Category: This & That

A little bit of this and a tad bit of that

A Look Back at 2016, According to the Stats

A Look Back at 2016, According to the Stats

It’s always fun to revisit the past year and see how it all shaped up, because I’m always so surprised to see which posts were popular according to the stats that be. I can definitely say that most of the posts that are my favorite rarely rank high in terms of traffic, but those simple surprises make year-end tracking so interesting.

So as the year comes to an end, I’m taking a look back at 2016 and Small Talk Mama’s top posts according to you, the readers. Interestingly enough, several of the posts making the list were not even written this year. I hope you enjoy the recap and I hope to see you again in the new year!

Happy 2017!


#12 A Real Mom’s Kitchen — Katie D. Claims Her Calm

Today we are visiting Katie D’s kitchen. I’ve known Katie for a couple of years now, but I had never seen her gorgeous kitchen until the morning I walked in with my notepad and camera. Katie is one of those gals who seems to have so much going on in her world, but never appears dazed, nor confused (hmmm. . . I’m not liking Katie very well right now). No, seriously, she is actually just one of those relaxed moms who will pour you a cup of coffee, grab a bar stool and chat about anything from preschool to Play-Doh.

homemade seed cake

#11 Wildlife Flock to Homemade Seed Cakes

So yesterday morning I pulled out one of my homemade seed cakes I made and stored last year and hung it outside the house. After a couple of hours about town, we came home to oodles of squirrels and a variety of birds already partaking of this tasty treat. My little guy and I sat for quite some time just watching them scramble for the food (and I felt terrible that I hadn’t hung it out sooner).


#10 Test Drive Your Garage Door Design

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to your garage door design, take a look at this great site I found by Overhead Door where you can upload your house photo and basically test drive garage doors of all colors, shapes, windows and price points. You can even print your design with specifications, which makes comparison shopping so easy.


#9 Build a Weed Wackless Flower Bed Border

I don’t remember where I originally saw this idea, but I’m so glad I did. I just created a large flower bed along the front of the house using “stone” pavers, but I set them into the ground just a bit so that the wheels of the lawn mover roll right across the top, virtually eliminating the need to trim along the edge. (Yes, honey, you may thank me, again.)


 #8 Mad for Plaid at Home for Christmas

Plaid is absolutely the bomb right now. . . wait a minute, I don’t think “the bomb” is the bomb right now, but eh, I’m going with it anyway. If you are as mad for plaid as I am, I have an easy and affordable way to add this colorful tartan to your holiday décor.

rustic wreath

#7 Industrial Whimsy Equals Spring Rustic Wreath

When I saw this old rusty thing in the antique store, I just knew it would make a cute wreath, and with a little help from Mom (she’s the most awesome bow maker I know) and a few adders from Michaels (all on sale), we came up with this super cute Easter wreath that brings a bit of whimsy to this industrial find.

This list is getting rather lengthy, so I think I’ll stop here for tonight and post the top six tomorrow. I know the suspense is unbearable. *grin*

The Bats are Back

The Bats are Back


When we first moved into our home four years ago we used to spy a few bats feasting in our backyard on a fairly regular basis, but somewhere along the way they seemed to move on to better living spaces or tastier places. This made me sad long before the rise of the Zika virus and the new suburban bat lovers who are suddenly embracing these mosquito-eating machines.

So imagine my delight this week when I stepped out onto the deck and spied two bats speeding back and forth across our backyard with seemingly ravenous appetites. Maybe it was just coincidence, but this mosquito-magnet of a girl didn’t get a single bug bite while the bats were around, and of course my son thought the whole show was pretty awesome.

My thoughts immediately went to ways to keep these little flying bug eaters coming back, so I did some research and found a few ideas to help roll out the welcome mat if it’s bats you embrace.

First, let me say that I found several ways to increase the bug population in one’s yard thereby attracting more bats, but our home backs up to a lot of timbered acreage — we have bugs, and I don’t want more. At first this approach seemed counter-productive (I want bats so that I don’t have bugs) but after some thought I realized that bats don’t just eat the pesky biting bugs, they also eat tons of insects that have no urge to suck human blood. Would you go to a restaurant with only one thing on the menu?

