Pammy.

This is how I want to remember her. Smiling and happy and with a scarf on her head.

Last Monday, September 9, Pammy has left me. It happened suddenly, with very little suffering which was a blessing, but I still have to recover from the shock. She was such a happy, lively funny dog. Noisy, chatty, demanding. It was like having five big dogs in one for how much she was a presence in this house. Wherever you turned, there she was. you couldn’t be alone for a moment with her around. Not a day – actually not even four of five hours – passed without having her doing something so fun that would get us cracking up laughing. She was a real blessing through this very hard past few years.

Last year she underwent mastectomy for a small tumor, and the recovery was incredibly fast, A few hours after surgery it was like nothing happened to her, she wanted to eat, she jumped on the stairs even if she had stitches running through her belly from top to end, and she even played. She was an elderly dog – we don’t know exactly how old she was, but 15 or 16 – who didn’t look one day older than three and still acted like a puppy. She was so strong and looked so good, we felt she was immortal.

But no one is. And an elderly dog, even with younger looks, is still an elderly dog. With elderly organs.

We noticed she had lost a bit of weight, but her energy was always the same, as was her appetite. We thought it was the first sign of her getting old combined with hot temperatures and the fact that she just never stood still.

Sunday evening she went out in the garden before bed, and as she came back in she asked for cookies, as always. She ate two big cookies and then we headed upstairs, to go to bed. Immediately she began to be restless. She wouldn’t sit down, going back and forth in the room. Then she began vomiting and we thought that what it was, she needed to empty her stomach. Maybe she ate something bad in the garden. But the vomit didn’t stop and she started to have a fever.

In the morning I rushed her to the vets where she was put under fluids and antibiotics. And then she had a seizure. The vet gave her something to sleep, to stop the seizures, then she ran a blood test and gave her an ultrasound. Her kidneys were shutting down, her liver was enlarged. There was nothing we could do. Nothing.

So, while she was still asleep, I held her and I did the only possible thing: I accompanied her on the other side. kissing her, telling her how much I loved her, asking her to come back if she wants because I’ll be here waiting for her.

And she went. Painlessly, surrounded by love.

My Pammy.

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A little video preview…and why Instagram sucks.

My love-hate relationship with social media goes on.

I am setting up stores on different print on demand sites, but naturally, they all need to be promoted. The web is saturated and you have very little chances to be seen if you don’t get into action. So, I gave a second try to Instagram…even if I find it utterly boring and totally unstable. Is it me, my phone, or does it really crash continuously?

I am preparing a video to add on my brand new Youtube channel, and I made a little preview of it to share on social media for promotion. I’m still learning Adobe Premiere as I never used it before but I could get together a short clip, with background music that was said to be copyright free and free to use that I downloaded from Soundcloud. I uploaded the whole thing to Instagram and…

The video was blocked.

Apparently, some brand requested to have every video uploaded with that specific piece of music to be blocked, as they want to have the exclusivity. Which would be totally fine with me if it wasn’t that the music is still free from copyright and therefore free to use. For everyone. Only it’s not. And Instagram allows brands to make these kinds of requests. Social media would be great if they were really democratic, with the same kind of opportunity for everyone, but it’s not. The power is in the hands of who has more money, once again.

That is why I’ll keep on blogging like it’s 2002. This is my space…if something happens to WordPress, my entire content is saved on a hard disk and I can republish it somewhere else. Facebook has degenerated, and so has Instagram, in my opinion. The quality is getting lower and lower. Pinterest, since it has allowed ads, has totally lost meaning. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe they are pointing a gun at their temples.

Anyway, enjoy the small video!! Hopefully the final version will be ready soon.

Have a great week end!!

Goals for this week.

Hello and welcome to another week at Cat Cottage. The mess is everywhere as are cats and dogs. The stuff to do is piling up and it looks as ominous as an avalanche and feels like a tsunami. To say that I feel overwhelmed, hahaha! It’s a lot worse than that. I feel like there is no way out, as the mess and the pile of things to do are swallowing me up and I am drowning in my own s**t.

Do you ever feel like this?

Now, I hate the concept of being productive, but it seems like I am struggling to find a balance here. I would like to flow effortlessly with life, being on top of things at least most of the time, having a relaxed approach to everything. Instead, I’m struggling. The thing is, when you share your life – or mostly, your house – with someone who doesn’t take life the way you do, who doesn’t share the same points of view, goals, and lifestyle, finding a balance is hard. Being the person in question my mother – she came to live here with me five years ago – it’s even harder.

