31 July 2012

Fashion: Recycled Handbags

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti.

I tend to hear one complaint over and over from friends who haven't really embraced a green lifestyle. We'll be out shopping and I'll point to something and say, "Look at this! It's recycled!" And my friend will be all, "Yeah, I can tell." Meaning that a lot of repurposed items tend to have a patchworked quality to them, and she's not a fan.

Honestly, it's not always my taste either, but I challenge anyone (even my picky friends!) to call these handbags and totes anything other than gorgeous. Behold:




I came across Belrossa on Etsy last week, and I'm just tickled by her bags and purses. She uses several kinds of repurposed materials (feed sacks, quilts, wool coats), making for a nice variety in the shop. There's a good balance between the simpler style shown here, and the more commonly seen "recycled" look. Not that a pieced-together style is bad, it's just not everyone's cup of tea. Having variety will make more people inclined to go green, which is the whole point, right? I think Belrossa delivers on that perfectly.

So what do you think about recycled bags? Or repurposed items in general? Have you had people complain to you about the "style" of this movement? What do you say to them?

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.

30 July 2012

Why I Stopped Blow-Drying My Hair and Why You Should Too

She told me to never leave my hair wet after taking a shower or I could catch a cold. Why wouldn't I trust her? She was my mother. She knew better. And still does. Because all mothers are made to take care of their little girls and I was the obedient one.

I sure did question some of the practices in the house but only silently, in my head. Anyway, blow-drying my hair has never been on the list of questions until the day I mentioned it in a post on Green Living Ideas.

It was a cold and drizzling October day and nothing seemed more outrageous than suggesting that one should keep their hair healthy in the winter by letting it dry by itself. And I didn't. On the contrary, I boldly stated the following belief:
With the summer months over, it is out of the question to let your hair dry naturally or sleep with wet hair. That is why you can dry it on the cool setting. This method will take you longer but it will keep the moisture in your hair and prevent it from breaking.

The summer months make an exception to the rule. In the extreme heat it is quite safe to let your hair dry naturally without getting stuffed nose or even meningitis. But only if you're old enough. Children get sick way easier. Or so she said. 

Photo: Paulo Alegria

The comments shunned my statement as odd. I kept my grounds, of course, but the thought never went out of my head:

There are people out there who've never even owned a hair-drier? 

Or who sleep with wet hair? 


At first I thought these readers were crazy hippies. I checked their profiles, I wanted to know if they live a weird life or something. Anything to prove them wrong. Nothing. Normal, good-looking people with long hair who don't blow-dry because they don't want to damage their hair with the heat.

That made sense in a way. After all, in that very article I talked about the way dry air can damage your hair and even suggested washing it with cool water. Then could they be right?

9 months later, having safely delivered the offspring of my adventurous nature, I haven't blow-dried my hair a single time. I survived through winter, spring and summer without a single cold, despite the fact that I no longer use a hair-dryer. My hair is considerably thicker than before, it doesn't collect static during the winter months and I have less of those broken shorter hairs that come as a bonus of blow-drying.

And no wonder, the heat from the blow dryer removes too much moisture from the hair, causing it to become dry and brittle. In addition, it can also damage the outermost layers of hair strands whose function is to protect the hair from damage. But the heat can make them weak resulting in dull hair that is prone to be damaged when combing or brushing.

So, thank you GLI readers who aired your opinion and made me change my mind. I feel I've made a step ahead. But anyway, don't dare hope I will sleep with wet hair ever. 

Fun fact: Did you know that before the invention of the hairdryer, it was actually common for men and women to dry their hair using a vacuum cleaner?

Now tell me, do you blow-dry or air-dry? Why?

27 July 2012

Conscious Living: Travel Light

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza. 

Curating the things with which we surround ourselves is key to an artful way of life. The job is never easy, since things have a way of becoming ours and seizing our perfectly vacant space.

traveling light
Illustration by Anabel Bouza

Personally, I have a love of sparsely decorated spaces, those that reserve room to breathe and invite the mind to rest. I also have a very real fear of becoming engulfed in material possessions, weighted down and unable to detach myself from them.

