Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Evah! - Chinese Factory - Lost in Translation

restaurant near factory
I didn't much like the movie Lost in Translation, even though I'm a Huge Bill Murray fan. Maybe it was just the state of mind I was in when I watched it, but it just seemed so, pedantic and slow. Not so funny and not so touching. I did, however really relate to the sentiment as I was on a 17 hour trip to Southern China to work in for a few weeks in a factory there. Actually you take a jet or 2 to New York and board a jet to Hang Kong and either take the ferry, a bus, or a car into China to your final destination.

To get into China you have to have a passport and a visa which you get by having a letter of invitation from the factory you are visiting and then have it approved by the Chinese Government. You also have to get a quickie health inspection to pass the border, most of the time now since SARS. Basically they shoot a temperature scanner your way, so if your temperature is above normal, no crossing the border either way. You get sick in China, you stay in China. 

So what's it like to work in China? Well imagine a bathroom with a stall that has a shelf about 6" taller than your toilet seat. And imagine crawling up on the shelf with toilet paper in hand, without touching the walls or platform because you have no idea what has touched those walls or platform. Now imagine pulling down your pants, but holding them up so they don't touch anything with the tissue in your hand. Now squat over the hole that you are balancing over on the platform 2 feet above the ground, and aim for the hole. Don't dare miss. Now try to clean yourself without dropping your pants on the platform and DON'T toss the tissue in, because that will ruin the septic. It has to be thrown in the wastebasket outside the stall with all the other soiled tissues.

no closets - no dryer - hand wash laundry hangs on balcony
Now are you ready to go to work in China? Don't laugh, I spent one solid month doing that every day. No days off. 14 hour day, but with long lunch and dinner breaks. At least for the workers. Some days they actually worked longer, and I'd leave for the day, but I'd stayed the full 14. For lunch I walked to a local restaurant with one of the factory managers. The food at the factory was not deemed "safe" for me. Not that the restaurant down the street was much better. We had the same food every day, because the other food was too scary. I tried something different and was sorry I did.

Workers were wonderful though. I just loved the people, and amazingly enough, was even able to communicate with some, with a VERY limited Chinese vocabulary. I could tell them when something was good, very good, bad, very bad and beautiful. Usually I had to just show them what finishes I wanted on what pieces by putting the finish next to a sample of the product. It took a while, but I could communicate without an interpreter eventually. I really miss those wonderful people. I did spend a lot of time with them.
Some of the bad things were, no EPA, toxic fumes everywhere. Lighting was horrible. Heat and humidity was unbearable for me and even the AC in the office was bad. I had to work practically naked, tank top and light weight skirt or pants, and a rag for the pouring perspiration. Electricity in China is subject to the whim of the government and often off. Puts a big dent in production. I was working in R and D or research and development. Not actual production, but I did often visit other factories and see their production. 

I actually worked in many factories on China, some actually had flush toilets for visitors. But often, even restaurants had squats. Flush squats, but squats. And those are flush and run, because the whole floor flushes. Hard to describe, unless you've seen them. 

Food can be scary too, depending on the kindness of your host. Some factory owners like to screw with Americans, and it's rude to refuse anything offered. I think I've eaten everything offered to me. I even ate something from the sea that looked kind of like a trilobite or giant bug. There was no meat and it had no taste so I know the host was just screwing with us. I, being a woman often had to keep up with the men to be taken seriously. 

Picking up 3 peanuts at a time with your chopsticks and eating them is a boastful and brave feat for an American Woman. I did not, however keep up with the drinking. I did drink, but you can't out-drink the Chinese, so why try.

There are so much to tell that this is only a tiny touch on what working in China was like. 

It's kind of like these batteries that were made in China. Lost in Translation.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Life on Mars - Deja Vu

The week started out so nicely, we had decent sales, the cat stopped peeing on everything because we found an anti anxiety collar that worked, friends were helping me get my packaging, logo and ads together for my business, and we even found a fantastic deal at Target for a clic clac sleep sofa that we desperately needed. We only have one sofa in the living room. no chairs and we often have the family of at least 4 watching TV and when Luna gets bigger, it's just too crowded. The sofa was on sale and an extra % off and free shipping. Can't pass that up.

