Crafting a Business

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This week I am at the sewing machine stitching up little dreams that pop into my head: things I’ve seen on Pinterest or in magazines, with my own twist. Also, I’m filling special orders and replenishing stock. On Monday, I sewed up ten flax and lavender pillows for a friend’s order. On Tuesday, I sewed and filled four more so I’ll have enough to bring with me to the next craft fair. I also spent time ordering supplies and figuring out what boxes I needed to order for products I will sell on Etsy.

Today I finished two pillows with felt lettering on them and cut out lots of muslin triangles and letters in reds and greens to make Christmas buntings. Tomorrow, I hope to add a few more pillows to my stock, and make a few felt mitten garlands.

I’m waiting on one ingredient to arrive so I can make beeswax food wraps. They are a practical, beautiful and fun alternative to plastic wrap. I also have a recipe for a winter balm, a whipped body butter, and more lotion bars that I want to try.  Plus I should finish at least two more paper art canvases to take with me.

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This weekend is a craft bazaar in Ithaca at 1st Assembly of God church on Bostwick Road. I’m looking forward to a busy day, meeting people, answering questions, and hopefully, selling a lot of things I’ve made. At the same time, I’m chomping at the bit to open my Etsy store. This will require several hours devoted to photographing the items, writing up descriptions, measuring and weighing everything.

Tonight, after going to a local craft supply store and shelling out more money for thread, ribbon, and fabric, I started to panic. Suppose nothing comes of this? What if I can’t connect my products with the right people? What if…

As I sat in the car with tears dripping off the end of my nose, Alan spoke words of courage into me. “You’re creative and smart, have lots of good ideas, you have plenty of spunk. You’re figuring it out. I know it’s scary, but you don’t need to get all emotional–it takes time, but you’ll get there.”

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And then he looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you want it to be successful?” I nodded, “Of course, I do.” “Then it will. Don’t give up and you’ll get there.” All this could sound like cliche, except I knew he meant what he said and it worked.

“Thanks for talking me down off the ledge,” I said. Then I dried my eyes and we went into Greenstar to get my coffee, kale and oats. Local musician Tenzin Chopak was at the register, which was a definite perk.

Right now, so many little pieces of this business have to be worked out, but I’m determined to do all I need to. Truly, I love a challenge and a year from now I’ll be glad I did everything that seems so difficult right now.

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One Book I Hate

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Oh, I’m not one to shy away from saying I hate a book if I do. It’s true that some of the people interviewed on Anne Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next say they don’t like to actually admit that they “hate” a book. Whatever.

I tend to have strong reactions to books, especially if I’ve invested many nights reading diligently through them, trying to be patient as I wait for a part worth reading. The chapters plod on, but no dice. I get to the middle and nothing improves, I realize it’s a lost cause. Most of the time, in recent years, I’ve abandoned the book, like a pair of jeans or shoes that just never fit right. Just not for me or at least not right now.

In the case of 11/22/63, however, I kept going. Why? Because it’s Stephen King we’re talking about. He is a master of writing, or at least so I’ve heard. Before this book, I’d only heard others discussing his work, but never had read anything of his for myself. What made me start now? I’m definitely not a horror fan, but know plenty of people who are. This book, as it turns out, is not in the horror genre, but is touted as a time-travel mystery/thriller. I am a reader of mysteries, plus I’d heard plenty of positive reviews and comments about this book, so I had to read it. This past spring, when Alan and I were at a used bookstore, I purchased a copy, and it sat all summer waiting to be read. Alan is in the middle of King’s Dark Tower series, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and read one of his books too. What a mistake!

The book is told from the perspective of a thirty-something high school English teacher who is divorced and doesn’t have anything interesting happening in his life. He gets tangled in a time-travel adventure which involves going back to the late 1950s and attempting to save JFK from assassination. It starts off in Derry, Maine, where “It” lurks, apparently. Since the assassination takes place in Dallas, the protagonist has to relocate there and live until ’63.

All I can say is it drags on and on. Lee Harvey Oswald and his family live in a poor neighborhood. He is abusive, fanatical and downright boring. Day after boring day we get play-by-plays of what he and his wife say or do, who comes to his house, etc. I can’t tell you how I kept looking for something interesting to happen. Yes, there is a romance that brews and a couple of violent and action-filled scenes to shake things up. So I hoped things would improve.

