Friday, April 24, 2009

Building a better booth

I've done a couple craft shows over the years and my set-up has always been amateurish. I want to kick things up a bit with my booth at the Riverside Arts Market. And since it's close and ongoing, it's something I can participate in on a semi-regular basis.

I'm working on a budget and I don't have a tent. If I do well enough, I'll buy one soon. But for now, I have to pray for no rain! I'm been walking through our house and scouring the storage unit for things to use in my booth. I have several categories of items and I want them to be displayed nicely. I have no desire to go out and buy new furniture or tables. I want to use stuff that we already have so that I won't have to find a place to store such items.

It didn't take me long to claim our front door catch-all storage cube unit. I bought it from a neighbor's garage sale last year and it's proven to be invaluable in organizing shoes and backpacks, etc. I figured I would use baskets and use it for my flannel cloths and unpaper towels.

My next dilemma was I needed something magnetic that was high enough to catch someone's display my photo magnets. DH and I kind of went around and around on this one. I had a vision. He had a different vision. He was going to build something for me so I was trying to let go of my vision and trust his judgment. And then I had a brainstorm moment...we could attach steel sheeting to the hidden sides of the storage cube instead of creating a new standing display. We layed it flat and then used gorilla glue to attach it. The stuff shown on top is to weigh it down to form the bond. After it dried, I applied silver duct tape along the edges so that it wouldn't be sharp in case a customer had a weird encounter with it. LOL So now it's safe.

I'm pretty excited about it! It was super cheap and after RAM, I can roll this thing back into the house and put our stuff back on it.

I also claimed a kids' storage bin thing to use as a rack to hang my hand dyed towels from. It's the white thing with bars in the above pic, being used to weigh down the steel.

Tomorrow I'll get pics up of the completed booth at RAM. :)

The next exciting thing of the day is my new color laser printer arrived! Our last 2 color printers were a HP and they are practically disposable. Never will I spend another dime on a HP printer. This one is a Brother HL-4040CDN. It's massive!! And heavy! But thanks to my amazon prime membership, I got it delivered over night for a whopping $3.99! I'm excited about it being laser, too. Those prints will hold up better and won't melt away if they happen to get wet unlike what happens to inkjet copies. The most annoying thing was how my home printed business cards smudged. Not a problem now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fricken Frackin Vandalism!

Mia's band teacher called me this afternoon. Her flute, the one we JUST bought was vandalized at school today. Someone removed it from the supposedly locked cabinet and thrashed it around breaking keys off and denting it to smithereens. Nice. Hello middle school! ugg!

Mia is not totally without fault. When we bought the flute, we told her that she needed to bring it to and from school every day. On Friday when she came home without the flute, she told me her 'teacher' insisted she leave it there and that it would be locked up. I questioned her on it because how in the world could she practice at home??? OK, so I figured that maybe the band teacher got tired of students forgetting their instruments and that's why they had this rule. She said they practice for 1.5 hours at school and that her grade was based on participation.

Well, the true story is that her 'teacher' was another girl who plays flute and it teaching Mia. She is the one who told her it was safe to leave it at school. And that most of the students leave theirs. That might be true but the band teacher told me that the students should bring their instruments home every day. On day one, I asked Mia to clarify her flute responsibility with the teacher and she failed to do that.

So it appears that Mia bent the truth a bit to suit her desire...which was to blindly follow the advise of another student even if it was in disagreement with our request.

I am annoyed that we basically kissed $100 goodbye and have nothing to show for it. I am annoyed that Mia did not trust us, the parents, because we told her that leaving it at school was a bad idea!

I am pleased with the response from the band teacher. He said Mia was a delight and that he was glad to have her in his class. He said that he would try to have the instrument repaired when the repairman comes through next week. (I guess the school owns some instruments and has a repairman that comes by regularly.) I don't really have much hope based on Mia's description of the damage. Anyhow, he said he would take responsibility since he did not tell Mia about the risk.

Anyhow, dh and I talked about it and we are not punishing Mia. The natural consequence is that we are not going to buy another flute. Heck, we pulled money out of our emergency fund to pay for the first one...which was used a whopping 3 times in class.

