Nov 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you are all enjoying your Thanksgiving, I know I am.  I made the boys a yummy breakfast of pancakes and bacon this morning, a treat they all enjoyed! I thought, as many others have, I should reflect on all the blessings in my life.

I am thankful for my wonderful family; a husband who is very patient and supportive through all my career changes (though I'm sure he wishes I'd make up my mind!), two beautiful active boys, and all my wonderful extended family who love and support me unconditionally.

I am also thankful for all our friends.  We live very far from the rest of our family, and we have a wonderful church family and a few non-church friends that always include us if we would be alone over the holidays.

During these holiday's we should remember all those who are away from their families so we are protected and have peace. Remember all of the service men and women past and present who help protect our great country.

And thank you, my loyal readers, for bearing with me as I try to balance life as a mother, blogger, and WAHM!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 23, 2009

My First Craft Show

Saturday, as some of you know, I sold some of my hand-made crafts for the first time. It was a dreary rainy day, so the turn out wasn't as good as last year. Even with the weather, it turned out to be a great day for me. I had a lot of interest in my products. I was selling produce bags, fabric gift wrap, and linen tote bags. The produce bags ended up being the star of my table. Everyone seemed to love the idea and the bags sold quickly. I ended up selling out of the produce bags and taking orders for more; sold half of the gift wrap with orders for more in different patterns/sizes; and I sold two tote bags which were my high ticket item. My table looked pretty pathetic around 1 o'clock because it was so barren, but what a great problem to have! So my Etsy shop will have to wait a little longer, as I don't have anything to sell yet. I probably will not be able to post anything there until after the new year considering the custom orders I need to fill. I'll keep you posted on my progress!



My table all set-up and ready for customers!

I have learned a lot from this experience, and I want to share some of it with you - just in case the crafting bug bites you too! (I'm including some observations for setting up a table as well)

  1. You'll probably be surprised by what your most popular product will be.
  2. Make sure you label the price of the item (or a have a price list on the table). Some people, like me, don't like to have to ask for a price - they'll just leave!
  3. Make sure your table covering doesn't compete with your product. Example: I saw a table covered with black & white polka dots, and a hot pink print, I think the product was kids pillows & blankets but I was so overwhelmed by all the patterns and colors that I really didn't pay any attention to what they were selling.
  4. Be creative with your display, and don't forget your vertical space. Try garage sales and discount stores for unique display items. Don't be afraid to re-purpose an item like a door or window to add to your display.
  5. If your interested in taking custom orders, let people know with a sign. A customer might like a product but want it in a different color, and they probably will not think to ask if you can make it for them!
  6. Be prepared for little sleep the night before the show. I was up until 1 am putting the finishing touches on items, packing things up, getting everything together. Then when I was in bed I was mentally running over everything to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything.
  7. Have fun and talk to lots of people! This is when you need to put on a smiling face and say "Hello" to anyone who looks your way. Being personable could help you make a sale - just don't go overboard!

Do you have any tips for selling at craft fairs? If so, I would love to hear them as I plan to do more in the future!

Nov 18, 2009

Crafting Fun...

Here are some of the items I'm going to be selling this weekend at a craft show. Speaking of that...if you happen to be in Houston on Saturday stop by and say hello! I'll be at the Pilgrim Festival from 10am until 4pm, click here for the flyer.

Some jewelry bags I started...not so fond of how the 1st one turned out, so we'll see if I finish them.

Produce bags in three sizes, and one set packaged up.

Fabric gift-wrapped shirt box, I have a lot more of these to make!

Linen tote bag, came out much better than the first one - interfacing made all the difference!

Another view of the bag so you can see how it doesn't collapse on itself.
I've got two more days with crazy amounts of sewing to do...unfortunately not enough time to finish everything I was hoping to. Oh well, at least I'll have some things to sell!

Nov 16, 2009

My Child Has What?

I had to bring little Logan to the doctor's office today. On Friday he was bitten by a mosquito and it seemed to be healing fine, then this morning there was a red spot around it about 1.5" wide. The bite got infected, but that was not all. I had noticed a couple of red blister like bumps on his diaper area and thought it was just diaper rash. The he got one on his ankle and the bottom of one foot. Then one appeared on his wrist not to far for the mosquito bite. According to the doctor he has Impetigo. I'm not really surprised, as another little boy at his day care recently came down with it. The doctor broke one of the blisters and sent it for culture just to be sure, but he is now on a really gross smelling antibiotic and an anti-bacterial cream.

