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Carnival of Colors: Getting Ready for Autumn

My Wedding Cake

It’s about that time of year when I start thinking about autumn, going back to school, sweaters, and fall leaves (I love fall leaves so much, they were the only decoration on my wedding cake.) This is a perfect time of year for the Etsy Bloggers Street Team to be hosting a blog carnival entitled “Carnival of Colors,” because I’m already thinking about all the gorgeous colors of fall. One of my favorite things to do when getting ready for a new school year was pick out new clothes and notebooks and things for the year. I still like to do that as an adult, and it’s even more fun with Etsy. Here are some of my top picks, heavy on rich and vibrant fall colors, to help you get into that autumn frame of mind.

Fall Wrap Sweater
Fall Wrap Sweater by KiKi
Garden Cluster Bangle
Garden Cluster Bangle by A Pretty Rock
Balance of Leaves
Balance of Leavesby Trevor Luckman Photography
Lap Quilt
Lap Quilt by The California Chi
Autumn Leaves Felt Purse
Autumn Leaves Felt Purse by Picky Chicky
Pumpkin Spice Soap
Pumpkin Spice Soap by Morgan Street

And since this post is all about finding beautiful color, did you know that you can search by color on Etsy? Try it to find cool handmade items in all your favorite autumn colors. You can also learn more about the color search at Etsy Shops.

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Lip Balm: Everlasting Love or Addiction?

Suds Muffin Lip Balm

I don’t know. Either way, I’m deeply committed to lip balm. Deeply. I love the stuff and can’t live without it. When people ask me what three things I would bring with me to a deserted island, number one is always lip balm. I have been using lip balm consistently for at least 19 years. I don’t think my lips even know how to keep themselves moisturized anymore. Given all this, of course I have to devote a post to all things lip balm.

Firstly, let me introduce you to Suds Muffin (motto: muffin but suds.) This bath and body shop on Etsy has all sorts of delightful looking goodies– soaps, lip balms, bath salts, lotions, massage oils, and more. They have 11 different kinds of lip balm, including Creamsicle, Tiramisu, and Black Forest. Mmm. You can keep tabs on Suds Muffin through their blog. And while you are there, check out the fabulous giveaway they are having for one of each of their flavors of lip balm. Personally, I was terribly excited about that.

So, what do you do when you need to have your lip balm with you at all times? You carry it in style, of course. Etsy has all sorts of lip balm holders available. Let me share a few of my favorites:

Sweet Shop Lip Balm Holder

from Sweet Shop

Dream Whimsy Lip Balm Holder

from Dream Whimsy

A Rose By Name Lip Balm Holder

from A Rose By Name

Lavender Lizard Lip Balm Holder

from Lavender Lizard

Mindy’s Embroidery Lip Balm Holder

from Mindy’s Embroidery

Mamadama Design’s Lip Balm Holder

from Mamadama Designs

There are so many great lip balms and lip balm holders on Etsy. I can only show you a small fraction here. I highly suggest, if you’re in need of a lip balm or the means to properly contain it, that you peruse all that Etsy has to offer.

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Optimize Your Blogging: Finding New Readers

If you are a blogger, you often want to draw in new readers to your blog. How do you do that? I don’t have all the answers to that question, but I do have some ideas and cool tools for your blog that might help.