Instead of beating myself up as always though, I’ll try to do something different.

Usually, when I have a lot of things to do and to figure out, I always write down a to-do list in order of priorities. It works until a certain point, then I get lost. I have never got through an entire list, and not only because there is always so much to do around here, but because I end up being exhausted and overwhelmed way, in complete burn out. It takes me a few days to regain strength and focus and usually the mess has piled up again in the meantime. It’s like a dog chasing its tail to no end.

So, this is the different, rebellious thing I will do to cope with my infinite to-do list this time:

I’LL IGNORE IT.

The most important thing, the only way to go through things – whatever that is – is self-care. As I said a million times before, I was brought up in a family where I was taught a lot of things but not exactly how to love myself – I was actually taught the opposite – and it’s hard for me to let go of this habit of thinking that I count zero. That I come after everyone and everything else. I’m learning how to be selfish in a healthy way and it’s a lot of fun. I’m getting there.

Me, first.

So, whenever there is a lot to do, the first thing I do is asking myself: what do I need? What do I want? I discovered that if I start form myself all comes quite naturally and even the most boring tasks don’t feel as horrible anymore. Yeah, I know. I just invented the wheel.

This is what I need.

Swimming in the open air.

Reading in the garden.

Gardening (it’s my therapy, folks!)

Yoga. Slow, long and relaxed sessions.

Some decluttering.

And this is what I want to accomplish this week. ( what I want, not what I have to )

Finish the book I’m reading.

Film and upload my first real painting video on Youtube.

Paint at least two new drawings.

Me first. Me. Nothing gets done if I don’t feel well. Ahhh, breathe.

Monday motivation.

This is the worst summer of my life. Nice way to start a post, huh? Read on, is not as sad as it seems.

This is the worst summer of my life because I live for summer, I wait for summer all year round, and I usually set such high expectations for it that I am aware it becomes impossible to be satisfied. Every summer of my life I’ve had something to complain about. It’s too short, it goes too fast, the weather is bad, not enough beach time, and so on.

But this year it’s a totally different story and I think I have all the rights to whine like a baby.

It’s August 5, and I still haven’t gone to the beach once. NOT ONCE!! In my brain, this is totally unacceptable. Also because I live 30 minutes away from the lake, it’s not like I have to travel far and take a few days off to reach a beach. A few hours in the afternoon it’s all iI need.

The thing is this. I have gone through a rough time. A very rough time. As I think I’ve mentioned many times before, I suffer from depression and anxiety, and I have been sharing my life with them for as long as I can remember. I have never taken medication for it, I have never gone into therapy and I’ve never searched for help that it wasn’t coming from the book store.

The reasons why I never searched for professional help are many. For instance, I really didn’t know I was depressed and anxious. I just thought I was stupid, slow, unmotivated. That’s what my parents told me I was. I realized late, probably around my twenties, that the fog I felt I had in my brain was called depression. And that the fear I had of pretty much everything was called anxiety. Also because I had to be what is called a ‘high functioning depressed’. No matter how bad I felt, I had to get up in the morning, feed the cat, shower and go to work. And somehow this made the brain fog and the fear to come and go several times during the day. I thought it was just part of my personality, the way that I was made.

I dragged these symptoms for years until I realized – I don’t remember how – that I had a problem and that I had to do something about it. That I could have felt better, that I could have had a better life. My mom suffered from depression too as also did a few of my friends’ moms or family members. They all took medications prescripted by psychologists but to say that I saw an improvement in their mental state would be a lie. I had the feeling like they weren’t facing and solving the problem, just covering it up and suffocating the symptoms with the pills.

I knew exactly where my pain was coming from. My pain had a name, a face, a date, everything. There was nothing to understand or untangled, there were only things to accept as facts and move on. I didn’t believe that the way or the strength to accept what happened to me could have come from a pill. Not even a dozen. I was aware that the way to accept all the mess that my life had been was inside of me. And I was the person who knew me better. I knew exactly what happened and I didn’t know many other people who went through what I went through, so I couldnì’t see how a therapist could have helped me.

Maybe I was wrong, but I am here to tell the story 25 years later, so it worked.

  • But please, if you suffer from depression or any other mental disorder and don’t feel as strong as I felt, please DO seek for professional help.

