Monday: A Week in the Life Balancing Baby and Business

Would you like a glimpse inside a week of my life balancing my baby and handmade business?

Last week I decided to blog my daily activities for one week, inspired by the many bloggers who had just finished up the Week in the Life challenge.

I always love Week in the Life because I’m nosy by nature.  This exercise gave me some clarity into why I always feel like my business is growing so slowly, and this week I’m trying to improve my schedule and time management based on what I learned last week.

With that, here’s what last Monday looked like.

WITL 2015 Header Image

8 am:  Wake up, wanting more sleep, but looking at Maple who is grinning gleefully up at me.  She’s been awake for an hour already, talking loudly to herself after I pulled her into bed to feed her at 5 am before drifting back into a semi-sleep state.  Some mornings she allows this more than others, but on this Monday she talked and made wookie yells pretty much nonstop.

I make my breakfast while Maple sits in her high chair at the kitchen island, playing with a wooden spoon and a washcloth.

As I eat breakfast, I talk to Maple and work through my schedule in my planner.  I want to do a lot of work this week and want to kick it off with a bang.

9 am:  Maple goes into her crib to nap.  I’m trying to get her on a daytime schedule now that she’s 7 months.  I drink my coffee in the yard while listening to podcasts and playing fetch with Amber, because, like any younger dog, she needs exercise in order to remain well behaved during the day.  I also sand and seal the shelves for my office, hoping they’ll be dry enough to hang tonight.

10:15 am: Dishes and cloth diaper laundry are started.  I head to the sewing studio to work on sewing some dog beds.

11 am:  I hear the tiniest noise, and know Maple has woken up from her nap.  She’s sideways in the crib, her little feet kicking the rails as she plays and talks to herself. I feed her and then fold laundry in the nursery as she plays.

WITL Reading Baby Books to Maple

After reading her a few books, it’s noon – time for lunch!

12 pm:  I set Maple back in her high chair, and I put a few blobs of baby food on her tray.  She can finger paint with it and maybe get some in her mouth.  I’m prepping my lunch – a salad – when I hear a funny noise. I turn around to see Maple bent over, trying to suck the food off her tray.  Her fingers, face, and belly are coated in the food, and she’s finally discovered that food tastes good.  I can’t help but laugh out loud.

WITL Maple Lunch Fingerpaint Food

We eat lunch together as I feed Maple in between bites for myself.

12:30 pm:  I clean her up, nurse her, and then we head outside to fill the bird feeders.  The weather is amazing so we sit in the hammock for a while and she looks around the yard, interested in everything.

When Maple starts rubbing her ears, I know it’s almost 1 pm and time for her next nap.  After she’s in her crib, I change out the laundry and sit at the kitchen island for a minute.

I’m tired.  Time for more coffee.

My shelves are dry so I bring them inside before the sun can hit them directly, and I clean up from the shelf project.

WITL Office Shelves In Progress

1:15 pm:  Coffee in hand, I head down to my office to check business emails, and print out the orders that came in over the weekend.  But my computer is having issues, so nothing works.

2 pm:  I’ve now wasted 45 precious minutes of nap time, my prime sewing time when I can focus .  I give up on the computer and go into the studio to finish sewing the morning’s Charlie Cushions.

And then I hear Maple giggling in the room above me.  Her nap has ended early.

It’s at this point that I start to feel stressed.  I realize I should have used the morning nap  to sew, and I start to worry about how I’m going to get enough sewing done before the day is done.

But I set that aside, get the laundry from the dryer, go upstairs to Maple.  She greets me with a happy squeal.  I set her in the middle of our bed and fold more laundry as she plays.  Then I shower and put away laundry as she plays in her room.

WITL Laundry Bed Maple

3 pm:  We head to the kitchen to prep dinner.  I can interact with Maple as I work in the kitchen, so I save those tasks for when she’s awake.  I put together a Thai Red Curry with fresh veggies from the weekend farmer’s market.

