Monday, August 27, 2012

Life on Mars - End of Summer 2012

I am so sorry that I haven't been posting here so much this Summer. Believe me, it's not that Summer was without our usual events. As a matter of fact, it was so bizarre and eventful, I really didn't feel like sharing. Twisted relationships, police visits, arrests, fights, crying, wild kids, sad deaths in the family. Too many full moons, alcohol and Mercury retrograde. I must say that it was the most stressful Summer I can remember and I was literally a bystander to it all. Most of my stress was from the bounce effect.

That's all I have to say about this summer. One good thing was that before Summer hit, I had some of the best sales I've had in years. And I bought a used kindle and a few cheap and free books, so I started reading again. I really, really didn't care for the Hunger Games Trilogy. Hate me if you will, but I really didn't like the message it sent to the youth it was geared to. I can't even begin to point out how many flaws there were in that story, and leaving the heroine weak and depressed was not where I would have lead the reader. I've read more positive stories about survivors of Hiroshima.

I'm reading Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 now. Started out so boring, but I'm really engrossed halfway through. I love the voice he writes in. Reminds me a bit of J. D. Salinger. I plan on catching up with a lot of classic literature I missed out on, because I had trouble reading in the past. I have 60 books waiting on my kindle now and I watch for deals. The next book is a semi fictional book about Pearl S. Buck. I really want to get The Good Earth, but have to wait until I get better sales to afford it. I'm fascinated with China and her people and want to read more about it's past.

There were good times too. Out of town visitors were fun. Time spent with family, visits to the zoo and Art Museum, and the weather, although hot, was pretty nice this year. We had a booming crop of tomatoes thanks to my intent work on the garden this year. Every penny put in was worth it.

One good thing I can say about this Summer is that things have been so crazy busy here that the woman next door didn't attack the little shed and pull everything out on the lawn like she has every summer before. I think she's been too busy chasing around her adult boys who keep getting in trouble. That and the fact that they finally have a car and she can just get away from the house when things get stressful. I've just been going for walks. Stress has been better for my health in the long run. Arms are stronger from lifting a heavy baby and cardiovascular health is better from the long uphill walks.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Worth Repeating - Zucchini Pickles

I posted this recipe originally in July of 2011. This week, I've been hitting the jars of pickles I made last month and I thought I'd like to temp you again. They are remarkably crisp and just the perfect combination of sweet, sour and a touch of hot. I make mine with the hot peppers. If you have an abundance of zucchini, and have run out of freezer room for bread, or can't get the extra's to me, you might want to try this great recipe.

You can also find the original recipe in my recipe pull down, along with other great recipes.

Zucchini Pickles                                

9 qt thinly sliced zucchini
10 small onions sliced
6 ½ c sugar
6 c cider vinegar
¼ c pickling spice in cheesecloth
6 T salt

Optional 4 or 5 hot peppers halved seeded and sliced

In a large bowl or non aluminum kettle, sprinkle salt over all vegetables. Let stand for 4 hours. This will draw out excess moisture. Put into colander and drain.

Combine vinegar and sugar in a large kettle, add spices. Stir over high heat, cover and boil for 5 minutes. Add vegetables and bring to boil. Boil one minute. Remove spices.

Place in hot clean jars, apply lids according to manufacturers instructions. Process for 10 minutes with water one inch above tops of jars. Cool completely. Check seals the next day. Makes 5 quarts.

These sweet Zucchini pickles are absolutely wonderful on top of a slice of cheddar on a Ritz.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Creativity On The Run

A few days ago, I was waiting for my cousin to pick me up to go to the Art Museum. It was fairly early in the morning, and we don't have the greatest roads, so I was meeting her a few blocks from home.

While I was waiting I realized I didn't grab any jewelry for my arms or fingers and I kind of felt bare. I started to look around and saw some nice stones, if only I had something to mount them on, and a decent sized length of white electrical wire.

The night before I was looking at a Wire knot ring tutorial, kind of like this one on Handmadeology. I couldn't find the one I was looking at. It was a bit bigger, more like a rose. So I thought, I could do that with the electrical wire. Before I started, I checked my bag for a Swiss Army knife with scissors to snip the end. Yep I had them.  And here's the Ring.

Not too fancy, but I had to twist the wires by hand. Not that shabby considering it was made from garbage I found at the side of the road. Too bad I didn't have time to snip a beer can into a bracelet too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Living in a Cave

I make jokes all the time. Well, at least some people think they're jokes. OK maybe everyone thinks I'm not serious. Like when I was making 80K a year and I told them I want to be a grocery store cashier and just stand and scan. I really wasn't kidding. Maybe a cashier at Aldi's would be better, they don't pack the groceries and they get to sit.

I guess I was tired of the pressure imposed by unreasonable employers, who think that "you" can save the company with your talent and wit, even in a down economy. No one expects a grocery clerk to do that. Sure, I mad a lot more money, but what do you really need to survive. After all, I did end up giving it all up to be my own boss and make literally nothing selling online. So people think (and rightly so) that I'm crazy.

