29 June 2012

Don't Know What To Write? Tips For Finding Blog Content

This post is written by contributing author Genevieve Brazelton. 

Coming up with blog content is one of the biggest struggles for many of my clients. I often tell them they’re making it too hard, but they roll their eyes at me as if to say, “For you maybe, but I’m a soapmaker, not a blogger.”

So in an effort to help make writing your posts easier I’ve got a few quick tips for finding content, because really, it shouldn’t be torture to write your posts. 

Photo: mugfaker

Write What You Know

Or at least what interests you. The first question I ask when someone tells me they’re struggling with finding content is: What information do you seek out regularly, regardless of work or what do you talk about to anyone who will listen? Are you obsessed with cute cat videos? Are you always up on the latest fashion trends? Do you read every article you can find on natural fiber dying?

Even if it’s unrelated to your work this information is part of who you are and what makes you different. Share the information you find, or your opinion about what the conversations that are happening, or how these ideas actually affect your work.

Let Readers Get To Know You

When buying any sort of creative or handmade item, customers almost always want to know more. They want to know what inspired you, how you made it, or how you got as amazingly talented as you are. The story behind the item is endlessly fascinating to most. Share your inspiration through words or images, document the process of making and tease it out over a week or a month, or share your struggle with a new design or learning a new process.

Use Other Blog Posts

I’m going to bet you read other blogs on a somewhat regular basis and they most likely create some sort of response in you. Maybe you gain insight on a part of your business that you’ve been struggling with, you get sparked to try something new, or you discover something new. Write out your reaction as a post all your own.

The bonus with this is you can often start a conversation with the blogger who inspired you. Send them a quick note with a link to article, they’re certain to be flattered.

Create A Series

Maybe you have a big idea that you want to explore, but keep putting it off because you feel you don’t have the time. Break it down into smaller pieces, it gives you content for a longer period of time and becomes less daunting.

Another approach is to find something easy that you can do on a regular basis without much effort. It might be sharing your favorite internet photo finds for the week or your current design crush or the books you wish you were reading.

And since inspiration can strike at any moment keep a running list of ideas that you’d like write about and make sure to jot down a few notes about where the idea came from just in case you don’t remember when you get back to it. Also setting up Google alerts is a great way to help keep things fresh.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who always knows what to write share some of your ideas in the comments.

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.

28 June 2012

Seasons in Scandinavia: June in Norway

June marks the end of school and the beginning of summer in Norway. The grass is greener after there are no more homeworks, right? 

June is the month of summer solstice, which we celebrate on June 23 - a magical night also known as Sankthans or Jonsok (John's wake). The tradition comes from pre-Christian folklore, but it, as well as many others, was adopted by the church in the 1st Century.   

The whole night is lively and festive, lit by the colors of a never-ending sunset and the flames along the coast. Traditionally, it is believed that this is a time when the normal laws that govern the world of brightness and the world of twilight are suspended, it is a time when trees speak, trolls and goblins run in the forests and the "little people" come out of hiding and goof around with mortals, playing pranks and stealing food...

June is also the month of endless beach wanderings, long days, ladybugs, fishing, and swimming. 

Spend a June day with me, in the cool summer air of Norway. 

View all Seasons in Scandinavia photo series.

preparing the fire for Sankthans
Sankthans Mandal
Sankthans Norway
grill on Sjosanden
Preikestolen Norway summer
summer in southern norway
sunset in Stavanger NorwayHow has your June been?

25 June 2012

A Portrait of the Artist: Alisa Design

One thing I like about Etsy treasuries is the incredible artists I get to meet when my works are being featured side by side to theirs. One such example is my meeting Alisa from Estonia. The moment I saw her knitted sweater collection in her shop, Alisa Design, I needed to learn more about her and the way she creates. Little did I know that she is such an amazing young company full of inspiring visions!

Alisa's sweaters caught my eye and heart with their whimsical swirls and distinctively elfish shoulders, so I just had to present to you the person behind this magical beauty in this week's A Portrait of the Artist!

When did you learn to knit and how long was it before you opened an etsy shop?
Oh, it was a long long time ago ;) I learned knitting when I was a very little girl, my mom taught me how to do it! Also when I was at school we had arts and crafts classes. This is when I made my first socks and mittens. Knitting has always been more like a hobby for me. About a year ago I completely devoted myself to this art. I opened my Etsy shop in November 2010, but I introduced my first little collection just in autumn 2011, so I'm quite new to Etsy.

