Angels,
Are you the creations of God?
Angels,
Are you the messengers of Heaven?

Angels,
Are you the bringers of good news?
Angels,
Are you the desirers of great peace?

Who made you with such beauty?
Who gave such charm?
To whom do you offer your praise?
To the Maker of the heavens and the earth!

I know that God has surrounded me with angels
To protect, guide and grant me peace
Though unseen, unheard and unfathomable
They are there as gifts from Him

How do I know this?
How can I be sure that God cares?
Where is the evidence of God's gift of love?
I turn to my mom!

This poem is written to remember God's love and also for my mum who is still in Singapore on Mothers' Day' 2010.
It was also to celebrate the end of the first year for My Angel Now! which was started as a tribute to my mum.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Business on the Go! (Read till the end for a bonus!)

Wow! Look at that! Another 5 months have flown by and we totally skipped winter! One snow-day picture to prove we had snow at all.



We already had our first little bloom last weekend after the "overwintering" and definitely our first success at "gardening" without a garden.


For those who read my last blog and prayed for our Costa Rica trip, thank you thank you thank you! We were definitely more ministered to than we ministered to the Costa Ricans. 

What I really wanted to talk about today is taking your shop anywhere you want. Have you ever had customer who decided they cannot make the purchase because they do not have enough cash or their checks on them? How about answering "Yes I do" the next time they ask "Do you accept credit?"

I was intrigued by the idea of accepting credit cards on the go when I first saw the card readers being sold in the Apple store for $20. My husband had offered to get it but that was way more than what I would like to pay for something I may not use in a very long time (or at all) and still have to pay fees on.

All that changed when I chanced upon the idea of "Free app + Free card reader". I was adamant that there must be a catch somewhere, so I looked very closely and would like to share what I found here. I started my search on one of the Top Ten Reviews article reviewing "Mobile Credit Card Processing". So you can go there for the full suite of offerings, prices and features. I am just going to focus on Square and Intuit Gopayment and on features that matters to me as a sole proprietor of my little craft business that relies on face to face sale much more than online sale. For obvious reasons, I chose those two because there is no merchant account fee and gateway fee involved for pay-as-you-go options. Truth be told, the transaction fees are overall lower than Etsy and Paypal fees that you don't even think about anymore.

Let's talk about the similarities first. As I have mentioned, the apps and card readers are both free. Square is still limited to the the Apple mobile devices and Andriod while Gopayment claims to work on any phone with internet access. The card readers are sent to you once you sign up and request for the dongle and both companies work out fine for me. Both card readers fit into the audio jack and Gopayment suggest that volume be turned up for optimal performance but Square did not say that. In any case, I have tried swiping 5 different cards that I own and both are able to read all the cards well and quick. Square reader feels a little more fragile than Gopayment reader though, but I have read reviews where the Gopayment does not fit because of the phone case.

Now for the differences, it is a catch 22 situation. While both apps allow you to key in or take a picture of the item you are selling, Gopayment app allows you to set up your inventory in advance so that you can charge it right away. However, it does not allow cash as a payment option, thus losing its usability as an inventory tracking app. Square, on the other hand, allows cash payment but not inventory setup. Here's what I figured I would do: Use Quick Sale (not updated anymore) or Ring it up (just got it, not tried it yet) to track all inventory and all payment record and use the invoice number generated as the "Item description" when you charge the card using either of the credit card processing app. So you don't have set up inventory in one place and be frustrated about not being to keep track of the sale.

Another issue deals with security and privacy. Square requires your SS number and bank account information for fund transfers. So you need to use your official name associated with your SS number in order to set up successfully. I had some trouble but all I had to do was email Square and they deleted my account, so that I can set it up again. Gopayment do away with the need for bank information by issuing you with a debit card. Funds gets banked in on a separate account. I really do not mind either one as long as I receive the payment eventually. That I will have to wait till I try them out. 

I am unbiased with the user interface but I have seen reviews where people do not like to have to log in to Gopayment every single time the phone locks itself (even if it is running in the background). While it provides security, I am not sure how you would lose any money even if somebody picks up your device and manages to get into the app without logging in...

