Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ham Croquettes

With Easter coming, many of us will be looking for ways to use that left-over ham.
So here's a recipe my mom always used :



HAM CROQUETTES


After a baked ham dinner, Mom liked to make these tasty patties with the leftover ham. They were almost as good as the original meal.. As a child in those pre-food processor days, I loved to help grind the meat with an old-fashioned hand cranked meat grinder. I still own one just like it but it hasn’t been used in 20 years!



3 cups (or more) cooked ham, chopped
½ sleeve of Ritz crackers (Mom also occasionally used saltines.)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 egg
3-4 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
Black pepper, to taste



· Grind ham and crackers using a food processor or a blender set on “chop”. (If using a grinder, use the “fine” grinding blade.)
· Blend in egg, onion and mustard. Mixture should have a hamburger consistency. (If too dry, add more mustard or a little mayo, if you prefer.)
· Form into patties about ¾” thick and brown on both sides using a stovetop griddle or shallow non-stick fry pan.



Best served warm - either, alone or on a bun with condiments.



Add a little zing to the mixture with a dab of horseradish or Tabasco or a dash of BBQ rub or Southwest seasoning.

Do we really need a phone?

Ring! Ring! Ring!


My phone is driving me crazy these days. It has a mind of its own. It will ring, I answer and no one is there. This may happen five times a day or more. We do not have caller ID so I cannot track who it might be. Sometimes I just let the machine grab it. There is usually no message. In between there are, of course, a number of calls that I do get and am able to speak with the caller.



Then, every few days my sister-in-law or a friend, here or there, tells us they tried to call "for hours" only to get a busy signal. Often, we were home and NOT using the phone. Usually we can recall having had no calls at all that evening. We do not have dial up internet service.




We'd like to fix the situation but are having trouble defining just how to describe this problem to the phone company. Should we call them and they come out to service the line and find it working at that time, we will be charged for a service call. If they can find no trouble in the outside lines, we will be charged for a service call. (I sort of believe if the outside line had a problem some of our neighbors would be experiencing the same thing.) If they believe it must be in our personal equipment, we will be charged for a service call. I guess, no matter how you look at it, we will get charged.




Oh, I forgot to mention, it ALWAYS works when we want to call out. It never seems to have a problem when we call on the cell to check messages. Our family and friends have simply learned to call the cell. If it's turned off they can leave a message easily there. They also e-mail as they know we are on the computer a lot.




The more this happens, the more we find we may not really need that phone anyway. For now, we're just going to live with it. The only person it really seems to bother is my sister-in-law. Maybe the phone itself just doesn't want to talk to her!! Hmmmm. Like I said, it has a mind of it's own.

Door-to-Door Salesmen

Remember the Fuller Brush Man, the Avon Lady and Jewel-T? All of these folks earned their living going door-to-door selling their products.


Did you know that door-to-door salesmen still exist?


I was recently surprised to have a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman come to my door. He wanted to clean my stairway or one full room for free. I had visions of the sitcoms where the guy throws some horrible staining product on the floor and proceeds to unsuccessfully attempt to clean it up, leaving the owner with a large horrible spot. I politely turned him away.


Then, this week another Kirby salesman showed up. This time, I told him someone had just been through the neighborhood pushing their products. I have to give him credit though, assuming the first guy had cleaned a room for me, he asked if I had a second room he could clean for free!!! I, again, turned him away although I did compliment him on the quick thinking for his sales pitch.


Later that same day, there was yet another knock at the door! No, it wasn't another Kirby guy. This one was a guy who wanted me to buy "fresh" meats from the back of his truck! He had a fairly small pick-up truck with a large cooler in the back. I told him I wasn't interested but he was very persistent. He wanted to know why I wouldn't even consider trying to save money in this day and age. I emphatically told him I don't buy my meat off the back of a truck from a total stranger. He went away muttering how did I think the grocery stores got their meat.


I guess in this day and age, with the economy in the state it is in, we must give these guys credit for getting out there and trying to make a living. I try to be polite to them for they are making an effort. When they get rude, I end the conversation and close the door.


Let's give credit to all those folks who are out there trying to earn an honest living. It's not easy out there today!

Daddy's Chocolate Ice Box Cake

While I'm away, I've left a recipe or two for you to try!



DADDY’S CHOCOLATE ICE-BOX CAKE



This was one of the first things I learned to make as a child since it involves no real cooking and makes for a great kid’s project. I was always led to believe it was my Daddy’s favorite. Since I had never seen this served anywhere other than at my Gran’s or at our house, I assumed it was invented by Mom or Gran. Until the other day. I was looking at a cookbook put out by the D.C. Blues Society and actually found a version had been submitted by Ann Rabson, one of my favorite performers. She’s definitely not a member of the family and not from this area so maybe it wasn’t a family original !!!



*** This has to be refrigerated for several hours before serving, so plan ahead !


Ingredients:
1 box Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1 container of Cool Whip or real whipped cream
A large tray or cookie sheet that will sit flat in the refrigerator.


* Holding a wafer in one hand, spread the whipped cream and put a layer on one side of the wafer. In deciding how much to use, remember you want to use enough to have an eighth to a quarter-inch layer between the wafers, plus enough at the end to cover the whole thing. Place a new wafer on the iced side of the last one and ice the other side. Sit this “wafer sandwich” flat on the tray and work on that surface from then on. Repeat icing wafers and stacking them next to the previous wafer, until you run out of wafers. It will sort of resemble a train.

* Cover the entire train of wafers with the whipped cream just as if you were icing a long, rectangular cake. You can sprinkle the top with chocolate or colored jimmies or add a maraschino cherry or two for decoration.

* Cover the cake and put it into the refrigerator for at least 5 hours.


To serve, take it out and cut into slices. Gran used to slice this on a diagonal so that each slice had pretty stripes. Mom used to just slice across most times (which is MUCH easier!)
This is VERY sweet, so small slices work best !




*** Ann Rabson’s version differed in that she calls hers a Crawling King Caterpillar and arranges it with a curve or two, like a caterpillar. She grates a little bitter chocolate over it and adds walnuts to the finished product.



P.S.
WOW!!!
It took 50 years, but I just heard of someone else again making a similar dessert! A Martha Stewart Show viewer sent photos of a Radiator Cake from the ‘50s. They made it with whipped cream and graham crackers instead of chocolate wafers. As a variation, they suggested adding chocolate syrup to the whipped cream! An audience member stated the Radiator Cake she recalled from childhood was made with chocolate pudding between the crackers and iced in whipped cream.


And to think, all these years, I believed this was a family original !

Smile !!!

Thought for the day:


When you're feeling a little down, look for someone who makes you smile, because sometimes it only takes a smile to brighten up a very dark day.



The reverse is true also: When you see someone who's down, give them a big smile. It just might be the best thing that happens to them today!



Take time to share a smile, a wave or even pick a Spring flower to give to a neighbor or friend today.



Back with you soon!!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

News Flashes


Sometimes, the local news just makes you want to smile!


Earlier this week, the local reporters had a great time with a story concerning Jenna Bush’s Secret Service detail. As you probably know, the former president and his immediate family will enjoy Secret Service protection for the next ten years. (Bush is the first president not to receive this protection for life.) As you may not know, Jenna Bush and her husband moved to a row home (known as a townhouse in other parts of the country) in downtown Baltimore a few months ago. For those familiar with Charm City, her home is in Federal Hill very close to the touristy Inner Harbor and not far from both the Ravens Stadium and Oriole Park. Therefore, parking is very limited in her neighborhood and highly restricted. It seems the Secret Service vehicle had received numerous parking citations which had gone unpaid. It also seems, the City enforced their parking laws and impounded the vehicle last week!!