Tell us a bit about your background.
My name is Alisa and I was born on the 9th of October 1986 in Tallinn. Two years ago I got my Bachelor Degree in Fashion Design. My love to art and fashion began at a very young age. I have always been interested in arts and fashion. Fashion design has always been a great passion for me and has always inspired me to a creative work. When I was a little girl I loved drawing, sewing and knitting. I took classes in crafts in leather, in batik painting and in jewelry design. When I was 16, I took part in my first school fashion show. About the same time I completed a course as a make-up artist.

Later on, during my University studies I had a wonderful opportunity to make a collection inspired by famous Estonian Folk Ornaments of socks and tights. This was an amazing experience for me and this collection is available now in our country stores, which I’m very proud of ;)

After finishing the University I finally dedicated all my time to the creative work. I was looking for my own style in the fashion design. I tried different directions, experimented with different materials until I got back to knitting. It divulged me completely.

I started to experiment with different knitting techniques. I discovered so many textures and structures, shapes and folds! Knitting allows me to fully express myself. And yet I would like to learn more about it as I started working in this art field relatively recently. I have so many ideas, so I hope all my greatest creations and achievements are awaiting for me in the future!

Electric Chic

Your designs seem fairy-tale like, how do you come up with them?
Thank you for the beautiful comparison!

Well, I’m always in a creative thinking process. I can generate ideas in any minute. That is why I always have a notebook or a piece of paper handy, so I can draw quickly a sketch.

Creating a collection is always a long thinking process. For instance, my ideas are born when I watch a science fiction film, or if I see an interesting line or a shape in the architecture.

Sometimes my ideas are influenced by the shapes from a past fashion tendency. Sometimes, just before going to bed, something strikes me and I hurry up to do a few sketches so that the next morning I would remember this idea.

As soon as I have my idea fixed and all the little details are well-thought, then I start modeling on the mannequin. And if something does not go well, then a new interesting shape appears. At that point I change a part of my design and I have a complete new creation!

Sometimes my creative ideas come when I see a beautiful color of yarn or an intricate decorative detail that attracts me. Sometimes my clients come to me with their own ideas, so that I only have to make their wish come true.

Sea Breeze Sweater

Can you take us through your working process? How long does it take you to finish a sweater?
As I said before to create a collection is always a long process. I spend most of the time generating new ideas, and finding new shapes and lines. I experiment a lot with materials. Modeling on the mannequine takes another lot of time. But when the idea already exists I simply choose my yarn and select the decorative details (if they make a part of the design). So, one sweater can take about one week to finish, it depends on the style and yarn thickness.

Once I had a wonderful client who ordered a sweater for his fashion show. The show was supposed to start in just a few days! It was a real challenge for me but I took the chance! I finished the sweater within three days. I literally knitted it days and nights. It was a hand-made work. The order was done on time. My client was very happy and satisfied with my work. I do not know if I can ever beat my own record. Well, if I have the yarn as thick as my finger I probably could knit a sweater in a day! :)

Speaking of my new knitting collection, it will all be done on the knitting machine. I am in the process of discovering new possibilities and techniques of knitting on a machine. On the one hand, it saves a lot of time. On the other hand, there are many special tricks that I have to learn.

My new collection will be in a minimalist style with folds and small leather details. It will be soon available in my Etsy store and I hope everyone will find something they like.

How do you choose your yarns?
Choosing yarn is very important, because this is the basis for my work and I want to be sure that I choose the best yarn for my creative projects. When I design an item or a collection I have a lot of freedom in choosing yarn! It can be very thick or soft and fluffy. I take into consideration the color and weight of the  yarn, I read the wash and dry instructions as well as general information on how to take care of the yarn.

I try to use eco-friendly materials, such as wool, cotton and angora wool. I also use yarn which has acrylic inclusion because it has a wide palette of beautiful bright colours which is not always the case for wool or other natural yarn palettes. The mixed yarn is easy to wash and it has a good price.

