Saturday, June 30, 2012

Biz Buzz - Should I Close My Shop?

Dr Who Bow Tie
I know I'm not the only one who has ever considered closing up their handmade shop. I hear it all the time. The depression when you go for a week or two without sales. Imagine what it's like for sellers who have been forced off of Etsy, and believe me, there are a lot of us now.

Helleborus Necklace
Actually there are a lot of sellers who do very well on other venues. Sometime you just have to find the right one. I do very well with my genre Aprons and Accessories on Artfire, but my felt flower jewelry sales is very slow. Although the sales have doubled from last year, they still are not enough to do much more than pay for materials and shop fees. If I was on Etsy, with the changes I've made, I'm sure I would do very well, but I'm not on Etsy, so I have to be more flexible.

Ao I've been considering closing my akaCINDERS Artfire shop. I might try another venue. Not sure yet. I've written more details about the where and why on my other blog in the post A Few Months Later. Maybe it's because I've had no sales in the shop this month, although I had a decent amount last month, but when you compare the $0 in sales on a slow month to the $800 in sales on a slow month in my other shops, what choice is there?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life on Mars - Business as UNusual

At the beginning of this year I wrote a blog about spending Four Months trying to increase my sales of my handmade jewelry and doing some freelance design work because I really didn't enjoy making the Aprons and Bow ties as much as I liked making the jewelry and designing.

It's really the sewing thing. I have to cut fabric on the floor and it hurts my aging hips and knees, and I have a hard time actually seeing what I'm sewing. Meaning I have to wear reading glasses to sew, then I can't see anything else when I look away. It's kind of a pain.

I guess I have to wear them to make jewelry too, but I just need to complain. It's who I am.

Well I did increase business in my jewelry shop a bit, by reviewing my product and making some serious changes. Mostly I added reasonably priced brooches and have sold a lot of those and some large orders too. But still, that shop income is nothing to make a living at.

As for my design career, I'm sure the small commissions I get will be good, and it is fun, but I'm not willing to give up my freedom at the moment, to go at it full time, and that's where the money really is.

I have however, found that opening up a real store on eBay has found me the income I really needed, through my Aprons, Bow Ties and Pillowcases. Yes, the thing I really didn't want to do. By opening a store, and a facebook page and more promotions, I've nearly doubled my sales from last year. However, that does include better jewelry sales, and freelance design commission, no matter how small those are.

I've resigned myself to sewing. I've even accepted it as my lot in life at this moment in time. I'll still keep my jewelry shop open, and work on new merchandise for a time, but my main focus right now is income. And after all, those designs are cute too. Now I need to finally design those messenger bags I've been wanting to make. And maybe, just maybe, I'll add some jewelry to my eBay store.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Best Garden Ever

One would think that with as little space as I have to work with, I might do better with my garden. Someone keeps threatening to move. Not until after harvest PLEASE, because I finally got things to produce in this lousy piece of soil.

Just look at the lush green. OK, so maybe the turnip and radishes have a few holes in the leaves, but mostly it's perfection. I've actually eaten some of the onion green, some radishes and a tiny pepper that had a dead spot on it. I cut the bad part off and removed it to not affect the whole plant. I think it was from the scorching hot sun the past few days.

Not that the garden is perfect, something ate my cucumbers, and my lettuce and carrots. The rows between the turnips, radishes and beans are a bit wider than planned. And OMG the tomatoes are so much bigger than I had imagined they would get. I am so eager to pick those puppies.

See my little row of herbs. Some are in pots, but most of them are in collars sunk into the ground to keep them from spreading. In front of the basil (out of view) is oregano, parsley, and a pathetic globe basil that I will never try again. The cilantro grew from last years seed I replanted in the pot. It's fabulous. The mint is growing like mad.  I "borrowed" some from the gardens down at the lake. This is the second year for the oregano too.

I decided to do this with the herbs after my DD's MIL kept weeding them out of our front beds. She apparently can't recognize leaf shapes, or the smell of herbs on her hands.

The line around the garden, isn't really a fence, it's more of a trip wire. Actually it's a line of demarcation, in hopes that the same family won't mow over the plants, or put the lawn furniture on them when they mow. So not kidding about that one. You should have heard me scream when I found our wagon on my budding onion sprouts. 

