Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

Three years ago, my sister and I decided that if we were ever going to see the real Mardi Gras, we just had to do it. What a fabulous trip -- all the parades, where we screamed like crazy people desperate for beads, and ended up lugging sackfuls of them home. Zulu coconuts, Rex crowns, Bacchus cups, Orpheus medallions, doubloons and coins, umbrellas, panties, we collected everything we could get our hands on. Fond memories of our super special night at Michaud's with the gut-busting buffet, open bar, private bleachers to watch the Krew of Bacchus parade through the Garden District. And our night time gala at the Convention Center, the event of the season, watching the Orpheus parade end up at its final destination, with a private concert with Harry Connick Jr and friends, the same building we would see on tv and weep over six months ago.

The food! Swoon! Delectable brunches at Commander's Palace and Brennan's. Lunches of po'boys and gumbo. Hurricanes and Gin Fizzes. Oooh, that luscious King Cake we got everywhere! There is no place on earth that does food like New Orleans. I still dream about it.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, and then the levees broke and flooded that city, we watched on tv stunned and numb. It was incomprehensible. It still is. What was once the most spirited and unique city in our country, is now a wasteland. A small slice of the French Quarter, Bourbon Street and some parts of the Garden District thrive. The airport is open. But the rest is gone. Still.

The people have relocated. The cleanup is happnening in fits and starts. The major services are hit and miss. But today there were parades and celebrations for Fat Tuesday. People came to eat and drink, throw beads, and celebrate life. The spirit of New Orleans is still alive. Small, a tiny ember compared to flame it once was, but it is not gone. I am in mourning for the loss. All this time later, I still cannot understand how that could have happened.

We dragged out all our Mardi Gras loot. We decorated the house with coconuts and masks and doubloons. I lugged up my sack of beads and have spent days pulling them out -- "remember this parade?" "remember when you got hit in the head with these?" "OMG, I forgot about these beads -- didn't you trade these with that crazy drunk guy?" We had so much fun. And I've been wearing beads all week long, in my own private tribute to the very spirit of that city. Listening to jazz and realizing that it is never really going to go away. But still devastated that we lost so much. Tears mixed with Laughter. That's life.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Everyday angels

A slow start to my Saturday. A noon break to watch Apollo Anton Ohno win the gold medal, sitting on the edge of my chair and biting my nails. A late lunch too. Things kept getting in the way and slowing down the day. By late afternoon, sitting at my desk and taking stock of how much time was left and how many items were on my list . . . I got lost.

Perched on top of my desk was a note from early January that had been rattling around my car. It was a note to myself to look up Jodi Williams' essay for the NPR program "This I Believe". I had heard it on the radio while driving to the post office and was absolutely struck by the significance of her statement -- that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary progress in this world by just taking action. The part that made my heart jump and my breath catch in my throat was this:

"I believe that worrying about the problems plaguing our planet without taking steps to confront them is absolutely irrelevant. The only thing that changes this world is taking action.

I believe that words are easy. I believe the truth is told in the actions we take. And I believe that if enough ordinary people back up our desire for a better world with action, I believe we can, in fact, accomplish absolutely extraordinary things."

So in this muddled up afternoon, I found her essay on the NPR site. I read it. I listened to her voice reading it. I read it again. It's so simple really. The truth often is.

I will want to sit with this for a bit and process it. It feels important to where I am going somehow. Hopeful. Inspirational. A shift in perception. ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT. Yeah, that part.

Jody Williams - This I Believe

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pillow squish

Last night at the Lord Hill show I could not resist. Why, oh why, must I buy stuff every time I go to a show? It’s usually something sparkly. Or old and dirty. Beads, antiques, little handbags, luscious fabrics. So many things catch my eye, and simply must come home with me. Last night it was a pillow.

It’s not my fault. It just showed up there, and is the perfect colors to match the new paint in the bedroom. Silvery purple silk, with darker grey velvet. Pretty pink and coral flowers, the very same accent colors in the room too. It’s so beautiful.

It is a Cherry Street pillow. A few years ago, I bought several for Christmas gifts. And of course I had to get one for myself too. But it’s chocolate brown silks, and has been relocated to the living room for napping on the couch. So this new silver lovely came home with me. My sister takes hers on the plane when traveling. And it’s quite fetching as a turban too, as our Christmas photos from that year can attest to, heh. But seriously, the little donut cradles your head just perfectly for a small cat nap. And is just too pretty to pass up.

Oh, and the rest of the show is pretty good too. We're there through Saturday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Gal vs Machine

My computer is keeeeling me. Dead.

Over the long weekend, I upgraded my system software and apparently nobody was happy. My computer and printer had a tiff and wouldn’t speak to each other. My photo program went on strike and walked out. And my email program had a complete hissy fit and crashed on every single message that arrived in my inbox. Oh joy.

