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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Loot: Part 2

Remember when I ooh-ed and ahh-ed over this tote bag?


I now have it in white AND red, thanks to my parents and my brother-in-law's fiancee! So excited!

And of course I got a bunch of books, including (but not limited to):

(from my husband)


(from my future sister-in-law)

(from my best friend)

I also got a gift card for Ann Taylor from my in-laws, and I'm very much looking forward to using it soon. :-)

By the way, Cory of Tealwater Designs had an excellent suggestion for my earring card dilemma - I had no idea you could buy plastic adapters for earring cards! I promptly placed an order, and they should arrive soon. Problem solved. Thanks, Cory! :-)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Loot: Part 1

One of my favorite gifts this year came from my husband. Which I guess makes sense, but I was super excited about it.

When I first started making jewelry, I got a really cheap set of tools, just because I didn't know whether it was something I'd stick with. The idea was to upgrade as soon as it was clear that I'd be doing this for awhile, since my old tools were not exactly ergonomically designed.

I couldn't tell you why, but I just never bothered getting new tools. But I apparently complained about my old ones enough that my husband went out and bought me new ones! (He also bought me a copy of our good friend Eric's very first novel, Textual Healing - you should go order a copy!!)


I haven't had a chance to use them yet, but just holding them I can feel that they'll be a lot easier to work with.

I'm planning on giving them a go tonight, but first I'll be eating some leftover Christmas dinner.

I'll share some more photos from Christmas, as well a some of the other amazing gifts I received from the wonderful people in my life, later this week.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!


I never thought I'd be the type of person who dresses up her dog, much less a dog that weighs more than 15 pounds, but Elvis gets cold easily and really seems to enjoy getting dressed up.

So how could I resist getting him a Christmas sweater??

Anyway, I hope everyone out there has a very merry Christmas!!

My family and Glen's family are both coming over for Christmas dinner today, so I'm off to get ready for that... Wish me luck! ;-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winding Down (and Back Up)

Now that 2010 is winding down, I have some time to catch my breath and really start to focus on next year.

Here's my current list of goals for 2011:
  • As I've mentioned before, I'd really like to streamline my products a little bit. There are certain styles that sell over and over again, so it seems like it would be best to focus on doing variations of those styles. Hopefully then I can actually assign style numbers for groups of items, instead of item numbers for each individual piece, because as it stands right now my inventory spreadsheet has a row for every single piece of jewelry I make. Hopefully the end result will be less time spent on the administrative end of things (especially calulating the materials cost for each item!).
  • Which brings me to my next goal: I need to overhaul my inventory/sales spreadsheet, at least to some extent. It's become unwieldy, and I don't like it. My expense and cash flow spreadsheet are still working quite nicely though!
  • Try to schedule more jewelry parties. They're fun, they don't cost much to do compared to craft shows, and pretty much everyone who shows up buys at least one thing, so it's a good return on investment.
  • Come up with better displays for craft shows, especially my jewelry tags and earring cards. I've been using generic display products, and it just isn't cutting it anymore! I'll continue to use the silver and purple packaging I came up with for online orders, but I want to carry that color scheme into my earring cards and jewelry tags for shows.
I'm thinking that for the tags I'll use the same purple paper used for mailing products. My plan is to print my logo on the paper, then cut the tags out using victorian pattern edging scissors.

Instead of regular string, I'm going to use a thin, silver or gray ribbon. Same basic idea as what I'm currently doing for bracelets and necklaces, but a little more personality.
As for earrings: I'd like to use silver or gray earring display cards with my logo in purple, but I can decide whether I should buy them and print my logo on labels to stick on, or make my own from scratch.
The dilemma I'm facing is this: If I order pre-made hanging cards, they'll have a hole in the middle of the top, like this:

If I use clear labels, I can't put them on the top section, and if I put them on the bottom section the label will be partially covered. But I WOULD be able to use my current earring displays, which look like this:

If I make my own cards from scratch, they'd be completely flat and wouldn't be able to hang on the display racks I have. I'm trying to figure out the best way to display them at shows if I go this route, but I really don't know... Punch holes and push-pin them to a cork board maybe? Thoughts? Anyone??

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spreading Holiday Cheer

As I sat down to write this, it occurred to me that I've been playing the clarinet for nearly 2 decades now - that's 2/3 of my life!

I've played in concert bands, marching bands, pit bands, and most recently, a municipal band.

photo via EastonBand.com

One of the things I find most enjoyable is playing Christmas music a nursing homes, which we did this past Monday.

