Sunday, September 29, 2013

Snap Happy - I learned a thing or two roaming the Scottish Highlands!

The old adage about learning something new every day can also be applied to photography, especially when you widen your snap-happy horizons by travelling abroad with your camera. Here are just a few things I learned on my recent trip to the UK ...

1. Just because your camera tells you its battery is full in the morning does not mean it won't go from full to empty after the next twenty pictures you take. So a word of the wise - never trust your camera display and load the battery whenever possible. Lesson learned.

2. Your camera battery will die in the exact moment you decide to go from "just taking some pic's for the family album" to "this will be the most amazing shot for my shop". Seriously, it did.

3. Even though you might think you are snapping away crazily there will always be someone who will snap away even crazier. Preferably this will be the person sitting behind you on the bus who'll supply an annoying click-click-clicking soundtrack to your journey.

4. Handling a simple compact camera to take a picture of a fellow traveler might make you feel like a total klutz, because you're far too used to your own fancy state-of-the-art equipment. Suddenly easy-peasy takes on a surprising difficulty level. Pathetic, I know.

5. Instead of trying to take a picture of someone who's a head shorter than you are (that'd be the lovely lady from the Philippines who had me go through lengthy photo sessions, because apparently I exude a certain photographic confidence handling a camera) from your own giraffe-height POV, crouch. Don't be embarrassed, just do it. Works like a charm.

6. It might not seem like a big deal to lug around your camera equipment all day long, but even a harmlessly sounding kilo (a bit over 2 pounds) can take its toll. Carry that thing around for hours on end and you'll kill your neck and shoulders. Some days I had to leave my camera in the hotel, because the pain had got so bad. Next time I will rent a mule to do all the carrying for me.

7. In case you go to Scotland (like I did) and someone asks you to bring back photographic proof of what's really underneath a kilt, don't be afraid to agree. Then find a shop with kilts on display and angle up your camera to get the perfect shot. If no one mentioned the kilt had to be worn, you're all set ...

Know y'all know what's to be seen when you risk a glance up a kilt ... darkness, apparently.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Etsy Venture - How many stars will make you happy?

About a month ago Etsy implemented a new rating system and all hell broke loose. Tried and tested through a seller survey, the old ratings of positive, neutral and negative had to make room for the good old (but in this case new) 5-star rating system many of us know from sites such as Amazon or Ebay. Apparently the 4.000 souls who had a say in this survey were of a different opinion than the majority of sellers were once the change took place. But let's not get ahead of myself.

What's new?
- Buyers are now able to wrap their opinion about a purchase into a "shopper-friendly rating" that stretches over 5 different shades of like (or dislike). Side note: Old ratings were automatically translated into positive = 5 stars, neutral = 3 stars, and negative = 1 star.
- Reviews and ratings can now be edited, giving the buyer and seller a chance to resolve issues concerning a purchase.
- Sellers can no longer leave feedback for a buyer, because this is allegedly a tedious task.
- The review score of a seller is now determined by an average of the star ratings received in the last 12 months. Previously all ratings you have ever received were factored into this score.
- While previously all ratings you received, be it as a seller or buyer, showed up in your shop, now it's only those related to your sales.

Why the fuss?
As much as some of the changes mentioned above make sense, it's the 5-star ratings itself that got many sellers upset. Truth be told I'm no exclusion. Previously, when I was happy with my purchase I left a positive rating. Things had to be pretty bad for me to even hand out a neutral rating, eg when a buyer claimed they had sent something on a particular date and I kept on wondering when it'd finally arrive only to receive it and notice that it had been sent off weeks after it should have been sent on its way.

When it comes to the option of anything between one and five stars even minor things that didn't work out as perfectly as a buyer would have wished for, eg when the postal system uses a mule instead of a plane to get a package from A to B, might be blamed on the seller and *BAMM* it's 4-stars only. Fair? Probably not. And I'm not even implying that every buyer will do this, but let's face it, some will. As to leaving ratings for sellers, I will try to keep the old rating system close to my heart and not chop of a star for minor reasons.

