Monday, August 31, 2009

Santa Fe Chicken

It was fairly quiet Monday. I found time to read this morning and managed to finish the book I started last week. It wasn't that long a book, I just had trouble finding time to read!

A friend is visiting for a few days so after letting her sleep in a bit, we finally made a grocery run. I have a wonderful selection of leftover BBQ samples, albeit all have a bite out of them . However, we also needed fruit and veggies and such. Upon our return, I set about turning leftover pieces of BBQ chicken into a skillet dish I call Santa Fe Chicken for our dinner.

That recipe originally came from a magazine ad for salsa (I don't recall which brand). I made it fairly often when that ad was running and I had kept a copy with my cookbooks. Somewhere along the line, it got misplaced and, for whatever reason, I hadn't made it in a long while. (Don't we all go through those sort of phases?) These days, I simply make it from memory. How close it is to the original, I can't recall!!

Santa Fe Chicken

1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I cut mine in bite-sized chunks)
4-5 medium potatoes, cut into chunks about 3/4" square
1- 1 1/2 bell peppers, chopped (any color will do)
1 - 1/2 large onions, chopped
1 can corn
2 12-oz jars of medium salsa
Crushed garlic, to taste

****I like to pre-cook my potatoes, onions and peppers in the microwave before dumping them in the pot.

Simply dump it all in one big pot, stir well and let it stew a bit to meld the flavors.

We serve this with a nice loaf of fresh bread and it makes a fairly easy, filling meal.

Okay, now what to do with the rest of those leftovers. Got to think of something interesting!!! After all, we're serving guests!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pig Patrol and more...

Despite an "on again, off again" drizzle (which occasionally became a heavy downpour) and a few mud bogs, we did judge the 10th Annual New Holland Summerfest in New Holland, PA on Saturday.

Luckily, they didn't get quite the amount of rain we did in our area between midnight Thursday and early Saturday morning. (Our neighborhood received between 7 and 9 inches of rain during that time.) Their heaviest rain hit there in the afternoon on Friday after most cookers had their rigs in the park and actually had their tents up. While not ideal weather, it was better than plowing the heavy equipment through a wet field and trying to set the tents up while dodging raindrops! The rain after that came in bits and pieces with only a few heavy downpours. (Only 90 minutes away, we had monsoon-like weather most of Friday!)

New Holland always features 72 contestants cooking in the standard four KCBS categories of chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. They are required to submit entries in each of these categories. There are also two ancillary categories of sausage and chef's choice. Cooks may also participate in the whole hog category and, this year, contest organizers also accepted those who ONLY wanted to cook whole hog. Twenty cook teams undertook this huge challenge!

As most cooks participate in a number of shows in a geographic region just as we judge more events within a few hours of our home, we have many that we see at most events and this was no exception. "Pork & Deans" is a team based in our immediate community and we see them often. They win frequently and are highly respected, especially when it comes to chicken and whole hog. This team takes their BBQ seriously and it shows when you see their popular bright red rig. The Big Guy leans a bit to "Smoker Envy" when they're around!

There are also a few who travel a major distance to this particular contest and this is the only place we get a chance to see them. Within the past year, I have subscribed to a blog by a BBQ team but could not recall having met them personally. Smoke in Da Eye is a team from Garden City, NY so our events only overlap occasionally. They recently mentioned they'd be at New Holland, again, this year. (They've won in the sausage category there for the last two years! What can I say, 72 smokers can start to blend together in your mind!) I purposely sought them out this year. When I found their set up after judging, only one team member was in the tent and he was on the phone. I decided to be polite and come back later to say "Hi!" Unfortunately, the clouds burst right after that decision and we ended up leaving without backtracking that way. Well. maybe next contest!!

I must say, the submissions at this contest were the best in overall quality of all the contests we've judged this year. KCBS scoring is based on a 2-9 scale, with 6 being "average", 2 is "inedible" and 9 is "excellent". I found myself giving more 8s and 9s than I think I have ever given in the years I've been judging. The Big Guy came away with the same thoughts. (Spouses cannot sit at the same judging table as couples tend to share similar food preferences and it skews the scores. Therefore, we did not taste the same submissions.)

When it is time for the whole hog judging, some judges need to participate on the "Pig Patrol." Both The Big Guy and I have done this for the last several New Holland events. One member of the Pig Patrol is assigned to each team producing a whole hog entry. It is our job to stand by and watch the team carve their entry and verify that every piece of meat submitted came off of that particular hog and no substitutions were made from other sources. (A team cooking in all categories may also have cooked multiple racks of ribs and several butts which they may feel turned out better as they are easier to control while cooking. They cannot use any of these individually cooked "pieces" to create a whole hog entry.)

I had the pleasure of overseeing a hog prepared by the Colombo Family BBQ team who were making their first attempt at competition cooking. Mr. Colombo has done many hogs at home for family events but made this a family activity. He was well supported by family members and friends, there to lend their moral support as well as a physical hand where needed. I enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of this first time cheering crew. They did produce a beautiful pig!!

I must say, I also appreciated the fact that a more experienced cooking team that was set up next to them but not participating in the whole hog competition was also watching their effort and lending a few suggestions. We find cooks tend to have a special camaraderie and don't mind sharing advice. Just don't ask for their secret rub or sauce recipe!!

As chief cook, Mr. Colombo was heard to exclaim, "This is really nerve wracking!" As a team cannot begin carving until a Pig Patrol member is present at their site, their time is limited to only about 45-50 minutes in which to carve 6 perfect samples from 5 areas of the pig - shoulder, ham, loin, rib (bone-in or bone-out) and bacon. They then need to arrange them in an attractive manner on a tray provided by the contest organizers and then carry them, carefully, to the turn-in site. In this case, he had to negotiate a muddy field without disturbing his perfect tray. Turn in occurs on the hour and submissions must be presented within the span of 5 minutes to and 5 minutes after, no exceptions! Yes, they do use a time clock for this. Yes, Mr. Colombo, it is nerve wracking!! As a judge, I'm pulling for everyone. I don't want to see anyone fail.

In the Mid-Atlantic area, the health department rules do not allow contestants to sell their products to the general public from their cook sites. (In some states this is allowed. Many of those areas hold a People's Choice competition the night before the main competition.) However, there are a few competitors at every contest that also have Vendor Licenses and do sell their fantastic meats to festival attendees. Smoke'n Dudes are one such cook team. They are always plagued by long lines but the food is well worth the wait. People even stood in line in the rain this year!

We normally wait around to watch the awards ceremony as judging is all done by a double blind system so even we don't know who was "best" until these announcements. While we were sitting, waiting for the awards to be presented the skies opened and it began to pour heavily. We gave up and made a run for the car. We'll just have to wait to see how our various friends, and the Colombos, made out when the organizers update the website with the winners' names later this week.

Now, all I have to do is figure out what to do with all these leftovers this week!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Baby, it's wet here, today!!!

