Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Good Shtuff

Craft Film Club

Do you know about the Craft Film Club Mercedes started?
It's not too late to join!

This month I'm the hostess, which means I get to pick the movies and encourage y'all to share your thoughts, creative inspirations and projects.

March's Picks:

Amelie (on Netflix, on IMDB)
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (on Netflix, on IMDB)

Ok, the French major in me has to point out that their titles are SO much more fabulous in their native French! So if it's not terribly pretentious , I'm going to refer to them by their French names.

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain

I first saw this gem on January 4th, 2002 as an enthusiastic sophmore French major with my adorable boyfriend (who grew up to be my husband) at a little art theater in downtown Dayton. The Neon only has 2 screens, but they have a fantastic coffee bar, wine beer and fancy popcorn and plush velvet seats.

I remember feeling delighted (and a little shocked) throughout the whole movie. Who knew movies could be this drenched in mood and color and bonhomie?

I was smitten.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

I've only seen this movie once, on the recommendation of Jane Brockett in The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Coloful, bright and yes, a musical. Completely, delightfully bright (and parapluies is just a fun word to say). Parapluies!

Why these movies?

I picked these two movies because of their use of color to illicit mood (and because in 7 years of studying French I watched a zillion french movies and want to share a few of them with you). I also think that Amelie had to  be inspired just a little by the magically musical world of Parapluies…and maybe a bit by Catherine Deneuve's style.

I can't wait to see what crafty projects they inspire for you!

I plan on making at least a yarn inspired by each of them…what are you going to make?



Postscript:  An update for you who have been waiting!
I'm deep in writing mode on the Guidebook for everything-I-know-about-marketing-your-handmade-goodness (yeah, I don't have a name for it yet). You can get first dibs on it (along with getting it first, you'll also get to help me write it) by signing up here.

Note: If you're in the Bake Sale Marketing class, you're getting it as part of the class.

Good Shtuff – Extraordinary Hibernation Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly-ish look at what I’m reading and thinking about. This week, we're celebrating extraordinary hibernation.

  • It's National Hibernation Week. Havi said so.

Which makes SO much sense;  I've barely been able to come out of my blanket fort, even though I have this incredibly awesome thing to brunch.
But now that I have permission to hibernate? Everything is ease-y-er.
So go on, nap. You know you want to!

As she says,

I will speak to your brilliance, your depth, your beauty, because that’s what I see and know to be true.


Good Shtuff: doodling, sipping and crushing

Good Shtuff is a weekly-ish look at what I’m reading and thinking about. This week, it’s all about finding the ease.


Lynda Barry says some beautiful things about doing things by hand in this great interview.

Handwriting, for example, is a very complicated thing. It moves through time with no delete button in the same way we do.


Marissa wrote a beautiful mini-festo about choosing sipping over domination. I am practically allergic to any form of violence, so I very much appreciated this:

I don’t want to feed an ethos of power struggle, scarcity or battling.

Not even metaphorically. Words matter.

It reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago, when I decided instead of “crush it” I'd make my goal succulence.
Irony: that year I was featured in the NYT best-seller, Crush It. Yes.

Month of Love

I can't believe I'm already at the 4th Annual Month of Love, my yearly attempt to spin yarn inspired by couples. It's my most favorite yarn-y thing I do and the feedback is amazing.
This year it's reminding me to do more of what makes me feel like this.  Connected, creative, easy.

What are you reading and thinking about this week?

52 books in 2010

In 2010, I made a goal to read 52 books.
3: The first books of the new yearfirst books of 2011

No wait, come back! This isn't another round-up of my year kind of post, I promise! I'm just going to talk about the best books, ok?

Even though that's 1 book a week, the actual reading didn't turn out like that at all. Many weeks I read no books and many weeks I read 2 or 3 books. I finished the 52nd book the week before Christmas and…haven't finished another book since then.

I had very few rules.

I couldn't count a cookbook (or knitting book) unless I actually cooked a recipe (or knit a project) out of it (unless it was a mostly-words book, like Gluten Free Girl).
I am always allowed to quit reading, at any point. No guilt.

Instead of talking about every book or just listing them (you can see the entire list here), I want to share the surprises.

