Thursday, April 30, 2009

How I set goals for my online store

Here is how I set goals for my online store. It is my own method that I worked out during my stance as an Insurance Advisor.. I was doing road shows back then and numbers are really important to me. The more people I speak to, the more chances for closing a sale. It is what they call, a numbers game. To use this method, you would need the studio stats to track your progress.
How my system works...
First decide the number of sales that you want.
My goal this year is to have 1000 sales transactions.
A big number for me that I seeked to motivate me and a big enough number for me to dream.
It sounds impossible, but yet maybe reachable as a clear, measurable figure is stated.
I am not looking at dollar sales, as it gives me too much stress.
How I count is, 1 item sold is 1 sale. 1 admin job for 1 month is 1 sale.
I count these only when I collect payment.
Pending payment cases do not count.

Step 2: The golden rule says 3%. Going by the 3% rule;
Goal / 3 x 100 = Number of views needed
1000 / 3 x 100 = 33,333 views needed
This is the number of views that I need for my product listings to get 1000 sales.
I am selling my products, not my shop.
Plus, some visitors come and go without checking out products.
Remember to use Total Item Views.
Step 3: The golden rule still says 3%. Going by the 3% rule;
Number of views needed / 3 x 100 = Number of impressions needed
33333 / 3 x 100 = 1,111,100 impressions needed
This is the number of times that my shop url needs to be seen to get 33,333 views.
Working backwards to explain the above calculations.
1,111,100 people will need to see my url, before 3% of them actually visits.
3% means 33,333 viewings of my products.
I will need 33,333 views on my products, before 3% of them actually buys.
3% means 1000 sales for my store.
All these figures matter as these are the goals that I work towards everyday. Its not just the 1000sales. Its the views also!
This system works well for me as it distract me from the pressure of sales target.
Instead I focus on marketing my store, trying to increase visits to my store, increase the number of views each item gets, which in turn helps to bring in sales.
I hope this simple method will help you to focus on marketing your store,
instead of focusing on sales. Do you have your own method? Share it!!
All the best..

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Time Management For Busy Moms

It has been suggested recently that many of our readers would be interested in an article about how to manage our busy time schedules and activities. Those of us that are moms with children at home certainly seem to run out of time each day to accomplish all we want to do in a day, whether we work outside the home or are stay-at-home moms.

Even if we no longer have children at home (like me, being a grandmom) and we are working at our art or craft in addition to all the other household and family needs, time management is still an issue. I thought I would tackle this concern in today's post. Though I certainly am no expert in this, I would like to share a few things that have worked for me as well as bring you a couple of links to other expert articles I have found.

Certainly we don't need another complicated, time-stealing method of grabbing control of our activities, so what I will talk about will be common-sense, simple methods of making a change to help us out. One of the things that I tend to do is make a lot of "to-do" lists. Now, it doesn't work to put them on little scraps of paper that are later easy to lose on your kitchen counter or desk. Believe me, I have first-hand experience with this! I have a notebook that I keep for jotting down things I want to remember, among them my tasks that I want to accomplish for the day.

Alternatively, keep a "to-do" list space on your fridge posted with a magnet, or someplace you will always see it. Just make sure it has a permanent place that you will always find it.

I don't know about you, but my lists are always long, and I never can seem to finish everything on the list. How about prioritizing that list in some way? One thing I do is to star the items that are "must do today or else". Then you know that these are the things that get done for sure.

Another way I have tried is to put each item in one of three categories:
  1. Must do today - time sensitive items
  2. Need to do today if at all possible
  3. Would like to do today, time allowing
The time sensitive items would be things like doctors' appointments, picking up kids at school or taking them to regularly scheduled activities, etc. "Need to do today" items would be all those things that are important, but not life-threatening, like cleaning the house because in-laws are coming for a visit tonight or doing some grocery shopping because it would be difficult (though not impossible) to come up with anything healthy to fix for dinner tonight or get to the Post Office to send out that order I got on my Artfire site. "Would like to do" items would be things like cleaning out that junk drawer finally or surfing on the internet for a new and interesting recipe to try out using ground beef.

Another help I have found is to look at what is your most productive time, as well as when you seem to lose time to that proverbial "black hole" and make some adjustments. For example, my most productive time seems to be mid to late morning, especially when I need to write. I am awake and most alert then, so a lot of my blog writing and posting in forums gets done then. Additionally, late at night is my second most productive time (I am a night owl!), so I also can get a lot done on the computer then.

For me, my biggest black hole in time is right after I wake up, when I get online with my morning coffee. So many times, I have looked up to discover that several hours have gone by and I have not done anything that I thought was important for the day! One solution that is helping me lately is to either not get on the computer before I have my coffee and morning shower, or to at least only allow myself a very limited time (half an hour) before I get off the computer and then get myself ready or other things done first.

Another issue I have trouble with, and you might too, is that I often (usually?) put too many things on my list! Then when I only get 3 or 4 things done, I feel bad and give myself a hard time. That is not only discouraging but also counter-productive, because a few days of this and I feel like giving up. Limit your list to only a few items a day. Then when you get those done and still have time for more, you feel on top of the world!

I have one more bit of advice, but first want to share with you a couple of links to some interesting articles I found today.

This first one was an article that also had a simple, no-nonsense approach, from AllThings Frugal website. I haven't taken the time to look much further, however there seemed to be lots of interesting articles for saving money and time all over this website.

