Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pressure Canning Session #3

I made a double batch of 15 bean soup, following the recipe on the back of the bag. It was the perfect amount for 7 quarts, the capacity of my pressure canner. I used a meaty hambone that we froze from our last ham, not too long ago.

Ham bone 0
Hurst Soup Beans (x2) - 4.78
2 cans crushed tomatoes - 2.98
Onions - .50
Lemon Juice - .25
Chili Powder - .05
Garlic - .10

8.66/7 = $1.24 per quart

I should note that we had to go buy MORE canning jars and they can be pricey! 12.59 for a case (12 jars) of the quarts and 11.49 for the pints. I decided to go with the wide mouth style which are a bit more money then the regular ones. The wide mouth ones are easier to fill and clean. I have been searching for cheaper sources and even put a request on craigslist but haven't found any yet. I've heard thrift stores and yard sales are good places to look for them...but I haven't been doing much thrifting lately...too busy! At some point, we can stop buying them because we will just be emptying the ones we have and reusing them over and over. Gotta buy new lids each time though!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nice lazy day. (not really lazy but it felt like it)

Today has just been a fantastic day! First, I was still glowing after finding out that my Bird-E Towels were featured (again) at 'best of 2009' etsy finds. Hurray! It explained why my sales and convos picked up markedly.

Then I got 2 wholesale requests. I don't really do wholesale. It just doesn't make sense for me at this time. With 5 kids, my business time is limited and my retail sales are already keeping me quite busy. I did finally nail down my bulk discount rate though and I submitted details to my 2 requestees. If they are still interested, great. If not, that's OK, too. Maybe sometime down the road I can start considering wholesale a little more when I have some help!

What else happened? Oh yeah...I was contacted by our local paper. :D They wondered if I was interested in doing a video piece of me making something crafty & eco-friendly. Yes! The video would run on the paper's website and the article would be in the weekend paper...with my name, business name and links. Coolio! Now I just need to lose 50 pounds in a week. Any good crash diets out there???

There were a couple other smaller things that happened that just made me feel good about my business today. All these things on ONE day. :D

OK, what else? Did I actually get out to my studio today?? Well, technically, yes, but I didn't actually get any work done.

Instead, I played with my kids, talked to my hubby, worked on my bulk pricing, replied to convos and emails, cleaned house a bit, did a load on laundry and made 6 gallons of Weight Watcher's Taco bean soup. Oh and I played a little Farkle on facebook. (Watch out Tamee, I got my eye on first place!) ;)

Now back to the soup. We love this soup. It's easy and very versatile. Serve it like soup just as it is. Serve it like chili with shredded cheese on top. Or a hearty tortilla chip dip. It's also great on baked potatoes. It fills you up and it's a good 'diet' food, too. Well, as long as you go easy on the shredded cheese and chips.

There are a ton of different variations of it but the main 2 ingredients that make this version good are taco seasoning and dry ranch mix.

My recipe is approx 6 times a normal person's recipe. hehe I like to make a LOT at a time. And 6 times is the right multiplication for the cans of tomatoes, sauce and corn that is sold at sam's.

So this time, I'm excited about now having a pressure canner because it will actually save me time. I used to have to wait a long time for the soup to cool before I could freeze it. Then you had to wait a long time for it to thaw before it was ready to serve. woohoo!

Although now that I'm on day 2 of using this pressure canner, I'm thinking one of the bigger models would have suited my cooking style better. I can only can 7 quarts at a time in my canner. Oh well...

So here were the ingredients in my 6 gallons of soup...

ground beef 6 pounds 6 2.34 14.04
onions 1 $ 0.97 $ 0.97
2 # dried black beans 1 2.69 2.69
2# pinto beans 1 2.25 2.25
4# Light red kidney beans 2 2.87 5.74
tomato sauce 6# 10 oz 1 2.18 2.18
corn 6# 10 oz 1 3.48 3.48
crushed tomatoes 6# 10 oz 1 2.68 2.68
chopped green chili - tiny cans 2 1.35 2.7
taco seasoning 1 $ 0.66 $0.66
ranch dressing mix 1 4.59 $4.59


6 gallons = 24 quart

$1.75 per quart

I think 1 quart would actually be a meal for our whole family especially if served with a side and bread. Nice!

Although I really must admit that I don't really do this to save money. Not really. I'm just lazy and don't like cooking all that much. I love putting effort in at one time, having something to show for it and then get a chance to slack later. And there is that benefit of me choosing what goes into it. I like that part, too. It's nice that my hubby really appreciates my kind of cooking. Heck, I guess he just appreciates any kind of cooking that he doesn't have to do.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pressure Canning

I love to make soups. I love to make BIG batches of soup. Work hard for a little bit and end up with many, many meals for the effort. Hello! What's not to love? In the past, I would make 2, 3 or 6 gallons of soup at a time and then I would freeze the leftovers in individual and family serving sizes. Sometimes I would use freezer bags and sometimes I would use plastic freezer containers depending on what I had available. I would rarely reuse the freezer bags but I would use the containers over and over until they pitted on the sides or perhaps if I lost a lid.

