Invited By Lama Works

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mexican Wedding Cakes

First up on the cookie baking adventure is by far my most favorite cookie in the world and I think they should be eaten year round. Mexican Wedding Cakes!! YUM!! They are soft, buttery, sugary goodness.

When I moved into my first apartment, I couldn't believe it but my mom gave me one of our treasured cookie books! Of all things it is a collection of recipes from the Wisconsin Electric Company. They used to put it out every year. This particular edition is from maybe the 1950's or 60's??? It is full of pictures of little dolls with the cookies and is definitely very German - true to Milwaukee's heritage. It has recipes for Lebkuchen, Springerle, Pfeffernuesse, and Stollen - all things I love to try to pronounce.

Not exactly part of the German theme - but tasty are the Mexican Wedding Cakes

You should try them!!

Mexican Wedding Cakes
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
Extra powdered sugar

Cream butter; add sugar gradually; blend in salt, vanilla and flour. Mixture is stiff. Pinch off small pieces of dough; place on ungreased cookie sheets (actually the recipe says "cooky" and it makes me laugh). Bake at 400 degrees about 12 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes 4 dozen.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let the Cookies Flow!!

I absolutely love the holidays. Love, love, love! My tree is up the day after Thanksgiving. I'm humming Christmas tunes before Thanksgiving and you can bet that "Sounds of the Season" is the radio channel of choice on the TV.

I especially love to decorate for the holidays and of course bake cookies.

The last few weeks I've been SWAMPED with custom orders for the shop. All of the holiday gifts, which is great! It does mean though that all I've done for the last 6 weeks is knit day and night and that's OK, but I do need a little fun in my life right?

Well, now it's Dec 8th and I am shutting my shop down for the holidays starting next Tuesday. I'm like a kid in school. The end is coming and I just can't focus anymore! I have 12 more orders to fill and hopefully be done by next Tuesday. Good luck with that.

It's too bad that I can't stay focused and just get it all done you know? Well, it's a good thing there are Christmas cookies in my life. Cookies always remind me of my mom. We always had the best Christmas cookies and we always had so much fun baking them together. Well, my mom is coming to visit this weekend and it's got me thinking of my family and I've decided to go on Christmas cookie binge! If I'm lucky (and don't run out of butter) I'd like to make new ones every day so that we can have cookies for the months to come. Stay tuned for updates and recipes!

What kinds of cookies does your family make for the holidays??

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who are you and what's with the donations??

I know that some of you are family, friends or have been following my blog for awhile, but others are new to Lama Works so this is for you. In particular, this is for a new team I just joined called Etsy Project Embrace. Hello to my new team!!

I am by trade a biomedical engineer from Milwaukee, WI. I have a bachelors and masters degree from Marquette University. I spent a few years designing artificial elbow, wrist and shoulder joint parts and surgical instruments to go with them. During grad school I worked with stroke survivors. I worked with a team of physical therapists to design a low cost joystick gaming device that could be used to regain arm function and work on strengthening and controlling movements.
After grad school I moved to Chicago and started working with the rehabilitation department at a Children's hospital. I worked with children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and clubfoot that all had problems walking. I watched them walk with special cameras that are frequently used to make animated movies and video games. Our movies were used to help physicians break down how they walked and figure out how to fix any problems they might have.
Life brings changes along the way and while I loved what I did, other opportunities came around. After I got married a year and a half ago I found myself rather bored and picked up my crafting hobbies again. I have a very short attention span so that included knitting, quilting and scrapbooking. Well, one can only knit so many hats for herself ... A friend of mine opened me up to Etsy and the rest is history!

One sale brought on a second and a third. Before I knew it I had more sales than I could keep up with on the nights and weekends. Right around the same time my husband was offered a fantastic job in his home town of Quincy, IL. I took the leap and now I'm running Lama Works full time.
What's with the name?? My brilliant mother-in-law came up with that one! La are the first two letters of my first name, and Ma are the first two letters of my last name ... put them together and you have Lama! Not the animal ... not the Dalai ... just me :)

And what's with the donations?? A good friend of mine, Matt Wessel, has been singing, writing music and performing for years to raise money for the American Cancer Society. You can find out more about his music here. At his concert this past March, he challenged us all to make a difference. He wants to show that if a large group of people band together to make just small donations, it can have a large impact. One person can make a difference. So he challenged each of us to get creative and see if we could raise $100 by the time his next show came around next March.

What better way to be creative than to use my store! It not only gave me a cause to be passionate about, but it also gave me some sales goals. I wanted to grow the store of course, but have never really sat down and said, "OK I want to have 1 sale a week".

So there it started and I am so happy to be a part of this project and now part of Etsy Project Embrace. Many of the team members donate part of all of their profits directly to the American Cancer Society to raise money for cancer research. How great is that? You can find out more information about the team and a list of members here.

So go out and check out the team and help them support the ACS!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

So Proud ...

