New Years is not the time to make a resolution…

Slay the Gruncle

Anyone who loves science fiction has read about how in the future all our dietary needs will be available in pill form, or nutrient bars, or as an oatmeal like gruel as seen in the “MATRIX”.  How popular is that line; ” …Everything the body needs”? Well, meal replacements are not a thing of the future, actually they have been around for decades.  Remember when “Slim Fast” made it to the shelves?  Anyone else have memories pop up of their Mother choking down a can of slim fast, while doing her make up in the morning?  I still can remember the smell.  I know guys to this day, who chug a can of slim fast before donning their armor for a major battle in the SCA.  It is easily digestible and full of nutrients, protein, and vitamins;  “Meant” to be a long lasting dose of calories for the active body.  Other forms have also been available on the market, remember Dexatrim?  A pill form that was supposed to fill you up, giving your body the energy to power through the day.  Well with the amount of stimulants packed into those pills, you were also bouncing off the walls!

Even today there are lots of meal replacements available at local grocery stores, health/natural food stores, even at GNC.  Each one has it’s own claim on the market, and all basically do the same thing.  They all give you the fiber, nutrient, vitamin, protein, and calorie count that should equal 1 fully balanced meal.  You mix it, and go.  Viola!- your breakfast, lunch, or dinner is just a whir of the blender blades away.

I have tried many different meal replacement products, all of them tasted like ass.

Yes this is a a harsh thing for me to say, but honestly I tried so many different styles through out my adulthood.  Each one ended up going down the drain. The unpalatable powder mixes just moldered away on the shelf, being pushed aside for a more tasty option of pop-tart, power bar, luna bar, even oatmeal when I was desperate.  If these were not available (or even if they were), drive through was more delicious temptation than whirling tornado of powder mix being beaten in a blender… hoping that at least half the powder would mix in, and not just float to the top.

But another thing, none of these meal replacement products took into account the natural urge to chew, masticate, thoroughly enjoy a mouthful of yummy-delicious-oh so good FOOD.  So most people would take their shake or pill… and then end up snacking between meals.  Why? because their head would tell them they were hungry and needed to snack on something, ANYTHING.  Even though their bodies had all the calories it really needed to make it through the day.   There is a disconnect between the brain and stomach that needs to be reprogrammed. This is when people got into trouble, they’d just have a quick snack of chips, candy bar, fruit, or even veggies.  (WHOA, you may say, VEGGIES don’t have calories.  Well yes they do, not alot but they do.  And if you are supposed to be getting your complete calorie count from your meal replacement, then the addition of any more calories gets stored in the form of fat.  So unless you are pulling out the celery regularly… those sugar (and thus calorie) containing vegetables are now going to your hips.)

Now you may ask, what is the point of this?  Every year around this time people gorge themselves past fitting in their current wardrobe.  Partaking in all the wonderful and tasty goodies of the season… only to instantly decide to go on a diet come January 1st.  New Years resolutions… seriously? a starting date for a goal?  I thought you were supposed to set a GOAL and then work towards it, no matter the calender year!

I admit it, I love food.  Seriously I love good, fresh, home made food.  But I also enjoy tasty, manufactured food full of artificial dyes, salt, and ingredients I can’t pronounce (and I have a minor in chemistry…granted from over a decade ago). I believe that no one should starve themselves.  Each person is a wonderful and unique individual, and we should embrace who we are and not try to fit in the status quo boxes that media and society dangle in front of us.    But I also believe we should be happy with ourselves.

I started to not feel all that happy. I started to feel bloated, a loss of energy, and a loss of stamina. Frankly I did not want to be around me, so why would I expect anyone else to?  I found I turned to food even more, I was no longer enjoying what I ate. I just ate what I thought might make me feel better.  Well I can tell you a 20oz Coke and Twinkies before work does not fit in the “feel good” box. I was hitting the snooze button more times and running out the door without fixing a lunch… and even if I grabbed something I would still go out for fast food at Lunch Break.  It was a habit I knew needed to change.

But I love good food!  I love flavor! But most of all I realized I loved all of these while feeling full.

Now, around this time some of the girls at work had done a “mass diet” together for moral support. Lots of cleanses, water, more cleanses, and shakes.  It was interesting to watch, I have never been a big believer in crash diets, or instant fixes.  I got to see everything from a Niacin reaction, sending one of them to the ER.  To a massive line for the ladies room, because after all- all that water has to go somewhere.   I heard them boasting how the products came from New Zealand, grass fed cows.  I even listened to them boast that they got one more person signed up, so now they might actually be able to start making money!

