Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet My Cousin, Kerry

My cousin Kerry was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a disease that many people have heard of, but few could probably define. I know I couldn't before starting this post. CF is a common disease, which affects the whole body, and causes progressive disabilities, and often, early death.

Kerry is 33, she has a husband, a 13 year old son, and a 4 year old son. Kerry spent the past 3 years on a waiting list for a double lung transplant. She has spent the past 4 months living in the hospital, as she was too sick to be able to live outside of it.

She spent just 4 days alive after her doctors found she was no longer strong enough to handle the transplant. On Saturday, Kerry died after a long, brave, scary, and painful battle with her disease.

Kerry's wishes before she died, were that more people would register with Gift of Life to become organ donors when they pass on.

Some facts about organ donation:
  •  1 person can save up to 8 lives if they are able to donate all of their donatable organs.
  • 1 person can enhance the lives of up to 75 others with tissue donation.
  • Checking the box on your license will not make you a certified organ donor- unless papers are filed with Gift of Life, or LifeGift, or another donor program, the end decision is left to your surviving family.
  • Some organ donations can be done while you are alive, such as kidneys, pancreas, and the liver.
  • As of 8/25/10, there are over 100,000 people waiting for an organ donation in the United States.
  • As of May, 2010, there were under 6,000 organ donors in 2010.
  • As of May, 2010, there were over 11,000 organ donations from under 6,000 donors.
  • Organ donation will not mutilate the body before burial. 
  • Because of Kerry's decision, several people received new organs this week after her passing.
Kerry's one wish was for more people to sign up for organ donation, and for more people to consent to the organ donation of their loved ones when they pass.

If you have never  considered organ donation before, consider it now. Discuss your choice with your family. Make sure others are aware of what your wishes are. Find your state's donor registration website, and fill out the paperwork needed to make it official.

You'll be saving lives, like Kerry.

Waiting To Exhale

Talented Tuesday- Yes, Really!

All right, with summer winding down, and school starting up, I thought maybe it was time to get back to Talented Tuesday. I figure the first few weeks will be slow- many of you have long since given up on me, but I do still see a slight surge in views on Tuesday, so I figured I should try it out, right?

For today, I have no new crafts ready. But how about a FREEBIE instead? Or, rather, a WIN instead?

First though, post the code below to your page, should you be linking up today. That way, others will know I'm BACK!

Next, the give away details.

It's simple, really. Go to Novica's Jewelry section. Pick your favorite piece, come back, and post a direct link to it, with the name of the item.

**IMPORTANT** Leave an email address in your post. If I can not email you, I can't give you the gift code!!!

1 lucky winner will be drawn during next Tuesday's Talented Tuesday to win a $50 gift certificate to Novica, to use as you see fit. The certificate expires November 30, 2010, so it needs to be used up soon. Treat yourself, or use it for some Christmas shopping, but enjoy it- my gift to you!

You can read all about my site & product review here! I got a gorgeous necklace, and love it!

Also- I am looking for Guest Blogger Tutorials!! If you would be interested in posting a tutorial to my page, email me: herberkids3(at)yahoo(dot)com! Don't leave a message, that'll be cluttered already!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Novica Jewelry Review

About two weeks ago, I was contacted by a representative for Novica, a website associated with National Geographic. The site sells items hand made by artisans around the world. Jewelry is just one of the many items they sell, along with home decor, apparel, and paintings.

I was asked to give a review on Jewelry, and given a gift certificate to place an order with. I love jewelry, but I'm a pretty casual person. I don't wear any rings aside from my engagement ring (we never found a wrap or wedding ring that fit against it, so while I have been married for over 12 years now, I only wear my engagement band), and my ears have never coped with earrings. That leaves me with bracelets and necklaces- and I love necklaces!

In talking with Caitlin, I had my gift code in hand not even an hour after she first contacted me to do the review- I would consider that great customer service, given that it was later in the evening. Several places would have waited until the next business day to complete the request, but Caitlin was friendly, and quick in her replies.

The biggest problem I experienced with the site wasn't even what most would consider a problem- trying to find exactly what I wanted. I'm a frugal girl, so when I look at buying new things, I look at several things.

  • Cost
  • Quality
  • How often I'll use the item
  • Reviews
 So the issues I had were more along the lines of narrowing down my choices, and deciding just how much I should spend. My gift certificate was good for $50.00, and I wanted to stay under that as much as possible before shipping costs.

