Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tech Tuesday #3: The Art of the Linky

I am not new to blogging. In my other life as a high school English teacher, I've been blogging on teaching and technology issues for the past few years. But I had never heard of a linky party until my maternity leave began and I found myself reading and then writing a mom/craft blog. Turns out the linky party is nearly ubiquitous on the mommy craft blogs. So for those uninitiated, I thought I would devote this Tech Tuesday post to linky parties.

What Is A Linky Party?
A linky party is a blog tool that allows a blogger to host a list of links. The host blogger declares the theme of the linky - anything from tutorials on crafting for Christmas to a list of blogs written by work-at-home moms of seven children - and readers can submit their blog link for others to see and connect to. Simply put, a linky party is a collection of links to blogs that share a similar interest. And there are a number of online sites that make it easy to host such linky parties (see below).

But be careful before you begin posting. Make sure that you read the host bloggers criteria for adding your link. Some hosts do not want people to cross-post their tutorials or posts on other linky parties. It can get a bit territorial, so make sure that you read the host's rules before posting.

Directory of Crafting Link Parties:
Paisley Passions has a great directory of weekly linky parties.






Create Your Own Link Party
  • Linky Tools makes it easy to set-up a link party on your blog - www.mcklinky.com
  • InLinkz is another easy to use site that enables users to easily set up blog hops - www.inlinkz.com

Each Gift Has a Story

It started many, many years ago. I did not wake on Christmas morning expecting to find the latest gaming system wrapped up under our tree. My parents never stood in line to purchase Cabbage Patch dolls. I knew I would never find Guess jeans under our Christmas tree. Instead, I learned very young what joy comes when you give and receive homemade gifts. It outshines anything you could ever buy.

The weeks prior to Christmas, my mother would wait until my younger sister and I were sound asleep. She would lug her sewing machine out of the hall closet and pull the secretly purchased fabric and notations from the top shelf of her closet. Camped out on the dining room table for hours, my mom would sew dresses and doll clothes and crafts for the family. I will never forget the Christmas morning that my sister and I unwrapped Holly and Ginger, the yarn-haired babies nearly half our height that my mom handmade for us. Dressed in beautiful gingham dresses with matching aprons and bloomers that my mom painstakingly sewed, Holly and Ginger were the names she wrote out on the birth certificates she created for our dolls. These handmade creations were saved for last. The last presents unwrapped each Christmas morning. The favorite, most treasured gifts.

My sister and I picked up on this tradition and at a young age began to make each other handmade gifts. And as we grew older, we carried on the tradition that my mother started. We still make handmade gifts each year. I've given wreaths, hand-painted ornaments, knit scarves, sewed matching place mats and tablecloths. And the gifts don't always work out as planned. One year while in college I sewed my sister a poncho. A deep red chenille poncho with black fringe edging. It was way too large for my sister. But I gave it to her anyway, telling her she could use it as a poncho or as a picnic blanket. She still uses it as her Christmas tree skirt to this day. And each year, as she is setting up her Christmas tree, she gives me a call to remind me of the Christmas that I gave her a picnic poncho.

When you give a handmade gift, you don't just give someone an object. You give them a story. You give that person a piece of yourself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Made By Me Monday: Give the Gift of Art

First, let me begin by saying I am not an artist. Not long ago, feeling emboldened by David Bromstad on HGTV, I picked up six small canvases at my local craft store and a handful of paint. He made it look so easy. Slap some paint on a canvas and voilĂ ! A connected collage of beautiful branches. Yeah. Not so easy. What I ended up with where six tan canvases weighed down with thick, uneven logs. I could not paint the delicate twigs that David so gracefully looped onto canvas. Mine were a thick, smeary disaster. Needless to say, my first attempt at painting ended up as kindling. But, it didn't stop me from trying to paint. And, I've found a couple of easy tricks for creating art for any room. Below is a quick tutorial on creating a simple and modern painting for any space.

Start by picking up a couple of pre-made canvases at your local arts and crafts store. For this project, I am using a 12 x 12 canvas. This is a great time of year to stock up on canvases as you'll find tons holiday coupons online making it incredibly inexpensive to pick up a pack of pre-made canvases.

You'll also need some good, stiff, flat-head brushes. The stiff, flat tip will make it easier to cut into tight corners as you paint. Skip the cheap multi-brush pack. The hairs fall out easily as you paint, and you don't want to be picking brush hairs off your canvas.

Then, select three different acrylic paint colors. Again, you can find both art and craft paints just about anywhere. If you use craft paints (like those pictured), you will need to paint more than one coat as the craft acrylic paints do not cover as well as the art paints.

