Ramp Class

When Nigel had to go to the vet last week with what turned out to be a slipped disk in his neck, I had to lift him in and out of the truck three times. 70# of screaming Labrador is a hard lift. I remembered the ramp later, but he’d never used it and had to be shoved up it into the truck.

Can't reach the treat with two feet on the ground.

Can’t reach the treat with two feet on the ground.

Today, we had Ramp Class. Treats were involved. Everyone figured it out, Nigel quite comfortably.

After a few tries, Nigel decided the treats were worth the trouble.

After a few tries, Nigel decided the treats were worth the trouble.

If your dog is larger than you really want to lift, think about Ramp Class before you need it.

Running right on through.

Running right on through.

Wooster is not really convinced that it’s safe, but he finally figured out the only way to the treats was by running up the ramp.

Somebody needs a bit of extra encouragement.

Somebody needs a bit of extra encouragement, and Nigel offers to demonstrate again, in hopes of getting another cookie.

I wish I’d thought to do this before I needed it last week. Took two days for my back to be friendly to me again.


Review: How Much Should I Charge?

Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love

Writing this review in part to respond to the person who said the 5-star people must be family members. Not at all. Simply people who perhaps didn’t take a business course in high school (do they have those courses now?), or didn’t understand accounting as it was presented in college, or never thought they would be considering self-employment after 20 years of picking up a paycheck.

After eight years of part-time home business, I have missed grasping the difference between billable hours, overhead costs, and profit. I am most grateful that I had the sense to pick this book up at the library (“doing what you love” caught my eye) and now I am here buying it, and its companion. It took no time at all to read How Much Should I Charge, and perhaps buying it is a waste of money. I get the concept now.

However, I have spent a lot of time not understanding the concept, and I won’t be surprised if the finer points evaporate before I complete all the price-development exercises. I can make $30 back in one adjusted price on a piece of art.

I am envious, perhaps, of people who intuitively understand the relationship between effort and costs and pricing. Those people will waste their time and money with this book. I’m almost tempted, however, to buy in bulk and give copies away as project-end gifts to a number of contractors I know who, like me, flail when it comes to understanding the connection between their work and their income. Their rates may go up, but they will be more likely to stay in business…

How Much Should I Charge?

Oh no, It’s one of THOSE things!

Wire file folder desktop rack.

Wire file folder desktop rack.

I’m cleaning off one of my desks. At the back of the desk, I found two wire racks.

“What is it?” I wondered. And then it hit me: this is one of those racks that supposed to hold file folders upright, at the back of your desk, so you can see them all.

Death on a stick. Look carefully: there’s another one of these racks, in smoke plastic, right behind the wire rack.

I bring these home, from the swap shed, from the thrift shop, & I think somehow, if I can see all the files I’m working on, I’ll be more on top of things.

Instead, what happens is that the racks get pushed to the back of the desk, or they get full of file folders that I never look at, and maybe they get dumped. They don’t serve their intended purpose, certainly, not in my house; not on my desk.

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, to the metal bin we shall go,” just as soon as my local dump opens again after the ice storm shut down. That’s why I’m cleaning out today anyway–the ice storm. Can’t go anywhere else; might as well create some more space for myself.

One day, I will come to terms with my organizing style, and quit bringing these things home. That may or may not be now. Don’t make promises about what’s going to happen tomorrow, when I find the perfect matching set of desk accessories. For today this will go.



Dragontree Planner Review

I collect planners. More hope is sold in the planner aisle at Staples than at Max Factor… The NEXT planner will solve my problems…. the NEXT planner will make me organized.

(Heck, I get as much benefit from last year’s calendars as I do from a new planner; they all have value. Often, I don’t need alignment between numbers and days. I only need the shapes of time. Different story.)

I saw the Rituals for Living Dreambook+Planner from The Dragontree on Instagram; looked interesting. The PDF version was an affordable experiment. The layout of quarters and months and weeks looked a bit new to me. I printed off the various pages that contained information I wanted to know, as well as one each of the quarter, month, and weekly layouts, so I could see in detail how they were set up. I hate reading PDFs online.