After 850-plus pages, though, the book ends in sadness and futility. Oh my goodness. I felt so angry! What a waste of all those nights reading when I could’ve been reading something else. Although I will give King another chance and read his book entitled On Writing.  And I won’t recommend 11/22/63 to anyone.


Have you read 11/22/63? What did you think?

Pie Happy

“Mother took the pie out of the oven and it hissed fragrant apple, maple, cinnamon steam through the knife cuts in the top crust. She was making her world beautiful. She was making her world delicious. It could be done, and if anyone could do it, she could.”
J.J. Brown, Death and the Dream

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The day before Thanksgiving, I baked a grain-free pecan pie from Gluten Free and More Magazine and I told you I would share photos if it came out right. Well, I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully and it tasted scrumptious even four days after Thanksgiving when I finally got around to trying it.

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The crust came together easily, with few ingredients and pressed into the pie plate without crumbling. It cracked, but was moist and it was easy to repair and crimp the edges.

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The filling just mixed up in a bowl and then was poured into the crust and baked.

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I am going to use this pie crust recipe for all sweet pies from now on. Apple is next on my list, and raspberry after that.

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“America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving.”
Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History

 

What did you bake this Thanksgiving?

Shadow and Light

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On this last Monday in November, as our half of the earth makes do with less sunlight while the other half gets their share, how are you holding up? If you’re from the U.S., was your Thanksgiving Day a happy, boisterous time with extended family crammed around a table, eating, conversing and giving thanks for all the goodness in their lives? Or was it fraught with tension if relatives don’t all get along or sadness if you missed loved ones who have passed away or at least moved far away? Or maybe it was a dinner with just one or two? Or a quiet meal alone.

When I was a child, before I’d lost any close family members or friends, I didn’t understand why adults would say the holidays were difficult. I knew that money issues made it stressful for parents wanting to buy gifts for several children. It wasn’t until my maternal grandmother died two weeks before Thanksgiving when I was seventeen, that I experienced my first hard holiday. And as the years went by, I lost two more grandparents, siblings moved or there were tensions between various family members.

This was my second Thanksgiving without my kids, so I know a bit more about the bittersweet way life can intertwine joy and sadness. Last year was tough to not have them with me. This year, as I knew they really wanted to be with their dad’s family in Pennsylvania, I focused on their happiness and, although I missed them and got a little teary-eyed a couple of times, I made the most of the quietness and relaxing atmosphere. We texted throughout the day and I thought of them often, but I decided to enjoy the day and I did.

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Everyday, we can find ways to drown our feelings or choose to feel them all. I can smile and laugh one hour, but maybe cry later on. Float lightly on a moment of gratitude for goodness and fortune in life, but sink into a somber mood as I reflect on ways I’ve failed, people who’ve failed me and then comes the decision: Will I leave my heart open to love, to possibility, to believing that people are mostly well-intentioned and look for the best in every situation? Will I focus on the positive and enjoy everything I can in the life I have now?

That’s the question. I choose to look up. My favorite Normal Rockwell painting is entitled “Lift Up Thine Eyes”, because of the message, mostly. So many things to turn down our gaze, but we can choose to look up, to find the good, the best, the excellent that resides within people and the joy that is to be found even on difficult days.

I hope you enjoy every moment of daylight this Monday and remember to lift your eyes and not miss the best the day has to offer.

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Leaning Toward the Light

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I stood at the kitchen sink one cold morning a couple of weeks ago, washing out my coffee cup, when I focused on the tulip in the mini Mason jar on the window sill. It was decidedly leaning toward the sunshine sparkling our way.  Just the night before, its slender stem had rested upright in the jar’s water, its petals pulled close together and it hadn’t been leaning in any particular direction. Immediately, I grabbed my phone and googled this phenomenon.

I knew that tulips open and close in response to variable light throughout the day, (photonastic), but I guess I’d never realized they followed the sun, (heliotropic), even after they were cut. According to this article, tulips are both heliotropic and photonastic. They twist and stretch toward the light, continue to grow after they’re in a vase, which is why they tend to droop after a few days.