Anyone for deep sea diving? It's been raining, off and on, since about midnight last night. By 6 a.m., our area had received between 3 and 6 inches of rain in that 6 hours!! There's a possibility of getting another 3 before all is said and done. It's getting soggy here!!
We're judging a BBQ contest in the morning and I'm hoping they won't close one of the main roads we plan to use due to flooding. It runs right along the shore of the Susquehanna River and tends to flood fairly easily. The trip is about 1 hour and 15 minutes going that way and probably 2 hours if we go "the long way." There's always a chance some of the alternative road will have some flooding as I'm just not that familiar with that route. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

This week's event is in New Holland, PA (just outside of Lancaster). I definitely feel sorry for our friends who are participating on the cooking teams. It makes for a long, tough weekend even in the best of weather. Throw in a monsoon and some wind, and keeping the temps constant on thier smokers becomes a constant chore. This particular contest takes place on a grassy field so I suppose there will be some major mud puddles and stuck vehicles. The smokers used in competitive barbecuing are HEAVY and a little hard to manuever into place on dry ground let alone in mud. There will be 72 very wet, muddy and tired cook teams vying for top honors so it's the least we can do to slosh through the puddles and taste their products.
All this damp weather is a gift from Tropical Storm Danny who is passing very close to the coast this weekend. The weather guys believe he won't morph into a full-blown hurricane and will remain more of a nusiance storm as he passes by. We've had it easy this year when it comes to tropical storms and such so, of course, none of us are prepared. Let's hope they're right!!

I showed you some of my newer listings yesterday. Those were the holiday oriented pieces. Today, I thought I'd share some of the everyday type products I've added to the shop this week.

The "Bingo" shirt is part of a 2-piece set that includes denim jeans with the letters "B-I-N-G-O" scattered all over them. Don't all toddlers love to sing the "Bingo" song?

Remember how much fun it was to ride a stick horse and gallop around the house? Now, your little one can gallop to their heart's delight without knocking everything over with that darn stick behind them!!
This is the firswt sleeper I've ever offered in the shop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So, what's new??

Earlier this week I saw the train a'comin, the Christmas train that is, and it's heading this way an enormous rate of speed!!! I panicked and began listing some holiday merchandise in my shop.

Okay, I did have to ease myself into the holiday mood, so I started with a Fall item.
This darling little angel featuring brightly colored silk leaves on her skirt and wings, has that cozy "down-home" style and looks adorable anywhere you hang her. I originally designed her with my Mother-in-Law and my elderly aunts in mind. They all live in apartments in senior housing complexes and she hangs beautifully on their hallway doors. (Also, gives me a fair amount of free publicity as they all love to brag!!)

With that little push, I began moving on into the Christmas season with the addition of these listings. I have lots more to get listed and hope to add some each week now. So, please check in on the shop often. Who knows? You just might find the perfect gift there for someone you love.

I've also added some new general merchandise, too. Maybe I'll show them here in a few days.

Want to see any of these in detail? Simply click on the picture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday - Pricing Your Product for Craft Show Sales

"How should I price my work?"

It's been a dilemma faced for decades by crafters trying to sell their work. There are almost as many theories and formulas for arriving at a retail price as there are craft shows out there.

I'm not going to tell you how to determine your selling price here. The purpose of this post is to look at how craft show pricing should compare with online pricing. Again, there are many theories and arguments.

Many will argue that the price of a specific product should be the same both online and at a craft show. Some insist that you can't get the same amount at one or the other and the crafter should lower the price at the show or online, as their argument goes. There are some sellers who figure the retail price based on the overhead expenses of each venue and even vary pricing from show to show.

The dominant position found in the many craft discussion forums concerning this subject seems to be keeping uniform pricing in both online markets and at actual craft shows. Some of the reasoning presented includes the angle that most of us are handing out business cards, fliers, brochures, etc. encouraging craft show customers to view our websites. If pricing for the same product is inconsistent, some may desire refunds or hesitate to buy online when they figure they may come across your booth at another craft fair and find the same item for less. Customers may find these discrepancies unprofessional and may hesitate to turn to you for future needs. Customers may see the varying prices as an indicator that you are willing to haggle and may accept lower prices than those you have posted (in either marketplace), again, taking away from your professionalism.

Those who argue in favor of fluctuating pricing use the reasoning that many shows are conducted in areas that are more affluent than their average online buyer and will willingly pay more than the average Etsy (or other online) buyer is willing to accept. Ideally, there should be less competition at your local craft show than in the various online markets. I've heard some justify higher craft show prices by noting that online sales get shipping and handling added to the price and, therefore, equals out in the long run.

On the other hand, many shows are held at school or churches and appeal to more customers who are out there looking for a bargain. Some sellers believe they need to post lower prices at these shows to reel in those buyers. They'd rather lower their prices to move more merchandise at the show generating more ready cash in their pockets. (As a general rule, most of us do sell more in a single day at a craft show than in the average week online.)

Those who base their selling prices on overhead in the particular marketplace may argue that the average craft show costs more to do than posting an item online. In terms of the crafter's time alone, placing an item online takes mere minutes and we can move on and do something else while our product is on display. If we are selling at a craft show, we have invested the time making the product, setting up the display and then the hours of sitting by waiting for the customer to make the purchase. In this case, the seller would need to add dollars to the price to justify an hourly wage!

***Don't forget, when considering show expenses, you do need to add in more than just the show fee. You will use gas to get there, incur wear and tear on your vehicle, probably have food expenses, wrapping and bag expenses, display expenses, etc.

I, personally, subscribe to the uniform pricing theory although I have been known to run a show special for an item or two (usually seasonal). I also have a number of products that I do not carry in my online shop but do take to actual craft shows. Some of those items are lower priced come-ons but quite a few are one-of-a-kind or difficult to ship products. I do advise customers expressing interest in those items that they will not find them in my online shop.

Pricing, regardless of the marketplace, is a very personal decision. Only you, as the crafter, can determine what you want to make form each item. Losses can be seen in very obvious solid figures but profit is a subjective issue. You can figure what an item cost to make, how much overhead is involved in the particular market and how much time you invested in making and selling the item. Only you can determine what your time is worth to you and what amount over and above those expenses and time investments, you consider a proper profit.

The good thing here is, most of us are still selling in a world of free enterprise and no one can tell you what you must charge for your own handmade work. You can charge whatever you'd like, making as little or as much as you desire per item, at least within the confines of what the market will bear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Overwhelmed - but tomorrow's another day!

I’m feeling overwhelmed today. So, like an ostrich, I’ve buried my head in the sand and hoped no one notices.

I always refer to this as “our busy season.” We judge several BBQ contests in August and September which pretty much wipes out a full Saturday on those weekends. If you are a regular reader here, you also know there are several annual events and festivals that we try to attend every year. We always vacation at the beach in September and make a Midwest run to visit with The Big Guy’s family in the September-October period. Right there, in those two trips, we’ve lost three full weeks. Add to these things a number of family birthdays for which I need to make gifts and attend parties and we’re running desperately low on time.

Oh, and then there’s the BIGGIE - Christmas is looming!!! As of today, we have 121 days until the Fat Man slides down the chimney. For those trying to put that in practical terms - that comes down to less than 17 weeks. I don’t know about you, but I stop taking Christmas orders by the 5th of December which brings me to only about 100 days left. Take away those three weeks of vacation and some of those family commitments, I’m down to only 50 some days for holiday selling.

That oncoming train is rolling and it’s picking up speed fast!!! I need to sit down and put a plan together and then get moving on making it work. This dawned on me this morning so I got right up and finished reading the novel I’ve been working on. Then, I sat down and reviewed my emails for the day which, of course, triggered me to wander over to a forum or two and then… Well, you get the idea. Like the ostrich, I’ve buried my head under a bunch of mundane time wasters. Scarlett O’Hara has surfaced once again, with the thought that “Tomorrow’s another day.” It is - and it’s one day closer to Christmas!!

I fully intend to get off of this computer within the next ten minutes and make a list of all those birthday gifts I need to finish (particularly the one for Saturday) and a list of those Christmas gifts I want to make. I also plan to add at least three holiday items to my shop TODAY. Then, I need to get back to the Christmas production that I began last month but have allowed to slip quite a bit. It’s time. NOW !