Long story short, I found a way to cross the road and start walking on the sunny side of the street. But I can’t erase my past, and I can’t take my guard off. When I do, the monsters from the past come back to bite me hard. It happens every now and then, and lately, with a general worsening of my living conditions, the monsters threw a party in my brain.

This is why I still haven’t gone to the beach and didn’t enjoy my summer.

But it’s not already August 5.

It’s only August 5.

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

I’m lucky to live in Italy, where summers are long no matter how I perceive them, and I live 30 minutes away from the lake.

There are still almost 2 entire months of good weather, and I declare that this is going to be a great summer.

Remembering the time THIS duckie ate an entire pack of vegan cookies.

Selling cards and chocolates on Thortful!

YES, YOU’VE READ THAT RIGHT!!!

Selling CHOCOLATES!! Heaven is right here on earth, peeps!

Okay, let’s get some dignity back. Breathe. 

Here we go.

My hunt for a way to make a passive income continues. As I wrote in previous posts, I am testing every print on demand service available online writing reviews here on the blog. Today, I’ll write about Thortful.

Thortful is a company based in the Uk, specialized in selling cards. It’s amazingly easy and intuitive to use, and registering as a seller and opening a shop is fast!

You just go on the bottom of the first page, and under ‘creators’ you click the link ‘become a creator’.

This will take you to a page where you can get all the basic information you need to get started.

Once you click on ‘get started’ you are taken to a page where you can download the templates for your designs, both on Photoshop and Illustrator formats – something I personally find super useful as It makes the whole process of designing and uploading for a specific site so much faster and easy.

Once you click on ‘upload your first card’ you’ll be asked to register an account.

You can now upload your first card! The editor is simple, especially if you used the templates: once you’ll have your image uploaded, all you have to do is adjust the size to fit the entire area.

You then add tags and click ‘upload card’ and voilà, your first card it’s available to be sold!

The only ‘strange’ thing about Thortful is that at the beginning you are given only five listings. The company then will review your designs and if they see commercial potential – or if you make sales in the meantime – they will give you an additional 15 listing. This means the listings are not infinite – as are on Etsy or other sites – but this also means that the quality is good. It’s curated. It’s not like anyone can open an account and upload s**t. Your designs will be seen among good products and this is a plus. Also, once you’ll reach 50 sales, you’ll have the chance to ask the team to be given a total of 50 listings, which isn’t bad at all.

This is what my shop looks like.

Now let’s get to the products section, shall we? Yes, that’s where the chocolates are.

Okay, let’s say you like my ‘tea, books and cats’ illustration. Just click on it and then click on ‘choose this card’.

As you can see, you can choose a really great and original variety of items on which you can have the illustration you chose printed. There are the classic sizes for cards – A6, A5. A4 – and then…

Drum roll please…

CHOCOLATES!!!

And it’s not just any chocolate, but flavored chocolate. Look at all the choices available. How to choose just one, I wonder. The flavors and the ingredients are detailed in a description box below the product.

But it’s not over with the chocolate section yet. Because we also have the ‘chocolate selection’ and this might be a little be too much for my heart. Too much.

As if this wasn’t already enough, if you plan to get a card for someone who loves to bake – and that could be you, you deserve to get yourself a gift, why not – there is also the cake card. It’s a card with all you need to whip a cake in no time. How adorable is that?

It’s not over yet. What about a card with socks?

…and everyone’s favorite (after chocolate): notebooks!

Now, off to the important things. It’s all fun and good, but I’m testing sites that could generate a passive income, soooo

How much can you earn on Thortful?

Before you read the percentage you can get from selling their items, you have to keep in mind that once you have uploaded your design all you have to do is share on your social media to promote your shop, but there is absolutely nothing else you’ll have to do. They’ll take care of the shipping, the customer care, everything. This makes the 0.30/0.50£ you get from each sale absolutely fair. There is no threshold to reach to receive payments, which are sent out monthly.

And this is all you need to know about Thortful, I guess. Next on my list of print on demands sites to review I have Zazzle, which I already used a couple of years ago and then totally abandoned. I’m curious to see if something has changed!

Do you sell on print on demand sites? Is there a particular site you love and suggest or that would like me to try?

Opening a shop and selling on Teepublic.

As I wrote in the last post I am going to give a try to all print on demand sites I can find and write a review here. So let’s talk about TeePublic, shall we?

