Friday, December 31, 2010

It's Only Words

I may no longer be a homeschool mom, but I still encourage creative writing as much as possible:

You can buy these online (Think Geek has a version of them, and everyone should shop there for no other reason than THEY'RE AMAZING) or you can make them yourself like I did with a magnet sheet from Avery.

As soon as I made the first sheet and put my own messages on the fridge (these are Rachel's) everyone demanded I make lots more, right away. So, I'll be making more. :o) Make some yourself, or go buy some and have a little fridge fun in your house. Fun message possibilities are endless!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: Another Year Gone, Another Year To Be Thankful

Like a lot of people I'm sure, for the last few weeks I've been thinking about an "end of the year" type post where I share with you all the wisdom I've gleaned in 2010, and where I am now compared to where I was then, and that sort of thing. That would have been a really great post to write but unfortunately I'm coming up a little short in the personal wisdom department so this post will have to suffice.

2010 for me was a very strange year in that a lot of changes took place that took some adjusting to get used to. Most years come and go and pretty much everything in my world stays about the same, but 2010 was not like that. Big changes such as no longer homeschooling. That was a big decision and a big adjustment that I'm still making. I am quite thankful I didn't have the experience that a lot of homeschooling-to-public schooling moms have whereby rabid, pro-homeschoolers/anti-public school folks heap tons of grief and condemnation on your head for making such a horrific decision and destroying your children's emotional, psychological and spiritual lives. To be fair, there are an equal amount of rabid, pro-public school/anti-homeschool folks that tend to do the same thing in reverse, but the good news is both sides are in the minority. All of that aside, all the kids are doing quite well in public school, they really like it, and all the teachers and staff have been incredibly helpful and supportive all the way. On that aspect it's been a very very positive change/experience.

One of the other big changes this year was in my personal time habits. Instead of reading/following blogs (way too many, at that) I decided to tone that way down and spend that time working on graphic design and making my online shops a (nearly) full time job, instead of a hobby. What I did not know at the time I made that decision was that it was entirely God's providence at work, the whole time. I'll explain:

Earlier this year when I made this decision to go full time with my graphic design I did so because I truly wanted my shops to be a success rather than just a hobby. I spent a lot of time reading about SEO, learning photoshop better, and gathering wisdom from other professional designers about angles, color, layout and a lot of other things that most people would find rather boring. When fall came and the seasonal shoppers with it, I began to see the fruit of my labor and I was quite pleased with that. Each month beginning with August was better than the last, and every dime that came in was earmarked for paying off debts and finally becoming entirely debt free (we only have one credit card left to pay off) as soon as possible. What we didn't know at the time (but God certainly did) was that another change was coming that would make it a very good thing that I'd learned what I had and my hard work was paying off.

Just a couple of weeks ago Kev received the news at work that he was going to be demoted in a sense, as they needed to shift some positions around. He still has the seniority of course but his new position means a cut in pay which is pretty significant. My success with graphic design has been an incredible cushion to soften the blow when the cut in pay for Kev happens in two weeks. I cannot help but think of the verse of Scripture that says "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) It is absolutely true and happens ALL the time, but sometimes He makes it very obvious that He was at work behind the scenes, orchestrating the whole thing, the entire time. This is one of those times He made it obvious. I can only hope that my success in this business continues, if that is the Lord's will.

I really don't have any more to say about this past year. Well, I do, but it's not really all that important in light of how the Lord has worked in our lives in both big and small ways. I don't ever want to get to that place where I don't notice the orchestration of God's hand in my life and in my family's life so I'm very thankful He chooses to sometimes make it clear as day it was Him at work all along.

I wish you all a very blessed and joyful 2011.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cinnamon What?? (and other random goodies)

Well look at that, another week has gone by and I didn't blog again. Well, time to remedy that with a post of rambling this 'n that. None of what I'm about to say comes in any particular order, however:

Kitty Doc

Meet Kitty Doc :o) Some of you may remember the fun little story of the litter of kittens being born just as the Dividing Line was starting last spring on a Tuesday afternoon. Since the first kitten born was born at exactly the time I was to be listening to the show, I named him Doc. Turned out however, Doc is a girl, so she's officially Kitty Doc, but we just call her Doc. I tried really hard to have her pose pretty for me to show off what a looker she is, but she just thought it was play time.


Oh So Cute!

I've created quite a few Baby's First Christmas ceramic ornaments for my store, but here's one I did not create that I really wanted to show off here.

I absolutely love this ornament! It's one I wish I would have designed, but it's designed by yet another of the brilliantly talented designers at zazzle. The front view of the ornament is this crazy cute design, and the back view is customizable for you to add your own text. The designer's shop is called MouseArte Designs and she's got some pretty incredible things in store over there. You should pay her a visit.


