Shalom's Cottage Home Blog

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Rock Island, IL, United States
Hi, I'm Shalom. Artist, crafter, gardener, flea market enthusiast, bargain hunter, and lover of flavor. Welcome to my journey! shalomschultzdesigns@gmail.com

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Monday, August 23, 2010

New Fall Wedding Color Trends: Plum & Chocolate

I was so thrilled to discover that my Plum Dahlia Wedding Invitations had been featured on Indie Bride today. LOVE the color combo!

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm in Love!

(photo by Elizabeth Anne Designs)

Hazards of my job as an invitation designer: Would LOVE me a slice of this beautiful (and hopefully delicious) white-on-white wedding cake RIGHT NOW!!! *rifles through cupboards for any available junk food*

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Holy Butterflies!

Today, I happily stumbled upon Real Butterfly Gifts etsy shop and before I knew it, I had spent nearly an hour, marveling at the beautiful specimens from all over the world. They have other insects too, but I loved the butterflies the best. The color and the detail evident in God's creations simply cannot be matched. And the artist in me is nearly moved to tears, by the majesty of it all. Here are some of my favorites.

Blue Morpho Butterflies from Peru and Brazil

White Rice Paper Butterfly from Indonesia

Catagramma Butterfly from Peru

Green Philaethria Dido from Peru

Mother of Pearl Morpho Butterfly from Peru

Peacock Butterfly from Europe

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Customer is UN-Happy: What to do?

It happens. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, for an endless array of reasons, (some valid and some not) the customer is NOT pleased with their order wants you to know it!

Based on experience, here's what I recommend:

1) Calm down. Take a walk. Make dinner. Watch some TV. Whatever gets your mind OFF the problem for at least an hour. But, whatever you do, do NOT react immediately.

2) Re-evaluate. When you are ready to deal with the problem as a BUSINESS matter (and not a personal one), go back and read their comment/feedback/email several times. Make sure you understand exactly what it is they are unhappy about.

3) Think like the customer. What would YOU expect a business to do for YOU, if roles were reversed. Realize that, no matter who you feel is "right" and who is "wrong" in the situation, if the customer is disappointed with their purchase, they are entitled to their feelings. Period.

4) Think beyond the problem. Try to see how this could be a good thing for business, long-term. Have they brought up an issue that you were not aware of before and now have a chance to remedy? If so, be grateful. You may never know how many other customers did NOT voice their disappointment (but also never returned to your shop).

5) Contact the customer. Say you are very sorry to hear they were disappointed with their purchase (this does NOT necessarily mean that you are admitting blame - it just lets them know that you DO care about their feelings).

Thank them (yes, thank them!) for bringing the issue to your attention and let them know that you are going to look into it future business purposes. Think about it. Who doesn't like to feel that they are contributing to a greater good? I guarantee your thanking them for their complaint will knock them completely off guard - in a good way.

Finally, ask the customer how you can make it up to them. I like to offer free product or a replacement as the first line of defense, since it's less of a monetary hit for my business. But, if necessary I will refund. Funnily enough, I've never actually had an unhappy customer outright ask for refund - most are satisfied with free product and a few have told me it's not necessary - they just wanted me to be aware of the situation. I've even had some of these customers leave positive feedback, praising me for my "professionalism" in handling the situation.

Above all, don't allow a setback like this to get you down for too long. You may feel like a failure for a day, but realize that it will pass. It is an opportunity for growth. Nothing else.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quick Tip: Do Less Make More

Want to know how to make more money by doing less? Don't be alarmed. This is not one of those "work at home and make zillions" scams. It's a very simple concept, actually. It's about changing the "perceived value" of a product or service so that you can charge more, without increasing inventory costs or production time.

For instance, this year I started designing and selling wedding invitations. I use the same paper to print my invitations as I do for my note card sets. The wedding invitations use about 25% LESS paper than the cards do, yet I have them priced at 40% MORE per piece than the cards. And they SELL. Very well, I might add.

There are a few things I attribute to this success model:

1) The invitations are a unique design that you can't get anywhere else.

2) I offer customization options and a level of personal service that is simply not an option with the "bigger" companies.

