Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Countdown continues - much too quickly!!!

Well, I tried to accomplish a lot today and I would have, had I not taken a couple of hours to simply ride around town and do nothing. I started out with good intentions. I even planned ahead. I finished the painting on an order I want to ship tomorrow and then set out to obtain a specific wooden chair to paint for another order.

My local store has been out of these items for several months. They do actually have one but it is not in good shape. Obviously, it slipped past the quality control folks at the factory. The Big Guy says it can be brought up to snuff with a little effort but I thought I'd bypass it and go for a ready to use item from that store's next nearest location. This one is about 22 miles away so I called ahead to verify that they had the item in stock. I was assured they had several. Forty five minutes later, I found they did not have any. The salesgirl had mistaken another chair for the one I wanted. She smiled sweetly, shrugged and said, "Sorry." Glad gas prices have come down a bit!

I decided to go ahead and stop off at the local store, use my 50% off coupon and buy the defective one. I must have missed the sign announcing a super-sale or something. The place was mobbed, not a cart to be had! All eight registers were open and backed up. The shortest line had at least 20 people in it! I found my poor defective chair on the top shelf where it has sat since at least mid-July and then went in search of a sales associate who could get it down for me. (In my next life, I swear. I'm coming back taller!) I searched the entire sales floor and could not find one employee. I went up to the register and asked for assistance. The cashier replied, very curtly, someone would help "when they become available." It didn't look promising. I waited awhile and finally gave up and left. Altogether, it was a 64 mile joy ride!

The Big Guy and I went out to dinner and a movie tonight at that same shopping center. After the movie, he suggested we try to get that chair again. (He's able to reach that 7' high shelf.) We breezed right in and grabbed it, defects and all. I commented to the cashier about the crowd this afternoon and she advised that the place was so overcrowded the registers had all gone on the blitz, too, causing mass confusion. I'm glad I chose to escape that frenzy!!

By the way, we saw Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. It won't win any Oscars but we liked it. It made us laugh - a lot. It also made us realize that our 5-stop Christmas Day tour that encompases at least 175 miles of driving over the course of the day isn't bad at all. There's rarely a fist-fight, screaming match or even a spat. Thinking your family is a little dysfunctional? Check this film out. You'll feel a lot better. (Oh, and if they aren't worse than your family - try writing about it and selling it as a screenplay.)

Craft/Gift of the Day:

Doggie Wreath

Using a 9" wire wreath frame, a spool of curling ribbon, various colored small milk bones and other dog snacks, make a goodie wreath for your favorite Fido. Cut 10" lengths of ribbon and tie them around the bones, leaving the ribbon tails hanging. Proceed to tie the bones to the metal wreath frame, placing them as close together as you can. As you tie each bone to the wreath form, curl the ribbon ends using the flat side of a scissors blade. Once the wreath is full of bones and you cannot see any of the frame showing between them, wrap the other treats in small bags formed from a square of plastic wrap and tied with another piece of ribbon. Add these here and there around the wreath as a highlight of sorts. Curl the ribbon ends. Add a large ribbon bow and a rubber puppy toy (also tied on with curling ribbon) and you have a perfect gift for your favorite Grand-Dog, Niece Dog or just a Good Buddy Dog. **Warning: If you make these ahead of time and have a dog of your own, do not leave the finished wreath laying around or your four-legged friend may attempt to give it a test-run. You should be able to slide the wreath into a large zip-lock bag for safe keeping.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Countdown is Accelerating!

Okay, so you know what they say about the best laid plans. So much for my 30-Day Countdown to Christmas - I missed two days completely! I guess it's now down to a 24-Day Countdown.

Thanksgiving Day and the Friday and Saturday afterward seemed to fly by. I barely got my thoughts together, let alone find time to write them down. We don't do the big dinner at our house. We are always invited elsewhere and only need to bring one or two dishes. This does make life easy but I often do wish we had the gang here. I've only had a crowd for Thanksgiving Day once in my own home and I loved it. I also really like the leftovers which there are none of when you eat elsewhere. To make up for it, we always do a whole Thanksgiving style meal for ourselves somewhere around the actual holiday. This year, we did it a few weeks early and did have a guest couple to share it with. As we were leaving for two weeks, we ended up freezing the last of the leftovers and had our own mini-Thanksgiving meal with those last Monday. We've already purchased another turkey for the freezer and will do our own Christmas feast soon, too.