Big Changes Around Here

Over the past week, we have been transitioning the children back into public school. (Yes, three quarters into the school year.) There were lots of factors that went into the decision and it was not something that we entered into lightly. One of the factors is that I just can't kick start my new business while caring for and homeschooling 5 children. Well, maybe if I locked myself into the office and let them fend for themselves for 6 hours a day. ;) Trying to do business research and making phone call inquiries while I was constantly interrupted by children who thought I MUST know *right* then that my toddler lobbed a potato at their head? haha Another factor is that my personal motivation to be a homeschooling family has been waning in recent months. I have found myself craving time without my delightfully inquisitive and generally wonderful children.

Our 12 year old daughter has been championing for a chance to attend our local middle school for a couple months. This was prompted once she refound an old friend Emily, a neighborhood girl that goes to the same school and apparently loves it. So Mia started school last week. And luck was on our side when Mia was placed in ALL of Emily's classes. Mia has been ecstatic about school and her report has been all glowing...although I would be remiss if I failed to mention how moody she has been outside of school.

One of Mia's new classes is band and she needed a instrument. She picked the flute. I had a slightly hilarious interaction with a music store employee where I learned that a new flute would cost $895. {yikes!} I was thinking it would be under $100! That was a bit eye opening. My darling husband came to the rescue and found a used flute on craigslist for $100.

My oldest son, Greyson, started 3rd grade at the local elementary school last week. He went there for K - most of 2nd grade so he knows the drill. Turns out that he was assigned an amazing male teacher, Mr. H. So far, so good. And Greyson is in the same class as a few old friends, like Max, Mia's cousin whom we all claim, too. I think that helps. He has enjoyed his time at school so far, especially lunch and recess. There is some confusion with the school about how they will pass him at the end of the year, since Greyson didn't take the required standardized testing.

My twins were placed in separate kindy classes yesterday. There are 2 classes. One has the super sweet, very patient Mrs. H who has 2 of my twin's preschool friends. We decided that even though we know Kendall would have a great time in this class, that it really would be a better fit for Ethan who is struggling with reading and with following directions in general. (Really I wish both kids could be in Mrs. H's class.) I also figured that Kendall would fit in anywhere and would still do OK in the other class.

Both the twins were really excited about starting school but their excitement was a bit tempered when they came home. They didn't realize that the day would be so long. And Kendall was distraught when she found out that tattle-tellers get in trouble. (She didn't but she witnessed another tattle-teller getting reprimanded.) Ethan said his day was a little good and a little bad. Kendall reported that her day was good but later, at bedtime, she was a little teary and she told me that she wanted to be homeschooled again. That made me tear up because I fully expected her to LOVE school. Maybe it would have been different if she had been in Mrs. H's class with her 2 little friends. I am a little miffed that Ethan and Kendall didn't get to play outside together during recess like I had been told they would. Turns out that the 2 kindy classes aren't as synched as I had been told. ugg

With all the kids in school, it left me at home with our 2 year old. The day went remarkably smooth. I was able to do some deep cleaning and Lily helped. I didn't have to stop to feed lunch to 5 kids. I didn't have to remind kids not to step on the wet kitchen floor. I was able to take pictures of new product for my etsy store. I was also able to register my fictictional name AND apply for a tax id number, things that required me to read and comprehend a lot of fine print to ensure I was setting it up correctly. And dinner was in the oven when the hubby came home. A good day.

The evening did get chaotic with homework and reading logs to be completed. And 2 of the older children sporadically fell alseep before bedtime. This will be the trade-off, I suppose.

On the creative front, this is what I have been working on...

This represents a good portion of what started as 20 yards of birdseye fabric. I hand dyed the fabric with professional grade fiber reactive dye using a low water immersion technique. Then I permanetly set the color, washed, dried and ironed the fabric. Then I cut it to size and serged the edges forming unique and funky towels. They can be kitchen towels, hung from the oven door and used for drying hands or dishes. Or they can be hand towels. These will be available this Saturday at the Riverside Arts Market.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 'I hate cancer' post because I can't think of a better title

There's been something really sad that's been going on around here lately. The feeling is heavy. A good friend of mine is losing her battle to breast cancer. She's my age and right on the cusp of middle age, which is still too darn young to even be dealing with a deadly cancer. I hate it. I feel awkward and uncomfortable at times because I don't know what I can do to help and I worry about the words I use. Are death and dyeing taboo words when talking to someone who is very close to death? And part of me wants to back away and protect myself... which is really silly because this is not about ME.

