30 May 2012

The Power of Giving Away and How to Take Part

Have you noticed how the notion of time changes its meaning online. One year in virtual space is way more than 1 year of knowledge in real life.

Why am I talking about time? Because I realized how many posts on creating a successful blog I have published in the past year and have always deliberately omitted one topic - Giveaways. I've spent massive amounts of time researching online giveaways and have organized more than 30 very successful ones for less than a year. That makes one giveaway almost every week for a year. 

Giveaways are a great way to show you support the handmade movement. 
While they are not exactly traffic boosters, you can nurture a faithful giveaway-loving readership that can help you in spreading the word and increasing your blog's popularity. 

A great percent of bloggers abuse the giveaways they organize (and their sponsors) with entries that have mostly to do with the blogger's benefit and that is what makes the topic of giveaways a controversial one. 

But just like in life, there are two types of bloggers - the sensitive and insensitive ones. With time the sensitive ones tend to float to the surface and become really successful.  

Why haven't I posted a single advice about organizing giveaways so far? 
The reasons are many but most of them a result of my need to re-think the traditional approach to a giveaway not only from the point of view of the organizer but also from the point of view of the sponsor. 

So, I started writing about the power of giving away because I concentrate best while writing. Somewhere along the lines, I realized that this is going to be way too much for blog posting. And then, the idea came - I should write a book about giveaways! In this way both bloggers and sponsors who are interested will be able to have a guide close by when they need it. 

In other words, prepare for The Power of Giving Away, the ebook that will help not only the newbie but also the experienced online business owner and blogger. There will not only be advices and clever ways around common problems but also an extensive list of sites to submit your giveaways to gain even more exposure.

Now I need your help. You know how much I value your opinion as readers of this blog and supporters of the handmade idea. In the comments below ask me any question that you would like to see discussed in the book, so we can make it even more valuable together! You will be properly quoted and linked to on the pages of The Power of Giving Away, but more importantly, you will have participated in the shared cloud of peer information and self-education. Let's do this together!

28 May 2012

Finding A Voice For Social Media

This post is written by contributing author Genevieve Brazelton.

I still get told quite frequently by clients, “I know I should be on social media, but I just don’t know what to say.” They struggle with feeling like they’re being too spammy only talking about their products, but not wanting to be too personal because they’re communicating with customers not just friends.

Not only is there a fine balance to be found, but it’s also a level of sharing that isn’t immediately comfortable to most of us. Generally we don’t think our every thought and interest matters to others and I’d say most of us are right, but as a business owner marketing your products there is a level of connection and engagement that customers are seeking. They really do want to know more.

Photo via sasam

So my advice? Find information you would seek out or share anyway that fits with your brand image and would be of interest to your target audience.

It doesn’t have to have a direct correlation to your business, but it should at least have a relationship to brand image you’re building.

A jewelry designer that I’ve worked with asked me this very question in regards to what to post on Twitter and Facebook. Right away I knew the answer. She loves clothing and shoes, she is always saving images and commenting on items she “must have”. I suggested she begin sharing these more regularly. Lusting after products is a great way to connect with people and share your style. It also gives her a way to connect with designers and style bloggers who might also share her jewelry with their audiences.

Because this strategy is easy for her, she already spends her spare time flipping through fashion mags and scouring the internet for cool new finds, she has more of a presence on social media. She’s sharing things that people can comment on easily and it doesn’t feel too personal. She’s also able to connect with potential customers who have a similar style.

In finding content to share via social media you need to pick something or a series of things that you feel inspired to talk about over and over again, most likely information that you already seek out. It might be images that inspire you to create your work, or your hunt for materials or the music you listen to keep you focused. It doesn’t have to be hard.

By creating an overarching theme for your posting you not only create consistency for your readers and followers, but you also establish yourself as a go-to source in a specific niche. You want your business to be known for a certain product or style, it’s the same with the information you share.

Besides the actual “what” that you share, you should also consider the tone in which you share. Will you be funny, conversational, authoritative or informational? This voice or style should mirror or compliment the image of your business. If you make delicate metal jewelry with soft flowing shapes, most likely your tone won’t be short and quip or use a lot of slang. Your tone comes across in the words you choose, the phrasing of your sentences, and even the references you choose to link to.

Use a voice that feels natural and post the types of things you would share with a friend or find yourself talking about to anyone who will listen.

Let’s help each other with some examples. What are some favorite social media posts you’ve read lately? What was it that you liked?