Today is a very special day in our home. For as long as I've known him, my husband wanted to be an attorney. I was just an acquaintance when I saw him studying political science. I was a friend the summer he was studying for the LSAT, telling him that it didn't matter how he did on the LSAT - it just mattered that he got into a law school, graduated and passed the bar. I had graduated to girlfriend status by the time he was accepted into law school and was choosing where he wanted to go. I was his fiance as he struggled to find summer internships in a tumultuous economy. And I've been his wife to see him through graduation, studying through the bar exam and then the waiting to see if he passed.

Today is his day.

Today he gets sworn into the Illinois Bar Association. We will all stand beside him and hope he knows just how proud we are. Congratulations, my dear! I am so blessed to have been by your side through everything and am so excited to be by your side for the journey to come :)

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Year the Dog Ate Chocolate

There was a lovely comment from Midnightcoiler on my last post that is the inspiration of this post - that's for curing my writers block!

Dogs and chocolate. has the following guidelines on dogs and the toxicity of chocolate:

"The good news is that it takes, on average, a fairly large amount of theobromine 100-150 mg/kg to cause a toxic reaction. Although there are variables to consider like the individual sensitivity, animal size and chocolate concentration.

On average,
Milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per oz.
Semisweet chocolate contains 150mg/oz.
Baker's chocolate 390mg/oz.

Using a dose of 100 mg/kg as the toxic dose it comes out roughly as:
1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker's chocolate.

So, for example, 2 oz. of Baker's chocolate can cause great risk to an 15 lb. dog. Yet, 2 oz. of Milk chocolate usually will only cause digestive problems."

Now my sweet little (yet chubby) Puggle has a tendency to get into things. He will do ANYTHING for food and I mean anything. He loves carbs. Will eat an entire bag of rolls in a flash.

The setting is Christmas, 3 years ago. It would be our first Christmas with Luke. I had just purchased a plethera of boxes of Frango Mints (love them - thank you Macys!!) to hand out as gifts. We went out to dinner one night and found that Luke had eaten yes, an entire box of these dark chocolate mint wonders. He appeared to be fine. Stomach of steel. Never better!

Fast forward 2 weeks. It's our first year we are spending Christmas together. My first Christmas at my future in-laws. We head to their house and have a lovely time. Christmas Eve. We go out and about somewhere and come home to find that as much as we had barricaded him in, our cute and innocent dog had broken into the basement and had found the one pound box of Jamaican rum chocolate and ate ... well all of it.

Christmas Eve goes on ... we open presents ... Luke gets sick. Luke proceeds to attempt to expel all chocolate and rum out of his system all night long. My poor husband slept with him on the kitchen floor all night to make sure he was OK.

Christmas Day comes and everything appears back to normal. We party all day long. 9pm rolls around and we finally start out 5.5 hour drive home because I had a meeting the next morning. We are 45 minutes into the trip and poor Luke starts to get sick again in the back seat of the car. Still the chocolate?? Hungover maybe?? Either way he ended up getting sick about every 45 minutes the entire car ride home.

Longest car ride ever.

We even went to far as to call a vet at 10 pm on Christmas Day night to see if he needed emergency care. He ended up at the vet the next day with an IV of fluids and shaped back up. Poor dog.

So yes, for your own sake - keep the dog away from the chocolate.

Other dog stories to come some day. Maybe about the time that he needed a epi shot?? Or maybe the time that he was in a cast for a week?? Ahhhh ... Luke. So cute ... yet somehow so accident prone!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama (and her dog)
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

I ....

Have writers block ...

I've started numerous posts ...

Erased them ...

I'm out of bloggy ideas. Do you have any??

To keep everyone happy, I'll keep today simple ... with a few pictures of my dog, Luke, from Halloween. He is a bit ... well ... "stocky" ... so it doesn't fit him very well and he never seems completely happy when we put it on, but the complies and just looks up with this sad "Mom, do I have to????" face.

Happy Halloween!!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Case of the Missing Couch Feet

It all started over a month ago ....

On a warm and kind of crazy August day ...

What we thought would be a busy, hectic, but normal move turned into one of the great mysteries of the year.

Yes ... The Case of the Missing Couch Feet.

Our belongings moved from our humble abode in Evanston, IL to our new cozy bungalow in Quincy, IL on August 28th. We immediately departed for a long awaited vacation to the great north woods of Wisconsin and returned on September 11th. Upon our return we faced the mountains of boxes that had overtaken the cozy bungalow.

When we moved we had to remove the little wooden feet from the bottom of our beloved couch to fit it through the door frame. It happens. But where ... Oh where???? could those feet have gone during the move??

The unlabeled box in the kitchen?? The one in the spare bedroom that had miscellaneous junk in it?? Maybe it was somehow still in the garage??? Please tell me that they didn't end up in the GoodWill pile!!

Hours turned to days ... days turned to weeks ...

My dear husband was on the verge of a meltdown. A few more days and I would have found stacks of 2 x 4s under the couch.

Me? It didn't really bother me. So our couch was 4" too low ... who cares?? Well my father in-law wouldn't sit on it because it was too hard to get up from. My husband grimaced every time he sat down on it. Our dog on the other hand was quite pleased that it was the perfect height for him to see out the window.

