Thursday, March 31, 2011

YOUR Better Life Bags

Finished up a few orders this week.
Do you see yours?!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Market AND Library Tote

It was beautiful yesterday, so we took a walk to the local library.

Turns out The Clara Market Tote is PERFECT for carrying library books
and fashionably!

It must have some ergonomic features that I wasn't aware.
I carried all the library books on my shoulder my entire walk home and could hardly feel it!

Little Bug loves having a special place to keep all his "new" books

And I love that our library books won't get lost or mixed in with the rest of our book collection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Party Tip Tuesday with A Darling Day: Let's Make Labels!

Hello friends! It’s Jessica from A Darling Day again, here with an easy tutorial for party labels. The more you can label at your party, the better. Here are some examples of important labels you might want to consider having at your next party:

*Label drinks, especially your ‘sweet tea’ and ‘unsweet tea’, or your ‘regular coffee’ and ‘decaf coffee’. Label half-n-half from milk and sugar from any sugar substitutes.
*Label food items, especially dishes with meat. Specify ‘fish’, ‘beef’, ‘chicken’ or ‘pork’.
*Label any food items that contain possible allergens, like nuts (My friend ate a chicken salad that contained pine nuts without knowing. It wasn’t pretty.).
*Label individual cups. It will save time on clean up if guests keep track of and reuse their cup during the party.
*Label each guest’s place at the table. Place cards are great to use at a sit-down dinner party. You can make sure to separate Aunt Gladys from her brother-in-law :)
*Label different stations or areas at the party. Label the favor table, the gift table and the guestbook table.

So now that we know WHAT to label, here is any easy tutorial of HOW to label!
You will need:
*several pieces of your chosen ‘wood shape’ (I used hearts and rectangles)
*black board paint + chalk
*drill (optional)
*4″ styrofoam ball + knife to cut
*mini clay pots, mini picture frame and/or mini watering cans (I found these for .59 and 1.00, respectively)
*wire + wire cutter/needlenose pliers
*moss, rocks or sand to fill bottom of pots
First, make your labels. Paint your ‘wood shapes’ (I found each of these for .29 at Michael’s) with two coats of blackboard paint. Write with chalk on each wood piece to create your desired label. Chalk easily wipes off to correct or reuse. You might need a little water to remove residue completely.
Tip: Use scissors or a knife to sculpt the end of your piece of chalk into a point. It will be easier to make small letters.
Next we will start on the base for the label holders. Cut a styrofoam ball in half. Then in half again. Continue to halve the styrofoam pieces until they are the correct size for your pot or container. They do not need to be the perfect shape, just big enough to make a tight fit when pushed into the bottom of the pot. Wedge a piece of styrofoam tightly into the bottom of each container.
Cut a piece of wire about 8 inches long. Use needlenose pliers to hold the end of one side of the wire. Wrap the remaining wire around the nose of the pliers three times with your fingers. Before releasing the end of the wire, pull it out from the other layers, separating them slightly. You will then be able to insert your wood label between the wire swirls.
Stick the end of the wire label into the styrofoam container. Cover with moss, rocks, pebbles, sand or tissue paper to hide the styrofoam.

1. If you do not want to work with wire, hot glue a toothpick to the back of the wood label. You can then insert the toothpick into the styrofoam container in the same way.
2. If you want to tie your label to the base of a glass or jar, drill a small hole in the corner of the wood piece. Then lace with twine, string or ribbon and tie to the desired container. You can also drill a hole in each corner of the wood piece to create a hanging label.
3. Purchase a small picture frame. You can find these at most craft stores (I found the one below in a Michael’s $1 bin). If it comes with a piece of glass or plastic in the window of the frame, remove it. A piece of thin wood can be cut to fit the frame and then inserted.
(That is my sister’s Easter egg tree, featuring small, hand-knit eggs. How cute would those be as a spring party favor??)

I was visiting my sister and her family in Charleston, SC when I wrote this tutorial. My sister designated herself my helper. THIS was her contribution…
So you see… you can use this basic idea in a number of different ways! Have fun making labels for your next party!

To wrap up my ‘Party Tip’ series here at Better Life Bags, I will be doing a giveaway of 15 custom, handmade party invitations next Tuesday. I will design a set of custom theme invitations for the winner, using the theme of their choice. Check out my websitemy etsy shop or my facebook page for samples of invitations I have done in the past.

