How Do You Like Your Coffee Chart a la Pride and Prejudice

Bits in Spaaace!, Books & Mags

Since I seem to be in a Jane Austen mood this month, here’s an older but still brilliant “How do you like your coffee” chart:

JA Is My Spirit Animal How Do You Like Your Coffee

By Jane Austen Is My Spirit Animal on Facebook.

“I prefer tea” for me. Obviously. 🙂

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

A Social Media Day in the Life of a Microbusiness Owner

Behind the Scenes

This summer, Playfully Grownup Home turned five years old. Yay! To celebrate my level 5 business owner status, here’s a writeup of my workday two Sundays ago. It’s a fairly typical exemplar of what it’s like to work for myself and by myself.

Hooray Cross Stitch

A note on my schedule: before starting the business, I knew from stories and research that owners don’t get to enjoy terribly regular hours. However, after a few years, I had to make regular off-hours a priority following a surgery and recovery afterwards. I still work slightly off-kilter, though, following my ex-library job schedule: typically Sunday through Thursday, unless there are orders to ship on Friday and Saturday.

Tumblr Chibird Take Care Today Future You Appreciates

Jackie a.k.a. Chibird on Tumblr.

Sundays are my dedicated social media writing and planning days. Typically they vary a lot: some are chock-full, others very light, and sometimes – annoyingly – the latter turn into the former by the force of PEBCAC. That was this particular Sunday.

Morning (7:30-)

I woke up to Husband banging his toe on some clutter on the floor that I hadn’t yet stored away (sorry!) and decided to get up and get going.

During breakfast, I checked email, social media and Etsy shop status (no new orders overnight) plus read my morning news.

Before finishing my second mug of tea, I dove right into the day’s tasks with the hope that if I got everything done fast, I could play some WoW in the afternoon because the latest expansion is still new and exciting. Alas, that didn’t happen.

I first scheduled three pre-drafted posts to wrap up Playfully Grownup Tumblr for August and made a template for September 2018 tumbling. I like to draft well ahead of my posting schedule in case of emergencies. Right now I’m completely out of pre-drafted material, though; soon I’ll have to spend time finding photos and writing captions for two or three weeks’ worth.

Then I checked a previously written and scheduled blog post for mistakes (=final, final proofread) and drafted another one. I needed a few photos before I could finish scheduling the post, however.

I remembered there was a a potential post photo I’d taken, possibly on a smart phone, but I also needed to take at least one new one. Since the latter usually goes fast, I pulled out my camera. I snapped the shot I needed plus another one for fun, then edited and uploaded them with metadata. Once that’s done, it’s easy and fast to add photos to a blog post from a Flickr URL.

In contrast, finding the already-taken photo I was thinking about dragged on because I got a new phone just the previous week and hadn’t yet backed up all of the photos from the old one. Once all appropriate batteries had been charged and files transferred, I found the photo. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work for the post. (Ohwell; at least I got all of my assorted phone photos backed up.)

I then spent some time digging in my photo folders looking for a replacement. That done, I pulled a WoW screencap to finalize the post with. A round of proofreading and the post was ready to schedule. Wham bang – that’s the posts for August!

Moving on. While laying out the basic structure for September’s blog posts, I lost a bunch of notes in a copy&paste mishap. Argh!

Fortunately, I had a backup copy with at least partial if not full notes on an external drive. Setting up the drive and retrieving the file took maybe an extra 15-20 minutes (because I wasn’t working in my office at the time); not a lot, to be sure, but annoying because had I not gotten distracted for the crucial 5 seconds, I wouldn’t have been in this jam to begin with. (And it certainly highlighted the importance of backing up my data!) To alleviate the frustration, I made another pot of tea. Because tea is good.

Brewing Lunch Tea

Lunch (12:10-ish)

Over lunch, I caught up on the blogs I follow and read more news, including various San Jose Worldcon (Worldcon 76) reports. I also briefly popped in and out of social media.

