makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Sarah, Creator of Smelly Faces – Oil Diffusing Soft Toys for Children

I’m so excited to introduce my amazing readers to Sarah Bodnar, creator of Smelly Faces! Smelly Faces are essential oil diffusing soft toys for children. Their huggable shape and oil infused brains that you put essential oils on for aromatherapy can be amazing tools to help children battling anxiety. A few drops of calming blends of oil and a huge hug from their soft friend can help children relax!

Hi, Sarah! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello!!! My name is Sarah and I live in upstate New York with my husband and two small kiddos. I married my husband 6 years ago right after he got home from Afghanistan at 21 years old. Since then we have lived in six different places, hoping we stay put for a while now though!

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Can you tell me a bit about how Smelly Faces work?
Smelly Faces are stuffed animal essential oil diffusers! All you have to do is place 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool “brain” and plop it back in the pocket located at the top of the head. Snuggle and Sniff!
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How did you come up with the idea for Smelly Faces? 

After college I frankly was quite lost. Moving from place to place and therefore hopping from job to job I found myself struggling very deeply with anxiety and depression. One day after helping my aunt with photography for her book, I felt that creative spark again for a for a flickering instant. That night the name “Smelly Faces” popped in my head along with the idea for the potato shaped creatures. I had decided to take this randomness for what it was and move forward with it, setting all fears/emotions aside. The next morning, after messing around on a sewing machine, the original Smelly Face was born!

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Do you illustrate all of your designs & branding yourself?
I do!! This is honestly one of my favorite parts. I have a background in digital media arts: animation so being able to draw, design, and brand everything myself gets me so pumped! I remember it took me a while to convince myself I was “fancy” enough to actually be a company. Branding and logos helped me a lot in this. It was a silly way to trick myself and feel “legit” but it worked! Cause if I have a mug with my company logo on it then it’s the real deal right?
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You were into essential oils before it was trendy – tell me how you discovered them and decided you wanted to share your love of holistic health with others through Smelly Faces.
My mom got me into them! Five years ago, were they trendy then?  I think that aromatherapy can be so great for everyone. Just like a smell can bring you back to a favorite childhood memory, more vivid than you thought possible, I think the smell of essential oils can help provide a similar affect.
 

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Which of your Smelly Faces is your top seller?
Probably the Unicorn!!!
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You recently published a children’s book that is super cute! That is such a different creative process from sewing – tell us what inspired you to write & illustrate a book
Oh dang, writing and illustrating children’s books is my passion. I love everything about it. Creating a new world, exploring characters and building a story line makes me geek out hardcore. I could write a whole essay answering this question, but I shall refrain. If anyone is interested in the importance and impact that stories have on us read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Jospeh Campbell. It dives deep into how stories are routed in all of us as humans. This topic sparks all sorts of passion in me.
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How do you balance your busy shop with motherhood?
I value efficiency pretty highly. So when I do get time in my office I won’t spend too much time on any one thing. If there are too many hiccups I usually will just take that for what it is and move along. My husband works second shift so he usually plays with the kiddos for a couple hours in the early afternoon before leaving for work. This gives me time to sew. When I’m hanging with my babies I’ll often plot and plan in a notebook. I’ll also often get them involved in the process! Meaning, as I stuff a Smelly Face, they throw fluff at each other and draw on the cardboard box. Then after I put the kids down at night, I’m right back working again.
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What are your favorite ways to unwind from the handmade hustle?
My favorite way to unwind is to watch an incredibly ridiculous movie that I’ve seen about 3,847,284 times. Dumb and Dumber & Billy Madison are both some of my classic go-tos but there are many on the list. Also, cranking Led Zepplin or Michael Bolton (the cheesier the better) usually does the trick.
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What is your top advice for moms who want to begin to use essential oils for aromatherapy with their children?
That it is awesome! I’d say to do lots of research and pick which oils you personally as a parent feel comfortable with. Find a community of people you feel happy with to help you get educated on the subject!

Be sure to check out Smelly Faces online, and say hi on Facebook or Instagram!

life, Parenting

Ending Food Poverty – The Lu & Ed Lunch Program

$1 from every Monster sold through luanded.com will go to end food poverty in American schools.

