Monday, January 31, 2011

Dance Party Fronday!

So we didn’t get to the dance party last Friday, but who says we can’t just have it on Monday instead? It’ll get our week off to a great start.

Without further ado, here are your jams for today. Get moving!

“A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend. This song sounds like ME. The phrasing, the music, the bounciness with low-key waves every once in a while. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

“American Boy” by Estelle, featuring Kanye West. I listen to this song almost once a day. It has a great beat, fun lyrics.

“Purpose” by one of my all-time favorite bands, 311. Such a good groove . . . my
favorite song by this band.

“Maneater” by Nelly Furtado. A departure from her “I’m Like A Bird” days, but a fun departure. This song makes me want to do the wop. A lot.

What helps you get moving on Mondays?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lillyella OMG OMG

Do you know about Lillyella? Let me tell you about Lillyella, at least what I know. I was first introduced to the Lillyella shop and its designer, Nicole, by my forever-friend Ngan, of eNVe Designs. Ngan featured the Lillyella shop on her blog, showcasing her gorgeous jewelry.


Later, I saw that Nicole had written a recap on her blog about participating in Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair. Listen, dude, if you don’t know about Renegade, you need to ask somebody. It is SRSBZNS, ok? Renegade is a massive craft fair with the coolest stuff. It started in Chicago (REPRESENT!!) and has spread to other major U.S. cities. Nicole’s recap is great, and way down at the bottom of the comments you’ll see me being all fangirlish and stuff. I got all excited because she mentioned people and shops I actually know, like, in person! It made me feel like I was playing the Kevin Bacon game, and Nicole is Kevin Bacon and I’m . . . well, I’m someone who knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon.

Anyway! Nicole featured a giveaway recently and I TOTALLY WON OMG, so I got to pick out an item for her to make for me. She was very nice and worked with me on getting just the right colors and style, and before I knew it, my fantabulous bracelet from Etsy royalty showed up at my house!

So now, what you all need to do, is follow Nicole on her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook and favorite all her items in Etsy. And you will do it because I told you to.

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance! Or show pics of our pretty bracelets. One or the other.








Isn’t it gorgeous???

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicago Style Crafters

On Saturday, I attended a meeting for my Etsy street team. Etsy has lots of teams that sellers join for various reasons. There are teams to promote a certain charity, there are teams to give tips to new sellers, there are teams that exist to create and promote treasuries . . . there are also street teams. Most of the teams in Etsy meet virtually but street teams are tied to a geographic location, and meet in person.

The team I’m part of, Chicago Style Crafters, has been around for a number of years. I joined about a year ago. I was minimally involved, and at some point during 2010, the team almost fizzled away. Thankfully, we’ve been able to get new people interested in the team; many veteran members have stuck around as well.

We met yesterday for the first time in many months, and we had a good mixture of shops and personalities represented. Some have been involved in crafting and selling their crafts for many years and some are just starting out. Some have expertise in marketing, some in craft shows. Some are great photographers, some have graphic design expertise and some have web design experience. And more!

We talked about the history of the team and how it has operated. We talked about what worked and what didn’t. We talked about what we hope to experience by being part of the team and where our personal strengths lie. We’re going to meet again in about a month to finalize our team mission and talk about committees. I’m really excited to be part of this team and know I’m going to learn a lot. I also feel as though I will develop some good friendships, and that’s pretty freaking cool.

Here are some things our street team would like to learn more about from one another and/or work together to make happen:

· Selling in stores (retail/wholesale/consignment)

· Craft shows

· Etsy treasuries

· Charitable events/promotions

· Photography

· Online presences as a team and as individuals

· Branding

· Marketing

· SEO (Search Engine Optimization – the art of how to best let people on the web know where you are)

· Mentorship

I’ll keep you updated on our interesting team happenings!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dance Party Friday!

Around here (Ashleyland), we like to have dance parties on Friday. Well, we like to have dance parties all the time, but a while back I insituted an Official Dance Party Friday Policy in my office, and my student workers and I made sure to follow that policy to the letter! They're off being post-docs now and I'm all by myself, so I think you should have a Dance Party with me.

First for today - in honor of my kinda/sorta brush with celebrity a few days ago - is the song by the Roots that caught my attention way back in my freshman year of college. This is from a great album, Illadelph Halflife. This video actually comes with captions making fun of the too-obvious gratuitious T&A, bling, cars, etc. that is present in way too many hip hop videos, especially at that time. This was in 1996, coming off the crest of Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg/Tupac/etc. popularity. Unfortunately, the captions were removed from this "official" video, which makes the video just look dumb and vulgar. So when you see a fancy car, imagine a caption saying something about how the car was rented for the day, just for the video shoot. That sort of thing.

