Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Flash Back: Hong Kong: Days 1-2

(finally sharing blog posts written on our trip to HK this past April)

We have now spent 2 full days in Hong Kong and the surrounding areas. As you all know, me and Goose are not exactly what you call "planners." We basically looked up some things we thought might be interesting and went to that general area and explored. We can only use our phones when we have wi-fi, so once we leave the hotel, we are kinda just wingin it. 

We do have paper maps and I have found using the MTR (which is HK's mass transit subway system) is pretty easy. It takes you everywhere you could possibly want to go around here and a station is only a couple blocks from our hotel. All the major signs in Hong Kong are in English and Chinese so finding our way around isn't too bad.

First Impressions:

1. The People: 

Soooooo many people... everywhere... at any given time. Even when we were out Wednesday night, people everywhere. Goose says the Central and Causeway Bay aeas in Hong Kong are very much like New York City and I would say similar to parts of LA/ Beverly Hills as well, lots of upscale brand stores and people walking everywhere... very quickly. The people don't look nearly as superficial as they did on Rodeo Drive though... I felt a lot more comfortable here than in LA. 

Not a whole lot of ethnic diversity in most areas, nothing like the US (especially Georgia). It made me appreciate home a little more though, getting to grow up around people of all different skin, hair, 
eye colors, different languages, accents... No one type of look is  
"American" and it is harder to spot a tourist in the states. 

But in China, you could spot us from a mile away. 

In the more upscale areas there is a better mix of nationalities. But mostly asian, middle eastern, and european. White and black people stick out big time, and the very few we ran into weren't American, but either European or Australian.

Many people in customer service jobs like in restaurants/ hotels/ stores speak a little english and if not, hand gestures and calculators helped us out with communication. We did have an incredibly frustrating cab ride with a guy who did not know the street we were trying to get to. He ended up calling someone and trying to have them translate. 

Language barriers are not fun.

3. Fashion: Asian fashion is awesome. Everyone from babies to 80 year old women dress kinda like hipsters. No one matches anything and they always look kinda frumpy. Big contrast from Georgia's southern matchy-matchy, big hair and heavy make-up, bright/patterned everything style...  hardly anyone looks "put together". 

I fit in great.

Chuck Taylors are really popular with the teens, and hardly any one has facial hair... Goose totally sticks out with his beard and long curly hair.

4. Weather: it's like 75 degrees everyday this time of year and the humidity is high, but everyone still dresses very modestly. Even in the big city areas, shorts and tank tops are rare. Most people are wearing pants and long sleeved shirts. 

5. Atmosphere: I feel 1000x safer in this city than I ever have in Atlanta. Even on the MTR, there are young girls and older kids riding by themelves all over the place. I spent 2 days while goose was at work just exploring the area by myself and didn't feel nervous at all.

6. Eats:

Found out I am not a fan of the taste of jasmine on our first day. The soup I ordered was some kind of jasmine mint dumpling concoction and I almost had to spit it out.  It tasted like plain dough on the outside filled with crushed up jasmine tea leaves. The taste and consistancy were just not good. Other than that though, I've enjoyed the food. We ate a lot of dim sum and drank tea. Hot tea is served autmatically in most places... I am not a big hot tea drinker 
but I got used to it after a few meals... and I found a few flavors I enjoyed. (I am really, really missing my daily sweet ice tea though).

Biggest difference (other than the food itself) I have noticed was how they wait tables. You sit down and they give you a menu... and then you are on your own. You have to get their attention usually by just raising your hand for them to come over. They will bring 
your food and clear your dishes but not bother you again unless you raise your hand. 

This took some getting used to for sure...we are so used to American servers coming over to check on you every couple of minutes. Kinda nice though... you never feel rushed during your meal, BUT when you say you are ready for the check, they bring it and stand right by you and wait for you to sign and take the receipt. Then I feel like they expect you to leave.

7. Locals are not really friendly... not unfriendly, but it is very rare to get a smile from anyone. And the older people especially will just stare at ya like it ain't no thing.

8. Shopping:

Hong Kong dollars are worth about 8 times less than American, so everywhere we go we feel like we are ballin' - ha! Went shopping and the total was like $580.00. (which was like $75 US)... good times.

There are stores everywhere. Clothing, food, and every other kind of product you can think of. I guess with a billion people to support, you need a lot of options, but seriously... there is a mall every 50 feet. It's insane.

The arts are not a big part of the city, handmade is almost non-existant (although there is a small movement happening there). I did happen upon a trendy little area with a few interesting shops/art galleries. Very small part of the culture though...



We were walking around yesterday after church (which was awesome) and all of a sudden turned a corner into this area with women everywhere: wearing head coverings, sitting all over the sidewalks on blankets, shoes off... some selling things, some just hanging out.


