January Diary Entry: TV, Podcasts, Crafts, and Tap

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

It’s been a good start to 2023. January has been all about trying to keep my mind and body active and entertained. I’ve been taking lots of notes about random things, and I’ve finally gotten into this podcast craze I have been missing out on. I’ve found some cool things to watch on tv and even took a tap class. Here’s my round-up for the month:

What I watched:

  • Lovers in a Dangerous Time (Tubi) – a woman goes back to her small hometown for a class reunion and reunites with her friend. It is a low-key movie but there are a few themes that are relevant, especially if you come from a small town
  • Becoming Abi (Netflix) – a cute workplace show set at a marketing agency in Nigeria, which follows Abi as she navigates her career and dating life
  • Perfect Bid (Netflix) – a documentary series about a Price is Right fanatic and his perfect bid that caused a scandal
  • Schmigadoon (Apple+) – stars Key (from Key & Peele) and is about a couple that gets stuck in a fictional musical town. So funny!
  • Fleishman is in Trouble (Hulu) – This series starring Claire Danes, explores the relationship between a man and the wife that he separates from after a 15-year marriage, and the course that their relationship takes post-marriage. The series touches on dating, marriage, kids, career changes, postpartum depression, and separation. This is a powerful story about love, friends, and family that will make you laugh and cry.
  • Breaking Fast (Hulu) – an LGBTQ rom-com about a Muslim-American man who meets an American man and starts sharing meals during the holy month of Ramadan
  • The Housewife and the Hustler (Hulu) – a documentary series that follows the story of attorney Tom Girardi and his “Housewives of Beverly Hills” wife, Erika Jayne, as they lived lavishly off the proceeds gained from clients that he scammed
  • Starstruck (HBOMax) – funny show set in London about a woman who unknowingly has a one-night-stand with a movie star and then sorta kinda dates him. So awkwardly funny
  • McMillion$ (HBOMax) – documentary series about the McDonald’s Monopoly game and the $24 million scam in the 90s by a mastermind and his accomplices

Podcasts I’ve Listened To:

I have been wanting to get into podcasts for some time. I got a new phone recently and decided this was the time to dive in. Initially, I bookmarked a ton of true crime podcasts but I haven’t really been feeling true crime as much lately. I kinda noticed that true crime stories put me in a mood, and made me jittery and nervous all the time, so I decided to stop absorbing so much violent, sensational, scary stuff. I’ve totally limited my intake of murder mysteries and crime shows and have, for now, steered clear of true crime podcasts. I will admit though, I have a lot of scam podcasts on my list, so that will probably be what I get into next. But this is what I’ve been listening to for the last few weeks:

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com
  • The Minimalists – If you have not heard of the concept of minimalism or the two guys ,The Minimalists, who are a big part of this movement, do yourself a favor and google their website, watch their documentary, or listen to one of their podcasts. They give the most amazing motivational viewpoints on removing clutter from your life, be it physical, mental, technological, or emotional clutter. I have tangible takeaways every time I watch or listen to whatever they have to say.
  • Bitch I’m Budgeting – I started following this IG account, and then realized she had a podcast. I have become sort of obsessed with tracking my finances and staying on top of my budget lately. Her IG posts and her podcasts really help me to maintain the enthusiasm for tracking my money.
  • A Mindful Moment – I love to listen to this one mostly when I go for walks. Being out in nature, clearing my mind, and taking a few minutes to have a literal mindful moment, really makes me breathe deep and fully appreciate life, health, and gratitude. The episodes are usually just a few minutes long, but they really help me to feel grounded and centered.
  • Erotic Stories – Sometimes you just really need to zone out and trust me, these do the trick. lol.
  • The Professional Creative– This one is great for anyone who wants to use their creative talents to make money. She gives some great tips and a lot of food for thought for people who use their craft as a primary source of income or as a side hustle.
  • Therapy for Black Girls – I was actually pleasantly surprised that this podcast was more than chats about mental wellness. This podcast delves into topics such as workplace issues, tv shows, personal development, as well as topics around mental health. This podcast definitely has some moments that have me wanting to take notes.

