Author Archives: Billie Gardner

About Billie Gardner

I’m an Online Business Manager and Pinterest Marketing Strategist. I also write articles and eBooks for aspiring virtual assistants wanting to start their own businesses. In my free time you'll find me cuddling with my fur babies, watching funny movies, and trying out the latest restaurants with my hubby.

Feeling Down? Dig Out Your Favorite Photos!

American author Eudora Welty once said, “A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” Many of us have boxes of these moments in closets, albums full of them on bookshelves, and hard drives loaded with them on computers and cell phones—not to mention the ones on our walls.

Framed photographs can enhance a room. Scrapbooked prints can entertain visitors. Cell phone snaps can remind us of things we don’t want to forget. But they’re all good for so much more—boosting our spirits and generating happiness in at least four ways.

1. They remind us of things we love. Life gets more than a little hectic at times, and it’s all too easy to forget about the good things—the things we love. Snapshots serve as a constant, welcome reminder.

2. They help us remember. Whether they’re pictures of family, a great vacation or a favorite pastime, looking through them allows us to relive joyous experiences.

3. They allow us to collect without the need to buy. Why has Pinterest become so popular? I think it’s because pining allows us, virtually, to accumulate beautiful things that bring us joy.

4. They allow us to be creative. When we take photos, we look at the world—and our subjects—in a different light, stimulating creativity.

The image above is from a trip my husband and I took to the Bahamas.  We made an impromptu trip to The Atlantis and caught this breath-taking sunset (nope, not even photo shopped!)

What’s your favorite photo? Why does it bring you joy? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Peace & Love,
Billie

Take Care of Your Healthy, Happy Heart

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make every day of my life a happy one. Joy makes life more enjoyable, and our health affects our ability to feel that joy. Think about it. When you have a headache, a cold, or the flu, it’s more difficult to enjoy the positive and all too easy to focus on the negative. And we’re just talking about temporary health issues, not life-altering disease.

Heart disease is a major one in the U.S. At least 600,000 people die from it each year. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death for both women and men. A general term encompassing several different conditions, heart disease includes coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease. Both of these can cause heart attack and stroke—costing the U.S. more than $312 billion every year in doctor and hospital visits, medications and lost productivity.

Scary statistics, I know. I learned them when I recently read that February is American Heart Month. And because I want the fans of Zu-Li Designs to live the longest, healthiest and happiest lives possible, I decided to share a few of the tips I found to take care of your heart.

  • Cut back on sodium. Most of us consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day when we should only eat 1,500 milligrams. This increases our risk of high blood pressure.
  • Increase physical activity. Help your heart, energize your body and quiet your mind with exercise. Aim for 150 minutes per week.
  • Aim for normal blood pressure. About 67 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. Taking steps to lower it (like reducing sodium and exercising more), will greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Don’t smoke. HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol, cars and violence cause a lot of deaths every year. Tobacco causes even more. Help your heart and quit for good.  If you’re looking for a way to quit without the scary side effects, try Hypnotherapy.

Here’s to your healthy, happy heart!  Take care!

Peace & Love,
Billie

Make Every Day Valentine’s Day

American writer Richard Bach once said, “True love stories never have endings.” It’s an agreeable thought. What could be more wonderful than loving someone for an eternity? A basketful of kittens would be nice. A pair of the latest Louboutin’s would be divine. A calorie-free slice of decadent dark chocolate cake would be magical. But nothing trumps true love.

Throughout the world, many couples celebrate this love on February 14, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day. Some exchange cards, flowers, candy and jewelry. Others go out for a nice dinner together. Material matters aside, they all put aside day-to-day worries and spend time—if only an hour or two—focusing on each other. They should do even more.

Wouldn’t it be better to show those we love how much we care more often? A 2011 survey conducted by popular dating website Match.com found that 18 percent of respondents had “experienced feelings of romantic love lasting for 10 years or more.” I believe that number could be much higher if we all took a little time to appreciate and celebrate our special someone every day of the year.

It’s actually pretty easy! Consider these simple suggestions to make every day Valentine’s Day.

  • Think about your relationship. Make a mental list of everything you value about your loved one, your partnership and your life together. Review it daily.
  • Make time to listen. Of course, you want to watch last week’s episode of The Walking Dead on the DVR—we all do. But your relationship is more important than finding out what crazy thing The Governor is going to do next. Make dinner conversation with your partner a priority and enjoy the show later.
  • Fill a need. Loving gifts don’t have to be “special” things. Even filling your loved one’s car with gas can show how much you care.
  • Do someone else’s chore. Take out the garbage, run a load of laundry, fill the dishwasher (the right way). Give your partner the gift of free time—even it’s just a few minutes.

I’d love to hear your tips for making every day special for your loved ones, so please share them in the comments.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Billie

Want Inner Peace? Try This!

A Year of Less

Do you sometimes feel like you can’t relax in your own home?  Do you have stacks of paperwork, piles of laundry, and pantries stuffed with food you don’t eat?  Do you just feel plain overwhelmed?