How does it affect me personally?
At the moment, not at all. The few sales I made I was "blessed" with rating-lazy buyers, thus there are currently no reviews and/or ratings to be seen in my shop. Will I be unhappy if I end up with a rating below 5-stars? Probably not. Let's wait and see and most of all hope for stars to roll in in sets of five each time. *wink*

How do you like the new rating system on Etsy? Yay or nay?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting Crafty - Oh the things I shall create!

There are people who focus on just one craft and then there are those who seem to do them all. Of course there's no reason to overdo it by trying to break some kind of crafting record, but I must admit that about a year ago I never would have dreamed about indulging in more than being a snap happy photographer. Next thing I knew, I was knitting the frosty winter days away. Now that temps are getting cooler I suddenly feel the urge to get crafty again, but not necessarily with my knitting needles. Long story short, there are a few crafts I'd really like to try myself on in the months to come ...

1. Crocheting
One step up (or down, depending on who you're asking) from knitting I've been toying with the idea of playing around with one instead of two needles. Of course, technically speaking, it's less a needle than a hook. I already have a neat little yarn stash so all I need to add are some crochet hooks and then browse around the interwebs for some easy (as in a-toddler-could-do-it) patterns to end up with even more scarfs. Well, these won't be the knitted variety at least!

2. Making a Door Wreath
As happened with the knitting, my friend Amy rubbed off on me again. Not as though I'm complaining. I can see it clearly in front of me (or rather on the front door) - a small wreath wrapped with colorful yarn and adorned with cute shabby chic fabric flowers (still sitting in my Etsy basket to be bought soonish). And while I'm at it, why not make a Christmas-themed wreath too? Sounds like a plan to me!

3. Zentangle
When I first heard about it I thought what a fancy name for what's basically random doodling on a square piece of paper. Of course there is a little bit more to it after all and certainly enough to make me want to whip out a sketch book and get going. Plus, even if I fail with my other plans above (especially the crocheting might prove a bit of a challenge) this will perk my mood up again. After all, how hard can it be to doodle?

What crafty endeavors have you planned this fall/winter season? 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Frugal Life - What are your rules for frugal living?

Living frugally may have many reasons - sometimes out of necessity and sometimes as a chosen way of life. In my own case it's probably a little bit of both. After all, it never hurts to save some money for a rainy day, plus why keep on spending and spending without any real need?

There are quite a number of websites that advertise the frugal life with tons of tips and advice on how to do it. While those are usually rather specific suggestions, I wanted to get straight to the point. Here's the result ...

It should go without saying, but the most important factor is to stop buying stuff you just don't need. If you already own two dozen pairs of jeans, suffice to say, you sure don't need another one, no matter how cute it looks or how cheap it is. Only got two pairs of underpants in your drawer? Feel free to buy a couple more. Other than that, always think about what you have and learn the difference between wanting and needing!

So you think you're being frugal, because you only paid ten bucks for that shirt or pan or whatever else caught your attention during a sale? Buyer beware! If you buy cheap you often have to live with the fact that things have the tendency to fall apart in no time. In the long run it is better to invest in some quality even if it costs five times as much! After all, always buying cheap can cost you a whole lot more if you need to buy something again an again.

There are things you will only need once or maybe twice in your life. Why throw out a whole lot of money for them if you can borrow from a friend or neighbor instead? Or maybe you can grab a bargain by buying something used (most likely from someone who also only needed a dress/power drill/etc. once and is now trying to get at least a bit of the investment back). So, before you buy new, consider this as an alternative!

In this throw-away society it's a given that people will toss out things, because they are no longer needed or which have no longer any use. If a garment or device literally falls apart there's usually not a whole lot you can do except replace it, but often enough people get rid of things they just don't want any more despite them being in good condition. Here's where your imagination and craftiness can be put to good use by upcycling and reusing something!

How do you like my rules for frugal living? Do you abide by these or similar rules? Please share!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Snap Happy - How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?

Completely messing up a great photo because of wrong ISO settings? No laughing matter. Time to sit back and enjoy some photography jokes to get that smile back!

