How many ways can I make a coffee cup look sexy? (A Women in Business Post)

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life131 Comments

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cathyzielske.com
I took a week off from blogging last week. It had been a really long time since I’d done that. In fact, I can only recall a few times since I started blogging when I didn’t post fresh content every week and I started blogging in 2005, so that’s a stretch.*

I’m proud of this. It’s not easy to start a blog and keep it up. Many a young upstart will tell you: content creation can be a real bitch over time. That’s a fact.

When blogging is part of your business, you also don’t have a choice. You have to create content that will keep people coming back to read. For me, it’s a melange of personal stories, scrapbooking how-to stuff, product promotion and a little design education thrown in for good measure. There is a balance to seek between these elements in order to achieve a state of authenticity and engagement with readers.

And then there is what I like to call the X Factor. The thing that people connect to on some deeper level wherein they decide, “I like this person. I want to come back and read more.”

The X Factor is the hook and every person brings their own needs and wants to any blog reading experience.

Personally, I don’t read very many blogs and I have very specific reasons for reading the ones that I do keep up with. I’m looking for an X Factor that speaks to me and I have different X Factors depending on what I’m looking for. I’m guessing you do, too.

The other part is that I want to be true to who I am and how I write and in the world of really fantastic blogging—I’m mean, seriously, there are hella many great writers and content producers out there—I want to continue to cultivate my own voice and approach and not get hung up on realizing how many way more awesome people are out there than me.

But last week, as I was not blogging but still on social media, I kept trying to take a photo of a coffee cup on my couch—you know, create some riveting and artistic image for my Instagram account—and I realized, “My God, Cathy, you have done this shot six freaking ways to Sunday. Please. Just. Don’t.”

cathyzielske.com
There are a few things going on here. I’ll tackle the most obvious one first: social media content creation.

I took the week off from blogging but chose to stay on social media. I was nearing 7,000 followers on Instagram and my ego decided to keep adding a few images to the stream, you know, just to see that number roll over. In my mind, it’s never good to disappear completely, right? You need to keep up with Facebook. You need to keep up with Instagram. You need to keep taking those life-changing photos of your coffee mug.

And as I was framing the shot (no, it’s not the one you see above), I just thought: What the HELL are you doing?

I’ve had a lot of moments lately where I’ll take a photo to share on Instagram, look at it and ask myself, “And your point is?” And then I just don’t. I don’t do it.

I’ll scroll down through my feed and even delete photos that I think are stupid. Shots I took for no solid reason. Shots that were designed purely for promotional purposes.

Then I’ll look at other people’s feeds, the ones filled with images that make it look like they live in bright, white houses 24/7 and remind me how decidedly unwhite and not bright my own home is and I think, “Well that just makes me feel less than.”

In fact, there are feeds that exhaust me emotionally. Part of it’s simple jealousy (is your life REALLY that beautiful all the time?), and part of it’s just a lack of connection to what is real, as in, that’s not all that close to my reality.

Then I wonder what is the purpose behind my own feed? Is it truly for me? Because when it all started, it surely was, I can tell you that. It was all about the magic of having an iPhone and taking little photos that made me super happy.

But now social media is part of the CZ Design Machine.

 

The second thing going on here is this: the quest for authenticity. When your life is also part of your business, as is the case with we who make our living in the crafty world, you have to keep up the image you are cultivating in order for that image to translate to income.

Does that mean the person I present to you is a carefully cultivated and crafted person? Yes and no. I mean, did my coffee cup, tray and blanket naturally occur in the image above? No, they didn’t. Do I censor myself in this space with much more frequency than ever before? Lately? I think I do.

If my X Factor is striving for real in a business that is often about pretty and inspired and telling you how to make things look better, then I believe I have a contradiction even though I aspire toward congruency.

In the end it really is all about the business because the business pays the bills.  I am finding myself at a crossroads again in regards to working this careful balance down to a nub.

 

I’ve heard that I seem real from many of you. And maybe that is because I have shitty light in my office and you can see cables. Or because I do all my own bathroom cleaning. Or because I’m lucky to squeeze into a Size 16 on a good day. Or because me and Dan have to work on our marriage. Or because I work in pajamas sans bra. But I assure you that it’s a balancing act I struggle with. How real is real? How does real conflict with business? How does it help?

Do people want a pretty coffee cup shot or do people want something else?

cathyzielske.com
I want something else. I want a shared humanity. I want real. I want the courage to stop worrying so much about the image.

But I also want to make a living doing what I do.

Therein lies the rub. It remains a fluid and changing balance to navigate. Anyone who tells you otherwise, well, they are a lot smarter than me or have a much more focused business plan.

Good for them.

I work in an industry that is all about image. It’s all about stuff that looks good. It’s all about pushing the real life but making sure it looks freaking amazing at the same time. Hell, even I teach you classes to help you do what? Make shit look better.

Yes, it’s also about telling your story. I get that. In fact, I LOVE that, but to deny the other layers of the scrapbooking business would be disingenuous of me. I’m privileged to presently make a living doing this. If it stops translating, I will find other work. That’s not a woe is me. That’s real life.

I’m not sure how a photo of a coffee cup migrated into this, but it did. Sometimes I start writing and if I let my gut take over, I never know where it’s going to end up. I’m working to figure out my business these days and it’s making me look at a lot of things.

Chalk this up to that.

And thanks for reading.

 

*In October 2006, I deleted my Typepad blog after having a bit of a personal meltdown over trolls and realizing that I didn’t need the judgments. Then I realized I just wanted to write about my life. The business? That all came much later. I resumed my blog in January 2007.

Note: as I write about my experiences in business, I’m going to keep these posts link-free, save for the occasional sad trombone. That said, if you wonder what types of ways I hustle for extra income, read my disclosure page which lists the affiliate programs I am a member of. Keep in mind, no one I know is getting rich on affiliate links, but every little bit helps.