We did enjoy our holiday meal with The Big Guy's brother and his family at their house and were glad to spend time with a niece and nephew we haven't caught up with much this year. They're at that age where they really don't "waste" a lot of time with us old folks. We had a second holiday celebration with my cousins and other family members on Friday when we attended a "Pie Party." A change from the usual full holiday meal, this year everyone was to bring a pie and some sort of finger food or appetizer. This one was fun with a wide array of desserts and a slew of creative nibbles. I intended to take a Peanut Butter Pie made from a recipe my sister has had for years and I've made a few times along the way. However, I started playing on the web looking for even more creative variations and found a better recipe.

I made a few adaptations and received rave reviews for this one. It's a keeper!

Peanut Butter Pie:

2 - 9"cookie crumb crusts (I used chocolate cookie crusts. Original recipe called for graham cracker crusts and another suggestion was to use crushed Nutter Butter cookies. All are wonderful ideas and should work just as well.)
8 oz. cream cheese (lite will work)
1 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
1 cup of milk
1 cup peanut butter
16 oz. Cool Whip (low fat or sugar free will work - although, in the case of the latter, why bother?)
10 oz. chopped peanut butter cups - divided in half

In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar together. Beat in the peanut butter and milk. Fold in the Cool Whip. Stir in half of the chopped peanut butter cups. Fill both crusts with this mixture. Sprinkle the remaining pieces of peanut butter cups over the top of the pies. Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving. Original recipe called for freezing the pie which creates a more ice cream like consistency. Try one each way!!!


As for today's craft/gift idea, try a slight variation on gift baskets. I suggest aprons with pockets for a favorite cook. Spend a few minutes decorating the apron with paints, appliques or even just laundry markers. If the apron is for Grandma, try tracing each child's handprint and labeling each with their name and age. Decorations can be as simple as printing food words all over like: saute, bake, broil, fry, etc. Stuff the pockets with all the ingredients needed for a special meal - for example : pizza crust mix, a jar of tomato sauce, seasonings, a pizza cutter etc. Just before presenting the gift, add a package of shredded cheese and a pack of pepperoni. For a young cook without all the normal kitchen accessories, run through the dollar store and fill the apron with things like wooden spoons, spatulas, etc. Add some recipe cards with some simple, tried and true recipes. If the recipient isn't the apron type, try putting all the cooking accessories in an appropriate pan or even one of the reusable "green" shopping bags available in most markets.

Word to live by:

I watched Disney's Ratatouille for the first time yesterday and loved it! If you're into food or are a Food Network junkie, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it, too. When the movie was over and they featured a few words from Walt Disney himself (Yes, I realize he died many years before this movie was ever imagined.), a phrase he used stuck with me and became my words of wisdom for the day -- "Always Move Forward!" Sounds like a great mantra!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 30 Days to Go!!

November 25th - one month till Christmas! Why can I never seem to be prepared. It happens at the same time every year and every year about this time, I start to panic. I made a list today of all the folks we need to get gifts together for. Some, I even have some ideas about. As usual, my goal is to make as many as possible. Which means I need to get myself in gear.

I had a long talk with a close friend today. They’ll probably be coming to visit for a few days a week or two before Christmas. I’d love to have the house and, specifically, the guest room all decked out for the holidays by then. Unfortunately, that only leaves a couple of weeks. Who am I fooling? They know I’ve never been ready ahead of time. (We’re such close friends because neither has she!)

I started out strong this morning but then I lost steam and, now, I’m way behind my goals for the day. It’s not looking promising for the week either. If I stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning tonight, I might catch up but then I’ll be too tired to keep up tomorrow.

Thought for the day -

** Don’t forget to say “I love you.” Be sure to kiss your man goodnight every night.**
I’m one of those women who usually sort of vaguely waves goodnight most of the time and I’m trying real hard to overcome that urge. I’m not sure he has really noticed!


