Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Summer Birth and Death of a Whirlybird Helicopter

Was watching Pawn Stars on A&E the other day and the guy actually bought a damaged helicopter! Then, he added about $110,000 in repairs to resell it at around $150,000! Wow. Well, that brought me back to the time when I was just a young girl of 19 and helped build a Bell helicopter, from scratch. It was a Whirlybird-type similar to the one you can see on the M.A.S.H. series. Big bubble cab, skinny tail, horizontal rotors on top and ski-thin skids. Don't remember how much it cost my buddies, way back then, but I know it was nowhere near $100,000!

To the left is a current picture of a 'kit' helicopter. Ours looked more like a dragonfly with a blunter, higher, face. We were going to use it for beach rides.

Yes, I say "we," because "we" were The Three Musketeers that summer: Jim, Tom, and me. Can't remember how we got together. We just did. And they needed me, really needed me, they said, because someone (SOMEONE, as it was so gallantly put) had to tear open and count the little plastic bags of parts that came every week and then place them in just the right order on the big sheet we had spread out on the floor of the rented steel quonset hut at the Opa-Locka (opa tisha waka laka) Air Base. In other words, I was a girl and that was the only job open.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ah, Sweet Smell of Success - Decorated Sugar Cubes

My philosophy has always been that you can sell anything. All you had to do was find something you wanted to sell for more than it cost to make it. So, let me tell you about my first home-based business.

I decorated sugar cubes. Yes, you heard me, I decorated sugar cubes. I wanted a business that could be done from my home.  And, with caring for a 15-month-old toddler, taking care of hubby and home, and, another baby on the way, there was a limit to how much energy could be devoted to a business.

A Cup of Tea, A Lump of Sugar,  and Inspiration

I had had some success decorating birthday cakes for family and friends. Some were so pretty, it was hard to eat them! My friends were constantly asking me when I was going to start a real business decorating cakes at home. Then, one day during a visit with my next-door neighbor, as she added a small sugar cube to her tea, inspiration hit. 

Everyone enjoys having pretty tables for luncheons, parties, and weddings, I thought. Almost everyone can decorate a cake. I would be have to be different and offer something unique to the ladies of my town. Instead of just one design on small petit fours found in bakeries, I offered seven designs per box, using holidays, special occasions, or a client’s theme. Choosing square cubes rather than rectangular, each box would contain exactly 25 exquisitely decorated sugar cubes.

Decorated Sugar Cubes, a Craft Fair, and Publicity

My most expensive home business purchases included a set of miniature decorator tips, boxes for packaging, and professional business cards. (This was pre-computer days!) I sketched several thematic designs, created a flyer explaining my new home business, and stuck them under windshields at the malls. The designs were not only unique, they were realistically executed and, before long, my little business began to generate a small but nice income.

One day, during a visit, my pushy neighbor said I should exhibit at an upcoming local craft fair. (Am I not swollen with child?, I thought...) "Well, why not", I said. So, that is exactly what I did. This resulted in two very interesting follow-up visitations.

In the first instance, because my craft was so unusual and the Craft Fair people were overheard discussing a category for me by the local reporter/editor/Avon Lady (this was a very small town, at the time), I was interviewed about my home business for the Sunday edition of our local paper.

Imagine my surprise to find a picture of my toddler watching me decorate sugar cubes at my kitchen table, with an accompanying article that covered the ENTIRE front page of the Sunday’s Food Section. (My husband, in passing by, less-than-graciously offered that he had seen a synopsis of WWII in less space; but, it could have been that he hadn’t had his coffee, yet.) Serendipitous advertising, for sure, that brought me a solid high-end clientele.

Second Visitors More Ominous in Sugar Cube Business

The second instance provided visitors that were a little more formal and ominous – and (I quickly ascertained from their proffered cards), that they were from the, uh, Vice Squad. Did I mention this took place in the late sixties?  Or, that I offered a variety of flavors, in addition to my beautiful decorations? This option, they informed me, was the focus of their surprise visit, and could we have a little talk...

Busy raising my family, I gave little thought to the dark side of the sixties -- psychedelic drugs, colorful vans, or, for instance, the part sugar cubes played in that scenario. Let's just say, as it turned out, these Vice Squad gentlemen held a more au courant view. Point of fact, they had come for random sample boxes of my packaged sugar cubes to take back to forensics for a “flavor” breakdown. I told them that they’d have to pay for anything they wanted to take.