Afternoon (13:00-)

Winding down lunch and getting back to work, I first double-checked that my hobby blog post for the coming week was scheduled correctly. It was. (Sometimes I suffer from an ID10T attack and they’re not.) Then I started to draft this post – the first for September – and dug up photos and links to add.

To clear my head a bit, I switched both tasks and my physical location (accounting and receipts tracking in my office) for an hour or so, then got back on the computer downstairs.

I’m not going to lie; sometimes blogging and social media in general feel like an insurmountably large amount of work for seemingly little return.

Snow Work in Progress

However, if there’s something I’ve learned in 5 years in business, it’s that persistence is vital. Even a genius cannot sustain any efforts without sticking to it. It also helps to create and keep to routines, especially for tasks that aren’t my strongest suit. That way I’ll have more time for my favorite tasks later. Also, hydration’s the boss. 🙂

If I’ve been on the computer all morning I can feel myself slowing down by three o’clock; so it was also this sample Sunday. Having lost time in the copy&paste mishap and backup retrieval, I was reluctant to call it quits yet, so I finished this post and created two more drafts. That makes three of September’s seven blog posts.

I’ll still have to proofread them and finish selecting photos, but otherwise they’re done. Also, at about five pages (including images), this post clocks more than I usually write per post, so I ended quite happy with the day’s accomplishments.

Evening (17:00-)

Between four and five, I typically check my Etsy and email for any new orders so I can start processing them. Around five, I wrapped up work. Sunday is also our sauna day; after Husband and I were nice and warm and sauna clean, dinner over an episode of Miss Fisher followed. Finally, we played some WoW together before bed (and books) around ten.

Two Black Amazons from 1400s

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, Thumbs Up

Oh, goodness! An illumination from a 15th-century French manuscript shows two black Amazons. Have a look:

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2R; via discarding images on Tumblr.

Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r; via discarding images on Tumblr.

This image has clearly been cropped and edited. My source, discarding images on Tumblr, says the two women are Amazons but gives no more details.

Being an early history nerd, I did some additional digging. Below is the whole page via Gallica, the digital library for the national library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, or BnF).

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Full Page

Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r.

The full title of the manuscript is Le secret de l’histoire naturelle contenant les merveilles et choses mémorables du monde. It was created between 1401-1500, and is currently stored at BnF. The illumination comes from the first part of the book, which presents the great countries and the great provinces of the old world.

Unfortunately, my French isn’t good enough anymore to be confident in my reading; I can understand a word here and there, but not the whole. However, it does look like the first word below the illumination is Amazon.

I’ve cropped into a separate image the bottom left corner of the illumination with the text following immediately after it:

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Amazons

Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r; cropped.

I just cannot make out the full spelling of the first word due to the ligatures that squish up the last two or three letters. It definitely looks like it’s inflected, though. The sequence ma definitely follows the capital A, with most likely a z and o further along.

It also looks there’s a sigil marking an abbreviation on top of the o, which was very common in handwritten Medieval documents to mark inflectional endings, among others. (Unless it’s a diacritic like in modern French – were they even used in Medieval French? If so, maybe Amazonye? Amazònye? Amazónye?? Amazônye???)

Anyway, it seems that Amazons are indeed talked about on the same page. The larger block of text above the illumination mentions the word affricà, too. (Again, not sure whether that’s a sigil or diacritic on the final a.)

In any case, if the two women aren’t Amazons, at the very least they are heralds of some sort leading a column of warriors. The image details, like the mi-parti dresses, are really neat, too.

Found via MedievalPOC on Tumblr.

And speaking of MedievalPOC, I’ve found it a truly valuable source for types of art imagery that’s not usually included in the canon from the Middle Ages onwards. The site is sometimes a little too interesting: on several occasions, I’ve spent much longer than intended there, happily chasing intriguing details down the rabbit hole. If you’ve got the time to spare, I wholeheartedly recommend it. 🙂

P.S. You can also follow MedievalPOC on Twitter. Happy browsing!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Some Notes on Business Operations

Ahem Ahem!