Lunch shaming is an embarrassing epidemic for children in America. When children have insufficient funds on their lunch accounts, most schools have policies where the child’s hot lunch is taken away and substituted with a brown bag lunch consisting of a cold sandwich and piece of fruit – or in some cases, they are forced to watch staff discard their tray of food into the trash, and are left with nothing at all to eat for lunch, a cruel form of punishment for a problem that they can’t control. You can read more about the sad epidemic of food poverty in American schools here.

I am passionate about creating change with this little monster making business of mine. I already make a monumental environmental impact by using only textile discards, which diverts tens of thousands of pounds of textiles from landfills annually, but I want to use Lu & Ed to directly create positive change in children’s lives as well. I’ve been working out the kinks for the Lu & Ed Lunch Program since January, and I’m so excited to launch it!

All through September, $1 from every monster adopted through my shop will be donated to pay outstanding lunch debts & load funds onto lunch accounts at *Riverbend Elementary in Clyde, NC, a school in a region with an incredibly high level of food poverty.

*My original choice to donate to received a grant and is able to offer free lunches to students for the 18-19 school year, yay! With the help of the staff, I selected Riverbend Elementary, a school where over 50% of students are on food assistance.

Beginning in September, I will take also be taking submissions for the next school to donate to in my Facebook group

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Members can submit their child(ren)’s school or a school in their community through the 7th of each month, then I’ll create a poll for members to vote for the next school to receive donations. Members can add family or friends to the group to use their voices to vote for their local school.

The same school won’t be chosen twice in one academic year, allowing for a total of twelve schools that will receive donations from the Lu & Ed Lunch Program to pay off student lunch debt & load funds onto low income students lunch accounts, and to help fund summer lunch programs for communities where children face hunger at alarming rates.

How you can help:

Spread the word about the Lu & Ed Lunch Program – share this blog post with your friends

Join my VIP group & nominate your local school

Add your friends and family to the VIP group to increase the impact we can make together

Donate directly to your local public schools

makers

Meet the Maker: Candy of Bones and Guts

Today, we’re getting to know the creative maker and new mama behind the gothic inspired shop Bones and Guts! So excited to introduce all of you to Candy & her vibrant shop!

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First off, let’s get to know you a little! Tell us a bit about YOU!

I am still that goth girl sporting black lipstick, and having a love for things that people might find “too dark” or a bit strange. Don’t let my exterior fool you, though! I am a huge hippie at heart, and also a pretty big weirdo (okay, a dork!). Life is an adventure for me, and I try to make the most of it at all times. However, a big part of me that I have worked in my 28 years to overcome is my anxiety disorder and depression. I can honestly say, I am very proud of how hard I have worked to be fully functioning and able to pull myself out of dark times. When I was a child, I had panic attacks quite regularly, and now I still have them, but quite random and far in between. If you’re reading this and struggle with mental illness, I hope you find what works for you, and don’t let it define you.

When I was 22 I met the man of my dreams who happened to be my new next door neighbor. At that time I was in college working on my second degree in Entrepreneurship (my first degree was in Merchandised Project Development from FIDM), and I was a bit lost with where my life would go. My now husband became my best friend instantly, and we were married two years later.

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Our wedding was a fairy tale literally! I had rainbow hair and fairy wings! It was a wonderful day, and two years after that we had a baby boy. I absolutely love being a mother, and can’t imagine my life without him. It is wonderful seeing him grow and seeing my husband become a wonderful father. I am definitely not your typical mom. Being naturally weird has its benefits to parenting. For one, children do some strange things, and I am all for encouraging them or participating. With my tattoos, and when my hair is dyed, I guess I don’t fit the mold of what a mother is expected to look like, or at least what it used to look like.

Where are you located?

I have always lived in Southern California until this year – I will be an Oregonian! The hubby and I will be packing up our three dogs (our first children!), and our son to a new home!

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How long have you been painting? How long have you sold your painted creations?

I have been painting for as long as I can remember. Around six years ago, I wanted to start selling my art, and see if anyone would buy it. I used to only paint on canvas then, and still do occasionally. I wouldn’t say that right away it was a business. it definitely took some time for me to decide that I wanted it to be a serious venture. My love for art led me to want to build my business around what I could create and it is a full-time business (besides my other full-time career as a mother). It has been my dream come true to be able to work from home on what I love and see other people ecstatic with what I make.

