Wednesday, January 29, 2014

De-Clutter Project 2014 - Week 5

To see my Grow Your Blog post, click here.

I started with a bit of electronic clean up this week, deleting a bunch of old files from my computer that were obsolete and redundant. I also consolidated all the scraps of paper on my desk with my passwords for the various sites into one neat file, now hidden in one of my document folders. A small thing but long overdue.

I'm still fighting whatever bug this is going around and my energy level has been pretty low this week. The antibiotic set me in the right direction but I don't feel well yet, and seem to tire very easily. This cold, blustery weather is not helping, I'm sure.

Some progress had to be made on this de-clutter project though, so I decided to tackle my fabric stash. Not that I plan to get rid of much, if any, I just need to put it all in ONE place. So when I finally get to making the quilt tops I have been planning, I know where to go find all the fabric.

A lot of the bright, cheerful fabric was originally picked up to make dolls clothes with. Some of the other pieces were purchased from thrift stores or on clearance tables for significantly lower prices than 'new'. That is why you see such a mixed bag of colours.

The resulting quilt tops are going to be an interesting combination of all this material, plus a few other pieces that I'm sure I will find along the way. I seem to have outgrown my bin. I will have to get another one.

I'm looking for quick and easy block patterns, hopefully, using strip piecing methods. Maybe a scrappy rail fence design would work. There really isn't enough of any one fabric to do much else. Perhaps one like my friend, Yvonne, made. See below...

What area do you intend to tackle this week? What do you think you will find? More importantly, what will you do with it?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Components of a Successful Blog

To see my Grow Your Blog post, click here.

With a cup of tea in hand, I spent many hours yesterday visiting some of the blogs participating in the Grow Your Blog event. It was too blustery and cold to venture far from home anyway. I made some observations along the way and have composed a list of some of the components that I think are necessary for a successful blog. This is not a comprehensive list, just my personal reflections on the subject.

Let's first discuss FONTS. While some of those fancy fonts are quite artistic, many of them are extremely difficult to read, especially for anyone who is visually challenged. I understand that you want to express your individuality and creativity but, seriously, I simply navigate away from a blog that I have to strain my eyes to read.

With an aging population, and many of us baby boomers reading blogs, you want to make your blog as appealing as possible to keep people coming back. A lightly coloured font on a light or white background, white lettering on a dark background and type that is too small are major issues for me and most likely for others as well.

Keep your paragraphs short and sweet. Long rambling blocks of text that go on and on, seemingly forever, are difficult to follow along with. Set aside a lot of the flowery adjectives too. Minimize your words for a greater impact.

And don't forget photos, lots of photos! Human beings are visual creatures. We need the constant input to keep our interest. Using original photos you've taken yourself is the best option. You avoid any copyright issues that way. With a bit of practice and some rudimentary editing skills, you can create a visually pleasing blog experience for your readers.

Frequent posting is important. Twice a week would be the minimum I would recommend. I understand that 'life' happens sometimes but having weeks or months between posts is not good. You will quickly lose followers that way. Your posts don't have to be long, just interesting. You want your readers to look forward in anticipation to your next post.

Now comes my pet peeve for the day, people who sign up for a blog hop and do not follow through. I can't tell you how many blogs on the list I visited yesterday, that not only did not have a Grow Your Blog post up, but some had not posted ANYTHING for a long time. Why did they bother signing up in the first place? Kind of pointless, in my humble opinion.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Grow Your Blog Event

My name is Bonnie and I've been blogging since 2011. As well as promoting my small business, I like to share new product offerings,  business tips, tutorials, recipes, and some personal reflections too. I'm also on a mission to de-clutter and organize my house this year and I will be posting updates each week. I hope you can spend a bit of time getting to know me through this blog and you will see enough of interest that you will choose to follow it.

As a way to thank you for taking the time to drop in, I am giving away a surprise gift package, which will include one of my hand-made Tree of Life pendants. All you have to do for your chance to win is to comment on this Grow Your Blog post. The cut-off date to get your name in the draw is February 14th but you must comment on this post only. From all the entries, one winner will be randomly selected and announced here on February 15th.

You do not have to follow my blog to enter, but it sure would be nice if you did. *smile* Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.

Special Note: A big thank you goes out to Vicki Boster of 2 Bags Full for taking the time to organize this event. You can check out the blogs of all the other participants here.

