It’s amazing how quickly the mania starts

I really don’t want this to become a wedding blog, but the chances of me not mentioning the zillion details that I’m sure will go into planning my wedding are pretty much nil. Hope that’s OK.

Today a friend delivered some magazines and these adorable planning folders, which I intend to use. I love cute organization products!

Do tell me if you know of great Web sites, blogs, magazines, etc. where I can find ideas. I am very much still in the idea phase.

North Shore weekend

It was pretty snowy along the shores of Lake Superior last weekend.

Cold, too. Can you see that? It says something like -12.

But we braved it for a weekend away. I love going there in winter, when the tourists are long gone and we can drive far out of cell phone range to Mike’s parents’ cabin near Grand Marais, Minnesota.

This time we weren’t in a hurry. We stopped a lot. Discovered an incredibly good restaurant near Duluth called the New Scenic Cafe, where I had butternut squash stuffed ravioli in a divine cream sauce with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pecans and a hard salty cheese shaved on top. No picture of that, unfortunately.

We also stopped at our usual scenic overlook, where the ice chunks crash up against the shore. (I heard people surf in this lake. Why??)

And at the Split Rock lighthouse, just before sunset.

We woke up with the sun, much earlier than we usually do on a weekend. This is what you call nature TV.

We snowshoe-ed, Mike taught me how to build a fire (the proper Eagle Scout way), and then cozied up with a few lanterns for the evening.

I can’t tell you how essential it is for me to truly get away sometimes. You need the perspective. When all you have is a wind-up radio playing WTIP, the greatest public radio station on earth, you soon forget all your woes. You laugh at the deadpan host saying how he’s wired from drinking too much coffee and read the local news briefs in the paper (“Woman fell through the ice at Devil’s Track River. She refused treatment.”) You wish you could stay, but miss hot showers too much.

So we did all there was to do. We played marathon rounds of Yahtzee. Then we played Scrabble. Mike beat me, of course.

And then, this.

(!!!)

I’d say it was a good weekend. About the best you could have.

Advice for new Etsy sellers

If you’re thinking about opening an Etsy shop, first of all yay! Second of all, it is easy, but not that easy. I thought it might be helpful to others to read some of the things I’ve learned from turning my hobbies into a business.

1. Make sure your user name is the name you want for your shop. Turns out you can’t change it! I accidentally picked the username I use for everything else, and ended up having to start over.

2. Do a LOT of homework. Talk to other people who’ve opened shops about how they handle things like pricing items and shipping. Spend a few hours on the discussion boards reading FAQs related to what you will sell. Look at other sellers’ shops and see how they price things and what their photos look like. Are there already 50 people selling the exact same thing? Maybe you should tweak your product a little. For me, I spent a lot of time making candles I would never sell, just so I could test the scents, the colors, the containers, the burn times. I wish I’d sent more test packages so I’d know how much shipping cost, and what kind of packing materials were best. You don’t want to find out that stuff the hard way.

3. Order free shipping supplies from USPS.gov. That’s right, if you get USPS priority mail boxes, they’re free! Of course, then you have to use priority mail, but that’s what I was going to use anyway. I tend to use smaller boxes I have around the house (to keep with my reused theme) or bubble mailers for less delicate items. For that kind of thing, buy in bulk when you can.

4. Be a detailed bookkeeper. First, know that you need to pay sales tax on items purchased in your state (at least that’s the case in Iowa, check with your state). For this you’ll need a sales tax permit, and again, I can only speak for Iowa, but that was just one easy form to fill out and mail in. Second, you will need to pay a listing fee for each item, plus a percentage of the item sold. And if you are using PayPal (which you should), you’ll have to pay a fee for each PayPal transaction. That’s a lot of fees! If your business becomes profitable, you will also have to pay taxes on the income. But ha, I’m a ways from that point. To make this easier, I have just made an Excel chart with all of these amounts, and I fill it in each time I make a sale. I separate out the wholesale orders because those don’t require me to pay sales tax.

5. Know when you are in over your head. I am not a designer by any stretch of the imagination. I know this. So I pay someone else to do it, and she does a beautiful job. It costs me money, but after the initial investment, it’s not much at all.

6. Above all else, take a good picture of your items. This will take some practice, probably, but it is sooo worth it. Following stuff I’d read on other blogs I created a light box so that I could shoot photos at night. Even with lamps, it created darkish, grainy photos. So I deleted them all, and took them again. I can’t speak for others, but for me, I just wait until I can shoot in natural light. It always creates beautiful, sharp photos with my Canon digital camera, and good photos sell items. I use the macro feature a lot to get really close to certain items, and try to include 3-5 photos for each.