Next - THE OFFICIAL DANCE PARTY FRIDAY JAM: That's right - Fergalicious. Tell me this does not make you move. Just try.

Here's a song that didn't really get radio play, but is so much fun, has great horns and energy. And the video is awesome (I love the clapping part!) and Jason Mraz is hot.

And finally . . . let's go indie to close out the party - Banquet by Bloc Party. I can basically listen to this song on repeat, all day, every day.

What songs are you listening to at YOUR Dance Party Friday?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shout Out Time!

Why, I think I’ll mention some stuff I like!

Let’s start the day off with the cast of High Fidelity coming to life in a Columbus, OH living room.  Written by Andy Whitman, a dude who writes great music reviews as well as thoughts on American culture and the Christian faith.

Have you ever heard of a Craft Social?  They exist in different forms around the country, but the one I linked to is the Chicago one.  It’s an evening to get together with friends and other crafters to work on different craft projects.  You can bring your own stuff, or you can float around to the different tables, each which offers a different project to work on.  I’ve attended a couple of these and walked away with a decoupaged cup coaster, spiral notebook with cereal box covers, keychains, cute cards/envelopes and I forget what else.  You should see if there’s one in your neck of the woods, they’re super fun!

This is a photo from a previous Craft Social, which has been held in my old church’s lobby . . . the upcoming Social will be at a cool new location which I’ve been to a couple times for work retreats:

Catalyst Ranch, downtown Chicago.  Check out their website for great photos of their AMAZING colorful, retro/vintage space.

Last, I LOVE LOVE LOVE these maps in flickr that show racial distribution in the U.S.’s major cities.  Check out your city, are you surprised?  Is the place you live considered racially diverse?  If so, is all that diversity mixed together, or segregated?  Do you think the segregation is by choice?  Due to circumstance?  What keeps your area segregated?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Somewhere, a unicorn is saying, "It's really not that big of a deal, Ashley."

I've mentioned in a few places that I'm hoping to use Twitter and this blog to get to know other bloggers and crafters, and to focus on my Etsy shop. I do already have an Etsy Facebook page . . .

I've followed a lot of people on Twitter and their blogs, and have gotten to work looking through recent entries, to get a feel for each blog and the people who comment there. Some bloggers make me laugh, some knock me out with the effort they put into making every inch of their life a beautifully designed thing. Some will probably never get to know me as an individual, some will probably become my friends.

I wonder, where do I want to go with this thing? What look should this blog have, and what should I write about? The thing is - I am not going to fit in, not exactly. I am never going to be able to sustain a blog that is focused strictly on design or crafting. I am going to want to talk about my life and the things that are meaningful to me, the things that crack me up. The things that piss me off. The songs that I can't get out of my head . . . and yes, the things I make and the things other people make that I think are really awesome.

Is that ok? Do I have to make this place really sparkly and covered in hearts and unicorns in order for others to follow along and get to know me? The thing is, I don't think there's anything wrong with hearts and unicorns, and I enjoy getting a glimpse of other people's heart & unicorn-style lives. But that's not me and it's not how I live.

Am *I* going to be enough, just as I am?

Windows Live Writer Tutorial – The Basics

In a recent #crafterminds chat session via Twitter, Windows Live Writer was brought up as a way to save time when blogging.  My friend Mandy introduced me to WLW a while back after hearing me complain about how difficult it was to load multiple images in my Blogger blog.  I’ve found WLW to be very helpful for writing posts that involved lots of images as well as for writing and saving blog entries when I’m away from an internet connection.  It’s also a great way to save bits of entries that I can finish and post later.

So what is Windows Live Writer?  I’m sure there is a more technical name for it, but it’s a tool to help you draft your blog entries before publishing them.  Several commenters in our chat session hadn’t heard of WLW and were a bit anxious that it would be difficult to learn and use.  I’m happy to say that if you already are writing a blog, there is nothing more to learn in order to use WLW!  You can read more about the WLW tool at Wikipedia.

Without further ado, here is a *very simple* tutorial on using Windows Live Writer.

