Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break

It's springtime.  Yesterday in Minnesota we reached a temperature in excess of seventy degrees.  I don't think we'll be getting snow anytime soon.  I'm having a hard time getting out of hibernation mode, but I can't ignore the tugs of energy that accompany warmer weather.

The upcoming weeks will be busy ones.  Following the preparations of spring come the fruits of the summer.  And so it is time for me to plant the seeds.

I've decided to take a little Spring Break from the blog until the Easter holiday has passed.  I'll be back again next Monday.  I have great plans to post at least every single week day, take more pictures (and get better at that), and share with you the adventures I undergo as I begin another season of discovering just what it is I'm capable of. 

In the meantime I want you to picture me basking on a tropical beach sipping fruity drinks.  I won't actually be doing that, but you can picture it anyway.  The Easter holiday weekend is always busy, and in my spare time I need to organize my thoughts, my Craftland, and my entire home in general.  I will also be filling out applications and making preparations for shows this summer.  At least I'll get a start on all of these things.

So have a very Happy Easter.  Be inspired by the glee of children and the rebirth happening in all of nature.  Most importantly, but sure to take in as many Peeps and Cadbury Eggs as you can stand.  There's nothing more sweet than a sugar coma.

See you Monday!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Well, how do you like it?  I got a little spiffier here on the blog.  Did you see the cute little buttons on the sidebar?  And the fun new banner?  I totally needed help, and the girl who did the job for me - Kat.  You know, Kat of Custom Designs by Kat.  She's got a great blog I'm really getting into, and offers her services at her Etsy shop.  Not only does she do web work, she makes fun custom invitations and announcements for weddings, babies, parties, anything. 

I've been having a good time working with Kat, although I'm pretty sure I've been a most difficult customer due to my ignorance of things like, oh I don't know, internet and design stuff.  She made everything just right for me.  She suggested things I never even thought of, and plus has me thinking of new projects for her in the future.  I'll be looking more professional than ever!

There's nothing better than having a custom designer in the wings.  Custom, I say!  Making it just how you want it is what customer service is all about.  And that, too, is what Kat is all about.

Thanks, girlie!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Music For A Grand Space

Charlotte invited me on a "Holy Date" on Sunday.  The event was Music For A Grand Space.  It was a date because Charlotte and I haven't been out alone together for a while.  It was holy because it was held in the St. Paul Cathedral.  What a grand space it is.

Four choirs (including one brass choir)  from the University of Minnesota gathered and performed a concert held for the public, free of charge. I'm getting pretty old as these college students looked just like the little children they actually are, although they had very grown-up voices.  The music was wonderful. 

As for the grand space...well, words just can't describe the majesty of the Cathedral in St. Paul, MN.  The minute I stepped into the building I kicked myself for forgetting my camera.  I'm using pictures provided on the St. Paul Cathedral website.

Buildings like this nearly make me want to cry.  I'm always so moved by the grandeur.  The flippant way the word awesome is thrown around today minimizes things, like this building, that are truly awesome. 

The first piece began.  It was performed by the brass choir, along with soul-bursting organ.  I had goosebumps and a lump in my throat.  At that moment so much in my life came into perspective.  Bach - Nun Danket Alle Gott.  It boggles my mind to know someone could compose such music, and that it has been performed by such talented people for centuries.  Centuries!  Almost nothing lasts as long as music.

Whether you are Catholic or not, whether you believe in God or not, it's hard to be in a building like this and not think about higher powers, divinity, or even passion.  The talent and inspiration found in the architecture and artwork of the Cathedral is unfathomable to me. 

My thanks goes out to  Charlotte for thinking of me for this "Holy Date."  I also have a renewed appreciation for the hard work and talent that comes from young people studying and mastering the art of music.  As always, a trip to the St. Paul Cathedral inspires me and puts me in a dizzying state of wonder. 

P.S.  I know - I totally have to go to Europe and see the churches and cathedrals there.  I'd most likely be reduced to a bawling idiot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Saturday, In Haiku

Dragging myself out of bed on Saturday I couldn't get motivated.  When I asked myself WWMPD I decided to write poetry while I did my Saturday chores.  I'm known for my naughty clever limericks, but thought haiku might be the way for me to go in this case.  Remember those?  First line, five syllables.  Second line, seven syllables.  Third line, five syllables.  Easy enough, and it doesn't even have to rhyme!  Mary Poppins would be so proud of me, finding the "element of fun in every job that must be done."  Mrs. McComber would also be proud, knowing I retained her teachings in fifth grade English class.