Well, let me tell you ... our lives changed last night. I was sitting at the computer working when my husband barges in ... he had found a clue!!!

A garbage can that had 3 screws and a small chip of wood! I am confused and a little irritated that he's excited about a piece of wood that had obviously broken off a piece of our furniture in the move, but I went with it - he seemed rather wound up about it. He had a promising piece of evidence!

He was now a man on a mission. He ran out of the room with the biggest clue we've had since we got here. A garbage can. Yes, dear.

I go back to work and 5 minutes later he comes back with the couch feet in hand! Who knew that that one garbage can had been all he needed to jog his memory?? That garbage can had been in our old basement ... next to the couch ... when we were packing that last box of "junk" ... you know, the stuff that doesn't really belong in a box and sits on the floor until you absolutely have to back it. Low and behold - the missing feet were in the big box of junk next to it! The box that had just been tossed to the basement because we didn't want to deal with the unknown contents.

He promises that he went through every single box we have left weeks ago. Yes, dear.

So there you have it - case closed! Our couch is the proper height, we have beer in the fridge - we are once again ready to entertain :)

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Break time!

I have a 14 minute break from work - my time to blog for you!

Scheduled break time??? Yep, it's come to that. My day is now organized in a series of goals. Especially since I've had 12 sales in the past 13 days (WOAH!!!!). My husband pointed out an interesting factoid to me last night. After dinner I checked my email as I do quite frequently throughout the day ... walked into the kitchen and said very meekly ... "So I think I've got another mitten order?!?". Now, a year ago that would have been a jumping for joy kind of statement. So what gives??

Lesson #3 learned since working on the shop full time: It might actually be successful!

Which ties into lesson #4: Be prepared!

Now I am not complaining in any way shape or form, I'm a tad bit overwhelmed but definitely in a very, very good way. The cold weather is upon us and gosh darn it, Lama Works is a success!! How can I tell winter is approaching (other than the obvious cold weather??) ... I have 3 orders going to Canada this week, which I'm sure is much colder than Quincy, IL for sure.

Had I spent more time over the warmer months getting ready for the winter ones I might have more time now to design new things. But as it is, I'm spending my week catching up on orders and knitting like my life depended on it. What's on the agenda?

1 baby pumpkin hat
2 pairs of Bella mittens (maybe 3 .... 6 if the custom order goes through)
2 hats (one Bella, one falling leaves)
2 pairs of wrist warmers (one falling leaves, one custom)
1 falling leaves scarf (still in the design phase)
50 thank you cards (as soon as the envelopes get in)

Oh and have I mentioned that I might be doing a craft fair in November??? Time to hustle!!

So back to that scheduled break thing ... I'm trying to structure my time each day with goals. OK I'll have this hat finished by 10:00. Then from 10-11 I'd like to have this hat done and then at 11 I work on things around the house. If I finish any segment a little early, that's me time to read, surf the net or even take a nap. So far, so good I think! If all goes well I'll have 3 orders packed up and out the door this afternoon and I'll even have time to go on a date night tonight. Date night on a Tuesday?? Heck yeah! Matinee prices in the evening and free popcorn at the movies?? Date night on Tuesday for sure!

OK, gotta run ... just enough time to finish the post and get on to my pumpkin hat!
Thanks for joining me on my break :)
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Monday, October 12, 2009

A little bit of time for me!

It's an interesting position to be in .... my hobby is not my work ... my work is now my hobby. How does one separate those two things???

I find it hard to set aside time that is just for me, because in that spare time that I used to have ... I'd knit. I am trying to be strict about my work day and spend just normal business hours working on things for the store. So I organize, I do paperwork and I make projects for the shop. I'm trying really hard to spend my nights just hanging out with my husband or out with friends, but if I do feel the need to knit - I make sure it's a project for me or at least a present for a friend (Sweetie, I promise that the scarf I promised you last Christmas is going to be here before winter is!)

Hence the great sweater project - which I'm still plugging away at slowly but surely. I'm back to about where I was when I ripped it all out 2 weeks ago. I went down a needle size and a sweater size so hopefully this will do the trick. I've decided that I'm just going to keep going this time. If it's too big, it's too big and someone in my life will get a lovely present.

I also got back into quilting this weekend which was fantastic! My new sewing room actually was my husband's Grandmother's sewing room back in the day, so I channeled her energy and decided that Sunday was finish a project day! I found a Thimbleberries quilt top that I had finished and conveniently also found the backing and batting.

I really do love the house that we are living in and it has such a rich history with the family, but I just had to share some pics. There are a lot of rooms that need ... well ... updating. There is quite a bit of wall paper and shag carpeting. I'm loving the yellow stripes ... With the matching yellow ceiling ...
Oh and of course the cork lamp :)

But I digress. I didn't quite finish the quilt, but I made pretty good progress! I've got the top all sewn together and even took the time to do the decorative stitching on it that I tend to avoid. I'm trying to do things right. Too often in my past I'd slop together a project and call it done, but now that I have more time in my life to work on things, I want to do them completely and get it done correctly. That means I do rip things out now when I make a mistake and I'm going to try really hard not to fudge it ... I said try ....Anyway, that was the fun craft of the weekend... it sure is nice to have my supplies all back in order again! I can finally find my yarn!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where does the time go?

