Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nightmare in New York: 177 Ludlow Street Review

A Review of 177 Ludlow Street NY, NY: A Vacation from the Twilight Zone.

I preface this blog article by saying "please learn from my mistake, and don't let this happen to you"!

So as many of you know, we had been planning a vacation to NYC this year with the hubby, little monster, and the Grandma until our plans were abruptly, let's say, altered. All of you who know us, or follow us on Facebook, know this has been a very long year for our little family and we were so desperately looking forward to this getaway before Christmas jewelry season started. We spent a year saving up and weeks trying to find the right 2 bedroom apartment to rent on vrbo.com. (We love VRBO, use them all the time and this was the only time we have ever had an issue.)

A couple weeks before we were supposed to leave, Grandma had heard on the news that NYC was having an outbreak of bed bugs. If you know Grandma, you know she is always up on her news:) She had asked me to check with the apartment rental to make sure they were not having any issues. So I, a little reluctantly, contacted Chris Fogwell, the real estate agent for the property, about the bed bug issue along with a few other questions I had.

Several days went by with no response and then I received this email:

No. There are garages, but they are very expensive in New York.

Hmmmm. No response about the bed bugs or anything else for that matter so I wrote again and asked if he could answer the other questions I sent as well. His reply was:

I have not heard of any problems.

That, to me, was not a direct answer nor was it going to satisfy the Grandma so I sent one more email asking:

"So to confirm--you have not had bed bugs in the apartment? Nor do you currently have bed bugs?"

No response. Several days went by and still no response. To tell you the truth I had forgotten I had even asked. I was busy arranging airport pickups, packing, purchasing baby items that meet flight regulations, buying show tickets and the list goes on. Then, yesterday, I get an email that was clearly intended for the owner. It read:

Did you respond to this person? What should I tell her?

Now I was getting sick in my stomach. This was really starting to sound fishy. I replied to his email:

Yes Chris--what should you tell me?

I was not prepared for the answer. A few minutes later I received this reply:

I should tell you that the reservation is cancelled. You sound like a very demanding person. I think you would be better served at a hotel that provides 24/7 housekeeping.

Thank you,


I almost fell over. I was in shock--who cancels a families vacation 3 days before you are supposed to arrive while insulting the customer in the same paragraph? I guess I was demanding. Demanding that we slept in a bed bug free apartment. Demanding that we get a straight answer. Demanding that our sublet would be clean. Yes, I guess I can give him that.

But now what?! We bought plane tickets, booked transportation, and the list goes on. My mind was reeling. And, how was I going to tell Grandma and the hubby we would not be going on vacation, the vacation we had all worked so hard for, planned so long for, and anticipated so greatly for. . . .

So here we are, one day later with no NYC vacation . Hours and hours lost cancelling reservations and trying to get refunds on purchases. More hours lost trying to plan somewhere for our little family to go and relax for a week. We lost the money for our plane tickets (close to $400) and most of all we lost out on experiencing New York.

At the end of the day all my husband and I could do was laugh. It was 12:30 am and we were still packing up jewelry since the day was spend canceling and making vacation plans. At 12:30 in the morning there is nothing to do but laugh. . .it was like an episode from the twilight zone.

I write all this to say--learn from my mistakes. There are people out there that care little about others. And most of all, be demanding. . . and listen to your Grandmother!

Here is the link to their sublets to avoid with all gusto. . .



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stardust Earrings. . .They're here!

For a long time you all have been requesting earrings from us and we have finally delivered. We launched them a few weeks ago though I have yet to write about them here. Sorry to all my blog readers! We do, however, have daily updates on our Facebook fan page so "like" us to stay in the loop. I have added a link below for easy access.

We have added a matching pendant to all of our earrings and we are soon to be introducing a bracelet line. To see all of our earrings check them out here!

Here is our Facebook Fan page for giveaways, new designs, secret sales, and much much more!



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Let's Wrap Up Mother's Day with a Giveaway!

Well Mother's day has come and gone but I wanted to wrap up the festivities with a giveaway!

Entering is simple:
  • Become a fan (or like us) on Facebook
  • Post how you spent your Mother's Day on our wall

You do not need to be a mom to participate--you just need to share a quick story:) Contest will end on Sunday, May 16th.

To find our fan site just look on the left side bar. Happy Tuesday everyone!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mother's Day SALE! The SALE of FREE!

This will be my first Mother's Day as a mom and I wanted to do something BIG to celebrate! Here are the details of our Mother's Day Sale!