So going full-circle, here’s what I found for encouraging and keeping beneficial bats coming back. . .

Embrace bugs! Chances are you already have bugs (i.e. pesky disease-carrying mosquitoes), so what’s a few more. Lure a variety of night-flying insects to your yard by having a water source, planting flowers that smell good at night and adding an outdoor light or two.

Skip the chemicals. Avoid pesticides, insecticides and other harmful chemicals in your yard that can make bats sick if ingested.

Make it Homey. Some species of bats will roost in dead or dying trees, but most of us don’t want to keep potentially hazardous huge items on our property for a variety of reasons, so making bat houses is another option. If you do a search online, you will find dozens of DIY options that should suit you and your future winged creatures just fine. While I can’t vouch for the best style or even say they work, this project is high on my To-Do list. You should also pay special attention to the best places to hang your bat houses after they are made.

So if you like the idea of bringing life to your night sky, these suggestions are a good place to start. While there’s no guarantee the little winged mammals will want to call your neighborhood “home,” try supplying them with lots of food, a little water and a cozy place to hang their tiny bat hats.

 photo credit: Malaysian Flying Fox at Singapore Zoo via photopin (license)

Ten Tips to “Avon Lady” Success

Ten Tips to “Avon Lady” Success

A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating Your Own Avon Business

Avon240x240If you have thought about becoming an “Avon Lady” or you recently started your own business selling their products, I’m so glad you took the time to visit. I really want you to be successful in your new venture and hope that a few of these tips will help you avoid some pitfalls along the way.

No, I’m not an Avon lady, but I once was. In my first year as a representative, I managed my own team, saw a net profit and even achieved President Club status (and I have the Mrs. Albee to prove it). Unfortunately all this “success” came at the detriment of my Avon future. I soon “lost” my team when I no longer carried them to their goals, became apathetic to my own goals, started working in the red and finally decide to give up the business all together.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you. Let me start by saying Avon is not for everyone. I don’t know if you will be able to make a living selling beauty products or if you even want to, but I do believe that Avon is one of those companies that enables you to (here comes the cliché) “get out it, what you put into it.” If you are willing to work hard and hone your business skills, the rewards can be amazing. . . but there are no guarantees. I have met people who have bought new homes, sent kids to college and make a very comfortable living selling Avon. Mind you, it’s not the norm but it is very possible.

At the very least, the start-up costs and up-front risks are minimal and I know of few other companies that make it so affordable to begin a new business. Although I certainly don’t promise anything if you decide to give Avon a go, but I do hope these ten simple tips will help you make good and profitable business decisions for your future.

