Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fiscally Chic Goes Global

Hi, friends! Can you believe it's almost December? I'm not sure where November went. And with the long weekend around Thanksgiving, my days are all jumbled. Did you enjoy all sorts of turkey, stuffing, and pie? I was a rebel and baked a lemon meringue pie for Thanksgiving. It was a refreshing end to a tasty meal.

Since we stayed in Chicago for Thanksgiving, we had an opportunity to paint the back/TV room. John wanted to paint it green, so green it is. A little bit like this:

Pinned Image

Or like this, with a little photo-editing:

You'll have to trust me on this one. And wait for better pictures.

The blue artwork in that pin reminds me of our blueprints, so they might go in that room. Plus, it refers to the navy in the front room. Fortunately, the curtains still work with the green. Now we have to hang art and get a few more things to tie everything together.

I had a pretty busy weekend with Fiscally Chic pillow cover sales, which was really exciting! I'm pleasantly surprised by the success of my little shop. Especially since I only work on it during nights and weekends. I opened in September 2011 and have already sold 25 pillow covers and 1 knit alpaca hat. That's gross revenue of almost $600 (yay!). And none to family or friends. I had multiple orders over the weekend, including one to Harvard and three international! Japan, Australia, and Canada! The big winner was the silver and gold polka dot one. It was featured in the Etsy Finds email on Sunday!!!

Due to the success of the polka dot pillow cover, I ordered some additional fabric, but at a slight premium. Which means the price of that pillow cover went up $1. If you're itching to get your hands on one, they're scheduled to be shipped out Monday December 5. Provided I receive the fabric in the next few days.

Speaking of the business, I opened a business checking account and signed up for a business credit card. I'm also in the process of registering my DBA with Cook County. Previously, I had only registered it with the IL Dept. of Revenue. I found out you have to do both.

Things are definitely chugging along with the biz. John likes to joke that my pillow covers are taking over the world :)
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Bargain Hunting

Gap long and lean jeans, Lululemon Dip Dye Scuba hoodie, New Balance 556 retro shoes

Happy Black Friday('s Fancies)! While I love a good sale, I also really enjoy my sleep. And a little peace and quiet. Therefore, I didn't fight the crowds for the best deal at midnight. Though John went to Ashley Furniture to get an entertainment center for our basement. Ashley opened at a "late" 7am, so no lost sleep there.

Blue/Silver pillow cover, Mod Red/Green pillow cover,
Black/Cream alpaca scarf, Green/Gold pillow cover

Other than that, I might get a few sewing supplies at Joann Fabrics. And manage the Shop's first Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday weekend extravaganza! I woke up to an order from someone in Japan! How cool is that?!?!

If you've been eyeing some Marimekko pillow covers or alpaca products, now's your chance to get 15% off! Use coupon code "WEEKEND15" for 15% off the entire Shop through Monday November 28, 2011. More products will be added throughout the weekend.

Anybody brave the crowds this morning? Or would you rather wear comfy clothes and shop online?
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Notecard from Kathryn Whyte

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're enjoying some quality time with friends and family. And maybe a little pie :)
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Monday, November 21, 2011

How Bazaar: Tips from my first craft show

Hello, hello! How was your weekend? We had a great time with my Mom and the bazaar was pretty successful. I didn't really know what to expect since this was my first time selling at a craft show. Sure, I've been to plenty of craft fairs, art fairs, and farmer's markets, but never to this exact event. I didn't sell any pillow covers, but my Mom sold some scarves, hats, and yarn. Some people also put in special orders for hats and scarves. She'll be knitting those items over the next few days or week. On the plus side, I sold two pillow covers on Etsy over the weekend!

I'd love to sell at another craft show, so here are a few notes for next time or for anyone thinking about selling at a fair:

Our first sale!
Know your audience
I didn't attend this particular holiday bazaar last year, so I had no idea about the products, prices, or customers. Fortunately, we had a wide variety of products and price ranges. The least expensive item was a knit baby hat for $10, while a chunky scarf was at a discounted $50. These all included sales tax. Next time, I would create some smaller, less expensive items that could be stocking stuffers. Or attend a different event that reaches more of my target audience.

Be friendly
I made a point to say, "Hi" to everyone that walked past our booth. That person may or may not have stopped to browse, but it created a happy atmosphere. We also encouraged people to feel the alpaca products. They're extremely soft and cozy, so allowing someone to experience the product is more beneficial than telling them about it.

Draw your customers in
In addition to being friendly, we had a digital picture frame showing pictures of my parents' alpacas. People would be interested in the pictures and then look at the yarn or hat. My Mom was also knitting during downtimes, so people could see how she made the scarves and hats.