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Then, there are the times when you wonder how Defense Attorneys can live with themselves. (Remember, I spent many years working in the legal profession.)



There was a murder in the Baltimore suburbs that took place in a gas station on Mother’s Day morning last year. The young man that was killed was on his way home from work and was filling his gas tank so he could go home and take his wife, who was in labor, to the hospital to deliver their first child. A 17-year-old attempted to rob this poor man and when he refused to give him his wallet, the robber proceeded to whip out a knife and stab him to death. The Defense Attorney first attempted to have him tried as a juvenile. Failing that, he has now gone with s defense argument that this young man (the robber) was merely trying to get enough cash to buy his mother a Mother’s Day present and had no intention of killing anyone. (Intent is required for a first-degree murder conviction.) He claims the victim actually caused his own death by refusing to turn the wallet over. Had he simply turned the money over, he would be alive to day spending time with his child!!



Sometimes, I’m glad I’m no longer associated with that profession!

Vacation prep is hard work!



Another hectic day of travel prep! Spent the day finishing up the laundry, packing the suitcases and putting the finishing touches on an outfit for our little Katie! She’s still at that great age where she’s thrilled to get something I made for her so I never arrive empty-handed. The paint should be dry on that by morning!



Oh, and I’ve been making Easter eggs (the chocolate kind) throughout the day. It’s a family tradition that I make tons of Easter candy. The problem is, I didn’t start until yesterday.






We planned this trip within the last two weeks so I really didn’t have a lot of warning that the candy would need to be done so soon. Mixing the buttercreams for the filling is really hard on my shoulder and wrists as it needs to be so thick. I normally space out that part. Well, I mixed two batches of peanut butter yesterday and a batch each of chocolate and vanilla today. It hurts to raise my arms high enough to brush my hair!!



I just dipped 35 eggs this evening. I’m sure a few will need a little re-dipping for finishing purposes but I’m letting them set up at the moment. I’ll handle the final dipping just before I go to bed. I need to get up at 4:45 to take The Big Guy to work. Since he works west of home, it makes since for me to pick him up after work and we can head out from there, saving us about 2 hours of drive time and avoiding the worst of the rush hour traffic.




I still need to gather my activity stuff (paints, books, etc.), toiletries and print some pictures to take with us. I also need to type in several blog posts to run while I’m away- so y’all won’t forget me! I won’t have internet access while I’m gone. Hopefully, those posts will run without a snag. We’ll see. I just hated to leave you with nothing for so long. I won’t be back online until April 7th. If they don’t run well, please bear with me - this is experimental!



Well, gotta run. Lots more to do before I sleep tonight. I will post one more time before leaving tomorrow.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Too busy to write, tonight!

Not much time to write tonight. I'm busy trying to get some packing done for vacation. We leave on Wednesday and I spent the day doing laundry, finishing some orders and beginning to make the Easter candy I'll be taking with us to deliver personally. That latter item was the big time-consumer today.


We didn't allow a lot of advance planning time for this trip. We try to do this cross-country drive to visit the in-laws twice a year - once after the Spring thaw and then, again, just before the Fall snows begin. (Twenty hours of driving can grow very long when the weather is rough.) My mother-in-law has been in very poor health for several years now and has been in and out of the hospital several times since New Year's. She's had several falls in the last few weeks so we felt the urge to get out there soon. Less than two weeks ago, we laid out the plan and began making the appropriate arrangements.

Packing this time of year is difficult. It is forecast to be fairly chilly as we leave home but by the time we return in ten days, it may have warmed up tremendously. For this reason, I'm packing both heavy and medium weight clothes. We also pack a fair amount of East Coast goodies they can't buy in the Midwest. That involves making lists and running around gathering those items. I always make gifts to take to the little children and the Spring trip always involves a box of my home-made Easter candy. Two weeks isn't a lot of time to put all this together!

I plan for this rush to be over by mid-day tomorrow to allow me time to write a few blog posts and some other things I want to accomplish here on the home front before leaving. So, I promise something of more interest tomorrow.

In the, meantime, I hope y'all take the time to go out there and be creative!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New for Spring --




I really have been producing some new merchandise this week. I'm finally getting a chance to post some pics just to prove it!








I'm calling this one "Big Mouthed Fish" and it is one of the bigger kids and adult sized shirts.






This one is another kid-sized (as opposed to baby-sized) item. It simply reeks "Spring" to me! I'm calling it "The Posies and The Butterfly."











Then, I felt bad for all the baby girls that wouldn't be able to enjoy that Spring-y design, so I altered it a bit to fit a onesie for those tiny gals!


I guess this one might be called "Little Butterfly and Posies."




I hope to get these listed in my Etsy shop within the next couple of days. (I've got more Spring designs drying as we speak. They're really hard to photograph while the paint's wet!)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

WARNING - the means to good luck ...

The following is a serious warning. Please read it carefully and heed the advice. It may not be too late for you. Yet. --


I opened another one of those chain e-mails on Friday! You know - the kind that say you MUST pass this on to 8 (6) (maybe 10) of your nearest, dearest, bestest friends in the next 8 (6) (10, whatever) minutes and great wealth or fantastic luck or maybe just a good hair day will come your way within the next 48 hours.


Well, I should have passed it on !!!! I stupidly (naively, whatever) simply deleted it. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!


Saturday's mail came and all it brought was bills. It wasn't just a bad hair day but a bad skin day, too. (I was "blotchy".) We were ready to go out for the day when the heater in the fish tank died. We had a replacement on hand but needed to hang around for a few hours to be sure it was working correctly after we installed it. (We have expensive fish and they prefer it WARM.)


That made it rather late in the day when we finally got to the casino. I guess that was a good thing, though. I lost money for a shorter amount of time!


Wouldn't you just know it, my Power Ball ticket had NO winning numbers on it.


Please, please, please -- take my advice, pass it on. You could get rich, or lucky or, at least have a good hair day!


(I've decided maybe, just maybe, I will pass the next "good luck chain" on. I guess it couldn't hurt.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Advice about Mom (and others you love)

Sorry I missed posting yesterday. I was in a bit of a funk and it wouldn’t have been pretty so I decided to simply sleep it off last night.

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I have something important to relate but let me preface this tale by stating, confidently, that my mom and I were best friends not just relatives. We had many adventures together -- adventures that would have filled a book and that book would have had lots of laughs, some tears along the way and probably a lot of sage advice that would be really helpful if those in need of it would listen. That being said, I need to tell you a tale of one of my experiences while shopping with Mom.


We were getting out of the car at the mall one afternoon and Mom was taking her good old time getting to her feet. I was standing near the rear of the vehicle waiting for her. I can’t recall why I might have been in a hurry to get inside so I can’t explain me rushing her along with words to the effect of “C’mon Mom, we don’t have all day!” (This did take place quite a while ago!)


As luck would have it, a Church friend my mom’s age was passing by at that exact moment and she overheard the comment. She stopped and stated very emphatically, “Just be glad you still have her with you!”


I felt like I’d been corrected and immediately resented her comment. We went ahead and exchanged the usual pleasantries but, in my mind, I was thinking, “Why don’t you mind your own business, you old biddy!” For months after that, I thought those same thoughts each time I met up with this woman.


