Monday, December 15, 2014

Dear Anonymous

I thought I should drop by and write you here. Since you caught me on a pretty bad day and mention this space in particular, in the recent bad feedback you left on Etsy. Inferring that I am a liar because I wrote explaining that we are, as most small online business this season can attest to, swamped with holiday orders but doing the best we can to ensure every single one of them arrives in time for the big day. Apologizing for the delay in response and sending (albeit late) tracking to ease concerns about the arrival of said purchase. You chide me for claiming a full plate, when evidence here shows all I am doing is happily crafting my days away and buying "overpriced Christmas trees."

You're right. We did spend a couple afternoons making idle crafts. And yes, we did take our kids to buy a tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. And then, in between those two posts featured here, we also were dealing with a sudden delay in the shipment of our entire canvas supply. Another stolen car, Hurt feelings at school. Sick babies and birthday parties for family members. School events, site word practice, library books and baths. Mornings spent in the classroom where I help out twice a week. Emails, and emails and more emails I try to tackle late at night long after homework because it's the only time I have to myself to answer in quiet. And, there were Rain storms that rolled in and forced the production of our entire shop indoors to keep the orders running on time, causing my entire home to become a working factory for the past week and a half engulfed in sawdust, teepees in plastic covers piled six feet high in our dining room blocking the tree from getting decorated like we had hoped for. Like all kids look forward to this time of year.

There were things that I guess I should have been more clear about. All kinds of "things" that sprung up in a house full of four children and a business run by two people. As I type here now, my husband is outside with two hired hands in our drive way sanding, carving and packing every single order that still needs to go out. And I am working my fastest to keep up with online questions and concerns that come with those worried about their holiday purchases. Printing tickets and preparing for my son's ninth birthday which is three days away, and paying bills and hoping to God the baby sleeps one extra hour so I can get through as much of it as I can before I need to nurse and kiss and comfort him in between the remainder of those online duties that will pull me away from his attention. And then, if I still need to, I will be up again until two in the morning, finishing what work I can't manage to tie up in the time slots I've managed to snag throughout the day.

So, just to be clear, yes we did buy that 80 dollar tree. And yes, I did take a Sunday to make snow globes with my boys. But in between that a million other things happened too. And we are stress filled and next to tears in the final days leading up to Christmas because we want every person who gives us their money to be entirely satisfied with the product we send out. We pulled it off last year and fingers crossed will do so again. And yet working equally as hard to ensure our kids have the best Christmas we can possibly offer them in the midst of it all. So while I have no qualms sucking up complaints the speak of failed communication or dissatisfaction attached to annoying shipping delays - those things I know I can work on -  I do take offense at the assumptions that what I post here is our life in full, when really it's just sparse highlights of events and afternoons I choose to share either because they are something I want to remember, or feel others might enjoy or relate to in some way. I apologize if it reads as anything other than that. And all I ask is that next time, maybe hold off on the biting review until you actually receive the order? Until you open it up and see just how much work goes into the product that arrived late (and maybe without satisfactory assurance) but still in time for Christmas? And likely, something that should last your children years to come. And then, if you are still unhappy, try to be a bit constructive in your feedback? Because nobody likes being called a liar. Especially when they are existing on four hours of sleep, with three Christmas lists left to fill, a birthday party to plan, and a couple hundred orders that need to make it out before this coming Wed. I have a week to make a lot of miracles happen. And you what else, 90 percent of it won't ever be shared here.

So maybe down the line, you can have that in mind. Or stick to Amazon Prime where factories full fill wishes and feelings don't get hurt.

In the meantime, we are hoping you have a Merry Christmas and reconsider your disgust with Etsy. And above all, that the teepee you ordered in mid November, brings someone in your home real joy and long term delight come early Christmas morning.



