Huntsville & East Texas

Since we’re rooted in Texas, I like to talk about Texas. Think of this as a travel piece, if you will, because by the end, you’ll want to see all East Texas has to offer.

Things to Do in (2)

Full disclosure, I’ve only been to East Texas once, but it was enough to know what it’s all about. I stayed in Huntsville for a weekend, and I did so much in the area.

 

Forest

My favorite part was the Sam Houston National Forest. It’s over 160,000 acres of tall, green, dense pines. For someone who’s only lived in the Hill Country or along the coast, this was such a shock. It’s kind of humbling, actually, seeing these things that are so much bigger and more majestic than you.

I went in through Huntsville State Park, which has miles and miles of hiking trails.

For more nature, you can hit up nearby Lake Conroe or any of the other lakes and creeks in East Texas.

 

History

Texas is chalk full of history. We’ve been under six flags, including our own, and won a lopsided revolution.

Our first president was Mr. Sam Houston, and the town of Huntsville doesn’t let you forget it. Huntsville loves Sam Houston. It’s home, of course, to Sam Houston State University, and every year around his birthday in March, there’s a festival where the town basically shuts down and gathers for history, food, music, and more.

If you’re not there for the festival, you can still become an expert on the president. His bagillion foot-tall statue towers over I-45 coming into Huntsville from Houston. In town you can visit the Homestead, which has the “Steamboat House” where he died, his law office, and more. You can also visit his grave at Oakwood Cemetery.

 

More in Huntsville

One of the most fascinating parts of Huntsville is its prison system. It is home to the big daddy- Texas State Penitentiary Huntsville Unit, as well as six other units. It’s here in Huntsville that convicts in Texas are executed. You can’t really tour the prison, obviously, but there are ways to learn about it and its past. There’s the Prison Museum in town, and the cemetery. I must warn you, the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery is moving and haunting. Not haunted (I mean I guess it could be) but haunting because the experience just sticks with you. It’s where death row inmates and unclaimed deceased inmates are buried, dating back to the 1800s. Some have unmarked crossed. Some have marked crosses. Some are marked, but only with prison number, not name.

While you’re there, keep an ear out for the prison sirens. Every hour, they do a prison check, and they use a city-wide siren system to help keep everyone on the same page. One siren announces the head count is beginning, and a second announcing that it’s over, but if you hear a third siren, that means someone hasn’t been accounted for or something went wrong.

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Also, Huntsville is home to a guy that lives in a boot.

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More in East Texas

As I’m not super well-traveled in this part of the state, I know it has a lot to offer! There’s of course the forest and plenty for outdoorsmen to do. If that’s not your thing, head south to Houston where there are endless goings-on.

If Houston isn’t your thing, hit up towns like Nacogdoches, Palestine, or Tyler.

I guess if Texas in general just isn’t your thing, Louisiana is just a hop, skip, and a jump across the Sabine!

 

Sources:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/texas/about-forest/districts/?cid=fswdev3_008443

https://events.shsu.edu/event/general_sam_houston_folk_festival_8269#.WtDbdi7wbIU

A Note on Failure

Failure: what it is or isn’t, a couple of my experiences, and takeaways.

 

I will admit, a small part of creating this blog was a way for me to grow our business and add a new dimension to what we were creating. It was a way for me to celebrate successes (and a little bit of a marketing strategy).

But, that’s only a small part of it. The biggest reason why I started this was just because I missed blogging and writing. For years, I was all about writing and journalism. In high school and college, I wrote for the newspaper, covering my high school football team, and I loved it. Then I went to college with journalism as my major, determined to be a globe-trotting writer, drinking coffee in Prague, taking pictures in New York, and interviewing chefs in Rome. All kinds of fabulous stuff. I even had a blog before this (itwasbooks.blogspot.com) where I reviewed books. It wasn’t bad, honestly. I was quoted on author Philippa Gregory’s website once, just below and beside “USA Today” and “New York Daily News.”

Then, after actually studying it in college, I grew to hate it. Journalism, that is, not writing. I’ll always be a writer. Just not a journalist. No. Thank. You.

So now, I am in advertising and business!

Why is knowing that bit about me important?

It’s an example of something that didn’t work out (it took $10,000 and year to figure it out). I am not at all whatsoever in any way, shape, or form a life coach or wise-all woman. No. I am a “small business owner”-ish type person, however, so I know what it feels like when things don’t work out. As a business owner and blogger, I feel like I have an obligation to talk about business, entrepreneurship, creativity, and risks, at least a little bit.

Keep it honest.

 

So. Failure.

Or as a like to say, a lesson.

That’s so important to know. No matter what happens, you are always learning.

This can best be felt for me through my first real failure with this thing- pot holders.