I skipped bracelets all together- I wear them, just not often. I wear necklaces far more often, and love them. When you go to the necklace area, I was impressed with just how far they break the list down. You have the main headings of:
  • Pendant
  • Choker
  • Y Necklace
  • Floral
  • Modern & Abstract
  • Strand
  • Animal Themed
  • Heart Shaped
  • Pearl Strands
Additionally, each of the first four are sorted further down by the style of the band, and the stones on them, such as Garnte, Peridot, Citrine, Onyx, and even Glass.

I started my search under Strand, and while I found many necklaces I loved, 1 stood out to me- Party Balloons, by Anusara.

Party Balloons is a mulit-strand, bright colored necklace using both stones and small beads. The lines intertwine with one another, and it has an adjustable chain on the end for lengthening or shortening the necklace.

I opted to purchase this necklace, which was $47.95. There were two options for shipping, one taking 2-14 days, and the other taking anywhere from 2-3 weeks. Many of the items on the site are made by world wide artisans, and mine specifically was made in Thailand. I was not sure if the necklace would be shipping from Thailand or from somewhere more local, so I opted to pay a bit extra and go with the 2-14 day shipping.

The shipping charges were reasonable, too. I paid $5.95 to have it come faster. I don't recall the price for the longer shipping service, but it was less than $5.95. Both were reasonable, and they allowed the left over gift certificate to cover part of the shipping costs.

I purchased my necklace on Wed, August 18th. Confirmation of the order arrived that evening, and on Friday, august 20th, I got notification that my item was shipped already.

I was pleasantly surprised- my necklace arrived on Tuesday, August 24th- not even a full week after placing the order.

My necklace was brought to my door via UPS, and I did have to sign for delivery- insuring that the item made it into my hands.

My necklace arrived with it's own jewelry box- a small square box with fiber paper covering it, and a leaf pressed into the center. It's a lovely little keepsake box. Inside the box was a natural colored pillow with the necklace wound carefully around it to hold it into place.

Also inside the box was a slip of card stock talking about the box, which is made of natural sea paaper and a handmade mulberry bark paper, which is made in a renewable way in Thailand. Also included was a small booklet that talked about both the necklace, and the artist who created it.

The necklace itself is just as lovely as depicted in the photos online. The lines used on the necklace are finely woven gossamer.

The necklace isn't too formal looking, and could be worn with a nice dress out, or with a more casual work outfit. It's definitely my style, and a total keeper.

Overall, I give the site, the necklace, and the artisan Anusara all positive, glowing reviews.

Check back tomorrow for a week long giveaway! The prize? A $50 gift certificate to Novica!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Looking For.... Bottle Cap Tutorial

Do any of my a-maze-ing crafty friends out there have, or know of, a tutorial on how to make bottlecap images?

The basic idea is sound- use clip art, put 12 to a sheet, get em printed on photo paper, use 1" round paper punch, punch em out, glue em, coat em.

But, since I've never seen an -actual- sheet, I don't know what size I should design in. Or, what the best top coat is for once the images are on the bottle cap. Would Mod Podge be enough, or should I use Epoxy?

Point me to your directions, I'm desperate!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Skeleton Hand Hair "Bows"

As I've mentioned before, I'm doing hair items now. I sell them through Facebook (it's the new etsy- without fees!), and have had some fun making new things.

A few weeks back, Dollarstorecrafts.com posted some fun Halloween ideas from last year- including a picture frame with a skeleton hand. I saw that hand, and just knew it would be great in a gothic inspiried hair "bow". You never know what people will like, want, or hate.

I was in a DT last week and found the packs of skeleton hands- 10/$1. I only grabbed one. I was quite a ways from home, and figured that I would be able to find them easily at any of the 4 other DT's between that one and our home. Lived to regret that, let me tell you!

These bows are fun and funky, without being cutesy for kids. Within the first day, I had an order for 3. I've so far sold 10 of them.

This post is linked up at many great parties! Check them all out here!
Keeping It SimpleBWS tips button

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking Better Shop Photos

**Originally posted by me at Bowtique Critique!

If you own a shop, you take photos of your items to sell, right? Well, have you ever noticed some photos look better than others? Here are some quick tips on making your photos look nice every time!

Tip 1- Unless you have no other options, always chose a camera vs a camera phone. While many phones these days take nice photos, you CAN always tell a camera phone photo apart from a camera photo.

Tip 2- Clean your lens. Any eye-wear cleaning cloth will give great results, and even Dollar Tree carries them. Simply wipe finger prints and smudges off the lens before taking photos. That slightly blurred spot showing up in your photos is where you smudged the lens. Clean, crisp photos require a clean lens, so take a few seconds to inspect the lens before taking photos.