Enter Moving Day! 

For all the uprooting and the stress associated with it, moving is the perfect opportunity for new beginnings and reevaluation. It gives you an excuse to get rid of anything that failed to find its way in to your day-to-day, that didn't improve your life, or isn't emotionally charged.

You probably fear that you'll find a use for it the second it change hands, or as soon as you drop it in the donation bin - a dread of my own! That may be the case, but in your heart of hearts you already know how relevant this particular item is to you. 

I try to answer these questions with fierce honesty:
  • Wouldn't it be nice to feel that much lighter? 
  • Is it time to give someone else the opportunity to bring into their lives this which never quite fit into mine? 
  • Have I outgrown its emotional significance? 
  • In the case of antiques; am I able to properly care for it?

Let's be honest, it's likely that some other alluring object is waiting to occupy this newly vacated spot, but for now, you've given yourself the opportunity to breathe a little easier, to exercise the curator's steady hand, and have moved on toward a more suiting piece - or something just as precious: sheer, promising space

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.

25 July 2012

Seasons in Scandinavia - July in Norway

July in Norway is vacation month. But you won't feel that in Oslo - the streets are alive with excited tourists from around the world, enjoying the unexpectedly warm Scandinavian summer. When you stroll around that tiny capital of 500,000 inhabitants, you will feel the exquisite blend of cosmopolitan and small-town.

Come, walk along with me. Today the tour is guided.

The building of the national opera, finished in 2007 allows people to walk on its roof and enjoy panoramic views of Oslo. Very much appreciated on a lovely day.
Oslo opera house

You can see the emblematic Holmenkollen ski jump stooping above Oslo - it's a city of sports and culture, where both are equally accessible.
View over Oslo to Holmenkollen

The streets around the Royal palace are packed with joyful pedestrians.
Royal Palace in Oslo

Aker Brygge is a popular meeting place for shopping, dining, and entertainment. As many as 12 million visitors a year make Aker Brygge Norway's biggest destination. You can see the two brown towers of the city hall in the distance.
Aker Brygge in Oslo

Across from Aker Brygge and beyond the water -  the calming view of Akershus Fortress - a medieval castle that was built to protect Oslo.
Akershus Fortress - medieval fortress

Meanwhile in the fjords...

Hardangerfjord is considered Norway's orchard. In late spring the slopes around the fjord are covered in blossoming cherry trees. But it also can be a dream place for romantic tourists.
view of Hardangerfjord

Idyllic view over Romsdalsfjord where people are rarely to be seen but beauty is abound.
Idyllic view of Romsdalsfjord

Geirangerfjord is one of the most visited tourist spots in Norway. Since 2005, the Geirangerfjord has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geirangerfjord in the summer

Ă…lesund has a population of roughly 43,000 people and is situated on the north-western coast of Norway. It is considered the Norwegian center of Art Nouveau architecture but the mountains around it are what take my breath away.
Alesund . Art Noveau center

This post is part of the Scandinavian Seasons series. All photographs are taken by me.

23 July 2012

The Best Way To Keep In Touch With Your Customers

This post is written by contributing author Genevieve Brazelton.

Are you sending email newsletters to your customers? Do you have an email list? I hope the answer to both is yes. While often overlooked, email is still one of the best ways to communicate and engage with customers both current and potential.

Photo: zilverbat

When someone gives you their email address they’re saying they want to hear what you have to say. They’re inviting you to connect with them in a much more direct way than Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform.

However what many people do is collect those email addresses and never use them. Or only send out one or two blasts when a big show or sale is coming up.

This person has said they want to hear more about you and from you, so tell them!

Send out newsletters that keep these interested fans up to date on new projects, new retail accounts, or simply share how things are going with your business and what you’ve been up to. Not every email needs to be a promotion. Remind them that you’re still out there making amazing things that would be the perfect birthday, graduation, wedding, or baby shower gift. Send a few of your favorite blog posts that they may have missed. Send short, simple emails 1-4 times a month to remind them how awesome you are and you’ll be sure to be at the top of their list next time they need what you’ve got to offer.