Mom has been gone almost fourteen years now and I know we spent as much time together as we could. I know I told her I loved her and I know she felt that in my actions. There are always some things you regret not getting to or not seeing her on that last day but I am comfortable with what our relationship was.


There are so many times, however, that I’d love to quote my mother’s friend! I see friends who I know will have many regrets and, out of friendship, I want to say something to give them a much needed nudge. I don’t do it as I recall how much I resented being told. I simply silently pray they will see the light and jump in there and enjoy what time they have.


If this applies to you in any way, Dear Reader, please take the advice for what it’s worth and apply it where needed.

------------------

Okay, I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my mind. Today is the first day of Spring and I’m excited about the new season (although I am watching the Today Show and it IS snowing in New York City at the moment!) I did get a few Spring items finished yesterday and I will show them off in another post later today. Right now, I’m going to go out and enjoy the sunshine we have here and breathe in some Spring!!


See y’all later!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Natural Highs and Comforting Thoughts


It's been a busy day for me. I woke up to a very foggy morning that took its time clearing but when it did, the sun shone brightly and the temps rose. You could actually believe Spring is coming. It felt good and gave me renewed energy. (Amazing what a little sunshine can do for a gal!) I ran some errands and I accomplished quite a bit here at home.

I spent a fair portion of my morning on the phone chatting with family and friends. Unfortunately, some were not having good days and needed some friendly support. Later, a neighbor stopped in. She. too, needed a sounding board today. I'm glad I can be there for them when they need the help and I know they will be there for me if needed but it sure did put a crimp in my schedule!! Once again, I'm behind in my painting!! (In other words, I've got nothing to show you today!!)


So, I turned to my little notebook where I jot down future blog ideas and came up with this one - "Natural Highs and Comforting Thoughts." This is a list of things that can calm the savage beast in us, slow us down and allow us to simply relax and enjoy the moment.


Here are some items from my list of "Natural Highs and Comforting Thoughts":


1. Hearing a favorite song on the radio;
2. Toddlers giggling;
3. Seeing hot air balloons float by;
4. Warm chocolate chip cookies;
5. Warm towels just out of the dryer;
6. Getting an unexpected greeting card in the mail;
7. Spending time with friends;
8. Watching the waves roll in on the beach;
9. Swinging on a wooden porch swing;
10. A sincere and long hug from a close friend;
11. Watching the fish in our aquarium;
12. A cozy fire in the fireplace;

Go ahead and start your own list of things that bring you comfort or make you giddy with happiness. Post the list in a prominent spot and read it whenever you need a lift!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day !!!




HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY !!!!!!!

I'm not crafting at all today. I'm celebrating the holiday. We don't do the bar and party scene like so many today but we will have a nice meal here at home and maybe even a little ale. (We'll forego the food coloring though. Green beer is simply not real appetizing looking!)

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Just thought I'd share a little St. Patrick's Day humor and facts with you today.

Wearing of the green --

So why do we all wear green?

Green is the color of shamrocks and Spring. When St. Patrick began his work of converting the Irish to Christianity, he used the shamrock (plentiful in the Emrald Isle) to illustrate the Holy Trinity and the hope provided by the Church. Shamrocks came to serve as the symbol of hope and good luck. So, wearing green is similar to rubbing a rabbit's foot and is considered a means of "touching the luck of the Irish". Also, we just don't want to be pinched for not wearing it on the big day, a tradition begun many years ago in the school yards of Boston by the Irish children.

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is more of a religious holiday than just a party day. The party atmosphere actually began in America as a means to support the Irish spirit and ancestral pride among the many Irish immigrants. The first St. Patrick's Day Parade was held in Boston, not Ireland, in 1737. That sense of celebration has since spread back to the homeland. Pubs there used to be closed for the religious observance and the day was a more somber occasion. There are now parades and, yes, a bit of partying. Dublin now holds the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world.

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Want to be lucky this St. Patrick's Day?
Follow this advice:

1. Find a four-leaf clover.
2. Wear green.
3. Kiss the blarney stone.
4. Catch a Leprechaun if you can. (You'll then be able to find his pot'o'gold!)

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Just what does a Leprechaun look like ?
A Leprechaun looks like a little old man. He's about 2 feet tall and wears green, usually with a cocked hat. They are generally somewhat aloof and unfriendly, living alone and passing the time by making shoes. It is said they each possess a hidden pot of gold. You can find them by listening closely for the sound of their hammer as they make the shoes. If you can catch one, you can force him to reveal where he's hidden his treasure. (It is said they normally mark the sight with a rainbow.) Be very careful! If you take your eyes off him, he will surely vanish and your hopes of finding his treasure will vanish with him.

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Why do people wear shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day?
**Regular rocks are too heavy.
Why can't you borrow money from a leprechaun?
** Because they're always a little short.
How can you tell if an Irishman is having a good time?
** He's Dublin over with laughter!
How did the Irish Jig get started?
** Too much to drink and not enough restrooms!
What do you call an Irishman who knows how to control his wife?
** A bachelor.


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And now, for an Irish blessing for you --

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Inspiration ...

“Inspiration - where do you find it?” Oh, if I had a buck for every time someone asked me that!


Occasionally, an idea just pops into my head, complete down to the finishing details. Usually, though, I come up with a basic subject and then have to work at filling out the details or making it “pop” with some special touch to catch the eye. Sometimes a basic color triggers a plan. For example, a sparkly blue garment may bring the sea to mind and that, of course, leads me to sea creatures or boats or the beach. Perhaps that was a bad example.



When I draw a blank, I usually turn to my sea and coastal designs. Many of my products are “inspired” by the fish in our fish tank and the tropical fish d├ęcor items around our house. Growing up coastal, beachy things have always been in my head and around me to use for ideas.


Looking at some of the work I’ve done recently, I see one that was inspired by a three-year-old’s constant repetitive singing of the song “Bingo.” Sometimes the basic design of a garment will lead

my paintbrush along the stitching line or around the pockets. Often, my design needs to work with those features and bend to fit the situation. Customers will often come to me with a particular subject in mind, such as “flamingos.”




The basic idea or theme usually comes easy to me. It’s the details and finishing touches that take some real thought.


Pawprints finished off a cat and dog design.









After coming up with the bears and paint cans, splotches of paint went a long way to pull the look together.






Just look around you and work with the objects, shapes and colors that make you smile. Happy feelings make the creativity flow much better. Should an idea occur when you're not ready for it, simply jot it down in a little notebook and get back to it later. I use my little notebook a lot! It's really useful for the days when i find my head is absolutely devoid of all thoughts!


What inspires you?

Go out there today and put your thinking cap on and come up with some real creative thoughts!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"The Ides of March"

“The Ides of March” are upon us! Yep, it’s the 15th! So, what exactly are the “Ides of March”? We’ve all heard the line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where the soothsayer warns Caesar of his impending death, “Beware the Ides of March.” Most of us consider it an ominous and doom laden date. Why? I’m not sure. I doubt most of us are mourning Casesar’s death!

In the MidAtlantic region, there is a running joke, that this is when Mother Nature sneaks in with one more blast of winter. We don’t deal well with snow here so such a forecast is doomladen. I’ve checked the forecast and we look safe for this year!

So, seriously, what are “the Ides of March”? The ancient calendar system divided each month into three distinct sections and “the Ides” merely meant the middle of the month. So, where does all the doom and gloom come from? Maybe because in ancient Rome, the 15th was the deadline for paying taxes. Today, many suddenly wake up and realize they only have a month to get it together before paying Uncle Sam his share. For many, the date has simply been passed along as a “superstitious” warning of sorts.