See you next Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hello lovelies! 
It’s Tuesday again and that means another “party tip” from me, Jessica, of A Darling Day. Today I will be sharing ways to make your party a guest-centered party. It may sound obvious, but when throwing a party, think about your guests! The party experience is created for the guests, so spend time thinking of extra special ways to get your guests involved.

1. Have a guestbook. 
They provide your guests with an opportunity to encourage, give advice or share excitement with you. The guestbook always plays an important role in any party I throw, but with a twist…

For my wedding, Neil and I provided guests with small pieces of cardstock, stamps, fun scissors and lots of colored pens and markers.  Prompts like “Always remember to…” and “Love is…” were printed at the top of each card. These notes from our guests are the most cherished keepsakes from our wedding day. You will be surprised how creative your guests will be when given an opportunity! And to make the process of signing our “guestbook” even more interactive, we asked guests to nail their note to an old wood door.

At a barn wedding, guests tied their notes to an old wagon wheel. 
At a baby shower, they hung them from a clothesline with small clothespins. 

Think about your theme and a fun idea will come to you! 

At Thanksgiving this past year, my sister cut cardstock into the shape of leaves. We all wrote something we were thankful for and tied the leaf note to branches in a big vase. And as a bonus, it doubled as a cool centerpiece!

2. Assign guests a task. 
This could be as simple as asking guests to come in costume. 
For a baby shower, you could send a plain white onesie with each invitation and ask guests to decorate it however they choose and bring it to the shower. 
You could send guests a series of clues and let them discover where the location of the party is. 
Assigning a task will get your guests thinking about and anticipating your party.

3. Have a photo booth. 
Yes, these are all the rage right now, and rightly so! It doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, young or old… you love to act silly. And creating your own photo booth is very easy. All you need is a backdrop in a well-lit area (outside is ideal) and a box of props. A backdrop can be as simple as hanging a well-ironed sheet or bolt of fabric. 

Think again about your theme… it will help dictate the type of backdrop and props to provide your guests
Having a fall-themed party? 
Set up bails of hay and pumpkins and provide your guests with plaid shirts and bandanas.
 Having a travel-themed shower? 
Collage maps together for the background and provide guests with suitcases, aviator sunglasses, paper planes and vintage hats.

There are a few props you should always consider having, no matter what the theme of your photobooth. The first is a chalkboard or dry erase board (with chalk or markers). Guests can write messages on the board to pose with. You can also draw thought bubbles or speech bubbles on heavy mat board and write silly expressions in the bubbles. And you can never go wrong with hats and mustaches!

If you want your guests to be able to take photos of themselves, simply set up a camera on a tripod, turn it to the right settings and hook up a remote control shutter release. Otherwise, guests can take pictures of each other (just remember to provide a camera in case some guests do not bring theirs).

Neil and I built a “wall” for our wedding using a 4×8 piece of wainscoting. We added floral cotton fabric (to look like wallpaper) and molding. It was enjoyed by everyone, from my 3-year old nephew to my 85-year old Granny!

For an Alice in Wonderland party, we built a small box and decorated it like a room, with paint, wallpaper, molding, curtains and even some framed pictures. We provided a blue Alice dress for each girl to put on when she posed inside the booth. Remember in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ when she eats the cookie and grows and grows? This photobooth makes it seem as if our little Alices are getting bigger!

4. Always remember to give a favor to your guests. Always.
When throwing a birthday party for a child, do not fill a goodie bag with candy as a favor. I am sure the kids ate more than enough sugar AT the party. They do not need to be sent home with even more! Think of making their favor a game or toy or costume prop. Or make a craft at the party and send the kids home with their finished product.
A food favor is a better idea for adults and is best when homemade or locally made (it is more personal). Consider using an old family recipe to make jam, barbeque sauce or granola. Or put all of the dry ingredients to your favorite cookie recipe in a jar. Then tie the recipe to the jar to share with your friends.
The theme should be considered even when deciding on a favor. You could give locally made apple butter as a favor at a fall party. Or locally made honey as a favor at a ‘Birds and the Bees” baby shower. At a travel themed party you could give luggage tags. For a garden party, you could give small bags filled with seeds. I made each guest “a cup of cake” (cake and icing layered parfait-style in a mason jar) for a cupcake birthday party.