Oh, and I'm linking to their GoodReads page because I did not buy them (99% of the books were checked out from my library), so it seems disingenuous to tell you to buy them.

However, if you're like my friend Jamie and want to own every book you read, I strongly suggest using IndieBound to find an independent bookstore to buy them from. If you don't have a bookstore near you, you can buy from my favorite, Malaprops.

Now, for the books!

The books I did not expect to like

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

It's Young Adult fiction! It's set in an apolyptic future! Not usually my thing. But so good.

It was Kim's review that convinced me to check it out and she was right! I finished the first book in 5 hours one night (yes, I stayed up until 3 am finishing it), it was that great.

Finding your Own North Star by Martha Beck.

I didn't really know anything about Martha Beck other than she was in Oprah's magazine. That was enough to convince me her stuff would be too cheesy or woo-woo for me.
Plus, I sorta already HAVE my North Star. I'm already doing what I love.

But when Eileen and Brianna both rave about the smartness of Martha, I knew I had to give it a shot. And this book was great. I learned all kind of skills for dealing with my own stuff and helping my CraftyBizzers deal with theirs.

The Happiness Project

I only picked it up after loving Bluebird by Ariel Gore (which I read just because I love Ariel Gore), because I like to put together my own little series around a theme (why yes, I am a geek).
I'm not really into improve-your-life programs. I'm all about improving my life, but not through traditional, do-this-next-steps. I thought that was what this book is.

But it's totally not. Gretchen puts together a plan to research and learn more about her own happiness and in doing so shares helpful information without being preachy.

Most proud of myself for (finally) reading:

Jane Eyre

Seriously! How have I not read this before? Sweeping, epic, beautiful.
And I still can't get over what a contemporary role model Jane is.

Did not like as much as everyone said I would:

Girl with Dragon Tattoo

Wayyy too violent for my sensitive self. I've experienced enough violence in the real world that I try to avoid it in my own imagination.
The action was gripping and I couldn't put it down until I finished.
But I've been haunted by the violent imagery every since. Really wish I had never read it.


Couldn't finish it. Could barely keep reading.
So full of science-y description.

But it's a sci-fi classic so I tried REALLY hard to read it and like it.
But I just couldn't.

Best business book

Book Yourself Solid

I loved Trust Agents and The Art of Non-Conformity (I read both of these guys blogs (Chris and Chris) every week and their books have the same friendly, helpful voice), but Book Yourself Solid had the most new-to-me, detailed, do-this-next helpfulness.

If you can get past the constant Book Yourself Solid phrase. You've been warned: the author says “Book Yourself Solid” several times a chapter.

And you?

What was the best book you read last year?
I'm trying to read 60 books this year, and I need a few more for my list!

Good Shtuff: Naps + Rests Edition

Since I'm on sabbatical, and the rest of the country is in a holiday-induced panic, this is a rest-filled, super-short Good Shtuff.

How can I NOT love a book called Take That Nap?!

Stop worrying about the website stuff. Updates, plug-ins, meh! Let my pal Wendy handle the hassle while you just work on creating your awesomeness.

During all this resting, how about a little knitting? I have plans to make 11 shawls in 2011 and I know at least 2 of them will be the fabulous Betico. I LOVE patterns that let you work your own magic. And I can think of a zillion ways to make it and 50 people to make it for. Totally smitten!

Hope your week is filled with rest, joy and light!

PS. If you're using the next two weeks to plan the new year in your business, I humbly submit the CraftyBiz Kitchen as a fabulous place to learn, hang out and generally figure business stuff out in a no-panic, no-should cozy (virutal) kitchen.

Sugar Cookie Day

I woke up today, the first day of my sabbatical, thinking about sugar cookies.

(Well, not just sugar cookies. I was also humming this song (you're welcome!) and wondering if new people joined the CraftyBiz Kitchen overnight (they did!).)

Specifically, these sugar cookies. I'm making them right now (ok, as soon as I stand up).

That's a LOT of flours!
(the recipe takes a LOT of flours! 5!)

And I am dying to decorate them like the Pioneer Woman and Bakeat350 taught me here.