For the superstitious, this was a tough weekend since Friday was Friday the 13th, too. (Hopefully, you had a good weekend despite all these warning signs.)


As for us, we’re heading to the winery for a fun afternoon of music, wine and stew with family and friends. This follows a quiet, laidback Saturday which culminated in dinner at our closest BBQ restaurant where we had some of the area’s best smoked brisket sandwiches. Nothing fancy but definitely delicious!





Some of you, I’m sure, began celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a little early with parades and partying. Many communities held big parades and there were a number of events taking place to celebrate the Luck O’ The Irish! (Perhaps, it’s a counter-attack for the Ides of March!)


I hope it’s been a HAPPY and creative weekend for you !

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm so proud !!!!



Okay ... I've just gotta' brag!! One of my chicks has flown the coop and set out on her own!!





My niece, a very talented pencil and pen & ink artist, has gone out and begun showing her work (and selling). Her mom proudly gave me a link to her site.





I was really surprised to find she wasn't listing her sketches but her photography!!! Somehow, this particular talent had escaped me!


She's good! (Of course, I am a bit partial.) These are just a few samples.

Please take a moment and check out her work at



Now, all I have to do is convince her to put some of her sketches out there, too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nifty!! Nifty!! Look who’s Fifty!!


In case you haven’t heard, Barbie turned 50 on Monday! And she’s lookin’ GOOOOOD!!! (I think there’s been some botox and silicone involved, but then, if you’ve got the spare cash, why not?)


I want to look for one of the Special Edition $3.00 Bathing Suit Anniversary dolls this week. (The original Barbie sold for $3.00 in 1959. That's her in the picture to the right. ) She’s dressed in a black and white striped suit reminiscent of the original Barbie’s black and white strapless suit. Back then, the suit was controversial because it was strapless. Today, “the ladies that lunch” just discuss whether a woman her age should wear a 2-piece! (I’m sure they really are just jealous! I know I am.)


I don’t have my original Barbie (circa 1961 or ‘62). My niece inherited most of mine and she wasn’t really a “girlie girl.” Most got beheaded and then painted with magic markers.


About twenty years ago, I managed to dig out my original Ken doll and what remained of his original outfit (He really does look like he’s left over from a 2-week binge!) and my original Skipper (1964) and began to slowly rebuild a Barbie collection. I purchased quite a few of the repro dolls, not because I thought they’d escalate in value but because I love the memories they bring to mind. I did get most of the Harley Barbies because, well, because I’m a Harley girl at heart. They were a pretty good investment at the time but only time will tell how they hold up on the market. By the way, they are releasing a 2009 Harley edition in June. Just in case you might be planning for my birthday in July. (hint - hint)

I’ve looked at all the scheduled Barbie releases for this year but I really can’t find the ones I expected. I thought sure we’d see a Red Hat Barbie wearing some elegant deep purple outfit with a bright red hat and, of course, I’m sure Barbie will join AARP so I expected one to be marching along carrying her AARP card and wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “I want my **** discount!” I mean, a woman smart enough to have had 108 careers in a 50 year lifespan should certainly be financially wise enough to get whatever discounts she’s entitled to, don’t you think?


Well, I’m going to go “create” some age appropriate outfits for my Barbies. Why don't y'all go have some fun and try to recall your childhood pleasures, too?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Crafty Quotes

Some “crafty” thoughts for today:


One craft project, like one cookie, is never enough!!!


Crafts fill my day, not to mention the living room, bedroom and closets!


When life gives you scraps, make a quilt.


Sew many crafts, sew little time!!


I never have an idle day,
New ideas come my way.
Don’t know yet what I’ll create,
But my imagination’s great.


***I don’t take credit for creating these sayings, just collecting them along the way. I’ve kept a notebook of quotes that interest me for several years. From time to time, I dig them out to illustrate an idea. Today, I had no ideas, so I just threw out a few quotes for your enjoyment.

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Today was one of those days when I just had trouble getting going. It seemed to really require great effort just to get out of bed and get dressed. You know the kind of day when you’d like to just curl up against those pillows with a good book and stay there until tomorrow.


I forced myself to take care of some of the necessities of daily life - a little housework, some laundry, some website maintenance, answering e-mails, etc. I had planned to run some errands but managed to convince myself tomorrow would be a better day to do that. I managed to pull together enough umph to play on the web a little under the guise of “doing some research” and I made a long phone call to a friend just to “chat.”


The most constructive things I did were work on some long range planning for my Etsy shop and blog. Oh, and I made a decent dinner for The Big Guy. The latter, I did out of guilt. I’ve taken the easy way through the kitchen most of the week - fixing a major meal on Sunday with leftovers on Monday and easy meals since. I did make some effort tonight and fixed more of a “nice” meal. (After all, he did get me a nice new stove for Valentine’s Day. I guess I should use it!)


Maybe tomorrow I’ll make one of his favorite desserts. Maybe this one:


BLUEBERRY ZONKEY

** This is a recipe that came to me through my hubby. It was introduced to him in a life that took place long before we got together. I’m not sure where the name or recipe originated but when we mention it, no one has ever heard of “Zonkey.” It can be made with any fresh fruit (berries, peaches, apples, etc.), but he particularly likes it with fresh blueberries.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. melted butter
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup milk
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pint fruit
1 cup water
1 cup sugar


Mix first 5 ingredients together, beat well and pour into a greased 8” square pan. Place the fruit on top of the butter. Pour on the water and then the sugar.

**NOTE : The ready to bake pan looks very strange as it goes in the oven - sort of “swampy.” It creates a nice crusty top while baking.

Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Maybe you'll get the urge to be creative in your kitchen tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More Bits'n' Pieces





Just a few more items I plan to post in http://www.splashin.etsy.com/ within the next few days.



The little school box holds some humorous “gag” type items (life saver, rubber band, etc.) that signify the various roles a teacher fulfills in our children’s lives. It makes a great “end of year” gift for
a favorite teacher. (The shop listing will include more details.)






The tray is wood and is coated with a polyurethane finish that can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.





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Facebook ???


I’m still a little stymied with the Facebook thing. Maybe I’m too old to learn this new trick. As I said yesterday, all suggestions for how to do Face book are welcome! Everybody keeps telling me I should “Twitter,” too. (I’m sooooo confused!) I’m still just learning my way around this blog thing.

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Upcoming Roadtrip --

We’re making plans to do our semi-annual drive West to visit the in-laws. It takes us about 20-22 hours actual drive time to go from home to Omaha, NE. We generally stay in a hotel at least one night each way although we did prove to ourselves once that we can do it in a day if necessary. (Actually, The Big Guy has done the straight through thing twice!) The first day is pretty grueling but we try to switch drivers every 100-150 miles and make frequent pit stops. We generally arrive by lunchtime the second day. While it is a long drive, it doesn’t do us in completely and we‘re usually ready for a full day of visiting when we get there. I’ll be totally computer free on that trip so I haven’t yet decided what to do about the blog. I’m thinking of preparing posts ahead of time that will automatically post each day. Have any of you done that? How has it worked for you? The other possibility is to have a few guest bloggers but I’m not sure just how that works so I need to do some research. Any thoughts on this issue?

Hope you're out there keeping the creative juices flowing this week!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keeping up with my reputation (for unique gifts!)

