Monday, January 19, 2015

Golden Tote Mystery Tote January 2015 Review

Is it wrong that I have no desire to write a Loot crate review? I'll get around to it, but it'll be totally boring :)

Instead, let's talk about clothes for women. Any complaints? So, I couldn't just stop at Stitch Fix, although I probably should have since it was pretty perfect. I had to go and get myself a Golden Tote mystery tote.

So the draw of the Golden Tote is that it's so much more affordable than it's competitors.
Their regular totes sell for $49 for 2-3 items or $149 for 5-7 items. The mystery tote is $60 for 4 items and is only available on certain occasions. These prices do not include shipping. So, they sucked me in with an email announcing the mystery tote's arrival.

Did I mention I just had a baby? He's 7 weeks old and I'm not quite back to my regular size. But did this occur to me when I ordered the mystery tote? Not so much, because I'd ordered my regular size from Stitch Fix and that all fit.

But what I failed to consider was that my Stitch Fix was curated based on my profile, and the Golden Tote mystery tote was a "one-size-fits-all" sort of thing. Duh!

This was my first experience with Golden Tote and here's what I got.


I wasn't very happy.

Now I realize, I take pretty good pictures, but these items all have major flaws and like it or not I'm going to tell you all of them.

Let's start with the Le Lis. 



You know how your hands get all scratchy when you've done a ton of cleaning? Well my hands are a mess with the dry cold weather in combination with constant washing of baby stuff. I could hardly pick this blouse up, it felt so horrible on my cracked hands. I put the thing on, knowing the outcome. Horizontal stripes, are you kidding me?!? How was this curated with a broad audience in mind. How many people do you know that can wear stripes?

Additionally, this top is sheer, requiring you find something to wear under it. Good luck with that given the length, which hits around the navel. Bleh.

Then there was the first Puella.



So, this blouse literally smashed my already small chest and felt like chainmail armor on my skinny arms. God bless the woman that looks good in this frock. I had to look up what frock meant just now, and yes, this qualifies. The color does nothing to help it out.

Oddly, this was the first thing I sold. I couldn't believe it! I listed it on a Facebook Golden Tote group and it was snatched up immediately.

Then there was this Puella.




If you can get past the old fashioned pattern and get this dress on, after trying to find undergarments that don't peak out, just try and get used to that collar! I would've given this the time of day if not for the bare shoulders, I just can't do it. And this dress is so shapeless, pear-unflattering.

Last, the Color Thread




I really wanted this to work, I knew immediately the others weren't for me. I could live with this, it's mostly black and kind of cute. But they killed that possibility when they sewed that bottom panel in. It has absolutely zero give, it wouldn't fit over my hips! Another Golden Tote shopper told me she had to cut slits in it to wear it. That made me feel a little better, but not really.

So, I'm stuck with this stuff and I'll try and resell it. Bummer. Back to Stitch Fix. Another Golden Toter asked if I'd try Golden Tote again, minus the mystery. Not a chance. This mystery tote made me realize that Puella isn't my style, and apparently those show up in every tote.

Sigh. My husband really wishes this would have worked out so I wouldn't have been so grumpy this weekend. Maybe he'll feel so sorry for me that he will order me a Stitch Fix for my upcoming birthday?? (hint, hint)

In case you are crazy and want to try Golden Tote, use this link so I can get credit:
https://www.goldentote.com/points/invitation/new/from/NDgzMzQ,/

I may just be crazy enough to try it again. Okay, no. But you can actually shop the site, too. That I would try.

Better yet, get your Stitch Fix on:
https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3020926

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Latest Fix (Stitch Fix)

My Stitch Fix box arrived, just in time for Christmas (and 5 days earlier than expected)! I had ordered it mid-November and it was the earliest date available. At the time I was very pregnant and home on maternity leave, dreaming of clothes that weren't 99% spandex. I gave a pretty tall order, "make me not look fat" more or less. I filled out their style profile, left a note for my stylist, and wished for the best.


For those of you unfamiliar with Stitch Fix it's a styling service. They send you 5 items for a $20 fee. Keep and pay for what you'd like, send back the rest. If you keep all 5 items you get a 25% discount, if you send it all back they keep the styling fee. The fee goes toward the items you keep. I think what sold me was the not leaving your home part. With baby number 4 and just having finished Christmas shopping I am really over my need to go anywhere. I also have very little time when I do go shopping. When I do get the chance to shop, I always end up in the same stores buying the same style of clothes, if you could call it a style. According to the website the average price of an item is $50, it's more than what I usually spend but there are no additional charges for shipping, just tax.