Anyhow, at some point in the past year, I become aware that you could can soups and meats if you had a pressure canner. It just never dawned on me that you could do this at home. I did hear that you could pay to do your own canning at the county extension office but they had rules and it wasn't cheap to do. You had to use an approved recipe AND you had to cook it there before canning. To make it worthwhile, you'd almost need an army of people to process a large amount of food quickly.

So I started doing research and found that serious canners recommend the All-American brand of canners. For Christmas, my darling hubby surprised me with the 21 1/2 qt model. yippee! (He would have gotten a larger one but we have limited space on our range because of the built in microwave.)

I read the instruction manual...and it scared me!! So many warnings about serious injuries that could occur every step of the way if you screw something up. yikes! I panicked and tried to find a canning friend to walk me through it. Hubby went online and found some fantastic canning videos on youtube. That helped allay my fears and I was ready.

Hubby picked up 2 cases of canning jars and extra lids for me... $30 (ouch!)

First recipe...beef stew.

We had a 6# beef roast in the freezer from a previous sams' club trip so we decided to use that. Cost $15.03

Then I was going to break down the other costs but I seem to have lost some of the receipts! Well, OK...whatever 3 qts of cubed red potatoes ($2.50), 3 cups of diced onion ($1), 3 cups of diced celery & 8 cups of carrots costs...add that in. (I don't count the seasoning because we buy that in bulk at sams' for cheap.) I'm thinking it was probably around $23 for everything.

So this is what the stew looked like when we threw it together before canning. Browned cubed beef, veggies, beef base and seasonings. If I were making this for immediate use or for freezing, I would have thickened it with flour but that's a big no-no with canning.

Then it was time to start canning! I filled my quart sized pre-washed & pre-warmed canning jars with stew but left 1 inch headspace like my directions stated. I wiped the rims with a clean damp cloth and then put the lid & rings on.

The jars were very hot so I was thankful that my hubby bought me the canning accessory kit which included a jar lifter. The jars were then loaded into the canner which already had hot water in the bottom. (We accidently put a little too much water in. Whoops!) I will say that the directions in the manual were very confusing! You had to look at this page and then refer back to that page and then look at yet another page. I guess because there are so many options with canning. It would have been easier to a beginner like me if all the directions were complete in one place...even if it would have made the instruction manual a lot thicker.

Once I had 5 of the jars in, I realized that I forgot to swoop the insides of the jars to get the air bubbles out. Whoops! We pulled them back out and redid them. I was careful to rewipe the edges before we rescrewed the lids back on.

That's my hubby's hand, not mine, if you are wondering why it looks so masculine. ;)

We got all 7 jars in, screwed the lid on the pressure canner and started the process.

We first had to wait for it to steam for 7 minutes. It looked like this.

Exciting huh? Then we put the little regulator on, using the 10 pound setting since that's what our recipe called for. Then it was 90 minutes of process time at 10 pounds with the jiggling of the regulator. It looked like this...

The pressure canner is done but it hasn't cooled down enough for me to open it. They warned you heavily not to try to rush this part so I won't! Although I can't wait to open it and make sure all the jars sealed the right way. I know we ended up with a bit more then 8 qts worth of hearty beef stew made without preservatives with ingredients that I was in control of for around $2.75 per quart. (It could be made more economical with less meat more veggies.) And the best won't use up freezer space! And it will be much quicker to reheat.

All in all, this wasn't too bad at all. Tomorrow we will turn these ingredients into WW Taco Bean Soup and 15 bean soup.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My take on having a cash register at a show...

My Arts/Craft Show Background

I am not a highly seasoned arts/craft show vendor but I have quickly learned the ropes. I currently only do one 'show,' the newly built Riverside Arts Market (aka RAM) that is less then 2 miles from my home in Jacksonville, Florida. RAM opened in April of this year. I missed the first few weeks but I started at the end of April. I don't do RAM every week...just not possible...but I have done enough of them to learn a few things about handling sales at shows.

In order to sell at RAM, I had to get legal. Not too scary, actually. I went downtown to the Tax Collector's office to get a peddlers business license. It was not too pricey and the process was easy. I has also filed my DBA online..I don't think that part was required for RAM but I wanted to be covered to use my Athena Creates name. I also had to get set up to accept sales tax for the state of Florida. That was done online and it was free. (All of this was later changed when I became a corporation in August of this year but this gives you an idea of how I started.)

In reading the sales tax info, I learned that if you sell something, you are required to provide a receipt with the sales tax broken out separately. As a buyer, I can say that most vendors don't do this. And in the beginning, I didn't either but I had that nagging feeling that I was a (gasp) lawbreaker! I tried to hand write receipts but it was time consuming and cumbersome. You want to be fast so that the customer behind the one you are 'ringing up' doesn't put the item down and walk away.

The majority of the booths have access to electricity and they charge a reasonable $5 if you choose to use it. I had noticed a few vendors with cash registers and it peaked my interest. So I started looking at them and reading reviews. There are some inexpensive ones out there, some that run on battery power. The reviews on those were OK, not great. The complaints were that it took a long time for the receipts to print. I eventually discovered that I could get some really nice features by buying a slightly pricier model.

