Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday/ Cyber Monday

Well, here we go again! All those great deals out there just waiting to be snatched up. If you're looking for something special this holiday season, for yourself or someone else, check out Little Brown Bird .

10%-30% OFF SELECT ITEMS
&
FREE SHIPPING ON EVERYTHING
WORLDWIDE
Everything arrives boxed and ready for gift giving!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Things I Love: Larimeloom by Lucia Squillari

I logged onto Etsy this morning to find a dress that peaked my interest, so I clicked. And am I glad I did! Larimeloom is a shop that I highlighted a couple of weeks ago when I put a picture of an awesome plum top into one of my treasuries that ended up on the front page of Etsy. Apparently, others fell in love with this wonderful shop too, because its back for a front page encore.

This shop, featuring designs by Lucia Squillari of Alba, Italy, is pure creativity run wild! Simple designs that, when you break it down, you think..."How did she even think of that?!" In reading her profile, I discovered how organic her designs are. She literally just sits down and starts making it. No plan, no patterns, just pure imagination. Her designs are one of a kind and each one more interesting than the last. Fabrics vary, pieces are designed with simple silhouettes, and everything has a decidedly casual femininity.






One of my favorites is a blouse she calls Cinderella's Gossamer Shirt. It's soft and sheer, and oh so romantic.


Lucia is so very clever, making designs with such versatility. Her haunting photos, taken by her mother, Melissa, and sister, Shanty, display the various ways her clothes can be worn. A sash worn high above the waist gives a dress a romantic evening look, or worn at the waist turns into a casual dress for a day at the market. This grey and black beauty can be worn as a halter top or a skirt!






But my favorite piece in the shop...I'm almost afraid to say because then someone will snatch it up...is this Blue Handwoven Shawl. What can I say? Beautiful.






There are so many gorgeous designs in her shop. Please stop by Larimeloom on Etsy and discover your favorite. And keep your hands off that shawl!





Friday, November 7, 2008

Sale Still Going On!

There is still time to save on tons of great items from the Jewelry on Etsy Team. Go to Etsy.com and type JHSJETTEAM in the search box at the top to find all kinds of gorgeous jewelry on sale now!

Also, LittleBrownBird is still offering FREE SHIPPING throughout the month of November on everything in the shop. You can save 10%-30% on beautiful jewelry, accessories, and more!

Featured Etsy Artists: November 6, 2008 Treasury

This week's featured artists are from the treasury collection that I put together on Etsy. These are all fantastic items from some truly creative artists. Take the time to click on the links below to see more.



From left to right starting at the top:


Indie Red and Black Striped Strapless Bubble Dress with Yellow Posh lining by Yellowcake

SMALL AND SEXY SIZE RED- BURGUNDY PLEATED BAG by Daphnenen

Story of O -Size M by JunkhouseDollyard

STEAMED - Steampunk Brass and Copper wire ring with Carnelian bead by CatherinetteRings

Rabbits in Vermilion by Krisblues

Lucky Lil' Devil on Black Women's Tank by decoysofmanhattan

Red and Pine Forest Moon Bun by moonscreations


Personalized Chocolate Damask Holiday Gift Enclosure (set of 8) by becreativestationery

Manfelts Felted Woolen Knitted Slipper Socks Size 11-12 by pawfelts

6 Red Brown Felt Beads by piril

MINIATURE TREE ORNAMENTS-Genuine Beach Stones/Christmas Dangles by SeaMe


Red Planet Ring in Garnet, One of A Kind by onegarnetgirl







Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jewelry on Etsy Team Holiday Sale

It's here! It's that time of year for the annual JET Holiday Sale!

Jewelry on Etsy Team (JET)
Holiday Sale
100's of Jewelry Designers
1000's of items on sale
2 weeks
&
only 1 palce to find it all!
type JHSJETTEM into the search box
at the top to find outstanding sales on
1000's of jewelry items.
Each shop has its own sale and shop policies so please remember to read the announcement on the shops home page.
You can check the Promotions Forum on Etsy on Oct. 26 for a list of all the participating shops and their sales.
Happy Holidays from JET!
and of course, you can start shopping at
with additional clearance items at

Things I Love: Krize (Kristina Sabaite)


I first "met" Kristina Sabaite when she purchased a few things from my creative supplies shop on Etsy, InTheRaw. She is a children's book illustrator with the most incredible imagination (as I suppose you would have to have if you do illustrations for children's books).




At that time, I don't think there was much, if anything yet, in her shop. Well, I just revisited her Etsy shop, Krize and I am in love with everything in it! Really! Cards and paintings with original (and I mean original) illustrations, adorable fabric brooches, and a tote bag that I found in her "sold items" that is to die for.










All items ship from Spain, so if you're looking for something special this holiday season, don't wait to order. My only problem? It took forever to decide which pictures to use for this story, it's going to be damn near impossible to pick only one or two things to purchase! There's so much more in her shop, please check it out. And check out her other shop, BoogieWoogie where you can find more of her wonderful bags!






Friday, October 24, 2008

Front Page Treasury!


I did a treasury page for Etsy which included many of my fellow Jewelry on Etsy Team members. Guess what...it made the front page of Etsy! Congrats to all the great artists featured! Check out all the shops!
http://littlebrownbird.etsy.com *Jewelry on Etsy Team Member
http://lavalleygirly.etsy.com *Jewelry on Etsy Team Member
http://jeweledblossoms.etsy.com *Jewelry on Etsy Team Member
http://emotionaloasis.etsy.com *Jewelry on Etsy Team Member
http://higherchakrasupply.etsy.com *Jewelry on Etsy Team Member
http://thebrasshussy.etsy.com *Jewelry on Etsy Team Member
And don't forget to check out all the Jewelry on Etsy Team shops for our annual JET Holiday Sale!!!! Search JHSJETTEAM on Etsy for terrific sale items!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Citizen's Suggestion to the US Presidential Candidtes

This was originally going to be a response to the comment by "moviefan" left on the last post about the debate. But it quickly turned into something more. Since we are approaching the date of the last debate, and our last chance to hear the candidates' plans (or lack there of) of action, I urge, not the voting public, but the candidates themselves to read on...


I just hope the last debate will actually be a debate. So far, I've heard just a little bit from Obama, but I've not heard a single new idea or plan of action of any kind from McCain. Do the republicans really think that they can campaign the same old way it's been done in the past in this day and age? Talking in circles, selectively focusing on records, exaggerating negatives, and flat out refusing to answer questions then changing the subject? Really??? Do they think we're stupid?! And I'm so sick and tired of hearing what the problems are. We know what the problems are! I want to know what they are going to do about it! Step by step, give me the details!

Yes, campaign promises are usually just pipe dreams. Especially if it's "I'm gonna get this economy back on track!" How? Tell me how you plan on doing it, and everything else you promise. Step 1, step 2, step 3... And if they seem like feasible ideas, then you've got my vote. The one thing I don't want to hear is more of "I voted for x bill but my opponent didn't."

Here's my personal list (other voters have their own) in no particular order, of the things that concern me most for the next President of the United States:

-Fix the economy, without just throwing tax-payers' money at it. Put measures in place to ensure that this doesn't happen again. And no more golden parachutes- if I get fired from my job, I don't get a bonus for it!

-Get the credit crisis under control so people can stop panicking, housing prices can stabalize, and banks can begin lending again.

- Lower the cost of health care (which has seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle lately), and limit patents on drugs so that there can be some competitive pricing out there. No more people having to decide between buying food or prescription drugs!

-Force states to lower property taxes on homes that are no longer worth what they were when we bought them, and do it NOW, not two years from now!

-End the war in Iraq. Just end it.

- Give me solid resources for retirement planning so I don't work my ass off my entire life just to live my last days scraping by. (Don't even get me started on social security.) And crack down on those abusing the system, sucking up all public resources, leaving nothing for those that truly need it!