The second article I found and read this morning is about Time Management for the Busy Mom which brings up how important it is to schedule time for yourself. I agree with her on that issue! She talks about "Type A Moms" - we are all that, aren't we? Sometimes I feel like the Mom "chicken with her head cut off" type! It really pays to take even 5 minutes to yourself each day, even if it is to just sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and BREATHE.

Finally, my own bit of final advice. Very profound. Don't miss it. Here it is: Give Yourself Credit! We all do a lot every day, then no matter what happens, we have to get up and do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. We do the very best we can, don't we? So give yourself a pat on the back for what you HAVE done. We don't have to be perfect. And we all are perfect in our imperfections.

Enjoy your day and your week!

Arlene / Spirit Essence Art

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BBQ Chicken Nachos - Yummy!

This recipe brought to you by JazzyJemz sounds right up my alley. These nachos sound divine and best of all the recipe is super simple and quick to make. It's also easily modified for those who are watching their waistline by simply replacing the cheese with a fat free or reduced fat variety and using either Baked Tostitos or Tostitos Light chips.

BBQ Chicken nachos- Appetizer or snack

1 cup cooked chicken

BBQ sauce

Chopped Tomato

Chopped Red onion

1.5 cups Shredded Chedder


Preheat oven to 300

Toss Cooked Chicken and BBQ sauce in a pan to heat on low while you chopped the toppings- onions, tomato

When cooked chicken is warm put a layer of tostitos on a shallow cookie sheet. Layer chicken on top, onions, tomatos. Top with the shreeded cheese. Drizzle some BBQ sauce over the cheese.

Pop in oven, remove when cheese has melted. Eat up before they disappear!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Congrats to our newest winner!

Bittersweet Designs has won our Weekly contest for her Set of 7 face scrubbies. She gets the awesome prize of having her Rapid Cart featured on our blog. Congrats!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekly Contest- Green

Our weekly Artisian Challenge is under way and we need your help with participation! Please vote for your favorite item.

Our theme this week was "Green"

Poll is at bottom of post. One vote per IP address. You have til Sunday to vote. The winner of this week's challenge will be announced on Monday- and the winner will get their Artfire Rapid Cart on our blog. Best of luck to all artists

Spirit Essence Art - Mystical Aum Glass

Subearthen Cottage -Lemongrass Soap

Bittersweet Design- Set of 7 Eco Friendly Face Scrubbies

By Coco- Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Bottle Art & Glass Candle

Mindy's Embroidery- Going Green patch

Please vote once. Feel free to share with your friends!

Its Coming!!!!

That is right!

Artfire Cafemom Team is having an Open House !!

The master list for the Open House will be posted Sunday May 3rd. Stay tuned to see all the awesome shops who are having sales to celebrate!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Promotion Counts!

Promotion is key to sales for online businesses. If you are selling on a platform like Artfire or Etsy, you can't always rely on the random browser to find you shop and fall in love with your items.

So what does the novice online seller do to promote his or her business?

Many people will first start promoting their businesses on social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook, Twitter or Plurk.

This is a great step to get started promoting your business. It is free (who doesn't like free). The downside is that it is time consuming to update and maintain pages and keep people in the loop to what new items you have, sales, etc.

Never fear, there is a new program to help update all your social networking sites at once. Presently it is in beta and still working on improvements but it looks promising.

Ping has a dashboard where you can control your networks, updates on various accounts. Go check it out, it may make your life a little more simplier!

Another venue businesses utilize for effective promotion is a blog. There are many different venues you can blog on from Blogger, Typepad, Xanga or you can set up your own domain name for blogging. Blogs provide an avenue for you to spotlight your own work, promote yourself and other shops, advertise sales or giveaways. You can mix business with personal and add information from your life. Play around with what works to see how you can get more traffic to your blog. One thing that is a must if you sell on Artfire or Etsy is having your mini shop or Rapid Cart on your blog.

Promotion also come in the form of advertisements online. My prefence for online advertising is paying pennies a day for ads on different sites that publish through Project Wonderful. For more tips for online ads, please see my previous blog for getting started with Project Wondeful.

Artfire and Etsy also have teams or guilds that you can belong to that can help advance your business through group promotion. If you haven't already, check out the guilds on those handmade venues to see what activites they are doing to promote.

There are several online sites that are all about promoting the handmade community.

Have you checked out Stumbled Upon where people can randomly be sent to your shop? It is useful!

Some more free ways to advertise:

•Your email signature
•Leaving blog comments- sign with your website link
•Have an online portfolio with photos of your items- use flickr or photobucket
•Leave your business cards at restaurants, places in town that you could see your item sold at
•Upload your photos and turn them into a music video for blogs, you tube and other promotional venues by using

•Are you putting business cards in with products for every order?

•Clickable signature links to your shop for posting in forums.

Do you have any more suggestions for promoting your venue? Tell us what works for you!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Are You Doing on This Earth Day?

Today is Earth Day, and we certainly have the opportunity to do our part in preserving and valuing the resources of our home. This day is just a reminder to us to be more aware of our planet, not just on this one day of the year, but every day. I find myself asking "What can I do that I am not currently doing to take better care of our environment?"

How many of you are using the cloth reusable grocery bags to bring home your groceries? I have started doing that, though I could be better at remembering to bring them in with me from my car when I stop at the grocery store! We can all do things like turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth until we actually need it, or putting cans, recyclable plastic bottles, our newspapers, and glass into the recycle bins. What are other ways we can help? I decided to do some research on the subject. Here are a few ideas I found on the internet.