Simon - and if only he did pee there
Well the week started good, but it all went to Hell in a very familiar kind of way. The boys were sick, the printer fell off the shelf and broke, and shipped off of one of Poppy's new computer keys, and the car broke down, well actually there's this scraping noise in the rear by the wheels. And after we bought the sofa, we don't have enough to take the car to get repaired. So once again we are without car. Not something we aren't used to.

Then there was the ambulance arriving at our door again. Ms hypochondriac next door was sure she was dying and had to have the paramedics come over and she got hauled away AGAIN. Last time she was hauled away (2 weeks ago) she went to her mothers to clean her house the next day. I've never seen someone taken away in an ambulance so many times in my life. Well, there was that bipolar Jamaican lady we lived next door to that used to throw rocks at her own house and chant and dance in the backyard in her nightgown.

At least the police haven't been here lately to take the son away. I think his meds are OK. I swear we are the ONLY people in this community that aren't on anti psychotic meds. Well, actually, that doesn't mean we don't need them ;)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What's Cooking? - Gingered Cream of Celery Soup

Celery was so cheap this week. I was going to make cream of broccoli soup, but at $.59 for a huge stalk of celery, I had no choice. I've never made celery soup from scratch. I love to eat celery steamed in the microwave and seasoned with ginger, garlic and a little soy oil. It reminds me of China more than any food in a Chinese restaurant here in the US. So I'm using that as inspiration for my soup.

I've added corn to sweeten the soup, but some celery is bitter. I had to add about 1/4 cup of sugar to the soup I just made. Best to taste before adding unnecessary sugars.


4 cups chopped celery (every last bit but the very end washed well)
1 14 oz can of broth (chicken best, but beef or veggie will do)
1 can whole corn
4 cups water
2 T good dry Chinese ginger

1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup instant mashed potatoes
sugar if needed
salt and pepper to taste

Add the first 5 ingredients to a crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours.
Puree. Add milk and instant potatoes, stir until blended and heat for at least 10 minutes. Add sugar if necessary. Season to taste. It doesn't hurt to cook more when you're done with all the ingredients.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Putting it Together - Selling your Craft Part One

I've been going through a Journey of Discovering who I am and what I need to do to earn a decent living. Should I continue with my online/craft business, which is in the black, but not enough to live on. Should I go back to product design, which earns me a very decent living, but has major problems, or should I just get a meaningless 9-5 job, just to earn money and be satisfied with being a drone with health insurance and food in my mouth.

I've made a lot of discoveries, and I am sure I will make more along the road. I want to share some of them with you, because if you are selling with blinders on, like I was, you need to see the whole picture. If you want to read a long blog and try to catch up, there is a tab over there ---> Four Months

I haven't been posting here lately, because I've been busy with my own business, but I made this blog to share, so share I will. Here is part one of my discovery, because I've learned so much that it needs to be fed to you in parts.

First and foremost, you are not selling your crafts at a High School Bazaar, you are running a business and from today on think of yourself that way. If you do not have that mindset you will not succeed. It doesn't have to be a major corporation, it just has to be a professional business. Run your business as though you are the competition to your product department of your local department store or gift shop. That's who you have to take your customers away from.

Get out your newspaper and your magazines and look at the ads. Does your product look as hot at that? Does your photography look that good? How about your ad copy? Is it descriptive or pedantic or so hot you just have to have it.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Photography! Photography! Photography!

I'll be talking to you about Press and Press kits, Wholesale Price sheets and and who to turn to for advice.

Now this week's assignment is to imagine who will use your product. Visualize your customer using it. When you see your customer clearly, think of how you are going to reach them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Evah! - Versatility vs Focus

I'm versatile. I can do just about anything. Which for an online seller, is a good thing, right? Maybe yes, maybe no.

