Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Care for Your Christmas Ornaments

Those wonderful ornaments that you've accumulated over the years are rich in memories and reminders of your traditions, so take a moment or two to take the best possible care of them.  Here are some pointers:
  • When you unpack your treasures, keep the wrappings in the same box for easy repacking.  Check the bottom of the box for loose parts that may have detached from the ornament.
  • The small scratches and wear on ornaments give the character and vintage look we love so much, so don't worry about cleaning or 'touching up.'
  • Trying to clean or wipe off an ornament is tricky, as even water may change the finish or shimmer of glossy surfaces.  If necessary, just use a small feather duster and a light touch to clean your ornaments, or perhaps a baby toothbrush.  Don't use cleaners or stiff brushes, etc. 
  • Think of the safety of wee ones and pets.  Place breakable items out of reach of children and pets. Consider using florist wire (thin, flexible green wire, very easy to use) to wire the ornaments to the tree to prevent inquiring paws or little fingers from plucking off the tree.  Florist wire is more stable and secure than conventional ornament hooks.
  • Generally, place the larger ornaments at the bottom and smaller ornaments toward the top to keep a balanced look.
  • If an ornament keeps turning, twist the wire or hook around the branch to stabilize it.
  • To store, remove the hook or wire from the ornament and loosely wrap it in soft tissue paper or scraps of cloth (how about that year's outgrown children's flannel pajamas?).  You can reuse the wrapping from year to year, too.
  • That said, for fabric, yarn or soft ornaments, I sometimes leave the hook in place, wrap the ornament in tissue with the hook extending out of the top of the tissue paper.   Just be sure to not let the wire scratch the ornaments or get tangled.
  • To pack, I roll one ornament in tissue paper, place another one next to it and roll those two together and continue in this way, depending on the size of pieces. When I unwrap them the next year, the unwrapping step goes nice and quick!
  • I once made the mistake of wrapping some ornaments in bubble wrap; the plastic adhered to the vintage paint and came right off when I unwrapped it.  
  • Be sure to pad the bottom, sides and  top of your ornament boxes with bubble wrap or newspaper in case the boxes are moved, dropped, or stacked.
  • Store the boxes in a cool, dry place.  When we moved to Texas, I was used to storing them in our dry Colorado basement.  Without a basement in Texas, I stored them in the garage, not considering the differences in the heat and humidity.  Oops.  Storing them in the spare bedroom would've been a better choice.
  • Be sure to label each side of each box; that way, if the box is turned, you'll always know what's inside.  
  • Store your tree lights and tree topper on top of the ornaments (wrap separately, and don't let the cords scratch the ornaments, etc.).  That way, you'll unpack the lights first, ready to put on the tree before the ornaments.

Lastly, you can use a marker to write the year you received new ornaments, so you'll always know which darling son or daughter made which treasure!  You may also enjoy keeping an "ornament journal", similar to a travel journal, noting the story associated with your ornaments.

I'm sure you'll have some ideas to contribute -- so let us all know of helpful hints that have worked for you and yours.

For now, enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend with all its blessings!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Little Things

This morning, I received a note from someone I've never 'met' who said she liked my work (I'm always happy to hear that!) and also mentioned that roses are very spiritual creations.  Her name is Cindy, and she probably has little idea of how her note touched me.   She took a little time to send a little note to someone whom she didn't know.   Yet, it truly IS the little things that sometimes matter most.

You may remember my sharing this before on my old blog.  Someone somewhere needs to read it today, so here it is again.

While I was trying to find my way toward recovery from the brain dents, I began to paint. Roses had some connection to 'somewhere' that I couldn't really identify and thus began my spiritual journey. Someone gave me a little note card with St. Theresa's prayer and that prayer gave words to many of my feelings: bad things may happen but God gave us the tools to handle them -- if we quiet our minds to listen and find the path offered to us.

May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that
has been given to you....
May you be content knowing you are a child of God....
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

I cannot tell you how many times the words and feelings in St. Theresa's prayer calmed me!

The hardest lesson of all -- for me -- has been learning to accept a different Life and capabilities than what I anticipated, and to accept that I wouldn't, couldn't and won't know all the answers I've sought.  The phrase ". . .allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love" is very powerful because it reassures that we still CAN sing and dance in the face of challenges. 

So, I offer up a prayer -- a song of thanksgiving -- for the person who sent me St. Theresa's prayer, and for Cindy for reminding me of the power of reaching out and doing the "little things" that remind us we are all connected and not alone.  And, that is the power in each of us.