What else I’ve been up to:

  • Saw Ne-Yo perform with the National Symphony Orchestra: This girl loves a concert. And with COVID, it has been something that I’ve really missed. When I saw that Ne-Yo was performing with the National Symphony Orchestra, and that tickets were super reasonable, I jumped. The show was fabulous! Having a date night, getting dressed up, and having a night out in the city…it was all so wonderful. Ne-Yo has an extensive catalog so he couldn’t sing everything. But seeing him perform with the accompaniment of the orchestra did something for my inner band geek.
  • Took a Tap Class: I took a couple of tap classes a few years ago and loved it. I needed to get some physical activity into my life so I thought it was time to dust off the tap shoes. But finding adult tap classes is a struggle. I found one close to me and decided to give it a try, but unfortunately, this class wasn’t a good fit for me. It was a little more advance than what I was looking for, and the instructor indicated that his plan was to not slow down because he got too bored going slow. OK… So, I had definite feelings about that being the attitude for a beginner class, and ultimately, I didn’t care enough for the instructor to really debate it. So I’m still on the lookout for a class, and in the meantime, I will set up a practice board at home and do some online instructional videos.
  • Attended a new church (virtually): A nearby church was recommended to me, and I wanted to check it out. So I have been attending virtually all month and taking lots and lots of notes, which I plan to blog about.
  • Started a new craft: I saw fabric button earrings on IG and just had to learn how to make them. I am pretty sure I’m going to go entirely too far and make trillions of these adorable things. Here are a few of my creations photographed in one of my past obsessive craft creations, the clay trinket dish.
  • Sold some items on Poshmark: I have a ton of stuff to get rid of, and I love selling my items on poshmark. Every time someone buys something, it makes me kinda giddy.

What did you get into in January? Let me know if you made anything cool or did anything fun. And definitely let me know if you have any tv shows, movies, or podcasts that I should check out!

My Week of Vegging: What I Watched, Read, and Made

Photo by Andres Ayrton on Pexels.com

The week between Christmas and New Years is like…my favorite. I absolutely just let myself BE this week. I did not have anything planned, I didn’t force myself to do any work outside of “work” work, though I took off most of the week so that I could use up leave that I was about to lose. I just did whatever I felt like doing when I felt like doing it, and I REFUSED to let myself feel bad for sitting on my sofa vegging out when there are plenty of things I “should” have been doing. Here’s what I got up to during my winter break.

What I watched:

  • Loot with Mya Rudolph (Apple+); Season 1, Ep. 1 – Cute first eppy about an uber rich woman and the charity organization that she didn’t know she ran. Definitely made me chuckle
  • White Lotus (HBOMax); Season 2, Ep. 1-3 – Such a strange, odd, slow-moving show that I can’t stop watching, just like Season 1, which shows that misery comes in all tax brackets
  • True Believers (Hulu); Season 1, Ep. 5 and 6 – It is fascinating to me how people get sucked into cults
  • Love, Victor (Hulu); Season 3, Ep. 5 and 6 – Adorable LGBTQ show about high school love and relationships
  • The Thing About Harry (Hulu) – Perfect feel-good LGBTQ love story about high school enemies that meet in college, and then again as adults
  • The China Hu$tle (Hulu) – A Wall Street heist documentary about Chinese companies and the U.S. stock market. The rich get richer…what’s new…
  • Blood & Water (Netflix); Season 1, Ep. 1-3 – A mystery show set in a prep school in South Africa. So cool and refreshing seeing a show set in Africa, and the plot sucked me in
  • Sex Lives of College Girls (HBOMax), Season 1, Ep. 1-4 -Funny show about dorm mates that makes me kinda wish I was back in college
  • The Big Conn (Apple+) – Gotta stay on top of all the scams, and there are a-plenty
  • Radio Christmas with Keisha Knight Pulliam (Hulu) – So incredibly cheesy. I don’t know what else to say lol
  • Baking Spirits Bright (Hulu) – A movie about fruitcake and Christmas. It is so hard to believe people really eat fruitcake
  • A Majestic Christmas (Hulu) – An architect goes to her hometown to save the town theater that’s being torn down by new owner who hates Christmas
  • A Picture Perfect Holiday with Tatyana Ali (Hulu) – A cabin is double booked by two photographers for the town’s Christmas photography retreat so…you know…will they fall in love or won’t they? Hmmm…

Apparently, I love watching Christmas movies while commenting indignantly about how unrealistic and cheesy they are, and about logical solutions that made way more sense than what the characters decided to do. Oh, and about the flaws in the plot…because they are so realistic. But I also love them so much, so I just keep watching them. Even if they are cringeworthy.