Tip 3- Lighting. Lighting is important. This will actually be a multiple part tip. First up?

  1. Natural Lighting. If at all possible, always take advantage of natural lighting. You can do this by setting your 'stage' up near a window, or outside. Direct sunlight can be too harsh, though, so try to use indirect sunlight. Sunlight is only good when it's out, and somewhat bright, though- dark stormy days, or evening won't give the same results as you'll get on a nice, brightly lit day.
  2. Flash lighting. When taking photos of your items, I strongly recommend using natural lighting during the day. However, this is not always possible. Even I have middle of the night moments when I just -have- to share a photo, and can not wait till morning. So, here's some tips when using flashes. First off, don't hold the camera an inch from the object with the flash on. Back up about a foot, then use zoom. Next up, if you have spots that appear faded from the flash, take the photo from a slight angle, so the flash is bouncing off the background and not the object.
  3. Lamps. Unless you are using a bright white (not soft white) light bulb, without a shade, you are going to have a yellowed image with a lamp. If your only option is a lamp, wait until morning and go outside for natural light. The yellowing from the lamp will change the color of your item, and color is important if you are trying to sell something someone wants to match, such as a bow for an outfit. 
 A staging area- this shelf placed under a window is the perfect location for taking photos of your objects, just make sure you are closer than this to the object, or the object will be dark.
Lamp light tends to look yellow, such as the photo above. In the two photos below, only lamp light is used, and the objects and background take on a yellowed hue.
Please note- in the photo above, light blue felt was used- not grey, as the lighting suggests! This is to show how much of a color difference there is when using lamp light for your lighting!
 Everything around the photo is yellowed from the lamp.
 In the above photo, I used a flash in conjunction with the lamp light. The yellowing is gone!

Tip 4- Staging. Your keyboard, kitchen floor, deck, and any other flat surface you use are distracting, and tell the buyer you didn't put time or effort into your photos. Fabric squares or even rectangles of felt can make a decent backdrop for your pictures. But, word of advice- match the object with the background. You don't want to take a photo of a black bow on black felt. You simply can't see the item. Switch out the color of the backdrop to contrast with the item you are photographing. If you want a solid white background, felt works nice, but you can even use white poster board to take the photo with. Just avoid direct light with poster board, as it will reflect the sun, and change the items up. Felt, on the other hand, will absorb more of the light, so it won't reflect as badly.

My stage area- a tall shelf under a window. Most of my photos are taken in this location.
More staging- to help provide contrast, I use a felt "doily" shape to set my smaller bows & clippies on. This is left out of larger bow photos, and photos of white bows or clips.
The above photos are used to show off just how I stage items, NOT how I take the actual photos.

Tip 5- Save the fancy Picnik editing for photographs of people and memories, not your bows, and clips, and clothing you are trying to sell. If the photo is off color, or blurred from editing, it's harder to pin point exactly what the person is buying.

Tip 6- Blurry photos are a no-no when selling something. Here are a few tips on how to avoid that.
  1. Distance. Putting your lens right up on the item can cause the camera's focus to not work. Your best bet is to have your camera 6"-12" from the object, then zooming in. 
  2. Zoom- however, you don't want to be zoomed in TOO close. Zoom can also blur based on distance, so if your camera is too far away, and zooming in on the item blurs it, then you want to zoom out a bit, and bring the camera itself closer to the object.
  3. When in doubt, click. Digital is free- you can take 2 photos, or 200 photos, and it won't cost you anything to "develop" them. So, I recommend taking 2-3 photos of each photo just to make sure you have a clear photo to enjoy. 
 This photo was taken 10" from the item, and zoomed in slightly. It does show off the item, but I recommend less blank space.
This photo was still 10" from the item, and zoomed in closer. This is the typical distance I use on my photos.
A closer image, such as this, can be used to show off your bow, or details of your item. In the photo above, I used off-centering to make it more visually interesting, but if this is the only photo of the object, you should make sure all of the object is in your photo.
 Zoomed in WAY too close- this photo, if clear, would certainly show off all of the details on the ghost, but it's blurry, and should not be used to show off your items.
In this photo, I brought the camera down closer to the actual item. I am much closer to the object- 3" away, with no zoom. This turned out fine, but don't count on close up photos to always turn out. Make sure it's clear, or take multiple photos before moving on.

Overall, you want your photos to look nice, and professional. But, it doesn't take a $1200 camera to take nice photos of your items.  Take your time, and practice. Look at the photos on your computer and discard the bad ones. No need to save your blurred product photos!