Ok I know, I know ... I've been MIA ... but really that's a good thing!

Why??? My husband passed the Bar exam!!!! We've been waiting and waiting for those results to come in and they sure did last Thursday! We couldn't be happier and we are so looking forward to just settling into a groove of normal, quiet life.

First thing first.. where have I been?? Working! 6 sales in the last 7 days! I can definitely tell that the cooler weather is here and that people are thinking about the best way to stay warm. I'm getting a lot of custom requests which I love! "Hey, do you have a scarf that matches this??" "What about mittens that look like this??" "Can you make me this, but in this color, and make it this size?" It has given me a good chance to be creative and tweak some patterns a bit to my own liking.

One project that I've been working on for 2 different clients are some accessories to go with the falling leaves collection. I managed to take a fantastic pattern for some fingerless mittens and convert it from sock yarn into a worsted weight variation. Next up is a scarf to go with it!

I also had a fun bud vase order for a little girl's tea party which was fun :)

I'm still toying with the idea of doing a craft fair yet this year. There is one that I might be able to have a small table at in November, but do I really have enough to stock a table?? I'll tell you that if I keep getting this many sales in a week, there's no way I'll be able to keep my stock up and ready for a craft fair, but I'm going to try!!

Enough shop talk though. I was also out of town this past weekend for a beautiful wedding at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It was great to see all of my family and we even got in some time with our friends while we were there. Enjoy some pics from our weekend!

So it's been a pretty good week! Here's to another great one!
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Monday, September 28, 2009

The Great Sweater Project - Week 1 ... Groan

Well ... I'd love to report that week one of the Great Sweater Project went well ...

I mean, technically I did figure out how to read the charts and all and I got about 30 rows done ...

Lucky me I realized at this point that I missed a cable and had to rip 4 rows out. I decided on a whim just to measure it. I never knit sweaters because I hate to find my gauge. I did it this time. My gauge for seed stitch was spot on, my Stockinette stitch was a little off, but I figured it would be OK.

Not so much.

The bottom of my sweater was supposed to measure 38" and it definitely measured about 45"

Yep ... measured ... past tense. After a long chat with my Mom about the problem I ripped the entire thing out. All of it. Sigh.

So now I get to figure out if I need to go down 5 needle sizes and drop to the smallest sweater size or buy all new yarn that isn't so bulky. Sigh. All for the love of a project too!

My husband says it's OK to take a personal day from the shop to work on the sweater because it's driving me nuts. I was up until nearly midnight trying to figure out what went wrong and how I can fix it.

Sigh ... back at it!

Until the next time...
The girl behind the lama
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Holidays Already?? Yep!

As much as we don't want to admit that the holidays are just around the corner, for those of us that sell potential gifts, start thinking about the holidays now! I just went to the Etsy Virtual Lab on holiday products and they had some great tips that I thought I'd share with everyone:

Hot items:
1. personalized items
~use names, initials, numbers, anything you can personalize ~hostess gift sets
2. Secret Santa gifts
~presents for neighbors, coworkers
~offer bulk orders so people can stock up
3. Quirky items for men
4. Home decor
~ entertaining, favors, invitations

Use holiday colors --take current items and use new colors:
~blue and silver
~red and white
~blue and white
~jewel tones

Photography Tips:
~stage pictures with holiday themed items like berries, snow, tree branches
~when you take pictures think about what you would look for if you were shopping
for something in a store
~try to picture someone using the item
~put a group of photos together almost in a grid using
~never use a flash
~always use the macro setting on your camera
~use natural light
~use a solid background

Shop organization:
~don't give too many options if you do custom work, i.e. Don't list one item
with with 5 different color choices and monogram, instead list that item 5
different times in each color, then use just the monogram as the option.
~create sets of things to hit different price points
~for the holidays use the Sections to organize by price category
~if you have a two items that coordinate, make sure you link to that item in the
~Write a good first paragraph description! This is what shows up in a google
~When you create a new listing, above the materials box there is now a button
that says "How it looks in google" so you can see what your listing will look
like when it is searched
~Send along coupons with orders now for holiday specials.

Tagging no-no's:
~hostess gift
~stocking stuffer
~do not tag with potential uses for items

I hope this is helpful for everyone! I'm all jazzed up about the holidays now
and I just got some new holiday die cuts in the mail, so I'm off to design up
some gift tags!

Happy Holidays??
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Need Your Help - Please vote!

Hey there blog readers!

I need your help!

I am about to launch a new line of stationary! I'm calling it the Raspberry Punch Collection. At the moment there are 8 cards in total, but there may be more in the future. Here's where you come in ... check out the cards....