Sincerely,
Jessica Kraus

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Christmas Tree

This time we drove down the street. To the infamously overpriced tree lot across from the freeway, due to being short on time and stocked with a backseat full of over anxious boys in the season's first required flannel layering. Where the after effects of fresh rain made for a wet, muddy romp with them running around fighting sticks like swords, naturally one ending in tears and where one of us (per tradition) spent a good twenty minutes pacing the space of the lot, complaining about the money it cost for a decently sized tree (nearly "twice" that of our regular buy at Home Depot, for those wondering

We found one, finally. After kicking around our feet, debating on ideal shape and size and scolding little boys who refused to let up on such passionate tree lot war games. Leon studied every limb, at every angle. Rex insisted on the biggest and Arlo, as expected, proved most practical which is how we came to agree on one we all liked, strapped it on the hood of the Land Rover just like last year. Smiling because the awkward girl in charge of the overpriced tree slanging forced us to gather close to snap a family photo of all six of us when she saw me trying to wrangle them on my own. And now thanks to her good will and urging, we just might have what will most likely be our one and only chance at this year's (always last minute) Christmas card photo. 

For me, the very fact of it is well worth a little extra dough. Even if our tree is in all honestly, already looking slightly limp, maybe a little dry, and by all means a tad unpromising with still 12 days of Christmas left on the books.

Now if only we could find a good spare hour to properly trim it before it up and shrinks away  . . . 




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stuck ON

Caitlin Anne Webster

"come on let's dance with some folks we don't know
 these things don't matter when the lights are low"





My friend Caitlin is trying to raise funds over on Indie Gogo, to hopefully finish up her first LP "Black Moon" so I figured now was a great time to introduce her, her voice, her songs and mission. And to urge any locals reading, to please keep an eye out for her shows that spring up all around Los Angeles. You won't be sorry. The first time I heard her live rendition of "Fever" it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Who doesn't love a pretty girl singing sad country songs?

For more on her background and story visit her Indie Gogo site HERE
And for more videos swing by HERE and my personal favorite HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Handmade Holiday

This is where things always start to spin out of control. The end of the first week in December where holiday shop orders pile up, school events kick in and I realize in the midst of it all, that I haven't bought a single Christmas present for even one of my four children.

It's where stress levels peak. Working around the clock to keep things running as smoothly as possible on all ends. With valid frustrations over seeing our tree half decorated, our Christmas lights unhung and our poor home emerged in a cloud of sawdust day after day.

What I remind myself of though, is that every year we somehow manage to pull through. By the grace of some small miracle, everything comes to happen as it should, just not as timely or orderly as we would prefer it to. Once we close out the last order (hopefully the end of next week) we will be closing up shop, taking a break from all online ties and simply relaxing before the new year stomps in. We also have a December birthday to plan. Arlo will be nine and his birthday, being a week before Christmas, tends to get the short end of the stick. So I'm determined to make it special this year. With a small skateboarding party at his favorite skate park.

One event I'm also really looking forward to is Crafting Community's "Handmade Holiday" happening this coming Saturday at the lovely Lombardi House. Below is all the information for anyone who  might be interested. Or if not this time, maybe keep it in mind for the next. I know I'm hoping to come home stocked with all kinds of cool and unique holiday creations. To spending a fun filled day with two of my boys crafting up a storm. Forgetting about all the things I still have left to complete. And the dusty reality of my home at the moment. And the Calendar shrinking, and the Christmas cards that might not get out.


Hoping to see some familiar faces there too. To soak up a bit of this holiday season before it up and escapes us all.





Monday, December 1, 2014

Craft Habits

Wire Wreaths & Jar Snow Globes

It's been awhile since I set aside a full day to enjoy some quality craft time. But this past weekend my best friend came down to do just that. We were lazy, ran a few errands, went to dinner and spent the entire next day working on some simple holiday creations. 

The snow globes I had spotted on Pinterest last week HERE and was relived to find something easy, cheap and cute that I knew each of the boys would enjoy. We already had plenty of mason jars on hand so all I needed was the glycerin and some festive greenery which we scored on sale at Michaels. 

