6 Tools and Tips to Make Family Life A Little Easier

If there’s anything we understand at Craft-E-Family, we understand a hectic schedule. We understand moms and dads running around. We understand not seeing your significant other except early mornings and right before bed. We understand.

Having said that, we thought you might be interested in some tips and tools to make your life a little bit easier. Organization isn’t such a bad thing. If you get really good at it, you might actually be able to save enough time that you can schedule yourself a bubble bath with a glass of wine or an hour with just you and your beer in your man cave. Who could be mad about that?

MEAL PLANNING

One of the most time consuming priorities in the house is, of course, meal preparation and cooking. It can be overwhelming at times – especially if there are options on the menu other than chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese. We found a free app/website that is perfect for moms that need a little help with meal planning. We really like Big Oven. Its features like Recipe Ideas and Recent Raves help start the creative juices flowing. There are plenty other apps out there. Try them out and see which you like best.

COACHING

Are you one of the over-achievers? We kid. It’s incredibly important to teach our young ones sportsmanship. It carries over into so many other parts of life and we salute your commitment to them. You’re making a difference and you stick with it – even through screaming parents and argumentative littles – or not so littles. It’s tough taking on this role while you’ve got a family of your own at home so we wanted to find something to make life a little easier for you. Wiggio has an app available or you can use it from your desktop computer. It allows ease of communicating with parents, adjustments of practice and game schedules, sending emails and more.

SCHEDULING

One of the things parents find most frustrating is that things can so easily start to slip through the cracks with multiple schedules. You may have had the following conversation a time of two unless you’re on top of this: “Babe, why did you schedule golf on Saturday? You KNOW Xavier has a game that morning.” We’ve all been there. It can cause a lot of stress if it’s not managed well. Don’t worry! There’s an app for that! Cozi is the #1 organizing app for families. From a photo journal to the calendar to list making function, it’s a great option for families that have a lot going on.

CHORES

Does it seem like a never-ending battle with your kids to get them to brush their teeth? Make their bed? Do dishes? We know the feeling. If you’re a parent that believes in rewarding their kids for chores, we found a really cool tool for you. Have you heard of Chore Monster? Click that link and they’ll show you a really cool and cute demo video about how it works. It just might work for your family. You can also find out what other families do in regard to household responsibilities and glean some insight there!

BIRTHDAYS AND SPECIAL DAYS

No matter how incredible your memory may be, the best of us have trouble remembering every single anniversary, birthday and holiday. Whether you’re an app user or not, having a visual reminder every day will help you remember those special occasions. At Craft-E-Family, we have a couple of options to help you out in that regard. Our Contemporary Perpetual Calendar is one way to always have a visual reminder of what important events are coming up. Another option we offer is our Countdown Blocks. This one is newly introduced and we’ve had a lot of great feedback from people that have purchased it so far. Use this to countdown days until weddings, graduations, anniversaries and more. It’s a great tool to remind you how quickly days are approaching. For us – it’s a great reminder to stop procrastinating gift buying!

REALIZE AS MUCH AS YOU WANT TO BE, YOU’RE NOT A SUPER HERO

Moms and dads out there, we know you want to volunteer for PTA. We know you want to be a room mom, chaperone the field trip, coach little league, sponsor the class Valentine’s Day party, plus be super mom, super husband, super daughter, super nephew and super friend. I mean – did you just read all of that? I’m tired after having typed it. Can you imagine how exhausting it must be to do all of it? What’s the point? Remember that in order to take care of anyone else, you must first take care of you. Find something that you find joy in and volunteer for that one thing. If you love going on field trips, sign up for that for the year. If you’re all about holidays and deck your house out for every one, be a volunteer for holiday festivities. Do something that “feeds” you as well as others so you don’t wear yourself out.

Our hope is that we’ve somehow made life a little bit easier for you. Managing a family is certainly hard work; so make sure to give yourself a breather every now and again. We’re in your corner rooting you on!

Until next time – Keep it Craft-E!

Taking Taboo Out Of Adoption

When you are introduced to a couple that has adopted a child, what’s your first reaction? Do you become uneasy? Unsure what to do, what to say, how to react? Being adoptive parents, let us reassure you… you are meeting just another child. We’re not talking aliens here. It’s laughable because at first, many people don’t know how to react to the fact you’ve decided to adopt and we’d like to take the taboo out of adoption.

You’ve probably heard, “you’ll never love another baby like your own” before. When you adopt – that baby IS your own. While there are certainly families that are made to be biological families, just the same – there are families that adopt and they genuinely were made for just that. Here’s what we hope you take from this, though: Whether you adopt or whether you have children biologically – we’re all families just the same.

