Small Biz Loves

smallbiz

Well, shopping season is upon us and while I’m confident you are coming across a pile of Gift Guides, I hope to offer you something a little bit different.

As a former small business owner (I used to co-own Elisabeth Ashlie Jewelry with my sister), I’m a huge supporter of makers who are committed to using their talents to provide both fantastic and high quality items to the world.

As a blogger, I’m grateful to often be on the receiving end of goods from small businesses in an effort to spread the word about their products. And while I could easily have listed a ton more stores, I spent some time thinking about my absolute favorite things from small businesses. I thought to myself, “If I have to buy a gift for someone, where is the first place I’ll look?”

Before I get into it, know that this isn’t sponsored in any way. I e-mailed the shop owners to let them know I was including them on my list, and some kindly offered promo codes as a ‘thank you’, but otherwise this is a completely genuine list of my favorite shops!

A few of my favorites:

1. Allisa Jacobs. I remember coming across Allisa’s etsy shop years and years ago. Maybe 4 years ago? I love her fabric choices, and her quality cannot be beat. Other than having a few bags of hers, I also have her Portfolio Organizer, which fits an iPad Mini perfectly! Use promo code “smallthings10″ to go $10 off your order of $30 or more until 11/29.

2. Fotostrap. When Jordan and I hosted Type and Click in the spring, we had the pleasure of working with Fotostrap on providing a swanky giveaway for one of the attendees! Fotostrap kindly offered Jordan and I a strap as well. It is very strong and durable, and it was nearly impossible to choose which color I wanted. They offer monograming as well! On top of creating a quality camera strap, they also donate 10% to Fotolanthropy from each purchase! A camera strap is one of those things that may be hard for a friend or family member to justify (since a DSLR often comes with one), but it’s such a nice personal touch that I’m sure the recipient would love.

3. Better Life Bags. Rebecca, the founder of BLB, has become a friend of mine and the only thing I really dislike about her is how far away she lives. We both love Sour Patch Kids and if that fact alone doesn’t foster a life long friendship, I don’t know what does. I own 3 BLB’s, and I have to say my latest diaper bag is my favorite! The bags are fantastic quality, customizable, and the heart of why she does what she does makes it even more special. If you want to order a custom bag for Christmas, the deadline is Friday 11/28!

4. The Dotted Poppy. I couldn’t write about my favorite shops without including my mom’s shop in the mix! After developing a love for making jewelry after helping my sister and I with a busy holiday season, we encouraged her to start her own shop! It’s fun to see her grow and develop her business, and she always pays close attention to quality and style of her jewelry. Use promo code “15OFFST” for 15% off your order until 12/5!

5. ThimblePress. I found ThimblePress on Instagram after drooling over the National Stationary Show hashtag several months ago. I have a notepad obsession, and love the creativity and uniqueness of her products. I often fill my cart with products from Thimblepress, but then see that I already have about 10 notebooks that need to be used up before I can justify buying more. I basically use 1 sheet of paper per note though so it won’t be long before I need new ones! Use promo code “small things” to get 15% off your order total until 12/31/14

6. Latchy Catchy. I found latchy catchy on Etsy a long time ago, and bought one to put on a closet door to the room where the cats’ litter box is. And then I had David and I found that I wanted one for a few more doors in my house. They are one of those products that was created to fulfill a specific need, and you don’t even realize how perfect they are until you have the need for one. I’ve learned that David is a pretty light sleeper, so the simple clicking of the door in the latch would wake him but the latchy catchy now allows me access without disturbing his sleep! Use promo code “sweetdreams” for 10% off today only! 

7. Elisabeth Ashlie. My former business partner, and sister, has done exceptionally well with growing the brand and expanding it into something bigger than I could have imagined! It’s not unusual for her to get a list of earrings that I want her to bring the next time she visits! If time allowed, I would so love to have continued to be a part of it, but watching her take it and run with it is fulfilling in and of itself. Use promo code “smallthings10″ to get 10% off your order today only!

Beauty Gift Sets: Waste or Worth it?

It’s the time of year where beauty gift sets are covering every end cap and floor unit of any beauty store or department store.

Do you get sucked in to them too?