Okay, I promised a craft idea each day of the Christmas Countdown -

***Painted Placemats: PICTURED ABOVE

No matter how craft challenged you are, you can make a nice personalized set of placemats.

If you don’t sew, or just don’t have time to make your own, buy some inexpensive cotton placemats in your local discount store. I’ve often found appropriate ones in Big Lots, Kmart and Walmart for $1 - $1.50 each. At that price, it’s not worth making my own.

If you are going to sew your own, choose a sturdy washable solid color for one side and a matching or coordinating fabric for the back. Cut appropriate sized rectangles from both fabrics. (For a set of 4, you will need four rectangles of each.) You will then turn these face sides together, and stitch around the edges, leaving a gap for turning. Whipstitch that space closed and press flat. ***I suggest decorating before stitching the layers together.

My decorating method of choice is painting with fabric paints. There are several types of fabric paint available at your local craft store and all are easy to use. Some come in a tube with a writing point to them (one brand name is Scribbles), some come in jars to be brushed on with a paint brush. You can even buy paint pens designed for use on fabric.

You don’t need to be an artist to paint something of interest. You can copy a basic picture from a coloring book or a card you like. Trace it onto each placemat and simply paint as if coloring in the coloring book. Be sure to stay in the lines. Stencils and iron-on designs are also available at your local craft store. In fact, you can simply buy an iron-on design and iron it on. The less work required of you, the more money it will cost you.

Still too complicated? Simply use the Scribbles or paint pens and write holiday greetings on the placemat - “Merry Christmas”, “Joyeux Noel”, “Felix Navidad”, etc. Do a decorative squiggle here and there and call it done.

You can turn out several sets of these in just a few hours.

Newsflash: Missing blogger finds her way back!!

O.K., so I’ve been MIA for awhile. I missed most of September, all of October and now 4/5 of November. I had originally planned to blog a little each day but life has gotten in the way. When it comes to the important things in life, family and their needs, home duties and flesh and blood friends need to come first. So, while I found a few minutes here and there to jot down some thoughts in my journal, I really didn’t find time to settle in at the keyboard and blog for all. I hope to be on track again now and hope to really get this blog in shape.

I’d like to do a 30-days to Christmas countdown with a craft or decorating idea each day. By doing so, maybe I’ll get my act together on time this year. Is there anybody out there who really is completely ready and has done everything they wanted for the holiday by the time they break out the wine on Christmas Eve? Or do many of us simply take a deep breath and say, “It is what it is.”

Ultimately, I’d like to share a thought or commentary, the craft of the day, maybe share a laugh or an “Ahh” moment, maybe even a recipe on a daily basis. I’m still not too technically savvy so this may not come across as polished as I’d like. I need to learn how to post pics on the blog. I think it’s possible but I need to find a preteen who can give me step-by-step instructions.

The Big Guy is finally returning to work tomorrow. He’s been off with his knee surgery for 15 weeks. (Now, you know why my schedule was way off!) We’ve done some major maintenance work on the house over the last few weeks. Followed by two weeks on the road to visit The Big Guy’s family in the Midwest. His mom is struggling but hanging in there. His sister is doing her best to maintain her own sanity and she and her hubby took a much needed break, leaving us to Mom-Sit for a few days. Unfortunately, the 1200 miles in between make it difficult for us to do this more than twice a year. Now that I’m home, it’s time to settle in and get busy making those Christmas gifts.

My online shop, http://www.splashin.etsy.com/ is really slow at the moment so I don’t have a lot of holiday orders to handle there. I wish I did but it has been slow to catch on. The few orders I’m working on have been from family and friends, not the website. It’s one of those to do things for the winter. I really need to learn to promote the site.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Bionic Hubby

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. The Big Guy (hubby) just underwent a total knee replacement. It’s a popular surgery among aging baby boomers. Certainly it isn’t because it is “easy” - far from it. It has become very common and, in most cities, there are numerous surgeons and hospitals that do these procedures. To them it is “run of the mill” stuff. Believe me, to the individual, it is earth shattering, traumatic, painful and extremely difficult and frustrating, just to give it a few adjectives. From the spouse’s viewpoint, I can tell you, it is exhausting, frustrating and stressful.

