a story about how much work it is to make things by hand

After months and months of deliberation and restless conversations inside my head, I've decided to increase the price on the blankets I sell in the shop. I really hate doing it, so it's not much...but I want all of you loyal readers and customers and people who've helped support my dream to hear it straight from me. 

Ask any etsy seller and they'll tell you the most difficult part of having your own handmade business is the pricing. When I first opened my shop, things were damn near free. I was nervous to charge people something they didn't want to pay. I didn't want to scare people away, I mean who was I to charge these seemingly big amounts for someone who had barely sold anything? There are so many people selling things vaguely similar to mine for next to nothing and it always just completely confuses me on how they truly succeed as a business. 
As I've gotten more comfortable with what I do, I've learned to truly see the value and hard work I put into each and every thing I make. To give you a vague idea of what it takes to make one little 36x36 blanket here's a little breakdown for you:

Average cost of materials I use: $18-$22. 
I don't just buy all of the fabrics I see at Jo-Ann's and huge retail craft stores. I spend hours and hours and hours searching fabric sellers online and on Etsy. I spend just about as much time finding local fabric and quilting stores that carry high quality fabrics with unique and modern prints. It's harder than you think to find these things. Each time I'm at a fabric store I'm lucky if I'm out in an hour. It takes multiple trips both scouting and calculating what I want and how it fits in to my style. Because that's what I'm selling- my style. 

Which leads to average time it takes me to even get said fabric: I can't even calculate it. 
Actually, I could but I'd have to divide amount of each fabric by the time it took me to get each one individually. I usually buy bunches of fabric together. It takes time and resources to find, drive, search online for the perfect fabrics. And as my style goes, all blankets are one print. They're not multiple pieces together, so the print has to be able to hold it's own for an entire piece. 

I've always been someone who wanted to do things my own way, to be different. I go out of my way to find things that are different. The blankets I sell aren't even made by other etsy sellers, not how I make them. There's a worth to that. I don't mass produce 10-15 blankets of each fabric style. I make only ONE. If it sells and seems popular, I'll make another. The huge thing I've learned since having my etsy business is that I thrive on change, I can't be making the exact same thing over and over and still enjoy doing it. 

At minimum wage, the time and $ amount it takes to produce 1 blanket: 30-45 min ($4.50-$7)
This is if I'm not interrupted, which rarely happens because I don't get a whole lot of time to sew when I'm alone. I'm you know, doing mom stuff in my free time. 

Other things I spend butt-loads of time on: 
-Photographing each item
-Loading all of the photos
-Editing them just perfect
-Creating etsy listings and posting all of the items online
-Researching packaging for all items so that all customers get a unique, thoughtful and fun experience opening something they've purchased from an actual, live human who made it by hand just for them
-Cost of packaging and branding materials. In my case it's custom business stamps, custom made product labels, muslin bags, ribbons/tapes for packaging, business cards and thank you-inserts. 

All of these things take time. SO MUCH TIME. Weeks. And this work is before I've even made a single sale on any of the items. Now, theoretically I should be charging nearly $100 for each blanket. If I go by every formula that's out there on how to price your items. And I could totally do this, and just wait and wait for that one person to buy something.

I started this shop to create what I wanted to see in the handmade marketplace; thoughtfully made, unique handmade items that didn't break the bank. My target customer is someone like me, someone who loves the special feeling you get when you receive a handmade gift. But I don't want to have to promise my next born child to get this feeling. Ya' know what I mean?
I know this might seem a little boring, but I think so many people come to the handmade world looking for a good deal, when really you go to Target for a good deal. You go to the handmade marketplace for something special. You pay a little more for something because it's supporting an actual person and it's something you won't find at Target. There's worth in that.

I know I don't have to explain myself to my customers, but I want to. I want you all to see what you're getting, to see how much love and elbow grease (not literal grease) went into what you get when you look for quality over quantity. 

I also want to let you all know that I've kept 10 blankets in the shop at the original price in the SALE section, so those will be the last ones available at the lower price. 

happy mama movement : #happymamasummer $125 giveaway!

Summer has started out being the busiest part of my year to date. I think maybe being in Iowa for a month really kind of threw my life off and now that I've been home for a month I feel like omgineedtodoallthethingsimmediately. It's exhausting. But a good exhausting. 

Summer is a happy exhausting.

Here in the SF bay area it's pretty much always beautiful out but so far this summer has been exceptional. And with the beautiful weather comes my need to take the boys outside and do stuff because they are driving me crazy love the fresh air. But with all this time outside, it's been difficult for me to find time to find balance in the rest of my life. 

The boys are still in preschool three half days a week because the socialization is awesome for them and for their speech development. Also, I need to be alone sometimes. So it's a win for all of us. They come home from school obnoxiously dirty and whining for food, I pick them up wishing I'd had actually done something productive in the 3 hours they were gone. Summer school is awesome!

Ok, but really. There's nothing like staying up late with the sun, playing catch outside with two little boys learning how to play baseball, bike rides, feeling the sun on your skin, digging in the garden, eating all the fruit and drinking all the tea, perfect summer days. 

