Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pencils!

Many of you have been following the recent pencil saga via Instagram and Twitter. About six months ago, I started to brainstorm ideas for products to add to my shop. This was when I was in the dreaming phase of quitting my teaching job and thinking about ways that I could expand to make this a reality. I began making lists of items and ideas that I wanted to add that made sense with cards and stationery, but I simply didn't have the time to do it. Over the past three months, and as the school year was winding down and I knew I wasn't going back in the fall, I started researching the possibilities of adding pencils to my shop.

At first, I looked into the possibility of having pencils imprinted based on words or phrases that I ordered from a pencil company. As I began looking into what it would cost to do this, I started to think that it just simply didn't make sense to go that route. First, the Etsy marketplace doesn't allow the resale of mass-produced items, and I'm not one to try to sneak around. Second, my business is a handmade business, so it seemed natural that I should stick to that. My cards are all cut, scored, printed, folded, and packaged by hand. My notebooks are all cut, printed, punched, and bound by hand. I wanted to continue the handmade nature of my shop since that's what I love about it most.

I spent the next few months trying to figure out what my next steps would be. I began reading about hot foil presses. I wanted to get a hot foil press, but the cost was exuberant. Then I ran across a few articles that suggested vintage presses. I began a new set of research to find out which presses performed the best and would most likely still be of use today. I finally decided on the type of press that I wanted and I waited until the right one came along. Finally, an amazing deal popped up. I waffled over it for about four days until Andrew, getting annoyed with my indecisiveness, finally said, "Just get the damn press! It's a hell of deal and even if it's a risk it's one that I know you can make pay off!" So I bought it. A Kingsley hot foil press that is probably circa 1950s, in near mint condition (minus a missing handle, hence the screwdriver).

I truly want to share more about this press with you all in another blog post. I will be taking photos of everything that came with the press to share with you because it is truly a piece of history in itself. But for now, after all of this back story, I want to share another true labor of love that I have added to my shop-- imprinted pencils. Each pencil has been hand stamped on my Kingsley press so no two are exactly alike. I'll be adding more pencil colors and phrases (trust me, I have a whole section in my idea book full of them!) as I am able. Here is a look at a few of the current options.



In addition to the pencils that are available ready to ship, I also have a custom option for those of you that want your own phrase or name on a pencil. The custom pencils are available as a minimum set of 10 due to the time it takes to set the type and press the pencils.

I know that I often say that I'm super excited about new cards or products, but this has to be one of the most exciting so far! The entire story of the press as well as the process for making these pencils is truly energizing. It truly is a creative process that feels incredibly rewarding on a personal level.

What do you think about the new pencils? Have you been learning or experiencing any new creative processes lately?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Maryland Blue Crab Tacos with Fresh Salsa

I may not have been born and raised in Baltimore, but there is one thing that I have definitely embraced wholeheartedly in the six years I've lived here-- Maryland blue crabs. Steamed crabs, crab pretzels, crab cakes, crab dip, and even crab sushi are just a few things that I've been able to enjoy. There was even one week when I had crab four days in a row. It's just delicious! I might even venture to say that during the summer months, the only thing that might come to a close second to my beloved tacos would be crab. So when Paige suggested a taco party, my recipe of choice was obvious-- crabs plus tacos equals crab tacos. The end.


Maryland Blue Crab Tacos with Fresh Salsa

What you'll need

  • 3 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
  • the juice of one lime
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt
  • 1/2 sliced green onions
  • 1 glove garlic
  • 1 large jalepeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • half a pound of jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1 avocado
  • romaine lettuce
  • shredded colby jack cheese

Directions

Combine tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, green onions, 3/4 of the jalepeno, and salt and pepper to taste. This is your fresh salsa. I like to prepare this ahead of time so that flavors can soak in while I prepare the rest of my meal.

Saute the remainder of the jalepeno with the diced onion with a small drizzle of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes. Add the crab meat to the saute pan and continue to cook over low heat for a few minutes until the crab is warmed through. Be sure to be gentle when stirring the crab so that you don't break the lump crab up too much. We want nice juicy pieces!

Serve the crab on warmed flour or corn tortillas. Top each taco with the shredded cheese, fresh salsa, some chopped romaine lettuce and a couple slices of avocado. Enjoy!


Want some more taco recipes? Be sure to check out the other recipes from Paige's taco party!

Paige's Quick and Easy Veggie Tacos
Kristen's Marinated Grilled Steak Tacos
Meg's Shrimp Tacos with Red Cabbage Cilantro Slaw
Melissa's Barbequed Salmon with Blueberry Freca and Chipotle Crema Taco Taster
Marieken's Ricotta, Cheese, and Arugula Tacos

Friday, July 19, 2013

Learning to Take Risks

You can either sit and mope about it, or you can do something about it. I'm pretty sure once in a while I heard those words from my parents while growing up. No matter how much they annoyed me as a teenager, they still swim around in my head as a reminder today as an adult.