May today be your day to discover "the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love."


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do we ‘Get Luck” or Give Luck?”

I found a lucky penny yesterday. 

It was all crusty with mud, rough around the edges, but it was there, straight ahead of my foot, waiting for me to pick it up. 

Peering at the image of ol’ Mr. Lincoln, trying to discern the year imprinted on my lucky penny, I felt lucky – lucky because:
  • I am physically able to bend down and pick up a penny (ah, the simple things)
  • I could then smile up at the sky and see the wild blue yonder with my eyes
  • With a loving family and modern medicine, I am able to feel joy, happiness and love
  • And, I was one cent ‘richer’ than before!
Yet, I was only partially lucky because -- in order to be truly lucky -- I must give away my lucky penny to someone else.  If I kept it, my luck would be unfulfilled; by giving it away to someone else, both of us are lucky.

The other person might feel lucky because someone (me) recognized them as a human being, and gave them a smile and a surprise.  And, perhaps they might then look up at the blue-blue sky and see the joy in their life, or feel loved even if for just a moment.  They might also feel a bit perplexed by the ‘random act’ aspect of it all, too!

I was in Walmart one time when I found a lucky penny in the check-out line.  I gave it to a boy about four years old in front of me, saying, “Here’s a lucky penny I found.”  His eyes got big and round, and he grinned and reached out his hand.  As I gave it to him, I said, “But, if you want to be really, really lucky, give it away to someone else.”  Total bewilderment on his chubby lil’ face, appealing eyes looked to his mom for translation.  So, I asked if he’d felt happy when I gave it to him; he said Yes.  I asked him if he’d like for someone he knew to feel lucky, too.  He said Yes, the grin returning to his expression at the prospect.  His mom suggested he give it to his cousin and he chattered about giving it to her and that it would make her feel happy.  I don’t know, of course, whether he did so, but I felt lucky at the encounter and enriched by the conversation with the little boy.  Thus, we both felt lucky by the same lucky penny.

Could it be that “luck” isn’t something we get, but rather is something we give away?  If I win the lottery, I might feel lucky, but if the money just sits in the bank, would I still feel luck?  I think I’d feel happier if I gave away my ‘luck’ to a women’s nonprofit, or built a ball field  – and then I’d feel ‘lucky’ and so would the recipients. And, if "luck" is a nonmaterial thing, can't it still be given away energetically, or through prayer or meditation?

I decided not to clean off Mr. Lincoln on my newest lucky penny.  Somehow, the dirt and dings hint at the journeys made by “my” penny – and the journeys yet to come.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Enjoy Your Wine More! -- Wine Glasses 101

Many articles are written about how to choose a wine.  The current guideline from the people who do such things is, thankfully, much more flexible and wine-drinker friendly.  

 As a painter, customers frequently ask me which glass, design, and/or which color would be "best".  In this post, I share some designs along with glass types and shapes as an introduction to future posts about the wonderful myriad of stemware choices.

Red wine, white wine and sherry and port glasses

First, let me explain that designs can be painted on nearly any glass with a smooth surface.  Prices may reflect the material -- crystal or glass-- and quality of the material as well as the painting time involved. 

Happily there are now options for many price ranges, plus non-lead crystal and dishwasher-safe crystal.   

Painting on crystal is like skiing on the lightest powder – a silky, lustrous texture in the hand.  Crystal also yields a slightly different translucency to the paint, allowing more subtlety to the finished result.  There are now so many affordable price options for crystal that it is becoming ever more popular.  Most Etsy sellers are willing to accommodate special requests, so inquire if you have a preference.

However, the paint may not be dishwasher-safe and may flake or fade.  Some glasses or crystal (according to a manufacturer’s rep) expand under extreme heat in a dishwasher; the paint may not expand and may crack.  When shopping for glasses online, read the seller’s satisfaction guarantee and return policy. 

Of course, the design options are limitless, and I really enjoy creating new designs.  Customers frequently request new combinations and designs.  Based on info from my customer and her objective, I usually email swatches of colors and photos of a prototype before beginning to paint.  When finished, I send photos of the completed stemware.  Paint is a wonderful medium to get things just as you want them!
I’m big on multi-tasking and I bet you are, too, so when looking for stemware, imagine it holding a rich chocolate mousse or fresh fruit.  Of course, it works for martinis and margaritas, too!

Next is which style of glass to choose.

Here are several styles of wine glasses, using the same basic design theme, and you can see the thin crystal glasses on the left (with lighter designs) and glass-glasses on the right with thicker stems and rims.  