The latest news is that the cancer is growing quickly and it's in the lining of her lungs. It's a struggle for her to breath. She has been to the hospital several times in recent weeks to have the fluid drained and I think they may have even inserted some sort of ports. I'm not very good at remembering medical details and some of my information is secondhand so I'm not sure if it's 100% accurate. A friend told me that doctors said our friend could have 2 weeks or 2 months, it's unknown but it almost certainly points to the fact that there will be an end. Our friend is tired of fighting. She's tired of chemo and doctor appointments. She's tired of hospitalizations and just being separated from her family especially when the cancer is still growing.

I finally had a moment of quiet in the house and I picked up the phone and called her. I was surprised when she picked up the phone herself. She sounded very weak but she was there. We talked. I told her that I heard the news wasn't good. I cried. She cried. We both cried. I told her that I was just very sad that the cancer was winning and that I couldn't bear the thought of her not being around. I think that this is worse then our loss when Nolan died. Or maybe I just think that because I've had almost 4 years to deal with Nolan's death. My friend has 3 daughters that still need her. It's unfair that she is likely going to be robbed of the joy of watching them grow up. She told me that she's not scared to die but that she worries about her girls and whether her husband can handle being a single parent. Kids need their mom. It's fundamental.

I have more to say on this subject but I will have to save it for another time. I made plans to visit my friend early next week.

But yeah, I hate cancer. My friend's battle reminds me of my cousin Jared's fight with pancreatic cancer. He fought the battle valiantly and won...until the damn cancer came back and claimed his life. He was 32 when he died with 3 children and a wife. So unfair.

Semi Official

I went to my SCORE group counseling session yesterday...only it was just me, my 12 year old dd and then Bill and Bob, two retired businessmen. Bob was the talker. Bill was in training to be a SCORE counsellor and he pretty much said nothing to me the entire time. The meeting was semi-helpful. They weren't able to answer all of my questions so the referred me to a ton of different websites. I think it would have been more helpful to match me with someone who has a business offering lessons of some sort, like a piano teacher. It was still very exciting to talk to someone else about my plans!

From there we walked over to the Tax Collector's office to get a business license. At this point, I'm just set up as a sole proprietorship and my license is a peddler's license. This will allow me to sell at the arts market. It does not cover phase 2 of my business. That gets a bit more complicated. And I still haven't decided on a name so that piece will be put on hold until I decide. I'm not super creative with business naming and I really don't enjoy this aspect of starting a business. Should the name be a cool name or a name the states the nature of the business? Should it be narrow or broad in scope? etc, etc, etc.

My creative endeavor last night was dyeing 20 yards of fabric in 5-6 different colorways. As I've mentioned before, I LOVE dyeing fabric. It's very satisfying to me. I did have one uh oh moment in that I accidently muddied one of the solutions so the bright orange and pink has turned into something else. I think it will still be OK, just not as bright as I was aiming for. And that's the thing, it's hard for me to get repeatable results because I love just mixing and adding dye and praying for a magnificent surprise.

There is other exciting news going on here. My oldest child is going back to public school starting today. And the other children may be following soon. We are still ironing out the details with the younger children. Two of them can't wait to start and one is not looking forward to it at all. I'm excited at the thought of having time to devote to my business and household stuff. There just is not enough time in the day to get everything done...especially when children undue the work before I move to the next room. There will be some trade offs but I think that those will be minimal considering how late it is in the school year.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A New Business

Last night dh and I attended a free small business orientation held at our local chamber of commerce. There were several organizations who sponsor it - SCORE, Jacksonville Women's Business Center and quite a few more. There were probably 30 people aspiring or existing small business owners in attendance. The meeting was not 100% geared to what my plans are but it was still very helpful. The annoying part was all the talk about getting financing to start your business. They focused on writing a good business plan including financials so that the bank would want to loan the money. They mentioned the importance of having good personal credit and how banks (obviously) look at it when determining risk. The SBA guarentees a portion of the loan, blah, blah, blah. I will be starting my new business with a small amount of cash that we can divert to it.

And my business will need to be profitable pretty darn quickly. I will have to watch expenses like a hawk. If it doesn't add to the bottom line, then I will have to say no.

I am so very excited about starting! I have always wanted to do this and now I will.

What will I be doing? Stayed tuned. I'll make an announcement very soon. I'm ironing out the details of naming my business first.

I will be attending a group counseling session with my local SCORE office today. Right after that, I'm applying for a business (occupational) license. Today!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dear Paas

I just wanted to write to let you know about our recent experience with your Marble Magic craft activity egg decorating kit. First of all, good job of sucking me in. I thought the Marble Magic must have been worth double the price of the plain ole egg decorating kit. So maybe you don't have kids or maybe you didn't actually test this product with kids. No fear, I'll share my review.

