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leelee happy Holidays

As I was walking down the chip aisle at the grocery store, I spied the bags of popcorn kernels and another pin came shooting back into my brain – making your own microwave popcorn in a paper bag. So I scooped up a package.

It works!  I put a 1/4 cup of naked kernels in the paper bag and microwaved it for 2.5 minutes. Voila – a nice hot bag of fresh popcorn. Of course it deperately needed some spicing up with butter and salt.

One thing I did notice was that there were a lot of unpopped kernels in the bottom of the bag. So to experiment, I tried another batch, but this time nuked it for 3 minutes. Still lots of unpopped kernels. In fact, I got curious and measured out just how many were left: 2 TBSPs!  Thats half the amount I started with! And the extra cook time did not result in any fewer unpopped kernels as I had expected.

But have you ever checked how many kernels are left unpopped in a bag of store bought microwave popcorn?  You can’t even see how many you start out with to be able to compare. But, at $1.69 for a 2 lb bag of the store brand of kernels, you can’t beat the price!

It was a sad day in our household yesterday. Sandy the gecko passed away.
Actually it could have been the night before – I didn’t notice til last evening that she was in the exact same position that she was in in the morning. I was not surprised. The way you tell if a gecko is healthy is if they have a nice fat tail. Well this little one’s tail had become the width of an iphone’s charging cord. I even got her more crickets, although she still had some left from the last batch, to be sure she wasn’t starving. But I guess it was just Sandy’s time.
7 yr old Jack’s reaction – “oh”
7 yr old Dylan’s reaction – “can we get a new one tomorrow?”
10 yr old Bobby’s reaction – uncontrollable sobs for hours until he went to bed in our bed with Daddy!
This is the first pet, if I can even call our past fish, hamster, and hermit crabs pets, that he has done more than shrug at the loss of.  I have no idea if his reaction was a result of being especially attached to Sandy, if it was a sign of his maturing age and understanding, or if he was just particularly tired from a weekend of practices and games (lost their first hockey game but won their first football game!).
And I probably never will know.
We cleared the tank away before he got up and he was very chipper this morning – which, seeing as he is not a morning person at all, is quite a rarity and a very pleasing surprise.
We’ll see if he ever brings Sandy up again.

Remember how we had that lame sales day at the show?  Well, not 2 days later Leslie excitedly told me that we had an appointment with a wholesale customer.

I was like, “whoa, hey, what?” Because all I could think of in my production type mind was, oh no, we don’t have packaging for selling singles.  We don’t have order forms.  What kind of promotional info do we need, etc, etc, etc.

Turns out, she was bummed about not selling much at the show and had the great idea to see if any of the down town banks would want to give out our halloween crayons at the city’s annual Trick or Treat event. Unfortunately the people she needed to ask weren’t in, so she popped in at our local gift store, Casa de Moda (http://www.casademoda.com). The owner, Jan, was happy to give lots of pointers on how to tweak our product and packaging for retail and how to sell to retailers. About a month later we went back with our changes and made our first sale!

From there we went to the local toy store, who immediately said sure, I’ll try them.  That took us by surprise as we stood there dumbfounded saying ok, now what?  I think our product is so inexpensive that its not a huge investment for store owners to try them, so we’ve been fairly successful in the wholesale market.  We now have our crayons in 9 different stores with more to come!

USPS zone map

Before we could list our products on Etsy, we had to determine a shipping price.  So we called the post office of course!  Not so fast – it depends on how much the package weighs, and where you ship it to and from, and what size box you use, etc, etc.  We had planned on then calling UPS and FedEx to compare prices, but we couldn’t figure out what to compare to!

We tried contacting a USPS rep to see if they could explain it all to us. But they just sent a list of box sizes and prices.  Yeah, we know …  we already found that on your website.  We also picked up a list of zones from our local branch office (they xeroxed the copy they had hanging on the wall!) – it didn’t make any sense at all.

Argh! If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.  So I stayed up one Friday night til about 3am figuring this out.  First I had to figure out where each zone actually was, because if you go in numerical order by zip code, it seems completely haphazard.  Turns out the zones actually run in vertical bands from North to South across the country (kind of – see the map above).

Then I figured out how much each type of order would weigh – one pack of crayons, 2 packs of crayons… up to 10, party favor packs, etc, including the box and packing materials (taking into account the different size boxes needed and their weights as well).

Did you know on USPS.com there is a program that lets you type in how much your shipment weighs, where you’re shipping it from and to, and in what type of packaging you’re using (http://postcalc.usps.com/)? It then spits out a list of shipping methods and costs for each.  So, of course, I typed in all that info for each zone and each weight and made a big old beautiful and confusing chart of all the options.  From that, I created an “easy ship chart” that narrowed it down to the cheapest way to ship to each zone and which box to use.

On Etsy, you can not have the customer enter their zip code and let them know how much their shipping will be, like you can on Ebay.  You have to put a flat shipping price on each listing. So I had to figure the worst case scenario to keep us covered.  We actually use the 2nd to worst case figuring we’ll make a little extra on some (chalked up to “handling”) and take a loss on others but it will even out in the long run.

Now when we get an order, I just cross reference the ship-to zip code to the zone, weigh the package and take out my shipping bible to determine how to ship it!

BUT THEN…

The USPS raised its rates!!!! Back to the drawing board!

I think I just saved my son Bobby from the curse of life in a bubble!
     When I found out the only thing he knew of Spam was junk email, I knew I had a mission. How could he not know about the Monty Python skit? Worse yet, how could he not be aware of the classic meat in a can?
     There’s a running joke with my college friends, that you must live in a bubble if you’ve never heard of Spam before (like my friend Betty). Spam was a staple on the pantry shelves of blue collar families from my generation. But alas, the fine art of cooking spam and eggs on Saturday morning, or perhaps spam and rice dinner on Sundays after church, has been lost on this generation!
     I just couldn’t let my son live a life of ignorance any longer. So off to Market Basket I went, completely mortified to have the can in my cart (the things you do for your kids). Today after school, he gently pulled the key and peeled back the cover only to be instantly horrified.  I could smell the fine odour from the next room.
     And I now realize I’ve been wrong all these years.  I don’t think I ever did have Spam before, because I’d remember that stink! Smells like cat food – and looks like it too. Ingredients say pork with ham.  Huh? I think the contents of this can must be the pig equivalent of pink slime.
     There is no way any of my kids would go near it, never mind have it for dinner. Jack actually shivered when he saw it!
     Betty, be glad, be very very glad that you’ve never had Spam before!

Ask me what I did this Saturday night while my husband and all 3 kids were off at some sporting event and I was home all alone! Go ahead, ask me…

Nope, didn’t go out wahoopin, didn’t even stay in under a blanket with a glass of wine and a good book.  I organized my “home office” (a.k.a. my dining room).

I wish I had a before picture to show you.  You would have sworn a tornado had raged thru this one room of my house.  We just finished up a mad dash of product development and packaging testing getting a couple new products ready for a deadline.  I had thrown all my paper scraps on the floor as each was created.  The table (which is 7 feet long), was covered in teetering stacks of paperwork, marked up layouts, left over scraps from fabric swatches, ripped open plastic bags, buried rulers.  Not an inch of wood was visible.


And now this.  Ahhhhh…..

Granted the shelf it totally tacky but it was up for grabs. Empty shelving units are a rarity in this house where my husband re-organizes monthly when he gets too stressed out.  And it was supposed to be a temporary fix until he can find someone with a little more girth than myself to carry our old TV armoire down a flight of stairs. He was against the armoire because it was too bulky for the doorway it would be next to.  And I hate to admit it, but he was right! Now if I can just keep it this neat…

A few weeks ago, I went to the Aveda store to get some facial cleanser.  The woman behind the counter politely greeted me and asked how she could help me.  I told her what I was looking for and asked if she’d recommend anything different than what I had been using for the past 10 years.  And she looked at me and said “You’re a minimalist aren’t you?”

Sure, I was standing in front of her in my fanciest ripped jeans and a fleece, my hair elegantly pulled back in a clip, my sexy un-manicured nails, and the only speck of makeup on my model-like face being concealer trying unsuccessfully to hide my ever-present dark circles.

But I just can’t imagine what she might have meant by that!

So here we are on the morning after the Super Bowl and a depressing (at least for us New Englanders) loss by the Pats.  I’ve gotten to thinking about the sport of football.  I’m glad that my son is almost as enthusiastic about the game as his dad is.  But I’m also thankful that he still thinks its goofy when his dad stands up and cheers at the top of his lungs for a good play!  Last night my little guy said “I can literally feel my heart pounding in my chest” during the last minute of the game.  I’m happy he’s finally found a team sport that he enjoys playing.  Although to this point, he has only played flag football.

Which brings up my issue.  I’m sure this is only an issue for a mom and I happen to be a rather big worry wort of a mom.  My son, who will be 10 when the season starts, now wants to play tackle football. Should I let my little boy play this particularly violent sport?  I watch these players on TV take these world rocking hits, have a pile of 300 pound men jump on top of them, and literally fall on their head, and wonder why they don’t get broken.  My husband says its because they work out so much that their bulky muscles protect things like their necks from breaking.  But my 10 year old son, does not work out.  And although he’s no lightweight, he would certainly be broken by that kind of roughness.

Its not that he hasn’t been broken before. He broke his arm when he was only 5 by falling off the monkey bars at the park. So I’ve seen him truly injured and I survived it (as did he).  But do I purposely let him “play” something where the odds of bodily damage go up exponentially, and knowingly put him in the way of danger?

Or… perhaps, this will turn out to be a good outlet for him. He’s got a temper (huh, no idea where he could have gotten that from!), and tends to be a bit agressive. Maybe this is the perfect place for him to beat on things legally instead of using his little brothers.  Maybe he’ll be so pooped when he gets home from practice, that he won’t have the energy left to try to get his brothers riled up.  Hmmmm….

Wow, what would I ever do if he came to me and said he wanted to join the military!!!!

Enough of this should I or shouldn’t I!  I’m just going to jump in and start writing.  I’ve tried to research all kinds of info about blogging and poll people about what blogs they read and why.  All that did was get me addicted to blogs.  So… well… here goes…

My current plan is to write a couple times a week.  I am a busy, work-from-home mom after all.  Who knows if I’ll even have enough time for that!

The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences in getting a start up business running, and keeping it going, at the same time as being a mom to 3 little boys.  I have a 9 (almost 10) year old, and twin 6 (almost 7) year olds, so life if pretty hectic around here.  Add to that, the marketing and business aspects of a company, and I barely have time to cook dinner!

I hope you enjoy.  And maybe even pick up a pointer or two – if I can come up with any!