Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I've got the flu. Or a cold. I can't tell the difference. They used to be 2 different illnesses when I was a kid. Flu you had stomach upset and threw up a lot. Cold was runny nose and fever. Now they are both snot. So who knows. It's just bad.

The shop is poking along, a bit slow. And the rest of my fall show prep and newsletter and whatnot is threatening to drown me. That's probably why I got sick. It's all so overwhelming.

But I'm taking it one day at a time and just doing what I can. Today I'm back at the shop all day. Patricia is there all day tomorrow with samples of stuff - her jams, caramels, lavender lemonade. And then it's over. Thursday (tomorrow) is the final day of the shop. So get it while it's hot.

We'll open the shop again Thanksgiving week, and be there through the first week of December. So if that's a better time, mark the calendar. Gotta run, gotta stock up on Kleenex and get going. I'm not used to having a schedule - and I don't want to be late to open.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shop. Around the Clock.

Last week at the shop, Patricia and I were encouraged the first day, a little slow on Friday, and then discouraged on Saturday. A slow slide down hill.

In May, when we opened up here for the first time, I had so many requests from people to please please please have weekend hours so that other working folks could make it over to do some shopping too, not just the Group Health employees and neighbors. So this time, we made sure we were open Saturday. We had exactly 2 people stop in all day. It was deadly boring, and not worth the effort.

Maybe it was the gorgeous day. Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it's just the way things will be this year. We're re-thinking our hours for the November/December schedule. Of course it's closer to Christmas and people will be holiday shopping. Isn't the day after Thanksgiving the biggest shopping day of the year afterall? But it's also a holiday weekend, and a lot of folks will be doing family stuff or traveling, and I'm not sure our little location will get any traffic. The big sales are at the malls. So it's a toss-up. We'll know more after this week is over, and have a better idea of what we want to do.

Of course I'm sitting in that little space dreaming big about hauling in lights and garlands and ribbons and trees . . . But I've got to be realistic too. As much as I love to decorate, it has to be practical. It has to fit in just a few car loads, not truckloads. And I've still got to leave room for our merchandise - not just the froo froo. And maybe we picked a bad week. Yikes.

Sunday is my day off. Except I'm working on a million things instead, just because it's that time of year. And tomorrow I'm back in the shop all day. Hopefully this coming week works out a little better. Do you need some extra special delicious caramels and caramel corn for Halloween treats? Do you need a little special something for a party hostess or a grownup trick-r-treater? We've got you covered!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Shop

We had a great time decorating the shop this week, and yesterday was our first day open. Pretty good day - folks started to pop their heads in to see who the new folks were and what was going on. I'm hoping it will be a good week.

Besides the lovely caramels and caramel corn, Patricia has some fresh caramel apples, Jonagold apples, which are always so juicy. And I've got all the soaps, sprays, balms, bath salts etc. But there is a book shelf of soapmaking and craft books, practically new and all for sale - $5 each. Most of them are gorgeous picture books, and ones I collected earlier in my career for reference. So if you've got someone on your list who's always wanted to try making soap and wanted to know how to start, this might make a good gift. There are fall decor items too - candles, vases, brown satin hat boxes, miscellaneous vintage collectibles. It looks great - hope you can get a chance to stop by for minute. There's usually parking on the street right out front too. It's 1-hour parking, so the spots are always opening up.

Oh, and I've got some new hemp fabric bags for gifts. They are fully lined with white cotton and have a rope drawstring. They are that irresistible contrast of rustic and elegant, and hold a bar of soap and a cotton scrubbie just perfectly. A nice little bag for other uses also, any kind of small gift would tuck in quite nicely - $3 each. The natural hemp color is lovely for fall, but it would look really sweet for Christmas too, especially with a sprig of holly or greens tucked into the top.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Shop

Usually I operate under the "why do today what you can do tomorrow" philosophy. But this time of year, I have to stop all the procrastination and really work ahead of myself. I had planned a full weekend of non-stop work. But the weather was especially beautiful and I had to go outside and revel in the sunshine and the magnificent fall color. Sunday we took a little road trip along Highway 2 to Leavenworth. That drive along the river and through the mountains is always so pretty, and yesterday was breathtaking. So nice to take a day off and just enjoy the view, watch the trees and rippling river sparkling in the sunlight.