Oh So Ironic!

Today was a lesson in irony in more ways than one. The forecast was jumping around all over the place from light flurries to heavy snow and squalls. They finally settled on squalls for the day but since it wasn't doing anything I decided to be brave and try to get out there and finish my Christmas shopping. Half way into town I ran into a squall (see lake affect snow) but it didn't last too long. I got much of my shopping done, found some really incredible deals and was feeling pretty good about things. Sounds good, right? Heh.

(this was taken yesterday, but the bottom right corner is the wicked area I describe below and we have A LOT more snow today than we did here)

So I drive home without incident, the roads are fine, wet in a few places, snow covered in a few places but otherwise fine. I turn into my laneway, come down to the house and turn into my driveway and... get stuck in a snowdrift. I put it in reverse, nothing. Back in drive, nothing. Over and over I try and... nothing. I just sat there and laughed. If you're going to get stuck in a snowdrift, I highly recommend doing it no further than 25 feet from your back door. Oh, and I did finally get the van out of the drift.


Oh So Great Savings!

Today a friend told me he thought it was kind of funny how much I've been tweeting about recent sales at zazzle. It's true, I have been tweeting A LOT of sales notices, and I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit it and here's why:

Money doesn't grow on trees and when you're about to make a purchase for Christmas or a birthday or any other gift giving event, you want the best deal possible, right? Me too! If there's one thing that drives me nuts, is buying something at full price (or even sale price) and then the next day or shortly thereafter see it on sale for way less than what I paid. That seems to happen to me a lot, and it's just maddening. For the last several weeks, zazzle has had some simply incredible sales for Christmas shopping and I want to make sure YOU (and my twitter followers and FB friends) know about those deals so you can save some $$.

Just how great are these deals? Well, the guy who bought the Flag of Scotland iPhone case today (normally $42.95) for $12.95 because he saw the tweet and grabbed the coupon code will quite likely confirm that saving 30 bucks on a great product was a pretty sweet deal. The ladies who made the bulk purchases of personalized New Orleans Football Jersey ornaments and the cute Cheerleader ornaments also probably enjoyed the FREE shipping as well. I know I would have if it were me buying.

So yes, I will continue to tweet/FB the great sales when they come along and you can be sure they're worth paying attention to. That is, if you love to save money. Just in case you missed them, here are the super amazing sales going on until 12/20 only:

• $20.00 off sterling silver plated necklaces! Use coupon code NEWPRODSZAZZ at checkout (ends 12/20 at 11:59 PM PT)

• $10.00 off premium silver ornaments! Use coupon code NEWPRODSZAZZ at checkout (ends 12/20 at 11:59 PM PT)

• $30.00 off iPhone or iPad cases! Use coupon code NEWPRODSZAZZ at checkout (ends 12/20 at 11:59 PM PT) (if you're in the market for a new iPad or iPhone case, you will just NOT find a better deal than this - these are high quality Speck hardshell cases!)

FREE shipping on orders over $50 (US addresses only) until 12/31. Use coupon code FREESHIPFORU at checkout:


Oh So Cinnamony Yumm!

While I was out and about being a SuperMom today (no, I didn't wear my cape, I was being super mom in my parka, and while blowing my nose and pretending I'm not still sick as a dog), I stopped in at the bulk food store to grab some required Christmas baking items. While there I found two things that I was so happy to see. First, I found Celestial Seasonings tea. That's a big deal, since grocery stores here do not carry it and I'd given up drinking tea because I couldn't find my favorite. Turns out, the bulk food store has always carried it! Oh happy tea day.

The other super wonderful fantastic discovery was learning they also carry cinnamon chocolate chips. Yes, I said cinnamon. If you're a cinnamon fanatic like I am, there is just nothing in this world as incredible as cinnamon fudge at Christmastime. I'd quit making it years ago because the one store on the planet (or so I thought) that used to carry cinnamon chocolate chips closed down, and I couldn't find them anyplace at all. Until... today! So, I had to buy 3 or 4 pounds of them :o) The manager said they just recently got them in, and they've been selling like mad. No kidding Mr. Manager, they're like little pieces of happy magic!