Selected pages from the Dragontree Planner.

Selected pages from the Dragontree Planner.

(Yes, that’s the way my desk looks much of the time.)

Good: Lots of information about how to think about planning; a mindful approach to integrating work and life; I like the content about creating rituals.

I like undated books; you can skip weeks if you don’t need them, and the unused pages don’t time out.

Less than great: The text is teeny weesny itty bitty, making me think the designers have not yet reached the age of needing reading glasses. This might be less of a problem if you purchase the professionally printed copy; I bought the PDF and printed onto ordinary paper with an aging inkjet.

Note Saturday and Sunday share a space. That’s not the way I live. My Saturdays and Sundays deserve (and get, in my regular planner) equal attention and respect as M-F.

No page numbers on the printed copy.

The bolded text on the daily (week-view) layout interferes with my own writing. ALL-CAPS heading, in bold, in tiny type, on my printer, are nearly illegible and therefore, merely blobs. (Most PDF-print-it-yourself tools face some version of this problem.) Rituals list is in all caps. Would be better for me if it weren’t.

Summary: I purchased the planner as a suggestion for tweaks to incorporate into my own planning system (a glued up amalgam of Outlook printouts and numbered pages in a hard-bound book, with add-ins), and I learned some new ideas.

If you think you will be using this planner for important work, you might do well to buy the professionally printed version. (Read someone else’s review to see if the paper suits your taste. I can’t speak to that part.)lanner

Knitters Do Math

I had my hula hoops in the infield at the 2016 Clyde Fest, Bynum ballpark, on Saturday. When you’re in a 10 x 10 tent at an event like this, lots of your friends will stop by and talk to you.

I got on the topic of 8020 with one of my friends. He was familiar with rule. He knew how to apply it in politics. I explained how we taught it in the social media class at NC State, using the Pareto principle to evaluate the most productive part of the marketing budget. I talked through the example we use in class, doing the math in my head. I suspect he was about to have an interesting Sunday as he thought about applying the 8020 rule to parts of his business he hadn’t thought about that way before.

He had stories of his own, where he had been able to do some ballpark estimation, and save enormous amounts of door-to-door work.

We joked about how few people are able to do math, and how complicated they make it.

(You may never have considered that hula hooping is an example of physics: it’s all about angular momentum.

L = m * v * r, and bigger radius, bigger mass, means you can have less velocity and still keep the going. In short bigger is easier.)

Then today, I sat down to look at ring 9 of the that I’m knitting as a fundraiser for the Pulse shooting in Orlando Florida. I’m not thrilled with the way the designer has laid out the final round. I’m in ring 7 now, so I have a couple of days to think about what I want to do.

The shawl is designed to incorporate 49 heart motifs, one for every person who died at the club that night. So far I’m working on 42, 6 in the 1st 12 in the 2nd and 24 and the 3rd ring. I need to knit 7 more. At 24 stitches per heart, and 576 stitches per ring, that leaves a lot of space in ring 9.

The designer selected intarsia with blocks of one color for the hearts and one color for honeycomb in between them. Intarsia requires knitting back and forth and I don’t like doing that; I like to knit forward all the time which you can do on circular needles.

I thought there must be a lacy heart pattern somewhere in my collection of books about knitting. I went through them today, and I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Marian Kinzel, in Modern Lace Knitting, has two heart patterns but they are too big for what I want.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

I started sketching and counting and doing math and subtracting 24 stitches per heart for 7 hearts. I wanted 53 additional hearts, one for each person who was injured at the club. It came out to roughly 8 stitches a heart. If I knit them side-by-side, that wasn’t going to work to all, but I’m a designer. I played and I figured out a way to do it. I need to check the details and I need to test a swatch to make sure to work the way I think it will.