In my new collection I used only high quality yarn, such as 100 % merino wool, 100% cotton with insertion of some leather details for decorative parts. But when I have a custom order we discuss in details what exactly my client wants, what preferences he has in a yarn color. We  also choose the composition of the yarn.

Left: Khaki Chic 2 | Right: Khaki Chic

How do you make sure you are eco-friendly in your practices?
I try to use high quality yarn: natural wool, alpaca wool, cotton, angora etc.

I order yarn from the suppliers that I know for a long time. There are a few companies in Estonia that have a good reputation on the market. When I go there I know that I will not be deceived in my choice. It is very important to me to have clients satisfied with the quality of my work.

What is your greatest inspiration?
It is quite a difficult question, because I am inspired by so many things. I get a lot of inspiration from the local nature. I am inspired by the old architecture of my country. The past that we lived and the imaginary future give me possibilities to create and experiment in my field.

From the things that are around me I like elegance and femininity. I enjoy the classic style and simplicity. As an artist I follow the modern fashion trends. Today I prefer minimalist and futuristic design with their unusual shapes and folds that inspire me most. I like contemporary arts, especially Japanese arts. I find it very intricate and lucid at the same time. I would also like to experiment with a 3D structural knitting, so I hope one day you will find more geometry in my work!

The world of fashion fascinates me. It brings a major influence to my design work. It constantly pushes me to perfectionism.

What is your current favorite item from another etsy seller?
There are hundreds fantastic artists and just amazing items on Etsy, but there are some of them that I like a lot. For example: fantastic products from Diana Nagorna, Behida Dolic's amazing hats, wonderful purses shop Coriumi, Eve Anders, Emīlija Lielā and her amazing felted bears brooches collection.. and many many others.

Make sure you connect with Alisa:

22 June 2012

Conscious Living: Photographing Childhood

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

We can all agree that children are a wild and genuine bunch - the original daydreamers.

Recently, under commission to photograph a festive crowd, I became curious about the kids in the room and the unbridled fun they were having amongst themselves. They paid no heed to me or the camera as I approached them, which gave me freedom to get really close and peer through my lens into that world I once knew.

photographing children
Illustration by Anabel Bouza
This experience made me think about how often parents issue commands to their children in order to stage a photographic moment. Yes, kids can be a difficult subject to shoot, but if the aim is to capture the moment and encapsulate their personality, there are better ways to go about it than commanding them to smile, stare stiffly into the lens, or say cheese.

You really don't need fancy gadgets to get a good candid picture of your children. 
A good way to be prepared for the pictorial moment is to have your camera on you (and ready) at all times. Since a lot of phones these days have pretty good cameras,you're covered just by having one of those on hand.

Learn what your device can and can't do by playing with it and pushing its limits - get creative.Here are some tips to better capture kids in their element:
  • Try different perspectives. Get down to their level for a shot that represents the scene from their point of view.
  • Shoot what is meaningful to them. They'll look back at these images and remember how much they loved that one toy, or those tattered shoes...
  • To prevent motion blur and freeze a running/jumping child in place, try the Sports Mode on your point-and-shoot camera. This is particularly helpful when there isn't a lot of light available.
  • Your camera's Portrait Mode helps make your child stand out by blurring the background —notice that this works best when the subject is up close. Otherwise, zooming in is a good way of not interfering while still filling the frame with your subject. 

  • Move around to get the best view, it's worth it!
  • Try shooting in bursts, that way you end up with multiple similar images from which to choose. Some cameras have an option called Continuous Shooting, which automatically fires several photos in quick succession —helpful if the kid is moving a lot, or if you want to have a version of the image where he/she is not blinking.
  • Above all: be playful! Be flexible!

Here is a 30 Day Challenge from Click it Up a Notch to help you master the art of photographing your children, and familiarize them with the fact that a camera in the room doesn't mean they should freeze in place or give a fake smile. 

Let the journey begin!

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.

21 June 2012

Conscious Living: Is Something Missing?

This post is written by contributing author Shelly Kerry. 

Is Something Missing? This can be a very loaded question but does it ever happen to you? Are you ever just moving along in your work/creative projects or dealing with life’s many curve balls and you think all is fine? You are moving forward, head down and then BAM! One morning you wake up and you just don’t feel right. You feel that something is missing. Maybe you have been working way too much. Maybe a project that you have been working on has secluded you from your friends. Life is becoming normal again after a huge life changing event and you realize that you haven’t had the time to do the things you love for months.