Begin by drawing your pattern onto your canvas with a pencil. Grab two different sized circles to use as templates. A cereal bowl and drinking glass worked well for me. Start by drawing the larger circles onto your canvas. Make sure the circles overlap. Then, go back and draw on the smaller circles in a random pattern. The more places your circles overlap, the more variation you will have in your painting. Something neat to also try is wrapping your circles onto the edges of your canvas.

Before you begin painting your circles, figure out your color pattern. You'll see from my picture that I labeled each section to indicate what color I would need to paint it. This makes it much easier to see in advance what your pattern will look like and to make sure that you don't accidentally put two of the same colored sections right next to each other. What you end up with is a canvas that looks a lot like a children's paint-by-number picture.

And then paint away! To make your lines smooth, don't load your brush up with a lot of paint - a little goes a long way - and pull your paint brush toward you. Paint one color at a time, waiting until one color dries before beginning the next. You'll paint over your pencil marks, so they won't show. And remember, if you make a mistake, you can always paint right over it once it dries.

And you're done! You can hang this canvas just as it is or use it as a background for some decoupaged images to give your piece even more depth.

Trust me, if I can do this, anyone can! Happy painting!
MakingCreations by KaraShow and Tell Green

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Sale!

http://www.etsy.com/transaction/38252277It's been a big day! As I was wheeled into the recovery room following surgery this morning, my husband let me know that I had made my first Etsy sale! So now I am without a gallbladder and without my baby washcloth sushi set! And, I'm feeling great about both!

To celebrate, readers can take an extra 15% off everything in the Babee Crafts store tomorrow by typing in "TURKEYDAY" as a coupon code. This code is only good on Thanksgiving Day and can also be used on custom request items purchased on Thanksgiving Day! Enjoy your holiday and happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tech Tuesday #2: Wait! Where Was That Again?

This week's installment of Tech Tuesday is all about organization. How can you simplify your life online, making it easy to find and share the websites and information that you access most? Check out the sites below. They may help you simplify and organize your life online.

Where would I be without Delicious? Likely still saving all my bookmarks to my computer's browser and cursing when I couldn't find a particular web page when I switched computers. Saving your favorite sites online makes it much easier to find them later no matter what computer or browser you use. Delicious uses tags to help you organize and keep track of all your favorites.

Take it to the cloud! Rather than saving all your files to your computer's hard drive and not having access to them when you switch computers or carting around an external hard drive or multiple USB flash drives (I always lose the caps to those things), try saving your files online. Like saving your bookmarks online, saving your documents, spreadsheets, images, photos, and videos to a secure site like Box.net enables you to access them anywhere you have internet connection. This free storage site not only allows you to keep files private, but you also have the option of sharing files or folders with other users.

Google Docs
Like Box.net, Google Docs is a wonderful way to store your files online, but there is oh-so-much more that you can do with Google Docs. Collaborate with others on word processing documents or spreadsheets. Create surveys to embed on your blog or website. Create a mailing list that your clients add their own information to when ever and where ever they wish. The possibilities are nearly limitless.

Symbaloo is just cool. I have tons of bookmarked websites and even more blogs daily packing my reader with new posts. And then there's Twitter and Etsy and email and... How nice would it be to keep track of all my regularly checked sites in one place. Symbaloo helps you do just that. Sign up for free, and create your customized Symbaloo page. "It is our dream to make Symbaloo the easiest starting point on the Internet. It’s that simple; you could have thought of it yourself! Symbaloo is an ancient Greek verb meaning ‘gathering’ ‘assembling’." Check it out!

Just released this past week, RockMelt is a new browser that makes keeping track of your favorite sites and sharing your finds with your social networks much easier. Take a quick look and sign up for a free download.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's Advice

Today's inbox brings me this: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” --Aristotle

Crap...literally. Because what I do repeatedly is change crappy diapers. I guess that makes me excellent at crap. =)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Defense of Moms

Lisa Belkin over at New York Times' Motherlode blog recently published Katie Allison Granju and Jillian St. Charles’ response to Erica Jong’s Wall Street Journal essay “Mother Madness.” In it, Granju and St. Charles argue that Jong vilifies the modern mother's choice to breastfeed and co-sleep. Their response drips with barely contained vitriol, criticizing not just Jong's position on motherhood but her writing style, contributions to literature, and the contributions of feminists of Jong's generation. Such obvious attacks do not promote dialogue but serve merely to divide: are you a baby-wearer or a politically-aware feminist? C'mon. which is it?! While I understand that Jong as well as Granju/St. Charles are intentionally trying to rally support using emotionally-laden rhetoric, ironically such responses are leaving out a very significant audience - mothers.

Both Jong and Grangu/St. Charles get caught up in their own passionate appeals - a position on modern motherhood. Unfortunately, neither seem to really connect with the day-to-day realities of being a mom. Jong does indulge in some hyperbole with statements like:
"Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization."