Drawing in Readers

  • One way to attract new readers is to join (or start) a blog ring. Blog rings link your blog up in a circle of blogs with similar content. This isn’t done intuitively, you have to find the right ring for you. Anodyne Design is currently part of two blog rings, Etsy Sellers Who Blog and etsyBloggers. The first ring is for any Etsy member who also blogs (obviously) and the etsyBloggers ring is specifically for members of the Etsy Bloggers Street Team. They are so many possible blog rings for you to join, and they aren’t all Etsy related by a long shot. If your blog is about knitting, jewelry making, interpretive dance or salamanders, I bet there is a blog ring for you. Effectiveness: I have definitely seen an increase in visitors who are using the blog ring “next” feature and land on my site
  • Join online communities related to topics you discuss in your blog. Not only will this introduce you to others with similar interests, but it will introduce them to your blog. For crafty types, you may want to join Craftster and start checking out their forums. You can link to your blog in your signature, and when you post on the forums, people will see the link to your forum. If you post interesting, relevant posts (don’t spam just to get blog hits… would you visit a spammers blog?) people will want to know more about you and see what else you’ve got to say. This method will require some time and interest on your part, but could really pay off. Don’t bother joining communities that have nothing to do with the topics you address in your blog, because it’s not likely to produce repeat visitors. Why would the average member of a community devoted to aquarium care want to read about your newest tote bag? (I’m sure some would, but enough to make it worth your time if you aren’t interested in aquarium care yourself?)Another community you may want to consider joining is Stylehive. This is a community where you can tag items on the internet you’d like to buy (I think a lot of it is wishful thinking. I know I tag a lot more than I could ever actually afford.) Others can see your items and tag them, too. You can link to your blog in your profile. If people like your taste, they may want to see what else they can find out on your blog.Another social networking community for creative bloggers is IndiePublic. It’s brand new, but it looks like it’s already taking off. It’s described as an “independent art and design community. If you’re an artist, designer, retailer, blogger, or just someone who gets giddy when they buy indie, we’ve saved a seat for you!” You can check out my IndiePublic profile here. And if you join, I’d love to be your friend. Finally, if you’re a member of Etsy, a good way to promote your blog is to be active in the Etsy forums.Effectiveness: Personally, I click on blog links in signatures when I’ve read a post I really like. I want to read more of what that poster has to say. I have also gotten some hits on my blog through my Stylehive profile. And I have found a lot of great blogs that I visit regularly through the Etsy forums. All these community options require a significant commitment of time on your part, though, so you’ll probably only want to do this with communities you actually want to join.
  • Join sites that aggregate blogs, rank authority, and keep on eye on recent updates, like Technorati or Bloglines. There’s lots of others out there you can check out, too. Some for all sorts of blogs, and some for specific types of blogs.
  • Comment on other blogs you like. This will get your name and a link to your blog out there for other commenters to see. As with posting on forums, though, don’t be spammy. Only post comments that contribute to the discussion–be a participant, not an advertiser. Be involved in the blogging community, and you will be rewarded. Drive-by advertise in comments, and people will know what you’re doing and not waste their time checking your site out.

Don’t Forget the Basics

All of the above suggestions are helpful, but none of them can compensate for a lack of content. If you want to keep your readers for more than 5 seconds, I recommend the following:

  • Figure out the purpose of your blog. This is sort of like creating a mission statement. Ask yourself, “is this blog for me to express myself however I please, is it an extension of my business, is it devoted solely to my deep interest in scuba diving?” The answer to that question will guide how you develop your blog.If the goal of your blog is to draw in and keep readers, make sure that the layout and style of your blog is appealing to your readers. This may mean that you can’t always fully “express yourself,” because it may conflict with what your readers are looking for. One good example of this is deciding whether or not to put music on your blog. If you hear that your readers find this a turn-off, then to keep them you should keep the music off, even if you love it. (If your blog is simply about you being you, go ahead and keep the music. You only want readers who want you in all your glory anyway.)
  • Post regularly. Everyday, or on a clearly stated schedule. Readers want to know when they can expect new content.
  • Keep it interesting for your readers–make sure your content stays related to the topics of your blog. If you describe your blog as specifically about knitting, make sure most of your content really is about knitting.
  • Post pictures. We’re used to tv. We want to see things. (Caveat: Make sure the pictures you are posting are good quality, not blurry (unless it’s on purpose!), and not HUGE. If you’ve got a picture of something you want to show in intimate detail, post a small version of the picture and allow readers to click on it to see the bigger version.)
  • Keep the layout clean. Nothing is a bigger turn-off (at least for me) than a messy blog with animated pictures, messy text, and things going on all over the place with no clear order. I’m not going to waste my time trying to decipher how to navigate your site, when then are a billion other sites that may have already made it easy for me to read.

These are just a few ways to attract (and hopefully keep) readers of your blog. Later on, I’ll post more about retaining readers once you’ve drawn them in for a first look. Until then, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors through these two cool tools:

  • See how many people are visiting your site and get a lot more information about them, such as what pages they are looking at and how long they stayed by setting up StatCounter on your site (it’s free).
  • Monitor mentions of your blog through Technorati, if you’ve joined, and Google Alerts (both free). Google Alerts are awesome, you simply tell Google what search words or phrases to keep an eye on and then sit back and wait for Google to email you when something new appears on their radar that meets your criteria. I recommend you plug in the name of your blog.

Please share your ideas for how to draw in readers. Happy blogging!