So, if you don’t see or hear form me here and there along the way, you’ll know I’m working my fingers to the bone in holiday production, or hiding under some sand reading a good book. You know what they say about good intentions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another busy weekend with close friends...

Well, it was another great but extremely busy weekend that simply flew by.
We got on the road about 12:30 Friday afternoon, heading for Johnstown, PA for the Ameriserv Flood City Music Festival (formerly the Johnstown Folk Fest). Though we've attended this for most of the last decade, we weren't sure just what to expect this year. There were a lot of changes made in addition to the name change, the biggest of which, was a change in dates. This event has always been held on Labor Day Weekend and the committee decided to change the date by several weeks this year "to allow the college students to attend before returning to school for the semester" and to avoid conflicting with several other events in the area.

We've always liked the multiple events going on in the one weekend. We managed to attend this event all three days in the past and made stops each day at another 3-day event in the immediate area as well as attending a large craft show on that Saturday. They actually ran all-day free shuttles between the two festivals in past years and we would go back and forth between the two depending on what music was playing at which at any given time. With only the one event going on, we felt a bit of a letdown as our music selections were much more limited. In fact, this festival cut back by one stage (triggered by the economy and less corporate sponsorship). Also, since Monday was a work day, we had to leave early on Sunday for the trip home missing all of the festival on that day. This has always been a Fri-Sun event, leaving Monday open for traveling.

Other changes included instituting an admission fee. We felt the cost was reasonable as such festivals go - $5 for Friday and $10 each on Saturday and Sunday. However, many people complained about the "high" price since they had become very accustomed to "free." They labeled the fee a "Donation" and there were a number of diehards who argued the wording. We know of one person who insisted he was only "donating" $5 as a couple on Friday. They were granted admission. We also watched someone enter on Saturday for free after arguing the meaning of "donation." I believe they must use that wording to maintain their non-profit status but they do need to figure a better way of labeling the charge.

There were definitely less acts offered throughout the festival and more small local entertainers than in the past. The variety was also more limited. In the past, zydeco acts always attracted the largest crowds and normally played at least two of the days. They had no zydeco this year and many folks commented on the omission. There are also usually at least one gospel group and something along the classical lines. Again, nothing of the sort on this year's schedule. This year's lineup seemed a bit heavy on the bluegrass and Celtic influences. In general, most of the groups just weren't up to the caliber of past acts.

The two largest headliners, The Derek Trucks Band (well known in the blues festival world) and Bill Kirchen (of Commander Cody fame) were both scheduled for later Sunday evening when even locals needed to call it a day and head home to prep for Monday morning. I did regret missing Derek Trucks but we have caught Bill earlier this season. He always gives a high-energy rousing performance and we were sorry to miss him too.
Out of the eleven acts we saw, there were a few high points. A Vermont group, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were fantastic. They appeared to have climbed aboard a time-machine at Woodstock and landed at this 2009 event! They were billed as "neoclassic rock and roll" and, if you closed your eyes, you could believe you were seeing the reincarnation of Janis Joplin! They've toured with Dave Matthews, Gov't Mule and Taj Mahal. They definitely rocked the joint. We believed we got our money's worth from the admission for this act alone.

The other group we found interesting was The Clumsy Lovers out of Vancouver. They kind of blend bluegrass with rock to form their own genre. All were excellent musicians, particularly the fiddle and banjo players - and, yes, you can play some fairly hard rock on a fiddle!! (Especially when accompanied by a banjo.)
For the most part, we probably wouldn't knock ourselves out to go to our local park for a free concert by any of the others we heard this weekend. (We traveled 200 miles, one way, for this one!)

They've also destroyed the excitement of the great food we were used to at this event. The committee switched to a single vendor for food services this year supposedly to provide more efficient service, higher quality and a more uniform pricing system. They lost on all three points. There were no real lines at the food stands as in past years but that was because of the poor selection and tasteless food quality. There was less than a third of the variety as in the past. It may be the first festival we've attended in years that did not have any pizza or popcorn offerings. They had hotdogs and hamburgers but the only condiments available were packets of ketchup and mustard. I think those who attended on Friday noted this and made a point of eating elsewhere on Saturday before attending the event. I even saw one woman openly carrying a Subway sandwich! I'm sure her meal tasted better than ours!

Our little "gang" always attends this festival, more as an excuse to get together and party all weekend than anything else. This was no exception. Although one couple among us could not make it this year do to surgery earlier in the week, another pair traveled from South Carolina for the event. We haven't seen them for over seven months so we were thrilled to get together again. It is definitely our belief that we carry our own fun with us. Just being together is always an adventure so it was a great nonstop weekend of partying, eating (we did have some good food at home) and fine tuning plans for our beach vacation together this Fall (another annual event).

We will probably attend again next year, barring any obstacles thrown our way. (Unfortunately, I doubt that our friends will make the 600 mile trip next year.) We will hope they improve the food service and expand the variety of music a bit to resemble the selection offered in the past. I will personally hope they move it back to Labor Day weekend. I did not notice a large increase in "college aged" folks and Friday had a tremendously poorer attendance than in past years. (While they wanted to get more younger attendees, they did not gear the music to that age group.)

Saturday had a very good crowd but nowhere near the numbers of the past. The organizers, of course, put their own spin on things and indicated the crowds were much larger than in the past. All we can say is, we never had trouble finding a seat for a performance and one could walk freely through the event. In the past, you needed to get to a stage well before the act began to find a seat and, in the evening, passage along the paths between stages moved at a shuffle due to the mobs. This was not the case this year. We will probably plan to eat elsewhere, other than at the festival. That's a shame as the food at this event has always been quite unique and was definitely part of the draw. Many out-of-towners have always traveled in for the event.

We made the long drive home arriving just in time for The Big Guy's weekly pinochle game. He has been playing with same guys, every Sunday for the last 24 years. It's a gentleman's game - no booze just iced tea and a tray of cheese and crackers with some veggies or such. At one time there were 8-10 players every week but, over the years, has dwindled to just three of them but they play EVERY week with very few exceptions. About 15 years ago, the game moved to our house and has remained here every week since. We unloaded the luggage, made iced tea and got the table set up just as they arrived.

So, yes, it was a very FULL weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the road again ...

Here I am, packing again!! This time, it's just a quick weekend getaway. We're off to Johnstown, PA for the American Flood City Music Festival.

This event used to be the Johnstown Folk Fest and was held on Labor Day Weekend but running Friday through Sunday. For many, it served as a homecoming to the town they grew up in and hordes of people made the annual trek to see their loved ones and enjoy the festival.

Over the last few years the event has undergone numerous changes and it has become quite different. It used to be held in the Cambria City area of Johnstown and was combined with the Ethnic Festival which was organized by the various ethnic church congregations making up the many churches located within a 10 block area. A few years back, the Folk Festival committee purchased a portion of the old Bethlehem Steel plant property to create Festival Park, a permanent fairground type location. (A number of events in the city are now held in Festival Park.) This caused the two festivals to become separate events.

The Ethnic Festival remained in Cambria City, where most folks attended for the great variety of foods prepared just as they were back in "the old country." Each church featured foods of their ancestors and most had live entertainment throughout the weekend. The Irish church ran an Irish pub in the basement complete with a fully stocked bar, a traditional Irish menu and great Irish entertainment. The crowds there were always standing room only all three days! The Polish congregation had pierogies, "pigs" and more. Halusky and halupka were available. A variety of ethnic desserts prevailed. Lamb roasted on the spit in front of the Greek church. One church featured big band and polka type music all weekend (and cheap beer)!