First, you need to download the program.  Just Google “ download Windows Live Writer” and follow the download instructions, or try this site.  Don’t worry, it’s FREE!  After downloading, you’ll be prompted to enter your blog’s URL.  Once you’re done with all of your setup steps, you’re ready to use WLW as a blogging tool! You’ll access WLW the same way you would access Word/Excel – either via a shortcut on your desktop, or through your Start button.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the features – when you open a “new” draft in WLW, you’ll see something like this, below. Note that the color scheme and blog name in this tutorial reflect MY settings – WLW pulls this information from the settings you already have at your Blogger blog.  So yours will probably be a bit different.


Basically looks like a Word doc, or blog draft page, right?  This is why I say there’s really nothing to learn.  You’ll simply write a blog entry in WLW the same way you would in Blogger, except with less complication and more options!



There are a few spots on a draft page that will help you be sure you’ve correctly linked your blog to WLW.  Note my blog’s name and recent entries in the image above. 


There are several ways you can insert something other than text.  I generally use the icons on the top toolbar to insert images and links, and then use the right-hand options for further editing.  For example, after inserting an image, I’ll “select” an image by clicking on it, which will open up more options for customization.  Look, I’ll do it right now!


You can see (above) that I’ve clicked on the image, which automatically opened up an image customization menu on the right – I can alter the way text wraps around the image, whether my image has a border or shadowing, the margins, etc.  Play around and see what’s available!


Nothing too surprising about the image above – that’s where you add your blog entry content!  One thing I’ve noticed is that WLW has some quirks in terms of hitting the “Enter” button on your keyboard, paragraph spacing, and such.  There are times when I’ve tried to get my spacing fixed and I ended up deleting everything!  The good thing is that there is an “UNDO” option in WLW, which isn’t in Blogger.  So if you mess it all up, just undo it and try again.


Down at the bottom of your page, you’ll see some tabs.  When you’re writing, you’re on the Edit tab.  You can preview your entry by clicking on the . . . wait for it . . . PREVIEW tab.  Shocking, I know.  :)  I haven’t clicked the Source tab yet . . . not sure what it does.  I’ll leave that one to you to figure out and report back, ha!  Below that is a box where you can “Set categories”.  This is simply where you type in your tags.  Once you link up your blog to WLW, it remembers all the tags you’ve used and loads them into this box.  You can type in tags you’ve already used, type in new ones, or select old ones from a list by clicking the drop-down arrow on the right end of the box (not featured in the image above, sorry).


This feature is one we could all probably stand to use, in the interest of spending our time online more efficiently: Set your bogs to publish in advance!  Blogger lets you schedule blog entries in advance and so does WLW.  You can set the date and time that you want your blog entry to publish.

Slide10 After clicking on the date box and then selecting the date you want your blog to publish, click on the time dislayed – click RIGHT ON the time.

Slide11 You edit the time you want it to post right in the box, based on which character is highlighted at the time.  Make sure to click on the AM/PM if you want to change that.  There is no clock selector option the way they have the calendar set up.


Last, you want to publish your blog.  Or - if you’re not ready yet, but want to come back and work on this entry later, click on “Save draft”.  If you’re read to send it to your blog so people can read it, hit . . . wait for it . . . “Publish.”  Note – you need an internet connection in order for it to publish.  This may seem obvious, but . . . JUST SAYIN.  It will ask for your Blogger username and password.  Then you’ll see it working, and after it’s done publishing the post to your blog, it’ll open up your blog to that entry so you can see how it looks.  You can go into your blog entry via Blogger and edit it the same way you could edit entries that were created IN Blogger.

I think those are the basics!  I haven’t really explored WLW’s capabilities beyond what I’ve written here, so if you know of other cool option, please comment!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mommy’s Little “Helper”

New cozies are headed to the shop this week!  I’m adding a few a day, so keep an eye out!  I gotta tell you, it’s really difficult for me to only post a few a day – I much prefer getting it all done at once.  The thing is, posting them bit by bit keeps your items at the top of search lists, and gives you a vehicle to keep your new items in potential customer’s minds.

While I was doing a “photo shoot” for my new items, my son Rian (3 1/2 years old) got curious and found his way into my shots.  He had some mysterious icing on his face and hands, so you know he got an earful of, “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!!!”  ;)  (I say this to him a lot.  A lot.)





He’s a cutie, right?  :)


You can probably tell that I do my photo shoots on a chair – an Ikea chair, to be exact.  It’s my sewing chair, but being white, makes a great surface for photos.  It reflects light and helps create a clean, modern look in my photos.  I’ve changed my photo style slightly over time and will probably continue to do so.  Right now, I like this look.

