Friday, March 31, 2006

How to do it all wrong

Holy moly. I just wrote out a fabulous little journal entry this morning, and somehow managed to lose the whole flipping thing before it got saved or published. What a dork. So I will attempt to re-create the thing from scratch . . . and will probably leave out the part that actually makes sense.

This morning in keri smith's blog she has a little list of how to make yourself truly miserable. Keri is an illustrator and author, who writes a delicious little blog that I read almost every day. It never ceases to amaze me how often I log on, only to see that she is grappling with the exact same issue that is in my own head. And somehow has a more brilliant take on it, making things more clear and infinitely richer for me. Her post today is followed by a huge list of comments -- all of them "OMG you are in my head!" type messages. So clearly she has hit the nail on the head. It's a kick in the pants just to read it out loud, in black and white. And I wanted to share it with you -- so just for easier reading, I am copying it here.

So many days while I am sitting in my dark little office, spinning my wheels and beating myself up for some ridiculous thing, I forget that all of us who are trying to make a buck or two from our creative endeavors are all in the same boat. This little list, just validates that. Heh, I do all of these things. Regularly.

But today, for one day, I will not. (so she says, but the day is still young.)

One other thing -- the other day when I was on my quest for new ideas and new technology? I decided to upgrade my photo program. So I can have better and kewler pix for the web site, my blog, juried show applications, and just in general. A couple of hours later, trying to load the software endlessly, I decide that there is clearly something wrong and I am having another brush with techno hell. Maybe I have a lemon computer. Maybe I just have bad computer karma. I don't know. Off to the computer store yesterday . . . a couple of hours later, many diagnostics and much anguish . . . the verdict is a broken cd/dvd drive. Of course they do not have the part in stock. Yes, I have to take it back and leave it for a day or two. (gah! no computer! how will I live!?!)

Happy Friday everybody. Today I will celebrate with coconut cake. I've been craving it for days. Sometimes when you have a specific craving, no amount of substitutes will work. Believe me, I've tried -- chocolate chips, peanut butter, toast with jam, truffles, snacks of every persuasion. No go. So last night I made a great, big, fluffy coconut cake. I had a teeny slice last night while it was still warm, icing dripping off, and the crumbs falling apart. But today it's cool, frosted, mounded with fresh coconut, and I intend to have a great big chunk tonight after dinner (or another little sliver with lunch if I just can't stand it). And revel in the pure contentment of having exactly what you've been dreaming about. Yummmmm.....

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dancing on the fence

I'm restless today. Restless to start something new and put my brain in a new place. Try something completely different, taste something I've never tasted before, physically stand in a brand new place. Spring is too long in coming -- one warm sunny day, followed again by several more cool, gray days. I wonder if this year the weather is different than all the others, or if I've suddenly become much more sensitive to the sun, needing to draw more energy from the sunlight.

After getting the important basic tasks done today, I am heading over to the Apple Store to take a class and play with some new software programs. I want to expand my horizons -- with my accounting and customer records, with my photos, with my newsletters and brochures . . . there are so many things I can take to the next level. I spent a bit of time yesterday researching blogging, marketing, even podcasting. It feels like we are changing the way we live and work so quickly, the technology shifting so rapidly, that what I was doing last year at this time was almost another lifetime ago. I guess I'll jump in and swim.

It feels so odd, merging the ancient craft of making soap and age-old herbal body preparations, with modern business methods and cutting edge technology. Dancing on the fence between old and new.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lavender Dreams

I'm smack dab in the middle of making a bazillion lavender sachets.

Here's what certified aromatherapist, Debra Mauldin has to say about the use of lavender:

"Essential Oil of Lavender is one of the safest and most widely used oils in aromatherapy. Lavendula officinalis is a wonderful oil for depression. It has a steadying influence on the psyche. Lavender’s balancing effect calms uncontrolled emotions, removes indecisiveness and emotional conflict, and helps to bring the feelings under conscious control. It brings a sense of rationality to the conscious mind.

Lavender Essential Oil works to calm a variety of nervous disorders including excitability, nervous tension, panic, and hysteria. It emanates a mellow peacefulness and induces sleep.

If you suffer from ‘winter blues’, surrounding yourself with Lavender, can help. Use Lavender Incense around your home. Place Lavender candles in every room. Lavender Sachets can be placed in drawers, closets, etc… Essential Oil of Lavender can be used in Light Rings, Diffusers, Aroma Lamps, or Potpourri throughout the home or office. Other ways to strategically incorporate the scent of Lavender into your home include: Put a couple of drops of oil onto a cotton ball and place in your vacuum cleaner bag, place a couple of drops of oil onto a cotton ball and swab the light bulbs in your home or office, sprinkle a couple of drops of Lavender oil onto your pillows.