I encourage you to take it beyond the simple update and show announcement, let these fans know how much you value them by giving them something extra. This can be a discount or early preview of a sale or it can be an exclusive behind the scenes peek at your process or an offer to come visit your studio. Ask yourself what your ideal customer would be most excited by and give it to them.

If you provide interesting and valuable content not only will your subscribers look forward to your emails, but they’ll also share them with their friends and your list will continue to grow.

Set up a service like Mail Chimp to collect addresses directly from your website and make sure to have a sign up sheet whenever you do an in-person event. The service will also help you create professional looking emails that can be read on many platforms and make managing your list easy. An email service also makes sending automated emails really easy, maybe a thank you to all your new signups with a special gift or discount code.

Don’t let those email lists gather dust. Use them and you will see the rewards!

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.

20 July 2012

Simple Summer Bucket List

This post is written by contributing author Deborah Jean. 

With roughly twelve weeks of summer left I've been thinking a lot about the simple pleasures of summer. I want to make the most of what's left of it, but not in a hurried, frantic way. I bet you are feeling the same way! I decided to write down five SIMPLE SUMMER things I want to do before summer is over.

Here's my Simple Summer Bucket List. Borrow a few of my ideas or better yet, write your own! 

Take in a movie or two at the theater
The gardens are planted and the HEAT is on... Now is the perfect time to escape to your local air conditioned movie theater for a mid-day matinĂ©e or a late night thriller! 

Bring a friend, or take the whole family. Splurge and buy buttered popcorn; sneak in some chocolate too! Shh, that popcorn will make you thirsty but I haven't met anyone who can finish a soda from the concession stand at the movies. Our solution? One drink, two straws!

Picket Fence Dreams
Go listen to a FREE outdoor concert in your city or town
Your local newspaper or a quick Internet search can tell you who, what, when and where. All you have to do is clear the calender, pack your lawn chairs and the cooler with a light picnic and your favorite night time drinks to keep you cool and relaxed for the show!

Be a tourist in your hometown
Go downtown, try a new restaurant, visit a museum, or  just go for a walk and get an ice-cream. Sit on a park bench and people watch until after the sun sets.

Make time for your elders
If you have an elderly relative, friend or neighbor who could use a little company and conversation why not you? I've had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with my 90 year old mother in law recently. She's still very, curious with a sense of wonder the size of the moon!

Sure, she does things at a snail's pace but that's not such a bad thing. I call it slow living! She is a joy to spend time with and she's wise too. She makes sure I have a rest during the day, just like she does... which leads me to number five on my summer bucket list.

Rest and nourish your summer soul 
Each season brings about different moods, desires and activities. Pay attention to the little things, like the way the grass sways in the summer breeze or the sparkles that dance on the tips of the ocean waves. Smell each and every plant you come in contact with, touch the leaves, study the blossoms up-close.

Take in all the outside beauty around you whether in your own backyard or while traveling. Rest when you are weary. Even a ten minute shut-eye session with some lavender oil dabbed behind your ears will feel like hours when you open your eyes.

Don't forget stay hydrated during the hottest part of the summer. Nourish your body with plenty of fresh citrus water, light cold meals, such as salads, fruit, tasty country bread, and easy desserts.

Endless Summer Hydrangea
I can think of a few more things to add, but the idea is to keep it simple! So I'll quit while I'm ahead!  

Tell us! What's on your Simple Summer Bucket list?

Summer Blessings to all!

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.

19 July 2012

Conscious Living: Vacation Day

This post is written by contributing author Shelly Kerry. 

I had the great pleasure of spending last weekend in Portland attending the World Domination Summit. All weekend we were surrounded by big movers and shakers in the creative world, listening to awesome lectures on how to live and work with meaning and meeting incredibly inspiring people from all over the world. The weekend left me with a full heart, a racing mind and utterly exhausted. After returning to a very busy week of work, I need another vacation.