So, we spent Saturday at a Birthday Bash for a pair of adorable one-year-old twins that are very important people in our lives. Thirty years ago, I set a precedent of giving really unique, handmade and personal gifts to their dad and he expects nothing less for his little ones. That "unique factor" has been a tough reputation to maintain over the years!!!!



After a lot of brainstorming, I finally came up with these personalized stools. The twins are both beginning walkers and climbers so it was important to have the stability factor these stools seem to offer. They're also low to the floor so there's less distance to fall! (They measure 11 3/4" x 11 3/4" and sit 8" high. A the base, the depth is 14" so they do sit solid.)




I haven't decided whether I'll list these in my Etsy shop yet. They are a lot more time consuming to produce than painting clothing, due to the great amount of prep work required on the wood base and the drying time involved for each coating of paint. Ultimately, it makes them a much pricier item and then shipping is considerably higher due to their bulk and weight. I'm still mulling all this over in my mind. What do you think?



In the meantime, I'm working on some new Spring outfits for the shop which I hope to get listed by the end of the week. So, stay tuned for a sneak preview. (They're too hard to photograph with wet paint, so I need to give them a little time today!)
In other business, everybody has been after me to "join Facebook" for quite a while. I took the plunge yesterday and signed up. Now, I'm totally confused!!!

I really don't get it but I had some folks sign up to be my friends! Yeah, I have friends!


I still haven't quite gotten the feel for it and I'm not sure how to post pictures and such on it. If anybody wants to give me advice, I'm open to suggestions.


My name on Facebook is "Splashin Crafts." I think I have a profile page and a business page set up, but I can't be entirely sure. It definitely isn't the easiest site to maneuver. I'm determined to conquer it but it might take me some time. I'll keep you posted.

Go out there and be creative today!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Musings!!!!

Ahhh, Monday -- back to the mundane activities of daily life. The Big Guy’s at work, the laundry room is buzzing with the sounds of full machines, I’m planning my meals and a writing a grocery list for the week and I’m cultivating two different “To Do” lists - one for “necessities” and one for “projects.” I’m not sure my mojo has recovered form the time change yet.

I planned on telling you about my weekend projects and showing pics but I’m having trouble getting going today. I finally ran the last of the consignment selling portion of my Marketing Series over the weekend. I hope some of you gained some insight into the process and wish those of you trying consignment selling for the first time much success. As my articles stated, done right, it can be a beautiful relationship and very beneficial for all involved.

There are several “craft” oriented sites that I frequent just in an effort to keep up with the industry and the craft environment as a whole. One of those I hit a few times a week is the Craft Forum on Craigslist.

The site can be a little unusual depending on who’s riding the wave at the moment when you are there. There are often excellent discussions of new trends, helpful discussions with regard to questions asked by someone new to a particular craft or looking for suggestions as to methods of working with particular materials and some very nice people generally sharing thoughts concerning crafting. At times, the place can be somewhat hostile with a surplus of snarky attitude and mean comments. The former folks are the ones who keep me coming back.

Sometimes I just lurk in the shadows there and read and sometimes I contribute. I’m of the school of thought that if you cannot contribute “nicely” then don’t comment at all.

Ready for some smiles?

Today, I found the nice people hanging out there and it seems they were in control for most of the weekend.

On Saturday, a contributor we’ll refer to as Kelly, related a humorous annecdote about cleaning out her surplus craft supplies. It seems she lives in an apartment complex and after weeding through her stock, gathered up a couple of bags of “stuff” and sat it out by her dumpster labeled, “Free Craft Stuff.” Well, her mom lives in the same complex and within a few hours, Kelly received a call from Mom telling her to come on over and take a look. She’d found a whole bag of yarn someone was giving away free. You guessed it -- Mom had been dumpster diving!

Among the comments was one saying they’ve had a similar experience and, then, received the same stuff back for Christmas!!!

I can relate. When my sister lived in the same town with me, she actually called one day to ask me to help her bring something home that she’d found near their dumpster at work (a mall). Seems my car was bigger than hers!

We come by it honestly, though. My mom used to walk to work everyday and was known to discover great finds out at the curb on trash day. It took a lot of effort, but she often had to carry that item to work and back. Good thing it wasn’t a long trip!

Oh, and who among us, has not given a gaudy piece of jewelry or a gag gift to the church or school rummage sale, only to have it come back like a homing pigeon, camouflaged in gift wrap, with one of the kids in the family who did their holiday shopping at the White Elephant Table?

Let’s put a crafty spin on the old adage about “if you love something, set it free…”. I think our new version should go something like: “If you dump it and it finds its way back to you, keep it and call it a family heirloom!”

Speaking of family heirlooms, Rose had an entry on Saturday with a fantastic twist on family history. She said her mom had “left several dozen scrapbooks done over a period of many, many years.” Unsure how long they might hold up and wanting to share them with members of the family, she undertook the task of scanning each page and then ordered hard cover books from http://www.mypublisher.com/. What a fantastic way to share the memories and family history there among the family!

One more funny from the weekend’s entries - To protect the innocent (or embarrassed), I’ll simply say “one contributor” provided this story. She sculpted a really cute little old lady out of Sculpey, but not thinking clearly, she built it over a styrofoam ball. Once baked to set the clay, the old lady curled up “like Shrinky Dinks!” Next time, having learned her lesson, she made some cute witch heads using aluminum foil (not styrofoam)! Luckily she uses a toaster oven outside so the smell doesn’t overtake the house. When she came back to check on them, smoke was pouring out of the oven. Those sneaky little witch heads had gotten too close to the coils and had “bubbled up some mighty ugly warts!” She has since decided to live with the smell and only use the regular oven where there’s more room to bake!


So, go on out there and get creative. If it doesn't turn out the way you intended, hopefully you'll at least get a good laugh out of the experience!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A selection of onesies in my etsy shop at www.Splashin.etsy.com

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Part IV - The Consignment Selling Experience - Inventory Sheets, etc.

Let's get this show on the road. You now know where you are going to consign your merchandise, for how much and you have signed a contract with the shop. When starting a consignment relationship, I suggest taking it slow and starting with a fairly small amount of stock - kind of a "trial run." You can always add additional merchandise if things go well and sales are occurring with no problems in the payment schedule. Now, let's get that merchandise ready for delivery.

Tagging -

At this point, you should have already discussed tagging with the shop owner and know whether you will tag the merchandise or the shop will do this. If you are tagging, you should know what information, in addition to the price, needs to go on that tag. Tags will usually carry some sort of code to identify the product as yours (I refer to this as a "vendor code".) Normally, such code will have been assigned to you by the shop. It may be your initials or a number code. There will usually be some sort of code identifying the item itself and, of course, the selling price. Be sure this information is written very clearly and is easy to read to assure the correct price will be charged and you will be properly credited for the sale.

You should also have already sorted out what kind of personal contact information the shop owner will allow you to include on the tag such as your name, phone number and/or a website address. It is important to respect the shop owner's position on this matter. It is their right to ask that such information not be attached.

Inventory Sheets -

Make sure you maintain good records of what merchandise is delivered to the shop. Be absolutely certain your records agree with the shop's records in this area by keeping an exact copy of each inventory sheet for delivered merchandise.

When personally delivering to a shop, ask the shop's representative to go over the delivery with you and to sign and date each page indicating receipt of the listed merchandise. If shipping merchandise, pay the extra fee for a signed confirmation indicating receipt date and by whom. Also include in the packing paperwork, a written notice to the shop personnel to contact you within 48 hours of receipt if there is any dispute as to the packing slip and merchandise received.