I hate pyramid schemes. Always have, always will.

I am a skeptic.

But one thing I did notice, the binges to McD’s and the Bell had come to a sudden halt.  I noticed that many of the girls were ready to go, as soon as they walked through the door. Instead of hauling around an over full cup of crappy coffee.  I started to notice that lunches were slowly trickling in that had GREEN in them.  I was reminded how much I miss green in my food, heck how much I love COLOR in my food.

I needed to change something… Now.

But mornings come too early, days are too long and many times “LUNCH BREAK” was just written on the schedule tantalizingly close but not a reality.  I started to talk to my dear Hubby about doing some breakfast and Lunch shakes.  Not protein shakes but meal replacement shakes.  Now, remember back to Slim fast?  That was not what I was thinking… nor would ever settle on.  I decided to go to the local “health food store” and see what their selections were.  Walking in the door I found an entire WALL of meal replacement shakes.  Everything from gluten free, to dairy free, to hemp based.  I spent a good hour reading all the labels and comparing them.  But in all honesty I knew, for me, it would come down to the taste.  So picked up some individual serving packets to try.

I was so excited that first morning, I blended up my breakfast shake… had the lunch one packed up and ready to go. Got in the car, turned on my audio book, and took off on my 45 minute commute.  3 minutes and 5 sips in, I stopped the car and dumped then entire shake out on the side of the road. IT WAS DISGUSTING. Hemp based something-or-another, completely unpalatable and horrendous.  I just gave my self the shivers remembering it!  I stopped at fast food and was “fixed” for the day.

Round two, three, and four.  All failures.

I was getting upset.

Now, back to the girls at work, one day I was super hungry and even had a headache started because of it.  A coworker handed me a “snack”.  It looked like a giant chalky mentos.  She told me to chew two of them up and make sure to drink plenty of water.  I cocked my eyebrow at her, but heck I WAS HUNGRY!  I popped them into my mouth and chowed down, add some water and it was like a chocolate smoothie.

Isagenix.

I was hooked.  I had never had a pick me up snack nor a meal replacement taste anything like that. It tasted like creamy chocolate.  Now, as a caveat, it did not taste like Truffle pig, Ghirardelli, Hershey, Cadbury, or Green and Black- now those are CHOCOLATE.  This tasted like a chocolate snack.  There is a difference, and there will always be a difference… it’s called fat and sugar content!  I was curious about the meal replacement shakes… She stated they tasted the same as the snack, even better.

Next she gave me her card and sent me to their website. It was a little confusing, since I was starting off with only minimal knowledge, had only over heard somethings about it from others at work.  But knowing I liked the “snacks”. After sorting through all the weight loss testimonials, and “Isagenix Millionaires” crap, I finally found the products and all the ingredient listing. And yes they are proud about their New Zealand cows (a little secret folks, there are grass fed hormone free cows raised in your very own state!  you just have to pay a little more for the meat and dairy products. Because guess what, it takes more time and energy to raise them… but lowest price shopping does not always give you the best options).  What I did notice was the cost.  Especially if you are an “associate”.  The cost for all their products was comparable to the foul tasting stuff down a the “health food store” and even at GNC.  Now this, I could handle.

Again you have to wade past all the weight loss challenges and packages. All the youth and vitality in a bottle. But you can buy individual items and NO you do not have to invest your life savings to try them out.

Not everyone is on a diet.  Not everyone is looking for a quick fix for wrinkles.

If you are, great!  They have some wonderful, easy to use programs.  GO FOR IT.

I talked it over with my husband, and though he was listening through half an ear, he seemed to be game.  So I placed my first order.  Two shake canisters, one Dutch Chocolate and the other Vanilla.  I also wanted to try their “get more energy” drink powder  (I always loved the taste of Vit B drinks… I think I am the only one. AND it’s cheaper than Vitamin water). And some of the Snacks  in chocolate (the snack tablet my coworker had given me, that fateful day).

My husband was not happy the day the package arrived in the mail.  He did not think I was going to actually go through with it. But that night, when he got a late night craving he tried the “Snacks”.  He kept trying them again day after day after day… you get the idea.