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What inspires your art?

My aesthetic is quite eclectic, so it’s no surprise that my inspirations are surrounded by many different things. My fondness for nature is more than just a passing appreciation, and by the many art pieces I have created it is pretty apparent. I sort of stem the majority of inspiration around it and put my own perspective on it. For instance, I love mythical creatures and adding whimsical nature elements into it. Some other things that inspire me include gothic art and literature, bohemian styles, other cultures, and many different works of literature.

 
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Your shop was open before you became a mother. Did becoming a mother affect how you ran your business, or alter your art style in any way?
Becoming a mother has certainly changed a lot. My first concern was for his safety, and since my shop made a lot of beaded jewelry that I made myself, I decided to stop making necklaces with them. It is much simpler now but works out because the main focus is more on the painting. Selling my art was considered to be my full-time gig, and now as a mother of a one-year-old, I definitely feel like I am a mother first. Don’t get me wrong I am never late on orders or responding to customers, but he needs me more. He does occasionally try to help me paint, and I hand him a paintbrush to play with. I’m still trying to find the work-life balance everyone keeps talking about, and I’m sure it will come soon where I have more of a harmonious flow, but for now, I am okay with it being a bit muddled.
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Who has been your biggest cheerleader since embarking on your creative journey?

My husband has always been my biggest cheerleader. He pushed me to start the business, and that he would be there with me to help. He has stood by his promise, and always encourages me to push more. He is an amazing man and best friend.

 
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What has been the most difficult hurdle you faced since launching your small business?
If you have ever run a business, you know how many ups and downs it can have. It can be quite heartbreaking at times because you put so much effort, late nights, and being all consumed in it, and there is no guarantee that it will be enough. My main hurdles in trying to grow my business have definitely revolved around getting my business out there to the right customers. As I spoke of before, my anxiety can be a real b*tch (hope that’s okay for me to say). Sometimes it seems like a business now is a popularity contest, and if you don’t have plenty of friends who will share or comment on your products all you get is crickets. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable with what I’ve created and pushed it in other people’s face that they need it. I know it is something I will always be working on, or at least networking to get support from fellow artists.
 
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What does success mean for you?

Success to me is really two concepts. Stability, and passion. If I can pay my bills, and have enough to still travel, or have some fun with my family that is amazing! Now if I can keep my passion for it and have that stability, that is success to me.

 
You have a really interesting shop name, tell me more about it!
A lot of people ask me about my shop name. Since I was a kid I always knew I wanted to run a business, but not until high school did I think of the name. Bones & Guts comes from a phrase I would say to people I loved. I would say, “I love your bones and guts.” See, it’s not that scary, right? I wanted to use it as a shop name since a business is a labor of love, and a way to tell my customers and supporters the love I have for them for helping me make my dreams come true.
 
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While we’re talking about names, how did you choose your child’s name?
My son is a little over a year and is the perfect unicorn, faery Prince, and sometimes a monster that anyone could have hoped for. My husband and I went to Ireland back in 2016. It was an amazing trip, and when we returned I realized that the trip was so much fun that I came back pregnant. Our son’s name is inspired by Irish names and my love for rain, which is why we named him Rainn.
 
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What kind of music do you listen to?
I am really into metal, alternative rock, punk, folk music, some dubstep, and random songs in other genres as well. Some of my favorite bands are Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu, Awolnation, 21 Pilots, Meg Myers, and Mumford and Sons. I’m sure I have a ton more that at this moment I can’t think of.
 
What are your favorite ways to unwind & keep your identity as a mother?

Let’s be honest being a parent, a wife, and a business owner can sometimes feel overwhelming. I’m glad I have several hobbies. Some I like to share with others, and some I need some me time for. If you can imagine the one thing that makes you want to do a happy dance when you get to do it, well, reading books would be mine. Reading is a huge passion of mine, and writing is as well. I suppose my love for reading caused me to want to write at an early age. I started writing poetry first, and now I hope to have a second career of being an author one day. I have self published one book, but I hope to get published by a company in the future. I also love nature, and hiking to be close to it! It calms my very being and is one reason why we are leaving California. I need trees around me and not just palm trees! Of course, art, more specifically painting, is a love of mine. It’s more than a hobby for me especially now that my business is just that. My love for art led me to want to build my business around what I could create and it is a full-time business (besides my other full-time career as a mother). It has been my dream come true to be able to work from home on what I love and see other people ecstatic with what I make.