3) My prices are very competitive compared to similar invitations found elsewhere.

4) Wedding Invitations have a built-in higher perceived value (in the customers' eyes) due to the nature of their importance.

5) It takes me less time per piece to actually make the invitations (as opposed to the cards) and so I'm able to put that extra time savings to use elsewhere - designing new products, taking more orders, etc.

It's that simple. Think about it. How can YOU "do less and make more" too?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Among the Flowers in the Breeze

It is "high summer" and for the past several weeks, I've been a little distracted when driving by billowing patches of Queen Anne's Lace flowers that have cropped up on roadsides all over town. I love the way they just seem to float above the ground.

A few nights ago, when perusing a new bridal magazine for invitation design ideas, I came across this photo and something clicked.

So, today, I decided to brave the 90 degree heat and humidity to wander about with my camera and get some inspirational shots. I wasn't aiming for amazing photos, but rather those that I could take back home and use as the seeds for a new piece of art. Unfortunately, Queen Anne's Lace only seems to grow by the side of the busiest roads, so I had to endure being a bit of a spectacle as I knelt in the grass in varying awkward positions to get the job done (one car honked!).

(mockup of the idea board in my brain)
Even with my not-so-cutting edge digital camera, I was able to get some fairly detailed photos (despite the fact that the breeze kept blowing the darned things all over the place), so I am pleased. I'm envisioning silhouettes of white flowers on green (for Spring and Summer!) and chocolate (for Autumn) backgrounds. Now the real work begins...

Just another day in the life of this designer.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Clothes Aren't Going To Fold Themselves

As much as I hate to admit it, I am a chronic procrastinator. Oh, not with the things that really matter, I tell myself every day. I keep a day planner and I make a valiant effort to cross off the most important tasks (such as getting a customer's time-sensitive bridal shower invitation order in the mail) in order of priority. I am on top of my game professionally.

But underneath the glossy cover, I struggle to keep the rest of my life in as good of shape as I do my business. Every day I walk through my house in a state of denial: simply choosing "not to see" the clutter in the living room I started redecorating a month ago, or the stack of dishes teetering precariously in the sink, or the weeds threatening to crowd out the flowers I so lovingly planted, and rummaging through the boxes in the back of the cupboard for something quick to eat instead of just making a list and going to the grocery store.

It's not that I don't care...I just don't have the time to deal with it all at once. At least that's what I tell myself. I'll get to those "less important" tasks...eventually. And I do. But by that time, the To Do list has gotten just that much longer. How to break the cycle?

Today, I read the most inspiring article I've come across in a long time that convicted me to, instead of making excuses for why I "don't have the time" to do a particular thing, just adopt an attitude of FINISHING WHAT I START.

For instance, if I'm going to open the dishwasher to get out a clean spoon, it would be more beneficial in the long run to just take 5 minutes to empty it out and fill it again with dishes needing to be cleaned. There, done!

Or to hang my shirt back up in the closet each night before I go to bed, instead of tossing it over a chair. 30 seconds, max. If not, in no time at all I won't even be able to see the chair, for all the clothes draping off it, much less find a particular item to wear when I'm in a hurry.

I don't expect to become superwoman overnight and having a spotless home is not worth trading my sanity for, but I do believe that I can do better than I have in the past. "Finish what I started", I'm going to keep telling myself. If 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there can take the place of entire days devoted to housework, and give me the satisfaction of a more orderly life, it's certainly worth the effort.

To read the article that inspired my new CAN DO attitude, click here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pick Your Color! Dahlia Garden Wedding & Bridal Shower Invitations


My Dahlia Garden wedding series is now available in 8 delicious color options!
SUMMER SALE - 15% OFF!!! (limited time only)

Idea File: What to do with a beat up antique frame

Remember that antique frame I picked up at an estate sale back in March for just $2.75? Do you think I had any idea what I wanted to do with it when I bought it? Ha! But none of that matters, if you follow the mantra, "Buy what you love!" This does require some genuine soul-searching (which is a finely tuned skill that must be honed down to take mere seconds in some cases, if you want to snag that bargain before someone else swipes it out from under your nose). Especially if you are running out of closet space and can't afford to rent a storage unit for all your "treasures"...ahem. But, like love, when you know, you know.