Now, how about a bonus for trying out Gopayment? This was the reason I signed up for it (after I got Square). Ebates.com offers $10 cash back for users who sign up with Gopayment! If you would allow me to refer you to Ebates, click HERE and both you and I will get $5 for the referral and you can go on to sign up for $10 cash back with Gopayment. Note that you will still get $5 for signing up without my referral. Just saying it will be very kind of you let me refer you. I have received checks from them, so I know it works : )

Hope you feel empowered by the knowledge that you can now choose to accept credit cards on the go! Till next time!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our first Fund Raising

In our (Asian) culture, we were taught to be self-sufficient. Asking for money was not honorable. It is in fact, disgraceful. Well, here's the truth. We are not splitting hair over money and we are certainly not expecting to be paid for the ministry work that we do. No, that's the last thing on our mind. But having said that, ministry work cannot be done without costs involved. Travel expenses like transportation, accommodation and food are necessities and real cost and they can often work out to be a pretty decent amount. This is true for all those out there on the mission field, trusting God to provide these for them.

The question is then, do we set our money for daily expenses aside and spend it on one mission trip? Or, can we request for fellow believers to partner with us and contribute financially to the work we do, continue to survive and do many more trips that make a difference in the lives of others? An old chinese saying goes "有钱出钱,有力出力",literally meaning "give financially OR physically as you are able". I guess it is true in many cases, especially in disaster relief, where most of us cannot be physically present but can most certainly help financially.

Those who know us personally, would know that we are thrifty with what we have, and we do not hesitate to work for a little more. That explains my little jewelry business, that has recently spun into bakery sale and soon to debut, needlecraft sale too. I consider all business sales as part of the financial blessings to us from God through each of my customers, whether they are believers in Christ or not.

Thus for our first mission trip to Costa Rica, we are raising funds for the first time. This trip is part of the travel class on the Book of Acts with Asbury Theological Seminary. The students will be imparting what they have learn in the class to the pastors there. Yes, you are right, I am not a student, but my husband is. Spouse are encouraged to participate as mission trips serves for spiritual growth for the couple too. We are also exploring our calling together, to serve in a different culture, and possibly providing multilingual ministry. Thus, we are glad for this opportunity.

Your prayers for us are greatly coveted. If God so impress upon your heart to give a free-will donation, it is most certainly welcomed. Gross earnings from my business till the end of this year will also contribute to this trip, so your patronage will be greatly appreciated too. Speaking of that, I made two sales yesterday right after we committed to putting the earnings to this trip. I have not had a sale since Independence Day craft fair, so I know this is God's go-ahead for our fund raiser.

Thank you for reading and keeping us in prayers. God bless you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feeling so bumped!

If you have read my post on Etsy or ArtFire?, I am back with the struggle a month later now. ArtFire has recently announced a change in suspending all Basic account and charge all sellers $9.95 a month. I have stopped using the word Pro seller, since you can only be a seller if you pay that fee. Not cool at all...

I have reopened my Etsy shop but since the listing expires once every four months, I am on the hunt for free sites to sell. Instead of trying to promote my Etsy store here, I am going to try to list some of these sites that I have found and hopefully explore them. If you have a site to recommend to those of us who cannot afford to run our own server, do leave a comment!

webs.com - Create your own free website and be able to sell up to 5 items at a time. This is what I use as my own website since the free URL is short enough and just right for the entourage of angels. No fees except Paypal and Google checkout fees as applicable. Good for the speciality of your shop that you would not want to incur listing fee with.

eCrater - Free to list and sell and you are only responsible for the fees to Paypal and/or Google checkout when you make a sale. Low traffic but I have managed to make a sale before. Low maintenance since the listing does not expire.

Handmade Craft Show - Pay to advertise for a minimum of $9 with 5 weeks exposure in the "aisle" with least traffic. It looks like you can use your Etsy mini in the craft show directly.

Zibbet - Free account with 50 items limit. Etsy and ArtFire importer included in the free account. I decided to set one up right away! The importers made migrating a breeze. It is awesome even just using it as an additional store. I will be able to use it to display items that I sold without worrying about the listing fees. Each listing is active for 180 days. Premium account ($9.95/mth or $69/yr) required to make coupons and use some other features. Very much like ArtFire Basic but I simply love the user interface.

madeitmyself - Feels like a pretty quiet market but it is free to list and sell. I don't like the idea of having to say how much it cost in retail and how much my listing cost though, because the item I made myself are not available in retail... Anyway, it cost $0.49 to feature the item, which I have not yet figure out what that means. My new listing was put on the front page and I was on the most active shop list. Anyway, you can definitely get away with selling without paying fees at all.