The next day was a Saturday.  Pointless for a work shake, but I was so curious I just had to whip one up.  Mixed a chocolate scoop with a vanilla scoop.  My husband had a full vanilla shake.  I had mine about 7 am.  I was not hungry again until 12-ish.  Seriously NOT HUNGRY, not thinking about what I was going to make for lunch. NOTHING.  When my stomach finally told me it was empty, I was startled to see what time it was.  My husband on the other hand, was ready for something about 3 hours after his shake (viola’ a “snack” was there waiting for him!).

I did not make shakes again until Monday.  For breakfast I made my husband and I shakes, then I took one for lunch.  I was not hungry until Lunch, when I sat down for lunch I was not ravenous like usual but slightly peckish. I drank my shake.  That afternoon my schedule got super hectic and I was running around like a chicken… so about 3 hours later I started feeling some pangs of  hunger. Popped a Chocolate “Snack” and some water.  I was able to go home, have the time and energy to make my family a GREAT dinner and have a movie night.

I have done that every work day since.  With the exception of  one day where I worked 10 hours, and stopped for dinner pick up on the way home (even then I craved an awesome antipasto salad!).

I find on the weekends, I crave a shake. Just the flavor.

I have also found I no longer “need” my caffeine fix in the morning.  I am an avid Earl Gray drinker, going on 15+ years DAILY.  I must admit I no longer finish my tea in the morning, rather it’s drained on way home from work as I drive relaxing to music.

That was one month ago that I did my first order.  The day my last shake canister ran out, my new order arrived.  Honestly  I was as excited about it, as I am about my fabric orders.  This time I added a new shake flavor, and switched up the snacks.

I for now am happy.

That is what all this has been about.  Finding that happiness again.  I am excited about food again. I am excited about cooking again.  I am excited about going to dinner with my hubby again, whether it is burger n’ fries or Sushi.  I am excited to get up in the morning- not because I get to have a shake (HAH!)  but because I have the energy to get up. I feel good. I want to do stuff. I want to be…

Now if I had decided to start juicing instead, would I feel the same. Probably.  If I decided to go vegan, would I feel the same. Probably.  If I decided to start exercising daily, would I feel the same. Probably.  What I did works for me, and that is why I am sharing.

I have slayed the Dragon.

If you would like to learn more please visit the Isagenix website. For those of you wondering; yes, they have a facilities in the continental USA.  Remember, you can do as little or as much as you like. Everything is available for individual sale and you DO NOT HAVE to join a program.  But if you do join a program, enjoy your personal results!  I use my cheap Kitchen Ninja set up (you know the $60 one and not the $200 one!) to blend the shakes.  I tend to blend my lunch shake in the morning at the same time I do the breakfast ones, I store it in the fridge at work so I can have a shake and run if needed.  But just know, the probiotics in the shakes are best consumed within 10 minutes of initial mixing.

Personal Isagenix recipes: I don’t always stick to their recommendations… surprise, surprise!

If using a blender; add 1/2 banana to your shake no matter the flavor. It adds a little somthin’-somethin’ to the whole experience.  Add some ice to the blender to get a true milk shake effect.

I like to mixed my shakes using Milk, instead of water.  Gives a bit extra protein and smoothness.

Mix 1 scoop vanilla + 1 scoop chocolate to get a chocolate milk shake like flavor

Mix 1 scoop chocolate + 1 scoop Black Sesame  to get a dark chocolate (even slightly mocha) flavor.

Mix 1 scoop chocolate + 1 scoop of Berry to get a chocolate raspberry flavor

Mix 1 scoop Vanilla + 1 scoop Berry to get an earthy flavor (not super sweet…)

Take 1 berry snack with 1 vanilla snack to get an interesting creamy flavor burst in your mouth

My last recipe is the BOMB!  While taking your morning shower steep your shake WATER with 1 chai tea bag.  Once you are ready to mix, take out the tea bag and add 2 scoops of vanilla.  You have a VANILLA CHAI flavored shake.  Mmmmmmmnnnnnmmmm!

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How to turn the proverbial “lemon” into Limoncello….

We have all had those time pop up in our lives.  Times where no matter how hard you try to move forward, things just keep popping up that create a backwards slide.  It’s at these times, we generally have two choices.  We can choose to wallow in our misfortune; to bemoan the fact that our car died, that our hours at work were cut, AND and unexpected trip to the doctor all popped up at the same time.  Or we can pull up our big girl panties and realize that our car will now get better gas millage, we get more time to enjoy with our children, and our family is now healthy and happy. Yes, at these times it may seem over whelming but each and every day it gets a little easier until we look back and say “what was I truly stressing about?”