This was the first time I tried to make them. I had fabric, and I bought the special insulated batting. I cut my fabric and batting, and finally, when I got behind my machine… I screwed it all up. I tried eight to ten times probably, and they were ugly as hell. I was so devastated. I paid all this money, spent all this time, wasted all these materials, and for what? A shitty pot holder that no one is going to buy? How will I make this money back?  What the hell am I going to do with this stupid batting? Or these ugly-ass pot holders? What could I have successfully made with this fabric that has now been wasted?

I know. They’re just some stupid pot holders, but the feelings I felt, the questions I asked myself, I think can happen anytime. If you’re a business owner, and you’re reading this, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s no worse feeling than that feeling of loss.  If not, you still probably know what I mean!

Despite how ugly they were, I put them up for sale anyway.

 

And they sold out in one day.

 

I was stunned. The craftsmanship was poor, and the designs weren’t anything special, so what the hell? What happened with these?

Well, I thought about it, and I came to this conclusion: in my case, it was my honesty. It was my customer service. It was my kindness, my openness with people, and even my laughter about the whole thing. The environment I created around it in my panic is what sold them.

So what’s the lesson here?

I learned a couple things through my failure. One, I need to practice more, and two, how to market something not-so-good (through just being a decent human).

So yeah, failure is inevitable and guaranteed to happen. For example, I still put grainy, pixel-y pictures on here. I could be breaking copyright laws by using pictures that aren’t my own (most are, and if they aren’t, I cite the source). I don’t mean to be, but honestly I could be because I don’t know how it works. Some of the things we make turn out ugly. I get my math wrong sometimes in my bookkeeping, and might be paying taxes wrong. I read over these posts, but I could still have typos and grammatical errors. But whatever, you know? If something happens, you learn from it and move on.

I hope you learned something through my zig-zag story. If you have a failure story and what you learned from that, please share!

 

~Hannah ❤

Skulls: The Best Blank Canvas

Skulls, like cattle skulls, can make for a kick-ass design element. 

~*Featuring my own impressive sketches 😉 *~

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This sounds a little morbid.

“That skull on your mantle looks great!”

But honestly, I think that skulls (cattle skulls or deer skulls) can look great. They’re the ultimate blank canvas.

Think about it: it’s something white and of decent size that you’re going to put in or around your house. You can do anything to it, or not, if their natural simplicity is more your thing.

Simple or designed, they’re all displayed the same. Here are some of my ideas:

Outside in your garden.

This is where I have mine. Stick it in the flower bed, entrance to a pathway, or where ever you might place another outdoor decoration.

Mantle

This is for those who want it out in the open. Maybe you’re a cattle family. You breed them, raise them, sell them… It’s who you are, and this would be a great way to reflect that. Skull in the center, maybe a burlap or leather runner, clear vases or mason jars with neutral green foliage or succulents, other “cowboyish” antiques, and family photos in bold picture frames would accent and balance the skull, I think.

Mantle Sketch

Hung on the wall

Much like how we hang deer on the wall, a skull would look great too. I picture it on a darker colored wall, perhaps a navy, charcoal gray, or darker brown. Hang it relatively low above the center of furniture so that it’s roughly eye-level and flows into the rest of the space (but don’t put to wear someone leans back on the couch and gets eaten). Accent it with a rustic wooden sign above or hang photos or other antique wall hangings on either side.

Another wall option is one of my favorite arrangements for anything being hung on the wall. In a smaller space, perhaps a foyer, have a small table against the wall. On one side have a decorative lamp that’s about a foot tall, maybe a foot and a half. On the other side, hang the skull (or whatever) so that the bottom of it is even, or even a touch below, the highest point of that lamp. On top of the table, opposite the lamp and below your hanging, go with a short filler: a neutral plant or succulent, stack of books, short antique, or a bold picture frame with a family picture. Lastly, if it suits your taste, you could throw in a short runner, table cloth, or doily, preferably something contrasting to the rest of the set-up.

Table Set-Up Sketch

For example: navy blue walls, dark wooden trim, old-fashioned earth-toned lamp, the white skull, stack of antique books, and a bold golden-yellow runner.

 

As for decorating your skull, it’s all up to you. Here are some ideas:

Paint

Paint it all one color, dip paint, or paint on a design, just like you would on a canvas or piece of paper.

Flowers

This is my favorite thing in the world right now. I made one for myself first, but then went a little crazy and made something like this:

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Sequins

If sequins or shiny things are more your speed, heat up that hot glue gun. Put them all over, do a color scheme, or make a shape or design.

Seashells

This is for my Gulf Coast ranchers. I came up with this (I’m sure I’m not the first one, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else, personally) idea when I was trying to figure out a unique way to dress up a skull, after a dip painting failure (note: don’t use old spray paint!).  After a trip to Magnolia Beach, where I found this super iridescent shell, I realized that seashells, with all their colors, shines, and shapes, would make a gorgeous design, and would also bring together two totally opposite worlds: land and sea. To me, it’s an ode to where I grew up. ❤

 

I hope this post inspires you to open your minds to new ideas and get creative with your decor at home.