Because he has the blisters on his diaper area I have to put the prescription cream on then a layer of diaper rash ointment. Not great for keeping him in cloth diapers. I've had to use disposables for three days now and feel that is long enough. I went out today and picked up a package of flushable diaper liners so I can go back to the cloth diapers I love so much. Even my husband was anxious to get Logan back in his cloth.

Lets hope the liners work so I don't end up with diapers that repel!

Nov 12, 2009

Bringing Down the Blogging Wo(man)

If you are a blogger or own a company involved in social media for advertising (ie. Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc) you are probably aware of the recent changes that have been inacted that make things a little more difficult for us.  Last night I was able to join the tail end of a Twitter Chat on the new FTC regulations that have a significant impact on bloggers. If you are interested in seeing a easy to read break down please visit 3 Green Angels; in that post they also have a link to the actual FTC guidelines that go into effect December 1st.

The second piece of information important to us bloggers and social media (specifically Facebook) users is Facebook's new (updated November 4th) policies regarding Promotions.
Section 4. Publicizing a Promotion on Facebook

You do not need our prior written approval if you are publicizing a promotion that is administered completely off of Facebook. However, we may remove any materials relating to the promotion or disable your Page or account if we determine that you violate these Promotions Guidelines, the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities or any other of our policies. If you publicize a promotion in any way on Facebook, in addition to the other terms and conditions contained in these Promotion Guidelines, without limiting your other obligations you agree to the following:

4.1 You will not directly or indirectly indicate that Facebook is a sponsor or administrator of the promotion or mention Facebook in any way in the rules or materials relating to the promotion.

4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.
I find section 4.2 a little tough to swallow.  One of the best ways we have of encouraging readers to spread the word about a giveaway is through social media, and I believe this will limit the potential reach we have.  I can't tell you how many blogs that I faithfully read, found only by seeing a friend post something about a giveaway on that site.  Anyway, if you are interested in reading all of their Promotions Guidelines (which I would suggest if you have Facebook involved in your giveaways in any way) you can access it here.

So what do you think? Are these good policies put in place to protect consumers or are they there to protect big business? I'd love to hear your take!

Nov 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


I love BabyLegs & Flip diapers, too cute! (Oh, and ignore the red line at the top - cameras dying :-( )

Nov 10, 2009

EcoStore USA Cleaning Product Reviews

Maggie from EcoStore USA was nice enough to send me a box of their Front Loader Laundry Powder and a bottle of Toilet cleaner to try out.

For the past week, all of my clothes and cloth diapers have been washed in the Front Loader Powder.  For convenience, the powder comes with a measuring scoop made from easily recyclable #2 plastic.  According to the product label: the laundry powder has no synthetic dyes or perfumes, no optical whiteners, and no enzymes in it. It is made from biodegradable plant and mineral based ingredients from sustainable sources - so it is kind to the earth.

I was delighted with the cleaning action of this powder.  Our clothes came out clean and smelling like...well...nothing! I even gave a sniff to the armpit of a previously sweaty and stinky workout shirt...no smell.  Next was the real test: the first load of cloth diapers.  I ran my normal "Stain Wash" cycle with a cold prewash with no soap, followed by a hot wash with soap, and an extra rinse for good measure.  After the diapers were dried in the dryer I pulled them out and gave a good sniff to a cover then tends to hold urine smell in the liner - no smell. Then I sniffed one of my stank prone microterry inserts...again no smell.  I just about died from happiness!  I even handed one to my husband and asked him to smell it and he agreed that there was no smell - I wasn't crazy! In a household with a heavy wetter and ongoing diaper stink issues this was an amazing revelation.  This will definitely be on my list of cleaning products to buy when I run out.

Next up was the toilet cleaner.  I have a 3 year old boy that uses the potty. If you have boys, you understand what that means for the state of your toilets! Anyway, he's great about using the potty (most of the time, he is 3 after all.) What he's not so great at is flushing after he's gone. Our toilet will get pretty yucky in a short period of time, so this toilet cleaner will get a good run for its money.  So I applied as directed, waited a very minutes, scrubbed and flushed. Clean. An amazingly white clean.  It didn't remove a hard water stain, but I really didn't expect it to.  It does have a bit of an odor to it, so I would suggest having the exhaust fan on while it is in use.

Disclaimer: Please use caution when working with cleaners, even if they are made from natural ingredients. Make sure to read the directions and precautions on the label before use. Always keep cleaners away from children and pets.

I have not been paid for this review but I did receive the test products free of charge. I am in no way affiliated with EcoStore USA and this review is my personal thoughts on the products after using them.

