Friday, September 20, 2013

Moving over to wordpress

I'm turning over a new leaf, and I've started blogging here on my Wordpress site: Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Introducing my first made-to-order children's dress!

A while back, Kelly Polizzi saw my muñequita rusa apron dress and asked if she could photograph it for me. I was very excited because I had never had any of my items professionally modeled and photographed. So I chose the fabrics and made this beautiful made-to-order girls apron knot dress.  I was very happy with how the photos turned out, Kelly is an amazing photographer!
I call the dress munequita rusa, because it means "little russian doll" in Spanish, like the matryoshka dolls in the apron.
 I like how the dress is adjustable. It can be worn as a tunic or you can wear leggings and a long-sleeved shirt underneath in the winter.
 A playful dress for a little girl who loves to play!

 Great for a birthday, or a baby shower, available in size 3 months to 8 years.

If you want to order one, go here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

More possibilities for making a living

For those of you who follow along with my blog, you know it has been a time of major discernment. Something about moving and being a in a different place, gives a chance to reflect and see things from a different perspective. Having Leo at home to bounce ideas around helps.

 Leo started teaching iconography classes, and my business has been steadily growing. Still, it's not enough to pay rent (which we are fortunate to take a break from for now). I've gone through all sorts of ideas, but they are all sort of long-term, things you have to build up in order to have success. Writing, sewing, etc.

 It just so happens that a friend invited me to meet up with some other friends. I saw an old friend I had not seen since Susi's soccer practice ended. Through casual conversation, I found out that she was an in-home day care provider. Through talking with her, I realized that day-care providers have the same training as foster parents and get paid a lot more without all the extra stress and drama of foster care. I'm not sure how it is in other states, but here in CA, daycare providers get paid a lot. As in, if I did it full time I could afford to pay not just rent on a house here, but could also possibly keep our house from foreclosure (where it's heading right now, because the short sell just is not working, especially in a market that is really heating up), and pay the mortgage in between renting it out to people. Oh, and have extra money on the side, more than enough to pay the bills.

I've already been teaching Montessori for 2 years and even started a successful co-op. I could charge more for a Montessori daycare, especially if it was bilingual. The requirements for starting a day care are not difficult, in fact they are the same for foster parenting, which I have already done. So it's something I am definitely considering and will probably begin training for soon. It's a good way to provide playmates for Susi and be able to continue educating her through the Montessori method, which I just love.

In the long-term, I'm thinking of also beginning to sell fabric online. I'm not completely giving up my sewing, because I love it so much, but selling fabric has a lot more room for growth as a business than sewing does, and it takes up less time. As it grows, I would love to be able to hire people to do most of the work for me. The American dream :).

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Kale and Collard Cream Cheese Dip Recipe

Since being diagnosed with PCOS, I've been scouring pinterest, looking for new recipes to try. Leo created  this amazing dip, which is both healthy and delicious. And it has now been added to pinterest!

Here are the ingredients:

-A handful of kale and/or collard greens, stems removed
-8 ounces cream cheese
-A tablespoon of minced garlic
-A tablespoon of butter
-2-3 tablespoons of milk

Boil the kale and/or collard greens for about 30 seconds in boiling water.

Remove the greens from the pan and drain in a sieve.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a pan.

-Add the minced garlic to the butter and fry for about 1 minute.

 Add the greens to the pan and sautee for another minute or two.

Blend all of the ingredients, including the cream cheese and milk in a blender.

Grab your favorite veggies/chips, fruit or crackers and dip. Buen provecho!

P.S. Leo says kale is better tasting, but collard can work in a jiffy. I've tried them both ways, and they are both delicious, but kale is my favorite green for this dip by far.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Just in time for Father's Day - Men's Apron!

I got a head start on Father's day this year. With the move and everything else going on, I thought I would make these aprons early.

I love the charcoal grey color, gives the apron a nice, solid look. I made it in X-L because I think it fits most men. Plus the straps are adjustable, so they really do work for any height/weight. I make these aprons extra sturdy. They are made on a vintage WWII- era Singer sewing machine and they are made to last. I do double stitches around the pockets.  I use high-quality German thread. Leo has been using the apron for everything  - grilling, artwork, you name it.  He has found so many uses for the pockets. You can find the other one for sale at my shop here

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I am embracing the new domesticity, and what about you?