- Back off my right to choose! You don't know me, you don't know my beliefs, you don't know my personal situation, you don't know my health, and you certainly don't know the decision I would make, but the decision is MINE!

-Make education a priority in this country! Shouldn't it be a wake-up call that the leader of this country for the past 8 years thinks he's "the decider"? And his wife was a teacher! It's frightening to think that people so high up in office do not even have the ability to communicate. Without education, how can we expect to compete (or even compare) globally?
(and, while we're on the subject of communication, education, and global competitiveness...)

-Make education of world history and cultures a priority. The world has become so much smaller, as we have witnessed with the current global economic shake-up. We (speaking globally) are so closely connected, yet are so horribly ignorant of the world outside of our own individual bubbles. The root of every war is firmly planted in ignorance and fear. Americans, in my opinion, have become so much less tolerant of other cultures. (That really is shocking since the foundation of this country is, and always has been, built on the backs of immigrants in search of something better.) We have been programmed to think that the US is the best country in the world and that "our way" is the only way. The truth is, most people in this country have never even set foot outside of it (spring break in Cancun doesn't count), and have never experienced the rest of the world. It sounds cliche, but we really don't realize how lucky we are in this country. But there is so much to be learned from the world outside. And from that knowledge, we can begin to understand why some cultures hate Americans so much. And here's a novel thought, we might even begin to bridge the gap and discover shared ideologies. <-- If that word was too big for you, I rest my case.

I have many other concerns for the next administration. In fact, it seems to be a never-ending list, as it should be. But if the candidates can tell me what they are going to do about the issues above, that would be a good start for me.

----------------------------------------------------
The views expressed here are my own. I realize and respect the fact that others may not share these views. This is meant to be a launching point for discussion.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Presidential Debate(?) #2

Here we go again...
Misleading statements, exaggerations, lies, you name it...oh ya, and name calling (almost forgot that one). It was a lively debate. Oh, did I say debate? Hmm, most debates I've ever seen have two people stating facts to back up their arguments. There were indeed facts, and some of them were actually left in proper context (I was surprised) but there were many more "facts" that were twisted. I won't pass judgement here, for I believe everyone has the right to decide for themselves who should be the next US President. I've been trying to keep a very open mind until the polls officially open, but it's getting harder every day. Especially since I heard only one candidate actually answer the questions from last nights debate. The other one, to me at least, came off as a very bitter little man, "my friends". It was extremely frustrating! I really want to have a hard time deciding who to vote for because there are two highly qualified, "get-it done" type of candidates. But once again, it looks as though we are left to decide the lesser of two evils (perhaps evil is too harsh, but we'll see). I know one candidate that, if he doesn't get elected President, should at least get the most votes on "Dancing with the Stars" for dancing around the subject!

Again, I urge you to get the facts. Please log on to FactCheck.org and see for yourself.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Little Red, White, & Blue Lies

So, we've had debates now from both the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, with more to come. If you watched the debate last night, you probably felt like you were doing your patriotic duty by getting informed. If you haven't made up your mind which candidate to vote for yet, you feel you have a pretty good grasp on the subject to lean one way or the other. And if you are a "Die-Hard" Republican or Democrat, there's not much that can sway you anyway. Or is there? Because after one debate, each, by the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, I'm convinced that there are nothing but "Liberals" in this race, for they have all been awfully liberal with the truth. (Click here to watch last nights debate again, point by point.)

But little white lies never hurt anyone, right? I'm not so sure about that. Maybe if it comes from a 6 year old who's afraid of getting reprimanded for trying to flush his sister's Barbie down the toilet. But how about when it's a candidate running for the highest office in the land? I mean, politics is politics and mud-slinging is a given during election time, but shouldn't we hold our leaders to a higher standard? *I can sense you rolling your eyes.* I know, so what's new, right?

Well, if you want to truly do your patriotic duty next month *ya, I said next month* I suggest you get the facts straight. Sound bites on campaign commercials and not-so-objective commentaries from news anchors may be entertaining, but they don't really give you the full picture. In the coming weeks leading up to the election, do yourself, and your country, a favor. Get the facts. Click onto FactCheck.org to find out who's telling the truth, who's not, and who's offering a slightly skewed sense of the facts.

Things I Love: Fashion by Stella McCartney

This is the first in a new series that I'm doing, "Things I Love". So many times, while flipping through magazines or surfing on line, I find things that I just love and would love to share. So I will be doing a regular feature on my blog to share things that I feel deserve a hearty "shout-out".





First up, Stella McCartney. Fashion week in France is winding up and one of the stand-outs, for me at least, is Stella McCartney.

I just love this dress from Stella McCartney's Summer 2009 Collection!
This Brass Bag with hot pink lining is TOO CUTE!
One thing I love about Stella McCartney's fashions is that although she has some of the typical "way out there, who the hell would really wear that" stuff that so many designers do, she does have a real-world sense of what the every-day woman is looking for. These are some of my favorites from her active wear collections with Adidas.
Fortanima Boots
Hooded Polar Fleece
Studio Skirt Pants
I love these Studio Skirt Pants! That's a woman designing for women- a little built-in skirt to hide what you want to hide and still look uber-cute!
You can see the rest of Stella McCartney's collections at her beautiful web site.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

For the Love of Copper


You probably have noticed by now that my blog has a slightly new look. I've been working behind the scenes to revamp Little Brown Bird and become a little more organized **cough, cough, choking** My shop will hopefully have a new look, and this blog needs alot of help!

I'm working on some really cool (well, I think so) new jewelry pieces. Lately I've been playing with different metals and firing up my power tools! I've also been pounding out some frustrations, developing my skills with hammered textures.


I am in love with copper right now! The cutting and shaping, you can do just about anything to it! And I've been experimenting with patinas, giving the metal an aged or weathered look, and adding depth to the colors and textures. You can see what I mean.
There's much more to come! There are days when I get into the zone and work non-stop on new designs. I love those days. But I have to fit them in between life's necessary chores. So enjoy the new pictures, and as always, you can contact me for more information or to reserve an item. They will be listed in my shop soon. Unfortunately, my creative time for today is over already, right now I have to go grocery shopping.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Etsy Down Again!

Ok, I have no idea what happened this time but for several days, if not weeks, Etsy has been running slow. The search function has been a mess with listings not showing up in the correct categories, or sometimes not showing up at all.

Now, Etsy has mysteriously disappeared! It happened about a half hour ago and as of yet, I can find no information as to what happened. My guess is the server finally crashed. Whatever it is. I hope it won't be for long! To stay on top of it, you may want to check out Unofficial Etsy News
to find out the latest.

******************
An hour later, Etsy is back up and running. No word still on what went wrong.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pesto Planning!

I wanted to give an update on my summer herb garden experiment. If you remember, I decided to start growing my own fresh herbs because the price fresh herbs in the grocery stores has become outrageous! I would love to have a whole vegetable garden, but I just don't have the space. In my tiny home, growing a few fresh herbs is about all I can do. And how did that idea pan out? Well, with my "brown thumbs", I didn't expect to have steller results. But surprisingly, I do have two very healthy herb plants!

Ok, you're thinking, "but Mary, I thought you planted 8 different herbs." Ya, I did...like I said, I have TWO very healthy herb plants.



I began my herb garden by using the method that I learned in 4th grade. I spread my seeds out on a paper towel and added water. Within days, I had tiny basil sprouts peeking out at me. The other herbs (mint, sage, lavender, cilantro, dill, terragon, rosemary) began to sprout as well.


By the time it was ready to transfer the sprouts to a pot with dirt, I think I was down to about 5 herbs. Some took off immediately, others withered away after a week or so. Still not bad for someone like me. The sprouts you see here are basil.