So I give my, My Saturday:

Going down the list
Of nonnegotiable chores
Will I get them done?

The kitchen counter
A mess of unopened mail
Was it important?

Folding laundry whites
Wow, I need new underpants
These ones are ratty

Dust bunnies don’t hop
They glide along the vinyl
Floor, like ice skaters

My sad baby tears
Can anything save this plant?
Unlike brown-thumbed me?

The mighty vacuum
Doing what I command it
Sucking perfectly

Checkbook to balance
Our hard-earned cash reduced to
Slips of green paper

Thinking of dinner
I have no need to worry
Husby said he’ll cook

A beeswax candle
Glows bright like a star
In the quiet night

Friday, March 26, 2010

Metaphorically Speaking

Do you ever feel completely lost after putting years of effort into a project?  Especially if that project doesn't turn out the way you expected it should?  Some feel the impact of perceived failure (real or imagined) more than others.  When your focus has been specific for so long, it's hard to clarify anything in the periphery.  You have been so consumed by a project you forget about what else is out there.  And if you don't receive the validation you expect for your efforts you may assume you have or are nothing worth validating. 

What are you to do in circumstances like this?  Do you expect your reward in one, specific format?  Is it possible you're getting validated in all sorts of other ways and just don't notice because of that expectation? 

What might you do when all you hope for is this?

Step back.

Close your eyes.

And open them again...

Don't ignore an entire universe of stars for a single moon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In The Mood

Ever feel like you're not getting enough done?  I've been feeling that way lately.  After a lot of self-reflection and a line of Girl Scout cookies I finally decided what's holding me back.  I'm just not in the mood.

I'm not in the mood to do necessary paperwork.

I'm not in the mood to do laundry.

I'm not in the mood to cook.

I'm not in the mood to start my Spring Cleaning.

But I have been in the mood for bright colors and amazing aromas.  Look what I did!

Summertime palm wax candles courtesy of your most talented and friendly chandler, Auntie B.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dive Night - Jethro's

Dive Night is a once monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of "dive." Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot hiding under the radar. Casual atmosphere and good food. We're out to find the best food in the Minneapolis/St Paul area without having to pay a fortune or dress up. A sip of beer or wine doesn't hurt either.  See a list and links to the previous dive night posts here.

Husby and I have been going to Jethro's (located in Mahtomedi, MN) for years.  Well, off and on at least.  It was pretty divey back in the day when you could smoke in bars and restaurants.  It was really, really smoky, but we loved it.  They had great food despite the hazy atmosphere.  So we decided to try it out again with Ruthie and Ray after years of being away.  It was okay, but it seems with the no-smoking laws came some mediocre food.

The beers seemed gigantic, which Husby and Ray could really appreciate.  Ruthie and I had wine, and unless I'm completely off my rocker I could swear it was watered down. 

Our waitress was about 80 years old, and didn't appear to have been in the business all those years.  She was cute and nice, but not too savvy when it came to doing the things waitresses do.  We gave her a big tip anyway. 

The appetizers came first.  We had onion rings and fried cauliflower.  The onion rings were fabulous.  The cauliflower was cold.  Hot on the outside, cold on the inside.  Like, out of the refrigerator cold.  I never send things back to the kitchen, but this time we had to.  You just can't eat fried cauliflower that has not been properly fried.  When the waitress returned with the cauliflower, it was perfect/hot.  My clam chowder was also very hot on its arrival.  It was delicious.

On to the dinners.

Ray and I got the fried fish (meh) which came with really yummy steak fries.  Ruthie got the shrimp and said it was good.  Husby opted for a bowl of chili and a salad.  Problem: he was not provided a spoon for his chili or dressing for his salad.  Of course our waitress was toddling around helping other patrons when he discovered his missing items.  I caught her eye while she was getting drinks at the bar and waved her down so she could get Husby what he needed to eat his meal.  When she saw my wave...she waved back and went about her business.

Eventually Husby got his spoon and dressing.

All in all I must say Jethro's was the biggest disappointment of all the Dive Nights thus far.  Our time was marvelous, however, as nothing can get in the way of good friends having a wonderful time together. 