I took a picture of my work and posted it to the work in progress blog posts I’m creating for the shawl on Karen Tiede Studio. And then I realized why it was so easy for me to talk math on Saturday. I do this stuff all the time. Knitters, and textile artist in general, do math every day of the week, when recalculating warp and weft, when we’re figuring out whether we have enough to finish the round, when we need to know we need to make changes in a pattern to fit us or because we don’t like the way it’s going.

Teach your children to knit. You can sneak some math and at the same time and they’ll hardly notice.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

Facebook Image Layouts

A client asked me about how Facebook decided how to display images in posts. Sometimes it worked right, and sometimes it didn’t. I had noticed the same thing, but I’m selling products, not running for office, and getting a politician’s pictures displayed correctly is more important.

A little bit of research led to Daniel Coleman’s post, Facebook Photos Size Guide / 2015.

In shorthand, here’s the same information:

Layout defaults for images attached to Facebook posts: It's all in the aspect ratio of the first image selected.

Layout defaults for images attached to Facebook posts: It’s all in the aspect ratio of the first image selected.

The #1 image is the one at the left. You can drag and drop images around in a post draft to make sure the one on the left has the aspect ratio that will create the layout that best suits your images.

Another solution is to use an app like Layout from Instagram. Layout lets you arrange your images in a selection of formats, then saves the completed unit as one image. Upload that to Instagram or Facebook (or Twitter, or Linkedin, from the gallery) and you don’t have to worry about the arrangement of your images shifting.

Picassa can do a similar thing, in its Collage feature.

80/20 Curtains in the Guest Bedroom

(This is a bit off my normal topics on this blog, but hang with me.  The drapery lesson works for productivity readers, too.)

I’ve been studying how the 80/20 rule can be applied to productivity, and to participation on social media platforms, and in other parts of life, for a while now.  Today, a Saturday in July, an example of 80/20 on effort and payoff jumped in front of me.

New sheers in the guest bedroom.

New sheers in the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom has needed new curtains for a long time.  The existing sheers were sun-damaged and falling apart.  Found the fabric at a thrift shop in Cary before Christmas (it’s after the 4th of July now).  Draped the new fabric over the old curtains as a test, and then never got around to making the time to measure and hem and trim and actually do the work of turning yardage into curtains.

Today is a Saturday; lots of desk-work to be done but a good chance I could get stuck inside with rain on Sunday.  However, Goldsboro is a town that closes on Sunday and if you want to buy anything from a specialty store, you need to shop on Saturday.  I looked at the project to make a list.

The fabric came from a thrift shop, approximately 14 yards in two pieces.  One piece was nearly exactly the right length for one panel.  What if I cut the larger piece into equal lengths? There’s an extra piece about 2 yards long.

Cut fabric to length and let it hang. No hem (yet.)

Cut fabric to length and let it hang. No hem (yet.)

It was easier to cut the old curtains off the rod by slicing the rod pocket than it was to take the rod down, take it apart, and slip the curtains off.  There is no re-use value in this fabric; all the sheers that were here when we moved in have gone into the trash.

Draped the new fabric over the old rod.  Adjusted the length.

Drape yardage over existing curtain rod avoids rod-pocket measuring, pinning, sewing, pressing.

Drape yardage over existing curtain rod avoids rod-pocket measuring, pinning, sewing, pressing.


Effort saved:  measure, cut, press, pin, stitch, unpin, press, hang.

One of these days, I may heat-seal the cut edge of the fabric to prevent fraying.  It doesn’t get much stress, so that can wait a bit.

Even more eventually, I’d love to buy and apply the beaded fringe from the Cloth Barn discount store.  The 4.5 yards of trim this window needs would cost about $45; it would take several hours to apply.  You can see a test swatch of the beading in the picture of the full window, in the far window at the sill.

It can wait.

For the time being, the guest bedroom has new sheers that match the color scheme, for an outlay of $10 (the fabric) and 20 minutes.

The “complete” project would have cost $55 (with beaded trim) and HOURS.

This is what the curtains look like in the early morning sun, the next day:

New sheers in the early morning sun, showing pink & gold chameleon effect.