Are you using eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products in your home? These are a lot more available these days. The main thing is to avoid the poisonous and harmful ingredients in them such as chlorine bleach, phosphates, formaldehyde, napthas and mineral spirits, which can not only cause damage to us and animals, but also to our environment. Here is an interesting article I read that gives some natural, safe cleaning alternatives: Switch to Natural Cleaning Products .

In addition to that, we can do what we can to raise our awareness of environmental issues. Here are some ideas on how to do that. Teach kids about Earth Day. They are the adults of tomorrow. Here are 10 Ways to Teach Kids About Earth Day. Here's another page of Earth Day Activities for Kids.

Read up on Earth Day - inform yourself and share with others what you learn. Just do a Google search on Earth Day and you will see literally hundreds of thousands of websites devoted to the subject. Take action: Do one new activity to teach someone about caring for our environment or to recycle our waste, or even to promote and support creating less waste in the first place. How can you recycle materials in your art or craft? As creative people, we can come up with some new and interesting ways to re-use materials.

I am thinking about paintings I have not liked, especially on watercolor paper - I plan on keeping it and maybe cutting it up in different ways to use in my artists journal, rather than just throwing it in the trash can.

So, what can you do? How can you help? Perhaps you can post here some ideas you might have on ways you are helping or plan to in the future.

Enjoy your day!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Photography Tips

In my behind the shop interview I mentioned that taking great pictures of your products was key to having a successful online business. Of course that is much easier said than done and something I still continue to struggle with. In this quest I have stumbled on many helpful online tips and tutorials that I thought I would share with everyone today. Most of these have to do with photographing jewelry since that is what I specialize in but I think most of the tips could apply to anyone.

Great resources for online photography tips:
1. DIY Lightbox tutorial - this is the one that I personally use and although I'm not 100% happy with it, it does work well. Some other tutorials I have came across that look good are from Digital Photography School, Strobist, and Creative Pro which covers more than just your basic cardboard box.
2. Rena Klingenberg also covers how to build your own lightbox but goes a step further by discussing backgrounds, lighting, and camera settings.
3. For those that don't have a camera or who are not confident in their picture taking abilities Bill Gallagher has an interesting article on scanning your products.
4. Marlize Kasselman shares her tips on photography and has some of the best tips I've seen regarding the settings on your camera.
5. Lastly, I stumbled across this article from Pure Beads last night. I haven't had the chance to read it thoroughly but from my skimming I think might be one of my best finds yet. The article goes into great depth about all aspects of photography including photo editing.

Here's a few items from our wonderful Artfire Cafemom Team who I think have done a wonderful job with their pictures.

Hope someone has found this information as helpful as I have and here's to taking great pictures.

Monday, April 20, 2009

An Artisan Mom's Work is Never Done

Well, I made it through my first craft show! The hubby and my oldest son went with me to help out and keep me sane, if that's possible. We made the spot money and a tiny profit, so to say. But I learned a lot all the same and made a few connections! That made it all worth it!

I will say this though, I wish that I had this Bright Eyes Herbal Tea Bags by SoftShellBodyShop! Those late nights for a week prior were really getting to me by the end of the festival! In fact, I am still not caught up on my rest since the two littlest ones have been keeping me up since they were left with Grandma on Saturday while I was selling my wares!

I can also say that when I do another show, and I KNOW that I will, I will make sure that I have some Honey Bath Soak with Goat’s Milk by BeSpalicious to put in my bath after a long day on my feet! I would love to have some of her pepermint foot stuff too!

Don't forget to check out all the great mom's in the "Artfire Cafemom Team" when you are looking around! They are some amazing moms and artisans!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mom Behind the Shop: Jewelry By Janzia

This week's Mom Behind the Shop is Jewelry By Janzia, aka Jeanette. Jeanette is sponsoring a giveaway of a very pretty PURPLE AMETHYST SHIMMER BRACELET. We decided to interview her to find out more about this giving mom in our Artfire Cafemom Team. So here is a bit about this talented mom!

Who are you:

I am a jewelry designer, wife, former mental health social worker and a stay at home mom to two wonderful children. I grew up in WV but have lived in Charlotte, NC for the past 7 years. I miss the mountains and countryside of WV but am happy to call Charlotte home now. It has a beauty of it's own and is a great place to raise a family.

What kinds of items do you sell:

I sell handcrafted jewelry including bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. I work mostly with semi-precious stones and crystal but like working with a wide array of materials. I've recently started to experiment with some paper materials and resin but am still perfecting the technique. I will also be attending a wirework class soon and look forward to learning ways to improve in that area too.

What made you get into your craft:

I first became interested in making jewelry when I commented on liking a pair of my neighbors earrings and she told me that her daughter had made them. I was amazed by the idea that you could make your own earrings and a little seed was planted. The next time I went to my local library I checked out every book I could on jewelry making. I read everything I could on the subject but wasn't really spurred to action until I went to a jewelry party (not the handcrafted kind but a company sponsored one). I loved everything I saw but after reading so much about it I kept thinking to myself I could make that. I figured by this point it was time to stop thinking about it and start doing something. I went home and scoured all my books once again and then made my first piece which I gave to my mom for her birthday. After that there was no stopping me.

Not one to ever do things halfway I went on a shopping spree and started making more than I could ever give away. I first got the thought to sell my jewelry when my neighbor asked if I had anything to sell because she was looking for a gift for her niece. I sold my first piece that day and at the urging of my family and friends decided to create Jewelry by Janzia and here I am.