This little flower, whose days were numbered, was orienting itself toward the light: spending its time in the most life-giving activity possible. Tulips need light to survive, to thrive, to live the life that it was designed to live. Even after being cut! That’s what got me. It’s not sitting in the vase waiting to die, it’s living fully–moving, growing, twisting, and cheering everyone whose eyes alight on it. If tulips had hearts, I’d say it lived wholeheartedly.

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Of course, I made the connection to my own life and asked myself: in what ways am I following the light, leaning toward it, growing and moving with grace and beauty within the constraints of my particular “vase” or circumstances? Where are sources of light and life for me?

Believing in God’s love and care for me and the rest of humanity is probably at the top of my list. Reading poetry, books on spirituality, quality fiction and biographical stories of people who have overcome major obstacles to reach their goals is also important for me. Maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones, family and friends, is vital for all of us. Travel–seeing new places–is extremely uplifting and fills me with appreciation both for where I live and for the beauty of the earth. Finally, writing, singing, and making things–creative endeavors–bring me much joy and satisfaction. If I had no creative outlets, it would be like only seeing in black and white instead of full color. Creating keeps me sane.

Tulips will always thrill me with their stunning colors and elegant shapes, but now that I know that they are lovely little miracles following light, growing and twisting and stretching toward the sun, I will revere them and be ever grateful for their presence in the world, in my garden and on my window sill.

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A Real Thanksgiving

 

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It’s been a year rich with variety:

tender conversations with people I love,

being misunderstood and unheard by some,

being truly cared for and acknowledged by others.

Feeling kindness when I didn’t see it coming,

and attempting to accept what can never be changed.

 

Laughter, music, tears, blue days as well as sunny ones,

discovering new friendships and rekindling old ones,

launching a little business before I felt ready,

figuring out how to best mother my children where they’re at right now,

listening, saying I’m sorry, trying things even if I’m uncertain,

living through pain and finding joy in the middle of sorrow,

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looking at life with openness and a sense of the possible,

trusting that God’s love for me is unwavering,

that God loves all of us, bruised and broken as we are.

 

I am giving thanks that, for all my faults, I am still capable of loving and being loved,

As long as I live, I have a chance to love, to work, to grow, to be myself in this world.

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Thanksgiving and Parkinson’s Law

 

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I only just heard about Parkinson’s Law this year, although I’ve lived it my entire life. Here it is: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” It’s so true! If I have a month to prepare for a musical performance, I take that long; if I have a week, well, that’s how long it takes too.

And this carries over into how many possessions we acquire and store, how much food we consume, etc. If we have a large plate for dinner, we will fill it and eat everything on it. If we have a lot of closet space, or a garage, we’ll accumulate stuff until we fill the available space. This article from Medium posits that constraints are the best thing you can work with. Give yourself a shorter time to complete tasks and you’ll be more productive.

This article shows how you can use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage. I was thinking about Thanksgiving preparations, in particular. I guess we should all try making the list and then allotting ourselves a certain amount of time for each task.

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For example, I need to make sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and chocolate pie, all tomorrow. Yikes! All gluten free and dairy free. When I’ve made them and if they’re a success, I’ll share photos and recipes with you…

But I also need to take a trip around the corner to the Amish market to purchase spices for mulled cider and flax seed for my friend’s flax and lavender pillows. And then sew up the pillows. That feels like a lot. So I’ve got only one day and am going to become a pie making and flax warming pillow machine. I’m giving myself three and a half hours for the food and two hours for the pillows, plus a half hour for the shopping trip. By sundown tomorrow, I’ll be looking forward to an evening of reading and writing.

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I’ll report back on how my day goes…

What’s on your day-before-Thanksgiving Day list?

Possibly an A

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After a dinner of potato-leek soup, salad and roasted vegetables, I curled up in the library, thinking about the conversation my daughter and I had on our drive home. Last week while she was in oral surgery I was reading The Art of Possibility. There is a chapter that presents the concept of giving everyone an “A”, even if they don’t seem to deserve it. Look for the good, the possible, the contribution that each life presents or can be if they saw themselves that way.