Few things stress a relationship like being closed up together in a house for multiple weeks! Stress began with talk of the impending procedure as it was being scheduled. (We sort of knew it was coming for at least a year or two.) The Big Guy is one of those people who is a laid back Type B personality. He doesn’t worry or stress over things until there is something to worry about, even then, he tries not to think about it much. Therefore, he asks very few questions. I’m not usually a Type A worry wart but I do like to know what to expect and what the possible problems can be. I like to plan for contingencies, etc. I began getting frustrated when he didn’t have answers for my questions since he had never asked the doctor about these things. His theory was, “they’ll tell me what I need to know when it happens.”

I went online and researched the subject. I may have learned more than I wanted to know. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with the telephone admissions interview. (The Big Guy wasn’t home and had told them to simply speak with me.) The nurse described every step for the 3 ½ days of hospitalization. I began to worry full force. I don’t think the procedure itself was scary for me (it wasn’t MY knee). I think I was more worried about being able to handle him when they discharged him three days later and I was his sole source of care.

With the help of morphine, he was fairly comfortable for his hospital stay. We had the normal complaints most have as in-patients. They woke him up every 40 minutes or so to see how he was doing, the food was pitiful, the staff took their time answering the call buttons, etc.

There was one unusual twist - the thermostat in his room was broken and they tried to freeze him to death that first night when the room temp hovered around 55 and his body temp was hanging out in the low 100s. After 5 or 6 hours, maintenance finally appeared and, when they couldn’t regulate the air conditioning level, resolved the matter by simply turning on the heat. (This is August in Maryland!!!) By mid-morning that second day, the room had reached the 90 degree range and the nurses were avoiding the room due to the extreme heat. It was hard to tell if The Big Guy was running a fever or not. Once again, maintenance appeared and actually replaced the thermostat allowing us to finally create a comfortable environment.

There were a few tough times when it came to getting him up and moving. The Big Guy is, well, BIG. Thus, the name. Picture a football player, way past his prime and beyond paunchy. He was weak (what with the impromptu cryogenics treatments those first two days and pitiful excuses for nutrition). He was feverish. (Yes, we did finally establish that he did run an elevated fever.) Most of all, he hurt - big time!! The average nurse there ran about 5’ tall and slim - not much of a match for holding him up. They hesitated to take responsibility for moving him. His physical therapists were great but were only with him for very short periods of time each day. They did teach him to walk with a walker and let him practice going up a few steps. (He did two steps, twice, before they kicked him out.)

I was beginning to panic about bringing him home. We have several large square concrete steps in front of the house and then a flight of nine steps to get up into the living area of our split foyer home. Since he was scheduled to come home midday, there would not be much help available. I had to be the one to hold him up and I was beginning to doubt my ability to do that! As it was, he had no problem on the steps, using the walker for the outdoor steps and the rails for the indoor set. As they say, just coming home is excellent medicine for any ailment. He began feeling better immediately.

The correct wording is not my spouse had a knee replacement. It should be we had a knee replacement. It takes the whole household to get through this procedure. The Big Guy is quite patient and not very demanding but there were frequent needs that had to be met. He needed constant assistance with just about every activity. He was unable to get himself in and out of a chair or to prop his own leg up. He needed frequent ice packs, lots of fluids, medications, etc. He spent the first few days in his Lazyboy as the bed is just not comfortable at that point. (The doctors actually suggest the recliner.) I was afraid I would not hear him if I was sleeping in the bedroom so I slept in the other chair next to him for three nights. By the fourth night, I needed to lie down and sleep in my bed. I needed to snuggle into my pillows, pull up my quilt and relax. I needed more than two hours of sleep at a time. I was exhausted.

We finally came up with a plan. I’d leave the cell phone next to his chair. If he called out for me and I didn’t hear him, he’d phone the bedroom. I knew the phone next to the bed would wake me. We had a peaceful night. I slept soundly for 4 ½ hours. I was a new woman come morning!!