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Surprise Packages are the Best Kind

Pretty Theory Book Purse

The mailman surprised me with a box from Pretty Theory the other day, all because my mom ordered me a gift on Etsy. She sent me this fabulous book purse, made from an upcycled “Modern Clinical Psychiatry” book that apparently used to live in the State Attorney General’s office in Chicago. Given that I currently live in Illinois and have an interest in all things mental health, this purse was just too perfect! (Thanks, Mom.)

Pretty Theory has a variety of book purses made with books from all sorts of subjects. Right now they have some available for your favorite math nerd or seamstress. They got some other things, like gift tags and necklaces, too. You can keep tabs on Pretty Theory at their blog, PrettyTheory.com.

What’s the last gift you surprised someone with? My last one was a beautiful necklace from AntiGenre for my mom.

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A Blog Scavenger Hunt

Chia over at House of Stirfry is having another contest! This one is a blog scavenger hunt, so you’ll have the opportunity to win a prize and check out some cool new blogs. Chia seems to have contests pretty regularly, so I’d recommend you keep an eye on her blog. While you’re waiting for the next contest, you’ll have a chance to see some of the awesome mixed media/paper art she does. If you happen to live in Arizona, you’ll also be connected to local artsy/scrapbooking/paper shops, and you’ll get information about the classes Chia teaches in those shops. A good blog for any artist, and particularly excellent for paper artists. Check it out!

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Business Cards

My New Business CardsAfter having my second conversation with a stranger recently about Etsy (“What’s that?” “How do you spell it?”) and having to say again, “it’s like Betsy without the B,” I decided it was time to get business cards. This way, I can get the word out about Etsy and about my Etsy shop and blog, too.

I’ve been coveting some moo cards, but I’m going to wait on those a bit until my business becomes a little more profitable. Until then, there’s VistaPrint. VistPrint offers 250 full color business cards for free–you just have to pay about $5 in shipping. That’s a pretty good deal for business cards. While you can’t have a custom design on your cards for free (I’m sure you can if you’re willing to pay more than $0), they have about 50 designs to choose from, and there’s a lot of variety. That’s not a bad deal for the price. And I’ll be happy to finally stop spelling Etsy for new users.

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Three-Pepper Pasta Salad

Three Pepper Pasta Salad

Someone was looking for pasta salad recipes over in the Etsy forums yesterday. Of course, this got me to thinking about my favorite pasta salad recipe, which I will share with you now. This recipe is so easy to make, so don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. I’ve taken it to several pot-luck style events, and it’s one of those dishes that’s completely gone when it’s time to go home (which is sad if you were secretly hoping for leftovers for yourself, as I do.) I may have to whip up a batch of this soon… If you end up making this, I hope you’ll come back and leave a comment to let me know how you liked it!

Ingredients
1 package (12 ounces) tricolor spiral pasta
2/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried basil)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small sweet red pepper, julienned
1 small yellow pepper, julienned
1 small green pepper, julienned
1 medium tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
2 tbsp sliced green onions
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed

Some notes about how I do it: extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Also, I don’t bother to measure the green onions, I just use scissors to snip 1 bunch of them into the bowl. Oh, and I’ve actually been using shredded Parmesan, instead of grated. It all gets liquified in the blender anyway.

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, process the oil, vinegar, basil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until smooth.
3. Drain and rinse pasta; place in a large bowl.
4. Add the peppers, tomato, olives, and onions.
5. Add dressing; toss to coat.
6. Add mozzarella and toss. Serve at room temperature.

Yield
6 to 8 servings.

If you left out the cheeses, I bet it would still be delicious, and it would be vegan, too. Also, I bet the dressing would be good on other salad, too.

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My New Reversible Tote

tote

I finished up a new tote that I liked so much I’m keeping it for myself. It’s reversible, so it’s like two totes in one! (Although, I think I’m probably going to be favoring the side shown here a little.) The green fabric is, again, from the Tracy Porter line at JoAnn Fabrics. It is actually the leftover material from my quilt backing (and featured in this blog’s banner). I just love this fabric! The other fabric is a great blue and white diamond pattern with small gold dots on it. I bound the edges of the tote with turquoise bias tape, which was a first for me. I was actually inspired to use the bias tape after reading about it on several other blogs and tutorial sites.