Two months later (a pretty good record for me!), I figured out what to do with my "find"and created a 3-D vignette with the frame on top of my fireplace, using an antique silver cake stand (a previous flea market find), a hand-painted clay vase (from the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan), some flowers (yes, artificial, but they can always be switched out for fresh) and two modern glass votive holders (Crate & Barrel). SO much, more interesting than just plopping a painting inside it and banging a nail into the wall for it to hang on. What's great about this idea is that it's easily interchangeable for the seasons. Also - because I've been in the habit of buying things I love for years, when the mood struck me to redecorate my living room, I didn't spend a dime!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Playing "Secret Agents"


Today, I took a lesson from my preschoolers to heart and stepped into the role of a "secret agent" (sans oversized magnifying glass). Of course, I was really only window shopping, but as I visited several area stationary stores to review their wedding product offerings and asked the same questions of any interested customer who had an upcoming wedding to plan, I did feel a little bit like the female spy in any James Bond movie. I was cool, calm and oh so conversational. And I have to tell you - I learned A LOT: from the names of paper and stationary suppliers to the types of products that are hot with brides today to the brand of imprinting equipment they use. Nothing the salespeople wouldn't have shared with any other savvy customer, really, but I have a feeling if I'd waltzed in and announced that I was the owner of an up and coming stationary business and was here to snoop for ideas, I might not have been received as warmly. Of course, I have no plans to drive anyone out of business - if anything I hope to have my line stocked in their stores someday. I can't afford to attend the National Stationary Show (my dream destintation!) and I feel like I've bled the internet dry of any useful information regarding getting started in the stationary business so undercover research was the next logical step. Not only was it WELL worth my time, but I had FUN!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today I'm Thankful For: Free Fresh Flowers

The simple gift of being able to come home at the end of a long day and breathe in the scent of a peony blossom truly is priceless (especially when it comes from your garden!). Here are some of the lovelies I've been bringing indoors for so far this spring, for however long they will last...
Pink Peony (perennial)

Yellow African Daisies (annual) and Coreopsis (perennial)

Allium (perennial)

Note: perennial: comes back year after year on its own; annual: must be planted each year

Friday, May 14, 2010

Today I'm Thankful For: Healthy Deliciousness!!!

A nice big bowl of this yummy concoction is filling enough to pass for a meal, yet oh so good for you!

FAT-FREE SRAWBERRIES N' CREAM

Fat-free plain yogurt (or vanilla for the chickens out there)
Honey, to taste (skip, if using vanilla)
Fresh, sliced strawberries.

This takes only about 5 minutes to put together. Just dump a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt into a cereal bowl, drizzle honey over the top and stir. Add more as needed. Then slice up enough strawberries to cover the top. Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Today's Score: Vintage Metal Pieces

So, I was just happily minding my own business, working at the preschool run out a local church, when I started to notice a lot of activity going on in the fellowship hall. Turns out they were gearing up for their annual garage sale (actually more like a mini flea market in size) and they encouraged all church workers to shop early to get the best deals. Oh boy did I! For a whopping $12.80 I scored the following:

3 vintage white metal storage crates: $.10 each (yeah, I couldn't believe it either). I just LOVE the decorative round holes in the sides. Sometimes it's all in the details.
5 wooden frames: $.50 each. I'm collecting them for a black/white photo wall I have planned for my living room re-do.

Vintage metal school desk: $10.00. Now THIS was just too good of a deal to pass up! I had one of those "Ah Hah!" moments when I saw it and quickly nabbed the closest person to put a SOLD sign on it for me. It's just so quirky and fun. I'm thinking of re-painting it a glossy orange color and putting in a corner in my spare bedroom as an art center for when my niece and nephew come over.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oh Estate Sales, How I Love Thee

As I was walking through the historic Davenport home today, salivating at all the wonderful stuff at rock bottom prices, I couldn't help thinking, "Why haven't I done this before?" If I'd bought this stash at an antique store, it would have cost me probably 10 times what I paid, or more. As it happened, I only paid $24 for the whole lot. Yes, you read that right. Here's the breakdown:
- Stuffed Easy Chair: $7.50
- Antique Frame: $ 2.75
- Original Oil Painting: $12.75
- 2 Silk Scarves: $1.00

I still can't believe my luck. Of course, the chair will need to recovered, but it's comfy and sturdy and for $7.50, who cares?