Tips for online businesses:

There's so many, I don't know where to begin. I think first and foremost you need to learn how to take great pictures, which is something I'm still working on. Really read your camera manual and learn what each of the settings are for. Learn about lighting, build yourself a light box, shoot different angles and in different lighting. Remember that customers online can't touch or see your items close up so try and get the best pics you can. After you've got that down then promote, promote, promote!

Tips for moms :

Take time out for yourself and don't feel guilty for it. Sometimes I think guilt is my middle name and I just have to remind myself that I deserve to have my needs met sometimes too.

What is your favorite place to visit:

I'm a kid at a heart so I'd have to say Disney World. I've been there a ton of times but still enjoy it every time. It's especially great now that I have kids, watching their faces just brings joy to my heart. I'll never forget when my little girl had her luncheon with the princessess, the look on her face was worth every penny!

Your comfort food:

It's a toss up between homemade macaroni and cheese or a nice hot bowl of homemade soup. I love soup and could eat it about every day and do most days but there's something about macaroni and cheese that just soothes the soul.

If you were able to do anything in the world, what would it be and why:

Right now I would have to say that I would love to be able to take a get away weekend with some of my best girlfriends. There's nothing like being able to kick back with the people that love and know you best, having a few drinks, a few laughs, good conversation, and, of course, good gossip.

A few more items from Jewelry By Janzia's Store
(Clicking the picture takes you to that item in the store)

Denim Blues - Sodalite & Crystal Hoop Earrings

Joy, Respect & Harmony

Crystal Cube Bracelet

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Giveaway #5: Jewelry By Janzia

Welcome to our FIFTH blog giveaway!

The shop behind this giveaway is

"The name of my studio is Jewelry by Janzia. I wish I could say something creative about my name but I chose Janzia as my internet name years ago while trying to register on a forum and my real name Jeanette was already taken. I decided to continue using it for my studio name because I think it has a nice ring to it, plus I just like the name Janzia. In my studio you will find handmade necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. I work mostly with semi-precious stones, glass, and crystals but try to provide a range of items to suit a variety of people. I find inspiration everywhere I look, nature, magazines, paintings, even the way colors are put together in a towel or a bedspread. I try to observe my surroundings and find things or color combinations that speak to me."


About the Item:
A fun and and chunky lampwork bead bracelet where the color ranges from the palest lavender to the deepest royal purples. The bumpy dot beads are brought to life with amethyst teardrops, purple shimmer tubes, and miyuki square seed beads, all accented with silver toned rounds and daisy spacers. Bracelet clasps with a silver tone hook and eye clasp. Bracelet measures approximately 8" in length with an inner diameter of approximately 7.25". Can be resized if needed.

How you enter:

Go to JewelryByJanzia's shop and find the item that catches your eye! Copy and paste the URL here in the comment section along with a valid email address in case you are chosen as our winner. One entry per person. If you want a second chance to win this beautiful bracelet - you can blog about it. Be sure to include photo of the bracelet and a link to the ACT blog. When you have blogged about the giveaway, all you need to do is post a link to the blog in the comment section. You can do this all in one comment and it will still count for two entries.

The giveaway will run from Friday 4/17 to Thursday 4/23. One winner will be chosen by random. We will contact the winner to get a valid shipping address. Please reply within 48 hours or a different winner will be chosen. Item will be shipped via USPS First Class or Priority Mail within one business day.

***Please leave your email address since this is the easiest and most efficient way of contacting the winner!***

Good luck!

Weekly Contest: April Showers bring May Flowers

Our weekly Artisian Challenge is under way and we need your help with participation! Please vote for your favorite item.

Our theme this week was "April Showers bring May Flowers"

Poll is at bottom of post. One vote per IP address. You have til Sunday to vote. The winner of this week's challenge will be announced on Monday- and the winner will get their Artfire Rapid Cart on our blog. Best of luck to all artists!

Clicking photo will take you to a product description

Bows for Baby- Springtime Clippie

Jewelry by Janzia- May Flowers Lampwork Cube Bracelet

Creations with Heart- Heart Blossums Bracelet

Jemz- Carnival Bloom Splat Mat

Weekly Artisian Competition
Which item best reflects the theme of
Bows for Baby - Spring Clippie
Jewelry by Janzia- May Flowers Lampwork Cube Bracelet
Creations With Heart- Heart Blossums Bracelet
Jemz- Carnival Blossum Splat Mat

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tasty, Time-Saving Recipes!

I don't know about you, but if I am deep into an art or craft project and it gets to the time of day when everyone is hungry for dinner, the last thing I want to do is start cooking a meal that takes too long. Since we haven't had any recipes posted here for a while, I thought I would share with you some that are quick, easy, and delicious.

Here is one that our own Stacey from SWDesigns contributed.


1/2 cups milk

1 box (5.1 ounces) of instant vanilla pudding

1 container (8 ounces) of Cool Whip

1 can of your favorite fruit pie filling (15 ounces to 21 ounces)

1. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk, mix in the box of instant vanilla pudding. Whisk for around two minutes. The mixture will be thick.

2. Add in the pie filling. Using whisk, mix until blended.

3. Add in the cool whip. Using whisk, mix until blended.

4. Spoon into individual serving dishes, and refrigerate three to four hours before serving.

It looks delicious, doesn't it? So, dessert taken care of. Now how about a main dish that is quick and easy? This next one comes from Jenn, our fearless leader here at Artfire Cafemom Team and owner of JazzyJemz .