There is a new book out by  Emily Matchar called "Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity". Etsy's Communications Director, Juliet Gorman, wrote this response. I haven't read the book, but I may check it out from my library, if they ever carry it. I did, however, read an article by Matchar the describes  her views on moms staying at home and making money on the side. 

A lot of moms who have made the choice to stay-at-home and make money on the side are up in arms about it. As someone who has been on Etsy for about 2 years, one year of which my husband had a good paycheck and the other year of which our income dropped to nothing other than what we made with the work of our hands, I tend to be sympathetic both with Matchar and with Etsy. 

  Matchar is right that there is only so much product one person can make. There is only so much time a person can have to make something. I have felt that lack of time intensely after last year's surprise orders, when I would stay up until 2-3 in the morning sewing sometimes to get orders done and out in time for someone to give them as gifts at Christmastime. Or the time when someone ordered an apron for her son's costume party, without realizing it was a made-to-order apron. She needed it in the next 4 days. I could have given her a refund, that would have been the reasonable thing to do, but my heart melted when she told me how her 4-year old was going to be Skippy Jon Jones for Halloween and my apron reminded her of Skippy Jon Jones' mom. So I stayed up all night, so that her little boy could have those happy memories of him and his mom, pretending to be Skippy Jon Jones and his mom at a Halloween party.

Little did I know this could be a costume:
Made to Order Country Blue Denim Apron

She is right that many businesses on Etsy are not profitable. I think there are a variety of reasons for this. There is a not a lot of social and familial support for working at home. There are not a lot of resources for learning about the business side of running a shop. I had a lot to learn about marketing, pricing, accounting, etc. over the last two years, and I still think I am missing out on a lot of information that would be helpful. I can't think of anyone else around me who does anything similar, so I just don't have other friends or colleagues to bounce ideas off of or to get support, advice, or encouragement. I just saw an advertisement for a free 4-week class on creating small businesses for women in my church bulletin. I signed up right away and next week, I will be attending orientation. I noticed that many of the women who were involved are artists or own galleries, so that will be great to learn business from other creative people who have become successful themselves. I think that if more information and help was available in the local community, not as many people would give up, and it would not take as long to become successful, with the right tools.

Juliet Gorman made a good point that success is not quantifiable. Different businesses have different goals. I started off wanting to earn enough money to pay my student loans each month. Then when Leo quit his job to pursue his artistic career, I became even more ambitious. I wanted to make enough money to pay the rent. Some people on Etsy sell to raise money for various causes, like adopting a child overseas, raising money to help veterans, etc. Some want to see their creations in stores all over the world. Now that I'm working through PCOS-related issues and can no longer work long hours, I would like for what I make to be "extra" money to help pay for various things for Susi- especially being an only child, I know how much she benefits from classes where she can be around other children her age, and enrich her learning experiences. I would also love to buy more Montessori materials so I can continue to educate her with the Montessori method which Susi and I both enjoy. I would love for Leo's art to make enough to make ends meet, so that I don't have to worry whether we will have enough to pay the rent each year. I would love to see Leo's art in local and national galleries. I would love to be able to make enough to pay off all of our debts. These are our family's definitions of success, and our goals may change over time as we learn what is possible and what is not. 

The part where I disagree with Matchar is where she states "We need bigger changes for that: paid maternity leave, more flexible workplaces, more equally shared parenting." In other words, people who drop out of the work force are not doing enough to change the problems in the work force. In my opinion, what happens in the workforce is mainly the responsibility of the people who are still in the workforce, not those who leave it, or never enter it in the first place. By workforce I mean a place outside of the home where people work for other people beside themselves. Real change happens from within. 