New year, new situations. Here’s a short recap of the latest developments in my business activities.

HKM Pukujen ja hattujen prassaysliike Vaino Kannisto 1946

Pukujen ja hattujen prässäysliike [Business for pressing suits and hats], Helsinki, Finland, by Väinö Kannisto, 1946. Helsinki City Museum (CC BY 4.0) via finna.fi.

Due to some long-standing health issues that culminated at the end of last year, I’m prioritizing self care this year (or until things settle down). The effects for shoppers should be minimal, however; I will continue to ship orders and respond to queries as soon as possible.

It merely means my backend processes (administration, development, etc.) will go slower since I will be keeping more strictly to my business hours – no more “I’ll just do this one more thing” or working six days a week instead of five.

Etsy is making some significant changes to their platform later this year. They include improving the search interface (to help buyers find the right items and to make better tools for sellers) and creating a new section for selling crafts supplies (called Etsy Studio). The latter will include video tutorials, which should make it easier to consider / experiment with new materials and techniques. I’m excited and curious to see the improvements in action, and will let you know if anything should change in my Etsy shop.

I’ve also decided that the costs of compliance with the Massachusetts legislation on donations as part of business are unsupportable. I will continue in my private capacity to contribute to (and occasionally blog here about) organizations, programs and initiatives that are important to me.

I’m continuing to experiment with social media. I’m currently contemplating a Twitter management program like Hootsuite or TweetDeck or the like, and joining Instagram in addition to Flickr. Do you have any experiences, good or bad, you’d like to share?

Some Self-Promo Stats

Ahem Ahem!, Behind the Scenes, DIY

As any creative knows, self-promotion is hard. Really, really hard. And most likely you signed up for your creative job specifically for the creative part, not necessarily realizing that self-promotion is a part and parcel of that job. I know I did – rather, I thought I knew about the challenges of the promo aspect, but the reality, as they say, has a way of sneaking up on you.

Buy My Stuff

While being excited to share your work with the world is understandable – it’s a product of hard work you’re proud of, after all – it’s easy to lose yourself in the promotional whirl. I can think of nothing worse than to inadvertently cross the fine line from sharing your excitement to unsolicited pestering. In fact, I dread it. Like author Delilah S. Dawson says about self-promo:

“…[I]f you do certain annoying behaviors, you’re shooting yourself in the foot and actively repelling people instead of interesting them.”

The equation often feels impossible. I have marketing needs and goals. I need to get out certain information like holiday schedules or rising shipping costs. I also want to let people know about new arrivals in my shop, like the breast cancer awareness items I made in 2014. Achieving those needs and goals seems opposed to the way I want to promote my business, though. I fear becoming yet another spammer, barging uninvited into other peoples’ spaces with my Exciting!! opportunity to purchase my new Exciting!! thing right at this Exciting!! moment. Also, I can’t have my blog to turn into a boring, soulless infomercial channel; I couldn’t stand that myself.

How much should you be talking abot your business, then? There are various rules of thumb with proportions like 4-1-1, 6-3-1 or 5-3-2:

  • 50-75 % signal-boosting other people’s content / curated content
  • 30-15 % original content created by you / owned content
  • 20-15 % sales-related content / promotional (or, in one version, personal status updates)

Or, more simply, there’s the 80-20 rule:

  • 80 % curated content
  • 20 % owned content

Short, informative explanations of these ratios (and more) can be found by Kevan Lee on Buffer.

To see how I was doing, I pulled some statistics. From mid-2013 to the end of 2015, I’ve written 267 posts here. 18 were in my business promotions / notifications category (Ahem, Ahem), which amounts to under 7 % of all posts.