Oddly, I couldn't take my eyes off this picture, part of the decor of Jethro's.  I guess it really isn't too surprising as I've always had a thing for ghosty ship ephemera.  I chose to believe this is a portrait of a sea captain.  Whatever.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Featured Shop - Cholula Jewelry

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

What kind of name is Cholula?  According to this shop's owner, Cholula is the name of a hot sauce and also the name of a town in Mexico.  Most importantly it is the name of her horse.  She describes this horse as "beautiful and sweet with a little bit of funny and a lot of sass. It seemed fitting for my jewelry! "

Cholula Jewelry is all that and more.  Jessi presents a lovely array of fine silver rings, cuffs, pendants, and earrings.  She even has horse jewelry!  Let's take a peek...

This ring caught my eye immediately.  I love the swirly look!

These earrings are so sweet.  A perfect little circle with a drop of moonstone.  So beautiful in their simplicity.  And I love that they are posts!

This ring caught my eye because I love polka dots.  The little beads of silver surrounding the stone are precious!  I really like the oblong shape, and the name of this ring, Rawhide, describes the stone perfectly.

Go visit Jessi's shop Cholula Jewelry and see all the fine pieces she has to offer.  In her work she captures the free spirit of the horse for which her shop was named.  Keep up the fabulous work, Jessi!

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Hero

Husby went to run some errands this weekend.  When he returned home he came to Craftland where I was busy pouring all sorts of candles.  He told me about his outing, and then told me he got me a present.  He extended his arm to offer me a plastic bag which contained...three boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Who says diamonds are a girl's best friend?

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Roots - Candles

There was a post I wrote before where I wondered if the name of my business is still appropriate.  The internet sees my work as cute bottle cap magnets, smutty pulp fiction magnets, and ice-breaking drink charms.  I've limited my waxes on the internet simply because the shipping can be expensive when ordering online.  Candles are heavy, and if you sell them one at a time it can be off-putting to see a shipping rate of $7.  Of course the more you buy the increments at which shipping increases is less, but this isn't really a post about shipping charges. 

It's all about the wax.  As much as I love to play with the bottle caps and laugh at the pulp fiction pictures as they roll through the laminator, I never tire of seeing and smelling a freshly poured candle come out of its mold. 

Lately I've been pouring the "green" candles.  All-natural palm wax makes such a beautiful candle.  It's got such an interesting texture, feeling much drier than paraffin.  Palm wax candles can also be stored in your hot attic in the summertime and will not get soft or misshapen.  That says nothing for the really interesting surface designs that occur naturally during the cooling process.

Then there's the beeswax.  In my business you'll never find a beeswax candle scented with oils.  That's disappointing to some, but my integrity will not allow masking the wonderful scent nature provides in beeswax.  I also don't dye beeswax, although you might find some embellished with appliques cut from colored beeswax sheets.  For the most part my beeswax candles are a natural color or ivory, which is achieved through a major filtering process.  When you buy a beeswax candle from me, it is the most pure candle you can get. 

I've been busy pouring lately, preparing for upcoming shows I hope to do throughout the summer and fall.  I've also thought I should get more candles into the online shop, despite what some may consider outrageous shipping charges. 

Are you a candle lover?  I'd be interested to know what scents you like, what colors appeal.  Have you tried alternative, more environmentally friendly waxes?  Give me some inspiration!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taking A Little Whiff Of The Sweet Smell Of Success

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of leave the world a better know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've been getting noticed lately.  Gratitude has been expressed to some of those who pointed and said, "hey, in case you haven't seen it yet, look at what she's doing."  Wonder has been prominant in the mind of the girl who never really thought much of herself despite accomplishments.  Ruthie's question, "are you afraid of success?" has taken center stage for me these days.  It seems I'm on the brink of something a lot bigger than what I'm used to.  Deciding what steps to take has merely anchored me to one spot on the ground while my head is busy spinning in circles. 

Emerson's quote is one of my favorites.  It reminds me that success is not measured in dollars.  You can't convince the wise person that you are successful by driving a fancy car or wearing designer clothes. 

On the other hand, there's something to be said about earning enough money to live all on your own.  I've spent my whole life wondering what it would be like to make money for myself instead of earning a salary from someone else.  I also found it is much safer to dream about those things than to actually try to go out and grab it.  Less satisfying of course, but much safer.

I've been offered some opportunities that could very well put me a few steps closer to earning that living without relying on a day job.  Secretly I'm kind of scared and nervous.  Okay, maybe not so secretly.  I might just take advantage of some of those opportunities, no matter how scary.

