Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pretty Papered Boxes

Yesterday marked my 23rd birthday, and the start of my journey to becoming an old lady. At the same time, opening presents got me thinking about one of my favorite things to make with wrapping paper. This is the perfect project for this time of year for a few reasons. These make great gift boxes that you can reuse year after year (just use festive paper, add a bow and a tag :), they help get rid of wrapping paper you haven't used in a while to make room for the rolls you plan to use for the holidays, and they are an easy project for an overcast day. Besides, who says you need to wait for Spring to get a jump start on a little reorganizing? 

To make these covered boxes, all you need are a few things:
  1. An old shoe box
  2. Wrapping paper
  3. Scissors
  4. Clear packing tape
  5. Glue stick
Once you have your shoe box, start by cutting a  large rectangle around it. Measure the amount of paper you need similarly to how you would if you were wrapping a present. You will need enough to cover the bottom and sides with a little extra to hang over the edges. 

Next, fold up the paper to make creases around the perimeter of the bottom of the box. You should have four lines that create an outline of your shoe box in the middle and extend to the edges of your paper.

Now you need to begin trimming the paper. Cut down the folded lines to remove the rectangles created by your folds in the four corners of the paper.  However, on two sides, leave extra flaps on the edges in a trapezoid shape to be folded over the edge of the box. For a visual, see the picture above. To make sure my flaps were in the correct place, I folded the paper over the edge of the box and made another crease. I then cut down the edge to trim the extra from the top. 

Once you have your paper cut to the correct shape, you can start securing it to the box. Fold the edges of one of your sides of paper with the flaps up and over the top of the box. Glue the flaps to the side of the box first, then tape down the edge on the inside of the box. Do the same on the opposite side. Fold up the remaining two sides and again,  tape down the edges of the paper to the inside of the shoe box. I also put packing tape on the four edges where the paper flaps meet for a little extra reinforcement to protect against tears. Follow the same process for the lid of the box and you're done! 

These can be used to wrap presents or to store just about anything. I use mine to organize a number of different items such as jewelry, nail polish, important papers, pictures... 

I think these are a really cute way to organize a room. Just about everyone has little knick-knacks that can make a space look cluttered. This is an aesthetically pleasing way to keep them around without all the mess. They also make it easy to move your stuff. As a recent college graduate, I have moved to a new place almost twice every year for the past four years. Packing everything up can be a huge pain, but these fit easily into bigger boxes and make the process a little less stressful. Plus, they are a helpful way to recycle old shoe boxes. If you want to get a little more creative, you can make some slight alterations. It was more work, but in one case, I used wrapping paper on the inside of the shoe box and then made a collage around the outside (that box can be seen above in the middle). I covered the whole box with packing tape to make it more sturdy which was perfect to hold my nail polish collection.

Shoe boxes aren't the only recyclables that can be dressed up with wrapping paper though. Save an old soup can to make a cup for your pens or loose change. If I had the time and supplies, I would put kidney beans in the bottom with pens wrapped with florist tape to secure fabric flowers at the top to make a nice bouquet. Or if you plan ahead, you could turn these into lanterns or votive holders. Hammer a nail through the can before covering it (maybe in the shape of a heart?) and then after wrapping the can, poke the paper through the same holes (just be careful not to rip the paper). I think those could be cute hung with a little twine, but I don't really have the space to display a project like that.

Regardless of what you choose to make, I hope you have fun turning pretty wrapping paper into decorative items that can be used year-round. If you know of other similar projects, let me know! :]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday's Fancies

I love social media. As an aspiring digital marketer, I think it is especially cool because the internet offers so many opportunities for brands to experiment with new strategies and tactics. Which is why I am always interested when I find a brand that tries something fun and innovative using online platforms. In this case, the company that I am excited about is Lilly Pulitzer. If you don't know already, I love Lilly prints. In a perfect world where the clothes weren't quite as pricey and/or I had a full-time job already, there would be many more Lilly pieces in my closet. I am lucky that there are other ways I have been able to incorporate the brand into my life though. The company's blog offers a free print gallery, and that is where I got the cherry begonia imagery I used to design my own weblog. So thank you Lilly Pulitzer for helping me make my blog cute!