Good luck! Please feel free to share, but give credit where credit is due.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ribbon Storage!!

Many people in the crafting business have ribbon- lots of ribbon. If you're like me, you have a TON of ribbon. It creeps up on you. It starts off with one or two needed for a specific project. Then 2 or 3 because you love the color or pattern. Before you know it, you have over 100 spools of ribbon sitting around your house.

This method of ribbon storage is called the hanger because it uses.. well, you guessed it, a hanger. This method was first seen on the Dollar Store Craft site, I think. Or maybe it was Someday Crafts. Either way, it was ingenious.

It's a way that can store over 70 spools of ribbon, easily and within reach, and viewable without taking up a lot of space. For this, though, you do need a very specific hanger- a 5 arm swing arm pants hanger. The photo below shows what the hanger looks like.

This hanger has 4 actual arms (the bottom rung counts as the 5th arm, but it is not a swinging arm, so for our purposes, it only holds 4 arms worth of spools), and those 4 arms are hinged one side, and fit into a slot on the other side. To open them, lift up on the slot side to free it from the slot, then swing the arm open.

Each arm will hold as many as many as 25 narrow spools, or as few as 6-10 wider spools. The size of the spool will also effect how many spools the arms can take- for instance, if the spool is long when laying on it's side, it will effect the size of spool the arm above it can hold.

If you are an avid ribbon buyer, you are probably familiar with different brands, and spool sizes. Hobby Lobby's brand of ribbon found in the fabric department for ribbons sized 1/4" up to 5/8" comes on the same size spool. Some are wider, some narrower, but all the spools will stack on each other in the same size. Those spools are optimal for this ribbon rack.

With 25 on each arm, you can easily fit 100 spools of those spools on the rack, and they will spin freely.

Most other brands of ribbon, such as Offray, will also fit 25 to an arm, but here's the kicker with Offray- the spools are taller, so while you can stack them onto the rack, they will spin more difficultly.

The hanger itself comes in handy. To hang it, pound a nail into the wall, or onto a shelf, and let it hang. Below are some photos from Heather's Frugal Bows of the hanger doing it's job- on this hanger, she shows over 70 spools of varying width ribbons.

So, what's the price to use something like this for your ribbon storage? Well, my local shops didn't have any in stock (I checked Walmart & Meijer), but I did find these hangers online ranging from $4.99 up to $10.00. Not too bad for storing so many spools!

You can find them here:

Hanger City- $5.79
Bed Bath & Beyond, 2 pack for $9.99 (Out of stock online)
Hold N' Storage- $4.99

All in all, it's something to look into! If you have a great idea for storing your ribbon, let me know and I'll write up a post about it, and include a link!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lovely, Pretty Jewelry!

Tonight, I was contacted by a representative of NOVICA, a National Geographic Associated website that sells items made by master artisans, including jewelers. I fell in LOVE.

Seriously- they have gorgeous items.  But, the point of this post? I'll be doing a review of the site & jewelry in the next week or two, when my necklace arrives. It took me a bit, but I finally decided on one single item, a necklace made in Thailand by Anusara. I took a moment to peek at her jewelry, and found many beautiful pieces.

Check back in a week or two for a review of NOVICA and a giveaway- a $50 gift certificate for you!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I am hosting a giveaway for 3 gorgeous white crocheted flowers on my blog, Bowtique Critique! Stop on by to enter for a chance to win! Drawing will be Tuesday, August 17th!

To win, check out the details on Bowtique Critique!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blanketeer & More!

This week, I was in touch with Blanketeer & More on Facebook. She makes some pretty cool things like car seat tents, purses, key chains, and even camera straps- but she also is a wonderful crocheter!

Several months back, I won a crocheted headband and flower clip from a different person, and loved it. This week, I received 3 crocheted flowers from Blanketeer & More, and I have to say- I LOVE them. These flowers are very similar to the one I won back in February, but the quality of the yarn, and the stitching is a lot better. These flowers are nice and tight- no unraveling for them, and the yarn is soft without being fuzzy or worn as so many yards tend to do. The flower I have from February is fuzzy, loose, and worn looking.

I received 1 large flower, and 2 smaller flowers, each on their own lined alligator clip. They were all superbly made, and I would not hesitate to purchase these flowers from her in the future for my own use. These flowers can be worn alone in the hair, or even on a shirt for a bit of flair, or they can be clipped onto a headband.

For my full review, check out my new page, Bowtique Critique! I advertise boutiques on Facebook, and review products, while helping you make sales!