And on the fifth night, he slept in the bed - at least for a few hours. We’re getting there but it’s a slow road back!

Oh - Give me a home on the worldwide web…

***This is another of a number of postings I plan to write about getting my online shop up and running. I plan to mix them in among my other mundane musings from time to time. It has been a learning experience all the way. But isn’t that what life should be?


Okay! I’d made up my mind to sell online. Everybody says it’s easy. I was ready and raring to go. I sat down at my computer, fired up Google and set about going into business.
I had to determine just where to build my internet home. Most signs pointed to eBay. I had never even looked at the site before.

Even those who don’t own a computer know about eBay, the world’s best known online shopping site. I know a lot of folks who buy and sell there regularly but I’d never gotten into it at all. My niece has been conducting business there for several years and had done fairly well. My biggest concern was the payment system. She insisted Paypal was the way to go and easy to set up. She doesn’t accept any other payment methods herself but some folks take personal checks and/or money orders. Her most basic advice was to study eBay a bit to be sure there was a market for my products and the price range was there.

Well, I sat down late one evening to just take a gander at what eBay had to sell in my product area - custom designed hand-painted infant/children’s clothing. WOW!!! Talk about a lot to look at ! I spent about 3 hours just skimming the listings there. I was stunned at the prices people were both asking and bidding for the merchandise - especially for those that were second-hand items, even if they were one-of-a-kind custom designs. (It did take me a few minutes to recognize what OOAK stood for.) I was so surprised and shocked that I went back again and again for hours each evening for at least a week. (I can see how some people become addicted.)

I carefully researched how to sell there, how to sign up with Paypal, shipping details, etc. I slept on it - for a whole weekend. I wasn’t really comfortable on the site. It was just so huge and I was afraid my things would get lost in the crowd. I felt like a guppy trying to swim UP Niagra Falls! I wasn’t sure I wanted to go the auction route and I didn’t particularly think their shop set-ups were what I was really looking for. I had also come across many former ebayers that had left the site due to constantly increasing expenses involved in listing there. I’m sure it’s the right place to be if you are involved in reselling merchandise or marketing commercially made items but I’m not sure it was the place for my custom designed, lovingly produced items.

I began looking at other marketing sites. There are literally hundreds of shopping sites and who knows how many that are specific to hand-crafted merchandise. Again, I set about checking out each one I came across. First, I’d just drop in and look the site over and check out the merchandise available there. Then, I looked into seller details and costs for each and, ultimately, set-up details for each. I spent weeks doing this. I finally narrowed the choices to a few craft-oriented marketing sites or simply starting my own personal website. I was a baby-step closer to getting online.

We went on vacation and I was forced to shelve my efforts for a few weeks. I did use that time to bounce the idea off my hubby and a close friend or two. All thought it was a good idea, unfortunately, none of them knew anymore about actually doing it than I did. (I’ve got to start hanging out with a more tech oriented crowd.) My husband was having trouble with the concept that it was taking me this long to get there and suggested I just “Jump in and do it, already.”

While I loved the idea of my own personal website - my business name.com, I realized that there was no promotional or tech help there. I would be dependent only on my own promotion and key words. There might be safety in numbers (of crafters involved.) My own website would also involve designing my site from scratch and setting up a shopping cart system. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all that.

The various merchandising sites had different approaches to those issues. Some still required you do your site and simply link it to theirs. Others did your site for you (at a cost). Some had central check-out systems. All were priced accordingly. I was trying to start this business on a shoestring and I wanted to buy that shoestring at my local discount store. In the end, I made my decision based on cost. I joined etsy.com and created http://www.splashin.etsy.com/.

Please stop by and see my “shop.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

“Who IS this old man sleeping next to me?”

Everyone talks about the things that make them feel old but I think the biggie in my life lately has been the fact that I’m now married to what appears to be an “OLD” man. How did this happen? I mean, I know a few years have slipped by and, after all, he was a bit gray when we first met. (He found his first gray hair by age 21! His dad was white-haired by age 40.)