Countless hours searching online help. More on the phone talking to “experts.” De-installing the upgrade. Finding out it wasn’t the upgrade at all, but three totally unconnected problems that just happened to show up all on the same couple of days. Another half a day re-installing the upgrades, downloading printer drivers, other software upgrades to all the programs, transferring the entire mail program . . . and now we are back in business, minus a few chunks of hair on my head and a half a bottle of aspirin. This technology stuff is supposed to help us save time and achieve greater efficiency and success? Really?

The orchids were my moment of Zen, where I walk away from the machine and remember that there is life outside of my office and yes, this too shall pass.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

First show of the year!

Today I am setting up for the first show of the year. Lord Hill Farm is in Snohomish, a huge barn used for special events and weddings, which we take over for a few days and make into a jam-packed display of crafts, folk art and antiques.

I love this show – it often has the cutest stuff, is so well organized and run, and it’s so fun to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a couple of months.

The new vintage hankie sachets will be there, the yummy lemon body scrub, all the new Spring soaps, and of course, the luscious cupcake lip balm. It will be my first chance to see how they are received. This is a small show, Spring always is. There are no immediate holidays or reasons to shop, and folks are still paying off their Christmas credit card debt and thinking ahead to paying their taxes, so sales are puny. But it’s worthwhile doing anyway, and exciting just to see what new things everyone else is doing this year. And it will finally get me out of the house and back into action again, which is no small feat.

Details for the show, if you want to stop by:

Country Crafts Home & Gift Show at Lord Hill Farm
12525 Old Snohomish-Monroe Rd
Snohomish, WA

Dates: February 22-25
Hours: Wed 3-8pm, Thurs-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm.

Link to the show web site: Country Crafts

Friday, February 17, 2006

Baby it's cold outside

Brrrrrrrr. We are having an unbelievable cold snap in the weather. I don’t remember it ever being this cold for a whole week straight. Is all this weird weather we’re having just a hint of things to come? Is global warming wreaking havoc? Or worse, is this Armageddon?

My office and work areas are in the basement of the little casa. And there is no heat down here, really. I am so darn cold that my fingers feel numb as I type this. I have to run upstairs periodically today to run my fingers in hot water, or sit in front of the heater or a sunny spot on the carpet for a little while, just to get feeling back in my toes. I think I could participate in some Italian Winter Olympic events right here in the office. Curling down the hall, anyone?

A couple of updates: my darling little rick-rack ribbon came in today, so I can make up a new batch of the vintage hankie sachets and get new pictures up on the web site over the weekend. I think this is going to be so much fun to play with. I ordered a bunch of new ribbons at the Seattle Gift show -- some really cool beaded wire that I want to mess around with for holiday products, some pretty shiny satin ribbon in summer colors with dots . . . I hope I can work all this stuff into some new packaging right away.

And two: the cupcake lip balm passed the test with flying colors. I got a second opinion or two, and was told it smells exactly like buttercream frosting, and is sweet and delicious too. Tastes vanilla-y and creamy and sugary. So I guess it’s a keeper :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hiya Cupcake!

Ooooh, aaaaaah, I have such a love for a gorgeous cupcake. A tall chapeau of rich buttercream. A moist, delectable crumb. Heaven.

Last year at some point, I was looking for new ideas on flavor oils for the lip balms, and ran across a “buttercream” flavor. I decided to get a small sample, and see if it tasted anything close to the real thing. So often they taste like chemicals or are unsweetened and harsh, or just generally suck. I had actually forgotten about it in the holiday rush, and today when I was making up batches of lip balms for next week’s show, I uncovered the bottle. A little dip of my finger and sweet deliciousness. So I decided on the spur of the moment to make a batch with the new buttercream flavor oil. And in a snap moment of clarity the name “Cupcake” slammed me in the head. How perfect!

I wish I could say it turned out to be the spitting replica of eating a yummy vanilla cupcake. My nose died somewhere around the 5th hour into this whole process. Wha?? you say?? Yargh. It’s true. When working around this much scent on a daily basis, my nose just gets overloaded. Or my brain cannot process any more scent and I just lose my sense of smell. It takes a while for the kitchen to clear out. Or I spend a chunk of time outdoors, and it does eventually come back. Although I don’t think I’ll ever quite be the same :(

Anyhoo, I gave it a little lick test when it was done. But since 85% of your sense of taste is actually triggered by smell, I couldn’t get much. It’s sweet, and it tastes darn nice. But I’ll have to give it the definitive test in a few days and hope that this new “Cupcake Lip Balm” is the bomb. I’m adding it to the web site anyway, cuz I’ve got a little mountain of them. And they will be at the Lord Hill show next week. Check back in a few days and I’ll have all the deets.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Sweatheart Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love.