A photographer went to a dinner party where he showed many of his photographs. The lady of the house said, "Those are very nice pictures, you must have a great camera." He said nothing, but when leaving for home offered the following compliment to the lady of the house, "The meal was very nice, you must have great pots and pans, you must have a very sophisticated stove."


How does Santa Claus take pictures?
With his North Polearoid.


A journalist photographer was caught out in a rain shower when he saw a dark gloomy house. While he was drying off in the house he heard scary sounds and saw a ghost coming towards him. He grabbed his camera to take pictures. The ghost asked him what he was doing, he said “I just want to take your picture for the newspaper.” The ghost was glad for the exposure and posed for the photographer. When his film was all done he thanked the ghost and rushed to his office to get the film developed. When he saw the results he was terribly disappointed that they all came out black – they were all underexposed.The moral of the story is: The spirit was willing but the flash was weak.

And last but not least one that's not quite suitable for work ... *wink*

The Smiths had no children and decided to use a proxy father to start their family. On the day the proxy father was to arrive, Mr.Smith kissed his wife and said, "I'm off. The man should be here soon."
Half an hour later, just by chance, a door-to-door baby photographer rang the doorbell, hoping to make a sale. "Good morning madam. You don't know me but I've come to...."
"Oh, no need to explain. I've been expecting you," Mrs. Smith cut in.
"Really?" the photographer asked. "Well, good! I've made a specialty of babies."
"That's what my husband and I had hoped. Please come in and have a seat. Just where do we start?" asked Mrs. Smith, blushing.
"Leave everything to me. I usually try two in the bathtub, one on the couch and perhaps a couple on the bed. Sometimes the living room floor is fun too; you can really spread out."
"Bathtub, living room floor? No wonder it didn't work for Harry and me."
"Well, madam, none of us can guarantee a good one every time. But if we try several different positions and I shoot from six or seven angles, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the results."
"I hope we can get this over with quickly," gasped Mrs. Smith.
"Madam, in my line of work, a man must take his time. I'd love to be in and out in five minutes, but you'd be disappointed with that, I'm sure."
"Don't I know!!" Mrs. Smith exclaimed.
The photographer opened his briefcase and pulled out a portfolio of his baby pictures. "This was done on the top of a bus in downtown London."
"Oh my god!!" Mrs. Smith exclaimed, tugging at her handkerchief.
"And these twins turned out exceptionally well when you consider their mother was so difficult to work with." The photographer handed Mrs. Smith the picture.
"She was difficult ?" asked Mrs. Smith.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. I finally had to take her to Hyde Park to get the job done right. People were crowding around four and five deep, pushing to get a good look."
"Four and five deep?" asked Mrs. Smith, eyes widened in amazement.
"Yes", the photographer said. "And for more than three hours too. The mother was constantly squealing and yelling. I could hardly concentrate. Then darkness approached and I began to rush my shots. Finally, when the squirrels began nibbling on my equipment, I just packed it all in."
Mrs. Smith leaned forward. "You mean they actually chewed on your,"
"That's right. Well madam, if you're ready, I'll set up my tripod so that we can get to work."
"Tripod??", Mrs. Smith looked extremely worried now.
"Oh yes, I have to use a tripod to rest my Canon on. It's much too big for me to hold while I'm getting ready for action."
With that, Mrs. Smith fainted.

Know any photography jokes you'd like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Lucky Dip - Secondchance Jewelry

Show me a grab bag and I show you my empty wallet. Not to say it isn't worth the thrill (and investment) every time ...

Where to go? Secondchance Jewelry

What to buy? Mystery Pack

What does it cost? £20 plus shipping

What's it all about? With this mystery pack you will receive over £40 worth of products and you can pick from various styles: Goth/Steampunk, Geekery/Gamer, Vintage Style, Kawaii/Kitch, Mixed.

Content? Having some options as to the theme is always a good thing and inevitably I had to pick the Vintage Style for myself. When my little box arrived it was filled to the brim with nine items which fit my chosen theme for the most part, though a few kitchy pieces sneaked in too.