We pretty much just used the instructions (and materials) provided by the pinned source: 

- glas jar, faux Garland, Martha Stewart flaked glitter, hot glue, glycerin and distilled water

2-3 pinches of glitter 
Mason jar filled with water (with a little room left for displacement)
2-3 tablespoons of glycerin (found in cake isle at Michaes)
Greenery glued to the top of the jar lid, seal tight and shake.

Though I would advise against some of the holly decked garland. Arlo used that in his and it the color tinted his a deep shade of red. The green and gold versions I liked best and look great on the window sill when the sun hits them. 




Our next endeavor was a bare wire wreath which we just kinda winged. I pulled a bunch of scraps from the tree farm down the street (they were in piles next to the netting station) and we messed around with different arrangements until we found what we liked. I didn't have time to make it to the hardware store for ideal metal wire, but the picture frame hanging aluminum I had on hand seemed to work just fine and then ended up tying a thin black string to hang it from to give it a little length.




Lastly, we painted an array of wood ornaments from Ikea. It was super simple and the sparkly ones turned out pretty cute. Again, something easy that didn't take much time or preparation and still made for a fun time at the table preparing for the tree we don't have yet. 




I'm not sure when I might have another spare afternoon to dedicate to more craft creations, so for now, I'll have to be content with that little green wreath on the fireplace and those pretty glass snow globes glinting sweetly at me in the sunlight on my window edge.

And, in other exciting news. Rain is on it's way! The boys are so excited to wear new jackets and relearn how to open their umbrellas. You know, it's been mean while for us here in California where summer seemed to own the calendar longer than most of us were ok with.

So let it be. Rain, coffee, shop orders, and hopefully a tree in store for us this week.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sseko Designs

"Sseko Designs is an ethical fashion brand based in Uganda. In addition to handbags and accessories, we make beautiful leather sandals with interchangeable fabric straps that can be styled in hundreds of ways. Sseko began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women to continue on to university. And it is working! Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree or has graduated from university and is on her way to making our world a more beautiful place."


Unfortunately this past week drained me so entirely that I was not able to put together a proper Small Business Saturday posting like I had planned (and hoped) for. But I think it's safe to assume that a lot of you reading here already know by now just how important it is to put some of your holiday funds towards small and local businesses. However, to make up for the failed posting and help my ease my conscience in dropping the ball, I decided to devout a good portion of these coming weeks to sharing some of my favorite shops & companies I have on my own holiday shopping lists here, as well as over at The Ma Books depending on where they seem best suited.  

First up is Sseko Designs.  A brand I came across just recently and was immediately impressed to read about their background dedicated to empowering women in Uganda. With a great layout of their detailed 'Mission and Impact' you can read here.




As for the bag, when the company wrote asking if I might like to review their shop and product with readers here I was quick to oblige. For one, the brand falls under all of the qualifications I seek to check off before agreeing to accept product. It's hand made, price appropriate, small business owned and built on respectable ethics.

I had actually been on the hunt for quite awhile, looking to invest in a quality leather bag that would work with everything I wear. Seeing their leather safari version made my heart jump. It's a beautiful bag with Hefty room for all the "essentials" and more that tend to get packed in a hurry on the run. With a sleek double pocket for credit cards and phone. Exactly what I've been pining for.

The Sseko shop is full of all kinds of great items. The ribbon sandals, Carmel Nomad Booties, and hand crafted hex clutch being a few of my favorites.

The bag pictured above can be found HERE with a 20 percent store wide discount available through tomorrow at midnight with the checkout code "Be Merry"



Hope you enjoy it.
And happy shopping!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Of Our Own





Just the six of us.
Camping on the beach.
Trader joe's boxed turkey breast, mashed potatoes and corn to fill our plates. Warm weather, hot coffee, and a blazing fire at night followed by one long day on the sand building huts and collecting rocks to paint.

Might definitely be "new tradition" worthy.




Happy Thanksgiving!