The One I Bought:

I chose the Sharp XE-A203. I opted to buy new but I did scout craigslist for a used one first. There were a few out there but I was concerned they wouldn't have the manual or all the keys and whatnot. This model had a display facing the customer. It also let me highly customize the data. I could program departments for the different products I sold. I could also set up different cashiers (for when my hubby or oldest dd came to help) and I could even put a logo or my own text on the receipt.

First things first, setting up the register was not as easy as you would think..even with a manual. The software would not work on my desktop PC which has Vista. Not sure if that was the problem or not. I did not end up calling customer service...I just tried loading it on my laptop and it worked fine there. I was able to set up departments and to get my logo in. Eventually, I removed the logo and just opted to add 6 lines of data that I thought would be helpful to my customers. When I was playing around entering fake sales, I found that sales tax was not being figured correctly when I offered a discount on an item. It was taxing the total before the discount. The manual was useless in trying to figure out how to fix it. I put a call in to Sharp's customer service and they were able to help me in a friendly manner.

I had a vision of a customer bringing an item to me, I'd press a button and it would ring up the item without me entering the dollar I set my departments up like that but I left a few miscellaneous open for dollar entry...which was a good thing.

I made tags for my products with the price and a tiny department number under it. Unfortunately, not all my items got tagged. I brought the stuff with me to finished tagging but the market opened before I had finished.

Here's how my first live experience went...

Customer brought up an item. I realized then that left my master programming list at home. The customer's item just happened to be one without a tag and none of the similar items had a tag. In my panic, I just couldn't remember what button to use. I started mashing buttons with the intent to figure out the right one with the intent that I would void that receipt. It worked but I was sweating bullets for the 40 seconds that it took me to figure it out. I've had a few transactions like that because I didn't have my cheat sheet handy. And yesterday I left my register keys in the van and my hubby had to come to my rescue. I'm sure that wouldn't happen to anyone else though! ;)

After that, things went much smoother. All in all, the first day was a success and I LOVED being able to hand my customers an accurate receipt. I also found it helpful to have the register figure the change for me. Yes, I know how to count change but it would slow me down a teeny bit especially at the end of the day when my energy would be waning (and lack of sleep from preparing product the night before didn't help!)

At the end of the day, figuring out my sales info was so much easier especially since I broke my departments down based on specific product. I could easily see that my adult long sleeved shirts were selling like hotcakes. I had a feeling that my girls' tie dyed dresses weren't selling well..but when I looked at my register report at the end of the day...they were selling! My faulty impression was based on the fact that many people came and admired but not as many bought. In the madness of the day, I seriously forgot about items that did sell. The summary took my faulty memory out of the equation. You could obviously do an inventory before and after the show to get the same data...or you could keep a detailed log as items sold but I never found the time to do it manually.

At the beginning of the day, I use the RA button to log how much money I am starting with and it adds that to my cash sales and tells me what my final tally should be. And during the day, I can QUICKLY figure out what my sales were thus far.

Here's a fake example of my summary report. It's called a X1 report.

It makes my life easy! I can see exactly what my sales were and how much money I should have in my register.

  • It is WAY quicker then writing a receipt and manually figuring things out with a calculator.
  • It's lightweight and easy to transport.
  • It doesn't take up that much room, maybe a slightly larger footprint as a regular sized cash box.
  • I can put my info on the receipt: my store name, my name, my etsy website & the dates I am scheduled to be at the market.
  • I can easily apply a discount, either to a single item or to the whole total. Sometimes I put the slow movers on sale for 10-20% off. Or I can offer a vendor discount if someone asks.
  • I can price my items exactly at the price I want without having to round up or down. And without trying to build the sales tax in there to get to a whole dollar amount.
  • The back-end accounting is so much easier! I can easily see what I need to submit to the state for sales tax.
  • The data of items sold is invaluable...without me manually tracking it, I mean.
  • My customers get a detailed receipt of items they have purchased.
  • It lends a feeling of professionalism.
  • The cash is not visible. I always wonder about the booths that keep their cash boxes right out in the open where the 'shoppers' can get right next to it. Maybe they don't keep much cash in there but I also think that it would be an easy target is the seller was distracted.
  • The cost of buying one.
  • There is a learning curve & in my case since I have never run a register before, I was starting at ground zero.
  • You have to be organized about it. Either have *everything* labeled or have a cheat sheet taped to the register or just use a few basic entry departments where you key in the dollar amount. And make sure you have the keys!
  • Requires electricity that you may have to pay extra for.
  • You have to learn a new routine when ringing a sale up.
I will say that my register is VERY lightweight. Much more lightweight then I expected. I turn my machine off after each sale because I once had a little girl reach over and mash buttons. It popped the drawer open! Luckily I was right there but it took me a bit of time to void what she had rung up. If I have to leave my booth, I do empty the register of the bills just to be safe. I still wear my vendor apron to keep things on hand like my pen, keys so I just tuck the money in there. I also choose to put the back of my tent up and I block access to the register with my table slanted so that I can walk to the front of my booth to help a customer without worrying so much that someone would walk away with the whole register. I think these are the same precautions that you would take with a cash box though.