...but back to what the brand is doing right now that I think is really awesome. Teaming up with {AV} and her blog Long Distance Loving, Lilly has created an online campaign/contest of sorts that has not only increased online engagement, but that will reach audiences the brand might not have ever had access to before -- all with very little cost to the company. Essentially, people like me (bloggers) are doing all the work for them. Genius. 

This is how it works. Participants go to {AV}'s blog post to learn more about the "Jungle Glam Giveaway" as well as how to enter. The next step is to follow a series of actions that further connect users to the brand (i.e. follow Lilly and Long Distance Loving on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, etc.). One of the last steps is to create a "Friday's Fancies" blog post featuring (at least two) pieces from Lilly Pulitzer's new Jungle Glam Resort collection. As a social media geek and a blogging Lilly fan, I was excited to not only talk about the campaign but also to participate. Below you will find what my selections would be from the Resort collection :]

I live in the greater Chicago area, so yesterday was a very sad day for me because we got our first snow flurries :( I am definitely not ready for it to be winter! While the Jungle Glam Resort collection has me dreaming of warmer weather, the reality of the situation is that flowy fabrics  are not always the best choice on a cold, overcast day. Which is why when I was making my selections from the collection, I thought of what might add a little sunshine to my life without causing me to freeze to death. These are my choices.

  1. The coral colored Vicki Dress. I love the sweet heart top and how the lace gives the dress subtle texture. 
  2. Paired with a Paley Cardigan in "True Navy Reef Me Up." As I mentioned before, it's cold outside! I love how this cardigan is a way to add a Lilly Pulitzer print (and warmth!) to the outfit that brings out the coral color in the dress :]
  3. Cute accessories to tie together the dress and sweater. I picked the "Pink Tomato Sea Coral" Critter Earrings with a couple Upscale Bangles.
  4. A shimmery Glam it up Clutch.
  5. And last, but certainly not least, some neutral peep-toe pumps! I think a nude shoe is really pretty but love how these have a tiny bit of gold on them also. Even though I already have shoes that are similar, I would still appreciate a pair of Resort Chic Wedge Button heels in "Sand."
There were so many pretty options that I had a really hard time picking mine. I could probably make two or three more combinations that I would be happy to wear out in the city. Even now I'm second guessing my choices (why didn't I add a thin, gold Coil Belt?). Regardless, I think this is a super cute outfit that I wish I had to wear out this weekend. We're celebrating my birthday and this would be the perfect ensemble to wear on my birthday dinner/date night.

So cross your fingers for me that my submission is worthy of $750 in Lilly merchandise (I am currently a poor post-grad and could really use the wardrobe update), or even just the dress and shoes! If you are also a Lilly Pulitzer fan like me, have fun browsing the new collection and maybe put your own outfits together :]

What do you think of Lilly Pulitzer's campaign? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are All Opinions Created Equal?

Sorry to be MIA for a bit, but the past week has been much busier than I anticipated. I currently have content in the pipeline now, so hopefully I won't have to disappear again for a while :]

The story I want to write about today may be dated, but this is something I have wanted to address for some time now. In one of my early entries, I touched on how crucial it is to know one's audience; then in my post The Importance of Being Transparent I spoke to how those participating in social media should be honest and upfront in their interactions. In this entry, I plan to marry the two aforementioned topics. 

It all started with a simple ad campaign. A couple weeks ago, ChapStick got itself into quite the pickle with the accompanying advertisement featuring a woman searching behind the couch for a lost ChapStick. A blogger wrote about how she deemed the picture offensive and degrading to women, which then triggered a social media disaster. When the same blogger left comments on ChapStick's Facebook fan page, the brand began deleting comments. Users continued to post, demanding to know why their comments had been deleted, and the interactions started to spiral out of control. The article I read about the issue suggested that ChapStick should simply issue an apology, remove the image, and move on. In accordance with my policy on transparency, I agree that ChapStick was wrong to delete user comments; however I disagree that the brand needed to cower, tail between its legs and apologize. Personally, when I first read the headline and then saw the picture, I was confused. I was thinking THAT'S the image that is so offensive? Really? Compared to many of the advertisements selling sex today, this picture seemed pretty tame to me. Additionally, it is an advertisement I can relate to. I absolutely LOVE strawberry ChapStick. I buy a three pack every time I go to Wal-Mart because I can't find that flavor anywhere else. I have one in my purse, on my desk, in various jacket pockets, you name it. Part of the reason why I have so many is because they are easy to lose! So for me, I look at this picture and think, Yep. I have definitely been that girl before. And apparently, based on some of the user comments to the blog post that started it all, I am not alone. 