Cathy ZielskeHow many ways can I make a coffee cup look sexy? (A Women in Business Post)

131 Comments on “How many ways can I make a coffee cup look sexy? (A Women in Business Post)”

  1. #1
    Delia

    Loved that post. Here’s what we love about you Cathy – great design (above and beyond all others) & honestly with a dash (or more) of humour. Don’t really give a damn about your coffee cup but it gives one ideas for photos on days when kids don’t want you intruding in their lives. Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing for years now. What ever our job, we are all in the same routine of highs & lows: feeling like we make a difference followed by moments of total self doubt. Know that you inspire many of us; make us smile on a daily basis & that all of us constantly appreciate how much of yourself you give. There is a reason why you are one of the legends of your industry so please realise that part of that why is because you, like most women, are driven by self doubt yet work your way through. I.E.- just keep on doing what you’ve been doing and hopefully the rest of us will get appreciate it enough to get both our gorgeous children through college.

  2. #4
    Kym

    I love that you have real content, not just product product product all the time. It’s why you and Ali are the only scrapbooking bloggers I read. You have nailed so many things in this post, but the one that made me say “me too” the loudest was the Instagram self editing: not everything belongs out there, and we don’t need to post all the time to keep the feedback loop going.
    Keep it up, CZ, keep up the good work.

  3. #5
    Steph

    Yep and yep! I’m the same way. Most of us are. It’s so damn hard to sell yourself and that’s your job. But you do an awesome job at it!!! We’re all here because that’s exactly what we love about you – you are YOU and not like anyone else. You have done an incredible job of creating a business that captures your personality and lets all of have a peek into the reality of your life. And it totally works. 🙂

    I don’t think you should change anything but if it helps to write and post the ads, imagine that you have an assistant or that you’re advising someone else how to sell their products. And then do their job. 😉 I’ve worked as a social media director for a couple of local businesses and it amazes me how much easier it is for them to come up with promotions when they’re hiring someone else to do that. That little bit of distance can really inspire creativity.

    On a personal note, I rarely ever post on blogs anymore. But you always say something that makes me want to comment. And I really think it’s because you’re all about keeping it real and because I can identify with so much of it. That’s a pretty good selling point. 😉

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well, I appreciate it. This post did kind of flow and I woke up this morning, wondering if I should go in and tweak it. You know, that feeling… is it offensive or annoying.

      Imagine I have an assistant. I like that.

      1. #5.1.1
        michele

        No tweaking needed, you’re being YOU. YOu’re being real and I appreciate that Cathy. I feel a bit of a funk sometimes and just being myself is good and real. Thank you!

  4. #7
    Tanya

    Cathy, always be you, keep it real and people will love you the way you are! If they don’t Fuck ’em! By the way, I love your coffee, leaves, rose wreaths, snow pics!

  5. #8
    Amy

    Cathy, I love you. I don’t know you, but through blog post, classes and media and still every word feels like a cup of coffee with a girlfriend. I constantly find myself thinking me too girl!

  6. #9
    Za

    If I keep coming back here, it’s precisely because you don’t make us believe you live in a fairytale kingdom. You seem to have found a good balance on this blog. At least that’s what I feel.

  7. #10
    summer82

    Life is messy but it is ours to do the best we can by our family. The sun still comes up but your attitude makes the difference. Keep yours true. Balancing is what makes the attitude happen. So keep up the good work. We understand that you are a business yet your product is you, your creativity and and your approach to each day. So go get them. I will keep reading and loving your creativity and daily dose of humanity.

  8. #11
    Jacquie

    I have been following/stalking you, for years. And yes, I would marry you. Your blog posts inspire, entertain and make us take a look at ourselves. I believe your posts give us a fairly true picture of who you really are. I don’t follow many blogs, but you are a stand out among the many, of that I am certain. For all of the above, I am very grateful.

    I think most of us understand that this is a business and there are some necessary evils that go along with that. I personally don’t find your marketing strategies overwhelming…not like some of the other big names in the industry, which I no longer follow. You have always been incredibly generous with your giveaways, your videos and your design savvy. All great reasons to visit your blog week after week.

    1. #12.1
      Kirsten J

      Duh! Read it wrong – all sizes available – I just done quite have the guts to buy one….

    2. #12.2
      Kristina

      Thanks Kirsten for the mention….. and the understanding. Cathy’s message is exactly what this tee shirt is about. 🙂

  9. #13
    Heather

    Thank you….this is what I needed to read today…..many times I see something you write or a pic you post and I think “I wanna keep it real too”. All the “fluffing” and pretended perfection that some people do just bogs you down eventually….

    1. #13.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think it’s a fine line because Instagram, for example, is the chance to share whatever your artistic vision is, you know? I get that. I take photos on a big white board when I’m showing scrapbook pages or stuff like that. I want those photos to inspire people.

      And I follow some really amazing nature photographers who blow my mind. But every time I want a cool office photo, you get the type of shot you see above. And the thing is, i do love my office, i really do.

      🙂 It’s just something I’m really looking at right now. What is real for me?

  10. #14
    Kimberly

    I come back because you’re good at what you do and you’re real. I just can’t take the fairytale perfection of other places – I aspire, then I look around, and then I’m sad and jealous and just downright negative.

    Fantasy is fun to visit. Reality is where I want to live. Thanks for being a home.

    1. #14.1
      Cathy Zielske

      See, I do the same. I get jealous. I get negative. And that is totally on me. That says more about me, obviously. My therapist told me I lived in fantasy for most of my life. She has helped me to pack my bags and get the heck out.