Do you ever find yourself in this situation?

After a vacation spent discovering a new city or visiting relatives you come home needing another week to yourself? I only recently discovered my personal meaning of a true vacation – lying on a beach; phone-less, computer- less and with a stack of really good books. Well right now I am unable to jump on a plane to Mexico but I have discovered a great way to achieve the same results in the comfort of my own home.

I call it Vacation Day and I take mine tomorrow. Tonight when I fall asleep, I will turn off my phone, put in my ear plugs and wake up whenever I want. There will be no plans made and the entire day will be spent doing whatever I want. 

Photo: Shelly Kerry
For natural planners like me, this is much harder than it seems and it has taken me a whole week to mentally plan for it. I know that the rewards will be great.
You definitely deserve a little vacation day too
I would love for you to join me and I have some great advice on giving yourself the space to let it happen.

First, if you live with a husband, wife, partner, family etc. ask them to help you make this vacation day happen. Let them know they can have their own sometime soon but this one is yours. Before your vacation buy them some awesome food, maybe pack their bags, hug them and then send them on their way for a day. Promise that you will love them even more when they return! Just kidding? Not really.

If instead of a household of people to worry about you are like me and you are concerned about appeasing the over-achiever, planner side of you then guess what? You can do everything later. Sadly, yes the dishes will still be there tomorrow. So will the laundry and all the other projects you want to get done when you find spare time. If you wake up on your vacation day with a burning desire to play all your old records, open all the windows and clean the house for the next 12 hours AND can honestly say that you are cleaning because you really, really want to then by all means do it! But if there is any chance that you are doing it because you think you need to then stop. Vacation Day is for only doing things you want to do.

This all may seem incredibly self-centered to you but honestly there is NOTHING egotistical about self-care. I wholeheartedly believe that not taking care of yourself is one of the most selfish things you can do to your family and friends. It might take up to a week to plan for your vacation day. So don’t waste any more time. Go ahead and mark that day on the calendar.

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.

17 July 2012

Fashion: Protecting Vintage Jewelry

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti.

You may or may not know this, but I make jewelry for a living. Even before it was my job, I was totally obsessed with gems - especially anything vintage. Older pieces are awesome, but all of that history requires a little extra care. Cleaning vintage items incorrectly is the fastest way to ruin them (dramatic, but true), so today I have some quick tips for how to avoid that.

1. Never get your rhinestones wet. Ever. Vintage rhinestones have foil backings, which is what makes them so sparkly and wonderful. But if that foil gets wet or starts to scrape off (from scrubbing with a brush, for example) the stones will get dark and cloudy. Here's a visual for you:

Happy rhinestones!

Sad rhinestones.

If you buy a rhinestone piece that needs a little TLC, try wiping it off with a soft cloth first. A piece of an old t-shirt works really well. If there's still some grime around the prongs, use a pin to gently poke it out. In dire situations, you can spray a bit of glass cleaner onto your cloth and gently dab at the stones. But that's it! No water, and definitely no commercial jewelry cleaner. Please. It will make me sad.

2. Be gentle with aurora borealis beads. These shiny iridescent pieces are some of my favorites. Items in great shape are hard to find because a lot of people don't realize the finish rubs off until it's too late. If you find one that's a little dusty looking, just wipe it off with a soft cloth.

As with its cousin the rhinestone, you'll want to avoid brushes and commercial jewelry cleaner.

3. Gemstones need more cleaning power. Remember when I said to avoid that pesky water? That doesn't apply to real gemstones! The best way to clean more valuable pieces (real stones set into a fine metal) is with warm soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. If something is looking especially gunky, dip the brush into some jewelry cleaner and scrub away. Just don't drop the item into the cleaner, since that might be too harsh.