On the basis of these numbers, I could increase my self-promo posting. I have, in fact, been thinking of writing the stories of how some of my items came to be, from the idea to design to prototypes and making the final products. They take a lot of time and effort, though, so before deciding, I need to have some idea of whether it’s worth spending that time writing or whether it would be better to design and sew instead.

What do you think – too much or too little as it is? More pictures? More text? Or more of the general Behind the Scenes posts on running a small creative business? Let me know what interests you!

Introducing: Co-Geeking – Like Christmas But With More Me

Ahem Ahem!, Geek out!, My Spaces

Bad puns with Iron Man references aside, I want to share my newest online project. Co-Geeking is a blog which I co-write with Husband, a home for our unabashedly geeky interests. We’ve been rolling our first posts out slowly and quietly over the summer, but we’re ready to shine more light on it.

We’ll share inspiring visuals, fun tidbits, silly quizzes, our thoughts on writing, stories and characters, and such. However, the biggest single feature is History for Writers, in which Husband applies his trade as an ancient historian to his love of storytelling.

CoG Header Attempt

An attempt at making a header for the new blog with just some of our interests.

For me, Co-Geeking is about three things. Firstly, it’s about sharing the stuff we love not only with each other but with others outside our immediate circle. I hope that we’ll get to talk with people we know in person or online who live in (drastically) different time zones, and that we’ll form new connections and friendships. I also want a place to share things that don’t fit well with the PGH focus.

Secondly, Co-Geeking is about highlighting the fact that geeks come in all configurations. I am no less a geek than Husband even though he bears the physical topography that’s currently more valued in this country and I don’t – and neither is someone who is of a different color, language group or culture than the two of us (white / Finnish and American). Nor is geekiness dependent on what you do or don’t like. Whether you’re into SCA, LARP, cosplay, tabletop games, card games, MMOs irrespective of flavor, anime, comics, superheroes in all and every medium, speculative literature in general or transwoman-authored science fiction about sentient carrot seedling soldiers from the debris disk of Tau Ceti, there is space for us all in fandom. A respectful discussion among various points of view enriches us all, and that’s what I want out of Co-Geeking.

Lastly, geekiness is not necessarily something you’ll grow out of, nor should you. In mainstream media, geeks are mostly stereotyped as teenagers or young adults, and men to boot, but we all know that’s not true and never has been. Husband and I are approaching / into our middle age now, still geeking strong, not about to quit, and we’re no less responsible adults than our neighbors just because we root for Groot and not the Patriots. I’ve decided to be more public about my geekiness to help dispell those annoying stereotypes.

The changes for the PGH blog will be minor. Here I will concentrate more heavily on textiles, textile history, sewing, homes, home projects, crafts and visuals, while I’ll try to keep Co-Geeking more story- and hard-materials-projects oriented. There will be overlap to some extent nevertheless, because variety is the salt of life.

We’re very excited about and hope you’ll join us at Co-Geeking! 🙂

Achievement Unlocked: 10 Followers

Behind the Scenes, Leveling Up, Thumbs Down

This blog already has 10 followers, to my surprise:

10 Followers on PGH

Exciting, right? Unfortunately, I seem to have been hit with “follower spam” already: most of these people are advertizing something. You could almost make their “pitches” into a pseudo-conversation:

“How to Make Money Blogging!”
“Join the Excitement by Following Our Fantabulous Reality TV Series That Has Absolutely Nothing to Do with Your Life or Interests!”
“Not Sure? Then Make Money Blogging about Our Fantabulous Reality TV Series!”
“No, Really, Join The Excitement Now. It’s really Exciting!”

It’s a little demoralizing – I am writing with an actual person in mind, not a sales drone who’s fishing for clicks or followers. We already have the Do Not Call list to block unsolicited sales calls and spam filters to block unsolicited marketing e-mails. I wonder when the blogging industry will catch up.

For the real people who follow: Thank you. I have no doubt you’ll get company in time.