I seriously couldn't believe I decided to keep everything. So here's what I got!


EZRA

Eileen Striped Dolman Top $38.00


I hate the neckline, it's too low and I never wear v necks. Its also long and frumpy looking. I don't think horizontal stripes are ever going to work for me. I do however like the material and color. Not my favorite in the box, but I didn't give up hope!

Size Just right
Price Just right
Style Hate it
Fit/Cut Hate it

PAPERMOON

Elvina Embroidery Detail Pocket Front Top $44.00


I'm not into boho, seems like a mix up. But I love this top, the small amount of detail, otherwise simple. Great colors for me, goes good with jeans. I don't like that it needs dry cleaning, how is this "easy to take care of"? I'll make it work though, I love this shirt. It was the first thing I wore from the box.

Size Just right
Price Just right
Style Love it
Fit/Cut Love it

EZRA

Issac Open Cardigan $48.00


Great color for me, soft and luxurious, goes well with jeans, perfect amount of detail, great length. This was my favorite, instantly loved. Do this again Stitch Fix and you'll have me for life!

Size Just right
Price Just right
Style Love it
Fit/Cut Love it


LOVEAPPELLA

Evie Draw String Funnel Neck Sweatshirt $64.00


I wasn't sure about this style and fit, and the pocket sort of falls on my baby bump. The funnel neck seemed odd. But it just works. It's incredibly soft and the color/marl is flattering. 

Size Just right
Price Too high
Style Like it
Fit/Cut Like it

HONEY PUNCH

Mya Plaid & Lace Button-Up $48.00


Poor quality, stained, returning. It was too long, very unflattering with baby bump. I don't like long shapeless shirts. I rarely find button ups that work. I also prefer warmer pieces, I get cold easily. 

Size Too Big
Price Just right
Style Just okay
Fit/Cut Hate it


So I liked/loved 3 out of 5 items, this far exceeded my expectations. At first I was a little put off by them sending something they considered boho and saying it appealed to me, as nothing in my profile suggested I like boho. And the really long flowy shirts totally went against the classic, fitted style I prefer. But I did just have a baby and if I'd gotten tightly fitted clothes they probably wouldn't have worked. I'd say their instincts paid off.


Stitch Fix didn't have a replacement for the Mya Plaid shirt but they were very nice and let me have the 25% off the other items (as I had planned to keep them all for the discount). Great customer service was the cherry on top of this great fix! So for about $140 bucks I got 4 new tops. With the discount the price is pretty close to what I'd usually pay. I'm hoping the striped Eileen grows on me, maybe it'll look better as the baby bump does. It is really comfortable either way.

Needless to say, I will be ordering another Stitch Fix box in the future. I may have even sold my sister on the idea! You can go ahead and add a Stitch Fix gift card to my wish list! Be sure to follow a link from my blog to help me get my next fix :)

https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3020926

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thanks a lot Facebook Ads: My Latest Obsession with Subscription Boxes & a Citrus Lane Review



So, you know those little ads that show up on Facebook for everything in the world you didn't know you needed? Some of them creepily right on about what you are into (is that a coincidence?)? Well, sitting around on extended maternity leave left me wide open to way too much Facebook time. Let's face it, my friends are only so interesting after checking facebook 1057 times, clicking on ads was inevitable.

I think Citrus Lane does the best job of advertising their subscription box. Bright colors, name brands, who can resist? So when Target sent me an invitation for a Target Citrus Lane Box for $10 (valued at $29) and no commitment I caved in. There I was signing myself up, I mean my toddler up, for a surprise box of goodies delivered right to my door. Now for the waiting.

I guess I couldn't wait, I decided to go and find myself another subscription in the mean time. This one I'd heard about way back on another blog I think. Stitch fix, boy they hit the nail on the head with that name. A year ago or so I'd toyed with the idea of doing this one. The idea is you tell Stitch Fix what your style is, the brands you love, your sizes and pay a small fee to have a box of clothing and/or accessories sent your way. You pay for and keep what you like (and the $20 fee is applied to your purchase) and send the rest back, or send it all back and you're out $20. They give you a 25% discount if you keep everything. I am skeptical but excited at the same time, we will see how this pans out.