Genevieve Brazelton endlessly researches the newest ideas in creative and social media marketing so you don’t have to. Genevieve’s strength is her keen outside perspective and sometimes infuriating logic that puts structure to dreams and lays out paths to goals. She is also the business side of Lightbox SF. Read more about her here.
Connect to Genevieve via twitter or facebook.

26 May 2012

Weekend DIY: How to Tea Stain

This post is written by contributing author Adrienne  Audrey.  

Tea staining  is an easy and natural way to dye fabrics and textiles. The result is a brown or taupe stain on the fabric which is perfect for craft projects where an antique or aged look is desired.

Tea staining works best on natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool or silk (synthetic fibers won’t hold the dye). This is a great project to try on a rainy afternoon. The best part is there are no harsh chemicals or dangerous dyes!

  • 1 dozen tea bags
  • Large pot of water
  • Fabric to dye
Begin by bringing a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Add your tea bags. You should use about 1 tea bag per cup of water used.  You can use all different types of tea. Traditionally black teas are used but you can try other types of tea and experiment with the results. 

I used Orange Pekoe and was pleasantly surprised by the orange tint to the fabric. If you have a package of tea that you bought but discovered you don’t like the taste of this is a great way to use it up. You can also but large quantities of tea bags in the bulk section of your grocery store or at the dollar store.

Reduce the heat and let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes then remove the tea bags from the water.

Soak your fabric so that it is wet and then submerge it into the tea water.  Stir it around to make sure the tea gets into all the creases of the fabric.  

Let the fabric soak for about 10 minutes or until the color you desire is reached. 

When your fabric is dark enough, remove it from the pot and rinse with water. Let it hang to dry. Fabrics will dry lighter so if it isn’t dark enough you can re-soak in the tea. 

Once you have reached a color you like on the fabric, iron it to take out any wrinkles and you are ready to use it in your next project!

It is best to use this method of dyeing on smaller projects as the results may not be permanent and may fade or wash out on a larger piece like clothing or linens.  The good news is if your tea stain does fade it’s easy enough to brew another batch of tea and give it another soak.

After you have mastered the tea staining technique why not experiment? You can try different varieties of tea and you can even stain other items like paper or eggs! Another variation on this project is to use coffee instead of tea for a similar effect.

Have you tried tea staining before? Please share your best tips with us in the comments!

Adrienne Audrey lives in Northern Washington on a farm with her husband and a menagerie of lovable animals. When she’s not blogging at Crafty Little Gnome, Adrienne can be found out playing in the garden, experimenting in the kitchen or working on a new craft project. Adrienne also sells handmade jewelry and accessories in her Etsy shop Adrienne Audrey Jewelry. Connect to Adrienne via twitter or facebook.

25 May 2012

Creativity as a Form of Magic

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

It has been said that Art is the last form of magic that exists. I hold that to be a half-truth.

Illustration by Anabel Bouza

There is something almost supernatural associated with the act of creating, especially when we conjure the flow: that state where all anxiousness about the work at hand is swept away, and we exist outside of time. While spellbound, our hands don't stop working, nor do the mental processes needed to complete the idea. 

We become a perfect vessel with a higher purpose. 

So what if we can't make our visions materialize from thin air, in a burst of light. Our powers lie in the searing urge to conjure something just because we can imagine it. It's the craving within us that won't be satisfied until a challenge is resolved. It has compelled us, from the very beginning, to populate our world with novel objects and notions.

If we are infused with any form of magic, it would be the sort that allows us to peer through the veil of undreamt things, nurture an idea in the realm of the imagination, and pull it right into our dimension, materialized. 

These powers are not exclusive to artists; they surge through all of us. All human invention is inherently magical.

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of her husband & a turtle; they're new to the city of Chicago, and they love it. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.

24 May 2012

Seasons in Scandinavia: May in Norway

What will we do without May! All the colors possible spring up to life and dance under the sun in all its moods.  To tell you the truth though,  this May has been so cold that the lilacs are only now beginning to bloom. 2 days ago came the warm weather and for the first time in 10 months we could feel warm wind and stay outside wearing only tshirt. If you think that one has to be very patient in Norway, consider the fact that I live in the southern part of the country. I cannot imagine what it is way north but I wouldn't trade my beaches and the amazing scent of sea air combined with pines with anything less than that!

The birds started singing so loudly ever since the temperatures rose that I wake up in the morning by their songs. If that isn't magical what is?! I am happy and I would love to share my happiness with you. 

Here is how Norway looks in May, especially through my lens.

Now tell me, how have you been this May?