And always remember that it’s your home. No matter what anyone, including me, says is a “great way” to dress up your home, the best way is always your way.

 

~Hannah

#hometownpride

I am so pumped about what I’ve been making lately. I’ve made them before for myself, and finally just thought, “hey, why not spread the love?” So, I started making and carrying throw pillows.

Throw pillows are probably my favorite things besides steak and my diffuser. I’ve got three on my bed, four on my couch, two more in the works to add to my couch, and a few in storage that I rotate seasonally. I think they’re a comfy way to express who you are and a little something something to your space.

All of the designs (except for the Texas one I guess) are 100% original. The “Football Kolaches Red Dirt” pillow is a shout out to my people, where Friday nights are the center of the universe, kolaches are a wholesome breakfast, and red dirt music blares out our speakers. The arrow ones are my own sketches, the files of which are available on Etsy.

My favorites, though, are the ones that celebrate my roots, and the roots of everyone I love:

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I was like a one-woman factory with these babies. I LOVE them. Ganado city limit sign, Jackson county with a heart over Ganado, and U.S. Highway 59, which runs right through town.

As much as I love to travel, get out of dodge, and live a life outside of Ganado, there’s no doubt that I love my little town and all the people in it. It’s where I grew up, it’s where all my people are, it’s what made me who I am. I know for a fact that a lot of people feel that same exact way, too, so these pillows are for them. It’s just a pillow, sure, but you can put it on your couch, your bed, outdoor furniture, or wherever, and be reminded of your roots.

I put every ounce of heart into these that I could. I cut the canvas, sewed it up, ironed on the designs, stuffed it till my couch was covered in stray poly-fil, and sewed the hole up by hand with a needle and thread.

The designs took a bit of work, too. For the county and the highway, I was able to just find an image on the Internet to work with. For the city limit sign, I had to get my boots on the ground. I took the dogs to the KJT Hall parking lot in town and stood on the side of the road taking a picture with my iPhone of the sign!
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From there, I ran the images through Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Cricut Design Space, then through the Cricut machine itself.

Like I said, one-woman factory. But, it was sooooo much fun! Any time I get to be creative and let my imagination (and my craft supplies) go wild, I’m a happy camper.

I hope everyone else loves these pillows as much as I do, and if not? That’s fine- more for me!

See y’all in September!

~Hannah ❤

 

Texas Czech Road Trip

The Czech community is huge in parts of Texas. The kolaches, churches, and bumper stickers asking, “Jak se máš?” are endless and make for a fun, unique, and enlightening Texas experience.

I am of Czech descent and am minoring in Czech language. I think the language, culture, and history are fascinating, so I thought I’d try to give it some love and attention on my blog. Fall is upon us, which is when all the festivals are happening around the state. Pick a weekend during one of the festivals and hit the road on this Czech road trip!

 

Jdeme na to!

Texas

Victoria, TX- The last weekend of September, the Czech Heritage Society of Victoria hosts a Czech festival with cultural food and music. Some songs you might want to learn on your trip- “A Já Sám” and “The Shiner Song.”

If you miss the festival, there is still much to do in Victoria! There are a few museums, a zoo, plenty of shopping, beautiful historic downtown, painting with a twist, mini-golf, bowling, skating, and plenty of both local and chain restaurants. I recommend Huvar’s and the Pump House.

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Photo: http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasGulfCoastTowns/VictoriaTexas/VictoriaCountyCourthouseVictoriaTexas.htm

 

 

Prasek’s Hillje Smokehouse- Head north on Highway 59 towards Houston to Prasek’s Hillje Smokehouse in Hillje, between Ganado and El Campo. The front of it looks like Old West storefronts, and the inside is a sight to behold as well. As soon as you walk in, the smell of meat, spices, and baked kolaches and klobasniky fill your nostrils. The options are endless: fruit kolaches, cream cheese kolaches, meat and cheese klobasniky, jalapeno klobasniky, breakfast kolaches and klobasniky, roasted meats, dried meats, fresh baked breads of all kinds, a wide assortment of cheeses, jerky, and more, all complete with a large wine selection, fresh brewed coffee, and the usual convenience store items and refrigerated drinks. You can also snag some rustic home decor and gifts from the shop within Prasek’s and the assorted merchandise throughout the store. They also have kick-ass bathrooms.

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Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Fun fact- a koláč, or as we know it, kolache, is a round doughy pastry filled with fruit or sweet cheese. A pig in the blanket is NOT a kolache. The pastries that are bread completely enveloping savory foods like meat, cheese, or peppers, are called klobásníky, or klobasniky.

Fun fact #2- Prášek in Czech means “powder,” so práškový cukr is powdered (confectioner’s sugar).

