November 2009


The three give-away winners were chosen yesterday! Hooray!

I would’ve posted this earlier, unfortunately, we had some behavioural issues with Lydia and spent the majority of our evening off-line. She was relatively good for the 3 minute video, as she hates having her bad antics caught on tape. Joe has threatened to install security cameras throughout the house… lol

So here are the results of the drawing:

The first prize, an original acrylic painting of a kimono/geisha cat, is going to: John Harper!
(He will have the ability to select the cat breed, color scheme, and kimono design)

The second prize, a fantasy photo-manipulated portrait, goes to: April Carty!
(Using one of her photographs, I will create a digital collage in a theme of her choosing)

The third and final prize, an open-edition art print from my Etsy shop, belongs to:
Ginger Scharnhorst – a.k.a ILoveHelloKitty on Etsy!
(she may choose one of my pieces printed on archival paper, and
listed for $15 or less)

I will contact the winners today, to request their preferences for the portraits/prints as well as to receive shipping addresses for mailing their prizes.

I really appreciate everyone who answered my call for entries, promoted on my behalf, and for my established fans who came forward to take advantage of this great offer… I’d like to give everyone a token of thanks… so I will give all my Facebook fans Free Shipping for the month of December (applies to my Etsy and Artfire shops… I can’t control Zazzle, unfortunately).
Those of you who haven’t yet used the 50% off coupon you received upon joining, are still able to use it as well for an even sweeter deal. ūüôā

To use your free shipping and/or 50% off code:
When checking out in my Etsy shop, type the code into the “message to seller” box. You can also remind me with “free shipping for a fan” in the box… though I typically check my roster of names to see if you’re already a fan. lol
Please DO NOT pay the invoice Etsy prompts you with…
Etsy will alert me via e-mail that I have a sale (but the buyer hasn’t paid yet)… I will re-adjust your invoice in PayPal¬†to reflect the discount and/or free shipping, and will e-mail the revised invoice through PayPal. You can still leave feedback etc…

My Artfire shop will accept your 50% off coupon code automatically through their awesome check-out, however they won’t allow multiple deals/coupons to be used on one order.. so for Artfire purchases, Facebook fans will have their shipping refunded.

Again, I’d like to congratulate the winners, and look forward to keeping myself busy with projects over the next few days… and I’ll have some awesome new artwork to share with everyone. ūüôā

I’m hosting a give-away with some incredibly cool prizes, and I thought Steppie had a great idea to promote using Facebook and video.
Unfortunately, someone with a lack of video-editing skills, and a propensity to ramble… blame it on genetics (thanks Mom!)… probably should be barred from posting on YouTube.
My children and cats also worked against me, taking every opportunity to distract me, and causing a ten minute video to take an entire afternoon. Well, I wasn’t able to actually condense it down to ten minutes, which is YouTube’s maximum time limit… so instead, I split it into two halves.

First Half:

Second Half:

If rambling videos don’t suit your style, the contest summary is here:

The Give-away contest starts now, and ends at noon, Sunday the 29th of November.
There will be three winners, chosen by a name drawing.

  • Each winner receives one of three prizes:
  • …a geisha cat painting on fine-art paper,
  • …a custom fantasy portrait,
  • …and the winner’s choice of a open-edition print from one of my shops.

To enter the contest:
You need to become a fan of my Facebook fan page.
And secondly, please let me know you wish to be entered in the drawing.
You can comment on my Facebook Wall, or here on my blog. You can Twitter me, E-mail me, or Convo Me.

To gain additional entries into the contest (this was Steppie’s idea also):
You can promote my Fanpage and contest – on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, Etsy forum, refer your friends to become fans.
Send me the link where you mentioned me, use @taraflyphotos or #taraflyphotos in your tweets, or have your friends mention your
name when joining.
When you spread the word about the contest, I’ll add another entry for you. ūüôā

I will be videotaping the drawing on Sunday; the video will be uploaded to YouTube and posted here, and the contest winners will be notified. I’ll require shipping addresses to send the prizes.