If you were shopping in my store would you rather see:

A. Individual cards
B. Small packs of 3 or 4 coordinating cards in a bundle
C. Both!

What's your vote??

Thanks for voting!!
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Monday, September 21, 2009

The First Week - A Review

I made it through my first week as a full time small business owner and guess what ....

It was great!!

What did I learn?
Lesson one: It's definitely going to take some time to get into a routine. I can tell you the it took just one Monday of me sitting around watching the Today show and knitting until 11:00 for me to realize that as much as I don't want to, I need to pry myself away from Meredith and Matt and take a shower early on.

Lesson two: My brain definitely has set times of the day that it wants to do certain things. I'm finding that the mornings are generally when I want to do the boring shop things. Organizing my inventory, labeling products, packaging orders, doing some research .... The afternoon is definitely my creative time. I have a fantastic sun room in our new house that I love to spend ... well most of the day ... but my afternoons working on something. I've been designing some new cards (photos for you tomorrow!), and working on orders in the wonderful sunlight while listening to the radio and the sounds of nature outside. That itself is another change - I don't think Chicago had "nature" sounds :)

Lesson three: Take time to do other things. One of the things that really like about our new situation is that I can work from home. You have no idea how much you can get done around the house while working! I'm taking the time to unpack a few boxes ... bake a loaf of bread ... get some groceries ... mop the floors ... dust ... even can some spaghetti sauce because all of those things are really a nice break during the day. Things that I can take 15 or 20 minutes to work on but saves so much more time later on in the week. My hopes are that gone are the days when my husband and I have to spend the entire weekend cleaning because we just don't have time or energy during the week. We can finally spend time together and not mad that we are doing chores and not outside having fun.

We'll get there eventually. I'm sure we'll be unpacking and hanging things up and working on some home improvement projects quite a bit, but even with all of that ... we spent all day yesterday watching football. Yep. A lazy September afternoon sitting on the couch working on my new sweater project and watching football. It doesn't get much better than that. We even won $25 in our Packer pool, but don't ask about my Fantasy league. I wasn't paying attention to the fact that yes 4 of my players weren't actually playing yesterday. It wasn't pretty.

Oh, and the biggest thing I learned last week???

My dog doesn't actually do anything during the day ... My husband leaves for work and my dog sleeps until noon ... Exhibit A:

OK really the most exciting thing I learned this week ...

You know how my shop has been growing the last few months??? I'm starting to think it may not have been a fluke!!!! Why you ask??

I had 6 sales last week!! Yep!! 6!!!! In one week!! I used to have 6 in a month!

So that definitely made me happy :) Here's to another week of orders and getting into a routine!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the Lama
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starting a new and scary project

I knit ...

I knit a lot ...

I'm fast ... I'm efficient ... I pick simple projects ...

I branched out a bit when I started knitting shawls, but I carefully selected patterns that were easy to read and had a predictable pattern.

With my new life full of all the time in the world to knit, I've decided to embark on a little project. Now that I don't have to spend my free nights and weekends working on projects for the store, I've decided that would be a perfect time to work on projects just for me.

It's with that in mind that I'm starting a new challenging project. I'm knitting a sweater. A full on, complicated sweater: The Vivian (pictures from pattern requires me to read complicated charts and probably do stitches I've never done before. I've always avoided charts, but I've convinced myself that this would be a good life building skill. Something like taking classes ... teaching myself something new. After all, if I want to be an accomplished knitter, I should know what all of those dots and slashes stand for right??

So I'm taking the plunge! I've ordered up some Wool of the Andes in Blackberry from KnitPicks and it should be here soon. Lucky for me I happen to have one skein in my stash already, so I'll get started today and start swatching!

Bring it on!

Until the next time ..
The girl behind the lama
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Monday, September 14, 2009

We Made it!

2 long weeks later we have made it into our new home and have even found enough kitchen supplies that I'm cooking again!

We had a very adventurous move to say the least. Looking back, I think I would have cut my last week of work a few days short of the full week. Leaving work on that last Friday was pretty overwhelming to say the least. No matter how unhappy I had been during the last year, I still had a lot of great memories. It was my first big job after grad school and I met some really great people and a lot of really cool kids.

I left at noon on Friday full of tearful good-byes and walked straight into the middle of the big move. The agent was there, the soon to be new owners were there, the moving truck was outside and the movers were loading everything into the truck. I was a bit overwhelmed.

Fast forward a few hours. The new owners have closed on the house and have come back to check on the progress of our move. By now it's dinner time. We are cleaning things up and packing up a few more miscellaneous boxes when our movers tell us that the truck is full. Full?? So at this point we no longer own the house, the new people have workers coming in the next day to start remodeling and our new home is 5 1/2 hours away.

We are lucky enough to have some wonderful family members that live near by so they came over and helped take a few car loads of the leftovers to their garages. We still couldn't get everything out and it was the first weekend of September when everyone moves to college so we couldn't find an additional truck or trailer anywhere. We were pretty much stuck.

