Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Hospital

When you're feeling as bad as you ever have in your life, there is the hospital.  When you're ready to bring new life into the world, there is the hospital.  Sometimes, when you're on your way to the great beyond, there is the hospital.  The hospital serves as the transition place in so many situations. 

Most hospitals try to make a nice environment for their transients.  But really, it's all just so sterile...or not.  It's all just so technical...or touchy-feely condescending blather.  It's all so...not home.

Tubes and beepers, needles and swabs, machines of all kinds to take pictures of your insides and listen to the noises your insides make.  It's all there to make you better, to give you care, but it's just...not home.

Equipment you'd only associate with the feeble, latex glove dispensers, needle depositories, and utterly beige walls.  Who can be uplifted in an atmosphere like that?  And yet most thrive to a better level of health in that atmosphere.  Still it's just...not home.

Nothing is cozy and nothing is colorful.  The food is fine but they won't give you real butter with your bread unless you remember to ask for it specifically.  And who can remember to ask for a luxury like butter when you're attached to a monitor or intravenous medication.  Who remembers what home is when all you can think about is getting better, especially when getting better means life itself.

And those who watch and wait on stained chairs, counting hours, listening to moans, wishing and hoping with all of their might ~ today the fever will break, today the numbers go back to normal, today he'll get the comfort of home.  No, not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not even the next day. 

How could anyone bear it all without going insane?  It's the surgeon with the steady hands, the nurse who reminds you of your home town, the aide who doesn't care how wet she gets while giving you a hair wash in the shower, the doctor with the gentle manner and kind smile.  They all make it bearable because you know they have one objective in mind ~ get you as comfortable as you can be in such a foreign setting and get you well so you can have the butter on your bread, some colorful sheets on your bed, and no tubes or needles. 

The gray dissipates and the discharge papers are signed.  You're well enough.  You're wheeled out into the fresh air and colors of autumn.  You're on your way once again. 

Welcome Home.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Shawl

It began last fall, my admiration of The Shawl.  Miss M. was wearing it.  She looked so classy, funky, and glamorous all at once.  I asked her if a mutual friend, Miss L., made it for her.  She said yes.

I got on Facebook and told that mutual friend, Miss L. how much I loved the shawl I saw, and how much I would love to have one for my own.  I never heard from Miss L.  I was sad.

Springtime came and I saw Miss L.  I asked if she had seen my request on her Facebook Wall.  "Wall?" she asked.  "I never look at that thing.  I'm too busy milking the cows to play around on the computer much."  So I told her about Miss M. looking so fashionable and cozy in the shawl she made and how I longed for one of my own.  Miss L. was happy that I liked her work.  She asked what colors I would like.  I said reds and browns.  She said those colors would look good on me.  Then she said she'd begin the project.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Miss L. again.  I didn't know if she had finished The Shawl as she is very busy milking the cows and has many personal things to which she attends.  I was eager to receive The Shawl, but decided to wait for her to tell me if she had finished it.  Not only did she finish it, she actually presented it to me.  She draped it over my shoulders and proceeded to take the ends and wrap them around the front of my waist and tying them in the back.  "That's how a real shawl works," she said.  Miss L. would know.

The photo does not do The Shawl justice; alas it was Husby's first time using my camera.  Truly, The Shawl is just so wonderful. 

I haven't told you the best part.  Miss L. doesn't take a trip to Michael's or The Yarn Barn to pick out some skeins in this color and that and knit up a shawl.  Oh no.  Miss L. raises the sheep and llamas.  She shears the animals.  She spins the wool into yarn.  She dyes the yarn.  And then she knits the yarn into whatever creation she wishes ~ in this case The Shawl. 

This particular shawl was made with 40% wool, 40% llama, and 20% mohair.  It is so warm and beautiful and I will treasure it forever.  And by treasure I mean use it like it was meant to be used.  And I'll think of Miss L. every time it keeps the chill off on those cold winter nights just as she said she thought of me while she made it.

The Shawl.  What a fabulous piece of art.  What a cozy way to walk into a Minnesota winter.  Thank you for sharing your talents with me Miss L.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This Week

A stroll around the neighborhood, stopping once to pet the curious dog, stopping again to chat with the neighbors.  A nice meal, BLTs with tomatoes from the garden, juicy apples, and some weird cookies that taste pretty good.  The drone of some laundry spinning, folding warm, soft towels. 

As much as I like my crafty biz there are definitely times when I need to step away.  Sometimes I have to turn off the melting pot, shoo the statistics and numbers from my mind and distract my business self with my domestic self.  And my slothy self.  This week I focus on the home.  This week I'll get the rest I need.  Ahh, I love this week. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Chateau

Husby and I spent another spectacular weekend at the Chateau St. Croix Fall Festival.  Today I offer some photographic highlights.

