Monday, August 31, 2009

cutting down on spending

I've been working on a Mod Podge craft project for the past few weeks, doing one bit at a time while watching True Blood or Grey's Anatomy online in the evenings. It's not the finest craftsmanship, but I'm happy with it all the same.

I bought the drawers second-hand from the Camberwell market ages ago and started painting it red. I wasn't feeling that so I used found papers to decorate the drawers instead. The top left and right are layers of vintage pattern paper. The diamond blue pattern was part of the packaging for something I bought. The blue is from the cover of a vintage book we were going to give away, and the bottom drawer is covered with pages from another vintage book.

It's going to be a totally new thing for me to actually have desk storage. Not sure how I'll best use it yet.

I've just realised how much I've bought online in the past couple of months. Books and stationery and tape and things.

mouse pad from My Favorite Mirror

tape from Nothing Elegant

lacy bird bowl by Prince Design UK

And that's only a portion of my purchases. I thought I was doing well because I carefully considered each purchase, and nothing I bought was a waste, but that's not good enough for me. In the interest of saving money and reducing environmental impact, I want to do better. I've been reading a book called Budget Wise, Dollar Rich, borrowed from the libary like a good little saver.

Looks a bit spammy, doesn't it? Despite that, it's really helpful. Now that Tim isn't working (for money, anyway) I'm paying the large bills, so I've made a budget for Heidi & Seek and for home. It's all well and good to make a spreadsheet with the best of intentions, but although I've done that in the past, I haven't enforced what I've written down or monitored how I was doing. I've never been in much debt, and I always pay off my credit card during the interest-free period, but I've never consistently put money aside for savings either. Except when I was saving for a holiday, but that was different. Single life living at home with your parents is so different.

Anyway, my plan of attack now is this:
  • I withdraw in cash a certain amount at the start of every week, and must only use this to pay for things. Just before I withdraw the next week's allowance, I put the leftovers of the previous week in a jar. Any additional money I get, like gifts or random cash goes in this jar too. My motivation for keeping my spending within my allowance is seeing this jar's contents grow. It'll pay for extra more expensive things, or is there if I feel I deserve a treat. I might allocate 20% of the jar to 'treats' and the rest to savings, and then deposit it at my bank when it gets big.
  • I've made my allowance quite low because I want to try to make do. Since we're vegetarian our meals don't have to cost much. Our pantry is full of things we keep accumulating but don't seem to use, so I want to see how far I can take what we already have and only buy the basics week to week. They will easily fit within my allowance.
  • I'm doing a similar thing with Heidi & Seek, because sometimes I can get carried away with buying supplies or whatnot. Some months my expenses are sky-high and some months it's very little. I'm setting a monthly allowance for Heidi & Seek, except at the end of the month, the money left will be topped up instead of taken out, saved and completely replaced.
  • For Heidi & Seek purchases that I don't need immediately, like certain books and equipment, I'm putting aside some money each month into a linked online account, and I can only buy them when I have enough in that account.
  • Then of course I've made the standard annual tables of bills and other required expenses, but there's not much I can do about most of those. I cut my mobile phone plan from $50 to $20, and I'll see if there are cheaper options for the rest, too.
The good thing about this cash system is that I can see how much I've spent that week without having to keep a tally (although I'm being anal so I'm doing the tally anyway). And I can still buy the things that mean a lot to me, but not just 'when I feel like it' and not all at once. I have to save up and to really consider where I want to spend my money.

Do you budget or have system that works for you?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

vote for the world you want to inherit

Tim has started volunteering for YOUth Decide, which is run by World Vision and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. They're hosting an voting week in September that gives young Australians (from 12-29) the power to make significant positive change to help our futures.

The deal is this:
You vote by choosing one of three options online during 14-21 September (register to vote and get a reminder!). The results of our voting will be taken to the crucial United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen this December. They need at least tens of thousands of us to vote for it to have an effect. They're campaigning like crazy, have enlisted celebrities, gotten some major sponsors and they're encouraging people all over Australia to host voting events.

I'm utterly excited.