Back to living in a cave. I've not been one to need constant human companionship. As a matter of fact, I think I wasn't taught how to make friends or relate to others in the way most of you have. I was put in daycare in an age where no one was put in day care, before anyone knew that you had to teach your kids certain skills. As a matter of fact, I'm now thinking that the reason I, as a mature adult, know how to communicate via internet, as well as my younger counterparts, is because many of them weren't nurtured by their parents either. Interesting thought. Maybe those that spend the most time on facebook or twitter, were "raised by wolves" like I was.

So one of the things I joke about (not really) is that I'd like to live in a cave, or a little cabin in the woods, as long as I have my computer and wifi. I guess I need a little electricity for a light and to charge my battery, but I wouldn't need much. If I had mail delivery, I could even run my business. Do they deliver mail to caves?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Want to be a Writer

I've wanted to be a writer for some time now. It's not like I haven't done enough things in my life that I need to be successful at something else.

Maybe because of the ADD, I really seem to like variety. I do a thing for maybe 5 to 7 years and then I get bored with it. I can't imagine ever doing the same thing for my whole life. So not me!

So I'd like to write, maybe a book. But what do I write about? How do I compete with all the other with all the other writers out there? There are so many writers, what do I write and how do I complete? I'm obviously not that great at competing in the handmade jewelry business. I am however, fairly decent in residential lighting design, as there are very few of those by comparison, but I've been doing that for 17 years on and off.

Maybe I need to do a little research and compare book subjects. I can pick a seldom used topic. There, that's it. Or maybe I could just spam away on twitter like others I get followed by do. Follow and drop, there, that's the ticket.

Or maybe I should just join a convent. I've never done that before. Are there convents for agnostics?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Biz Buzz - Holding On or When to Close Shop

early photography with flash
I see a lot of twitter and blog posts lately from sellers debating whether or not to give up their shops. I can tell you from several years of experience, that July is a very bad month and not one to really judge the validity of your marketing and design skill from.

There are several factors that should go into your decision making. First look at your annual profit. July and early August are slow. It's a great time to relax and organize. Look at your sales figures and do your monthly sales for the first half of the year. That way, in January, you won't have so much to do. I do monthly profit sheets so I can see how I compared to the previous years. You may think this will upset you to see your sales figures, but you might just be surprised at what trends you find. For instance, although this was a lousy July, it was still better than last year for me.

natural light photo
If your sales are a bit lower, don't be discouraged. this was a particularly bad July. the only reason my sales were up at all, is because I opened a new venue since last July.

Look at your product. Are there too many similar items on your venue? Are you unique enough to hold on? If not, think of what you can do to make yours different. It can even be customer service or packaging. How about making your tags out of seed embedded papers, or packaging in a little reusable satin bag? Your product may be pretty, but what makes you special. This is a perfect time to take a good hard look at what you're selling.

How about Photography? Do your photos outshine your competition? Handmadeology has some great photography tips HERE.

professional photography
Maybe you're just tired of trying to climb to the top. Maybe it's just hot, and you're too busy with the kids, and your sales are so low this month, that you just don't want to try anymore. It's OK. We are not all cut out for this thing. Some people are better at selling in person at shops or craft/art shows too. Internet sales is a lot of extra work with photography and marketing and listing descriptions. The reason I like it, is that I can make a sample and, then make the product when it sells. I don't have to have an inventory. Very nice for my very small house.

Let's take a close look at your bottom line.

PHOTOGRAPHY - Is it good enough? Look at my early photos compared to my pro photos and improved home photography. Can yours improve too?

PRODUCT - Is your product unique? When I started selling beach glass jewelry, I was the only Etsy seller with it. Then there came all the others, so I decided to try something unique. My flame shaped flowers are different that others on the market. Are they unique enough? Maybe not, because I'm considering dropping this line and moving on to something else.

PROFIT - This is the biggest deciding factor. Are you making a profit? If you haven't made even the tiniest profit in 3 years, you are doing this because you love it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving your craft and not making a profit,but if it has become a chore, and you don't love what you're doing anymore, then your decision to quit is valid. It's OK to so something you don't love if you are getting something out of it, but if your heart doesn't sing, and your wallet is empty, you just might be right. There is a place for you and your art  in the world somewhere. maybe just not online sales.

Friday, August 3, 2012

To The Friends I Haven't Met

I have so many friends through Twitter, Facebook and my selling sites, that I have never met face to face. And because of this, I don't know if you're chubby, or thin (unless you are so proud to loose weight that you show me) talk with a lisp, have a limp, are strait or gay (your spouse could be same sex), are missing limbs, have pink hair (like my DD) or gray hair, have tattoos, are dyslexic (or choose to ignore spellcheck) or anything else that some people might use to try to fit you in some "category".

You are my friend.

Every time I might think I've fit someone in the right category, they prove me wrong. Like the friend who is not only Catholic, but an active member of her church, who is constantly posting in favor of gay rights. I've given up putting people in neat boxes a long time ago.

So if you are really short, really tall, missing teeth, have your nose on the wrong side of your head, or are even planning to vote for Romney, I'll still love you as a friend, because anyone who can put up with me and the things I have to say, are worth keeping.

Just thought you'd like to know.
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