Floral Locket Necklace / Vintage Cat Necklace / Silver Scissors Necklace / Peace Sign Bracelet / Tea Time Earrings / Woodland Earrings / Button Ring / Coffee Cup Ring / Daisy Ring

Most favorite item? Obviously those darling tea time earrings won me over in no time!

Least favorite item? Both the coffee cup and the daisy ring are a bit too much "kiddy style" for my taste!

Value? Paying half price for a nice surprise? You got it.

Verdict? Fun to unpack and such a variety of pieces to boot! Some of the goodies will come in handy for gift purposes too!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Lucky Dip - ladybird likes

Did I ever mention that I have a secret passion for brooches? Even when I'm not in the mood for wearing a necklace, they spruce up any outfit. So how could I resist the prospect of a handful of brooches awaiting me ...

Where to go? ladybird likes

What to buy? Jewelry Bumper Goodie Bag

What does it cost? £20 plus shipping

What's it all about? These goodie bags include a mix of TEN ITEMS with an RRP of nearly £70! It works out at only £2 per item, so perfect as stocking fillers at Christmas, or to keep for emergency birthday gifts. You will find both items from discontinued ranges (such as our owl and cat brooches, typewriter key necklaces, moustache necklaces, and ampersand brooches), or slight seconds (meaning they have minor imperfections, although normally people can't even notice them, we are just very fussy!)

Content? I swear, unpacking was like Christmas morning! Old stock? I don't mind. Slight seconds? Honestly, I only found one tiny flaw on one piece which I had to look hard for to even find it. Bottom line, I am so pleased with the variety I received. And look, Zoe even threw in a little something extra - a cute butterfly pin that matches one of the necklaces!

Ampersand Brooch / Vintage Map Heart Brooch / Pin-Up GirlBrooch / Owl Brooch / Poison Bottle Brooch / Dachshund Necklace / Old Key Necklace / Mustache Necklace / Owl Hairpins / Butterfly Necklace / plus Butterfly Brooch (bonus gift)

Most favorite item? I've had my fingers crossed for one of the ampersand brooches ever since I saw one might be included, so I'm overjoyed about that piece! Admittely I'm pretty smitten with all the other brooches too!

Least favorite item? I might be a dog person, but a Wiener dog around my neck? I don't think so.

Value? What is the comparative of bargain again?

Verdict? Stocking up on stocking stuffers? I'm always game. Too bad I will greedily keep most of the goodies for myself, teehee!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Etsy Venture - Let's do some shopping on Facebook!

If you've ever visited my FB page you have probably seen the Etsy Shop button right underneath the banner too. I think it's pretty neat being able to bring the shopping experience one step closer to those browsing on Facebook which was the main reason I installed this application in the first place.

Want an Etsy shop with a theme? Look no further. Want built-in promotion and marketing tools? Etsy Theme Shop has all of that, and it's free.

My app of choice is powered by Etsy Theme Shop and while this seems to be the most popular one, there are several alternatives I've come across too, eg StoreYaEasy Social Shop, ShopTab and Etsy Items.

Now, the important question would be, why should you consider adding such a shopping app? For one, not everyone who happens to stumble across your Facebook page might even notice that it's a page for a shop instead of, say, a blog. I'm sure you've put all important links, including the one to your Etsy shop and maybe those for various social media outlets into the info section of your page, but this way those links aren't as obvious aka in plain sight as in this example ...

And second of all - you should promote your shop where you can! So if you're using social media to get word out why not include a shortcut that leads straight to your shop too? Remember - bringing visitors one step closer to your shop means you're one step closer to a sale!

Got a Facebook page and an Etsy shop? Tell me, are you using a shop app or maybe you haven't considered adding one up until now? Feel free to share below!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Lucky Dip - olive yew!

We've already established that I'm a silver kind of girl when it comes to jewelry, but even when you're more into gold or maybe even rose gold you'll be in for a real treat ...

Where to go? olive yew!

What to buy? Silver Grab Bag

What does it cost? $25 plus shipping

What's it all about? According to the listing these grab bags offer you 3-5 items in your finish of choice, or you can choose a mixed bag and get a little of each! Each bag values at up to $200!