The basil seems to be doing the best! I'm so glad, because I use basil more than anything. The other plant that has taken off is mint. For most of the summer, I have been enjoying alot of recipes with fresh mint and basil. In fact, the plants have done so well, that I have begun drying some of the basil and I could actually split the plants to give some away. Who knows what the fall and winter months may bring. I'm sure they won't last with little sun and being near a cold window. So I am making plans to make a fantastic pesto should my basil plant begin to look, well, not so lushy. For now though, The basil is "a plenty" and the $.99 packet of seeds has saved me about $12 a week! I figure, given the amount of fresh basil that I usually go through, it has saved me about $90 this summer. Not a bad return on my tiny investment! Now, if my stocks were so lucky...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tomato Hugger


Ok, I'm really excited about this. I finally submitted a recipe to Tastespotting after all this time. Tomato Basil and Goat Cheese Pizza. It's a yummy recipe that includes toasted pine nuts in the doughy goodness. And after hearing heartbreaking stories about tomato farmers losing their homes and plowing under their fields because of the recent salmonella scare, I decided to do my part in helping the mom and pop farmer recover from what many people are calling a government-created disaster. (Ya, add that to the list...)


My hope was that the article would reach a great number of people and challenge those who are culinary inclined to share their fresh tomato-based recipes and in doing so, hopefully, encourage people to start buying tomatoes again. Truth is, the FDA actually has never even found the type of salmonella bactirium that sickened so many in the thousands of tests done on tomatoes, cilantro, and jalepenos.


You can read the article and recipe on my food blog via the link above, and join the challenge! Create a fresh-tomato recipe and put a link to it in the comment section of my blog post, Save an industry- eat tomatoes! to share it with everyone. Or post your recipe on Tastespotting and tag it, "Tomato Challenge".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Furniture Buying 101

For those of you who maybe haven't read my profile, I am not only a jewelry designer extraodinaire, *wink* but I am an Interior Design Consultant as well. Recently, I received an email from a friend who is going to purchase a new sofa. It seems she has had some trouble in the past and would like to know a few inside tips before spending hard-earned cash on a high-ticket item. I certainly don't balme her!

For most, buying furniture can be a mind numbing experience anyway. Especially if you want to do anything custom. (Oooooh, there's that really expensive word, "custom". More on that in a bit.) The choice of fabrics and leathers, styles, colors...do you want it to recline, swivel, get up an get you a drink? Endless! It's enough to drive most people insane. And at the end of it, we forget why we needed furniture in the first place...because the last sofa broke.

Here is where that email question comes in. My friend (name changed to protect privacy) Susie said that she has had a sectional sofa from (name changed so I don't get sued) ABC Furniture Co. and has had it for only 3 years. The cushions are literally coming apart at the seams, as if there was not enough fabric allowed for a proper seam. She has never liked the way it sat, firm in one area, soft in another, different sections were higher than others, etc. When she bought it, she was told by the sales person that "it would last forever." (Hmmm, more on that later too.) Susie wanted to get some advice before plunking down another $3000 on something new, and praying the same thing doesn't happen again. As I started writing my reply, I realized how many times I have (happily) given the same advice to various friends as well as my own clients. It occured to me that most people are truly confused when it comes to knowing what furniture is "good" and what is not. What makes one sofa $300 and another one $3000? They look the same.

For full disclosure, I have to say that I do sell ABC Furniture brand, as well as other brands, so I know the company quite well. And I did not sell Susie her sofa, nor did she purchase it at my store. But I can say that ABC's frames and "spring" system are well known for being extremely strong and longer lasting than many other brands. But that's just the frame part if it, fabrics and other parts that are supplied to the furniture manufacturer are a different story. The key is how that manufacturer intends to rectify a problem.

So now, a few thoughts on Susie's current sectional sofa. Of course, without seeing her sofa first hand, I'm only guessing, but...

-First, the frame and workmanship (stitching, etc) should have a lifetime warranty through it's manufacturer, ABC Furniture Co. A lifetime warranty, which is not always offered with every manufacturer, means that it is covered for as long as you own that piece, in its original fabric or leather. If you have your sofa reupholstered, it will void all warranties.

-Fabric is always a one year warranty against defects (that's defects from the fabric mill, not ABC Furniture Co.), this is industry standard no matter where you buy your furniture. Some retail stores offer an extended warranty (through a company not related to the manufacturer)on fabric protection for an extra price that will cover rips, stains, cigarette burns, etc. for 3 or 5 years.

-The store where Susie bought it should be able to work with the factory on her behalf to have the sectional repaired (if she wishes).

-It's unlikely that the fabric on the cushions was cut wrong since, as with most large furniture factories like ABC, it is an automated cutting system run by a computer, unless you happened to get the end of the bolt and the fabric had run out(entirely possible, still unlikely). But sometimes it does happen where fabric is accidently sewn by a worker slightly off center leaving little room at the other edge for the seam. When the piece goes through a final inspection, it's easy to miss. But this is part of the workmanship warranty from ABC and is covered for repair.

-Not sure why each piece of the sectional is a different height. I would need to see it to come up with a reason. It sounds like Susie just wants to replace it anyway, but I want to help her try and avoid problems. My questions to her would be whether or not she has a sleeper or recliners in one side but not on the other? That could explain the height difference because of the mechanisms in those kinds of pieces. It could also explain the difference in firmness, since sleepers and recliners will usually be firmer than a regular piece. There is no way to get a non-reclining or non-sleeper piece that feels the same as one with either of those machinisms in it.

After having a little insight on what may have gone wrong with her present sectional sofa, I'd like Susie, and others to arm themselves with a bit of knowledge on how furniture is constructed and how to spot the problems you may have before you make that purchase.

THE REAL (UGLY) TRUTH ABOUT FURNITURE /
FINDING A QUALITY PIECE OF FURNITURE 101:

- Give up the notion that there exists a perfect sofa, chair, table, bedroom, or whatever, that has never had, or will ever have any problems. Like Prince Charming, this is just a fairy tale . Things come in from the factories all the time with dings and scratches, and other goofy stuff that you wouldn't believe. Most stores have to do little touch-ups here or there on brand new pieces right out of the box. It doesn't mean it's not a quality piece, it's just reality. Even the highest end furniture companies have to deal with this. Just because piece of furniture is really expensive doesn't make it magic. Its still put together by humans and we all have our bad days.

- Look for a strong frame. Solid wood frames are great if they are made of maple or even poplar. Solid pine, not so much. Other strong frames are those made with plywood (plywood does not mean particle board) Plywood is made from sheets of wood layered with the grain on each layer going in an alternating direction. Since wood expands with moisture, alternating the direction of the grain limits this expansion, which limits warping and cracking. Sometimes this type of material is also called engineered wood. It has been specifically engineered to withstand the stress of everyday use in a particular type of product. Wood that has been engineered for use in a sofa may be different than wood engineered for use in a table or desk.

- Some wood names given as the type used for a particular piece of furniture are not what you expect they are. This is usefull information for most casegoods (wood furniture like tables, bedrooms, dining rooms). An example of this is a particular furniture collection that I have sold many times which is made of "select hardwood solids with Santos Rosewood veneers". Santos Rosewood is not actually a true rosewood, but mimics the look of Brazilian Rosewood (also known as Rio Rosewood), an endangered species of actual rosewood. Santos Rosewood is a beautiful alternative to the endagered Brazillian (Rio) Rosewood, however, it has different properties. It’s best to Google the complete name given to the wood type used. You will find countless sites that show the hardness scale, moisture resistance, etc. Often these properties are compared against typical American Oak, which most people are very familiar with. (By the way, American Oak is not the hardest wood like most people tend to believe, but hard enough to withstand a great deal of stress.)