So off I go on the scary road of the unknown to find some monetary success.  Maybe I'll win the respect of intelligent people (like Emerson said) on the way.

So on and on you go, the seconds tick the time out
There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out
Cat Stevens

Monday, March 15, 2010

Moving Forward

A life has passed, the rituals performed.  For some there will be times of emptiness and uncertainty.  For others, a stack of thank-you notes waiting to be composed and mailed. 

After a week of easing Mrs. Husby into the great beyond and hosting the funeral events I don't know what I'm about anymore.  The weekend proved to be a time of recharging in front of the TV and computer screen, accomplishing a lot of chit-chat on Facebook and Twitter and seeing several movies but not much else. 

It's time to get back into real life again.  Will I remember how to do my day job?  Could it be I'll have some time to vacuum the accumulating sock lint off the carpet?

Real life also brings on the new challenge of making decisions about Mr. Husby.  I'm not ready for that.  Husby isn't ready for that.  Yet we move forward, dealing with it as though we are indeed ready.

And what's with Daylight Savings Time starting in March?!  I really could have used that extra hour this weekend.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Getting The Groove Back

At long last, I'm back.  Maybe it hasn't been so long, but long enough for me.  We, Husby and I, have been quite occupied with the business of Mrs. Husby's demise, wake, and funeral, not to mention occupying ourselves with how we are going to proceed with Mr. Husby. 

The last couple of weeks have seemed like months.  Spending time in Husby's parents' house has been wearisome and downright boring at times.  Waiting...waiting...waiting.  Mrs. Husby had a peaceful demise for which we are all grateful.  The meeting and greeting during wake (visitation) and funeral has put a strain on our emotions and backs, although I must say it was good to see some distant friends.  It's also quite apparent that Husby and I have a marvelous network of family and friend support.  I can't give thanks enough for all my family has done during these times, and I must give a shout out to Ruthie for being so faithful and keeping my family in stitches and the Gundersons in coffee.

In those days and weeks I've been away from the computer and with my return I found out I've made several new friends and even made Etsy's Reading List.  What an honor!  Thank you Jane, of Glorious Hats for suggesting my humble article to the people at Etsy.

So now it's time to move on.  Next on the docket: candles, magnets, and drink charms.  Spring is officially here as we had our first thunderstorm of the year this morning.  That means it's time to build up inventory for upcoming the craft shows and festivals this summer.  I'm still trying to screw up the nerve to approach some brick and mortar shops for some consignment and wholesale business.  Kinda shy that way, but finding more venues for my wares is a goal for 2010.

This weekend I'm going to begin work on some new drink charm sets.  Here's a sneak peek:

Monday, March 08, 2010

On Starting A Business

This weekend my friend Ruthie wanted to get some advice on starting a business. 


Sometimes I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants.  But when I got to talking to Ruthie I realized I've gone through all the steps and am recognized as a bona fide organization known as a Limited Liability Company.  Me?  A company?  Yes, it's true.  And so Ruthie wanted the skinny on how it all began, and what is entailed in the process of starting a business.

I won't bore you with all the details of our afternoon-long conversation, but I must admit she had some very good questions for me.  If you're thinking about turning a hobby into a business, here are some things you might want to think about.

1.  When do you decide to make the jump to making your hobby a business?  This is a good question.  I think the answer is probably different for everyone.  My answer: I felt obligated to pay sales tax to the state in which I do business so I applied with the Secretary of State and put in a request to be an LLC.  An added bonus: tax exempt status with some stores on supplies and the ability to do business with wholesale suppliers.

2.  What's better, online selling, consignment stores, wholesale customers, or art/craft fairs?  Once again, this answer is probably different for everyone.  Each venue has pros and cons and the pros depend heavily on what you are trying to sell.  I resisted online selling for years because my primary product was candles.  I figured people would much rather touch, see, and smell candles in person.  I was quite right about that.  I do sell candles online, but they are not my main focus.  I broadened my line to extend beyond candles, and those items sell much better online.

Consignment versus wholesale?  I've done both.  I would choose wholesale accounts over consignment stores because they are sure sales.  However, your products will have to be sold at a reduced price, usually half of what you would charge retail.  Consignment allows you to charge as much as you want and the store owner gets a commission.  But your sales aren't guaranteed and a lot of your inventory could be tied up in a store that might or might not sell your product well. 