When I was scanning through local news websites yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a nice article on the Easton Patch website about the concert. If you look carefully, you can see me in a couple of the pictures - first row of clarinets, all the way on the right. :-)

Our last concert of the year is at 2:00 this Sunday, Dec. 19 at Lafayette College. Admission is free, so if you're in the Lehigh Valley area and want to listen to some Christmas music, stop on by!

Also, don't forget -‎10 more days left of free shipping on all orders from my Etsy shop! Plus 10% off orders of $20 or more with the coupon code "KITTY10" and 20% off orders of $40 or more with the coupon code "KITTY20"!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Last night, Glen and I threw a party to celebrate Frank Sinatra's birthday.

Glen came up with the idea back in 2003, our junior year of college, and it quickly became a tradition.

Now every year, on or about December 12, we invite our friends over for drinks, food and music. And since this year the party was the day before the big day, it included a midnight champagne toast in honor of Frank's birthday.

We made sure our bar was fully stocked.


We served some delicious food, including an appetizer wreath...


...and baked brie with walnuts, dried cranberries and cherries, and apricot syrup.


We dressed Elvis in a bow tie and cape...


...and partied the night away. :-)


Now I'm off to finish some laundry, then watch a movie and relax for the rest of the night before another busy work week.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Geminids

If you've been reading my blog for awhile now, you probably know that I love staring at the night sky. So far I've had absolutely no luck with the big meteor showers so far this year. It's been cloudy for the Perseids and the Leonids, so my year thus far has been sadly meteor-less.
But I have one last chance: the Geminids.


via Space.com
They're supposed to peak the this year the night of December 13 into the 14th, and I'm hoping the skies will be clear for a change.

I desperately want to stay up late and watch them, but considering it will be mid-December in the Northeast, it's a safe bet temperatures will be well below freezing.

I guess it'd be a good excuse to get out every blanket in the house and bundle up in my back yard with a big mug full of hot chocolate though, right?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Our house is finally decorated for Christmas!

Yesterday after work I insisted we put up our Christmas lights in between the snow flurries. Glen climbed the ladder for most of it, but I put the lights on the top of the gable. Which is no small feat, since I developed a fear of heights after climbing to the top of the light house in Cape May when I was 14!

Tonight we bought and decorated our tree. This is the first time we've been able to put it right by a window, and I'm pretty excited about that. (Well, we could have done it last year, but I wanted to put the couch in that window nook. I should have followed Glen's advice and put it on the other side of the room. He was right, I was wrong. There, I said it.)

I also put up the stockings on our (currently non-working, but hopefully that will change soon) gas fireplace. Yes, our dog has the biggest stocking. And the little green stocking belong to each of our rodents. What can I say, we like to spoil our pets!

I've been doing a bunch of custom orders for Christmas lately. It's a little crazy trying to balance them with the day job and all the holiday stuff, but it's also a lot of fun! And I'm already coming up with some neat ideas for next year.

This weekend is our annual Sinatra Night - we invite our friends over, get all dressed up and have a big party in honor of Frank Sinatra's birthday. We play Rat Pack music on the record player, and now that my piano is finally in our home I will hopefully be able to play some Cole Porter tunes!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Possibly the best tote bag in the history of tote bags:


I'm not generally one to say I "need" something like a canvas tote bag.

But seriously, I NEED this bag!!!

Also a fan of this one:



I think it's safe to say that just about everything in Book Fiend's Etsy shop is now officially on my Christmas list. :-)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Festivities (and a Sale!)

How was everyone's Thanksgiving?

Mine involved waaay too much food (2 dinners!) but it was worth it.

Festivities continued on Friday night. I insisted on going to the Peace Candle lighting in Centre Square in Easton as a spectator this year. In the past I've played the clarinet at the candle lighting, and had to suffer through most of the evening with freezing, un-gloved fingers, so I wanted to enjoy it properly bundled up.




Afterward we spent a few hours at Pearly Baker's hanging out with friends, some of whom I haven't seen in months! (If you ever go there, I recommend the Aspen Brie Wedges, and the Boursin Duck Strudel - both were delicious!)

