Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Fathers Day 2016

Happy Father's Day to all you dad's out there!  Wishing my dad the happiest of days.  Thanks for being such an inspiration and wonderful role model to me.  What would I do without you and your fried potatoes, iced box cookies and poke's in the forehead???


I like the quote I recently saw that sums you up perfectly..." If Papa can't fix it, we're all screwed."  You are forever my hero and the man who can do anything.




Friday, June 10, 2016

Book Review - Store Focus



If you own an ETSY shop or are thinking about opening an ETSY shop in the future, then you will be interested in Store Focus, a book I just finished reviewing.  Store Focus, by Barbara Jean, is a journal for Etsians and the perfect guidebook to help you get started, get organized and most importantly, get focused!

Navigating Etsy can be confusing for beginners and this is where Store Focus really shines  -  it gives you useful information and a place to jot down your notes, ideas and creative thoughts.  It will help you navigate the Etsy world of shop names, tags and keywords, categories, shop announcements, and messages to your buyers.  

Work on the 3 P’s - products, pricing and promotional strategies by using plans provided in the book.  Organizing your supplier information is a breeze when you use the supplier info pages.  Confused about retail pricing?  That’s always my most difficult area.  I loved how Barbara broke down Gross Profit Margin into a formula I could understand and use.  This page right here was worth the price of the book!  

Keep all your ideas in one spot and feel free to doodle – who knows where it may lead.  Just do it in the journal so you don’t lose your ideas on a random napkin or slip of paper. 

Have you thought about Social Media?  What are your goals?  Barbara suggests loads of platforms you can utilize and your journal is the place to lay it all out.

Links to Etsy Facebook Groups and resources for tags, keywords, marketing, titles and SEO are all provided here for you.  Don’t know what SEO is?  Well, buy the journal and save yourself the problem of figuring it out on your own. 

Once your shop is up and running you’ll want to keep track of important stats like page views, favs, traffic sources and of course, revenue!!  Twelve pages for shop stats will keep you organized for an entire year.  Everything is at your fingertips and you can easily carry the journal around or slip it into your purse.

The only thing the journal doesn’t include that I would have found useful would have been a section on how to figure out your product shipping costs and exploring the maze of post office shipping supplies.  That’s always been a landmine for me and I feel it would have been a helpful addition.


Store Focus can help you tweak your existing Etsy shop too.  There’s always room for improvement, right?  Well, I have exciting news – Barbara is taking pre-orders & will place a bulk order next Monday.  It is regularly $18.95, but for her launch promotion it will be $16.95 plus free shipping for US customers, and discounted shipping for International customers.  Also, as part of the launch, she will be signing copies, and there are 4 printable pdf bonuses as well.  After the pre-sale ends, she can order the books in onesie - twosies, or you can get them off of Amazon.  So please, if you’re interested, follow the provided link and pre-order your copy this weekend:  Sun Lion Publications

(I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Images are the property of the publisher and cannot be reproduced without consent.) 


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Key West - Day 6

Thanks to everyone for sticking with me through 6 days of our trip.  On our last day we got up early, ate breakfast and then headed out to Key Largo.  We had booked the 4.5 hour snorkel tour at John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park for early afternoon.  We got there in plenty of time, so we signed in early.  Good thing we did too - they were packed.  I highly recommend making reservations in advance for any of the activities you want to do here - everything was filling up quickly and we were there by 11:00 am.   Fortunately they are highly organized and used to dealing with crowds, so the process moved along quickly.

Once we were checked in we grabbed some lunch at the snack bar - they don't have a huge selection and we ended up with some sub sandwiches.  I suggest you stop and grab a meal before you get here if you'd like something more substantial.

After that we walked over to the aquarium.  We both enjoyed that and it's free!










The next few photo's are a really good example of the color and types of fish we saw on the reefs the entire trip.....