- Look for upholstered furniture with the term “8-way hand tied”. This refers to a coiled spring construction. The springs are individually tied by hand to each other using a very strong twine and then tied directly to the wood frame by wrapping the twine around nails and then knotted. The nail is then pounded into place, securing the twine. This type of construction has been the ideal standard for centuries. A less preferred type of this construction is a “drop-in unit” in which the coiled springs are clamped together using metal clips. The drop-in unit is then set into the wood frame and clamped into place. The clips have a tendency to slip and break loose over time and the springs will become loose, or the entire unit may rock back and forth. A lesser preferred construction will have a zigger, or zig-zag shaped spring in the base of the sofa. This is the same type of spring used in most sofa backs. While it is pretty much the standard for the back of the sofa, this type is considerably less strong than a coiled spring and will almost certainly sag with heavy use. It is usually found in more contemporary or trendy looking upholstery that people tend to change after just a few years. Farther down on the quality totem pole is upholstered furniture that uses nylon webbing instead of metal springs. Just think how many lawn chairs you have thrown out over the years, ‘nuff said. Nylon webbing is still acceptable in most occassional chairs and dining chairs.

- Try lifting one end of the sofa at the corner 6 inches off the floor. If only the one corner that you are holding lifts off the floor, the frame is too loose. If both legs at that end of the sofa lift, the frame is probably well enough constructed, but ask what type of wood was used to construct the frame, then ask about the springs, and so on.

- Listen for squeaks and other noises as a sign of a loose frame or a faulty swivel or rocking/reclining mechanism.

-The foam in all seat cushions will break-in over time but should not break down and fall apart. A firmer cushion does not always mean it will last longer than a soft cushion. Look for manufacturers that include the seat cushions in the warranty. Note: not all types of cushions by one manufacturer will be covered in the warranty, usually just the standard cushion for that style frame. Down and down-blend cushions will almost always have a frumpy look over time.

-It is preferable to have seat cushions that are less than 30” wide each. Larger seat cushions will show a wrinkled look after someone has been sitting on it. This will be evident from the very first time you sit on the sofa. It's not a defect, just comon sense and the nature of a soft product. Larger cushions also have slightly less support and may sag with heavy use. If you want cushions (seat and back) that do not change their shape what-so-ever after someone has been sitting on or against them, I suggest concrete. And yes, your back cushions WILL mush down if you let Fido sit on the very top of them.

- Whether or not the back cushions are attached to the sofa or loose should not affect the quality. Loose cushions have the advantage of being turned or rotated, while attached cushions tend to stay straight and more tailored. It’s your choice. Keep in mind the maintenance required to preserve the look that you want for that piece and whether or not you are willing to do it!

- The word "laminated" need not be feared. Most people think of lamination as a thin sheet of imitation wood glued on top of particle board. Lamination actually refers to the process in which two or more layers (of anything) are glued together (to anything else). Remember what we learned about plywood frames in upholstered furniture? The same is true of the word "veneer". A veneer is the "thin layer" that is laminated to the top or outside edge of a piece of furniture. Most fine casegoods (wood) furniture has a veneer of a nicer looking wood laminated over either an uglier piece of the same type of wood, or over another type of wood in order take advantage of certain properties. You may often see "maple solids with maple veneers" or "cherry solids with fancy-faced mahogany veneers". A fancy-faced veneer is one in which the different grains or grain directions of the wood have been manipulated to achieve a particular look, such as a diamond pattern in the veneer.

-For upholstery, press down on the arm. If you feel it give or hear a pop, the arm has been most likely constructed using cardboard (yes, cardboard) to form the shape. This is obviously not as strong as an all wood construction and may give way under the pressure of someone sitting on the arm. If you press down on the arm and you immediately feel wood, there is not enough padding between the outer fabric and the wood frame. Friction will cause the fabric to tear from
the inside-out.

These are all things to consider when trying to determine quality from "crap". Although, "crap" does have it's place. Consider purchasing something of lesser quality to send with your kids to their college apartment. Or better yet, buy yourself something of better quality for the room you use the most in your own house and ship that old sofa off to college. It will probably last until graduation and your graduate might even make a buck selling it to some other under-grad. (Be sure and hit him up for a portion of the profit!)

Most of all, make sure the furniture you buy performs the function that you require for where it's going. If it's for the living room that no ever goes into except on Christmas and Easter, consider buying something that looks nice, but is not as good a quality on the inside as what you would need for the family room that gets used everyday. Don't skimp to save cash on something that you know will get heavy use. Family room, kitchen, and kids' furniture take the hardest beating. Put your hard-earned cash there. There is one exception that you may want to make for a formal dining room. Although it may not get as heavy use, a formal dining room is meant to impress. Sometimes, because of hand-carved elements and more luxurious fabrics, dining room furniture can get costly. If that's the look you want, you may not get it in a set that's cosiderably less expensive. Is it necessary? Maybe not. But how many times do you plan on purchasing a dining set? Sometimes you have to look down the road a bit.

I know I have covered alot. Actually, there is much, much more that I could go over for you. But having some information before you get to that furniture store will arm you with enough to keep you from being intimidated right out the door. You have a more than decent base knowledge that you will be able to ask questions and actually understand the answers. No more glazed expression on your face when the salesperson says "eight-way hand tied" (go back and read it again above), no more negative thoughts when you hear "veneer".

And by all means, if you don't understand something or can't find what you are looking for, don't be afraid to ask for help! The salesperson is your brother(or sister)-in-arms in your battle against home decorating. Most have an education in Interior Design and will happily guide you through choosing patterns, colors, and finding pieces that fit your specific needs. Helping you furnish your home and giving you guidance in the process (with as little stress and headaches as possible) is exactly what they were hired to do! Most of these people also work soley on commission. Keep this in mind if you leave and return to the store another day. It's proper and to your advantage to ask for the person that you began working with (unless you were unhappy with them) when you return. They will be up to date on what you are working on and can pick up right where you left off. They may have even come up with additional ideas for you in the mean time. Keep in mind also, that while you are welcome to negotiate for a better price, this is the person that has just helped you navigate the Bermuda Triangle. Often times, any discount (any at all, or after a certain point) that they may give you comes directly out of their own paycheck.

Many stores will offer the option to have one of their designers come out to your home. Although some stores say this service is free, it is usually for a fee that then becomes part of your deposit if you should finalize your purchase (free with a purchase). This is pretty standard in most better furniture stores. If you know you will probably purchase something from that store, it may be to your advantage to pay the up-front fee and have a designer come out. Some people balk at the idea of having to pay this fee, but the designer's time is not free. The fee up front insures the designer that they will be paid for their time away from the showroom and paid for their expert advice (you don't know any lawyers or doctors that give free advice, do you?), and when you make your purchase, you will be credited that amount.


Throughout this article, you probably came up with additional questions related to your own project. I would be happy to answer anything I can, just post your question in the comments section and I'll post an answer as soon as I can. I would like to get a list of some furniture manufacturers that I think have quality furniture at good price points. I've run out of time for today, but I'll try to do that soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Real Lives Behind Real Art: Beautiful handmade greeting cards from Beautiful Greetings

I love buying handmade. There's something special about purchasing a piece of jewelry, a hat, handbag, painting, or really anything that has been lovingly created by the artist her/himself. As an artist, I know the proud feeling of packaging up a personally handmade (now newly purchased) creation to send off to its new home.

Just sold at Little Brown Bird. (Bamboo Print Earrings with Copper Dragonflies.)

I imagine the recipient waiting anxiously for the package to arrive and smiling from ear to ear as they open it, then rushing to show all their friends, family, and co-workers the wonderful "find" they made of a unique, one of a kind piece of jewelry, screaming with glee about all the pretty things they found at Little Brown Bird, children singing, marching bands playing, parades, white doves released into the air... Ok, so I have an over-active imagination.