Three Sisters Marketplace - Free to list and free to sell, but you need to be juried and approved to sell. Sellers apparently have high quality items. Worth trying if you are confident of your products.

Storenvy - Compulsory use of Paypal for payment method, not a bad idea I guess. Much as we believe most people have Paypal account nowadays, we may potentially lose customers who don't. You are allowed to make coupon codes and each store comes with a Facebook app store. This is probably my favorite thing about the shop.

Silkfair - Different price tier to meet different selling needs. You can get the free account but there is still a transaction fee of 3% no matter which account you choose. Coupon function not available yet. I did not bother to set up an account.

ShopHandmade - You can choose to list for free with ad sponsorship or pay the 25 cents yourself. You can also choose how much commission to shophandmade.com. Therefore, you can totally get away with paying nothing to sell. I tried one product but I felt the user interface can be improved.

Concluding my online shop shopping experience, I liked Zibbet the best as it was totally painless to do migration, from both Etsy and ArtFire at that! You have the option to upgrade too, if 50 items limit or ability to create coupon is important to you. I would definitely take some time to set up my Three Sisters Marketplace as it seems to be a market of a different level. Storenvy might the only other shop I would maintain, based on its traffic and tools available. With all these options out there, I really do not think I would want to continue selling with ArtFire... If you have other great shop sites to recommend to those of us who are not able to run our own shopping sever, please throw your suggestions this way! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Win a FREE Swarovski Crystal Angel!

Here's your chance to win a FREE Handmade Swarovski Crystal Angel, on any attachment of your choice!

I was wondering why my angels turn out quite different each time I design. So I took the opportunity to estimate the number of color combinations I can have, based on Wings, Hands, Heart and Crown COLOR, based on my inventory (I have currently removed the inventory of colors obviously). I am amazed and in shock.

Take a shot and guess the number by replying to the post on the FB page within the next 48 hrs. Up to 3 winners with the same closest answer will be picked randomly. Shipping charges applies as per normal and winners are more than welcomed to add on to their free package! 5% FB fan, 15% one-time discount for blog follower OR 10% VIP discount are applicable but are not to be used at the same time. Customer who leaves a review are entitled to additional 10% discount, on top of any other discounts.

The "correct answer" needs to be within 10% of the actual answer. Spread the word and have fun!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Etsy or ArtFire?

I had been struggling for a while with not putting items up on Etsy. Well, I cannot afford the time and money to keep re-listing my items since I only really get an order every once in a while. You may think that this is a chicken and egg problem, where it is necessary to spend on promoting before you will get traffic and sales. Honestly, who don't wish for more sales but realistically I may not be able to keep up with the cost. I have been on ArtFire, which is very much like Etsy, just without the fees, for a while (2 years) now. I have not yet paid a single cent to ArtFire but have used it successfully to display my inventory and made a little sales. Other tools I have used are website, Facebook page, eCrater and this blog of course. 

I did a little experiment last week by making a Treasury collection on Etsy and Curated collection on ArtFire using the same theme: Clowns that make you smile. Before I move on to the results of the experiment, I just wanted to thank the artists whom I have used in the collection. Clowns used to give me creeps but after I explored Grandma Phyllis' cupboard of clown collection, it opened up a whole new perspective for clowns for me. Their job is really to make their audience smile. They do it regardless of how they are really feeling. The professionalism of clowns are worth applauding and saluting, because they are artists in their own right. We have a musical clown, Happy, who sits on our TV and sings "It's a small world afterall" while rotating her head. She never fails to make me smile and I will always turn to her when I am feeling a little blue.

Back to the results of my little experiment, the collection was up on 1st June 2011. It has been 5 days and the number of views of the collection for Etsy and Artfire were 26 and 58 respectively. The number of comments I got were 2 and 7. Only 1 guest comment was recorded in the ArtFire collection. Apparently, I got a lot more traffic on ArtFire than on Etsy although most people swear by Etsy?! Maybe it is not a very popular theme but a direct comparison gave me the confidence that I can stick with ArtFire. Have you been struggling with the same issue as me? Share your experience with us!