I am going to be very open here and share that I had that morning today. It started pretty slowly. One night too many spent last week at home alone. I have almost finished the new post fire studio and remembered that I haven’t created a piece in months. Summer vacations and camping trips are popping up and I realize that I haven’t left town since December.  I noticed that these thoughts were starting to gain momentum and today I woke up in a small state of discontent that grew to a feeling of panic. Many things completely out of my control have happened since December. Major life shifting events and even though I know that now I have the time and new home to be able to make really awesome things happen, I got upset thinking about the time that has passed. It is just a place I go from time to time and the panic aspect can be very difficult to manage. These feelings have been the main reason I have committed myself to living a life of reflection, awareness and growth. Writing about conscious living is also a way for me to process these thoughts, share my reflections with you and inspire you to live a life of awareness too.  And I am taking major deep breaths as I write this post.

My practice of late has been to sit with the anxiety, give it space and fight the desire to find quick fixes. That being said I think there are so many gentle ways that we can deal with feelings like this. Staying up all night searching and signing up for every jewelry designing class in your area might not be the best idea. Allowing time to find the best one and not overwhelming yourself with the desire to make up for lost time is probably a better way. Maxing out your credit cards with an overly expensive trip to Caribbean that you cannot afford right now might also not be the best thing to do. Possibly a weekend trip to a nearby coastal town would be a lot less stressful and you can plan for the big trip over time.

A super healthy quick fix can be just putting your work down for the day and give yourself a break. Call a friend to meet up for a drink or dinner. Surprise your husband with a spontaneous date night. No one is free? See if there is some other type of inspiring event where there might be a possibility of meeting new and interesting people. Or just go to a feel good movie and treat yourself to your favorite food at your favorite restaurant. Just do something that treats your senses and feeds the desire for change. Stop to enjoy the simple things. My favorite bowl of spaghetti at the bar with my favorite bartender can be really healing. Giving your senses a little treat can be super beneficial for us creative types.

If you are like me and anxiety starts to expel some serious energy try these exercises for a few days. 
I will be working through these too and I will also benefit from your feedback.

Start by writing. Whether you prefer automatic writing or creating lists, just dedicate a few mornings to let yourself just spill out all your ideas. Just let it all roll out. Practice non-judgment. If what you are writing doesn’t make sense at the moment you are probably just being hard on yourself. Many creative people have a lot of thoughts and ideas running around in our heads and it is often beneficial to process by allowing them to spill onto the paper. Give yourself time to walk away from this writing and just sit with your thoughts.

Next you can make a list of to dos. After things in your head start to slow down hopefully what your heart is saying can be heard a little more clearly. More than likely you will be someplace in between but this is a good time to start a list of all the things you want to do. I create the same list on New Years Day – 50 things I want to do in the new year. If you do this too then bring out the list and reflect on all the things you have done already and see if any of your desires have changed.  If negative thoughts come up about all that you have not done then make yourself stop. Highlight everything you have done. Then give yourself a little pat on the back for your past successes.

Give yourself a day away from the list and then revisit. Pick a few things that you can make happen soon. If it is a new writing workshop that you want to take go ahead and sign up for it. Is there something else you want to sign up for three months from now? Set up a calendar reminder. Sometimes having a plan to do something if it is even a few months away and help settle those uneasy feelings.

It is easy for some of us to get in a downward spiral when thoughts of discontent arise. Giving yourself time to reflect can be beneficial. It is taking me years of practice to develop faith in my own personal way of healing.  

Can you try and see how this time of feeling lost might be the best gift, offering you insight and opening your mind to new and exciting things?

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.

20 June 2012

Why Multitasking is Bad for You

Last April I wrote about the terrible effect multitasking has on people. That very post marked the beginning of a single-tasking life for me after I admitted I had been a serial multitasker for years. Well, in all honesty, I still catch myself trying to multi-task, but that happens quite rarely.

Today I want to share with you an infographic by onlineuniversities.com that will make you re-consider your way of work if you still haven't turned your back to multitasking. I know how hard it is for women to grasp the bad effect multi-tasking has on our bodies and minds mostly because we are good at it but did you know what strain it puts on your brain?