Many stores have their own Inventory Form to use with your delivery. If they do not provide one, create one of your own. This should be done in table form and should include a column for the item's name, the item's code number, the price you will receive for that item, the shop's percentage of that price and the full selling price of the item. You may want to include a column that can be checked off when an item sells. I suggest the selling price column always be the last column (farthest to the right) as this makes it easier for the shop personnel to check the price f there is any question.

I mentioned a code number for each item. This should be done in the form designated by the shop and, if possible, with a system that makes sense to you. For example: "your vendor code+T-01", "T-02" etc. might mean T-shirts with the number indicating different designs.

Miscellaneous comments -

Once a shop has your merchandise, maintain communication on a regular basis. Most shops do have some schedule for reporting to you with regard to sales but if you desire, it is quite appropriate to give them a call or drop an e-mail every few weeks to ask how things are going. If it is a local shop, drop in occasionally to check on your merchandise. (I emphasize "occasionally." Daily would not be appropriate in most situations!) If after a reasonable amount of time (3 - 6 months) your work has not begun to sell, you may want to withdraw your goods and look for a shop that reaches your target market better.

If the shop is local, you may want to offer to carry a flier or business cards for the shop to any local craft shows you are doing or give them out to friends and family. Be sure to tell your customers that your work is also available in that shop. If the shop is not local, you may offer to mention them on your website or in your blog.

Go ahead, try a little consignment. I could be the start of a beautiful (and profitable) relationship.

Good luck and good sales to you!


I didn't forget you! Just busy.

Sorry about the delay. Part IV (Final Part) of the Consignment Selling Experience will be posted later today. I've been busy getting some projects finished that had a deadline for today. I hope to post pictures in the next day or two. (Those consignment articles weren't real photogenic!) I'm polishing up the last segment now.

It's a beautiful day and I'm dying to get out there and enjoy the sunshine and WARMTH !!!!

Back at you in a little while. Go, enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Part III of the Consignment Selling Experience - The Contract

THE CONSIGNMENT CONTRACT


Okay, so now you know where you are going to consign your products and you’ve worked out what percentage of the selling price you will receive. Now, you need to sign the contract. Never do consignment without a contract!!!


RULE NO. 1 : READ EVERY WORD OF THE CONTRACT. KNOW WHAT EVERY PART MEANS.


One cannot emphasize enough - NEVER, NEVER sign any any contract you have not read and understood! If you don’t know what it means, ask. Don’t accept a vague answer saying, “it’s just legalese.” “Legalese” usually carries a lot of impact and can be extremely important.
Read the contract very carefully. It should cover all aspects of your relationship with the shop.


Check to be sure each of the issues listed below is dealt with and you are satisfied with each provision.

1) Percentage of selling price to be paid to you (the crafter). Be sure the percentage you have discussed and agreed upon is the same as the one written in the contract.
2) When will payment be made for any sales. Most shops pay in 30 or 60 day cycles.
3) DO NOT accept any provision that allows the store to lower the marked price on an item at a specific point in time. This is a practice often used in consignment thrift shops but is NOT used in the gift/craft business arena.
4) If the store runs any type of sale that would reduce the selling price of your product, your payment should still be based on the original price you agreed to. (For example: If the shop has a 10% off sale for a specific holiday or such and an item you agreed to price at $20.00 sells for $18.00 during that sale, your percentage will still be based on the $20 price.)
5) The contract should specify a specific schedule for reporting to you regarding sales. Many shops issue bi-weekly or monthly e-mails.
6) How long will the shop keep merchandise if it is not selling. Most shops will return unsold merchandise after a specific time - often 3 or 6 months.
7) Who is responsible for lost, stolen or damaged merchandise? Do they carry insurance for these situations? Will you be paid your full percentage for such losses?
8) Some shop contracts will demand exclusive rights to sell your merchandise in a specific geographic area. This issue is entirely up to you but, generally, anything beyond a 5 mile radius for exclusive territory is excessive.
9) The contract should state that the shop is responsible for paying all applicable sales taxes on the total selling price. Do not agree to any other arrangement on this issue.
10) Some shops will have a clause pertaining to special custom orders on your merchandise.
11) Some contracts will also specify how an item can be tagged with regard to identifying you as the crafter. It is not unusual for a shop to request that you do not provide a website or phone number on your personal tagging. Most will allow you to include your name or your business name on that tag. Some will allow a non-sales venue internet address such as an e-mail or blog address. ** This is generally considered a reasonable request on their behalf.
12) Contracts may include language regarding a shop’s inventory listing procedure.


Just because something is in a pre-printed contract, it does not mean it must be included. Negotiation can occur and clauses can be crossed out and initialed by all parties or written in and initialed by all parties. Any changes written into a printed contract MUST be initialed by both parties.

Be sure you are given a copy of the signed contract. I also request a written alternative phone number and contact address for the store owner to be written on the contract.


If by chance the store does not provide its own contract, you should be prepared with one of your own making. Sample contracts abound online for free. Simply search the term “consignment sales agreements” (or contracts).


Part IV of the Consignment Selling Experience will cover inventory sheets and any other miscellaneous information I feel you may find helpful.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Part II of the Consignment Selling Experience

So, now that you’ve decided you do want to try consignment selling you need to determine the answers to two basic questions before going any further. Those two questions pertain to pricing of your products and whether you want to sell only at local shops or if you are going to reach out to non-local venues.


Pricing

You first need to determine how much you need to receive in your pocket for each of your products. You are the only person who can determine this. You are the one who knows the cost of your materials, how long it takes you to make each item and how much profit you want to make from each sale to make it worth your while. Remember, there are still some expenses involved in selling on consignment and these costs must also be considered. These would include such items as shipping or delivery costs (time and fuel), any packaging involved and time for the extra record keeping you will need to do.

Once you know your bottom line, you then need to decide whether you will maintain the same pricing both in your personal sales (online and at craft shows or wherever) and in your consignment venues. There are two schools of thought on this. Some feel that the same item should be the same price everywhere regardless of who is marketing it for you. Others, like myself, feel the price should have some flexibility based on where it is being sold.

I personally charge less on my Etsy site than I do at local craft fairs and other sales venues. I base a big portion of my pricing on overhead costs and the cost of selling online is considerably lower than my other venues. I also feel the online customer has taken the time to go to their computer, find my site and will be paying additional shipping charges. (Ultimately, the difference is usually negated by the time one considers added S&H.) Likewise, my prices are higher for consignment than on my site.

Most consignment stores will use percentages between 70/30 and 60/40, with the crafter receiving the higher percentage. A few shops are asking 50/50 but I find most of those are negotiable if you are persistent and have truly unique and high quality merchandise. I would not consider anything that sways the numbers in favor of the shop. (**Please note: Fine art galleries handling original artwork and large sculptures generally do charge 50%. This is a standard in that arena. This article is designed for the “crafter” not for fine art.)

Once you know what prices you will be offering you can start to look for the right consignment market for your goods.

Finding a Consignment Outlet

Local or Non-Local

Many crafters prefer to only deal with local shops. The advantages to this are you are able to keep a closer watch on your merchandise. You can actually see the shop, personally get to know the owner, see how your goods are displayed and maintained and drop in to check on your merchandise and sales on a regular basis. You are afforded the opportunity to identify problems and take steps to rectify the situation in a more timely manner. You also avoid shipping costs when you can personally deliver the goods. The downside is you are going after the same customers there as you may be going for at local craft shows if you are also physically selling your own products. Alternatively, while you are reaching the same market as the shop, they are usually displaying your merchandise 7 days a week in a location where the customer can always find them.