Each time this happens in my life, I admit I succumb to those dark moments of grief and regret but I also realize these moments are getting shorter and less dramatic.  Age has it’s perks.

So one of the perks of learning from the past is planning the future.  I have decided to follow a dream.   Each day I take one step closer, sometimes it’s baby steps other times I feel like a Kangaroo.  At this moment and time I feel like a hibernating Zombie toad, waiting for the warm rains to stimulate some movement.   There have been alot of recent obstacles popping up that need to be overcome.  The latest in my line of “what now’s?’ is this:

Compounding patchwork... computers should not be quils.

Compounding patchwork… computers should not be quilts.

My primary work station, the one I am delicately writing this little dialogue on, has lost it’s ability to open-close-even stay upright.  It’s one of those wonderful malfunctions that can not be fixed…  The screen of my laptop completely snapped off and is no longer attached to the base… it’s a 5 year old computer and is still running like a champ.   Luckily my absolutely wonderful husband rigged up this snazzy “cast” for my computer.  A wooden base to prop the screen up, complete with a little bit of Sugru and a rubber-band to keep the screen from falling forward quickly (my poor fingers sometimes get caught).

Now my husband is a master at building computers, but pre-fab laptops were not meant to be “fixed”.  He has put together a list of the parts he needs in order to build me a fully functioning desk top, that will not only allow me to expand my photography hobby- but will also allow me to have the ability to set up my own web store front!  I AM SO EXCITED!  I have been designing my web store front in my head for years, and I finally get the chance to do it.

Here’s the hitch(es):  Hours were cut back at my full time job AND we are in the slow season for etsy sales.   Among other things…

Here’s the solution:  I have yards and yards and yards of awesome, amazing, unique, colorful, and completely-ready-to-be-made-into-custom-awesomeness fabric and supplies.  AND at the beginning of august I have 1 full week off of my full time job.  You ask, so what does this mean?  If you would like to help me make my goal of getting a new computer built for my business, by my wonderful husband of course, and stock up your swag bags for the upcoming holiday seasons at the same time, this is for you:

  1. first: contact me to discuss what you would like to have made, it can be an existing design or a custom one.
  2. select fabrics from existing stock
  3. expect your item to ship by 8/11/13
  4. RECEIVE 35% off the price.

* as an extra perk if you order an outfit including a piece made from our wonderful ruffle fabric, receive an extra 10% off that ruffle item.

All items will ship first class, unless priority shipping is cheaper.

This discount is not available for orders through etsy, unless you would like to use a credit card (prearranged custom listings only).  All orders will be done via email,  payment with a paypal invoice.  Our email is ursulaglassgoddess@gmail.com.

Please contact me today to get your order started!  And thank you for helping us reach one of our goals!!!

Maybe a new approach is needed?

Before the birth of my daughter I had never really had a desire to have professional photographs taken, sure I took part in the set up photographs on Cruises or at theme parks, but honestly I never thought of having nice photos done.  Then the motherly hormones set in and I wanted to document EVERYTHING including the pregnancy, luckily a coworker who was 4 months ahead of me in our pregnancies introduced me to a local family photographer.  Having never had a professional sitting before, and only minimal information about pricing based off of “glam shots” (remember those??? 80’s style hair and makeup, LOL), we went to a consultation regarding a wonderful “watch-me-grow” photography program.  For one fee the entire year’s worth of photo sessions was included, all the major milestones were covered, we just had to purchase the prints we liked.  I was totally stoked.  This was something we could afford and would not regret.  

So we began our sessions with a fun maternity shoot, an insane amount of  pictures were taken, including a plethora of different poses and outfits.  We had so much fun, and it was wonderful to just focus on our budding new family.   Our photographer was a joy to work with.  The anticipation of viewing the photographs was eating away at my attention span.  Luckily we did not have to wait long, it took 2 hours to go through all the pictures.  Ohhh-ah, I had never looked so good.  This made me feel so beautiful, and even more in love with my little family.  We picked out the ones we could not live without and put in the order, knowing that we wanted to save the biggest print purchases for our daughter’s newborn pictures.