Just voting isn't enough. Tell your friends, blog about it, add it to your website, tweet it, and post it in your Facebook updates! Attend an event in your area, or organise one yourself! The more people that vote and the more attention this gets, the bigger difference it will make.

To repost, you can use the banner at the top of my blog, or the image in this post, or use their other promo material.

Here's a video about it:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

winner of the cloth pad giveaway

The winner of the Naturally Hip cloth pad giveaway is Aik!

Super congrats to her and a huge thanks to Lindsay from Naturally Hip for giving away the pad! And thanks to everyone who played along.

Expect more giveaways in future, it was fun!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

o-check, stationery and focus

Those in Melbourne can now find my work at Incube8r. 321 Smith St in Fitzroy. Hoorah!

With setting up Incube8r, catching up on accounts, organising my space and uni, I feel like I haven't been on track with Heidi & Seek for a while. I haven't been keeping up with my non-schedule, mostly because other things were the priorities, but also because once I feel I'm in a rut I kind of give up and just want to escape making things (self-sabotage?). It doesn't make for good productivity.

So I've decided to give up uni for the forseeable future. It's a Bachelor of Arts degree with an English major and I'm not far off from completing it. For a while I've known that the career path I want doesn't require a uni degree, but I kept on keeping on because it's useful to have one. But it's not working for me. I can always go back if Heidi & Seek fails horribly. I'm an optimist, though. The concerning thing is that I think I'll still be overloaded without uni, because I'm still doing my pattern-making course and looking after Ellie.

I keep coming up with new ideas: new venues to sell at or new products to make. I suppose that makes me impatient. I didn't understand until now that spreading myself too thin means that I won't be great at anything. I need to focus. So for now, I'm going to be exclusively working on clothing for Etsy, Incube8r and the odd wholesale account (except for in my spare time, when I can make what I like).

I've been fixing up my taxes the past couple of days, and I had to use the floor and another chair for more working space. It was terrible ergonomics. I realised that one thing that's been affecting my productivity is my desk space. It's small and unorganised and easily gets its surface taken over with papers and bits. The clutter makes my brain cluttered. It's kind of strange how you just end up with a set-up that doesn't work for you in your space and since you've had it for ages you don't even realise.

I found a wooden box I'd been using to store fabric and used it as a shelf. Going vertical means I have more surface space, plus I've pushed the box right to the wall, where the desk used to end a couple of inches away. And before you think it, yes that couple of inches makes a difference!

I'm starting to envy those with a pretty white Mac computer - I think the black is out of place here. If only I could decoupage it...

Anyway. I'm going to confess something: I'm a big stationery freak. I used to spend all of my pocket money on stickers and pens and notebooks. I still get a thrill from entering a stationery store, even a boring one like Officeworks.

I recently discovered these Bantex Ecoboard lever arch files from Officeworks and I am utterly obsessed. I filed the entire house's papers and important documents in 4 of them. The one pictured contains my tax information. I got rid of the chunky, messy archive boxes and suspension files to save space. I turned the suspension files into hangtags, which I'll talk about in a future post. The boxes might make notebook covers or something. I just love that they've finally made a folder that doesn't look like it belongs in a very uncreative accountant's office.

The reason I'm talking about stationery is because I went on a strange internet journey. Somewhere recently I found this amazing stationery shop on Etsy called nothingelegant, which stocks things from Asia. I went e-searching and found this whole mass of gorgeously styled, unique stationery and homewares from Korea and Japan. But all the sites were in Korean or Japanese.

I finally found a stationery company's website that had an English menu! Score! They're called O-Check Design Graphics. I traced their stockists to an Melbournian online shop, Notemaker. At this point it was late at night, but I couldn't pull myself away because this is the stationery I have been searching for my entire life. O-check is vintage-inspired, but not in a kitschy way, plus they are environmentally conscious. A lot of their goods are made from recycled content and natural materials.

I put about 20 things in the shopping cart, and then whittled it down to the weekly planner and the ruler - "essentials". I want to try making my own repurposed notebooks and things, because it's nicer to my wallet and more environmentally friendly to make them myself.