FREE Belt with any buckle purchase!
FREE Chain with any Pendant purchase!
FREE Shipping on $50 or more!
FREE Gift wrap on all purchases!

Our promotion will last until Mother's Day. Just include the following note during checkout* (and don't forget to include your belt size!).

I Love My Mom--Mother's Day Sale 2010

**Note must be included during the etsy checkout process not via paypal, convo's or emails. Thanks!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Buy Local: Spring Plant Sale

I took Sebastian out for a run yesterday morning, around my neighborhood, and it seemed like everyone was out tending to their flowerbeds, plants and lawns. Since my flowerbeds were empty of anything except for overgrown weeds, I thought I should get out there and do the same. I spent the afternoon getting rid of all the weeds and trimming up the shrubbery so that you can now actually see my house!

When I was finished, I realized we needed some flowers to fill in the naked spots I had left with my obsessive weeding. Luckily, I heard about an wonderful opportunity to buy local, support our community, and get an amazing deal on some serious greenery. The agricultural students at the Golden Strip Career Center were selling their garden flowers, shrubs, spices and vegetables to raise money for their class and school program at a hugely discounted price. They were selling almost all of their plants for a dollar--which is almost unheard of!

I went and stocked up on some beautiful flowers and shrubs to line the walkway to the house and purchased some vegetable for the garden I have always wanted to start. I, in no way, have a green thumb but for a dollar I figured I could give it a try.

All over the United States, schools are running programs just like this. It is so important to support your communities so get out there and buy local!

If you live in Greenville, here is the link to the Spring Plant Sale. It is going on this weekend only.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Skinny on Gluten Free

It seems like the Gluten-Free phenom has taken over the food market fast and furiously. I often have strong reactions to certain foods so my husband and I decided to start a little experiment to see how gluten affected us. We cut out all traces of gluten from our diets for about a week and then, after a week, we returned to eating it. Jim was not really affected except for his energy level however, I got sick and felt miserable afterward. We concluded, with the help of my very sick stomach, that I seem to be sensitive to it.

I started to do a little more research on the gluten-free super movement and found an incredible website with amazing gluten-free recipes that Karina makes herself. I wanted to share the website with you all because I just thought it was so fantastic and creative! Most of her recipes do require some cooking, and I mean serious cooking so if you are not a fan of your kitchen you might not be as thrilled with Karina. I personally love to cook so I am a fan all around. Here is the link--check it out and let me know what you think!

Oh. . . .and it also has a ton of Vegan recipes too. . . love it all!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Banning Big Business

As a general rule I do not use large distributors to purchase supplies for my jewelry and accessory lines. I do not like big business--never have. I would even be willing to pay a bit more to buy local and have great customer service enhanced by a business relationship. To me, it is worth it to pay a bit more sometimes. I try to practice the same philosophy in my everyday life as well (with Babies 'R Us topping my Big Business Ban list).

Most of the time I am thrilled with my suppliers. I do so much research before I choose a distributor with the intention of being around for the long haul. I hate switching distributors; it is just such a hassle for a new company to learn your business practices. Despite my utter disdain for leaving a business relationship, I had to cut ties with one of my longest running distributors.

We hand design and construct all of our belt buckles but we purchase the belts (I am not out skinning a cow or anything--let's be real). I have been having some issues with my belt distributer for almost a year now but he, Bill, had assured me the issues were ironed out and we would be sailing smooth this year. Needless to say, it is April, and I still do not have a complete order from December.

I think it is tragic when a local business loses it's concern for customer relations. I understand Babies R' Us--what do they need my buck for? But as a small business owner, I will do my best to keep you happy. I love and depend on my customers and deeply appreciate them. . . where have our American values really gone? What are you we willing to sacrifice for a buck. . .

Monday, April 12, 2010

Battle of the Monday Explosions

I don't know if I am alone in the Battle of the Monday Explosions but it is one of my busiest days of the week. It seems like over the weekend my house explodes, orders get backed up, errands are put on hold, and daily life comes to an utter halt. Sebastian and I are too eager to hang out with dad rather than be responsible! Somehow, within 2 days, everything I had done the week before gets unraveled.

This week was no exception. In fact, it was a bigger task than normal since Grandma and Grandpa will be coming down for a visit next week which means extra cleaning and I was behind on a ton of jewelry prep. And, did I forget to mention, there is Sebastian?!

I knew there was not going to be a lot of time to spend with the bebe today so I set him up a little playpen in a laundry basket with a few toys. The little guy has been entertaining himself for hours and I am on the verge of completing the last of my Monday mayhem while squeezing in a little blog writing:) I must say, I am thankful for the simple pleasure God gives.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Facebook Fan Frenzy!