I can write ad copy, do decent photography, make my own graphics and do photo editing, I slightly understand SEO and even a little html. I'm decent at social networking and I can even do my own sales accounting and taxes (with the help of tax software, because I don't have the time to do it all). And I can actually make decent product to sell too.

So is versatility a good thing? I can do so many things, that I do. I do them for myself and my daughter and maybe a bit for an occasional friend or two. There are only so many hours in the day.

I know many of you out there wish you could do it all. But there is such a thing as focus. If you can't do all these things yourself, it's easy to find a friend who can. Then you have more time to work on your product.

Some days I feel like my head is going to explode and I need to design more but I just don't have the time. Some days I feel like my graphics and logo are weak, but there isn't room in my head to create, because there is too much clutter in there for me to think straight. Maybe I need a little Ritalin or Prozac to clear my head, or a sledge hammer.

I guess what I'm suggesting is for you not to try to do it all. Find a friend, find an enemy, have a giveaway on your blog. Do whatever you can to get some help so you don't have to do it all yourself. After all, we aren't superhuman are we?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Life on Mars - High Anxiety (the cat kind)

It's been a good week. The only thing that happened to the car was that the door got stuck again and when it finally opened, the panel pulled out so bad, the door lock was out of place and the speaker cover fell off.  Well that isn't all. the front flasher broke, think it's the bulb, but it will probably cost $500 to replace, because in this car, you probably have to remove the engine to get to the bulb from the inside of the lens. Gotta love Chrysler.

Business has been good. Even selling jewelry AND most sales have been on Artfire, so NO FeeBay fees!

The biggest issue this week is the cat who likes to pee on things in the house. He's young, so not really spraying. He is a very nervous timid 6 month old. We've been trying to break him. We usually have a few stray things or rugs on the floor. We've started picking up the bathmat, making sure all plastic bags are off the floor, and every stray sock is picked up. I've done some reading, that cats with high stress or anxiety will do this.

Tried changing the litter box daily (we do have 4 cats) Tried loving him more, but he's so timid he skitters away most of the time. Sunday he peed on Poppy's bed and she totally freaked. Can't say I blame her, but there was nothing on the floor for him to pee on and we usually keep the bedroom doors closed, but not that morning.

Poppy was ready to take him to the pound. She got mad and threw him out the door. I love the little guy and know he's just nervous, but I can relate. We just can't have this with the baby and the product we keep in the house.

I heard about anti anxiety meds and when we went shopping I looked and found an anti anxiety collar. It's embedded with pheromones that are similar to those released by momma cat. That kitten has been the mellowest thing since I put on the collar. He's barely the same cat and I caught him, believe it or not, in the litter box.

I did some reading about this stuff and although the collars cost from $18 to $10, they seem to work for several anxiety related cat issues. Traveling problems, urinating, and howling. I certainly hope it works long term, because I like the damn cat but I really HATE the smell of cat pee.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Caesar Salad Dressing

I know things are getting rough with the diets and all. How about a nice salad dressing to perk up your greens?

I love a good Caesar dressing, but this one has a bit less fat and is so tangy that you don't need too much. I replace the raw eggs with Egg Beaters or other egg substitute.

Great over just Romaine with croutons, or add some cooked Chicken breast for a yummy healthy dinner.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Egg substitute equivalent to 3 eggs
2 cloves raw garlic
3 oz anchovies or anchovy paste
1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
3/4 t dry mustard
14 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 c lemon juice
1 pint salad oil (I use soy)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Mix egg substitute, garlic, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, pepper and cheese together in a blender until very well mixed and liquid. Slowly add oil and lemon juice alternating, until the dressing emulsifies (thickens).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sharing Time - Getting Ready for Valentines Day

I'm trying to share with you ahead of the Holidays so you have a little time to make. Here are a few great ideas for Valentines Day.