I mean they were EVERYWHERE. Then we walked into Victorias Park and they were everywhere there too. It was just odd because it was ALL women. I mean Goose stood out like a sore thumb and probably felt like a giant because most of these women were about 6 inches shorter than me (I am 5'1").

I can definitiely see why the parks are popular... there isn't a lot of places to stretch out and feel grass under your feet in the city.

As we walked through the park, we came across several areas where muslim women were praying and some other kinds of religious services going on. We passed by a group of all asian men by themselves in suits reading and praying.

Then, on the other side of the park there was a christian church festival going on for Easter. 

We knew what it was immediately because it looked exactly like one of our church festivals except of course, everyone was Asian and speaking Cantonese- and this was the only area in the park where men, women, and children were together. There were tents popped up with games and face painting... some performers singing and dancing to worship songs... and the church volunteers all wearing Jesus loves you tshirts... we felt right at home even though we couldn't understand anyone.

And hearing Amazing Grace in another language... awesome.

Very interesting experience, which we had simply by walking around without a clue.

Sometimes NOT having a plan is the very best plan to have.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

29 to 30: The next big thing...

Oh yeah, 2 posts in 2 days.

Miracles do happen.

So what's the next big change happening around the Bilsland house???

I''ll give you one guess...

ERRRRR- Wrong!!

I know what you're thinking, 

Hudson's almost 2... bout that time...

but alas, no more babies (probably) for this girl.

Nope, actually this time we are (really for reals) moving. I know we have been talking about on and off for the past 2 years, but this time we are actually putting our house up for sale.

We had our real estate agent come out Sunday afternoon and tell us what we needed to do before listing and we are planning on putting it on the market by Friday.

We have been cleaning and decluttering all weekend and oh my word, we have so much JUNK in our house! You would think being such a small place and having just did some major spring cleaning there wouldn't be all that much.

But you would be wrong.

We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now... we have somewhat organized boxes to store, bags of trash, big stuff headed to the dump, and thrift store drop offs. Then, we will pressure wash the outside and paint the boys room (yes, the ridiculous bright blue is going to be gone... 'tear) and we will be ready to list!

I am not going to lie, I have already teared up several times just while cleaning, and we haven't even sold it yet! I really love our little house... I know it is too small for a family of 6, but I honestly don't mind the size. It is cozy... and manageable. I am actually a little nervous about having a bigger space... more rooms for my kids to destroy (it is almost supernatural how quickly those boys can mess up a room).

It is time though. Because we have been on the brink of moving for the past two years, I haven't really put a lot into updating our home to reflect our lives now. My own style and taste has changed a lot, and I am excited to get into a new place that feels more personal... finally get some updated family pictures on the wall and some new furniture- woohoo!

I mean seriously, I don't have one single printed picture of Hubba in our house... and he is almost 2! #momfail

So anyway, we found a home that we adore. It has everything we have been looking for- 5 acres, unique open floor plan, 4 bedrooms... BUT, it is a short sale, and the guy who owns it is a.... notsoeasytoworkwith person. So there are a lot of hoops to jump through just to get started on an offer. Plus, it had renters for the past few years and the house needs a LOT of TLC to get it back in shape.

So we are now trying to decide whether we go forward with the cool house that we love, but will be tons of extra work... or go for a more "move in ready" home that's a little more boring.

Of course, this is all dependent on selling our house.

Soooo, lots to think about, lots up in the air. We are praying about it, and hopefully soon we will be putting in an offer on our "let's grow old together" home.

Next up:: Introducing... the Bilslands.

Monday, June 23, 2014

30 to 30: Post One: the countdown is on...

Today, June 22. (well probably the 23rd by the time I actually post this)

One month from the big 30.... thoughts?

My mind has been out of control lately... thoughts and ponderings about life and purpose and where we are going and what it all means... you know, the usual.

I have been thinking a lot about the last decade, my 20s. A decade full of just change, change, and more change. Incredible growth, excruciating pain, indescribable joy... highs, lows... marriage, babies...life, death.

I think the 20s have been a bit extreme for me. Where as the "normal" life plan would include college then career, moving into your own place... maybe marriage and a kid or two before you hit 30. Mine has been marriage, then babies (twins!), then buying a home, more babies, then college, running a business and opening a store... and in the midst of that losing my grandmother, baby daughter, and father.

It has been... real. a whole lotta real.

Sometimes I feel like it is too much. Many times in the past decade I have felt like life is spinning out of control. Like nothing is certain and everything is always up in the air, changing and whirling around and all I can do is hold on for dear life.

But thankfully God always reels me back in, levels me out, comforts and gives me peace and He seems to always refresh my spirit just when I need it.