Doing something about it has never been an easy thing for me. It usually involves doing something I don't like, reaching out to people that I don't know, or testing out something totally new and outside of my comfort zone. Recently, I've been trying to change my attitude about things and do more of the "do something about it" type things. I started with small risks, ones that I was beginning to be more comfortable with, and soon I became completely comfortable with them. They were no longer outside my comfort zone.

For me, taking risks always seemed just that-- risky. And risky directly translated into stupid. However, in the past month, I am realizing that not all risks are stupid. It may feel risky to me because it is outside of my comfort zone, but the reality of it all is that by taking the risk, I'm doing something to better myself.


Even though the risks are scary for me, I'm challenging myself by taking them. As I take more risks, I'm noticing that I'm able to make myself and my business better. I find that new doors are opening for new opportunities that I never would have expected. And most of all, I'm happier. I no longer feel like that mopy teenager, but rather I feel excited and filled with a positive outlook on what is to come in the next year or year after that or even five years from now. As I told Andrew last night, "I'm doing my own thing!" And truly doing my own thing has never felt more exciting!

Are you doing something exciting in your life these days? Taking any big risks?

And on that note, Happy Friday to you all! :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Introducing the New Neon Line

Last week, I introduced a new line of notebooks to my shop. I also had been talking about a new line of cards that I had been working on. I've had a lot of ideas in this little head of mine long before the school year ended and it's pretty awesome to finally see these ideas turn into the physical thing.

Lately we've been seeing a lot of throwbacks to my childhood and neon is one of those things. At first, I was hesitant to go back to what I'd already lived through. Then, the mistake happened. I ordered a pink tee online that I thought was just pink. It even looked pink on the website. But when it arrived in was neon pink. At first, I freaked out. Then I just decided to roll with it and finally embrace my second grade self again. With embracing that second grade self, I was inspired by this new neon line.
Bold black printed on beautifully thick white card stock complimented by neon envelopes of purple, pink, and green. These cards are bold and sassy in both color and wording. They're just fun! And I think that fully embraces that second grade me.

What do you think of the new neon line? Are you embracing the throwback to neon like I am?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Paying It Forward

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about influence. It is something that has been heavy on my mind as I work to grow my business while jumping head first into this venture. In the handmade business and blogging world, there are some that have more influence than others. As one of the smaller fish in a big ocean, I find that I often get passed over for promotional opportunities and shout outs because my influence isn't as great as some of the bigger fish.

In the past week, while chatting with a lot of smaller fish, I'm learning that I'm not alone in this. I started to get down on myself about this, but then thought that wasn't the right way to deal with the situation. Why feel bad about something that you can't control? Why not do something that will turn a negative into a positive instead?

Yesterday, I passed a new milestone in my shop. I passed 3,000 sales. It is absolutely overwhelming and humbling and exciting to think about all at the same time. Nearly three years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be where I am today. And to be honest, if it weren't for everyone around me in the handmade and blogging community, I would still be looking at another year of teaching ahead of me. So THANK YOU!!! Thank you to ALL of you!

After a very humbling day, I reflected back on the idea of influence. I wanted to think of a way in which I could pay if forward. I decided I want to help others around me because I know how frustrating it can be to feel excluded or pushed to the side. So here's the deal:

1. I'm opening all of my small ad spaces up to anyone who is interested for the time being. I haven't decided how long yet, but if you want some free ad space and the promo that comes with it, it's yours! I don't care the size of your business or blog-- big or small I'm offering it to you. And my large ad spaces are 50% off as well. Just go to my sponsor page, choose your ad space, and enter the code THANK YOU and you'll score the ad space you'd like. I'm leaving this open indefinitely for the time being. Finding advertising and promotion that is affordable has been one of my biggest frustrations, so I want to offer it to anyone that would like it for free.

2. If you'd like to be featured on my blog as a handmade artist, I would love to have you. For free! I'd like to do several handmade features through the month of August. If you're interested, email me at heidi {at} rowhouse14 {dot} com with the subject line Handmade Feature. I'll do this on a first come basis, so email quickly if you're interested!

3. If you'd like to do a guest post on my blog in September to get some extra exposure, you're more than welcome! Again, for free! Email me at heidi {at} rowhouse14 {dot} com with the subject line Guest Post.

And again, thank you to all of you! It's been amazing ride so far, and I can't wait for what is to come next! :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Wine Tasting at DeJon Vineyards

This weekend, friends of ours invited us to the Maryland winery DeJon Vineyards for wine tasting. After having gone to school in Central New York, we were familiar with the fact that there are vineyards abound there. However, we had no clue that so many vineyards and wineries existed in Maryland. DeJon Vineyard was a smaller vineyard that has been producing wine for about five years. While only a thirty minute drive from the city, it offered a rustic countryside reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the every day life. Places like these sometimes make Andrew and I think about moving to the country, but only for the moment while we get a chance to recharge our energy.