Clean gems are more valuable than those that aren't, so it's worth it to keep them looking nice. Plus, if there's not a bunch of grime in the way, it's easier to catch the details:

Do you own any vintage jewelry? What's your favorite piece? Have you developed any cleaning methods over the years? Or accidentally ruined a piece? (I used to think rhinestones could get wet. Sad times.)

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.

16 July 2012

A Portrait of the Artist: JC McCairn

Since its beginning 15 months ago, A Portrait of the Artist has always been about meeting you with great talent from around the world that is infused with love to nature and is based on appreciation and care to the Earth.

Today I am proud to share this space with an artist who touched my heart in a primitive and unforgettable way. Charity of JC McCairn creates outstanding naturally shed elk and deer antler hair combs, hair sticks and shawl pins. I imagine this lady like fairy-tale like creature who can talk to elks and feels the Earth vibes. The wisdom she shares about creation and existence resemble the Thoreauvian  principles of simple and purposeful living.
Her unique, eco-friendly items reflect a simple, rugged aesthetic that brings the wild outdoors into your daily life and conjures up thoughts of our ancient heritages.

Charity believes in hunting deer for food as an important part of their population management and for the benefits of lean wild meat for people, and especially children. In her unity with nature she has found out that the naturally shed antlers are like scattered treasures in the woods for her to find and utilize.
"The underlying motivation in what I do is to bring people closer to their Maker by showcasing His raw artistic creation through the beauty of antlers."
elk antler and deer antler hair combs

You have found an extraordinary way to prolong the life of a discarded antler and put it on a human head - reborn in almost the same role but on a different kind of head. How do you think this affects the wearer?  
When I put an antler comb in my hair it’s like being instantly swept away to another time and place. Sometimes I imagine myself roaming the wild forest, tasting the freedoms that the deer themselves experience. Other times my antler carvings help me connect with my ancient ancestors (specifically for me the Native American and Celtic cultures). Whatever the adventure they inspire, my pieces are symbols of freedom, strength, dignity, grace and raw beauty.

Unusual Deer Antler Hair Sticks
I see "harvesting" or "hunting" for antlers as an integral part of your creative process. Can you describe to us both processes? 
Finding antlers can be tricky not only because they are camouflaged but I also have to find them before the forest critters carry them off to gnaw on. My family has a lot of land for me to search but even then I have to buy or barter for most of my antlers. My creative process begins when I see the structure of each antler and start thinking of what I can make out of its unique shape. I then start cutting. When I have the shape I want cut out, I start the long sanding process to make it smooth enough to slide through your hair. The final step is coating the piece with sealer. 

I usually work in small batches and it takes around three days to a week to finish a batch. Because I have three kids ages three, two and four months, this process takes place early in the morning or late at night when the little guys are asleep. The dust formed from cutting and sanding antler smells atrocious and is harmful to breathe so I wear a high quality respirator and safety glasses.

Antler Necklace

Tell us about the place where you live. It must be amazing to be in such close proximity of elks and deers! In what way has this changed your perspective on life? 
I adore where we live! We have two and a half acres of our own with a few farm animals, a barn and a pond. It’s surrounded by small farms, rolling hills and wooded areas. We enjoy gorgeous sunsets and raising our kids in such a peaceful place. Living here has taught me to crave the serenity of nature and to be as self-reliant and resourceful as possible.

How did you first get the idea of turning antlers into hair accessories and how has your style developed? 
My husband makes beautiful custom knives with antler handles and he put the bug in my ear to make buttons or something with the pieces he cut off and didn’t use. When I joined him in his workshop and took a closer look at the elegant curves and unique textures of antlers, I was smitten by their beauty! 

I immediately asked him to teach me how to carve them into the creations I was picturing in my head. I love playing around with hair and when I first thought to make a hairpiece from antler it was such a perfect fit, I could almost hear dramatic theme music playing in the background!!!

Boho Deer Antler Comb
What are the differences between elk and deer antlers? How do you make use of those differences? 
Elk antlers are usually lighter weight but larger and have a lot of bumpy texturing, which is a great fit for large dramatic hair ornaments. The deer antlers are practically indestructible which makes them perfect for hard working hair sticks. I also like to use their forked tips for hair ornaments because they are easily recognized as deer antlers. 