23 May 2012

BialaKura Giveaway

You know how easily I get excited by beautiful photography, don't you! One day, more than a month ago I saw an etsy shop called bialaKura and quickly fell in love with the soft colors and the graceful shapes in Agnieszka's photos. 

It is so easy to know a person, even if they are far away, just by the way they express themselves artistically and I am sure Agnieszka is just like her photos - light, melancholic, deep and unforgettable. Although she is a teacher and designer, her real passion is photography, and you can feel that right away.

In her etsy shop bialaKura you will find impressive fine art photography prints and paper goods: beautiful, original and inexpensive gifts and home decor. Flowers, landscapes, architecture, abstract, European cities, and more. All prints in the shop are professionally printed on premium quality fade-resistant photographic paper.

Today, Agnieszka is offering one lucky Kanelstrand reader the chance to win a $30 gift certificate that can be in her shop. 

You have up till May 30th to participate! The giveaway is open worldwide.

Good luck!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

22 May 2012

DIY: How To Tailor A Dress

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti. 

Basic sewing skills are handy for an avid thrifter. Sometimes when I'm shopping, I'll come across a garment that has a ton of potential. It's a pretty color, it's my favorite style, it's a name brand... but it doesn't quite fit. In these situations I try to tailor the piece, especially if it's something I know I'll wear a lot.

In fact, I fixed up a little something over the weekend! Here's how it started:

As you can see, there's a bunch of extra fabric around my midsection. Attractive! The first step to getting rid of it was to put the dress on inside out, so I could see the seams. I took regular straight pins and marked off an equal amount of fabric, about an inch, from both sides. Here's a good shot of the bulk after I removed the dress:

And speaking of removing the dress, I made sure all of the pins were pointy side up so I could slide the dress down without getting stabbed. This is key. Nobody wants a puncture wound. Anyway, once I was happy with the fit, I removed the dress and drew myself a chalk guide line.

Why the chalk? The pins were in a bad spot for sewing. Placing them vertically made it easy for the beginning of the process, but the heads were in the way of my machine's clamp. So I just took them out! I wasn't worried about the fabric getting out of place because it was on the sturdy side, and I was sticking pretty close to the original seam. There wasn't much room for error, so I went for it.

I followed my lines on both sides of the dress, turned it right side out, and tried it on:

No more stomach pouch! Great success.

So the next time you're thrifting and you find something that's not quite right, give tailoring a shot! I don't have any formal training (just trial and error), and I promise it's easy. I worked on this over two days, but the total time, including picture-taking, was only a couple of hours. It's definitely worth it.

Have you tried your hand at any clothing alterations?

Paige Ronchetti lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband. They have no kids and no pets, which gives them a lot of time for eating spicy food and looking for bargains. Paige's blog is Little Nostalgia is a collection of projects and pretty things. There you can find DIY tutorials, home decor inspiration, and affordable fashion ideas. When she is not blogging, Paige is working on her vintage-inspired jewelry lines, Little White Chapel and Oh Nostalgia. Connect to Paige via twitter or pinterest.

20 May 2012

The Studio Mag May Issue is Out

For a third month in a row, I am proud to present to you another issue of The Studio magazine. Thanks to a lot of eco-friendly artists, who have generously shared their creations with me I could mix and match, combine and turn into a beautiful look book once again.

May brings more sun, more scents and more inspiration to the sensitive soul. I hope you can feel this, flipping through the pages on a quiet early morning.


18 May 2012

Simple Snapshots: How to Create Unique Postcards

This post is written by contributing author Deborah Jean.

Have you noticed the high cost of printed greeting cards lately? Some of them can go for as much as $5.00 or more! If you enjoy taking photos there's a simpler, more frugal way to have that just right note-card on hand whatever the occasion. Why keep all of your wonderful images hidden away on your hard drive when you could be sharing them with your family, friends, business acquaintances or happy customers? 

Dandelion House Note-card Sampler

Creating your own photo cards is easy. All you need to get started is a stack of your favorite images! Card stock, envelopes and photo adhesive can be found at most craft stores.  If you aren't printing directly from your home computer you'll need to transfer your images to a memory stick which you can find at your nearby electronics store. 

Autumn Collection
Dandelion House by Deborah J. Bosworth 

Don't have a quality photo printer at home? 
You can still make your unique postcards.
  1. Simply take your memory stick/ digital photo storage card to any location that has a Kodak Picture Maker machine. 
  2. Upload your images to an online photo developing site like snap fish.
  3. Have them developed at a location near you.
Once you've gathered a pile of your favorite photos for special occasions, consider grouping them together in sets of 10 or 12 by subject and giving them as gifts! Encourage the writer in everyone you know by prompting them to send a hand written note more often! Some of my favorite categories are: 
  • beach
  • garden
  • family
  • the four seasons
  • chickens
  • lighthouses
  • boats
  • and picket fences.

