Friday, October 24, 2008

Crunch Time

October was supposed to be my big production month. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I planned. That makes me very sad. So I decided to take matters a little more seriously and am taking a mini vacation from my day job to concentrate on business production and maybe even a little housework.

Today was the first day of my little vacation and how productive I was! I spent the entire day in craftland and poured hot wax all day long. I made four bayberry candles, four raspberry fudge candles, two pecan pie-scented candles, one giant vanilla toffee crunch-scented candle, and two beeswax candles. When Husby came home from work he thought I had been baking all day from the smell of things.

Being fourth quarter and all, I’m doing my best to use up little dribbles of fragrance oil and remelt shopworn candles. I try to leave craftland fairly empty at the end of the year in order to make way for lots of new and exciting ingredients and supplies. Interesting fragrances like raspberry fudge most likely won’t be replicated in the future as I combined a small bit of fudge brownie fragrance oil and an equally small bit of black raspberry vanilla fragrance oil. Those two empty fragrance oil bottles have gone into the garbage, making space for something new for 2009. I suppose I should wait and see what the response to my specially concocted raspberry fudge candles is before I abandon the idea of ever making them again.

Tomorrow I’ll be back at it again, in craftland that is, completing a wholesale order. I also have plans to work with the bottle caps, and I might even throw in a load of laundry. Ain’t the weekend grand?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back To The Basics

In an attempt to get a little more organized, I visited a shop at which I consign to take inventory of all the items I have for sale. I was happy to know I hadn’t slipped on my record keeping too much. As some crafters and artists know, the business end of the business can get in the way of creating and more times than not gets put on the back burner. This little inventory trip gave me confidence in my record keeping skills and also gave me the opportunity to ask the store owner a very frank question. What do you want?

The store carries a little bit of everything I make, from the bottle cap magnets and drink charms to the paraffin, palm wax, and beeswax candles, from the note cards to the embellished votive cups. This particular store owner gets a priority when it comes to stocking, because hers was the first store to ever accept my wares. So when I asked her what do you want, I had a genuine interest in what she thought would benefit both of us.

Her first response was, “more.” She doesn’t like to put too much demand on her crafters and artists because she knows how busy we all are. I appreciated her honesty and expected nothing less than a direct answer to my direct question. However, she made an addendum to her statement. She suggested, regarding the candles, less diversity.

Less diversity? How in the world can you reach every single customer if your products are less diverse? I was a little disappointed in her answer. I immediately felt my efforts at being creative with my candles were unappreciated. The second feeling was that my creativity may have resulted in a less than desirable product. As I thought about it some more, my candles are neither unappreciated nor undesirable. The name of the game is sales. And we’re back to another question. Do you sacrifice creativity for increased sales?

Two or three scents with various solid colors is what she’s asking for. Solid colors? I always thought you could get solid colors anywhere. Yankee and Party Lite come to mind and put a nasty taste in my mouth. If I made candles of a solid color, what would set them apart from the ones sold at the Hallmark store down the street?

As the creator of these candles of course I reserve the right to make them however I choose. I’d also like to make a living at selling my products. The store owner has so much more experience in retail, so I’ve decided to give her suggestion a try. What will set my candles apart from Yankee and Party Lite and Hallmark? The fact that they are hand-poured. Each and every one of them will be tended to, assuring there are no air pockets hidden inside the candle, that the wick is the correct size for the type of wax, fragrance oil, and diameter of the mold, and that the fragrances and colors are pleasing to the senses.

I’ll continue to make layered candles of multiple colors. They sell well at shows and boutiques. I’ll also continue to carry a multitude of fragrances and colors to satisfy custom orders that come my way. For this particular store, I’ll produce solid colors in choice fragrances. She told me what she wants, and I will deliver.

Once I got my head wrapped around the idea of minimizing the diversity of candles I got excited to get started on producing a few batches for the store. I have a feeling that taking her advice will yield good results for both of us. It’s been said that different is sometimes better. My production practices for the store will be different, but the motto for the season is uniformity is sometimes better.

I told the store owner that I was going to be one of her top sellers in 2009. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Come and see what’s new this holiday season at The Farmer’s Daughter.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sensory Overload

The ground in our backyard is covered with a blanket of golden leaves. They reflect into the house, giving our rooms a nice glow. I can hardly wait to spend some time in the country to see the autumn colors in all their splendor. The red, orange, and golden leaves and dark evergreens pack the rolling hills, and crispy fallen leaves blow across country roads. The chilly air will put roses in our cheeks. The smell of wood smoke drifting from the chimney will call us in to the warm cottage for a cup of hot cocoa.

I made an applesauce cake last night and the whole house smelled like apples, raisins, and spices. It was a treat to lick the bowl I used to make the cinnamon and clove cream cheese frosting.

For me, this is the time of year for nesting. I want to spend my time making my home cozy and inviting. I want to cook stews and bake cookies.

I just put a candle up for grabs in my shop. It's the epitome of fall and winter. The rich colors or red and brown match perfectly with the spicy aroma of cloves. Take a look, and see all the other treats I have for the fall season.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Predictable Change

The concept of change has been permeating my life lately. I haven't decided yet how I feel about these changes, and so often it's hard to adjust and adapt when the changes that occur are beyond my control.