I wish you could experience how amazing our new born photography session was, our daughter was not the most cooperative newborn.  She was more awake than not… so each of the “sleeping” poses were actually frames caught between screams.  But our photographer was incredible working with her.  Even the memory of that time makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I made outfits for her to wear, the photographer had a closet full of props to try out, and after a 4 hour session (YES 4 hours) we all left exhausted yet full of anticipation.

Then came the viewing.   Then unfortunately the reality sets in.

We live in a 57′ long 12′ wide trailer.  Each wall has atleast 1-3’x4′ window on it.  Our hallway is lined with closet storage.

As much as we wanted to buy the largest possible prints of our beautiful daughter in the most amazingly taken photographs, there was just no where to put them.   And this was just her newborn session… what about 3mo, 6mo, 9 mo, let alone 1-year?  Where would we put everything?  Even the refrigerator has pictures on it.   To this day I think back to all the photos taken, and how many we just could not fathom purchasing… and I miss those prints. 

Now that you have made it this far into my post you are probably asking: what the heck is this supposed to be leading to?

Lately in my facebook newsfeeds I have been inundated with posts, by multitudes of photographers that I follow, shouting the merits of purchasing the largest print for viewing.  Trying to prove that a large photograph over the couch is much more eye-catching than the smaller one.    I totally agree with this, but at every photo viewing I have been to in my short career of professional photography, the more prints we purchased the better.    Even purchasing just the modest 5×7″,  the honest truth is there is just not enough room.  I don’t have it, my parents don’t have it… heck my boss who lives alone in a 2 story mansion does not have the room for multiple large prints!

I am just putting a couple suggestions out there, maybe it will worm it’s way into someones business plan, but something needs to change.  Every person I talk to (and trust me I talk to a lot of people… it’s my part of my job to chit-chat) states the same grievances.  They all know that a professional photographer makes the majority of their money off the prints that are purchased. This is a universal understanding.  But this is also an old school of practice.  We are all in a technological age, and things need to keep up.    Most people have pictures streaming onto their TV, as a slide show of sorts.  Or they have an electronic picture frame, cascading through the families most loved pictures.  Ironically 90% of the professional photographers will not release a digital print.   This is such a HUGE market that is being missed out on.

In drumming up business for local photographers I now professionally work with, I get asked quite often if a CD of images is given to the client.  This has now become the demand.   It should also become the standard.

Now as a photographer you may ask: well how do I get paid.  INCREASE YOUR SITTING FEE, get rid of the marketing/print sales. Give a disk (or flash drive, pretty please!) with a set amount of images (10, 20, etc) with free use.  If they want more photos, charge for another disk.   Guess what? This gets rid of the headache of marketing, ordering, distributing of prints.  YOU WILL GET PAID whether the pictures ever leave that disk or not.  I will pay $250 for a sitting fee  if I get a disk with 25 photos on it, no questions asked.   But if my sitting fee is $50 I will not pay for $200 in prints.  So now the photographer has lost that $200 in sales. **

I am not alone in this.

Another suggestion, this has addled my brain with its simplicity.  Going back to my daughters watch-me-grow program, I absolutely loved it and I am sad at how many pictures are lost to me now.  I wish, with all my heart that we had an option to have the photos placed in a professionally made scrap book.   There was an option for a story board book, I admit that.  But what I am suggesting is a full year in book form, from maternity to 1 year.  All the prints together, so nothing was lost and we did not have to choose what would fit on our walls.  I know now, after working with some professional grade printing labs, that they have people on staff willing to put the books together for you.  I would have paid through the nose for that option.  Heck we would still be going for photo’s through out her second year… just to have another one made.  The coffee table book of family photos.

I know there are more options out there, but honestly these are the two that keep coming up.  I love that professional photographers choose to use their talent to help us document our families lives, and I am incredibly happy to have embraced their presence into our lives.   So instead of deleting those professional photography pages that post the irritating “buy the big print” pictures… I just hide that one post and hope that one day they will come around to a different way of promoting.

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**Worried about posting in the internet? Include a file on the disk (or flash  drive) with web-photos, with your logo and resized.  Make sure to stress that these photos are to be used for sharing on the internet not only for your protection but also your clients.  Stress pedophiles, magazines, or foreign agents “stealing” family photos for indecent use… that usually gets peoples attention.   Besides now you have FREE! advertisement.

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Interested in finding/contacting the local photographers that I love working with?