Summer is a happy exhausting.

What has been happy exhausting for all of you this summer? Because Team Happy Mamas has something NOT exhausting for you. A $125 happy giveaway!

Go over to Instagram and share a photo of your Summer Happy for a chance to win a$125 gift card to Target or Amazon. Because, duh.
To enter: Upload a photo to Instagram that shows us some summertime joy.  Tag the photo #HappyMamaSummer and be sure to tag @thedudemom. (She's our leader.)  If you’re private you’re going to have to unprivate yourself for this one peeps.  Only those images that are tagged correctly and visible will be considered because otherwise we won’t know to count you!  One winner will be randomly selected to choose where they want to get their shop on at!
Alternate Entry Option: Anyone who links up a Happy Mama post this month will also automatically be entered to win! Share those Happy Mama moments with us!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

the evolution of a fit girl: part 2

Yesterday I talked a little bit about how I got where I am. I talked about how I struggled to find a way to keep my body healthy after having twins and then again after suffering a lower back injury.

Today is going to be a different kind of story. 

Last summer a Beachbody coach friend of mine asked if I'd like to be part of a challenge group she'd started on Facebook. I'd had my eye on the Insanity program for such a long time but had told myself (and listened) to that stupid voice in my head telling me that I wasn't strong or fit enough. I told myself I should at least be in somewhat good shape to even attempt this program. But something finally switched off in my brain and I said screw it. My will is strong and my body is stronger than I give it credit for. I'm doing this.

And I did. Well, almost all of it until I ended up taking a long vacation to Iowa and forgot the DVD's at home. Whoops. But check this out. This was ONE MONTH of results. 
It was hard, oh yes. But I did it, little ole me. 
Since then, once again, life has happened. There were periods where I just didn't care what I ate and didn't work out at all. There were fat days, days of hope and motivation and all the days in between. 

With all of these ups and downs has been one huge victory for me, I learned that I'm strong enough. I learned that I CAN do it. What the Insanity program gave me was the proof that the athlete was still somewhere in me, that just because I'd been hurt once didn't mean I wasn't strong enough to get past it. I re-found my passion to stay healthy and strong. 

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, because now instead of just being a participant in a Beachbody program, I'm also a Beachbody coach. I want to help other women re-realize their strength. There are a million ways I could probably go about doing it but I'm choosing this way, through Beachbody. Why? Because it worked for me and I can tell you my story. By continuing to work out and by sharing my journey with all of you, I'm hoping I can help someone else get to this place I've reached. 

I want you to see that I'm a normal person. I share my life through this blog, you've all followed me through the good and the not as good. I'm not ripped. I have lots of body fat. Did you know that according to my Aria scale, my body fat is 34%? Did you know that for women, anything over 32% is considered obese? OBESE! I'm technically obese. I'm an obese woman who is 5'9", 170lbs, wears size 12 pants, has the measurements 35-29-41. See? Normal person.
Me, completely normal, just a couple of weeks ago.
Now I know what you're thinking, or I can probably tell you what I was thinking before I started any of this nonesense. I thought of Beachbody coaches as salesmen. I still think a lot of coaches are too sales pitchy. I understand that it's a business for a lot of people but I really just don't operate that way. Also? I already have my own handmade business. I don't have a lot of time to be selling something else. 

But this? Feeling good is important to me. I've learned my lessons over the past few years and am ready to help support anyone who is willing to hitch a ride on this train with me. I'm starting my very first challenge group on June 30. It lasts for 60 days via Facebook and is essentially just a place of support of a few people going through the same thing. The challenge group is what got me going and I think if you're someone who needs to be accountable to someone else, it's a good route to go.
After a home-gym work out. About a week after those photos above were taken. I've lost almost 6 inches just from around my midsection. Woot!

Are you interested? Let me know. Just want to keep following along? That's cool, too. But I have to tell you that if you can relate to ANYTHING I posted today or in Part 1, I think this would help you reach whatever goals you have for yourself. You can pick which workout you'd like to do and just go through it with a bunch of us. 

I'm going to be doing the 21 Day Fix because my eating habits are something I really want to focus on this go-around. If you have any questions about what this all entails- you can email me at mandey.ejiasi (at) gmail.com And you can totally visit my coach website to browse around/check it all out for yourself :)

the evolution of a fit girl: part 1

If you've been following this blog or my life for the past 4 years you've seen bits and pieces of my attempts to lose weight and/or come to terms with the new body I've been given after twin pregnancy. My pregnancy wasn't all that bad but let me tell you- when you have triplet brothers and sister who were born at 33 weeks and were in the hospital for quite awhile - you'd do just about anything you could to prevent that from happening to yourself. I went into my pregnancy in pretty good shape. I'd lost about 15lbs after college, worked with a trainer for quite awhile and was running regularly. 
Me on the left, about a month before I got pregnant. I'm 5'9" and was probably around 158-160 here.
Now let me back this story up a little bit - I've always been an athlete. I played sports all through high school (mostly volleyball) and then played and coached club volleyball in college. I have a B.A. in Health and Sport Studies and was a high school volleyball coach after college. Fitness has always been very important to me and I've always had some sort of structured environment in which to fulfill my fitness goals. 