Which makes me wonder, Are all opinions created equal? 

The originating blog post was from a feminist source which regularly speaks to women and sexuality in advertising. My guess is that this was one more way to keep fresh content on the site. Also, as I mentioned in my post Hooray for Cross-Promotion, posting links to other platforms such as Facebook is an important practice for bloggers, as it helps to drive traffic. The author was certainly smart to use ChapStick's Facebook fan page to draw a wider audience to her own blog. But did ChapStick respond appropriately? I think not.

I have not done the market research on who ChapStick's consumers are, but my guess is that there is a small intersection between those who buy the product and those who would be seriously offended by the advertisement. Social media is wonderful because it gives everyone a voice and can make anyone an expert. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and has the opportunity to be heard. However, I do not think that means everyone deserves to be listened to. There is no way that a brand can please every individual with an advertisement, and there will always be someone who wants to complain. I think that in this instance, ChapStick should have let the issue go. Leave the disgruntled user comments and recognize that they are probably in the minority. The brand could have perhaps joined the conversation by apologizing to the blogger for offending her lady like sensibilities and then letting her know that the advertisement was not meant to sell sex. I think removing the advertisement is a bit far though. I recognize that in some situations, a brand needs to backtrack when they have created an advertisement that offends a large group of people, but I do not think this was one of those situations. 

Which brings me to the biggest lessons that I think can be learned from ChapStick.
  1. BE TRANSPARENT! I don't think I can say it enough. Be who you are and let your audience be who they will be. Don't delete comments. Instead, use them to build brand equity. Even complaints are an opportunity for interaction. 
  2. Really work on identifying your audience. If you are speaking to a group of feminists, maybe an image of a woman with her butt in the air is not the best choice. But if those same feminists are only a handful of people who object to an advertisement that resonates with a majority of your consumers, then maybe there are other avenues you should explore rather than pulling the advertisement. Perhaps not all opinions are created equal...
What do you think about this issue? Was the advertisement so extreme that ChapStick needed to remove it?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Button Cookies

These cookies are super, SUPER easy to make and very cute to boot! I'm afraid this entry will be mostly pictures because there aren't many instructions for me to include. You can use a homemade cookie recipe, or just one from a cookie mix like we did last night. You will also need a cap from a water bottle or 2 liter pop bottle and a small straw. A coffee stirrer will work, but we didn't have one around and needed to improvise. Luckily we had Caprisons, so Abbie drank some juice while I started making the cookie dough. Don't worry, I was careful to clean the straw out with soap and water before using it with the cookies.

After you have made the batter, roll the dough into about 1" balls. They should fit easily inside the water bottle cap. 

Bake the cookies according to the recipe directions. Ours took about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Just after removing the cookies from the oven, We took the bottle caps and pressed down the center of the cookies.

Next, we took the small Caprison straw to poke out four holes from the center of each cookie to make them look like buttons.

See, super easy! They only took a few minutes to make and about as much time to disappear. I think these could be cute cupcake decorations or maybe strung up as a garland of sorts. Just eating them also works. If you have any other cute and easy cookie recipes, let me know because I would love to make them and add them to the blog! :]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hooray for Cross-Promotion!

My last couple entries represented a fairly big step for me in the world of blogging - I made my first attempts at cross-promotion, and the results were much better than I expected. By posting two links on my own Facebook wall, I'm still only taking baby steps at this point, but that is an improvement, right? One thing I'm learning through this experience is why brands are often so hesitant to try something new. It is much easier to recommend to a team that they change their brand or execute a strategic modification than it is to do the same for your own. As this blog represents my personal brand, I was a bit afraid of what promoting it might do. The internet makes actions seem ultra permanent, because once you put something out there, you can never really take it back. What if no one liked my blog? That is why up until this point, I was happy writing in my blog even though virtually no one was reading it. However, through the experience I had the last few days, I can understand why cross-promoting is an essential on-line practice for brands.