Create an interesting table or booth
Since I had never been to this event, I wasn't sure how we were going to stage our products. So we brought lots of props and had John bring things from home a few times. (The perk of being at a craft show close to home). We ended up using two tables for horizontal space, storage cubes for vertical space, and the basket to add a little interest. This was where the alpaca products shined.

The pillow covers didn't do quite as well. First, I didn't have an abundance of pillow covers available for sale since I kept selling them online during the weeks leading up to the show (a great problem to have). Second, I didn't have lots of space to show the pillow covers on pillow forms. Therefore, one guy asked me if they were placemats.

Overall, I thought we did well with arranging items by color and making our booth seem more like a boutique than a typical craft table.

Have some sort of promotion
As I said, sales tax was included in the price. And we didn't mark up the price to account for sales tax. That meant the consumer was getting almost a 10% discount off the bat. We also sold the hats at a discounted price. I would also recommend selling items in sets or offering a reduced price if multiple items were sold.

Making the sale
We were fortunate that everyone had cash or checks for their purchases. Plus, my Mom brought extra cash to make change. We tried for credit card processing, but had a few issues. First, my Mom signed up for Square, but the card reader didn't come in time. It works with Apple and Android products and we had an iPod Touch. Unfortunately, there wasn't wi fi at the school. My Mom has a Blackberry and Square doesn't work those. I'm still in the 20th century with my feature phone.

So she signed up for Intuit's GoPayment credit card processing since it was compatible with her Blackberry. But the app never quite worked with her Blackberry. We tested GoPayment with the iPod Touch at home and it worked just fine. But we didn't use it at the bazaar because there wasn't wi fi.

Make it easy for people to contact you
Both my Mom and I had business cards available. We included our cards with each purchase. Plus, people took business cards if they wanted to contact us or purchase from us later. One guy asked if I could make him custom Dallas Cowboys pillows and/or placemats. He also asked if I could help set up a Facebook page for his business. We swapped business cards and I'll be getting in touch with him.

In the end, I would do it again! We covered the cost of the registration fee (and then some) and had fun interacting with everyone.

Have you had a booth at a craft fair? Any tips to share?
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Furry Friday

Trina Turk faux fur vest, Gap long-sleeve tee, Kate Spade curling ribbon earrings and ring,
J. Crew cafe capri, Christian Louboutin measuring tape sandal

Happy Friday's Fancies! I've been dying to work these Christian Louboutin's into a budgetless outfit and this is the perfect week. My measuring tape has been close at hand as I've been sewing away and prepping for the Holiday Bazaar!

I'll let you know how it goes next week!

Have a great weekend!

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Holiday Bazaar this Saturday!

Looking to make a dent in your Christmas shopping? Stop by the Holiday Bazaar on Saturday November 19 from 10am to 3pm at St. Louise de Marillac School in La Grange Park, IL. More details can be found here.

My Mom is driving in from Cleveland so we can work our booth together. We'll have Marimekko pillow covers, alpaca scarves and hats, alpaca yarn, felted soap, and other goodies. We're both super excited!

If you can't make it to the Bazaar, you can still get 10% off orders at the Shop through November 20, 2011 using coupon code "BAZAAR10". A portion of the proceeds from the Bazaar and Etsy sales through November 20, 2011 will be given to the parish's Appalachian Service Project. A group will be going to Appalachia this summer to build homes and relationships. 

Hope to see you there!
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Brewing Better Coffee

Happy Monday! I don't know about you, but we had a busy weekend. Which means I need some coffee this morning.

So many money saving tips talk about making your own coffee at home. But what do you do if your coffee pot looks like this?

Yuck! And yes, that's our coffee pot. Unfortunately, having a well-seasoned (scuzzy) coffee pot isn't like having a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. It doesn't add any flavor.

So what to do? Gather a few household ingredients

2-3 cups cold water
1-2 cups ice
1-2 teaspoons salt
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Drop everything in your coffee part and start swirling! The salt and ice will act as abrasives and help loosen up whatever is built up on your coffee pot. It might be calcium or other hard water deposits.

Let everything sit in your coffee pot for a few minutes to let the acid in the lemon juice attack the scuzz. Dump the salty "lemonade" in the sink and you're left with this:

A bright, shiny, and CLEAN coffee pot!

Hope your week is off to a good start! I'm off to enjoy some chocolate mint coffee from the Coffee and Tea Exchange.

What's your favorite flavor of coffee?