Martha Stewart gives bias tapes instructions and ideas in Bias Toward the Pretty. There’s also a great Bias Tape Tote Tutorial over at Belle Epoque. And, Posie Gets Cozy talks about bias binding in her post, “How I Get My Jollies.” With all this talk and information about bias tape, who was I not to try it?

darts

The bottom of the bag has a little body thanks to some darts. It’s lined with firm decor bond interfacing, so it keeps its shape, but it’s not so firm that it can stand up on it’s own, especially with the curved bottom the darts give it. (I may try another with a more squared-off bottom and see what I like better.) The tote seems to be just the right size for me–roomy without being huge–and although it is lined with a firm interfacing, it’s soft and rests nicely flat at my side.

pouch

Because it is a cool reversible tote, and because of the placement of the handle, there’s no closure at the top of this bag. To make up for that, I made up a small (7×4 inches) zippered pouch in matching fabric to hold important items in the tote. It’s got a great, kiwi green zipper, but I think it would look fabulous with a turquoise zipper, too. The pouch has triangular sides with a depth at the bottom of 2 1/2 inches, so it can hold quite a bit of important stuff. If I added a strap, the pouch could probably pass as a small wristlet. And it would definitely make a nice cosmetics bag. Even though the pouch isn’t interfaced, it holds its shape fairly well and can stand up on its own.

Hooray for new totes!

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The Perfect Pot of Tea

Tea Party Girl Tea PotThis is a photo of my new tea pot in action. Some looseleaf Anne Shirley’s Almond Black (I love that name) is steeping. The aroma was wonderful. My ever-so-sensitive partner said, “It smells like a candle.” I think that was a compliment. The taste was a bit lighter than I expected, but that may be due to the fact that I only put 18 ounces of water in the pot (and you can see in the photo that the tea leaves were not totally immersed during steeping.) I drank all three cups, and could easily drink more, so I will definitely remedy this problem next time around. Even so, it was delicious. I am so very pleased with the pot and the tea. I have not yet tested the warmer (I drank it up too fast!) I also must admit that I drank out of a thick-lipped mug. I don’t own any nice teacups. I’ll be looking to fix that problem soon, too. Thank you, Tea Party Girl, for introducing me to a version of tea far removed from Lipton tea bags. Does anyone have any suggestions for where I could get a beautiful teacup that isn’t all old-lady victorian-ish? Something a little more modern?

A Beautiful Vessel

Tea Party Girl writes that it’s important when starting a daily tea ritual to have “a beautiful drinking vessel” from which to take your tea. As I mentioned, I am lacking one beautiful vessel. A quick survey of Etsy reveals that there are some beautiful teacups to be had. I will share those with you that are, in my opinion, some of the best teacups available on Etsy.

For a more modern flare, Mud Puppy offers a vintage teacup and saucer that have been given new life with some pretty abstract art. I love the union of clean white lines and gold sparkles, in particular. I would happily drink out of one of these teacups. Muddy Puppy has what appears to be a very new website at michaelmcdowell.com, if you want to learn more about his art.

Mud Puppy’s Abstract Modern Tea Cup & Saucer

Another great teacup find is this Dogwood Flower Saucer and Teacup from Whitney Smith Pottery (there are some other beautiful items in this shop, too, so be sure to check it out. I particularly love the Cherry Blossom Bowl and Plate.) Whitney Smith Pottery has a website at whitneysmithpottery.com where you can see more samples of her beautiful work and learn more on her blog. After looking through her gallery, I think I’ve found a new pottery favorite.

Whitney Smith Pottery’s Dogwood Teacup and Saucer

Tea-Themed Jewelry

And if you really love your tea and want to make sure the world knows it, perhaps you’d like to own this adorable teacup pendant (made by Little Sparrows). Or there’s this gorgeous lampwork glass pendant of a teapot and cup at Chickadee Buttons and Beads.

Teacup Necklace

Teapot and Teacup Lampwork Bead

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I Made This: A Lap Quilt

My 1st Quilt

This is a picture of a quilt I finished making today. It’s the first quilt I’ve ever made, so I’m kind of proud of it. It is about 39 inches wide by 56 inches long. Perfect for keeping warm on the couch. The backing fabric is the same one I’ve used in my blog header. Now that I’ve made one, I get the feeling I’ll probably make some more. Also, the teapot, warmer, and tea arrived today from Tea Party Girl, so maybe I’ll test out the new quilt by curling up with a cup of tea.