For me, having a cash register has been the right decision, a good investment for *my* business. I've done enough shows without it, my products are selling & I need to streamline the processes where I can. I don't do a bunch a different shows where electricity may not be available. I might sign up for 1-2 smaller venues during the RAM hiatus (now until March) but I can go back to my cash apron for those if I can't get electricity. And my product offering will be much smaller so it will be easier to keep track of things manually.

I would not recommend one to a newbie who has never done a show before. Doing shows is not for everyone. Make sure you like it and that it's profitable before you invest a ton of money! And maybe a cash register is not for someone who does 2-3 shows a year. And it's probably not necessary for someone who sells one item at one set price. I offer probably 50 different items at different price points.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Last Day at the Riveside Arts Market for 2009

December 5th (yesterday) was my last scheduled appearance at the Riverside Arts Market (RAM) for the 2009 season. There are 2 more RAM dates but I did not get signed up in time for spots with electricity, a must for me now since the purchase of my cash register. I am on a waiting list so there is a chance that I might get in. Still haven't quite decided if I will say yes if I get that call. It is December. We have a birthday coming up for our twins..oh and that thing called Christmas. I suppose it would be a good idea to have presents under the tree...and I don't think my kids would appreciate Bird-E Towels and the rest of my tie dye stock. Ingrates that they are.

I loved my location. It was not an end spot but that was OK. I was down closer to the food vendors and there seemed to be more foot traffic. My sales were higher then last week but not as high as they were 3 & 4 weeks ago. Being close to the food was also good...I was able to eat. Yay for eating! Another wonderful feature of the location was the proximity to the restrooms. I bring my valuables with me and not have to wait for my hubby to come watch my booth...which wasn't an option yesterday anyway because my dear hubby flew to Texas yesterday for a business trip. (Pray for me...patience and whatever...because I have never done this on my own for a week before. Uh - 5 kids really do take 2 parents, I think.)

Carla, my custom order bride, (that sounds like I ordered her - LOL - no, she was the bride who ordered a ton of Bird-E Towels for her reception a couple months ago) came by with her new hubby. It was so cool to see them. I have thought about her over the months and kept thinking I should contact her to see how the wedding went. She said she's going to send me photos from the wedding..yay!

I also met quite a few other customers. Several other vendors came by and purchased from me. I'd be willing to bet that more then 50% of my sales were to other vendors. One vendor who had a booth behind me bought t-shirts for her entire family for Christmas. I didn't have a boyish long sleeved shirt in size 4 that she really wanted and it was a struggle to find something that worked. We ended up going with a short sleeved one. (Reminder to self to order more long sleeved 4T shirts.)

Dawn, a friend of mine through Etsy and now in 'real' life, had a booth a couple spots down. She has beautiful glass pendants and other cool stuff like slumped bottle cheese boards and neat paper weights and glass dishes. Every time I walked by, her booth was loaded with people! (Hope you had a great day, Dawn!) Her etsy store is FirstLightGlass. Dawn had her children (+ a friend) with her for a portion of the day and I loved watching them skip around. It was especially cool since they were sporting their new tie-dyed t-shirts. It was like moving advertising. ;)

I also finally sold a shirt to Copper Head Dan. He's the one who requested long sleeved shirts back in the summer. He gave me a free copper sand dollar so that I would remember and darned if I just hadn't seen him since then. And the long sleeved shirts have definitely been a hit so thank you, Dan! I was initially scared of the price of the long sleeved blanks (compared to short sleeved ones) so I'm not sure I would have taken the plunge. Dan picked up a orange and blue root on the gators.

The day started out so nasty and cold. Rainy, gray skies and just blah...and then the sun came out and it ended up being a lovely day. Yay! There were MANY booth cancellations...28 to be exact. I have to say that I was SO very tempted to cancel, too. With hubby catching a flight, we had to make arrangements for someone to watch the kids and then I needed help breaking down my booth. And then the prospect of standing in the icy cold rain just didn't add to the appeal. I'm glad I stuck it out though! It ended up being a lovely day...and my brother and his girlfriend came to the rescue for the babysitting and booth breakdown.

This is my brother, Levi, here. He is my baby brother, born when I was 9 years old. He was supposed to be Kelly and it took me a long time to forgive my mom for ruining the lovely all-occasion card I made for him with KELLY plastered on the front. I had gotten one of those little brass things that you punch through paper and it lets you attach 2 pieces of cardstock together. I had cut a little window in the card and attached a wheel of cardstock that said 'birthday,' 'Merry Christmas' and other holidays . So it was a whole year of card giving that was ruined when they came home with Levi and not Kelly!

He looks a little scruffy but he is a really nice guy and he always helps me out when I ask. And he's super smart with computers so he helps me when my computer crashes. I'm thankful to have him around. He was helping me break down my grid walls here.

Coming up take on having a cash register (vs not having a cash register) at a show.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

11/28 Riverside Arts Market - Spidery!