Be sure to check out Candy’s store Bones and Guts, and give her a follow on Facebook & Instagram!

 

Business, marketing

Community over Competition – Low Cost, Effective Marketing for Makers – Lu & Ed Swag Bags

If you are interested in applying to be a part of Lu & Ed Swag Bags, hop over here and fill out this short form! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cody@luanded.com.

As an owner of handmade business, I am always looking for creative ways to reward my customers for supporting my dream and allowing me to stay home with my young children. As an advocate for the handmade community, I’m always looking for ways to introduce people to shops I love. So, several years ago, the Lu & Ed Swag Bag program was born! If you have ordered from my shop in the last 6 years or so, you probably received a sweet little swag bag with your order, full of coupons & samples from other small shops, like the ones shown below.

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I’m always looking for new shops to collaborate with, and so I wanted to talk about the program’s benefits, effectiveness & perks of sponsoring the Lu & Ed Swag Bag program.

If you’re just discovering Lu & Ed and aren’t sure about my reputation – hi! My business has been featured in Parents Magazine, on Buzzfeed, in top parenting blogs around the world including Hello Wonderful, Mindful Mavericks, Destination Nursery, Punky Moms  and more! I’ve been making monsters for almost 9 years and have a highly engaged audience that frequently makes purchases from the swag bags!

It sounds a little strange, right? Send me your products to send to my customers? I was worried it might, but I know for a fact putting products right into the hands of your target audience works. Here are a few real life examples:

  • I won a giveaway The Gnarly Whale Shop had 6 years ago, and after trying their lip balm from that giveaway, I became a loyal customer. I exclusively used their vegan lip balms and shampoos for years, thanks to that one sample lip balm!
  • I recently got a swag bag from Mommy Con, which had a sample of a face wash & lotion in it. We now use that brand exclusively for my son, because it is the only face wash that helps with his break outs!
  • I was recently drawn to test a product for Mandelin Naturals. Long story short, I just spent $40 in her shop & my mom now exclusively uses their soap, rollers and lip balms as well.

For further testimony directly regarding working with Lu & Ed, I have heard from people who won prizes in my multi-vendor giveaways I’ve held on my blog over the years who have emailed me to tell me that they purchased from the vendors many times after receiving a prize from them.

A lot of Lu & Ed Swag Bag participants receive multiple sales from the bags + some makers have gotten up to $1000 total combined first wholesale orders with repeat orders from participating in the bags over the years! Most makers participate in 2-5 rounds of the swag bags because the ROI is so high. Yay!

In addition to purchases through the bags, a lot of buyers show off their swag on social media, tagging the sponsors, which in turn offers even more exposure from the bags!

Participating in the swag bags is low cost, direct, effective marketing that isn’t costly and uncertain, like online ads, and has a much higher ROI (return on investment).

How are they so effective? Being a maker with a tiny budget for marketing services myself, I knew from the start that I wanted to make this program truly beneficial to swag bag sponsors as possible, and in doing so, I only accept swag sponsors that I know my customers would adore so that everyone will benefit greatly from it. Our target audiences need to be similar in order for the samples to convert into purchases. I have spent almost a decade getting to know my amazing customers & what they like, so I only accept swag for kids,  parents & women that fall in line with sustainable, alternative brand.

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For my first initial bags, I received items from hair clips made with upcycled fabrics, eco-friendly greeting cards and bookmarks to coupons for 30% off for over ten brands for the trial bags. As the first few swag bags went out, I remember that I was a so nervous – I really wanted my customers to enjoy this extra reward and I hoped that each artist involved would benefit immensely from it. As the first bags arrived to my customers, I received instant feedback – people loved them and adored the products from the sponsors! Armed with newly inflated confidence, I set about collecting applications for round two of the swag bags – and I have now sent out swag bags with samples and coupons from over 250 different makers!