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Back for Friday's Fancies

Lilly Pulizer clutch, necklace, blouse, and wedges

Hi there! Just dropping in for a quick Friday's Fancies post. {av} is hosting a great Lilly Pulitzer giveaway and a Lilly dress, shoes, and accessories are up for grabs! Since we just had our first snow in Chicago, I thought I would pretend I was making a quick getaway to a tropical island.

The island might be closer than I think because we just painted our bedroom over the weekend. It's Valspar's Carolina Inn Club Aqua. The same color as Young House Love's bedroom. More pictures to come after we hang some art on the walls.

Have a great weekend!

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekend Update

Hi, friends! Long time, no chat! What's new? I'm still trying to figure out my new routine and rhythm with the new job, so things might be a little slow for the next few weeks. By the way, it's going really well! They job is really interesting and my coworkers are beyond friendly and helpful.

Other than that, I've been keeping busy with a little of this:

Stephanie picked the winner of her giveaway, so I shipped Lauren her pair of berry ombre pillow covers. Plus I had a recent sale to fill (yay!)

Also, I registered for my first craft fair! I'm going to be at the Holiday Bazaar on Saturday November 19 from 10am to 3pm at St. Louise de Marillac School in La Grange Park, IL. More details can be found here. The pillow covers will be in full force, in addition to the alpaca scarves and hats knit by my Mom. Which means I need to increase my inventory big time.

John and I also decided to paint our bedroom over the weekend.

More updates to come once the room is back in order.

How did you spend the extra hour from Daylight Savings? Sleeping? Hanging out? Catching up on life?
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gallery Wall

Hello again! I hope you stopped by Henning Love for my quick tour of Cleveland.

Over the weekend, John and I worked a little more on the front room. My parents visited a few weekends ago and brought my Grandma's hope chest for the room. My Dad refinished the chest and it looks beautiful! More on that later.

Now that we have a little more substance to the room, it was time to work on the walls. We have all sorts of artwork and pictures, so a gallery wall was the way to go.

The first step was collecting everything we might consider putting on the wall. First, to see what we have. Second, to see if we needed anything else.

We decided we had enough art to make a cohesive, yet slightly eclectic, gallery wall. So we started to arrange the frames on the floor. Making sure to balance color, sizes, subject matter, and horizontal/vertical orientation.

Once we were happy with the design, we cut out paper templates and started to hang them on the wall. Use painters tape to hang the paper so you reposition things without pulling the paint off the wall. This was a very important step because our design on the floor wasn't to scale with the wall. The arrangement on the floor was more vertical than the final arrangement on the wall.

After that, John started hanging our art! He nailed the picture hanger directly into the paper and then pulled it away from the wall. That way, he knew everything would be properly spaced. He started in the middle with the "D" and slowly worked his way outwards.

Here's the final gallery wall! I love that it's a mixture of formal frames gold frames with modern black ones. The common themes are family, travel, and faith.

Starting from the top row going left to right:
  • The Eiffel Tower (purchased in Paris with my Mom, sister, and aunt), John's grandparents, a print of Hong Kong, and a photograph taken by John's Dad out west
  • Pictures from our trip to NYC during senior year at SLU, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the "D" made from old ceiling tiles (bought with Jess at an antique market), a wedding picture with our parents, and a house blessing given to us by John's parent
  • A decal from Piper (see below), photo strips from John's sister's wedding, a cross given to us as a wedding present, and a wall hanging of fish bought in Chinatown during a trip to San Francisco with my family

Piper of One Sydney Road sent this wall decal as a surprise in the mail and I think it adds the perfect touch to our gallery wall.

PS - This entire project cost $0 since we had everything on hand! Though if you look back in time, it would cost a couple hundred dollars with all the framing and purchasing the art.

As for the hope chest, my Dad did an amazing job! Here's what it looked like when they picked it up from my Grandma's house:

And here's how it looks now:

A hope chest is where a woman would collect things, like linens, for her new home after she got married. I think my Mom said that were greeting cards with my Grandma's maiden name and newspaper clippings from the 1930's in the chest. So this hope chest definitely has some history!

Since there's a cedar lining, we may store blankets and linens inside. And we may change what's on the top based on the season or holiday. Currently, there's an engagement picture, a picture from John's family's trip to Italy, a vase from Ikea, and "Design*Sponge at Home."

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Guest Post over at Henning Love

Just popping in to say Meg has a great new series on Henning Love:

Swing by as I share favorites of my childhood hometown...Cleveland!

And come back again this afternoon for an update on the house.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The other day, John suggested I add some music videos to the blog to mix things up a little bit. Today, instead of pictures, I have some music for your listening pleasure while you read this epic post.