There have been little age-isms sneaking up on us all along the way. There were the obvious signs - reading glasses, which he insists get worn low on the nose and angled, an array of “daily“ pill bottles on the counter for blood pressure, sugar issues, cholesterol and arthritis! Then there were the little petty things that a wife notices (and friends are too kind to mention - at least in front of you.) Things like insisting on using exact change in the grocery store if he has it. I never thought I’d be with the old guy holding up the line to count out 21 pennies! Or, for that matter, the one handing off the stack of coupons and then questioning whatever one might kick out. Of course, he very carefully reviews his receipt as he gets it to be sure they didn’t overcharge for the produce or such. Yes, I’m with the dude swimming in the ocean in a white T-shirt and baseball cap because “he burns easy.” (This began only a few years after we began dating!) In more recent years, he’s also worn those little nylon swim shoes into the water to protect his touchy tootsies. Then there’s the specially shaped neck pillow in bed and the afghan draped over his lap in the evening. Oh yeah, and the evening “naps” in the Lazyboy!

Don’t even get me started on the bed habits. I didn’t know it was possible to snore in all those positions! I try to sleep through the clearing the throat routine in the morning. We saw Bill Cosby do his live routine about this back when we were young. We thought it was hilarious then. I should have realized he was just further along the timeline than we were.

There is an upside to your hubby getting older. They generally need to make more restroom stops frequently. Cross country trips are much calmer when you’re not always the one saying you need to make a pit stop. Few have been my idea for several years now. I just enjoy them as they occur.

Well, sometime in this past year I’ve had disturbing thoughts about him getting really old. There have been numerous times at restaurants, malls, festivals etc. when I realized the elderly man walking toward me with the old man shuffle was MY man! I’ve worried when he came in from shoveling snow or working in the yard, huffing and puffing and a bit flushed from the exertion. There have been times when he made the strangest noises while sleeping that I actually watched to be sure he kept breathing. (I don’t confide those moments to him, of course.) There was the time it dawned on me that he was now several years older than my dad was when he passed on.

The real wake-up call was when he scheduled a Total Knee Replacement. And, provided this one goes well, he plans to do the other one in the foreseeable future, too!

The doctor finally stopped telling him he was too young for the procedure. I guess he really is OLD !!!

(***The bad news is, he didn’t rob the cradle. I’m only a few years younger. What does that say about ME?)


***Another posting in the series about starting my online business.

The first thing involved in setting up a website is coming up with a name. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? For some, it may be. For me, it was quite frustrating.

It helps if the name you’ve been using all along has the right internet ring to it. Mine didn’t. Bear in mind my products are designed for “babies” and are “cute”, “soft”, “cuddly” and made with “loving hands“. The business name I had been using in the real world reflected that. It was cute on a tag attached to a cute little outfit featuring cartoon-like ducks. For the record, none of these words work well when used in various search engines. Images of children’s clothing does not tend to be the first thing coming up on the list. Use your imagination! It wasn’t quite what I was after.

Your site name should be catchy, fairly simple and, when Googled, should not produce a thousand other businesses flaunting the same title. So, I needed to come up with a new name. I tried using my first name in the name of my business. My name is Sue (“How do you do?”) Every town in the USA (and beyond) must have some gentleman’s club, bar, masseuse, or some other adult-oriented business run by someone named “Sue, Suzy, or Suzanne”!! Who’d-a-thought!

I moved on to attempt to work with a handle or two I’ve come to be known by elsewhere on the net. Some of you have known me by “Sassy.” Not a good choice for a child’s product!!! Some of you have associated me with a beagle-oriented handle. (NO! I don’t look like one!) For the record - those that recognize that handle might find it interesting to know it was a combination of a favorite pet and my former profession.

When hearing the tales of searching these various words, a friend suggested working with the word “doodle” as my work consists of children’s items decorated with my own artwork and children tend to doodle. I played with it a bit and tried some combinations coming up with one that I thought was wonderful using the ”Sn” from Snoopy, one of the world’s most famous beagles and “doodle” to form “Snoodles.” My creative juices flowed quickly. I’d already thought through my icon, etc., when I ran it through Google. Somebody else was already using the name and the product was child-oriented (coloring books) and used images quite similar to my own artwork. Definitely not available for my use. Back to the drawing board!!!

