Time To Celebrate More Herbs, Less Salt Day!

Today I found out that August 29th is More Herbs, Less Salt Day. According to the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital this celebration of flavor started before 2018 (Jefferson.edu). I haven't been able to pinpoint an exact origin story, so if anyone has a lead please leave a comment down below!

Regardless, I adore herbs and will happily talk about my favorite herbs to cook with and grow.

I grow the vast majority of my family's culinary herbs partly for that stunning garden fresh taste and partly because herbs are so dang expensive in the stores. We cook a LOT at my house so it is always good to have pounds and pounds of plants on hand. An oregano plant will cost about $4-$6 at a nursery, a tiny bottle of dried oregano might run twice that high.

Dried Oregano

Quite a few herbs are perennials, they come back year after year. Once I plant a sprig of thyme that sucker is not going to stop no matter how many blizzards or droughts. Every year my thyme plants burst forth in an herbal abundance ready to be harvested again.

Thyme 

Most herbs love to be harvested. The more you pick them, the more you encourage fresh growth. Some herbs have particular harvesting habits to bear in mind. Up here in Idaho, basil is an annual, it lives for only one year and then has to be planted again. My basil does best if I carefully pinch off the top bundle of leaves on each stalk. This encourages the plant to bush out and throw more branches.

Basil Leaf

My favorite herbs to grow for culinary purposes are: oregano, basil, thyme, lavender, sage, and parsely.

Herbs are a wonderful source of delicious flavor and incredibly important nutrients. Parsely, for example, is incredibly rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron. Its fortifying nutrients are why it is loved by grandmothers everywhere and added to chicken soup whenever someone feels a cold coming on.

Container of Parsley

Pretty As A Picture

Photos are a critical part of my work with Cutoff Crafts. Our new Square Shop is rolling out which means I need to have a bunch of earrings individually photoed and lovingly described. Since my jewelry is all handmade, each piece gets its own special photoshoot.

A good series of pictures makes or breaks an online sale. If my pieces look stunning in real life but have lackluster photos, the online sales will flop. After all, the world can only see what I post. I have to advocate for my jewelry as best I can and provide the most accurate evidence so customers can judge if they want to buy something or not.

Here's how I make my pictures speak positively about my jewelry and make sure everything is as pretty as a picture.

First, I make sure to have a clean backdrop. I always sweep, mop, or rake the area to remove any loose debris. A single hair can ruin an otherwise beautiful composition (see photo).


Second, the backdrop sets the tone of any photo. I enjoy emphasizing my outdoor rural location, so my photos often include natural flowers, leaves, and stones. 

Third, there are stages for art all around us. I like to try different locations, settings, and accent pieces to see how they change the feel of my jewelry.

Here is a piece on cement stairs:


One on a log:


One on a leaf:


Faceted crystal and gleaming metal can be extremely finicky to photograph in a flattering light. I take a deep breath and do as many shots as I need. For a single pair of earrings I may take 40-50 photos. Although most times I can get away with around 20 photos per piece.

Sunlight can be a lovely ally or a terrible opponent. If I am working with a phone camera sunlight is often a wonderful boon. I have to be careful though, too much sun can cause awful streaks and blurs.

Here is a cloudy shot:


Here is a lovely full sun shot:


Here is too much sun:


Photoshop, GIMP, and other photo editing programs can be a wonderful aide but it is best if I can get the cleanest base photo I can. Photo editing tools are often a bit of a roll of the dice on if I can salvage the shot - also the less time I am manipulating photos the more time I have to make wonderful pieces of jewelry!

Hopefully some of these tips can help with your own photography adventure!


Cutoff Crafts Has an Online Store!

We have an online store! Check it out

That one sentence is causing a lot of excitement here at Cutoff Crafts. Now shoppers can find our wonderful products anytime they desire and not just at craft fairs and other events.  Don't worry, we will still be attending as many craft fairs as we can that meet our unique tastes and needs. This store simply adds another avenue to connect and provide our loyal customers with ways to buy items we have lovingly handcrafted in Northern Idaho. 

Believe it or not, it took us a while to figure out where we wanted to host our store and how we were going to do it.  Our main concerns were making a store that is safe and secure for our shoppers, pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate, and provide additional details to our customers. These concerns and requirements lead to weeks of debates, discussions, and sorting through so many choices. I had no idea there were so many ecommerce options for budding our store.

Honestly, we tried a few options to see how they would play out. We tried PayPal first. PayPal, while they provided useful checkout and "buy it now" buttons, required a bit of coding, constant care and tracking, and unfortunately, it lacked the ability to organize the hundreds of buttons needed to create a usable store. This was not the ease we were looking for.. We tried a few sites on a trial bases to see if the shopping experience would be better than our handmade PayPal store. While these sites integrated into our blog and provided a lovely dashboard to create listings, after the initial trial period, their monthly fee was a little expensive. It was starting to look like we would never enter the online store world. Thankfully, Cutoff Crafts was about to discover something amazing!

Cutoff Crafts, like many vendors that attend amazing events, uses Square in order to take credit cards, google pay, and other forms of payments. But what we didn't know was that with this amazing device we also received something that we had no idea existed until recently. Did you know Square provides a free ecommerce website to sell our items online? That it's free and fully customizable? Wait...what?!?!?!

Yup! By clicking the beautifully small button that reads, "online", anyone with a Square account can begin the process of creating an online store. We went through each step by building our website to match our theme and brand, listing items, setting up shipping requirements, and setting up taxes.  Once each step was done, Cutoff Crafts entered the online world.  

So did Square hit all the concerns and requirements needed to be a viable platform for our most awesome online store? 



The process to discover the truth was simple. All we had to do was ask and answer 3 important questions:

1. Was it safe and secure for our customers? Since this is Square, which is a trusted and secure place to take payments that many of our customers use, the ecommerce website checked the safety and secure box. 

2 Was it easy for our customers to navigate? Because I could customize the store, I was able to make navigation as simple as possible and make the store pleasing to the eye all while matching the Cutoff Crafts brand and color theme. This checked off the navigation box and the pleasing to the eye box. 

3. Could I provide additional details about each item sold with extra images for the customers to read and look through? Each item is added individually providing a space for details, a space for several images, and even a place to track inventory so that our customers know how many we have for sale. This, checked off the details box.

Best of all, Square is easy on the checkbook. I encourage others to use the Square site and try it out  for themselves. Click the image below to start your own online ecommerce!

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