I’ve been making & selling handmade jewelry for five years today. Woah.

(For all those who’d rather open gifts at the beginning of the party, scroll on down for a very special coupon code!)

When I tell a story, I’ve always liked to look at the numbers. And the numbers of Jac & Elsie tell a story that blows my mind.

1: My very first sale was a custom piece I made for my friend, Angie. She requested a long red and turquoise necklace with funky beads (scroll down the linked page a little to see it), and I was happy to oblige. She would go on to become one of Jac & Elsie’s best supporters. Not only has she kept her jewelry box stocked with my jewelry, but she was one of the first models I used for product shots.

21: Number of countries I’ve sold to. They include Malta, New Zeland, Norway, and Turkey; though after the U.S. and Canada, Jac & Elsie is most popular in Australia. Yes, Jac & Elsie is much more well-traveled than I am.

34: Total number of grown-up friendship sets available in the shop. It all started with the little rock/paper/scissors necklaces a friend requested. She couldn’t find one she liked on Etsy, so I put one together. It has changed (scroll down the linked page a little to see it) over the years — from a small glass “rock” to a piece of tiger’s eye, from a paper airplane charm to a paper bead — but it’s been a Jac & Elsie favorite since the beginning.

1,758: Number of sales as of 11:21 a.m. eastern time June 1, 2014. It’s no where near the sales of some of my favorite shops, but it humbles me.

As I write this, a few days before my five year anniversary, half of my sales occurred from Nov. 30, 2012, to May 21, 2014. That’s half of my sales occurring in the last 19 months. Clearly, Jac & Elsie had a slow start. I didn’t know what I was doing, and instead of reading all I could and trying to figure it out from those who came before me, I did it all myself. Somewhere in there, I realized what sold and what didn’t. I realized that I needed to make a light box. I realized that I needed a better camera (it’s still a point-and-shoot, but I’m quite happy with the photos it takes).

And I realized I needed to stick with it. My bestie likes to reminisce about that conversation we had about two years back where I figured I’d shut down Jac & Elsie. This wasn’t a convo I was having in anger or frustration. I knew I had fun with the shop, but I also knew it was hardly making me money. I needed to decide if the hobby was worth losing money over. I stuck with it, so obviously, the answer was “yes.” Though it’s true: Starting out on Etsy can be slow and frustrating, especially in an area as concentrated as jewelry. It’s the most crowded section on the site, by far. Right now, searching for the word “jewelry” turns up more than 5.8 million items. That’s equal to the population of south Florida.
5yearcollage

Some of the newest items to the shop. Which is your fav? I’m partial to the two pairs of earrings smack dab in the middle of the collage.

I can’t fathom what will happen or where Jac & Elsie will take me in the next five years. A half a decade sounds like a long, long time, but I’d swear I opened the shop just last year. I wonder what it will look like, if it will still be around. Will friendship sets still be my jam? Will I have regular wholesale orders? Will I get featured in a magazine? I have so many plans to grow and expand Jac & Elsie, but they’re slow going because, frankly, I love my shop as it is. As they say: If you don’t grow, you’re stagnant; but I feel like I’m slowly growing daily. I’m doing better this year than I was last year; Christmas 2013 was better than Christmas 2012.

But at this rate, Jac & Elsie improvements don’t overwhelm me and allow me to keep it part-time. I have an 8-to-5, and while I know that I could try to turn Jac & Elsie into a full-time gig, I don’t want to do that. It’s a size I like, and that’s cool–when I started, I told myself, “If I ever sell an average of one thing a day, I will be happy.” Removing Christmas from the stats, that’s about where my sales fall on average.