Okay, what else is associated with me? I have an extensive collection of reindeer items - figurines, toys, decorations, etc., and I do make quite a few reindeer related items at Christmas. Not a good base for my company name as it might limit sales to the holidays.

Moving on… this phase of my business launched when I started painting tropical fish on items for some babies and toddlers in the family. My signature item is a whimsical fish. (The Big Guy is very tropical fish oriented and our home is decorated “in early tropical fish.”) Some of the first clothing I painted, going back a number of years, featured fish on adult clothing. Those were more realistic images and reflected some of our favorite species with magnificent flowing fins. After playing with the fish theme for a little while, I finally came up with Splashin.’ It had the right cartoony, whimsical sound I was looking for and was easy to remember and use. It wasn’t in use and wasn’t suggestively inappropriate. It doesn’t limit my product options. I took it and ran.

http://www.splashin.etsy.com/ was born!!! Please come by and see my shop.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The Big Guy has always been way into financial planning. His idea of a good, stimulating evening is to finish up dinner with discussing the health of our financial condition with me. (I sometimes feign attention.) Thanks to his constant attention to that matter, and living what I often refer to as “frugally” in a number of areas, we’re entering our second half of life in okay shape financially. Retirement should not bring visions of poverty to us. As I inferred above, I don’t always give it my undivided attention.

I guess I started to have an inkling of how close retirement really was when our closest friends began retiring, one by one. Our “gang” consists mostly of couples whose men have worked together for over 30 years. In an unusual twist of fate, we found the female portions of these couples also got along really well and have socialized together for many years now. I have other close friends, including one who has been my “bestest” friend since we were twelve, but the ladies in our gang are the ones I confide in, kvetch about The Big Guy with, and share recipes, photos and jokes. They are as close, if not closer, than my actual family. These buddies of mine are now moving away as the hubbys turn in their ID cards and hard hats and wave good bye to the company life they’ve lived for several decades.

When folks in Maryland retire, most consider moving away as the cost of living and the tax rate is just not retirement friendly. Just crossing the state line to the North, to either Pennsylvania or Delaware can do wonders for your retirement dollar. Climate here is not usually the primary reason for moving on after retirement. Maryland weather is not all that bad in comparison with so much of the country. There’s plenty to do here and it is centrally located. It’s a good life, if you can afford it.

The first of those friends retired about seven years ago. The most recent, and perhaps our closest friend in the gang, left just about a year ago. That’s when The Big Guy started seriously discussing his time table. He started out planning to retire this September. He quickly adapted that plan to be “the end of the year.” We started making some half-hearted travel plans in our heads. Suddenly, in late March or early April, he came home saying he was considering this past May. That struck panic in me.

I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t picture us as the retired couple together 24/7. The fact that I stopped working two years ago didn’t play into my vision. We jokingly refer to it as retirement but I’m not old enough to collect a pension or Social Security. We had our reasons for my leaving the working world but I’m just not ready to share my home time with him that closely. I enjoy that time alone. I will admit to trying to discourage it. It was selfish and there really wasn’t a good excuse for me behaving that way.

I think that momentary plan was triggered by his company being sold for a fourth time in five years. There is always uncertainty in such transitions and the long-time employees feared tinkering with their pensions and retirement health plans. There was a grace period where they would be able to go out under the old owner, a known entity to them.

My prayers were answered. The new owner agreed in negotiations to stick with the same plan and the current employees relaxed a bit. We slid back into the late Fall/end of the year range again. Now, he’s even talking about staying until the end of next year. That gives me a long time to prepare mentally.

I have a new mantra : “Prepare for retirement.” I’m not talking about financial plans. I’m talking about sharing MY space. I also have a new goal in life - try to help The Big Guy find some sort of hobby outside of the home. He’s really not the golf type. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Young Crafter Starts Selling

Hopefully, an old dog can learn new tricks. I’m trying a lot of new things this year. The blog is just the latest of the new activities. I’ve also joined forums and started a website to sell my creations. Supposedly, a blog is just a natural progression from those endeavors.