Nov 9, 2009

No, I Didn't Fall off the Face of the Earth

Sorry I have been MIA. Life has gotten in the way of my blogging, but things should get better (at least until the holiday season gets into full swing!) This past weekend I sang in Faure's Requiem at my church. This required our normal weekday rehearsal, plus rehearsal all Saturday morning, then singing during the morning service Sunday, then rehearsal again before the concert, the concert, the reception, then cleaning up...you get the idea that I needed a little down time. Ha! Stay-at-home-Mom's don't get down time! I am going to try my best to get a couple items posted on my Etsy shop this week, and get some blog posts done. But if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen and I'm not going to stress over it.

Anyway, tomorrow look for a review on two Ecostore USA cleaning products!

Nov 4, 2009

This is Why I'm Late Posting (and Missed Posting Yesterday!)


Fabric cut and ready to go...

Pocket

Adding the handles

Finished product: lined embroidered linen tote bag with two side pockets

Another view of the finished product, next time I'll need to add interfacing to make it a bit firmer.  I think it was a successful first try, even though I won't be able to sell this one (another bag for me to use)!

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween Edition!





Nov 2, 2009

The New "Ice Cream" on the Block


If you are lactose intolerant, like I am, you will know how hard it is to find a great tasting ice cream substitute.  I usually end up getting a regular "light" ice cream, taking some pills, and hope for the best.  Well, I don't think I have to do that any more.

While shopping last week, I swung by the non-dairy frozen section to see if they had anything new.  To my surprise I saw a shelf full of new products!  The non-dairy frozen desserts were made from coconut milk instead of soy (which I find to have a not-so-pleasant aftertaste).  The brand is Purely Decadent made Coconut Milk by Turtle Mountain.  I bought the Mint Chip flavor, and found it to be wonderful.  You do get the coconut flavor, so it ended up being a lovely coconut mint flavored dessert with yummy ribbons of crunchy chocolate mixed through.  They had several other flavors that look promising as well; I think the Cookie Dough will be my next trial.

I also love that this dessert is made with organic agave syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup (yuck!) Some of you might be happy to learn that it is certified vegan and is free of gluten, soy protein, dairy, and nuts according to the label.  It does run about the same price as the soy pints, so it will be an occasional treat (like any dessert should.)  Now that I have found this, am looking forward to my next treat!

Have you tried any of the other flavors?  If you have, please leave a comment telling me the flavor and what you thought of it. I'm VERY interested to know what other people think!

Image from http://www.turtlemountain.com/.  This is not a sponsored review, and I am not affiliated with Turtle Montain in any way.  This review is my own thoughts and opinions of a product I purchased.

Oct 30, 2009

Eco-Friendly Friday

Do you worry about the quality of the air in your home? I know I do. I live in a city that has a major issue with pollution, so I want to make sure that the air in my home is as healthy as possible.

We all know from of biology classes (I hope!) that plants and trees use carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of photosynthesis. What you may not have known is that they can also remove VOC’s (volatile organic compounds, released by man-made products like plastics and paint).

A former NASA scientist, B.C. Wolverton, has spent 30+ years (most of which was done with NASA) researching how plants can clean the air (and water) in indoor systems. If you would like to read some information on the research has done, click here. He wrote a book in the late 90’s, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office. This book describes how the plants clean the air and highlights house plants that he has found to do a good job at cleaning the air.

I haven’t read the book yet (I just found out about it while researching how to naturally clean your indoor air) but will be purchasing it the next time I pass my local book store. This seems like a perfect fit to my needs. I hate to buy a separate air purifier that would require more energy use. Anyway, who doesn’t love to have plants in all the rooms of their house?  Bring the garden inside and help create a healthy living environment!

Oct 29, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Sandwich


I love to roast vegetables! So simple, and a great way to concentrate the flavor. All you need to do is cut your veggies (I find thin slices work best, they cook faster!) place them on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, toss to get all veggies coated, then spread them out into a single layer. Bake in a 400 F oven until tender and starting to brown (about 40 min).

Earlier this week I made a yummy sandwich with a variation of the above recipe. My husband said that this sandwich tasted like it came from a fancy restaurant - and it's so easy!

The basics

First I thinly sliced a butternut squash, red onion, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper (you can use what ever fresh veggies you have on hand; eggplant and zucchini squash would be delicious) and followed the instructions above.

The veggies sliced and tossed with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper
While the veggies were roasting I split a ciabatta loaf, brushed with olive oil and toasted it. Then I spread a thin layer of herbed goat cheese on both sides.

The little pieces to the side are Aidan's, he doesn't like a lot of cheese so I only put it on half.