This was my first time going to a vineyard for wine tasting and being the wine lover than I am, I think it'll have to happen again the future. Have you ever gone wine tasting?

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Blog Design

Happy Monday my friends! And I say "happy Monday!" in all seriousness, not just as a formality! This weekend was ridiculously relaxing, which is a great thing, but by Sunday evening I was itching to get back to work. I actually wanted Monday to arrive. I'm not even sure when the last time I felt that way about a job happens to be. In fact, I may have never felt this way about Monday in my entire life.

I'm just a few days over a month into this new adventure of self-employment and so far it doesn't feel like work. However, the amount of work that I have accomplished in this past month amazes me. I've added a ton of new cards to the shop. I launched a new line of notebooks last week. I've been working on a new line of cards that will hopefully be ready this week. I have had new blog posts for you almost every day (that in itself is almost a miracle considering how hard it was for me to keep up while teaching). And, while I've been doing all of that, I was also whittling away at a new blog design.

Take a look at what the blog used to be.

Today I'm starting the week fresh by launching the new blog. However, I cannot promise you that all of the elements will stay. I've spent about three weeks going back and forth about what I wanted each of the elements to look like and I'm not entirely set on the header still. I am happy with it for the most part though. To be honest, I feel as though this design is lot more simple in style and reflects who I am much more than the old design. The color, aqua, is my favorite color and I tend to be a fairly simple girl, so the aqua and black just works for me.

What do you think about the new blog design? Do you like the new header? I'm not sure if that should stay or go.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Favorites

I took last Friday off from blogging with the holiday weekend in mind, but I've collected quite a few things that I've been wanting to share with you all. After a busy week, rounding up a few of my favorites seems like a good way to wind down.

This recycled mail notebook is pretty fantastic. Not only is it completely made with recycled mail, but it also gets shipped to you as if it is the package! I want someone to send me one of these! Seriously!
via badbooks
I really like everything about this iPhone case.
via afterimages
 Sticking with the triangle trend, I just may have to buy these fun little earrings.
via TheiaDesigns
It'd be nice if this screen printed shirt found its way into my closet.
via Depeapa
I've been on the lookout for new pillows recently and this one really popped out at me.
via Geometric Electric
And of course, I will also leave you with some good links. Some of them are from last week, but I had to save them to share!

This blog post about caring for the introvert in your life is pretty much spot on!

Sometimes the overly happy posts with pictures of wildflowers and beaches just start to get old. This is a good reminder to just do whatever you want to do.

As we all know, the average woman does not look like Barbie, but if we made a "Normal" Barbie using that average, she would actually be really beautiful.

And for the Sharpie addict in all of us, I am slightly obsessed with these pens. The colors are pretty much awesome and they write fabulously.


Anyone have any super plans for the weekend? I'm going to go drink wine. Well, not right now this very second, but there will be wine involved.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

The New Notebook Line is Here!

One of the most fantastic feelings is having a creative vision and the end result becomes just as you had imagined. Over the past few weeks, I had been brainstorming new product ideas for my shop. Many of you mentioned that you love notebooks. I have to admit, I'm a notebook fanatic as well, keeping many on hand to make lists, jot down ideas, and sketch. I began doing research to find the best possible materials for what I had in mind. I wanted the notebooks to be stylish, whimsical, inspirational, environmentally friendly, yet affordable at the same time. I began sketching and designing the covers and waited for the rest of the materials to arrive. The end result is a line of notebooks that I feel have pushed me to become better at my craft.
Each notebook has been made of 100% recycled paper-- card stock, blank pages, and chipboard backing. The quality of the paper is some of the best I have worked with and has inspired many other ideas to evolve from this project. Each notebook has been cut, punched, and bound by me, making them a serious labor of love.
You can now view the entire line of notebooks in my shop here.

Now that my notebook line is finally complete, I will be turning my focus to a new line of cards that I hope to launch soon as well. I have a couple more fun ideas for future products for my shop, but would love to know what you guys would be interested in!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finding Inspriation in Materials and Color Trends

I haven't made a whole lot of new cards for my shop lately because I've got another new product in the works that I've been spending the majority of my time on instead. In addition, I've also been working on another new line of cards, but I am waiting for the envelopes for this particular line to arrive. I am feeling incredibly inspired by so many things around me. It seems I have all sorts of ideas these days, and I'm having a hard time staying focused on just one project at a time. I finally have the time to execute some of my ideas and so they are all trying to get out of my system at one time, which sometimes leads to less productivity in the end. I have been trying to continue feeling inspired, but take note of these inspirations instead of diving into them as soon as something pops into my head. Despite an inspiration overload these days, I was still able to get some of these new cards into the shop.