After the aquarium we grabbed some ice cream and headed over to the boat.  We went to 3 locations and each was slightly different.  The cost of the 4.5 hour tour is $ 38.95 and I thought it was well worth it.



Our favorite stop on this snorkel trip was getting to see the Christ of the Deep statue.   Unfortunately, by the time we got there, there were also 2 other boat loads of people there and it was a feeding frenzy as everyone was headed over to the statue at the same time.  Tradition is to swim down and touch the hands of Christ.


(credit - google images)

Chablis headed over, swam right down and touched it...



I tried 3 times but between the buoyancy vest, the current and the multitude of swimmers, I just couldn't swim hard enough to reach it.  I was exhausted and had to head back to the boat.  I'm not used to not being able to do something, so that was a real reality check for me.  I was so disappointed and frustrated with myself, but at least I got to see it.  The only advice I would give to the snorkel tours would be to somehow scatter their arrival so that so many people weren't trying to get to it at the same time.

Despite that, it was a fun afternoon.  If you do the 4.5 hour tour I advise to bring plenty of water and some snacks.  They supply a water bucket but we went through it really quickly and after 4 hours we were starving and we hadn't remembered to bring a snack with us.

After we returned to shore we headed over to our hotel -  The Hampton Inn.  This was by far our best hotel of the trip.  When we were checking in they had a tray of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies sitting on the counter - I'm ashamed to admit that I scarfed down 3 of them while we were checking in!  The room was very clean and they had a really nice beach on the gulf side that we didn't have enough time to use.  Since we were so hungry we took fast showers and headed down to The Fish House for dinner.  We had a great dinner.  We started off with the Smoked Fish Dip appetizer - OMG - it was excellent!  They gave us so much that I could have easily made a meal out of just the dip.  This is what what left after we already ate half of it....


I had the stuffed shrimp...


Chablis ordered the Fried Grouper...   Both were very tasty and they were large portions.  Another winning meal!



 Afterward dinner we went across the street and grabbed a geocache Castle in Key Largo.   It took me about 5 minutes to find it and believe me, I was working fast because the mosquitoes were out in droves.

Our full afternoon on the sea left us exhausted and ready for bed, so we made it an early evening.  Our room was a ground floor room and Chablis noticed that a laundry room and gym were conveniently located in the building next door.  When I woke up at 7 am the next morning I took all our clothes and bathing suits over and threw them in the washers.  While they washed and dried I did a few miles on the treadmill.  Let me tell you, it was nice to go home with clean laundry and not have to worry about it when we got home.  Hampton Inn gets 2 thumbs up for a winning hotel!

I want to leave you with a few last photos from Key West that I didn't get to include on my Key West posts.  One night when we were walking down Duval we ran into Harley and his pet parrot - Bones.  We had a lot of fun taking photos and talking to Harley....


Bones liked to give kisses....


I think these pictures perfectly sum up our Key West trip - crazy and a lot of fun.  We packed a ton of activities into 6 days.  I know it was probably a little whirl wind for some people, but Chablis and I enjoyed it and we got to do everything we really wanted to do, except for the catamaran ride that got rained out.

So long Key West - we had an awesome time!!




Monday, June 6, 2016

Key West - Day 5

On Day 5 we were scheduled to take a catamaran ride out to the reefs to do some snorkeling.  We were really looking forward to this as we'd never been on a catamaran before.  Unfortunately, we woke to a huge thunderstorm so the tour was cancelled.  We quickly pulled out my i pad and started mapping out our options.  We always have a plan B in mind for exactly this scenario so we had some ideas in mind.

We weren't about to sit in the hotel, so we got dressed and drove back to the parking garage from yesterday, purchased an all-day parking pass and took off on foot in the rain.  What else are ya gonna do, right?