 

Hruška’s- As if one kolache joint wasn’t enough, head northwest on Highway 71 out of El Campo and hit up Hruška’s bakery in Ellinger. You can’t miss the flashing “Jak se máš?” sign as you approach. Inside, you’ll find the bakery selling kolaches, klobasniky, and other pastries, as well as sausages and meats and regular lunch items, like burgers. They also carry your typical convenience store staples, in addition to a stellar on-the-go coffee bar. I highly recommend the Texas roast! They also sell tons of rustic, quirky, and down-home decor. Like Prasek’s, they also have some really nice bathrooms.

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Photo: https://www.facebook.com/HruskasStoreandBakery/

Fun fact- Hruška means “pear.”

Czech Heritage Center, La Grange- These folks really help to maintain Czech heritage in the state. Only a hop, skip, and a jump from Ellinger, you’ll find the Czech Heritage Center is full of things to explore there in La Grange. They have their Main Museum, elegant Hanslik Hall, Melnar Library, Sanford Schmid Amphitheater, Kopecky Gift Shop, and the Texas Czech Village. You can go and look around or join a tour.

They also have events going on all the time. For example, they have a conversation hour where you can learn the language, movie screenings, special exhibits, and of course, festivals.

Image result for czech heritage center la grange tx

Photo: http://www.czechheritage.org/chs_library.html

 

Schulenburg, TX- Down Highway 77 from La Grange is the little town of Schulenburg. Schulenburg and the surrounding area are home to beautiful “Painted Churches.” You could spend a day looking at these beautiful, awe-inspiring churches. They were built and ornately decorated by Czech immigrants, and are still true to that heritage. The Stations of the Cross in some of them are written in Czech, and the altars are breathtaking. Drive out to the nearby towns of High Hill, Ammansville, and Dubina to soak in the Old World beauty, talent of our ancestors, and the peace of these churches.

Fun fact- Dubina is related to the word dub which means “oak” in Czech. The word for April is “Duben,” which is related to the trees blossoming during that time of the year.

 

For a link to all the churches, click here!

 

Flatonia, TX- The last stop on this tour is Flatonia, TX. It’s just west of Schulenburg on Interstate 10. The first stop I’d make is in Praha (Praha is Czech for the city of Prague). It’s home to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, one of the painted churches. Go into town, though, and you’ll find cute and quaint downtown Flatonia. It’s rich in Czech culture, as you’ll notice from historical markers, the Chamber of Commerce, and family names on signs posted on businesses, street names, or political signs. Go during October, and you’ll be able to attend Czilispiel (“chili spill” if you can’t see it), which is a huge celebration of Czech and German culture.

Here are some of my pictures when I was at St. Mary’s last fall:

BONUS- West, TX- If you’re really feeling the drive, take Highway 77 to Waco and then jump on northbound Interstate 35 to West, Texas. It hosts a huge Czech community. As soon as you get into West, you have your choice of bakeries and Czech eateries. I personally like Slovacek’s, but they’re all good! In the fall, they hold a huge Czech Fest. People come from all over every year, just to take part in the festivities, from food to beer to music.

 

I know it isn’t the most exciting of all road trips, especially if you’re not Czech. If you need more to do, I recommend these stops:

 

Ganado, TX- Ganado (where I happen to be from) is a super small town, but we’ve got enough to offer to keep you busy. I especially suggest grabbing lunch at the Ganado Cafe- Lori makes some damn good burgers- and catching a movie at the theater. It was the first theater in the U.S. to have digital fiber optic sound, opening in the early forties, and is one of the last in the nation to be privately owned (by a man with Czech origins, actually).

 

El Campo, TX- El Campo is bigger than Ganado, and has its fair share of things to do. I highly recommend a night at Greek Brothers. I love Greek’s. It’s a swanky honky tonk restaurant that serves great food and offers up live music pretty often by well-known Texas Red Dirt artists: Roger Creager, Randy Rogers, William Clark Green, and one I’m thinking of going to, Koe Wetzel. Even bigger mainstream names like Luke Bryan and Eric Church have played there. It’s the place to be!

 

La Grange, TX- This city has plenty of its own to offer outside the Heritage Center. They’ve got endless shopping and history. It’s home to band ZZ Top and where The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was filmed. If you’re there at the right time, you could drive out to Warrenton, Round Top, and Carmine for Antique Weekend. It’s the biggest junk, craft, and antique show in the state. It’s amazing.

 

Shiner, TX- Shiner is south of Flatonia on Highway 95. It is of course where Shiner beer is brewed. The Spoetzel brewery is available for tours year-round.

Endorsement- I’m not a beer drinker, but Shiner is a beer I will more than willingly drink. Shiner Bock, Shiner Premium, and Shiner Homespun have amazing flavors and finishes. If you’ve never had a Shiner, have one.
Gonzales, TX- West on Highway 90 from Shiner is the historically significant town of Gonzales. This town kickstarted the Texas Revolution with the famous “Come and Take It” flag and canon. To learn more about Texas’ badass history, head to Gonzales!