While you are playing around with your photo collections here's an idea with a green twist for viewing special images that you want to see more often. 

Vintage Photo albums in great condition make wonderful photo-books! Here's a peak at one of ours!
Our Beach Album

A simple white frame around the image makes a nice contrast with the black background paper giving your image center stage! 

Photos by David Bosworth

I hope you'll be inspired to create your own one of a kind note cards in the future and don't forget to bring out some of your simple snapshots to enjoy and share more often. Also, make sure to display your images around the house. Nothing makes a house feel like a home more than personal photographs.

Photo by Deborah J. Bosworth

In the words of Ansel Adams, " You don't take a photograph, you make it "

All images in our BEACH ALBUM were taken by my sweet and talented husband! David Bosworth. Go here to see more BOZ SCENES! 

Deborah Jean writes from a little yellow house near the shores of Cape Cod Bay in America’s Hometown. It wasn’t her dream house in the beginning but the dandelions that grace her front lawn each year have taught Deb many important life lessons. She blogs about them from her homemaking blog aptly named Deborah Jean’s DANDELION HOUSE where she shares creative seeds for your homemaking hands, heart and soul. Deb's world is centered around her husband, two teens, their beloved Corgi Max and "her girls" - The Cottage Hens!   Stroll  her gardens (weeds and all) and enjoy fresh, wholesome, organic cooking from her kitchen.  She’s no stranger to making do, recycling and upcycling. She loves giving pieces of the past a new look and purpose!  Connect to Deb via pinterest and facebook.

17 May 2012

Conscious Living: Relationships With Fear

Last month I asked you to spend some time thinking about what really inspires and motivates you. One big source of inspiration for me is you! Learning about you, what makes you tick and what are your challenges helps me grow professionally and personally. Personal connections and a little vulnerability also reminds me that we are not alone. Remembering that I have a community that supports me gives me strength I never knew I had.

I spent time last month really reflecting on motivation too and I remembered what also pushes me forward is a love for change and new opportunities and working through my personal fears. The last few years have definitely been full of changes that have been out of my control. However, recently I have been able to create some of my own – a new home and new job and it feels good to have some glimmer of control over my life. And of course with these two big changes comes fear. As much as the new motivates me, fear is inevitable. I despise fear. I dislike being afraid of meeting new people and what they may think. I highly dislike disappointing others. I really, really dislike physically not being able to conquer something and missing awesome opportunities because I didn’t try.

Photo by SweetOnVeg

I have a natural desire to always push myself and become a stronger and better person. I am grateful for some fear that keeps me safe walking in a big city and I carefully choose what fun adventurous things to do. However, what helps me conquer fear is connecting with others. I prefer to surround myself with friends who can be vulnerable, don’t always blindly think things will always work out and refuse to be prepared and can and like to openly discuss their fears.  I like optimistic people but have trouble connecting with others that are afraid to show their vulnerable side. I think they are missing out on learning a lot about themselves and their friends. Connections with other people are priceless.

As with anything, pushing through fear can be easier if you take time to really be prepared. If you signed up for your first half marathon but never ran more than 3 miles, you would follow a training program right? Not only would that training help you physically but the confidence shaped during the training process would make the days before the race exciting instead of terrifying. 

Is there someone in your life right now that you are having trouble connecting with? Do both of your egos get in the way? Try to think of ways that you might be able to be a little more vulnerable and see if you can foster new ways of connecting. What are some things that cause you great fear? Can you see some ways that this fear could push you forward instead of holding you back?

Shelly Kerry is co-owner of Lightbox SF. She is an artist, designer, and motivator. Since 2006 she has been working to build her own jewelry design business, em’s studio, and she wants to share all she’s learned. Shelly knows that building your own art or craft business can often feel lonely and overwhelming. She also understands how much of a struggle it is to balance a “day job” with a budding creative business. Read more about her here. Connect to Shelly via twitter or facebook.

16 May 2012

Balea Raitz Art Giveaway

I must admit that I love the act of gifting even more than receiving. The smile on the face of the recipient of the unexpected  surprise is way more valuable to me than my own excitement of receiving.

That is why today I am so glad to have teamed up with Lorena Balea-Raitz, an illustrator and fashion designer based in New Zealand. Lorena loves to freshen up and give a new twist to stationary. She creates unique envelopes, cards, tags, gift wrapping invitations, and anything else you can think of! You name the occasion and she can create the illustration!