And... today is my birthday!
I brought bagels into work because I was too busy/lazy to bake any treats, and after work Glen and I heading over to my parents' house for dinner. My in-laws are coming too, including my youngest brother-in-law/birthday buddy. (Happy birthday, Keith!) Looking forward to it. :-)
Last, and certainly not least, as I promised in my last post:
Here are the details on the Michievous Kitty Jewelry Christmas sale!
The sale starts tomorrow, December 1, and runs through December 24.
  • If you spend $20 or more, use the coupon code KITTY10 and receive 10% off your total order.
  • If you spend $40 or more, use the coupon code KITTY20 and receive 20% off your total order.
  • Plus, shipping on all orders, no matter how much or how little, is free!
I'm hoping to add some listings to my shop over the next couple of days/weeks, and as always I'm willing to do custom orders! If you see something you like but want it in a different color, length, etc., or if you'd like an additional piece of jewelry to match something already in my shop, just send me an email and I will do my best to accomodate you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Is everyone out there ready for Thanksgiving? I definitely am, although it helps that my husband and I aren't hosting this year. We'll be eating an early dinner at my parents' house, then eating a second dinner at his parents' house, but we don't have to worry about entertaining anyone, so for the most part we can just sit back and enjoy spending time with family.




Right now I am most thankful for my impending four-day weekend, which will allow me to relax after an absolutely insane 2 weeks!

I didn't actually mean to take a 2-week blogging break, but one jewelry demonstration, two craft shows, last-minute library shifts AND my regular work schedule? I didn't exactly have a lot of free time.

I finished all my craft shows for the season. Some went really well, some were kind of mediocre sales-wise, but I made a profit at all of them, and I'm significantly closer to my goal of buying a laptop to replace my dinosaur of a computer, so I really can't complain. For the rest of the holiday season I'll probably focus on bringing stuff in to either of my day jobs and bringing in custom orders for Christmas gifts.

Interesting thing I learned while doing craft shows this year: Uniqueness (or the perception thereof) really depends on context.

On Etsy, I feel like my work really doesn't stand out. Asymmetrical necklaces like those I am partial to making (especially those with a flower on the side) abound there. My jewelry is just one of many variations on the same theme.

But at local craft shows? Or at my day job(s)? I get endless compliments on how pretty and unique my jewelry is, and those asymmetical necklaces sell like hotcakes!

In fact, the ones with the antiqued brass finish, like this one?




I've had to make so many that I've run out of what previously seemed like an endless supply of that chain.
By the way, I will be running a sale both on my Etsy shop and in person during the month of December, details to follow! :-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cuteness!

When I got into work this morning, I logged onto my computer, checked the news, and saw a link to this story:



I literally squealed when I saw how cute and tiny this little dolphin is!

I am also pretty sure my coworkers now think I am crazy.

Anyway, I did a jewelry demonstration last night, and I thought it went really well. Made a decent amount of sales, took orders for some custom pieces, and a few people expressed interest in hosting parties.

My sales struck the right balance between making the evening worthwhile, yet not depleting my inventory to a point that I'd be left scrambling to replenish it before my show this Saturday (at Easton Area High School from 9:00am - 2:00pm!!).

Which is good, because I got called in for a last-minute library shift this evening, which I was totally not part of my plan for today. But who can resist making extra money doing something they love, especially when it's almost Christmas shopping season? ;-)

Speaking of which, one of my resolutions for this year is to buy as many Christmas presents as I can either from other crafters, local businesses, or Etsy shops. And in some cases, of course, make the presents myself!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Before and After

Well, it took me way longer than I would have liked, but I finally have before an after photos of my hair!

Here it is before I chopped off nearly a foot of it:


I didn't realize how red my (natural!) highlights were until I looked at this picture. (Also, my hair is crazy messy here. It was a long day and I didn't have the energy to fix it up before taking this picture.)

Here's a picture of Glen and me, all dressed up at this past weekend's wedding:


And here's a close-up of the new do:


It's funny, every time I chop off a lot of hair, every thinks I dyed it because it looks SO much darker.

And just for fun, here's a picture of Elvis, all dressed up for Halloween:


He was a big hit with the trick-or-treaters, and hopefully he made up for the fact that neither of us humans got dressed up.

The next couple of weeks are going to be kind of insane. I'm doing a jewelry demonstration this Monday, I have craft shows on November 13 and 20, plus I've been getting requests to bring my jewelry into work so folks can do some holiday shopping.

Add to that two orders for bridal party jewelry for this spring and some custom orders for Christmas, and I'm going to be a very busy bee these next couple of months!

Fortunately, I don't have much going on this weekend, so I'm going to work on making more jewelry so I'll have a decent amount of inventory for my upcoming shows.

Specific goals for the end of this year, profit-wise, include being able to buy a laptop with my Mischievous Kitty earnings (not sure how much longer my current computer is going to last!), contribute to funding two microloans on Kiva in January, and send another donation to the Dear Jack Foundation.