If so, you should consider clearing out stuff from your life to make room for more inner peace!  I discovered an awesome site last week, just in time for the New Year.  It’s called A Year of Less.  I read the concept and fell in love!  Instead of a year of more, more, more, let’s focus on a year of less, less, less!

A Year of Less will encourage you to part with things that drag you down.  You can print free worksheets to write down your thoughts and discover which areas of your life you can unclutter.

I printed up the sheets, organized my thoughts, and promptly put my worksheets in a binder.  I knew exactly where I wanted to start first…paper!

I get busy and papers pile up.  Mail, wrapping paper, receipts, you name it.  It’s out in the open and stuffed in drawers.  I’ll be honest, it’s a pain in the butt to go through, but I feel so great when I accomplish even a small task.  I’m also a true believer that once we rid our lives of clutter, we make room from greatness to enter our lives.

Sign up for the email and you’ll be notified of what’s going on with Megan K. Ball, the genius behind this project.  She keeps it real, which I love.  She’s right there with you, holding your hand, helping you along.  You can view her blog posts on what she’s tackling each week.

I beg you to try this and see how you feel.  Let me know what you’d like have less of this year!

Peace, Love, & Happy New Year!

Billie

Steal a Gift This Christmas

Our family has a fun Christmas Eve tradition that we lovingly call “The Bag Game”.  It’s also known by other names like Steal a Gift, White Elephant Exchange, or Naughty Santa.  We always have a blast and lots of laughs.  There’s always cool gifts, gift cards, and lots of funny, inappropriate gag gifts.  Most importantly it’s entertaining and a great way to spend quality family time.

Here’s what you do: Place small gifts into brown paper bags.  Try to pick gifts that get laughs, are useful, or things that people want.  Don’t tell people what’s in your bags, you want it to be a surprise.  Sit on the floor in a circle and pile all the gifts in the middle.  Somebody goes first-they pick one bag.  They open the bag and place the gift in front of them.  The person to the left has the choice of either stealing the gift or selecting a bag from the pile.  This continues on around the circle.  If someone has their gift stolen from them they get to steal someone’s gift or pick a bag.  Once everyone is done stealing it goes back to the next person in the circle.  The game ends when the last bag is grabbed.

There’s different variations of the game and you can make the rules fit your needs.  You might want to tell people how many gifts to bring and/ or a money limit.

The most important part is to have fun and enjoy spending time with the family. :)

Peace & Love,

Billie

Dog Silhouette Gift Sets

Over the weekend I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite breed of dog was and why.  I had some really great responses that inspired me to create some dog silhouette magnets and buttons.

Here are a few that are already in my shop:

Border Collies

French Bulldogs

Great Danes

I can make any breed of dog (or animal) and customize the design with a name or words that describe your favorite pet.  These images can be made into 1 inch magnets or pin-back buttons.  More sets will be listed soon, including Corgis, Chinooks, Shih Tzus, and rescues.

Well, I’m going to create some new silhouettes and work on my craft show display for the Atomic Holiday Bazaar.  Have a great week!

Peace & Love,

Billie

Stuffing, Traditions, and Sales

I thought I’d stop prepping for the Thanksgiving festivities to say “Hi!” and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  I also wanted to share one of my favorite recipes: “Unstuffing Stuffing”.

It’s easy, super yummy, and comes out perfect every time!

Prep Time: 15 min, Cook Time: 40 min, Yields: 8 servings.

What you’ll need: oven, skillet, large bowl, large spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, cutting board, knife, 2 qt. baking dish with lid.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter or Earth Balance

3/4 cup chopped celery

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

6 cups unseasoned stuffing croutons or dry bread cubes

2 1/2 cups veggie broth

Directions:

Warm oven to 350 degrees F.  In a skillet add butter or Earth Balance, celery, and onion.  Saute 2-3 minutes or until onion is tender.  Stir in poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Transfer to large bowl, add croutons or bread and enough broth to moisten.  Place in greased 2-qt. baking dish.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

Looking for a new tradition to add to your family dinner?  Give guests strips of colorful paper to write down what they’re thankful for.  We like to make one serious and one funny.  Fold the pieces of paper so nobody sees what anyone wrote and place inside a bowl.  Pass the bowl around and let each guest pull out a note and read out loud.  It’s a fun game that will warm your heart and make you laugh!

Before I go I’d like to let you know that I’m thankful for you!  I’m so happy to do something I love-to run my own handmade business.  It means the world to me to have supporters like you!

If you plan on doing some online shopping this weekend I’m offering 20% off everything in my shop.  Use coupon code GIFTS20.  This coupon will be good from Friday 11/23 – Monday 11/26.

Hope you have a peaceful, joyful, and fun Thanksgiving!

Peace & Love,

Billie

Free gift wrapping is now available at www.zulidesigns.etsy.com.

Christmas is around the corner, as I’m sure you already know.  Here are a few quick and fun gift wrapping ideas to make your holiday jolly and bright:

Roll a gift inside a reusable grocery bag.

Do as the Japanese and wrap your gifts in pretty cloths.  Furoshiki is an eco-friendly way to make your gifts pretty.

Add some pom poms!  I remember I used to make these cute little puffy pom poms when I was younger.  You can try making fork pom poms.