We can have such low expectations of people sometimes, and certainly of loved ones who have not treated us how we believe we should be treated. There were several stories of adults being disappointed with their fathers because they had never seemed to show them love or understanding. After they were presented with idea of giving their parents an “A”, they were surprised to recall memories of tenderness or to find an endearing letter from the supposedly heartless father. Since I read that, I’ve been looking at my people differently, as humans with possibility for beauty, kindness, and love. Will I be still be hurt? Sure, but I can move forward with an open heart and look for the best.

Don’t we need to release people from our low expectations, our presumptions and assumptions? And just see them with fresh eyes, no limits and full of possibility and wonder.

So Ella and I talked about family matters, about how much she enjoyed her recent weekend with her dad’s side of the family, and she expressed the qualities about their family that she wishes everyone could experience: acceptance, kindness, respect and love. I agreed. “It’s so rare,” she said. (All the more reason to be thankful for her good fortune to belong to such a family.)

I’ve felt myself returning to a jaded view of human nature after a few negative experiences this weekend. You know what? I need to move on.Who knows what will happen tomorrow? I can learn and choose to look at everyone in my life as possessing the ability to communicate clearly and meaningfully.

If you have wonderful relationships, then Thanksgiving is a perfect time to celebrate them. If there is tension and disappointment and lack of communication in your circle, try giving everyone an “A” and celebrate all the good waiting to be discovered.

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Giving Thanks for Monday

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Mondays are the days of fresh workloads, new lists and new challenges. I have to shop for groceries for the week, pick up Christmas decorations that I cannot make myself, and most likely pick up my daughter after school and bring her home with me to spend the night. And I need to practice Christmas music for our concert Saturday, plus do some sewing for a Christmas order.

Does having a lot on your list make you antsy if you’re sitting or resting for a while? It’s super hard for me to relax when I have so much to do. But at the same time, that sense of too much to do weighs me down and makes me feel panicky. What to do?

This article was helpful. The best common sense idea was you can only do one thing at a time, so focus on that one and do the best you can. The other was to pick a high impact item off your list rather than accomplishing many small unimportant tasks. And on medium, this article reminded me of what I know is true: Find some quiet time each day just for you. Also, say no to everything that is extraneous.

So no matter how antsy I feel taking a break, I need to. Step away and breath, pick up an instrument, talk with my kids, take a walk, watch something funny, read for an hour. The rest does renew my willpower to keep working. And while I am working, I won’t think of other things I have to do, but will stay present and be here with the people I’m with, working with focus and living the moments I’ve been given on this Monday.

Are you feeling the challenge of this Monday, of this week? Let’s all encourage one another to do good work, enjoy our actual lives and be thankful this new day.

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Links I Love

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Here is where I share links to sites and articles I’ve read this week that have encouraged or inspired me. They may be new or just new-to-me, but I’ve followed curiosity’s path and here’s where it led me.

From IntrovertDear.com is an article about INFJ children. If you have one or were one, you will likely nod your head and possibly learn from it.

Here’s an article about people that don’t just choose to do one thing, but are interested or talented in several areas.

I’ve been re-examining my eco-friendly habits or the lack thereof and am revisiting the no-paper towel/napkin/ziploc idea. Or at least cutting back on those expensive one-use, throw-away items. Here are a few links to move me in the right direction: About kicking the paper towel habit. Here’s one for replacing paper products in the kitchen. Here’s another for making your own reusable food wrap. I’ve done this before and it’s super easy. I’m going to make a bunch more in the next couple of weeks. If you want a real kick in your green pants, check out Bea Johnson’s website. And one more is this how to on Furoshiki, which is Japanese fabric wrapping. I want to wrap gifts this way!!!

And last of all, gluten free, dairy free recipes for Thanksgiving. My daughter and I don’t eat meat, but the rest of the household does, so I ignore those recipes, but there are a lot of good ones. This one by Williams-Sonoma has a fennel soup I have to make. Here are a bunch from Jeanettes’ Healthy Living and from Gluten Free and More. One more from Go Dairy Free.

Happy Weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to you!IMG_1606