The Folk Festival, (now downtown in Festival Park) with its large corporate sponsors, ran continual entertainment on four stages beginning Friday evening and running till about midnight. Entertainment on Saturday and Sunday began at noon and ran till 10 p.m. both nights. Music covered all genres - rock, blues, country, gospel, bluegrass, children's, classical, alternative, comical, soul and more. Performers were a mix of national, regional and local acts. Food here was more of the standard festival type and there were other standard things like children's activities, car and truck displays, community booths, etc.

Both events were free to the public and by the second year of the separation, there were free shuttle buses running between the two festivals. We went back and forth more than once during the days.

Within the past year, the Archdiocese demanded five of the very different ethnic congregations close their churches and form one. This seemed to sound a death knoll for the Ethnic Festival. However, the few churches that are left are valiantly attempting to do a festival this year on Labor Day weekend. it has been scaled back some and will cover a much smaller geographical area than the old 10-block strip. It will still be free and will feature entertainment and ethnic foods for sale.

The Folk Festival has changed its name in an effort to form a new image that they feel better defines their identity as a multi-faceted music event. Thus, the birth of the American Flood City Music Festival. To further establish their new identity, they've moved the dates of the event to this weekend, not Labor Day weekend. They feel this will give the college students an opportunity to participate before leaving for the semester away at school.

Since only a small portion of the music is youth oriented, those of us who have always attended and spent money at the event are a bit disappointed. We will only be able to attend on Friday and Saturday as most of us need to head home on Sunday. (In the past, we used the Monday holiday for travel.) I wonder if the trade off of students versus families will work out for the committee when it comes to spending ability. Also, a number of colleges in our area are already returning to campus so I need to wonder if this will turn out the way they think it will.

To top it all off, the festival committee has also instituted an admission "donation." I believe they need to call it a "donation" to maintain their non-profit status. Does that mean folks could supposedly not make a donation but still be admitted? This aspect does not phase us as we are used to paying fairly sizeable admissions in our area and feel the price they have set ($5 on Friday and $10 for each of Saturday and Sunday) is somewhat low. But will those students agree?

For us, this has always been a party weekend with three or four couples gathering at one couple's home for the entire weekend. We attend the festivals together, eat together and simply commune for the weekend. We enjoy each other's company even without a major event happening around us. We're looking forward to seeing close friends that we haven't seen in months. We don't want the festival to fail but we're hoping they do reconsider and change it back to Labor Day weekend next year. After all, it's tradition!!

I'll let you know how it went, complete with pics when we get back.

A little rock, a little blues and some BBQ on a midsummer's eve

It's been a busy day.

I had some basic maintenance to do on my online shop and took time to add some new listings as well as prepared some new listings to add in the next few days. We're traveling again this weekend so there was laundry and packing to do and some general housecleaning that I've let go for a few days.Though we'll be rising early so I can take The Big Guy to work earlier than normal (so we can get out on the road early), we decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants and hear some live music this evening. This is a special event at this place as they do not normally feature entertainment and we know the band and thoroughly enjoy them.

Andy Nelson's BBQ is known throughout the region for his superb BBQ. Andy is a former Baltimore Colt from the golden era of Unitas and Donovan and sports memorabilia flanks the walls of this little nondescript joint. Next to the restaurant, they have a metal garage type building known as the Pigskin Palace where they hold Monday night football parties featuring, what else, BBQ !!! From time to time, like Mother's Day weekend, Father's Day weekend and on other special occasions, they set up a special buffet out there just like the Monday night parties. People like to gather here so he's expanded his offerings to include a couple of outdoor concerts throughout the warmer weather months.
One of Andy's specialties is an excellent offering of delicious homemade desserts made by his sister, Linda Nelson. Linda is a lady of many talents and, in addition to her fantastic baking, sings with The Jody West Band. This 5-piece group does a great mix of music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s with an occasional 90s tune or even one from the 50s. Four of the members can and do sing lead on various songs. Together they have fantastic harmonies. It's a BYOB event and the cold beers abound. Add some terrific smoked bbq and what more can you ask for on a summer evening ?

Unfortunately, that alarm will go off very early and we couldn't stay for the entire concert but we thoroughly enjoyed the brisket sandwiches and the peach cobbler (with whipped cream on top!) and grooved to the music for awhile before calling it a night.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday - What, besides sales, makes for a "GOOD" show?

I was chatting with a crafter friend the other day and she began to sing praises about her latest show. I commented, “Big bucks, huh?” She laughed and said, “Not really. Sales were even a little disappointing.”

Okay, she just spent two days in the scorching hot and humid weather we call summer around here and had made less than she anticipated. Yet, she was so happy with the show she had already penciled it in on her calendar for next year.


She went on to explain the show was truly a pleasure to do and her neighbors had been great to share space with. She does feel the event has promise and will gear her merchandise to the crowd better next time around. (Many crafters there sold extremely well!) There were certain products she’d sold out of and believed she could have sold many more along those lines if she’d had additional stock of those particular items. She did have many local folks sign her mailing list which she uses to let customers know where she’ll be showing and also mails a brochure in the Fall featuring her newest holiday items. (This has worked well for her in the past.) Many people stopped to discuss her products, asking questions about customized orders and took cards. Her cards have her website listed as well as a phone number.

On one side, she had an ”older couple” who were selling oil paintings on wood cut to 9” x 12”. The wife painted the pictures which were scenes of rivers, the bay, marinas and other coastal oriented subjects. This is a popular genre in this area and her pictures were very reasonably priced. She painted throughout the show. My friend’s daughter was absolutely fascinated at the ease this woman painted with and enjoyed watching the process. The lady even explained a lot of her technique to the girl.

The husband cuts, sands and preps the wood. He also dabbles a bit with the wood, making Jacob’s Ladder toys and something that can best be described as a “clogger marionette.” The latter is a marionette type doll measuring about 14” high and there is a dowel mounted to the center of the back. Holding the stick, one can make the doll move on a table top or such as if clogging. The couple sold very well and had many returning customers who remembered them from prior appearances at the show. The husband also enjoyed talking with my friend’s children and even enlisted her son’s assistance in demonstrating the clogger doll and Jacob’s Ladders.

My friend’s children are 10 and 12 years old and have grown up on the craft show circuit. Their Dad tends to work weekends so they have spent many days sitting on the ground behind her display quietly entertaining themselves so they were thrilled to have such interesting neighbors. Turns out the old gent is a retired elementary school principal and enjoyed the children almost as much. He also served as a runner for both his wife and my friend, offering to make refreshment runs on a regular basis! I understand he also had booth sitting skills!! They’ve already asked the show organizer to place them next to each other again next year.

The ladies on her other side were a trio of jewelry designers, each working in their own medium. At any given time, one was demonstrating within the booth. Between them, they had years of show experience. They shared a lot of show information about upcoming events and discussed other marketing options, sharing a lot of good leads and information worth checking on. They also shared yummy home baked muffins. One was a gifted storyteller and entertained both my friend and her older neighbors with funny tales of shows gone by.

The committee came by regularly to check on exhibitors’ needs and were available if anyone needed booth sitters. There were coffee, juice and donuts both mornings for the exhibitors and these were brought around to their booths by wagon. Late on the second day, the organizer came around to chat with each crafter for a few minutes, getting feedback on problems or suggestions for next year. At this visit, she also presented each exhibitor a photo of their booth setup in a frame made of card stock that displayed the name and date of the show and thanked them for participating. (I’m not sure I ever received a thank you gift for being in a show.)

This was the 10th year for this show and there is a waiting list to get into this one. I may add my name to that list. It definitely sounded like a great show experience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baseball - Hotdogs - Apple Pie and Chevrolet!!