My supply of shirts was dwindling down so I tie dyed the remainder on Friday, after Thanksgiving. It took me a super long day to get these done. I always underestimate how long it takes to just do stuff! I had planned on sewing more Bird-E Towels for the market but there was no time.

Here are some shirts, soaking in a solution to bring them to the right PH level so that the dye that I use will be permanent.

With the super cold temps, I had to bring my operation inside and then keep the kids away from the tempting bottles. This was set up on top of my dining room table. I used pieces of cardboard to soak the small spills. Tie dyeing is messy!

I keep grates over bins like this to contain the dripping. And I'm now mixing dye by the gallon or half-gallon...thus the milk jugs (which were thoroughly cleaned obviously.) I like to recyle and reuse with my business. I use reuse plastic bags over and over and over again...even though it takes precious time to clean them out after each use. The same with the rubber bands that I use.

So yesterday was my second to last schedule appearance at RAM. It was cold, brutally cold for this gal who does not have proper winter clothing. My hands especially did not like the cold. It was hard to get them to cooperate with me at times. My feet, however, where quite toasty in my hand knit wool/cotton socks...ones that I knit myself a couple years ago!

I changed the layout a bit, like I always do depending on where I am and what is around me. I really prefer spots with one end open.

For the most part, it was a long slow day. Traffic was down compared to the previous 2 weeks. Sales were about half of my average. Not complaining really, these things happen and I am very thankful for the customers who did stop by and find things to purchase. I have high hopes that next week will close the year for me with a bang. You know, so that I can actually pay myself instead of just accumilating supplies. ;) Not that I don't get immense pleasure from opening 200 yard rolls of fabric, dyes and t-shirt blanks. Oh, I like that just fine!

This week's RAM theme for me was spiders...partly because of this beauty..

This is the Christmas spider that I bought from my booth neighbor, Samantha. I had never heard of Christmas spiders but I was entranced by them! She included a little piece of paper with a brief version of the story but I found a longer version here... Kids were really drawn to the spiders so I know my kids will love having this on our tree. And Samantha has an etsy store! Her stuff is gorgeous and she's really nice, too. She does have some spiders in her store now...

When my hubby comes to help me break down my booth, our children are sometimes with him and they help. When my middle dd was undoing velcro from my tent, she found this little spider.

I can't believe that the Riverside Arts Market is so close to wrapping up for the year. It has been such a great thing for Riverside, heck...for Jacksonville and the surrounding areas, too. But, considering that I am and have been a Riverside resident for nearly 20 years, I feel what I consider to be a deeper appreciation. This is my neighborhood and my small business is thriving, in part due to RAM. And the other kudos go to for sure!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Muses' Corner

I have crossed another milestone with my business. My product is now in a brick & morter store in Jacksonville, Florida. The store is Muses' Corner and it's in the Avondale area, 3562 St. Johns Avenue.

I set up one spiral rack with some of my tie dyed stuff. I also left a small qty of my Bird-E Towels.

That's it for now. After my Arts Market days are over, I may send more stuff over.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Riverside Arts Market 11/14/09

My hiatus is over! I guess it's been 3 months since my last date at the Riverside Arts Market. It's so much work to get ready...especially the first one after a break. I have been working very, very hard to have product available. My booth looked like a rainbow exploded over everything....lots & lots of tie dye and a tall stack of my popular eco-friendly Bird-E Towels.

The morning was very chaotic. I bought a cash register to help me keep track of sales and to help speed up the process of providing a receipt for my customers. I spent time programming keys for departments. I printed price labels with dept numbers on them so that I just had to push a button to get the right item. The only problem was that I ran out of time to get the stickers on every item. No problem...I would have time to do that at the market. haha I left the stickers at home AND I left the lovely master list I had created. So my first customers had to wait while I figured out which keys were right...and somehow in the process, I rang up a $10,000 order and I couldn't figure out how to void it. argh! My cash was a bit off at the end of the $10,000. hehe It was actually very nice to have all the good data from the register so I don't regret the purchase. Next week will go easier, I'm sure!

Another new thing was that I now accept credit cards through propay. What an awesome thing! More then 50% of my sales were credit cards. And it was very easy to do. Well, my knucklebuster was a fail but it was easy to rub the card impression with a receipt so it worked out.

Exciting events of the day:

  • Having a woman driving a segway crashed into my booth. She was so apologetic and a bit embarrassed, I think. It slid my grid walls over a bit and knocked off some shelves. Product (and the lady, I might add) were all fine after a bit of dusting off.
  • When I was talking to an old friend, I had a kid push cash register buttons and the drawer popped open! I was able to fix it. Lesson learned! Lock the drawer every time. That was too easy. I thought it was in a somewhat secure location but I never imagined a child would be tempted and would actually touch it. Thank goodness it wasn't a thief.

I'm suddenly feeling very sleepy so I better end this. I was going to head out to my studio...but I just decided to head back to bed for a little bit longer. {{yawn}} I've been working so hard lately that sleep has not been a priority.

Here's one photo from the day. I love how my booth looks! It's such an improvement over my first days. I can really get a LOT of product up on those hooks. Yay! I have more photos up on my facebook fan page. Become a fan here to see them. Thanks!