But there can be comfort in the predictable changes of season. With autumn upon us, the world is cooling down and bursting into color before nodding off to sleep for the winter. What used to be green has now become this:

With all the changes going on in life, I'm glad one thing remains constant. The changing seasons.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Grandma's Hot Dish

As the air gets colder and the wind windier, as the green leaves turn red and gold and crisp, as the season turns from summer to autumn, we crave and seek the warmth of home. We snug into our comfy chairs with good books. We turn down the lights and turn up the flames in the fireplace to watch an old black and white movie on TV. And despite what is constantly pounded into our brains regarding low calories, low trans fats, and low carbohydrates, we turn to warm, filling comfort food.

My grandma Mabel used to make a hot dish which she eventually referred to as “Sara’s Hot Dish” because I would become gluttonous whenever she served it. I always called it “Grandma’s Hot Dish” because she was the only one I knew who made anything like it. The recipe is easy to remember, although I have it written down in case of some emergency where I lose my memory or am unable to make the hot dish myself and require someone else to make it for me.

Consisting of hamburger and onion, cream of mushroom soup and cream cheese, a little salt and pepper, corn, and lots of egg noodles, this hot dish will fill you up and warm you up in a way no other hot dish can. Grandma’s Hot Dish must be accompanied by red Jello. Strawberry is the flavor of choice, but any red Jello will do. And don't you dare put any fruit in that Jello. There must also be some bread and butter pickles on the table.

To make a completely authentic Grandma Mabel meal “buttons” must be served. Buttons were Grandma’s homemade buns, little and sweet, unlike anything I’ve tasted in my near half century of eating bread. Dessert would likely be Snickerdoodle cookies. (You can see the necessity for red Jello. This is a very “white” meal. The Jello adds a bit of contrast to the bland color of the stroganoff-like hot dish, buns, and cookies.)

I made a batch of Grandma’s Hot Dish for dinner the other night. I served it with raspberry Jello and bread and butter pickles. While I have the recipe for Grandma’s Buttons, I’ve yet to attempt making them for fear of completely wrecking them and causing poor Mabel to roll over in her grave, so served some store-bought bread sticks. The Snickerdoodles were also missing from the meal as I just couldn’t find time to make a batch. Perhaps this weekend I’ll bake some up and we can have them with the hot dish leftovers. Even though the meal wasn't as complete as it could have been, the hot dish was my purpose, and it satisfied me greatly.

What makes comfort food so comforting? I think it has everything to do with its psychological impact. Grandma’s Hot Dish reminds me of an old house with creaking hardwood floors and a big dining room table with a crocheted table cloth. It reminds me of a steamy kitchen and old fashioned aprons. It reminds me of cuckoo clocks and broadcloth. It reminds me of being a kid.

And plus, it tastes really, really good.

Make some comfort food this week.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What's The Price Of Cute?

Recently I witnessed a discussion between two craft people. Both people made similar products. The first person charged twice as much for her products and criticized the second person for undercharging. She said it was a disservice to craft people everywhere to under value her work. I thought it was appalling she would tell someone else what to charge for their products.

Some customers will pay top dollar for handmade crafts and works of art. This is good news for those of us who provide goods for these customers. It’s also good news for the customer as they will most likely get a better made and more unique product than if they had done their shopping at a corporate retail store. However, the customer can get a high-quality handmade work at a reasonable price. Really. It’s true.

Like the second person in the discussion I heard, I have a formula. This formula takes into consideration the cost of materials, the time it takes to make the item, and a nice little profit. I’ve seen others who sell products similar to mine for a whole lot more than I charge. If they’re getting business, more power to them. I believe in giving my customers a good value. A great product at a reasonable price.

With that in mind, check out the new items in my shop. Fun and spooky pins and magnets for Halloween. Celebrate the holiday with style at a price that won’t scare you.

Monday, October 06, 2008

High School Homecoming

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the DeLaSalle High School Homecoming football game. Paenney is a junior at DeLaSalle and Fojo has high hopes of attending next year as a freshman. Paenney plays baratone (his horn is aptly named “Tin Man") in the pep band, which provided fabulous entertainment and school spirit during the football game. It’s so very cool that the band director has them play not only ra-ra numbers, but also works of art like Black Sabboth’s Iron Man. Very cool.

As for the football game, DeLaSalle won. 75-13.

Go big De!

Friday, October 03, 2008

What's In A Name?

What's in a name? I was given the name Sara. When I became an auntie my name morphed into, due to the discovery of rhyming words and a huge sense of silly by my tiny nephew, Auntie B. When I started this business years ago (that little nephew is now an adult!) I couldn't have come up with a better name than Auntie B's Wax. I also answer to the name Beehead.

I began pouring wax over a decade ago and am still enchanted by the process of candle making. My fingers are desensitized to extremely hot temperatures because of it. That's not such a bad thing.

Bottle caps have also become a necessary part of my supply inventory as my bottle cap magnets, pins, and drink charms became popular the minute I started making them. This made me very happy.

Other magnets have also found their way into my production regimen. Naughty pulp fiction and bizarre sheet music artwork
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