Dealing with non-local venues presents some concerns in that you cannot see the actual shop for yourself and cannot be sure of how your merchandise is displayed and handled. If a problem occurs with the shop, you have no way of knowing this until it may be too late to mitigate the damages. You also have the additional costs and damage concerns of shipping your merchandise to the shop. You will often only “meet” the owner through their e-mails or phone calls.

Now that you know the geographic location of the stores you are looking for, you need to find those that are willing to take your merchandise on consignment.

If you are looking for local outlets, the first thing to do is go and visit those shops you think look compatible with your work. If you don’t know of any such stores in your area take a walk through the various business districts and shopping centers. Try looking in the phone book under “gift boutiques” and any other tags you can think of. Ask in your local craft supply stores for suggestions as to what local businesses sell handcrafted items.

I generally advise two visits before approaching the owner/buyer/manager. On the first visit look at what merchandise the shop carries, the quality and price range of the products. Look at the displays and see what type of effort is put into showing these things in their best light. Go back a week or two later. Does it look like items are selling? Is there anything new? Have the displays been updated? Is the shop clean? What about the help? Were they friendly and helpful? If you feel good on this second visit, approach them about carrying your merchandise. You should have something to show them in the way of samples and be able to back that sample up with photos of additional merchandise. If they sound interested ask about their policies as to commission charged and such. Make an appointment to show them additional pieces and to go over the contract. If the shop does not have their own contract, offer to prepare one of your own and bring it with you. (*We will discuss contract provisions in a later section.)

If you are dealing with a non-local venue, you must make more effort to research the shop and scope it out. You will often see out-of-town shops advertise for merchandise in various craft magazines or on craft-oriented websites. Sometimes they will approach you through your online site or at a craft show. Ask if they have a website you can view or if they have advertising brochures or such to review. Check the local phone directory for their area to see if the shop is listed. (You can do this easily online for free.) You can go so far as to call the Chamber of Commerce there and ask about the business. Google both the business and the name of the owner who has contacted you. Often, you will turn up local newspaper articles that mention the shop. Ask for a sample copy of their consignment contract. (In most cases, if they have approached you, they should be prepared with a contract for your perusal.) Do not hesitate to ask for pictures of the shop - inside and out. They are well aware that you are not familiar with their location and a reputable shop owner who is truly interested in your merchandise will be glad to comply with such a request. If they object to your questioning, run the other way.

With all consignment shops, you want to ask:

1) What is the commission split? (If you can’t agree on this, there is no
sense discussing anything more.)
2) How long has the shop been in existence and how long at its current location?
3) How many consignors does the shop deal with?
4) Who is the owner and who does the day-to-day management of the shop? Who will you be dealing with?
5) What type of insurance coverage do they provide to cover your merchandise (fire, flood, hurricane, etc)? Do they cover theft?
6) Is there a theft problem in the store or in its neighborhood?
7) What type of advertising and promotions do they do?
8) Do they carry similar merchandise to yours?
9) How will they display your merchandise?
10) How long will they hold your merchandise on display before returning unsold items to you?
11) Who is responsible for return shipping for non-local venues?
12) Can they provide references from other consignors they deal with?

Go with your gut feeling. If communication is poor or it feels weird and uncomfortable. Do not go with this shop. Keep looking for the right outlet for your work.

Once you are satisfied with these answers, ask for a copy of the contract. Read it carefully. Take it home and review it several times. Questions anything you do not understand. If there is an issue you do not agree with, bring it to their attention and attempt negotiation in that area. Remain somewhat flexible. This should be a give and take discussion. Both parties will need to be comfortable with the agreement.

I will discuss the actual contract in Part III of the Consignment Selling Experience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MARKETING YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS - CONSIGNMENT SELLING

MARKETING YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS


This is the first in a series of articles that will discuss various means of marketing your handmade products. If you are reading this blog, you are already somewhat familiar with online sales. If you are trying to make a living off of your crafts, you have most likely also realized that online marketing should only be one aspect of your business. Many of you who are just starting out have only tried your hand at Etsy or Artfire and have no idea how to get involved in the rest of the marketing world. I’ve been at this thing for over 30 years and I’ve tried just about every approach out there so I thought I’d share some of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from these years of experience.


THE CONSIGNMENT SELLING EXPERIENCE - PART I
(What is it and what are the pros and cons?)


Within the last few weeks, I’ve been approached by several retailers about selling my work on consignment. I’m sure this resurgence in the consignment system is based strongly on today’s economic conditions. There just isn’t a lot of capital out there to fund small businesses at the moment. Cash flow is limited for just about everybody from Fortune 500 companies right down to the one-woman gift shop. Only those who can creatively manage their shops will survive. They need to be resourceful in maintaining a fully stocked store and in getting those shoppers who actually do have a few bucks in their pockets into their businesses.


When I started to seriously sell my work, way back in the early 70s, there were a huge number of stores that worked predominantly with the consignment system. It was the norm at that time. As time went by, they became harder and harder to find. Then, the craft mini-mall and co-op system took hold for a while. That now seems to be declining. When I left my job in the legal field a few years ago, I searched for a few consignment markets for my work and had trouble finding any in my area. There were a few craft malls within a reasonable distance but nothing very impressive.


Today, small gift-based businesses are suffering and there simply isn't enough cash flow to fully stock without being resourceful - in comes consignment selling! If crafters enter these arrangements in a professional manner, with written contracts that spell out everything, and with caution (check out every shop to the best of your ability), consignment can be very beneficial to both you and the shop. You can get considerably more exposure and sales without a lot of marketing effort on your part. The shop is fully stocked which encourages more sales (hopefully, of your product). The concept of “handmade” is kept alive.


Over the years, I have been on both sides of the consignment contract. I have sold on consignment in a number of stores along the way and I have owned and operated my own shop where I hosted a number of consignors. I’ve experienced the pros and cons from both sides of the issue. There have been good and bad experiences.


Let’s start with the basics:


“Consignment Selling” is when you create the product and then turn it over to someone else to sell in their shop for you. When the product sells, you receive a percentage of that selling price. You retain ownership of the product until it sells but it is not in your possession.


From the Seller’s Point of View:

The Pros of selling on consignment:

You do not need to devote your time and energies to marketing, whether that is sitting at craft shows, listing and promoting items on line, working a party-plan system, whatever. This is ideal for those who have physical limitations and cannot get out and sit through a long day at the craft show or haul their merchandise and displays in and out. If you are not “a people person,” you don’t need to interact with strangers and make small talk simply trying to push a sale. If your time is limited, this gives you time to devote to creating and not sitting and waiting for a sale. You have the opportunity to reach an audience that may never see your work otherwise. Your work is on display at all hours of the shop’s operation without tying you down for that time period. You don’t have the overhead of doing shows such as entrance fees, travel expenses, display costs, etc. In most cases you control the selling price of your product.


The Cons of this system:

You do not have physical control of your merchandise. You are not there to protect it and see that it is being handled gently and displayed in a safe or appropriate manner. You cannot talk up the sale or attempt to “sell up.” You may be subjecting yourself to possible losses of merchandise or damage to your goods. In some cases, crafters have trusted their products to less than reputable folks who have absconded with the goods or have sold the merchandise but not paid you for them. Shops have closed up and simply disappeared without any warning to the crafter and you are left with trying to find the owner and your merchandise.