Before I posted my first link to an entry on Facebook, this blog had achieved a total of maybe 20 views with no real signs of improvement. I had been sure to include keyword tags with each entry so that people searching those topics might find me, but my guess is that Google put me at the bottom of a LOOONG list of search results, so those alone were not driving traffic to the site. After I wrote about my experience making blue velvet cupcakes though, I was feeling brave enough to share the post with my social network of 900+ people. The change I saw was almost instant. I received 58 page views in just a few hours and I gained one follower who also texted me about how she planned to make an infinity scarf of her own (shout out to Helaina! :).

After seeing those results, I was feeling more comfortable sharing my posts, so I did the same thing with the Pumpkins and Power Tools post only with a small twist. I have to admit I did not do this consciously (I was just excited to share the cool pumpkin carving with my friends), but before I wrote and subsequently posted a Facebook link with the entry, I shared a picture of the Blackhawks pumpkin we had carved. Acting as a sort of teaser, I think that made more people interested in reading about how we had made the pumpkin. I was already getting more site views the second time around when something amazing happen - I got my first brand advocate! Yay!

With zero prompting from yours truly, my sister posted a link to my first entry on her own Facebook. Suddenly my audience had expanded from 900+ to include an additional 400+ (we have 80 friends in common) and I received my first comment and hit 154 page views in less than 24 hours! I think that is pretty good considering that came from two little links.

If I could generate that traffic with my own social network, I can only imagine the potential cross-promotion has for brands. Even though I had already learned as much through my undergraduate studies, this gave me some first hand experience with the power of strategically using social media.

My challenge for the next time is to do better than 154 views, and there are a few steps I plan to take in the future to accomplish that:

  1. Include other sites - at this point, I posted the link on Facebook alone. Hopefully by including Twitter, I could reach another audience.
  2. Encourage my brand advocates to post for me as well... If you liked this post, please share it with your friends! :)
  3. Work on joining on-line communities - there are sites like where users share projects like the ones I have blogged about. If I can participate in the right conversations, there is no limit to the audience I might reach. 
Now that I have overcome my reticence to cross-promote, perhaps it is time for me to think about monetizing the site...

I know that the possibilities of cross-promotion are endless and that I surely have not thought of them all... What other tactics do you think I could use to drive traffic?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkins and Power Tools

I apologize for putting this up just as Halloween is ending, but I have been much busier than I anticipated. So maybe keep this in mind for next year...

Our day of pumpkin carving began like this:
Brad - "Do you think we can do it?" (for like the millionth time)
Rachael - "Yes, I think we can do it, or I wouldn't have suggested it!"

Maybe I have an inflated perception of what I think I can accomplish, but when it comes to DIY projects, I generally believe that I can find a way to make almost whatever I want. So, when I saw a picture of a Blackhawks pumpkin on Facebook and showed it to Brad, I knew that it was going to be a project we needed to take on (despite his initial doubts).

I have carved pumpkins in the past, but my experience before this weekend was limited to using a kit and pre-made stencils. Which meant that before we could get started, I needed to do a little research. I had never carved a pumpkin where I didn't cut all the way through to the middle so I googled "how to shave a pumpkin" and found this very helpful link. Also while we were researching, we found a video that mentioned using drill bits to carve out big circles from a pumpkin. Well as soon as Brad saw that idea (there is just something about power tools that guys can't resist I guess), he was sold and suddenly we were going to be carving... or I guess drilling two pumpkins.

A trip to Hobby Lobby later, and we were ready to get started. While I was working on the Blackhawks design, Brad drilled holes into his "disco pumpkin." I had never thought to use power tools on a pumpkin before but it actually made the carving process much faster and easier. For the disco pumpkin, Brad picked the size bit for the holes he wanted and went to town drilling into it. It maybe took him 15 minutes tops... but back to my pumpkin.

I did not have a stencil for the Blackhawks logo, so we printed a picture of the logo which I used as a template. I had to cut and fold the picture some to get it to fit around the curve of the pumpkin just right and then I taped down the design. After I had the picture secured, I used a metal poker that was included as part of the clay carving kit we bought to poke holes along the main lines in the design. Next, I outlined the area I planned to shave out with a pen to distinguish it from the lines I planned to cut all the way through. And then came the hard part.