Printed Paper Fortune Cookies at design, wash, rinse, repeat blog

How about serving a Cloud Nine Martini posted at Daydreamer Desserts. Serve that with these awesome lacy Valentine Pancakes from More Design Please.

And Oh my these Red Velvet Crepes look out of this WORLD

Make a little something for someone you love.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Life on Mars - A Series of Fortunate Events

I've been writing this other blog Four Months - A Diary of Progress and I have to tell you, the encouragement and compliments I've received there have almost gone to my head. You see, I've decided to emerge from my menopausal fog and do SOMETHING with my life. That means earning a decent wage...I think.

It's been a kinder week. That whack job of a customer left me stupid negative feedback "BuyerBeware!Seller cancels-After I won it-Claims item had sudden"serious issues" That's going to keep buyers away. Did you ever have a customer who didn't believe their item was damaged after you apologize and refund their money?

But that was last week and this week things were kind of nice and quiet. There was some bad weather, and I did almost slide down our hill with the car. The older boy did slide down our steps outside, holding a bowl of soup, which got spilled all over his clothes. His dad saw the aftermath in the snow and worried that one of the boys got very sick. The younger boy was crossing the street with me, talking about being careful not to slide down the hill, when all of a sudden - feet in the air and he was gone, and laying in the street. It was all pretty funny, no one was injured.

Neighbors were quiet. No one was hauled off in an ambulance for a UTI this week. I really didn't get as much work done as I wanted to, but I did accomplish a bit. I also earned enough money to buy a few things to launch some of my plans. I bought packaging for my retail items and a website for my product designs. Still working on both. 

If only all weeks could be as productive and quiet as this one. Well the oven rack did pop off the bracket and the two pans of lasagna did land on the kitchen floor and I did loose 2/3s of one of them. Could have been worse, we could have lost all the lasagna.

All in all a pretty good week. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sharing Time - Easy DIY Decor

I've been hunting for some more great ideas to spruce up your house while you're housebound. I found some more great ideas.

Here are some Great no sew fabric decor from curbly.com

Start thinking about Summer with some New Uses for Old Things at Real Simple

I love this side table made from old shutters.

And another tip I love, chalkboard paint anything. Paint it on hard lampshades, tabletops, framed boards, a taped off wall section, inside cupboard doors, outside cupboard doors, kids headboards, bathroom cabinets.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Life on Mars - Full Moon Week

Last Week I started a new Blog - Four Months - A Diary of Progress for lack of a better name available. Basically I need to make more money and I am going to make daily posts on my struggle to discover exactly who I am and what I should do as a career to earn more money. Maybe I should be a sanitation engineer or a prison guard. But I'm so close to retirement it will be difficult to get anything. 

Here's something that maybe a lot of you don't know. Retirement age is getting pushed back further and further. For me it's 66, for you it might be 72 or later. It's nice that we can all work so late in our lives, But, even though I can retire at 62, or get survivor benefits at 60, I can't get health benefits until I'm 66 (or later for you). That's OK, I can get a job with benefits right? Sure, because employers want to hire a 60 year old full time employee that they have to pay TWICE as much for their health insurance. That's right, starting at 60, health premiums DOUBLE so usually the employer has to pick it up, to be fair to the employee. 

OK enough about jobs, I know you're here to find out about all the crazy stuff that happened this week.

MIL got a SS raise, had me take her shopping and kept throwing money at me. Good FIL doesn't have a computer to read this. We just gave him the money back as rent, lol

FIL got a big SS raise too. I don't get it. Maybe he just doesn't understand that his payback was taken out monthly, not in a lump sum, and he's done with it. Kinda dense. Sometimes I wish I was more dense. Would make life simpler.

Car did that thing where the break light stuck on. I kept going back and forth and breaking, then after a while it went off. Gotta find where the break light switch is so I can lube it. Other than that, she was pretty good this week, until the f'ers 2 doors over had another party and she got keyed.