Try to make the party favor personal and cohesive with your party theme. Guests will appreciate the time and effort of a thoughtful favor!

5. Consider any special diet restrictions your guests may have. 
Sometimes, you don’t know if a guest has an allergy or special diet. But if you do, you should consider adapting different dishes or making special ones that they can enjoy. I know several friends who are lactose-intolerant, have a gluten allergy or are allergic to nuts or red food dye. I am a vegetarian, and although I always come prepared and never expect a host to change their menu for me, it makes me feel so special when they make a couple things meat-free for me. It takes a little more effort, but your guests will appreciate the consideration!

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to consider your guests when planning a party. Join me back here next week for a couple fun ideas for making labels for food and drinks. In the meantime, come visit me on my blogmy facebook page or my etsy shop!
Have a wonderful week!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Get Great Lighting in your Photos!

In the midst of all this new fabric excitement,

I've also been trying to capture pictures of my little kiddos.

They just grow SO FAST!

I'm sure my husband thinks I'm crazy for always running to get the camera when they are doing something oh so precious.
I'm afraid that I'm missing moments while I rush around trying to find a camera to capture them.
Does that make any sense at all?

Regardless, I attempt to capture them anyway.

And the best tip I've learned about taking photos of my kids is to make sure that you are in good lighting.

I'm super lucky that my entire house has amazing lighting.
That's the first thing I noticed when we did our walk through.
Any house I have from this point on HAS to have amazing lighting.

A great tip is to try to have your subject facing the window.

Here I had Lady Bug's face turned away from the window at it gave it an awful shadow.

By simply moving her so she faced the other way, her face glowed and I had a much better shot.

If you have a room that lacks in great lighting
{especially if it happens to be the room you take most of your pictures in}
invest in some OTTlite lighting.
This is supposed to give you the most natural light in a bulb form.
I use them for some of my craft tutorials when I have to complete them at night.
Just something to look into.

Today, I was taking Lady Bug's 2 month picture and noticed HOW DIRTY my floors are!
I have hardwood and it just seems to attract so much dust and grime.
My little ones spend most ALL their time on this grimy floor.

See the window reflected in her eyes when I face her toward it?  It looks like a twinkle!

So, I have decided to do something about it.
The amazing folks at CSN offered to let me review a product for them.
So... guess what I chose?
The Euro Pro Shark - Electric Steam Mop

I can't wait to get my hands on this and see what it can pick up from my floors!
{yes, I'm a nerd that gets excited about cleaning up grime}

But the best part?
NO chemicals or cleaning supplies.
It just uses steam to clean!
And it comes with 2 MACHINE WASHABLE pads.

You want one, too - don't you?

Spring HAS Sprung!

The snow has finally melted.
And the Spring Cleaning Sale is over.
{hope you picked up a bag on sale!}

Which could only mean one thing:
{In fact, yesterday was the 1st Day of Spring!}

We are celebrating around here
with a brand new box
 of designer fabric!

6 NEW prints for you to choose from when you're designing your bags.

And let me tell you...
I am in

Look at all that delicious spring fabric!
It's perfect to take us all the way through summer!

The fabric collection was in major need of some purples and oranges.

Orange sherbet anyone?

How about a plum pie with vanilla icecream?

And I love how you can mix and match the orange WITH the purple!

I was SO SO SO excited to try this material out on my sewing machine.
So excited, in fact, that I decided to come out with a

I'm in love AGAIN.

Seriously, I took this clutch bag out today to Walgreens and felt like a QUEEN with it under my arm.

The clutch is rather large to be called a clutch.
{measures 13" wide and 6" tall}
But doesn't have straps like a normal "bag".
So the clutch bag it is :)

It's listed in the shop ready for the first customer to purchase it!
{and it already has a name... I named it after my soon-to-be sister in law, Alicia!}

The pleated flap closes with a strong magnetic snap that is interfaced for lasting durability.

The bag has gussets in the botton to give it a flat bottom.
This gives it more inside room and allows it to stand on it's own.

Not only is it a great everyday bag,
you couldn't go wrong picking it for your romantic date,
using it as a stylish diaper clutch {fits 2 diapers and a wipes case},
or maybe ordering several and using them in your wedding as bridesmaid clutches {contact me for pricing}.