While on the topic of being featured, I got curated again! : ) This is the second time Shower of Blessings got selected in a collection. Enjoy this Soft Summer's Day collection:



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chocolate Cheescake - Pure Indulgence

Last week was a fruitful baking week. Tiring, but totally worth the effort when I hear the raving praise about the cakes I had made. There'll be no pictures for this post as there was simply no time to take one.

I mentioned in my last post about trying to bake a chocolate cheese cake. It was for the undergraduate's graduation party at Dr Perlin's place. I had baked my chocolate cheesecake based on a recipe from allrecipes.com. Opps, I just realized that there were 40 photos attached to the recipe to show what the cake would look like and mine was completely not like those because I refused to dump the chocolate chips on top of the cake. 

In an attempt to forge a perfect recipe, I ran through all the comments and tried to incorporate all that are suggested. Our love for nuts in baked goods also meant I had snuck walnuts and pecans into the crust. I had almost completely adulterated the recipe that the original chef who post the recipe may not want to claim this as hers. I would still gladly acknowledge Jessica as the originator of my recipe though. Everyone who dared to try it at the party did love it. If you do try this out, let me know what you think : )

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Ingredients:

1 cup ground vanilla wafer
1/2 cup walnut, grind
1/2 cup pecan, grind
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 8-oz cream cheese (leave at room temperature to soften)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Tip: About shopping for ingredients, I again strongly advocate going for the best you can afford for the ingredients that really matters. For example, I used Philadelphia cream cheese, Ghirardelli chocolate chips and Hershey's special dark cocoa powder while all the other ingredients were house-brand goods. (I have a special Mexican vanilla extract though)

Directions:

1. Melt the chocolate chips completely and leave to cool.

Tip: I used a 16-oz glass measuring cup and place it in a medium saucepan, with the handle outside the pan. This allowed me to measure the chocolate chips into the cup, double boil in the saucepan to melt, with complete control over stirring and be able to remove the cup easily when it is done.

2. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

3. Mix well with hand, crushed vanilla wafer, walnut, pecan, sugar, butter and cocoa powder, until you obtain an evenly mixed "playdoh-like" dough.

4. Press thinly and firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-in springform pan. Set crust aside.

Tip: I had just found out that springform pans are leaky. Therefore the firm crust serves to keep the batter in the pan.


5. Beat cream cheese until smooth.

6. Gradually add condensed milk.

7. Add vanilla extract, eggs and sour cream, and beat until smooth.

8. Add cooled melted chocolate (lukewarm is fine) and mix until smooth.

9. Pour batter over crust.

10. Place a roasting pan filled with water on the lower rack of the oven and bake 1 hour.

11. Turn off the oven and leave the door shut for another 1 hour.

Tip: Step 10 and 11 are meant to prevent cracks. I managed to resist the temptation to open the door although the smell was overwhelming in the house. I still had small cracks along the edges but the center was beautiful.


12. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Tip: Placing the pan on a wire rack helps with the cooling.


13. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight before enjoying it.
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I baked a second chocolate cheesecake on Sunday since I had other friends I had intended to share the cheesecake with. I also baked a chocolate oatmeal cake for Jinny's birthday. My criteria was that the cake must be able to be enjoyed as it is. It wasn't easy to find one that had unanimous good comments about it. The only thing I changed was to add an additional teaspoon of cocoa powder, as suggested by another user. This turned out to be a hit too.

If you enjoy whipping something together once in a while, do share it with the rest of us.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Seemingly disconnected but yet....

Angel Hope was featured in this week's ArtFire Member Curated Collection: Touched by an Angel. It is a beautiful collection and I have to say I had come across a few of them before when I was testing the search engine for pulling out my items. : ) I would like to thank the curator, Risen Phoenix Design for including Angel Hope in the collection.



God always knows when to send an encouragement yeah? Of course He knows! : ) This Mother's Day week marks the 2nd anniversary of My Angel Now! I am constantly reminded of the fact that my mum is still in Singapore and I have not seen her for almost 2 years now. It may be another year before I get to say Happy Mother's Day to her in person. So, I honor her again on this occasion, since she was the first recipient of my handmade Swarovski Crystal Angel and that was essentially how the whole business started. If you following the clues, you would realize that there are three disconnected events and they are 2nd anniversary of My Angel Now!, Mother's Day and being featured this week. To me, they are most definitely closely linked.

Don't forget to give your mum a big bear hug and and wish her "Happy Mother's Day". They are the angels of our lives!