Gift wrap with pom poms.

Short on time?  Find a retailer that offers gift wrapping.  I now offer FREE gift wrapping by request!  I can also deliver directly to the gift recipient and send the wrapped gift with a gift tag.

Let me know if you have any gift wrapping ideas that you love.  Now, get shopping so you have some gifts to wrap!

Peace & Love,

Billie

Craft Show Display Smackdown

It’s that time of year again when I start preparing for the Atomic Holiday Bazaar, a yearly craft extravaganza in Sarasota, FL.  Touted as “not your Grandma’s craft show”, Atomic draws the coolest people around town.

One of my very first craft shows was at a church where I sold my handmade glycerin soap in cute little shapes like rubber duckies and snowflakes.  I remember I crammed that table full with as many products as I could!  My display was pretty boring.  I used a white sheet to cover the table and some cardboard boxes to put under the cloth to lift some items up.  That’s it.  No signage, lights, cute containers, nada!

Later I had my first jewelry show at a spa during one of their events.  I didn’t bring a table.  Oops.  I ended up setting up my display on top of a long table and a microwave!  I made some colorful handmade boxes that I placed my beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings on top of.  It was pretty sad!

Since then I’ve smartened up and studied the art of creating appealing and successful craft show displays.  I’d like to share some tricks I learned to make your next craft table stand out.

First, make sure you know whether to bring a table and chairs! ;)

You must have some sort of cloth or fabric to cover the table.  If you know the dimensions you can purchase a fitted table cover.  Otherwise, you can use sheets or table cloths.  Matching cloths look the best.  Mismatched prints along your table can be a bit distracting.

Cookoorikoo uses a light teal table cloth that’s eye-catching, yet doesn’t distract from her displays or products.

A sign with your store name is a good idea.  I ordered my banner from Vista Prints and have used it over and over.  I attach it to the table cover using 1 inch squares of Velcro.  I place some on the back of the banner in all four corners and along the top and bottom of the sign.  I then line the banner up on my cloth and add Velcro to match up with the banner’s Velcro.

Fantastic Toys had this banner made at Spoonflower. It’s printed on upholstery weight fabric. A fabric hem was added using a sewing machine. It’s hung from a wooden pole.

To give your booth some excitement you must raise your items up on boxes, shelves, suitcases, etc., otherwise, your display will look flat.  Adding colorful baskets, plates, and containers to stash your lovely crafts will give your booth a pop of color and texture.

Crinoline organizes and lifts items up off the table in creative ways. Love those trees!

Lighting is a good idea (check to see if the craft show facility offers electricity).  You’ll want the lighting to shine onto your crafts like a spot light.

Emily’s Escape uses lighting to showcase her jewelry.

If it’s a Christmas show, something festive is a good idea.  I like to have a little Christmas tree on my table & tree lights are a must!  Maybe add some garland, tinsel, or whatever you can think of.  I once used pillow stuffing as “snow” on my table.  I recommend thinking outside the box and trying new things!

The Christmas tree makes Kitsch Cafe’s table festively cute!

Make sure your stuff is priced.  Having small signs with the prices is a nice touch.  At the very least make sure you have them individually priced if you don’t want signs.  I don’t know about you, but if I can’t find a price I probably won’t ask how much.  You don’t want to miss out on sales!

Amy is the Party does a brilliant job pricing her products with easy to read signage.

I hope these tips help you out and inspire you.  If you have any ideas that you recommend I’d love to hear them!  Leave a comment!

P.S. I’ll be at Atomic December 8th this year.  Stop by and sale hi!

Peace & Love,

Billie

Behind the Scenes: Glass Pendants

This week I’d like to show you a behind the scenes look at how I create my glass pendants.  I recently teamed up with Jenipher Lynn of Nightly Doodles.  Jenipher creates adorable affirmation drawings that she turns into prints, cards, and onesies.  I fell in love with her cheerful and colorful artwork and asked her to collaborate with me to create little pieces of wearable art!

Jenipher hand draws her pictures then digitally colors them.  She sends the images to me and I print them up and start craftin’!

First, I print the images on premium matte paper using an Epson Artisan Printer.

I cut each image out and glue a piece of clear glass on top each one.  I let them dry for at least 24 hours.

Once they’re dry I cut each piece of glass out individually.

Then I file the edges of the paper to make a smooth edge.

I protect the paper with two coats of non-toxic sealer, letting it dry 15 minutes between applications.

After allowing the second coat to dry for about an hour or so, I adhere the glass pieces inside the pendant trays and let them dry for 2 days.  Once dry they’re ready to string on a chain and wear!

Jenipher has been selling these at the Chelsea Market in Mahatten.  They were flying out the doors until Super Storm Sandy halted things temporarily.   Once everything returns back to normal she’ll be at the market until November 17th.  But don’t fret!  If you can’t make it to New York you can purchase them in Jenipher’s shop.  I’ll be posting them in my shop soon too.

If you’d like to check out more Nightly Doodles artwork you can check out Jen’s blog.  If you see any drawings that you’d like to wear let me know!  Jenipher also does custom artwork so if you want to order something special let her know!

Peace & Love,

Billie