Focus on Life: Week 4

Week 4: Word(s)
This week we will focus on words. What word speaks to you,
makes you laugh, makes you feel good about your being
and who you are in that moment. 

Last year, while perusing on Etsy, I came upon a PRAY pendant that caught my eye and touched something within me. It is made by Tracee Dock of The Classic Bead. This simple pendant was created with stoneware clay and has a very rustic, hand-made appearance. I had to have it!

I made myself a necklace with lampwork and bone beads on cotton cord, and I wear it often. Not so much as a reminder to pray but as an affirmation of prayer and how it enhances my life.

What exactly is prayer? It is our way of having a conversation with our higher power. It can be a plea for help or guidance, an expression of gratitude and a forum to acknowledge our failings in order to overcome them.

Here is the necklace that I made with the pendant. Rather an unusual design, I admit, but I was experimenting with a new technique. Successful in the eyes of everyone or not, I really enjoy wearing it.

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”
~~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet~~

To see the words of influence in the lives of the other participants, check out the links below.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

De-Clutter Project 2014 - Week 4

As I was frantically searching through my desk drawers looking for something this week, I came to realize that I need to de-clutter/organize my supplies.

So, I went to the dollar store and picked up some inexpensive plastic baskets to sort/store things in. It looks much better now, and I might actually be able to find what I'm looking for when I'm looking for it.

Into the trash went all the pens that no longer work, along with the dried up markers and glue sticks. The screw driver and pliers finally made it back into the tool box where they belong.

There were a lot of other items that were moved to their rightful places: knitting needles, doll accessories, buttons and yarn. How did all that stuff get into my desk drawers? Anyone care to guess?

I have to get into the habit of putting things away in the 'right' place, instead of just opening the closest drawer and shoving it in. That bad practice is what got me where I am now and necessitates the De-Clutter Project in the first place.

What area do you intend to tackle this week? What do you think you will find? More importantly, what will you do with it?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Focus on Life: Week 3

Week 3: Minimal Colour
This week introduce yourself to every one and capture
a black and white photo of you! 

Hi, my name is Bonnie. Let me start off by saying that I really dislike having my photo taken. I look like a washed out rat. And I usually appear crabby or have my mouth open or have a idiotic smirk on my face. I avoid cameras whenever I can.

This is a photo of my reflection in a mirror.

It's so true, isn't it, that we are very critical of ourselves and see flaws where others do not? Why can't we look in a mirror and see the beauty? All I notice is the black circles under my eyes and the age lines around them. And the hair...why can't I ever get it to look as nice as it does when I leave the salon?

Let's share, via comments, what you see when you look at the photos of the other participants. I bet the results will be much different than our own perspectives.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grow Your Blog Giveaway

The date is getting closer for the second annual Grow Your Blog event! I'm excited about being involved this year and, hopefully, boosting the number of followers of my blog. Participants last year reported a significant increase in their blog traffic and readership.

To celebrate this day, I am putting together a gift package that will include one of my hand-made Tree of Life pendants, plus a few other surprises. All you have to do for your chance to win is comment on my Grow Your Blog post on January 25th. The cut-off date to get your name in the draw is February 14th. From all the entries, one winner will be randomly selected and announced on February 15th.

So, stay tuned on January 25th for your chance to win! You do not have to follow my blog to enter, but it sure would be nice if you did. *smile*

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

De-Clutter Project 2014 - Week 3

I've spent a lot of time in bed this week. You can't get very much de-cluttering done that way. But I've been recuperating from a sinus and lung infection. I have an excuse. The linen closet will have to wait until next week.

Those antibiotics can really knock the stuffing out of you but as I lay there, fuzzy headed and teary eyed coughing up a storm, I realized that I could do a bit of clean up in my moments of lucidity.

The headboard of my bed is a bookcase (junk collector). Perhaps I should take a few minutes to sort through the miscellaneous books and other items that have gathered there. If I get dizzy or tired, I’m already in bed. I can just lie down again.