And, well, I just wanted to share. Sugar cookies! Decorating!
No big business lessons. Just luxuriating in a sabbatical. Look for pictures tomorrow (or follow me on Twitter and get pictures LIVE. Thrilling. I know.)


That's how I'm spending my snowy Thursday. What are you doing?

(pictures added 12/18. You can see that I fell far short of The Pioneer Woman's beautiful examples. Sigh)

Throwing a party inside the CraftyBiz Kitchen

Let's get right to the point: The CraftyBiz Kitchen is now open.
You can join us here.

I tried to keep that page short and to the point, but there is so much that I'm excited about that I just had to share some of it here.
Let's do Q+A, shall we?

What's the CraftyBiz Kitchen?

When it started, in July 2010, it was simply a subscription to my CraftyBiz classes. Every class came with recordings, worksheets and post-class chats. As more people joined and started asking for different features, I decided to close it to new members on September 1, so we could experiment together.
Over the next 3 months, I added some things, tried other things and asked the Kitcheners what they wanted at every turn.

They voted and what we have now is something we all really love:

  • 2 hours of classes/month (most of them private, a few classes will be available to the public for $30-$70)
  • 30 minute one-on-one session with me, via Google chat. We talk about your business, prioritize for the next month or just brainstorm product ideas (like Zombie Jesus. Yes)
  • Weekly chats, in a private (online) room and on Twitter

The best part?

You pay each month and can leave at any time.
Or, if you'd prefer, you can pay for 3 months at once.

(Once you've been in it for 3 months, you have the option of buying a 6 month membership, at the request of some very eager Kitcheners!)

What classes?

This is the part I am most! excited! about!

The CraftyBiz Kitchen allows me to know who, exactly,will be in the classes, so I can shape the content and discussion to benefit you, the individual business crafter.
I've started to work on the outline of the first quarter and am delighted that as I was mapping everything out,  it turns out that each step could happen in a real kitchen, as you're planning a party. So that's the metaphor we're going with (but we're also going to spend some time coming up with a metaphor YOU like, for YOUR biz (if you're into that sorta thing)).

For starters, everyone who joins will get Right Price + Right People in mid-December, so we're all on the same page when we start in January.

Build your own Kitchen: Building the “home base” for your business, the fist step in creating a thoroughly-you business. We'll look at all the different spokes of your business + learn how to make them cohesively you. This step makes it easier for your Right People to recognize you when they find you.

Stocking the Shelves: Does your online presence (website, etsy shop, etc) answer all of your Right People's questions? Is it easy to navigate? Easy to understand? Before we invite people over, we need to make sure we've got what they need.


Planning a Party: We all want more sales, but before you invite the people, let's plan for what kind of party you're throwing. In other words, what your Unique Selling Point? What's the thing that makes your thing awesome?

Putting together the invitation list: In this class, we'll dig into who YOUR Right People are. Who do you hope shows up? What do they want from you?

Who has it helped?

Here are some CBKers who agreed to share their story.

Kristine says, “I launched my crafty business in 2010, and the help that Tara gave in form of classes, one-on-one, and chats was invaluable to getting off the ground.  I'd highly recommend that if 2011 will be the year of something new for YOU, consider investing in yourself and join the CraftyBiz Kitchen!”
Joyce started her business after our first IdeaStorming and has since started teaching, succeeded at her first craft show and totally rocked it.
(Also, she sends me emails after classes that say hilarious things like this:

“I got so much from the most recent class!!! SO incredibly informative and helpful! I dub thee Tara Awesomepants! “

There are lots more stories and sillyness, but everything you share in the CBK stays in the CBK. Privacy and mystery and ridiculous passwords. Yes.

But here's the thing: none of this is the CraftyBiz Kitchen.
It's all them. Their hard work. Their application of what we've talked about. Their curiosity and experiments and willingness to try.
I'm just delighted I get to hang out with them while they work on it!

Is this for me?