The overall view of the garden. The buckets in front are full of potatoes. When they are ready, you just dump them over and voila, No digging. Behind the potatoes are in order, onions, beans, radishes, turnips, tomatoes, patty pan squash and in pots at the back, green and jalapeno peppers.

 A row of corn runs down the side and there'a a huge squash type plant I didn't seed, at the back of the garden. I think it might have been Halloween pumpkin compost overflow. We'll see when it starts to produce. 
Oh how I hope that I can keep the garden this lush and harvest more than a few green tomatoes this year. The corn is fast growing, but I don't have much time to get it knee high by the Fourth of July. I plan on it being a fence to keep unwanted visitors out. 

As for the tomatoes. Here is a sweet baby, just waiting to grow and be enjoyed. isn't he a cutie?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bathroom Year 2

It's been taking me a while to finish our bathroom. Maybe because it exhausted me last summer to get the tub, plumbing, wiring, sub floor, flooring, sink, toilet, cabinets and walls in.

The tub itself was a nightmare. Even though I had the guys put it in place, I just couldn't get the drain assembly right and had to redo it about 4 times. Fortunately, the bathroom is over open ground under the house. Unfortunately, until I had the walls sealed, lots of creepy crawlies got into the house from underneath.

If you want to do a bathroom yourself, I'll let you know that it ended up costing us about $1000 for a teeny bathroom, and we got the tub clearance priced, and the sink and cabinets used (though almost new from a new house bath friends remodeled). We opted for beadboard walls instead of tile. Holy cow baths are expensive to gut and rebuild. We gutted everything but some of the wall and the base pipes and wiring.

At the end of the summer I only had to put up the trim on the tub surround and find some kind of sealer for the walls, and install the new light fixture, but by then I was fried. That meant we could only bathe and no showers until I finished. But it was so nice to take a bath in a tub that wasn't pink, stained with rust and peeling epoxy paint from a previous attempt of salvage.

Finally, this spring I got tired of bathing every day. I knew that I would want to shower off the sweat and lake water in the summer, so I grabbed the pile of trim and started finishing the tub surround. With trim finished, all I had left to do was caulk and seal the walls. I went through 3 types of caulk before I found the right one. Having to rip out and clean off the old, before I got one to actually stick to the walls AND tub. Pure white silicone with microban.

Walls sealed I had to find something to seal the walls with, that would be as durable as tile and not so expensive. I had previously painted walls white and sealed in spar (marine) varnish. Worked great. I looked on the internet for solutions and armed myself with a list of options as I headed out to the local hardware store.

Marine paint, no, I wanted white walls and they didn't have white. Paint with marine sealer would work, but at $20 a gallon for paint and $40 a gallon for sealer, and that would be more work, no. Most of my paint options were so pricey, even the epoxy tub paint and basement waterproofing paint. Then I found it, the last thing on my list that was recommended. A small can of appliance epoxy paint in white. Actually white was the only color they carried. It was just under $16 a can and the square foot coverage was more than double what I needed with 2 coats. I could come over and paint your shower walls too.

My pictures are not great. The bathroom is so tiny, I can't really back up to get a good shot of the whole thing, but I wanted you to see the walls. They have been finished for about 2 months now and show absolutely no signs of staining or wear or peeling. The surface is shiny and hard like tile and I will never use anything else to paint shower walls with again.

I still have a tiny bit of floor trim to do, but I finally installed that matching light fixture too, although I haven't bought the right bulbs for it yet.

(added note after post: If you use the epoxy appliance paint, let paint dry before second coat. I tried it in the recommended quick second coat time and it was a mess. I stopped and finished the second coat the next day with great results)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life on Mars - Forty Year Flashback

I could tell you how my landlord finally got a replacement for the door window that broke 2 years ago, that we taped together so shards wouldn't fall in the house (I did the replacing, at least he bought the plexi).

I could tell you that the accident prone child stepped on a yellow jacket and was screaming for hours until the Diphenhydramine kicked in and he fell asleep. Or that we got it from the neighbor that uses it on her dog instead of killing the fleas.

I could tell you that we had a drought last week, no rain, no sales.

But instead, I want to tell you about something that happened 40 years ago. Well, almost 40 years ago. Some events this week, lead me to remember this, and what I thought was a terrible disaster, might have been part of the bigger plan all along. You see, sometimes you can't know what a horrible event might actually mean in the grander scheme of things.