So that is where I will start my 30 to 30. 

#1 Reason I am who I am today... my relationship with Christ. He has been the anchor that keeps my mind, my soul, my sanity grounded. He keeps me from getting paralyzed with fear and worry about the future. His precious grace has saved me over and over again and I just really can't put into words all the ways He has carried me through the dark and the light, the good and the bad.

I feel blessed every day... so much more than I deserve. The greatest gifts God has given me in the last 10 years are, of course, my husband and children. In one month Goose and I will also celebrate a decade of marriage. I'll write more about this later, but there is no way I would have made it this far without that guy.

So the countdown is on... 

I plan to post here every day with little tidbits...where I am, what I've learned, goals, dreams, hopes for the next 30.  Dust off the old blog here and hopefully document the next big change that is happening...


Monday, January 6, 2014

Jump: Part 2

One of the ideas I thought about a lot in 2011 when contemplating what else I could do other than the enamel jewelry is opening up a retail space of my own. I loved having a store open to the public, but in Stone Mountain, it wasn't really ours. We shared the space with other artists, and we had to get approval for anything we wanted to do or sell. 

I dreamed of having a retail store, not a gallery, focusing on gifts and accessories. I have met so many awesome artists/crafters over the past couple of years... people making jewelry, home decor, soaps, candles, clothing, bbq sauce, and everything in between, all original stuff made in the USA.  My vision was a really cool, indie shop that carried the best of the best craft show items... a constantly changing inventory of those interesting handmade items that you can't get at department stores.

But, after deciding to continue with the jewelry biz at home, this gift shop idea was put on the "10 year goal list" and I didn't think too much more about it. 



In early November of this year, we went and ate lunch at one of the Italian restaurants (Amici) in downtown Monroe. It was a gorgeous fall day, perfect weather... soft breeze... we parked across from the restaurant and right in front of an antique store that had a "store closing" sale going on. 

Goosers went to get a table and Nolan and I walked through the antique shop, just looking around. As we passed the front checkout area, I started talking to the lady there, and discovered she lives in our neighborhood... so weird. We started talking about the store closing and she told me the rent/utilities weren't bad at all, she just didn't have the time to keep it open with her other job. I told her a little about my business, and she gave me the building owner's card. I put it in my purse and went to meet the rest of the fam at the restaurant.


Amici's has outdoor tables so Goose and I are sitting there, eating pizza with the boys, talking about how cozy the historic square of Monroe is... how it feels so "small town" and authentic. I told him about the store and the rent being so reasonable. We weren't really seriously considering it, but just dreaming about having a store of our own... and how awesome it would be to have a separate place for Sailor Studio and have our house just be "home" again. 

After lunch I decided to go into the Sanders furniture store, which is owned by the same guy who owns the other building, just to look around. I met Mr. Sander's daughter and asked her about the space. She took my info and said she would ask her dad and get back to me.

The next day, we were nearby with some family so we walked through again and got some other opinions on the space. 

 This was on the front door, might be my favorite part... ha!

Then, a few days later Mr. Sanders (who I liked immediately- such a sweet man, so positive and encouraging) called me and we talked for a little while about the space, about the rent and when it would be available. Then, we toured the space with him when it was cleaned out and took some pictures.

Old hardwood floors... love!! And all the walls are on wheels, 
so they can be moved around which is awesome.

There was also this little white gated area in the back from 
when it used to be a children's furniture store. I think we 
are going to keep it for Hubba and the boys to have 
a little play area.


Basement has tons of storage space

 There is a little loft space in the back which the boys have already claimed, 
it has a tiny window where you can look down into the store.

We decided to think and pray about it for awhile and just focus on the upcoming holidays. Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend were HUGE on Etsy so I was staying busy getting orders out in time for Christmas. 

Also in the middle of all this, I started having odd pains and other little health issues and ended up having a minor surgery in November. Thankfully, it wasn't serious and I was able to get back to my normal routine by the time Thanksgiving came around.

Then at the end of December, after really enjoying Christmas and our vacation with no work talk allowed, Goose looked at the numbers. He added up our sales through Etsy, craft shows, and wholesale orders along with all the expenses for the year. He told me if we wanted to shift focus from a new house for now, and try out the store, we were actually in a good place to do it. We had saved enough money to not have to go into debt for it, and if we move in and start bringing in income by spring, it could definitely be a worthwhile endeavor. 

After that, it became real... I mean if my voice of reason husband was on board, that was huge!

So we decided to just go for it... and on December 30th, 
we met with Mr. Sanders and signed the lease. 

So Goose and I are officially store owners! 

We will set up a studio space in the back to continue making jewelry and expand the online and wholesale parts of the business, and then make a retail space in the front to sell my jewelry along with other handmade items.