Important Note: I hold the rights to my artwork, and do not authorize anyone to reproduce and/or distribute my pieces for commercial purposes. The winner of the custom portrait may, however, make personal copies for family and friends.

Good luck to everyone!!!!!

photo manipulated piece "Gazing upon Pemberley"

Gazing Upon Pemberley - prints available on Etsy.

I can’t praise my web tracker highly enough! I’ve been using Statcounter for the past couple years, tracking all my visitors to www.taraflyphotos.com¬†… and it has provided me with an overabundance of insight: I don’t necessarily take full advantage of this information, and I accept full responsibility for the limited growth of my business.¬† It takes a great deal of work to optimize and market a website, and I find wearing multiple hats (artist, PR relations, publicist, web designer, accountant, etc.) a bit daunting and time-intensive for this Infamous Procrastinator who would much rather be painting, watching period dramas on A+E, and baking honey biscuits.¬†

 

For those of you with personal websites and blogs that allow HTML-editing access… this is the tracker you should seriously take into consideration. Test it out!¬† Many people are using GoogleAnalytics, which I am forced to use for my Etsy Shop and my Artfire Shop (since individual shop owners are not given access to their pages’ HTML script)… I haven’t fully examined everything GA has to offer, such as Setting Goals for shop views, however I much prefer the set-up and detailed stats of my personal tracker overall.¬†

 

StatCounter is an invisible web tracker and hit counter, that provides detailed information about your web viewers. You can set up a free account and create a Project. It provides you with the html code to install on every webpage you want to track.¬† (I’m tracking all eight pages of my website)
 
They offer free summary stats for the lifetime of your website, with detailed stats for your last 500 visitors (250,000 page loads).¬† For a sliding fee, you can increase your “log-size”, allowing you to receive detailed stats for a greater number of visitors (up to 25,000 visitors/15,000,000 page loads for $29.00 per month).¬†

 

I personally find the free stats sufficient for my tiny slice of the web.¬† I’m currently getting an average of 72 viewers monthly, with page views¬†ranging from 115-174 hits.¬† With detailed stats of my last 500 visitors, I can research visits in-depth back to mid-July.¬† In the beginning, I was glued to my stats report, but now I check in about once a month – whenever I remember, or if I want to research a particular spike in sales or activity.¬†

 

Here is a small slice of my hits for September – I’ve removed the individual ISP addresses in Photoshop:

Visitor stats for September

Visitor stats for Sept. http://www.taraflyphotos.com

The detailed stats report provides a window to gaze upon each visitor: One of my favorite features is the service provider info. Typically the Host is a telephone or cable company for private users (i.e. Comcast, Verizon, BellSouth) but occasionally I’ll find business servers thrown into the mix.¬† Companies and facilities providing their own internet
services (for employees or patrons) include libraries, schools, government offices, and large private companies.
I’ve been able to identify visiting friends using this information; an example would be a former classmate who visited my website from a referring Facebook link, while he ate lunch in his office.¬† According to StatCounter, the Host was a private advertising company from the D.C. area, the name of which rang a familiar bell to me … so I checked my friends’ Facebook profiles, and discovered the classmate who worked at that very firm.¬†lol¬†¬†¬†

 

Here is an example of a detailed status report showing a visit from Lily, the owner of TwoStrayCats on Etsy and a good friend of mine. I’ve removed her ISP from this screenshot.

detailed stat visit

Lily's detailed visitor stats - http://www.taraflyphotos.com

¬† You could say that I’m spying on people who visit my site, and you’d be right.¬† But isn’t that what ALL businesses do online?¬† Knowing who your customers are, what they’re searching for, and how they find you, is essential to marketing effectively.¬†

 

The majority of my visitors who find me via search engines, were using Web Images for their results. JPGs¬†of my artwork matched the keywords in their search, and the visual image drew them inside with a click.¬† StatCounter¬†provides the actual search page link, so I can follow it back and view their results… I find it flattering that my artwork caught their eye, on a page packed with related images.
  
Another aspect I like to examine is the Navigation Path.  Their initial search inquiry led them to a specific page of my website, but where did they go from there?  Did they view my artist profile? My art gallery? Perhaps their interest was piqued enough to check out my online selling venues РMy Etsy or Artfire shop. 