I managed to suppress the little twinges of guilt that kept popping up, trying to suppress my joy at finding such fantastic bargains, because...well...for the family holding the estate sale, it is usually a painful process. Estate sales generally happen because someone has died, or there has been a divorce, a home was foreclosed or debt needs to be paid off. Parting with all those memories is understandably a very difficult thing to do. But, I hope that the family in this case, finds some comfort in knowing that their long-loved belongings are going to new homes where they will continue to be loved as they absorb new memories of their own.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today I'm Thankful For: Text Messaging

I'll admit it. I'm not a big "texter". I screen my calls and often go hours at a time without being within reaching distance of my phone (gasp). But I've recently come to appreciate the phenomenon of text messaging. In my world where some days the most communication I exchange with my husband is a mumbled & half-dazed farewell before we both go to our jobs, I consider it a luxury to be able to tell him "I love you" at will, without interrupting him in the middle of his work day. On days that started out grumpily, that "I love you" may be precluded with an "I'm sorry". It takes less than 30 seconds to send a simple message, but I've found that a little communication "maintenance" sure goes a long way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today I'm Thankful For: Leftover Authentic Mexican


It's true. Some things really DO taste better the next day. Like the Puerco Pibil that sent my husband running all over the Quad Cities picking up ingredients for and which wasn't ready to eat until 10 pm last night because it took 5 hours to slow roast, but neither of us wanted to wait until the next day. It is THAT good. And best of all...I didn't have to lift a finger to make it. God bless husbands who cook!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Today I'm Thankful For: Saturday Mornings

Munching on PB & honey toast and sipping my second cup of coffee while I blissfully thumb through the magazines that came in the mail last week for 2 guilt-free hours = happiness. True, technically it is the First Day of Spring and it it is in fact SNOWING outside my kitchen window, but after a week of non-stop action I can't think of any reason not to enjoy this moment of nothingness.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On

Art by KeepCalmShop.etsy.com

Everyone should have this saying tatoo'd on their palms for quick n' easy reference.

Etsy.com Front Page!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Feet

After an overcast high of not quite 60 today, it was dipping back down into the 40s by the time I got home from work, but I couldn't resist. I kicked off my work-approved, closed-toed ballet flats and slipped into a couple of little nothings called flip flops, then went back out to run errands for a few hours. I was also wearing a t-shirt, light sweater, spring scarf and a jacket (hey, there was a slight chance of snow in the forecast), but my toes were free. I haven't been this happy since Christmas.

Monday, March 15, 2010

NEW Dahlia Garden Wedding Collection

Wedding Invitation & RSVP in Dahlia Garden Orange

I'm so excited to finally be offering wedding and bridal shower invitations, featuring my best-selling original dahlia graphic illustration. I've lost count of the many requests I received for just such a line so if you you know someone who loves flowers and is planning a garden-themed wedding, please pass the word along!

Wedding Invitation & RSVP in Dahlia Garden Pink

Bridal Shower Invitation in Dahlia Garden Orange

Bridal Shower Invitation in Dahlia Garden Pink

Friday, March 12, 2010

Who Knew?

Just over 6 months ago, while sitting at my desk in a relatively respectable job as a hotel receptionist, I found myself thinking, "I just don't feel like I'm living up to my potential." I didn't have much to complain about - I had a decent boss, regular hours that worked around my schedule, I wore nice clothes to work and when the long nights got to be boring it was perfectly permissible for me to while away the evening on the internet. I told myself that it was a great job for someone like me who was trying to launch their own business and didn't need extra work stress. But as night after night wore on, the sense of "guilt" grew heavier and heavier. I began to casually browse the "want ads" for openings. That was when I found the advertisement for an assistant teaching position in a Head Start pre-school. Based on my experience volunteering with the children in my church, I knew it was a job I would be good at and enjoy and that would also come with better hours and benefits. I applied and was hired.