When I found out I was pregnant I had this vision of myself in my mind of how my pregnancy would go - I'd be one of those women who stayed super healthy and active throughout the entire thing. I'd like to think about half my pregnancy went that way. Although, the majority of my activity was prenatal yoga and walking, I did it for quite awhile. And then fear struck me. My brothers and sister are triplets and were born at 33 weeks. They were all very small and my brothers got very sick. They were in the hospital for a month and it was hard for everyone. I was afraid that because I was pregnant with twins and I'd seen first hand the struggles families have with premies that I would suffer the same route. By 36 weeks I'd been admitted 3 times for early contractions and put on modified bed rest for the last 3 months of the pregnancy.
36 weeks pregnant. Later that evening I was a mommy!
In retrospect, as wonderful as my pregnancy was, it was equally as emotionally taxing on me. Only months before I'd quit my job and moved to California only to basically sit around and be pregnant for 9 months. We didn't have much money and I couldn't get a job. I knew no one and because we only had 1 car (that my husband needed for work) I could only go as far as walking distance most days. I missed my family, friends and home. I felt very lonely and afraid. I ate whatever I craved and it was almost always in the form of sugar. I let food fill the void. 

The boys were born at 36 weeks and completely healthy. I gained 50-55lbs during the pregnancy and when I came home was down about 28 of those pounds. I was so happy to have my body back that as soon as I was allowed to exercise I did. I ran my first post-babies 5k three months after the boys were born. But it just wasn't the same experience for me anymore. I ran by myself, no one came to cheer me on, I couldn't enjoy the experience with anyone and it just wasn't fun anymore.

In spring of 2012 one day while leaning over the couch I felt a pop in my lower back and immediately collapsed on the floor. I was nauseous and on the bring of passing out. I laid there for a few minutes thinking of how I'd be able to get up and call for help. The boys were playing nicely in the living room so thankfully that base was covered. Over the course of the next 15 minutes I managed to get to a kneeling position and crawled across our apartment to find my phone. The pain was comparable to a bad sprain to your ankle but continues to cause pain for long, long after. 

The following months revealed what had happened that day- I'd herniated a disc in my lower back. I couldn't lift much. I was afraid to do anything too physical out of fear I'd feel that pain in my back again. Every so often it would "catch" while I bent over- just enough to remind me that it was still weak. This was the first time in my life that my body wouldn't allow me to do what I wanted it to do. It was infuriating to me and depressing.

Over the past 4 years I've been so up and down in my fitness journey. I've struggled so much with eating healthy. I used to have such discipline that really was all broken down in a few months of pregnancy. The will I had to be active was quickly diminished just by bending over once. We've had 3 long distance moves since we moved to California, and 3 other moves in between those moves. I started a blog and handmade business. I've stayed home to raise two boys. Life happened. My desire to put my fitness at the top of my list quickly faded. 

Now this is where the story changes. Stay tuned for tomorrow's Part 2 :)

girl gets headache.

This blog has been such a neglected little piece of my life this year. It's always in the back of my mind, it used to be kind of a nagging voice. That's back when I had expectations of myself, when blogging really seemed like a little bit of a business for me. But I guess I realized something this year without actually realizing it - that I can't be the quintessential blogger of today. I just can't make this blog a business. It's not in my veins, I don't have the drive or will to present things on here day in and day out. 

I don't want this to be a presentation. I don't want this blog to be formal or perfectly edited. I don't want to have perfectly timed posts to gain traffic. I don't want to write sponsored posts, I don't want to make Pinterest-worth posts. (Don't even get me started on Pinterest.) I just don't care anymore. 

What I do care about though, that I miss from blogging, is a look back at who I was at different points of motherhood. I sometimes forget who I was during those moments. I forget the things my squishy offspring did on mundane Thursday afternoons. Not that I necessarily want to capture every. single. thing. they've ever done, I just want a little blip. I want to write a little blip about our lives for purely selfish reasons - so that on days when I'm feeling particularly nostalgic, I can see what we were doing on one mundane Thursday afternoon two years ago. 

One of my biggest strengths and also probably my greatest weakness is my creativity. I'm not afraid to brag that I'm an extremely creative human. I just am, and I'm glad I can recognize this quality about myself. I don't try to stifle it or hide it. But this constant creative flow is exhausting and overwhelming. I have ideas constantly throughout the day. Ideas for my shop, for my blog, my business, my home, my children...super creative and original ideas. Sometimes I even write them down thinking it'll settle my mind. However what I have in creativity I lack two fold in the mental capacity to organize these ideas and execute them in some sort of order. It's like putting your thumb on the end of hose that's on full blast. 

Just like this blog post, right now my brain is all over the place. What I'm really focusing on now is working on a way to sort through all of this craziness and come through clenching onto the golden tickets. Ugh! This is my first post in a month and already I have a headache. I know how I feel but I feel so much it's exhausting to find the right words. 

Here's to finding some clarity.