Lorena is offering a generous prize to one lucky Kanelstrand reader. You can win a custom illustrated gift set, worth $30. The set includes a gift box, a greeting card, and gift tag made of acid free paper. All three items will be illustrated according to the wish of the winner!

In other words, Lorena will turn this:

Into this or anything else you like!

To enter the giveaway, just follow the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is open to the US until  May 23rd. Good luck!

15 May 2012

How to Treat Acne in 4 Days With the Help of Banana Peels

Do you remember my rave about using banana skin to heal acne? My teenage daughter recently came to the same feelings as well. Now we are like banana hunters at home and don't let anyone throw away peels without us approving.

What makes his my favorite method for fighting acne? The fact that the natural ingredients in the banana peels not only heal the acne in no time but also clear the blemish and leave absolutely no sign whatsoever.

To make my point clear, I did some field testing, so you can see for yourselves in case you are still having doubts about that natural method of healing acne and treating blemished skin.
In other words, here is how you can get rid of any visible signs of your pimples in just 4 days!

See? On the fourth day there are only slightly visible signs of what used to be. You can go on until they disappear entirely, as I like to do or let the sun do the rest of the job.

Did you enjoy the banana peel method?

Buy my book, Banana Beauty - 7 steps to better skin and hair for as little as $4,99 and gain instant access to 7 effective natural masks you can make at home to rejuvenate your skin and hair!

14 May 2012

A Portrait of the Artist: Herban Crafts

When I learned Eco Karen was taking an indefinitely long leave from her post as editor of Green Living Ideas I knew something exciting was going on. What I didn't know at the time was that she had teamed with another prominent member of Team Eco Etsy, Mary Kearns, to start a remarkable new venture called Herban Crafts.

The Herban Crafts kits they came up with are designed to teach you how to make earth-friendly products yourselves! Each kit makes two sets of finished products, and there are several kits to choose from. The kits are perfect to give as gifts or as bridal shower favors. They also make a fun party activity!

I am a firm believer in the philosophy of teaching people how to make bread instead of baking it for them and in that sense the Herban Crafts idea to give knowledge to anyone interested is irresistible to my (daughter of a teacher and a teacher myself) mind.

But Mary and Karen don't stop with just sharing knowledge. Through Herban Crafts they will offer a job skills training program to unemployed women living in transitional housing who will help assemble the kits.

For the first batch of Herban Crafts kits Mary and Karen are relying on all our contributions on Indiegogo. The money they raise with our help will cover the initial production of kits for promotional purposes and their first wholesale orders. The kits from the inaugural batch will also serve as perks for their devoted Indiegogo contributors! With or without perks, I was one of the first people to donate to Herban Crafts because I believe in what they stand for. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take a look at their Indiegogo page and support the project but before that, learn more from the creators themselves!

I am so excited by the thought that I can make my own bath and body products (especially soap!) with the help of your kits. I am sure many other people will find your idea brilliant. How did you come up with it?
Mary: I have been making bath and body products for 13 years, having first learned the craft from an aromatherapy-kit-of-the-month-subscription I bought to share with my daughters. The kits, offered by an educational toy company, contained simple, natural ingredients.

Some of my earliest memories center around playing with guest soaps at my grandmother’s house – I loved the scents, colors, textures and the way they made bubbles in the sink! But I, and my daughters have very sensitive skin, so we have to be careful about fragrances, colors and other chemical additives. Learning how to make my own bath and body products was not only fun, but it gave me complete control over what goes into my soaps and such. I wanted to share this experience with others, and the idea of making kits was born!

And similarly, Karen feels that learning to make your own products is an incredibly empowering experience. She often shares tutorials with the readers of her blog, and gets great feedback from them. So, we saw earth-friendly craft kits as not only a fun idea, but also a great way to promote self-sufficiency while also promoting the health and wellbeing of people and the planet.

Photo: Herban Crafts

What do the kits include?
Karen: Herban Crafts kits are not frivolous or useless crafts that become junk after the thrill of making them is gone. The end product is practical, educational and earth-friendly since they are made with all natural ingredients. And you can make more with our refills if you decide to make more. The kits are designed to appeal to people who love to create, are interested in Do-It-Yourself (DIY), care about their health, wellness and the environment, and are more likely to buy products that benefit social causes than similar products that don’t. 