  11. #16
    Stacy B

    I learned a TON from the design your life and hybrid scrapbooking classes I took from you, Cathy! Those classes TOTALLY cut the crap out of scrapbooking. I appreciated all the effort you put into making the class valuable to me. And I follow you on instagram and elsewhere because I think you’re funny and adorable. I identify with you as a working mom. You’re also the only person I’ve known who also likes Crowded House. 🙂

  12. #17
    Myra

    Please don’t write about or post sanitized versions of anything. Yours is one of a few blogs I read daily and it’s because you tell it like it is. I always wonder what goes on behind the scenes of the beautiful pics I see on Facebook and Instagram. Nobody’s life is that perfect 24/7. Mine sure isn’t. One year I wrote a truthful Christmas letter that I shared with a few friends, because I was sick to death of the ones I’d been getting that were way more than humble bragging. Mine included things like my kid not turning in her homework, her sassy mouth, my dog peeing in the house, cat hair everywhere and a husband who couldn’t pick up his socks to SAVE HIS LIFE. That’s my real life. I bet it’s everyone else’s too. So keep it real. That’s why I keep coming back. And you’re damn funny.

      1. #17.1.1
        Christine

        Oh. I would have KEPT that letter. So I could look back at it when things get bumpy and remember I’m not alone in my crap.

  13. #18
    Caroline

    Cathy

    We read and love it all. Coffee cups (both posed and unposed), pjs, bras and no bras, promotion, personal stories . . . .
    Don’t worry and for goodness sakes, don’t stop.

  14. #19
    Cheri

    Honestly, posed pictures of coffee cups do nothing for me. My life looks nothing like that, and not just because I don’t drink coffee. More because I could never find a clear surface around here to take such a photo. Especially when the girls are home from college. But real life photos – you in pjs with tangled cords and book/footrest all in plain view – that lets me know that you are REAL and your life looks somewhat like mine. It makes you relatable (is that a word?) And that is what keeps me coming back. So keep on keeping it real and I’ll keep reading. Love you.

  15. #20
    Jen

    Here’s the thing. I have a lot of blogs in my reader. I fly past most of them because they bore me. Yours? I love. It’s real life to me. Real life and awesome design and pictures. You rock!

  16. #21
    Linda

    You are awesome Cathy, office cords and all. I never believe those perfect life in a perfect house bloggers. I’d much rather read about you as a real person with a real life, and that is part of what makes me want to support your business by buying your products and taking your classes. You rock!

  17. #23
    Zalaine

    Darlin, may be my favorite CZ post ever. How to balance the simple with the unsimple. This may very well be the beginning of a new way, we are forever changing. We dislike change yet it is the only thing that is constant in our lives. This is your journey, just do it the best way you can, and where you land is where you need to be. Keep your focus simple and real and let the rest fall into place. You are in a good place…

  18. #24
    karen

    I’ve been following you for years and faithfully read every single post. What I love most is that you invite your readers in and make us feel like we are your friends. It takes courage to put it all out there as you do and I admire that. Please keep on keepin’ on. Your “friends” are counting on you!

  19. #25
    Yolanda

    So here’s the thing: you’re a creative. I expect that you’re going to see line and composition, color, and symmetry when you post a image. Yeah, sometimes you’re going to take and post an image with “intention.” You’re going to move the blanket and arrange the cup. For me, it was a relief to learn how composed most images on the web actually are. I didn’t feel so bad about what my life looked like.

    But if you had posted that image and written “Thanks to @westelm for my super comfy blanket and this awesome coffee mug! #sponsoredpost” I would feel very different about that image.

    But because you have created an “authentic brand” I know when I see that image that those are real items in your real house that you use every Minnesota winter day. And I know they probably came from Target. And I know that your actual hands have to wash that mug when you’re done drinking that cup of coffee.

    Having artistic intention does not make you fake.

    And here’s what very different about your products and classes and why I buy from you: because you use what you sell to me. I don’t see you creating and endless stream of products without a single scrapbooking layout to show for it. Instead, I see you creating products that allow you to document your life, and in turn, you’re like a good friend who says, “Hey, wanna make something similar? Here’s a template. Here’s a stamp. I’ve already done the hard part. Go have fun.”

    1. #25.1
      Michelle t

      I’m sorry you’re going through a crossroads. Just wanted to say that I love your blog, visit almost daily, and feel as welcome as I could possibly feel (an issue/block) for me. I like your style and your stuff, but I really like you. You’re awesome. Michelle t

    2. #25.2
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks for the feedback, Yolanda. And it came from Costco. You know I like to save money in bulk. 😉

  20. #26
    Caroline

    I recently deleted the Instagram feed of a scrapbook maven who shall remain nameless because EVERY post (and there were SEVERAL every day) was a business promotion. This person has truly lost sight of why she started in the first place. I appreciate there is a fine line between promotion and truly interesting content. I’ve followed you for years because when you say something it’s relevant to me. Even the coffee cup photos. And quite frequently the way you say it makes me want to buy the cool shit you create. So kudos to you! Keep it up. Your readers will probably let you know if you get annoying because most of us feel like somehow we know you. And we don’t put up with a lot of crap…

  21. #27
    D

    It takes a lot to “put yourself out there” – bless you for it, because there’s no way in heck I am emotionally up for it myself. 🙂

  22. #28
    Rachel del grosso

    Cathy I loved this so much. I recently unfollowed a bunch of people on IG because I just couldn’t relate to them or because their images made me feel less than. I don’t need that in my life! I do love how real you are and I always love your pictures, whatever they happen to be of.
    A very inspiring post and one I will come back to often.

  23. #29
    Kim Woods

    I find myself seeing those beautiful, bright white images and thinking I need to repaint my green/yellow/red/brown walls white. I’m not a white and tan sort of girl, I have color everywhere. I like my house and try to push those thoughts out because they aren’t authentic it is almost peer pressure. Keep doing what you are doing and I prefer the cute pic of you in your pjs in your office over the artistic coffee mug…however I do love that tray and your blanket!

  24. #30
    Deb @ PaperTurtle

    Oooh I love when you let your gut take over and write a post for you. ;o) As a blogger I found myself nodding through every bit of this, Cathy. And I absolutely adore that photo of you. I’m giggling just a little about the coffee cup because I do the same thing! And then I think the same thing as you, “Why?!?!” Keep at it, sister. I love your guts.