This is all to say: THANK YOU to everyone who has ever supported me; who has ever ever supported the shop, either monetarily or through encouragement, which is really worth much more than a necklace set. THANK YOU to every supplier I work with–I’ve met some really amazing men and women across this country, and globe, through Jac & Elsie, and they are such an integral part of the shop. That’s one of the –MANY–things about having a small business that I never expected: the relationships you build.It’s a great big world out there, and my little corner of Etsy has made it seem just a little smaller, just a little friendlier for me.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a 5-year-old’s birthday without a little gift. As a big THANK YOU, please take 25 percent off your total purchase all week. Use coupon code 14birthday523 to receive 25 percent off your full order! That’s one of Jac & Elsie’s largest discounts, so be sure to take advantage of it. Buy yourself a favorite treat or, in the spirit of all this thanking, find something you think the favorite lady in your life would love. (Coupon expires Sunday, June 8. Not valid on items in the “fundraiser items” section.)

Filling the holes in a reader’s repertoire: Angelou & Márquez

I have never read a single book by Maya Angelou (apparently pronounced AHN-zhe-lo, thank you, New York Times), and I feel ashamed. I felt similar shame when I realized I hadn’t read anything by Gabriel García Márquez back on April 17.

Anyone who considers herself an avid reader has holes in her literary experience. You can’t read all the things, as much as you would like. Stuff just doesn’t resonate (I can’t do Shakespeare, I’m sorry), or interest you (not gonna happen, Dickens), or they’re just too hard to read (I have serious difficulty making it through anything with period speak or southern dialogue).

I may not remember the verbiage, but I definitely remember which edition we read so illicitly.

It turns out, some of the especially gaping holes in my reading repertoire are put in the spotlight when a beloved author dies. I rush to Goodreads and add the novels and memoirs and stories to my to-read list. And now I’m dying to read “A Hundred  Years of Solitude” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Embarrassingly, I have read a few pages of “Caged Bird” — the infamous rape scene. When I was in high school, my school district banned the bookfrom our library. Naturally, my bestie snagged a copy and flipped through until she found The Scene (why can you always find the “questionable” scenes by simply flipping through a book? I used to do that to my mom’s Danielle Steel books, ahem). She called me up and told me about it, and she told me it wasn’t that bad, and we wondered why an entire book would be banned for a scene that’s not even that risque.

The next time I went to her house, we shut her bedroom door and she handed me the book to read, the page of the rape scene marked so I could flip straight to it. I don’t remember what I thought as I read it, just that I was expecting “worse.”

As a teen, I thought bad scenes (not as in “poorly written,” but “when bad things happen”) were marked by the use of naughty words. I expected cursing, perhaps, or something written so explicitly that even a girl with my lily white innocence would immediately GET IT. I expected, I suppose, the opposite of that old journalistic mantra, “show, don’t tell.” I expected to be told.

Today, I do not remember the words Angelou chose, but I suspect when I read the entire book, this time, that scene will resonate more. I will GET IT, because the showing will be more powerful than the telling.

As an addendum  I learned today that a year or two after I graduated, my school district lifted the ban on the book–all because the work of one of my favorite friends. He decided he wanted to get the book unbanned, and he learned what he had to do.  His words: 

It was simple: To introduce a book into curriculum after removal is a very small procedure requiring a member of the  community to propose it, and then the English department head and, I believe, the principal to approve it. When I proposed it, I was told not to make a big fuss about it and let it fly under the radar. Next year, (an English teacher) taught it in multicultural lit again.

As a former journalist, an always writer, and a forever reader, this is probably the coolest thing anyone I’ve ever met has done.

A question for all those Angelou fans out there–and all those Márquez fans: Which work is your favorite?

My summertime bucket list

As I’ve done before, I’m straight up stealing this post idea from Phase Three of Life. Thanks for always being an idea person, Meg :)

Maybe it’s the fact that this year’s winter was especially icy, especially cold, especially brutal, but I can’t quite seem to comprehend that the weather right now is in the 70s. And it should stay that way, at least for a few months. When I see the sunshine, I feel a very real urge to hold on to it with both hands, like it was a rope and I was playing tug-o-war with some celestial god who can say “Nono, no more sunshine for you, Peon” at any moment.