I always spend a great deal of time debating whether or not they are worth it. And the little sticker on the front that declares their value against their cost is a big determining factor on whether or not I splurge on one, either for myself or as a gift.

Here are a few of the thoughts I run through when deciding whether or not a value set is worth it:

1. Is it a brand you already love? This wouldn’t apply to mix & match sets, but if it’s a set of products from one brand, ask yourself if you like the brand to begin with. Value sets are a great way to “cheaply” explore new products in a certain range instead of splurging on full price items.

2. Is it a beauty product you enjoy trying new versions of? For me, I usually stick to the same foundation, mascara, and even eyeshadow primer, so any gift sets with a variety of those products I tend to skip.

3. Do you think you’ll use/enjoy at least 60% of the set? There may be some odd balls included in certain sets, but if you think the majority of it not only looks useful, but you are also confident you’ll like the products, it may be completely worth it after all! In fact, if you buy it early enough, you can even use the extra stuff that may not work for you as a stocking stuffer!

Once I’ve gone through those questions, it’ll help me figure out if I can justify the cost of a value set, against what I’m actually getting!

value3one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight

1. First Aid Beauty Hydrating Duo, $16.00 ($24.00 value). You can’t beat the price on FAB products for their quality. And this would be perfect to buy for someone that likes beauty products but doesn’t necessarily want anyone else choosing makeup for them.

2. Sephora Lash Stash, $45.00 ($118.00 value). If you love trying new mascara, this is a great value set. Sure, the tubes are smaller than regular size, but you can still get a fairly decent amount of use out of each of them!

3. Glam Glow Gift Sexy, $69.00 ($118.00 value). A much, much coveted Glam Glow Mud Mask is $69.00 alone, so if you either love it already you can look at it as getting 2 extra products for free!

4. Sephora Beauty Closet, $99.00 ($298.00 value). Whoa, this is an expensive value set, but if you love trying new products based on cult favorites and hand picked selections from a knowledgable group, this should have your curiosity satisfied for quite some time!

5. Sephora Draw the Line, $30.00 ($79.00 value). Most high end eyeliners range from the mid-twenties and go up from there, so if you spend that on eye liner in the first place, you may as well get a handful more for nearly no additional cost!

6. Buxom Lip Gloss Roulette, $59.00 ($135.00 value). I love the great range of neutrals and nudes in this lip gloss kit. A lot of times there are a handful of really obscure colors, but this is a totally wearable bunch.

7. Smashbox Master Class Palette III, $65.00 ($300.00 value). While the value is fantastic, it really would only be worth it for someone who enjoys wearing a huge range of eyeshadows. If the palette was actually sliced in half down the middle, I think many more people would buy the left side.

8. Sephora Give Me More Lip, $59.00 ($192.00 value). There are so many different bright shades in here that I would imagine it would be hard to wear some of them. Again, if you love being creative and are open to trying new and bold colors, then you may enjoy this value set more than I realize, but I just don’t think it’s very practical.

Personally, I’m on the fence about the Dare to Bare Sugar Lip Ritual from fresh. I love the brand, and have had extremely dry lips, but is it too many lip products? I already purchased the MAC Objects of Affection Creamsheen Glass & Dazzleglass set in Nude & Red because I loved 3/4 colors. One tube of Creamsheen glass is $20, so considering the set was $35.00 and I knew I’d wear 3/4 colors for sure, it was a deal!

So, good luck if you are investing in a value set! It’s fun to find new products that you  love, and sometimes buying these are great ways to do that.

*sure enough, I had this post in my drafts for a few weeks and saw something really similar by Cara at Maskcara. She’s a makeup genius so I’d trust her recommendations.

Handmade Gifts: Lotion Bars

lotion1

I’ve made a few other beauty products from home, but I’ve never tried lotion bars! It looked a little complicated for some reason (it isn’t at all), so I always avoided it. My handmade gift series compelled me to give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did!

lotion2

Ingredients: (you’ll use about equal parts of shea butter, beeswax and coconut oil)

shea butter, I got mine here

beeswax pellets, I got mine here

Coconut oil, you can find at your grocery store

Vitamin E, also at a grocery store or Whole Foods

Essential Oil, I grabbed the vanilla scent from Michaels, but any essential oil you like will work!