Here are a few things that I found and what I did with them. This is so embarrassing! Please try not to laugh too much. *smile*

1. Table centrepiece from a doll convention I went to about eight years ago: I still can't part with it for some reason, so it went into a big bin of other doll stuff to be sorted through 'later'.
2. Large red pillar candle, cranberry scented, unwrapped: That went into the candle bin.
3. Several empty plastic applesauce bowls: I brought them home from work to recycle and they did not make it to the bin, until now.
4. One porcelain Christmas ornament, broken: Into the trash.
5. Two stones: given to me by a child at our camping trip last year: Into the trash. I feel kind of bad about doing that but it had to be done.
6. One mini M&M dispenser, with candy, unopened: It was part of a package deal at the cinema over the holidays. I took that to work for a co-worker to give to her daughter.

7. A Belgian Milk Chocolate bar, 400g: That's a lot of chocolate! To eat or not to eat.
8. Four different tarot card decks and two tarot card instruction books: I'm going to learn how to use them some day. They went on the top shelf in my workroom.
9. Several sewing patterns: They went into their designated bin.
10. A small collection of trinket boxes, each with a piece or two of jewelry in them: I put all the jewelry in a small cardboard box until I can get a proper, partitioned box to store them in. I'm keeping two of the trinket boxes and donating the rest.

I could go on but this is too painful. It doesn't sound like I'm getting rid of much, I'll admit, but I do seem to have a vague strategy in place. I seem to be consolidating 'like' items in one spot. That's progress!!

What area do you intend to tackle this week? What do you think you will find? More importantly, what will you do with it?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Focus on Life: Week 2

Week 2: The Silhouette
A photograph with a subject(s) captured in a shadowy outline
with little or no detail against a bright background. 

Going to work each day before sunrise and coming home each evening after sunset did not give me the opportunity to capture any outdoor silhouette images this week. The challenge was how to take such a photo inside at night.

I experimented with a couple of different techniques before finally getting the effect that I wanted.

For me this represents a helping hand. This particular one helps me display jewelry at shows. More than that, it reflects my willingness to offer a helping hand to anyone who needs it. My ability to do so is quite limited but I step up to the plate whenever I can.

It also signifies my willingness to embrace the offer of a helping hand when given. I have learned to accept the kindness of others and am grateful for their care and concern.

The hardest part for me, is the willingness to ASK for a helping hand when I need it. My independent streak has often prevented that, but I am learning to be humble.

I look forward to seeing the silhouette photos of the other participants.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

De-Clutter Project 2014 - Week 2

Note to self: Do not purchase any more shampoo, conditioner, face cream or shower gel for the foreseeable future.

I decided to clear out and reorganize the bathroom cabinets this week. They were packed full of those products, LOTS of those products! I obviously have been unable to pass up a good sale on these items for quite some time.

I also found so many expired products (vitamins, analgesic rub, peroxide) that it was frightening. Into the garbage bag they went, along with the empty or dried out jars of face cream! All the nail polish got tossed out too, I don’t even wear nail polish anymore! And if I don’t use nail polish, why do I have nail polish remover (which only causes me to have an instant asthma attack)?

Here is the before and after photo of one of the cabinets above my sink.

What area do you intend to tackle this week? What do you think you will find? More importantly, what will you do with it?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Social Media Tools - Twitter

I have to admit that Twitter is still a bit of an enigma to me. Even after attending a small business seminar on how to use it to promote your business, it is still one of the less utilized tools I use. I think that needs to change this year. I’ve read many articles online extolling the virtues and benefits of Twitter as a business strategy that works.

My Twitter username (or handle) is @jasper_moon. Jasper Moon is the name of my company. If you type that into the search box, my name/company comes up. That is what you want, for people to be able to find you. Keep it simple and straight forward. If your name is Mary Smith and your company name is Mary & Co., don’t have a username like @shopgirl. No one will ever discover you and the fantastic products you offer, defeating your whole purpose.

When tweeting (sending a message/post) on Twitter, use hashtags whenever you can. A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash symbol (#). You will notice words in messages on social networking services such as Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Twitter, etc. that may be tagged by putting "#" before them.

Hashtags make it possible to group such messages, allowing you to search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it. Please note, hashtags are not linked or connected to pictures or messages from different platforms.

So, when I type #prayerbeads into the Twitter search, I see other people who are talking about prayer beads on Twitter and can connect with (Follow) them if I want. Hopefully, they will follow me back. The more followers you have, the more exposure you get. And look, there is my recent tweet about a set of prayer beads that I have listed on Etsy.