Content? Do I really have to mention that I was delighted to have received a total of five items? Sure, quality always goes over quantity, but in this case I got it both! By the way, while I went for the silver-only version there are also grab bags with gold-only, rose-gold-only, or for those who love 'em all there's a mixed-finish available!

Elephant Necklace / Rhinestone Necklace / Lucky Clover Necklace / Star Earrings / Satellite Bracelet

Most favorite item? This is a tough choice yet I think the cute necklace with the elephant pendant is the winner for me!

Least favorite item? Admittedly I'm not overly fond of the necklace with rhinestones!

Value? Bought separately you'd pay more for each piece than for the whole pack - now that's a true bargain!

Verdict? This turned out to be such a sweet surprise! Perfect for gals who like to adorn themselves with understated, pretty pieces!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Lucky Dip - Kate Rowland Illustration

Yes, I'm back from my brief summer break and as you can see, I could hardly contain myself and splurged quite a bit during August. Time to get started sharing all my wonderful grab bags with y'all!

Can shopping feel like a trip to the moon? With the lovely creations from the following shop the answer is definitely yes ...

Where to go? Kate Rowland Illustration

What to buy? Kate's Lucky Dip

What does it cost? $12 plus shipping

What's it all about? Kate packs these grab bags with a mysterious mix of jewelry - each bag contains a brooch, necklace, pair of cufflinks AND two pairs of earrings! For just $12.00 you'll receive a parcel of wooden jewelry goodness worth over $45.00. The items in this goody bag are discontinued or old stock, but each piece is still totally wearable and brand new.

Content? Just because you know the basic content doesn't take the surprise out of unpacking a mystery bag for me. Now imagine my joy when I found two items I've already been ogling in the shop among the goodies! Suffice to say I love the variety with a little bit of everything from all the available themes!

Holding Hands Necklace / Feather Brooch / Rocketship Earrings / Green Triangular Earrings / Saturn Cufflinks

Most favorite item? Let's just say I am a big science-fiction fan, so those rocketships for the ears are just perfect for me. And an honorary mention goes to the cufflinks!

Least favorite item? That would have to be the triangle earrings which I haven't quite warmed up to!

Value? That's what I call a real steal!

Verdict? Now this lucky dip was not just lucky but made my inner geek real happy too! Plus, who'd have thought that wood makes for such unique and awfully cute jewelry?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Snap Happy - Being fussy about your shop photos?

As much as I am not in need of flawlessly white or black backgrounds in my own shop (obviously this comes with the territory of selling photos instead of, say, jewelry), I know that many who sell on Etsy struggle with their product photography. We all like to admire some artsy shots in lovely settings, but a good close-up without any distractions is pretty much a must-do too.

FotoFuze lets you make professional product photography out of ordinary photographs from ordinary cameras. For free.

To use the photo enhancement service for your product photography you need to sign up first. You don't necessarily need an Etsy account, but if you do there are some Etsy-specific features such as easy uploading to your listing and by keeping your photos public (there is a privacy setting too) you could even get additional sales, as there's a buy button beneath public photos that take visitors directly to its product page.

Need an example? Here you go ... and in case you love this stunning necklace you can buy it here.

Personally I have no experience with this service, but when I first read about it I knew I simply had to share. If any of you already use it, feel free to comment and let me and others know how you like it!

The Lucky Dip - September Giveaway (Open WW)

This summer I shared with you my grab bag from Designs by Peeno which included this fabulous necklace!

Designs by Peeno offers a wide range of jewelry though her trademark items are certainly the pressed flower (or in this case feathers) pieces. Pressed between 2 layers of glass these pendants are all made by using traditional stained glass methods.

Please note that this giveaway is not sponsored by Designs by Peeno - it's just my way of spreading the love and at the same time giving a shout-out for an amazing Etsy seller!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
P.S.: As the winner from the August Giveaway never replied to me, and with my upcoming vacation leaving no room (or rather time) to pick and contact a new winner (plus sending out the prize in a timely fashion), I have decided that the winner of the September Giveaway will receive both the necklace featured above and the cute bangle too!