-- Mother Teresa

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Spring Newsletter is Here

Hip hip hooray! The Spring Newsletter is on its way. As most of my customers know, I write a little newsy letter four times a year, describing the new seasonal products, new fragrances of soap, updating folks on whatever is new, and releasing my calendar of shows and events for the next few months down the road.

So we’ve spent the last few days stuffing and glueing and stamping, and it’s finally out the door. Hopefully you’ll be able to peruse the cheerful little descriptions over the weekend, while catching a few minutes of Olympics celebrations or just enjoying the first sunny, dry weekend we’ve had all year.

I’m particularly pleased with the new Spring soap fragrances – Green Clover, Orange Blossom and Candied Ginger. So pretty and sweet, fresh and clean – the perfect antidote to a long and dreary winter. Plus, the fun Lemon Sugar Body Scrub, which has certainly brightened me up. So keep an eye on your mailboxes!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fresh Coat of Paint

The painting of the bedroom is finished, everything is returned to its proper place, and there is a whole new level of clean and freshness to the room that sparkles and glows. This room is a sanctuary – with wide open walls to project my dreams on, like a slide show, as I lay down and unwind from the day. Great ideas are born in this room. A little table top with flowers, tiny treasures, a gorgeous silk scarf, and a small collection of eggs – reminding me of new beginnings is the focal point. I am so very pleased with the way the color turned out -- a soft, dove gray that glows warmly in both sunlight and evening lamp light. I almost can’t leave it. I find myself wandering back into the doorway to just stare and smile, every hour or so. Turning on the closet light to admire the new tidiness. Sitting on the bed and gazing around at the view of each wall. Stroking my hand across the gleaming window sills and the glossy door.

I found this poem long ago, by Helen Keller. In this new room, I feel as if I have unlimited space and beauty in which to dream.

The most beautiful world
is always entered
through your imagination.

If you wish to be something
you are not, you shut your eyes,
and for one dreamy moment
you are that which you long for.

Helen Keller

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

When life gives you lemons

Today was “Paint The Bedroom Day!” This is has been on the projects list for years. The color choice was the biggest hurdle, and after the big decision was made, it took yet another year to finally empty the room and get started.

I’m sure some people do it all one day, or maybe just a few hours. Sigh. I moved furniture, cleaned and washed walls the better part of yesterday, and then realized I was out of daylight hours. This morning, after a marathon of errands to buy all the appropriate supplies, I dug in and started patching and spackling. This was supposed to just take an hour or so. But there was a major hole in the lathe and plaster ceiling of the closet, still hanging precariously since we moved in. And then all the little hairline cracks from the last earthquake in the corners to be filled in an smoothed over. Time for all of it to dry, get sanded, re-applied in the ceiling etc., I am again out of time to work on this today. There is business to attend to this week too, it can’t be all fun and games.

Since I need to tackle the big job tomorrow . . . I decided to pick a really fun business chore to fill in the afternoon – Lemon Sugar Body Scrub! This is one of my new Spring Seasonal products, and I’m so excited to try it out. I’ve made a few experimental batches, tried a couple of different jars, and now the little pile of supplies is just waiting in a corner for the big production day. What better way to spend an afternoon?

It’s like frosting! So much fun to dig in your hands, and swirl and knead the ingredients. Fill up the little jars and wipe them clean. The entire kitchen smells like fresh-squeezed lemonade, all sugary and tart and fresh and juicy. Gah! I’m hungry, thirsty and desperate to hit the shower all at once.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Gung Hay Fat Choy

This last weekend was the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Since our traditional American New Year’s celebration is so tied to the Christmas festivities, we usually celebrate this New Year with a bit more ritual. There is more time to prepare for it – hanging a few lanterns, following all the superstitions of having your bills paid, the house cleaned, and preparing a “lucky” meal. It’s really quite fun to try cooking new dishes outside my usual menu, buying unusual ingredients and mastering new techniques.

With the huge wind storm we had here over the weekend, it dampened our celebration a little bit – but we still braved the elements and went out for dim sum lunch and watched the lion dances, following the parade from business to business, until the drum beat is hammered into my brain for days, and my ears are deafened by the bursts of firecrackers.

It's not the quantity of the meat, but the cheerfulness of the guests, which makes the feast -- Edward Clarendon

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New friends

I got a chance to meet and talk with a woman artist yesterday, who also does shows and some mail order business. As we chatted about our respective businesses and compared notes it seemed we had quite a lot in common. These little moments when you connect with someone who is walking down a similar path are always enlightening. Often they have very different ways of approaching the same questions, and you either learn something new or gain a radically different perspective. Or conversely, you understand that instinctively you have chosen styles or methods which suit your own needs better and come away with a sense of validation.

This time, however, we seemed to have the same approach. And it was fun to finish each other’s sentences and laugh together at shared frustrations. Smiling as I headed off to a long list of errands and chores, I felt a renewed sense of purpose and not so alone in the silent days of winter.