While Grangu and St. Charles misread Jong and attack Jong's apparent disconnect from today's moms with statements like:
"And as for Jong’s assertion that mothers today don't tell each other the truth about the difficult, challenging and even dark parts of the world's toughest job, well she obviously hasn't read any momblogs or any of the wave of 'momoirs' that have been released in the last decade."

Really Jong? Attachment parenting in conjunction with environment awareness are what keep women from reaching their potential? You've over simplified for effect. I get it. While I agree that obsessively and dogmatically following any parenting theory will ultimately do a great disservice to both the child and the parent, it is dangerous to reduce the difficult position modern mothers find themselves in today, wanting to both raise emotionally healthy children and find ways to be emotionally healthy themselves by pursuing their own passions and work, to such polarizing rhetoric.

Unfortunately, Grangu and St. Charles aren't much better, seeming to miss Jong's point entirely. Jong has not authored a plea for mothers to spend more time reading momblogs about how to parent. Jong is not saying we shouldn't breastfeed or co-sleep. In fact, she directly states, "Mothers must be free to choose." Instead, one of Jong's most salient points advocates a more communal approach to parenting, taking up the position that it takes a community to raise a child. Besides, Grangu/St. Charles arguement that there are a pleathora of mommy blogs misses the mark in another respect, there is a difference between writing for an unseen audience and confessing face-to-face your failures and misgivings as a parent, in connecting one-on-one in honest conversation about your doubts and fears as a parent. Jong seems to argue for more connection and less parenting from unseen gurus.

It is unfortunate that both pieces are littered with such anger and sweeping generalizations. At their heart, both pieces seem to be generally concerned about the position of mothers. I love Jong's final statement, that our cultures seems to have devised "a set of expectations that makes [mothers] feel inadequate no matter how passionately they attend to their children." I agree. I feel caught between my hopes of being a good mother and to also find fulfillment and identity outside of my role as a mother. And Grangu and St. Charles also offer up some good observations: "Progressive politics begin at home, with the way we raise our children, and many women will tell you that becoming a mother was the most politically radicalizing experience of their lives. Suddenly, the personal really is political, in a very tangible way." I also agree. Suddenly, my desire to work for and vote for policies that support the education of all children, healthcare for all children, and open access to both, are much more personal now that I have children of my own.

All this coming from a mother with a masters degree from a women's college, typing with a two month old bouncing on her knee while her two year old naps, proving there is such a thing as the feminist mother. We are political diaper-changers. We are intellectual nurturers. To steal a sentiment from Walt Whitman, we are large; we contain multitudes. So let's hear more balanced critique and less dichotomizing rhetoric from both sides of the motherhood debate. Let's spend less time pointing fingers and more time figuring out how to support mothers, working in the home and outside of it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tech Tuesdays #1: On the Look Out

Inspired by my recent posts on using Twitter and Google's AdWords to market my Etsy store, I thought I would start a new series - Tech Tuesdays. In this series, I'll explore some of the web-based tools that work-at-home moms are using to promote their websites and blogs.

Since setting shop, I've been trying to find ways to reach those who might be interested in my creative endeavors. In part, that's how this blog and my Babeecrafts Twitter account got started. But, how do I know if they're working? How do I know if anyone out there hears me? Hello!? Are you out there? Below are some tools that you can use in conjunction with your website or blog to check in on who's checking you out.

A Peek at Who's Peeking:
  • Feedjit is a great and free little widget that you can customize and add to your site to track who accesses your site, when, and from where. By tracking the IP addresses that connect to your site, Feedjit "listens" to see who accesses your page, for how long, how they arrived, and how they leave your site. Check out my Feedjit at the bottom of this blog.

  • Google Analytics is another free way to track who visits your website, when, and how long. As mentioned in an earlier post, Google Analytics can be used to see what keywords people have used to find your site. And as an added bonus, if you are using Google's AdWords to advertise your site, you can connect your Analytics page to your AdWords page which allows you to see what keywords some has used to both find your site and have resulted in a sale. Interested in learning more? Check out CraftyPod's video series - Google Analytics for Crafters.

  • StatCounter, as described on their website, is a free yet reliable invisible web tracker, highly configurable hit counter, and real-time detailed web stats. Insert a simple piece of our code on your web page or blog and you will be able to analyze and monitor all the visitors to your website in real-time! It takes the best of Feedjit and Google Analytics and puts it in one place.

  • ClustrMaps, in addition to adding a nifty little map to your website or blog, when ClustrMap loads on your site, it increments a counter and shows the locations of all visitors to your page, cumulatively (even for huge numbers). Clicking on it zooms in to a big world map, and lets you zoom in to the continents.

And, What Are They Saying?
  • Social Mention crawls social media sites for mention of your search terms. Track what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across 80+ social media sites.