For the amazing “watch-me-grow” program, contact Christine at Dovephotos.com.  Yes, most of the fun photo’s in this post are from that program!  I highly recommend it.

For fun family sessions (more photo’s to come, so check back), mini-sessions, themed photo shoots, commercial photography, ect. Contact Amanda at Amandastarphotography.com.

You never know what’s next!

I am always trying something new, there are so many wonderful things out there… how could I not want to?  Most of the time I am just curious about how something is done, made, designed, or constructed.  This also means that I usually end up with alot more respect for an item and artist, just because I now know how it’s done and all the time it takes!  This is one of those times.  There is an artist that I absolutely adore, from her house to her travels!  Katwise!  Take a look at her Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Katwise/320233446531

Incredibly AWESOME, huh?  Well if you take a look at her etsy site, you can see her stuff flies off the digital shelves.  Literally gone in 15 minutes, and she only posts sales once a month.  If you are lucky enough to catch the right day and you are quick at the “purchase now” button you MIGHT be able to snag one.  But just a forewarning:  Her large jackets go for $600+, her arm warmers $60+.   But in the end it’s not the price that attracts me, because frankly they are way out of my price range.   It’s the fact that she changes the most gawd-aweful sweaters into such amazing creations.  So last year Katwise decided to start selling her patterns.  In the first day, I had snagged my very own pattern.  Whoop Whoop.

Humboldt Fog

Now all I needed to do was find lots and lots of wool sweaters.  Well guess what? I live in Florida.  Not to many wool sweaters here… So I expanded my search to include 50% wool sweaters, it only took a year but I finally found the requisite amount needed for the jacket I wanted to make.  My mom even helped by donating some of her “moth” eaten ones…  I know there are some places online that sell reclaimed wool sweaters, but I wanted to do it the “long way” first.  If you want to let someone else do the sweater hunting for you, here is a great site: http://resweater.blogspot.com/ .  After all the sweaters were compiled, it was time to felt them down.  My greatest suggestion is to take them to the laundromat, let them deal with the smell… and the fuzz.  I did 2 super hot cycles, 1 cold rinse, and then dried them out thoroughly in the dryers.

Cutting out all the pieces was the easiest part, and kind of fun.  BUT then… came the sewing.  Granted all you are doing is surging the pieces together, but it took alot of muscle work and concentration.  I started at 8 am and finished at midnight.  Just to give you an idea, the finished jacket is between 5-7lbs.

Full Circle Skirt

Full Circle Skirt

I wanted mine to have a fun hemline, so I made it have a “train”.  The back is about 5″ longer than the front,  it has some fun flow and flounce as I am walking.  Make sure to follow the guidelines on the hood… 4′ is perfect.  My first one hit the ground and kept pulling the hood off my head. Also I do suggest you double stitch all areas with alot of pull- the waistlines, hood, and arm holes.  Otherwise the over-lock stitch is sufficient.  Another suggestion, make the body of the jacket out of the most comfortable sweater (not itchy or pokey), and end at the wrists with your softest fabric.  This hits skin directly.

Will I ever make these sweater jackets to sell?  Only on a custom basis, with lots of caveats.   Katwise is the master, and I bow down even farther after this experience.   Ultimately I think I will stick with my fun fleece pixie jackets… maybe even make a couple for us big pixies?

Ursula’s Mini-Pixie

Here is a direct link for some more fun pictures of the Mini-Pixie Cuteness! https://www.etsy.com/listing/91057894/pixie-jacket-polar-fleece-add-a-little

So Congratulations to Amanda Capps!  You guessed correctly in my little Facebook mini-giveaway.  I look forward to dropping off your sweet “little” prize! MUAH♥

The True Price of Handmade.

The Price of Handmade.

When you say the word “handmade“, many of us think back to the days in our childhood, when our parents frantically stitched a halloween costume for us out of a table cloth and pulled out their expired make-up from the previous decade.   Or we think of those precious Christmas decorations made out of white pom-poms and pipe cleaners, somewhat resembling Frosty the snowman dueling Rudolph.   Do you remember the picture frames made out of homemade play-dough?  Oh my, I can still remember the smell.

Now, what do you think of when someone says it was “made by hand“?  First thing that pops into MY mind is the gorgeous quilt my grandmother spent months cutting out, patching together, and stitching delicate floral patterns with a tiny little needle and almost invisible thread.  Or the exquisite Easter dress that I only got to wear once, covered in bright flowers that my grandfather embroidered when he was spending time in a sanatorium recovering from TB.  Or the delicate hand painted porcelain dolls that my Aunt made me, but I could never play with.  All of these things I still have, and treasure above anything else in my house.  Even the memories bring tears to my eyes.

Heck I even think of the original Model T, which a neighbor down the road still owns and DRIVES weekly. Completely made by hand, restored by hand, and maintained by hand.

When did these two terms, handmade and made by hand, become such vastly separate labels?  When did we start to associate handmade with garage sales, back of the closet/junk-drawer items, or cheap?

There have always been independent artists; designing, making, and selling their craft.  Each and every one of them loves what they do and takes pride in each item that leaves their hands.   My Great Grandmother raised and sold angora rabbits, tanned their fur, spun, knit, and even wove it.  She did this during WWII GERMANY, while raising 5 kids under Russian occupation.  Her craft put food on the table and beer in my Great Grandfathers belly.  My Grandmother sold little girls dresses, knit sweaters, and real fur teddy bears to make a little extra “spending cash”.  All the while she raised 4 kids, learned a new language,  was a sanatorium “widow” for years, went back to school (bypassing an 8th grade Nazi education) to become a RN-technical nurse.  My other Grandmother made hand painted porcelain dinnerware, while raising 2 boys, as a widow.   My Aunt makes dolls; lots and lots of dolls.  While she raised 3 kids, was a Vietnam wife and put herself through nursing school.   Homemade crafting is the life blood of my family, we have always done what we loved  and made money off of it to help support our families.    My family is not unique in this I know.

When I hear “Handmade”, I think of unique, well made, and priceless.

So why is it in today’s society Made by Hand items rank less than Dollar store stock?  Why is it that so many people ask: why should I buy this from you when I can go to the “insert big  box store name here” and get it for less?  How has it become standard that handmade items are the trappings of the economically challenged? dime store commodities? craft fair fodder?

I ask you, when was the last time you bought a shirt from Walmart that lasted more than 3 washes, let alone a whole season?  If you bought a TV in the last 5 years, is it still working as it did on day 1?  How about your car, have you reached 150K miles? on the same clutch?  How about that $60 bathing suit, does it still… have stretch?  We live in a throw away society, manufacturers make items the cheapest-they-can-to-make-it-to-get-it-off-the-shelves.  As consumers, we strive to spend the least amount of money, which has forced the materials used to be of poor quality, the techniques used for assembly the barest minimum, and we don’t care who makes it (children, slave labor, or overworked FOREIGN factory employees).

In our endeavors for that “blue light special”, we as consumers, have been the driving force in the throw away condition of our society.  In response to this the mass marketing has caused us to become conditioned by the stores around us, advertising, media, and (…well…) downright laziness on our part.  Capitalism has its perks, and also its down falls.  Capitalism is run by the all mighty dollar.

Unfortunately this is also starting to transition into the world of independent artists.  It is starting to become standard practice to make something that just works, just stay’s together, the materials are just good enough to get by.   Because guess what, NOBODY CARES HOW LONG IT WILL LAST.  They don’t give a rats-ass that the tent you make for their wedding will still be there for their grandchildren to use.  They could care less that when their 5 year old is 20, they will still wear those dress up wings as a Rave accessory.  Nobody gives a shit that the skirt they bought for this weekends party will be a standard wardrobe staple for decades.  They just DON’T CARE.  They know they can “pop” into Target and get a new bejeweled t-shirt for tonights movie, and then use it for a dust rag tomorrow. Who cares?- it was only $15.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Reality check~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Minimum wage is $8 (ish) an hour.

Average yearly wage for a family of 4 is $21,000.

Gas costs $3.50/gal

Milk costs $4/ gal

Movies for 4 cost $70 for 2 hours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ monthly health insurance $400~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just imagine, if people re-evaluated their stand on handmade items, the changes that can happen?  Can you imagine a WARDROBE full of items that fit you, are comfortable, make you feel like a million dollars, and you only needed to add 1-2 items a year to “spruce things up”.  Do you comprehend how much money you can save, just by spending a little more money in the beginning?  Or is this to much forethought for today’s society?   Do we all have to look like the Kardashians…. or have accessories like Posh Spice?