A Trip Around the Sun

One year down!!! Happy business birthday to us!

I can hardly believe it myself… I’ve been in business for a YEAR. On August 13, 2017, I got my sales tax permit from the state and officially started selling my crafts- towels and mug cozies, initially.

 

I’ve always been a crafty gal, making my own stuff and decorating things my own way. It’s fun and rewarding but also expensive and leads to hoarding. That latter dependent clause is what led me to starting a business. All last summer, I designed different towels and sewed them at UT’s Fine Arts Library (HOOK ‘EM!) and made it through every available season of Game of Thrones as I knit and decorated over 20 mug cozies.

Eventually, it all snowballed into a blog, Facebook page, Instagram, a real name, and markets almost every month selling bigger and better things. What hasn’t changed is that everything is still 100% made by my, my mamma’s, or my daddy’s hands and is made out of junk.

The Best of Everything

I want to take a sec and just look back at everything that everyone’s loved so far. I’m sure no one really cares, but care a lot to look back. While I believe it’s important to live in the present and look toward the future, I also believe it’s humbling to take a look back and reflect and be thankful for how far you’ve come…

Blog Posts

I haven’t pushed the blog as much as I probably should have. Part of it is because on some level, I don’t think the content is good enough. I mean, think it’s good, fun, informative, and enlightening, but I fret that others won’t. The other part of it is that I’ve been waiting for my archives to grow so that visitors can have a well-rounded representation of everything that’s on here.

Aaaanyway, I wanted to see which posts have done the best so far and share the links, so new readers (hopefully I’ve got some!) can jump on board. The top five most read posts are:

Stadium to Momento (807 views)

Quick-and-Easy Heat Transfer Vinyl

Top 5 Texas Hill Country State Parks & Natural Areas

Tools & Tips For Staying Organized and Productive (If That’s What You’re Into)

6 Scrapbook Tips

 

New blog posts go out about once a week so that there’s a little something new every time you come by. You can also get them straight in your mailbox by looking at the side bar and entering your email address where prompted. Here are the five most recent posts:

Tools & Tips For Staying Organized and Productive (If That’s What You’re Into)

Working with Wood: A Brief Guide to Finishes

Saturday Market Recap

Steak Hooks

Updates

 

Things We’ve Made

As much as I love writing, I’m here to let my creative flag fly and make a bunch of things to sell (because I’d have no more room or money if I didn’t), as well as get junk out of the dirt and into our homes. After all, things are a lot more special when they have a story or a special meaning, just like the picture holders I made out of the bleachers from my high school stadium when it got torn down. I sold nearly 100 of those things:

Other hot cakes:

Some things sit at the booth for a while, which is fine, but every now and then we hit the nail on the head and run out of things so fast. Here’s what’s gotten lots of love lately:

Mom is an amazing artist. She uses her students’ unwanted and abandoned canvases to work her own magic. 

I first made one of these for myself (not pictured). You know, you see all these paintings and sketches of flowers and whatnot on deer skulls and cow skulls, but have you ever really seen the real life thing? Maybe you have, but I haven’t. I thought it would be the cutest damn thing, and I was right- people I didn’t even know were asking when I’d make more. They were so loved, and I’m so grateful and excited!

These porch signs are made with whatever wood or tin I can find. Lately I’ve been using the wood from the stadium bleachers. Everyone loves the big, bold greetings for their homes, and here recently, I’ve completed about 7 orders and have another 7 to do, plus the usual market load. It’s amazing. 

 

What’s Ahead

Now that I’m down one year, I really feel sturdy, like I can keep this going for a long time, especially with everything we’ve got planned.

I’ve got plans to make the booth cute as hell, new things to sell (LOL I rhymed), new cities to sell in, more people to meet, and all kinds of contests and fun events to come.

I’m so, so excited and just so blessed to have been able to make it this far.

I never did this alone.

Yes, this was all my idea and just about everything we make, where we go, the contests, all the brand stuff, social media, yada yada, is by my design. BUT. I couldn’t have done any of it by myself.

My mom has been a tremendous help. She is so talented, so creative, so much fun, and is always ready to help as much as she can, even when she’s playing (the very necessary position of) devil’s advocate. Thank you, Mom!

My dad has been by my side since day one. He probably gets more pumped than I do. He’s always coming up with ideas (in fact, selling the stadium wood in some form or fashion was his idea), asking me about my successes, brainstorming new ways of getting to people, and cheering me on. He’s always so gung-ho about everything, and that is awesome.

The folks at the Ganado Farmers Market have done wonders for me, even if they don’t realize it. Those ladies (Robin, Jonel, all of y’all) have supported me, been my biggest cheerleaders, and have given me so much love, not just as a vendor, but as a person. It helps that I’ve known one of those ladies almost my whole life, but still, I wouldn’t have made it this far without them.