I *wish* I could do the service for free but the bags add about a half pound to every order, which greatly increases shipping costs, so I charge $5 per 25 items (or $5 per 50 art prints, as they are much lighter) though I do not make money & still lose quite a bit of profit in shipping fees, assembling the bags & in time spent communicating with sponsors, promoting the makers on social media, etc. but it is a labor of love and I adore using my established small business to help other makers grow their business!

As I have developed and refined this program, I have learned a lot about the handmade community and it’s unique needs – especially that it can be really difficult for niche shops to find effective ways to get their products in front of new consumers, and I want to bridge that gap. I want to help make it easier for like-minded businesses to be discovered and loved the way they should be for their unique offerings! I am excited to see where this swag bag program goes and how people benefit from it!

If you are interested in applying to be a part of Lu & Ed Swag Bags, hop over here and fill out this short form! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cody@luanded.com.

Transformation Tuesday

Transformation Tuesday: Pajama Top into Toy Storage!

I always think it is fun to showcase what Mon-stors Toy Storage Bags & my monster toys are made from! This week, I’m throwing back to a Mon-stor I made in January from this fun blue on blue zebra stripe pajama top I rescued from the salvage center.

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It was discarded for some fraying hems, I think, but was in great condition! I cut the sleeves and hems off, and cut it open at all the seams, to turn that discarded top into this fun Small Mon-stor Toy Storage Bag!

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All those board books in the floor? They fit neatly inside to tame the never ending slippery sea of baby books around the house – plus, toddlers love to “feed” their Mon-stor their books and take them back out, making reading time even more fun!

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This Mon-stor is currently available for adoption in my shop, along with several other Small Mon-stor Toy Storage Bags!

Tell me: what would your kids feed to their Mon-stors? Books, blocks, toys, dress up clothes?

 

makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Mindy of Milkweed Baby – Creator of the cutest high fashion baby shoes & teething accessories!

As a mother to a preteen AND a baby, I can honestly say it is super exciting to see how much the children’s fashion industry has evolved since my son was a baby/toddler! There is still a huge fast fashion market, but you can also build a lasting wardrobe for your child that is fun, fashionable & ethical through independent designers, makers & creatives! Today, I am so excited to introduce Mindy of Milkweed Baby & share her shop (plus a sweet discount code!) with you! She makes the most adorable, high quality and durable baby shoes I have encountered – Milkweed Baby are the only baby shoes we have ever bought for Zoey Rose, and the only ones Zoey will actually keep on her tootsies! Mindy is mama maker driven by quality & great design, and below, you can get to know her & see a sampling of her work!
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Tell us about yourself:
Born & raised KC… and still here. But I think it’s great here! The only thing that would get me to move is a beach on the west coast! I had planned to be a golfer, I played in high school until an injury stopped all that. So instead of a golf scholarship I went to art school. I majored in painting at KU and dropped out with 3 semesters left because I was afraid of a “do you want fries with that?” degree. I worked a variety of jobs after that. The last was 9 years as a marketing coordinator for a seminar company. While working there I started my first business, by Mindy. I was laid off while on maternity leave 2 years ago and it was during that time that Milkweed Baby was born.
 
When did you first find your love of creating?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love creating.
 
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Have you always been a textile sewist?
NOPE! I learned to sew when I was 27. I wanted to make a gift for each of my bridesmaids, so my mom helped me sew them each a bag. And that was that! I was hooked!!!
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When did you begin to create baby products/How did this become your central
focus?
I started making baby shoes in 2010. I’d been making a variety of things, coffee cup sleeves, totes, bow ties, knit ties, clutches, aprons and so on. Nothing felt right.
I was at a pop up and saw how people couldn’t control themselves with baby items. They are just so cute! So I decided it was the market I wanted to get into.
I did a bunch of research and found the soft soled shoes that I thought looked cool were really hard to find. So that’s what I was going to make. And through a bunch of trial and error, I worked it out.
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What sets your baby shoes apart from the rest?
1. My style (I don’t do ugly). 2. My quality (read attention to detail & perfectionist nature).
 
The baby & children’s market is heavily saturated and highly competitive –
what is your advice for makers in this industry to help them stand out &
grow their client base? Find your style identity and stay true to it. It’s really easy to pander to the audience, but it’s not satisfying. “YOU DO YOU”. Get your product in front of as many people as you can. If you are passionate and make a good quality product, people will buy.
 
