Monday, March 24, 2014

Market Day Monday: Setting Up Shop @ Bluebird Song Cottage

Hello friends,

The Cottage has been buzzing with activity the past few weeks as I prepare for the Grand Re-opening of my Etsy shop, Bluebird Song Cottage. I am busy acquiring items, photographing and listing them, as well as getting the "nuts and bolts" of business and bookkeeping worked out. I'm currently reading Etsypreneurship by Jason Malinak (2012), which is helping me see the "big picture" of my Etsy business a bit more clearly. 

The name for my shop came to me around 2006 while scribbling notes and doodles in a spiralbound notebook. I knew bluebirds were a symbol of happiness, and I also had a love of all things cottagey, shabby chic and vintage. However, the "dream shop" selling vintage wares remained a daydream for many years as I focused on full-time work and later caregiving. 

In 2011, during a time of great illness, I took the plunge and bravely set up an Etsy storefront. I decided to name my little shop Bluebird Song Cottage, and I added a few of my paintings for sale. I had modest success, but I didn't do anything to promote my business or keep a very large inventory. Eventually, the shop quietly faded to the background as I focused on more pressing things, including trying to get well. 

But now I'm ready to re-open shop, armed with a little more knowledge of business, social media, and knowledge of my products. At last, I'm also opening up a shop that more closely aligns with my vision of selling retro kitsch and fun craft supplies. And that feels mighty good! 

I got things rolling again and added a few listings, which you can see to the right on my Etsy widget. Over the next couple weeks, I will continue to add more inventory, including vintage cookbooks, gardening books, and children's books.

I'm excited to see that more people are viewing and favoriting my merchandise, and I've been like a busy little bee spreading the word about the Sneak Peek Sale (Coupon Code SNEAKPEEK10 gives 10% off orders of $20 or more).

Grand Opening April 1st!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Letting Go of My Coca-Cola Addiction

Well, the holidays are over and I'm finally able to focus on my little blog once again. Besides the flurry of activity, I've been hyper-focused on improving my health and making real changes in my weight and overall lifestyle. Today I'm sharing a little about my life-long love affair with Coca-Cola, and how despite the charm of vintage ads - even those featuring Jolly Saint Nick - or hypnotic pull of the sophisticated marketing of today, I am saying "au revoir" to my drink of choice.

I've enjoyed the cool refreshing taste of Coca-Cola as long as I can remember. I loved opening a fresh bottle, and seeing the smoke rise up. I poured some in a glass and heard that satisfying fizz sound ***wa-goooosh***. I drank that first sip, the carbonated bubbles still tickling my nose and felt that instant pleasure from the caffeine rush and the endorphins released in my brain. 

I enjoyed Coke in all it's forms. As a teen, I experimented w/ Diet Coke, mostly because of my best friend's influence. It didn't seem to help my weight. I steadily grew chubbier throughout my teenage years, all the while consuming Coke at my favorite afternoon pit stop, Mickey D's. Fountain drinks, cans, 1- and 2-liters....I couldn't get enough. My body resembled nothing like the cute little vixens in the vintage ads like this one:

 I went through other soda phases....anything from generic concoctions like Big K or Faygo pop. Or drinking Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper exclusively. I started drinking only Sprite when dating my boyfriend (who later became my husband) because he tried to avoid dark sodas with caramel flavorings.

A few times in my life I was able to give up Coke, but that usually lasted a few short weeks. I would indulge in a "treat" or say "I don't drink alcohol...this is what I do to relax on the weekend." And so the addiction would continue.

To be honest, after giving up Coke that first drink didn't taste very good. It tasted bitter and "off." But I would keep chugging away until the familiar caffeine and sugar rush kicked in and the endorphins did a happy dance inside my head. And then I was hooked.

Coca-Cola was really like a drug to me. Yes, sugar in itself is said to be just as addictive as heroin. I joked about the seedy origins of my favorite beverage. In the early days, Coca-Cola supposedly had cocaine in the special formula, which is what made it so popular. It is a fact that Coca-Cola contains extract from the coca leaf, which is the same leaf that can be used to make cocaine (though by a very different process). Coca tea is enjoyed safely in countries (such as in South America) without any drug-like effects. But getting back to the point, the combination of sugar and caffeine made it super-addicting, even more than coffee.

 Last summer I started experiencing heart palpitations. Some were so bad that I thought I was literally dying of a heart attack. After a couple visits to the ER and starting dr. care, I decided to heed the doc's advice and give up caffeine. It was hard, but at that point I didn't want my heart to race or enter into full-blown palpitations every time I lay down at night. The pain outweighed my addiction.