In my estimation, for my business and product, the art/craft fairs are a good bet.  I can put a little bit of everything out, make sales without having to pay a commission, and get to hear feedback on my products firsthand from the people shopping.  Also, participating in fairs and shows provides great networking opportunities with other vendors. 

3.  How hellish is the business side of a crafting business?  I can't lie, if you are running a business it is in your best interest to keep impecable records.  I manage the record-keeping myself and taxes are handled by Husby, but one could surely hire accountants and tax people to take care of that.  I'll confess I've spent hours setting up Excel spreadsheets for sales and expenses and have calculated to the last fraction of a penney the cost that goes into each and every product I make.  That may seem hellish to some.  For me it took away from production time, but setting up worksheets and doing calcuations in the beginning are worth it for easy bookkeeping throughout the year.

4.  Are you prepared for success?  Typically people will fear failure when starting a business, but there is such a thing known as fear of success.  What happens if your business takes off beyond your wildest dreams?  Do you know what you'll do?  Will you expand and hire employees (if you haven't already)?  It's not arrogant to speculate huge success, because it, as well as failure, must be considered and plans must be made regarding how you will handle either scenario.

Whether you decide to maintain a hobby or start a business, the main thing I can recommend is to do something you love.  I mean, if you're going to do something that wears on you or don't enjoy, you might as well be making money for someone else instead of yourself.  One other piece of advice - don't have expectations.  Expectations tend to be violated and that only leads to a boatload of disappointment.  Take it all as it comes; the bad things will become opportunities and the good things will become motivators. 

Thursday, March 04, 2010

House Fix

As is very typical of me when I’m feeling like I am today I took a little drive down Summit Avenue. I had the excuse of needing to see my bottle cap supplier, but the drive was what I really needed.  Seeing the houses on Summit makes me happy and melancholy at the same time.

Here is a house F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in.

This is the Chauncey Griggs house. I love the name Chauncey. I also love the house. It's pretty famous for being haunted by several spirits. I've been inside this house more than once, and would buy it in a minute if it were less than $5000. The rest of my money (as well as thousands more given to me by generous doners like you) would have to go toward maintenance.

This next house has always been one of my favorites.  It was built by Joshua Sanders, president of the Northwestern Lime Company.  I just love the little skinny windows.

If you live in the Twin Cities area don't forget to drive/stroll/bike/jog down Summit Avenue once in a while.  If you don't live in the Twin Cities area and would like to see more pictures of this historic five-mile stretch of mansions, check this out.

(Oh, and just for the record, I did get the bottle caps)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Spring Is Almost Here - Where's The Flower Shop?

Well I've done it. The Pulp Fiction Magnet collection has been listed in its entirety at my shop.  I just love these little snippets of smut.  Be sure to stop by some time and check them out. 

Now what's next?  I have some really wonderful palm wax votives fresh out of the melting pot I might offer up.  I've also been working on the bottle cap drink charms and will reprise them in the shop shortly.  OK, you caught me.  It could be I'll be having a couple of new charm sets to offer.  All I have to do is take pictures of the finished products.

Today I was quite sad to see my favorite flower shop in the skyways of St. Paul has been closed.  I never bought a thing there, but it was always a source of inspiration, looking at the window displays and smelling wonderful natural scents as I walked by.  I was oddly affected by the empty shop, saddened at the megastore mentality that has seeped into our lives squeezing out the quaintness of small businesses.  Do you have a favorite small business that inspires you?

This isn't the flower shop of which I spoke.  This one is in France.  I guess I have a thing for quaint flower shops.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Tick Tock

Things just couldn't be more emotionally draining around here.  Mrs. Husby is center of attention, of course.  She's got an expiration date that has been putting pressure on Husby and me to get things wrapped up regarding her affairs and to finalize plans for the "celebration of life."  Of course there is the remaining issue of Mr. Husby.  I kind of hate to refer to him as an issue, but the circumstances surrounding him certainly qualify as an issue.  This is extremely weird.  I never thought it would be like this.

Production continues as well as can be expected.  I spent some time working on the bottle cap collections, magnets and drink charms.  There are also dozens of palm wax votives in the making.  Palm wax is where it's at, you know.  All natural, renewable, non-petroleum-based wax.  I've got some really fun scents going too.  The latest in the melting pot was Lemon Pound Cake.  Scrumptious.

Despite my pleasure in making things like drink charms and candles, it's been rather dreary around here these days.  The attention to my blog is so much less than I would like, and the subject matters, well, less than entertaining.  So bear with me.  Better days are yet to come.
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