It's funny, I'd already created a Stitch Fix style profile a year ago and I really didn't need to change a thing when I looked it over. I did request that they not send accessories or pants, since these are the things I'm pickiest about. And I gave them the biggest challenge they likely face,  I asked for tops and sweaters that won't make me look frumpy post baby. The box is coming tomorrow, I seriously can't wait.

Well, my husband didn't want to miss out on this opportunity (when else would I agree to frivolous spending) so he quickly ordered himself a Loot Crate. Apparently the theme is "Anniversary" this month and he has convinced himself it will contain Batman stuff since it's the 75th anniversary of, well, Batman? (I don't know what's going on!) Thank you Facebook ads for also confirming this so we can rest at night. His box comes tomorrow, too. A subscription box his/her face-off!

So the only thing I have to base my subscription box opinion on at this moment is the Citrus Lane Box. And now, for the big reveal!


Keep in mind, this box was intended for my 3 1/2 year old son, and these opinions are entirely my own. He hasn't seen any of it and you'll see why shortly.

The biggest item in the box was a set of dominos from Janod. They are made from a nice thick cardboard and have shiny colorful animal pictures on 1 side and dots on the other. These haven't come out of the box, other than me looking at them, because we have dominos and other similar games. It never occurred to me when I ordered this box (for my 3rd child) that we might already have the items in the box. Noted. This is my first experience with this brand, seemed like good quality. From a quick search, it looks like they retail for around $10-13 dollars online.


The box also contained Maracas from Hohner Kids. I am familiar with this brand, in fact I have a few of their instruments. And yes, we already have maracas. So...these are still in the box. They sell for $6.15 on amazon with prime shipping, so likely under $5 in a retail store.


Next up is a red velvet Hero Cape from Little Adventures. Not only do we have 1 red super hero cape here at home, we have 2! And guess how many times they've been worn. That's right, only the first time they received them as a gift! The cape seemed very well made, I'd have given it a shot if we didn't already have a few. I turned around and sold this on a local facebook group for $10, it retails for $17.


 Here is something we didn't already have at home, a tiny bag of Annie's Organic Cheddar Snack Mix. My son took this to school for snack and it was never heard from again. He hasn't requested more. It's probably worth less than a dollar.


By the way, here's what the ad looked liked in my email invitation. Striking resemblance, right?!


Needless to say, I've lowered my expectations for the boxes headed my way. It isn't that I didn't like the stuff in the Citrus Lane, it just didn't match what I pictured in my mind (or my email) . I think if I purchase from them in the future I would skip the surprise. I also think these would make excellent gifts for first time parents who likely don't have all the junk we do!

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about another box I bought as a gift for my former mother-in-law from Mary's Secret Ingredients. She likes to cook and is one of those people who has everything, so this was a no brainer for me. I found a coupon on the blog for a few dollars off and shipping was included, just $21.95 out the door. I didn't take pictures because the website posts a full rundown. I opened it to make sure everything was intact and then wrapped it up for Christmas. I am super happy with this box and would definitely gift it again. I stole this picture from their blog.

DSC_1432-2

Now let's see how long I last before ordering a Golden Tote. I don't know if I can rest until I've exhausted every subscription box option!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

10 Must Read Etsy Blog Posts for New Shop Owners





Whenever I hear someone has opened a new Etsy shop, I get a big grin on my face. Etsy has been such a blessing in my life, providing added income and allowing me to cut down on hours in my "real job" and stay home more with my kids.

Like many others, I didn't know the first thing about Etsy when I started, less so about sales, merchandising or product photography. I was also a novice at design, a self taught user of Adobe Illustrator. I wasn't even sure what my product would be.

Maybe you're in the same boat. Maybe you've made up a name, put up an item or 2 for sale. Now you find yourself constantly checking back to see if you've gotten a sale. Been there! But there is so much you can do while waiting!


They say experience is the best teacher, well who wants to wait for that! Instead, build upon the success of your successors. Today I'm sharing with you articles from the Etsy blog that gave me the know-how and confidence I needed to make it in this crazy online business. No matter what stage you're at, I believe you'll find something useful here to help you take it to the next level. Get out your pen and paper and let's do this!