Simply inhaling Lavender Essential Oil releases various neurochemicals in the brain and you will experience a physiological change in body, mind, and spirit. When Lavender is inhaled, serotonin is released from the raphe nucleus of the brain, producing a calming influence in the body."

So it's magical stuff, and something one cannot possibly live without. My lavender sachets have been tremendously popular, and the cloud of lavender that wafts from my tent during summer shows and markets draws people in from a block away.

Just one itsy bitsy, teeny tiny little problem. In huge quantities it makes me a little woozy and headachy, and while making the sachets, the lavender dust gets in my nose and throat, making me cough and hack and sneeze and stuffs up my head. So yesterday was perfect -- I could open the windows and doors and take little breaks on the patio for fresh air while scooping pounds and pounds of lavender buds into little sacks and tying up little bundles of ribbons and hankies. So I'm all stocked up. April shows will have mounds of lavender sachets, and little vials of lavender essential oil too. Just doing my part to keep the world happy and healthy . . .

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Daffy Dilly

Back from our stay at the pool -- and it was mostly lovely. The first couple of days the weather was cloudy and quite cool, but the last part was warm, sunny, endless blue sky, hikes through the desert cactus, hours lounging by the pool with a pile of magazines, and then, of course, the final morning of dreading going home, packing up, trudging to the airport, etc. It seems like once you just get settled into the routine of actually being on vacation, it is suddenly time to go home. Oh well, I've got a smidgen of color on my legs, fond memories and a few gorgeous photos to look at when I'm feeling gray again.

During the past week, I've gotten notices about a few shows I was hoping to hear back from -- so I'm excited to report that I will be at the Edmonds Arts Festival this year, for the first time ever! I'm lumped into the "traditional crafts" category, which is huddled in the Plaza area, and separated from the fine arts booths on the grass. I'm very much looking forward to trying out this new show, but it means that I will not be at the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade this year, since they fall on the same weekend. New adventures are good for the soul . . .

Another new show I will be participating in is called Spring Gathering, held at Our Secret Garden in Rochester -- quite a bit south for me, near Olympia. But it's an extravaganza of garden junk, antique stuff, plants, flowers, tools, and cool garden inspiration stuff. One of the biggest shows in that area, it looks like a fabulous weekend.

And I will once again be in the U District Street Fair, Choochokam in Langley, and Anacortes Arts Festival. It's always a little tense waiting for the jury committee announcements, and I'm so pleased to be accepted. So this weekend is catch up time, writing checks, filling in the calendar on the web site, FINALLY finishing my taxes and getting those off, wading through the mail and messages. Plus that big ol' pile of laundry :)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

At the pool

Sunscreen? check
Swimsuit? check
Flip flops? check
Stack of magazines? check

I'm taking a few days off for a little fun in the sun this week. I intend to just lounge by the pool, catch up on reading, and just relax. Be back Friday with a little color, a fresh outlook and a stack of laundry :)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Luck 'o the Irish

Happy St Paddy's Day! There just aren't enough minutes in today. Started off with a rush, been running non-stop, and now I'm running out of time. But I couldn't let the day go by without posting my little shamrock label I found a few days ago.

I'm cooking corned beef, cabbage, roasted vegetables and guinness chocolate cake for a small dinner party tonight. So I've just put the roast on to cook, and need to get cracking on some other work. Hope you all get to enjoy the wearin' o' the green today!

Trudging along

This morning I woke up to a grey, drizzly morning with a complete lack of enthusiasm. The silver lining? maybe it's that this is the perfect day to put my nose to the grindstone, tackle a bunch of work and get a lot accomplished. At least today when I look out the window there are little bunches of bright, sturdy little daisies standing at attention, and not just dead stuff and moss.

Last night was the opening of the Vasa Park show and there were a couple of new artists with darling stuff. Bugaboo Vintage Design has the cutest little girl dresses made of sweet embroidered pillow slips, little baby bibs and blankets fashioned out of vintage kitchen tablecloths and chenille -- all kinds of little whatnots for kids with sweet little accents in stitching or buttons. And Erin, who I think calls her business Rickety Picket or something equally clever, is a new vendor too, although she's been a long time customer. She's got mostly antiques, and signs made from old barnwood and fence boards, little planters filled with rare primroses, cool junk for the garden. Such fun to see the new stuff.

Some new lip balm flavor samples arrived the other day, and I'm hoping to have some yummy new flavors for summer. I'll need to do a few experiments, but how does Raspberry Tart or Coconut Cream sound? I'm still playing around with some ideas. If you've got one you'd like to see, let me know.

