Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Life in a Nutshell: Weekend Getaway!

This past weekend, we packed up the fam and went "up north" in Michigan. That means going from a place where there are 4 inches of snow to a place with about 8 inches, and more on the way. A frozen lake, snowy sunrises and a lot of opportunities for windburn. Needless to say I had a wonderful time and returned home rejuvenated and refreshed. Here are some of my favorite snap shots (all rights reserved, of course).

Have I mentioned that I love birch trees? Well, I do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Etsy Tutorial: A Beginner's Guide to Lets Ets & Google Base

*Update 3/18/10... I'm leaving this information here as a general Google Base reference, but as far as Etsy sellers are concerned, Etsy has begun working with Google directly via Google Marketplace. You may read the Storque article here for more information on this streamlined syndication process. Enjoy!!*

Google Base is a wonderful way to get your Etsy shop listings to come up in Google searches. I do not think I need to belabor the fact that this is a cheap, easy and, in my experience, a very effective tool to increase your exposure and make sales.

Supposing you are starting from scratch, here are the basic steps you will need to complete to make a Google Base account, create an .xml file of your Etsy listings, and upload that file to Google Base. You are now also able to have automatic updates scheduled so you will never need to upload again! What a world we live in :)

Create an .xml file of your Etsy listings

  1. Go to http://letsets.com/

  2. In the box for Google Base formatter, type in the one word version of your Etsy shop's name (for me "thejunebride") and select the appropriate box for whether you sell new, used or both, and click "fetch my items".

  3. A big list will come up with up to the 100 most recent of your Etsy shop listings, including pictures. Scroll down to “Step 2” and click the button “download bulk file”.

  4. In the window that comes up, click the “save” button.

  5. When the “save as” window pops up, name the file “letsetsMM.DD.YY” (do not use spaces!) so you can keep track easily of the last time you downloaded the bulk file. Save the file (as type .xml) to your desktop so you can find it easily (later, make a file folder called “letsets.googlebase” to keep all of these files so future downloads can be saved directly into that file).

Open a Google Base Account

  1. Go to http://base.google.com/base/

  2. Create an account if you do not already have one, or sign in if you do.

Upload your .xml file to Google Base

  1. Still in Google Base, go to the "My Items" tab.

  2. Click "Data Feeds"

  3. Click "New Data Feed"

  4. You will now be required to register your data feed. Select "United States" as your target country (even if you live outside of the US). Select "products" as your item type. The data feed type option will come up already set as googlebase... leave it like that.

  5. For the data feed filename, write the name of the bulk download .xml file as you named it ("letsetsMM.DD.YY.xml")

  6. Click "register data feed". You will now see the data feed in the data feeds tab.

  7. Next to the data feed you just registered, click "upload file".

  8. In the box that pops up, browse for the bulk upload file (on your desktop, remember?) and click "upload and process this file".

  9. That data feed will now have a status of "processing" and, when it's done, will show up as "success" to indicate that your items are now showing up in Google searches.

  10. You can now consider yourself done, if you wish, so long as you make a new data feed and upload it within the next 30 days before the old one expires. Alternatively, you can continue on to set up an RSS feed so you never need to upload again!

Setting up an RSS feed from your Etsy shop to Google Base

  1. Go to your public Etsy shop and copy the url (for me it is http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5577306).

  2. In Google Base, click the "settings" tab.

  3. Paste the url in the website box. It must be this url not the version that includes your shop name (for me, not http://www.thejunebride.etsy.com/).

  4. Click "save changes" at the bottom.

  5. Go to the "My Items" tab and click "data feeds". Click "edit" next to your new data feed.

  6. In the page that comes up here, change the "encoding" box to "UTF-8" and click "save changes".

  7. Now, go back to your public Etsy shop and find the blue link for "RSS to shop feed" - it should be on the right, the bottom-most option. Right-click and select whichever option you have to "Copy link address" or similar sounding option.

  8. Back in Google Base, in the "My Items" tab under the "data feeds" option, find your new data feed and click the "create" option next to "schedule".

  9. In the window that pops up, select your desired update frequency in the "upload" box (I chose "daily" since I renew, list and sell daily) then paste the link you copied into the "url of file" box (for me, it was http://www.etsy.com/rss_shop.php?user_id=5577306). Click "update schedule".

  10. Tada! All done! Go ahead and pat yourself on the back and wait for the sales to roll in :)

Some other great tutorials can be found here and here.

Now, go get 'em, Tiger!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

From the Kitchen: Conversation Heart Sugar Cookies

Oooh la la! True love! I love my husband the mostest, but these cookies are so fun and they, too, had me at hello. I make these primarily for Christmas, but in recent years it's been fun to make them for more occasions as well. Like Valentine's Day!

Traditional Sugar Cookies

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets, if necessary. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4” thickness. Cut into desired shapes with floured cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 1/2” apart onto cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes (I like these soft, so I only bake them for 6 minutes). Remove cookies from baking sheets to cool on wire racks. Cool completely before icing.

I used Martha's recipe for Royal Icing. Ice cooled cookies and decorate if desired. Place on waxed paper until icing is fully set. Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Life in a Nutshell: What's Your Temperament?

I've been reading a lot lately about temperaments. If you have never learned about temperaments and, more specifically, your own temperament, I assure you it is a fascinating topic. There are so many quizzes available now in every form imaginable that use some aspect of your temperament to label you as one thing or another... my late favorite is a recent Facebook app asking the ever important question, "Which Disney princess are you?" But don't think this is anything new... the ancient Greek concept of the 4 humours each had a corresponding temperament, and that is the basis of the classical concept.