Because we printed off the logo, the size of our design was limited to the size of the paper. If it had been an option, I would have definitely picked an expanded version on a larger pumpkin because suddenly I had a lot of tiny lines I needed to remove from a small space. At this point I was worried about the integrity of the pumpkin and if I could accomplish this design without destroying it. After trying to carve out the first few lines with my serrated exacto knife blade (you can use an exacto knife with a saw blade, or just stick to the serrated knife included with most pumpkin carving kits), I began wondering if I had bit off more than I could chew. This pumpkin was not only making me feel like I was developing carpal tunnel, but it was taking FOREVER! Just as I was starting to get really frustrated, in came the boy with his power tools to save the day.

Instead of using a typical pumpkin carving process of sawing out the sections we wanted to remove, we adopted a modified version involving a cordless drill. First, I cut through all of the lines in the design, and then Brad went through with a small drill bit to expand them. Although I offered to use the drill, I think he was having too much fun, so I helped by holding the pumpkin and cleaning out our cuts with a toothpick.

After we had drilled through all of the fine lines, I began working on the face of the design. First, I took a Speedball Linoleum Cutter and cut around the edges of the area. Next, I shaved out the rest of the face (this took quite a while). I continued shaving the same area, layers at a time until I had removed a section about half as deep as the depth of the pumpkin. Next I took a Clay Ribbon Tool from the before mentioned clay kit to smooth the ridges that had appeared from shaving the design. To outline the overall design, I shaved out a much shallower border. Sorry I don't have pictures to demonstrate this technique, but I was busy working, and Brad wasn't around to take pictures. To get a visual, see the link posted above.

The final steps were to drill a hole in the top for ventilation (because we cut our pumpkins from the bottom) and put a candle inside. We used a small votive for my Blackhawks pumpkin and a colored light for the disco pumpkin.

Below are pictures of our finished products. I wish I could have captured the magic of the disco pumpkin, but a camera can't do it justice. We had a colored light inside that would strobe to the beat of whatever music was playing. It was especially cool because all the colors reflected from the ceiling like a disco ball. As I mentioned in my last post, we had a birthday party to go to this weekend, and the disco pumpkin was a big hit. I'm happy to report that the blue velvet cupcakes were as well :] Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Saved by the Decorations... Almost

I suppose since I promised I would be honest, I have to admit to the tiny... I mean, pretty epic failure I experienced today. Here is what happened.

Not too long a ago, I spent a significant amount of time putting together a recipe book which I am fairly proud of. Lots of pictures, laminated pages, yummy recipes... it's awesome. Well I had my 8-year-old cousin to entertain this morning, so I thought that it would be a great occasion to bust out some of the new cupcake recipes I had found. Plus, with a friend's birthday this weekend I thought that further made it an opportune time to bake.

Well, not to place blame, but I woke up this morning in the mood for devil's food with ganache topping (I'm really not much of an icing fan. I tend to scrape it off because it's just too sweet for me), but Abbie wanted to try the Blue Velvet Cupcake recipe. I agreed because I love red velvet, and the cupcakes did look super cute. The recipe is listed below with instructions:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, at room temp.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs. Wilton royal blue gel food coloring
  • 1 small dab of violet gel food coloring
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with liners - makes about 26.
  2. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl till light and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
  3. Mix cocoa and food coloring together to make a paste. Add this paste to sugar mixture and mix well again.
  4. Sift (or buzz in food processor) flour and salt, and add to creamed mixture a bit at a time, alternating with buttermilk, then mix in vanilla.
  5. Combine baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl and add to cake batter; mix just to combine.
  6. Scoop thick batter into cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 full, and bake for probably 25-30 minutes, but start checking at 20 minute mark; watch for toothpick inserted in center to come out clean.
  7. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
To Make Frosting
  1. Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with electric mixer until nice and smooth.
  2. Add sugar gradually and beat on low until combine, then beat on high speed until very light and fluffy.

Our beautiful and tasty blue batter
Everything started out great. Abbie and I were skeptical about the amount of food coloring (1 tablespoon seemed like an awful lot!), but it made the batter a beautiful shade of blue. When the batter was done, it tasted wonderful and we were ready to start filling our cupcakes. That's when things started going down hill. 

First, the recipe and instructions say that it will make approximately 26 cupcakes and that you should fill your papers 2/3 of the way up. Well, we made 26 cupcakes, but 2/3 is WAY to high. About 15 minutes into baking, the cupcakes started overflowing. There was nothing we could really do except watch the batter topple over the edges and start to burn. I wanted to pull them out early, but even after 23 minutes, my toothpick wasn't coming out clean. I ended up cutting around the cupcakes that had overflowed with a knife to trim off the burnt edges and get the treats out of the tin. And although they were pretty darn ugly, the cake itself had a really good flavor. 