What I Read

  • The Weight of Your Wishes by Bailey Nicole – an age gap, MM, happily ever after story.

My sweet bestie bought me a Kindle last year, but my whole reading game changed when I broke down and got Kindle Unlimited a few months ago. I am now reading one to two books per week. I have never been a big reader, but when I can easily access books that are of interest to me, I just roll right from one book to the next without blinking. And my interests don’t have to be everybody else’s interests for me to enjoy my reading time. So I read whatever makes me happy.

What I organized

  • Shoes at the entryway – It’s amazing what a stylish box stored in a bookcase can do. I had been searching for shoe storage cabinets that would fit into the small space that I had by my doorway and I just could not find something that fit my needs.
  • My payment and budget calendar for the year – It’s never too soon to plan out your pay days and holidays.
  • My finances spreadsheet for the year – Updated all of my balances, due dates, and amounts due. Gotta know your numbers.
  • My old email mailbox that is completely full – Started purging and deleting messages and I finally have one percent of free space.

What I crafted

  • Pom poms (I’m obsessed!) – It became my mindless, soothing thing to do while I watch tv. There’s something calming about snipping yarn. I plan to add these to some baskets and to make some garland.
  • My first latchhook – I thought I may like this as a craft but I don’t think it’s for me. I didn’t complete my project but I got far enough to realize I don’t think it’s my cup of tea. I may revisit it down the road.
  • Finished off wreath for a friend – I made a wreath for myself using pinterest tutorials, and a friend asked me to make one for them. It took me a while to figure out the right technique and to get things arranged just right. I am still learning and figuring things out, but I like the end result.

How did you spend your week between holidays? Hopefully you rested and relaxed and recharged. Let me know what you got up to during Veg Week. And definitely let me know if you’re watching or reading anything that I need to check out. Sometimes I feel like I have reached the end of everything on the streaming services.

Chat soon!

I wish I knew how to: Bloganuary Entry #4

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Life is about constantly learning. I truly enjoy learning new things, and I seek knowledge, no matter how small. I love that there are so many ways to learn right at my fingertips, thanks to my friend the internet. Whether I’m learning a craft, a recipe, a computer trick, or a dance class, I feel like it’s good to be constantly open to learning.

I love finding random tutorials on pinterest, and I love taking advantage of online resources. I’m currently making my way through a Life Coaching course and hopefully I will finish that in the coming months *fingers crossed*, and I’ve done a few ecommerce courses over the past year that were really interesting.

But if I had to pick one thing that I wish I knew it would be that I wish I knew how to change a flat tire. Of course, there’s a million reasons why this is a good, practical, and important skill to have. I don’t like the idea of being stranded, vulnerable, or possibly in a dangerous situation over something that I could fix myself if I have to. Because tires rarely announce in advance that they plan to go flat, the sooner I know how to do this, the bigger relief this will be for me. So it’s on my 2022 learning list for sure.

But on a smaller scale, here three things I’ve learned to do recently by using online resources:

Fabric Stamping: I follow an artist on IG that uses random items to stamp fabric, and she then uses the fabrics to make bags. I have been mesmerized by her process and thought I could try something similar. So I looked around on pinterest for tutorials and tried my hand at it. Using some remnants from Joann’s, some fabric paint, a straw, and a plastic fork, I created these masterpieces. I thought this was fun, and it’s such an easy way to decorate a space. I also plan to try this on some tea towels. It could make a really cute gift idea, and there are so many different possibilities.

Ceramics: To stay sane during the pandemic, I definitely turned to crafts. One thing I found cute and interesting was clay. Trinket dishes, earrings, and wine charms…I tried them all. I tried both air dry clay as well as clay that you bake in the oven. Here’s one of the many tutorials that I played around with and here are a few of my results.

Beading: I love making my own accessories, so when I stumbled across some posts for making beaded jewelry, I became obsessed! And again, the pandemic caused lots and lots of time isolated in the house, so this was a wonderful creative outlet. Several hundred dollars later (oy!), and I have bags and bags and bags of beaded bracelets to show for it. Here’s one blogger that gives a good bracelet tutorial and below are a few of my results:

What do you like learning? What’s the last thing you learned or taught yourself to do?