There are families that take great care to hide the fact that their child is adopted for fear that the child will be rejected. We have no room to judge those families. We, on the other hand, chose to adopt a beautiful baby girl from China. With two red-headed parents, there’s not much hiding that LeeLoo isn’t our biological daughter… and that’s perfectly fine with us

.cory karry leeloo adoption pic

We adopted LeeLoo at about 1.5 years old and any question she’s asked us about her adoption – if we have the answer – we’re very honest with her. When she was about 4 years old, we started getting the questions from people. “Does she know she’s adopted?” Sometimes it’s hard not to be sarcastic when answering that question. Clearly our daughter doesn’t look like us – we weren’t going to lie about it. As she’s grown and people have come to know her, the questions have slowed quite a bit. Finally, people are seeing her as LeeLoo. Not “the Chinese girl” or “the adopted girl”… simply LeeLoo and that’s exactly who she is.

LeeLoo is the goofy girl who runs out the door, leaving doors open behind her – just the same as your children do. And when I follow after her yelling, “Were you born in a barn?!”, her quick witted response typically goes like this: “Could have been but we will never know now will we.” To say she doesn’t see herself as adopted would be misleading you. She does see herself as adopted and she embraces it because she knows her family loves and accepts her. We chose her. Sometimes, she even assumes other children are adopted too if they come from multi-cultural families. We all tend to see life from the perspectives we know.

Our hope is that others stop seeing Mya – the girl from Ethiopia or Milo – that kid from Kazakhstan and start seeing the person behind the name or behind the nationality. LeeLoo is the same as your teenagers, but she has qualities that make her unique and beautiful like your kids are. Sometimes she’s shy. She’s in gymnastics just like your kids. She’s playful, she’s funny, we quarrel, we laugh and sometimes we’re sad together. Just like your family.

When it comes right down to it, there’s nothing taboo at all about choosing to love someone and to make them part of your family. There are plenty of people that informally adopt brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, moms and dads. Do you have someone in your life that you couldn’t love any more if they were blood related? That’s adoption. That’s love – and there’s more than enough to go around.

 

 

Responsibly Recycling… Our Gift to our Customers and the Environment

09Here at Craft-E-Family, we believe in a lot of things. Two of those things are

  1. Saving you (our customers) money.
  2. Being resourceful and responsible about what we’ve been given.

As a business owner, it’s important to keep our quality high and our prices affordable enough that you keep coming back. We want Craft-E-Family to be the first business you think of when looking for gifts. So how do we hold true to both of those beliefs?

We believe in recycling and upcycling – both for our family and in our business. One of our family values is to be kind to the earth and to animals. It’s important to teach our daughter to do the same.  Vegetable scraps and beer brewing grains go across the road to our friends for their chickens – which we in turn get some yummy eggs!  What little paper and plastic items we do have we recycle. We try not to buy many things that come in plastic. If making our own lemonade keeps 52 containers a year out of a landfill, then that is what we do. 

Chickens

When we built our home, we went with bamboo flooring. We have geothermal heating; wood-burning fireplace inserts which we fuel with trees that have fallen or died on our property; and LED lighting is being incorporated into the house as well. We have energy efficient windows, metal roofing and even our carpeting is made by Flor, which uses recycled material. If we ever get tired of it, we ship it back for them to recycle again!  How awesome is that?!

From grocery bags to milk purchases – we really try to keep in mind that what we do in our home has a larger ecological impact. We even donate our daughter’s paper books to her school when she’s done with them so more children can benefit from them. E-books would be better, but we’re smart, we choose our battles and this isn’t one of them.

When it comes to business, we try to be equally as conscious about how we’re spending our resources. We’re very deliberate about where our materials come from and we’re thoughtful about making sure we use those materials to the maximum.

One of the examples of our efforts is our gift-wrap. It’s custom and it adds a lot of character to an already personal gift. If they’re looking for something flashy – they’ll likely wrap it themselves. We use recycled kraft paper and recycled chipboard to make our own boxes. We also use some of the scrap kraft paper for packaging.  Scrap maple from our blocks is then used to make custom gift tags and we tie it all together with all natural hemp twine.

In the shop, all paper, cardboard, metal and plastic are recycled.  Scrap blocks are turned into charcoal for personal use. Blocks with too much grain/mineral lines are donated to local schools and head start programs and sawdust is given away for those needing carbon for composting or given to local farmers that need it for bedding in stalls.

heat

We donate scrap, yet viable materials, to local schools for art class (easel backs, paper -discontinued by us, cork sheets, blocks) and scrap picture frame cutouts are used to make company and personal Christmas ornaments. We are also hoping to make the full switch next month from using padded mailers – to using cardboard boxes.

We love hearing ideas from our customers too, so if you have any ideas as to how we can better use our resources – we’re always open to suggestions! Let us know how you try to make a difference through recycling. Maybe we’ll adopt some of your ideas too.

Until next time, Keep It Craft-E! And keep it green!

Keeping Customers Happy – The Art of a 24-Hour Turnaround

In 1980, when Craft-E-Family was founded, we didn’t have much to worry about in terms of turnaround time for our blocks. Mom and dad were getting about 1-2 orders a week. You actually have to work NOT to get a quick turnaround when you’ve got that few orders coming in a week.

