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When Did Your Super Woman or Super Man Costume Get Too Tight?

As a solo creative entrepreneur who relaunched her business in February 2009, I’ve been through many phases of  productivity and growing.  First, I started as an onsite contractor with one company while simultaneously being an offsite art director consultant to another. In both cases, I was working with a team the companies had established or were spontaneously putting together. I had a specific role to play, mostly art direction but also some front end development in some cases.

Superman UndiesAlong the way, I took on projects for individual clients where I was the chief cook and bottle washer who handled every aspect of project. This ranged from branding, identity, design and to coding. At the same time, I wanted to push myself and start learning more CSS & about WordPress. Pushing myself is why I quit my job right? Instead of having my skills stagnate, being a solo entrepreneur would force me to keep learning to widen my breadth of talents and skills.

Well, a couple of months ago, I hit a very hard and shameful wall. It’s called the “You Don’t Know Everything & You’re Wasting Time Trying to Do Everything Wall”. I think it also had spikes embedded in it because I have still have the scars to prove it. I honestly came to the point where I had to admit that one or more of the following occurred (particularly in reference to coding):

+ There was *too* much diversity in my skill set and wasn’t able to focus on just one aspect
+ I was learning but not necessarily fast enough to meet client expectations
+ I was just too dang busy with both running a business and with schoolwork

I finally admitted that there were people I knew who could do this a lot faster than me for a good amount of money and I would still be able to keep client satisfaction. From there I brought in Jenn de la Fuente, WordPress Ninja, to help me finish implementing a key WordPress eCommerce plugin and finish the project on time. She kicked the plugin’s ass and was dedicated to help it all get done and fast. I highly recommend her knowledge and skills. Seriously, go throw money and design ideas at Jenn, you won’t be sorry.

To say the least, it was one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had in the last year.  My Super Woman costume got way too snug and I was able to give it some more breathing room.  This weekend at the Creative Freelancer Conference in Denver, I’ll be hosting a breakfast round table about just this subject.

When did you begin to feel that being a jack of all trades (and subsequent master of nothing) was not worth the stress and effort?

When did you decide that collaboration was more efficient for both time and money than trying to do it all yourself?

I’m thinking of some ice breaker questions to use during the 50 minute session and any stories, questions or suggestion you have will be greatly appreciated. I’m planning to use my new Flip Video camera (!!) to record the session and will post it by the end of next week for anyone who wants to recap or was not able to attend.

Cheers all and thanks again for reading…

Back from Vacation…

We’re back from 1.5 weeks in Brussels and Sweden. Photos & more post coming soon. In the meantime, a couple of photos below to tide you over.

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Recipe: Raw Red & Gold Beet Salad

Raw Red & Gold Beet Salad w/CilantroLast month we happened to get both red and golden beets from our CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture). We chopped and tossed them with some olive oil and herbs and were on our way to a lovely vibrant salad. It’s so easy, you’ll wonder what took you so long to try beets.

Prep Time: 20 min / Serves: 3 – 4

Ingredients
6 red beets, peeled
3 – 4 golden beets, peeled
1/3 bunch of cilantro, washed
1 medium red onion, sliced and half chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Chop and slice the beets into strips, similar to a double-wide julienne and add to a medium-sized bowl. If you don’t feel like chopping, it’s totally okay to use the shred attachment on a food processor. Chop cilantro and add it to the bowl along with the chopped red onion.

Mix all three together, then add the lime juice, oils, vinegar, salt & pepper. Mix all to the desired wetness and taste, trying it as you go. Some folks may prefer more oils and vinegar.

Enjoy! I told you that was easy…

Summer To Do List: Get it All Done by Fall…

I don’t know about you all but I have a lot going on this summer. So much so, that I started what I call my Summer Happy Fun Time To Do List™ to just get it all out of my head and down on (digital) paper. After this, I’m going to plot all this out on a real live calendar so I can get a spatial feel for the season. There’s nothing like using a real calendar to see you have 4 deadlines or events all one day. Also, because I’m concurrently in school for my MFA while running a business, it kind of feels like I’m “on summer vacation” when that’s entirely not true. At all. Doing this will help me balance out a design practice mixed with an academic practice. On to the show, here’s what is swimming around my head for the summer…

Ongoing Throughout Summer:

– land 4 new projects
– make something every day
– finish Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton
– finish 2 other interaction design books
– conquer Drupal
– upload all my photos to Flickr from last 3 years
– do user research for thesis
– purge 20% more of my books & papers, aka de-clutter
MFA Design & Technology summer thesis assignment

May:

– enjoy my vacation to Brussels, Belgium (with a day trip to Paris and a couple of days in Malmo, Sweden!)
– web site launch
– thesis user research
– read Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky (CEO & Founder of Behance.com)

June:

– finish Brooklyn Urban Homesteaders Unite project & user test (click for a click through demo)
– start practicing yoga
– start the Design Procedures class at School of Visual Arts Continuing Ed
Creative Freelancer Conference in Denver, 6/4 – 6/7 (I’m hosting a breakfast round table!)
#TechMunch NYC Food bloggers workshop, 6/10
– quarterly taxes, 6/15
Design for Drupal in Boston, 6/19 – 6/20

July:

– finish applying for grants and scholarships for thesis year
– design an iPhone/iPad app (interface only)
– learn how to swim at the Y
– launch Brooklyn Urban Homesteaders Unite

August:

BlogHer ’10 Conference in NYC – 8/6 – 8/7
– Fall promo project for papercut
– streamline all my blogs
– Final launch of web site
– squeeze out one last weekend away before school starts again
– drink to my awesomeness and not be disappointed if I don’t finish all of it.

