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Lately instead of vigorously being creative with every day objects, I have been figuring out if my business is ready to take to the next level.

On Alibris, I have 700 books for sale, sitting in piles and boxes all over the office floor are around 1,000 more to catalog! Now you might say, “Wow! That’s great!” Indeed it is. Now imagine cataloging all those books one at a time and then storing them in my tiny house until they sell and then tracking the book down, packing it professionally, and shipping it. And then doing all the accounting.

Then on top of that, I am running three Etsy shops, all of which are relatively successful. Of course I’m also trying to take classes. I want be certified in Advanced Web Design. I have a basic certification now and I’ve been working on the advanced certificate for quite some time . . . I have a three year old constantly at my feet (or climbing on my back. I was doing planks this morning during my workout with an extra 25 pounds on back!) and I have two part time jobs + a semi part time job. I am also working on the publishing end of Ellipsis. Then on top of all that I have to keep my house reasonably clean, cook meals, and take care of the garden.

All of this, from time to time, gets very old. I have to admit it. Trying to work up to self sufficiency is not easy, especially with massive student loan debt (that’s whole other gripe session.) So I’m searching for ways to do a bit less. One of the ideas I came up with was to open an actual brick and mortar store.

Whoa now, you are probably wondering, how on Earth would that be less work? Well let me explain, maybe by less work I really mean more organized. If we could get our office (my fiancee and I) out of our house, that would be all sorts of awesome. Our daughter could more into the office and have an actual bedroom! Then her tiny room could be a craft room. (!!!)

The plan would be to keep two of my jobs, the library and bookstore, and hire Matthew to work at the store three days a week, whereas I would work the rest. He would do all this graphic and CG work at the office/store. We would do publishing (print and online) and also keep all the online stores running. Our daughter could be there with us. Fortunately Galena has a pretty steady stream of tourists in peak season, unfortunately Galena is very slow between January and March (and I mean VERY slow), and rent is astronomical. So perhaps I could find an upstairs studio apartment or loft with a Main Street entrance? This would be completely acceptable.

So I’m finding myself putting together a business plan. I always sort of had one, but never Grow Your Own Handmade Businessofficially. It’s been wonderful! I am getting thoughts together and organizing my ideas into valid concepts. Really helping me with this is the book, “Grow Your Own Handmade Business” by Kari Chapin. Click the picture for her blog. It is very easy to read and makes a lot of sense. I’ve tried more “traditional” business books, but they are just not in my language. Kari follows a logical sequence and although I will probably need a bit more information once I am finished working through the book, I will have a great foundation. It’s set up like a workbook and has exercises throughout to enforce what is being read. It’s also very real. I feel like she is just talking to me with practical advice and first person experience. I love that if she honestly is not sure of something she says that and then finds someone to interview that does know.

One of the exercises I really found helpful and think will be even more helpful in a “public” manner is to take stock of successes. So what have I accomplished since I opened for business?

  • Registered a real business with the country
  • Opened a book store on Alibris and reached 700 books for sale and sold 500
  • Opened an Etsy shop for used books, jams, jellies, and teas
  • Opened an Etsy shop for vintage items and another for handmade and upcycled items
  • In 2012 I made a significant profit!
  • Set up at my first craft show
  • Found a commercial kitchen for my use
  • Began to sell in a retail location
  • Regularly kept a blog!
  • Found local producers for all of my products!

See now that I remembered what I have already done, thinking about what I still have to do isn’t so bad. Now I can tackle things in a new light.


In my younger days, I was extremely goal oriented. I suppose I still am, personal success is very important to me. However, all the things we want to do can overwhelm us in their hugeness. After all, that is something we are very good at as humans. We think huge! Not all of us even realize what we are dreaming is huge, but what is not huge about trying to manage an entire life. Whoa, just thinking about it makes my head spin. What am I going to do with my average of 70 or so years to make it worth it? How do I live up to the awesome hugeness of the Universe? There are so many things I want to do, places I want to see. Then I have to worry about my health and safety and the health and safety of my daughter, whether or not I’m ever going to pay off my massive student loan debt, if I’m ever going to own my own property, what I’m going to wear at work tonight, and the list goes on and on.

So we have to consider how we are going to manage all this without losing our minds, or feeling completely defeated. What I have discovered in my relatively short time on Earth, is to take things one task at a time (even if it means have several projects going at once and dividing each project into small achievable talks) and then allowing myself to feel accomplished with completing small stages.

Today I’m feeling great! I’ve been off of work for the majority of the day and I’ve been completing projects I’ve had started for a long time.

Like this dress for example


It’s not the greatest picture, but if you’ve ever tried to get a three year old to hold still for a photo, you will sympathize. The dress began it’s life as an unwanted wool sweater. I washed it (on purpose), cut and sewed it into the shape of a dress for a small girl, and needle felted some flowers onto it. Since it’s felted wool, it’s very soft and thick so it keeps her warm. I just love finding new purposes for things that otherwise would have been tossed. Since it was slightly tight at the bottom of the sweater where the pattern goes around, I ended up with a ruffle. The neckline had a bit of  turtleneck thing going on, knowing Elly wouldn’t like that, I cut it so the sleeves would fall slightly off the shoulders.


This is a view from the back.

I have big plans for the sleeves of the sweater as well. Be on the lookout!

So I accomplished something! It is one thing out of a million other things I have on my mind, but for now I am estatic I finished this dress! It paves the way for more exciting crafting (and gardening, and web design, among other things) projects to work on and I just thought I would share my breakthrough and most recent upcycling project with you all!

Read the rest of this entry »

This is my third year of starting seeds indoors. There are a few things I have learned.

1. It’s pretty hit or miss. Germination is a funny thing. It only happens under the right circumstances and some seeds are going to be duds. Even with brand new seeds there are bound to be some duds. So I’ve stopped getting discouraged when there are some in my batch that don’t germinate. I just plant another seed.

2. There are stages to planting. Most seed packets will say to plant the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeds before the last frost. Well what does that mean exactly? Since in Illinois the last frost is going to be sometime probably in April or even early May then that would mean the seeds should be started in March right? Well not exactly. There are crops like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and leeks that like cold weather. So in order to have them in the Spring and early Summer, they need to be started indoors in January or in late July-ish to have a Fall/Winter crop. I am getting ready to plant herbs and strawberries now so they will be ready by the early Summer for planting outdoors. Then once my early Sping seeds are germinated and sitting in the sun I plant the mid to late Summer seeds, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and ground cherries.Such crops take less time to grow big enough to be transplanted outside so I start them last in late February.

Seeds started for the Spring3. Lastly, I will admit I still haven’t quite figured out what needs water when and how often. To me this is the most difficult part of growing plants. I find that some seeds are find just coming up in mildly damp soil with no covering, but then other seeds even of the same plant type will need to be covered in a humid tent to come up. I’ve taken to planting all the seeds putting them in the window with a heat mat and seeing what will come up into the open air. Then after about a week and a half, I put all the germinated little seedlings in a really sunny spot and I wet down all the still not germinated seeds and cover them with a clear lid and then I get some more seedlings.

I guess some seeds just need more babying that others

Most of all: OBSERVE. There are patterns in nature and we are trying to cheat it by getting a headstart. If we pay close enough attention we can mimick those patterns which will lead to better gardens!

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