Better than my self-pat-on-the-back dream. I imagine that person then clicking over to another Etsy shop, Beautiful Greetings , to purchase a gorgeous handmade card to go with it. Maybe it's meant to be a birthday present, a thank you to someone special, or one of those great "just because" gifts that we all love getting from a friend or loved one. What ever the occasion, Beautiful Greetings, the Etsy shop of Peggy Russel, has the perfect card for you!




Peggy creates the most wonderful greeting cards and gift tags for any occasion. She uses gorgeous quality card stock and hand stamps images, glitter, ribbon, and other embellishments making each card truly a work of art. And I love her use of color! Her incredible sense of design shows in every card. This purple and yellow combo above is one of my favorites...and not just because I'm a coffeeholic!


Her gift tags are thoughtfully created as well, using lovely embossed papers and flowers embellished with dazzling brads. Each tag is as special as the gift with which they are given. These tags above are terrific for wedding or baby shower gifts! My favorite is the one at the top with the happy little green flower.
Peggy also has a really cute card for a belated birthday(so if anyone forgot to send me a card last week, now is your chance)...ehem.
The endless array of special occasions combined with a boundless imagination makes Beautiful Greetings a great destination for all your card giving needs. Stock up on her "Choose your own" set of four cards. Or grab a set of 3 mini cards to have on hand for last minute gifts. (Didn't your husband just get a last minute dinner invite from his boss? He really should bring a little something along with one of Peggy's gift tags attached.)
It's the thought that counts! And nothing looks more thoughtful than a handmade gift and gift card. Please check out both Little Brown Bird and Beautiful Greetings today!

A note about buying handmade:
Buying handmade artwork of any kind is special. Not just because you may have the only piece like it in existence, but because your money goes directly to the artist. The purchase you make directly impacts the life of that artist, or even her/his family. Many independent artists rely solely on the income they gain from selling their work. I am very conscious of this, especially in the current U.S. economic environment. The financial benefit an artist receives by selling their work directly to the buyer is indispensable. Your purchase allows them to continue their passion while providing you with exciting and creative original works of art.
*Your purchase from Peggy's shop helps to support her three young children while pursuing a teaching degree in Elementary Education.
**Your purchase from Little Brown Bird goes directly into my gas-guzzling car, feeds an incredibly precocious, yet much appreciated, extremely alert and protective miniature pinscher guard dog(thanks Zuzu), and helps to sustain my personal addiction to pretty things! Whatever is left is set aside for retirement because, who are we kidding, social security is a joke.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

TasteSpotting- It's Back!!!!!!

Wake up, wake up, wake up!!! All of you foodies who have had no reason toget out of bed in the morning...all you culinary addicts scrounging for a fix...all desperate food porn seekers flipping the tv remote to watch nothing but the food commercials... turn off the gas and get your heads out of your ovens. Today is a new day and life is good! Make that, LIFE IS DELICIOUS!

What a great way to wake up in the morning! To flip open the notebook and log onto my blog, and on a whim (and out of habit) click onto the link for TasteSpotting just to see what would happen. I couldn't believe my eyes!

TasteSpotting has returned! The delectable web site has found a new home and has picked up right where it left off. I can't wait to jump back in and roll around in that yummy goodness! In the past week, TasteSpotting has had something cooking. Another note on the cyber-fridge, the sound of pots and pans clanking behind the computer screen...hmm, I wondered why I smelled paprika coming from my hard drive.

The absence of Tastespotting since friday the 13th of June has been upsetting, to say the least. But if there was one savory thing to come from it, it would be the emergence of FoodGawker. Thanks to Chuck at SundayNightDinner, epicurians everywhere have had a safe haven to weather out the storm. FoodGawker has had a great start and seems to be taking off. I hope it stays around. Like digging a fork into a rich, gooey double chocolate cake (the breakfast of champions), FoodGawker and TasteSpotting together is double the fun. What could possibly be wrong with that?!

Grab a Bloody Mary to nurse those hangovers. It's time to get cooking!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What do my blog and my kitchen cabinets have in common?

They are both too freaking small! It seems that I have created a little more tasty goodness than I know what to do with. If you haven't noticed, the yummy postings about cupcakes and kimchi have started taking over my blog. I have created another blog site for food and "whine" at All Up In My Kitchen.


I have already transferred some of my latest food posts to the new blog. I will have links to all my favorite culinary websites, recipes, tips, and progress on my herb garden (which I have just transferred to pots this morning!) I'm also thinking of doing something like the wine of the month, or maybe cookie, or cupcake...I'm not quite sure yet. But there will definately be lots of fun articles because if you ever saw me in the kitchen, you'd laugh your ass off!

New ideas are always coming. As the blog develops it will have more clearly defined sections. I'm sorting through all my favorite links and recipes now. Maybe I should also include work-out tips, since I have a feeling, this is going to be a fattening undertaking!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Food Gawker-A New Tasty Treat!

After a sad day of learning about the end of Tastespotting.com, A shining beacon of hope has come to the rescue. The cyber-refrigerator door has opened and the little light has come on to reveal a new site hoping to pick up where Tastespotting left off.

FoodGawker.com has taken the reigns to lead lovers of "food porn" to the promised land. Bloggers are already posting and it seems to be off to a great start. I for one will be checking it out as soon as I'm done writing this post.

I hear there are other sites starting to pop up hoping to create something as wonderful as Tastespotting. I will hunt them down and add links to my column on the left as I find them.

Food is one of the essentials of life, and so too is food blogging! Thank you Chuck from Sunday Night Dinner for getting Food Gawker up and running so quickly. You don't know how many meals you have saved!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

No Tastespotting! I'm sad, cold, alone...and hungry!!!

Just when I thought I had finally gotten through a Friday the 13th unscathed, I was slammed in the face with a Post-it note.

Where, oh where has my tastespotting.com gone?!



To quote one of my favorite shows, "Sex and the City"..."He broke up with you in a Post-It note?!"

As you can see from the note left on the cyber-refrigerator that used to be Tastespotting.com, the web site beloved by foodies all over the world is no more. It's heart-breaking. I feel like I have just lost my best friend. I have been punched in my empty, grumbling stomach.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have "relished" (sorry, had to do it) this web site before, Tastespotting was kind of like an on-line recipe box of sorts. Bloggers worldwide posted their best recipes, advice on food and wine, and other food related articles. Pages and pages (somewhere around 350 pages on 6-12-08) of yummy thumbnail pictures were linked to blogs containing each recipe or article, and even better, from there, hundreds, if not thousands of other recipes. The trail of food related blogs was endless. Pure heaven for anyone who enjoys cooking(or eating!). It was a gateway to thousands of educational sources that could have rivaled any culinary academy.

I had found this web site about a year ago and have enjoyed and been inspired by many of the recipes and articles that were posted. I have a link in the left column on this blog to Tastespotting in order to share what was a wonderful source of culinary inspiration. I had even been hoping to one day post some of my own recipes.

So far, I have not found the true reason for the end of Tastespotting.com. And I refuse to believe it is really gone forever. Whatever the legal complications are, I'm hoping it can be sorted out and Tastespotting will one day return. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that there may have been some kind of copyright issue involved. Although most of the recipes and articles were original and posted by the authors themselves, I do remember seeing a few blog posts that spoke about and contained pictures from published works. This may be the sticking point. If so, it may be possible to just remove those posts and keep a tighter control on future posts to make sure they are in compliance with current copyright laws.

Whatever the issue, I do hope to see Tastespotting.com return soon! I will leave the link on my blog just in case. *fingers crossed*

I am not alone in my misery. Foodies everywhere are left confused and yearning. For further thoughts on the disappearance of Tastespotting.com, check out the comments on Chowhound.com . If anyone can shed some light on this, feel free to leave a comment here as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lil' baby herbs...koochie koo!

So far my little 4th grade science experiment seems to be working. Just a few days after beginning my herb garden, little sprouts have begun to form!
The basil seeds are sprouting. Mmmmm, I can taste the pesto already!