Do you love it as much as I do?
Then go design one for yourself!

Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Edit Photos with Picnik - Tutorial

Remember my Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day shoot of my kids?
Well, just to prove that a little tinkering can make photos look stellar, I decided to use my basic point and shoot for the St. Patrick's Day photoshoot instead of my fancy DSLR camera.
{well... I was forced to when the battery on my DSLR died the minute I got Lady Bug set up}

After you take all those wonderful photos using natural light and NO flash, edit them!

Go to the Picnik website.

Click on "Get Started Now"
{you don't need to sign up to edit photos, however, if you DO sign up for the free account, you can upload 5 pictures at a time - compared to just one}

Click on "Upload A Photo"
Find the photo you want to edit and  upload it to the site.

Click on "Create"
Click on "Effects"

Here's where you can play around and have fun!
If the effect says "Premium" on it, you can see what the effect would look like, but can't apply it unless you pay a monthly fee.

Once you find an effect you like, click "Apply."

I used the Lomo-ish effect with all my St. Patty's Day photos and adjusted the Fade to 50%

Then click on "Save and Share" and save your edited photo.
{tip - keep the original file name and add the editted name afterwards}

Picnik is so fun!
Here are some other effects that look great, too!


Cross Process


So, head over to Picnik and have some fun!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
{aka the day I turn another year older... yes, I'm a St. Patrick's Day baby}

Did any of you join me in taking holiday-themed pictures of your little ones?
If you did, PLEASE email me with them!

Tomorrow I will have a tutorial on how to edit your photos to make them look even better!
{all St. Patrick's Day photos were taken with a cheap point and shoot camera...
I promise}

See what editting can do?

Come back tomorrow for a step by step tutorial on editting.

Editting is my BFF.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to Earn Discounts on Better Life Bags

Are you taking advantage of the 25% off sale going on right now in the ETSY shop?
I sure hope so!
The 25% discount won't come along very often... so get designing!

 25% off is good, but...
Would any of you like 50% off a Better Life Bag?

I want to have ways to offer my bags at discounted prices besides regular sales.
Creative ways.
Ways that make lives better.

 Here's a creative way you can earn up to 50% off a bag:
Remember this post by Radical Crafts?

Well, if any of you have a crafty bone in your body, make some items for her to sell in her shop.
{All profits go toward different charities that change every 3 months - so by donating your creations to be sold, you are making lives better!}

Right now profits are going to profits will go to E3 Kids - a US-based
ministry that raises money to support a Christian school in Mombasa, Kenya.
 For every item you donate to Radical Crafts, I will give you 10% off an item in my shop.
Donate 2 items = 20% off a BLB.
3 items = 30% off.
up to 50% off. 
{guidelines for donating here}

Not crafty at all?
Buy something from her shop and the same rules apply.
Buy one listing = 10% off a BLB.
Buy 2 listings = 20% off.
up to 50% off.
{shop her items here}

When you donate (or buy something from her shop) and are ready to buy a Better Life Bag with your discount, email me first so I can verify your donation and/or purchase.
So, keep clicking on the "Discounts" tab at the top of my blog.
{if you are hanging out with me in Google Reader or email, click on over to see}
I'll probably find lots more creative ways that you can make lives of those around you better AND receive a Better Life Bag discount at the same time!

Did I mention that there are some Better Life Bags for sale in the Radical Crafts ETSY shop?
Did I mention some of them are at discounted prices?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Party Tip Tuesday {with a Darling Day} - DIY Party Decorations Part 2

Hello again lovelies! It is time for ‘part 2′ of A Darling Day‘s party decoration tutorials. The first of today’s tutorials is for Ribbon Garland. Here’s the How-To…

  1. Cut several pieces of ribbon from several different spools. These pieces can be from 3 to 5 inches in length. Do not cut them all to exactly the same length. It is better to have slight variations in size.
  2. Line up all the ribbon pieces in random order.
  3. Pull the threads on your sewing machine so you have a couple feet of slack before you begin sewing.
  4. Pick up your first piece of ribbon and top stitch across the width of the piece. Once you have stitched across the ribbon, keep pressing on the presser foot for several more stitches. This will provide distance between each piece. Then push through the next ribbon piece. Continue until you have sewed over each piece of ribbon.
  5. Lay your ribbon garland flat on a table. You may need to manipulate the pieces across the thread to space them evenly apart.

