Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Enjoying Cold Wintery Days at Home

Without the internet at home, I'm enjoying some much needed time off for awhile. It's cold and wintery here in the Snow Belt of Ohio, with a thick blanket of snow outdoors. I just keep the house nice and warm, and settle in to work on artwork, making jewelry and wreaths, with the cats piled around me and a fresh pot of coffee always within reach. The solitude helps me to concentrate and de-stress, and I like it. When I get eager to talk to others, I go to the library or the coffeehouses nearby and use the internet there. Works fine for me for the time being.

It's been a busy November, between organizing things in my house, making my office more efficient and making a multitude of crafts. My online stores are doing ok, it's just not as good as last year due to my having to cut my commissions way down to stay competitive. Ugh. Still, customers come, from every corner of the world. It feels good knowing that my work is appreciated by people. Thank you to my customers, wherever you are. I am very grateful to all of you.

My parents are happy and doing fine. They have a new kitten who is just precious, only a few weeks old, found outside all alone. They feed it kitten formula and he sleeps and likes to stay in his basket (a giant Easter basket with a handle, lined with fleece and kitten toys). His own little playland. And he's with mom all of the time. The cuteness is so overwhelming, love it.

This is German Stollen season, the time of year when German bakeries make this incredible bread filled with raisins, nuts and ground up fruit. Heaven. In the past I used to order a case of it from the German Deli (online), but a few years ago I discovered that it is sold here locally at Aldi's and even Big Lots has them at this time of year. My favorite kinds are the marzipan and/or rum. I bought a couple loaves of marzipan Stollen this time and have been having a slice every morning with coffee. Very satisfying. My favorite brands are Kuchenmeister and Deutche Kuche. They don't have chunks of citron in them like some other brands do (citron, yuck!). If they use it, it's ground up and added to the dough. Dad too has the same aversion to citron. Anyways, Stollen is wonderful. Sometime I will try to make my own. I like to make bread when the weather gets cold.

So, I'm sticking around home, enjoying this time of year. My feeders are loaded with goldfinches, woodpeckers (downy, hairy, red-bellied). My cats spend their time (especially little Farrah!)glued to the bird action outdoors. Farrah presses her nose up to the glass when any bird comes by. The feeders are very close to the windows and in her mind, she's a fierce hunter stalking her prey. It's cute watching her. The other two get bored with it faster then go watch tv. I have a house full of couch potatoes, lol.

Well, time to go home and get back to my offline work. Later! :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Concentrating on Drawing Now..Less Internet, More (Shudder) Work Away From the Computer

My internet is out right now, and it will be for awhile, so my office is temporarily the library right now, using the computer, and will be every day until I get the net back again. Right now, it's pretty tight money-wise (nearly all my money goes to the mechanic for awhile), so I'm staying in, working on drawings as my business runs itself, without a problem, online. I'm ok, just going through a bit of internet withdrawal at home. It's like going back to the pre-computer days, shudder, when you actually do things around the house other than spend all day online. Wow. For a person totally dictated by technology, this is tough. But I need to find a better internet, that isn't too expensive, and there aren't many options out here in the boonies, where I live. I may even have to get with the 21st Century and actually get a smart phone! Nothing too fancy, just something to get emails from. I have avoided it for a long time but feel the need to access the net from anywhere at this point in life. And home internet has been unreliable and very slow. Lucky for me that I can do my drawings at home, still. It'll be ok, it's just inconvenient to be net-less at the moment.

It's really Fall outside, with brilliant orange leaves on the trees, lots of rain and temperatures are beginning to go downwards. It's nice to sit in front of the fireplace with the cats, doing art and drinking my coffee. No internet means more time to concentrate on artwork I've been wanting to do for a long time, but was too distracted by online matters to do it. So, the time is now, drawing more, computing less (but stressing more, relaxing less, at times, without Facebook and my friends there to talk to 24/7). I'm independent and money-making mode. Due to the plummeting economy, financially it's been tough and I'm making the most of it, now that I have to give a chunk of money for car repairs that weren't even finished! The whole mechanic thing is not being forgotten or swept under a rug, it's being worked on.

Without the internet, it's given me time to also do a few hobbies I'd put off for awhile. I'm now baking more homemade bread (made a loaf of raisin bread last night) and also, finally got around to refinishing a Duncan Phyfe drum table and a lovely oak end table that really needed a change of color. They look good, like new. Yay, me. Just in time for the cold weather to come in, too. The other day I had them outside, refinishing them in the sunshine, letting them stay outside all day and night to dry, and a day after they were brought inside, it got rainy and cold enough for me to turn on the heat in the house. I love Ohio, the weather fluxuates. Living in the Snow Belt, it REALLY fluxuates, and the winters here are tough. Will have to get the car fixed by a family friend before it's too cold, since the coolant leaks like a sieve. It wasn't fixed. This injustice will be fixed, in time. Until then, I found a trusted, competent and HONEST mechanic to take the car to, just need to make more money since all of mine is already spoken for. Seriously. Until late Spring of next year. Ugh. Yep, the car repair thing has made my finances beyond tight.

Another thing I haven't done in awhile but am now doing is watch tv. I only listen to it normally, as it is on in the background, unless it's some show that I just can't pry myself away from (anything news and some reality type shows). I watched hardly no tv before but now I'm getting caught up on shows, but working on projects at the same time. I have a hard time sitting still and just doing nothing while the tv is on, most of the time. It isn't easy being Type A, lol.

So, until next time..when I'm at the library in a few days, it's time to go home, fix dinner and feed the cats. I am on a mission to keep the economy and car repairs mess with my financial stability. So far, so good. Life goes on, and with friends and support, I'm holding steady. Hope we all get through the economy/government circus soon. Positivity and faith get me through it, and despite some bumps in the road, things will be ok.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Relaxing Here in the Office

It's a peaceful night, time to relax and get more work done. Dealing with car mechanic issues has really stressed me out for the last month, so it's time to relax and not let it consume me. Outside it's cold, so all the windows in the house are now closed and the heat is turned on. Earlier, I got rid of side door drafts by putting weatherproofing foam "tape" inside the door frame, and it has helped a lot. The kitchen usually gets cold in the winter, and it was cold until I did this. Good, maybe I'll save a little money on heat this year. Anyways, another chore crossed off my "to do" list.

I've made my office extra comfortable for the upcoming holiday season, my busiest time of year, especially now that we don't have our bonuses anymore and need to sell more than ever. Sales are coming in, but due to the economy, it's slower than last year. So, I work to market products, and others are also helping me market, via online newspapers, articles, etc. My products are spread all over the internet and they have a life of their own, as they have for years now. If I can just calm myself down from distressing car issues, I'll be more efficient. Right now, I still get heart palpitations from stress so I get up and walk around, go outside and distract myself. It's annoying, this is not normal for me. Just want the car nightmare over with. It's overwhelming. The answer to everything is to keep working. Working on my art or websites is all therapeutic to me.

Tonight I made a bunch of popcorn, a good snack on a cold night. I do it the old fashioned way, on the stovetop, and use butter flavored salt to save on calories. I don't do microwave popcorn anymore after reading about how bad it is, so many chemicals in it. Back to the basics is fine with me. As a kid, I used to make Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stovetop, don't know if it's even for sale anymore. Just give me Orville Reddenbacher's in a jar, a little canola oil and I'm good to go.

Talked to a reporter from Channel 5 TV today, who will hopefully help me with the car travesty. It was so reassuring to talk to him, and he assured me he'd do everything he can to help. He's one of a few strong avenues I've taken to deal with this. Hoping it gets resolved, I'm not some dumb idiot just going to sit back and let people take advantage. Nope, this car will be fixed..but by another place who will do it right this time. Someone I can trust and who won't blow me off, who will listen to me. The mechanic called today, but I'm not talking to someone who hasn't listened to me or treated me right. Any correspodence from now on will be in writing.

It's so nice to know I'm not alone. I have my parents, friends and others looking out for me. In a world where I spend so much time alone, working here at my house out here in the country (which I love), it's easy to feel lonely at down times. I want the months ahead to be good, financially and emotionally. The economy is a mess, people are suffering around the country. I'm so far holding my own but extra tight now that the mechanic's bill is stuffed with pricey add-ons. $40 for anti-freeze, when the container in the car is bone dry, for example. Sickening. I hope our economy improves, customers will then hopefully be less afraid to buy. I checked my products on the marketplace at Zazzle and they're up front, for the most part, being seen. Buyers are just being tight with money until this crisis passes. The best thing to do is to just keep calm and carry on. We all will get through this. Hard work and persistence is the key, I think.