Where have all the icons gone?

We still have “baseball” but it’s not quite the same anymore. Or is that just me as an Orioles fan? “Hotdogs “ have become pariahs in the food world as carriers of huge amounts of nitrates and other purported carcinogens. “Apple Pie” contains much more sugar than one should eat on a regular basis. “Chevrolet” - need I say more?

It was with great sadness I read of the bankruptcy filing of another American icon, Reader’s Digest. Now, I will admit it’s been a while since I read a Reader’s Digest and probably a decade or more since I had a subscription, but what will I pick up for a quick read in the doctor’s waiting room? Where will we find Humor in Uniform? Where will we see those cute little sayings from the mouths of babes? What about those little sections about the origins of words we never use?

Seriously, a copy of Reader’s Digest always made me think of my Grandmother. Throughout my childhood, she always had a Reader’s Digest handy. A ferocious reader, she read everything cover-to-cover and I believe she read her entire monthly copy of RD in a day or two at the most. She would then pass it on to my mom who would bring it home for all to read.

We all inherited our reading habits from Grandmother so even as young kids, we’d pick it up and read it here and there. I used to try out the vocabulary words at dinner or some other odd moment. My brother, anticipating that move, would counter-attack with some other powerful use of the language. I read my first account of someone climbing Mt. Everest in RD. I became engrossed in inspirational essays before I even understood the concept of inspirational pieces. The articles in RD reinforced the basic family values and acts of humanity that were taught in most American homes back then.

When all had read that little magazine and it was several months old, it often became an angel in a Girl Scout project. Do you remember folding the pages down to form the body that would support a Styrofoam head ? Once shaped, we would spray paint it gold or white for the angel. The head would be placed and decorated and our Moms, Grandmas and Aunts would proudly display these throughout the holidays. Okay, I’m probably showing my age here. I was a Girl Scout in the 60s (late 60s). I guess y’all don’t remember making wreaths out of IBM punch cards either, do you?

Interested in one of those little angel projects? I’m sure I could tell you how to do it!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Post BBQ Leftovers

After every BBQ contest, we are faced with the same old question: "What to do with all these leftovers?"

We are accredited by and judge for the Kansas City Barbeque Society which is the largest bbq organization in the world. As such, they are the sanctioning body for the majority of the BBQ competitions held throughout the U.S. When you watch specials on the Food Network about the American Royal competition held annually in Kansas City, you are watching a KCBS event.

All KCBS sanctioned contests MUST include four basic categories which are always done in the same order over a two hour turn-in period. There may be additional categories associated with any specific contest and those may be judged the same day or on the previous night but any KCBS event will consist of chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, in that order.

The judging process is serious business. Every judge is asked to sample and rate six samples from each category. Each sample is tasted and rated on its own merits. Sample #1 is tasted and then completely graded before moving on to sample #2. They are not compared to each other. There are specific elements we are looking for in each entry.

Ultimately, each judge will be presented with 1 1/2 - 2 lbs., or more, of meat at a contest. Obviously, most of us cannot eat every piece of food in its entirety while judging. Most take two, maybe three, bites of a sample before grading it. When the category is done, we are entitled to go back and eat the whole thing if we desire, pack it up to take with us or throw it away. I, like most judges, carry ziplock bags and a cooler with us to contests.

In the chicken category, turned in at 12 noon, we are most often served six thighs. Cooks can submit any part of the chicken but most find thighs cook the most consistently and retain their moisture in the submission box. (Breasts tend to dry easily. Wings and legs tend to turn out less consistently.) I have been served all parts at various contests and this week my table was served five thighs and one submission of sliced breast meat. Obviously, between the two of us, we have a pretty good stock of leftover chicken at the end of the category. (Incidentally, spouses cannot judge at the same table so we never judge the same entries.)

Ribs tend to produce the least leftovers. Often, by the time we've taken 2 or 3 bites, there really isn't much left on the bone. Nonetheless, I usually have a few ribs left over.

The pork category consists of pork butt and can be served as pulled pork, sliced or chopped. When we first began judging back in 2005, the vast majority were turned in as pulled pork but we are now receiving just as many sliced and frequently chopped samples these days. This is usually another large batch of leftovers as samples tend to be sizeable servings.

The final category, turned in at 1:30 in every contest, is beef brisket. We are generally served one decent slice per sample. This doesn't sound like a lot, but by this time, we are getting somewhat full. Most judges test for tenderness by pulling a chunk off of the slice with a gentle tug. We then taste that piece but often have the rest of the slice left over!

Believe it or not, we have judged contests that included additional categories at this point. Many events include a sausage or dessert competition. Some have an "anything but" category and quite a few have "whole hog" judging. The most categories we've faced in one day have been seven. After that event, we brought home nine pounds of leftovers!!

Needless to say, I have learned the best ways to warm up leftover ribs and brisket slices and have come up with a variety of recipes for the leftovers. Since chicken is a mainstay of regular diet, I have never had trouble finding uses for those scraps. I've had to be a little more creative with the other categories. Tonight we had enchiladas made from the leftover pork samples.

Pulled Pork Enchiladas:

I generally dump the pork in a bowl (shredding any sliced or chunked samples) add just a speck of my own rub for seasoning, some chopped onions and bell peppers (precooked in the microwave) and some shredded cheese. Mix well and fill and roll soft tortillas to form enchiladas. I open a can of black beans and poor it into a large rectangular glass baking dish and then add one drained can of black beans and two drained cans of diced tomatoes with chiles. Stir this well and then place the enchiladas on top of the bed of beans and tomatoes. I drizzle a little sweet bbq sauce over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle a little more shredded cheese over that. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, until the cheese browns.

***A little pulled pork really stretches this way. I made 8 enchiladas tonight - enough for two hungry men and myself. Oh, and we had leftovers! I put three in the freezer. These make easy, quick lunches for the guys. I wrap them separately and they can just grab them frozen. By lunch time, they've thawed and they warm them in the microwave at work.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday, already??

Sorry I've been a little scarce this weekend but it's been a hectic schedule for us and, frankly, I've been exhausted when we walked in the door each evening and have not been able to keep my eyes open or my mind on long enough to put anything together for you.

Friday was the first night of the annual Maryland BBQ Bash in Bel Air, MD and The Big Guy and I judged the back yard grill competition where anyone can participate in a rib cooking contest from noon to 6 p.m. Some of the KCBS rules are suspended a bit, or at least very loosely enforced, for the rib contest. The ribs are basically grilled as opposed to smoked.

This year, there were 17 back yard teams and only 12 judges. We would normally only judge 6 samples per person but, due to a shortage of Friday night judges, we were forced to judge more. The Big Guy's table did 9 ribs each and we did 8. Bear in mind, it is not necessary to eat the entire rib in order to rate it. Generally, we take 2 or 3 bites of each in order to score the sample. You can always go back later and eat the whole rib if you'd like. I bagged my leftovers and we nibbled on them later while we listened to the live music. Many of the back yard grill winners go on to form a competition cooking team and appear in subsequent years in the real competition.

Saturday, we needed to check in at the judging tent by 10 a.m. There were 52 cooking teams in the KCBS competition. This meant we needed 63 certified judges for the contest. Judges came from as far away as Ohio, Upstate N.Y., and Arkansas this year. By the time the judge's meeting began at 10:30 we were still short a few folks. They had committed to the event but were not yet there. Judging begins promptly at noon and the KCBS reps needed to scramble a bit to locate judges and have them in place by that first turn-in. Some non-certified folks were found to fill in for some support positions, freeing up certified judges to do the actual judging.