#1 Top 10 Marketing Tips from Top Sellers

When I got started I interviewed dozens of Etsy sellers about their personal success via Etsy. It's crazy how close these tips are to the responses I received. This is a great place to start when you are just figuring it all out.

#2 Shop Makeover Before and After with Photoshop and How to Make Your Photos Publicity Ready

Many will read this article and ask why I didn't make photography #1. I'll tell you why, photography is the most intimidating topic for new Etsians. I like these articles because they are beginner friendly. You don't have to take the most amazing photos and master Photoshop, but you can make them look better with a few simple steps.


I can remember wanting so badly to make the front page of Etsy. You know what makes the front page? A great photo. Maybe you want to feature your product on a fancy blog? You can edit bad lighting, remove a shadow, or brighten things up (#5), but you can also take awesome pictures. Photography was important enough to put up 2 posts, and there are tons more on the Etsy blog to read.

#3 5 Ways to Work Smarter Not Harder

Oh that I had this post when I was starting out. Still, there is always something to be gleened from a blog post at any stage of the game. When I read this article recently I decided my policies needed an update. Now my policy section includes a frequently asked questions section. Learn this early on, it'll save you a ton of time later on.

#4 Guidelines & Tips: Brainstorming Keywords for Tags and Titles

Overwhelmed? Try this article on for size. It gets down to the basics, brainstorming ideas for titles, descriptions and tags. I did this immediately after reading this article. I wish I'd documented the dramatic increase in item views after doing so. I don't care if you've been on Etsy 3 days or 300 days. Read it, do it. Such a simple thing can make a huge difference.

#5 Etsy Success: Make Your Shop More Relevant

Take what you learned in the last article to the next level with this blog post. So many key points are made here, read it a few times. For instance, we all panicked when Etsy started showing search results by relevancy. But recency (when you put the item up for sale) also affects a shoppers search. If this isn't sinking in now, pin it and read it later.

#6 4 Ways to Improve Your SEO

If you've read AND tried everything you've read so far, this will make perfect sense to you. It was mentioned in the first article, but this one has much more to offer on the topic.

I think when I came to Etsy I thought my customers would be family, friends, friends of friends, people who read random blogs. Hey now, you can do better than that! Would you believe me if I said I hadn't made a single Etsy sale to a family member or friend?

Do this. Search "kraft brown tag" on google images. Then "custom brown tag". Then "brown wedding tag". You'll find a few items from my shop each time, completely different items. I love how this article made me think about how whatever makes you unique helps you get found.



#7 Branded Packaging Basics

Love this article, love this topic. The focus is on pretty packaging, something I know a little something about. This is here to remind you that not only must you draw the customers in, but you must also keep them coming back. I order something from Fossil the other day and they sent me a cute little ornament with the package, made my day. You can bet I'll be back for more. And I'll never forget an adorable package I received from Octopurse with fancy tape all over the outside.

#8 Must read merchandising blog posts

No doubt you need a break, try this easy reading. These are my absolute favorite blog posts from the Etsy blog. Etsy does all of the hard work for you and flat out tells you what people are looking for when they come to Etsy. Anticipate another article early 2014 with tips on spring, Valentine's Day and Easter. Can't wait to find out what will take the place of the fox, I think we've officially worn that one out!



#9 Shop Stats Exercises to Increase Your Traffic

In #8 you found out what the everyday shopper looks for on Etsy. Here you'll find out what brought the customers to your shop. This one always surprises me. Not only do people come to my shop looking at the thing I sell the least of, they come from places on the internet where I didn't even know I existed! This is fun, really fun. And educational.

#10 The Seller Handbook Archive

This is where you'll find just about everything else you could possibly need to know, and then some.

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Freebies

Etsy sellers and vendors are stocking up on business cards and tags for their handmade items in preparation for local craft shows. Brides are ordering up chalkboard labels right and left to hang from mason jars and wedding favors. The clouds are rolling back and the sun is shining through, it feels like summer!

I've decided to give away some freebies to celebrate the start of summer!




The first 5 customers to place an order and write the code SUMMERFUN in the notes to seller at checkout will receive a FREE set of assorted chalkboard tags!

To make this deal even sweeter, enjoy an extra 10% off your order using coupon code SUMMER10. Offer expires June 30th, order now!