For example, when you are faced with two tasks, they are divided between the two halves of your brain. Then it starts switching between both of them. But when a third task comes in play, the brain simply cannot handle it and your performance level drops down.

With the advance of technology we get both tempted and challenged to stay on top of all information sources which puts additional strain on our brains. Have you noticed how often you switch the tabs of your browser to check your email or Facebook? This clearly impairs your concentration. 

Click on the image to view larger.

The infographic shows a disturbing figure - 95% of teenagers are online through different types of devices. No wonder so many of them get diagnosed with ADHD nowadays. It is obvious that neither the educational system nor the parents are ready to prepare the young generation for the avalanche of information.  

What do you do to stay sane in the age of information and how do you protect your children?

18 June 2012

Beauty Review: Organic Mascara

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti. 

In my quest to use/consume fewer chemicals overall, I've been slowly transitioning from "regular" makeup to organic varieties. Sometimes it's hit-or-miss, but recently I found what I think is my favorite natural product so far.

Organic Wear Lash Boosting Mascara from Physician's Formula. This particular item has 100% natural origin ingredients, and 44% of them are from organic farming. It's also hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, so it's great for folks with sensitive eyes. The label claims it adds volume right away, and will also make your lashes fuller and longer over time.

The results? Well, I kind of gave it away in the first paragraph, but I LOVE it. I've been using it for a couple of months now and it definitely lives up to the hype. It doesn't flake off like a normal mascara, and I think that's because of the softer texture. Some reviewers online claim that the mascara doesn't really "dry" but that's not totally accurate. It does dry, but your lashes stay soft and pliable. Regular mascara makes your lashes crunchy (which then leads to the dreaded flaking), but this one does the opposite.

As for the volume/fullness/length question, I think a picture is the best way to illustrate the point:

It works! And that's only one coat. For everyday wear, that's about as dramatic as I want to be anyway. I've added a second coat for evening a few times and it really glams things up. My one minor complaint is that sometimes it will smudge if I'm outside on a hot day. But even then it's not much, and is easy to wipe away with the tip of my finger. No makeup remover necessary.

Organic Wear is available online at Ulta and Amazon, and also in several larger chains like Walgreens and Target. My bottle was $9.99, which is about what I expect to pay for the good stuff anyway. I'll definitely keep buying.

Bottom line: 9/10. It's very close to perfect.

Do you wear any organic or natural makeup? What's your favorite brand? Anybody else a fan of this wonderful mascara?

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.

15 June 2012

Upcycled Container Gardening

This post is written by contributing author Deborah Jean.

Hi everyone! Gardening season is in full bloom by mid-June with the first of many blossoms making an appearance from now until late summer. I love watching the changes of color and foliage in my established garden beds which are filled with mainly flowering shrubs and perennials. But, I also enjoy finding new and different ways to grow annuals in pots that I can place near the door or on our deck so they can be enjoyed close- up! Let's face it, the cost of buying new pots, soil and plants can add up quickly, why not plant in containers that have nine lives?

I'll share a few of my favorites with you today, then it's your turn to share some of your clever ideas for upcycled container gardening!

This antique teapot has a little story... I found it on a biking trip with my husband and friends in the small town of Genoa, Nevada. I've been planting flowers in this old thing for more than 20 years. I love it so much I brought it with us when we moved East 10 years ago!  Last year this little teapot brewed nasturtiums all summer long! did you know you can eat them? They are lovely tossed into a green salad or sprinkled on top of cream cheese as an edible decoration.

How about a sink garden? My husband brought home this vintage pedestal sink with the idea in mind that we would use it in one of our bathroom remodels, but we planted it in the garden instead! The first year I planted it with Sweet Potato Vine and Snow in Summer. Last year I chose some Pinwheel Petunias and white Snow in Summer.

And this year more white snow in summer and Laguna ~ Sky Blue

Literally anything that can hold dirt can be a planter. This little red number was a rusty brown magazine holder until I spray-painted it red and filled it with flowers! 

Upcycled Container Garden ideas:
  • Pallets
  • Horse Trough
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Wooden Flower Cart
  • Galvanized Bucket
  • Hollow Log
Baskets and more! Head on over to my friend and blogging sister Shery Jesperson's  MJF Ranch farmgirl blog  for a good look at more unique redeemed container garden ideas! Just so happens that's what she's writing about today too! Hmm. Must be a farmgirl thing!