When judging of the four competition categories ended at 2 p.m., we migrated over to the stage area and settled in with some friends to enjoy a few cold ones and listen to some quality live entertainment. Though music was still flowing until 10 p.m., we've had a long week and decided to cut out early before the headliner. I was in bed by 10 p.m. and sound asleep. That's almost unheard of for this nightowl!!

The Big Guy has been fantastic through everything for the past ten days. He has chauffeured my sister and I all over for funeral related activities, fixed food, made grocery runs and just patiently guided us through the week. He earned a rest last night and an activity of his choice today. He chose to go to breakfast and then to the casino to let off some steam. Nothing like a little mindless gambling to relax the mind and body. I lost about $10 and then went outside to sit in the sun for awhile and make a few phone calls. I did actually find it relaxing.

Now, it's back to the grind. I've already made a list of "MUST DOs" for tomorrow and it's a daunting list. My shopping and errand list has stretched to two full pages!!!

Looks like another tough week ahead.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Road Trip Laughs

This time of year, we spend waaay too much time in the car!! I got tangled in my sheet this morning as I was trying to reach the alarm. It was like being in a straight jacket! In describing the funny tale of getting out of that mess, I referred to my side of the bed as “the passenger side!

A flushing tale:

While using a rest stop on the Interstate last week, I chuckled as I heard a young mother in the stall next to me struggling with a toddler who was afraid of “the magic toilet!” At first, the term confused me until I realized she meant the automatic flushing. It seems her tiny little tush gave the electric eye too much chance of flushing while she was still using it and that terrified her. The poor flustered mother promised she wouldn’t let it flush while the little one was sitting but alas she couldn’t keep her word and the child let out a blood curdling screech when it flushed. Mommy was quite embarrassed when she emerged to face the laughter of those folks at the sinks.

I can understand how that little girl felt, even with a larger bum, I’ve occasionally had a premature flush and it can feel like it’s going to suck you right in. I can only imagine how frightening that could be to those with such a tiny backside!!


The long and winding road:

After the funeral on Monday, the family was all heading back to one of the family homes for a gathering. This would involve a journey of about 26 miles on a number of winding country back roads. The veterans’ cemetery is enormous and traffic is carefully controlled and directed while on the property. A nephew had thoughtfully e-mailed directions from one of the main highways not realizing we would all be directed out of the cemetery onto a back road and not onto that highway. As happens the crowd left in small clumps of 2 or 3 vehicles. Another of my nephews advised he had a GPS and we should follow him out to the main highway. We had an elderly uncle following us in this small caravan. I did not realize we had a yet fourth car following him! Those two cars were in contact by cell phone.

The plan went well until the first major turn after exiting the cemetery. Somehow, my uncle became confused and pulled over and stopped. The Big Guy saw this in his mirror and also pulled over. Unfortunately, my nephew didn’t notice all of this and kept rolling. He didn’t realize he’d lost the rest of us until he’d made a number of turns. At that point, he pulled over, waited, finally gave up and continued on his way to the house. Everyone had turned their cells off during the service, and those in his vehicle had not yet turned them back on so we were unable to reach them for instructions.

At this point, we proceeded on our own. Coming to a major intersection that demanded we make a choice, we made a semi-educated guess and turned left. Our three cars all made the left. A mile or two down the road, we finally heard form my niece in yet another vehicle. They were just leaving the cemetery and were following her daughter who was in a vehicle using GPS. We should have turned right!

Our little caravan made a U-turn and headed back the other direction. (We still didn’t realize we had two cars behind us.) Every so often, my niece called back with instructions as they made turns. Ultimately, we were following the car that was following the car with the GPS. Of course, we had about 12 miles between us and them!

Along the way we made a wrong turn and toured a shopping center before getting back on the road. The funny thing about that was the last car in our little train missed us doing that and made the correct turn, getting ahead of us. She eventually realized she’d lost us and pulled over. As we passed her, she jumped back in line. Eventually we reached the point at which the written directions kicked in and we were able to complete the journey smoothly.

Ultimately, at that point, our tears had turned to hysterical laughter both for those of us in the circus parade and those at the house hearing it play out. As folks began to leave the house at the end of the day, many did need instructions out to main highways. The running joke was “I’ll follow you. You know someone with a GPS!” Sort of reminds you of the line, “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Working the Shows Wednesday today!

For those of you who stopped by just for my usual Working the Shows Wednesday feature, I apologize. I don't have an appropriate post made up for today.


As many of you know, our family suffered a major loss this past week and with the funeral and family coming in from out of town, I have not been able to keep up with this activity for the last few days. Nor did I want to. My thoughts and heart were elsewhere. Thank you to all who have contacted me both here and in other ways and offered support.

Today, we began to return to our routine activities. Our family went home. Our boarder returned. I finally got around to some housecleaning and laundry which had piled up. I even have orders to get out. The grocery list needs to be dealt with and we have an upcoming contest this weekend to judge on Friday and Saturday. Tomorrow, I want to sleep in and simply get some rest. I will get back into my regular blogging routine. I will participate in my normal forums. Orders will start getting painted. It will be a while until we really feel like doing these things but we will go through those motions for now and slowly we will get back somewhere toward "normal." It all takes time.

So, for tonight, I am simply taking some time. I'll be back to chat with y'all tomorrow.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bits 'n' Pieces

Haircuts & Beer

Last week when I told you about Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, I forgot to mention one of the interesting sights along the road on our trip. Between Quakerstown and Coopersburg, we passed an old-fashioned looking barber shop whose sign was unusual in the sense that it was a wooden cutout of a 5’ to 7’ beer bottle. The barbershop, “The 1st and 10,” advertised what appeared to be sort of high prices. A man’s haircut was $21 and a child’s was listed at $17. At the bottom of the sign were the words “Free Beer.” There was another fairly large sign at the edge of the parking lot again proclaiming “Free Beer.” Would you be surprised to hear the parking lot was full? I guess “Free” especially when it pertains to beer is a draw. I wonder how many men in town are sporting really short hair?!?

(Incidentally, The Big Guy’s been talking about getting his hair trimmed. He says he’ll be back in a few hours! Maybe he‘s not going to the Hair Cuttery around the corner.)


Havre de Grace Seafood Festival

Yesterday, while my sister was away for the evening and we were actually alone, The Big Guy and I decided to go to dinner. Instead of a restaurant, we stopped at a Seafood Festival being held in our local park (the one where we go for the Friday concerts.) This is an annual event and usually well-attended. Some groups even plan bus trips to the event from considerably far away. The view of the Chesapeake Bay from this park just enhances the concept of a seafood festival. This is a free event and parking is also free so just “dropping in” is easy.

Since we arrived very late in the day, only about 2 hours before closing, we lucked out and found an ideal parking spot right at the edge of the park. (Many folks were parked 5-6 blocks away.) This is not to say the crowd was thin although it may have been more mobbed earlier. It was one of the bigger crowds I’ve witnessed there despite the heat. It was a fantastically beautiful day but one of the two hottest days we’ve had this year.

It was tough to choose among the 25 or so seafood vendors but we settled on an order of conch fritters and fries to start things off. They proved to be delicious. Amazingly, we were even able to find two seats at a table so we could eat in comfort.

After strolling through the rest of the food area we did traipse into the craft section. At one time they had allowed the crafts to dwindle down to less than 20 vendors and the quality had slipped. I was thrilled to find they have remedied that and there were at least 70 craft booths this year and all were of great quality. I was not in the mood to chat today so I merely strolled through without getting to know any of the vendors or taking individual photos. (I did like some great water-oriented copper sculptures that you can view on the artist’s website at I even saw one of their larger pricier items leave with a buyer.) All of the displays were well-done and professionally polished looking. Apparently, they are back to truly jurying the participants. The excellent news is, folks appeared to be buying and not just low end stuff !