I haven't had a Coke since probably October...not too clear on the date but it was definitely before I started Spark People in November and started my weight loss journey. It was a healthy change, and that small change was a catalyst for me to start making bigger changes. Such as, giving up fast food burgers and fries, which of course you can't have without a Coke to make it a complete combo. And now, the ball is rolling and I'm learning to let go of a lot of other things, be free of weight and most important bondages and self-destructive behavior.

I've drank other types of soda a handful of times since giving up Coke. I'm finding I don't really desire them either. Sierra Mist and Mug Root Beer hurt my tummy and the sugar makes me feel weird. (I have insulin resistance due to my blood sugar spiking too fast is a big factor). I'm learning to enjoy herbal teas and some black teas in place of Coke and coffee. I feel calmer and more relaxed, and I enjoy the interesting, full-body flavors of the organic, loose-leaf teas I buy at the natural food store. Tea time has become the "pause that refreshes." And maybe one of these days, I'll pour me a cup of Andean Coca tea.

Recommended Reading

Coca leaf is not a drug:

51 Uses for Coke Ultimate List:

 Coke Lore @ Snopes   
Weed, Booze, Cocaine and other Old School Medicine Ads

Picture Sources
(1) Animated Gif -

(2) Vintage Swimsuit Vixen -

(3) Bubble Boy -

(4) 1905 Coca-Cola Ad

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Uses for Egg Yolks

This has been a busy week as I prepare for Thanksgiving, but more importantly continue to make healthy changes to my diet. One small change is using only egg whites, such as on mornings I choose to eat this delicious lo-cal recipe, Spinach and Feta Scramble. Although I could easily use an egg substitute, I prefer using fresh eggs from our little urban farm. It's comforting to know where my eggs come from.

Now I'm left with the dilemma of unused egg yolks. I don't want to waste them, so I looked up a few ideas for using them up. One idea is to freeze the yolks in an ice cube tray and then pop them in a ziploc freezer bag. They can be stored for up to one year. They can be used for various recipes, dressings, homemade mayo, etc. Egg yolks make a lovely glaze for breads and rolls, creating a shiny surface when baked. But it is unlikely I will make many of these treats since I'm watching my calories and cholesterol.

I remembered the old tried-and-true facial many 1950's housewives swore by: the egg yolk facial mask. So I set about looking up recipes for this homemade spa treatment, and stumbled across this 1950's cosmetic ad on YouTube.

This is an ad for Dorothy Gray cold cream. See what shocking ingredient they used as a gimmick to sell this product! You're not going to believe it.

Egg yolks have several benefits for the skin. Egg yolk can improve elasticity of the skin, help tighten large pores, and the oils in the egg moisturize and nourish the skin. Besides helping to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, egg yolks are an effective treatment for acne. (Egg yolks can also help get rid of acne scars as well as prevent acne in the first place).

While the most basic mask consists of just the egg yolk, you can also add other ingredients for different benefits. Here are several recipes you may want to try.

Until next time....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Simple Faith Sunday: HOPE

Hope Poster created by Sandra Martin ~ Bluebird Song Cottage copyright 2012

I came across this scripture yesterday while working on my vision board. A friend shared it with me last July during a difficult time when I felt misunderstood and rejected by others I was trying to help and encourage. I felt a lot of shame by their accusations, even though they were false. I am thankful I can put my hope and trust in the Lord, and that He removes that heavy blanket of shame that tries to weigh me down at times. His love heals wounds, removes the lies, and renews my heart.


Lighten Up!

I haven't been able to post for a few days as originally planned. Doctor visits and trying to improve my health has been my focus, but I am glad to take a few minutes to share with you on "Swell Saturday."

I learned through a series of tests that I am in the pre-diabetes and pre-hypertension range. So I've really tried to change my eating habits, giving up caffeine (it was affecting my heart) and trying to kick the fast food habit for good. I'm back to eating more fish and vegetables, and organic when possible. I rejoined Spark People online to track my calories and get motivated. One group I joined creates vision boards to help inspire weight loss. I love collage, of course, and so I worked on a couple inspiration boards on Friday. Here is one of my finished vision boards:
"Lighten Up" vision board/inspiration board by Sandra Martin c. 2012

I used the back of a scrapbook paper stack for the base. I adhered a couple pretty scrapbook papers to this with some gel medium (great for collages). One paper was rainbow colored and the other had repeated text that said "You Rock." Though neither are visible in the final piece, they helped inspire me during the creation. That's the beauty of collage....building up layers and sometimes adding or removing sections to add depth and dimension. 