Despite the cool, windy, and misty/rainy weather, there were good crowds...and a few characters.

One of the things I love most about doing art shows and festivals is watching people look at what I have to offer.  I couldn't resist capturing this woman enjoying my magnet board...

In other festival news Auntie B may become a YouTube star.  Sir Todd was busy shooting footage of me modeling my new fashion and also Husby and me doing the Hand Jive while the band played the song.  Sir Todd needs to keep his camera to himself, but if it is to be my destiny to end up on YouTube I just hope Tosh.O doesn't get a hold of the footage. 

A very successful, social, and enjoyable weekend was had by all at the Chateau St. Croix.  If you missed it there will be another event at the Chateau in June.  I'll be there, will you?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Audience

Busy, busy.  Today I prepare for the ever-spectacular Chateau St. Croix Winery Fall Festival.  I've been doing this show for a number of years now and have come to know my audience.  Interesting how that happens, gaining an audience. 

There were particular people of my audience in my mind as I prepared for this show.  One reguarly returning customer begs for a chocolate-scented candle every time he visits.  He bought one from me once a couple of years back.  I don't carry chocolate-scented candles as a practice; they typically don't sell well and only receive comments like "it smells really good but it would make me want to eat a candy bar every time I lit it."  But Robert is different.  He wants the chocolate aroma around him and will actuall burn the candles.  So, for Robert I made two Fudge Brownie candles.  They won't be on the table.  They're special just for him.

Then there're those goofballs (Miss Maaren, Miss Loretta, and Mr. Todd) who always check out my magnet board to see what's new.  I'm driven to come up with at least one fresh design just for their enjoyment, whether they buy one or not.  I'm relieved to be able to offer something new for them. 

Of course the sentiment on this magnet is no reflection of how I feel about Miss Maaren, Miss Loretta, and Mr.  Todd.  But I'm pretty sure they'll get a chuckle out of it.
Of course there's Miss Kathy and her lovely family.  All I have to provide for them is a table full of free sniffs.  Her girls love to smell the candles and even have a candle collection!  I've become "The Candle Lady" to them and my booth is one of the highlights of their visit to the Chateau St. Croix Winery Fall Festival.

The audience.  As a business entity I must respect their preferences and give them what they want so I can earn a living.  As a real, live girl I have come to enjoy their presence in my life and appreciate the social spin they give my business.  Thank you, my fair audience, for keeping me on my toes and making my world a little brighter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Showtime

Things are busy at the Auntie B's Wax World Headquarters.  This weekend is the Chateau St. Croix Fall Festival, which is one of the most fun festivals in the Midwest.  Of course Husby and I will be there with bells on. 

However, there are things to do to get ready.  If you're fairly new to doing shows or have never done a show and are interested in getting started this might give you some ideas.   Let's go through the checklist...

1) Plenty of product.  I always feel like I never bring enough; however I always bring as much as our little vehicle (SUV) will carry.  Chances are pretty good I won't sell out, and it's very nice to have plenty of items for customers to peruse even if I have to bring things home with me.

2)  Canopy.  This is really important and I would recommend, if you're doing outdoor shows more than once or twice a year, that you get a good-quality canopy.  They range from $30 on sale to $800 for a super, ultra, extravagant model (or so they say).  Mid-range canopies are sufficient.  If your budget can handle it something between $200 and $400 will last many years of outdoor festivals.

3)  Product/booth props.  I'm so lucky to have a handy Husby around to make shelving and other displays for me.  Depending on what you sell you can easily devise creative props to display your products on a budget.  Also included in props are table(s) and chair(s), any hardware needed, canopy weights and stakes, and table coverings. 

4)  Miscellaneous necessities.  This is the most important list to keep around.  Things included in this category are business cards, extra price stickers, pens, receipt book, scissors, tape, table cloth weights (or something you can clip to the clothes to keep them from flying around during windy days), snacks and drinks, bandana to wipe your brow on those hot days or a little battery-operated, hand-held fan, calculator, any necessary signage, sunscreen, a camera to get a snap of your booth to submit to juried shows or just to capture the activities of the day, a cell phone and most important, cash for change and plenty of it.  If you take credit cards make sure you have all the equipment needed for that.  When putting together the miscellaneous necessities it's a good practice to go through possible scenarios you might encounter and write down everything you'll need to accommodate the numerous situations.

5)  Manners and a smile.  At live shows most of the people are in a good mood and are there to enjoy all of the handmade items displayed by the crafters and artists.  However, once in a while an unsavory customer might wander into the booth.  Remember, their attitude is not about you or your products.  Treat them courteously and with a smile despite their biting remarks or rudeness.  Believe me, they're outnumbered by the people who will think you and your wares are fabulous.