We returned to the food area and this time tried some rock fish bites (other parts of the country refer to rockfish as striped bass). Again, we were very happy with our choice. We sat for a while and listened to the live music, nothing spectacular, but still nice to listen to. One young girl (about 14) came up out of the audience and did a fantastic job of singing Martha And the Vandella’s Heatwave with just the guitarist during a break! The last group we heard did some soothing Eagles and Beatles tunes and held a solid audience. (Of course, they were playing under a large tent so maybe some were just seeking shade!)

It was a nice but brief respite from our stressful week.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Nephew

As those of you who are close friends and family know, my nephew passed away on Monday evening. He was 43 ½ years old and died of a sudden massive coronary. (Yes, he did have a cardiac history but had not been ill recently.) He was alone, sitting in a parked vehicle on a shopping center parking lot. Due to some confusion between the hospital and the police department, the family was not notified until Tuesday afternoon. A kind shopper, who happened to be a nurse, parked next to him and noticed he was slumped over in the seat and tried to rouse him. Unable to do so, she called 911 and began CPR. Unfortunately, it was too late.

I am heartened to know there are still folks in “the big city” who do care enough to take a chance and get involved. You read too many accounts of tragedies where witnesses later say they noticed something was awry but didn’t feel it was their place to do anything or to even call for help. I thank that kind lady for trying and I thank all of those out there who have acted in similar situations and, perhaps, were able to save someone’s life and save their families such heartbreaking loss.

I am also thankful that he was sitting still, parked, and not driving on the highway where the tragedy may have wreaked havoc on others had a collision occurred. Perhaps he realized this and intentionally did not start his car. I have to believe he was overcome quickly as he did not attempt to use his cell phone or call out for help.

I hope his friends remember him as a good guy, who was proud of his service in the United States Marines and belonged to the American Legion. (He served in the first Desert Storm.) There will be a military funeral on Monday. He was a Steelers fan, a pretty fair and adventuresome cook and enjoyed, of all things, listening to Dean Martin! (He always claimed to have been “born too late for the good music“.) He played on a darts team. Childless himself, he had four nieces and a nephew who will remember him as a “fun” uncle.

As we were closer in age than many aunts and nephews, we grew up more like brother and sister. We fought like siblings and banded together in the same way. He was in our home more than in his own parents’ home when he was young and he and my niece both credited my mother (and grandmother) with much of their formative life experiences. As a teenager and young adult he lived with his Dad and step-mother where they continued shaping him into the strong, intelligent adult he became.

After his Dad’s death less than 20 months ago, he and his step-mother remained close. In fact, it is she who was notified by the police and has had the daunting task of informing the family and putting together the funeral arrangements. He called her “Mom” and loved her as any young man can love a mother. She is truly a part of our family and I thank her for being there for him in good times and bad and for “taking care of him” now.

Things have been dragged out for a few days as military funerals are scheduled by the Veterans’ cemetery involved and they tell the family when it can occur. We are lucky to have received a close date. I have known some who have been held at bay for weeks and, in the case of Arlington, even months.

I don’t think we, as a family and individually, have truly felt the full impact of this yet. That comes later when the hectic activity slows and we have time to just feel the loss. I was not involved in the chaos of planning the funeral or in the emptying of his apartment which was handled by his brother and sister and their spouses. I did make a number of calls to family and friends, among them, my sister, his mother.

They have been estranged for many years but she is his mother. It was a difficult call to make and, unfortunately, I had to do it late at night which somehow magnifies the news (as if it could get worse). She was, of course, greatly effected and has flown into town for the services. She is my sister and though we have had our differences over the decades, we have drifted closer in the last year or two as the immediate family has dwindled. My parents and brother are gone. She is the last surviving sibling.

Her poor relationship with her children has always been one of those issues that has grated on me. She has not done much better with her grandchildren either. I have seen and felt their pain over this issue for years. I am the one who picked her up from the airport and have her staying with me. I feel for her as I know she is somewhat of an outsider in this situation. I’m sure she has regrets and, now, with regard to her son, it is too late to mend fences. But, on the other hand, it is a world of her own making. I was pleased to see her go and spend time with my niece and her family today. Perhaps a light bulb will go off and she can begin working to improve that relationship now although, I’m not sure she fully realizes how tenuous it is. ( I'd like to remind all of you that time is NOT unlimited and you should work toward mending fences now. you can never predict when it will be too late.)

In the meantime, I feel caught in the middle. I am closer to the children and stepmother and feel the need to be with her and support her fully. They are the family I am with throughout the year on a regular basis. They are the folks I believe will be there for me when I need them. I also feel the need to be there for my sister. In the meantime, I need to deal with my own grief. It’s a tough and stressful situation.

Please keep us in your thoughts as we go through the next few difficult days.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I finally got the "Gone Fishin'" denim shorts set listed in my shop yesterday. I gave you all a preview of this one a few weeks back. I designed it for one of the little ones in the family and. based on its reception there, decided to include it in my inventory. The shop listing includes a long pants version if preferred.
I've got quite a few new items ready to list and had planned to add one piece per day but you know what they say about well-made plans. (I also planned to start listing Christmas items beginning on the first of August! ) Maybe I'll get back on track by this time next week.
We had also planned to attend the Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, Delaware this weekend but probably won't get there at all. This event, one of the bigger East Coast blues festivals, has always conflicted with one of our BBQ contest judging events and we have never managed to get there. This year, they were going to be on consecutive weekends as the BBQ event takes place on the 2nd Friday as opposed to the 2nd weekend of August. Thanks to the 1st falling on a Saturday, we were finally getting our opportunity. But life threw us a curve ball.

An unexpected death in the immediate family has turned our week upside down. Instead of preparing to attend the festival tonight, I'm heading for the airport to pick up incoming family. We will be gathering at the funeral home on Sunday with a military funeral scheduled for Monday. For this reason, I may be a little scarce around here, too, but I'll get back when I can over the weekend and expect to be back on schedule by Wednesday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A "Onesie" by any other name....

I was a victim of “Onesiegate” !! I was surprised but not shocked. I can’t say I was blindsided either. There had been enough chatter about Gerber enforcing their trademark rights but I didn’t heed the warnings. After all, everybody else was doing it.

Heck, enforcement came the day after I ran a Guest Blog here about trademarks, copyrights, etc. and their infringements and the day before I ran a scheduled Working the Shows Wednesday article warning about the use of licensed characters. The irony is, the only item Etsy picked on in my shop was an actual Gerber Onesie!! There were others they could have jumped on but they didn’t. (I corrected those listings immediately when I became aware of the situation.)

The good news is, Etsy deactivated that one listing while I was on vacation and my shop was marked that no sales would be processed until my return date so I know I didn’t lose any sales. I was able to correct the alleged infringements before my scheduled reopening. I do feel sorry for those who had many items deactivated.

“Onesie” is a trademarked brand name owned by Gerber. You can not use it as a generic term for any non-Gerber one-piece snap-crotch underwear for infants. So, what can you call such a garment? That last description is a little long and awkward. Etsy sellers have been scrambling to find just the right term for the last few weeks. The winner seems to be “bodysuit” or “infant bodysuit.” Some have gone for the terms “romper” or “creeper.” I’ve seen others use the term “infant jumpsuit.” I personally have gone with “bodysuit” which is also used on the generic wrappers I’ve seen.