Mary: Our kits will include what you need to create enough finished products for yourself and to share with a friend. Our Make Your Own Lip Balm kits will include enough ingredients to make five .5 oz tins of balm. Each kit contains a recipe card, as well as description cards that include information on the properties of each ingredient in the kit. So, you are not only getting all the ingredients and packaging you need to make your own products, but you also have an opportunity to learn the beneficial and practical properties of each ingredient.

You will introduce the first set of kits on June 1st 2012, less than a month from now. How long did it take you to come up with the idea and plan for action?
Karen: We met a few years ago through Team Eco Etsy, where we have interacted on several small projects over time. We realized that we had a lot in common in terms of our backgrounds and interests. One day in December 2011, Mary spoke about her idea for a monthly DIY kit subscription business while I spoke about green handmade gift subscription idea. The next day, we both thought about becoming partners and called each other! And the rest is history.

Mary: Since I started Herban Lifestyle in September 2008, I had a strong desire to add a social mission component to it. From the beginning, I have donated a portion of my gross revenue to charity, but I wanted to do more than that. I have a background in art and psychology, so I wanted to create an empower program that would some how integrate crafting into the process. In November 2011, it finally hit me that a job skills training program that involved the production of crafting kits would be a great way to bring these things together. A couple of weeks later, I spoke to Karen, and she had been thinking about a monthly kit idea, too. Six months later, here we are!

Photo: Kanelstrand

Tell us more about the sustainability of Herban Crafts.
Mary: We take sustainability very seriously and we made sure that we use materials that we would let our own children use. We went beyond just using recyclable materials. The ingredients in our kits are ethically sourced, cruelty free, and most are USDA certified organic or Certified Fair Trade. Our packaging materials are ALL recyclable, compostable, reusable, and biodegradable.

The kit comes in a sturdy box made from 100% post consumer cardboard printed with soy ink. I specifically chose the box because of its reusability and recyclability. However, all the handled boxes out there come with plastic handles, so Karen came up with the brilliant and aesthetically pleasing idea of using compostable jute rope to make handles, so we are going to return the plastic handles and use the handcrafted jute rope handles instead.

In addition to the boxes, all of our printing is done using soy and vegetable ink. The only plastic in our packaging material is the tiny essential oil bottle cap that customers can return to us for recycling.

And we are sustainable in the day-to-day operations of running Herban Crafts: we ship only via the US Postal Service, which holds “Cradle to Cradle” Certification at the Silver level for human and environmental health; we reuse, recycle, and compost everything we can, from paper, ink cartridges, and shipping materials to herbal waste; and we source our ingredients and packaging to make sure not only that they have minimal impact on the environment, but that the people who produced them were paid fairly.

With Herban Crafts you are making a very important social point by involving unemployed women in the production. Do you think your products will be a "women only" affair?
Mary: I think it’s likely that our products will appeal to women more than men, and our immediate plans are to work with unemployed women. However, I would never advocate excluding men from any effort to lift up women – we’re all in this together! The reason we are focusing on women for the job skills training program is that statistics show that people living in transitional housing are more likely to be unemployed female heads of household with young children. So, by helping women, we are also helping children.

In the long-term, we would like to expand this program to work with other groups, including teens – both girls and boys would be welcome to join us if they are interested.

Although crafting seems to disproportionately appeal to females, I believe it can be a wonderful activity for men, too. There is a highly successful program started by crafter Lynn Zwerling called Knitting Behind Bars, which she runs at an all-male prison in Howard County, MD. Even hardened criminals open up when they are making stuff by hand.

Photo: Herban Crafts
You are using IndieGoGo to raise money for the production of your first kits. What has been the response so far? Are you getting the support you expected?
Karen: Crowdfunding, like IndieGoGo, has shown to be a very effective tool for raising money for small businesses. We’ve researched different ones and liked IndieGoGo and StartSomeGood for our purpose. We believe crowdfunding makes people get involved in not only helping startups, but it also allows them to support companies’ missions when they contribute. So far, we’ve had slow and steady contributions and we appreciate every dollar we receive. We also appreciate the outpouring of support in terms of people who want to help spread the word, or get involved in other non-monetary ways.

We appreciate your featuring us and hope your readers will learn about our products, our mission and our campaign on IndieGoGo.

When our IndieGoGo campaign ends on May 27th, we will launch a campaign on StartSomeGood, which specializes in organizations that have a social mission, like Herban Crafts.

How do you plan to expand your business? Will you introduce more DIY kits or you plan to stick to health and beauty?
Karen: As Mary pointed out earlier, our goal is to add additional earth-friendly craft to our product line in the future. We plan to sell to retailers like boutique gift stores, museum shops, nature stores, and even mom’s groups who are interested in home parties. We will receive feedback from those outlets to determine what people want, but we also have several ideas for products beyond health and beauty.