Because I can’t quite grasp the reality of this summer, I’m having a hard time understanding all the things I have to look forward to this summer, plans that are in motion, or almost in motion, or bouncing around in the back of my mind, waiting to be put into motion.

Allow me to present: Jac’s summertime bucket list. Yes, I desperately hope to do every one of these things. No, I likely won’t. But I’m sure gonna try! In no particular order …

  • Drive-in movies. I live near two drive-in theaters (though the one that embraces those old-school graphics of dancing sodas and popcorn bags is clearly the better one), and it’s my favorite way to spend a Saturday night. We (ahem) pack a cooler, bring some blankets, and settle in for a double-feature.
  • The Printers Row Lit Fest. I try to go yearly, and barring some act of God, I’ll be there this year, too, for my fifth fest. It’s my church, a time when something I hold dear takes over multiple city blocks of Chicago and welcomes me in. I always try to make a speech or two (the event includes author talks), but really, I go to be surrounded by books. Again: My church.

    Jeff and I had been dating six months the first time I took him to the Printers Row Lit Fest. I also got to introduce him to The Bean, which was a few blocks away.

  • A long weekend with Jeff. Unfortunately, my huny has crappy vacation days. Fortunately, I do not have crappy vacation days. We’re planning to do a long weekend somewhere within driving distance (and I’ll probably take the rest of the week off because summer). Traverse City is winning–we went a few years back and it did not disappoint. Each day, we visited a different beach. There was the winery-hopping as we traveled up one peninsula to its tip. The sail boat trip was great, as was the giant dune I climbed halfway. (Jeff climbed the whole thing. I made him go without me.)

    This is how I felt about going to the top of the sand dune.

    Hole up in a cabin in Pennsylvania with a writerly friend. My bud Lindsay and I were lamenting how nice it would be to have time to just write, and she mentioned the glory of a writers’ colony. Which made me think … we should just meet halfway–she’s in NYC, I’m in northeast Indiana–for a weekend and do nothing but write and critique each others work (and, probably, drink wine).

  • Visit a lake as much as humanly possible. You may not know it–I didn’t before moving here–but northeast Indiana is fulllllll of lakes. And many friends of mine have family members who live on lakes. You put me in a bathing suit on a boat in water and you have a blissfully happy girl.
  • Hit up a farmer’s market and buy some fresh flowers. I swear, Instagram made me all jealous of my friends getting fresh blooms over the weekend. I want to play. (Oh yeah, I’m on Instagram now. Follow me, if you’re so inclined.)

What’s on your summertime bucket list?

Some summertime fashion favorites

This weekend, I had a very successful JC Penney shopping trip. I’ve always been a fan of the store’s bright and trendy (and affordable) work clothing, and this trip marked one of my first sprees there in a while. I found a few staples I’d had my eye on and discovered a few more favorites.

Switching from the cozy sweaters of winter over to my favorite sun dresses has always been exciting for me. I think it goes back to the simple fact that I like change, and swapping warm clothing for warm weather is just an indication that the year is passing, time is moving on … and, at least this year, the dang sun is coming out to play.

Here are some of my favorite trends, some new this season, some not so new.

Harem pants.

OK, hear me out. When I first saw them, I thought … are you kidding me? How can these be flattering on anyone? And yet … they are. I have a bit of a booty, and somehow, these PJ-like pants do not give me Kardashian-like proportions.

The trick was less the pattern and more the material. Some of my favorite pairs I’ve tried on had absolutely no give. When I sat down, I felt like I’d straight up hulk out of them. And yet when I’d go a size up, the elastic waist bagged, which created something of a soggy diaper effect. Not cute.

I found a cotton-poly blend pair at Penney’s and, oh swoon, they fit great. The pattern is a little more muted that the crazy tribal prints I found myself drawn to, but they’ll pair well a variety of tops, including the ivory or bright orange I found. Which brings me to my next item of fabulous …

Orange.