Well we have officially started a fan page for caughtREDhanded on Facebook! We will be doing a weekly giveaway along with secret sales found no where else. To join just search for CaughtREDhanded and become a fan!

This week we are giving away this Mellow Gardens pendant in honor of Spring in Greenville, South Carolina. Our entire city is covered in pollen right now so I dedicate this giveaway to you Greenville!



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter CRH Family!

Happy Easter CRH Family! We love you all and hope your Easter is as Happy as Sebastian's:)

To celebrate we are having a Secret Sale through Tuesday April 6th. Buy any TWO pendants, two buckles, or two rings and get a third FREE*!

Promotion Code: EASTER SALE through April 6th


Amy, Jim, and Sebastian

* Free item must be of equal or lesser value of the purchased item. Promo code must be entered during the etsy checkout process not through PayPal, convo's, or emails.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Secret Sale through 29th!

Correction--The sale is through the 29th!

Secret Sale!

Spring is here! We are having a secret sale on our Looking Cocktail rings and our Reflections pendants through March 29th. Buy any Cocktail ring or Reflections pendant and receive another item of your choice FREE!

During checkout place the following code AND your free item choice in the note to seller during* the etsy checkout. Here are the links to the Reflections and Cocktail rings section of my shop for easy browsing:

Sterling Silver Reflections Pendant and Chain

Looking Cocktail Ring

Code: Spring Secret Sale Through March 29th

Happy Spring Rings Everyone!


*code must be placed during checkout on the etsy page. Discount will not be given if code is entered on PayPal or through convo or email.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baby. Eats. World.

I am an excessive planner--I guess it is just part of who I am. When you walk into my kitchen you will see my meal schedule and menu typed and hanging on the fridge, you will see Sebastian's eat-play-sleep schedule, my cleaning schedule, and my to-do list all neatly organized.

Some of my close friends and family call me OCD for my excessive need to plan things out. At times, I might agree with them but I am quickly learning that Sebastian does not always fit into "my" plans.

This has been a huge struggle for me since I am not a fan of surprises and I hate when I do not accomplish everything scheduled for the day. So in this daily battle I am fighting the first thing that has gone is my "create" time. Creating has truly become a luxury. I have a few drawings finished for my Spring collection, and a few penciled out ideas for a new line but that is it. Sigh.

When you live off of your art you MUST create art. Simple idea right? I guess I did not plan for this little boy to run away with my time and my heart. I am quickly learning how to adapt to this new life I have adopted. Somewhere, somehow I am going to have to fit my art back into my schedule--right now I seem to be stuck on the "how" because my baby has eaten my world. . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunshine Secret Sale!

The weather has been amazing the last few days! Though I am not finished designing my Spring Collection yet I wanted to post a little pre-sale. From March 9th through March 15th you will receive a FREE chain when you purchase 2 or more pendants. You will also receive a FREE belt when you purchase 2 or more buckles. Just include the following promo code during* checkout:

Sunshine Secret Sale through March 15th

*This code must be noted on the etsy checkout page and not through paypal, convos or emails. Happy March!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Inspiration: Discovering Your Muse

Creativity has always been a strength that I have been blessed with. Recently, as life changes, so have my inspirations. They seem to be evolving right along side of me.

I used to teach High School English and I loved to use it in the classroom. I would dress up as characters, preform murder mysteries, create plays and the list goes on. I was always coming up with the next crazy plan to bring a lesson to life or to keep me from boredom. I could never use the curriculum provided--always had to create my own. Creativity became my drug of choice.

Of course, when I quit teaching, I had to foster that creativity through another channel. That part was easy since art depends on the creative mind but my art seemed to demand a little more from me. . .I needed a little inspiration to spark the creative process. Nature and color took the job and were always battling it out for the place of muse in whatever I was designing or painting at the time.

I soon assumed another role in life, mommy. This role was foreign to me but it was not long before the creative gene began to take it over as well. I was not excited about having a boy. I had planned the nursery for a girl, so when I found out Sebastian would be a boy I was pretty upset. I decided I would just throw a few toys in the nursery and call it a day. Obviously that plan soon passed.