The instructions were to use words from magazines, so I spent a few minutes quickly flipping through several magazines and snipping words or ripping out pages. I didn't over-think this, but let it become an intuitive process. Certain words jumped out, and most were related to the idea of a fresh start but also creativity. 

I took the whimsical image of the laughing model with flowers in her hair from a folder of magazine pics I had saved for art journaling. I think she was originally part of a Clinique ad. It was gratifying to finally use this fun pic in an art piece. I attached these words and pics with gel medium and allowed it to dry. The super heavy gel medium added texture to the piece. 

Then I got out my acrylics (tubes and craft paint) and began adding color. I made it bright and bold, using orange and turquoise as the main colors with pops of pink. I loved adding the large paintbrushes from my Dick Blick sales flyer. After the paint dried, I added some more color. Then I went over portions with a white paint marker. Finally, I outlined certain letters and elements with a gel pen. I am very happy with the results. 

Here are some phrases in the piece, and an explanation of why I added them:
  • "Lighten Up!" This carries multiple meanings. It speaks of being happy and positive, looking on the bright side of life and not taking things so seriously. Another meaning is to lighten your load, lay down burdens, and lighten up physically by shedding a few extra pounds!
  • "Yes...I am a unique, filled artist." A declaration that I am not unfulfilled or lacking in my life or in my art. God's love fills me and I am a reservoir of ideas, hopes and dreams. 
  • "I did it!" With childlike glee, I shout out that I've reached a goal...whether that is weight loss, choosing a healthy habit, or creating something wonderful.
  • "Wake Up!" I need a little trumpet next to this phrase. I feel I've been asleep creatively and spiritually....this is also a wake-up call to change my health for the better.
  • "Celebrating Fresh Starts" This is a new beginning. I am believing for a blossoming in business, art, and relationships. I am starting anew, putting aside past failures and moving forward. 
  • "Funky and, colorful, and all on my own....always evolving." These were words to express individual styles but they fit so well in this collage. This is the kind of artist and person I want to be. 
  • "Fresh Dreams" It's time to "Dream Big" and reach for the stars. Make new goals and plans.
  • "Vibrant" That is what I want my life and art to be. Alive, blooming, growing, thriving. I want to be more active physically and in relationships, not remain stagnant. 
  • "Advice: Try Something New every day" This is a key to staying fresh, vibrant and new. This makes life interesting. I want to live with a sense of adventure and discovery. 
Well, I hope you enjoyed my vision board. I will share more art in the future. 

Live an artful life,
P.S. If you want to find me on Spark People, my username is SMARTIN77

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tips 'n' Tricks Tuesday: Removable Buttons

This week I've been finishing up projects on our kitchen remodel. I finally put up my homemade burlap shades, and I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. They were made by sewing a simple hem on inexpensive burlap, adding some vintage seam binding for ties, and adding a folded valance created with about 1/2 yard of discount striped fabric I picked up at Jo-Ann's. The colors perfectly coordinate with the red coral walls of the kitchen and the aqua blue of the dining room. I've never lived with so much color in my home, but I find it warm and embracing.

 The valances look a bit wrinkled in the pic. I set them aside for about a month before getting cafe rods to finally hang them! They stripes look bright and cheerful, but not too frufru. I purposely avoided doing a floral pattern so they would be appealing to my husband as well, but I did add some details to display my love of birds.
I had some lovely bird and nest stickers stashed away, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to display them. The 1.5" circle stickers perfectly fit on several wooden circles I had leftover from another project. I simply attached them to the circle, and then added a little distressing on the edges. I actually used pencil because it made the buttons look more like hand-drawn pieces of art.

I tried to decide how to attach them, and decided to use some velcro strips I picked up at the dollar store for $2. I cut the strips into smaller squares and attached half to the back of the button and half to the valance. Velcro dots would have worked well, too. I just used what I had on hand. The beauty of using velcro is I can change out the buttons whenever I wish. I can add seasonal themes or whatever else strikes my fancy. They add a little warmth and variety to the shades. Here's a few more closeups of the buttons.

Until tomorrow....

Market Day Monday: Craftsy

This post is a day late due to back-to-back doctor visits yesterday. I just wanted to share a new discovery with you. While browsing the Etsy forums recently, there were discussions about a website called Craftsy. They offer online courses in everything from scrapbooking to quilting. You can share projects in online galleries and connect with other crafters. You can also browse the library of craft tutorials and patterns. Craftsy has many some patterns and tutorials. Some you pay for, but there are many free ones as well. Some of the Etsy shop owners were selling PDF's of their patterns and craft projects. While patterns and downloads do well on Etsy, Craftsy offers another place to earn a little extra money and share passion and expertise with others. 

If you have experiences to share about Craftsy, please share in the comments section.