And, that is all. Tomorrow is yet another shopping day (Lord willing) and I hope to be finally done by Friday so that I can start my Christmas baking. Oh how I LOVE Christmas!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Product and Service Review:

I wanted to take a moment this morning to seriously brag about a company that has not only met my expectations but exceeded them above and beyond what I ever dreamed. That company is

As regular readers here already know, they are one of my fulfillment partners for Reflections designs. A lot of times potential customers will ask me specific details about certain products and unless I've ordered them myself or have seen them up close and personal, actually handled them, those questions are sometimes questions I can't really answer. So, I make it a point to order my own products as much as possible (usually as gifts for others) so I can see them from the customer's viewpoint. Following are some product reviews that you might find helpful. Some of the featured products have current specials going on so make sure to check out the coupon code deals as well.

Here are some products from that I've either purchased myself or have had the chance to see for myself:

The Jumbo Tote

Product description: Made from 100% cotton, it has a squared off bottom and extra long natural web handles. 20"w x14.5"h x4.5"d. Honestly, I don't know why they didn't just say it's made from 100% awesome. Not only is the product itself fantastic (incredibly sturdy, and big enough to hold LOTS of groceries, or overnight gear for a sleepover, or just about anything else you'd want a jumbo tote bag for) but the print quality of the design really impressed me. This chick is a very bright yellow and I was a little concerned that she might lose some of that brightness in the printing but she definitely looks exactly the same on the screen as she does on the bag. I take this bag with me quite often when I do my grocery shopping and have had several comments on it. LOVE the jumbo tote, and it gets 5 stars from me.

Business/Contact Cards

Product description: 3.5" x 2" – Classic Business Card - Choose from ten types of premium card stock - Full-bleed, full-color printing on both sides.

I specifically designed these to resemble my kids, but there are lots and lots of Twiggy Tots kids available, and of course I do custom work as well! Enough about that, these cards are just great. I ordered on the basic cardstock and the feel, the weight of the paper is just perfect and the printing is top notch. The colors are bright and vivid and really stand out well against the white background. I will definitely be ordering these again when I run out.

(Current special: Use coupon code 15OFFBIZCARD before January 1, 2011 at 11:59pm PT and save 15% off your next business card order. Shop my store or shop the zazzle marketplace for a huge selection of custom business cards!)

Custom Invitations

These are probably one of the most enjoyable products for me to design for that zazzle carries. They're little canvases that I can play around with until they're just right!

Product description: 5" x 7" (portrait) or 7" x 5" (landscape) - Choose from six paper types and nine colors - High quality, full-color, full-bleed printing on both sides - Each invitation comes with a white envelope. I've ordered two different kinds of these now (both on the basic cardstock) and was incredibly impressed with the paper weight and print quality as well. I've sold a lot of these invitations over the last year and often hear back from customers just how satisfied they are with them (and have had numerous repeat purchases) so I just had to see for myself. I was very pleased with the two versions I've ordered myself, and plan to order more for upcoming birthdays and special events as well.

(Current special: order your custom invitations before January 1, 2011 at 11:59pm PT and use the coupon code 12INVITATION and get 12% off your order. Shop my store or shop the zazzle marketplace for an incredibly enormous selection of custom invitations for just about any kind of event you can think of)

Custom Avery Binders

When I received this in the mail and opened it up I just stood there going "wow" over and over. I couldn't believe how incredible the print quality was and the quality of the product just speaks for itself since it's an Avery Custom Signature binder.

Product description: 1.4" spine - Full-color, photo-quality printing. - Holds 175 pages with EZ-Turn™ Rings or 275 pages with 1 Touch™ EZD™ Rings - Designed for 8.5" x 11" sized paper - Two additional binder sizes available. While the product description says there are more sizes available, I only design for the 1" binder. There are TONS of other sizes in zazzle's marketplace though. I sell quite a few of these binders and with certain styles I've had repeat customers so often I've lost track. I knew they had to be pretty incredible products when the same folks kept coming back for more so when I decided I needed a better organized method for my recipes I designed the binder shown here and ordered one for myself. The only problem is, now I need more of them for my holiday recipes, summer recipes and photo album binders!

(Current special: use coupon code AVERYCUSTOM1 before 12/31 and get $9.00 off any custom binder - either one of mine or in the zazzle marketplace!)

Custom, Personalized Stationery

A friend came to me not too long ago with a custom request for stationery so I designed this simple, classic design for her. When she received it she was kind enough to send me a little note in the mail so I could see the product first hand.

Product description: 5.5" x 8.5" (portrait) or 8.5" x 5.5" (landscape) - Choose from five different paper types - High quality, full-color, full-bleed printing. The paper weight is perfect and the printing was clear, bold and true black, as intended. This is the most "basic" style of stationery I have in store, but there are lots of others in a variety of styles and colors.