New sheers in the early morning sun, showing pink & gold chameleon effect.

You decide.  Financially, it’s 80/20 exactly.  Effort-wise, it’s at least 96/4 (second iteration).  Not bad for a hot Saturday morning in July.

Pinterest Board Ideas for a Craft Brewery

(Recommend minimum 10 boards, 10 pins on each board)

Four Saints Brewing Company, Asheboro, NC

Four Saints Brewing Company, Asheboro, NC: Pinterest Account

  • Our Beer (Brews):  pictures of each of the different beers in a mug. Put the name of the beer in the image, as well as in the pin description.
  • Our Brewery:  pictures of the brewery and staff
  • Asheboro Eats:  pins of local restaurants; use a Map Board for these
  • NC Craft Brewers (or Central NC Craft Brewers) (Could spin to at least three or four boards, Western NC / Asheville / Central / Eastern NC Craft Brewers)
  • Asheboro Events
  • Beer Recipes
  • Shop Local (use #shoplocal hash tag)
  • Zoo
  • Randolph County Historical sites
  • Brewing Equipment
  • Beer Steins
  • BrewFests around the State
  • Beer in the Press
  • Beer Quotations
  • Hops
  • Celebrities and Craft Brewing
  • Beer Fashion

Guidelines:  no more than 200 pins per board (business visitors won’t scroll farther).

40-60 boards max. for a business account, to increase the percentage of people who “Follow all” rather than following only a few boards.

Keep the pins in circulation by regularly pinning a few pins from the bottom of the key business-content boards, back to the top of the same board, and then deleting the “old” pin from the bottom, on whatever cycle works for you.  This will keep the brewery’s own pins “in circulation,” exposed to new people watching the pin flow, without much additional work for the marketing manager.

Craft Brew Pinterest Accounts to follow



Motor City Brew

Draft Mag

Pub Cake

Craft Beer Time

The Bottle Wrench

Four Peaks Brew

Beer Brewing Book

Look at who those accounts are following to find more craft brewing accounts.  (Some accounts get more political, or skew to a younger age, than you might find helpful.

Join this Group Board and pin your brews:

Beer for Everyone


How to Select a Networking Group

Two months ago, I was invited to my first BNI meeting. I knew about the organization and had even been invited to join a new group. At that time, I declined the offer to join because was too big of a commitment on a day of the week that was already full.

My thinking changed within 15 minutes of the start of the first meeting I attended. I understand tightly-scripted, repetitive programming repeated weekly. The Christian church used this system to grow across the Western world, and they aren’t the only group using a similar structure: Amway; 12 Step programs; Weight Watchers. They all get their people together at least once a week, in a meeting that follows a standard format, and their groups thrive.

I needed to join.

That first meeting was 40 miles from my home, with a $3.00 toll each way (50 miles without the toll…). While that group is acknowledged as one of the “best” (largest, most active) in the area, 40 miles each way imposes a significant time overhead, not only on the weekly meetings but also on any 1 to 1s I might schedule, given that most of the members would be on that end of the journey.

I decided to look at my options.

On one hand, the “best” meeting for me would be whichever meeting I joined, because 90% of the value of these groups is in the relationships developed within the group itself. That said, I didn’t want to set up any unneccessary resistance-overhead on my membership. I wanted to pick a group I “liked,” as best I could determine that from the two allowed visits. I set a deadline of making a decision by August 1.

(A temptation—the benefits of visiting meetings were so great that I considered not actually joining but simply continuing to visit meetings. That thought faded quickly. I knew the benefit of “visiting” would wear off. I was also pretty sure the leadership of the organization would figure out that game pretty quickly. They probably had a policy about “always a visitor, never a member.” But mostly, I wanted the real benefits, and visitors only get hints of the real benefit of belonging.)

Calendars, Maps, and Clocks

On the local BNI website, chapters are arranged by

  • geography
  • day of the week
  • time of day

I looked at the list of chapters and realized I needed to set some criteria. The immediately obvious elements in the decision matrix were Calendars, Maps, and Clocks.