I found my muse for the nursery in a very unexpected source, my husband. Jim suggested I do a Dr. Seuss theme. I LOVED the idea and ran with it. A friend and I sketched out the room according to our take on The Cat in the Hat and got to work on creating our little Seuss Land. We had so much fun creating Sebastian's room and it made me even more excited for his arrival. I was a little more receptive to the idea of having a boy:)

Inspiration has become such an important part of my creative process. Whether I was teaching, creating art, or just being mom, I had to find what inspired me and foster that into something great. I have learned that life is full of the unexpected but if you use the world around you, the situations you find yourself in, and the people in your life to challenge you, your inspiration is really just a moment away. Life is meant to be colorful and I am learning to use every crayon in my box.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wishing Life Away

I have often found myself wishing certain parts of my life to move along just a little faster. We have all had those moments of wishing. When I was a kid I just simply wished for Christmas or summer vacation or even more importantly to be ungrounded for once. I was such a bad kid--I can only imagine what my mom was wishing!

That eventually turned into wishing for my driver's licence and maybe, by a miracle, a first car. Before I knew it I wished myself all the way to married, 28, one kid, and my own business. Sounds pretty good right? Well at the risk of sounding like a grandma--I think I wished my life away.

I remember back to when I was dating Jim; I just could not wait until I was engaged and when I was engaged I could not wait to be married. I remember just wishing months and weeks away so I could get to the next step. Always pushing for the next step and looking back now, I did not stop to enjoy the journey. Dating and falling in love was a fairytale. The engagement was amazing as we planned for our futures together, and marriage has been incredible as we watch our plans unfold. All of these things I lived but in the process of wishing I think I may have actually missed them.

At the wise and ripe ol' age of 28 I find myself playing the same old games. I am sure it is no surprise to any of you that I was wishing myself out of pregnancy as fast and hard as I could possibly wish and into a stage where sleep was an option again. Here I am at 28 years old, and after doing the math, I have only truly lived 18 months of my life.

These thoughts have been festering for awhile but today the wishing well is dried up. That is it. No more wishing for the weekend or wishing for Sebastian to take a nap or wishing for this ridiculous workout to be over with. Today, I am done wishing and instead I am going to start living. . .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mommy Lifesavers--Product Reviews

I must admit when Jim and I found out we were pregnant I had never even changed a diaper. I did not know anything about babies. . .at all. Needless to say I was a little nervous about being a mom and that nervous feeling really hit home when I had to go register for my baby shower. I could not believe how many items were in that store! I just figured you needed a crib some sheets, a few bottles, then I could smack a diaper on him and I was done. I was told, by just about everyone, how wrong I was and a friend lent me her little product review book. . . and thus it began. Baby mayhem.

I spent hours reading over those reviews and vacillating over every little decision. I swear that book was both a lifesaver and the death of me all rolled up in its 800 pages. I was so thankful for the help but it seems the best mommy products were not truly revealed to me until AFTER I had Sebastian.

Within the first month Sebastian developed reflux or, in other words, baby projectile pukes. We went to the doctor hoping she had a magical answer to help him. . .not so much. It was not until the end of the second month and endless amount of puked on clothing that we found the greatest invention in my mommy world. . .Dr Brown's Bottles. In all my spare mommy time I had read an article about how they were supposed to prevent reflux and minimize baby puke. I was skeptical but desperate so that day I went out and bought one. In one feeding Dr. Brown was my new hero and is now the only bottle we use. Dr. Brown has saved my washer, my clothes and my new mommy smell from scaring all my friends away.

So I know all you mom's out there have favorite products up your sleeves and I would LOVE to hear about them! Please share and save me from future catastrophes of mommy ignorance!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Advertising: Utilizing a Sites Direct Traffic

Several times a month I will receive an email from another artist wondering how I became successful on etsy or other venues in which I sell my jewelry. I am a huge advocate in a unique authentic product, well taken photographs combined with effective item tagging and branding. Yet what good is any of that if no one ever sees your product? To that I simply say: ADVERTISE.

Owning a small business often means a small budget for advertising so it is even more
important to make those dollars count. When I first started selling my jewelry online I read so many articles about advertising and almost all of them pushed for outside or off-site advertisements. Suggestions like wear your URL or brand on your T-shirt, drive around with your web address attached to the hood of your car, and of course, the infamous, hand out more business cards. Seriously? Is that what will seriously bring in more traffic? It did not take long before I could answer my own question.

I have experimented with all different types of advertising; some of them were free and others were rather expensive. I have purchased advertisement spots in magazines, on blogs, handed out business cards, gone to shows, twittered. . . and the list goes on and on. But, nothing has been more effective than utilizing a sites direct traffic. Let's face it, even if you walked around with your website tattooed to your forehead no one is going to remember that web address or take the effort to look it up once they get home.