7. If you sell clothing items, get a form. One tip I read from other sellers was to not put your items on a person for photos, in case people don’t like the idea of something being already worn. I got a styrofoam head for my hats, and I hope to get a full dress form for the scarves someday.

8. Get on Twitter! The very first item I ever sold came from someone who was following me on Twitter. And it was the most expensive thing in my shop. Since then I’ve sold other things just by mentioning new things I’ve added to the shop. This is also a great way to meet other people who craft and could possibly promote you.

Quinoa with Corn and Scallions

This recipe has been a long time coming. I’ve meant to experiment with cooking quinoa for ages because I’ve read and written articles about how great it is for you in terms of protein and fiber. For vegetarians, it’s even more important to eat foods like this because they make you feel satiated.

The only time I’ve ever really had it I didn’t like it at all. So I was a bit skeptical of cooking it. But I found this recipe in my new “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” cookbook, and it sounded delish so I made it tonight.

It was awesome! I had two helpings. After which I was so full I couldn’t dream of eating dessert. Yessss.

I did not have fresh corn and I tripled the cheese (come on, it was only 1/3 cup), but other than that I followed the recipe. Well, except I used no-chicken broth instead of the stock it called for. I am a hopeless recipe changer.

So here’s my version. Make it ASAP; it is lovely. And do throw in whatever other veggies you have around to make it even healthier.

Quinoa with Corn and Scallions

1 bag frozen corn
2 cups no-chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (very important!)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Nuke the corn. While that’s cooking heat the broth in a pot to boiling. Add the rinsed quinoa along with the salt and pepper, cover and reduce to medium, cooking for 15 minutes. After that remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan to medium and melt the butter. Add the chopped scallions and corn and saute for a few minutes, just until the corn starts to brown. Add the corn mixture to the quinoa, mix well and top with cheese.

Sadie says …

It’s much more fun to sleep on your sister.

But this couch cushion will do.

Waking up to snow – again

We’re running out of places to put the snow.

I just found these little reminders of plant life really pretty.

New fabrics

Oh the things I will make with these…

Wishes for 2009

I was struggling to verbalize what I wanted for this new year, and I think I finally figured it out. I want to do more things that I can get excited about. I have been so busy, or stressed, or depressed about the economy and how that affects things I want to do. I think I had really forgotten by the end of last year a lot of things I love. Or I had forgotten to enjoy them. And I am really starting to realize that when you set yourself up to be happy, when you open the door to things you’re passionate about, those things tend to come in.

My business just gets my heart racing. I have remember that in all of the accounting and marketing and designing logos and such there is this artistry that is the whole reason I got started. I need to go back and live in that excited idea stage again.

Travel. That is something that has always made me love this life a little harder. And now I’m all jazzed about my (minimal) photography skills and how I can capture those trips. Last year’s summer trip was amazing, but it was so packed and stressful, and I have gotten soooo uptight about flying, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have. Last night we sat down and planned out a year’s worth of possible trips, and it reminded me of those years, in college especially, when I couldn’t breathe unless I traveled constantly.

Money. Let’s face it, you cannot create happiness when you are weighed down by bad financial decisions and debt. I continue to make progress on that front, and I am tickled to think of where that will get me with future goals.

Love. It’s about the little things, isn’t it?

Exercise. I am tired, tired, tired of feeling like I can’t get in shape and stay there because of this or that time crunch, inconvenience, ailment. Brianne and I have joined the Y, which has multiple locations, free classes and a pool (!) so I can get my plumpy ass in shape. My next goal is to evaluate my schedule and find out how I can work out – yoga, nia, swimming, whatever without it causing me extreme stress, which always results in me giving up on it. Take this week, for example. When I realized what I had to do each day, there was almost no time whatsoever to actually get to the gym and work out. That’s not OK. I have to make some time. Finally conquering that would change so many things for me. I want to run the Bolder Boulder 10K in May. I want to do a day of Ragbrai with my dad. I want to pitch my size 12 jeans. Seriously.

Then there is the stuff, the literal stuff, that fills my life. I was shopping online for fabric the other day and just getting giddy over these adorable patterns. It made me think of my mom’s shopping rule: If you love it you have to buy it, and if you don’t, you can’t. I think I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to collect things I supposedly needed instead of things I wanted. If it makes you feel good, in a genuine way, not a temporary way, that’s a good thing, right?

So, in short, I think I just want to be happier, more enthused, more smiley. I do, as always, want to wear a smaller size, but I’m more concerned with finding a positive way to do that. Sanity first, elliptical second.

It won’t be easy. Bad news comes in overwhelming waves these days. But I think we’re doing okay. In fact I think it’s that feeling of almost being swallowed by it that makes you want to give it the finger and live happier despite it.