I feel like every season, when I get new clothes, they tend to all match each other. As though I choose a color or colors and am drawn to it all season. This past winter, it was straight up black and white. Yesterday, everything in my bag was navy and ivory (see above) with a LOT of orange.

I’m olive complected. Even when I’m reeeealy white, as I am now, my skin is still light caramel-colored, and bright the frack tangerine is lovely on darker skin tones. Case in point, the perfect Lupita Nyong’o.

Collage

 

I’m even finding myself drawn more toward orangey corals in the makeup department. In a recent Birchbox, I received a gorgeous TheBalm lip/cheek stain in coral. I have a variety of coral/orangey lipsticks I adore. Paired with subtle eye makeup, it’s such a fresh, springy approach.

The color in question is Pie, second row, first color.

Espadrilles.

I had the most glorious pair years and years ago. I threw them out … and I don’t remember why. I covet a pair. I want them to have a small wedge heel, and if they tie up around my ankle, all the better.

Summer sweaters.

What is wrong with buildings? When the weather finally is appropriate for shirtsleeves, they up the AC so it’s colder inside than it was in the dead of February.

My favorite summer sweater is a gray 3/4-sleeve top with a big daisy on it. It’s impossible to be grumpy when there’s a giant flower on your chest. I found another a month or two back at Kohl’s, but the only one left in my size was snagged. Kohls.com did not disappoint.

Because of the open-weave, I won’t wear this with a necklace, so it’s a great way to throw up my hair and rock some giant earrings. (Ahem, it’s on clearance for $20. Click on the pic to purchase one of the six colors.)

Dainty necklaces.

Giant statement necklaces have been all-the-rage for a while, and I have a few in rotation that I love to pair with a high-necked sweater. For lower-collars, or maybe just in reaction to all the chunk, I’ve been veering more toward smaller, sweeter necklaces.

To be honest, they’ve always been my choice over something crazy and huge, but I think part of this current preference is my discovery of a new Favorite necklace: my Mrs. necklace, courtesy of Bijoux By Meg.

I spied this first shortly before I got married last year, and promptly forgot about it until earlier this year. Meg offers birthstone add-ons, so I opted for the green stone — an emerald — for my wedding anniversary month (May).

I adore this necklace. I love that the chain sparkles, and I love how brilliant and shiny the pendant is. This girl has gotten handstamping down to an art, and her pieces almost look manufactured by machine, they’re so pristine and lovely.

Just a few days ago, two more necklaces arrived — a graduation gift and a birthday gift. And I might have to figure out a gold Bijoux by Meg version to find. Because my final favorite trend this summer?

Gold and rose gold.

When I was younger, I remember my mom talking about how silver and gold would become “in” and “out,” taking turns being the popular favorite. I never understood how a preference could change — but I do now. I’ve always loved the pretty pink hue of rose gold, but lately, I’ve found myself decorating myself with more gold-toned jewelry than silver.

Maybe it’s because it goes better with the current colors I’m finding myself drawn to. Gold undoubtedly pairs better with orange than silver does. I adore gold with any shade of blue, especially navy. I still adore my white gold engagement ring, but my slim wedding band is rose gold.

What summertime trends are you finding yourself drawn toward?

A bio in 150 characters? Yeah right. Sorry, Instagram.

So I just joined Instagram a few weeks ago. I’d been resisting, but I’ve found that it’s a great place to upload all the Jac & Elsie jewelry pics I take that have no where else to go (works-in-progress, custom pieces). I guess I could post them here, but Instagram’s a little easier.

I recently realized that my bio was blank, and I started to fill it out. When I was finished, I saw the 150-character limit. Oh. Duh. So I cut some words. Then chopped it in half. Then cut some more words. Then came up with this:

I make jewelry. I can’t say much else of substance in 150 characters.

I mean, have you figured out how to be substantial in 150 characters? If so, teach me.