  25. #31
    kelly

    cathy, as usual you have heartfully expressed something that so many of us out here on the interwebs struggle with. whether blogging is our ‘real job’ or not, being authentic in a social media world is just freaking hard.

    to be honest, this ‘prettification’ and uber stylized scrapbooking world is starting to bring me down. and I’m not hating i swear – people are out there hustling to make a living and wow…that’s so cool. but when the products become more important than the pictures…i don’t know, it feels a little smarmy. which is something that i have NEVER felt from you.

    i started following you years ago (simple scrapbooks anyone?) for awesome, crap-free scrapbooking advice. but it’s that x-factor that brings me back here. because even when I’m not actively keeping up with my project life pages or whatever, i appreciate the way you honestly and authentically share your life – warts and all. coming here feels like having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with any of my friends ‘in real life’ you know. the ones you don’t have to clean the cat hair off the couch before they come over. because they have pet hair too.

    i totally get this post. i totally understand not wanting to be a promotion machine but yet, trying to stay relevant. kudos to you for doing (IMO) a great job at balancing it.

  26. #32
    Helen

    What you do is so simple and amazing at the same time. Sometimes folks think of the word simple as a negative thing. . .quite the opposite. My life is pretty simple and I love that–not a lot of drama and regular stress. You and your method of “taking the crap out of scrap booking” has kept me grounded over the years and showed me that my approach although very simple is me. I don’t have to make it something it’s not or mimic some one else’s version of what this craft really is or “supposed” to be.

    I speak from the heart. Using humor where necessary and seriousness when needed. The people I share my craft with get that for the most part.

    Over the years, you have keep me grounded in my need to be “simple”. . .saying thank you for that does not seem to be enough, but I think you get my drift.

    Thank you for showing us that you are “real”. I think others will agree when I say that trying to be like you or scrap book like you is the most calming thing about this craft.

  27. #34
    Whitney

    You know what? You are awesome! You are genuine, the type of person that I believe most of your readers (me included) wish we had for a neighbor. That way, we could walk over any time and hang out in pjs and drink coffee with you.

  28. #35
    Nicole Hankosky

    Oh Cathy, I loved this post. The reason I like you so darn much is because you’re real. Your cables show, you work in your jammies and *gasp* without a bra! I LOVE that you’re a size 16, because I’M having a tough time fitting into my 14/16 clothes after having a baby this year. I can relate. I read everything you do because you tell me how to do fun things with my photos and my memories while living my messy life and not expecting that I live in a bright white house. Put me in the crowd wanting “something else” and let’s get real.

    So stage those coffee cups, or don’t, because they don’t really bear any reflection on why I read your writings – it’s all about you, because I find you so darn relatable.

  29. #36
    Barb

    I read your blog because your scrapbook design takes my breath away and you make me laugh and I’m interested to see what photos you post/stories you tell when your kids aren’t at home. As a single woman with no kids it’s a struggle to figure out what photos I would want to share on social media–I’m always looking for new ideas.

  30. #37
    Laura

    I actually really like this coffee cup photo because I think it speaks to your design aesthetic. Simple shapes, contrast, good light. I can see why it appeals to you. You are one of the people I will always read. Do what you need to do, change when you need to change. Let us know when you need cheering up, with links to funny animated gifs or cute kittens. We’re your peeps. 🙂

  31. #38
    Cele Schaffer

    Just be real and have fun! When it is not enjoyable anymore-do something else that is. We love you for who you are because you let us “in” and don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

    1. #39.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well, my family room? Has white walls and is very modern and minimal. It blends with the kitchen but the rest of my house looks nothing like those remodeled rooms. 😉

  32. #40
    Stacy

    Oh, Cathy, thank you for posting this. And sharing how you feel.

    I’ve been asked to step up my social media game to support my freelance writing efforts, and I am struggling. How many photos of my cats do people really want to see? How many links to my articles can I post before my friends start skipping over me in their newsfeeds? How can I make it relevant without being annoying?

    The fact that you “think out loud” on your blog about your internal dialog is so refreshing. And helpful for those of us who are struggling with similar issues.

    So, thanks again. And keep doing what you’re doing, because from my little window on the Internet, it’s working.

  33. #41
    Helen

    I read your blog every day for 4 reasons:
    1. You’re an amazing writer and you’re funny. You make me laugh while I’m reading.
    2. Just about everything I know about PSE I’ve learned from taking your classes and reading/watching your tutorials. When someone wants to start using PSE I always direct them to your site.
    3. I love your scrapbooking style. I’m a hybrid scrapbooker…I love using digital templates (I have tons of yours) and I like using a few simple embellishments. Love all your pages!
    4. Since I do Project Life I also take a lot of photos that I sometimes wonder why I’m doing this. But I am trying to be a better photographer, so even coffee cup pics can be interesting sometimes. However, the thing I like about your IG pics is the caption you put with them…they’re simple but they give the picture meaning.

    There is a blogger I started following because initially I liked how clean and white her PL pages looked. But I soon realized that they don’t say anything. I love Ali’s blog as much as I love yours, and after taking her classes I realize how important the story is….no matter how imperfect it might be. I understand you need to do what you have to do to make a living, but please don’t ever change and try to make us think you have a perfect life. Then you wouldn’t be funny anymore.

  34. #42
    Dawn McF

    I couldn’t have said it any better than Helen above. The other part I love about you is your age. I relate more to you than anyone else. We are very close in age, and I love that I can relate to your stories more. I gain insight on different things I can scrap about, or tell stories about, when the child is not at home. Thanks for just being you, or as close as you can to the real.

  35. #43
    Amanda M.