This tarragon will go marvelously with a nice juicy steak...in about a month or so.

I'm so excited. The other seeds have not sprouted yet but a few of them look almost ready. I think the coriander will be the next to start showing signs of life and it will be on its way to becoming cilantro. Ooh, I have so many recipes that call for cilantro, it bugs me that I still have to buy it while I wait. Patience, patience...

Monday, June 9, 2008

My obsession!!!!

I finally did it! After months of working out and watching every tiny calorie to get in shape for summer, I have finally given in to the one nagging craving that has haunted me through every weigh-in. I have endured countless disgusted looks from restaurant servers when I asked if the chef could make my plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli without oil or butter. I have suffered endless bruises from falling off my excercise "Bean" while doing crunches. I have knocked the lamp off the bedroom dresser and kicked the dog (sorry, Zuzu) twice while Tae-bo'ing. And it has paid off, having lost nearly 40lbs. since September. Back to my fighting weight of 121lbs., all I have to do is wait for summer to get here.

Of course, here in the midwest, the unofficial start to summer happened on Memorial Day. When WAS that again? Mother nature seems to have forgotten the traditional start to the sun, fun, and beach season. Well, WTF?! I busted my @$$ for rain every freakin' day? Tornado warnings, flash floods, hail! Ya, I said HAIL! You know, that stuff that is actually chunks of ICE falling from the sky! In JUNE!

That does it. No more Ms. Nice Girl. I promised my self that when I reached my goal weight and summer arrived, I was going to give in to my obsession. I have been craving a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing. Just a cupcake. Not a big deal. What harm could that be?

The Mega Cupcake! Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Monster Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing!

Mmmmmmm, yummy goodness. What? If I'm going to have to wait for Mother Nature to get her act together, I might as well take full advantage of the situation. (For size reference: The dish used in the photo is my grandmother's fine china serving charger.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

In the kitchen with Mary...

I have decided to go ahead with making my cookbook. Everytime I cook something really yummy I think, "Why don't I write this down and take a picture of it?" I have so many ideas for recipes. Making a cook book might give me the reason to go ahead and test some new things. And I'll be photographing the ones that turn out "pretty" so I can remember what they are supposed to look like because I just hate cook books without pictures! I never know if I've made it right or how it should be plated.

mmm...doesn't it just make you drool?

This first recipe that is going into the book is a smoked turkey sausage served with spaghetti squash, into which, I mixed 3 different cheeses. I cleverly named it...wait for the drum-roll...

Smoked Turkey Sausage with 3-Cheese Spaghetti Squash
I know, shocking! I'm so creative sometimes. I'd like to think I use so much of my creativity in my cooking that there's nothing left for the name. (wink) Whatever, I'm just a dork.

Oh ya, I'm not a vegan!

I will be refining the recipe a little before I set the final version in stone. I used red onion, which I usually don't cook because I prefer the bite of it when it's raw. But I had a little red onion left over in the fridge that I wanted to use before it went bad (naughty onion) so I mixed it with a little spanish onion, also a left-over. I really want the sausage to stand out though so I think I might try this with shallots next time. According to Mario (Iron Chef Mario Batali), shallots have a more subtle flavor. I don't remember a specific time that I have cooked with shallots before but I'm sure I have. And I like the slight pinkish color of shallots too. I want this dish to be colorful. I thought of adding roasted red pepper or sundried tomatoes to the mix but I thought the flavors would get too much in the way of the sausage, and certainly the spaghetti squash, for this one.

Spaghetti squash has such a lightness about it that it is easily overwhelmed by other stronger flavors. For that reason, I am also going to cut down on the amount of cheese. Oh, there will still be three cheeses, just not as much. I didn't use much cheese to begin with. But I also want to make this a healthy dish. I chose cheeses that pack a lot of flavor in them so I don't have to use so much to get the point across. You're dying to know what they are, aren't you? Fine, whatever. I used a little fresh goat cheese to create a nice creamy sauce. I also love, love, love asiago so I had to throw that in there. The last one was one that I haven't cooked with before. I found that aged provolone, which I don't like in my favorite tomato and provalone sandwhich (I prefer the lighter taste of regular provalone for that), is quite nice when melted. The aged provalone has a good bite to it like parmesan but...different. The asiago and aged provalone do get a little oily (which doesn't really jive with the whole "healthy" thing) when melted but I think that problem will be solved once I reduce the amounts used.

Isn't it pretty?

The result of this first try was incredibly "nummers"! The kitchen smelled sooooo good and it looked good enough to, well, eat. Don't laugh, you haven't heard about all my culinary disasters. That's going to be a whole other book. And my neighbors must think I'm crazy, out on the patio taking "beauty shots" of my food before I eat it! Whatever, it's my world, everyone else is just scenery. LOL!

Spice cabinet woes!


Spice cabinet woes!
Originally uploaded by littlebrownbird

A close up of the scene of the crime! I spend most of my "cooking" time looking for the spice or dried herb that I need. And when I open the cabinet, tiny bottles go flying into my sauce pans! I don't exactly have a user-friendly kitchen.

My tiny spice cabinet.


My tiny spice cabinet.
Originally uploaded by littlebrownbird

I'm hoping to figure out a way to organize this mess. I have the tiniest kitchen and only this tiny cabinet to store all my spices. As you can see, I use A LOT of spices when I cook. Very few of these go unused.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My New Herb Garden


I love cooking with fresh herbs. But I hate buying them at the grocery store. I mean, are they kidding charging $3.89 for a tiny package of fresh basil?! Yowza! Times are tough. $3.89 is ALMOST a gallon of gas these days. (And don't get me started on that!) So, it's time to cut back somewhere.

I will be planting my own herb garden in a couple of big pots on my patio since my townhome association doesn't allow such planting in the yard.

Who knew 4th grade was important?

As best that I can remember from left to right, starting at the top: Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Cilantro/Coriander, Basil, Tarragon, Dill.

I'm starting my herb garden the way I learned in 4th grade. Lay the seeds out on a wet paper towel and cover. They should start sprouting in a few days.

Coriander is the seed form of Cilantro.

Basil seeds.

These are so cool! Just about 2 minutes under the wet paper towel and already they begin to transform. Don't these kind of look like caviar at this stage?

I do admit to having a brown thumb when it comes to gardening so this might be a bit of an adventure at best. At worst, I'll be starting this over again next week. I can't wait to start cooking with these though. They say food tastes better when you make it yourself. I'm hoping the same is true when you grow your own herbs.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Is that a sale in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Actually, it's both! Little Brown Bird is having a sale on Etsy.


************SALE TODAY!!!************
**10% off all Fine Silver
**BOGO!- Buy one Chiyogami or Deco paper decoupage pendant or pendant and tin set, get one of equal or lesser vale for FREE!
**30% off all other bracelets,earrings,necklaces, or hair accessories!
**SPECIAL SHIPPING BONUS-
Buy three or more items and get free shipping!

YOU MUST WAIT FOR ME TO SEND YOU A REVISED INVOICE BEFORE COMPLETING PAYMENT!
(All sales final. Sale prices not applicable to custom orders.)************************************

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No Excuses (part 2) Setting Goals- Defining a Specific Target

Often times we think of our on line business as an extension of our favorite hobby. This is disastrous thinking if we intend on making that business a success. Our hobbies are what we use to escape the ugliness of “work”, but once we cross that line from creating for enjoyment to creating for income, we have to change our way of thinking. That’s not to say that you have to give up your hobby. Just know that the things you create but don’t intend to sell are your hobby items now. Those items that are created to sell or use as promotional tools are your business.