Time to get back to work. I feel ok, listening to music, my pets with me here, asleep, the picture of calm. Life is still good.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

I Do NOT Recommend Cooke's Auto Repair in Chardon

The car saga continues. Went to look under the hood of my car, which I just got back from the mechanics last night. The "Check Engine" light is STILL on. The coolant container was BONE DRY. Called up Cooke's, only to be told, "Bring it in, you'll need to leave it". No apologies, no sympathy, and didn't listen when I told him that I want to wait for them to repair it, not leave it there. He wouldn't budge. I will NEVER darken the door of that place again. Not after two very large repairs (one is questionable if I even needed it in the first place), altogether came to a grand total of $1850, which I will be paying on for months. And the coolant container is empty? I wanted them to fix the coolant leak in the first place, not the manifold (pricey repair). And I don't appreciate being put off whenever I call, with a very hurried, "Call you back" for the answer to my questions 99% of the time (with a call back days later, maybe), then at the last day (when I demanded to get the car back) they told me to call first because they were working on it. Were they? Who knows. I'm tired of this and will take my car elsewhere, where mechanics straightforwardly will get things done in a couple days (instead of weeks) and not blow me off when I want a written estimate or explanation on what needs to be worked on. And not make me wait weeks when I need something done, when it could've been done MUCH sooner, then no apology afterwards. No manners, just evasiveness. Goodbye, Cooke's, you'll get your money ($1850 in monthly installments), and then I'm done with you. I've heard many complaints about them from other people since I brought my car there. Live and learn. A woman alone is an easy target, and I feel violated. Not listened to, put off, left hanging for a long time, wondering what is wrong with the car. Ladies, in my opinion, it would be a good idea to take a man who knows about cars with you when dealing with evasive, disrespectful mechanics. This could happen to anyone..especially female.

What I believe is the philosophy of some car mechanics.

Here is the bill in question. The second one, the first bill..additional charges..came to 962.33 Didn't pay to go back there. Each time over 900 dollars.Check out the $40 coolant, when in fact my coolant chamber is empty.

Life goes on. Needing to de-stress after having heart palpitations and hyperventilating over the stress of the car problems for the last few weeks, it feels good to mellow out and work in the garden. Put mulch around my plants in preparation for the upcoming cold weather. My flowers are still blooming, as the leaves start to fall. Colors are showing in the trees now. The countryside is full of blooming purple aster flowers and goldenrods, along with all the turning trees. It's so relaxing. I took my camera and took a bunch of pictures, then will do it again later when the colors get even brighter. Farrah, Matisse and Beau watch the leaves fall from the windows, and Farrah wants to jump for them! It's so cute seeing her eyes widen with each falling leaf.

So, I'm busy working on my business, designing high-end lunchboxes. I like them and they should be a hit with customers, I'm sure, as they're well-crafted and come in very pretty colors. I'm also doing some drawing, and switch back and forth to keep energized, while Matisse here sleeps at my feet. The little goldfinches are outside, chirping in the tree next to my windows. They are moulting into their winter colors now (shades of olive green). Their little whistles are so cute, they are always nearby. Money's so tight at the moment, I can't even get their nyger seed right now, but there's enough to sustain them until next payday.

All is calm and peaceful. Feels so good. It's raining now, a quiet, easy rain, good for the plants. And it's so warm, I have my windows open! In October! This is great, global warming makes our climate here in Ohio slightly more mild than it used to be. That's not all bad. Made a pot of coffee just now, using Morning Blend from Aldi's, along with my fav Melitta from Heinen's. I never tried Aldi's coffee before but it's good, and so cheap! A bag of it was only $3.99! I won't be such a coffee snob anymore, only getting the more expensive kinds..from now on, I will use Aldi's in my own personal blend of brands. Other brands I normally get are Starbuck's Morning Blend, any kind of coffee from Peet's, and Folger's Gourmet Caramel. Emeril LaGasse has good caramel flavored coffee, too. My family has carried on an age-old tradition of blending coffees, and I'm no exception. Mom and dad like to blend Peet's and other types. Coffee, one of the simplest pleasures in life.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Glad to Get My Car Back From the Mechanic

My car is finally home, at last! After stressing out over everything, it feels good knowing that the car is now home, in my driveway, safe and sound. Now, to pay off the $1850 repair bill, so much for spending money for quite awhile, I'll be making some steep payments. Oh well, my car is ok, and I'll deal with it. I brought my dad with me, and the mechanic explained to us exactly what was done, showed me the manifold he replaced and it sounded legit, still, I don't know. Did it need to be done? Can't say. So, I made payment arrangements and we left. Glad that's over with. If the darned thing breaks again, it can just sit for six months, until I pay off the previous repairs. Most expensive repair and most evasive mechanic (doesn't like to answer questions, blows me off) I've ever had. I'm officially done with car expenses for awhile. Got gas, my license sticker and that's enough. Thank you to my dear parents, for helping me out. I was glad to have dad with me for moral support. A man's presence does indeed help, so it seems. Always did in the past, too. This car has been very good to me. I'd rather fix this than go out and get something else. Payments are going to take awhile, $300 per month. Steep. My heart gets palpitations just thinking about it. This experience has been torturous to me. No respect and I just hope and pray that the car is really fixed.

So, I'm busy designing lunch boxes tonight. After getting the car, my parents and I went to Heinen's grocery store and I got my groceries. Felt good to get them because without a car, I just hunker down and don't ask. One friend chose to take me once, but I don't want to impose and ask again. Thanks to all who offered to help, it's so nice knowing there are people who care. Anyways, I went home, unpacked, grabbed the package of Chips Ahoy cookies (haven't bought those in years) and headed upstairs to my office, where I am now.

In college, my friends and I used to pull all-nighters, studying or doing our art assignments in the RIT dorms with packs of Chips Ahoy (one pack each), a huge bag of M & M's, and a bunch of 2-liter bottles of Tab or Diet Coke. Disgusting, a festering cocktail of nasty chemicals and sugar I know, but to us back then, it was heaven and we had great metabolisms to handle it. Well, I had a few cookies tonight, as I sit at the computer, with a cup of coffee. I reached my limit very quickly. Blah, heartburn. Guess I'm not twenty anymore. Oh well, it was fun. Now I'm having an Alka-Seltzer chaser. Getting old sucks, lol.

So, tonight, I'm jacked up on sugar and caffeine and will be making lunch boxes all evening. Fun stuff! I can finally unwind from this week of unbelievably high stress. There's still lots to worry about (where are my steady sales, Zazzle? and the leaving of one of the main people at Z headquarters got me worrying, too). But I'm going to put it all aside and work. I can't fix certain things, so I just need to get more educated on marketing and work hard on my designs/stores.

So, my goal is to unwind, make more money doing my work, and if Zazzle continues to give me disappointing sales, up my marketing for my products. And if all else fails, start doing holiday art shows. It's fun to talk to customers, get feedback and get out of the long as the car is ok. I'm not set up for it (no merchandise at hand, will have to make jewelry and buy store products from Z) and I need diplays. If I don't look professional, it'll have to wait until I get the right equipment. So much to do. A friend offered to loan me money but I declined, though the thought was so kind. I hate owing anyone, one reason payments to the mechanic are so stressful. I especially don't want to owe friends or family. It's ok, it's a puzzle to figure out and it will be done..somehow. Still working on it. So far, most important bills are paid ok.

It's a comfortable, warm October! I actually have my windows wide open. Matisse is sleeping in his chair next to my recliner here in the office, his feet and whiskers are twitching as he dreams of catching things. He's a big pile of white fur..on a big pile of white fluff (chair cushion is white and furry). His serenity makes me feel good. The cats don't know stress or worry. And they are happy. I'm doing something right.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Dealing with an Overload of Everything

Sometimes life is just overwhelming. So much that it causes my brain to shut down, memory to fog and concentration to float off like clouds. I'm an upbeat person normally but some situations make me just want to explode. This is my venting post, as I just am fed up with just about anything that has happened within the last few weeks. First, store sales are slow, not dead, but slow. Reading the Zazzle message boards in the Elite ProSeller area, other elite sellers share my stress over our profits becoming harder to get and fewer in number. Some people are about to lose their homes, others feel panic, others are just sad. I'm not losing my home or anything but money is now tight, with this car repair fiasco going on (more on that, later). It breaks my heart seeing others so miserable. I'm keeping sane (barely) with the help of caring friends and my parents. I just want to sleep most of the time, and hyperventilate frequently for no reason. My body is highly tuned to stress out due to the PTSD which makes matters worse when I'm overstressed. Outwardly my demeanor is calm, but inside I'm frustrated and worried. My business is still there, and will continue as always. My other branch of business at Cafe Press is making (small) sales already. Not much but it's a start. I used to have big commission percentages but due to the economy, I lessen them more and more. And, Cafe Press only lets you get 10% commission in their own marketplace (but whatever you want away from it). It's about survival, growng my customers and visibility at both Zazzle and CP. I will go with the flow, but it's uncomfortable. Especially since..

My car is in the shop. And has been for the last few weeks, with mechanics who give me the runaround and blow me off whenever I call to check on the status. They want to charge me outrageously high prices for grandiose jobs. I was told by previous mechanics it needed just a hose to keep the coolant from leaking, the mechanic tells me I need a new manifold ($1000 repair). I told him "forget it". He claimed he would "save me money and look into it", then never called back. I called him back the next day, and he was annoyed, "I already told you it's the manifold". I said to him that "I know, and I told you that I don't want that work done. You were going to call me back to save me some money". He hemmed and hawed, doing the same song and dance of "I'll call you". I told him, "I need the car by Friday. Urgent. I don't want big bucks spent on an old car." He said "Ok, I'm on it". Heard that enough in the past. I said, "Are you? I hope so. I am tired of getting the runaround, and need my car." He said again that he's "on it". I take him at his word now and will get my dad to deal with them next time if need be. It's hard being a woman alone getting repair work done on cars. There are some great mechanics out there, who don't play games or string us along. I know that. But, there are quite a few unscrupulous ones that want to jack up the bill thinking that the dumb lady won't know any better. I took my car to two different mechanics before this one (as of now, unnamed), the only reason I didn't choose the others is that they don't take payments, this one does. They both told me I just needed a hose to get the coolant to stop leaking, nothing grandiose like manifolds, etc. They told me the turnaround was only ONE or TWO days. This mechanic acts like it's a huge project and it takes a long time to find out what's going on, yada, yada.

Anyways, my blood pressure is surely rising as I type this, needless to say I'm unhappy and World War III will go off if I don't get this car back at a reasonable price. The brakes were the original problem and this time, that idiot light on my dashboard saying "Brakes" had better be off. And fixed. Don't just take a fuse out and call it fixed. UGH. If I was a man in a three piece suit, I highly doubt this would happen. I have gotten tough with mechanics in the past who tried this BS with me, and had unneccessary charges taken off. I don't want to be a B. But sometimes it is unavoidable, you have to put your foot down, if not amicably (my first choice, of course), I hate to fight. But I'm ok with calling the local TV ombudsman if need be, not to mention give scathing reviews to sinister mechanics who try to screw me over, sticking to facts, keeping it real. I'm nice, but don't mistake my sweetness for weakness.

Then there's my dear laptop, turns on but has a black screen. I contacted Hewlett Packard's site and looked up how to fix it, ran some tests, and it needs to be seen by a computer mechanic. No way around that, too technical for me to do on my own. My main, FAST computer (my other computer is slowww, with less memory..I could leave the office, go make lunch and eat it in the time it takes to load a YouTube video.) The laptop needs me to spend surely over a hundred dollars to fix it. I haven't been to a computer repair place and walked out with repairs for under that. The last one was over $200! I want to cry but can't. I'm too numb. Will fix it later, after I finish paying the thousand bucks off that I owe that car mechanic.

One bright light in all of this totally insane mayhem is that my parents and our pets are ok, love my house and gardens, and beautiful Autumn is here. I'm going to get better health insurance soon and working to fight this blasted infection in my mouth/system. I looked into dental coverage as an add-on but true to form, it's not worth paying $12 per month for only $1000 total benefit in a year. What a ripoff. But the rest of the plan looks ok. I keep all my same doctors, and get medicine coverage, when needed. Being fifty, I am getting more health conscious. Want to be prepared if any health problems crop up, without paying an arm and a leg for it.

Throughout my rough last month, it helps me to know that there are people out there who care about me. Thank you all for that. I truly appreciate everything you've done, and most of all, your just being there when I need you. It's been a meltdown for me, of sorts, but I'll be ok, my business will be ok. It takes creative adapting, learning more about marketing/business, and working through the tough times (with breaks to freak out now and then). My home is peaceful and safe, the countryside around me is so beautiful and relaxing. Life could be much worse. I have a lot to be thankful for, as do we all. Zazzle shopowners, don't lose heart. I read your stories and feel for you. Let's stick together and help eachother out in growing our stores. Never give up. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Putting Out Fires, One by One

This last month has been busy, catching up on issues that have been bugging me and my business. It's a puzzle to solve, and pushes me to do better, work harder and get more creative. Adversity is scary at times, and at first I panic, but then level-headed thinking prevails and it's kind of a Rocky IV moment, where I kick into gear and push myself to fix things, failure not being an option. I'm a wierd mix of fragility and strength..but the strength is winning.

The new store at CafePress is coming along just fine. I've made a few minor sales and my art has been on the front page twice. Not bad for being back there for a little over a week..but I need more. So, that means work, and lots of it. It's a stunningly beautiful day outside, and I'd love to be out in it, but work must be done. I'm in the office, working on some artwork. I need to get everything in place before this online Wharton course on Marketing course I'll be taking soon starts. That will need me to divide my time even more, but is worth the sacrifice. I've been tested on which side of my brain dominates, and neither do. I am balanced, 50/50 right and left brained. Creative yet analytical. Must've gotten that from my father, he's the same. This balanced way of being will be tested as I have requests for drawings to add to my stores, meaning more to draw, and I will need to deal with complex issues in the course. I have to do one at a time, or it's overwhelming in a huge way, so when I study, I'm analytical, when I'm drawing, I'm creative. My self-esteem gets shaky so I maintain positivity as much as possible, keep my head down and work. It's what I do to survive..and thrive.

I've made this office comfortable, a place that I enjoy being in, and that is livable. Will be setting up the ol' college mini-fridge (well, updated version, at least) in here this week, to make it even moreso. The cats are experts in relaxation and the office passes their comfort standards with flying colors. My back went out in 2007 (herniated disk from lifting heavy furniture and doing too much damage to my spine), and it's healed now, but I want to keep the lowest lumbar vertebrae from hurting again, so the recliner and a donut pillow solve that issue. No more sitting upright in uncomfortable office chairs. Many artists have back problems from doing the same thing I do, sitting long periods of time, letting gravity take its toll on the spine. After that issue with my spine, I learned to be more mindful and preventative, because it was an excruciatingly painful experience that took a very long time to come back from. I never, ever take my spine for granted anymore!

The infection in my teeth is still there, and I have swollen glands to prove it. Without a car momentarily, I can't do anything about getting medicine if a prescrition was written, so I'm just being vigilant with hydrogen peroxide gargle, swabbing the touchy area with toothpaste at night (kills bacteria), and using the Sonicare to keep the teeth clean. How I hate dealing with these problems, and hope they die off as soon as possible.

My car is still at the mechanic's. It's a negotiation between us, so far, so good. I will be happy to get the car back, and plan to get it back this week.

Business at Zazzle has improved, thank goodness. I thought it tanked there for awhile, but it's back..and it BETTER stay back. I am loyal to them, as long as they bring in the sales in a steady manner. All good businesses expand, and even if I have expanded to CafePress, I will continue business as usual at Zazzle. Now, I just have double duty, making sure both locations are well-maintained and products are up-to-date.

An added bonus to everything, I've been losing weight. Some of my clothes are actually becoming baggy. How? I lost my appetite and don't really care to eat much. It happens. No diet, just lots of water, smoothies, and cereal for breakfast every day. Even my favorite food, pizza, isn't as interesting as it normally would be. Small miracles happen, lol. My metabolism is still good, even at fifty. Thank goodness.

The weather is getting colder now, the leaves on my maple trees are showing more yellow daily. My garden still blooms, especially the roses, wine cups, asters and blue penstemon. I've harvested quite a lot of seeds for next year, and will soon be potting up my Bolivian pepper plants so they can (hopefully) live indoors and keep peppering. I added one to a stew recently and it was perfect, just like the ones my ex-husband used to use down in Mexico, to season meals. One tiny pepper flavors an entire meal without making it blistering hot. The peppers are hot, but it's important not to add the seeds to the dish, just the skin. He always told me that the seeds make it more hot. I saved the seeds and will plant them next Spring. The other peppers that I harvested are in the freezer, and will provide me with flavor all winter long. Love it. This growing my own food thing is a good idea and will be expanded to inclued more fruits and vegetables next year!

Wine Cups

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Working on My New Store

Make Two Purring Cats Studio at CafePress

When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I always liked that song by Billy Ocean, and the sentiment is so true! I've been on fire over here in my office, working on my new Cafe Press store. It takes a long time to build it to the size and reputation of my Zazzle Silver Pro-Seller store, which has over 18,000 products in it. The Cafe Press store has a few hundred so far, and is growing steadily. Happily for me, I am able to use HTML language on my CP store, and will make it more fancy once I get a larger number of products released for sale. Cafe Press put my store front and center on their main page in the "Featured" area yesterday, so that helps get some exposure, too. A new store is not well seen in the Cafe Press marketplace until it gets settled in, so any exposure on the front page of CP is welcomed (thank you, Cafe Press!).

The pic on the left of cats is mine, on the front page of Cafe Press yesterday

There is a vast amount of work to be done, in making a good online store. It takes careful planning, advertisement and design sense to do it right. I make mistakes then redo them over and over unti I get it right at times. If it doesn't flow or look right, it has to be fixed. No slacking in store design and execution. None. So, with snoring cats by my side, the stereo on and a peaceful mind, I'm a creating and designing machine! Doing this kind of work in general, takes patience, which I usually don't have, but force myself to. Concentration is important, and I'm good at that if my mind is calm. It's called "getting into the Zone", basically. When I'm in it, a bomb could go off and I wouldn't notice, too focused in on what I'm doing. So this is why it's so important to have the right atmosphere and as little "bad" stress as possible while I'm working.

Otherwise, my car is still in the shop getting fixed. My laptop is still waiting for me to get it fixed, and I am not physically feeling all that great. The infection in my gums came back and is spreading, yet the dentist didn't return my call when I called him. So, I'm just dealing with it on my own, but if it gets any worse I will have to contact them again or go to an infection specialist to see about some antibiotics. Sometimes I feel like one big Petri dish. I'm better than I was a year ago, but I don't want to backslide with the progress, so I'm pretty vigilant about getting rid of it.

Mom and dad are doing ok, enjoying the last warm(ish) days of Fall on their front porch, happy and most importantly, in good health. Their wayward cat Felix finally returned home, which was a relief. He's not an outdoor cat and so I'd wondered if he'd figure out how to come back..and somehow, he did. He was sitting near their sunporch, outside on the trash, talking to one of their indoor cats, when dad found him late at night.


All in all, my stores are still seeing less profits than this time last year, but they are coming back (hopefully, slowly) from the dire earnings from last month. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Friends, who are business savvy, tell me that it's not my fault, it's the economy, and to just keep pushing onwards. I appreciate the moral support, and the occasional rescue (since the car's being fixed) to get me out of the house, because being inside too much makes me stir-crazy. I like solitude but not too much of it. Going out, whether to the store or to a restaurant, is a good break from marathon work.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Time to Rest and Enjoy Doing Absolutely Nothing of Value

Today was a beautiful, cool Autumn day, so mom came and picked me up, and took me back to their house for the day. I've been stressed lately and it felt good to go do a few chores, spend time with my parents' kittens and see mom's gardens. Family time is so important, and I was also able to help mom look for one of their cats, who escaped through a window and has disappeared. We didn't find Felix but he's not the type of cat who will go up to strangers, and hopefully he'll make his way back home. I will alert Rescue Village that he's missing, as they have people (pet detectives?) who look for lost animals.

Dad is busy working on his projects in his office, and he's very skilled with making just about anything, so it was fun talking to him about his ideas. Mom has been doing leaf printings, making stationery and having a great time with that (Oriental ink brushed on leaves then pressed into paper, very pretty!). It's so wonderful to have such a creative family. And cute kitty cats around, too. The two kittens Blackie and Felice, sat with us on the front porch and had fun watching mom make stationery. Then, they'd tussle, chasing eachother with such energy, throughout the gardens and back up onto the porch before wearing out and retreating to their favorite chairs. They both let me pet them now, and follow mom all over the place. Love those little ones. They are precious.

No news yet on my car. Until then, I have a friend to help me, and mom took me to get my distilled water (my water supply was running low, as out here in the country, faucet water is ok for washing and doing dishes but it tastes terrible (too salty), so I have to have my water delivered. I'd been out of water for a week for the first time, and it was getting precarious..not enough water to make, that's an emergency! Cats have always had their water, I make sure they are always getting what they need first and foremost, no matter what.

Mom & Dad

My parents and I went out to eat before they dropped me back at my house, and so I'm sitting here, stuffed and feeling mellow. We had driven out in the country a little while, with its rolling hills and now, Fall colors are coming into the trees and fields. Here in Ohio, there are purple Aster flowers all over the place, as well as Goldenrod (terrible for those allergic to it but very pretty yellow flowers for the rest of us non-allergy sufferers). This is only the beginning of the upcoming colorful displays, as the trees prepare to color up. Living in the country is heavenly, with Amish buggies going here and there, the smell of burning leaves in the air. We noticed a new little coffeehouse on my road (a couple miles from my house), so that's nice to see. They have a full line of coffee drinks, donuts, and Gyros, the sign said. My kind of place. We desperately need a Starbucks out here, but since there isn't one, any decent coffeehouse will do.

The cats are fed and the sun is now setting. Rays of the last sun are falling on me as I type. It makes me so happy to see that there are people who care about me, and that my parents are happy. Mom stopped to say hello to my cats, who watch her with interest, not afraid, just curious. She marveled how little Farrah has blossomed into a beautiful, fuzzy wuzzy white Persian fluffball. She bounds around, wanting to play and making chirping noises at me. The cats enjoy my "fake fire" fireplace, that puts out fake flames (I don't want real flames around my pets, way too dangerous), and it gives off substantial heat in the Winter, as well. It looks very realistic from a distance, and the dancing "flames" spark cat curiousity. They like to sit in front of it and watch. I got it going for the first time in months, now I know Fall is officially here.

Farrah and her straw

So, hopefully tomorrow I'll get news on my car. I'm so glad my parents' Buick Roadmaster is strong and safe for them. We've all been through a tough month or two and their car was in the shop before. But now, just in time for cold weather, they are safe and secure, it works fine and all is ok there. Hope for the same with my car, once I get it back. I will be paying it off for awhile, which will be tough, but at least I'll have a safer car to drive. With snow coming, it pays to have a safe vehicle with the steep roadside dropoffs around here. In the winter, we all sort of hiburnate. Who wants to be out in blizzards? Not any of us. We're enjoying this lovely weather while it lasts, until then. Autumn..the best time of year. It's priceless to have friends and family to share it with. Despite some stressful financial setbacks, life is still good.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stressing Out..And Dealing With It

When it rains, it pours. Things break, money's tight, business is disappointing, stuff happens. Within the last two weeks, my car has stopped working..TWICE, my laptop (my main computer) died, and I've been selling a bunch of stickers and postcards at my stores (they make me incredibly small commissions)..little else. On top of that, without a car to drive, food is low, and I'm nearly out of water (I have a water service deliver my water, as the water that runs from my taps is well water, not drinkable.) This is hard for a person who drinks coffee on an ongoing basis, and who can't go anywhere without wanting a cup. Ack! So, with this onslaught of Hell falling on me, I'm working to de-stress and regroup. Taking each problem, one at a time. Not easy but it must be done.

Considering the last repair bill was $1000 for my car, yet to be paid in installments, it shouldn't be breaking again after only a week and a half. I only drove it three times after it was returned to me. It was running fine before I took it in, the brakes were the only problem. And the red light on the dashboard says "BRAKE" so it goes back to get fixed. Without a man by my side, I feel very vulnerable when dealing with mechanics. I have to take a bit of a hard stance with some who try to take advantage, and in this case, I'm still not sure.

The laptop's battery is old, so I will replace it first, before taking it anywhere to be fixed. Fifty bucks locally for a battery, but I can get it on Ebay for $36. I have my desktop computer to use, so this is less of a priorty than the car, at the moment. My center of operation is squarely my office now, not using the laptop in the bedroom. Worse comes to worse, I'll have the laptop repaired when I have more money. It can wait for now. Having a backup computer is a must. Without it, I'd be running my business from a local library if all else failed.

Yesterday, I took the entire day off to just rest, clear my overwhelmed mind and put everything into better perspective. At first I was very depressed but by talking to others, writing down a plan of attack for each problem and taking a break from work, I feel more positive and a little less uptight now. Sometimes it feels like the world is crashing down when so many things happen all at once. At least it does to me. My brain turns to mush and I get so anxious that I can't think straight. So, by resting, turning off and tuning out of all distractions (no tv or radio) and resting, things make sense again. Deep breathing is helpful, too. Having PTSD from childhood traumatic experiences, I have had years of ongoing therapy and practice in these things, which does help. I can't stop problems from happening, but I can choose how I respond to them. It's very hard, but using relaxation techniques, things look less devastating in time.

It's amazing how animals sense when things aren't going right. As I rested in bed, my cats piled around me and stayed with me. They are smarter than we give them credit for. Rest is helpful, to calm the mind, slow down breathing and get centered again. Another, more opposite thing I do to cope is to clean. When I'm upset, cleaning and organizing helps me feel better. So, I organized my desk, brought in the hibiscus tree (big job, heavy, large plant) to protect it from the upcoming cold weather, weeded the garden and worked in the kitchen. This system seems to work pretty well for me.

So, today I'm calmer, more centered. The car is being towed to the mechanic's, and be dealt with. I ran over to the BP Station nearby and got some milk and water, then made coffee. It takes exactly a half gallon of water to make a normal sized drip pot of coffee. Will get more gallons later. Can't live without the coffee. Cats have their food, they're fine. I'm not hungry so food isn't important right now. I'll go get something at BP later, they have a pizzeria in there. Life goes on. I'll gear up to do some more drawings while I'm unable to go anywhere due to lack of car.

Update: Car is at the mechanic's. I'm calmer and less freaked out now. Just working in my office as if nothing has happened, keeping stress down to manageable levels. It's cold outside, a good time to work, here in the warmth of my office, cats by my side. Praying for more sales to come. It's still slow at my stores, but I'm selling better than I was a week ago. Thank you to a dear, close friend who offered to give me money for my car . I appreciate your offer, but will be ok without it. This is something I can get through, just have to handle it piece by piece, and the mechanic has been good about payment. I will be ok. Things just get overwhelming once in awhile.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pushing Heavy Recliners Upstairs and Other Things

It's a quiet evening as I relax here in my office. It's cold and overcast, I've been inside all day, getting some things done. I've been over-stressed lately and so being busy is good, to burn off anxiety and stress. Today the office needed some re-arranging. Sitting on hard, wooden chairs isn't good for my back, which is doing ok but I remember when it was messed up from a herniated disk years ago and don't want a repeat of that. So, I decided to get one of my recliners downstairs and bring it upstairs. My main staircase is somewhat narrow, and after two tries of pushing it with all my might, it just wouldn't fit. I'd given up on it (yesterday), along with taking it apart (it was stuck, naturally).

Fast forward to today. Armed with WD40 oil spray and a phillips'-head screwdriver, I tried again. To my amazement, I got it apart, and brought it upstairs, in two pieces. This is not the prettiest recliner, reminds me of Marty Crane's old barcalounger in the TV series, "Frasier", minus the gross striped fabric and duct-tape. But, it's SO comfortable! And, being a woman who tends to stick with what she likes, it stays until it falls apart. The ol' La-Z-Boy has at least a few more years of life left in it, and now it's nicely in my office, where it can serve its purpose without being seen by the general public :) No more hard-as-rock wood chair to sit on all day (and all evening) long. I must be getting old when stuff like this actually makes my day, but it does. Add a donut-pillow (helps the lumbar area of the spine) and fleece cushion on top, and it's worth its weight in gold (well, almost). Many artists have back problems from working long hours, it pays to take care of that spine!

So now, I'm ready for my next marathon. Time to think up something to draw. Pot of coffee by my side and medicine, used to help take down the swelling since the dentist worked on my teeth yesterday. It feels good to know that the teeth were actually healthy enough to work on, after many months of waiting for them to heal before closing the root canals. He did it, they are now closed! Sure, my gums are very, very angry for being messed with, and my top lip is still a bit swollen (I bear remarkable likeness to Donald or Daisy Duck right now, from the side). But, it's better than it was yesterday. I'm just very allergic to so many things, and my system reacts like this when messed with. The dentist did an amazing job, now to just let it heal for now.

Talking to people here and there, it's interesting to see how the lousy US economy is affecting us all. It's scary losing income, and many people (including myself) have had cuts in their income, or increase in bills. Or both(me). When I was very young, I temped, taking many jobs simulataneously here and there, to keep going while starting my little business. I never want to return to those days. Being a temp (temporary office employee) is brutal. It's like being a substitute teacher thrown in with a bunch of rowdy teenagers. No thanks. I'm just going to work harder, and hope for the best. Sales are coming in, the volume of sales needs to grow, that is what worries me. Deep breaths, one day at a time. How I wish I wasn't "Type A": normally pretty anxious and nervous inside. Just need to relax, think positive and not assume the worst.

On the bright side, mom and dad are healthy, I'm healthier than I was a year ago. Cats are ok. Things could be worse. A lot worse. So, it's time to look forward to the holidays. Every day on Facebook, my cat-loving friends and I save death row cats from being killed, by finding them homes. We're committed to doing something to help those who cannot help themselves, and it works! We all have a lot to be thankful for.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tuning Out (Well, Trying to ) Pet Distractions While Working

Working for oneself, it's so important to keep distractions at bay and work. Of course, the best thing to do is to close the office door and lock out whatever is doing the distracting. But, that isn't always that easy to do. Especially when your house has 175 year old door locks that really don't do their job anymore. Though I don't have children, I do have cats. And they are very good at deciding to do things to get attention just after I sit down to start working. From singing cat opera in the stairwell (it echoes there, great for voice projection), to doing the "I'm not touching you" thing to one another behind my desk chair and starting a "fight", or walking in the windowsill, knocking plants or other items onto the floor (Farrah!)..followed by the cutest, most innocent look, as if to say, "Did I do that?", and lastly, staring holes at me and begging to be petted. What's a human to do?

Ignore the distraction
Easier said than done, but I turn on the stereo, get my coffee and just keep working while things and pets fly around, then they eventually get tired and go take naps. I don't reward bad behavior with attention, but turn it off, then give them lots of love during breaks or afterwards. Sort of the "Don't look them in the eye" technique works for me.

Play with them so they tire out
Another thing that seems to work pretty well if they just can't calm down is to get out the old "toy on the fishing pole". Being housecats, they all have dreams of being big hunters, and though Beau just watches, the other two can't help but jump for it. The more they jump, the quicker they tire out. Then sleep.

If all else fails, feed them something
I don't want to reward bad behavior but if Beau, who isn't into playing, can't relax then I go get him something to eat. That tires him right out, at least for a little while. Beau is a nervous by nature sort of cat, always has been. I relate, being naturally high-strung. For me, doing the art, getting in the zone, calms me right down. We all have things that make us mellow, but it takes work sometimes to get there.

The cats are now asleep, life is good. Time to get my more exacting work done, the things that are hard to do when mayhem is in the room with me. Farrah loves to sleep high on top of the stereo, she stays up there nearly all day. Matisse is a power snoozer. Once asleep, he's pretty much out of it all day, too. Beau wakes up easily, so I don't poke the sleeping "bear", and make sure not to wake him up. All is well, I've designed 75 wallpaper products today despite cat spaz attacks. Now that it's peaceful, I can do a whole lot more items. Back to work for me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Finally Some Good News...We Now Have Wrapping Paper!

After a depressing week of dealing with unpleasant things, it feels wonderful to have some good news. My stores now will be carrying Wrapping Paper! May they sell well this upcoming holiday season. I'm deep in production mode, spurred on even more by the $1000 repair bill for my car (payable in rather large installments) matched with a paycheck that is a solid 2/3 less than normal, due to Zazzle's policy changes and cutting our volume bonuses. It's going to be that way for awhile, if not permanently, until business picks up or the big promoters who once promoted us come back and promote again. It's very complicated and confusing, but sales are still coming in, and I will keep working. It wouldn't be so much of a bother if I didn't have to pay $200 per month for repairs to a car that still is giving me some problems (will have to take it back to them next week, to get more help with it). The mechanic told me the car is good, so it may just need an adjustment. I need to find out. I'm tired of stress. Will be so great to get it all ironed out.

It's feeling like Autumn now, cool and comfortable. Sweater and jacket weather. This morning I went over to my parents' house and had breakfast, then conquered the massive jungle of overgrown vines on the side of their house.These wild roses aren't pretty, they have too many petals and look "dirty" so they needed to go. Mom cut the giant climbing thorn-covered (ugly) rose stalks, growing up and into the house and trees, and I took them out, then I had to saw off a bunch of dead trunks and branches from one large bush/tree. And the clematis (very aggressive, already growing up the electrical wires from the roof of the house). Yikes. It's not good for either of my parents to be doing things like that so it's best to just get it done. So, it's finished now, and looks much brighter, and cleaner. My parents' kittens were nearby, watching everything we did, they are so precious. Mom just turned 73 recently, and is doing really well. She's enjoying her time gardening and playing with the kittens, along with doing her projects in the house. I just want both my parents to be as happy and healthy as possible. They have stresses of their own, and so it's nice to get together with them and for all of us just to enjoy eachothers' company. Dad was busy paying bills and mom got tired, so I left and came home. A good visit.

Here at home, I made some sugar cookies before launching back into product production. I will be busy with that for the rest of the night, but thought coffee and a cookie or two would be good for a cool night like this. I'm losing weight, and now fit a pair of new pants that before didn't fit at all and have been sitting in my dresser for a year or so. They fit fine, yay for me. I don't diet, just cut back food content very hard, and drink lots of fluids (water, coffee). I'm sure that the dietician (that Cleveland Clinic kind of made me go to awhile back) would be horrified with my diet, but it has always worked for me in the past. Getting my fruits and vegetables, taking my vitamins, I'm not THAT off base in my eating. Must stay healthy, to get rid of the dental infection and get my physical strength back. Being anxious/depressed is hard on me so I take naps if life gets overwhelming, and it does at times. I hyperventilate when overstressed these days, being me isn't easy. So much to do, to remember, to fix (car), etc. My laptop stopped working, and I'm on the desktop now..another issue to fix. When it rains, it pours. Taking it all one task at a time, trying to be organized about it all.

Looking at the tallies of people who shop in my stores from around the world, I am humbled by the scope of buyers from places like Dubai, France, UK, Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, Australia, etc, etc. It warms my heart to know that people like what I do, and in hard times that really gives me strength to keep going. Thank you, dear customers! In the upcoming holiday season, I'm having faith that sales will improve again. It's only a matter of promotion, from what I can see..losing the big promoters for not just me but all other ProSellers for Zazzle, we're all in this together. I love Zazzle and am still loyal to it, but am going to broaden my scope, the store at CafePress is slowly taking shape but Zazzle is still top priority. I'm stretched between both of them, and will a wrapping paper designing factory tonight.

If you want to see my wrapping paper done so far, check out this link here:
If you like what you see, feel free to share the link with your friends. Thank you, I appreciate it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Expanding My Little Empire

From dawn to dusk, I'm either thinking about or working on my business. I even wake up at night with ideas for it, from time to time. Being a survivor mentality, I am extremely sensitive and have to channel all of this energy I have, and this works well for me. Learning is eternal, it is part of the job, and so important. There is always something new that I have to take the time to figure out, which is good, keeps the brain on task and sharp. When I'm overloaded, a nap does the trick here and there, then it's back to doing more work. Lately, there's been so much to do, that yes, I get a bit overwhelmed but am busy, and the sales are coming steadily again. Late August is usually slow for sales, but in the Fall, things pick back up and gain momentum. Now, with two venues for my big stores, I feel more positive than ever.

Making a successful store takes planning and organization. It's been so long since I did it from the beginning, but I've been at it again, and it looks good so far. Of course, it takes time for customers to find the new store but word spreads and they will come. My job is to make it as easy to navigate and as pretty as possible. As a visual artist, aesthetics are all-important to me, as well as good craftsmanship (nothing sloppy!) and total professionalism. This isn't some thrown together's thought about, in detail from the very beginning. It's about the details, and I am a serious "detail" person.

So, the new CafePress store is coming along slowly. Looks like nothing yet, but it will later, once I have the graphics in place. My Zazzle store, meanwhile, is doing ok, and sales are picking up again. I just keep my head down and keep working, and it's not work to me, but a puzzle to figure out. Thank goodness it's enjoyable to do. What isn't fun is getting fragmented thoughts, of all the things that need to be done, so that's when I have to prioritize. All of this with no help from anyone, so I check and recheck things here and there to make sure it's all done right.

Being my own boss takes discipline and concentration. The concentration gets hard when I'm tired so I take breaks to re-energize. If I don't, my brain goes to mush. Most artists, including myself, go into "the zone", deep concentration when drawing, painting or creating in general. In order to do this, it's important to keep stress away, and be as calm as possible. This is why it's so important for me to keep my life simple. So far, so good.

So, it's back to work now. Still waiting to get my car back from the mechanics, so it's best to keep making money while waiting for them to finish. Time for another pot of coffee and some fruit. Cats are nearby, sound asleep. Oh, the lives they do lead. I work for them..and enjoy spoiling them rotten when I can. If there'd such thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a pampered, loved housecat.

This is Beau. My little buddy, at my side all of the time as I work.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Store, NO Time..It's Time to Work Even Harder Now

Since business is very slow momentarily at my stores, I'm now expanding to more venues. I have smaller stores elsewhere on the internet that haven't made much because I just don't do anything with them but seeing that our marketplace sales are so low, it's time to do something with all of them. I'm very loyal to Zazzle, but will expand out my loyalty, because it pays to be proactive, and not put all your "eggs in one basket". Seriously. Nowadays, it's rare to find a place that is 100% loyal back to us. Why so many people switch jobs when many years ago, they used to stay at their jobs long-term and get a gold watch after many years of service to their company. Those kind of jobs are few and far between. Working for myself, I have the freedom to go where I want, and do what I want. No burning bridges, stay professional always and business goes on.

So, I'm learning the ropes back at CafePress. I had a successful store there years ago but migrated to Zazzle..but now the conditions are right there to re-open my store over there, selectively choosing what goes into it. It takes time, patience and more learning. After being up till 2am last night, working on both POD's, I am wide awake and at it again today. I called CP and talked to them to get some advice, and now I'm back in action, getting things done there. It will take awhile to get the clientele built but that's ok, it will come.

Now, it's back to work for me. I don't have time to waste. My car, which has been in the shop for the last week, is finally finished and I should be getting it back today. It will be so great to have wheels again. I've been stir-crazy without the car..and my other computer, which needs a new battery. This second computer here in the office is good, though..not as fast as the other one but it gets the job done. I believe in always having backups for electronics. Someday I will get another car and use my current one as a backup. Pays to be resourceful in life. Having been on my own since age 17, I know a thing or two about that. Sink or swim..and I refuse to sink.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Another Day, Another Electronic Malfunction: Thinking Happy Thoughts..Rainbows..Butterflies..

After working all day on the laptop (HP Pavilion DV7), I shut it off last night, and went to bed. Whoops. Tried to start the blasted thing this morning and it's dead again. Looks like I used that battery to the end of it's life and then some. The battery is from 2010, so I can't a few years use of it. Still, why now..when the car is costing me a fortune in repairs of money I don't have. Life goes on. I am now holed up in my office, and it's center of my world. Wherever the working computer is, that's where I am.

Pulled the battery out and tried to read it. Teeny, weeny microscopic letters look like a mass of nothing to these aging eyes. Rooted around looking for a magnifying glass, since my reading glasses aren't strong enough to read it (no doubt those who designed the graphics on the batteries are NOT over 40!). Got out my magnifying lamp, given to me by a friend years ago, and looked the model number (which was still hard to pick out due to the veritable sea of numbers and letters all over the thing)and the battery is around $50 online. Ok, will get it. Who needs groceries this month, anyways ;) Until then, I'm in my office. Life goes on. I'm in the wrong line of business...selling plastic electronic parts for just about anything at high prices, now they coin it. As for me, right now, not so much. Come on, holiday season! I expect another good year ahead...well, I'm wishing and hoping for one, anyways.

Which leads me to my Zazzle stores. I spent the day organizing and designing products, cutting some of the royalties and hoping for the best. Too high royalties, things don't sell. Too low (and low sales) you make nearly nothing. The age-old marketing dilemma..where to put the prices at?! Oh, heck..I've only been at this my entire adult life..and I still don't know most of the time. It's a bunch of trial and error. If I put the prices low and they sell great, that is good. I give it a few weeks and if nothing is moving by then, the rate ends up higher again. Some items are consistently high priced and they sell ok. Go figure. It's a crap shoot, basically.

Beau stalks birds the lazy cat way, in bed, watching "CBS Sunday Morning" on TV while I work

I got a real Duncan Phyfe table with claw legs for $20 not long ago. It is in desperate need of sanding and refinishing on the sides. I cleared away all the nasty, peeling and ugly veneer and it looks better but the last amount will have to be steamed off with an iron. I might do that this coming week before it gets cold. At least projects like that, I have a decent amount of control over unlike computers and cars. My grandmother was a very successful antique-dealer and used to redo expensive (but needing refinishing) furniture along with my grandfather, who died when I was 5. They would get gorgeous furniture from Southern plantations and other fancy venues down South every year (half the year in Florida and the other half in Ohio) then bring it home to Hudson and make them beautiful again. Mom learned from them, and I used to watch her redo a beautiful judge's mahogany desk that became my desk as a kid, along with other pieces. Those were the days. As an adult, I have refinished a fair amount of wood furniture but am no expert at it. Old pieces with carved and beautiful wood were done with true craftsmanship. It's hard to get nice furniture like that now without paying a lot for it (which I have done..but avoid it). Particle board furniture is ugly and I won't have it in my place. Yuck. A little elbow grease and love, and old becomes new once again. Love it.

Well, a new week is coming. I should get my car back, which will make life so much better again. I drew a butterfly last night and will spend the week putting it on products. I'm losing weight, another happy thing. My once too tight pants are now baggy on me. Woohoo. Life isn't all horrible, just feels that way sometimes. Now, back to working on this computer. Here's another cat pic..Farrah being cute. Later!

Farrah watches birds from the kitchen table

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Some Days It's Better Just to Stay in Bed..But I Won't

When it rains, it pours. Today I got up, it's a beautiful day and I was ready for it. My car may still be in the mechanics' but I could work on my new drawing that I just pretty much finished last night, just needed a few final touches. Went to turn on the laptop and it's dead! Deader than a doornail. After awhile I got it working again. Phew. Then, I went to turn on one of the room fans and it is dead. Too good a fan to trash so I will put it in the storage room and deal with working on it another day. Felt like drop kicking the thing into the lake down the street but those feelings passed quickly and logic took over again. ;) Time to finish up this drawing and make a backup CD (artists...ALWAYS back up your artwork on a CD, thumb drive, portable drive, etc!!).

The other day I bought a bunch of fresh peaches and raspberries. Maybe later today or tomorrow I'll make a pie or cobbler with some of them. For now I'm drinking coffee, don't feel hungry but had a bit of cereal, now it's time to work. I'm listening to Robin Thicke's song, "Blurred Lines", good song. That whole VMA award show scandal was so dumb. I don't watch these things because it's ridiculous the stunts people pull on there just for attention. There's trouble in Syria, much more important than slutty Miley Cyrus taking over the show with her sleazy antics. Robin Thicke was upstaged by that mess, but his song is great anyways. The video is a bit mysogynistic but young people seem to like that these days. I'm old fashioned..prefer less sexualized videos, but still like the music. There's so many good songs on the radio, keeps me upbeat as I work to listen to them. When things are really stressful or I want to feel calm, though, listening to classical music is better. Love it all..everything but rap (one letter away from "crap").

It seems to me that Zazzle is making it harder and harder to make a good living, but I'm hanging in there so far. My income is down two-thirds of what it used to be, for the last two months. Time to branch out, do more artwork and not put all my eggs in one basket. I've been very loyal but am watching what is going on very carefully. Never burn bridges, corporations do what they do to make more money..but it remains to be seen who that money is for. For us or for them? The corporate way is cold and hard..I am not happy about it but will not let emotion get the best of me or jump to conclusions. New products are being introduced for us to design so that is best to concentrate on. Money is still there to be made, and I will grow the business with or without Zazzle. Failure has never, ever been an option for me, just have to work harder and smarter. The art is the easy and fun part. So, it's time to do that and stop getting down about corporate bs.

Good advice

Friday, September 06, 2013

Autumn is Here, Bring on the Festivals and the Colors of Nature!

As the temperatures outside begin cooling down, it's time to get out the sweaters, close the windows and enjoy the upcoming Fall season. Autumn is my favorite time of year, with its colors, festivals and the beginning of Christmas shopping season. It's time for great sleeping weather, cool breezes, wearing microfleece and flannel. Traditionally I bake more at this time of year, usually starting with apple pie. Mom and dad always decorate their house with Fall decorations, and live in a historic area (on the National Register of Historic Places), in the village of Burton, that has a killer Apple Butter Festival downtown every year. We' ve gone to it off and on since I was a kid. As time goes on, they have holiday happenings in and around the town, and even do "haunted" tours for those who like ghost hunting, for Halloween. It's just fun to see what comes up every year.

In my garden, my asters, which are native to Ohio, are starting to bloom a gorgeous purple color. I bought them at a plant sale in downtown Burton earlier in the year and was wondering if it would ever flower, and now the flowering has finally begun. It was worth the wait, and I'm sure glad to know that I didn't buy a weed. Mom bought one too, and we both were thrilled with our plants. She, too, wondered if it was just a weed, since it took a long time to decide to flower. In gardening, it's nice to have plants for each phase of the weather, the spring, summer and fall-blooming plants. That way when the spring flowers stop, the summer ones start, then the fall ones come after them. This house had no garden when I first moved in, and this year there is color, lots of plants, and the cycling of blooming plants has begun. My morning glories bloom like fireworks, roses are blooming, wine cups (a type of deep crimson mallow) are still blooming along with the dianthus (they bloom throughout spring, summer and fall), and coreopsis light up the gardens with their bright colors. Blueberry bushes are done for the season, they had a good run this year, but will get pruned when the last few berries are harvested. My young butterfly bush has been blooming and each year it will get a little bigger, bearing three colors of blooms (so far I see only two, light purple and white) but there's dark purrple supposedly in the mix too. It's a process. My parents have big butterfly bushes, loaded with butterflies, and they grow like crazy. Each year they are a few feet taller! Mine is young and so I hope it grows big like theirs.

As for work, I'm overloaded with phone cases to update, and am pecking away at all of them, one by one. Sales are painfully slow, and I need to get them going again. The platform change in Zazzle messed up many stores' profits, so I'm not alone. It is painful and we all are working to hit this upcoming holiday season hard with new, updated products. I also have a big car repair bill to pay off, it is around $1000, but the car will be good as new in the end. It's been good to me and I need it, so I'll get the repairs paid off in a few months. This wonderful mechanic lets me make payments. Most repair facilities don't do that. After researching the repairs needed, I know exactly what it needs and how much it should cost, and their estimate was spot-on. It's a good thing..even if its inconvenient not to have a car for a couple of days.

For my birthday, dad gave me a head torch/head lamp so I can go up to the (very big but very dark) attic and see my way around in it. I have no idea if it has a light anywhere up there, and tried to find it with no luck in the past, so now I can go up there and see. It could be a useable space if I can find light up there. If business continues to be disappointing I will start selling my own products from home, and will need that space to store product and trade show displays. I'm gearing up to expand the business, and when the weather is colder, going up in the attic is less stuffy. I plan on exploring and organizing it.

So, it's back to work now. Lots to do and my momentary break to write this is over. It's a lovely day and the sun is out. Beau is asleep next to me, full pot of coffee by my side. Life is good.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Turning Fifty..But I Feel Like a Big Kid..Time Sure Flies

Officially I'm a half century, the big kid at actually 50. That is so wrong..but better than the alternative. Time flies so fast! Anyways, it's been a beautiful, cool and sunny day. My parents stopped by and we went to a nice restaurant for lunch in Chardon. It means so much to all three of us that we are all happy, healthy and together. I never, ever take my parents for an "only child" it's always been the three of us. We've had our hard times relating but we still love one another and get along better now than ever before. I am fortunate to have my parents nearby. Living down in Florida I would call every day, and did get homesick after awhile. Family is important. Always was, always will be, no matter what.

The restaurant we went to served both breakfast and lunch, so I chose breakfast. The best meal of the day, especially when it's cooked by other people! They served a great caramel latte, along with my bacon and eggs. Mom and dad had big, nicely done turkey Club sandwiches. It was great to sit at the table in the window, overlooking Chardon square and enjoy the atmosphere. It's like stepping back in time to live out here in the country. Much kinder and gentler than living in hurried, overcrowded Beachwood or Largo, Florida. All of us like the country much better..not too far from city, but with the feeling of a slower pace of life.

We then stopped over to the car mechanic to see how my car is doing. It's going to be very expensive to fix, over $1000, which is no surprise. He will let me make payments and I'll get it back in a few days. Cookes Auto Service, you are awesome! I told him to put locking hubcaps on my wheels, too. When I get the car back, it will be safe again to drive. With winter coming, it has to be done. It had a very bad coolant leaak, rotted brake lines and thanks to the idiot who stole my lugnuts, hardly any lugnuts to hold the wheels on. It will be worth all the money to feel safe in my car again. I am keeping this car, even when I get another. It is going to be my backup eventually, but for now it's the main car. It's been good to me in the past and it has a nice style.

Business has been down lately, due to Zazzle taking away our volume bonuses,website changes and other things. I am currently making 1/3 of what I normally make per month..but then, late summer is not the best for retail sales for me historically. I am praying that sales get back to normal with the holidays coming. From September things should improve. Time will tell, but I just keep working and hoping for the best. Go with the flow and never give up. This business is good but it's not for the faint of heart. My charts and graphs tell the tale, zigging and zagging. But business goes on. If the car is really dependable once I get it back, I may start doing shows again, to talk to customers and get feedback, etc. Whatever it takes to live a comfortable life. I'm a worrier by nature, so I just need to take it easy, work and block out the stress.

Tonight I'm working on my store, watching the news and eating my favorite Australian licorice. No birthday cake pigout this year for me, since I've been losing weight and don't want to hinder my progress. My pants are baggier than ever before. My appetite is very low and that's ok. My parents and I stopped by the grocery store today, and I bought a bunch of peaches and raspberries. I'll make a pie later in the week, and have the raspberries for snacks. Mom and dad like to have fruit desserts too this time of year. Mom made an excellent Tarte Tatin (apple pie-like dessert)last week. Love those. I plan on making a peach crumb pie with maybe a few raspberries stirred into it.

Well, back to designing more wallets. If my brain is in gear later for it, I might even do a drawing. Time to focus and get work done. Depression and anxiety have to take a backseat, time to focus. Please, Zazzle..make sales grow and grow. The new products are wonderful (love these wallets), and whatever new products that come, I'll be making those, too. Help my anxiety level, Zazzle, and make this a great holiday season. I will think posiive. It's not to far away now!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Getting the Car Fixed and Being Proactive About Safety

My normally trusty car has had some issues this year, so it's now in the shop getting fixed. I'm waiting back from the mechanic to see how much the final cost will be as I write this. I went to a few different mechanics and the basic estimates were all the same, so I chose the one who let me make payments and know in detail what the problems are. During all of this, I discovered that nearly all of the chrome lugnuts on my car were missing (I rarely look at my wheels)..and am sure I know who did that. I have rude neighbors who aren't friendly at all, and one of them spends a lot of time fixing his car next to mine. So, I'm going to set up yet another surveillance camera in my bathroom window, and get it recorded, then bust him to the police. Amazing what people will do and what nastiness they go through when they don''t even know me. People who are jealous, angry at the world and disadvantaged can be really mean. It's their problem, and it will get them arrested eventually. I have all the time in the world to record the evidence and make reports to the police, so they will be well documented when I finally get the recording done. They are too ignorant to realize they are digging themselves in deeper and deeper, the more that they do, but that's ok. I'm not intimidated and will carry on. And press charges.