Happy Summer!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Silhouette Cameo: 10 Money Saving Tips

As many of you know, Mr. Modern Typography bought me a Silhouette Cameo for Christmas. 
Best. Gift. Ever. Now that I've cut 8 million tags on it (slight exaggeration) I feel qualified to throw some money saving tips out there.

Let's do it!


1. Don't buy the Designer Edition software.
You won't need it. Everything you need comes with the machine. Surprisingly, the program is easy to use but is also capable of most of the tasks I use in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Boom, I just saved you $50 dollars.

2. Do buy extras.
Chances are your machine came with an extra mat and blade. I find having 3 or 4 mats helpful when cutting large quantities of the same thing. I prep the extras with the paper I'm going to cut next. This saves me a lot of time, and time is money for me. 

The reason you'll need extra blades is that they dull over time. Buy these before you need them so you don't have to pay added shipping charges. By the way, I cannot find a place to buy these items locally, chances are you will also be forced to buy everything online.

3. Buy yourself some Krylon Easy-Tack.
Why? Because the mats don't last forever, which anyone who has had these awhile knows. Instead of constantly spending $15 on a new cutting mat, you can spray the ones you have with Easy-Tack and get the same results. It's $7.59 at Hobby Lobby, but you can use a coupon on it. You'll get multiple uses out of the can, saving tons of money. I'd say I sprayed about 5 mats 10 times. By the way, I am STILL using the original mat that came with the Silhouette. 

4. Move your paper, shapes or mat between cuts.
The reason the mats don't last forever is the adhesive that holds your paper in place loses it sticky. It's even worse if you cut in the same spot over and over. 1 Easy way to do this is to change the orientation of the paper (landscape/portrait) in the program. OR you can move the shapes in the program before each cut. If you are worried about cutting outside the paper, use registration marks. This is my favorite Silhouette feature. If you haven't learned how to use this yet, you should! Last, you can turn the mat 180 degrees and get more use out of your mats.

5. Avoid the double cut.
This will save both your mats and your blades. The only shapes I've had to use double cut on are my really intricate feathers and headbands for my Thanksgiving headdresses  There is some trial and error here, but I'd rather save my blade which costs $11 than a piece of paper that costs me 4 cents.

6. Buy this squeegee, not this scraper or spatula or the pick me up tool.
To take your cut items off the mat, simply bend the mat and the items will pop off.
They stick a little more when the mats are new or right after you spray Easy-Tack, but after that it's super easy to pull things off. I use the squeegee to scrape off any remaining paper, such a tiny circles from holes. Why pay $10-20 dollars for name brand tools when you can pick up a squeegee for a couple bucks at a hardware store or sign shop. I like the roller squeegee because I smooth items onto my mat with the roller side, and pop off small pieces with the scraper side.

7. Switch out your blades for different types of papers.
The same is true for hand held paper punches. When you cut a thicker paper, your blade dulls more. I keep one blade set on 3 and one on 7. I find all paper works with one or the other and switching blades is easy. My very first blade wore out quick. 

8. Clean out your blades when it seems dull.
It's easier than you think. You just set your blade to zero. Then twist that little white cap off the end, just below the red line (lefty loosy). Clean out of the goop and paper shreds and give the blade another whirl. 

9. Buy through Amazon.
If you haven't noticed already I don't buy anything straight from Silhouette. Its way more expensive. AND I have Amazon prime, so everything ships for free. This is a huge savings for me, and I get everything in 2 days!

10. Design your own shapes.
When we first got the machine, I was concerned about the price of buying additional shapes. I was also concerned about using purchased shapes in my business, did you know you need a commercial license to use them? I decided to design all of my own shapes. It's so much easier than it sounds. Once you see how it's done, you'll realize why the machine is called a silhouette ;)

Here are a couple tutorials on converting images to cutable shapes on the Silhouette.

 Hope you found these tips helpful! I'd love to hear if you have any of your own!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I give in.

I finally signed up for Zulily.
You should, too!

Follow this link to sign up:
http://www.zulily.com/invite/mrhoades605


And if you do, I get a little credit.
Then I can buy this!

Media
This is the reason I joined Zulily.
I clicked on a Pin and read about this company, Schoolbags for Kids.
For every backpack you buy, they send one to a child in need.
Isn't that awesome?

I mean, I'd buy it anyway, it's so cute!

These are cute, too.

Media

Sold out, darn!

Another adorable item:

Media

Thanks!