    I love this! And you…. I blog my family stuff, but only my mother and my 89 year old aunt really read it consistently. I’m ok with that. I LOVE Instagram. But ~ I feel I am one of the older ones in the community. I just turned 37 and have 1 kid that’s almost 20…and 2 in elementary school. Maybe it’s the feeds I follow, but somedays I just feel WAY older than most of what I see. The thing I love the most about you is NOT your age, but your attitude. And your “realness”. It really does come through….posed coffee cups or not. 🙂 I understand it’s part of your business, but it doesn’t feel like it – like a lot of the other users out there. Please keep doing what you’re doing!

  36. #44
    Amanda B

    On Monday, I questioned whether I should post my daily Elf on the Shelf photos. I had seen some of the people I follow apologize for posting their photos and promising not to post every day. And I thought to myself, “what? Is that not cool?” The elf is a big deal in my house, why shouldn’t i share that? Most of my December Daily comes from my IG photos and my stupid elf is part of my DD. I am not a photographer, do not have a fancy camera to take fancy, perfect photos. The other day, I caught myself posing a photo for a stupid photo a day challenge I was trying and realized how absolutely ridonkulous it was that I was doing this. And i finally figured out why I hate photo a day challenges. So, a plus, I guess.

    98% of my photos are of my son and family. The other 2% is of random shit from my bakery, my crafting endeavors and my nerdy obsessions. And almost all of them are edited with iPhone photo editing apps. I love filters to make my photos look like they’re from the 60’s. I like bokehs. I like digital embellishments. They make my shitty photos look less shitty and makes it easier for me to scrapbook them later on down the road. Because, at the end of the day, every photo in my feed is for me. Someone hates my elf? Then they can either scroll past and ignore or click that unfollow button. No skin off my nose because I’m still going to post that picture.

    But I get it…I’ve been there…wondering if I should censor myself or make what I post seem more…perfect. But it’s not me. My house is boring with zero decor and when I post a picture of my crochet scarf I’m working one you can totally see the messy stash of yarn currently housed on the ottoman behind it. Real life, yo.

    Anyway, I love this post. I love your work. I love that you swear. I love that you work without a bra (I’m actually jealous of that…I miss the days when I could work from home sans bra…some of my favorite days).

    Keep it up and thanks for the laughs and inspiration!

    1. #44.1
      Cathy Zielske

      See, i think if you want to post your Elf pictures then do it! I just posted a shot of my deer in the clear, because it’s a silly tradition that my hubby invented and I freaking love it. And I do have an elf. And though he’s not getting any action this year, he may do one or two highly inappropriate things on IG. 😉

  37. #45
    Vonda

    Great post! Big applause here. I have followed you since I picked up your book Clean and Simple Design many years ago – and I follow your blog, participate in your classes, and buy your stuff because it just makes sense for the way I want to scrapbook.

    I know many crafty consumers feel the need to “identify” with the person making the products, I’m not really that kind of consumer. But that being said, you also have an interesting personal story, although I’m not sure I would read your blog if your marriage and weight struggles were the only thing going on if that makes you feel better. Lol!

  38. #46
    Linda

    Cathy,
    You nailed this post – “like a boss” ( I can hear my daughters cringing, but pretty sure that I used it in the right context).
    I read you blog because you don’t sugarcoat it. Life isn’t always perfect, it gets messy, it gets hard, but somehow you have to find the joy in the moment and you do. There is always something to be grateful for.
    My only wish- could you ever change the font on your designs? Not a big fan of the font you always use- but that is just my aesthetic. I still purchase some of your designs and just bought your Christmas stamps- have digital from last year, but wanted the actual stamps, as well.

    1. #46.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Linda, I try to use ‘like a boss’ too and may I say, yes, you nailed it.

      I am the most conservative font person on the planet. I think you’re getting that, and I am going to try and branch out a bit more. 🙂

  39. #47
    Britiney

    I think that one of the reasons I love scrapbooking (and crafting in general) is because I like creating something pretty in the midst of the chaos. And that something pretty doesn’t have to be perfect, but I want to feel like I’ve done my best. I think that’s why I relate to you – because you’re not creating more perfect stuff in the midst of your perfect life. You’re making memories and capturing life. The good, the bad and the ugly – but in a beautiful way. I don’t think having scrapbooks full of perfect will do anyone a favor. But they can be pleasing to the eye, right? Thanks for being you, CZ.

  40. #50
    Vonda

    Actually – I do have a business related gripe, and this may be the wrong forum, but I think past participants to Move More, Eat Less should be able to take advantage of the repeat class discount all month and not just until COB today. I know BPC wants to capitalize on the Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday – sanity one day – hysteria, but I think most people are not going to get refocused on their weight loss goals until after the holiday food has been eaten and enjoyed, and so it would be nice if that discount could be offered to prior participants for a few weeks instead of a few days.

  41. #51
    Susan

    To be honest with you, I’m kind of tired of all the white white studio space photos out there. It’s actually quite refreshing to see real images. Doesn’t mean you can’t make them beautiful. Just be you….you are interesting enough.

  42. #52
    Candace

    Not only do I follow your IG-FB and read your blog, sometimes I even read the blog comments. Says a lot that you attract such interesting followers.

    1. #52.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think I do have engaged readers, for sure. And I for one enjoy the conversation. I’ve had some great exchanges with people who think I’m an ass, too. So there’s that. 🙂

  43. #54
    scrapchick/Carrie

    I had a moment last week where the white, bright, beautifully set Thanksgiving tables and golden brown Turkeys were making me feel less than – cursing my home for being dark, cursing Wisconsin for more cloudy days than sunny, etc, etc – wondering HOW do these people maintain living in a magazine page?! But you said it – it’s not REAL! And quite honestly seems exhausting.

    Thanks for showing me being an introvert, homebody, in pjs sans bra more days than not – is an OK place to be!!! Thanks for being YOU.

  44. #55
    Sheena Joy Nicholas

    Wow you are speaking so true…I wonder how people that are successful in the crafting world do it. I mean how do they do it all; FB, IG, Twitter, blogs, plus designing beautiful crafts and they and their homes/offices too…I am slowly trying to build a business.Thanks for writing this.And you look good in your pj’s btw, you still look put together just with pajama pants.