Fast forward to today...shortly after becoming a government employee, I learned I would have to earn something called a CDA by summer 2013 in order to keep my position in early childhood education. It would involve gathering 480 hours of work experience plus 120 continuing education credit hours, masses of paper work and a final test and interview before being awarded the nationally recognized credential. Pause for breath. So, OK. Wow. Suddenly I found myself going back to school AND working part time AND running a business, but...absolutely LOVING it!

Looking back at my life (nearly 31 years of it), I see a pattern of decisions I thought I was making for completely different reasons than what they turned out to be and which have also led to vastly different outcomes than I had envisioned. Yet, strangely enough, I have found happiness in the midst of painful times and been moved by the waters of change when I thought I was planted for good in a place I didn't care for. All evidence, I believe, of the love and faithfulness of God who cares about the smallest details of our lives.

To illustrate my point, I want to share the "autobiography" I wrote today in class as part of my CDA paperwork. I have to admit that the final message of it both surprised and thrilled me:

Hi, my name is Shalom Schultz and I am an artist. Growing up, I was always creating in some way, whether sewing barbie clothes, drawing pictures of my best friends in ball gowns or helping my mom paint and redecorate the living room. When I went to college, naturally I pursued an art degree and have since worked as a graphic designer as well as started my own art and stationary business. Soon after marriage, my husband and I purchased a lovely little yellow house, surrounded by trees and flowers, and lived a quiet, happy life there together with our dogs for the next several years. To the casual observer, I was living my dream and yet I still felt as if something was missing.

Then, one day, in response to a need in my church, I volunteered to lead a class of 4 and 5 year olds for a couple hours each week while their moms met for coffee. Within minutes I fell in love with teaching and the opportunities it allowed me to share my creative skills by investing in young lives. Children possess an exuberance for life and an eagerness to learn that is absolutely contagious. The more time I spent with them the more I realized that my calling in life hadn't culminated with the earning of my art degree and I began to see a whole new world of learning opening up for me.

After gaining several years of volunteer experience, I decided to apply for a position as a Head Start Education Assistant, both for the chance to work more closely with children and for the personal education opportunities. Since then, I have enjoyed the challenge of reaching toward my CDA and after obtaining it plan to pursue a teaching degree - the ultimate goal being to head my own classroom where I can continue with even greater skill to to help children discover the world around them.

Of course, everyone always wants to know where "children" fit into my life plan and while it used to bother me (both because I wanted them and couldn't as well as because I hated being made to feel inferior), I can now with total honesty say that I have faith in God's plan for my whole life. He has shown me in so many ways that while my own sandcastles may be washed away, it is He who created the entire earth and I need not fret over my ability to form my own future. All He asks is that I diligently use the tools he has given me.

Am I giving up on the dream of expanding my business? Certainly not! Don't I realize that you can't juggle children plus 2 careers plus a home and husband at one time? Absolutely, which is why I am at peace with the opportunities I have been given now and have faith that when the time is right for my husband and I to start the adoption process, God will give us the green light on that too.

It's a wonderful relief to to realize that while my hands may be on the steering while, I don't have to be the navigator as well.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Welcome Spring


"When one has faith that the spring thaw will arrive, the winter winds seem to lose some of their punch."


-Robert L. Veninga

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The 'Joneses' Syndrom

They used to cluster together at social gatherings and discuss husbands, work, shopping and everything else. Rarely a weekend went by that they weren't mingling as couples at someone's house or apartment, admiring new paint colors, swapping recipes and sharing the joys and trials of being newly married. It was the best time of their lives and as the next year and a half passed by, this group of friends grew very close. No topic was off limits. No secrets between them.

Then one day, A noticed B advancing across the foyer in a hurry.

"Hey, girl?" A smiled at B. "What are you doing this aft--"

"Guess what? We're pregnant!" B announced with a flash of perfect white teeth and a little bounce.

"Oh...wow," said A. "That's wonderful! So...have you guys been trying for a while, then?" Wow, she never mentioned anything, thought A.

"Um, well, we just decided that we would go off the pill and see what happened. And something did!"

So soon? "Wow, so how far along are you?" A hoped, this was what she was supposed to ask next.