1 lb ground sausage - you can use the link Italian sausage and remove the casings

1/2 small onion

1 green pepper

1 clove garlic minced

2 cups frozen mixed veggies

1 zucchini

1 container Homestyle Biscuits by Pillsbury

1 container Chunky Veggie Style by Ragu


Preheat oven to prepare biscuits as stated on the package

Brown the sausage and drain. Add onions, peppers to the pan to get tender.

Once tender, throw in the mixed veggies and garlic. Let cook for 5 minutes. Throw in zucchini.

Once zucchini is tender, add the Chunky Veggie style Ragu. Let simmer until hot.

While mixture is simmering- put biscuits in the oven and cook as directed on package.


Open biscuits on plate, serve sausage mixture over. Eat up!

Alternative servings - serve over pasta or rice- just as scrumptious!

That one works for me - a one-dish meal with your protein, starch, and veggies all in one delicious dish!

Speaking about time saving
, here is a quick and easy way to prepare almost anything you have in your fridge for a tasty dinner meal, that is both delicious and healthy. How about stir frying?! It's really easy and you can use the basic formula with almost any meat and vegetables.



1 lb. boneless beef, chicken, or pork, cut into bite-sized strips or pieces
1 onion, chopped or 1 bunch spring onions, sliced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
Several cups of other vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, asparagus, carrots, celery, etc.
1 cup Chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or, alternatively, small can of tomato paste mixed with about 3/4 cup or so of water
Soy sauce (or tamari sauce), to taste - optional


The trick to stir frying is to have all your ingredients chopped and ready to throw in beforehand. Make sure all your vegetables (and meats) are cut into small, bite-sized pieces and are relatively uniform in size.

You can use a wok that has been heated with about a tablespoon of a good quality cooking oil or any large pan. I like to use my non-stick large frying pan because it is so easy to clean up afterwards.

Heat the pan to medium-high heat with your cooking oil, and add your onions and garlic, stirring while it cooks for a few minutes. Take care not to let the garlic burn.

Add in your meat, continuing to stir while it cooks. Next add in the vegetable(s) that take the longest to cook, such as carrots or celery. Stir for a couple of minutes more. Add in any remaining vegetables, stirring in each as they start cooking.

Once everything has started to cook, add in your liquids, including any soy sauce, stir it around, and close the lid for a couple of minutes, allowing the vegetables to finish cooking. Don't overcook - the idea is that the vegetables will retain their color and some crispness.

If you like a thicker "sauce", you can also add in for the last few minutes a tablespoon of corn starch mixed in a small amount of water, and combine it with the ingredients in the pan or wok. Cook for another couple of minutes.

Try varying it with different meats and vegetables for new flavors. Also, you can have on hand some of the pre-bottled stir-fry sauces from your "International Foods" aisle in your grocery store, such as Stir-Fry Sauce, Kung Pao Sauce, Teriaki Sauce, etc. for a more authentic Chinese food flavor.

Happy eating all - and happy crafting!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Car Trips with Kids Tips

I was having a difficult time thinking of something to blog about this morning because quite frankly I'm exhausted. The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, the kids were on spring break last week so I've had to find things to entertain them, I hosted Bunco last Friday, and the past two weekends we have traveled to WV.

We actually spend quite a bit of time on the road, at least once a month we travel to WV for hubby's Army Reserve drill weekend, on a good day the trip can take four hours and on a bad day, well, a looonnng time. Yesterday the drive went smooth but it still leaves me a bit wore out and the old brain a little fried so I got to thinking about what to blog about and thought well, the Artfire Cafemom Team does consist of moms and I'm sure other readers are moms and they all probably have to travel with their kids so why not a post about how to entertain and keep the kids happy while on long car trips? That was quite the run-on sentence, told you my brain was fried, lol.

Traveling with kids can be a stressful affair but not so bad if you plan in advance. Here's my list of the top ten best things you can do to prepare for the road ahead.

1. Pack lots of snacks and drinks if you are going to be on the road awhile. They're going to get hungry and thirsty and having something available to give them is going to save time and money on unneccessary stops but...

2. Plan to stop at least every couple of hours for bathroom breaks and a chance to stretch legs. If you've been on the road for awhile and still have a good ways to go it's a good idea to find a nice rest area with some open space and let the kids get out and run. Maybe pack a couple of play balls and let them kick and throw them around.

3. Good children's music. Can't take another round of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had a Little Lamb? The music doesn't have to be geared just towards kids. One of my kids favorite cds (ages 8 & almost 5) is one I made up of music that I enjoy too. Some of their faves are Sixteen Tons, Leroy Brown, My Boyfriend's Back, Don't Worry Be Happy, and Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. Not so bad and something I can sing my heart out along with them.

4. But sometimes all you want is some peace and quiet. Some may disagree but portable devices may be the greatest invention ever. Whether it's a dvd player, mp3 player, gamesystem or whatever, pack plenty of games and movies and the kids can be entertained for a couple of hours. Just DON'T FORGET THE HEADPHONES or you can kiss the peace and quiet you were so desperately seeking goodbye.

5. Pack a special bag for each child consisting of favorite toys, crayons, coloring books, stickers, etc... If you plan on having coloring or drawing pages try to pack a couple of lap desks or clipboards so they will have something sturdy to put their artwork on.

6. Spring for something new. After a bit and they are bored with the above have another bag consisting of all new items. You can go to your local dollar store and pick up a few things for a little bit of nothing and the newness of the items will keep them entertained for a bit.