Make sure you follow Herban Crafts everywhere, there is much to be learned from these extraordinary ladies!

11 May 2012

Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too

Do you remember Beth Terry's interview during the Simple Living Challenge in February? At the time I admitted that after spending a great deal of my life in blissful ignorance about plastic, there came a time when I started opening my eyes for the plastic problem. I read about the increased accumulation of microplastic debris in the oceans coming from the waste-water of washing machines. The polyester and acrylic particles from my own clothes were going straight into the bodies of sea animals and back to me in the fish I was eating. I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the terrible effects human consumerism has on innocent animals.

But let me admit that ever since I stumbled upon Beth Terry's website My Plastic-Free Life her influence on my life has been immense. This lady with a vision is with me in every decision I take that has to do with plastic. Although I often think like many of you, that a single person cannot make a difference, I was inspired by her refusal to take "no" for an answer and fought for changing the routines in major companies. 

Photo via MyPlasticFreeLife.com

Beth Terry spent a year researching and writing her book: Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. The first amazing fact about this book is that, staying true to her agenda, Beth had it printed with absolutely no plastic whatsoever. 

She did a great job balancing between inspiring stories, useful resources, and practical tips with information about the problems with plastic, the facts about recycling, the differences among bioplastics and the impacts of the various kinds, the truth about silicone, and why we can’t buy our way out of the mess that we are in.

In Beth Terry's own words:
What’s also exciting about the book is that it’s filled with tips from you, the plastic-free community. My hope is that this is a book you will want to share with your friends and family who may not read blogs or who may not have thought as much about these issues as you guys have.

But there is more! Don't think this is your average anti-plastic book. Beth Terry is walking the talk. She has teamed up with buyGreen.com to even ship the book plastic-free.  When you order it via buyGreen.com, the price will be a little higher than from the giants Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but you’ll know that you are not only guaranteed to get the book without plastic, but also that a higher percentage of the proceeds will come back to Beth and support her work.

And this is where I come in.

Look to the left sidebar - right under the Simple Living Pledge button you can see a link to pre-order Beth Terry's book. Yes, I wanted to be part of her amazing crusade for getting rid of plastic! Purchase Plastic-Free through the link on my left sidebar and I will get a small portion of the price that I will put to use and keep on researching and posting awesome information for you!

Read even more about how to start a plastic-free life on My Plastic-Free Life.

10 May 2012

Beyond Roses: Finding Pleasure in Simple Things

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.

Well, it’s May which means most of us are knee-deep in the garden (well I am anyway), but it also means looking forward to all the fun things that summer holds. Normally for me, as for many Americans, this means travel. But this year is different. This year my husband is starting a new job, and I am pregnant with our first child, due in September. Between cost and time off constraints, staying put and laying low seems like the best option. And for once, this jet-setter is ok with it.

What this has done is allowed me to slow down, reclaim my weekends, and look forward to summertime pastimes that I just didn’t manage to fit in in previous years. Although fun free things to do are always available, there’s something about outdoor activities that makes them abundant this time of year. What follows is my list of things I’d like to do this summer, and ways to have fun the old-fashioned way.

Photo: kanelstrand

1. Go to an outside concert. Community concert series have really been popping up in my region in the past few years - we have three series in my town alone, in fact. Completely free, they provide a great opportunity to get outdoors, have a picnic, and see some friends.

2. See a movie under the stars. We are fortunate to have not one, but two drive-in theaters in my region which I love. The two for one deal on movies is a good one, plus you can bring in your own snacks. Parents love it as the kids sleep after the first movie. Community movie series also are offered in my area completely free. There’s something special about seeing a movie in the outdoors - make sure to experience it yourself.

3. Take a hike. In Eastern Pennsylvania I have access to many walking and hiking trails, including those in the famed Poconos region. Nothing beats the smell of the damp forest, hearing the rush of a brook, or seeing wildlife. Getting out in nature soothes my soul.

4. Have a barbecue. In Pennsylvania that typically means one thing - grilling. I just cleaned out my patio this week in anticipation of eating al fresco. My husband serves as grillmaster in our house. We love to eat outside every night available, and often have friends over for dinner. If you don’t have a dining set and have the space for it, I highly recommend that you get one.

5. Lie in the hammock. I think there are fewer things more relaxing in this world than lying outside in the shade in a hammock. I have many naps planned for mine.

6. Read a book. For some reason, I rarely read in the winter. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s television, or simply watching the fireplace, but I just never get to it. In the summer, I read frequently though, usually in the evening as the sun is setting.