Ok, so having established which are your hobby items and which are your business, ask yourself this question: Is my business as successful as it could be? I’ll bet each one of you reading this heard a resounding “NO!” in your head. I’ll even bet some of you said it out loud. Many of us start each year, month, week, or whatever telling ourselves that some day we’ll sell more…some day we’ll be so successful that we won’t know what to do with ourselves. Well…how, my dear, do you plan on doing that? You can’t get to Disney World without a plan. And once you get there, you’d better have a map and be prepared to wait in line…unless… you know exactly where you want to go. Wandering aimlessly around the internet, listing items wildly on every site you find is about as effective as if you were at Disney World, standing in every line for every ride, when all you really want to do is get to Cinderella’s Castle. Have you figured out the analogy yet? The castle is your goal. And it can represent anything, you just have to define it. Once you do that, your odds of meeting that goal will be much better.

So what now? We need to identify our individual goals. No wait, screw that, it sounds too much like homework. Just answer this question: What is it that you want to accomplish with regard to your business? Do you even want to be in business? If your answer to the second question is “No, this is just a hobby.” then stop here. Take your items off-line and stop cluttering up the web with mindless junk. In this scenario, on the road to success, you are either a speeding two-ton truck or you are road kill, creating speed bumps for the rest of us. Now, if the answer to the first question is “Total World Domination”…ok, well, you’re still dreaming, but at least you’re headed in the right direction.

Why don’t we start with something a little more attainable like, “I would like to double my sales from last year.” Or, if you don’t really have any sales to speak of from last year, pick a number. It could be 50 sales, 100 sales, or a dollar amount like $500, $1000, $5000. Whatever the number, be realistic. That does not mean pick a low number. It is perfectly realistic to pick any one of the numbers I mentioned, even if it’s at the high end. Other sellers have done it, why can’t we? I’m going to set my goal at doubling my current sales. Now, that isn’t random but I have to state that clearly in order to have a set number in mind. As of my one year anniversary on Etsy, I had made 49 sales in my on-line shop. To keep it simple, I’ll round that up to 50. According to my goal for this year, I should make 100 additional sales by March 27 next year. I have picked a particular number, a clear target to reach. I am now 5 weeks into my second year on Etsy and already, I have 16 sales in my jewelry shop. That’s 1/3 of my total sales from my first year, made in just over a month. Not a bad start.

The idea is to keep that going. We are headed into summer in the US which is notoriously slower in retail, generally speaking. It is, however, a busier time for those who choose to sell their handmade items at art and craft fairs. I cringe at the thought! Sitting behind a table in the hot summer months hawking my jewelry is not my idea of fun in the least. But it is definitely one way to boost sales, big time! It is also difficult for anyone in my position who works a 40 hour a week job and needs to be at work on the weekends. (Did I tell you I love retail?) That makes it very difficult for me to sell at art fairs and festivals since I don’t want my jewelry business to disrupt my full time job if I can help it. Another option for me might be to do house parties during the week. A few hours selling at private parties has often put an extra $700 or so in my pocket. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

So, if you haven’t done it yet, a very important goal for this coming summer should be to book a few festivals or parties to keep the cash flow a little steady. If you’re lucky and have the time and energy to devote to one of these a week or every two weeks, you should be sitting pretty well before the holiday shopping season in the fall. Don’t forget to plan your inventory accordingly! Check out your local and state government web pages to find festivals in your area. In Illinois, check out the Illinois Arts Council for a yearly schedule of all the arts and craft fairs in the state. They put out a book each year with a list of all the festivals and art fairs, dates, entry fees, contact information, and deadlines. If you’re not in Illinois, try checking out a great web site called Eventlister.com to find events in your area. Many of these fairs have entry deadlines way in advance of the actual fair date, so now is a good time to plan for next year as well.

Get your goals in order and stick with the plan. A clearly defined target is by far the best motivator!

**************************************
Mary Ryan is not an expert in Marketing and Promoting, just a keen observer in the retail business of which she has been cursed to work in for most of her adult life. She is an Interior Design Consultant and Jewelry Designer and sells her jewelry online in several venues (some still under construction) including
http://littlebrownbird.etsy.com/
http://littlebrownbird.silkfair.com/
http://littlebrownbird.icraft.ca/
Her blog can be read at http://thelittlebrownbird.blogspot.com/

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No-Excuses!

(This article was originally published on the Jewelry on Etsy Team Blog. Follow-up articles will be posted on both blog sites.)

A multi-part series on marketing, promoting for your online shop.

As a jewelry designer, I always wish I had more time to play around with my shiny beads and findings, creating new little pretties. But as a business woman, I get very frustrated when those same little pretties sit in my on-line shop too long. I would love the day when I can say that I am a full time jewelry designer. But if my pieces don’t sell, that will never be a reality.

I just started selling on-line in March of 2007 on Etsy. And now, at my one year anniversary of opening my Etsy shop, I am taking a look at some much needed changes for my business. Last year, my biggest goal was to get off my butt and get my on-line shop open. I had wasted so much time in previous years wishing and dreaming, and trying to build my own web site with absolutely no clue what I was doing. When I came upon Etsy, it was like a godsend! A ready-made shop to which I only needed to add my jewelry. It was such a no-brainer for someone like me in order to get up and running as quickly as possible. Mission accomplished for 2007! I was so proud of myself.

By the end of July, I was beating my head against the wall with very little sales and no clue how to increase them. I had been reading the Etsy forums religiously and trying to gather all the information I could on how to promote my shop. Here’s what I learned:

*Post in the Forums often to get your shop noticed
*Join the chat rooms to get your shop noticed
*List often to get your shop noticed
*Add a funny comment to the treasuries to get your shop noticed

Guess what I noticed…none of these things worked. I was spending lots of time doing nothing but watching my little avatar on the screen and checking my shop for hearts and views and no sales. Why didn’t I have any sales? I even read those forum threads entitled “Why Don’t I Have Any Sales?” hoping to get some answers. The more I read, the more depressed I got. Everyone sounded like me. At least I wasn’t alone in my misery. I felt like one of those blind mice, walking into walls and never getting anywhere. I marveled at sellers who seemed to have the magic touch. One such seller has been on Etsy only 3 months longer than I have, yet her sales in her jewelry shop alone are pushing 1000. I still would like to know all her secrets but I am starting to realize, they aren’t secrets at all, just good business sense.

But try teaching business to an artist! Having just basic business classes in school, from which I learned nearly nothing, I am left to either wing it or learn from the masters. I started looking at what the top sellers were doing. Not so much what they were selling as HOW they were selling. And I began to make a list that answered the most often asked question, “WHY DON’T I HAVE ANY SALES?!” This time, instead of retreating to the old forum threads, I took a look at my own shop. Here’s what learned this time around:

*Your pictures suck!
*Your one sucky picture in each listing is the only picture in the listing
*Your descriptions suck!
*You don’t have sizes listed
*You don’t ship internationally
*Your domestic shipping charges are outrageous
*You don’t have any tags or have only a few tags in each of your listings
*Oh yah, and your tags suck too!
*You believe that the tips you learned from that famous forum thread actually work
*You believe that it just takes time
*You believe that if serious buyers want your items they will come and find you
*You think it’s cute or a signature trademark to have a family photo or weird picture as your avatar
*Your location is a web address, or worse, not even listed

Well, it’s time to wake up from La La Land, sweetheart, and realize that you are running a business! In the following posts I will attempt to explain away some of the mystery of why sales just aren’t happening.

Here are the things we will be focusing on to help us hit our target.

1. Setting goals (Define a specific target to aim for)
2. Your product (Step up your game)
3. Your pricing (Get what you are worth)
4. Descriptions (Really? Are you kidding?)
5. Photos (What the heck is that? Vs. Ooh! What’s that?!)
6. Merchandising (Dressing your best)
7. Marketing (Are you where you need to be?)
8. Promoting (Passive vs. aggressive)

Stay tuned for the first step in our 8-step rehab program…Setting Goals.