So what is a temperament? Wikipedia describes temperament as the genetic aspect of one's personality. It's the innate stuff that makes you so precisely you. One basic example of temperament is a person's tendency to be an introvert or an extrovert. It is your inherent, natural tendency present through your whole life to act in one way or another when presented with any given situation.

In trying to conceptualize temperaments, it's useful to think about what isn't a temperament. Your temperament isn't the result of being over- or under-mothered as a child. It's not related to birth order, whether or not you were home schooled, or anything else related to your personal life experiences. Rather, life experience and your temperament work together to form your present personality.

There are other ways to categorize temperaments, but the most straightforward method uses the four classical temperaments: choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic. Each one has it's own set of strengths and weaknesses, and having one temperament rather than another doesn't make you good or bad, it just explains why you may act or feel the way you do. Here's a very basic summary of each:

This temperament describes the classic "Type A" person. Extroverted, energetic, motivated and a leader by anyone's standard. These are people that get things done. On the flip side, they tend to place ideals and goals over personal relationships, causing them to be considered cruel or cold-hearted, and can be bad tempered and be moved to anger quickly.

Introverted but strong-willed, the melancholic is also a doer but can become obsessed with the darker aspects of human nature and the world, and thus can be predisposed to depression. They can be incredibly thoughtful and compassionate, but at the same time are classic perfectionists and tend to be overly critical of their work and very particular about their desires.

You could describe a sanguine as "the life of the party", spontaneous, charismatic and light-hearted. They can be emotional and flighty. They are very extroverted and social, tend to be fashion-conscious and will often follow the crowd. They can be easily distracted, off task, arrogant and impulsive. A fair-weather friend, scatterbrained and shallow.

Introverted yet diplomatic. Phlegmatics tend to be calm, peacemakers, rational and reliable. They are self content and sometimes their tendency to submit their own preferences to make everyone happy leave others thinking that they do not have opinions. Sometimes their contentedness can tend toward laziness and lack of productivity if left unchecked.

Since no one lives in a bubble... we all have life experiences... everyone's personality is the altered form of a temperament. A phlegmatic can overcome his or her introvertedness and lead to great aplomb. A sanguine doesn't have to be completely hedonistic and can be very principled with a properly formed conscience. A choleric can overcome his or her idealism and be more feeling while a melancholic can learn to temper the introspective tendency and be decisive.

The very best personality test I've found that uses the classic temperaments is a 107-question online test from 4Marks. You can find it here. 4Marks is a Catholic site but the test is very useful even if you are not Catholic. When you've taken the test, it gives you your primary and secondary temperament and describes each in detail. Another basic test is from Neoxenos, here. It is simply a calculator so you'll need to look elsewhere for more detailed information.

But temperament isn't just a cold hard fact of life.... it's really important! It can help you become a better person. Knowing your weaknesses can help you learn to overcome them. You can find out what motivates you and, just as importantly, what motivates others. Once you figure out the basics of the temperaments, you can size up almost anyone and use that knowledge to motivate them. This is so key in a work situation... I have a friend with a relative who keeps a cheat sheet of behaviors typical of each temperament in his desk so he can determine how best to keep his employees happy and productive. As a parent, knowing what your child's natural tendencies will be to any given situation can help you have a happier home. This is genius!

Of course, I am a sanguine (and incidentally Pocahontas, who wasn't really a princess) and my natural tendency is to get people excited about things that interest me, like temperaments, for example (Is it working?). I am artistic and like to have a variety of projects to work on rather than the same thing every day. My husband is even more sanguine than I am, and this combination explains why our house isn't super tidy but we don't care and why we throw spontaneous parties. We have trouble leaving social events even because we are having so much fun talking with friends. My oldest child is a choleric and must have her own way, and knowing this has helped us find ways to avoid the tantrums that happen when she doesn't get her own way or when plans change quickly. This is such invaluable information for getting along in the world... and it's free and easy if you know how to interpret it.

I just can't say enough about how absolutely intriguing this topic is... it applies to everyone, everywhere and at all stages of life. It's rare to find so universal a concept. For more detailed descriptions of each of the temperaments, there are many resources out there with great information, including the acclaimed book "The Temperament God Gave You" by Art and Laraine Bennett.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TheJuneBride News: Leather Flower Brooches

If you've ventured into my Etsy shop, you will have noticed a slew of wool flower brooches. They are fun to make and have been flying out of the shop. Along those lines, I recently came into possession of some high-grade upholstery leather in red and black, and a few scraps of other colors. I figured that might make a nice brooch as well, so I got to work a few varieties. Here are some results:

While I'll readily admit to preferring wool in the form of felted sweaters for its ease of use, these are not too shabby...

Monday, February 2, 2009

From the Kitchen: Mexican Chicken Chowder

This is a recipe I found several years ago while searching for something along the lines of tortilla soup. I have since made my own changes, and it gets rave reviews every time. And did I mention it's completely easy? Mexican Chicken Chowder is a great soup for a brisk day when you haven't had any time to plan ahead. The leftovers (if you're lucky enough to have any!) are just as delicious the next day. Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Chowder
(4 main dish servings)

2-1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups frozen corn
10-3/4-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
4-ounce can diced green chili peppers
2 tbsp chopped pimiento (optional)
1/2 of a 1-1/4-ounce package taco seasoning mix (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cups chicken stock (or broth from bullion)
1 cup sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese (2 ounces
Fritos or other bite-size corn chips

In large saucepan, combine chicken, corn, soup, chili peppers, pimiento, chicken stock, and taco seasoning mix. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir 1 cup of the hot mixture into the sour cream. Return the mixture to the saucepan; heat through. Sprinkle each serving with cheese. Serve topped with chips.