7. Take a swim. Those of you with children already have this on your list I’m sure, but there’s something about a swimming pool that brings out the kid in all of us. I enjoy lake swimming as well, but it’s an acquired taste. If you’re even more adventurous seek out some local swimming holes - you won’t regret it.

8. Take a weekend retreat. And by retreat, I mean go somewhere you are not traveling, but relaxing. Whether it’s a cabin in the woods, or a deserted beach, find some quiet and solace.

9. Go to a carnival and enjoy some fireworks. Summertime means every small borough in my area has a carnival, run usually by the local volunteer fire crew. They have standard things like bingo, super slides, and cotton candy. Are they an amusement park? No, but that’s not the point. I enjoy strolling around and eating some greasy foods while usually bumping into friends I haven’t seen in a while. And who can forget fireworks? There’s something truly magical about them - a sight to behold.

10. Enjoy a garden. Even if you’re not an avid gardener like me, make sure you get out and enjoy a garden somewhere. There really is some truth to “stop and smell the roses”. One of our favorite day trips is to a garden where no matter if we are there for two hours or six, we feel relaxed and rejuvenated. We have two spectacular rose gardens in my area and I plan on visiting them both in June when the roses will be blooming.

So that’s my list - what’s on yours?

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.

09 May 2012

Ink Yourself Giveaway

What if I told you that you already have all the tools you need to create a successful business brand?

You would be shocked, I know. You would list all weaknesses of your approach to handmade business. You will try to prove to me how much pointless effort and money you have invested in growing your business. But wait! Success is closer than you think! My amazingly inspiring friends and contributors to the Kanelstrand blog Genevieve and Shelly of Lightbox SF have a solution for you! It is called Ink Yourself: Using Story to Make a Bold Impression

By now you already know how much invaluable knowledge these fine ladies have shared with us about implementing social media strategies, as well as deliberate motivation and slow living. Now they have combined their efforts in designing a powerful 5-week e-course designed to help creative business owners shape their story and define their ideal customer. Successfully branding a small creative business is about telling a story that engages customers. 

The course begins on May 21st, and consists of 5 individual lessons sent out via two emails a week. To fully support their students and help to build a community the lovely ladies at LightboxSF will also have a members only forum for questions, sharing successes, and getting direct feedback and a group call.

They have intentionally kept the participant number low and only 20 business owners from around the world will have the honor to learn how to bring to light their unique story and create a faithful following.

In Genevieve's and Shelly's words:
We founded Lightbox SF with the intention to empower creative entrepreneurs to take over the world, or at least their little niche. The Ink Yourself e-course is just one of many ways we encourage, empower, and set our clients up for success.

Today I am proud to be able to offer one of you, my dear friends, the chance to win a spot in the Ink Yourself: Using Story to Make a Bold Impression course, which has a value of $250!

And when you win, I wish that you take each word of that precious course straight to your heart and your mind and put it to action right away. What keeps us from succeeding is us, let's finally grow up and go get the world!

Good luck!

This giveaway is open worldwide until Wednesday, May 16th.

08 May 2012

Fashion: Oiseau Vintage

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti. 

If I'm being honest, I'm not a huge fan of how most modern clothing is constructed. It seems like no matter where I shop, every item has an expiration date. I've had things shrink, and fade, and every once in a while, totally fall apart (with one particularly crappy item it was after the first wash--not happy!).

Vintage clothing, on the other hand, usually stands the test of time. Everybody says "they don't make things like they used to" for a reason. So if you're also fed up with wearing mediocre quality, I invite you to give vintage clothing some thought instead! Oiseau Vintage on Etsy is a great place to start.

You can be fancy...
little black dress, $49
black heels, $32

Or colorful...
yellow mini skirt, $29
red heels, $36

Or practical, all in one place.
leather purse, $59

See more reasonably priced clothing and accessories in their Etsy shop. They also have a clearance section to check out if you're looking to score an even better deal.

Are you a vintage-wearer? What's your favorite piece of vintage clothing? (I have a yellow dress that holds a special place in my heart.) Anybody already a fan of Oiseau?

Paige Ronchetti lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband. They have no kids and no pets, which gives them a lot of time for eating spicy food and looking for bargains. Paige's blog is Little Nostalgia is a collection of projects and pretty things. There you can find DIY tutorials, home decor inspiration, and affordable fashion ideas. When she is not blogging, Paige is working on her vintage-inspired jewelry lines, Little White Chapel and Oh Nostalgia. Connect to Paige via twitter or pinterest.