  45. #58
    Christine

    We are the same age and my son is also a college freshman this year. Married 23 years. So often I read your blog and think OK we aren’t the only ones or I’m not the only one. And then to get crap free scrapbooking that pushes me out of my very small kindergarten level digital box, big bonus!

  46. #59
    Karen

    I live in an Edwardian house and detest modernism, minimalism and I’m not a big fan of white anything, it’s colour all the way for me. Your design may be clean (and yes your fonts are stuck in a bit of a Swiss timewarp) but the rest of you is colour; vibrant, dazzling and engaging colour!!! That’s why I come back, simple as that.

  47. #60
    Tami

    “I’ve heard that I seem real from many of you. And maybe that is because I have shitty light in my office and you can see cables.”

    Humor…(one of) your X factors… you make me laugh…every.damn.time.

    Keep up being you.

  48. #62
    Holly Corbett

    I just enjoy coming over here and checking out your blog on a daily basis. You are such an inspiration in so many ways. I have eliminated all my scrap crap because of you, and it really makes me a much happier person! And a better scrapper! Keep up the fantastic work.

  49. #63
    Dolly

    Chica I have been a fan of yours for years, when you went “dark” in 2006 I swear I whimpered, “no please don’t go.” I kept coming back and checking just incase you changed your mind and breathed a heavy sigh of relief when you reappeared. Why? I connect with you. That might seem like a trite comment, but it is far from that. I am not a connector. I am outgoing enough but I don’t join groups, or have lots of beasties or put myself out there…it requires a lot of effort and an ability to not fear reprisals from the masses. I feel all the same things that you do, but I don’t have the voice and the balls to use it that you do. I respect you and your opinions, your talent and the honesty you bring to the table everyday. Thank you for sticking with this gig…there are so many of us that appreciate your voice.

    1. #63.1
      Cathy Zielske

      “…when you went dark”. That made me smile. Because I did. I just shut the whole thing down. Well, thanks Dolly. You do add some great comments to the mix over the years. 🙂

  50. #64
    Sarah

    Most blogs I visit for pictures/inspirations for my PL.
    But it’s your’s & Ali’s that I read every.single.word. You are such a part of my world, that my husband (&boys) even know who you are. And it’s not one particular thing that keeps me coming back to the blog, but more of a “I want to check in with my friend”, kinda thing.

  51. #65
    Crystal

    I love the honesty on your blog. It is okay if your real live isn’t as clean and perfect as your designs and the things you sell. Mine surely isn’t! But when I use some of your cards or look at a layout you post, I know I can have a little corner of my life can be simple and easy.

    Also, I love your office, it looks like mine. I also work in pajamas quite frequently, and I even have a catalog under my desk that I put my feet on. Maybe I will take a picture and scrapbook it.

  52. #66
    Keianna

    And this post is why I have followed you for years. Your blog is honest, gives real insight and is a fresh perspective. You have a good balance between design, real life and business. I don’t spend my time reading the world is perfect blogs anymore. They feel contrived. And I love your clean design, which is why I only buy your templates and why I enjoy your classes. Thanks for being you.

  53. #67
    Deb

    Hey, Mama. You know you’re the only blog that I ever comment on anymore. I haven’t scrapbooks for YEARS. I have three unused Project Life kits sitting in my basement, and I have a butt-ton of digital scrapbooking files sucking up space on my Mac, untouched. That’s not why I visit your blog. And maybe I can’t even explain what it is, exactly. But whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it well. I love visiting you, I love seeing what’s up. I must admit I do have a teeny bit of the jealousy thing happening when I see your kitchen, but whatever. Don’t sweat it. Just do what you do. It’s working.
    And hey, if we lived near each other we could totally borrow each other’s jeans. (Not stalkerish at all) #samesize

  54. #69
    Kim

    I read a sentence yesterday in a blog that hit home for me in my life right now {especially in a media world we live in . The words that hit home were : Be brave & show up ! And I think you do that , good or bad .That’s what I like about you and your blog.

  55. #70
    Cori

    I can look at pretty coffee pictures all over the Internet, but I can only read ONE CZ’s snarky take on life. I like snark. Snark is my love language. I GET snark. Bring on the snark, the real, the lack-of-glittery embossing, and the everything else that makes you YOU.

  56. #71
    Joy

    Well I just loved the coffee cup and blanket photo. Heck, I’d buy it if they sold it at the Home Goods! AAAAnnnnddd, I loved the pj picture, and I’d hang it next to the coffee picture. It speaks volumes to me. I’ve been reading your blog since about the time you started it. I’ve bought your books and loved them. My life has taken a much busier path past these last six or seven years, and I don’t have the time to do the scrapping that I used to do, but I still check in with you everyday to see what’s going on in that world and yours. You’ve become a friend. Hang in there. You’re doing just fine!

  57. #72
    Joy

    P.S. I mean no disrespect by referring to Home Goods. I’d also by it if it was sold in a fancy gallery, and I could afford it.

  58. #74
    Kristi

    I like you completely JUST the way you are. Sans bra, cool coffee cup, real sucky weight loss stories, all of it. You have been one of my favorites since you spoke to your square punch like it was a real child behind the screen at CKU…. You are just neat. LOVE the PJ pants. 🙂

  59. #76
    Lisa Russo

    Glad you brought up Instagram. Increasingly, my feed is all posed, perfectly lit still lives that don’t in any way reflect reality. I try not to promote too much on there – if I do, you can be sure it’s followed by a badly-lit craptastic (but lovely to me) shot of Ava holding her elves.

    Real all the way, baby!

  60. #78
    Gail

    Cathy, I read your blog because you are honest, real and talk about things that we can all relate to. BTW, love the pjs.