Long story short, it took us a few more days and tons of extra driving but my wonderful husband got everything out of there while I went on to Milwaukee for a few bridal showers. I tried to help him, but he insisted that I go to the parties as planned.

So needless to say it was quite an adventure. We definitely earned the 2 weeks of vacation after that (post on that to come ...)

But we are in our new home now and life is pretty good! I finally found the spice rack and the box with all of my oils, soy sauce, etc so I'm thrilled to be making dinner again.

More on the new home and my new life coming soon!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the Lama
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's more to it than you think!

In all the moving fiasco, I've been having some doubts about my future as a small business owner - which is completely normal and expected. I spent 7 years in college working on my degrees in biomedical engineering. Now in just a matter of days, I'm giving that all up to run Lama Works - which I am really excited about!

Now when people ask me what I do, I often get a lot of confused looks that translate into .. I'm sorry you do what? Oh ... you must be really smart! Yes, i have a job that no one has ever heard of and the idea of using animations to determine surgical recommendations is a scary sounding job, not to mention I have not one, but two degrees in what kind of engineering?

Now that I'm leaving that behind and moving forward with the shop I get a lot of looks that say "Oh, isn't that nice ..." code for - "Are you crazy?? You're going to knit for a living???? Right ... good luck with that!"

So today I'd like to defend the independent artist a bit. To the outside viewer I knit and make stationary and those are usually just hobbies. Over the last year I've learned that to sell something is so much more than just making it.

I don't sell mittens by accident. There is a lot of research that goes into it. What's popular? What colors are in? What is my target audience and how to I make sure that they see those mittens? Are others making mittens like mine? If they do, how do I make mine different and better?

What about taking pictures of the products. You need the right backdrop and the right lighting and a little bit of skill in making those photos look like a million bucks. Even here I do research to see what works for others. I watch what's on the front page of Etsy to see how I can make my photos fit the right "style". Do you take a full picture of the product? A close up so that you are intrigued enough to see what it is the picture is depicting? On a model? In the grass?

There is also the marketing side. How do people find your store? This leads in to tagging items so that they come up in the right searches. It's also important to be active in all of the social networking opportunities ... Facebook, Twitter, blogs ... to get your name out there. I even track things like how frequently people "heart" my store or items. Is there a particular day of the week this happens more frequently or even a particular time of day? This all gives me cues to when the best time to renew my items would be. Yep there are even strategies on when and how often to renew items so that you are always at the top of the search list.

How about my skills as an accountant? Each item that is listed has to be logged and tracked so that I can track my sales and again look for trends. Are there products that sell more in one month than another? How can I use this so stock my inventory appropriately?

My husband said it best last night ... if you went away for a week and asked me to look over the store, I wouldn't have even the slightest clue where to start and what to do to keep your sales coming in. So to those that may think I'm wasting my degree ... I'm just applying it to a new direction.

I'm going to try to blog a bit more about these things once I am moved and find everything again, so stay tuned!!

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Things not to miss ...

Since we sold our house I've been thinking a lot about what is to come. I won't lie, moving is a scary thing, but only because it's new I think. I'm not particularly fond of living in Chicago. I came to Chicago for the job and that was it. So now that I don't like the job anymore, getting out of the city I don't love should be a good thing right?

Things I won't miss:
1. Parking on the street - I refuse to pay $3.50 to park in the garage at work every single day so I trudge around Lincoln Park trying to wedge my car into a tiny spot every single morning. My bumper is scratched beyond belief probably from both myself and others trying to park and let's not forget the big scratch along the side of my car where someone clearly didn't quite fit while driving through. When I first moved here and parked on the street after a weekend in Milwaukee it could take me 45 minutes just to find a spot on the street. All this ties into ...
---I could park a boat in the street spots in Quincy

2. Astronomical parking fees - $6 an hour to park at meters in Chicago now! Even in Evanston I have to pay $1.25 an hour just to go to the library! When I lived in the city, I got so fed up with trying to park my car that I just stopped using it. This lead to me not seeing the big orange "Street Cleaning" signs they would put up on random weeks and a few $50 parking tickets. Eventually I found a "cheap" parking spot in a lot for $120 a month. A spot mind you that wasn't guaranteed, so during a Cubs game I would often have to park on the street yet again. Unless you can get your parking waved you have to pay to go to the Farmer's Market, the movies and even the mall and let's not forget $30 to park downtown to see a show.
---They don't have parking meters in Quincy!

3. Traffic - need I say more? I'm pretty sure it takes me at least 20 minutes to get anywhere local, we leave at least an hour to an hour and a half to get anywhere significantly far away. 30 minutes to and from work every day plus the time it takes to park and don't forget to add Cubs traffic into that. Have you ever seen a traffic report around here?? It takes up a significant portion of the morning news ...
---Traffic reports?? Is there traffic in Quincy?