Okay, now it's your turn! 

Here's to a wonderful growing season full of bright, beautiful blossoms!

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.

14 June 2012

Working hard. Having faith. And surrender.

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams. 

I am a recovering worry wart in the truest sense of the word. But in the last three years, with our lives turned upside down more than once, I’ve learned to not worry and let it go.

Regardless of how much you think you have control of your life, it’s really an illusion. You never really know what’s going to be around the next corner. Bad things happen to good people. Life isn’t fair.

However, I think you can put wheels in motion to keep moving forward in the direction of your dreams.

A devastating blow
I had an experience two years ago that I’d like to share. I was a few months out work after being let go as a marketing person for a health care organization. Being let go that time was especially hard. My husband had been out of work for more than six months when I lost my job. Our household income, with both our layoffs, was cut by 40%. I had an all-out cryfest in the HR department (the only time during all my job losses that I shed a tear). As time ticked on, panic began to set in, but I was careful not to show it when I was interviewing - no one likes a desperate candidate.

I began following a lead with a friend of mine who was overwhelmed with work. We began talking about a possible opportunity there. Maybe a part-time contract position. As time passed, it became unclear if this lead was really going anywhere - perhaps the timing was off. I wanted the job more than anything. The company was one of three I identified upon college graduation that I wanted to work at. They really needed my help and I had the skills to be successful there.

Photo: khalilshah
As I hung up the phone one afternoon after another conversation with my friend I resisted the urge to cry. Having been rejected from two other positions in the days before, frustration and the emotional roller coaster that is job searching was taking its toll. Money was running out. I had even looked into cashing in my 401k. These were lean times.

As I sat at the edge of my bed racking my brain on what the next steps would be I realized there was nothing I could do. Absolutely nothing. I had applied to all the positions I could, aggressively pursued them with follow up phone calls and e-mails, and worked my network the best way I knew how. There was nothing left to do.

So I said to myself, “This is it. It’s out of my hands now. I just have to have faith that something will work out. I’ve done all I can.” And for once I meant it. I was truly letting go.

The next day I received an offer at the company. And after some negotiations, I started there a month later as a full time employee.

Photo: Donna Winton
Help me let it go. - Oprah
Earlier this year, I watched in complete rapture as Oprah recounted a similar experience with landing the role in “The Color Purple.”

You can watch her story in its entirety below, but I’ll give you the high points. She discovered the book, which really spoke to her after her own sexual assault experience. She became obsessed with the story, giving a book to everyone she knew. She received a call from Steven Spielberg for a reading for a new project, which ended up being “The Color Purple.” Months past after the reading and she heard nothing. When she called up the casting director to ask what the status was they were rather cold saying she wasn’t a “real” actress. She knew then she wouldn’t get the part. Convinced it was due to her weight, she went to a self-described fat farm.

As she was running around the track she asked God for help in getting over this setback - something that she had wanted so badly. She actually said “I surrender.” out loud and meant it. With that she received a phone call from Spielberg that she got the part.

Your thoughts create reality. - Oprah 
One of the things Oprah talks about in the interview that really resonates with me is creating the space in your life for the good stuff to happen. I’ve talked about this on my blog before, because I think it’s really important. And the first step to making positive change is positive thinking.

I’ve always been the glass is half full kind of a girl so that’s not particularly challenging for me. But it was challenging two years ago with time ticking, and my bank account dwindling. It’s easy to let fear and panic win. But you can’t let it.

If it’s hard to think positively, it’s even harder to come to grips with the reality that you don’t always have control over your life or what happens to you. That’s not to say every time something bad happens you sit at home and wring your hands about it. This is your life, and your happiness is worth fighting for. Get a battle plan and put it into action. But don’t be surprised if the end result wasn’t exactly what you had planned. Accept that Plan B or C or even Z can work, and perhaps even be better solutions that you could have ever imagined.

This has happened to me time and again, which is why late last year my husband and I decided to start a family despite the fact that neither one of us had a stable job. A lot can happen in nine months, and it already has. My husband has a great, permanent, full-time job in his field, and I’ve picked up a part time position - ideal with baby on the way. All it took was some hard work, a little faith and surrender.