TeePublic is one of the many print on demand sites where anyone can upload a design and have it printed on Items to sell and make a profit.

I’ve very recently opened a shop and I have to say I am satisfied with how easy it is to use and how my store looks.

Here’s in details.

Registration is as easy as drinking a glass of water. You just simply sign up as a seller, add a PayPal account and in a snap, you can open your store. There are zero customization options to the layout of your shop, but you can upload your banner and your profile picture. It looks simple, but it is somehow refreshing. Zero fuss. Straight to the point.

You then upload your first design. Once it’s ready you add a title, a description, and tags. Their algorithm helps you to find the best tags for your design with suggestions that appear in a scroll down section from where you can select the ones you think are the best. It’s a cool thing for someone who hates adding tags, like me, for example.

teepublic

You then go to the items section. Here, once you’ve checked the ones you want to sell, you select the default color of each one of them: customers will still be able to choose other colors, but the default one you choose sets how the first picture of the item selected it’s shown. You can set the best color for your design, and then, if a customer has horrible taste and chooses a terrible shade, it’s not your fault. And none of your business, I would add.

Once done this, you can edit the items you have decided to sell. The editor is very simple. You can enlarge and reposition the design, you can add a background color, but that’s it. They sell cute mugs, but they get printed on one side only because you can’t duplicate the design. Most other print on demands offer this option.

Once you have uploaded all the designs and selected the items you want to sell your TeePublic shop is ready!

cat cottage design teepublic

The payment process is as easy as everything else: every 15 of the month you get paid for all sales made in the previous month. You don’t need to reach a threshold amount before getting paid, you get what you have sold, which is a big thumb up.

Another big thumb up is that they offer the biggest profit per every item sold: prices are preset, you can’t decide how much you are going to earn, but I can say that the earnings are pretty good.

You can follow other artists and creators on TeePublic and you can share yours or other people’s shops and items on socials through the inbuilt buttons, but you can’t favorite anything on the site and I think it’s a cool thing, actually. Not seeing how many likes and shares one item has got is democratic and it doesn’t influence buyers in buying something only because it has had many likes. I’ve seen so many horrible things on Etsy getting sold and liked only because everyone else did, and it really makes no sense to me. This way buyers or other creators will search and eventually share only things they truly like and not just because they are popular or made by someone who has a large following and gets likes and organic promotion. I think that on TeePublic anyone with a good design gets a chance.

In short, thumbs up because:

Easy to set up

No threshold amount for payments

Good range of items to sell.

Clean and cool look.

Great profit.

Thumbs down because:

The editor offers very basic customizations options. Enough, but could be better.

In very very short…I think I like TeePublic very much. Let’s see what will I make from it.

You can find my TeePublic shop here!

Create a passive income. Make money while sleeping.

Is Molly earning money while she sleeps?
No.

Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka Swiss Miss, once said that it is super important for artists and creators to have a passive income. Having a steady flow of cash coming in allows you to have the freedom and the mental space to create with passion, without fretting about the money. It is absolutely true.

When I decided to draw full time I opened an Etsy store to sell my prints. It lasted a short period of time because it didn’t feel like the right platform for me. So I’ve built my own independent store shortly after. Leaving Etsy was a good decision, but I can’t say the same thing about the idea of building my own independent store. I gave myself a deadline to launch it and I’ve met it (surprisingly) and for me that was it. I had totally underestimated the promotion aspect. With a low social media following and very little interest in building one, promoting the shop was hard. I’ve tried paid ads but they are expensive and mostly ineffective. So I had to focus on ‘organic’ traffic, studying Seo and spending hours and hours engaging in groups, commenting on posts or posting on my own accounts just to get my shop to be seen. It took all my time. It would have been okay if I was a social media manager. But I’m not. I draw.

Are Susanna and Tommaso earning money while they nap?
No.

I realized I need a passive income. I need time to draw, experiment, make mistakes, study new techniques and all that I have to do in order to keep on getting better and better. So I’ve put my little independent shop on vacation until further notice. I tend to follow my guts so for as much as I know, I could decide to re-open it to the public tomorrow morning. But for the time being, my plan is to keep it closed and spend my time uploading my drawings on all print on demand sites ever invented and see if I can get a passive income from those sites.