David Bowie's "Changes" is more than appropriate because I had a pretty big change yesterday. I started a new job. It's scary and exciting. While I'll still be working in accounting, the position is a bit new for me. For the past 4+ years, I've been an external auditor in public accounting. Now I'll be an accountant and in financial reporting at a private company. A company that makes products quite near and dear to me.

While public accounting was an excellent way for me to start my career, I've grown out of "like" with it. The first year was exciting, but each following year sucked more and more out of me. The pay was OK, but the hours were grueling. And I didn't feel that my clients or managers appreciated my contributions. Plus, I felt all out of balance. I wouldn't see John for about four months out of the year. And I became disinterested in running, cooking, and baking. It became a chore dragging myself out of bed some mornings.

There were days that I was so prepared to quit, but I knew that would put extreme financial pressure on everything: John, me, our relationship, the thoughts of a future family, etc. It would have been one thing if it was just me with an apartment, but John and I have been married for three years. We just bought a house 6 months ago! Quitting wouldn't have been very fiscally chic without something else lined up. Yes, we have savings, but that would have been a big sacrifice for everything else.

I had been working with recruiters, but wasn't very proactive because I didn't really know that I wanted. Don't get me wrong, I had a laundry list of what I didn't want. I'm not from Chicago, so I didn't really know all the companies that might be hiring. I didn't have a strong network to reach out to. To make things more complicated, my recent client base was completely different that my clients in St. Louis. And this industry and I just didn't click. I wanted to go back to my industry "sweet spot" from St. Louis.

So I continued to field cold calls and random emails from recruiters. I interviewed earlier in the summer, but never heard back. I didn't mind because I didn't really want that job. It felt like I was settling.

Looking back, I wrote one of my first Makeunder My Life contributor posts about being happy with "enough" around the time I was struggling to find my way. Around the time of the financial blogger conference (FINCON11), it really hit me that I wasn't achieving my full potential at my job. I was settling for someone else's measure of my worth. And I sure as hell wasn't happy. (OK, that last part was more for the last 2 years or so.)

About a month ago, a few days before FINCON11, I received another cold call from a different recruiter. The position sounded interesting and met many of my criteria. I had a phone interview. Then I was asked for an office interview. And a second round interview. Within two weeks of the initial call, I had an offer.

My most recent MML post was about my inner conflict between epic vs. enough. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. Through FINCON11 and Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to be Rich, I started to figure out my worth. I realized it's better to earn more income than you spend instead of cutting back on costs. Ramit was the keynote speaker at the conference and totally rocked it. His blog (plus emails and videos) are rock solid. They also contributed to my epic vs. enough debate. I emailed Ramit the other day to say "thanks." One, for amazing material. Two, for the kick in the pants to know my worth. Three, to give him results.

I didn't discuss the results in my MML post because it was still fresh, but I went back and negotiated my offer. They gave me $1K more for my salary and threw in a $1K signing bonus. I wouldn't have thought about it if John didn't suggest it or if I hadn't been following Ramit. Seriously, don't forget to negotiate!!

Also around that time, I started my Etsy shop. I love to sew and find beautiful fabric. I want to share these skills and finds with you. Plus, it's a way to create some income. I've slowly started to monetize the blog which is a post all for itself. I attended Jess's October "Business in the City" meet-up and walked away with some great ideas. I was able to help others with my accounting and business knowledge. It felt amazing.

So back to the new job. It's going to be a big improvement over my last job. It's an increase in pay (about 10% if you're wondering) and the hours are much better. Which means my hourly rate has vastly improved. The commute will be shorter and the role itself will be a new challenge. And did I tell you the Company is in one of my favorite industries? Yes, I did. And yes, I gushed about that fact on my phone interview. And yes, I brought some Halloween cupcakes to work on my first day. Can't beat heartfelt enthusiasm :)

While I am excited, I'm still approaching this new position with controlled optimism. I'm still a bit burned from the job search from two years ago. When I moved to Chicago, I had to change firms and industries. I wasn't desperate for a new job, but 2009 was definitely a rough time for the economy. I knew enough that I didn't want to be working in St. Louis while John was in Chicago.

This time, my job change is more for personal reasons. So I wanted to make sure it was a good fit. Is this new job my perfect or dream job? I don't know. But I would always wonder if I didn't try. During my exit interview last week, HR brought up an excellent point. He was supportive about my leaving the firm because he knew the only person that can make me happy is myself. The only person that really has my best self-interest in mind is me.

So here I go. Off to chart a new chapter in my life. And not just for me. This new chapter is also for John and hopefully the future family God blesses us with.
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