DIY Mockups – Tips and Pointers

I’m really surprised that I’m enjoying making my own mockups for my business. Initially, it felt like something I was forcing myself to do, but after three sessions, I am noticing improvements each time. And surprisingly, I am starting to really enjoy it. Maybe I just had to shake off the nerves and tackle the logistics to push through to the fun part, but now I am starting to find it less daunting and more pleasurable.

How did I decide to try making my own mockups?

When I started my business, I realized I could pay for flatlay mockups. And they were great. But then I noticed that other brands had actual people for their listing pics. I really wasn’t sure where to find these kinds of mockups, but I eventually landed on, of course, Etsy, and found some mockup pics that contained people. And I loved it. I bought a few and used them in my listings. I thought they were great. There are a lot of wonderful choices, but finding a combination of someone wearing the item that I was actually selling, and for that person to be someone that I felt represented my brand…that narrowed the options significantly. I definitely wanted to include people of color, both men and women, and the choices were slim pickins.

For example, some of the ones that would have the item I was selling, it would have a female model that fit my brand, but the picture would be themed, like…football or baseball theme, something that really doesn’t fit my vibe. Or it would fit all of my criteria but the picture would be heavily filtered and faded, or have something about it that just didn’t work for me. And don’t get me started on finding mockups with men of color. There just really are not a lot of pics out there at all.

One day I looked at the pics I was purchasing, and it hit me that this was something I could possibly do. And so I tried. I bought a better tripod/ring light than the one I had, picked a nice sunny day, and headed out. Suffice it to say, I did not love the results from the first shoot. But I’ve now had three sessions, and each photo session has been a lesson. Each time I realize what I want to do better next time. And each session has been better than the one before it.

So that’s a success, right?

I think it is!

If you are the owner of a t-shirt company, and you are struggling with finding the mockups that work best for your business, consider trying it yourself. This in no way is to throw shade to any of the offerings on Etsy or elsewhere, because I’ve found some really great ones which I love and routinely use. They’re affordable and they look great!

But after using the same pics over and over, I got bored. Or the model mockups would have some qualities I didn’t care for, and I feel like why am I paying for this when I can create something that I like that looks just as good?

So as I keep practicing creating my own mockups, I’m getting to the point where I’m really liking the results. And I love even better that I’m not paying for them.

So let me tell about some of my successes and failures, and give a few tips for those that may be considering trying to take their own mockup photos.

Your Look:

  1. Do your research. Find pictures and mockups that are similar to what you’d like to do. Save the pictures and take them with you when you go on your shoot. Having a starting point for your photo sessions will help get the ball rolling.
  2. Style your outfit. Create an overall look that will appeal to your customer. Yes, you are selling a tshirt, but if the customer sees the style potential of your tshirt, that entices them to want it in their closet.
  3. Accessorize but do not go overboard. The focus should remain on the item you’re selling. Your customer should see how it hangs, how it fits, how things line up on an actual human. Compliment the look with bracelets or earrings, but don’t cover or outdo the item being purchased.
  4. Create different looks. Show versatility. Everyone wears tshirts, but not everyone wears them the same way. Expand your customer base by showing the item in a range of scenarios. Dressed up, dressed down, under a blazer, under a jean jacket…with sneakers, with heels. The more options you’re able to provide, the better chance you have of snagging customers.
  5. Be conscious of your hair length. For a tshirt to be used as a mockup, the front of the shirt should have space for your logo/artwork to be placed. If your hair is covering that space, the pic could be hard to work with, or it may look odd if you place the logo over top of your hair.
  6. Wear lipgloss. I swear, even just a nude one makes any pic look better.
  7. Consider wearing heels even if they aren’t visible. I’m short and curvy, and heels naturally elongate my body, and help the shirt fall properly. Most pics that I’ve taken do not even show my feet. But trust me, the heels helped.