At this point, we thought that maybe adding the frosting would help cover up the imperfect edges and no one would really care that we made ugly cupcakes. Well I should have known better than to use a cream cheese frosting. It just is a flavor that my family doesn't really care for too much. Also, it was extremely soft... Not the best frosting to use when you're trying to cover up an ugly cupcake. Abbie gave one to our grandpa to try and it started dripping all over him. I ended up putting them in the fridge uncovered for a little while to get the frosting to harden. I'm a bit afraid to take them out now though. 

In the end, I guess they didn't end up a huge disaster, and we did have a few successful cupcakes, but as a whole, I was disappointed. I am a perfectionist, especially when it comes to making my own work aesthetically pleasing so this was a very frustrating morning for me. However, my experience with a group of guys is that they typically are not too picky. So hopefully these will go over a little better at the birthday party tomorrow. That being said, there are a few adjustments I would make to this recipe for the next time. 

Cupcakes chilling in the refrigerator
  1. Fill the cupcake papers only half full. Two-thirds is far too much.
  2. Use a different frosting. These are very rich cupcakes, and a sugary frosting seems like too much. It might not be as pretty, but next time I think I would use a chocolate ganache or less sweet chocolate frosting and brush the decoration with edible gold paint.
  3. OR if you like the cream cheese frosting, make sure everything is chilled before you use it. Also maybe use a little less sugar.

I'm not giving up on this recipe just yet because the cake has a very good flavor, and I think they have the potential to be super cute. Especially paired with some red velvet cupcakes, I think they could be a big hit at 4th of July parties in the Summer. If you are brave enough to try to conquer blue velvet, let me know how it goes! Happy baking :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's With All the Pictures?

So you may have noticed that content on the internet seems to be changing. Websites in general are becoming less text based and more visual. I could go into some of the specifics about why humans react better to images than text, but I will save you the pain of reading through that.

Way back when I was a senior in high school and Facebook was becoming more popular, I was hesitant to use it more than Myspace (my previous social media platform of choice) because it seemed much more generic. I thought, why would anyone like this? It's so boring! Gone were the customized backgrounds and music playlists on each person's profile. What eventually changed my mind about Facebook were the pictures. Not only was the general community using Myspace changing, but Facebook made it much easier to share photos. It didn't take long for nearly my entire social network to join the site and since then, I have been hooked.

It is no secret that whenever Facebook makes noticeable changes to the platform, the users get mad. Just a few days or even hours later, no one can remember what the interface looked like before, but the initial changes are always quite irritating. Which is why I was a little concerned at first when I heard about the new "timeline" profile design Facebook planned to implement. After taking the steps to make the changes to my profile though, I wish that everyone would make the switch. The timeline is much more visual (and in my opinion, more fun and attractive as well).

This is a practice I will be incorporating into my own blog. If you read my last entry about how to knit an infinity scarf, I hope you also appreciated the number of pictures included with the entry. I wanted to add as many as possible, but I found that posting images with text can make an entry look very disjointed. What does this mean? Well, that there is a delicate balance between including visuals to enhance content and putting far too much into one entry. I am hoping that as I create more content, I will continue to strike a good balance between visuals and content.

If you are like me and appreciate images with your content, you should check out the site Be prepared to waste some time though because it is very easy to get hooked!

What are your thoughts on this topic? Are pictures really that important? Or would you rather get the content you want without the noise? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Project: the Infinity Scarf

This fall, one of the trends I have been most attracted to is the chunky infinity scarf/mobius loop/circle scarf/whatever you choose to call it. I taught myself the basics of how to knit back in high school, so when I decided I wanted to make one, I searched the internet for a pattern that I liked, and picked this one. I used a moss stitch for the first time and found that it really wasn't hard for someone with minimal experience. These are the materials I used:

  • 2 skeins - Lions Brand Yarn, Nature's Choice Organic Cotton
  • US 9 or 5.5mm circular needles - Clover Brand
  • scissors (to trim excess yarn from the ends)

Fairly simple, huh? I chose the Nature's Choice Organic Cotton because the yarn was very soft (I'm a sucker for anything soft) and did not contain any animal hair. Anything with wool, angora, or other animal hair in it makes me feel really itchy and uncomfortable so I try to stay away from it as much as possible. 