Here's hoping I don't neglect my blog too much for the rest of the year. ;-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Craft Shows and Haircuts and Weddings, Oh My!

So... The craft show on Saturday went well! It was at my grade school alma mater, Saints Philip and James School. (Except when I went there it was All Saints Regional!) I sold a decent amount of jewelry, and I got to see a bunch of folks I haven't seen in a long time. It was strange to realize that I can count on one hand the teachers who are still still there since I graduated.

The week before the craft show I decided to chop all my hair off. 10" of my hair is now on its way to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. This is the third time I've donated... I get bored easily with my hair, and this gives me the opportunity for a drastic change, plus I get to contribute to a good cause.

I'd love to say I have before and after pictures to show you... I do have a "before" picture, but I've been so busy for the past week and a half that I haven't taken an "after" picture yet.

However, Glen and I are in a wedding this weekend, so I should have an "after" picture by next week.

I do have a picture of my bridesmaid dress though!



Pretty, right?

I'm excited to wear it, but I have no idea what to do with my hair.

Guess I'd better stop writing and start looking for inspiration, huh? ;-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Still Here

Have I seriously gone more than 2 weeks without posting?

I am the worst.

During the week I've been working sooo much. Extra hours at the library, plus getting ready for fall craft shows. The first one is this weekend, I still don't feel quite ready!

Anyway, I don't have too much time right now, and my dog keeps whining at me to pay attention to him... So I'll just share this picture I took of the Empire State Building on my way home from NYC last Saturday, where I met up with some friends to go to MoMA, eat Thai food, and see my wonderful husband and our friend do stand-up at the Broadway Comedy Club!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall Craft Shows!

Wow, a whole week without any posts. What can I say, I've been busy!

Anyway, I officially have 3 craft shows lined up for this fall!

10/23, 9am - 3:30pm @ Sts. Philip & James School, Phillipsburg, NJ
11/13, 9am - 2pm @ Easton Area High School, Easton, PA
11/20, 9am - 4pm @ Warren Hills High School, Washington, NJ

I'm debating doing a 4th craft show on December 11, but that evening my husband and I are throwing a party to celebrate this guy's birthday:


Yes, his birthday is actually Dec. 12, but that's a Sunday this year. Dec. 11 works better AND conveniently lends itself to a midnight birthday champagne toast!

So I am a bit worried that doing a craft show that would end mere hours before the party starts might be a bit much. But I do have at least one private demonstration set up, and I planning to set up some stuff at my day job for people to look at around the holidays, so I'm not sure I truly need (or can handle, for that matter) a 4th show, regardless of the date. ;-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watch the Sky

It's past my bedtime. I was about to curl up in bed and read some more of Packing for Mars, but I decided to let Elvis out, and when I stepped outside I actually gasped when I saw how bright Jupiter was. My camera really can't do it justice, but I just had to share a picture.


Needless to say, the really bright object in the top right is the moon. Jupiter is near the bottom left. It's a lot more amazing in real life.

If you get a chance during the next few days, I recommend that you go outside at night and watch the sky.

(I'd nearly forgotten about the song I linked to above until I wrote that sentence. I just fell in love with it all over again.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Craft Show and the Introvert

Earlier this week, Melissa from Oh, My Darling post a link to this article, entitled "Caring for Your Introvert."

I felt like I was reading my own life story. Especially this part:

"Many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors."

This couldn't be more true, at least for me. While I certainly don't mind being around other people, and most of the time I genuinely enjoy it, I do feel a bit like I am performing the entire time. It's exhausting, to say the least. I can handle it in small doses, but then I need some "me time" to recover.

One of the comments on that article linked to the The Introvert's Corner on the Psychology Today website. I found everything there very interesting, but this post, which is about how shyness and introversion are not the same, is what really resonated with me so far.

You see, I used to be not only introverted, but painfully shy. Ask my mom, she'll tell you about how I spent most of my first few days of nursery school hiding under a couch and crying because I was afraid of the other kids.

I starting coming out of my shell when I started doing theater in middle school, which probably contributes to the fact that I feel like I'm performing when I'm around other people. But despite my new confidence, I remain an introvert. I'm more willing to talk to strangers, but it still takes a lot out of me. I get incredibly nervous before an interview, or even making a phone call to someone I've never spoken to before, but I figured out that if I channel that nervous energy the same way I did before I'd get on stage back in middle school and high school, I could fool other people into thinking that I'm both confident and socially competent. ;-)

That presents quite the challenge when it comes to doing craft shows, since I spend ALL DAY talking to complete strangers and experience that nervous energy for hours on end. I've only done a handful of craft shows so far, but my experience with them was pretty varied. Sometimes I'd chat it up with all these new people with no problem whatsoever, but other times just a smile and a "hello" seemed to take a herculean effort.