Your Poses:

  1. Be aware of weird gestures. Know what your arms, hands, fingers, eyes, and mouth are doing. I had to rule out some really nice pics because I noticed my middle finger was sticking out. LOL…so…that’s not gonna work.
  2. Take multiple pics in the same spot. Sometimes you have to keep working one angle to get the perfect shot. If the sun is in the right place, and your item is draped just right, but your eyes were crossed, don’t move. Open your eyes, stay in the same position, and take more pics!
  3. Try different stances. One leg in front of the other, hips poked out, legs spread apart, leaning forward, leaning backwards. Look to the side, look up, look down (beware of double chin though).
  4. Try shots without your face. You are selling a shirt, so show the shirt. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your face has to be in the picture. Take some shots of just the neck and torso area. Your whole body does not have to be in every pic. It’s ok to only include parts of your body.
  5. Do different things with your hands. Hold something, tuck your thumbs in your front pocket, put your hands in your back pocket, hold them behind your head, put a hand on your hip. You want to look natural, so do the natural things that you’d do if you were someone standing around wearing a tshirt.
  6. Make different expressions. Smile, don’t smile, act like someone told you a hilarious joke, pretend like a long lost friend walked into the room. Consider what you sell and what the vibe is of your items. If the tone of your shirts is serious, then smiling may not be appropriate. But if you sell a mix, make your mockups versatile by changing your facial expressions for your pics. Use your eyes and use your smile.
  7. Take some time to reset. As you maneuver, and go back and forth to your tripod, your clothing may shift. Brush down your hair back down, readjust your clothing, make sure everything is back in place. Reset yourself after every few takes.

Your Scene:

  1. Use props. I’m not talking about fake mustaches on a stick. But take some pics holding a handbag, an ice cream cone, a bouquet of flowers, a glass of wine, a beach hat, or even your cell phone. Set up a scene that’s relatable and attractive to your potential buyer.
  2. Beware of background items. Plugs, cords, and passersby happen. To the extent possible, clean the space so that it’s free of junk, remove any cords, stand in front of any outlets, or let passersby cross before you press click. The extra work will make the pic sooooo much better. But keep in mind, if there are things that just can’t be avoided, and the shot is just too bomb to pass up, use photo editing software to blur the background. If the wall is white and the wall outlet is white, consider brightening the picture to obscure the outlets.
  3. Consider your scenery. Fancy backdrops are great, but they are not necessary. The purpose of these pics is to show off your tshirt. Not to show fancy places that you’ve visited. Scenes on location are nice, but a simple white wall is just as awesome.

Your Photography:

  1. Use different features on your phone. Take pics using both the front and the rear cameras (if you are using your phone). In most cases, the main camera on your phone will have the better resolution. But camera phones are so good these days, that even the inferior cams produce decent pictures using the front or back cameras. Sometimes seeing yourself in selfie mode will yield better pictures than if you are shooting blind. Play around and see what works best.
  2. Get a tripod and bluetooth shutter. Save yourself the headache of setting a timer and running back and forth. Once you get into a groove or find the perfect position, the bluetooth shutter helps you remain in place for more great shots.
  3. Pay attention to shadows. In the grand scheme of things, your shirt is not likely to be purchased or not purchased due to shadows. And in a lot of cases, the shadows can be edited out of your pictures. But there could times when a shadow is difficult to work with, especially if you’re a less than skilled photographer like I am. If the shadow falls on your shirt, and editing isn’t your forte’, it could be difficult to place your logo or artwork without looking strange.

I hope these tips help. Have you thought about doing something similar for your tshirt business? Have you tried doing your own mockup photos? What are your thoughts? Have any tips to add? Lemme know!

DIY Mockups for My Business

From the “spring gone get whatever body I give it” files…

Happy Wednesday!

What’s the weather where you are? Yesterday in Maryland was hot and today is going to be even hotter! So ummm…about all that chocolate I’ve been eating lately…

I experimented a little more with taking pics for my tshirt mockups yesterday. And though I wasn’t spring-ready, I still knotted that shirt up and struck a pose…because who gone check me??

Do you use mockups for your tshirt brand? I do love the convenience of the etsy mockups, however I’ve noticed that there are very few that have people of color as models. And I feel as though my brand is too diverse for one model type. And hello…I’m black and I want black representation for my products.

So…what’s a girl to do? I pulled out my tripod and got to work! Because sometimes you just gotta do it yourself, amiright?? I think I got a few good shots. Can’t wait to share them!

Here’s a little sneak peek of my mock-ups in action.

I still have some work to do to perfect the pics and poses. I need to work on being conscious of light, shadows, and backgrounds. And I definitely need to work on facial expressions lol. But it’s been fun doing this and I feel like every time I try it, I get a little better. And even though this is the free method of acquiring mockups, and that’s hella dope, the best takeaway is that I have pics that I feel represent me and my brand without spending hours on etsy. And I just love that!

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