  Some people do leave the workforce as a way of changing the workforce culture, by becoming one less number or statistic, so to speak. Others want to buy local, protest against sweatshop or forced labor in China and other communist countries, or defeat "the man." I didn't start out with any of those agendas. I just wanted to earn a little bit extra on the side. However, by becoming a seller, my attitude about buying changed. Over time I began to identify with other business owners. We are all just trying to make ends meet. When I did go shopping, I found that buying things cheaply was not as much of a priority as it was in the consumerist days, when we had more money to spend, ironically enough. Now when we have a lot less money I would rather forego something, even if it is cheap, if I know it is not good quality, or is made in a country where basic human rights for workers is not granted. I would rather just wait, save up the money and buy something that will last a long time, and will go toward supporting the local economy. I like knowing the names of the people who make my things and offer their services. I'm not against buying something from outside my country either, if I know it supports an individual, and is something that I would not be able to find locally. 

So maybe both Matchar and Gorman are right. Don't quit your day job, and think that everything will be the same when you start a handmade business. Hours are longer, pay can be lower (depending), and there is no "official" maternity leave (although all the vacation time you want with one click of a button).  Nevertheless, when you have the heart of a mother and an artist, you can't help but do the things you love. And if you earn a little money doing what you love, it might just be worth it...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Looking back over this very unusual year

So we are all moved into our "summer place" and loving it. I can't go into too much detail, since the place does belong to someone else, but suffice it to say that we feel very much at home and happy to be here. Our official move is Saturday, we just packed up the bare basics and my sewing stuff, so we could be living here, instead of our old place. We still have plenty of packing to do in the week ahead, we'll see how much we can get done before the big packing day.

Leo was going to set up my sewing table tonight, but both of us have aching arms and backs from too much lifting of heavy things, so that will have to wait until tomorrow. My first project will be making some extra-large men's aprons out of this wonderful dark charcoal colored denim I ordered online. I bought over 7 yards of it, so I'm looking forward to making lots of aprons, but I will start with two. One will be for Leo, as a Father's day present and also because he will be teaching 2 iconography classes this summer. The other one I will put up in my Etsy shop.

I am still going to be working on my writing as well. I think my topic is pretty broad, so I will be finding ways to narrow it down and focus on a main topic. I also have come up with a plan to do more "practice" technical writing on my other blog. Hopefully, with patience, practice, and hard work it will all come together. However, I know it takes a while to get a writing career going, so I'm not going to rush it or put all my eggs in one basket either.

I have a feeling that all of my experiences of this last year will really influence what I write about. When Leo and I left our career, house, friends, and family behind, we had no idea how it would all work out. The only thing we knew was that we wanted to rely completely on God's will.

It has been quite the adventure. We still don't know  how it is going to work out for 3 more years, much less in the next 2 months. There are many times when I stop and think, "Why did I agree to this, what was I thinking?" Then God pulls something else on me, some other solution or sometimes even problem that I would not have expected. There are times when I love the adventure and all the wonderful surprises along the way. Other times, I just want to be settled down, with a big house with a porch, a sewing studio, a second car and other pleasures of "normal" life.

In this year, I have grown a lot. I never expected my business to grow the way it did. Before we moved I had a few customers here and there, but I wasn't prepared for the massive tidal wave of people all over the world who would be clamoring for my aprons, veils, and Leo's artwork. Getting through last Christmas season was really hard, with lots of late nights sewing up aprons. I don't think I did anything different either, I was making the same aprons I had available before, but I felt like the apostles must have felt when they pulled in their nets and their fish were overflowing. I really attribute it to God's work, not so much mine.

  Still, it hasn't been enough to pay rent and all the other exorbitant costs of living in Southern California. Leo took a break from iconography, because very few people bought his prints. Then in the last couple months, after having given up on iconography, he suddenly experiences lots of orders for his artwork. He even sold his first original icon. He gets his first commission, a set of 6 wycinanki birds. A teaching job becomes available for iconography. He discovers he loves teaching, and people enjoy his class. So now he has two classes he will be teaching this summer. The money will help, but it is still not enough, just yet.

People ask how we will make it, what our plans are. The only sure plan we have is to rely on God and take things one step at a time, as he slowly and patiently reveals the way. Try it, and see where God might take you.