Because while Instagram is better than a blog for photos of jewelry (and flowers, it seems–I’m very excited by spring and appear to post lots of blooms), it is not a go-to place for waxing poetic. Again: Duh.

As I was trying to figure out what to say, before I realized I was so limited in characters, I started to think about how much I’ve changed over the years. A lot hasn’t … but a lot is new, something I figure all adults realize about themselves.

Today, my longer-form bio might look like this:

I make jewelry. It started as a hobby and has grown into a business. I’m even an LLC. Which makes me a COO. Which is hilarious.

I’ve lived in my current hometown for going on six years. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was a child.

I enjoy a cigar and good whiskey, neat. I have an unnatural affection for Donald Duck. I adore Stephen King books. Those first two traits confound my mother. The last two, not so much. I think it’s because Donald and Stephen have been in my life since I was little. New things and traits to my life, items I’ve found as an adult, personality traits that now define me, are less familiar to her.

The last time I lived at home, I was still really bad at keeping secrets. I had never been drunk. I had never smoked, anything. I made snap judgements about people. I had impossibly high expectations, in all areas of my life: love, friends, jobs.

Today, I can gossip with the right friend, about the right topic, but I know how to keep my mouth shut. I understand the difference between catty gossip and what indicates genuine concern for a person. I have trained myself to enjoy beer, and I have discovered that my alcohol of choice is, in fact, good whiskey. I enjoy cigars. I think it’s the persona they create. There’s something fabulous about a woman with a stiff drink and a stogie. Despite the shattering of some gender stereotypes, booze and cigars are still seen as a man’s thing. And yet, these two things make me feel impossibly feminine. They seem to stress the fact that I’m a woman.

One of my favorite photos from my and Jeff's wedding, with our friend and officiant extraordinaire. And my stogie. And a pretty fabulous photo bomber.

One of my favorite photos from my and Jeff’s wedding, with our friend and officiant extraordinaire. And my stogie. And a pretty fabulous photo bomber.

I am not remotely the woman I was 10 years ago, nor do I have any interest in being her. I mean, she was alright, but she was kind of boring, kind of straight-laced. She was kinder, for sure. She wasn’t as quick to dismiss stupid people. That’s something else that would need to go in a bio of me: I loath stupidity. More, I loath rude, selfish people. I don’t deal well with texting-and-driving. I have asked more than one person in front of me in a movie theater to stop texting. When I see a group of people out to dinner, and they’re all absorbed in their phones, it makes me crazy. No one — let me repeat: NO ONE — is that important. Put your dang phone away and enjoy a sun set, a friend, a good book. Live in the moment; it’s amazing what you miss when you’re looking down all the time ((steps off soap box))

My favorite Friday nights are spent on the couch with my honey, a bottle of wine, some good cheese, and a couple movies, which we usually rent from Family Video, the last video rental place in town. Yes, I still rent DVDs. My favorite Saturday nights are going to dinner with friends, maybe they come over and hang out after. I’m pretty easy to please. That whole “I have crazy expectations” things has gone. It’s probably my favorite change I’ve seen in myself over the last decade.

I’ve found life to be much happier that way.

Cutest rock/paper/scissors girls ever, and a look at ‘Fear for Hire’

A few weeks back, I got the honor to help out at a book party for a local author, Natalie Ellis. The party promoted her eBook, “Fear for Hire,” and it debuted the book’s trailer–think a movie trailer, but for a novel.