Oh and I had a very good day, sales wise. I felt like the day was a bit slow but when I sat down and totaled everything, I found that I must have mentally been counting the cash because my guess was close to the cash amount. By the time I added in the credit cards was a good final number!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Paperless Birthday Celebration

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty when I find myself doing un earth-friendly things...just because it never dawned on me that there was an alternative. I fully admit that when I created Bird-E Towels for my family, it was more based on a desire to stop spending money on paper towels as a way to stretch our household budget a little further. And I LIKE the earth-friendly aspect but that was not my primary motivation at the time. Since then, I have changed many of our un earth-friendly habits and it feels fantastic.

We now use and LOVE our stainless steel Klean Kanteen water bottles. My 4 smaller children have the smallest sized bottle which we pack in lunch boxes as an alternative to juice boxes. And we have a complete set of the 27 oz bottles, one for each family member that we keep refilled in the fridge. Easy to grab when we are going somewhere. No more bottles of plastic tasting water here and NO trash to worry about!

When making purchases, I now think twice before I purchase stuff with plastic or with big bulky plastic packaging that will just end up in a landfill. I haven't totally avoided it but at least I'm thinking about it and making decisions that make me feel like we are making a tiny bit of difference. One small example that comes to mind is that I am buying bars of soap from a local seller at our arts' market. Virtually zero packaging compared to the squirt pumps that I would buy and toss after one use. And it lasts longer, too, so it ends up being a better value.

So last night I was at Target, shopping for birthday gifts for my baby girl and I stopped by the gift wrap. My first thought was 'Why is this stuff so expensive??' My second thought was.....'Why do I HAVE to wrap her presents in paper that will be thrown away?' Well, there is something nice about seeing a stack of prettily wrapped packages so I knew that unwrapped gifts wasn't the answer.

Enter lightbulb moment:

Aha, I have lots and lots of pretty fabrics. Couldn't I just wrap her presents in fabric and tie it up with a ribbon??? And that's exactly what I did. I didn't even serge or sew the edges. Chances are that I will use this particular fabrics for something else so no need to worry about raw edges. I just fold it so that so raw edges were showing. I'm sure that someone else could do the folding more justice but this is kind of in line with how I wrapped presents with traditional paper...just get her done.

I am pleased with the results!! I'm sure that this would not be the most cost effective thing for a non-seamstress. But maybe there are other reusable things that could be used to wrap presents to avoid paper. A pillowcase comes to mind. Or a fancy apron could possible be folded and tied around a gift using the straps. A reusable grocery tote, a kitchen towel for smaller gifts....just all sorts of options that could be part of the gift and not produce any trash. Heck yeah!

Now I interrupt the talk about paperless gift-giving and will share some photos about my baby girl's 3rd birthday. I love this little girl with all my heart and can't imagine what life would have been like without her. She was our rainbow baby and she helped heal our hearts from the loss of her big brother, Nolan, whom she never had a chance to meet. We are pretty darn sure that she's the last kiddo so she will probably always be referred to as the baby...even though I'm pretty sure 3 is the official cut-off for calling your child a baby among other adults.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Lily! You are such a joy to, funny, adorable!

Make a wish!


Um, OK - clothes!

Now we're!
This isn't hard to open and none of that annoying paper ripping sound.

Who are these kids and why couldn't I be an only child??

So this little paperless experiment was a great success! Not sure I can pull it off for Christmas but I know birthdays will be a cinch. No more trashy paper!!

As I approach the gift-giving season with my business, my mind will definitely be on providing complete gifts that will not require excess disposable gift wrapping for my customers. So, keep an eye out for Bird-E Towel sets 'all wrapped up' in drawstring gift bags. A few are already listed in my store and they have been quite popular already. I enjoy making stuff that has a bit more color then my best selling product so it's all good. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Inspired Creature

I really love bright colors and bold color purple and orange. I came across a box of felt in my studio last night and I felt the need to create. My toddler 'helped' me. This guy is soft and squishy and my youngest daughter thinks he's her best friend. He has big bug eyes that I made using non equal size imperfectly round 'circles' that sewed in yoyo fashion to create the eyeballs. I added hand painted eyes that I purchased from etsy a while back.

And he looks just as good upside down as he does right side up.

I didn't really have a purpose in mind when I made him but I have a feeling this fella is going to stay here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I love getting stuff in the mail. One great thing about running a business is that I get to spend money and get packages in the mail. Like a double dose of retail therapy! Today, USPS brought me 2 things....another roll of fabric and a box from the Atlanta Thread Company. I love the Atlanta Thread Company!! They ship so fast. I have gotten package in less then 24 hours from order to my doorstep. The had a special promotion this month where you would get a free pair of ginghers scissors with a $75 I did just that. I picked the pinking shears since I already own every other size of ginghers with a few duplicates in there, too. I also picked up needles for my industrial serger, 12,000 yard cones of thread and some new maxi-lock cones to add to my collection. Plus a lint roller, fray check and seam stabilizer.