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.

13 June 2012

Eco-friendly Father's Day Gifts

Father's day is just round the corner and if you still haven't prepared, here are a few original eco-friendly suggestions by the amazing pool of international talent on etsy.

SignatureShirts have prepared a cool Tshirt for the new dad. Irresistible, isn't it!

The grey streak continues in choosing a trendy pendant by OneLoomStudio, shimmering with light, and full of movement,meant to capture the flicker of flames reflected in water. It's created by layering textured pieces of silver together.

You can always share a nice cup of tea with your dad and relax in the quiet afternoon hours together. This organic loose leaf blend by HappyEarthTea is fragrant with a pleasant briskness that is balanced by sweet floral-fruity notes. It enlivens in a deep subtle kind of way.

To help you reach out to your ever-working father, RedorGrayArt has a beautifully natural desk accessory that will take him back to his own childhood out in the woods.
How about an organic cotton soy blend long sleeve shirt all the way from Hawaii and the amazing SouleRole? At first glance you might call this a basic long sleeve crew neck shirt.... but you'd be wrong. This shirt is anything but basic! The fabric is incredibly soft and comfortable. It looks great with jeans and a blazer for a night out or throw on your workout pants and get sweaty!

KCsGlass have these amazing money clips that are in fact artistically inlayed salmon shapes into sustainably harvested trees. You can choose from Lacewood, Birdseye Maple, Oak or Walnut.

In other words, there are so many options to choose from, that are not only fascinating but also eco-friendly. 

Which one is your favorite?

12 June 2012

Simple Summer: How to Fight Sunburn Naturally

Summer is the best time of the year - sun is shining,  spirits are high, and we are happily visiting beaches and mountains, exposing ourselves to the merciless sunlight that can sometimes be so harmful.

I must admit that I am yet to get used to the thin ozone layer above Norway and have not yet changed my habit of sunbathing in any spare moment. In fact, my daily routine is often subjected to the weather. If it is sunny and quiet, you will find me outside, soaking in the sun. 

The dark side of the sun
It is known that sensible, moderate sun exposure is beneficial for the production of vitamin D. And vitamin D plays a major role in bone health and reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more.

Even if we ignore the long-term effect of excessive exposure to sunlight (which is unfortunately skin cancer), there is something that happens pretty quickly after we overdo our stay under the sun. And that is sunburn.

Photo: spisharam
Tomatoes for healthy skin
I found a great natural remedy for sunburn and you will be surprised to learn its name - tomato! Not only is it natural and cheap but most probably you already have it in your kitchen.

According to scientific tests, eating tomatoes helps protect against sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure.

The most important ingredient for your skin is lycopene - the natural pigment that makes tomatoes red - with highest levels found in processed or cooked tomatoes used in ketchup, paste, soup and juice.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which can reduce the inflammatory response to UV damage by neutralising harmful molecules that are produced in the skin. It also works great against osteoporosis, breast and prostate cancer.

According to a study by Newcastle University, women eating a diet rich in processed tomatoes had increased skin protection, as seen by a reduction in skin redness and less DNA damage from UV exposure.

Compared with another group of women who were on a different diet, the tomato-eating group had 33% more protection against sunburn in the form of less redness.

The protection offered by the tomato paste was calculated to be equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3.

While eating tomato soup cannot make us invincible to the sun it could prove to be a very useful addition to sun protection along with sunscreen, shade and clothing.

What other natural sources of sun protection have you found useful?

11 June 2012

A Portrait of The Artist: Growing Up Wild

I am proud to present to you today in A Portrait of The Artist series Kelly Engel, a fellow EcoEtsian and the working force, marketing manager and crafter behind Growing Up Wild, the brand that is devoted to creating quality items that are good to your baby and good to our planet. Kelly admits that it is the little things she does as she creates to ensure that she is environmentally friendly in her practices. She tries to utilize every last fabric scrap so that there is very little waste, to walk to ship items whenever possible and to run her home (since that is where she hand-makes each item) in a sustainable way.
"I'm one of those people that just can't sit still. If I'm not stitching, throwing clay, painting, knitting, reading or crafting I am out in the woods with my beautiful baby boy and fabulous husband."