Notemaker is run by the same people who own The Source newsagent in Melbourne CBD. I haven't been yet but the next time I'm in the city I'm definitely going to pop in. I'm still wondering why I ever wasted my time in Smiggle, hoping to find something nice...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

ellie is 2

Yesterday was Ellie's 2nd birthday party and many presents and good company were enjoyed. I forgot my camera but I did take these this morning.

This gift was one of her favourites.

Ellie has grown so much in the past year. She's more outgoing and willing to talk with strangers (although usually, if you try to pick her up and you're not one of her parents, Uncle Jason or Grandbob, prepare for a scream). She's learnt lots of words and is contstantly impressing me with new ones. And she's so, so smart. I can reason with her now a little. Like one morning she got upset with me trying to undress her from her pajamas, and I said, "Pajamas are for sleeping. Do you want to go back to sleep?" and she thought about it, said "no" and then stopped struggling. It's fun watching her problem solve and think.

Then there are the cute things. One afternoon we were at a cafe and Ellie was struggling out of her chair, not listening to us asking her to sit down. Tim showed her the muffin we'd got for dessert. "Do you want some?" She stopped, then said "Sit down..." She's always telling me when things are in the wrong place, picking them up and telling me "away". Or kindly letting me know when she or someone else has spilt something by pointing and saying "mess". She's decided that hairs are "dirty" when found by themselves, so every time she finds one she gives it to me to put in the bin (which she calls "bim").

I don't know if the 'terrible twos' is yet to come, but she is quite a delight and I'm so proud of her.

Friday, August 14, 2009

naturally hip cloth pad giveaway!

I'm super excited because I've got one of these adorable regular cloth pads to give away to one of you, made by Lindsay of Naturally Hip. Now's the time to try out cloth pads for the first time (they're awesome, let me tell you), or add to your existing collection.

To enter, just post a comment here describing your ideal cloth pad. You get an extra two entries if you make a blog post about the giveaway, and one extra entry if you post about it on Twitter or Facebook. Leave a second comment below with the link/s for the extra entries to count.

This competition has closed. Thanks to those who played along, you can see who won here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

op shopping and a little creativity

Spent most of today making this to put next to my stock at incube8r.

It doesn't look like it would take that long, but I had hassles printing onto fabric again. After ironing freezer paper onto the fabric then carefully cutting it out to a perfect A4, it jammed in the printer. Then a second time, then a third.

I finally realised that I hadn't set it to heavy paper. Then I printed out a perfect one, but forgot to include my website and blog. So I tried once more with the correct text, but at the heat setting stage the ink ran. I was stupid enough to be doing this on the couch, and got it stained with my promo text and ahhh! I'll stop whining now. It's finished and I like it. It looks better in person!

Yesterday was my day off. I went to a few op-shops and didn't look for anything Heidi & Seek related. I really needed a break. I got these jeans.

Yes, that does say superflare. And no, superflares are not my style. However, they fit perfectly at the top so I will be turning them into skinnies.

I also got these cute things: a mini easel photo frame and a yellow vintage sugar jar.

I'm slowly trying to make my home pretty. Space is a big issue for us so everything I buy has to have a purpose. I'm looking for things second-hand before I resort to buying anything new. However, I was looking for a solution to the notebooks and diaries I like to have on hand at my desk (but that clutter it up), so I bought this rack from Ikea. It'll attach to the side of my desk, so everything is off the surface but still easily accessible.

Walking through Ikea, I was very tempted by other colourful storage things, but I resisted. I'd much rather find second-hand boxes and things.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

dealing with periods, eco style

This is a post I've been meaning to make for ages, a follow-up to my post about cloth menstrual pads, which included an interview with the owner of Naturally Hip, a handmade cloth pad seller. If you don't know much about cloth pads I recommend you give the post a read because going cloth has both environmental and health benefits. (Disclaimer: If you are a boy, and/or squirmish about such things, this may be the point where you should click away.)