I was young, I hung out at a local bar, and I drank there. Usually we just drank, but that particular night, unlike the usual nights, some generous person got a supply of barbiturates that he shared with the rest of the kids. I got one and paced myself with the alcohol. Not that I was a good girl by any means, it was just that night I was more cautious. Almost everyone was far more wasted that I had ever seen, and the bar had a "different flavor". More falling, more dancing, more hugging, kissing, secret sharing, whispering.

That night Star was there with her girlfriend, and they both tasted the candy. Star was the lead singer in a local band that I loved so much. She sang like Joplin and was just as crazy. Her friend was very young, a plain dresser, but pretty, and she was always wasted and always sad. I never saw her smile, not once. But Star odored her.

Things got so wild and crazy that night, but near closing time I was starting to get a bit sober. A few of us stayed with the owners after the bar closed, Star and her friend among us. Star was so incredibly wasted, she couldn't possibly drive, but she was getting ready to go. We weren't friends, we barely ever spoke to each other, but I couldn't let her get in a car, or drive that girl. I quietly went by her and took her keys while she was talking with another patron.

She walked around for a long time, looking for her keys, asking everyone if they had seen them. She came to me and I said I hadn't seen them either. I suggested that it might not be a good idea for her to drive in her condition, but she insisted on finding her keys and leaving. I had the keys in my hands, I had the keys in my hands. Then some Damn drunk ass moron, who saw me take the keys, took them out of my hand and gave them back to her. I had the keys in my hands.

A few days later I heard that there was an accident. Star's friend died and Star was in jail. She eventually had a considerable amount of time to serve, for vehicular manslaughter, let alone that she lost someone she loved dearly. I saw her after she was released. She was not the same person, but maybe that was s good thing.

For nearly forty years I blamed myself for letting go of the keys. And this week, I thought, at least I held her off for a time. One girl had died, but if I hadn't done at least that, who knows how many would have died. You see, she would have left at closing time. There would have been more people on the road, but as it was, the roads were pretty empty by the time they finally hit the road.

If I had held more tightly, maybe no lives would have been lost, maybe Star would have continued her self destructive ways, maybe her friend would have become so sad she would have ended her life at her own hands. But I didn't hold tight enough, and a life was lost, but maybe there would have been more losses, if I didn't care and stick my nose where it wasn't wanted.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Night Terrors

Anyone who has read The Sphynx by Edgar Allan Poe will know exactly how I feel today. Or you could read it and find out. Last night a horribly huge moth attached itself to my screen door.

I used to hate spiders, but got over that, (kind of) when I realized how helpful they are. But I never got over the terror of those freaking beady glowing red, otherworldly moth eyes that stare at you from the other side of the screen. Seemingly waiting for you to fall asleep and make their way into your house to wrap you in a cocoon....or was that another horror story I read as a kid. Either way, I'm terrified of moths.

Now you know my deepest darkest secret. I thought the moth would leave by morning. Guess what? IT'S STILL THERE. You see, I think it's stalking me. Maybe it's my deceased ex-husband, reincarnated, trying to get back at me for all trash talk over the years.

Hope this didn't creep you out too much. Have a great day and don't loose any sleep (if you can).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Running With Scissors - Buyer Requests

I'm going to tell you a little secret. I'm going to risk the chance that my buyer will see this and find out I was having fun at her expense. I have had some real odd requests in my days as an online seller, but this one tops them all. Sorry buyer, but this was... well... not really thought out.

 Request went something like this: "I work in a bakery and we have to wear red Aprons. I love this Apron a would really like it, but could you make it with a red background instead of white?"

But seriously, how do you respond to something like that? I mean this is rare vintage, 20+ year old fabric, and stated on the listing. Did she think I printed the fabric myself? Did she think at all? OK, so not to turn down any request, because that's not good for business, and laughing in the face of the buyer is not good either, I made a suggestion.

I explained that I did not make the fabric and that the fabric was vintage and already printed with a white background. I suggested that I could color in the background with a red fabric marker, but for labor, it would be around $100 extra, or she could get a red fabric marker (or two or four) and color in all the white on the apron in herself.