After all the work you put into making your offerings and taking the time to make sure everything is packed, your day at the show will be like a little mini vacation.  Sit back, relax, and take in all the feedback you can from the public ~ and get paid for doing it! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Best Pet Ever

Husby and I frequently fantasize about living the dream.  "The dream" is different for everyone, but it's not uncommon for it to include a slower lifestyle.  Relaxed and carefree is plenty dreamy for me. 

There are animals included in our dream.  Goats and sheep because they're so cute.  Maybe a dog.  The thing is, I don't like the general smell of animals and I don't like to shovel poop.  Animals are also expensive and many times require one to wake up early in the morning; both of those factors are definitely not part of my dream.  However, we found something that we could both agree alpaca.

Get this ~ alpacas aren't really that expensive if you aren't planning to breed them.  They aren't very big, so we could keep one in the back yard if we could convince city officials it is a large French poodle.  Another plus for alpacas is they don't eat very much.  Just a little grass and hay with a treat that looks like gerbil food once in a while.  Because they don't eat much they don't poop much.  Big plus!  And they'll pay for themselves after the first shearing. 

I would totally get an alpaca before I'd get a goat or sheep or even a dog.  They've got the most happy little faces and they make a very cute mooing noise. 

Of course if I have a farm animal under my care I'll probably have to learn how to do things like can fruits and vegetables, homeschool my children, and refrain from shaving my legs.  I'd be another Pioneer Woman*, sans book deals and TV shows.  And I'm sans kids, so I guess I don't have to worry about being smart enough to homeschool.  And seriously, how often do I shave my legs anyway?  I'm halfway there!  I even know someone who could teach me how to spin the alpaca roving into yarn!

Who can resist the big dark eyes and darling hairdos of an alpaca?  They're so dang cute I might as well get two.

* I'm not implying that Ree Drummond doesn't shave her legs.  Well, I guess I sort of did imply it, but I have no intention of slandering the shapely legs of The Pioneer Woman by saying she doesn't shave them.  I'm sure they're lovely, shaved or not.  Make me stop talking now.

Monday, September 12, 2011


The blogging business has been on my mind a lot recently.  I find myself competing, wishing I were more popular, wishing I had things to say that more people were interested in, and then wondering why I feel that way.  Some say "write to your target audience."  Others say "write like you were talking to your sister."  Still others say "just be yourself." 

Someone I know pretty well was telling me about some ideas he had.  The more he talked, the more I was convinced he should write.  I've told him before I thought he should write, but he has never to my knowledge given it a chance.  He kept telling me about all of these ideas, expanding on this one and creating that one in the course of the conversation.  Then he stopped and said "maybe I should write this stuff on a blog."

I could only respond with "duh!"

In this world of technology we have reduced our expressions to 140 characters or less.  Texting and tweeting are the communication mode of choice it seems.  Lots of people say they resist blogging because they can't think of enough to say to fill the space.  Lots of bloggers say they resist writing books because they can't think of enough to fill the pages.  Are tweeters, Facebookers, and bloggers merely abbreviated novelists?

I wonder what would happen if more people tried their hand at writing more than a text, tweet, or Facebook status update.  And more thought-provoking, what would happen if people wrote simply for themselves without an audience present? 

A blog can be a powerful tool in the exploration of expression.  And it doesn't have to be public; it can simply be online storage for a journal ~ a private journal that no one can see.  That just begs the question, does being online force us to express ourselves differently than if we were to do so privately?

It's hard to write without thinking of who might read it someday.  It's hard to write without wondering if someone expects more than what you have to offer, and that's why I think people avoid writing to any great extent.  One-liners and links can get you lots of fans and followers, but what if we all wrote more than that, online or offline? 

Having said all of this I will probably have to take the NaNoWriMo challenge this year just to put my money where my mouth is.  Hmm, I have an idea for a story about a dead guy...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Quick And Easy

The days are still warm outside, but the mornings and evenings are quite cool by now.  Autumn is on its way.  YAY!  I love this time of year.  One of the best things about cooler temperatures (and the downright cold ones of winter) is that I can start making hot and savory foods like hearty soups and stews.  The oven can be on for hours and my hot flashes won't even mind. 

However, spring and autumn fall in a gray area.  Daytime can bring on temperatures in the 80s, so I don't really want to be working in a hot kitchen.  One of my favorite things to make this time of year is the tried and true Sloppy Joe. 

Sloppy Joes come in many varieties.  I've never gone so convenient as to buy the stuff in a can (Manwich et al) but there's a recipe I use when I'm craving a warm meal but don't want to spend the time chopping onions, peppers and celery.  Lucky for you I'm going to share it today.  And guess what?  You probably won't even need to write it down because its so easy to remember.  Here we go:

1 pound hamburger (as fat or lean as you like)
1 can chicken gumbo soup
3 Tbsp ketchup
3 Tbsp yellow mustard

Ta Da!  Yep, that's it.  Brown the hamburger, drain the fat, add the soup, ketchup and mustard and simmer for a little bit.  Quick and easy, perfect for this time of year.  Easy to make into bigger batches too.