I’ve always been creative and crafty. I think it is hereditary in our family. For as long as I can remember I’ve made things from all sorts of craft supplies. As early as junior high school, I was making and selling something most of the time.

I think my first “commercial” product was tissue paper roses. I believe I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I started making tissue paper roses. I attached them to stem wire with florist’s tape and added silk rose leaves. I produced them in bunches of either a half dozen or dozen, added baby’s breath and wrapped them in green tissue paper tied with a silk ribbon. I sold them to friends, teachers, my parents’ friends and any acquaintances I came upon. I took orders for specific colors or color combinations. I don’t recall how much I sold them for but I recall I was making a fairly good profit. I remember needing a ride to school fairly frequently as I had too many bunches to carry with my books and such. It was a one-product line and eventually I saturated my local market but it was a good run while it lasted.

I soon moved on to other products. A friend of my parents owned a small gift shop in our local shopping district and I convinced her to sell my merchandise for a very low mark-up. I remember one of my big items at her shop was small crocheted boots in Christmas colors which I stuffed with peppermint candies and a candy cane. They sold for a buck or less back then. I could get 12 or so from a hank of yarn and could make 12-18 in an evening after homework was done. I found other outlets for them, too. The shop where my mom got her hair done carried them for me and Mom sold them to her fellow teachers and some of the ladies at church. Because they were reasonably priced and made great “token gifts,“ they sold well. They were a big product for me and I sold them at the holidays for a number of years.

I moved on to supplying items for consignment shops, doing craft shows and eventually, after graduation and some college, owning my own shop specializing in hand-crafted merchandise in a tourist town. Eventually, I needed a steady, dependable income with things like regular hours and benefits. I moved into the real working world but I never stopped crafting. For many years I supplemented my regular income with craft sales and learned it was a good source of extra cash.

Over the years, the nature of craft shows evolved and changed. Consignment shops have, for the most part, disappeared and the few that still exist have extraordinary markups. “Crafting” has become a recognized profession and is, in general, much more structured. The biggest change to the craft world, however, has been the internet. Ultimately, the internet has effected all aspects of our lives but in the world of crafts, it’s impact has been enormous.

So… I felt the need to start a website!!! I did but it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

Recently, I told my peeps the saga of starting the site. (Okay, a better description might be my “ladies that lunch” - but we don’t wear red hats with purple pantsuits!) I had them laughing so hard, tears were streaking their make-up! I hope to entertain you in weeks to come with the adventures of getting this business off the ground. Unfortunately, you’re also going to have to sit through some of the rest of my life, too. I hope you’ll find some of it entertaining, some of it informative and some of it, well, maybe some of it will just be a plea for sympathy!! We all need some of that sometimes.

Please come back soon.

Blogging ...

I never thought it would catch on. I mean, in general, do we really care what total strangers have done all day ? Apparently, we do. I find I can get lost for hours reading blogs that I’ve accidentally stumbled across. Some are so interesting to me, that I either go back and read some of the archived items or mark it as a favorite so I can come back to it in a few days and see what happened. I guess it has the same appeal as T.V. soap operas have had for years - we are a curious population and people do want to know. That is “a lot” of people want to know, my hubby not included. He ranks it right up there with the top ten “Dumbest Things People Do.” I guess he’d get spastic if he realized I started one of my own! Either that, or he’d figure someone else is interested in what I have to say so it lets him off the hook for paying attention.

I’ve always kept journals and, for the last few years, I kept it on the computer instead of in book form. Unfortunately, when our hard drive fried last Fall and simply swallowed everything on it, I lost a year or so worth of thoughts and memories. But then I thought, is it like a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear? If you thought it, and wrote it, but no one ever read it, and then it disappeared, did those thoughts really happen?

Speaking of thoughts, why do we say we have “random” thoughts? Do most people plan their thoughts on a daily basis? Is there a prescribed method for thoughts or a correct or incorrect form? These questions can truly boggle a mind - especially one that’s really full of random thoughts!!

I think I need a nap.