If you’ve ever wondered why there are different shapes for different wines, below is a basic primer.  Until the mid-50’s, wine glasses had the same general shape.  Beautiful glasses and very elegant!

Vintage Crystal Wine Glass from VintageBiffAnn
However, taste testing in the 1950’s determined that the shape of the glass has enormous impact on how the wine’s bouquet, taste, balance and finish are interpreted by our taste buds.  In fact, I invite you to experiment with the same wine with different glasses -- I guarantee you'll be surprised!

In deciding between crystal and glass, the differences are more than just price, as you’ll see below.
Let’s begin at the top of the glass. 

Crystal vs. Glass
The circumference and shape of the rim determines how the wine is delivered to the tongue.  Some rims deliver the wine to the tip or the center of the tongue, while a rolled (thick) rim typically inhibits the delivery of the wine and the drinker misses out on the full flavors.

The bowl may be round, oval, straight, tulip or other shape – each of which determines how much and how fast the wine is experienced, the aeration and other effects.  A robust red wine tasted from a round-bowl wine glass will taste dramatically different than when tasted from a straight-bowl glass.
3 different shaped wine glasses

The stem may be long, short or nonexistent.   The stem allows the drinker to hold the glass without touching the bowl.  Touching the bowl raises the temperature of the wine; the temperature of the wine is important because low temperatures reduce the intensity, whereas high temperatures promote mainly alcoholic fumes.  

The stem also enhances the overall aesthetics of the glass.  Crystal stems are typically thinner and more elegant than glass stems.  Stemless glasses are fairly popular and provide a modern look although many modern wine glass designs feature stems.


The base or foot obviously holds everything upright.  One way my glasses are distinctive is that I paint a different design on each glass’ base, for distinguishing whose glass is whose.  Frequently, these designs also become a friendly conversation starter.
For more details on selecting the perfect wine glass, 
I find that Riedel has the most information at

One interesting aspect of the shape is that wide, open glasses require us to sip by lowering our head.  On the other hand, a narrow glass forces the head to tilt backwards to drink, and the wine flows because of gravity.  Thus, the wine is delivered and positioned for optimal placement on the different "taste zones" of the palate.

As with choosing wine, there is some flexibility in glass selection.  Nonetheless, using the “wrong” glass obviously affects how we perceive the wine. Perhaps the drinker feels disappointed that the sweet fruit flavors are absent or that the flavor is overwhelmed by tartness.  When this happens, the wine is thought to be the culprit rather than the shape of the glass.
It will take time to recognize that
a glass is not just a glass, 
but an instrument of 
pleasure and enjoyment. -- Riedel

At your next party, you'll be the expert on wine glasses!  Cheers!


Wine Glasses - Black and Silver

Joseph's Coat Glasses

Beverage glasses - Joseph's Coat design

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Keeping the “U” in Customer Service

Actually, it’s not the “U,” it’s the “You.” 

Below, I’ll tell you why it’s extra-important to stress your focus on your customers, and how to modify your writing style to do so.  Future posts will share writing tips so you can anticipate and address some common customer service issues, allow you to remain firm in your policies – and maintain your customer-centered style.

Selling online presents challenges that brick-and-mortar stores don’t face.   For example, our customers can’t touch or closely examine our wares, or return an item on their way to the grocery store, or rely on our community presence for assurance of our integrity. 

We also don’t have the luxury of a live conversation to clarify our return policy or clothing sizes.  Instead, we must provide detailed information, anticipate as many customer questions and issues possible, and lay out our policies concisely and accurately, all the while establishing our friendliness and credibility using the written word.

Part of the success in conquering these challenges lies (1) in establishing the right tone, (2) informing clearly and concisely, and (3) communicating directly without sounding unfriendly or difficult to buy from.

In this post, let’s tackle the first item -- setting up the right tone.  This would be like opening wide the door in your B&M boutique with a big smile, and drawing in your customer with a friendly welcome.  She is confident that you are devoting your attention to her desires and needs.  You communicate parameters about sizes and pricing while maintaining relaxed eye contact with her, and she stays engaged to listen to what you are saying.

Similarly, in your online shop, when you write with a “you”-centered style, you convey information and assure her that you care about her satisfaction – and keep her engaged by focusing your writing on her. 

The most effective way to do so is to put the U back in "customer."  Instead of using the pronoun “I” several times in your sections, use “you”.  The effect is to move the emphasis to your customer – who wants to feel important to you, the seller.