She didn't even have the courtesy to reply back with at thank you for your time. I guess she decided to find an all red Star Wars apron somewhere else.

It wasn't the first time I've had requests to change prints on fabric, it was just the silliest of the requests.

So here is my question? What is the oddest request you've gotten from a buyer? I'd love to hear your response to this one. And if you're worried about your buyers, just leave me an anonymous comment.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Words of Wisdom - The F Word

Someone had a birthday yesterday and thought she was older than she really was. No not me, I know how old I really am. But on her blog someone posted about getting older and not being able to say the F word.

I lie about my age too. For the past 15 years at least, I've been telling everyone I'm 60 and don't I look good. It's getting to the point where I'm going to have to say I'm 80 and don't I look good, because I'm nearly 60 and starting to look like it. And to tell you the honest truth Suzanne Summers, I don't believe it's all healthy eating and bioidenticals. I think it's a little plastics and fuzzy lenses.

Here is my secret to staying young. Eat all the junk you want and visualize that it's healthy food. Blow up a picture of yourself when you were young and thin and place it in your bathroom mirror frame. Get one of those funhouse full length mirrors, the kind that make you skinny. DO NOT wear your glasses when putting on makeup. Don't take ANYTHING seriously. Buy bubbles and a bubble wand and sit outside for at least 30 minutes each day trying to blow the biggest bubble ever. In the winter you can make the biggest snowball/snowman. And as my stepmother says, scrub your feet clean everyday. I think it's just the bending down to reach them that keeps her flexible and young. Oh yeah, and use a paint effect on your profile pic ;)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Life on Mars - A Little of This and That

Nothing earth shattering this week. No one was hauled off to the slammer or the psyche ward. No police on the lot at all. What a shock! As a matter of fact things were eerily quiet. Maybe that's because Poppy and her brood all went off for a couple day vacation. Ahhh peace and quiet.

Well I shouldn't say all was peace and quiet. Someone got stitches, but I won't say who or how (not me) but I will say that when I was offered a ride this week, I didn't take it. That's all I'm saying.

I got a bit of sewing done, like these awesome pillow cases and the Dr Who Bow tie. And I made some hair clips and headbands for a friend. And listed some pick your own hair clips. Busy Busy.  

Doesn't the Dink look like he could be a Doctor some day? We've decided it's about time the Doctor regenerated as either a woman or an American. Or maybe an American, woman. 

Garden is growing well to, and sales have been pretty good. I think I may be dying, because all in all, my life has improved. Things don't usually go this well unless there is impending disaster. Maybe there is some truth to the 2012 thing eh?

Here's looking to more interesting weeks in the future, but for now, we'll just have to settle for a little peace and quiet.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Terrific Tuesday - What the Heck?

I don't do much on Tuesday so I thought I'd ramble a bit on What the Heck? today.

I hate how nail polish stays on my toes for a month or more and lasts on my fingers for only a few days, if that. I mean, I know I don't do much with my toes, but come on!

I'm not quite sure why I keep getting spam for nursing homes in my town. Are they trying to tell me something? And after all, I live in the middle of nowhere, we are lucky to have a Post office and a Gas station. No grocery in our whole town, no full liquor store and NO NURSING HOME! Spammers.

Business Flash: Tim over at Handmadeology made a board to encourage Pinterest Socialization and spreading of the Handmade Movement. Read about how you can join in on the fun here

I was very upset about mosquitoes earlier this year. Having been bit multiple times and suffering so. Their venom is like fire ant to me, but itchy not burning. I wondered why they exist, as they only seem to spread disease and suffering. So I did some research. Apparently they are very critical at the bottom of the food chain. Darn. Now what about slugs?

This has been fun. I'm going to have to think of more What the Hecks next Tuesday and share. Leave yours on my post if you like and I'll spread it around.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Life on Mars - Just another Manic Monday

I've been so behind on my posting lately. I really should keep you all up on my latest adventures. I guess I've just been busy with....drum roll please..

a. extra sales (money - thank you)
b. baby sitting (money for Poppy - thank you)
c. finally finishing the bathroom
d. getting the garden planted

I love to garden, didn't know if you got that. So far the garden is doing great, other than that the slugs really like lettuce and cucumber sprouts. They didn't make it. Next year I'll make copper rings for the cucumbers and plant the lettuce in pots. Although slugs will climb the pots too I think. Once the garden gets big, I'll post pics of it. I think I cursed mine last year by posting early pics.