Everyone that has bought something, liked a Facebook post, given Wildflowers & Charolais a compliment, given us materials, or acknowledged us in anyway, you’re just the absolute best. You know.. I feel like our stuff is cute and pretty. I think Mom’s paintings are beyond gorgeous, and Dad’s craftsmanship with metal and wood is strong and durable. Of course I think that, but when someone else thinks that, too, it rocks my world. It makes us all feel good, and I’m not talking about the money here at all. I think it’s so humbling and gratifying that someone else thinks I and my people are talented. I am excited that someone has taken what was originally a piece of crap and put it in their home. It’s huge.

 

 

So thanks to everyone who’s had anything and everything to do with Wildflowers & Charolais! Here’s to another year!!!

 

~Hannah ❤

 

 

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Tools & Tips For Staying Organized and Productive (If That’s What You’re Into)

Organization and productivity are, I think, essential to getting things done and staying sane- especially in your craft room/hobby room/drawer of crafty things/sewing kit/fabric drawers/scrapbooking paper boxes/she-shed... I’m always looking for new tools and tips, so I’m going to share a few of my own.

CANVA Tips & Tools

Hi y’all! Today’s post really has nothing to do with crafts or markets or anything “fun,” but it does have a bit to do with business and basically life in general. Today I wanted to share some tools and tips on getting organized and staying productive. These are things I’m always looking up, so I thought I could share what I’ve learned works best for me. Like the Internet needs more information.

I have always been an organized person: to-do lists, color-coded closets, bed made every morning. The whole nine yards, okay?

If I do have a mess or get scatter-brained, it’s because I’ve got so many projects going on. A pile of scrapbook paper here, a can of spray paint without the lid there, my hot glue gun heating up elsewhere, while my iron is still too hot to put back up.

So hopefully we can all get out S*** together, together. 🙂

 

Ideas for sorting out what needs to be done:

  • To-Do lists with pen and paper

Everyone is so digital these days. Hell, I am pretty digital myself. I’ve also got an old soul that loves the feeling of putting pen to paper, physically organizing my thoughts, and literally crossing them out of my day. I feel accomplished that way. If you’re a tactile person like me, make lists, follow the lists, and kick that list’s ass.

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This is one of my to-do lists, complete with homework, work schedule, bills that need to be paid, and around-the-house things.

 

  • Momentum dash

Digital. Some of us are into that, and sometimes, as I said, I can be, which is why I downloaded Momentum Dash. It’s a browser setting that basically keeps you on top of things with its to-do lists and inspirational quotes that pop up every time you open up a new tab. I keep all of my computer to-dos on Momentum, for obvious reasons, but you can keep everything on there, if you’re looking at your screen a lot. With it’s constant presence, there’s no escaping your tasks.

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This is a screenshot of my own dash. I didn’t enter in a main focus for the day, but I did have a running to-do list of all my online things: homework, things to print, etc.

 

  • Planner (actual paper)

Welcome paper back to the scene. I live by my planner(s). I have my planner that I keep in my backpack. It is marked with different colored pens and markers, stickers, highlights, boxes and circles, arrows, sticky notes, and folded up lists, as well as notes in the margins. Everything is there. Then I have a baby pocket planner for my business. I use it to mark down making days, market days, tax deadlines, and to record ideas for the month. I also have a separate list for my business to-dos and ideas. Lastly, I have a big calendar on my wall, which is mostly to lay out big-picture things, keep track of the day, and add a little something to my kitchen. My calendar for 2017 is Peanuts!

 

 

  • Calendar on my phone WITH alerts

If it’s important, like very important, it goes in my iPhone’s calendar. It doesn’t just go in, either; it gets two alerts. Some events get a two-hours before and day-before, some get day-before and week-before. Doesn’t matter- I must get reminded, even if I already remember.

tools as well

 

  • Notes on my phone

Back to digital again. I use notes on my phone all the time, but not for super serious things. I utilize it in emergencies (as in I have an idea and have to get it written) or for lists that never end (such as my wishlist). Of course, you’ve got to back it up. Apple can really piss me off and confuse me, but that iCloud can be a blessing. Use it!!

for tools

Notice the random notes: Grocery list, class schedule, Christmas ideas for the family, business to-do’s, and some amount of money that I either owed or spent and needed to write into my budget. 

The trick is just to make sure they all match up. Because then you’ve just got an even bigger mess.

 

So now everything you need to do has a place on a list, on a day. Next it’s just organizing all the crap.

  • Clear boxes (preferably with labels), filled by category

If you have a lot of something, it needs a rightful place. For me, that was all my scrapbooking stuff. I have a lot of paper, stickers, and more, so to keep it all together, I got it its own box from Dollar General. It’s clear, so I can see what’s in it, and it’s also as small as possible, so that it’s easy to store.