WITL Veggies Thai Red Curry

3:30 pm:  Ryan is home from work!  He plays with Maple as I cook.

4 pm:  I feed Maple before putting her down for her late afternoon nap.  Then I head back to the kitchen to make chicken vegetable soup for my neighbors.  They’re in their 90s and have come down with Bronchitis and I worry about them eating enough. My mom always made chicken broth for colds and coughs, so I follow her lead.

5:30 pm:  I take the soup over to the neighbors.  When I get home I see Amber skulking out of the kitchen . . . I left the trash can out, and Amber has eaten the chicken skin and bones.  Ryan and I proceed to worry, because chicken bones are dangerous for dogs.

WITL B-Side Cabernet Sauvignon

I open a bottle of wine and take a few minutes to just sit and rest my feet on the back porch.  And worry about Amber.  And remind Ryan that we should get her enrolled in pet insurance ASAP.  I also wonder how the day got away from me so quickly.

6:30 pm:  Dinner time.  Maple continues to nap, which is unusual.  For once Ryan and I get to eat dinner without juggling a baby.  (She usually wakes up just as I’m about to take my first bite, which means I’ve gotten good at nursing while eating.) We watch Orange is the New Black.

7:45 pm:  Maple wakes up from her nap with only 15 minutes before bedtime.  While Ryan feeds Maple, I fight with my computer and then ask Ryan to look at it because it’s still slow.

8:15 pm:  I nurse Maple and put her to bed, then sit with her for a while as she yells.  She seems fussy and kind of clingy, which is unusual for her.

9 pm:  The sugar cravings are hitting me hard, so I make some decaf coffee with cream and a few drops (just a few) of Cointreau for orange flavor.  Have you tried this?  It’s delicious!!
I manage to respond to some email but still haven’t been able to print out my orders and mailing labels.  My computer is freezing up on me again, and then Google decides that I read Polish.

Google Drive in Polish WITL

I think my computer would benefit from being thrown on the floor, but I take it to Ryan to devise a less violent solution.

I try to install my office shelves only to find the screws I got are too short.

9:45 pm Abandoning all hope of working, I take the dogs for a 3-mile walk.  We all need the exercise.

10:30 pm:  I make Ryan’s lunch for the next day and clean up the kitchen and Maple’s room.  After a shower and a spoonful of peanut butter I head to bed.

12:00 pm:  I hit the pillow and tell myself not to worry about my lack of productivity today, because the week is young, and tomorrow I’ll get more work done.

Of course, if Maple could talk, she would tell you she had an awesome day with her mom.

Fair Trade Fashion and Ethical Shopping at Whole Foods

Did you know you can find fair trade fashion at Whole Foods?  Fair Trade Fashion at Whole Foods

My location in Vienna, VA has always had a small collection of sustainable apparel – mainly casual wear- on end caps, but recently they’ve included nicer items like dresses.   When I travel I noticed that some locations have larger collections. In the Reno, NV location I had to exercise serious restraint, because they had a huge section of clothes, shoes, and other accessories.

Whole Foods Sustainable Apparel Dresses

The main brand sold at my local Whole Foods is the Threads For Thought brand.  I’ve bought some of their items, mainly tees, leggings, and a hoodie.

I also have gotten several pairs of comfy foam flip-flops which are made by FeelGoodz.

If you’re looking to shop for more ethically made clothing, but you aren’t sure where to start – I think options at Whole Foods are worth a shot.


Handmade Business Secrets: Get product photos that rock!

If you’re selling your handmade products online, clear and pretty product photos are key to increased sales.  But how do you get those awesome images if you’re not a pro with the camera?   I’m sharing my secret today, in the hopes that it will save you the time I wasted.

Handmade business get product photos that rock

Psst:  Before we get started, I’d like to remind you that this is not a sponsored post.