My first selection criterion was day of the week. Mondays and Fridays have constraints that are more important to me than business networking. I visited two meetings that met on Friday morning as a substitute. I liked one of these meetings but the experiment confirmed I did not want to commit to a weekly networking meeting on Friday morning.

I already had meetings I liked on First and Third Wednesdays, so meetings in the middle of the week became a “last choice” option. I focused on the Tuesday and Thursday choices.


I looked most closely at the meetings that were the shortest driving distance from my home. Although I didn’t restrict myself to the absolute least driving distance, it was unlikely that I would need to drive twice-as-far to find a “good group.” That eliminated chapters on “the other side of town.”

Seven groups met the “Tuesday or Thursday, not too far” criteria.


Time of day turned out to be a minor criterion; those meetings that met at lunchtime were eliminated first because of day or location. I don’t have (much) trouble getting up in time to make an 8:00 business meeting once a week.

Set of Seven

Once I had my “set of seven,” how did I come to a decision?

At one meeting, the acoustics of the room were such that I couldn’t hear the speakers at the other end of the table. Given this didn’t happen at other locations, I charged a fault to the room and struck that meeting from my list.

At one chapter, the logistics of the room meant that people had to leave immediately after the end of the meeting. By that time, I had enjoyed several instances of “after meeting” networking. Given my driving distances, it would be very useful to select a meeting that supported the “after meeting.” I struck the “get out quickly” meeting off the list.

Along the way, I noticed that members had different approaches to how they identified who they wanted to meet during their “60 second” commercials. I started counting what % of total membership used a phrase like, “my ideal client is anybody who….”, and counted two strikes if the commercial went on to identify some variation on “anyone who breathes…”

I considered “metrics” and gave extra weight to those groups that regularly reported on activity targets. If “hitting numbers” was part of the membership expectation and benefit, I wanted to be part of a group that reported numbers.

Finally, I observed, “How did the members behave?” I asked one member about his competition. He bad-mouthed the other vendor. Tacky. On another occasion, someone “went political” in a commercial. I vote the other way.

In the end, I discovered that I had NOT selected the group with the

  • Shortest drive
  • Friendliest, most fun members
  • Best after-meeting networking

Those meetings all fell out on other criteria. The group I selected had a good-enough location, enough laughter, and enough after-meeting lingering, to make up.

And of course the real value is not in the particulars of any one chapter, but in working the system at the chapter I join. Stay tuned.

Linking Pinterest and Facebook without a Website

One of my clients asked if it was possible to link her business Facebook page to her Pinterest account without having to set up a website. She’s doing very well in Facebook and doesn’t want the hassle of paying for and maintaining a website as well. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer.

I thought about the Pinterest / FB account connection last night and realized there is a useful solution: The WooBox Pinterest app for FB. It’s free, but you have to create an account on WooBox to get it.

Be logged in to your business Facebook page.

Go to Woobox.com and create an account.

Create account.

Click on “get started for free”

Woobox sign up menu.

Click on “get started for free” and create and account.

Then you’ll see a list of apps for your FB page:

A list of applications available from Woobox. Most have a cost; the one for Pinterest is free.

A list of applications available from Woobox. Most have a cost; the one for Pinterest is free.

Click on the Pinterest selection. This one is free to use.

I think that WooBox will know which FB page you want if you’re logged in at the time, and then you have to give it the name (URL) of your Pinterest business page.

You’ll get a big red P on your business page tabs:

Woobox's Pinterest app installed on Affordable Chic's Facebook page.

Woobox’s Pinterest app installed on Affordable Chic’s Facebook page.

When your visitors click on the P, they’ll see your Pins and boards.

Make sure you link your FB account to your Pinterest account so your customers can find your FB page from inside Pinterest. (Account / Settings)

(BTW, if you want to rearrange the tabs on your page, click on the pencil that appears on a hover over the tab, upper right corner of the tab.  You’ll see a list of places you can move that tab.)