Today was a bit frustrating as I spent the morning working on financial stuff and my numbers weren't adding up. It took me way too long to figure out the problem was related to e-check transactions in paypal. The payment was reported in one time period but didn't clear until the next. The accounting not easy for me. I think I'm actually pretty good at math and that's not the problem. it's just keeping track of all these bits of information and assigning account numbers and transferring things and doing journal entries, blah blah blah. I would really like to just stick my head in the sand and ignore it. (I wish that was really an option!)

Well, I better cut this off and get to sleep so that I can wake up at a reasonable hour.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Where are you?

My mom and her husband, (not referred to as my stepdad, he's just her husband, Tom) just arrived for a super quick visit before their 'fabulous' vacation in Florida including a cruise to the Bahamas. She signed up through one of those crazy cheap web offers and I'm not sure she hasn't been scammed in some way. If they get on the cruise and someone asks them for more money, ha, ain't gonna happen. And they won't be doing any of that expected tipping either.

So right before she got here, I called to see where she was. I'm heading towards the beach. 'Uh, why?' was my reply. I was trying to figure out if she had an overwhelming desire to see the beach at midnight. Ya never know with her. 'I couldn't find your street.' {{banghead}} So instead of calling me, she just randomly decides to head towards the beach which is 30 minutes from my house.

'Mom, where exactly are you?'

'I see a McDonalds.' (There are 114 McDonalds in Jacksonville.)

'Uh, need more information. What street are you on?'

'There's a Chick-Fil-A.' (There are 18 Chick-Fil-As in Jacksonville.)

'Mom, please tell me what street you are on so I can get you back towards our house.' The unspoken part is 'SO THAT I CAN GET MY TIRED BODY IN BED AND NOT HAVE TO WAIT FOR YOU.'

I then had to hand the phone to my amazing husband. He knows thing. He can walk you through directions over the phone and give you things to look for on the way. Not that *I* have ever needed his services. OK, ya got me. I call him all the time when I get my own city. But hey, this is a big city not some podunk little town.

Back to my took her longer then we expected and I called her again. 'There's a Walgreens.'

'What street, Mom????' How many Walgreens are there in this city?? 56

We got her here.

I told her not to leave any valuables in her truck or in the back because we've had some thefts. My oldest dd had a slumber party last night and someone stole one of her friend's bikes from our yard. It was locked to our camper. They just clipped the bike lock. Anyhow, so my mom decided that they needed to bring in the grill and their cooler. Yes, they brought a full sized grill on their vacation. My dh wasn't too keen on that idea of bringing the grill in so he came up with an alternative plan of having them back in so that the back of their truck wasn't wide open for the sticky finger 'shoppers' that come through in the middle of the night.

Now it's 1:00 a.m. and i really need to go to bed but I wanted to post my most recent creation, the Bug Bucket Bag. Bug bucket bug, big buck bag, bucket. You try saying it 3 times fast!

Isn't it cute??? I hand-dyed a vintage linen napkin and turned it into a fabulous bucket bag. It's in my etsy store if you want to read more details. I'm too tired to type it all out again.

Night all!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I find is absolutely fascinating to feedjit statistics to see who has visited by blog. Of course, I don't really know who stumbles across my blog..just basic information like city/state or country. Sometimes I get a little extra bit of information based on which blog post is hit first. I've gotten quite a bit of traffic from the etsy bulletin boards, particularly one post about studios. I linked my studio more then a week ago yet I still get at least a few visits a day from that. Just fascinating stuff.

As far as my business goes, I struggle daily with decisions that will affect the future of my company. I grapple with the biggest question of big do I want to take this? Is it OK to apply pressure to myself to get orders out the door at the cost of perhaps slightly neglecting my stay at home mom duties? I don't know the answer. I do get the feeling that my husband get annoyed at my small 'failures' i.e. not having any plan for dinner when he gets home, not keeping up with laundry, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm still doing laundry (perhaps on an emergency basis) and the kitchen gets cleaned multiple times a day...and we are all eating. It's just hard to get excited about cooking and cleaning...when it all just has to be done the next day.

I am excited about my business. It gives me something...that I just can't quite put into words just yet. Or maybe it's just that I'm exhausted. {{yawn}}

I am proud of how quickly things have progressed with my business but I do have times where self-doubt tries to take root in a corner of my mind like what if more then a day goes between orders. I wonder how I'm going to make all the right decisions without making any monumental mistakes along the way.

I was able to pay myself another small payroll check today. I bought groceries with a portion of it and that felt great.

Must go to bed. I can't write a blog post without posting a pic so here goes..

This is something my 6 yo son created with some of the groceries I bought. Can you tell what it is????

It's a robot! Of course. Now you see it, right? ;) It's also the makings for chili. There was a once a month chili recipe on my favorite recipe website that used tomato soup instead of sauce and I'm going to do that one tomorrow. It's a sweet chili that most kids like.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Riverside Arts Market 10/3/09

My haul from the Riverside Arts market today...

I have to say that there are REALLY nice vendors at the Riverside Arts Market. I think I spent about $17 for all the above stuff. The pumpkins were free gifts with my son's $3 purchase of blackberries. That's what he wanted to spend his money on. And when the vendor knew he was spending his own money, he loaded Ethan up with 2 bowls of the delightful berries. And he made each of the kids take a mini pumpkin. See, nice people. And this is not the first time that we have been gifted like that at the Riverside Arts Market.