  61. #79
    Jodene

    I have read this post twice, it just really resonated with me! I feel the same way with regard to Instragram accounts that I follow, so much so that I stopped following some because they were so perfect (too perfect!) that they just made me feel like crap. Which I realise are totally my own insecurities rearing their ugly head. But why make myself feel that way if I can avoid it right?
    I follow one gorgeous lady who shares her fashion and every outfit she puts on costs more than my whole wardrobe combined .. twice over! Great for her, but depressing for me. But it’s nice to dream and see how the other half live 😉
    Mostly I love to see and read blogs and stories of people keeping it real, sharing not just the perfect moments but the every day moments (even their coffee cups and of course their totally cute pyjama pants) and hear their stories and know that I am not the only one out there with a less than perfect house, or marriage, or similar body issues, but life is still great! It’s just not as polished as others. And that’s okay too.
    Why do I keep coming back to your blog, day after day, year after year? Because the content is great and interesting, you are always real and honest and you’re damn funny! I have loved watching your family grow (not in a stalker kind of way, honest) as our kids are similar ages with similar interests and despite the fact I live on the other side of the world I relate to your stories. Oh and I love your Bee movies every Halloween. That alone is worth coming back for 🙂

    1. #79.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You know, one of my fears with this post (and I wrote it last week but wasn’t sure if I should post it) was that it would come across as just criticizing what I see on social media, and Instagram in particular.

      That wasn’t my intention. I follow some people whose feeds I really love, and those feeds don’t have anything to do with my real life and yet I connect to what I see. But some I don’t and that does say more about me and my own insecurities.

      But I’m still looking for inspiration in real stuff. I’m trying to live in the real world myself, something that before therapy, I really wasn’t doing at all.

      I just need to remember to write stuff that its truthful to me. Can’t always hit that nail on the head, but it’s pretty much my number one blogging goal. 🙂

      1. #79.1.1
        Jodene

        I don’t think that your blog post came across as criticising of social media at all! And I hope my comments didn’t either. I didn’t mean it that way since I do love my social media. I was more criticising of my own reactions (and feelings of inadequacy) to what I see on social media.
        I do still enjoy occasionally looking at all of the pretty shoes and clothes and beautiful homes now and then, even if they are in no way similar to the life that I live or will ever live. I just need to remember to come back down to reality when I’m done looking at what I perceive to be someone else’s perfect life.
        I also try to keep in mind, that you never really know what is going on in that person’s life, and just because they project the image of a pristine appearance and perfect home, family etc doesn’t mean they don’t have their own crap going on that they are dealing with or that they aren’t fighting a battle we cannot see. After all, nobody is perfect 🙂

        1. #79.1.1.1
          Cathy Zielske

          Oh Jodene, not at all! I agreed completely with your post. I think that I too experience those feelings of inadequacy as well. 🙂

  62. #80
    Jana NJ

    I understand Cathy in the consumer side I was overwhelmed and started feeling scrapbooking was not for me when my son got diagnosed with Autism, because podcasts, blogs that I read were all about perfect and chatty kids, conversations when they came from school, toys that they want, trips with school. I started feeling that I could not scrapbook because I had none of that. My son now is partially verbal but back then he was non verbal, I was struggling trying to take him everywhere for therapies and that was my life. I love my son and his uniqueness but the industry made me feel I had no place in scrapbooking.How could you tell stories of a child that don’t talk ?
    Well, I stopped blogging and decided to go digital went back to school, to study childhood psychology inspired by my son, and decided that my scrapbooking would be related to stories, because yes my son don’t tell me what he did at school, but I now understand him so much better and I’m able to scrapbook his accomplishments and that he is such a hard hard worker and I’m so very proud to be his mom because he teaches me every single day to understand that people are different.
    Today I follow you and your products and Ali because you guys are real and I understand the struggle but trust in your gut and do what feels right for you because what goes around comes around. Appreciate your hard work.

    1. #80.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Jana, I can imagine that would have made you feel on the outside of this hobby.

      I’m so grateful for people like Ali for sharing the stories of her real life and that of her children, showing that all stories can be told with grace and love and that we are all coming to life from a different place. 🙂

  63. #81
    Linda

    For what it’s worth – yours is the only blog I read. I became a fan after CKU ’05 where I took your class. I bought all the books and between the class and the books you changed my scrapping life! I have always had a love of design, so your blog inspires the designer in me. I also share the eternal struggle with the 30 pounds of chub, so I appreciate your wisdom, musings, successes and failures in that department as well. My kids are also about the same ages as Aidan and Cole, so it’s been fun to hear your stories about them as well. Thanks for doing the blog — it inspires me, amuses me, and seems like a weird kind of friendship for me. I will continue to support you!

  64. #83
    Angie

    I think so many people have already said it but you have a way with words that tell the story of not only your life, but one that resonates with so many of us who read those words. No bright, white, perfectly staged, pinteresting words, but REAL life ones. Thank you for making us laugh and cry and feel like we aren’t the only ones who can’t come up with a new idea for the advent calendar boxes and elf on a shelf. You are the bomb dot com. merry christmas

  65. #84
    Angie

    I think so many people have already said it but you have a way with words that tell the story of not only your life, but one that resonates with so many of us who read those words. No bright, white, perfectly staged, pinterest-worthy words, but REAL life ones. Thank you for making us laugh and cry and feel like we aren’t the only ones who can’t come up with a new idea for the advent calendar boxes and elf on a shelf. You are the bomb dot com. merry christmas

  66. #85
    Abby P

    Holy crap on a cracker — I’ve been following you everywhere (okay, not literally) for as long as you’ve been out there. You are REAL, you are hilarious, you tell it like it is, you are an amazing writer, did I mention you are funny? You are incredibly helpful for people you don’t know from Adam, you put yourself and real life out there. I think we’d be great friends if I lived in MN. Judging from the million-and-one-comments above, I’m not alone! Keep it up, Zielske, I live for every post you put up — and I ABSOLUTELY love the coffe mug shots. It pushes me to take better shots myself! You might want to check out #themugchronicles in Instagram. Have an amazing day!