 

Here is the Navigation Path for Lily’s multiple visits to my website.¬† At one point, she was checking out a small banner (advertising her Etsy shop: TwoStrayCats) that I placed on my Biography page. Notice the referring link came from an Etsy convo (i.e. private message).

Lily's navigational path

Lily's navigational path on http://www.taraflyphotos.com

I also take note when a visitor does not use a referring link; when they have typed the address directly into their browser, instead of clicking on a provided link.  It could mean they know my address already, have it bookmarked, copied it from a business card, or simply cut-n-pasted it into their browser after finding it online somewhere. 

 

There are a few flaws with StatCounter that I’ve noticed; the most obvious one is the “length of visit” stats are sometimes a bit off – when you figure a visit with multiple page-views had to last longer than 0 seconds.¬† Perhaps I simply haven’t learned to interpret it properly either. lol¬†

 

Also, don’t take the visitor’s “City” location literally. People who live in small towns may not have a local internet provider, so their service will be hosted by a neighboring city. (Note Lily’s stats: she does not reside in Red Deer, Alberta, but rather, a small village nearby).¬†

 

Comparing GA and StatCounter: they feature many of the same tidbits of information – most popular pages, keyword analysis, visitor maps, referring URLs, etc.¬† Except that for those of you, like myself, who find GA’s layout a bit confusing, you will enjoy the direct approach here.
The summary page will show graphs, for people who like visual pie charts and bar graphs… but I prefer accessing my information as a straight-forward list:¬†

Exit Links list

Top exit links for visits to http://www.taraflyphotos.com

As I’ve said, the tools are all here to develop websites (and businesses) into the best they can be. The real challenge is to take these tools and refine the site, maximizing its potential to reach the right crowd, and shedding light upon the dark recesses where folks stumble and lose their way.¬†
And that, I’m afraid, means shutting off the Arts and Entertainment channel. :_(¬†

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1950's Housewife Cat cookbook

Cookbook featuring my "1950's Housewife Cat" painting

Wednesday I cleaned the house. Seriously. I’ve never been a neat-freak, more an advocate of “controlled clutter”… but the other day, I organized and weeded through toy bins and closets, dug everything out from under rust ruffles, vacuumed behind furniture, and even tackled the mess in my art studio. I was very pleased with the outcome, and with myself for being committed enough to accomplish it… I wanted Joe to come home that night, and be shocked speechless. haha
The children obviously had a different agenda, and did their best to thwart my efforts …but I enlisted Mia’s help in sorting good toys from broken ones, and distracted her later with a bath. Jake was content to investigate all the new places; he loves to chase the vacuum around, and was thrilled to watch Mommy slide the couch across the carpet.

Keeping the floors clean requires a daily vacuuming, minimum.¬† On a typical day, I’ll vacuum 2-3 times… usually after meals. I caught myself, cursing under my breath as I picked up stray cookie crumbs by hand (since I’d just put away the machine)… it dawned on me – I have truly become my mother. I realized that my jokes regarding her super-gluing plates under our chins, seemed at once logical and actually feasible.

Or how about those cone collars they use for dogs?  They would also catch crumbs, right?

My surprise obsession with housework comes on the heels of another newfound love: cooking.   I used to hate cooking!
A difficult admission coming from a self-described baking addict, whose work resume reads like a restaurant menu.
I’ve always love to bake goodies, especially cakes, but aside from an occasional lasagna or grilled T-bone steak, my idea of a relaxing dinner did not include standing over a boiling pot, “stirring constantly for 15 minutes”.

However, in the recent months since Jacob’s birth (and my departure from full-time work), we had some frank discussions of our finances… a subject that always paints unhealthy worry-wrinkles on Joe’s otherwise placid forehead.
Sometimes, I lighten the mood by asking: When does the ‘For Richer’ part kick in?”
With many of my friends embracing the “green” lifestyle, and I myself dabbling in alternative living with my handmade soap and shampoo addiction, I decided to take their longstanding advice. Ditch the boxed dinners and cook from scratch!
Don’t get me wrong, I do know how to cook… despite what my ex-husband may tell you. Don’t listen to him. It was sheer laziness that prompted me to reach for those TV dinners, not lack of ability.