  1. Believe in the product before you commit.
    Do you use Avon, like the company or even wear makeup? It can become very difficult to sell products to new clients if you’re not excited about what you do. It is easier to push new products and offer recommendations if you personally try the products. You don’t have to switch to a strict regimen of only Avon, but first-hand testaments can go a long way in the beauty business.
  2. Tell everyone.
    Don’t be shy. Tell all your friends, family, co-workers (if allowed), Facebook friends, church goers and complete strangers in line at the DMV that you’re an Avon representative. You just never know who might need a good Avon lady. In fact, my hookup just moved to the other side of the state so I could use a new rep as I write this.
  3. Open a separate bank account.
    A separate account is the best way to keep track of profit earnings, expenses and your bottom line. You will need a place to deposit those checks your clients write and a way to pay for your online orders each cycle. I suggest getting an account that offers a debit/credit card associated with it, because it makes it easier to keep all your business transactions in one place. You can use that card to make your cycle purchases electronically and it will come straight from your balance in the bank. You probably won’t need to order checks to start with and that’s just another expense, so wait and see if that’s something you need.
  4. Foster communication with leaders and fellow reps.
    Your team leader is your lifeline as a beginning Avon rep. You need to keep a clear line of communication open, even if you’re the one to do it. Not all leaders are equal and some are much more helpful than others, but in theory she should be able to help answer all your ordering, deadline, product and profit percentage questions. I had a fabulous leader when it came to such things and hopefully you will too; but if you don’t, I encourage you to seek out other experienced reps and your area manager. You will need support and it’s okay to ask for it.
  5. Keep great records.
    Believe me, come tax time, you will thank me for this. You must keep great records, including expenses, income, donations, mileage and any other business related expenditures. It is much easier to track this as you go, than it is to play catch up when the IRS is waiting. Avon has several tools to help you manage all of this info and if you feel a little (or a lot) lost, start asking fellow reps, leaders and area managers.
  6. Use the tools.
    Speaking of tools, Avon has oodles of online helps for all their independent reps. I encourage you to get online and start digging as soon as you sign up. They have an online store portal, beauty tips, business tips, specific product training aids and loads of info to help you succeed. After all, the company does want you to succeed — it’s good for their bottom line.
  7. Attend local monthly meetings.
    Your area manager should conduct monthly meetings somewhere near you, and I encourage you to attend as many of these as possible. You will meet new and experienced Avon reps, hear some great success stories and some struggles, and be able to network with others in your similar situation. Often times your area manager will also have great freebies and raffles and you can see and sample the newest products being offered. There is so much information to be gleaned from these meetings, I can’t possibly cover it all here, but I do encourage you to give these gatherings a go.
  8. Be wary of monthly rep specials.
     Another big component of those local group meetings is the push to purchase monthly product specials. Avon offers some great products at some great prices, but as a newer rep. you may not have the client base in which to resell these “good deals.” I’m not saying you should never purchase the monthly specials, but I am saying that you should first build your list of regular clients and know what they normally buy or what you think they would try, before you stock up on a lot of product you may never sell. When I finally ceased to be a rep, I had a closet full of unsold and out dated Avon that I gave away, sold for next to nothing and threw in the trash.
  9. Stock up on freebies and out-of-date brochures.
    You will need to purchase product brochures in order to effectively sell your products and of course this will cut into your bottom line, but here’s a little hint to help you out. Often times your team leader or area coordinator will have extra out-of-date product brochures that they are willing to just give away to local reps. Raise your hand, every time! These “old” brochures are a great way to promote your business at minimal cost. Put your contact information on the back of the brochures and distribute them places where an old brochure lying around is to be expected, like waiting rooms, laundry mats, reception areas and so forth. These can at least spark the interest of a potential customer and you can get them a newer brochure (please do not meet strangers alone and/or in private places) or place a back order from the brochure they have in hand.
  10. Say “not now” to leadership.
    First, let me say that leadership is a good thing and having your own team(s) will be the key to becoming a career-level representative. To boost your profits you will eventually want to lead a team, but only once the time is right. When I first joined Avon, there was a big push to recruit new team leaders and I think I became a leader about seven weeks into my new gig. I didn’t even have my own stable client base, barely had the answers to so many questions and struggled to keep my team afloat. In fact, that’s where so much of my unsold, closet-filling product came from — trying to meet my team goals, even when I wasn’t selling nearly enough to my own clients.  So while I’m not suggesting you say “no” to leadership, I do believe that you should wait until you are completely comfortable in your first entrepreneurial role, have built a consistent and profitable client base, and have additional time to devote to a new endeavor before you jump into leadership.

So I know I’ve only listed ten tips to becoming a successful Avon rep. and you’re thinking there’s gotta be more, and of course, there is. There are so many other savvy business and social practices that will need to come into play to make a go at this, but at running the risk of featuring 103.5 ways to succeed that no one would read I decided to pick a few that might have been game changers in my own Avon career. In addition, I’m positive that several career-level Avon reps would be willing to offer even more insight to the business, but these are just a few tips to hopefully get you off and running or to help you make a decision to even begin a career in the independent beauty business. Whatever you decide, I hope it’s good for you.






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