To stir up interest, Natalie had a variety of giveaways on Twitter, Facebook, and in-person there at the party. Naturally, I had to support this fabulous author, so I offered up a Jac & Elsie jewelry set. She loved the rock/paper/scissors set, and it went to someone at the party who had been tweeting up a storm about the event. The winner, Kristin, also happened to play the protagonist in the “Fear for Hire” trailer. Watch her below …

… and then marvel and how adorbs she is when she’s not playing a kidnapped woman afraid for her life, when she’s just laughing and rocking a Jac & Elsie paper charm necklace.

kristin

Kristin happened to be at the party with two of her besties, and they divvied up the three necklaces in about a second and a half:

Kirstin and friendsAnd for you readers out there: “Fear For Hire” is a book set in the author’s Indiana hometown about a kidnapping gone awry. Jack Wylie’s brother convinces the ex-cop to kidnap a woman who paid to be kidnapped, a kind of “I’m fearful because of my crazy exboyfriend, and if I undergo this experience, my crippling fear will fade” kind of thing. But Jack kidnaps the wrong woman, Molly, a TV reporter.

“Fear for Hire” is a fun, quick read that’ll keep you guessing. Jack is a fantastic protagonist, all grizzly and damaged; Molly’s brave and a touch naive, and their chemistry is … um … hot. So there’s that.

And for the time being, the Kindle edition is just $2.99 on Amazon. Happy reading!

The differences between turning 21 and turning 31

My 31st birthday was on Monday. I took the day off work, shopped, watched a girlie flick (“Sex and the City 2″) while I filled some orders, went with ma hubby to dinner at my favorite joint in town, and then saw Occulus.

When we stepped out of the movie theater, on the evening of April 14 in northeast Indiana, the ground was covered in snow.

APRIL EFFING 14th.

A decade prior, I walked out of an underage bar in Kent, Ohio, drunk for the second time in my life (I was not a college drinker …) I looked up. I looked at my boyfriend. I looked around.

“I’m not that drunk, am I?”

No, I was not, because it was snowing. They were the only two times in my life it’s snowed on my VERY SPRING BIRTHDAY.

At my 21st birthday, I sang karaoke for the first time in my life. The song, fittingly, was “Like a Virgin.” That is what’s happening here.

I had no idea I was the kind of girl who wore midriff shirts, but then you go. Also, I wish I looked half as cool as Melissa did while we sang.

At my 31st birthday, which I celebrated with friends this past Saturday, I karaoked again, and I knocked something silly off my bucket list: I sang on karaoke one of my favorite George Michael songs of all time, one that I’ve wanted to sing for ages but was too shy to do in front of strangers: “I Want Your Sex.”

First time, “Like a Virgin.” A decade later, “I Want Your Sex.” You can’t make this shit up, folks.

At my 21st birthday, we started the night at a friend’s, who wanted to be the first to provide me with my first legal drink. The day fell on a Sunday, so at midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, we cheersed and headed out.

At midnight. AND I WASN’T TIRED.

My 31st birthday began at 5:30 p.m. That’s like early bird special time, but I wanted to go to a winery that closed at 7 p.m. So we sipped our wines, bought copious amounts of wine slushies, and enjoyed the gorgeous patio.

At my 21st birthday, we were all CASUAL. Oh man, so many jeans, so many sweatshirts and sweaters. Look at us go:

For 31? Still some jeans, but considerably more fitted. Fewer belly buttons. (Ugh, seriously, can I go back in time and bitchslap me?) Much more colorful and interesting tops. At least three maxi skirts (for the birthday girl included). I never really GOT it when my mama said women get better with age. But … we do. (Not that I don’t love those early-20s fools above. But come on.)

(There were boys there too, but the ladies photo is much more fun.)

At 21, I guarantee I wanted people to buy me all the things. I wasn’t a material girl, but I know I was hyped up to see what the boy got me. (Don’t ask … it’s been a decade, do you think I remember??)

At 31, when friends showed up with gifts, I was uncomfortable opening them. I so appreciate the gesture and feel so warm and fuzzy that people like me enough to show up with a gift. But I don’t throw parties for presents–I throw them to make all the people I like get in one space at one time.

(Though the giant pop-up floor map of Westeros was pretty badass …)

And of course … there’s that whole “I have a husband now” thing. And that’s pretty much the best.

Alrighty, what was your 21st birthday like? Tell me you wore ridiculous things, too??? And how did it compare to your most recent celebration?