 

Tools:

a mason jar for dedicated use for lotion making (Or one you want to throw away. It’s not worth the hassle of cleaning)

a spoon dedicate for lotion making, or one you want to throw away

hot pads

pot

soap mold, I got mine at Michaels

 

I’ve found that you can be a little flexible with the ingredients based on all the other recipes I’ve compared online. It seems most common to mix equal parts of shea butter, beeswax pellets and coconut oil, so depending on the amount of lotion bars you are making, you can go from there. I used 2 oz portions of each of the items I just listed, and that was enough to make 3 lotion bars of approximately the same size (a little smaller than the palm of my hand).

1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a gentle boil.

2. Drop equal parts shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax pellets into a mason jar.

lotion3

3. Place mason jar in boiling water, and allow the ingredients to melt (should take about 8-12 minutes). It will be 100% liquid one it’s fully melted.

lotion4

4. Very carefully, remove hot mason jar from the pot with pot holders, and place in a safe place in order to add the last ingredients.

5. Drop in anywhere from 10-15 drop of essential oil, or fragrance of choice. At this time you’ll also pierce 2 Vitamin E capsules with a knife and squeeze the contents into the mason jar as well. Swirl together.

lotion5

6. Carefully pour liquid into mold, making sure the mold is completely flat and even.

lotion6

7. Allow to set until completely cool, and then pop them out and wrap them up! I was a bit distracted while these were cooling, so I’m not exactly sure how long it takes for them to cool. I’d say anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. You’ll know they are cool when they turn white in color and are solid.

lotion8

I found this perfect packaging at World Market (that seems to be a theme thus far in the handmade gift series!) and the lotion bars fit in the boxes perfectly! I also think it would be beautiful (and in hindsight I wish I did this) to put some pressed flowers in the mold before you pour in the liquid so the tops of the bars have a little decoration!

Another packaging option is to tie 2-3 lotion bars that are stacked together with some string, and stick some flowers on top of the stack.

These really are simple to make, and the personal touch of fragrance and packaging would make this a perfect gift!

Preparing for Baby #2

Much to my shock I realized I have started my 3rd trimester this week.

This pregnancy is flying by! I’m so grateful to be feeling good still, sleeping well, and feeling the baby move around so much!

Anyway, I’m beginning to think through what I’ll need to get out of storage, what I’ll need to buy, and what I’ll pass on this time around.

baby2

1. Ergo : I think I’ll end up wearing this baby a lot more in order to have my hands free to play with David

2. Zip up swaddle : forget folding and wrapping, zippers are the way to go!

3. Rock n’ Play Sleeper : David slept by my bed for the first month of his life (then he moved to the nursery) and I liked how the rock n’ play sleeper kept him propped up and “snuggled”.

4. Newborn bath : I always feel terrible for bathing babies before their cord comes off because it seems so cold! And it will be the dead of winter again! I liked how the mesh kept David above the water, but a good part of his body could be in it too.

5. Burp cloths : these were my absolute favorite, especially during David’s peak spit up time.

6. Solly Baby Wrap : This will be much more streamlined and lighter than the Ergo, so I’ll practice a bit more with it for this next baby!

7. Our monitor can handle another camera, so I’ll need to buy one of those

8. Another diaper pail

9. fresh pack of onesies (I’d love to hear what brand you find to be softest!)

10. peepee teepee‘s (if it’s a boy). I just never used them!

11. Anything with buttons because ain’t nobody got time for that. I don’t care how cute the outfit is. Zips for the win! Or just separate tops and bottoms.

All in all, I’m excited to meet this next baby! I watched a video documenting the birth of a baby the other day and cried over all the emotions it stirred up in me! It seems like just yesterday I was laying on the cold operating table, taking long, deep breaths in anticipation of David arriving! And then hearing the first cry? OH FORGET IT MASCARA.

I would love to hear some of your “must have for every single baby” items (other than the obvious diapers, wipes, etc). Is there something I have never mentioned that was a life saver for you? Also, if you have two babies about 14 months apart, I’d love to hear any advice or tips you may have!