4. Neighbors practically in my yard - Our lot in Evanston is 40 feet wide. Just 40. That means that our house is only 25 feet wide and that my neighbors house is only about 10 feet from my own. While it is a lot more privacy that a condo downtown and no one lives above and below me, and my dog does have a patch of grass to run around in ... we desperately want to have a bit more privacy than that.
---Looking at houses on 1/2 an acre in Quincy :)

5. Taxis - they are everywhere! Cutting me off, slowing up traffic, yelling ....
---Do they have a need for taxis in Quincy?

6. Buses and trains - they are loud, and they smell and again add to traffic delays.
---I think there is a bus in Quincy and a train that takes you to Chicago ... not much else!

7. General hostility - I have found living in the city that people can be very self absorbed. Everyone is on a cell phone and in a hurry to get somewhere. People swear and honk at me on a regular basis and I've found that this rubs off! I have never had road rage before and here I am honking at people. It's not necessary and really just raises your blood pressure.
--- People want to know about you in Quincy. I may not even know the cashier in the store, but she asks me how my day is and opens up a genuine conversation. People stop to chat and are even friendly.

I think that's it for now, but I'm sure I'll come up with more as I ponder the move this week. My last week at work and not a whole lot going on. Lots of time to think ... and blog :)

Until the next time ..
The girl behind the lama
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

So close I can taste it!!

Don't get me wrong, I get a little giddy and my heart picks up a bit every time I get an email that says "Etsy Order From ..." but today was a little extra special. Earlier this year I decided that I needed to set some goals for the shop. Something realistic and attainable.

My shop is just my part time job, something to keep me busy and out of trouble while Andrew finished law school and studied for the bar. I decided that I wanted to try to get just 52 sales in my first year so I could average about 1 sale per week. At the time I think I was about half way through the year and at about 20 sales, so it was going to be a bit of a stretch, but who doesn't like a good challenge right?

Over the months I've done a lot of tinkering because I'm still learning how to be an entrepreneur. I've tried joining different Etsy teams, taken new photos, promoted things, Twitter, new product lines .... and it all seems to have helped because today's "Etsy Order From..." email made me hit 51 sales!!! Only 1 more to go by the end of this month to hit my goal!!

This is giving me a lot of confidence with the months to come. If I can make 1 sale a week every week while I'm working on the store just a few hours a week, who knows where I can take this once I'm working on it full time! I would love to expand things to have more knitted sets that coordinate and to sell them in actual stores. I want to expand my stationary and do more wedding invitations. So much to do!

So today I'm a happy camper :) I'm quitting my day job in one week and I can't wait to see what is ahead for many, many reasons :)

Happy Sales!!!
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Photo Shoot

Yes, I'm still packing.

Yes, I'm still procrastinating. But really, it's a good thing! In the middle of packing/organizing some of the items in the store I realized it was a beautiful day out and maybe it would be a great time for a photo shoot!

Now when I first started making hats, I ran across an Etsy forum post about people complaining about store owners using real people as models because they didn't want the hat the purchased to have been worn by someone else. OK, I get that. So I had some fun with decoupage and made up an interesting Styrofoam model head.

It's alright and it works, but I haven't sold all that many hats, so why not try a live model! I just happened to have gotten a hair cut and we all know that your hair never looks as good as when a professional spends more time than you could ever conceive of having in the morning to make you look great.

Have I mentioned how fantastic my husband is??? I convinced him to take a break from the boxes to man the camera, because let's be honest .... it's very difficult to take pictures of oneself. Always find a friend.

I've done a little cropping and editing to these, but I must say that he did a great job and will definitely be hired again!! Here are some of a few older hats and some that will be coming out soon!

What do you think of the new pictures?? Think they will work??

Until the next time
The girl behind the lama ...
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Never Ending World of Boxes

The packing has started! I must say that this weekend has brought on a new phase in the "Moving to Quincy!" chapter of life. We were away in Quincy this past week for a variety of things and are happy to be "home" even though we had to leave behind "home" if that makes sense. Yesterday we woke up and started talking about plans for the weekend and both came to the same conclusion .... "Oh my God we're moving in 2 weeks!!"

2 weeks!!!

Just 2!!!

Thankfully my husband loves me more than anything and would move the moon for me if it would make me smile. We have struck up a deal that he will do 90% of the packing and I'll do 90% of the unpacking. It seems like a pretty fair deal to me. Right now I am still working full time and he is not working or studying at all anymore and when we get to Quincy he will be working full time and I will be left to sort through our things, cook dinner and well ... unpack and organize us.

Really we are sticking with each other's strengths. I have packing ADD. I hate packing. I'm slow. Things never fit right in boxes. Boxes get heavy and I get hot and sweaty. But once we are moved I am going to go crazy when I realize that my entire life has been stuffed into what I hope are properly labeled boxes, yet I still can't find anything and my spice rack is no longer alphabetized. I am an organization nut. I'm not always organized, but I like the act of organizing itself and usually work like a mad woman until an organizing project is complete - much against my packing woes.

In fact I should be packing right now. But I'm not. I'm trying to find all sorts of excuses. True, I did pack up all my material and sewing supplies (very sad, but true) along with a box of old photos (which I didn't even pause to look through!). But here I am trying to decide if I should make cupcakes ... which movie we should see this weekend ... and refreshing my mailbox to see if any orders have come in. Yep, I'm desperate.