After reading this article, I started thinking really carefully about what the difference between those shows might have been. It was how I spent the night before the show. Was I sitting quietly at home, relaxing and recharging, or was I out socializing? If it was the former, interacting with strangers the next day seemed a lot easier. If it was the latter, I felt tired and awkward and even a little cranky.

And you know what? The shows where I was able to easily interact with my customers were the shows where I made the most sales. Now, I'm sure there were other factors that affected my sales to some degree or another, such as the number of people attending the show, the time of year, etc. I doubt my demeanor wasn't the sole factor in how much or how little I sold, but it's probably a save bet that it played a role.

As of right now it looks like I'll have at least 4 shows lined up for October and November. With these new insights in mind, I'm going to make a point of spending the evening before at home. I'll get everything I need for the next day packed up and then I'll read a book or watch a movie, and make sure I can put my best face forward for all my potential customers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Winner!

And the lucky winner is...
Number 14, The Favour Shoppe!

Congratulations!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Elvis and Dylan: BFFs

My dog Elvis is best buddies with a big, long-haired German Shepherd named Dylan. Dylan's owners live right behind us, and Dylan comes over to play with Elvis almost every day.

And I don't mean Dylan's owners bring him over. Oh, no. Elvis and Dylan arrange their own play dates. They're independent like that.

Today I took Elvis to the vet for his yearly vaccines, and I intended to clean the house as soon as I got home. But Dylan came over and the two pups were being far too entertaining for me to focus on cleaning!

Here's a little clip of Elvis and Dylan playing their latest favorite game, "Elvis defends the front porch from a Dylan invasion."


video

Note how well my dog listens to me. When I tell Elvis to "Get him!" he decides it's time to lie down for a bit instead. ;-)


Guess now I should go get that cleaning done, huh?

Also, less than 7 hours left to enter the September giveaway!

And don't forget - if you use the coupon code "Kitty15" in my shop between now and September 20, you can get 15% off your total order in my Etsy shop! :-)

I'll announce the winner of the giveaway tomorrow. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Pseudo-Vacation

I mentioned in my previous post that I took some vacation time from my day job last week.

I didn't actually go anywhere, unless you count that Wedesday evening in New York, but it was still amazing.

Apart from working at the library Thursday night, I spent most of Thursday and Friday lounging around the house.

Had a farmers market date with my mother-in-law Saturday morning, and bought lots of yummy stuff! Just relaxed for the rest of the day. I really don't even remember specifically what I did, but I'm pretty sure the hammock and a book were involved.

Sunday was pretty exciting though, Glen won a comedy competition at the Allentown Fair! Yay, husband!! :-)



Took Elvis to the dog park again on Monday, it took the dogs awhile to warm up to one another, but in the end they wound up chasing each other around the park until they were all exhausted. So cute. :-)

I definitely needed that break. So far this week I've been way more energetic than usual. Less trouble waking up for work in the morning, I don't feel like I need a nap afterward, and I even went to the gym last night!

Hopefully now that I'm back on a more normal schedule, with one night a week at the library (and the same night each week, no less!) I'll be able to get into a good routine to prepare for the craft shows I plan to do this fall.

Once I get confirmation for all the shows, I'll post them here - if you live in or near the Lehigh Valley, you should come say hi! :-)


Also, don't forget to enter to win this lovely copper leaf necklace! The giveaway is open until Friday night!

Monday, September 6, 2010

September Giveaway!

Hey everyone!

As evidenced by my lack of blog posts (and comments on other blogs, sorry!!), I've been on a bit of a vacation for the past week. I didn't even go anywhere special, I just took Wednesday - Friday off from my day job so I could have a super-long Labor Day weekend.

It was delightful. Apart from going into NYC on Wednesday night to see my husband perform at Comix, I mostly stuck around the house, reading and making jewelry.

Which brings me to the important part: Among the jewelry I was making was a necklace for Mischievous Kitty Jewelry's September Giveaway!

How cool is this? It's a copper-plated leaf. An actual leaf. Chrysanthemum, to be precise. The green and peach beads are unakite, and the red beads are carnelian. I picked those colors because the combination made me think of how the trees look when the leaves first start to change.


Here's a picture of the whole necklace. It's 20" long and the chain is copper. Perfect for autumn, right?