This week I am starting my first of two little holiday gift shops at Group Health. Patricia, my friend who makes Paige Lisbeth caramels, is joining me. We are "renting" their little retail space on Capitol Hill to set up our own gift shop for a week or so. A portion of all of our sales goes to their Patient Needs Fund, which buys supplies and necessities for patients there, part of their Volunteer Program. We're setting up the next couple of days, and we'll be open according to the following schedule:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct 23, 24 and 25 - 9:30am to 4:30pm
Sunday, Oct 26 - closed
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Oct 27 - 30 - 9:30am to 4:30pm

Location: Group Health central campus, Seattle
Address: 108 - 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, half a block south and across the street from the big Safeway store at the corner of John St.

So that's the next two weeks, and we're open on Saturday for working folks to stop by too. I'll have all my fall products and full line. Patricia will have her caramels and caramel corn, as well as some fresh caramel apples. And we'll have other fall decorating and gift things too, so I hope you all can stop by.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vasa Park Show

This week is the new autumn and harvest themed show at Vasa Park Ballroom on the shores of Lake Sammamish in Bellevue. It's not quite the same as the one that was there for years - sadly, Sue Van Gerpen had to shut down her schedule of shows early last year. But Sandy Roundy, who has been a show organizer here too for a gajillion years, is taking over that location to do her version of a fall craft show in the same location. There are a number of the same vendors, and a number of new vendors, so a little of something for everybody. It's a boutique style show, which means there is a central cashier and artists are not generally "working" their own booths, except for a few folks who are taste-testing their treats or personalizing something.

We set up the displays yesterday - lots of gift stuff and decorative home stuff for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Autumn occasions, plus little bits of Christmas stuff too.

Country Creations Home and Gift Show
Vasa Park Ballroom
3549 W Lk Sammamish Pkwy
Bellevue, WA

Dates: October 16 - 18
Hours: Thursday and Friday 10am to 7pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm

Link to directions: Vasa Park Resort

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wind on the Hill

Wind on the Hill

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes…
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

- A.A. Milne

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday afternoon

The National Debt clock has run out of numbers. It's been spiraling so fast and out of control lately, and now there's no room left on the sign for it to register the 10.2 trillion dollars of debt we owe.

Bankrupt. That's a bit how I suppose we're all feeling right now. Frustrated, angry, depressed, hopeless about the whole situation. I never would have imagined that smack in the middle of my lifetime I would be living through an epoch event as great as any in the history books, like the Great Depression. But here we are.

I faced my financial statement Friday - the small amount I've scrimped and saved for my entire adult life to retire on, and it's so meager and sad. I suppose I should be grateful that I even have anything at all - so many people are in such worse shape. Sure, it will eventually come back, or at least most of it. But that's not the point. By the time any of that happens, I've lost the big window where all that compound interest or whatever is supposed to happen that actually makes it worth doing. We were all taught to put in as much as we could early on, and that over time, the continued investment would grow. But now I'm back to where I was over a decade ago. Bleh. It's just paper money anyway. We're all in the same boat.

My intention wasn't really to whine about my own situation today, or rail in rage over the state of things, or wring my hands with worry about what's about to be either. It's all just so surreal. I have some of my biggest shows and sales in the next few weeks before the election even happens. Between October and December I usually do almost half my sales, half my entire business for the year during this time. And I'm facing a complete what the frack.

Do I just carry on as if things will be close to the same? Which, by the way, means investing in a lot of supplies and racking up some credit card debt? Because if it doesn't happen, and sales are really slumping, then I'm in trouble come January in more ways than one. Extra debt plus lack of funds. Or do I cut back and take it slow, seeing how the first couple of shows go and decide then? The trouble with that last one is that I can't. The first show is this coming week, and then I've got my little storefront the following week. But all at the same time, I have to put out the winter newsletter and do four more shows all in the same week - the major bulk of everything for November. It's either all there, or I cut back. But if I cut back inventory, then I can't spread out the smaller amounts of stuff among that many shows. I don't feel like I can cut a show, if I need every penny.

I'm going around and around with this. Basically trying to achieve as much as possible with as little investment as possible and making it all work. And then just waiting it out with fingers crossed. Again, bleh.