Oh, my! Well, ever thirsty for knowledge, imagine my joy when I was gratuitously instructed on the powers of local law enforcement. Free of charge, they were able to clear up my misconception about what does and does not have to be paid for, when you’re under the spotlight, so to speak. But, holding my heavy-with-second-child tummy whilst declaring my innocence and explaining all the hard work I'd been through, they proved the better person (in spite of their superior position) -- and graciously paid for their two sample boxes.

Within two days, I was cleared of all suspicion and my little niche business flourished for another four years before my husband was transferred. Decorated sugar cubes! Whodda thunk it...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hotpants from Handbags and Handguns Responds!

Hotpants(tm) has responded to my eight questions from The Mom Chef's Pay-It-Forward-Tagging Just take a look at that lovely lady and son -- tell me that's not someone you would love to have living right, next door.

She has a really cool site and a great way of presenting celebrities (Tinseltown Takes) for the week. Her pictures and fantastic commentary will have you coming back for more, so you might as well follow her, too. While you're there, please give her some comment love!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving, Now!

I heard Christmas music at the Caribou, last night! Yes! Christmas music! Do you want me to sing it, for you? Ahem, lalalalala "...Chestnuts roasting on an..." I was so disoriented, I just handed my list to my gentleman caller and said, "You're late!"

I love holidays -- all holidays! And, I definitely know that my neighbors love them, too, because they start celebrating them so early! I'm all for lawn ornaments and pretty trees festooned with garlands of this month's special event. I really am. I swear it. But...

Is it really necessary to set out Halloween decorations the week before September ends? Do they have to stay up through Thanksgiving Day, only to be replaced with Christmas

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Craft Shop Starting to Look -- Well, Like a Craft Shop!

Sterilite Cabinets People Mean What They Say

Just so you know that I don't spend all my time venting, there are good things happening in my world, too, and I wanted to share my most current.  My Craft Shop has been the last on my list for getting a facelift since moving in a couple of years ago. I had quickly thrown up some home-made shelving to get some items out of my way! and it was time to get started. I do have lots of crafting materials and equipment but I don't necessarily want the world to see it all when they stop by.  Besides, with solar cooking (click on button at right, if you haven't followed me from there) taking more of a front seat, it was time to attack the storage and display problem.  This is an ongoing project, until it totally works for me.

The shop isn't really that big, so I needed something that was higher but not too deep. Something that would hold other plastic containers, etc. By buying one a month, until I had enough, I've been acquiring those Sterilite buff-colored cabinets that will lock (unless you want to open them with a kitchen blowtorch!) and hold LOTS of stuff...

You can put these Sterilite cabinets together in ten minutes...Yes! You can, because they show a clock on the side of the carton with ten minutes shaded out!... Must have been a different clock or time zone because mine didn't get done in ten minutes. Oh, there's a real good reason (there always is) and it's that little cloud that follows me, everywhere, to make things a little more... well... challenging. Moved more items around shop to give me plenty of room for assembling the cabinets.

Opened first box - checked pieces -- ? Two (2) TWO left doors! Uh, oh...
Opened second box - checked pieces - Yay, full count off; ready to go!
Opened third box - checked pieces - Yay, full count off; ready to go! 
Assembled cabinets two and three. Vey happy camper. This is going to end up being a very nice shop. But, first things, first. Back to box one, the one that contained two, count them, TWO, left doors. But, wait! Let's look on the side of the carton. There's a number to call Customer Service for instant replacement should the unthinkable happen!  (Two left doors qualified as unthinkable, in my book.) I called the number and got -- oh, yeah, a recording. Recording promised Customer Service would do their part, if I did mine. Having an interest in achieving a good result, I did my part at 3:12 p.m. Shared my name etc. and Part Number as listed on the assembly instruction sheet. Stuffed some of my, uh, stuff, into the finished cabinets (so that I could turn around!), dusted my hands and went back into the house for a cup of tea and a new calendar to mark off just how long it was going to take for the "instant replacement."

This was too good to be true (and, I strongly suspect it was because I had the forethought to have a calendar at the ready). Those Sterilite people are cool. Called me first thing Monday morning and said they would send me the missing part, that day! What is that all about? Real INSTANT REPLACEMENT. No questions asked. "No; no, keep the part. More trouble than it's worth!" What were they trying to do! Would I be ready for this challenge? I mean, geez, I was counting on a few days off to just kind of gripe about lousy-service-this and lousy-service-that. Well, thank you, very much, Sterilite, for living up to your promises and ruining one of my few opportunities  to post a blogging tantrum.

 But, I did want you to know that there are still some companies where customer service is a priority, and Sterilite is one of them. 

P.S. No, they don't know about this post, at all. Just wanted you folks to know, that's all.