Suppose I write “I want all happy customers,” who is the person emphasized:  me or the customer?  To me, this appears to say that I and my ‘wants’ are more important than the customer.  However, if I write, “Your delight and satisfaction in your purchase are my main concern,” how does that change the tone of the conversation?

Here’s another example:
. . . I love to sew and use lots of color.  I make a wide variety of things.  I like to make things that I think people will want to buy because my friends told me I should sell my items.. . .

In the example above, “I” or “my” is used 7 times:  who is the emphasis on?  Also, would you say seven I’s verbally to engage a customer entering your B&M boutique?

Compare it to this:
 . . . You’ll see many colorful handmade items here at HandmadeColors, which I create with your tastes and style in mind. . . .”

In the example above, “you” is used at the beginning to draw in the customer and to involve her in your “conversation.”

These are obviously fictitious examples and everyone’s situation and specific style are unique.  Yet, I do believe your sales will improve by setting the tone – the voice -- for ensuring a welcoming and engaging visit for your customer. I invite you to try it; please let me know how it goes!

If you want your customer to know she is important to you,
convey it to her by putting the U” back in customer service!
You will be glad you did!

In a future post, I’ll discuss how you can tackle the second step – informing clearly and concisely – to make your shop customer-centered and effective. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

I guess that God had something He wants me to think about today.

It all started with Donna and John's Peace Dove, from Laughing Fridge (they make very cool  'frig magnets).

I have one on  my 'frig.  Each time I pass the 'frig, I think about the Peace Dove and the legend behind it. But, it was still on my mind today as I started making a collection of things I love on Etsy, and the Peace Dove was the first item I chose.

Then the rest of the collection came behind it, echoing the feeling from the Peace Dove.

Shawna Erback's paintings really capture hopefulness and a sense of wonder.

I have enjoyed several epiphanies this week, one of which is that I can wear perfume again!  Ever since I was brain-dented in 2000, I haven't been able to wear perfume.  But, I discovered this week that now I can -- YAY -- as well as how much I missed it.  It's a little thing, perhaps, but I think little joys are hints of things for us to notice.

And, would that I always take the time to celebrate those joys.

My closing thought today is this:
In all that you do and in all that you aspire, do it with Grace and Peace.

Blessings to you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do You Know What Works?

What works, works!

Remember the adage, “Do it right the first time”?  I do, too.
But, doing something ‘right’ isn’t always the most effective way because the best and most effective way may be, simply, what works.  The “right” way may be more theoretical, expensive, complicated or take longer – and by the time you get done with all that, you’ve lost sight of what you wanted to accomplish in the first place.

In other words, what works, works!

An example of how I used this approach to help my Etsy shop is photos:  having the best possible photos for Hand Painted Petals is important to me.  And, taking terrific photos means planning, right?  And, so if you’re like me, you plan for a marathon session where the phone doesn’t ring, you don’t have a headache and, mostly, you’ve memorized hundreds of ideas for “taking great photos.”  Meanwhile, items pile up while awaiting great photos, not producing sales or income and mocking you at every sheepish glance.  When the pile begins to take over the living room, though, it’s time to reassess.

Instead of trying to take the very best photos known to humankind, what if you tried to take the best photos you can at this time, with the knowledge and materials you have and in a reasonable amount of time?  You can always go back and improve or correct them, correct? 

I believe that rethinking my “wait for the best” approach helped reduce my reluctance to take photos.  Ironically, giving myself permission to not produce the perfect photo has resulted in better photos because I’m more relaxed about the process.  I can better use the ideas I receive from my Etsy teams and from Handmadeology, Etsy and other sites when I’m not programmed for failure to produce the “right” photo.

Selling online is certainly a challenge.  We must indulge our creative side, yet manage our time vigilantly.  My frustration level really peaks (my husband might say “uncorked” is more accurate) when I have to redo something:  it’s moving my business backward! 

I find my frustration level is related to my procrastination level:  the longer I put things off while “planning” and “researching”, the more frustrated I get by not making forward progress in my shop.  When I’m frustrated, I can’t be creative and somehow the paintbrushes know when I’m frustrated.  Not that I’m paranoid, but they conspire against me.
It really makes more sense to focus on forward progress – doing what works.

Now, I could continue with additional examples and cite outside sources to create an impressive blog post.  Or, I could simply post as-is because . . . this simpler post will also work to get my point across to you.  And, you’ll be able to get back to your work, hopefully less frustrated and more fired up to
Do what works.

Yours in creating effectively,