What is your greatest inspiration and do you find it changing with the years? 
The specifics of what I create are ALWAYS changing and evolving but the inspiration remains the same. For as long as I can remember I have loved taking something cast off and giving it new life. I think God placed this desire in my heart to give me a living picture of how He feels about me. Just like I search for antlers, He searched me out when I was broken, lost and fallen so that He could rescue me, shape me and breathe new purpose into my life. 

Tribal Fork Deer Antler
How do you make sure you are earth-friendly in your work? 
I think my work forms a tender bond between people and nature which helps educate people about the beauty of God’s raw creation.

What is your way to live in peace with nature? 
I like to view nature as a gift from God that is meant for our use, to sustain and enrich our lives. I try to use common sense to keep a healthy give-and-take balance in my interactions with my environment.

Painted Deer Antler Necklace

What is your current favorite item by another etsy member? 
That is such a hard question because I love so many things on etsy!!!
I’m loving pieces like this from Seashore Love.  She uses seashells and driftwood to make jewelry in a similar spirit as what I do with antlers. I used to live on a Caribbean island and I LOVE and miss the beach!!

Make sure you stay in contact with Charity:

13 July 2012

Setting up a Simple Lifestyle: What's Right for You?

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.

I talk a lot about simplifying your life, including minimizing your belongings, to cut down on financial responsibilities. But the truth of the matter is, unless you are a nomad, you likely have to earn a living somehow. 

The question of HOW you earn a living has always been a difficult and complex one. “What do you want to do with your life?” a question posed to us at a young age, is a big one. 

The answer here in the States used to be get good grades, go to a four year school, get a degree, and get a job, working there for a significant amount of time. The recession has broken this equation leaving many with degrees, and a lot of debt, but no job or career to speak of. 

I have watched this happen from the front lines when I worked in economic development. This swift change has sent businesses, government agencies and small business support centers reeling. To be honest, no matter what the talking heads on TV say, no one really has the answers. I have had very intelligent officials who have been on the forefront of workforce development for decades tell me flat out “I don’t know what to do.” These are interesting times we live in.

Savvy young people have begun to re-examine the standard get-a-job equation.

What is the true value of higher education?

Is it worthwhile working for someone else, leaving your fate in someone else’s hands and running the risk of getting laid off? 

Thus we’re undergoing a bit of an entrepreneurship revolution. Working for someone else doesn’t have the safety it once did, and the risks and start up costs of opening a business are getting smaller every day thanks to technology. 

I stumbled across this infographic the other day that really examines the risks and benefits of working for someone else vs. working for yourself.


It’s important to point out that whatever career path you choose, you must choose one that fits your lifestyle. If you’re single long hours and a heavy travel schedule may not bother you, but if you have a family at home you may want something with more standard hours. 

If you work for yourself you have the benefit of setting your own schedule. This can be a blessing and a curse, as small business owners rarely can leave work. All responsibility lies on you, making it a 24/7 commitment. Many entrepreneurs find themselves answering emails late at night after the rest of their family has gone to bed.

Workflow is something that many don’t think about when considering working for themselves. When you work for someone else generally you are receiving steady work that is handed down to you. When you work for yourself you are suddenly responsible for finding work and maintaining good client relationships. This is a skill that not everyone has. You have to have hustle, be responsive and have attention to detail. Finding clients and keeping them happy will determine if your business sinks or swims.

This weighing of risks and benefits of both is something I am intimately familiar with since I’m in the thick of it at the moment. I was let go from my employer a year ago and have toyed with the idea of going into business for myself. I’ve hesitated because of the risks involved, but our household equation has changed - my husband has a full-time permanent job and we have a baby on the way. Thus the stars have finally aligned and I’ve decided to take the plunge into the wonderful world of consulting.