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  • Baskets/Crates with sections (for utensils and whatnot)

These help keep little things separate from one another. I use mine to separate my sticky notes from my paper clips from my pens/pencils from my markers. They are all things I use almost daily, but prevent me from having a big ugly box of crayons, you know?

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  • Labeled baggies for loose objects 

I use Ziplocs to organize my scrapbooking stickers. I have categorized by theme: letters/numbers, special occasions, holidays, quotes. etc. Like the dividing baskets, it keeps things separate so that buttons don’t get lost in the marbles, and alphabet stickers don’t get stuck to the Christmas ones.

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  • Distinct bags/boxes for projects currently underway

This can get kinda messy, but if you do it right, it makes a world of difference. I use cute canvas bags to organize projects. I have one that holds my scrapbooking supplies for one scrapbook, one for business stuff (for example, it holds my zip ties, whole punch, price tag paper, receipt book, etc.), and one that hangs out for default projects. I keep them under my table or in a cabinet, but they could essentially be hung or stored anywhere. A cute box would work, too!

 

Of course all of this only works if you put everything back where it’s supposed to go.

 

 

Other ways to keep it together, crafting or not:

  • Planning meals

I don’t map out every meal and snack for the entire month on a calendar. That’s too hardcore for me (kudos to you if that’s how you roll), but I do plan out what I can eat for the week. I look at my pantry and freezer to first see what I have already. I try to figure out two or three dishes with food that I already have stocked up, which reminds me: every so often (say, month or two), stock up on everything: broths, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, soups, spices, pasta, sauces, baking supplies, meat, etc. That way, when you’re in a pinch, you can whip something together. Once you have an idea of what you can make for the week, you can either make-ahead or write out when you’ll cook it. I recommend cooking back-to-back, then alternating leftovers for the rest of the week.

tools I use- meal planning ish

 

  • As-you-go grocery (or supplies!) list

As things go missing, write them down. There are few things worse than going to the store and forgetting something you need because you forgot to write it down. I use a notepad in my kitchen to keep track of things as I run out. As soon as I drink that last glass of milk, I write it down. Once it gets long enough, I rearrange it in the order that I’d get it at the store (too much maybe?) and then go shopping- probably every two weeks.

Run out of hot glue? A certain color of yarn? Write it down asap.

Tip: Use Ibotta! Ibotta is a cashback app that my cousin recommended to me. You browse the app looking for rebates, click on the ones you want, and then redeem them by scanning your receipt after your grocery trip. I’ve collected over $40 in rebates! Don’t forget coupons, either. I particularly like HEB’s digital coupons.

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Use referral code: fkertsn

 

  • Making the bed

Make your bed every morning, folks. Some people think it’s stupid, but I don’t. It helps establish routine. It keeps things tidy. If you don’t do a damn thing that day, you can at least say your bed is made. It’s like a domino effect: you make your bed, then you leave on time. You leave on time, you feel good, and you do more work. You get more work done during the day, and your evening is free. You use that time to make a kick-ass supper. You’re so proud you don’t mind the dishes. Then at the end of the day, you’re happily exhausted and get a great night’s sleep in your nicely made bed. Repeat.

 

  • Setting out the next day’s clothes

It’s simple- one less thing to think about when you wake up the next morning. You aren’t spending time figuring it out either. Less fuss in the morning is always a good thing.

 

  • Monthly budget

There are so many ways to track your spending, like making a spreadsheet or doing the priority chart. I’m not here to tell you how to do it. I am telling you to just do it. It’s so important to know the state of your finances. You should know how much you’re spending a month, how much you need to spend, how much income you’re bringing in, what that ratio is, and if/how you’re saving. That last one is the most important. As humans, we’re good at figuring out the immediate future, but we have a difficult time envisioning the long-term. That’s why it’s so important to save, save, save. You may not know what your future holds, but at least you’ll have the money to pay for it, right? Retirement, travel, education, a new house… they all could be in our futures (whether we know it or not), and they all cost money- you can bank on that.

Not very good if you’re going to Hobby Lobby though…

tools I use budget landscape

I keep my budget in my planner because it’s one place that I check everyday. It doesn’t replace checking my actual bank account, but it helps keep me on point.

  • Working Out

Don’t groan on me. I’m not saying the secret to productivity is running a marathon. The secret is staying healthy, strong, and energized. You can achieve health, strength, and energy by exercising regularly. I balance running (when I’m not training), strength training, yoga, and outdoor activities like hiking.

Don’t believe me? Here are some interesting articles on exercise and productivity:

https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/exercise-increases-productivity/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/422836-how-does-exercise-improve-work-productivity/

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281418

 

The last tools I want to touch on are ones I have never used before, which is why they weren’t on my list, but that I want to use because I have heard great things. These are for my fellow crafty friends who make money on their own. Y’all might be interested!