  67. #86
    Cindy

    Personally, I just love reading your posts…….they crack me up!! This is THE ONLY blog where I even read comments (haven’t finished them all yet today), but I agree with the first 30 or so I’ve read so far. Everyone seems to have my same point of view of things. That’s what I enjoy so much about your blog. Plus you make awesome products that make my shit look good!! PLEASE, keep it up.

  68. #87
    Beth

    Beautifully written and as a small pea in this pond I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate and respect your honesty. I don’t keep up with many blogs either simply because their is not enough time in the day. Your site on the other hand is one that I have been faithful to for years because of your realness.

  69. #88
    Sandra Lomas

    i’ve read your blog for years now. not everyday…although i wish i could, but my life is way messy and i just don’t have time everyday. i like your style, your truthfulness, your sassiness, and your down to earth personality. i love how easy it is to read your blog, almost as if you and i are having a conversation. yes, you are a good writer. you are also a good teacher. easy to learn from. of course this is your business and you are promoting your products. go ahead. self promote. it sells. we buy. i hope you don’t plan on quitting this business anytime soon.

  70. #89
    Sandee Blair

    Thank you. For your vulnerability and your candor. Thank your family for letting them share you with us because how you share them reminds all of us that family matters most. You never know your “sphere of influence”. I too read few blogs. Yours is one. Two others I have read faithfully since you linked me to them years ago when you had a “blogs I follow” or “blogs I read” or some such thing on your website. Would you share what blogs you read now? I trust you. Like I trust Oprah. And lord knows, Oprah’s gospel.

  71. #90
    Tiffany Hayden

    What I love about you is that you’re “real”. You throw in real life along with your business & products. I feel I “know” you, not just your business. I tend to buy more from those that I have a connection with. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing–we all love it!

  72. #91
    dawny dee

    love this post – stream of consciousness, whats on your mind. this is real sharing people. and while i dont have a blog i do use the “collect” app and caught myself asking similar questions after reading your blogs. i’m at work and i just saw that the christmas cactus we have in the kitchen bloomed and i wanted to take a pic. so i did. and i cropped it in real tight so you only see the pretty flowers, not the old microwave it sits on top or the grungy garbage can just below. and i realized it do that all the time – just crop out the less attractive and make it look “more pretty”. so i went back and took another pic. both pictures are “real” its just one is more real than the other. maybe its about where we put our focus?
    anyway, this post was yet another reason people read your blog. never sure if you are going to make us laugh, make us Ooh and Ahh or make us think. Just know its all good and if you keep on using your gut to guide you, you will lead us all in the right direction.

  73. #92
    Annette

    Cathy, I read only three blogs faithfully and yours is one of them. Why? You keep it real. You don’t pretend to live the perfect life in the perfect home with the perfect marriage an perfect business. You’re just like me. Just like my friends…the people I want to spend time with. We try…sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. We like to eat. We like wine. We are not size 4s. We’ve gained weight, we’ve lost weight, and we’ve gained it back. (I’m in that gained it back phase right now at 49…a friend recently posted a picture of a few of us at a dinner and I looked less than my best…almost had a meltdown, but said screw it. This is me right now…muffin top and all. That’s why I love your blog. You allow your readers to see a part of your life that is real. You motivate me and you inspire me. Today I will walk, skip the cheez its, and work on a smaller version of a December Daily.

  74. #93
    Chrystina

    It’s a really hard balance to try to find. I would love to let people in on my life, but sometimes the things that are happening just aren’t my story to tell, and that’s where it gets complicated.

  75. #94
    MichelleGB

    This post (and countless others like it that you’ve shared) is why I “love” you and your blog. Please just keep on doing what you do and blogging/instagramming it. I’m always inspired by your ability to start over again and change course when your plans and goals don’t work out as originally intended. You help remind me to keep it real and keep moving forward.

  76. #95
    Lynne Gillis

    Dear Cathy,

    I’m catching up on some blog reading, and I just had to stop and comment about why yours is one of the handful of blogs that I regularly read.

    It’s because you are not afraid to let your vulnerabilities show.

    It’s because you are outrageously good at what you do.

    It’s because you have a ‘voice’ – and online presence, if you will, that somehow rings really true, and resonates deeply with me.

    It’s because even when there are ‘staged’ shots – there are an equal number of entries/posts that give each of us a special glimpse into what it’s like to be you – and that inspires me to no end.

    This is your business. I get that. I’m an interior designer – trust me – I understand the power of image. But you are so much more than image. You are the real deal (I’m trusting my instincts on this one, since I’ve never met you). As a fellow Midwestern girl, there’s something about you that makes me feel like I know you. Like we could hang out and drink wine and talk about life and scrapbooking and healthy living and men and kids and whatever… and it would be effortless. THAT’s what I love about your blog.

    Keep on writing, my friend. All of it – in however you need or want to show up at the page. Just keep on writing.

  77. #96
    Nina

    Hey Cathy, everyone has already said so much better than I ever could, but: Thank you for this post, so real and not censored. I really appreciate that you include your life as it is here, not just the highlight reel sort of stuff.
    All the best to you & yours!!

  78. #97
    Nina

    Hey Cathy, everyone has already said it so much better than I ever could, but: Thank you for this post, so real and not censored. I really appreciate that you include your life as it is here, not just the highlight reel sort of stuff.
    All the best to you & yours!!

  79. #98
    Dalon

    I’ve been following your blog for years Cathy and I am still here because you frickin ROCK! Thank you for your honesty – for sharing the “behind the scenes” whether in photos or words. Thanks for sharing your life professionally and personally.

    You teach by living and showing us all how you do it … I respect that.

    Thank you for just being you … and reminding us all that life isn’t always peachy … it’s messy and real and even full of the kray-kray now and then … at home – at work – in our minds – but I digress …

    It’s because you share so much that I feel like I know you – I don’t plan to stalk you or anything BUT if someday I have the chance to meet you, it’s happening … just know that. 😉

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