  • Who's Talkin (or if you look at their url, it could also be who stalkin) works much like Social Mention in that it crawls the web for mentions of your name or website on social media sources.

  • Google Alerts are easy to set up searches that are sent directly to your email inbox. Set one up with your name, your shop's name, or your blog's web address. Any time someone mentions you on the web, Google will send you an email to let you know where to find the mention. Need help creating your first alert? Check out this handout.

  • Pipl searches the "deep web" for information, pictures, and more. Plug your name into the search engine and see what Pipl pulls back.

Hopefully these tools will help you figure out who your audience is in order to better reach them. Stay tuned for more Tech Tuesday posts!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Twitter Me!

I've been an avid Twitter user for the past couple years. As a high school teacher, Twitter has been an amazing resource for connecting with my fellow educators. I can honestly say that I would not be the teacher I am today without all of the knowledge, resources, and support I have gained through my Twitter learning network.

But learning how to use Twitter as a social media marketing tool has been a whole new experience. And it's amazing the variety of sites, articles, and tutorials out there that focus on the importance of Twitter as a marketing tool. Not only can Twitter help businesses connect with their customers, it also can be a helpful tool for forming connections, for finding support. This is especially true for work-at-home moms. Twitter connects us to a whole community of support.

So with that in mind, I've put together a simple list of resources to help other work-at-home moms familiarize themselves with how they might use Twitter.

What is Twitter?
Check out this explanation of Twitter in Plain English:

Or get the low-down on Twitter from its creator, Evan Williams:

Rafe Needleman writes about Twitter in his article on CNet titled "Newbie's Guide to Twitter"

The Basics:
  • Twitter is an online service designed to connect you with a group of friends called “followers” through short (140 character limit) messages

  • You select the friends you want to follow

  • You set your privacy limit for how much others are able to see

  • Twitter is a way to connect with others, whether they are people you know or people who share a similar interest with you that you meet through the service.

  • “Twitter is useful for close-knit groups. If you follow your friends, and they follow each other, you can quickly communicate group-related items, such as ‘I'm going to the pub on Fourth Street, come on along.’ …If you enter items into Twitter, they can be private, so only friends you've authorized can see them. Items can also be made public, which means anyone who knows your Twitter ID can read and subscribe to them.”

  • And the best part? Twitter is free!

Setting Up An Account:
Check out this quick tutorial on setting up your Twitter account

Or, use this handout - How to Set Up a Twitter Account2.doc - developed by Darren Rowse at www.twitip.com/tag/twitter-for-beginners

Twitter as a Marketing Tool:

Applications for Twitter:
Check out this list of amazing Twitter Apps. Some of the most used applications include

Twitter Software That You Download to your Desktop
  • Twitterific - A downloadable application which can manage multiple accounts, automatically refreshes, and sends audio notifications of new tweets. Compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

  • Twhirl is a popular software that can handle multiple accounts, URL shortening, crossposting to Pownce and Jaiku, post images on Twitpic, and search tweets using twitter search and tweetscan.

  • Tweetdeck uses the Adobe AIR application to let you view your replies and public tweets as well as group tweets all at the same time.

Twitter Applications to Add to Your Browser
  • Twitbin lets you receive and send tweets at the side of your Firefox browser, while

  • Firefox Search Plugin lets you post to Twitter right from your Firefox search bar

  • Power Twitter is a plugin for Firefox that enables photo and video sharing

Fun Twitter Applications
  • Twibes helps you let your followers build their connections by sending out a tweet with a list of your favorite Twitter friends.

  • WeFollow is a site that helps you find people to follow, and you can add yourself to their directory to help others find you.

  • Twtpoll is a simple survey application that lets you create polls and share them with your followers through a short url.

  • TwitPic allows you to share photos on Twitter.

  • TrackThis allows you to track packages. Expecting something from FedEx? Track it on Twitter!

Ga-ga Goo-Google

I've immersed myself in Google the past few days. Thinking about how I might better use social media and web resources to market my new Etsy shop, I've spent time learning about Google's AdWords, setting up two regional ad campaigns to see if the traffic to my shop increases. What I've learned? It's all about the keywords! For others interested in learning more about how to use Google's AdWords to drive more traffic to their site, check out this introduction.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Google Business YouTube site.

And, if you look to the right of this post, you'll notice a few other changes. Not long ago Google acquired FeedBurner, a web service that helps bloggers publicize and keep track of their blog's RSS feeds for those readers interested in subscribing to posts through a reader (I love my Google Reader) or through email. Here's a basic tutorial, for those interested in learning more.

Wait? What's a reader? Check it out:

As I learn more about what works (and what doesn't), I'll be sure to share. And I'd love to hear from other Etsy sellers about what social media tools have worked for you.
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