So, here are the rules:
  1. The contest is open until this Friday, September 10. All entries must be made by midnight, EST.
  2. All you need to do is visit my Etsy shop, then come back here and leave a comment telling me what your favorite piece is.
  3. You can get an extra entry by spreading the word about the giveaway. If you have a blog, you can include a link to the blog post in a separate comment below. If you post about it on Facebook, just remember to tag "Mischievous Kitty Jewelry" in your post and tell me about it in a separate comment on this blog.
  4. I will select a winner on Saturday, September 11, using the random number generator on Random.org.
Good luck, and enjoy the rest of this beautiful Labor Day weekend!!


P.S. Just for stopping by, here's a coupon code, good for 15% off any purchase in my Etsy shop and good through September 20, 2010. Just enter "Kitty15" in the "notes to seller" during checkout, and I'll send you a revised invoice!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Purge

Lately, the volume of clutter on my side of the closet has been bothering me.

My clothes were so squashed together that they were getting wrinkled just from being in there!

My poor husband only gets about 1/4 of our closet to himself.

So tonight I committed to a closet purge. I went through each and every piece of clothing in there (as well as the sweaters and jeans in my dresser), and decided to get rid of every piece that I didn't really, truly love and could see myself wearing multiple times within the next year. If I hadn't worn it in the past 12 months, it was automatically disqualified.

And you know what? I discovered that I actually like an awful lot of my clothes!

Keepers are on the left. There are a lot more on the left than on the right.
And yes, that is a Care Bear on my nightstand. Grumpy Bear, to be precise.
The left side of the closet hasn't been this empty since before we moved into the house!

Now, mind you, this only includes actual clothing: dresses, skirts, tops, pants, blazers, etc. Pajamas, undergarments, and shoes are not included in this count. (Not including shoes feels like cheating, but I got rid of a bunch of shoes a few months ago, so they weren't part of the problem.)

  • 128: Total pieces of clothing I started out with.
  • 35: Total pieces of clothing to donate/sell (32) or throw out (3).
  • 3: Pieces in limbo. I need some time to think about these.
  • 90: The amount of actual clothing left in my closet and dresser.
My goal was to hit 100 pieces or less, so I'm pretty pleased with myself. I managed to reduce the size of my wardrobe by more than 25%!

~75% of my clothing.

Oddly enough, my side of the closet still looks awfully full, albeit considerably less squished. The biggest difference, which isn't very apparent in this photo, is the big empty space in the bottom left side of the closet. As of right now I only plan to replace 2 pairs of tights and a couple of button-down shirts (I only have 3 left!) for the fall/winter. Apart from that, I will only buy something new if I was already planning to get rid of something I have.

I learned a couple of important things tonight.
  1. I am awfully lucky. I may not be able to afford every single piece of clothing my heart desires, but I'm not exactly experienceing a clothing deficit.
  2. I've had a lot of the clothing in my closet for quite awhile. And I still like nearly all of it. I've come a long way from picking stuff that either falls apart or I dislike after one season.
  3. In spite of #2, there was still an awful lot of stuff in my closet that had no business being there.
  4. I can no longer fit into a juniors size 3.
  5. I'm ok with #4. :-)

Update: I just realized I had a couple of items in the hamper when I did this. Add 3 camis and 2 short-sleeved tops (all of which I love and intend to keep) to the final count. ;-)

Lost in a Good Book

I have not been reading nearly enough lately.

Because of my ridiculously busy summer, it took me nearly 2 months to finish The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat.


I picked this book because I read The Farming of Bones by the same author for a class in college and really enjoyed it. I think I'd have enjoyed this one a bit more if I'd been able to sit down and read it for more than 20 minutes at a time. The narrator keeps changing, and it's really hard to keep track of who's speaking it's been a week since I last picked up the book. But even in spite of that fact, I found the ending of the book completely heartwrenching. I finished it while I was in a bowling alley bar waiting for a comedy open mic to start, and I nearly started crying.
Now I'm re-reading Ragtime.

It's one of my favorite E. L. Doctorow books, as well as one of my favorite Broadway musicals. I was listening to the original cast recording last week, and suddenly found myself overwhelmed with the desire to read the book again. I actually own two copies of it: a signed 1st edition, given to me as a wedding gift by my WONDERFUL bridesmaids nearly 4 1/2 years ago, and a regular hardcover edition for actually reading. I'm going to have off from work this Wednesday through Monday, so I plan on using part of that time to allow myself to get thoroughly lost in this book.

Have you read any good books lately??