Custom Greeting Cards

The cards shown here are the ones I recently ordered that arrived yesterday. This was my first greeting card purchase from my own shop and I have to tell you I was so incredibly impressed with the quality of these cards that I almost didn't want to part with them! A fellow designer at zazzle commented recently that these are the most high quality cards she's ever seen, very similar to those you'd find in an art gallery. I couldn't agree more. The paper weight, the glossy finish, the rich, vivid color is just outstanding. I can only chalk it up to magic zazzle elves but somehow they even made the cards look better in person than they did on my screen when I designed them! I absolutely LOVE these cards and plan to purchase many many more very soon. Shop the greeting card section of my shop or click here to see all the incredible styles in the zazzle marketplace. I was delighted to see another of my designs being used on that page (the Merry Christmas premium photo card) and you can see my full line of photo cards here).

I've also recently ordered some mugs, and another designer told me "if you're blown away by the cards, wait until you see their mugs". I can't wait!! Here's another added bonus - today only - save 40% on both mugs AND mousepads when you use the coupon code JINGLESALE85 at checkout.

All in all, I give not only the products but the company itself a fantastic 5 star rating. I don't just say that so you'll shop at my store (but if you'd like to, I'd certainly thank you!) but when I find a product and a service that exceeds my expectations, they deserve a great big pat on the back. Not only am I a designer on zazzle, I'm a 100% satisfied customer!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Service Review: DHL Express - minus 5 stars


This is a post in which I'm going to BLAST a wretched service, and it is entirely, 150% deserved. Just a warning.

Sometimes when you purchase a product or receive a service it's so good, you tell your friends about it and give it a glowing, 5 star recommendation. Likewise, when you purchase a product or receive a service that is rotten, lousy and worthless, you want to make sure your friends know that too, so they don't get ripped off or waste their time with such things.

I recently ordered a product online and I had 2 shipping options. Either UPS or DHL Express. I have found UPS to be hit and miss with their outrageous delivery fees (over and above the shipping I'd already paid for the purchase - sometimes they charge you, sometimes they don't, and I never could figure out why) so I decided to choose the DHL Express option. That was my first mistake.

The first attempt to deliver the package came on a day last week when I wasn't home. They left a notice on the door of the delivery attempt with clear instructions that if you wanted to accept responsibility for the package to sign the notice, put it back on your door in the exact same place and the second attempt would be made the next day. That is exactly what I did, even though I was home all the next day. I waited, and waited, and no one ever showed up.

I wait until about 6:30 pm and then I took the notice off the door and called the number to inquire about my package. The CS guy said it was noted that a delivery attempt was made at 12:01 pm. Total lie. I was in my kitchen at 12:01 pm and no one ever came to the door. Even if they did and I didn't hear them (which is next to impossible since when I'm home alone the tv, radio, everything is off and it's very very quiet in my house) the delivery guy would have seen the notice stuck there WITH my signature on it. He would have taken that, left the package and that would be the end of it.

So the CS guy on the phone says I have to drive an hour to the closest office to pick it up myself. No, I tell him, I was home, no one showed up and I expect them to deliver my package as they said they would. He agrees and reschedules the delivery and GUARANTEES it will be delivered within 24-48 hours. I tell him, I have the notice ON THE DOOR, can you guarantee they will see the notice, see my signature and leave the package? YES, he assures me, I guarantee it will be delivered and you will not have to drive to our local office to pick it up. This was Thursday night.

I had tons of errands to run Friday and left the house at about 10:30. I returned home around 1 and noticed the delivery notice was still on the door and NO package. I let it slide and figure okay, they did say 24-48 hours. The day goes by and no package. They still have one more day of GUARANTEED delivery.

Today we left the house at 11:45 and returned home at 4:30 and there was the notice, still attached to the door. Nearly ballistic at this point (I know, it's just a package but it's an important one and I hate to be jerked around like this), I login to their website and enter the tracking number. It shows a 3rd delivery attempt on Friday at 10:17 am. Friday, the day I was sitting in my game room until 10:30. Even after I left, Kev was still here for another hour before he left to run his errands. So once again they LIED like a rug and said a delivery attempt was made when it never happened.

Honestly, I don't know what the big deal is unless they have some new guy driving and he has no idea he's supposed to leave the package and take the notice with my signature. Regardless, I'm going to call them again Monday morning and make an effort to get this stupid mess cleared up. They expect me to pay $20 bucks for their delivery service. I expect them to waive the fee since they can't seem to honor their own guarantees.

You may have used DHL express and never had an issue with them. I hope that's the case and this is a one time sorta thing. Either way, I certainly cannot and will not recommend them and I will NEVER choose them as a shipping option again. I'll update and let you know if they do the right thing and waive their delivery fee since they jerked me around so much on this and didn't honor their own guarantee.