Once finished, you can hang your ribbon garland vertically or horizontally against a wall.

I also wanted to share with you a super easy and clever DIY tutorial for fringy streamers over at Oh Happy Day.

Aren’t those just lovely?! (and a great example of “more is more” party decorating). In her tutorial, she uses crepe paper sheets. I hadn’t ever used crepe paper sheets before (and I wasn’t really sure where to find them…. I mean, I live in middle Georgia  ) So, I thought I would try it myself with a roll of crepe paper steamers you can find just about anywhere.

  1. Cut a long piece from the roll of crepe paper (my piece was 6’ long) and fold the piece in half several times
  2. Evenly space small cuts on one side of the length. Do not cut all the way to the center. Cut in about 1/3 of the way.
  3. Make the same cuts on the other side. Again, do not cut all the way to the center.
  4. Unfold your piece of crepe paper, separating the fringe and crunching it with your fingers.

What a clever way to turn a tired, overused party decoration into something new and fun! Plus, I got my roll of crepe paper for 79 cents, so this decoration idea is great for those not looking to break the bank.

Next Tuesday, I will be back here with ideas on making your party guest-centered (your guests will appreciate it!). Until then, follow me on facebook or visit my blog or my etsy shop!

See you soon!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ethiopian Orphan Adoption Crisis

Did you know that there are 5 MILLION orphans in Ethiopia?

5 MILLION babies and children without a mom or a dad.

How wonderful it is when those little ones get a family!

But the devastating news is that the Ethiopian government is planning on cutting international adoptions by 90%!
That's a decrease from 50 adoptions per day to 5 per day.

While I encourage you to do your own research on this to check my facts, here's what I think is happening.
{Corrections or comments are encouraged!}

United States adoption advocates have held Ethiopia under great scrutiny for possible adoption fraud.
Basically, I think there have been some instances of children being torn away from parents and labeled "orphans" in order to bring in revenue for the country.
There also have been instances of Ethiopia lying to prospective parents about actual ages of the children they are adopting.

It sounds like, as a result, Ethiopian government is retaliating by cutting intercountry adoptions by 90%.


So many foreign families are waiting for their little Ethiopian baby to come.
This could extend their wait for YEARS.

So many beautiful children are waiting for parents of their own.
Their wait may extend for YEARS.

A reader emailed me {who happens to be in the process of adopting from Ethiopia} and asked me to send out the link to this petition.

Sign it if you feel so called.
{I think it was being sent to the Ethiopian prime minister on Saturday, but I still think signing it shows great support!}

But more importantly,
PRAY for God's will to be done in this situation.
And for peace for all those families waiting to adopt.
And for protection for the children in Ethiopia.

Thanks for considering this great opportunity to take a stand for

{It's not just about bags.  It really is about a better life.}

Signer #35882

Thursday, March 10, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Bow Tie

Need something quick, cheap, and easy for your little man to wear on St Patrick's Day?

Try this easy bow tie tutorial from A Lemon Squeezy Home!

don't mind the wrinkled shirt or messy face :)  we're in survival mode around here.

I seriously put it together in less than 15 minutes.
AND I used a bandana from the dollar section at Target.
Can't get much cheaper than that!

I even had some bandana material left over to make Lady Bug a matching one for her hair head.

I'm going to use this for our St. Patrick's Day Photo Shoot.
Don't forget about joining me for taking photo shoots of our kiddos on holidays.

Are you getting ready for your St. Patrick's Day Photo Shoot?

You can find some ideas on setting up your "station" here
{from my Valentine's shoot}
and finding cheap decorations for the backdrops.

Keep checking back for some tips on editting your photos after you take them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meet Clara

Meet Clara.

She is super concerned about the environment.
That's why she made herself into a reusable market tote.

She is large enough to carry a gallon of milk (or two) plus produce, bread, and more!

But she also folds down really small so you can keep her tucked safely in your purse or the glove compartment of your car.

Don't forget your reusable bags again!

You can design YOUR own Clara at my shop!

*** Right now Clara is 25% off during the Spring Cleaning Sale!  Click here to find out more details ***

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