I found your directions to be less then clear. We wanted to do the marble technique so my eyes jumped right to that bold section. It told me to 'Add 3 Tablespoons of oil to the color baths.' OK, back up and make color baths, which I did. Then I added the 3 TBL of oil to each color per your directions. That's 3 TBL x 12 colors. What a waste! And the results were less then spectacular since the oil coated the eggs as we dipped spite of our rigorous stirring.

So now AFTER the fact, I understand that I should have dyed all the eggs and then selected a few colors for the marbling. But as I read back through your written instructions, no where did it tell me that.

And if the waste wasn't enough, I ended up with super greasy eggs that dripped pools of oil as they 'dried.' I had to remove each egg and wipe the excess grease off and then clean the greasy mess left on the counter.

Bad idea for a product with less then clear instructions. Next year, I'm going with the .99 box.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Recycle Upcycle Repurpose

I'm not a stranger to transforming things. I have taken things that I have liked and turned them into other items - like cutting into a doomed shirt to pilfer the fabric to make sleeves for a dress and stuff like that or cutting up a flannel receiving blanket and turning it into baby wipes. What I didn't realize is that there is a movement sweeping the country of other people doing the same thing...and then selling their wares touting the environmentally friendly nature of the item. Turning something destined for the city dump into something usable, extending the life expectancy of the item. I really like the idea of that.

About a week ago I was folding laundry and I pulled one of my favorite dresses for my youngest dd out of the dryer. I was sad when I noticed a rip in the skirt. It was such a pretty dress and the cotton fabric had an almost silky smoothness that I have never really encountered on new bolts of fabric at the fabric store. It reminded me of my favorite dish drying towels that I inherited from my dh's family. (We believe they came from his maternal grandmother.) They were such a joyous find to me! The towels are long rectangles, serged with red thread and they about 1/3 the width of a standard flour sack towel and much thinner. I love those towels. Thin so they dry quickly and absorbent. I always keep one on my oven door handle.

And that's when I came up with the idea of transforming that dress into a fancy hand towel. And I've gone a little crazy with it since then. I imagine my dressy towels hanging in fancy schmancy guest bathrooms or in girly girl bathrooms. They make me smile when I make them and again when I see them displayed. Each one has been a unique work of art, taking time to figure out how to work the fabric in my hands, making the best use of it. Figuring out the bodice, the straps that must come undoen so that it can be attached to a towel bar - sometimes using spagetti straps that I sew and turn and sometimes using buttons, serging the hems and gathering the waist, and then attaching the bodice, making sure that I've topstitched appropriate seams for durability and so that it holds its shape after washing. And then I hold each one up and think ' That looks like a cute little doll dress' and then I know I was successful.

So now when I go through my kids' clothes, looking for cast-offs, I will have a new pile - items to be repurposed or upcycled. And perhaps I will look a little harder at the throw away items and see if there is anything else I can salvage like buttons. Or maybe I can cut a few quilt squares out of the ripped up jeans.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Woah Nelly!

Boy, have I been lax. Seriously lax in updating my blog. So the truth is that we put our house on the market, last October. 180 days later, it's still on the market. We got one low ball offer and lots of interested people...but no one is acting. Our realtor said that the last couple that came through REALLY likes it but they are working on getting their financing together. I'm not holding my breathe.

I hate having my house on the market. It's a boatload of work and it's very intrusive. Please tell me how you would get 5 children out of the house and run through and make sure that all the toilets are flushed and that no one stuck a used band-aid to the edge of the sink. Gross, I know but it's my life and it doesn't bode well for last-minute showings. I just can't do it.

Anyhow, to prepare the house for the market, I packed up a massive amount of crafty spinning wheel, yarn, fabric, etc, etc, etc.

It's only been in the past couple weeks that I felt like I was going to explode if I couldn't do something creative. So I have been making beautiful, unique items for my etsy store. I went from nearly nothing to almost 100 items in two weeks. In all fairness, most of those items were already made! I just had to take inventory, take photos and get them listed.

My latest obsession is making hand towels in the form of dresses! Check out my store for pics and details.

Oh and I heard of a cool yarn giveaway so I wanted to include the link here so that I can be entered. I'm too far away to attend the festival. Boohoo! The giveaway yarn is from Three Irish Girls. I own one lonely skein which is being turned into my Forest Canopy shawl. The colors are so wonderful. I'm almost done with it! My first lace project and my first shawl!