The sides for a meal like this are easy too.  Some chips (I prefer Fritos with this meal), carrot and celery sticks, and pickles. 

For this meal I got really fancy and put out some Top The Tater, a great dip for chips and veggies.  Although I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't put it in a dish instead of having the container out there on the table.

So when you're in a hurry or are just feeling lazy, this is a great autumn meal.  The Sloppy Joe ~ a Minnesota favorite.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dive Night ~ The Peg

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 with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We'll find the most interesting hang-outs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area.  Casual attire required.  A sip of beer or wine doesn't hurt either. 

It so happens that our Dive Night once again occurred during fair time.  Husby and I were in charge of choosing a place.  After a lot of thought we came to the conclusion that it's really difficult to choose a place at the fair simply for the fact that there is just so much good food contained in the 300 acres that make up the fairgrounds.  Most of the "restaurants" serve home cooking or your standard hamburger/hot dog fare, which is really good, but not quite what we wanted for our Dive Night adventure at the fair.  There is one place, though, that has been a fair tradition for many, especially those who work at the fair ~ vendors, ticket takers, garbage collectors, and carnies.  It has also been a tradition for my dad, who has held various positions at the State Fair for over forty-five years.  The best part about this restaurant is that it serves breakfast all day long.  Perfect!

The Peg has been around as long as I've been going to the fair, and many years before that.  It has booths and tables on the inside and "patio seating" outside for your people-watching pleasure.

Of course we got a table outside.  It was my choice to order breakfast just for something a little different at the fair.  Surprisingly the rest of the gang did the same!  I got the stack of three pancakes, a side of sausage, and chocolate milk.  The pancakes were fluffy and delicious and the sausage was plentiful.

Husby got the #3.  Eggs (over easy for him), hashbrowns, and toast.  The eggs were done perfectly according to Husby, and the hasbrowns were crispy outside and tender inside.

Ray was extremely fancy ordering the #5: steak, eggs (scrambled for him), hashbrowns and toast.  Interestingly he ordered a Mountain Dew with his "breakfast." 

Ruthie ordered a side of steak (where else could you order a "side" of steak?) and hashbrowns.  It was the most dinner-like of our breakfasts.

Most delicious!  The one thing that didn't quite work was cutting the steaks with plastic utensils.  I kept telling Ruthie to just pick it up and eat it with her fingers, but she is too lady-like.

An item of note, these steaks were No-Names, and very generously sized.  And guess what?  Each couple paid less than $20 for two meals, even those including steak!  It's one of the best deals on the fairgrounds.

If you go to the fair early in the morning you can lay a good base with a breakfast at The Peg.  Food done by cooks who really know what they're doing at a very reasonable price.  What more could you ask for?

The Peg is located on the outside of the Agriculture/Horticulture Building on the east side.  Too late to try it this year, but be sure to include it on your things-to-do-at-the-fair list for next year.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Goodbye, Again

The light is changing and the wind is shifting.  Days of stifling heat are nearly over.  I don't need a weather report, calendar, or almanac to tell me all of that.  The end of the fair brings on autumn as sure as rain and sunshine bring on a rainbow.

Goodbye to all of you I only see once a year.  It was good to see you again.

Goodbye to thrills that tickle your tummy and to food that fills it up like no other food on earth.

Goodbye to the characters city people like me rarely see up close.

There's a chill in the air left by the ghosts who blew in and out over a span of twelve days ~ a chill that will turn the leaves golden and send the birds south. 

Goodbye again, Minnesota State Fair.  You charmed me as you always do and left me wanting more.  I'll meet up with you again next year.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

There She Goes Again

In the midst of the flurry of State Fair week I'm taking a short break to tell you a secret. 

I'm moving this blog.

It was a hard decision to make and the transition has proven to be even harder.  I'll be here for a little while yet and will let you know when the switch is complete. 

The new venue is going to allow me to do things I could never dream of doing here.  Or could it be I've become so comfortable here I don't even venture into learning how to improve what I have here?  Doesn't matter.  I've made the decision and that's that.

I have some format changes in mind ~ I'll continue to write about my everyday life (perhaps ho-hum for you, but necessary for my sanity) and will feature other artists and Etsy shops as I have.  In addition to that I'll create posts featuring some of my specific products, the stories behind them, the processes taken to create them, and get this, the opportunity for you to buy them right then and there. 


Yep, that's right.  If you love it you can buy it. 

I won't bring it up again until the switchover is final.  Just thought I'd give you a heads up ~ it's coming.
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