What tricks/tools/materials do you use for photo shoots?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


So here's what happened. Questlove from the Roots (a band I didn't just start liking when the Jimmy Fallon show went on the air, oh no. A band I've loved since 1996!) tweeted a funny link. Not unusual – he tweets . . . well, he tweets a lot.


Sidebar that you may need: Do you know what TinyURL is? It's a website you can go to, to make your long URLs shorter. This comes in handy when posting links to Facebook and Twitter, especially, because you only have so many characters you can type. So TinyURL shortens your links for you, though they're still functional. An original link might look like this: but after using TinyURL, it looks like this: See? Significantly shorter.There are other websites out there that do this same sort of thing, but the link they create for you features their own website name. For example, there is one called Bit that creates shortened links that start with there is one called Snip, and so on. You can Google “URL shortener” to find them.

Back to Questlove – the funny link he tweeted was a URL shortener that would TOTALLY BIEBIFY your link (it provides you a link that starts off with Justin Bieber’s name). All you have to do is paste your long link into the box inside Bieber’s mouth,


and he’ll spit back out a link that will start with something like: Well, it would have if it was actually functional. It was just a joke, a short-lived webpage created by a handful of Tweeps. But it was a good joke! Because, as I have tweeted several times, #HESEVERYWHERE. He being the Biebs, of course.

I thought it was funny so I re-tweeted the link, with my own comment.


Then one of my Tweeps re-tweeted it.


Between those 2 tweets, Questlove noticed my username and said this:


Which of course made my day.

So thank you, @elliottkember, @dizzyup, @reddavis, @juliancheal, @philsturgeon and @iamdanw for sharing your Bieber love with the rest of us.


And thanks to @natejones, @crazygemini12 and @fertrue for helping me figure out a new Twitter handle YESTERDAY. Timely, right?

P.S. The Bieber URL shortener got so popular that it was reported by quite a few news outlets.

P.P.S. The site gave you the option to add the Biebifier to your toolbar . . . even though it’s not functional, I think I’ll leave it up there. I like seeing his pretty little face looking back at me whenever I do anything online.

biebify it

Why I love my co-workers

From an email about a service project I'm taking the 2 older kids to on Saturday:

Shine up your serving shoes, the MLK Saturday of Service is only 3 days away!

Volunteer to be an MLK Day Super Server Leader – I may have just made up that title, but the Project Leader Position is a very real way to take on a leadership role at the event itself and play a more central role in our service day. No prior preparation is necessary. Project Leaders simply obtain a headcount on the bus at the beginning and end of the day, share with the bus information given to them about the site, help with any small logistics that arise, and lead some brief reflections on the return bus ride. Those of you who have already lost valuable MLK Service Points would do well to volunteer.

Lunches – So I lied earlier, everyone is getting a cookie with lunch. You’re welcome. Because some of us may be boarding different buses, you will receive your lunch before the day begins at 9am. If you board a bus without a lunch you better have eaten a big breakfast or know a thing or two about thieving boxed lunches.

Groups – Because there are a lot of us, it is likely we will not all serve at the same place. As of now, the only people being kept together are people who RSVP’ed for both themselves and their guests all at once and “Emily’s Besties” (her words). If you were planning on serving alongside someone else who RSVP’ed separately from you, please let me know asap. It also won’t be the end of the world if you switch groups with someone on the day.

Interesting story - the guy who wrote this is from my hometown of Wichita, KS . . . he went to my high school and was also a member of my high school youth group. He's 8 years younger than me so we didn't know each other back then, but what are the odds that we'd end up working at the same place, on the same floor, literally 10 feet away from each other, in a city the size of Chicago?

Are you doing anything service-related for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A plan . . . I have one!

Friends, I has a plan. A plan to turn this blog into the shiniest, sparkliest, most interesting and inspirational blog the world has ever known! EVAR!!

If that doesn't work, my Plan B is just to get back into blogging on a regular basis.

So look for one of the two, in the pretty near future.

In the meantime, please check out Eastern Europe's response to The Biebs. #heseverywhere

Monday, January 10, 2011

I don't even want to look at the last date I wrote in this blog. There are way too many days between that date and this one, for sure.

A proper update soon, I hope . . . for now, know that I am coping with ice-cold Coke in a can and Rage Against the Machine.



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