I decided to look at cooking as a new adventure to experiment with… like my shampoo adventure… except this time, I could still eat my mistakes. Well.. most of them. Okay, so shoot me, I didn’t remember to cut the grissle off the turkey pieces before adding them to my pot pie. Just spit them out! Sheesh. ūüėČ

It intrigued me that a few stable ingredients: milk, eggs, butter, flour, sugar, (meat of choice), and a few spices… can create so many different dishes. I stocked up on everything from corn meal to active yeast, and my grocery bill was noticeably lighter. I started with dishes that were already familiar, and expanded from there – Googling all my favorite dinners to find the best homemade alternative. I never realized you can make pancakes from corn meal! Okay, so my first attempt at scratch pancakes literally scratched me, as they leaped off the skillet to attack my jugular. Other recipes came out perfectly the first time, and I’m actually in love with my own flour and honey biscuits.
Joe invested in more plastic storage containers, because I was trying a couple different recipes each day, and the leftovers were getting out of control. When he mentioned the need for a bigger freezer, I decided to rein in my enthusiasm and actually reheat my pre-cooked concoctions. So, the microwave wasn’t retired entirely… and it still remains my favorite way to boil water and melt butter. Even though my family will probably die in 50 years from the radiation cancer. ūüė¶

A good friend of mine, who lives 3 states away, purchases her eggs and goat’s milk from a local farm, and insists that making her own butter and cheese from scratch is “the best way to go”.¬† I haven’t developed that level of commitment yet.¬†¬† Baby steps.

So what caused this shift in attitude… from one domestically impaired “trophy wife” into a full-fledged Donna Reed in training?
One part: maturity:

Sure, I’ve felt a change in myself since giving birth to Mia, and creating this nurturing family that we have. My previous daughter was born during a time of insecurity, when my life lacked focus. Not knowing the direction I wanted to take, or how I “fit into the scheme of things”, I wasn’t ready to settle down and face the responsibility of parenthood. I wasn’t feeling maternal or matrimonial at the time; I felt trapped and stifled in a tiny room without doors and one narrow window.

Fast forward several years later, I met a man who helped to establish a relationship built on respect and admiration, but most importantly, the freedom to just be myself and be loved unconditionally. For the first time EVER… I felt love without pressure, expectations, or standards to meet.
Loving him in return is so ridiculously easy, that my choice to commit myself and grow our family didn’t seem like I was limiting myself, rather the world was our oyster. Pass the pearls, please. ūüėõ

Five Parts: work-ethic:

I’ve always been a workaholic, and when I wasn’t conceiving an excuse to squeeze in some Over-Time, I was investing countless off-the-clock hours fretting, planning, and even dreaming about my day job. More like nightmares – that a plague of locusts would ransack the store, devouring all the food off the shelves, and we would have nothing in the backroom to replenish our inventory …except Gatorade and Frosted Flakes.
When I relinquished my position, that pent-up energy had to be absorbed elsewhere… hence, my new promotion and “job title”.
I’m officially Mrs. Donna Reed-Teach: efficient¬†housekeeper, darling cook, and doting mother. hehe
Now my obsessive nature is channeled into vacuuming the carpets multiple times per day, keeping the laundry baskets emptied, the bellies full, and the house organized. I stopped myself from labeling kitchen items, because I’d be too tempted to create “Savings” signs for them, and I don’t stripe my bath towels according to color either…. yet….
I should give each child a shopping cart, however, so they can pick up after themselves.

Sometimes I fail in my endeavor for perfection, such as the morning I forgot to wash Joe’s favorite pair of slacks, and he grudgingly picked them out of the discarded hamper. But when I asked him, in a serious moment, if he had any regrets about marrying me and having a family – he answered “Not at all. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
And best of all, I believed him.

But for now, I must end this post, because the carpet needs some extra TLC…
and the corn pancakes have escaped from their cage and are climbing the curtains… again.