So I guess the bottom line is this: I will pretty much carry on business-as-usual and hope for the best. I write this blog so that outsiders, customers, etc. can know what it's like on the inside of this tiny business. And as much I would prefer to just sit silent and not worry out loud, I've kinda committed to letting it all hang out, warts and all. Putting on some smiley face that all is well and the factory is just humming away in blissful ignorance is not my style. I'll continue to do the sales-y blog posts about what's new and where I'll be each week during the next couple of months. But I'm going to also try to add a few starkers journal entries on how the business is actually faring in this new state of crisis as we head in to Christmas. Just because that's what I'd rather be reading if I was on your end. I think.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It rained again

Yes, another Salmon Days, another storm. All day Saturday it rained and the wind gusted and blew and tossed our little tents around. Rained sideways on and off, hard and then light misty rain. Everyone was wet. Umbrellas unloaded on the display of soap bars. Labels got soggy.

And it was chilly too. A storm front moved through all day, and by the late afternoon, when the tail end was blowing over, it got super windy. Banners blew off. Signs kept blowing over. Everyone was hanging onto their tents. Mine was a corner and the wind swept across the parking lot behind me and kept traveling the far corner out a foot or so with each gust. I thought the frame was going to end up all bent out of shape. It was anchored down well, but not enough on that one outside corner. And the velcro tabs on the back panel were too flimsy to hold either when the gusts came from straight behind. I spent half my time re-attaching the tent panels and straightening up the poles. It started to get super annoying. Just a couple of tiny leaks. And then some kind of stick which looked like a spear was impaled through the tent top in another gust. I just left it there. Patching will have to happen later. Next year. Unless I decide that I can afford a new tent. This one should probably not have to go another season, but probably will. Who can afford anything new now?

So the damp was miserable. The crowds were still impressive. And I had a pretty good day in sales, considering the state of the weather. In fact, it was better than a lot of shows this year, and under the worst conditions yet. Bad weather and crumbling economy. I still sold soap. Yeee haaah!

Sunday was much better weather. Still chilly and grey, but no wind, no rain. And sales were record-breaking for me. I sold out of probably 10 or more scents by the afternoon. More bars than ever. I'm not sure what it means, if anything. A sign of things to come? An anomaly? It's too hard to predict. And I guess it doesn't really matter. Except that I need to keep cranking out the batches of soap for holiday shows and sales.

Today was the big unpacking and clean up. I'm feeling a little slow and tired - all that weather takes a toll on a body, standing out in the elements for hours on end. I'm so grateful to have a bit of money to pay bills with. But worried about how much more I need to spend in supply orders this month to get me through the huge show season of November and December.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Map

You probably haven't notice, but I added a new little widget thingamajiggy towards the bottom of the blog. It's under the the whole list of linky stuff on the right. It keeps track of where any visitors to the blog come from around the world and tracks them on a map.

It wasn't worth mentioning at first, of course, because I needed to have a few visitors log in first. I think it's been a week or so? I don't remember. But it's sorta exciting! I've got a bunch of people from around here. But there's others too - like Australia, someplace in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Africa (!?), the UK, a few Europe, one South America, and all over the US.

Anyway, just thought I'd mention it. I had almost forgotten to check it out again myself until this morning. Cool.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Salmon Days

These folks have the cutest slogans - this year it's "what a wonderful whirl!"

Welcome to the “whirled” of fish, fun and festivities!
Join the fun this October at the Northwest’s most-loved, award-winning community event!
The salmon are returning to our lakes, streams and our historic, downtown hatchery! The Issaquah Salmon Days Festival is 39 years old and we're celebrating with special fishy attractions: the Grande Parade, Foods of the Whirled, “whirled-class” arts & crafts, whirling live entertainment, whirledly-wild Field of Fun for kids of all ages, and a whirl of sporting attractions.
You're invited

Dates: Saturday and Sunday, October 4 and 5, 2008
Place: Historic old downtown Issaquah
Times: 10am - 6pm both days
Booth Location: Same spot as last few years! Booth #318, located on W. Sunset Way, at the corner of the driveway entrance to the hatchery.

Link: Salmon Days

They say don't bring your pets, but bring your umbrella. And don't miss the fun!