So the move continues! We are really excited to start a new adventure, even if there will be some bumps along the way.

Until the next time,
The girl behind the lama...
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Emotions Run High ...

Today was quite a big day for me. A very emotional day. It's been a very hectic summer with the bar exam and figuring out what is next for us. We accepted an offer on our house 2 weeks ago and are all set to move on September 1st.

To be honest, I am really excited about this plan. I really don't like living in Chicago. It would be a fun place to visit, but it is far too busy here for me. We are looking forward to settling down where there aren't taxis zooming around buses everywhere. I won't have to deal with a 30-60 minute commute, scratches on my car every day from the close parking, and never again will I deal with outrageous parking fees just to go see a show. My lot and my house will be more than 40 feet wide. My neighbors won't be living almost in my own yard. I'll have a driveway and a proper lawn. A world where traffic doesn't rule my life and we can just slow down a little.

Now all of this also comes with the added bonus that I get to quit my job! I have been pretty unhappy with my job for the past few months due to the usual office politics. I was even hunting for new jobs here before we decided to move. I find that I spend a lot of time at work dreaming of all the things I would do if I didn't have to come in to an office every day. I'm dropping my title as "biomedical engineer" and changing it to "design and process engineer". I get to take all of my skills in fixing things and making things run better and more efficient, and turn them all to my shop. Same skills, just with a new meaning. And the best part is that I can do it from home, any time I want to, without having to ask for time off if I just want to take a personal day. I don't have to work around all of the holidays anymore, and if I want to start work at 9:00, still in my pjs I can and that is such a liberating feeling. I have the opportunity to be my own boss. Push myself and know that my accomplishments are mine alone.

So all of these wonderful things, yet last night and this morning I found myself really crying over what I'm going to lose. My husband said it best last night. I am an optimist. The glass is always half full. I always see the sunny side of life. Something good is always there. So now that I am finally getting this opportunity, I can't help but put aside all of the things that I don't like about working here, and can only think of the things that I will miss.

My kids. Oh, I'll miss my kids. If you have ever had a chance to work with children with disabilities, you know as well as I do that they are such a great and inspirational group to work with. I think back to my time here, and I have seen over 450 kids come through for a gait analysis. 450 kids that come here to see me and get excited about seeing me turn them into a computer animation. 450 parents that are hopeful that what I do holds the key to how to make their children walk taller and fix the position of their feet.

Right now I'm not thinking of the kids that scream, kick and cry, but I'm thinking of the cute 5 year olds that are alight with curiosity. The 12 year old boy that had a crush one me. The ones that hug you and say thank you. The 6 year old from Arkansas who comes up to see us every few years and has a picture of me on her refrigerator. The 14 year old boy that did a High School Musical dance for me, even with his crutches. I'm not remembering the parents that yell at me, the ones that complain about the test or their insurance. I think about the ones that are grateful for the compassion I had with their child. The thank you note and cookies from the family that had a great experience with us. The family that says that because of us, their child can walk again and just be a kid.

I told my manager today that I will be leaving at the end of the month. And yes, we are leaving so that my husband and I can start a future together that works for us. We are setting ourselves up for the years that are to come. I'm not leaving because I'm not happy with my job anymore, but that did make the decision easier.

So it has been a bit of a bittersweet day for me. One door closes, and many more are opening up in front of us. I didn't make it through the conversation without crying and my manager was very sympathetic. He wondered why we ever came to Chicago at all. I came for this job and this job alone. I desperately wanted to work in a gait lab with kids. I wanted to help someone and change a life. Engineers don't get to do that much.

It has been a very difficult decision, but more than ever I think we're making the right one. There will be much to miss and the transition won't be an easy one, but moving and starting fresh is always a challenge. I think we deserve it though. We've spent the past 4 years in school, then living in different states, then living in the same state, but one commuting to Milwaukee every day. We can finally start the life together that we have always dreamed about.

More to come I'm sure. 14 days of work left and 26 days until we move!
Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cake Decorating Course 2 ... Royal Icing Flowers!

I had an absolute blast in the second cake decorating class! I think that royal icing and I are going to be good friends. I really like the tedious work of making flowers, petal by petal. To me at least, this cake can't even begin to compare to any of the ones from course one.

So as I mentioned, we made all different kinds of flowers with royal icing this time. We made a bunch in class and then were encouraged to make more at home. We used a flower nail and cut out templates to help guide us in petal size and placement. We made each flower on a small square of wax paper and then dried them in flower formers to give them a curved look. They get really hard and are almost like a piece of candy to eat, but all very edible and tasty!

We did the rose again as well as different types of leaves ....

Pansies and daisies ....

Apple blossoms, violets, daffodils and primroses:

We also learned how to do a basket weave and rope border to finish the cake:

Voila!!! I had so much fun! I have a million little flowers made and am all ready to start making some cakes!!

What do you think about that??

Until the next time ...
The girl behind the lama
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