7. Pack extra blankets or pillows. I often forget to pack blankets in the car and kick myself for forgetting them because inevitabley one child is hot, the other is cold and the battle of the air conditioning or heat begins. Get those blankets!

8. Pack hand sanitizers, wipes, tissues, trash bags and any other item you can think of that will help keep the kids and vehicle clean. It will make your life much easier and the stress of something spilled a lot less. While I'm on that train of thought an extra set of clothes in an easily accessible area is always a great idea.

9. Print out or come up with simple games to play in the car. Some great resources I have found are Mom's Mini Van and Car Travel Games.

10. DO NOT FORGET YOUR CHILD'S FAVORITE SLEEPYTIME STUFFED ANIMAL/BLANKET!!! If your 4 y.o. needs her dream hippo at night to keep the nightmares away or your 8 y.o. needs his Smokey the Bear to help him sleep, do not, I repeat, do not forget them at home or worse yet leave them behind at wherever your final destination is. Trust me, been there, done that and it was not a good time.

So there's my list of tips for traveling with kids. Please comment with any of your own because I'm sure there are plenty I missed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mom Behind the Shop: TRPottery

This week we are hosting a giveaway by our lovely TR Pottery. So we decided to interview her to find out more about this giving mom in our Artfire Cafemom Team. So here is a bit about this talented mom!

Your shop url:

What kinds of items do you sell: I sell polymer clay and mixed media jewelry and accessories

Who are you (kids, family, education, hobbies etc): I am a professional potter/ceramic artist and a stay-at-home mom with a degree in elementary education (my life, like my work, is very eclectic). I have one daughter who is 3 and a half. I teach clay classes for kids at home and adult education classes at different community centers. My clay work has been exhibited all over the United States. Right now I’m working on a line of leafy pottery for a show in June. I’m just crazy enough with all that on my plate to be working on a separate business in a separate medium.

What made you get into your craft: I started playing around with polymer clay so that I could use it in one of the child clay and 3-D art classes that I teach in my home. It quickly became an obsession and soon decided to open a separate shop just for my polymer clay work. Tips for online businesses: I’ve found it’s important to list new things often. I also promote my polymer clay work on my blog at and I twitter about new products and what’s going on in my life here:

Tips for moms: Naptime and/or preschool time is sacred. Whenever my little one is away or sleeping, I try to drop everything and get to work. This gives me a solid chunk of time to concentrate on my work and to get things done. Now that my daughter is getting older, I’ve also had her start doing activities with me. If I need to work on polymer clay while she’s up, I’ll give her a big chunk to make her own things out of. When I need to work in my ceramic studio, I bring her along. She loves taking a bucket of water and a sponge and sponging things down. This often ends up making a bigger mess than before with water and clay everywhere, but we’re both happy.

What is your favorite place to visit: There’s a frozen yogurt shop in town where you self-serve and pick your own toppings. They always have good fresh fruit. That is my favorite place to visit—by myself, with my daughter, with a friend.

Your comfort food: There’s a frozen yogurt shop in town….

If you were able to do anything in the world, what would it be and why: I’ve just applied for graduate school. I want to get into the Fine Arts/Ceramics program. It’s a very competitive program. They only take two new students a year. So although it sounds very practical and not incredibly exciting, if I could do anything, I would get into this program and do graduate work in ceramics. I would eventually like to teach at the college level and I’m geeking out at the chance to explore the medium more in depth with several different firing methods available.

Favorite 3 items in your shop- Clicking on items takes you to the item in TRPottery's shop

Mr Snail Bracelet

Coming up Rosy Earrings
Easter Egg Post Earrings

You can see some of TRPottery's other medium- ceramic, here:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Giveaway #4: aBitofColor!!!

Welcome to our fourth blog giveaway!

The shop behind this giveaway is aBitofColor!

"I'm a stay-at-home mom with too many arts and crafts obsessions and not nearly enough time. A professional potter by trade, I "needed" something to do while my little one was awake and I couldn't get my hands in the mud. Polymer clay filled the gap (that probably should have been filled with housework--oh well...) I love the versatility of the medium and the near instant-gratification (compared to traditional clay) as I can form and finish a piece in the same day."

She is giving away a pair of her Twiggy Dangle Earrings.

About the Item:
These cute little numbers are all individually handmade with real twigs to give each unique character.

A hand-sculpted white blossom with a yellow center is attached to a real twig. The twig and flower were dipped in a clear satin finish sealant. The twig has been wrapped with wire and connected to a delicate earwire. Although there is some variation, the twigs measure about 2.5" long. With the earwire, they hang about 3" from the ear.

Because all are handmade, yours might be slightly different than the ones pictured here.

While pretty sturdy, if pressed upon, these can crack and break. I would recommend taking them off to practice somersaults, rolling down a hill, playing football, etc.

How you enter:

Go to aBitofColor's shop and find the item that catches your eye! Copy and paste the URL here in the comment section. One entry per person. If you want a second chance to win this adorable pair of earrings - you can blog about it. Be sure to include photo of the earrings and a link to the ACT blog. When you have blogged about the giveaway, all you need to do is post a link to the blog in the comment section. You can do this all in one comment and it will still count for two entries. Please leave your email address since this is the easiest and most efficient way of contacting the winner!