UPDATE #1: I spoke with another CS guy at 8:30 this morning and he confirmed the "attempted delivery" for Friday was incorrect. He couldn't explain why the tracking info shows this but he did say it was not even attempted on Friday. He also couldn't explain why it wasn't delivered Thursday.

He told me I need to check the tracking page online and when I see that it's been marked as "with delivery courier" this means it's been scanned and loaded on the truck, and I need to call them back so they can call the driver and make sure he delivers it today. I honestly have no idea if they expect all their customers to do this, but it seems to me this is their job, not mine. But, I do want my package so I will check it and call them back when I see the status change today. He said it should be on the truck by 10am.

UPDATE #2: Still no package or notice on the site that the package had been placed on the courrier truck by 2:30 so I call and new CS lady tells me there's been a delay due to the weather. She assures me the package will be delivered tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the company I ordered it from responded (with apologies) to my email about all this that included a link to this post and offered to send out a replacement package if it doesn't arrive tomorrow. I may have to take them up on that the way things are going.

UPDATE #3: DHL's tracking on their website showed my package with the courrier at 9:53 am on 12/7. I didn't bother to call to make sure the driver actually delivered it because I'm sick and frankly, it's THEIR job, to do their job, not mine. Package arrived here at 4:50pm. Even though I had the signed release on the door I went to the door just to be sure it was delivered.

So, buyer beware. If you ever have the opportunity to choose DHL express as your shipping method, be prepared for a possibility of a very unreliable service. I certainly will not ever use this company again. Oh, and they would not waive the processing fee, despite the fact that they guaranteed delivery and violated their own guarantees.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, December 3, 2010

Just Some Stuff

It's really amazing to me how many blog posts I write each week that never actually make it to the blog. Of course, I only write them in my head while I'm driving, or folding laundry, or buying groceries, so it makes sense I guess why no one ever gets a chance to read them. I'm not sure where the time goes but before I know it the day is over and another post didn't get posted.

Here's a bit of a wrap up of the posts you never saw this week:

• What do you do when you're going along having a really great day and someone comes to you with the worst, ugliest, most hurtful accusations you could possibly imagine? Well, you have loads of options. You can rant, rave, cry, yell, scream, or kick the dog. I don't suppose any of those are your best options, but they are options all the same. This happened to me this week and more than anything I think what surprised me was the difference in the way I responded as compared to how I might have responded even a year ago, or five years ago. I can only attribute this to the ongoing work of grace the Holy Spirit does in me and I can't express just how thankful I am that I am not the person I used to be. In the attempt to process the accusation and consider my response, little flashes here and there of the old me did pop up, but they were gone just as quickly. Oh, I never did kick the dog.

• If it's really December 3rd, why is my pool still outside? Where does the time go!? Is it really possible that tomorrow is the day we pack up all the kids and head to the Christmas tree farm, cut down our own tree, meet up in the barn/gift shop for hot cider and shortbread cookies, then off to daughter #1's house for lunch? Was it really a year ago already that we did this? What is that white stuff on my deck, anyway??

• Talking to a friend on the phone the other day the subject came around to either doing what you love (as a career) or just doing what you have to do to make ends meet. No question about it the vast majority of adults are not getting up every day excited to get to work because they're doing what they love. I am I suppose in the extreme minority because not only do I get up every day excited about getting to work because I do what I love, but I also work from home (often in my pajamas, it's true) plus I have the added benefit of this being a job that I don't have to do, but want to do. Here's a recent example of why I love what I do:
I created these little cuties the other day and I loved them as soon as the first set was done. One little tux ornament and one little wedding gown ornament were not enough so I had to play with colors and make more, and then make more after that. Then of course I had to make little bridesmaid dress ornaments to match the wedding party colors. I'm still toying with the idea of mother of the bride and mother of the groom dresses. They're so fun to make! You can see the full line of Tux and Gown wedding ornaments here.


• I have a super exciting fantastic wonderful surprise coming for Kev and the kids for Christmas and so far I've only been able to tell one person, and not online because they're all online too and they might see it! I remember the days when I could blog or FB a surprise plan I was hatching and it was safe to do that because none of my family would see. Those days are long gone, and sometimes I have to catch myself from saying something that might ruin my own surprises since I never know which of them is reading my blog or FB or twitter! What strikes me as funny about all this is, it wasn't all that long ago that none of my family were online users except for me. Now it seems it's abnormal if you're not online, not plugged in and not networked to the gills. Weird how fast things change, isn't it?

I had more to say but time got away from me once again and now I must go make breakfast and lunches and shoo the kids out the door for the bus.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe