Monday, November 24, 2008

Jacksonville Show, November 22 & 23, 2008

The most exciting news this past week has been the COLD weather we are having here in Florida. For those of you in the North, I apologize--it's still warm here by your standards. But, anytime we Floridians have to change out of shorts and flip flops--IT IS COLD!

I have been walking Bonnie with a jacket because when we leave for the walk it is closer to 40 than to 50 degrees. Today was the first day it was over 50, but, I kept the jacket on for about a mile before shedding it to keep from sweating and then cooling down too fast. Bonnie was sad--none of her dog buddies were out and about this morning.

My show this weekend was disappointing, but, not unexpected. The Morocco Shrine show has never been a great one for me, basically just a way to fill an open weekend. That is not to say that the folks that put on the show are not wonderful. They give you hotdogs, cookies and sweet tea when you set up on Friday night. They allow you to park overnight at their property--they even have hookups for the crafters in RVs. Very nice!

I was between two booths selling jewelry. There was a TON of jewelry there and despite my attempts to be one of only two people selling soap, there were FOUR of us. Too bad for a show that is so small. None of the soap people make any money and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when they tell you there will be two and there is double that.

I did get to the mall both Friday and Saturday night to see movies. I caught the new James Bond movie first. It was GREAT. I really have come around to liking the new guy as 007. He rocks. Then on Saturday night I tried to see "The Secret Life of Bees" but it was only playing in the morning. SO, I went to see that vampire movie "Twilight". I was pleasantly surprised. Very entertaining and a good story line....and I think a good series for teenagers to be into reading. The young guy who played the vampire was perfect. I still can't believe it is $10 to see a movie up in Jax, I still pay $6 in Orlando!!!

Camping out those two nights was fun--it got down in the 40's both nights so my sleeping bag and fleece were definitely appreciated. I woke up at 4:30am on Friday--my hat came off and left me cold. But, once I had it back on, I snuggled into the bag and warmed right up.

Well, this week it is Thanksgiving. I have a show in Gainesville this weekend, so, I won't be going anywhere to celebrate. I hope Rod will go up to his parent's house to reason he shouldn't when he has Friday and Saturday off. I usually try to start my shopping this weekend at the stores in G'ville and then finish off up in Tallahassee the next weekend so I can get things in the mail. I am still not sure where I will be for Christmas, but, the first of the soapmaking classes in December just booked. Yippee!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fireplace Weather--Florida Style, November 17, 2008

Cold weather has come to Orlando in the form of 40's overnight and 60's during the day. This is our first fire of the season. We have a full rack of firewood...that unfortunately needs to be split. Hopefully Lumberjack Rod will accomplish that without a trip to the ER!

The cold snap is supposed to last through the weekend...yippeeeeee!!!!

On another front, we called the power company for the third time with no response. So tomorrow I will venture up the chain of command to hopefully get some information. If only the linemen could write the claim check, we would have had this finalized back on October 19th. Grrrr!

Clearwater Christmas Under the Oaks, Clearwater, FL November 15 & 16, 2008

This is what happens at a craft show when the wind comes up and you are not allowed to stake into the ground to prevent your tent from flying. Luckily none of these tents were mine, but, the bottom right picture is of my friend Annie's tent. It happened overnight and basically the tent was trashed but most of the handmade products inside were ok. The clouds in the background of the top right picture really reflect my mood for the weekend! :)
I wasn't sure what to expect at the show as I had only done it once before when it was a one day Sunday only show. It was probably a self-fullfilling profency on my end, but, I didn't expect much...and that is what I got. My incense rack tipped over about 2pm--it was totally my fault. A nice gal was trying to shop as I was trying to get everything covered up because I could see the rain moving in again.
The lady was over by the incense rack when I was ready to move it in. I should have asked her to wait while I did. I told her I needed to move the rack in but she only needed a couple moments more to get what she needed...and by then it was too late. These things happen FAST, and this time was no different. Nothing was broken--just a big heap of about 2000 sticks of incense on the ground. ARGH!
SO, I packed that up first and then just kept on packing up. I wasn't sure if I would be back in the morning for another try, but, I wasn't going to take any chances that the soap would be lost too. By 4:30 both Annie and I were ready to go. I had taken her my 100 pounds of weights to help keep her tent in place--but you can see how much that helped!!
We got a call in the room about 8:30pm that Annie's tent was about to go over...but Annie decided to just handle the problem in the morning. She arrived shortly after 6am to what she described as a war zone. Most of the tents on the waterfront were either taken down by the vendors or the wind. That is was billed as only 17 mph winds was no consolation for any of the vendors who lost their displays and/or product.
Annie and I walked around after we had gotten her packed up. The promoters--nice gals from the Junior League--offered to find both of us other spots, but, Annie's products needed to hang and mine were staying put in the van. The only thing that would have changed my mind is if the other three soapmakers had packed up and left...but two were still standing, so I decided to cut bait. There's always next weekend, right?!?! Luckily the next three shows are indoors...yippee!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Soapmaking, Wednesday, November, 13, 2008

Any of you who have dropped by my house to pick up soap, know that the term "house" is actually more like "soap factory" anymore! It is an adventure (I am using that word to replace a four letter word that begins with "Cluster ____"). I ran out of room to comfortably make soap about 4 years ago. So, I have been trying to hang on until we move back to Illinois when I can move the business into a bigger production facility. I can't wait--the biggest understatement EVER.

Today's soapmaking was really a snap. I did restocks of Jasmine, Lavender and Oatmeal Milk and Honey. I also did a special variation on the Fir Needle soap so I can sell it as "Oh, Christmas Tree" since it looks like I will be running out of my limited supply of the seasonal soap that I make. I also did a new soap scent--Bergamot Clary Sage 100% Natural. Right after cutting it this morning I am feeling that the Clary Sage is too strong, but, we will see how it cures.

The adventure came as I was clearing off the curing racks to make room for the new soap. This usually means that a couple bars get knocked off as I pull off the bars that are ready to be wrapped. Surprise, nothing fell this time. Little did I know, I had a bigger situation about to occur.

My metal racks basically hold things from floor to ceiling. On the top of one of them I have a plastic storage box--one of those made to fit wrapping paper rolls. This is the box that I put of the shreds and scrap soaps into. Towards the end of the month, that box gets HEAVY...and yesterday after making five batches of soap--IT WAS REALLY HEAVY. As I scooted it off the top shelf, I lost my grip and the whole box of soap scraps ended up on the floor and bottom shelf of another metal rack. Oh crap!

So, now my box isn't quite so heavy (the layer that hit the floor went into the garbage). But, I am really pissed off trying to make do with this cramped, poorly laid out soap room that is the headquarters for the great soap I try to make every week. LOL So, if you get a little cat or dog hair in a bar of Everything but the Kitchen Sink--you will understand?!?!?
The new un-named Bergamot soap!

McIntosh Craft Show, October 18, 2008

McIntosh is a quaint little village south of Gainesville, FL. The annual craft show is usually a decent Saturday in the month of October. This year was no different. I set up on Friday afternoon--Annie, Jim and Lori were already there and setting up. Eve would get there when I was about done...and poor Steph--she had to work. SO, she called and had me check in for her, just in case she didn't make it there before the girls closed up the check in tent.
We stayed in the same hotel as last year. I ran down to Steak and Shake to get a burger--Eve had eaten on the way. The hotel is nice, but, a night club had opened up behind the hotel. We were at the back of the hotel on the second floor and at about 2:15 my sleep aid must have worn off because I was almost bounced off the bed by the loud music. Eve had her ear plugs in so she missed the concert. I called the front desk, but, of course nothing was done.
The show is usually an early attendee show--meaning it is not unusual to see people out shopping with flashlights before we are set up. One of the vendors thinks it is only the other vendors out snooping--I think he might be right! LOL
The show went fine. Take down was a snap, but not for the people next to Eve. I looked over at them when I was ready to leave...and all their stuff was packed up, but they were just sitting there waiting...on AAA. They had locked their keys in the rental van and had to wait for a key assist. BUMMER!
Eve had told me about the cheap gas she had seen on the trip up, so I set off down Hwy. 441 in search of a good deal. Since the show was only one day, I felt I had the time to take the slow road home. :) On Friday I had left Orlando and paid $2.83 for imagine my surprise to find gas for $2.47 south of Ocala. AND, it was even less down the road at Lady Lake--only $2.41. In taking the slow road home, I caught the most fantastic sunset...enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Odds and Ends of the Illinois Trip

I am so bummed. Most of my Illinois trip pictures are still being held captive on my Mom's computer by a bad CDrom drive. But, my sister emailed me a couple of pictures to help out.
Here are some quick snapshot of some more things I did up in Illinois.

I met up with a high school friend, Robin Glidden (she was the Huskey Mascot at the ballgames) who married a friend of ours, Mike Kenney (aka BamBam). We all were involved in the Rowdies --a cheer club group who got crazy at football games. It was so nice catching up with both of them and to see pictures of their kids and grandkids.
I also got to see one of my best friends from childhood--Judy Brown who now lives in Elgin. Judy lives out in what used to be farm country which is getting runover by development. They actually live in the house her husband grew up in and she takes care of about 1000 laying chickens. So she is the neighborhood Egg Lady. It was cool to see how she proofs the eggs and sizes them. I wish I had thought to take pictures of that.
Jodie and I bought Mom a ticket to a play for her Mother's Day present. It just worked out that I was going to be there too, so I got the last of the unclaimed tickets. We saw the "Church Basement Ladies" play at this cute little playhouse out in the country. We took a bus there, had lunch at a "country club" (emphasis on country, not club) and then on to the play. Based on the typical happenings at a Lutheran church in Minnesota, it was so cute.
I also got to see my niece, Ali, play several volleyball games with her 7th grade teammates. I had a great picture of the back of her uniform that Rod would have loved. He is a big Gator fan--and her nickname on the uniform--Alligator!
Then, one of the coolest "trucks" I have ever brother-in-law's new GMC Top Kick. Picture a regular pickup truck, but, on major steroids. LOL He picked it up in Gary, Indiana and on the ride to Rockford, he said he got lots of LOOKS. One guy on a motorcycle blew by him, then slowed down to look the truck over...then gave Garry a thumbs up. He is going to use it to tow things--snowmobiles, trailers, boats. So he "needs" it...that's what he told my sister anyway!!!

Oviedo's Great Day in the Coutry, November 8, 2008

The little town of Oviedo (north and east of Orlando) hosts a great little show put on by the Oviedo Woman's Club the second Saturday of November. This year was no exception. The customers come out early to buy everything from our arts and crafts, fair food, bean soup mix and baked goods.
This year some new artists were here and I hope they did well. My corner booth is a great place to welcome in the many customers who have bought from me over the years. They always remark that they like finding me in the same place under the same tree, year after year. I like seeing them too!

I left the house about 4:40am for the drive across town. When I tell people up there that I live on the other end of the Universe from them, I am not kidding. That early in the morning the traffic is light, but, on the other end of the day, it can be a trek. I got to the show area about 5:20 and sat in the warm van and napped for a bit. I was about the sixth vehicle in line on my side of the show.
Setup went smoothly and allowed Eve and I time to walk the show and see most everybody who was there. One of my favorite friends, Melodye of Designs by Melodye and her kilted, hubby Mike had their Celtic creations ready to sell.

My favorite candle guy, Russ, had his Clean Air Candles set up and ready. His wife Cheryl showed up later in the day to help sell--but this guy doesn't need any help doing that. He is a salesman par excellent with a superb product!

And finally Kim and Missy of Wessel Originals! This Mother/Daughter pair are quite the artists. I love the country look of their designs and I never worry that you will see the same things in another booth...unless that artist copied Kim!

So the weather was beautiful, the crowds were good the whole day and sales were the best I have ever had there. Thank you all!

OH, one kinda sad/funny thing happened as we were packing up. The gal behind me came over and we chatted for a little while. I showed her my new soapmaking picture and asked her how she would tranport it to and from shows. While we were packing that up safely, she went to lean it against one of my big tote boxes and I heard a wasn't the picture we had just packed up. It was the herb window painting I had bought from one of the vendors...three of the six window panes were broken. The gal was so upset she had caused it, but, I told her to please not worry. I had completely forgotten it was there and it could have just as easily been me who did it.

Eve to the rescue--when I showed her what had happened, she said she could paint new panes for me. Love that girl! :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lake Eola's Fiesta in the Park, Orlando, November 1 & 2, 2008

It is so nice not to have to travel out of town for a show! I get to sleep in my own bed. I don't have to take out a loan to buy gas for the van. I can roll out of bed in the sunlight instead of when it's well before sunrise. AND, my husband makes dinner for me.

Lake Eola in downtown Orlando is a pretty city park with a nice walk way around the whole thing. They have added lots over the years--it has changed so much since I used to walk down here after work at the bank. They have a new bandshell, a great playground for the kids and these cute swan boats that you can take out on the weekend. The real swans--kinda the mascots of the city come in many varieties and colors... including several pairs of black swans.

My spot is one I have had for about 5 years. I love it. It is not on the too-busy Robinson Street. It is tucked away down one of the walkways where on typical weekends they have the Farmer's Market. The food vendors sit under big trees on a circular path with a bunch of tables in the middle. It is shaded...and we get traffic...but not the cattle herds. It's great to have a corner too!
The weekend's weather was going to be like Mt Dora--bad forecast that ended up keeping people away and outright rain off and on Sunday. Not good. My sales were way down again. BUT, it was nice seeing the usual parade of dogs that comes through. Most just good old dogs who loved to be out and about. Some dressed to the nines with studded collars and a matching leash. A few lucky ones in strollers being treated like royalty....with the owner's getting stares that said--You've got to be kidding! LOL
It was nice walking the show with my artist friend Kim of Wessel Originals. The weather Saturday morning was cool so we walked at a good clip and saw most of the show before we had to get back to work. My neighbors were nice as usual...and no sign of the Crazy Coconut Lady this year. I wonder where she has gone too?!
Sunday takedown was awful. It is so hard getting soap wrapped with paper labels safely to your vehicle when it is raining. But as usual, disaster was averted...somehow! I gave Rod a pass on making dinner Saturday night as he was sick. We did takeout KFC one night and by Sunday he felt good enough to make burgers. Yummy!

Mount Dora FL Craft Show, October 26 & 27, 2008

Mount Dora is the cutest little town. There are lots of boutiques and shops to check out during the day. Plus the lake is right near downtown and you can have a great lunch overlooking the water.

It is also usually a really great craft show. My first time at the show was three years ago and it lived up to my expectations. Great crowds, great weather and fantastic sales. Last year we had bad weather so I was down about a third. So THIS year I was really hoping to rebound. BUT, the weather forecast wasn't good for Saturday--usually our big day.

Rod decided to come along to set up. I actually bribed him with dinner at Jeremiahs...amazing how that works. :) We pulled into town about 5pm Friday and were promptly derailed by the MD Police. Usually they let us pull into the little parking lots that dot the town so we can start hauling our stuff to the curb to prepare for setting up. This year, they decided to actually enforce many of the rules.

The trouble with that is that most of us who do the show actually pay a year in advance to guarantee our spots. When you do that, you don't have to apply as usual and you miss seeing the rules and regulations. Over time, you just forget those rules and do what you do at all the other shows--basically what gets you into a spot as quick as possible without getting in the way of other vendors. The MD Police pretty much put an end to that.

The good news, is that when we walked downtown from a parking area about 1/2 mile away, the cop there told us the best spot to get in and what time they were going to open up the baracades to let us in. Armed with that info, we hightailed it back to the car and were able to line up on a street pretty close to where our spot was. The actual line moved really quick once the baracade went up, so no problem.

AND with Rod's help the setup went pretty slick too. This year I moved to a spot across the street from the year before. The old spot was really uneven. We setup on the street and the front of the tent was even only if you set the back up on the curb! So, my tables were up on stilts to be even close to level. I actually had the tables come down twice the year before. NOT GOOD and luckily I was able to request a new spot and actually get it!!!

We zipped up the tent and arrived at the restaurant just before the first of many rain clouds unloaded. Whew!!! Dinner was great even though our eyes were constantly drawn to coverage of the election. WHEN WILL IT BE OVER???

Saturday's forecast was for rain pretty much all day, which always kills the crowds. But the day turned out to be sunny, warm and gorgeous. The morning was cloudy, but, by midmorning the sun was out to stay. The bad news is the crowds were down and so were my sales.

Sunday was much cooler but no rain in sight. The crowds never materialized. So for a show that bills itself as having an attendance of 250,000, the actual crowd was probably 1/3 of that and maybe less. So, while I ended up doing a tiny bit better than the year before, it still wasn't a great show for me.
Many people said they would see me down the road as I will be doing two more shows in the area before the Holidays. Let's hope the sales at those shows REALLY pick up. OH, I forgot to mention: the new Coconut Orange soap was a huge hit.