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Mary Ryan is not an expert in Marketing and Promoting, just a keen observer in the retail business of which she has been cursed to work in for most of her adult life. She is an Interior Design Consultant and Jewelry Designer and sells her jewelry online in several venues (some still under construction) including

Etsy http://littlebrownbird.etsy.com/
Silkfair http://littlebrownbird.silkfair.com/
iCraft http://icraft.ca/littlebrownbird

Her blog can be read at http://thelittlebrownbird.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 10, 2008

WOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!! Front Page!


Wow! For the second time in my (Etsy)life one of my items made it to the front page! I had a feeling when I saw the awesome treasury this morning put together by bittystar that included my Lemon Poppy Carved Shell Necklace. Here it is!


HA! Well, you get the idea. Unfortunately I can't seem to get the screen shot to show it right. But if you squint real hard at the upper left corner of the group of "pictures", you will see the Lemon Poppy necklace that I blogged about below in today's earlier post. It is available now in my shop on Etsy. (See the link below)

Expanding My Reach


Ok, so I've been wanting to post a new series of articles about promoting and marketing my shop. The first of the articles is posted, but not here. It's on the Jewelry on Etsy Team blog. I thought my fellow team members could benefit from my advice and even give me additional advice in my quest for total world domination!

Early Morning Earrings



And I just want to post a few new items of mine here because I think the page needs a little spring color! Enjoy
Citurs Splash Carved Shell Necklace

These can all be found in my shop on Etsy. If they aren't listed yet, they will be very soon!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

SALE!

Now until April 6,2008 LittleBrown Bird will be offering
**20% off**
any item in the shop!
The sale is good on already reduced items in the sale section, as well as all fine silver pieces, all decoupage pendants (even the Chiyogami pendants), and personalized items already listed.
This is the first time I've done a discount like this and the only sale that is not a one-day sale.
After the sale, some items may no longer be available!
I will be revamping the shop took have much different look. Unfortunately, this means that some items just will not fit in with the new style. See the shop announcement for important details!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Here's What I Found In The Hunt

The Jewelry on Etsy Team Treasure Hunt is over and I have been going over some stats. I kept track of my sales, hearts, views, and other little tid-bits of info from when the hunt began through to the end. Sorry for the all the boring stats. These are all personal stats pertaining to just my shop, because I wasn't about to try to keep track of everyone! The conclusions and personal observations toward the end of this post are what I think are really interesting. Although there is still some time left for the winners to go back and purchase more items for the shopping spree, here is what I found so far:



Results from 3-14-08 Treasure Hunt

(12:00pm 3-14-08 through 5:00pm 3-15-08)
73 items in shop
Hunt item is 5th item in shop, Page 1
Total # treasuries during the hunt 7

**2 hour down time during hunt when there was a dropped link



Total New Views 97 (Fri.)/207 (Sat.)=304
Pg. 1- 88 views(Fri.)/116 views(Sat.)=204 views on page 1
*Fri.-3 items in 5 treasuries, hunt item
*Sat.-2 items in 2 treasuries

Pg. 2- 4 views(Fri)/ 50 views(Sat.)=54 views on page 2
*Fri.-1 item in treasury, 0 views on treasury item
*Sat. 1 item in treasury, 0 views on treasury item

Pg. 3- 1 view(Fri)/21 views (Sat)=22 views on page 3
Pg. 4- 4 views(Fri)/20 views(Sat)= 24 views on page 4



Total New Views Past Hunt Item 24 (Fri)/ 143(Sat)= 167 views



Item With Most Views
Cherry Bombs Earrings (Hunt item)44(Fri)/30(Sat)=74 views

Item With 2nd Most Views
Hand Prints Earrings (in 2 treasuries)14(Fri)/15(Sat)=29 views

Item with 3rd Most Views
Mod-Flower Decoupage Pendant (1st item in shop)7(Fri)/9(Sat)=16 views



Total # of Items with 2 or 0 views 54
Items listed are to illustrate where the views dropped off
Item #5 (Hunt item)
Item #6 (in 2 treasuries)
Item #7 (1 view prior to down time*)
Item #8 (1 view prior to down time*)

Zero views prior to down time* begin at Item # 9, out of 73 items in shop!



*2 hour down time when there was a dropped link in the hunt beginning at my shop. I believe the only reason these items were viewed at all is because someone was trying to track down the missing link. Prior to the down time these same items had 0 views.


Total New Item Hearts 3 hearts(of these, 2 items in 2 treasuries, all items on pg. 1)
1 Heart Hand Prints Fine Silver Earrings (in 2 treasuries, shop pg. 1)
1 Heart Cherry Blossom Fine Silver Ring (in 2 treasuries, shop pg. 1)
1 Heart Lullaby Dolly Decoupage Pendant Necklace (shop pg. 1)


Total New Shop Hearts 2(Fri)/2(Sat)=4 hearts

Total New Sales during hunt 0
Total New Sales from hunt winners 1



Other Shop Totals Overall
Item With Most Hearts 12 Cherry Blossom Fine Silver Ring (in 2 treasuries, shop pg. 1)

Item With 2nd Most Hearts
6 Hand Prints Fine Silver Earrings (in 2 treasuries, shop pg. 1)
6 Leila Sterling Silver Bracelet* (relisted once, shop pg. 2)
6 Ariel Dichroic Glass Bracelet* (relisted once, shop pg. 3)
(*No hearts on these items since 2-19-08, Ariel in treasury at that time)



Total Items With No Hearts At All 27
Pg. 1- 10 items
Pg. 2- 8 items(of these 1 item in treasury)
Pg. 3- 6 items
Pg. 4- 3 items
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Conclusion 1: Treasure Hunt did not appear to be as effective as it could have been at getting people to look through the shops (at least my shop).


Possible Reasons For Conclusion 1: Hunt item was item #5 in the shop. Of the 73 items in the shop, more than 1/2 the total new views were for only items 1-5*, indicating that people stopped looking through the shop as soon as they found the link to the next shop.

*See Above (Total # of Items With 2 or 0 Views)


Conclusion 2: Disproportionate number of views for hunt item compared to others, (More than 2x the number of the second most viewed item. Also, 2nd most viewed item was in 2 treasuries.) indicating that people jumped directly to the hunt item from the clue.


Possible Reasons For Conclusion 2: Hunt clue was too easily solved?


Possible solutions or improvements to be made for next time:
~More exposure to additional items may have been gained if the hunt item had not sold and needed to be relisted prior to the hunt.



~Should have had the sold hunt item changed to another item further into the shop instead of relisting, putting it at the front of the shop.



~The clues were cute, clever, and well done and made the hunt alot of fun for the players. But, it might have been better if the clue did not pertain to the item’s name or physical appearance of item. This way, players would have to actually view and read the descriptions of several items in the shop before finding the clue and continuing on. Possibly future clues should include trivia questions about the item's written description, size, or secondary pictures so that players cannot jump directly to that item, skipping past all others in the shop. I did not have time to go through the entire hunt from start to finish, so I don't really know about all the clues other than that in my own shop.

~I did like the clues for the instant prizes. I thought they were just tricky enough to be challenging but not frustrating. And I liked how it got people to look at shop profiles as well.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Personal Observations



All in all, I think the hunt did gain some exposure for the shops involved. It actually gained the most exposure for the hunters that joined in the thread, as many JETs went to check out their shops as well. (Note to self: Jump in on other teams contests and post to their contest threads!) I cannot say that others who did not complete the hunt did not look at some of the shops involved. But one thing is for sure, aside from looking for the missing link, VERY little attention was given to items further into the shop than the hunt item itself, and almost no attention at all given to items on the 3rd and 4th pages of the shop. Overall, these pages get very little action anyway. It may be wiser to trim back the number of items in the shop and list only 2 pages worth. I will have to go back and look now at individual items and if their views are significantly lower, maybe put them in edit mode until some other items sell, or let them expire and do not renew unless the shop is under 2 pages.