I bought pads from the lovely Lindsay of Naturally Hip several months ago. These are my thoughts:
  • I was quite flawed by how much they absorb. They're like Mary Poppins' bag. I have no fears of leakage overnight, or any other time.
  • They're made from a really soft flannel on the outside. Regular pads aren't uncomfortable, but you can generally feel them being all plasticky down there. These cloth pads are much nicer to wear.
  • They're easy to wash. I'm a bit crap at getting housework done, and if I can manage, so can you. I mostly only use them when I'm at home, so I rinse them well as soon as I change them, then either put them straight into the wash (with other laundry), or put them in a bucket filled with some water until I put the next load on. There's also wet bags you can buy for storing used ones that have been changed while you're out.
  • The only problem I had was that the liners without wings ended up where they shouldn't be. They don't have a sticky section like store bought ones and the listing says that they should stay in place with snug-fitting undies. A lot of my undies were one or two sizes too big (in terms of dress size), so I actually went out and bought more of my size undies, and the wingless liners still moved around as I walked. I'm not sure if it's because I'm small or something else, but I recommend you get the liners with wings. Trying to figure out how best to sew in wings so the ones I have don't go to waste.
Overall, totally star quality from Naturally Hip. Lindsay is easily contactable and more than happy to answer questions or make custom ones. Plus she's passionate about being eco-friendly - a total plus in my book.

After I made the initial blog post about cloth pads, I started a thread on the Etsy forums about it which got a lot more attention than I was expecting. Lots of responses were about the Diva Cup, an alternative to tampons and a new idea to me. At first I thought it was a gross idea: basically it's a reusable little cup that 'catches' your blood, and then you empty it periodically. As I read on further, I realised it's not much more gross than tampons and, really, that perspective was just because I wasn't used to the idea yet. If everybody was doing it I wouldn't give it a second thought.

Here are the benefits:
  • You can leave it in for up 12 hours, so you can change it twice a day and not have to think about your period the rest of the time, because if it's in properly you can't feel it.
  • It's reusable so you don't need to send tampons to landfill all the time.
  • None of this toxic shock syndrome stuff to worry about.
  • It makes activities like hiking, swimming, yoga or whatever else easy while you're perioding.
So I bought one. I've tried to use it a few times. More often than not, unsuccessfully. It's apparently something you need to get the hang of doing, and also, some people find certain brands don't work for them - everybody's shape is a bit different. I'm not sure what the others are called, but the Diva is the original, I believe. I know it does work for some, because of all the raving testimonials on the Etsy forum. I suppose I will keep trying, because if it works it would be an ideal option for me, combined with cloth liners and overnight pads.

Monday, August 3, 2009

new stock and stockist

There are some changes a'happenin'. My start date for incube8r is looming (it's next Wednesday) so I've been preparing enough stock for my space. A few things that were in my Etsy shop are going there. And the rest I decided to unlist and re-reconstruct because they haven't sold. All the old is therefore gone and so my Etsy shop has begun afresh!

I've listed a few things in sizes XS and S (8 and 10 Australian) because I can model those myself. Size M (12) will be coming when I can arrange a session with my lovely new model, Lauren, and I'm still trying to find a size 14 model. (If you know someone near Surrey Hills in Melbourne that might be interested, please pass on the message. (It's a paid gig.))

These are my favourites:

Click here to check out the rest.

I was informed by the lovely Isy of incube8r that the average size shopper there is a 12, so I've rethought the way I do some things.
  • When I set up shop I made a size Australian 8 (US 6) into a Heidi & Seek small. But that means a 10 is a medium a 12 is a large, which is a bit weird. I've changed it up now so size XS is an 8, 10 is a small, etc. I've made the change clear in listings (I hope).
  • I made a size 16 (XL) pattern and some size 16 things will be going to incube8r.
  • I'm making a wider range of different sizes now. As soon as I get my models organised I'll keep my Etsy shop well-stocked in a range of sizes, too.
I want to get back to listing constantly on Etsy again. I just need to organise my time better so that I can keep incube8r and Etsy (plus MadeIt, when I open shop again there) well stocked consistently. At the moment most of my time is going to incube8r stock.

I'm taking one class at uni, Advanced Fiction Writing. That coupled with my fashion course in the evenings means I'm so so busy in all my spare time with deadlines and homework. I need a better system to manage it all. Any tips?