The giveaway will run from Friday 4/1 to Thursday 4/16. One winner will be chosen by random. We will contact the winner to get a valid shipping address. Please reply within 48 hours or a different winner will be chosen. Item will be shipped via USPS First Class or Priority Mail within one business day.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Congrats to Our Easter Contest winner

A Bit of Color won ACT's first guild theme contest. The catagory was Easter. She won with her Easter egg post earrings submission :

To see more items from A Bit of Color- check out her Artfire Rapid Cart to the right for more of her colorful items!

What's Your Favorite Color?

What color do you naturally gravitate to when you go clothes shopping or go into your closet to select what you are going to wear for the day? How about the colors that you decorate your home with? How does your favorite color make you feel? When you spend a lot of time in a room that is painted in a color that you do not like, how do you feel?

I know that in general my favorite color is purple - all shades of it. From the coolest pale lavender to the deepest juicy grape! I don't know why exactly. It just is. It makes me feel happy and confident. I feel connected when I wear purple.

Color and its effect on our moods and emotions has been studied extensively. I am sure you could find a "scientific" explanation for how and why different colors affect people. This is not such an article. In fact, I don't really care why. As an artist, I just feel the effects and love to play with color.

I love bright clear colors. I love soft, muted, smoky colors. I love it all! If you are like me and adore lots of color, isn't this the best time of year? Spring brings out Nature's best colors - the beginning, soft hues in her garden. Promises of what's to come as the weather warms up and more and more flowers and plants come alive with new growth.

Here at Artfire Cafemom Team, we are busy creating lots of luscious new colors in our hand-made art and crafts. Here are some examples.

Thanks! Enjoy your spring colors! And if you want quality and uniqueness, always buy Hand-Made. Just go to and search for "Artfire Cafemom Team" .

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recipe of the Day: Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

I have recipes on the brain as I am the host for my neighborhood Bunco group this month. I decided to check out some of our own Artfire Cafemom Team's stash of recipes for some inspiration and found these delicious sounding cupcakes from Stacey of swdesigns. Be sure to check out her artfire studio for her crafty jewelry creations.

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

1 box of Fudge Supreme Hot Fudge Brownie Mix (must have syrup pouch)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

3/4 cup mashed banana

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 teaspoons of vanilla

3 eggs


3/4 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup chocolate syrup (to decorate plate)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Put standard size paper baking cups into a 12 muffin/cupcake pan. Spray each paper cup bith cooking spray.

3. In a large bowl combine melted chocolate chips, mashed banana, melted butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add the brownie mix and beat 50 strokes by hand.

4. Spoon half of the mixture into the sprayed baking cups.

5. Cut off a small corner of the syrup pouch that came with the brownie mix. Squeeze a small amount of syrup into the center of the batter of each cupcake.

6. Spoon the remaining batter on top of each cupcake.

7. If using chopped nuts, sprinkle them on top of the batter and press down gently.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 27 minutes or until edges are set. When cooled, remove each cupcake from pan and baking cups from each cupcake.

9. Drizzle chocolate syrup decoratively on individual plates and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Preparations have begun!

Preperations have begun!

We are so excited here at Artfire Cafemom Team. We are planning a HUGE Open house for our guild. So far planned for the first full week in May .... so stay tuned.

We will have a hide and seek contest in our guild members shops.

We will have a HUGE giveaway-- you dont want to miss it.

Oh, and of course our members will have discounts in their shops.

You know handmade is best made by Moms! Shop our ACT team by searching our items with the words artfire cafemom team!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Congratulations to Sharon!

Congratulations to Sharon! She is the winner of the Green Dichroic Green Glass Pendant!

To all of our other faithful followers, make sure to check back every Friday for new giveaways!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mom Behind the Shop: Bows For Baby

This week's Mom Behind the Shop is Bows For Baby , aka Kelsey. Kelsey is sponsoring a giveaway of an adorable hand crocheted children's beanie (you pick the size). Click here for the giveaway.

Here we asked Kelsey some questions to get to know her:

What kinds of items do you sell: I sell hair bows, pacifier clips, hand crochet beanies and hand crochet booties.

Who are you ???
I am a 26 year old army wife, FT college student and mother to one energetic 2 year old! I grew up in Minnesota and have been an army wife for the past 4 years. Before this we were stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana and moved to Alaska in July of 2008.

What made you get into your craft:
I knew that when my daughter was born that I would be spending a fortune on hair bows and accessories. I have always had a knack for crafty things, so I thought I would try crafting my own. I actually got the idea from a friend of mine who was in the same playgroup as I was back in Louisiana. She dabbled in it herself and showed me the basics. I took an instant liking to it and worked hard on perfecting my style. It took be about a year to really feel like I had something worth selling. Once I started getting compliments on my daughter's bows and when people started asking where I bought them, that's when I decided I should sell them. I really like making hair bows and there's no better feeling than seeing your creations being worn and enjoyed by someone else.

This past December my mother in law came to visit our family over the holidays. She herself is a very crafty person, always making quilts, knitting and crocheting. I had wanted to learn to crochet for a while because I thought hand crochet accessories would add a little variety to my shop. It took me about a month to really catch on. The beanies have been a big hit since skull caps are so very fashionable at the moment.

Tips for online businesses: It took a lot of trial and error for me. I know that pictures say a thousand words, so I've been working REALLY hard on taking pictures that will catch a potential customer's eye. Descriptions are a must as well. Customers like to know what their buying, so the more detailed the better. I also found that selling hair bows is a very competitive craft and that having unique items or items that are one of a kind sell better. Customer service is always a first priority. If you have a good relationship with a first time customer, the likelihood of them being a repeat customer skyrockets. And my last tip is to just be patient. Take notes from sellers that are doing well, but don't copy them. Make something your own, make it unique so that it stands out.