Our company started off by doing craft shows. Our ordering system was less than efficient compared to today. All forms were filled out by hand at the craft fair or they were mailed in. As business increased, we were always on the lookout for ways to streamline our processes. We’ve gone from hand varnishing blocks (with endless hand cramps) to finishing with a more natural product – bee’s wax. We’ve made numerous mistakes, we’ve done things the hard way when in reality – the easy way was staring us right in the face. But – we have learned.

As time went on, we streamlined our ordering process as well. The hand written forms trickled in as we released an online ordering form. We weren’t taking credit card payments online, but we tried to make it a little easier on our clients. Instead of having to keep tabs on a physical form, we put a form online. They could fill it out online, print it out and mail it in. To be honest, our eyes needed a little reprieve. Apparently we have a lot of doctors out there ordering blocks! Only kidding, but it did make the process easier on us as well. It was a baby step… we weren’t quite in the age of the Internet then like we are now.

One of my most vivid memories about the business is the day we released our online store – a REAL one, complete with credit card acceptance and everything. Mom, dad, Cory and I were all at a craft show in Rochester, NY. It dawned on us all that the Sundays that were once free of orders were a thing of the past. Forever.

We know that continually improving our products and our processes is important to our customers. GrooveHQ lists “continuous improvement” as one of the top 5 customer service skills and we agree!

We’ve learned to listen to our customers. When we started off, we were turning our blocks around quickly just because we had time. Gradually, we started getting feedback that they loved how quickly they got our blocks. We heard our customers saying that fast service was important to them, so we made sure we kept that at the top of our priority list through the years. As orders increased and demand… well… demanded, we went from lugging bags of baby blocks to the post office to doing computerized shipping from our office. Truth be told, we got kicked out of the post office. Nah. We didn’t, but we could tell that the block shipping was becoming a little too daunting on the USPS guys and gals.

As we got more and more feedback about how much our customers appreciated our quick turnaround, I really began to pay attention to the service I was receiving from other merchants. We are producing custom made items and shipping them out the next day while larger warehouses take a week to pull sneakers off of a shelf, another day to package them – then they finally get them shipped off a week after the order was placed. Our aim is to never be one of those companies.

The longest we have ever taken to ship an order was 3 weeks, but that was due to our travel to China to meet LeeLoo, our daughter. Even then, our customers were more than understanding. They were so supportive. We’ve said many times over that our lifeline is our customers. For them, we will consistently try to improve our processes. There’s always an easier way to do things and we will do our best to work smarter – not harder, so to serve our customers in the most efficient manner possible.

A Day in the Life of Super Sarah

Making sure our clients are happy is only one side of our business. The pulse of Craft-E-Family is our workshop of elves and we want to take some time to recognize them all individually.

The super star we’ve coined “Super Sarah” started working for us in March 2012. She’s something of a super hero, hence the nickname. She wears so many hats for our business and juggles those tasks like a real champ.

One of the things that we love about having Sarah with us is that she does such a great job fostering relationships with our customers. That’s one of the things she loves most about her job. She hears some really awesome stories from customers that we’ve had return to us for years. They call in and specifically ask for her now. It’s a great feeling knowing our customers are in her capable (and caring) hands.

Super Sarah is truly an all-star employee. Forbes did an article a few years ago acknowledging the traits of a successful employee and we are so blessed to say she meets every one of these.

Sarah has worked for larger businesses before, but one of the things she loves most about her job is that she gets to come in and work with our business mascot – Petunia. It’s not just anywhere that allows a Dalmatian to roam around and bark orders. See what we did there?

Coming to work for Sarah is more than just a job. Her day starts off with her drive to work. With a business in the middle of the woods, she adds, she sees things she would never see working for a larger employer in the city. Inevitably, Sarah is greeted in the morning as she pulls into the driveway at work with “an array of critters.” It’s hard to start your day off on the wrong foot when Bambi greets you!

One of the unique attributes of our business is that we’re a very tight knit group. Sarah makes clear that while she loves her responsibilities at work, what she loves more than that is the fact that we all work so closely together. She says, “It feels like I get to work along side my family members, which is really nice.” It warms our heart that we were able to create this work environment for all of our employees by hiring such superstars.

Sarah is fantastic with our shipping and our customer phone calls. She’s also super about keeping things clean and organized around the office. She is looking forward to what the future holds at Craft-E-Family. Her favorite product that we sell is the personalized family coasters. There are some new products coming out soon and she’s excited to see customer reactions to those. We’re also getting some new machinery to make all of our jobs a little more convenient and we’re all anxiously awaiting its arrival.

Outside of work, Sarah loves taking care of her “fur babies”. She and her boyfriend (who is also her co-worker) have a 3-year-old cat, Sophie, and a 2-month-old beagle puppy, Oakley. Sarah is very active. When the weather permits, she’s out hiking, spending time at her boyfriend’s family’s property in the woods or working on projects around the house. She also loves spending time with her niece and nephew.

We are so pleased with our employees and are proud to introduce Sarah to you formally. I know she looks forward to serving each and every one of you.