I wasn’t exactly born yesterday, I knew I needed the money and I knew that I wasn’t going to make enough from my store right away. But I have this funny tendency to self-sabotage. Getting money without working felt immoral to me. I have a problem with self-worth – which I’m working on – and I felt like I wasn’t good enough to have a passive income. Only really cool people, good people, intelligent people can have money without working. I don’t deserve it, basically.

But that’s Artemisia, my inner critic, talking and judging me all the time. I’m getting better and better at shutting her up, but I still have a lot of work to do with her. The thing is, nowadays pretty much anyone can get a passive income – even me!

I have no idea if this is going to work. I already have a store on Redbubble where I sold a few things with zero efforts, maybe I can multiply that result by using other platforms simultaneously. It doesn’t hurt to try.

So here’s my brand new shop on TEEPUBLIC.

Here’s to passive income! Freedom!

Are Tato and Molly…
No.

p.s.

This blog is going to get boring. Or very interesting, depending on your point of view. I plan to post reviews about print on demand sites, share my experience in using them. I know. There are thousands of those posts. I even wrote one already myself, on my old blog. Well, there will be one more. The more the better!!

A very strange summer. But I’m lucky anyway.

I wait for summer all year long. It’s my absolute favorite season. I like the long days and the hot weather, I like to keep all the windows open and to walk barefoot in the garden. I like that when I sleep I can feel the breeze coming in from the window, I like to wear light clothes and sandals.

Most of all I like to swim in the open air. I haven’t been to the sea for many years., but living next to the biggest and most beautiful lake in Italy made the thing acceptable. Swimming in Lake Garda is almost as satisfying as swimming in the sea, even if snorkeling isn’t as good. But the water is fresh, the view around is stunning and the beaches are great.

Too bad that this year, for one reason or another, I haven’t gone to the lake once yet, and haven’t gone swimming as well, not even at the local pool (which is in a marvelous park with thermal waters).

Which makes this summer to feel wasted.

And yes, it’s just started, officially. And I’m lucky enough to live in Italy, where summer is longer, even if I am in the north. We can usually swim at the lake until late September, and go to the beach until mid-October. Then the lake’s water becomes too cold, as it comes straight down from a mountain’s river and it’s always very cold, which I like.

Yesterday, after many days of really hot temperature, we finally had a cloudy day. I say ‘finally’ because it didn’t feel like a wasted summer day, because I’d have stayed home anyway.

Every evening, after dinner, I take the dogs out for a walk. The temperature cools off and there is always a light, fresh breeze coming from the mountains. I go to say hi to the cows, who are roaming free for the summer season and feel immensely lucky to live here. Because if I were still living in Milan, I could not go swimming in the open air in any case, period. And in the evening I would walk the dogs on the still hot asphalt of a crowded street, breathing cars’ engines emissions.

And when I remember this, and I remember how the quality of my life has improved since I came here, I can take the no-swimming/no-lake part very easily.

Stretch, adjust, but don’t give up.

So, life really gets in the way, sometimes. I had to manage some s**t that was thrown at me in the last few days, and it’s something that happens every time I make plans, I’ve noticed. I decide to make a change, to do a certain thing, and I’m derailed by major events. Major events that are never fully about me, but for which it seems like I am the only person in the whole galaxy who can take responsibility for and do something, otherwise, I’ll be damned and addressed as baaaad forever and ever.

I think it’s a test courtesy sponsored by Life. I want to do something, I decide to make changes and life goes like ‘okaaay, let’s see how much you really want this’. Because it’s always like this and I believe that my being tested is the only answer and reason. When I was younger I thought I was simply unlucky, or cursed. But growing up I realized we’re here to learn, and nothing is against us. It only looks like it is. If we could be smart enough to stop being egocentric drama queens we could see that there is always a lesson coming with… s**t. Because, lesson or not, let’s call things by their names, shall we. So, every time life gets in the way (and by ‘life’ I mean my dysfunctional family and all that comes with it ) and I have to give up momentarily what I was doing, it’s hard to bounce back and start again. I have to be extra resilient and it’s not always easy. But since there is little to gain if I don’t and a lot to get if I do…

I just do it. Not easily. But I do it.

Resiliency is like a muscle, I have learned. Like hamstrings. The more you bend the more they stretch. Same thing. If you take it with a sportive attitude it becomes like training. It’s a little fucked up to be training I really like, but I can see how much I’m getting stronger, anyway.

All this to say I have just resiliently bounced back for the millionth time.