It's hard to imagine that summer is just a couple short months away -- it hardly feels like spring. But two months from now will be the opening of the Tacoma Farmer's Market, the summer newsletter will already have been whisked off, and all the hot, new, little summer stuff will be piled up on the shelves waiting for their big debut. I need to think Beach House, Seashore, Pink Grapefruit, Berries and Melons, Lemon Verbena, Coconut . . . . maybe a little sniffing and whiffing of what's up next will brighten the day. I'm off.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Vasa Park Ballroom

Another week, another spring craft show! Today we are setting up at Vasa Park Ballroom in Bellevue. Located on Lake Sammamish, it's close to Issaquah, just a short distance off of I-90 and easy to get to for all you Eastsiders.

Warning advertising blurble ahead: Welcome spring! Come browse, shop and delight in our selection of collectible folk art and fresh spring ideas in a most festive setting. 95 of our most desired crafters and designers display original hand made treasures for your spring, Easter and year-round decorating and gift giving fun. See the wonderful hand crafted designs we feature, made by artists of all kinds. Many new and also lots of old favorites.

So here are the dates and times: Wednesday, March 15th, 3-9pm, Thursday & Friday, March 16th & 17th, 10am-8pm, & Saturday, March 18th, 10am-6pm.

Vasa Park Resort's Site and Directions

Sue at Country Crafts organizes this really beautiful show and I am always really excited to be there. Attendance at these craft shows has been lagging a bit the last couple of years and none of us have truly figured out why. There are lots of theories being bounced around, all of which hold some kernals of truth. But I think it's just a big stew of all these ingredients: the economy here in the NW took a hit, the huge prevalence of import products from China and beyond -- even exact replicas of our own ideas, sold for much cheaper prices every where you look, the lack of value for handcrafted work in our global marketplace, the evolution of online shopping and even the intense competition in certain craft categories. For example, soap in particular has changed drastically since I first began this work a decade ago. Handmade soap was still new and unusual. Handcrafted and organic spa products were just a glimmer on the horizon. But it became the hot ticket -- not only did dozens of local folks jump in and start their own businesses, saturating the market, but corporate entities starting making look-alikes. Even Bath & Body Works started their stores, making rough little bars that looked home grown. Every single salon, fashion boutique, home accessories store carried either their own line, or lots of little lines of small business products. There wasn't a retail place you could walk into that didn't have some kind of handmade soap there -- even pet shops with little "flea away" handmade pet soaps. So the folks that used these products now had a million places to pick up a bar, and didn't need to find their little local street fair or bazaar to get the goods.

The point is that sometimes it appears like handmade goods are doing better than ever, when in reality, so many of my friends -- artists and organizers alike -- have recently left to get "real jobs" or decided their passion was better off as a hobby than a business. And I worry that we'll find ourselves suddenly yesterday's news.

Bit I digress. This was certainly not meant to be a plea for help or a guilt trip to check out this week's show. Just yabbering around the water cooler as we get together and set up for one of our very finest spring shows with high hopes and delicate expectations.

Monday Monday

Whew, Monday mornings can be so rough. By 9am, I feel like I've been bombarded with a week's worth of incoming, well, somethings. My email inbox was chockfull and after weeding out the crap, writing a couple timely replies, following all the links, reading the announcements which led to more links, trails which led up and around and back again, plus a smattering of other stuff to do or follow up on or shelve for later . . . I'm tuckered out and my brain is spinning.

What I woke up wanting to write about is sort of lost in the ether now. I vaguely remember wanting to explain why I'm doing this whole blog thing, but the crisp little sentences and poignant musings are all swirled up in the days news and my to do list for this week.

First and foremost, what I've come to understand as the years have passed in this business, is that my products, my sales, my ideas and my inspiration have all pretty much come from one source -- my relationships: with my customers, many whom have become friends during the course of this journey; with other artists and crafters who are facing similar challenges; and with the community around me. Rather than pass my little home business off as a corporate structure with an sterile office of professional employees, it makes much more sense to be upfront and honest about who and what this is all about. I feel that if I open up the entire experience, show people what goes into the work, who is working the little buttons and levers on the other side of the curtain, that the fun begins. Not only do people have a clear understanding of what they are actually buying and supporting, but I get to have more interaction with who is interested in what I'm doing. The synchronicity will hopefully spark all kinds of new opportunities. I'm not sure what, exactly. But I'm hopeful that the dialogue will be interesting and the exercise itself produces new beginnings.

Plus, blogging is what all the cool kids are doing now, heh.