So, the car is in good hands, and I'm just relaxing after doing all the car things this afternoon. My birthday is in two days, but I'll ignore it since I have work to do and an overwhelmed (at times) brain that shuts down if overstimulated with too much thoughts of whether to get another car or not. Just need to do my work, there's lot to do. We now carry wallets (yes!!) from basic trifolds and denim ones with coin purses to elegant, beautiful leather ones in different sizes. I have done about 75 so far and will do many more, along with working on a bunch of cellular phone cases that need tweaking (since we changed brands from Speck to Casemate it left some of my designs on already made products either askew or too big). Lots of them to go back and redo. I've done many, but many more are coming up that need fixing, too. I'd love to get an employee, could keep the person busy 40 hours a week, for sure, but won't spend the money on that right now. I will see big dollar signs for these substantial repairs but it's worth it since I like the car and will keep it, even when I do get another one.

It pays to have a second car when you're a woman alone. If one car dies, there's another for backup to use. I did that before years ago and foolishly sold off the other car after awhile. Learned my lesson. With the prices of used cars going up so much in the last decade, it's best to hold on to a good used car. I sincerely hate making large monthly payments on cars (and the full insurance that always goes with them), and will avoid it at all costs. When I have a car that is good and trustworthy, I stick with it. My dad has always done this, so I think I get that from him. He had a Chevy Nova when I was a kid that he kept until it was dangerous to drive (you could see the ground as you drove because the floor rusted out). The muffler fell off of it when he was trading it in at the dealership for another car.

Fifteen years ago I had a car that I kept far too long and the tie rods went out when I was driving it in South Euclid. The wheels just wobbled in different directions all of a sudden as I was driving down Warrensville Road. Lucky for me there was a road crew of nice men who saw it happen and came to my aid as I parked it on the side of the road. They rigged it with a coat hanger so it could be driven, then one of them followed me in his car to the mechanic I used back then. The nice mechanic (on Cedar Road at the now defunct Procare)didn't charge me for labor, just parts and that was lucky. The bill would have been HUGE if he hadn't. He saw how shaken up I was and gave me a break. After years of being propositioned by sleazy mechanics (NO thanks!)or being swindled out of (or at least trying to) my money by some who padded the invoices with uneccessary charges (only to get argued with until they backed down because I knew they were doing it), it means a lot to have an honest, good mechanic who is fair. I look sweet but can be extremely tough if necessary. Learned that from being messed with too much in my youth. When I get really mad (as in getting attacked or hurt), I'm strong as a bull and can fight. My ex-husband punched me in the face once, and I whipped out a can of pepper spray and used it on him as he lunged for me(he was violent and I kept it for self-protection). He never did it again. When I left him he told me, "You're the strongest woman I've ever met". Don't know about that, but I'm no wimp. I rarely show anger, but am unafraid to stand up when needed.

Anyways, I feel good knowing that the car is being taken care of, and I've rearranged appointments I had so I don't have to be anywhere for awhile. Now I'm in my recliner, just finished watching the news and am going to go rest. A busy day. How I hope for better days ahead this week.

Made a police report tonight, documenting missing lugnuts on my car. The police officer took it seriously and was excellent..he served and protected. We were talking in the yard and the neighbor in question came outside and sat on his stoop as we the officer told me he was going to go talk to him. He invited me to come with him but I declined, I don't care what the guy says. This will be happening again and again whenever anything of mine is vandalized. I will get it all on record. It pays to be patient and wait for vandals to hang themselves with their own rope. I have no time for this garbage. Now, I will forget about it and go back to work. Life is good.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Garden in Late August..Still Going Strong

Tomorrow will be the first day of September, the month when things start cooling down around here in Northeastern Ohio. Already there are leaves beginning to fall from my maple trees, a bit early but the transition to Autumn has already begun. As Summer starts fading, some types of plants finish their flowering and the Fall bloomers start coming alive with color.

Morning Glories are now blooming like crazy. Floral fireworks every day from dawn to mid-day

There are some plants that just keep on going, such as Dianthus, Coreopsis, Portulaca and others. They are powerhouse flowers that just keep blooming.

The blueberry bushes are pretty well finished producing fruit now, but they sure had a great run. Next year I'm getting more berry bushes such as raspberry, black+raspberry and others. It's so great to have pesticide-free berries and herbs. Here are the Basil plants, who have turned into bushes. Time to make a bunch of pesto, before it gets cold and they all die off.

Two of my basil plants..and one of the big bumble bees that love them

This year I planted a Buddleia or Butterfly Bush that has three different colors of blooms from dark and medium purples to white. So far I'm seeing the medium and white colored flowers, which are very pretty, no sign of the darker purple yet. The plant is very young and so far is thinking it's a groundcover. When it finishes blooming, I'll trim it into a bush shape. I'm just glad it's happy and already beginning to flower.

Butterfly Bush flowers

So, that's how my garden grows right now. I'm going to miss all of this when the growing season is done. May have to get more indoor plants and continue the gardening indoors for the Winter. I used to do that before moving to Florida awhile back, grew a jungle in my former apartment's sliding glass door window areas. I think the Hibiscus tree I already have will be having more plants to keep it company this year. Having colorful flowers and green plants make Winter so much better. Until then, my garden still grows and grows.

Keeping Busy Working on My Stores and Baking Things

It's more than a fulltime job to run my Zazzle stores. Other elite level store owners have family or maybe even employees to help them, I do it all myself. I know it's best to delegate work and let go of some of the control and I would, but it all costs quite a bit and I'm not ready to make that investment yet. I'm ok and am glad to be home, doing what I love so it's not bothering me at all. It's nice not to need to deal with office politics, commuting, and all of that. So, I keep my head down and work. It feels good to see my daily sales rosters grow, as a result. It's all good.

Lately, Zazzle has updated our phone cases (used for iPhones, Samsung, Motorola and other brands)from Speck to CaseMate. In the migration, they transfer our (already designed by us) images to the new case. Unfortunately, many of the times, the result comes out with the designs too big or askew. So, I have a veritable MOUNTAIN of cases to go in and redo, as many, many oversized designs of mine float around in the marketplace, waiting to be fixed. The customer can do it themselves most of the time, but I like replacing the messed up ones with correct, accurate images. So, I'm lying on my bed, circulator and ceiling fans going full blast, with the Tonight Show on in the background as I do this. As I have, all day from early morning. Today I was going to go to the fair in Burton but I decided not to. I'm feeling kind of weak and not in the mood to go spend a bunch of money. Love fair food but it doesn't love me. I'd pig out on too many calories and be worth nothing afterwards, plus it takes time out of my work to do that, on a very hot day. Better to stay home and work. Make money instead of spend it..that's a plan. I'll go next year. My parents went and said it was fun but very hot and humid, just getting water there was $1.50! What a ripoff. Glad I stayed in.

Pie I made today

Mid-afternoon, I did take a break to make a blueberry/raspberry crumb pie, using raspberries from a local Amish market and my own blueberries from my bushes. It's easy to make,and full of anti-oxidants (yeah, I know, piecrust is fattening but it's better than 55 grams of fat for a fried whatever on a stick at the fair..that's my rationale, anyways.) As far as desserts go, it's one of the better ones to have, at least that's what was told to me many years ago when I lost weight at Jenny Craig. It's all about portion size and keeping active. Well, I went up and down my staircase a few times, and did some gardening, so that's the extent of today's exercise. The pie turned out good..not too sweet, just right. My cat Farrah held down the cookbook, she makes a good paperweight. So does her brother, Matisse. Last week, I was going to make something and got out a cookbook, then she flopped on I moved over, opened up another cookbook, then Matt flopped on that. They take their cookbooks seriously.

That's Farrah in the foreground, Matisse in the background..each with their own cookbook. And in the waaay background, see two male goldfinches, two of many who live on/at my feeders.

So, now it's midnight, and a warm breeze is coming in my open bedroom windows. Work is winding down for the night. I keep working until I can no longer concentrate (brain gets in a fog). Tomorrow is a new day, with new types of clothing to design, as well as work on more phone cases. Once I get caught up then I plan on getting my brain in gear to start doing more drawing. Drawing has been on "back burner" lately because I've been stressed with many things going on. To do my best work, I need as stress-free an environment as possible. Once these cases are done, stress will be lessened. It's not easy being so high strung, but I deal with it. Need sleeping pills in order to sleep, having been an insomniac all of my life. The nighttime is a good time to get work done. It only bothers me when I sleep too little then get exhausted the next day, not able to think straight. It's better to be rested than worn out! This soon-to-be 50 year old body needs to be treated's a quiter, gentler life now and that's ok by me. Need to get vitamins, to boost my system and help my health. It's a mission to get better, healthier and feel more energetic, one step at a time.