ours and third party like this one), our website, etsy renewals & treasury teams. This takes at least a couple of hours per day on average and this is on top of order fulfillment, markets, festivals and production. Social media and technology can provide a great means for free marketing, but require a pretty significant time investment.

Which is your current favorite item by another etsy seller? 
We are crazy about a new shop called Frick and Frack Scraps. We have bought a couple of their pieces to use for displays in shops and at markets. Love, love, love them!

Follow Julia and Wayne from Belle Terre:
Etsy store: http://belleterre.etsy.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/belleterrenc
Blog: http://belleterre.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/belleterre
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/belleterr

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



Giveaway Winner



Blogger didn't manage to retrieve all the comments on my giveaway, although I extended it with 2 days hoping they will miraculously reappear but alas! I am sorry guys, but there is nothing more that I can do, except one thing - make a new giveaway! And trust me, very soon you will have a second chance. Just make sure you drop by regularly not to miss it.

So, the Kanelstrand Spring Giveaway ended last night and we already have a winner! Let's see who was the luckiest of you all!


And the comment:




Congratulations, Simply Smitten! Your comment survived the Blogger crash and you are even getting an awesome felted bracelet with Scandinavian design! I guess the luck was powered by the positive attitude, just look at her comment!

Very soon you will have this beautiful organic bracelet and maybe you can share a picture or two of you wearing it! Enjoy!



15 May 2011

An Apple A Day



Earlier this week my TV Generation post provoked by some word clouds depicting the most common adjectives our children are exposed to while watching TV stirred a pretty good discussion.

The comments you all posted were heart-warming and impressive. In the past years I had lost hope, thinking that the main stream parents, the ones too busy making money/careers, had taken over what little numbers had been left from the army of considerate parents. In recent years the development in children's pop culture (whatever that is) has really been taking to my nerves and making me feel that my family and the friends we are surrounded with are an exception from a too severe rule. 

Lost childhood? 

Maybe so, especially if you consider Lulu Grey's words: "One thing I saw that burned me up was sketchers shape ups for little girls. Sorry - I don't think my daughter needs to worry about the shape of her ass yet." You cannot imagine how thankful I am that we don't have that in Scandinavia YET.

But bringing up a girl to live in piece with herself, admiring nature, listening to anything else than Hannah Montana, reading, drawing and active in sports is far from easy or rewarding in a class full of 11-year-old girls with absolutely unneeded bras on fully flat breasts, makeup, and gone through at least 5 boyfriends already. I think you all understand what I mean.

But you gave me hope to believe that there are still considerate parents and parents to be. I especially loved the mother and daughter duo - Jordan and Simply Smitten, thinking in perfect unison:

Jordan: "We don't watch any TV. Mom is even thinking of canceling our cable! The only thing we will miss is the Thanksgiving parade."

Simply Smitten: "As my daughter Jordan stated above, we don't watch tv, and at lunch today I was discussing canceling cable! ... I refuse to watch violent, hateful movies and so we stick with light, educational and fun. We'd all much rather pick up a book than sit down in front of the television anyday! :)" 

The proof for truly following our dream of perfection can be found in our offspring and their attitude to life's challenges.

So, all these thoughts coincided with an exciting project I have been working on lately. I have been thinking of adding some diversity to my etsy shop directed to children (and the young at heart)! 

Of course, the products are all eco friendly and created in a clean environment. Is there anything cleaner than a pine filtered air enriched  by the vapors of the Northern sea?

To give you a tiny glimpse of what has been cooking crocheting in my studio, I will show you this photo.
This is an apple cozy, which is also suited for an orange or even a pear. The thick cotton provides a shield from most sharp edges that can hurt an apple in a bag. Dressing up a fruit with such a costume will not only save it but will brighten up everyone's face when they see it at work, or at school.

What is more, eating healthily must be encouraged and nourished from an early age. Bright colors and fun shapes can help kids enjoy their fruit more and make them proudly show off their snack to their friends!

Now, pray tell me what you think! Would you use an apple cozy? Do you think it is a good encouragement for young children to have their apple a day?