I've been really feeling inspired lately by new card stock and envelopes that I recently purchased, new fonts to play with, and colors that are on trend these days. As I prepare my new line of cards that I'm hoping to launch mid-month, you'll continue to see current color trends, but in a fun and bold way instead of these corals, mints, and purples.

What have you been inspired by lately?

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Family Weekend

This past weekend, Andrew and I drove up to the Pittsburgh area to stay with my aunt and uncle and visit my grandparents. It had been a while since I had been able to spend time with my dad's side of the family. My parents drove from Indiana to meet up with everyone, my great aunt also drove in to visit, and my cousins visited along with their daughters. We spent Saturday afternoon and evening relaxing outside in the backyard and enjoying a delicious lasagna for dinner. No meal would be complete without my uncle's wine. He has his own wine cellar at their house and we were able to enjoy some incredibly tasty chardonnay and Chianti.

Sunday morning was spent on the deck outside, enjoying some of my mom's pastries that she had brought with her from her bakery in Indiana, while my uncle began firing up his outdoor wood-fired oven. For those of you who may remember, my parents have a wood-fired oven in their backyard which inspired my aunt and uncle to do the same. We enjoyed wood-fired pizza for lunch and a relaxing afternoon on the screened in porch before heading back to Baltimore. For those of you that have never tried wood-fired pizza (or wood-fired food for that matter) I highly recommend that you consider building an over like this in your back yard if you have the space. As my dad always says, "You put the food in the oven and it automatically turns out good."

All around, it was a very relaxing weekend. Not only was it great to see family, it was pretty fabulous to have absolutely nothing on the agenda for the entire weekend.

How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting over the holiday weekend?



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Beer

In the winter I love wine and I shared some of my favorite bottles of wine with you. However, once summer arrives, I'm a beer drinker. I love mojitos and sangria and all of those tasty things too, but I would be lying if I weren't to say that Andrew and I drink a lot of beer. It's hard to go wrong with a night on the roof deck and a pint of beer while listening to the Orioles game.

It is sometimes hard for me to find a good summer beer that doesn't taste like lysol when some of the best intentions for a citrus beer end up being too much for me. (Yes, I'm going out on a limb here and saying that Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy is gross.) Over the past few summers, I have found a couple favorites and more recently, I have found a few new beers that I find perfect for summer. Here's a look.


1// Magic Hat Blind Faith  2// Heavy Seas Riptide  3// Sixpoint Brewery The Crisp  4// Victory Brewing Summer Love


These just happen to be a few that I have found extremely crisp and refreshing for the summer. I'm usually an IPA kind of girl, hence the Magic Hat IPA on Tour pick as well as the Heavy Seas White IPA. Though these seem to be much more summery than others-- a definite crisp factor. The others are super crisp as well, which ultimately makes a great summer beer. I will be honest though, some of you on the west coast may have a harder time finding these in your parts. That's ok though because I'm extremely jealous of all of you and your west coast beer.

And of course, nothing wrong with a good old Natty Boh either! (That's National Bohemian for all you non-Baltimore people.) While it's not the first thing I'm running out to buy, it's an ever so slightly tastier version of Budweiser. Being the original Baltimore beer, I'd much rather be sipping one of those at an O's game. So we can at least say cheers to that!




Are you a summer beer drinker? What are some of your favorite summer brews?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Susquehanna State Park

On the weekends when the weather is warm, we often try to escape Baltimore for at least one day to enjoy a day of hiking. We pack our Camelbacks with water, granola bars, and of course a camera. This weekend we went to Susquehanna State Park near Havre de Grace, which is located in the Susquehanna River valley.

On our way, we drove through rain showers that were less than promising for a day outside, but upon our arrival, the weather improved and we were able to get lost in the woods for a few hours amongst the beautiful and lush plant life. We were also able to see some wildlife-- a snake that nearly slithered by my foot, leaving me jumping away in shrieks (snakes are that one thing I just can't stand!) and a baby deer staring us down on our trail while the mother stood nearby (you can spot the baby in one of the photos if you look closely!).

After our hike, we made a few pit stops amongst some historic mill buildings and in a small park in Havre de Grace that had beautiful views along the Susquehanna River and out into the Chesapeake Bay.


I've been trying to take the weekends off recently since I have much more time to get things done during the week. It hasn't been easy. I spent all day Saturday working on a new line of products that will be coming to the shop soon, but then I forced myself to take off Sunday. Getting out of Batimore made Sunday even more enjoyable.

How was your weekend? Did you go on any adventures out and about?
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