So, dear readers, what’s on your Summer Happy Fun Time To Do List™? Do you need help with any of it? If so, feel free to ping me and let’s figure out how we can work together.

What On Earth Am I Worrying About?

I have a lot of fear. Paralyzing fear. Fear of finishing. Fear of starting. Fear of fucking up. Because of this, I tend to live by extreme ultimata and push boundaries of what is acceptable. That can produce tension between clients or school and I. Or even me, myself and I.

So what’s worrying me right now?

I’m currently working on a final project for this semester of grad school at Parsons MFA Design + Technology where I’m having to learn a completely new kind of technology to accomplish my larger goal. I’m designing and developing a site for the closely knit Brooklyn urban homesteader community to use as a a central repository for all of its home-based events. Those events could be Kate Payne’s Stich n’ Mend Party where people finally learn basic sewing skills to a composting or a bike repair workshop. Right now, one would have to be on Twitter, Facebook or blogs 15 hour a day just to keep up with all the good things happening. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for that mess. The site would allow people to post their own events or ones they know about so it’s all in one place to check and that’s it.

It’s a medium – large project that I’m building out in phases. A key issue here is that I’m using the Drupal CMS platform for the first time in my life ever in order to do this. Even though I deal in web and tech, I at times suffer from low self-esteem and fear of it. You see, in high school, I sucked at math even though I loved it. To this day, it still amazes me that I made it all the way up to Pre-Calculus in high school. This is where one has to be thankful for nurturing and supporting teachers who push you to do your best.

My Drupal teachers/mentors right now are two amazing and wonderful women designers/developers named Jen Simmons and Dani Nordin. Dani introduced me to the concept of Drupal and reasons to use it over WordPress in some cases. Jen actually convinced me of the platform’s merits and pushed me off the gangplank into a sea of Drupal, but with a life preserver tied about my waist. Both Wonder Women™ have answered all my questions with a patience and respect for a new fearful user. Jen especially has been instrumental by holding my hand simply because she also lives in Brooklyn like me and we can ping each other in person more easily.

I owe so much to their patience and instruction that it’s Hallmark commercial-inducing. But we would rather just drink to it instead. That’s how we ladies roll. A huge thank you to you both and drinks on me next time.

So, what’s all this blathering about?

Anyway, I’m moving ahead in a the project and during a Drupal tutorial sprint yesterday, it hit me that it’s not so hard to learn. I’m working off Lullabot’s tutorials and I highly recommend them to anyone who’s ready to take on Drupal. They were on mega sale a few months ago and I picked up several packages all together for about $380. Money well spent x infinity.

I’m not sure where I should be in the project status due to paralyzing fear but I’m nowhere nearly as bad off as initially thought yesterday. So far I’ve done some sets of paper wireframes as pictured below and I’ve built the core Drupal site and it’s running off my laptop.

But, because of Drupal’s site/page building methodology, it’s actually better to lay elements out in Drupal backend first to see what’s possible before really designing an interface (thanks for the heads up on that one, Jen). Oh, and can I just say that there’s a Drupal module for just about everything? Except for the one thing I need which is integration with Eventbrite. Meh. For now, I’m using Eventbrite’s Ticket Widget as a workaround. Next step (for today) is designing the branding system with colors, fonts and doing a couple of home page design mockups. This should be a fulfilling day. Afterward, I’ll work on integrating the GMap module to embed Google Maps for each event and to attach to a Google Map to each user. APIs, here I come!

A year ago, I would have run away screaming from APIs, CMSes, PHP and anything that obnoxious geeky boys would normally do. I still worry about and fear this stuff but it’s getting better little by little (poco a poco as my mum used to say). Another fear of mine is a fear of heights. Every time I’m in a high place or a rooftop, I deliberately look over the side to test myself and dampen the fear a little bit each time. It’s working so far.

So, what’s worry or paralyzing you lately? Please share in the comments below. I’m sure others can relate and would like to hear your story. Thanks for listening to mine.

Recipe: Blueberry Crisp

Blueberry CrispFruit crisps are seriously some easiest desserts to make with a ton of pay off. You can substitute any good baking fruit in the recipe below such as apples, pears, peaches, etc. Add some vanilla ice and whoa, heaven. The recipe below fits a 12” circular dish.

Cook Time: 40 min / Active Time: 10 min / Serves: 10 – 12

Ingredients
Filling
2 pints of fresh blueberries, rinsed
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon softened butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Filling: In a medium size bowl, mix the blueberries, brown sugar, butter, salt and cinnamon together. Pour in a shallow 12” pie dish.

Topping: Stir oats, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar to blend in the medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or fork until moist clumps form. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over blueberries. Bake crisp until berries are bubbling and topping is golden, about 45 minutes. Serve warm by itself or with ice cream.