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How did having your first baby impact running your small business?
This is complicated. Having my first baby almost killed my business and made my business my full time gig. I basically took a year off when I had my daughter, and during this time a local gal hard core ripped off my designs, undercut my price by a mile (she uses lesser quality materials) and moved in on all the local shows. Also during this time, I was laid off from my full time job of 9 years… so this became my full time job. I have to say, I thought it would be easy to work and take care of a kid! HA!!! Only someone without a kid would make that assumption!
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What can makers & small business owners expecting a baby do to prepare
their business – and themselves! – for such a big change?
You know, so much depends on what kind of kid you have. Mine rolled over at 6 days old, so she could never be left alone. My best advice is to prepare your finances to have some down time. Amp up as much stock as you can before baby comes so you can still keep up with shows and online without needing to make much (prevent people from moving in on your “turf”).
Expect the unexpected.
 
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What is your favorite method of self-care as a mama & a maker?  
Walks, Sleep, Wine, meal planning (it’s the only way we eat healthy), and every 3 weeks I get my eyebrows waxed
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Do you bring your baby to events you vend at? If so, how do you balance motherhood & face-to-face business transactions with customers?
Mostly we have my mother-in-law watch my daughter while my husband & I run my booth at shows. However, we are about to do 2 big ones where childcare is not going to be an option. So we will see. I think the plan is to get a cheap tablet and load Daniel Tiger on it. And coloring books and crayons. Probably, my husband and I will take turns chasing after my daughter and making sure she doesn’t break any ceramics or topple any displays. And my husband will have to leave me for a couple hours each day to handle her naps.
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Mindy’s daughter rocking some Milkweed Baby shoes!
How many pairs of your handmade baby shoes does your own sweet little baby
have? 
She has 1. I know, I know. Everyone always gasps when I tell them that. Here’s the deal…
I love all of my fabrics, so choosing is impossible. So I just pick 1 or let her pick 1. I make a pair & that’s it. I need to be making these shoes to sell because I need the income.
I recall something about the cobbler’s child has no shoes?
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What is your favorite color?
Green (many shades of green… aqua, seaglass, olive, mint, kelly, emerald… just not hunter)
What is your drink of choice while you sew?
6am-5pm COFFEE
5pm —> WINE (shiraz or rose)
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Television or music while you work?
Music (TV is too distracting and I really need to be looking at the sewing machine)
 
Lastly – Have you ever made yourself an adult size pair of slippers?
No. Maybe next year!

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mindy of Milkweed Baby! Be sure to visit her on Facebook & Instagram, and you can use code LUANDED to save 20% of baby shoes in her online store!

code valid 2/1 through 2/28/18

Eco, Uncategorized

CoffeeSock: it is not as weird as it sounds, and you totally need one

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to go a little more green, use a little less paper, or drink better tasting coffee, you will LOVE this radical invention I am about to introduce you to!

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I ordered a set of CoffeeSock reusable coffee filters about 4 months ago, and I made the switch from paper filters to cloth. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was worried it would make my coffee taste a little funky, but honestly, I have never had coffee brewed at home that tasted so good! Add in the fact using CoffeeSock filters reduces paper consumption & waste, and you can see why any sustainably minded mama who loves coffee needs these in their lives!

This company gets some extra bonus points for being handmade in America – you can “meet” each team member & learn about them on their maker page. You can also take a virtual tour of their maker space. The transparency and personality behind this brand/product is what sold me on testing it out – and what will keep me coming back!

Care for them is super easy – rinse with hot water after each use & hang to dry, and boil once every 6-8 weeks. They last up to a year with proper care. I can honestly say, I doubt I will ever go back to paper filters! A set of two filters is just $13, so they actually save you a bit of money if you drink coffee at home regularly. Paired with their sustainable production and reduction of paper waste, that makes them worth every penny, in my book!

I wasn’t paid for this post, and I bought my CoffeeSock filters with my own money, no discount, so this is not an ad in any way – I just really adore this eco addition to my morning routine and wanted to share with other sustainably-minded individuals!

What do you think? Will you try out reusable CoffeeSock filters, or stick with paper?