How about buying (or reinvesting in) toys that are made with sturdy pieces, will not fade, tear, or flake. What about ones that don’t need new batteries every day, or do not have screens to be stared at or shattered?  Toys that make your child play with them, to figure out what they can do… Can you see your first child playing with it?  How about your fifth child?  Your neighbors child?  How about your grandchildren?

Can you see yourself working in your garage, using the same tools that your grandfather used?  That one day your granddaughter will pick up?  How about working on a car- THAT DOES NOT NEED A COMPUTER TO RUN?  Do you remember the days when the main pulley belt on your VW bug broke and you fixed it with your girlfriends bobby-pin…  I do, but it was my hairpin that got me home.

We, society as a whole, need to STOP, take a breath, and realize that it is our drive for the cheapest bang for our buck is what is truly causing problems.  Everything from the litter on the side of the road to the lack of jobs in the USA.  I know you think this is a broad statement, and want to call me out on it.  But sit back and think about it, really think about it:

~~~You want to go fishing, first off you have to have a boat (where is it made…? not the USA).  How is it fueled (gas won by war, not bought in the USA, not manufactured in the USA).  Okay, now your pole and tackle (where was it made? Probably not the USA… if you are lucky India), how about your bait? (squid and shrimp from china? flies from india? how about worms- from Mexico?).  How about your clothing (made in India? China? Mexico?) How about your sunscreen… hat… sunglasses… fish finder… Beer?  How can we forget the Beer, that had to be made in america?  (That was probably made by an american company with a manufacturer in Vietnam). What about that styrofoam cooler… that had to be made in… wait, China.  Now the ice, the ice was made in America- you watched it come out of an ice machine down by the gas station, okay the ice was made in america by a machine manufactured in Russia. ~~~

That was just to go fishing, with american ice.

Now comes the crux of it all,  You may be asking how can I afford to buy everything handmade (specifically from locals… hopefully in your own country)? You can’t.  Hello, you can’t.  But you can choose to buy them when ever possible. You can choose to make the conscious decision that instead of 5 new pairs of jeans this year, you will buy one full outfit MADE TO FIT YOU, IN THE COLORS AND PATTERNS YOU LIKE.  Step by step you can make the decisions that will not only impact you, your household, your wallet, but also help your neighbors.

You also need to be a proactive consumer, if the item is not made well and of poor quality don’t accept it.  Work with it until it’s right.  BUT you also need to be reasonable.  If you pay $10 for a skirt, you will get $1.50 in material, $1.50 in notions/supplies, and 3/4 hour of work.  That’s it.  The least amount the government will allow an employer to pay an employee is $8 an hour, so why in the hell should an artist/craftsman get paid less?

AH-HA! We have another issue of made by hand-  Worth.  This is not the worth the artisan believes it is, or the worth of the materials to make it.  This is the GENERAL WORTH.   To make this simple, how much do you make an hour? even if you are salaried… you can figure this out.  So why would you expect ANYONE else to accept less?  Especially if they are doing something for you that you can not do?

Most artisans have 6+ years secondary education. 10-15 years of hands on experience.  In the real world this equates to MANAGEMENT LEVEL EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE.  When is the last time you saw a manager making $8 an hour. GET REAL, AND RESPECT THE ARTISAN.  Guess what? When you do respect the artisan, you will get more than you ever bargained for.

Now that you have a grasp on worth, guess what?  We have to add in materials and supplies.  And I can tell you, this is a BIG difference.  There is no way I get the same amount of cost discount that Hanes her way gets.  They are a HUGE company… they pay pennies on the dollar for their supplies.  Guess what the local artisan pays for their supplies? yep, the same amount you do. IF they are lucky they can get a 10-20% discount, like I said… IF.

Now add another fly into the ointment, how about supplies made in america? HAHHAHHAAAH.  What electronics are made in the USA?  Do you know of any textile manufacturer in the USA? How about paint?   If you want it made in America by American supplies you need to add the worth and cost of just the supplies into the equation.  Mind boggling isn’t it?  The rabbit hole has just begun to open my friends.

Not only do you need to respect the WORTH of a handmade product,  but also the basic costs. So that handmade skirt from hand-dyed fabric you are eyeing… that took 12 hours of WORK…  once  upon a time you probably balked at the $80 price tag,  NOW what you really need to do is tell the seller they are underselling them-selves and then order 2. (Because, after all this is a capitalistic society… and if they undersell them selves why not jump at the bargain?)