So, what if you do actually use a Gerber garment? Can you call it a “Onsesie”? Technically, yes, but there are specific guidelines on how to correctly call it a “Onesie.”

You must photograph the item so as to clearly show the trademarked Gerber baby on the neck tag and/or the Onesie tag attached to the leg binding. You must correctly refer to the item as a “Onesie brand” with the required ® emblem after the name and it won’t hurt to mention it IS a genuine Gerber product.

I, personally, found it easier to simply rewrite my titles and descriptions as I would otherwise have had to re-photo many of my products to clearly show the Gerber baby and Onesie label. I also did not want to lock myself in as I sometimes need to use a different brand to complete an order in a specific size in a timely manner. Now that I sell “infant bodysuits”, I have leeway to use a Hanes or Circo brand when necessary.

While I was on vacation, a number of Guest Bloggers helped me out. Selma from WoollyBoo presented some excellent MUST READ info on protecting your work from others and your personal assets, should someone be injured by one of your creations. If you missed this when it ran a few weeks back, PLEASE take time to read this important information NOW. Selma did a fantastic job of describing various aspects of these issues and presenting the facts in clear, concise language that we can all understand.

Originally run here on 7/20/09

Reading the Community pages on Etsy, I’ve noticed a lot of posts about various copyright, trademark, or patent infringements, especially in the last few months. And the community members have given some really good advice. To make sure the information is available to all Etsians, I’ve consolidated it into this article. I know it looks a little long, but trust me, you want to read this. If not for any other reason than for your general education. For those that decide to take this route, I hope these simple steps help you along.

Protect yourself and your assets

There has been some discussion whether or not it is necessary for Etsy Sellers to incorporate. The short answer is no. But, here area few things you should consider. For example, do you own a home or a car or some stocks? Why am I asking this? Bear with me, since I have one more question for you. What happens when one of your customers develops a serious allergy that lands them in the hospital, and the doctors trace the allergy to some of the ingredients in your product? Then your customer decides to sue you, regardless of how much they like you or your product. Health care bills are very high these days. So, the judge says you now have to pay for the hospital bills. You say: “I can’t afford it. I’ve only sold three pieces this month for a total profit of $25.” Then the judge says: “What else do you have that we can sell?” See where I’m going with this? Protect yourself. It’s only a few minutes and less than $150 to register a company on your own in any of the states. Or you can pay Legal Zoom $650 and click your mouse twice. Whichever. No judgment here.

Here are the links to a few states and their Department of State or Secretary of State offices that have jurisdiction over the new business registrations:

I’ve also included a link for Delaware, since most large companies choose to register there. Why? Delaware has very favorable corporate laws. It’s simple as that. But, sellers beware - should you choose to register in Delaware, most other states require you to file “Foreign Entity” registration, otherwise you can’t operate. That’s another $125.

Note: To maintain the registration, you are required to pay an annual tax. In Delaware, it is $250.

Congratulations, you now have a profound right to collect Sales Tax, which you can fork over immediately to your state government and hope they repair the highways as they have been promising for years.

Now that the State knows I exist, what next?

Now comes the tricky part: if you only registered with your respective state, when you go to open your checking account, the bank is asking for your FEIN. FEIN? What is FEIN?

FEIN is your Federal Employee Identification Number. Technically, you only need it if you have employees. But, if you’ve done this before, you know that everyone and their mother is asking for your FEIN - your bank, your credit card issuer, UPS, FedEx, your local Costco. No kidding. It’s like the Social Security Number for your business. Here is the link where you can apply for one:

Protect your name and your logo

This refers to the name of your company (your name could be Sarah Jones, and you incorporated as Sarah Jones, Inc. or Sarah Jones, L.L.C.) as well as the name of your products, which could be one and the same, as in my case (Woolly Boo L.L.C., the owner of Woolly Boo TM). I read a post recently where one of the comments stated that more and more sellers are using a TM sign next to their names and the names of their products. Then, shortly after that, there was another post from a different seller about Taggies TM, and, I am paraphrasing, a comment to the effect of “try making something with tags and see how fast you get slapped with a lawsuit.” So, instead of despairing about yet another highway robbery of your name, why not be on the other end of the equation and be the one slapping people with lawsuits. Granted, we are artists who want to create and not be bothered with all this paperwork. To those I say, I hope you have a really, really good lawyer or nerves of steel and really thick skin.

To protect your name and logo, you have to file a claim with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can find the instructions and forms here:

Note #1: You don’t have to file a Trademark protection in order to use the (“TM”) designation. Why? Because it’s what is called a “common law” - when you start using (“TM”), you’ve put the world on notice that this is your property and nobody else has a right to use it. Very simple.

Note #2: Should you still decide to register your name and your logo, please be aware that it costs $250 per category - $250 for the name and $250 for the logo. If you decide to register colors in the logo, or specific font, that’s another $250 each. So, take it slow. To protect the broadest spectrum of rights, stick to the simplest options. For example: Tribeca Film Festival in New York only registered their name, which gives them a very wide field of operation. It also allows them to change their logo, poster concept, and color combination every year, if they decide to do so.

Note #3: Before you do anything, check the trademark database, TESS. Just in case someone already had a same idea as you.

Note #4: The Service Mark (“SM”) also falls under this category, as I’ve noticed a few Sellers that provide services on Etsy.

Protect your words and images

Copyright infringement seems to be a HUGE issue on Etsy. Sellers are lifting the whole shop and product descriptions. They’ve also taken photos, regardless of how bad the resolution, and used them, if not on Etsy, then on other unrelated sites. First of all, that is very uncool. Period. If you have a writer’s block, well there are a number of people on Etsy that can help you with that. Maybe even people that are selling the same product as you. Just ask.

The copyright law is rather simple as it relates to Etsy Sellers. To quote USPTO: “The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.” See, simple.

If you want to proceed with registration, here is the link:

The fees are actually not that cost prohibitive, if you are filing just a few things.

Note: It used to be required to write “All Rights Reserved” or “Copyright by…” or (c) on your work, but that is no longer the case. Most nations in the world now follow what is known as Berne Copyright convention. What that means is that everything that was created in the U.S. after April 1, 1986 is protected regardless if you can see the notice or not. But, it is also true that if you post a notice, it will make people think twice about copying your work without notice (see the end of this article).

Protect your work

Patent protection is the hardest of all. Did you really make something that nobody else in the world has ever made before? Think long and hard. The patent protection is also governed by the USPTO. Here is the link:

If you decide to go this route, I strongly suggest you get yourself a good lawyer. This is a long and expensive process, as the government does not grant patents that lightly.

In conclusion, you can do all of these things, or none at all, or any combination - it is truly up to you. You should also note that Etsy is a pretty good source of information. Check out the Copyright FAQ below. It’s more legalese than what I’ve written and you may prefer to read that.

Happy selling!

Note: The above article is for information purposes only. It does not constitute a legal advice, which you can only get from your legal representative. Woolly Boo L.L.C. does not claim to be an expert in the field of business registration or any other legal form, and should any of this information prove to be incorrect, the article will be amended accordingly. For the most accurate and up-to-date information about the laws governing the registration of businesses and related subjects, you should consult your legal representative.

(c)2009 by Woolly Boo L.L.C.

***WoollyBoo is a mother/daughter team that makes all natural products for your baby’s healthy and peaceful sleep. They produce mattress covers, comforters and pillows of 100% natural cotton and unprocessed wool. No chemicals are used in their production process. These materials contain naturally occurring deodorant and mildew barriers that prevent the development of germs that cause odor and material breakdown. The fine wool allow air circulation shown to have a calming effect on babies. Please take some time to check out their shop. I’ll tell you more about them soon.