And now for the fun part... making the scarf :]

If you have never knitted anything before, this video breaks down how to make your slip knot and cast on. I prefer to cast on this way though.  

To start, I cast on 95 stitches onto my needles. This will make a scarf that is long enough to wrap around twice. If you don't want to wrap your scarf more than once, I would recommend using close to half the number of stitches (and a shorter set of circular needles). Regardless of how many stitches you choose to use, you will need to pick an odd number to avoid too many headaches while using the moss stitch. 

After I had cast on all of my stitches, I flipped my needles so that the last stitch I had cast on was in my right hand, and the first was in my left. Before continuing, you may want to place a marker on your needles in front of the first stitch. I started my first row by continuing to knit from the last stitch I had cast on into the first stitch using a knit stitch. If you need a visual of what the project should look like at this point, check out this video (contrary to what she recommends, you will want your stitches to have a twist in them if you want to make a mobius loop like the scarf pictured below).

After the first knit stitch, I continued a pattern of purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1... (you get the picture) to the end of the row. You should end with a knit stitch. These videos provide tutorials on how to knit stitch and purl stitch if you are unfamiliar with the techniques. For the moss stitch to work, I alternated between the two stitches which meant I had to bring my yarn to the front or back of the needle each time to start the next stitch. So, before you complete a knit stitch, the yarn should be towards the back of the needle or away from you, whereas before you complete a purl stitch, the yarn should be on the front side of the needle or towards you. Here is a short video demonstrating what I mean.

Continuing with the purl 1, knit 1 pattern, I began my second row with a purl stitch. This is important to make the moss stitch work. You should always be knitting a purl stitch into the previous row's knit stitch and vice versa. Use this pattern for every row until you finish your scarf. The pattern I used recommended knitting 23 rows, but I chose to use about double that. I found that 2 skeins of the yarn I was using gave me the size scarf I wanted, so I didn't worry about the number of rows. Instead, I just kept knitting until I had used that amount of yarn. If you decide to do the same, you will need to add in the new yarn about half way through the scarf. If you want, you can just tie the ends together and clip them, or you can combine them the way you technically should by kitting the tails back into the work. This is a helpful video about how to do that.

Once you have achieved a scarf with your desired number of rows, be sure you have left enough yarn to bind off and finish your scarf.

After I made my first scarf, I decided that the pattern was easy enough that I wanted to make more. I made one in khaki for my mom, cream for my sister, and kept the green for myself. The colors were so pretty though, I wish that they lived close to me so that I could steal - I mean borrow theirs ;]

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be cute to make some festive cards to send off with my scarves. I picked up a pack of blank cards with envelopes from Target and decided to check out for design inspiration. This is what I came up with. You can also make your own cards, or buy one like the one I made here. I know that it's sometimes easy to cross the line from cute into tacky, but I have found that usually when you make it yourself, people tend to be more forgiving of the tacky haha. For my mom, I made a card with witch shoes because when we were little, we had a Halloween decoration that looked like the Wicked Witch of the West had crashed into our door with her little legs peeking out.

For my sister, I made a card inspired by another design I found on It was a design embroidered on clothing for little boys and girls, but unfortunately, I could not find the link to add it in my entry. I left her card simple, with just the design on front and my letter inside. Thank goodness the post office has flat rate boxes, because that made shipping easy! :]

And finally, we have me in my scarf pictured above to the right. I had a lot of fun working on these projects and I hope you do too! If you have any questions or would maybe like to commission me to make one for you, contact me, and we'll work something out ;] Happy knitting!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Importance of Being Transparent

When it comes to managing an online personality, I believe one of the most (perhaps the most) important principles to follow is to be transparent. For a brand, that means not being gimmicky, and delivering messages consistent with the brand's promise. For a person, it means being honest. That does not mean that I am recommending posting intimate details online; however, it is important to be real with your audience if you want them to stick around. I have the following example to illustrate my point:

There is a girl I am Facebook friends with from high school. She consistently updates her profile picture to images of models. What bothers me about this practice is that she does it to suggest that she is actually the girl in the photos. She has long, dark hair, and she chooses pictures of girls whose faces are partially concealed or distorted so that they resemble her own features. But honey, there is a reason those photos have such a low resolution, and if I can google an image you have posted as your profile picture and find an advertisement for Urban Outfitters or some other indie inspired webpage, I know it isn't you. I think what irritates me most about her pictures is that she continues to promote that these images are of herself in the interactions she has with her friends. Someone will leave a comment such as: "You're so beautiful!" and she'll respond, "Thanks :)." Or in one case someone asked, "where is this?" and she wrote "the Ohio river." It makes me want to put my two cents in with a comment like "what?? How would you know? This picture is obviously not you, and it makes me a little bit sick that you would be so dishonest with the people you call your friends to try to mislead them into thinking that it is." I suppose at the end of the day, her profile pictures are really of no consequence to me, they just rub me the wrong way, and I think that this irritation is typical of my generation.

As a member of Generation Y (or the Millennials), I am in an age cohort that does not respond to marketing tactics the same way. Rapid technological advancement has caused my generation  to question marketers' messages. To reach us, the interaction needs to change. It needs to be personal and and it needs to be honest. That means less mass communication and more conversation. Which is what I hope to accomplish.

In this blog, I am essentially managing a part of my own brand. That means I am going to use the above values I have mentioned in my own writing. I can write professionally, but my entries will be informal. I am choosing to communicate with my audience like I would a friend rather than the way I would if I was writing a cover letter for a prospective job. Also, contrary to what I have been taught as an artist and as a business woman, I will be giving away all my trade secrets. I think Facebook is on to something by promising to always be free for members. Really, I think that is the way the internet should be. It is very frustrating for me when I find a project I want to work on, but I have to dig through hundreds of search results to find a source that will give me instructions for free. Therefore, I will be doing the opposite. When I create something I like, I will let you know how to make it too, with detailed instructions.

As I mentioned before, I will be working on generating conversations. That can only work with a little audience interaction though. So let me know what you think, and let's start talking!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hello world!

Welcome to my newest blog! :] Now, I have tried the blogging thing in the past, but aside from a Xanga I am embarrassed to say I kept up regularly in middle school, my previous attempts have not gone very far. So, I am hoping to have better luck this time.

The biggest issue I have had when it comes to blogging is finding my voice. My problem is that I studied social media in college, and what I have learned about using blogging as a tool tends to conflict with what I really want to write about. Currently, I am a recent graduate of Miami University with a degree in Marketing whom is looking for full-time employment. The articles I have read about "using social media to enhance your job search" (or something along those lines) would recommend that I use this blog as a platform to share my knowledge about digital marketing. To make it a place where I post interesting articles I find with a witty accompanying paragraph or two. Then, hopefully my established online personality will be attractive enough to a company/brand that it will recruit me to manage its online presence. Unfortunately, social media is not the only thing I am interested in writing about.

I have always been a very creative person, and to be honest, the times I am most likely to read a blog are when I am researching a new artsy project I want to start. Those are the blogs that make me attracted to the platform. They inspire me to want to join those communities and conversations. To start my own blog about painting, various craft projects, baking, fashion, etc. But seriously, how am I supposed to pick just one of those topics to be interested in?

Most blogs today are extremely specialized. Authors make money writing blogs because they become experts in one specific area. So, for example, if I am interested in baking and art, and I want to be credible in those respective communities, I need to start two different blogs. Oh, and in order to keep my audience engaged, I need to write posts on a regular basis with new content. Well that is a LOT of work... not to mention, I am also supposed to be writing about social media, right? Now because I am interested in three topics, I need three blogs?? Holy cow. This whole blogging thing is starting to make me feel schizophrenic. If the point of being a blogger is to manage an online personality, then why can't my blog be multifaceted like a REAL person? Well I am hoping that it can be. Which brings me to what I aspire to accomplish with this blog.

In nearly every interview, I have been asked by a recruiter where I want to be in the next 5-10 years as well as about what I like to do in my free time. Well, I hope that through this blog, I can work on getting to where I want to be in the future while enjoying what I like to do today. I plan to share and apply the principles I have learned about blogging and establishing a personal brand online while also writing about the art projects I like to take on in my spare time. A sort-of combination of "how to" and "DIY" material. I am not sure if I will be successful, but I am sure going to try.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing this small part of the journey with me! Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions, and come back to see where this goes in the future :]