This year I added junk to the soil, put down more landscape fabric, and bordered the garden on one side with potted herbs and the other with corn (no corn sprouts yet, and I saw ants trying to carry away some of the seed ) I'm thinking the corn will act as a fence if it grows and it runs East to West so won't block the sun on the garden.

My Marvel comic Bow tie made it to the front page of Wanelo this week, but I think it got pulled, because maybe they were afraid it wasn't legal? But it is legit to use and resell this licensed fabric. Anyhow, I got a lot of views and a few sales too. Wanelo seems to be a good spot to post too.

We had a power outage this week, and I got an offer to go to the store during it. It turned out not to be the best trip I've ever been on. It was a little more intense than I expect. But I made it home safely.

I almost finished the bathroom this week. Just need to paint the ceiling and finish a bit more trim. It looks finished, but I want baseboards that I didn't get up yet. I'll make a post on what I did, because I did very different shower walls, I think you'll like to hear about. You can try it too, because I think they are awesome and they are NOT tile.

Oh yeah. I won these awesome vintage Dr Scholls exercize sandals. I'm hoping I can wear them on my pitifully flat feet. I used to love them. I bought them because I just love the shoes with print fabric wrap ties, and I thought I could easily alter these. I may just use them as is though. They are so cute.

That's all I care to share this week. Hope you have a good one, and I'm hoping for a little less excitement in my life this one myself.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What's Cooking - Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Love stuffed grape leaves, but afraid they'll be too much work? They are way easier that I imagined, and I am a lazy cook. Give them a try, at least once, and I think you'll be back for more.

You can make dolmas with canned leaves, but picking and blanching leaves is pretty easy too. Spring is the best time to harvest grape leaves. They are more tender and less "blighted". I've been waiting for them to get just the right size, and now is the time. The following recipe is for 60, an ambitious amount, but they can be frozen and reheated. I picked 36 leaves, a good amount for us. I didn't want to take leaves from my neighbors side.

To prepare the leaves yourself, pick healthy leaves in the spring. They should be about the size of your outspread hand. If your hands are small, like mine, maybe a little bigger. I had my water boiling and ready to go, the fresher, the better.

Wash the leaves and blanch them for about 3 seconds in boiling salted water. I did them in batches of three and kept them flat. Placing three in a deep pan and turning the three over to finish the boil. I had a large bowl of cold water ready to dunk the leaves to stop the cooking.

After all were blanched, I placed them in a plastic zip bag with a little lemon juice. You can easily freeze them like this if you like. They can also be rolled in batches and put up in jars, but you have to be careful to add enough lemon juice to prevent botulism.

2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill or 2 T dry dill weed
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 quarts chicken broth (water is OK if you want vegan)
3/4 cup fresh (bottled OK too) lemon juice, divided
60 grape leaves, drained and rinsed
hot water as needed
1 cup olive oil

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the rice, onion, dill,
and mint for about 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Pour in 1 quart of
broth, or water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or
until rice is almost cooked. Stir in 1/2 of lemon juice and remove from
2. Take one leaf, shiny side down, and place 1 teaspoon of the rice
mixture at the bottom (stem) end of the leaf. Fold both sides of the leaf
towards the center, roll up from the broad bottom to the top, and place
into a 4-quart pot. Repeat with all leaves, leaving no gaps as leaves are
placed in pot (to prevent from opening while cooking). Sprinkle with
remaining lemon juice and with olive oil.
3. Pour chicken broth, or water over all to cover grape leaves. Cover pot and
simmer for about 1 hour (do not boil, because this will make the stuffing
burst out of the leaves). Remove from heat, remove cover and let cool
for 1/2 hour. Transfer to serving dish and serve. I prefer mine chilled.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Poppy's May 2012 Giveaway Winner

Due to an underwhelming response(who knew so many people wanted to pay full price for my stuff), I was being lazy and didn't draw til now :P says Marie is the winner of the $25 gift certificate

I promise I didn't cheat just because I love Marie :) Congrats my love..... I have been very busy buying handmade for the handmade challenge but I haven't had a chance to write reviews. I will review goodies on this Wednesday..xoxo

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