When I have been a vendor at the Riverside Arts Market, it has not been uncommon for people to give a small token of their work. Copperhead Mike (I think that's his name) gave me a hammered copper sand remind me that he wants me to make him a long sleeved tie dye shirt when I do my next batch. Vendor have given my children fresh fruits and veggies, too. And if I thought long enough, I bet I could come up with half a dozen other examples, too.

I love participating in the Riverside Arts Market as an 'artist' and I love going as a Riverside neighbor. And it's not really about the stuff that's for sale. While at the market today, I chatted with quite a few vendors that I have become acquainted with. It's nice to walk through and have that personal recognition. I also ran into a store owner who really wants my product in her store. That was a good contact for my business! Not 100% sure that I'm going to do it but I am certainly considering it.

Another really cool thing is the Children's Creativity Corner. I had my 3 youngest children with me today and they got to make slime to take home. What a thrill that was for them. (haha, my slime farts. Mine does, too...haha) They also had a beautiful corn snake and the children were allowed to touch it. And that my friends was FREE entertainment. woohoo!

I have been on a bit of a Riverside Arts' Market hiatus, as a seller, I mean, but I'm thinking I'll be signing up for a spot sometime within the next 2-3 weeks.

Where Did September Go?

Poof, there went a whole month. Must do better about blogging! I think I got sucked into facebook and keeping my Athena Creates fanpage updated.

I have been feeling rather energized lately. With school back in session, I have had time to keep up with my etsy orders and I've had some time to create new stuff.

I had a lovely local customer, Carla, request a large quantity of Bird-E Towels for her wedding reception and I was able to oblige. She was my second (or third?) bride who wanted my eco-friendly alternative at her reception. She was rather excited about how large her stash of Bird-E Towels would grow once the reception was over. So cool! Once the initial order was done, she commissioned me to sew napkins and a tablecloth using fabric her friend had dyed. Absolutely gorgeous!

I couldn't bear to toss the scraps so I made 2 little drawstring giftbags for Carla. My wedding gift to her. She hasn't picked her order up yet but I hope she likes them. :)

I also made an adorable chinese inspired upcycled dress. Cute, cute, cute! (if I do say so myself) It started as a thrift store find, a like new chinese shirt. I cut the bottom off and added a gathered skirt using some of my precious stash of linen. It ended up a tiny bit shorter then I had intended (why can't I measure first and then sew? LOL) Anyhow, when my little one modeled it, it reminded me of the short dresses we wore in the 70s when I was growing up and I decided it was very cute. I think this would also look fabulous with a pair of jeans on the tot.

I used bits of the print to create a few more items for my etsy store, too. I love using up scraps of fabric!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bird-E Towels (tm)

Lots of changes have been happening at Athena Creates! I'll have to summarize.

I am now president of a newly formed corporation, Riverserge, Inc DBA Athena Creates. yah! I have a brand new name for my eco-friendly paper towel replacement product.... Bird-E Towels (tm) (I can't figure out how to get the tm with a circle symbol in here. hmph! ) Hurray! This means that I have a name that is unique to my product. I can build my customer following on my product and not worry so much about the copycats.

And speaking of copycats, I have now had to deal with a few sellers who lifted my photos and/or my exact words to plop on their copycat product. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that others would do that. There are others that are copying the idea and you can tell they modified my words just enough to fly under the radar. And they are copying my pricing structure which is annoying. It all makes me a wee bit upset, but not nearly as bad as the photo and word lifters. It is outright theft. I'm trying so hard to not let it upset me. I am learning about copyright, trademarks and patents. And I am taking steps to protect my work.

Mainly, I try to remember that I am an important part of the equation here, too. And that comes in the form of my enthusiasm, my belief in the product, my high level of workmanship and my customer service. My business is still growing but at a pace that I can keep up with.

Other exciting news...I have a new logo for my Bird-E Towels! I love it! So the significance is that Bird-E Towels are an eco-friendly paper towel replacement. Paper towels come from trees. Birds live in the trees that are harvested for paper towels. Using an owl is a nod to my business namesake, the Greek goddess Athena. She is often depicted with an owl...and of course, she would want to save trees for her feathered friends!

My logo was created by Morningstar Artistry on etsy. I really liked some of her logo samples and I'm happy with the final product that we ended up with. She was really easy to work with and I think her prices were quite reasonable.

4 out of my 5 kids are back in school as of Monday. One more week before my wildly curious and adorable toddler will start pre-school and that's when the party starts in my sewing studio! LOL I'll have 3 days a week to focus on my business without distractions from the children. Hurray! I miss my kids but it is increasingly hard to set business goals and meet them with a constant stream of interruptions. My 8th grader is loving school so far. And my 3 elementary aged kids each hit the teacher jackpot. They each got fantabulous teachers!! Makes it easier to send them to school, knowing that they are having a pleasant day.

I have to take the little one to her school orientation so I'll cut this off now. Thanks for reading!