It depends.
If you're wondering if this is for where you are in your business, the answer is “Probably yes.” I'm working on baking layers (like a cake!) into each of the topics we cover. The general concepts are great for someone just starting their business, but the specifics of how YOU  implement them will help even the most advanced crafty business.
For newbies, you'll be building your business as we learn.
For established businesses, you'll be tweaking and improving as we learn.
For everyone in between, it'll be a combination of new-to-you-stuff and oh-I-should-really-look-again-at-that stuff.
Everyone will have the support of me (via one-on-one time) and other crafters (via chat) to ask questions, dig deeper and explore all the gooey layers.

(Side Note: The layers thing is something I am terribly excited about. I plan on playing with the concept (and maybe even actual cake layers) a lot during my sabbatical. You've been warned.)

If you're wondering if this kind of thing is right for you, the answer is “maybe“.

Before you decide, it might help to ask yourself these questions (this is what I ask myself before I buy anything):

  • How do I intend to use this, actually implement it, to improve my business?
  • Do I have time to listen to the classes and join in chats (about 4 hours a month)?
  • Do I enjoy the other things by this person (blog, other classes, etc)? Would I like hanging out with her on a regular basis?

But is this for ME?

Still not sure? Send me an email: vulcan@taraswiger.com

And you know what?

If this isn't for you? Or it isn't for you right now? That's totally cool. I still adore you and your businessy dream and can't wait to hang out with you in the comments.

Good Shtuff – PDX Edition

Portland, as it proved in my short 27 hour stay, is overflowing with good shtuff. Here's just a snippet of what I loved.


Twisted PDX is a seriously great yarn store. Delightful selection, well lit and open and spacious and smart. Not to mention, they know how to make a girl feel welcome. My trunk show was absolutely wonderful.


Part of what made the trunk show so fun was the people who stopped by (knitters + non-knitters alike!). If you're not already following the following on Twitter, what's up with that?
A huge smooshy hug  to Chris, Kristine, Sparky + Jenni, Danielle (+ friends!), Dryden, Shannon, Lee, Jolie, and all y'all who's names are escaping me (leave a comment and remind me?)

I'm sure you already suspected this, but Sister Diane of CraftyPod is as sweet and smart as you imagine. This was our second (or third?) time hanging out and every time I walk away bubbling with inspiration and encouragement.

Bridget was another fabulous eating companion.  Funny and generous and clever, she introduced me (verbally, not visually) to vagazzling. Yes.

The food!

The food! I only ate 4 meals, but all of them were delightful. Even a vegetarian gluten-free gal like myself found a tasty burger/fry/milkshake combo at Bugerville. The sweet potato chipotle soup at Costello's is just the right kind of warming-spicy.  Mother's honors a “Mother of the month” that contributes recipes for the specials. How adorable is that? I go to Thai Peacock every time I'm in Portland, because, well, I keep walking past it.

Now that I'm on to my last 2 days of Seattle (and really, the first time that I'm not working), what Good Shtuff should I not miss?

Good Shtuff: Thanksgiving Sanity Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly-ish look at what I’m reading and thinking about. This week, it’s all about tomorrow: Thanksgiving (for Americans) and the many ways the holidays can knock you around.

Don't Lose the sanity!

Family driving you crazy? Feeling the smoosh of peopletrafficmoneyACK? Fabeku's kit is the solution to all that. Seriously. Breathing stuff, sound stuff, being present stuff. I sound like an infomercial, I know…but that's because I LOVE it.
He's @fabeku on Twitter.

Permission to save your sanity

I was feeling a little overwhelmed trying to get everything for my trip while still doing all the usual emailing/twittering/etc and then I remembered this post by Charlie Gilkey.  When I break up my tasks into Create, Connect and Consume, I realize that, to make all the yarn for the show, I may just need to immerse myself in the Create stuff and move on to the Connect + Consume stuff a bit later. I don't recommend it long-term, but giving myself permission to slack on my reading + answering has helped ease the ack.
He's @CharlieGilkey.

Money Sanity

Travel, gifts, all the accoutrements of the holiday season are just waiting to pounce on your money sanity.  Briana's brilliant Money Balloon is how I'm hanging onto mine. This is a full-fledged, totally unscary tool for looking clearly at your personal money facts + planning for future money awesomeness.
She's @BrianaAldrich

What are you using to hold onto your sanity?

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