How did you come up with the idea of making organic clothes and shoes for babies?

Actually making baby clothes and shoes was not something I ever thought of doing. I was extremely happy and satisfied in my role as a second grade public school teacher, until the birth of my son. From the time I was very young I knew that once I had children I wanted to be home with them for the first few years. My husband is a school counselor so money for us is tight. To make this work we needed to really watch our budget. 

I started making all of my son’s clothes and began getting many requests from friends and strangers alike when we were out. When my son was around 9 months old I couldn’t keep up with requests (I was sewing for everyone for free at that time) and realized that opening a shop would allow us to save enough money to be able to afford having a second child. I knew right away that I wanted to focus on eco-friendly and sustainable business choices as this is how we live our daily lives.

Growing up wild
Octopus organic body suit
How do you make sure you are sustainable in your work?

I do a lot of research before buying any supplies into the business practices of companies. I know that organic and fair trade certified fabrics cost quite a bit more but I have the power to make an impact every day with my purchases. Despite the number of garments I am making per month my business trash can (a small cardboard box) usually only needs to be emptied every 2-3 months. I recycle what I can and use fabric scraps to fill toys and things that I make for my son.

I also pay close attention to detail to ensure I am making clothing that will last. To me being sustainable is also being able to use things over and over again. I want my clothes and shoes to be able to be worn by many children, not just one.

Growing up wild
Happy camper organic gift set

Why is organic important to you?

I’ve always been a big believer in the famous Native American quote "Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

By using organic fabrics I can make an impact by reducing the number of chemicals used in harsh farming practices. In general organic farms are also smaller and more humane to their workers. Organic fabrics also give me peace of mind as my little one wears them that he is breathing in the safest possible air from his clothing free of toxic chemicals.

Growing up wild
Fair trade certified short sleeve shirt That's How I Roll
When did you feel the need to be eco-friendly and caring to the planet?

My mom says that I sprang from the womb this way. My family spent a great deal of time in nature but I wouldn’t necessarily say they were eco-friendly. I connected with animals at an early age and felt it my mission to do what I could to help. By fifth grade I had started an environmental club at our middle school and was organizing projects to help the planet.

How does your family support you in your eco endeavors?

My husband is as committed to environmental protection as I am. We have built eco-friendly endeavors into our daily life.

What is the most time consuming part of your work?

Definitely making the shoes. Each pair can take 2-3 hours with a great deal of attention to detail. I want to be sure that each family gets a pair that will last.

Growing up wild
Coral weed organic baby shoes
What is one project you would love to make regardless of costs?

I am due with our second child in July. I have so many things that I would love to make for this baby, however time is in short supply. If I have a girl I have a number of organic dress ideas floating in my head. I would love to try them on my own baby first and then begin to make more for my shop. Organic dresses use more fabric than my shoes though so I am playing with ways to keep the costs affordable for families.

Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years time?

I honestly have no idea. My shop is growing with my son so I imagine I will have included more child designs in my shop in 5 years.

What is your current favorite item from another etsy seller?

It would have to be this wooden pull toy dog that I am saving up to buy for my son.

Make sure you stay in touch with Kelly and Growing up wild:

09 June 2012

Weekend DIY: Moustaches

What's with all the moustaches lately? I've been seeing them on glasses, baby bibs, nails and even on women's faces. Seriously, someone has to explain because I feel like I'm missing something huge.

I am not exactly fond of moustaches but today I thought I'd share with you some inspiring and crazy crafty ideas. After all, Father's Day is quite near and who knows maybe your father needs one?

Here is a tiny little moustache duo for the card you are surely preparing.

Moustache stamps by Skull and Cross Buns
 You can of course always revert to the savvy side of all males by offering a stylish piggy bank. Being a decal, you can stick this moustache virtually anywhere you'd like.

DIY decal sticker by Me and my 3 boys

How about this 100% Italian cotton cushion cover painted with a handlebar moustache motif? Such a fashionable color, isn't it?

Moustache pillow cover by Bluebells and bunting

And finally, why don't we all help ourselves and get a moustache + beard!  Practicing can start as early as toddler age. You can get a pattern for crocheting this yourself here.

Kids ultimate BB by Burly beard co.
So, what do you think of the moustache?