When the veggies were almost done (about 35 min), I drizzled them with balsamic vinegar and returned them to the oven to finish. The vinegar will reduce to create a flavorful syrup that adds an extra level of flavor to the sandwich.

The roasted vegetables after the balsamic vinegar reduced

All that's left is to assemble the sandwich! Layer the veggies on the bread and top with some fresh baby spinach. Enjoy!


The end product (sorry the pic is blurry, I was too close for the camera focus)

Oct 28, 2009

Cloth Diaper Carnival: Part 4

This post is part of the Cloth Diapering Bloggers and Dirty Diaper Laundry hosted Cloth Diaper Carnival that is held every month. Many bloggers get together and write about the same topic. This month is “Where did you first hear about/see cloth diapers?”


My cloth diapering journey has not been very long, yet it has felt like second nature since the beginning.  I started cloth diapering shortly after starting this blog.  I decided earlier this year that it would be best for me and the family to stay at home.  With the recession, we needed to cut our costs to be able to afford my new life as a SAHM.  I started investigating ways to cut costs and happened to search for diapers on Babies-R-Us (trying to get the best price) and saw package of cute colorful diapers.  They turned out to be Bumkins cloth diapers and I was intrigued. 

I then did a web search for reviews on the Bumkins diapers, and quickly discovered that prefolds and covers (like Bumkins) were not the only cloth diapers out there!  I started researching to find out about all the different types and read reviews and recommendations from every corner of the web, from blogs (and the Dirty Diaper Laundry video reviews!) to sites like DiaperPin. You can see one of my early posts on researching cloth diapers here

In my researching I found that there was a shop carrying cloth diapers a few miles from my house, and I happened to pass it every time I brought my kids for daycare.  I stopped in one day on a whim and spoke with a woman who helped me with the types and let me look at and touch (I'm a very tactile person) a number of diapers. I then purchased my first few diapers and a wet bag.  I ended up going back several times to try different brands, and even purchased a few online.  

With a days worth of cloth diapers in hand, I embarked on this great journey and have been blogging about it ever since! If you select the "cloth diapers" label from my sidebar you will see all the posts I have done on the subject since I started in July.

Please make sure you check out some of the other fabulous blogs through the Carnival!

Wordless Wednesday




Oct 27, 2009

Green Cleaning - Basic H2

Chrissy over at Spectrum Wellness graciously sent me a sample of Shaklee's Basic H2 concentrate to try out.  This cleaner is super concentrated, my sample came in a vial that was about the size of a perfume tester yet made 32 oz. of cleaner!

My Sample


The amount of cleaner it made

I gave this product a good run for its money on two of the hardest to keep clean surfaces in my house: my kitchen table and my stovetop.  With two young children, my beautiful glass top table is almost impossible to keep clean.  I hate using the typical ammonia laden products to clean it as they give me a headache.  So here is my dirty table (notice the lovely streak of food my 3 year old smeared across it!):



Here is the table after the Shaklee Glass Cleaner:

Cleaning the table took the same amount of "elbow grease" as a traditional cleaner to get the table clean.  What I really loved was that it did it without any smell...none (and I even stuck my nose right up to the wet table!) I could be imagining things, but it did seem to leave fewer streaks as well (though I didn't do a side-by-side comparison.)

Next up was the All-Purpose Cleaner on a very dirty and greasy stovetop. Before Basic H2:

Yuck!

After Basic H2:

Ooooooooo...

Again, this wasn't a spray and wipe - it needed some elbow grease in the really gross areas.  There was one spot next to a burner that something turned into a gooey mess, the Basic H2 All Purpose struggled and I gave into one of my harsh chemicals to get it off (none of my normal cleaners could do it either - I tried). 

So how is this cleaner green? This is what the literature provided by Shaklee claims:
  • Nontoxic
  • Biodegradable surfactants
  • Sustainable ingredients from natural sources
  • No volatile organic cleaning compounds
  • No phosphates
  • Recyclable packaging
  • One 16 oz. bottle of Basic H2 concentrate makes 48 gallons of cleaner
  • Economical - less than 1 cent per 16 oz. bottle as a window cleaner, 3 cents per bottle as all purpose cleaner
Overall, I'm happy with this cleaner and would consider buying it. If you'd like to try it yourself, or check out the other products they offer, visit Chrissy at the Spectrum Wellness website.

Oct 26, 2009

I Need Your Opinion (and sneek peek at my produce bags!)

I'm in the process of sewing all my produce bags, and I have a dilemma.  I'm not sure how to finish the sides.  I like them both ways, so I'm putting it out to you!  So here they are:


Do you like the sides tucked in (more finished look) or left out (more color)?