Since I worked in economic development I am acutely aware of the necessary steps I need to take to open a business, and have a long list of contacts and support at my fingertips. That, coupled with the fact that I have had potential clients beating down my door for a year now, gives me the confidence to know I can succeed.

In the end, no matter what you decide is best for you, remember that one equation will always hold true in the working world: your time = money. Just make sure that whatever time commitment you make to earn a living, it is one you are comfortable with. We all reach a certain threshold, usually slightly above where necessities are met, where earnings have much less value and spending time how you want to with friends and family far outweighs a bigger paycheck.

Choose the life and career you want to lead. You’re in the driver’s seat. No one knows the right path but you.

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.

11 July 2012

Vegan Summer: Mini Apple Strudels

It is officially summer, even in Norway! The heat is on us and not only are we sweating in our flip-flops and shorts but we have reduced our meals to a minimum. A lot of people associate summer with barbecues and grilling but in such high temperatures my family is unable to take any meat whatsoever. 

Summer for us means light vegetarian or even vegan meals and abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sometimes, when the sun hides behind thick stormy clouds (which happens on a regular basis) I get inspired for a fruit dessert and I thought I'd share with you a recipe I came up with the other day which is my personal variation of the famous Viennese apple strudels. The recipe is easy to follow and you can add a bunch of ingredients to make them a favorite for the whole family.

Mini Apple Strudels
makes 40

  • 2 tea cups (400 gr/14,11 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tea cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tea cup soya/rice etc. milk
  • dry yeast

  • 5 - 6 apples
  • 2 tablespoons sugar/honey
  • a tablespoon of margarine
  • a handful of raisins
  • a handful of chopped black chocolate

Before I continue I have to let you know that I am one of those cooks who don't use accurate measurements. Whatever happens in my kitchen is more a matter of emotions moods, cups and spoons than of correct measurement tools.

:-: Having said that, I owe you a clarification: When I say "tea cup", I mean the type that is rather called "mug". It holds about 400 ml/13,52 oz of water and about 200 gr/7,05 oz of all-purpose flour. :-:

Mix the appropriate amount of yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and the cup of milk (at room temperature) in a slightly bigger bowl to let the yeast rise and let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes. Call me old-fashioned but I always do that, just to make sure the yeast is working.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour and salt) in a large bowl, make a well, pour the oil, add the milk and yeast and, using a wooden spoon, mix until you have a smooth batter. You might want to continue kneading with your hands. If you think the dough is too soft you can always add a pinch or two of flour. 

After 5 minutes of kneading, let the dough rest for about an hour.

In the meantime prepare your filling: Peel your apples, core them, shred them coarsely. Try to squeeze them a bit so you take out part of the juice (which I highly recommend you drink right away!).

Put a small saucepan on the hot plate and add the shredded apples after the margarine has melted. Add the sugar and raisins, and mix lightly. The idea is to soften the apples enough so they don't need to cook in the oven. After they have achieved a level of softness to your liking (in about 10 minutes on medium heat) take them away from the hot plate and let them cool. 

Can you see the shy banana? I put a slice in some random strudels, together with the apple filling and the result was great!

By that time your dough should have risen well enough and you can pin it out in a circle. You can use a similar tool to the one on the photo, or a glass to cut off circles which you will fill with the apple mixture (and possibly add chocolate chips, which I love) and fold to get crescent shape.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Arrange the mini strudels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. To avoid egg-washing (and keep the vegan spirit of the dessert) lightly brush them with oil.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack or eat while still warm!

What have you been baking these days?

09 July 2012

Marie Dean Giveaway

Now that summer is in full swing, I thought it is the right time to celebrate beautiful sun-shiny hair with a great eco-friendly giveaway!

Today I teamed up with Adriene of Marie Dean - a line of lush handmade hair and body products formulated by Adriene and freshly made by hand each day. 

Adriene handmakes natural hair and body products for all hair and skin types. So, whether you have kinky, curly, wavy, straight or chemically-treated hair, Adriene has a hair product for you. If you have dry, oily or sensitive skin, you will get the body moisturizer that will leave your skin soft and supple.