I also had some weird buyers. One flamingly upset because I had a problem with an item and I couldn't ship it after it sold. Refund and apology was not enough, he claimed fraud. And another buyer ripped an apron and claimed it "fell apart" You know right in the middle of an 8" line of stitching that was back tacked 3 times in the middle where it "fell apart". Now those of you who sew, know that it is impossible for stitching to "fall apart" in the middle. Damn I hate liars. If the dude pursues, I'm claiming fraudulent return on him. That's the good think about that expensive site. 

Sunday was the full moon and it was huge, beautiful, and drove all the animals mad. I was ready to kill. The cats were running around howling, the females got into a fight, and the dog, well she's always annoying. 

That's all I care to share this week. Till next time. Hugs and Puppies :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What's Cooking? - Buffalo Chicken Dip

OK, I have to admit this is not an old family recipe. I found this one on a Franks Red Hot sauce website. I use a lot of hot sauce, but Fran's has been my favorite. It seems to pass through hands a lot and gets renamed, but the taste is always the same. Maybe its' the way they age the peppers. I don't know. Anyhow, I found their recipe, but I changed it up a bit to suit my taste. The boys love this. It's one of those treats that will light up their eyes If make it without warning.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 package cream cheese softened
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup red hot sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cooked chicken breasts diced

Mix together Cream Cheese, dressing and hot sauce until smooth. Stir in chicken and mozzarella. Pour into an oven proof dish and heat for 20 minutes in a 350 deg F oven. If I'm in a hurry, I will microwave this until hot and bubbly. This in tasty, but not too hot for the boys. If you really love hot, you can add more hot sauce to taste.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Putting it Together - Organizing for the New Year

I'm spending a little of my time organizing my life. Don't know if I'll be successful, but I'm going to try. Every day I'm planning to do something to to reach certain goals. The problem is I have too many goals. Well not really, the goal is to make enough money to live independently. Cheaply, but independently.

I've given myself a deadline of 4 months to decide what I am going to do to earn that money, and I'm documenting it in a mini blog. Four Months - A Diary of Progress I'm really hoping it will be progress, not failure. Join me at least on occasion, to see how I'm doing. 

There are a few things that I'm doing to reach my possible goals. The first was to create my website akacinders.com. I told you about that one a previous Putting it Together post. I made a website for my daughter too. When I buy Weebly Pro, I can have up to 10 websites, and while I was putting together my product designs, I decided that I should make a site for those too. A password protected site that has files only a potential client can review, so they don't take my ideas. I can do that on Weebly too.

I also came across this great seminar by Scoutie Girl. Wish I could take it because I'm not very good at emailing to raise awareness. I am going to start emailing more and try to get people to sign up for my emails. I use MailChimp and I did send out ONE email this year. I have to work on that a bit. I will be having bits of advice and web specials if you want to sign up. It's right over there --->
Oh and Tara is a person to watch. She has some pretty great advice.

I also applied to be a featured artist and I will try to make spectacular pieces and try to find some magazines or contests I can enter them in. If anyone knows of a place I can put my work, please let me know, and when I hunt a few down, I will post them here for you. 

Hope you all have a great week and spend a little time organizing your craft and your life too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sharing Time - DIY Home

I think that Winter is such a Great time to spruce up your home. January can be such a drag, holidays over, taxes to do. Ugh! When I worked outside of the net, I used to schedule work in Mexico in January. No snow and bright colors. What fun. But no Mexico now, so I thought I'd give you some brilliant home fix up links.

I love the idea of ceramic paint on things around the house, from Better Homes and Gardens

And Wall Crates How cute over at Apartment Therapy

Have a nasty old dresser? How about repainting? From diyhomedecoratingideas.com

And I just love the idea of Painted bottles and Jars Wouldn't this be a great idea to do with the hand painting in the picture? You could make lamps out of big glass jars or bottles. Or silk flower vases. I love the idea.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Life on Mars - It's a New Year!

Meeting last years Goals

A blog post a day. 176 posts was not a bad effort. I actually had a few that people read too. I tried. I think that 176 will be my goal for next year. Maybe 177. Don't want to push it.