B glanced up at the ceiling behind A and squinted for a second. "I am 8 and a half weeks!", she declared with a tiny nod of affirmation.

Wait, what? 8 divided by 4 equals 2. So, OK. About 2 months. Why didn't she just say that? "Awww. That's so great. I'm really happy for you," A beamed and stepped forward to give her friend a quick hug.

"Thanks!!!" B squealed before moving on to work the rest of the room, skillfully eliciting exclamations of joy from every female in it.

A watched her friend go with mixed feelings of bewilderment and foreboding. She and her husband hadn't even begun to discuss (or really even think about) the possibility of children yet and there was certainly no room for a "baby" category in the couple's monthly budget at present. But, she had never seen B so happy...maybe they should talk about it. Maybe the right time was sooner rather than later. Maybe all the little nagging details that told her they shouldn't would just dissolve into nothing if she got pregnant too. Maybe nothing else in life really mattered as much as...having a baby!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Plotting

Every day I come home from work to a scenario such as this. I think they are secretly hoping I won't notice and will one day land a heel squarely on one of those little round pieces, go sailing across the slippery wood floor and crash into the trash can (as I once did before) for their own personal amusement. I think daddy may have put them up to it, but it's just a hunch.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Infertility is an ugly word

We like to put people, situations, stages of life into neatly labeled "boxes" because as a society we are uncomfortable interacting with those who's lives do not match up to our own ideals - giving them a "name" helps us to decide where they fit in (or don't), what we should or should not do about them.

There are certain people I've learned to avoid because their view of the world consists of:

1) Women who have children: good
2) Women who don't have children: bad

They've viewed the world for so long through such a divided filter that it is impossible to squeeze a thought into their brain that doesn't fit neatly into one of these two categories. Attempting to try is like trying to block machine-gun fire with your own body. Not a good idea. Also, not worth your time.

Then there is another set of people who see the world through similar filters as above (though softened a little with something called "compassion") which look like this:

1) Women who have children: good
2) Women who don't have children: sad

Into this category, falls nearly everyone else you come in contact with. Doctors, family members, co-workers, acquaintances and even close friends. They are the ones who, when they find out that you don't have children yet, are either "sorry" or offer to "pray for you" or want to give you advice on where you can get "help" to rectify this undesirable situation in your life. They are very well-meaning and you can't fault them for feeling empathy toward you. But at the same time, it is comments like these from people you admire and trust that strengthen the walls around the box you have unwillingly and unwittingly found yourself in.

The word "infertility" (which means NOT-fertile, as in the complete absence and lack whatsoever of) is a medical term used to diagnose couples who have been trying unsuccessfully for over 1 year to become pregnant. This is based on statistical data which says that most couples (about 90%, depending on which site you read) who eliminate contraception will become pregnant within a year's time. Everyone else is deemed to be "infertile". Yet, the literary world abounds with stories of couples who tried for years before finally becoming pregnant - some after getting "help" and some by sheer luck. Also, there are many different biological factors which may affect either the woman's or the man's ability to contribute to the fertility equation. In most cases, it is simple a matter of decreased chances of becoming pregnant and not an actual fact that it will never, ever happen. But never mind all this. If it's been a year and you aren't knocked up, girls, you are INFERTILE! Happy?

Of course not. Who wants to walk around with that kind of label over their head? Especially if you are just starting out in your quest to have children and the topic is still very sensitive. Nothing like a prediction of failure to keep up your morale, while all around you people seem to be popping out babies left and right without giving it a second thought (never mind those who don't even want the children they so effortlessly conceived).

But more importantly, since WHEN did your ability (or lack thereof) to have children become the most important defining element of your life? While, mothers are wonderful and necessary people, why are they automatically lifted onto a societal pedestal just because their bodies were able to perform the basic act of reproduction? Before, I start getting hate mail, let me explain that I am referring to the biological definition of a "mother".

Unfortunately, because of this imbalance in human perception of "worth", those who don't fit the mold experience isolation and segregation which all-too-often leads to bitterness and depression. A silent "war" persists in the minds of the "haves" and the "have nots". And it will rage on until you realize that the only person you can change is yourself.