P.S. This past weekend I got those jewelry supplies I was talking about in my last post, I'll be working on a piece for my autumn giveaway this week! :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend Off

I didn't really do much work related to any of my three jobs this past weekend. My extra hours at the library are done for the summer, and pretty soon I'll be focusing on doing fall craft shows, so having a little break was nice.

I had a bridal shower to go to Saturday afternoon, where I was promptly recruited to make the bow hat. I ran out of room on the plate for all the bows, so I also made a bow bouquet. Unfortunately, no pictures have materialized on Facebook yet, but apparently my handiwork wowed the other guests. ;-)

I spent that evening in New York watching my husband do stand-up at Comix. We drove in with Pat, who also had a show that night, at the Broadway Comedy Club. Two of my college roommates came out to see Glen, and we all got together after the show.

Faye, Jency and I pose with Pat

Toasting to a successful night of comedy


Sunday was rainy and gross and I had an awful sinus headache, but I played a concert at a retirement home with the community band because I am just that dedicated. ;-) We played some Sousa, some Sinatra, and medleys of songs by Duke Ellington and Leroy Anderson. I've had "The Syncopated Clock" stuck in my head for the last two days. :-P

But apart from the concert, I mostly just lounged around the house on Sunday with Glen and Elvis. Here they are hanging out on the futon in my office:


The full picture is funnier, but for propriety's sake I had to crop it, largely because Elvis likes to splay his legs out and it was kind of indecent.

By the way, I just ordered some more supplies, some of which will be perfect for autumn-themed necklaces. Keep your eyes peeled for new items in the shop (and a giveaway here!) next month!

P.S. Melissa of Oh, My Darling just opened a vintage clothing shop on Etsy. Stop by her blog to get a discount code for 10% off! :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Year Wiser

This post is pretty wordy, so bare with me here. ;-)

This month marks one year since I first decided to make my idea of starting my own little jewelry business a reality.

I did some things right, and I did some things wrong. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't change a thing, but I am glad I decided to jump right into it. If I'd hesitated, waiting until I knew exactly how to do each and every little thing perfectly, I'd have been paralyzed with fear and never actually done anything.


RESEARCH

I didn't neglect to prepare altogether. I spent an awful lot of time perusing the IRS website. I considered what kind of business structure to choose. I decided a sole proprietorship made the most sense for now.

I also read the IRS Tax Guide for Small Businesses publication several times. And printed it out. And put in a binder for future reference. Seriously, if you think you want to start your own small business, consider this mandatory reading material. And if you're going to be selling a product, read the part about inventory more carefully than I did. (More about that later...)



REGISTERING

From what I gather, this is the part that seems to intimidate a lot of people the most: registering your business and obtaining whatever license(s) you need to make sure you're operating legally.

I decided to register right away rather than start out as a hobby and convert to a business after the fact. I knew from the start that my intent was to make at least a modest profit, and if I had a loss my first year I wouldn't be able to claim that loss on my tax return unless I was registered as a business. Not to mention, if I did manage to turn a significant profit, I didn't want to risk getting audited and being penalized for not paying taxes on my earnings!

I did a little research
here and found out exactly what I needed to do to start a business in NJ. As it turns out, in my case I simply had to register as a business and get a license to collect sales tax.

Since I live right on the border of NJ & PA, I also registered to collect sales tax there so I could do craft shows, jewelry parties, etc. in that state as well. I had to register as a "transient vendor" since my business is based outside of PA.


The specific rules may be different depending on the state, county, and municipality where you live, but I only had to file a total of 3 (short!) forms to make things official It's really not as difficult as it might seem, I promise!



FINANCING

Naturally, I needed a means of buying supplies to make my jewelry. I was prepared to put my own money into my business, since I wasn't planning on making a huge initial investment. But I wanted to make sure whatever purchases I made were clearly for business, and not personal, purposes.


So as soon as my business was registered, I signed up for a business credit card. This was the first real goal I set for myself: Charge my initial supplies and try to make that money back in time to pay my first bill in full. Mission accomplished. :-)


Now, the ideal situation would be to have a totally separate checking account for my business right from the start. But considering the fact that I wasn't accumulating a lot of cash, just reinvesting it into my business, I didn't want to risk dropping below a minimum balance and getting charged an unnecessary fee each month.


Instead I was stuck depositing money to pay my Mischievous Kitty credit card bills and such through personal checking, which I've really hated doing. However, I'm finally at a point where I can open a business checking account, and I'm incredibly excited to do so!