Adriene has been creating scrumptious hair and body products for more than 6 years now. She started wanting to make natural hair butters and conditioners for herself, so she purchased a natural hair and skin recipe book and embarked on a new venture of blending fresh and wholesome ingredients to make luscious hair products. She developed many delicious hair creations that made her hair super healthy.

Later on Adriene put her creative talents to work again crafting bath and body products. She started gifting to friends and family extras she had from her handmade batches of hair and body concoctions and no wonder they loved the change in their hair and skin!

For one week starting today you have the chance to win one Conditioner Gift Set worth $40!

The set includes:
  • one Leave-In Conditioner
  • one Deep Conditioner
  • one Detangler 

Each conditioner is formulated with unique ingredients such as fortifying botanical hydrosols and natural botanical extracts, essential vitamins, and wholesome oils and butters that provide nourishment for your hair and scalp. The end result is the promotion of hair growth and healthy hair!

This Conditioner Gift Set is a great way to experiment with Marie Dean's hair products and see how they will work best for your hair.

So, why wait, go ahead and fill out the Rafflecopter widget. The giveaway is open for participants in the US until July 16th 2012!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

06 July 2012

Simple Gardening: Part 2

This post is written by contributing author Laurie Fortier.
Last month I talked about the four things you need to be aware of to have a successful flower garden: zone, sunlight, water and soil. The only other question is how much do you want to work? I love "working" in my garden, but not to the point of exhaustion. (which I have done more often than I would like to admit!). I would much rather sit and knit or read in my garden, enjoying the scents and the colors than working so hard that I miss it all.

What to do? Here are four more tips that can help you judge what you do and don't like to do in your garden.

1. Mulch

This is the gardener's secret weapon. I do not weed my garden all summer. I clean my flowerbeds in the spring and cover the dirt with cedar mulch. Mulching keeps the weeds from growing, keeps the soil moist and is biodegradable. A few weeds may still pop up, but removing them will take minutes rather than hours.

2. No deadheading

Many flowers need to have the dead flowers pinched off (deadheading) to encourage more to grow. This is a lot of work. More and more types of flowers are designed not to need deadheading. These are the ones that I plant! Some people can't stand the "mess" of dead flowers and have to cut them off. It is a personal choice. But, if you have hardy roses like these, leaving the flowers allows the hips (rose fruits) to grow which will be a delight for birds in the fall and winter!

3. Respect plant dimensions

We all tend to plant plants too close together. It’s our need for instant gratification. The problem is that if the directions say, "plant 12 inches apart", that means the plant will spread 12 inches. If the other plants are too close after a year or two you will have to dig everything up, divide the plants and replant them elsewhere. This has the advantage of giving you more plants for yourself or to share, but it is a lot of work. I will have to separate these soon, but I'll wait until fall!

4. No pesticides! No home made remedies!

If you follow the directions in the first section, you do not need anything but compost once in the spring to have beautiful flowers! Learn about the plants you like and see whether they are "high maintenance" or not, before you plant them. Some plants like phlox get mildew. There really is nothing you can do about it. If you love phlox, plant it in the back of the garden where you won't see the mildewed leaves. Many people fight annual battles with slugs in their hosta plants, even putting out traps to drown them. I find that a bit too violent for my taste. The alternatives are accepting the holes in the leaves or planting hostas that don't attract slugs.

So, there you have it, my secrets for a beautiful and simple flower garden. Be patient and respect yourself. Your garden is for you, not the neighbors. Plant what you like and work as much or as little as you like. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing, you're doing it right!

What are your gardening secrets that you can share with us?

Laurie Fortier has been a teacher of languages, psychology and pedagogy for over 26 years. Her passion for learning and sharing knowledge permeates everything she does. Her transition into blogging seems to be a natural step. She blogs about her love of knitting and natural fibers in addition to owning her own online yarn shop where supporting sustainable development guides all her business decisions. Connect to Laurie via twitter and facebook.