Full size comparison (these are the small bags for garlic, shallots, ginger, jalapenos or other small fruits or veggies)


Edge In with a large head of garlic


Edge out with the same large head of garlic

Please let me know which you like best (or anything else you like/dislike about them) by leaving a comment!

Oct 23, 2009

Eco-Friendly Friday

I’m so glad we have a President that is interested in creating a cleaner earth for the generations that will come after us.

President Obama spoke to at MIT today. The basis of his message was that we need to be innovative and work towards sustainable, clean energy sources. Sustainability, clean energy, and climate legislation are not only important to creating a clean earth, but also a healthy and thriving economy. The President stated that the country that wins the (peaceful) energy race will lead the global economy (of course he wants that to be us!) He went on to say that the Recovery Act (Stimulus Bill) included $80 billion dollars for creating electric car batteries, tax incentives for making homes more energy efficient, and sources of sustainable energy - to name a few of the “green” topics it supports.

He also cautioned us not to be apathetic about our role. We, as individuals, can do something to change the course of our planet. Here are some of my ideas for small ways to make a difference:
  • Reduce the amount of petroleum-based products we use (drive less, use less plastic, use cloth diapers, etc.)
  • Recycle or reuse everything you can
  • Pick up trash you see when your on a walk
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s) instead of incandescent lights
  • Turn off and/or unplug appliances that are not in use
  • Replace faucet/shower heads with low-flow (WaterSense) heads
  • Add weather stripping to doors and windows
  • Make sure your attic has proper insulation levels
  • Buy Local
The list could go on forever! Every small change can make a difference. If you set out to make one small change a week, by the end of the year you will have made a huge difference to the planet (and probably to your wallet!) *Steps off Soapbox*

To hear President Obama’s speech yourself (approximately 13 minutes in length), please check MIT’s Public Webcast here.

Oct 22, 2009

Getting Paid to be Earth Friendly

While getting caught up on my local and state news, I came across a great article I just had to share with you.  Did you know that starting in November, Target & CVS will be rolling out incentive programs for you to bring your own bag?  This is great news for your wallet and the earth! Check out the story over at USA Today. Now we can only hope that other businesses will jump on board.  I think it's a smart move for the stores; they'll save money by buying fewer bags and attract customers with the incentive.  I know I'd be more likely to shop at a store that gives me a discount for using my own bag (which I already use) than a competitor that doesn't.

Do you know a store that offers incentives for using your own bag?  If you do, post the store name in the comments so we all can save money while saving the earth!

Oct 20, 2009

Starting a Business

I'm jumping in with both feet, starting my own business - Simplistic Mom Designs! 

I have been doing the research, writing my business plan, finding sources for my supplies, and building my inventory.  This isn't going to be a brick & mortar store, though I hope some day that you'll find my products on store shelves.  I'm going to start small, gain experience, and hopefully be one of the small woman-owned business success stories. My business is based on "holes" in the green market and will feature hand-made reusable items.  I am still getting all my ducks in a row, and hope to open my online shop in early November. 

I thought I would share some great online business help for those of your thinking of venturing into entrepreneurship. The first I found through Good Morning America. Startup Nation has a website full of tips, advice, and free StartMe Up program.  I found their 10 Steps to Open for Business very helpful. It guides you through writing your business plan, finding funding, marketing, and more with great video segments.

The second resource is from a business school. The University of Houston Small Business Development Center offers tips, workshops (Houston area only), and consulting on how to start or expand your business. I think their Texas Roadmap to Starting a Business is a must read, and some of it would be applicable to areas outside of Texas (you'd want to check your local and state governments for your states labor laws, tax responsibilities, insurance requirements, required permits, etc.)

If you have any great site for starting a small business, please leave a comment with a link!

Oct 19, 2009

Great Recycling Ideas

Today I stumbled upon a great blog post on recycling that I think is worth sharing with you! Check out 10 Surprising Things You Can Recycle by Play Outdoors.

Nursing Cover

A Friend of mine had her baby shower over the weekend, so I decided to make her a nursing cover. When Logan was little, I used mine so much that he would get excited when he saw it! Now that he's older he doesn't go for being covered while eating, but that's OK. I'm pretty happy with how the cover turned out; I hope the Mommy is too. I saw the fabric and fell in love; it is the most gorgeous turquoise blue with a lovely flower print. I added some boning to the neckline so Mommy and Baby can see each other and an easily adjustable D-ring for the neck strap.

The cover doesn't look like much here, but I think it looks amazing in person.

My labels :)


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