RECORDKEEPING

Spreadsheets


I designed a workbook in Excel that has served very nicely so far. I have a sheet for Expenditures and another for Inventory/Sales, and each of those feeds directly into my cash flow statement. I can use formulas and filters to figure out what types of pieces are selling best, how much sales tax I need to remit for each state, whether I made a profit monthly, yearly, or cumulatively.
I also use the spreadsheet to track my business-related mileage so I can take a deduction for that when I do my taxes at the end of the year.

I'm continuously tweaking it, but it served its purpose quite nicely when I filed my 2009 taxes. I had no problem taking my records for revenue and expenses for the most part... except when it came to calculating cost of goods sold. Which brings me to the one area where I really wish I'd done a better job:


Inventory


This is where I let myself down, considering I have a business degree. I
should have known better, but I was so excited to dive right into my business that I didn't think about the difference between tracking inventory for resale versus manufacturing.

If you're planning on buying and selling finished products, inventory is pretty straightforward. Decide whether you want to use
FIFO or LIFO, then track the cost and sales price of each piece.

If you're manufacturing something, it's a bit more complicated, and I failed in a major way. I tracked how much, say, a string of beads or a length of chain cost, but I didn't break it down to cost per bead or per foot of chain. What a headache when I had to figure out cost of goods sold at tax time.


Lesson learned. Now I'm tracking how much each individual component cost and recording the materials cost for each finished product. Is it tedious? Yes. But considering the time it will save me in in the future, it's totally worth it!


BRAND IDENTITY

I really needed this first year to develop a brand identity. I wasn't really sure what I was doing when I started out, so I spent a lot of time playing around, experimenting with different styles and materials. Very few pieces were alike, but they did have a similar aesthetic. I've settled into a somewhat vintage style using mostly natural materials like semi-precious stones, pearls, coral, etc., occasionally working actual vintage components into my pieces. This sort of style makes sense, since my company is named after my grandmother. ;-)

After a year, I have a better feel for what will sell, and my pieces are becoming less eclectic and more focused. Most of what I've been making lately has been variations on just a handful of styles, instead of being completely all over the place, like it was in the beginning. It's not fully reflected on my
Etsy shop yet, but as I have time to photograph new pieces I think it will become more apparent.

Speaking of which, I'm hoping that by getting a bit more focused in the styles of jewelry I make, I'll be able to reuse more product photos on Etsy, which would save me a TON of time.

One thing I really wish I'd done from the start was establish more brand identity with my packaging. This was a step in the right direction. But I'm still stuck with your standard, boring price tags and earring cards for shows. I have some ideas though. Once I get a chance to test them out, I'll share them here. :-)



MARKETING

I haven't done a heck of a lot of traditional advertising. Initially this decision had more to do with budget than anything else.
I advertised a bit online, and it appeared to get me a handful of sales, but nothing earth-shattering.

I quickly found that one of the best forms of advertising is free: word of mouth. I've made more sales based on someone seeing my jewelry being worn by someone else (or me!) and w
anting to get something like it than for any other reason.

The result has been a lot of in-person sales, but less online. I have mixed feeling about this. Do I want to focus more on getting online sales in the coming year? Or keep my focus primarily on craft shows and jewelry parties?



I think the biggest surprise for me as I write this is that one of the areas I felt I did worst (or at least was most hesitant to attack) was marketing/branding. My concentration within my business degree was marketing! If anything, I'd have expected to drop the ball on accounting and render myself completely incapable of properly completing my
Schedule C. But aside from my little inventory snafu, I think I did pretty well in that regard.

I suspect the reason for that is the fact that I was more worried about the areas I perceived as my weaknesses and put more effort into them. On one hand, this approach was a disadvantage during my first year. But on the other hand, I managed to hammer out the areas I expected to have trouble with right away, and now I am more free to focus on the things that come more easily to me.


Can't wait to see what
Mischievous Kitty Jewelry's second year in business will bring!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Shades

In the den...

Old lamp shade.


New lamp shade, up close and personal.


New lamp shade in its natural habitat. ;-)


...and in the hallway above the linen closet.

They came with the house - much too frilly for my taste!


MUCH better.
And now they match the lights in the bathroom, which is right next door.
Hurray for continuity!


For real, if you've got a space that doesn't quite match your style, just updating a *part* of the lighting makes such a tremendous difference. Bonus points if you don't pay a penny for them because you have a gift card AND a coupon. ;-)


P.S. I know I haven't been writing much about entrepreneurship in general OR my jewelry specifically lately. But I'm working on a post looking back on my first year in business. It'll be up sometime this week, promise!
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