Loosing 60 lbs - Fail - Gained 10 - Crap

Increasing sales in 2011 - Bottom line not tallied yet, but I think fail - looks like less sales

Make a website - First half of the year - major fail - bought a domain and never built the site - December - finally built my site - big success

January first started not so well. My bad tooth started acting up again (had to have that Nutella, eh?) Not a great night of sleep. Then a cat used my face (eye in particular) as traction for higher ground.

What a way to wake up. Look at what he did. Sleeping with the eye mask on from now on. Or maybe goggles. I like my purple shadow better over my eye and it would look so much better if I could put on eyeliner and mascara. Not until I heal a bit. Damn Cats!

New Year - New Goals

This guy here is my new idol. He's about my age and what great shape he's in. Stephen Lang from Terra Nova - Avitar - Connan. I can do that. I'm sure. I just need to work at it. I actually have muscle, just a lot of fat sitting on top of it. Well I'm going to try.

And as for my business. I'm going to launch a serious campaign to get my jewelry into Brick and Mortars. I really hate craft shows and the online sales are not going as well as I'd like. Best thing to do is get into some stores. Check back with me next year.

Well even though my tooth is a wreck and my eye looks like I spent the night in a bar brawl, I have great hope. Some of the best years of my life started in Misery on New Years Day. Don't believe what they say.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's Cooking? - Sauerkraut Balls and Polish Hors D'oeuvres

This recipe is a little late, because the Sauerkraut Balls are traditionally New Years Eve treats. My mom used to make them every year. I decided to make some this year so I looked on the internet. So many different ways to make. Usually with ground ham or sausage and of course sauerkraut. Mostly with just an egg binder and rolled in breadcrumb or cracker crumbs. Because there was a vast variety of recipes (none were the same) I decided to dig out my moms cookbook. She make it herself, photocopying or typing recipes and putting them in plastic sleeves.

Mom's recipe was pretty insane too. Ground, pork, ham and corned beef. I didn't have all that so I went back to the internet. I found that this was a popular treat in the Cleveland area (although German in origin) and that a closed restaurant that we used to go to in Vermillion made the best ever. I hunted down their recipe and it was the same as my moms. I have no idea how she got that recipe, because she had it long before the rise of the internet. Back in the day, people would get recipes from someone who worked in a restaurant and pass it on by hand. I'm sure that's how she got it. That's enough backstory, now on to the Recipe.

Sauerkraut Balls

1/2 lb boneless ham                            1 t dry mustard
1/2 lb lean pork                                  1 t salt
1/2 lb corned beef                              2 C milk
1 medium onion                                  2 lb sauerkraut, cooked and drained and ground
1 t minced parsley                              flour      
3T shortening                                     2 eggs slightly beaten
2 C flour                                            dry bread crumbs

Put meats and onion through meat grinder (I used baby bullet) add parsley. Blend well and saute in shortening until browned. Add flour, mustard, salt and milk. Blend. Cook stirring constantly until thick. Add sauerkraut. Return to heat and cook stirring constantly until very thick. Cool.

Form into walnut sized balls. Roll in flour, dip in egg and roll in bread crumbs. Deep fry until golden brown.

I only had ham, and made 1/3 the recipe. There was a large mounded platter full, so this is a huge recipe.


Bonus recipe is what we call Polish Hors D'oeuvres. Made them without telling the boys and they were so thrilled when they saw the platter. My Aunt, who married a Pole, gave us this recipe. Easy and yummy

Polish Hors D'oeuvres

Sliced hard salami (I prefer thin sliced)
Sweet Pickles
Cream Cheese

Amounts depend in how many you are making.

Cut sweet pickles into long spears (quarter lengthwise) lay a spear of pickle near one end of a slice if salami. Cut a piece of cream cheese about the same size and lay next to pickle. Roll pickle and cheese in salami and secure with a toothpick. Voila!
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