Tips for moms : Don't overdo yourself. You need me time too.

What is your favorite place to visit:
Minnesota! I never realized how much I loved that state until I moved away. :) My family and friends are there so it's hard to be so far away from them.

Your comfort food: Korean food! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Korean food. I was adopted from Korea when I was 3 months old, but I grew up learning about my heritage. I went to a camp when I was young and we were served Korean food for lunch everyday, and that's when I got hooked. :) I craved Korean when I was pregnant, but there wasn't a decent place in the small town where I lived, so I SUFFERED.

If you were able to do anything in the world
, what would it be and why: Travel. I would love to just take a year off and travel. I've been wanting to visit Korea, just to see where I was born. I would also love to travel all over Europe and eat the different cuisines!!!!

Click on the photos to see some items from my shop:

Hand Crochet Booties 3-6 months
Adorable Spring Boutique Bow

Toddler Beanie with Bow
Pair of Elmo Toddler Bows

Welcome to Giveaway #3!

Welcome to our third blog giveaway!

The shop behind this giveaway is BowsForBaby.

"I named my shop Bows for Baby because it was the first thing I could think of, really. :) However, I love the alliteration and that it's an easy name to remember. Plus, it describes my shop perfectly so no one is confused on what I sell! In my shop you will find adorable hair bows for all ages. They range in sizes, colors, styles, and type of clip. I am always crafting new ideas. I pride myself in making high quality bows and selling them for a very affordable price because I believe that every little girl deserves hair bows! I recently learned how to crochet. My favorite things to crochet are beanies and booties. Beanies, booties and bows oh my! The beanies are perfect for the little one that may not have enough hair to hold a bow."

She is giving away one of her Pink Hand Crochet Beanie.

About the item: The beanie is made out of 100%. It comes in three sizes (infant, toddler, and child -- please specify what size you would like if you win when you comment). It is breathable for the summer time with adorable scalloped edges!

*Child not included with hat :) *

How you enter:

Go to Bows For Babies shop and find the item that catches your eye! Copy and paste the URL here in the comment section. One entry per person. If you want a second chance to win this adorable beanie - you can blog about it. Be sure to include photo of the beanie and a link to the ACT blog. When you have blogged about the giveaway, all you need to do is post a link to the blog in the comment section. You can do this all in one comment and it will still count for two entries. Please leave your email address since this is the easiest and most efficient way of contacting the winner!

The giveaway will run from Friday 4/3 to Thursday 4/9. One winner will be chosen by random. We will contact the winner to get a valid shipping address. Please reply within 48 hours or a different winner will be chosen. Item will be shipped via USPS First Class or Priority Mail within one business day.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Artfire News!

Artfire now has gift guides up and running on their site. Very exciting! The gift guides are random selection, same as their search function. It randomly pulls the items that have been tagged for that gift guide.

Here are some Spring items in the Spring gift guide that caught my eye. Click the picture to see the item in the artfire shop:

Click here for more gift guides. As always search Artfire Cafemom Team to find our guild members! Happy browsing!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another Stress Reducer + Inspiration

I read with interest the last blog post done by Jeanette about using exercise as a great way to relieve the effects of stress in our lives. It reminded me that we do not have to be victims of stress if we just take some positive action in our lives.

Of course, we, as artists also get some stress relief from creating, which is a wonderful way to do it! Sometimes, though, we can be hit so hard by events and pressures in our lives, that it is difficult to focus long enough in our chosen creative media to make a difference.

That's where exercise can come in handy. It is also where another method can help: Meditation! Now, I am not an expert in different forms of meditation. Not by any means. However, I have been a regular meditator for many years and I know it can be a very simple practice.

Research has shown that regular meditation can have very beneficial results on our physical and emotional well-being. I won't bore you with specific research studies - that is not my intent. I know from my own personal experience that even taking 20 minutes to a half an hour once a day can help me get through my day with much more ease and focus.

Another benefit of meditation is to provide a space for new inspiration to enter our awareness. In the process of quieting our minds, our creative "muse" can speak to us and we can hear it! It can be in the form of thoughts, ideas, images, or words. We are each different in how we receive new ideas.

A simple way to meditate is to just find a time (15 minutes to half an hour is fine) and quiet space where you will not be interrupted. Perhaps if you are a stay-at-home mom, when your little ones are napping or after they have gone to bed in the evening. Sit or lie down comfortably and first relax your body, focusing on each area of your body in sequence.

Intend that each part will relax, and it will. You can also visualize yourself in a real or imagined perfect spot in nature. Or just focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths noticing how your body feels as you breathe in and out. Just let go. If you find yourself thinking or worrying about something in your daily life, just notice it and then let it go. This is your time to allow yourself to just "BE". How infrequently we do this for ourselves, so busy are we in "DOING"!

After a few minutes, allow yourself to just gradually come back to waking reality, noticing how you feel. If you have fallen asleep, so be it! At least your body and mind have rested, which is probably what you needed. If you find your fall asleep every time, then make sure you are sitting up rather than lying down.

Try this once a day and see if you don't feel more peaceful, less stressed, and more focused. You may even find that you come out of your meditative state with a great new idea or two. If not, know that the more relaxed you are, the better you will feel and the easier your entire life can be.

Don't forget our weekly giveaways: the one running currently ( Giveaway # 2: Spirit Essence Art ) is almost done. Enter today before you forget!