From the Store Owners View Point:

The Pros:

You can provide a better quality, quantity and wider variety of merchandise to your patrons without the huge initial cash layout. Crafters are not paid until the product has actually sold and the money has come into the till.

The Cons:

You are now responsible for someone else’s merchandise. You have a tremendously increased amount of paperwork, both for inventory purposes and bookkeeping purposes. You cannot always count on what merchandise is coming and when. Often, quality of the workmanship will vary. Some crafters see consignment as a means of dumping whatever doesn’t sell in their other markets (odd colors, weird color combinations, etc.) Dealing with the crafters can be trying at times. All believe they should have the best spot in the shop and special treatment when requested. Some will call or come in almost daily to check on their sales and advise as to what you should be doing to move their merchandise.

You are responsible for display racks, insurance coverage, taxes and other business licenses. You are paying the lease, utilities and promotional expenses. You are often devoting a large amount of space to merchandise that simply isn’t moving but you cannot mark it down or run a special as you have agreed to a specific price with the crafter. Crafters often come in without notice and want to pick up their merchandise for whatever reason. Many like to treat the shop as if it has a revolving door and want to “borrow” their merchandise back to do a craft show and then bring it back to the shop after that show. Checking those products in and out takes time and disrupts the flow of business.


Done wrong - consignment can be a nightmare for all involved. Done right - everybody can benefit and make money from a good consignment arrangement.


So, how do you find the right shop, get the right contract and work it out to have a good experience? That’s what I will address in Part II of the Consignment Selling Experience.

So, take some time to create and I'll be back to tell you how to find the right consignment arrangement that works for you.

My First Blog Award !

I'll be posting my planned post on Consignment Selling a little later today but, in the meantime, I'm excited! My friend over at Flight Fancy has given me my first blogging award -- the Kreativ Blogger Award!!







It still amazes me that folks who were total strangers before reading my blog actually show interest in what I have to say and keep coming back for more!!

Okay, now there are rules to receiveing award.

In order to accept and keep the award, you must list 7 things that you love and then pass the award on to 7 people whose blogs you think are interesting and "Kreativ" and let them know they've also won the award! You can then copy the picture of the award and put it on your sideboard to let everybody know that you, too, are Kreativ.

I love:

1. My Spouse - He's a sweet guy, not overly demanding, and physically, emotionally and financially supportive. best of all - he loves me "just the way I am!"

2. My family, both inlaws and "outlaws", and friends ("friends" are the family we choose for ourselves!)

3. Snuggling up with a good book - I mean complete with a cozy afghan and a tasty beverage to accompany that riveting tale!

4. Cooking and trying new recipes

5. Designing and creating - especially children's items, no matter whether I'm working with paints, fabric, paper or whatever;

6. Festivals and outdoor "events" - I love spending my weekends perched in my bag chair, enjoying good music and entertainment, fun foods and the general hub-bub of such events. We try to get to as many of these as possible.

7. BBQ - I mean true wood-smoked, slow cooked BBQ. Hubby and I are certified BBQ judges for a reaon. We get to try the "best of the best" when judging. (Events ususally include a pretty good festival, too!)

Now, I'm passing this award on to:

Anji at http://anjigallanos.blogspot.com/

Ilena at http://haveyouseenmydragon.blogspot.com/

Kitty at http://kittywrinkle.blogspot.com/

Elsie at http://namaste-elsiee.blogspot.com/

Angela at http://picklesonpizza.blogspot.com/

Erin at http://erinbowe.blogspot.com/

and

Penny at http://doodlesanddreams-penny.blogspot.com/


Okay, gang, let's see what y'all love ! ! ! (That award is going to look real sweet on your sidebar.)

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See y'all a little later with my consignment advice!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Spring is coming!!!!

My backyard this morning!

Yep! Spring is coming! Or so they say. You could’ve fooled me today. This is what I woke up to this morning.


Let me preface all this with the words: “I DON”T DO WINTER.“ (At least not by choice.) We’ve been lucky this year. Normal snowfall for a total season around here is about 22” and this year has been extremely short on snow. (I LOVE this fact!) The deepest snow we’ve had (till today) was only about 4 ½ inches and we happened to be traveling then and missed it. Then we had a 2 ½ “ snowfall. Again, we were away. (We were in South Carolina where we also had snow though it was only a dusting there and disappeared before lunch time.) There have been a few morning dustings (like yesterday) and one ‘sweepable” inch or two, but nothing big. At the moment, this looks like about 6 inches and I think it may be over. It will hang around for a few days as we will be fairly cold and well below freezing.


Can we hope this is the end - for the season? I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I want green grass, daffodils, hyacinths and WARM sunshine. I’m ready for Spring. Bring it on!

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I’m working on putting together several blogs about new craft sales sites (Yes, there are more. They seem to be multiplying like rabbits!) I had hoped to run a long article about consignment sales today but it had some rough edges so I’ll hold off a day or two while I refine it. It’s a normal Monday here so I’m trying to do the usual laundry, housework, sorting through weekend e-mails that need answers, and more day-to-day business. As usual, I’m doing some major cooking for the week. (YES! I have an oven these days! It’s nothing fancy but I love it.)


Today’s effort is Pulled Pork. This is how I do it:


PULLED PORK

This will take a long time to cook (1 ½ hrs/lb) and prepare but it’s well worth it and goes a very long way! It freezes wonderfully. Traditionally prepared on an outdoor wood or charcoal smoker, I’ve adapted this for indoor cooking in the oven.

Ingredients:
Pork shoulder or butt
**I always use a pork shoulder but you can use butt with the same results.
Dry rub of your choice
Vinegar based BBQ sauce of your choice

· Season the meat generously on all sides, massaging the spices into the meat. (I use my own barbecue rub but you can use whatever seasonings you like. You could use a straight Southwest seasoning or dry barbecue powder right from the bottle, or possibly combine some chili powder with garlic powder and a little brown sugar. For the less daring, you could do a nice job with a little salt and pepper. Go fairly light on the salt as pork has a naturally salty flavor.)
· Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
· Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before cooking.
· Preheat oven to 235 ° .
· Place a small rack in the bottom of a roasting pan. Add ½” of water to the bottom of the pan. Place the meat, fat side down, on the rack. Place on lowest shelf in the oven, uncovered. After two hours, turn the meat fat side up and return to the oven.
· About 2/3 of the way through the cooking time (allow 1-1 ½ hrs. cooking time per pound), generously spritz the meat with apple cider or apple juice. Check the internal temperature of the meat. Continue checking the temperature and spritzing approx. every hour at this point. (The cider - or juice - will add moisture and a fruity background flavor during cooking.)
· When done, meat should have an internal temperature of 195° . (Cooking the meat beyond the USDA recommended 160° renders out the fat and tenderizes the meat.)
· When done, remove the roaster from the oven and allow to cool for 15-30 minutes. At this point, you should be able to handle the warm meat.
· Begin pulling, or shredding, the meat with your hands or with two large forks. The bones should pull out cleanly. Any fat left in the meat will pull out in clumps to be discarded while you are pulling the pork.
· As you pull, place the shredded meat in a large bowl or pan, add a vinegar based sauce of your choice to the meat and toss. Do not add so much liquid as to make meat soggy, you simply want to keep it moist.

At our house, I usually serve it this way with additional sweet bbq sauce and hot sauce on the table so it can be seasoned to personal taste.


So, go out there and be creative today! Cook something delicious or paint something pretty, whatever floats your boat. But, enjoy!