The first place we stopped at was the Audubon House.   It was originally built by Captain John Huling Geiger in the 1840's and his family resided there for over a century.  The captain was a harbor pilot and master wrecker and was one of Key West's wealthiest men.  The house/museum now houses 28 first edition works of John James Audubon.  I'm a great admirer of the famous ornithologist and I reviewed a book on his original watercolors - Audubon's Aviary.  You can read my review here.  I also visited Audubon State Park in Henderson, Ky and wrote about it here.  Whenever we come across any place that has to do with Audubon, we try to visit.


The gardens were lovely, even in the pouring rain.  When we arrived and purchased our tickets, they graciously lent us an umbrella to use so we could stroll through the gardens...



The orchids were gorgeous!


Love the outhouse sign....

The cookhouse....


Sitting on the back porch, trying to dry out before we viewed the museum...


We were rather soaked, so we slipped on booties to keep our wet shoes from damaging the carpets...




I so enjoyed seeing the original prints.






I keep my eyes open for copies of the prints when I go to estate sales and so far I have scored 3 of them...



By the time we were finished at the Audubon House the rain had let up a little.  We walked back to our car and decided to drive over to Fort Zachery Taylor State Park and take a walk around...


Fort Taylor served as headquarters for the U.S. Navy's East Gulf Coast blockade squadron for the Union during the Civil War..



We really enjoy walking around old forts and it's especially nice when you have the freedom to wander around and explore on your own.  Plus, this one was free and I like free!







This was the chapel...


Outside the fort was a cooking area....


Since we were in the area we also grabbed a geocache, appropriately named,  Fort Zachery Taylor .  The cache was hidden somewhere nearby....


We drove back to our hotel, parked the car and then walked over to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.    This was one stop that Chablis had really wanted to make this trip.  We'd never been to a butterfly house before and let me tell you, it was a cool experience.  It's sort of like a hot house with a lot of flowers and plants, and you walk down a winding path.  Everywhere you look, there are butterflies flitting about.  It was perfectly enchanting!



There were also beautiful little birds....






I adored the flamingo's.  I think it was mating season and they were strutting and calling to each other constantly.  It was quite amusing....






This little turtle had climbed out of a stream and was clutching onto some rocks...


It wasn't a long tour and it took less than an hour, but we were glad we did it...


Chablis decided she wanted to try one of the coconut drinks that we saw a lot of people carrying around so we walked down Duval Street until we found the place that sold them.  She liked it - I didn't.

We had wanted to walk through the Oldest House in Key West so we headed there next.  The house was originally built in 1829 by Richard Cussans.  Captain Francis Watlington later came to gain possession of the house and his family lived there for many decades.


The house and tour are also free!


We had a lovely chat with one of the docents who clearly enjoyed his job and walked around the entire house sharing information...






The backyard has a spacious garden where we sat and relaxed for awhile...


Yes, we did peer through the moon of the outhouse...


By then it was mid afternoon so we grabbed 2 slices of pizza for lunch.  I'm sorry but I don't remember the name of the place.  Then we headed back to the hotel and lounged by the pool for a couple of hours.  For dinner we had chosen The Conch Republic Seafood Company .  Remember the all day parking pass we had purchased earlier in the day?  Well, we put it to good use, drove back to the parking garage and then walked 2 blocks to the restaurant.



One thing I really loved about most of the Key West restaurants is the open window dining.  I was amazed by the lack of bugs, flies and mosquitoes.  It's so nice to sit with a fresh breeze and enjoy the sights and sounds while you eat - especially the restaurants by the water.    Just fantastic!


I highly recommend this restaurant.  The food was amazing and we had the best waiter.  He was pleasant, friendly and took great care of us.  I'm sorry that I don't remember his name because I'd like to give him a shout out!   I had the best stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon - Everything about this meal was perfect.


Chablis had a taste for a cheeseburger and she said it was done perfectly.  It was huge and extremely juicy.

After dinner we walked around the wharf for awhile and then headed back to our hotel.  It was our last night in Key West and we had to get up early and head to Key Largo for our last snorkeling trip.  Stayed tuned for my last post coming soon.
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