But on a very serious level, blogging IS the wave of the future. Books and articles are coming out every day on who is doing it, why they are doing it and what is the benefit of doing it. As in all things, I'm not that strategic or on the ball. I'm just wandering around a little aimlessly, picking up on what interests me. But this past year, I've spent increased time on the computer reading other people's blogs of every persuasion, participating in all kinds of message boards, surfing in general, just playing with all the new toys on the net. It's fun. I like it. Maybe because so much of my day is spent working alone in the little casa without a lot of social interaction -- but no matter how big your job or your office, you still would never see the variety and sheer volume of conversations about every topic on earth that you can peep into online.

So the word on the street is that the internet is changing the way people think. And yes it does, in a way. But only for the folks playing, which still doesn't seem to be the majority of people out there. But typing a little witty banter here and there . . it is very, very easy to connect with others who have the same mindset, state some sensible opinion and suddenly there are others that agree with you and before you know it, it sounds like the tide is turning and the mood has changed. Intellectuals who have been watching and measuring this phenomenon think big things are occurring in our culture. I'm not entirely convinced. But corporations seem to think there is a minefield in the blogosphere and message boards, according to an article in the Seattle Times this morning. They are developing software to track mentions of products/trade names etc to see how often they are talked about and categorized into positive/negative. Sort of an extension of market research, in order to follow trends and develop new business strategies. Pretty clever, and supposedly has already had some success.

It's a no brainer that trendspotters would keep an eye out on the internet chatter. What empowered me this morning in reading that, is that YES we can actually influence what is going on around us. Pile on! Jump into the conversation and be heard. Make comments, post your own little ramblings whenever and wherever you can. It does make a difference. Even if only two people are reading this little post, maybe some tracker type thingie is catching one or two of my posts and it's getting registered in a database somewhere. Who knows? It could happen. The more we chat up what's important in our lives, what we think, how we feel about current events and just plain old daily life stuff -- the more the "powers that be" or folks who hold all the money bags will hear us. That's a powerful concept.

So I'm not going to start bombarding the place with little hissy political rants and sermonettes. mumblemumblemumble handcrafted stuff is way better than Wal-Mart mumblemumblemumble But I am going to talk about the stuff I like, the stuff that inspires me, and occassionally mention the bad stuff that spoils the party. And you all can agree or disagree or bring up something else altogether. Let's keep talking.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


If you've visited the blog before, you'll notice I've been doing some redecorating around here. Just changed the template to this lovely green style -- hoping for a little luck 'o the Irish or something, now that it's March. I was itching for a little more color. And I wanted to add some links to other crafty and foodie blogs that I like to visit whenever I can. I have read them for some time and get quite a bit of inspiration and ideas from them, so I wanted to share.

While I was poking around looking for gems this afternoon, I came across a link to a recipe for Sweet Almond Financiers from Williams Sonoma, which looked so delicious and so easy to make that I tried them out for dinner. It took all of 20 minutes including mixing and baking time. So incredibly yummy and delectable -- almost a cake, almost a cookie. I didn't have the little fluted tart pans, but had a few muffin tins in the cupboard, so I used those. I dolloped a good tablespoon of the batter in each one and it made one dozen little beauties. Perfect with a cup of tea this evening.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Have you seen my marbles?

I just had them here somewhere, and now they've gone missing.

Today's topic is discipline. I seem to be missing that at the moment also. I know what they all say -- in order to be a successfully self-employed person, the number one thing you need is discipline. To be able to coerce yourself into working effectively and consistently, just as if you had a regular job. Today is one of those days where I wonder how I ever got through almost 10 years of working for myself. But honestly, discipline in my work is about all I seem to have. Somehow I manage to get the paperwork done, the orders out the door, show up on time for my shows and be ready to go. Things could go a whole lot smoother without all this procrastinating . . . but that's a topic for another day.

It's all those other areas that are suffering this month -- the diet, the resolution to go to the gym more, balancing my check book before six months have passed, household chores and cleaning, gardening tasks, blah de blah. It's all piling up and this weekend does not look like a happy one basking on the couch.

Right now, it's 4:00 pm on a Friday. A week of not that much on my plate, but an even smaller portion accomplished. I need to head out the door with the last of the orders from today . . . and whiz up the batch of soap waiting on the counter. Nothing like waiting to the last minute on everything to really make you feel alive. Or insane. Or something. Heh, I've even waited for the last minute to figure out what to write about today. Now that should receive some sort of special award!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sweater Weather

What is with all this crazy windy, rainy, stormy, even snowy weather? I thought we were racing towards spring, and now it's back to winter. Sipping soup and making tea.