There are a million and a half things to do before we open, and I was freaking out a bit about all the "what-ifs" of our decision, but after Goose's parents and my mom and Randy came out and we prayed in the space I feel much better. We prayed that God would lead us each step of the way and help keep our focus on what is really important, and to give us peace about the looming "unknowns" ahead of us. I know there will be ups and downs, but nothing will happen that God is not in control of. 

So please keep us in your prayers as we start this 
adventure... We definitely couldn't do it without 
all the support and encouragement from our 
families and friends!

Love you all!! :) 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jump: Part One


My word of the year.

Completely fitting for 2014 and we are only 2 days in. 

But more on that later... I need to get this timeline down somewhere because I want to remember how I got from there to here.

Past to Present.

The Beginning- 2010:  
When Sailor Studio started in August 2010, it was my mom, my sis-n-law, and I working together, throwing around ideas and designs and working day to day. Being a part of the artist program and gallery in Stone Mountain was a great learning experience, but we didn't really have a big plan for the future.

 Grand Opening - Stone Mtn Village Oct 2010

awww, so little...

None of us had a lot of money to invest into the business, so we were just doing everything little by little, whatever we could afford. Thankfully my mom's mentor, Peggy, gave my mom a ton of enameling supplies so we were able to set up the studio on a tiny budget and get started. That first 6 months was so much fun, just soaking up the experience and learning everything about running a small business.

A year later things had changed... we were still working at the gallery in Stone Mtn, but other family issues had put us all on edge and things were just overall stressed and strained at work. The business had no structure, no real leadership or accountability, which was a huge mistake from the get-go.

By the fall of 2011, my mom got remarried and was adjusting to that, my sister-n-law no longer worked there, and I had a big decision to make. I wasn't sure if my mom wanted to continue Sailor Studio as it was, or if she wanted to do something separate with her husband, Randy. There was a lot up in the air and I was just a wreck, not really knowing what my next move should be. I didn't want to quit, but I also couldn't work with things being so strained... it just wasn't worth it.

Towards the end of 2011, I had a long talk with my mom and basically told her if she wanted to continue the business with just her and Randy, I would be okay with separating and starting my own thing... that I thought it would end badly if we continued the way things were and it might be better to just go ahead and split amicably. The business was "officially" hers... she was the artist in the program and her name was on everything, so I thought starting fresh would probably be the easier way to go. I was very sad about it at the time, how everything was changing... I mean I had lived and breathed Sailor Studio for the past year and the idea that it would end was depressing.

But after talking everything over with my husband, I realized I had really gotten the entrepreneur "bug" and knew that I could start over with something new. I learned some hard lessons and gained a lot of invaluable experience from that first year of chaos, so now I just had to focus on a new idea and go for it.

In early December, my mom and I agreed that the time at the gallery in Stone Mountain had run its course and wasn't really worth it anymore. Her and Randy were going to start something on their own, focusing on the larger art pieces and stained glass... and she told me if I wanted to continue on with the jewelry line, I could have the Sailor Studio name.

I went back and forth for awhile about changing the name to make it officially a new company and save any confusion... but I really just loved the name Sailor Studio. Sailor is my mom's middle name, given to her because my grandfather was in the navy. It really meant something to me and I loved the nautical look that we played off of with everything from the anchor logo to the website and craft show set-up. I thought the pros outweighed the cons and decided to keep the Sailor name.

So we met with the accountant, changed everything over, and I became sole owner of the business in January of 2012. I made a studio in the barn and continued everything from home, focusing on online sales and craft shows. Since we moved away from a public gallery, it took some time to test out what did/didn't make sense for a home-based business.

I got pregnant with Hubba in Dec of 2011- so I took it easy, not over-working myself the first half of 2012. The fall show season was great and things really started moving along with the business after Hudson was born in August. He was a craft show baby, traveling all over with us during his first 4 months of life. (We actually made our set-up with a little private wall space in the back so I could breastfeed him every three hours... awww such sweet memories :)

This past year was fantastic for Sailor Studio. Business just exploded and I finally began to make a real profit. We were moving inventory before that, but the majority of the money coming in was put right back into expenses and growing the business, with a little extra here and there. 

This year, I was able to really focus on what was profitable and not waste time/money on things that weren't. I finally had my best-selling pieces figured out, Etsy was stocked and bringing in business, and my display and inventory at the shows were finally the way I envisioned them. 

My husband and I had a a big goal of paying off all our credit cards (debt we had been carrying since we got married 9 years ago). We met that goal (wooohoooooo!!) and started saving, tentatively, for a new house.

Then, in November, a different opportunity presented itself... and in true Goose and Lily fashion... we went ahead and decided to jump.


 Part 2 coming soon.