After months of researching different advertising venues I realized my money is best spent attracting the traffic that is already on that particular site. Duh. It was not rocket surgery, as my husband would say, it was just common sense. So that was where I put my advertising dollars. For example, on etsy, I posted. It costs 20 cents a listing to post and I posted several times an hour during prime hours or when I received a lot of views on an item. I also took advantage of the showcases they had on site. I used the same techniques for other marketplaces I was using as well and it has been very successful all around.

Though driving around with your URL plastered to
the front of your car or purchasing expensive magazine ads seems like a good idea I urge you to consider luring in the traffic your venue has already advertised for you. They are there looking to buy. They have done the hard part for you--now make yourself visible!

If you have questions or have advertising tips that have been successful for you please do not hesitate to ask or share!



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Memories are Forever. . .

When I was in college I took a class called American Family and I would have to say it was one of my most loved classes in my college career. The teacher at the time, Mrs. Stratton, was hilarious and I love to laugh--who doesn't?! She offered a myriad of practical advice surrounded in personal illustrations amidst the boring "stuff", the history into the family relationship. It was like taking my medicine with a spoonful of sugar--much easier to swallow (I never have been a history fan unless it was recapped with Brad Pitt as the star).

One class period was devoted to marriage and what college girl is not in someway dreaming about marrying the man of her dreams? I took copious notes as if this woman could give me the perfect plan to help find me the perfect husband and plan the perfect wedding (silly college girl). Though I listened ever so carefully, there was no great secret plan unveiled to my disappointment. However, one thought did resonate with me. She said "whatever you decide to spend your wedding budget on, do NOT skimp on your photographer. Skimp everywhere else if you have to, but this memory you want to cherish forever."

I tucked that thought away in the back of my mind, though I was still disappointed about not being given the "find a good man" secret. I tucked it away until I was asked if "I do." It seemed I had stumbled across the perfect man all on my own. As we planned our wedding I remember telling my mom how important the pictures were, we
could save on other venues. Unfortunately for me, Mom did not take Mrs. Stratton's American Family class. A big fancy photographer was just not in the budget.

This was a great tragedy to a newly married bride. Especially when you realize marriage is not the romance novel you quite dreamed up in your mind. Don't get me wrong, I married an amazing man who I fall in love with more everyday but cleaning skid marks in underpants was NOT in the original fantasy!

Alas the years have gone by but that hard lesson has not been forgotten. When it came time for our first child to be born I decided to save up and get the fancy pictures I had always dreamed about. Mrs. Stratton would be pleased to know that I did, finally, apply her class advice to my life. We hired an amazing photographer, Olivia Griffin, and she was worth every penny. No more photo regrets for this family because memories do last forever. . . as long as you catch them in good light.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Revamping My Blog. . . and My Life

It has been a while since I have taken the time to write a blog post and even longer since I have written about something in my life other than jewelry or being an independent artist. With that thought, I begin this article and a brand new journey in my life.

I have been so blessed to be 27 and have most of my dreams come true. I have married a man I love and am more in love with every day and started a successful business that I adore. I have spent the last 5 years pouring everything I have into making CaughtREDhanded a career that I love, a business that would help financially support my husband and I, and a job that would allow me to stay home with our future children. I have always known that I wanted to stay home with my children, if I would be so blessed to have any, but I also knew that was not going to be "enough" for me. Though I aspired to be a mom and a wife, I also had a desire for a career. I guess my desire was to have it all, the best of both worlds. But does anyone ever really get it all?

On October 5th of 2009 my son Sebastian was born and I guess you could say my quest to have it all began. I was a new mom who owned a business. Heaven, I thought, right? It turns out reality was quickly bearing down on my big dreams and big plans. I was smack dab in the middle of Christmas jewelry season, breastfeeding a newborn, 600 miles from family, and getting zero sleep. Was this the dream I had been so long preparing for? Had I been dreaming about holding baby in one hand while I super glued my finger to a pendant on the other? Why is this not working out like I had planned? Oh, I had it all alright. Now when can I start giving some of it back?!

It has been 3 months now and things are starting to calm down and fall back into place. Christmas season is behind us and I can now look a little farther into the future. I am even beginning to dream about more than just sleep again. My dreams may be changing, and my plans might be changing with them but everyday I wake up thankful and blessed that God has allowed me to "have it all".

So, as the days and months go on there will be a lot more articles about jewelry and secret sales but there will also be a little of it all mixed in.