I knitted these teeny tiny sweaters a year ago, during the dark, quiet days of winter. Got on a little knitting kick and started making mini sweaters in lots of little ice cream colors. Added vintage buttons, little flowers and whatnot. Started a whole stack of them and then didn't know what to do with them. So I strung them up, making garlands, with teensy doll hangers I found at the craft store. Awwww, so sweet.

This winter has not sprouted another little blizzard of crafty ideas or projects. What is anyone else working on? Is knitting still the big thing? Looks like sewing is making a comeback from articles I've read. And shopping at the paper/rubber stamp store the other day I was blown away by all the new doo-hickeys that have come out -- stickers, clips and brads, ephemera and collage pieces, tools and toys. I was a little overwhelmed and left empty-handed.

The Echo Falls show is doing great -- lots of antique items at this one, if you are into that. It's still open til Sat afternoon.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Starving Housewives

Isn't this a lovely place? It's the Echo Falls Country Club and Golf Course in Snohomish. We have another craft show scheduled there next week, and it's such a pretty spot to showcase our new spring stuff. Lots of pretty garden art, gourmet foods, crafts and antiques, spring and easter items -- there will be so much to see. The details if you'd like to stop by are:

Starving Housewives Gift Shows at
Echo Falls Country Club
20414 121st Ave SE in Snohomish
(Just off of Hwy 522 E onto Echo Lk Rd -- where the new interchange is under construction)
Dates: Tuesday through Saturday March 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Hours: Tues - Fri 10am - 8pm, Sat 10am - 3pm

Please note that we close early on Saturday afternoon because there is a wedding scheduled for this lovely room later that evening, so don't wait til the last minute because it will all disappear quickly and no dilly-dallying around.

For more info on Cameron and Cindy's (the clever housewives themselves) shows -- here's the link to their site: Starving Housewives

Friday, March 03, 2006

Soap of the Month Club

Yesterday I trotted all my little packages with the Soap of the Month club shipments off to the Post Office. Soap of the Month Club? What is that?

Here's the scoop: I have created a little giftie idea where you can buy a membership to this Soap of the Month service. Well, it's not new, really. I've offered it for a few years actually, but I'm happy to bring it up again :) You can buy this for yourself, a friend, one of your relatives, your boss, or the friendly neighbor lady down the street. Four times each year, a little package arrives in the mail box with the beee-yoo-tiful sack of soaps that you see here. It is a very lovely organza sack, with tassle ties and glass beads at the bottom, a new color for each season. Inside are three bars of the latest seasonal soaps -- the idea is that there is one bar of soap for each month. The box has a pretty little hand-crafted gift card that says "Happy Spring" or "Have a bountiful Fall" or some such message. This month, the cards were from a lovely woman who makes cards out of vintage wallpaper and borders whom I've just recently met - so very charming, both the cards and her too.

Anyway, the new spring scents -- Candied Ginger, Green Clover and Spanish Orange Blossom -- just headed out the door yesterday to the lucky club members. The summer ones arrive June 1, the fall selection on September 1, and the winter beauties on December 1. Of course you can start whenever you want, and decide which selection you would like to begin with. It is a one year subscription and it costs $75.00. Flat out, no extra shipping or taxes, it's all included in the one price for a whole year of little treats in the mail. What a steal!

It's a really nice gift that lasts all year. And it's a really nice way to try out all the seasonal soaps yourself, without the hassle of keeping up with the newsletters, remembering to order on time, messing about with the order forms etc.

Anyway, for the 3 or 4 people who ever travel over to this little random corner and spend a moment reading my rambling prose, that is the story about the club. I have been percolating a new idea for a club-type thing also, like home spa products, a new experimental something to try each month. But honestly, the spa type products have been less popular than the tried and true soap bars. So I'm not sure it will get off the ground.

Oh, and feedback is ALWAYS appreciated! You can "talk back" just by hitting the "Comments" button just below this post, and leaving a little message. Or you can email me through the regular website address . . . or even give me a jingle on the phone if you've got an idea, request, complaint, question or just plain want to get your two cents in. I don't bite, I promise!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sniffing the tulips

Almost a full night of sleep without interruptions!
A howling windy night, buried in the flannel and down.
A flutter of birds in the trees and the return of chirping and songs.
The perfect cup of earl grey tea.
Silky smoothness of freshly shaved legs.
The new window shades finally arrived.
Warm, brilliant sunshine streaming through the windows.
Three new pairs of super cute shoes.
Yummy minty-fresh lip balm.
Daffodils and tulips stretching their wings, and plant noses poking through the ground in every corner of the garden.
The “to-do” list completed for the day.
A crisp, icy glass of wine.
A whole evening free on my own.