Before this gets too deep, I want to say that my point in writing this first blog post about my own experiences with the I-word is to open up a conversation about the "box" I found myself in, nearly 5 years ago and how I broke out of it. I will be honest and I will be frank. I may post snippets of journal entries and the memories I recall may be laced with bitterness from time to time, but I ask anyone who decides to read them to keep in mind that my experiences are my experiences and that my ultimate goal is freedom, acceptance and happiness.

You don't find clusters of women chatting about the I-word around a cafe table . It's not a popular or fun topic and those unfamiliar with it personally are also uncomfortable with it in reality. But it exists and so, for the silent sufferers around the world, I write to let you know that you are not alone. Life is beautiful and so are you!

Until next time,

Shalom

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Safe


It's the strangest, warmest feeling to know that - even if just for an hour - when a crying child curls up and falls asleep in your arms, you are their everything for that moment in time. They feel safe and comforted because of you. And nothing else seems to matter.

Anatomy of Wedding Design

When I found out my sister was getting married and wanted me to organize the decorations, I was SO excited and felt more than ready to take on such a monumental task. After my own wedding, 8 years ago, which cost me many, many sleepless nights in the months leading up to it, I swore I'd never do another wedding again. Funny how time makes you forget all the little details that drive brides and wedding planners crazy everywhere. No sooner had we started seriously planning then my living room was taken over by bits of sparkly paper and crafting supplies and my spare bedroom filled up with bags of stuff for The Big Day quicker than I could count to 10. Every page in my planner for the next 4 months had some monumental task written down for me to complete and I wondered how I'd ever manage it all, work part time and run a business on the side. Still, when the candles were lit, the stars hung, the railings draped, and the guests in awe, my sister had the wedding she deserved and it was worth every moment.

For any of you who might be starting preparations for your own wedding (Congratulations!), I thought it would be fun to document the process of designing a wedding, from just a sketch on paper to the actual event. FYI, we started planning in January 2009 for an early May wedding. Yes, 5 months - it CAN be done!!!

Here are some snapshots of how we came to settle on a theme:

My sister had initially wanted to get married in January and have a snowflake theme, but she quickly figured out she didn't have enough time to plan. "An evening under the stars" was the next best choice for a May wedding. Still, we had no ideas for colors, flowers or anything specific, so I scoured Google Images (gotta love it) for anything having to do with evening garden parties and put together several collage sheets to help her narrow down her choices.

My sister having chosen "stars" as the predominant theme, I whipped a few sketches for the reception area which I hoped were both practical and enchanting. This is the design she chose.

Now we needed to get down to the business of specifics. I agonized for hours (well at least it seemed like it) before I came up with a star mobile prototype that would hang evenly. The stars weren't cascading in a spiral like I wanted them to and the top ring hadn't yet been painted, but it was enough for us to visualize the final result. We centered my round kitchen table underneath it and topped it with a mirror off the wall, some spare flowers I had in storage and a few frosted votives. VoilĂ ! The "look" was born.

Next we went shopping with the intention to only check prices, but ran into a 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby and came home with about 10 bags of stuff. Shazam!

It was decided that my address should be the destination for anything that had to be shipped in...I nearly cut myself several times opening the huge box of frosted votives we'd ordered since 4 were shattered into millions of pieces. The company was really nice though and sent replacements right away, plus a few extras. It always pays to ask!

The making of 100 of these wedding invitations by hand, could have been it's own blog post, but I forgot to take pictures. I approached the design of these in much the same way as I did for the overall wedding theme. These were the first true glimpses guests got at the wonders to come!

Before you can truly appreciate the photos below, it is important to document the transformation of the reception area. Obviously this is the "before" shot. (And yes, that's me up on the ladder in the background - not my proudest saggy-jeans moment, I must say.)

Just for the heck of it, I feel I should point out that over 600 sparkly stars, punched by hand made the event below possible.

And finally...the "after" shots. Enjoy!





So...with little time, but LOTS of creativity, a clear budget (we accomplished our goal in under $1000...mind you that was JUST the decorating budget), willing helpers and meticulous organization our little evening garden party came to pass.

I hope you found these tips helpful and wish you great bargains and wonderful memories on your own wedding journey.