But how to get more Followers? For starters, make sure your profile is complete with an avatar that shows your face or company logo and a solid bio or description.

You should have a minimum of one tweet per day, ideally three to five posts per day to maximize your visibility. Make sure you're tweeting on a variety of subjects and not just your personal thoughts or what you're doing at the moment.

Talk about your hobbies and interests, share a piece of insightful advice, a great tutorial you found and the occasional sales pitch for your products. Post interesting links on current events. Post pictures, videos and even sound clips here and there can make your posts more fun to follow.

Embrace digital platforms, like Twitter, and discover new ways to engage your customers, sell your goods, and spread your message.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Social Media Tools - Facebook

Of all the social media platforms available, Facebook is the one that I use the most. I have two business pages, Jasper Moon and Jasper Moon PrayerBeads. The first one is dedicated to the company as a whole and the second one specifically to the prayer bead product line.

Facebook is a great place to introduce your brand and products, and to develop a sense of community. With over one billion people around the world on this forum, your outreach could be phenomenal. But how do you tap into this pool of potential customers successfully?

Posting regularly is one of the main keys to success. Add content at least once a day. Do not flood your page with sales pitches, people will get tired of that very quickly. Include other material that you think will be of interest to your customers. It does not have to be directly related to your core business; quotes, tutorials, interesting events, other business pages, blog posts, etc.

Visuals generate more engagement, so be sure to include a photo with all your posts. Always ensure you have the legal rights to share the image though. By upgrading your photography skills and taking your own pictures, you will not run into any copyright issues.

Posts should be written in a friendly and informative fashion. Respond to customer enquiries and comments in a timely manner. It demonstrates that you are dedicated to their overall satisfaction with your products and services.

Facebook keeps track of how often people interact with your page and that determines how many people will see them. Did you know that not even all your fans will see all your posts? Track your results and refine your strategy as you go. Find what works best for you.

Be sure to include a call to action in your posts whenever possible. Ask your readers to respond in some way (like, comment or share). Get their opinion on new product offerings. Find out what new items they are interested in. Ask for their input and constructive criticism.

Embrace digital platforms, like Facebook, and discover new ways to engage your customers, sell your goods, and spread your message.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Focus on Life: Week 1

Week One: The Minimalist Photograph
Capture an image using a single subject.

As each new year approaches, we take time to reflect on the previous twelve months, trying to assess our wins and losses. We find ourselves living with regrets of unfulfilled resolutions, time lost and opportunities passed by.

Then, the process of renewal begins. We start to set goals and expectations for the coming year. And while the goals and resolutions we set are noble and good, they are often unattainable. We set ourselves up to fail, once again.

This year, let’s not over-estimate our capabilities and level of commitment. Select fewer goals, ones that are not so lofty and can be realistically achieved. Set yourself up to win this year.

Take the minimalist approach and you will find that ‘less’ ends up being ‘more’. More success, more pride in your accomplishments, more happiness. Let 2014 be your best year yet!

If you enjoy photography and would like to join this year long challenge, you can still register to participate at The Sublime Studio. Thanks to Sally Russick for organizing this event again this year.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

De-Clutter Project 2014 - Week 1

Welcome to the De-Clutter Project 2014. This is the year that I intend to get control of my house again. A big part of the process is to give, donate or trash a good portion of all the stuff I've accumulated over the years.

Each week on Wednesday, I will post a status update. I hope that a few of you will join me on this journey and share your de-clutter experiences, both the highs and the lows. Let's help each other keep on track.

This week, I've been tackling the 'thing in the hall'. Basically, it's a vertical, multi-drawer junk drawer. You won't believe everything that I found in there!

There were cables and cords from electronic devices I no longer own, along with widgets and thingamajigs that I don't even remember what they were for. The broken bits got trashed immediately. Those items that are possibly useful to someone else got tossed in the donate box. I kept only those that were relevant to my current needs, like extensions cords and a battery charger. They could come in handy.

I came across sewing patterns for things I know that I will likely never make. Why did I buy them in the first place? I don't have an answer for you, but I'll bet that you have stuff like that around your house too. You have no idea what possessed you to buy them in the first place, let alone store them in the second place. The unwanted patterns went into the donation box also.

What area do you intend to tackle this week? What do you think you will find? More importantly, what will you do with it?