The first is Freshbooks. It’s an accounting software for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I want to use it eventually, as my business grows a bit more.

The second is Asana, a scheduling program. It’s more for teams, I think, but many people use it like I use pen and paper.

 

All of this is information is to find what works for you, so I hope I could have been a little bit of a help!

 

Thank you and many blessings to all,

 

~Hannah ❤

 

Working with Wood: A Brief Guide to Finishes

When working with wood, you’ve got to treat or stain it somehow to protect it. This post has just a very brief list of stains and oils you can use.

Working with Woods_

We make a lot  of things with wood: signs of all sizes, hat racks, jewelry holders, and more, I’m sure. Most of these have to be treated in some way to protect them from the elements and just make them look pretty!

We use a couple different stains and oils, so I thought it would be useful to list a few and show what they look like. This was a fun post to write because I didn’t know much about any of these oils, either, until I did a little bit of research!

 

Tung Oil

We use this oil pretty often. Tung oil comes from Asia and its use goes back for years and years.

It’s a great oil to use for beginners or for someone in a hurry. It dries fast, it’s safe, and makes the wood look like, well, wood. It gets deep into the wood- making it pretty waterproof- and brings out the natural grooves and patterns of the wood, leaving a matte, slightly darker finish.

 

Linseed Oil

Honestly, I’ve never used this, but it is a pretty popular oil to use on wood. For one, as a natural oil, it’s safe and environmentally friendly. It’s also very functional as it protects the wood from water and anything else that could be absorbed by it.

Lastly, like the tung oil, it brings out wood’s natural grain, staining it with a friendly golden color that will darken and deepen over time.

 

Walnut Oil

I’ve never used walnut either, and I probably won’t, for one reason. Walnut oil tends to take much, much longer to dry than the first two oils listed here. You have to leave it for about twenty-four hours, from what I’ve seen.

Despite the long dry time, it works amazingly at protecting your wood projects.

 

Beeswax

My dad has used beeswax before, and it’s a great option. It’s a natural product, so it’s safe and eco-friendly, and it provides a beautiful, shiny finish that protects.

 

Polyurethane

This one, of course, is not a natural product. Polyurethane is a synthetic, plastic-based substance that is used anywhere and everywhere, even for treating wood, like wood floors. It protects the materials from the elements, much like oils do, but in a different way. Poly is a coating on the wood, whereas the oils are absorbed by the wood. Polyurethane lasts a long time, but should any spot be messed up, it’s a pain to fix it. Oils last a really long time, too, and if they get messed up, it’s much easier to fix.

 

So when you’re making a decision on what to use (synthetic vs. natural or what kind of oil to use), just do a bit more research, and know what you want. After all, it really just comes down to taste and situation. Hopefully this brief guide is a good starting point for you!

 

~Hannah

 

Sources:

https://www.realmilkpaint.com/blog/tutorials-videos/beginners-guide-pure-tung-oil/

https://ardec.ca/en/blog/22/linseed-oil-a-natural-solution-for-wood-finishing

http://www.leevalley.com/us/shopping/TechInfo.aspx?p=59385

http://polyurethanes.org/en/what-is-it

http://kentwoodfloors.com/sites/default/files/literature/PT9-04.pdf

Saturday Market Recap

This past Saturday was the Old Country Fair in Ganado, complete with market, quilting contest, salsa contest, weenie dog races, and food trucks. It was so fun! You had the quilt shop’s customers, feed store’s customers, market’s customers, and highway traffic all coming together to make for the most successful market (for us) yet. Despite the heat, it was nearly perfect.

The booth saw yet another make-over:

 

Here are some of top selling and most loved pieces:

 

We have a lot to get done before September. Hope to see y’all there!

Steak Hooks

How to make steak flippers (or hooks, but I think “flippers” is more fun to say). If you don’t know what those are, keep reading!

 

This is one of my favorite things that we sell. I had nothing to do with it, either; it was all my dad! Steak flippers or turners are a tool used for flipping steak, as the name suggests. It’s just a long stick with a hook at the end- perfect for Labor Day down the road!

Steak Hooks

This is how my dad made it.

To make the flipper, he used a deer shed and- get this- an old hay rake. I think that’s awesome!

First thing he did was cleaned the rust off the rake. He did this by soaking it in vinegar and buffing off the excess, shining it up. Then he took it to his forge (he makes knives) to heat it up and bent it so that the hook would more sideways. While that cooled, he moved on to drill a hole in the base of the small deer shed to fit the rake into. He also drilled a hole in the pointy end of the shed to tie leather through, so that it could be hung when stored. Once that was done, he put the two together, twisting and whatnot so that they securely fit together.

 

And that’s it! Easy peasy, but not too speedy to put together (that attempt at rhyming is just disgusting).

 

Happy grilling, y’all!

 

~Hannah ❤