This summer I launched an independent website for my pet bed and home decor business, Janery.  After selling for several years on Etsy, launching my own online store was the natural “next step” to take Janery to a more professional level.

Janery Pet Beds Home Accessories Screenshot product photography

I was ready to launch it more than a year ago, except for one huge roadblock:

My product photography was terrible.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t terrible, not anymore.  I’d worked on it over the years, first getting a better lighting kit, then taking photos against the white wall of my studio, and then finally DIYing a large white backdrop.  I’d even played around with my camera settings a little.  But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get product images with a bright white background and well-balanced, realistic color.

My online customers don’t have the luxury of picking up and inspecting my products.  They’re  forming opinions based on the images on my screen.

Despite knowing this, I was about to settle for less-than-ideal photos for the new website, because I had delayed so long that I said “Jane, you just have to launch this.” 

A week before launch, I discovered companies that provide this photo editing service for you.  After reading reviews on several, I tried out Mister Clipping. They offer a variety of image editing services and were able to do what I needed for Janery.

I uploaded photos in large batches, then used these instructions (based on recommendations I found):

“Make the background 255 white. Keep the hard shadow under the product and fade the long shadow. Spot product and fix damaged areas. Correct for distortion. Deliver Full resolution jpegs with no compression.”

24 hours later, my edited photos were ready to download from the service.  I was very happy with the results.  62 photos edited for under $200, and all I had to do was select them, upload, wait one day, then download.

Check out the difference it made:

Janery Product Photo Editing Comparison

After the edited photos were loaded to my website, it took only a few more days to be ready for launch.  I could have kicked myself when I realized the one thing holding my business back for more than a year was lack of proper photos. 

I’d like to leave you with this lesson learned:  Sometimes it’s better not to DIY everything for your business.  Paying a professional to help where your skills are lacking is worth it, if you spend that time saved on the parts of the business you know and love.

Modern, Rustic Design Inspiration at Three Ships Coffee Roasters

During our trip to Virginia Beach, Ryan and I tried out some new coffee shops and coffee roasters.  We do this on every trip we take, and it’s always exciting when we stumble on a roaster with some really interesting coffees.  Three Ships Coffee Roaster Virginia Beach

Three Ships Coffee Roasters in Virginia Beach is definitely one of those finds for us!  Their cold brew coffee was among the best I’ve ever had – citrusy and fruity, and absolutely no need for cream. Also, they had killer ham biscuits.

Three Ships Coffee Roaster Ham Biscuit

But I’m not here to wax poetic about coffee today.  I also loved their rustic modern decor that had just the right amount of kitschy ship and captain items mixed in.

I fell hard for this rope and board hanging shelf unit!  It’s rustic but not country, at least in my opinion.  And totally DIY-able! Sadly, Ryan fails to be impressed by this inspiration. Three Ships Coffee Roaster Virginia Beach Hanging Plant Shelf

I also loved the chunky wood shelves.  This is not a new style, but it worked so well.  From a retail perspective, I also noticed a little detail – the small signs about the different coffee beans all had a bit of humor in the detail. It caused us to read all the descriptions carefully, when we might otherwise not have.

Three Ships Coffee Roaster Virginia Beach Chunky Wood Floating Shelves

Finally, I really liked the black painted wood plank wall  in the back by the roaster.  This style is a little unusual, but the black really makes the wood wall pop. Also, I’m pretty sure we had those bar stools in my woodshop class in middle school. . . it’s funny how basic they are, yet they really work in the space.

Three Ships Coffee Roaster Virginia Beach bar

We tried another coffee shop on the same day, and it couldn’t have been a more different aesthetic.  It was large and shiny and new, and trying to be awesomely modern,  but there was no personality.  It looked like they had a huge budget to buy all new, contemporary furniture.  I’ll take a more eclectic, thrifted look any day over all shiny and new.

Now I’m off to try and convince Ryan I should put some rope shelves in the living room . . .