Reynold’s Mess

Be forewarned: this recipe is not for the feint of heart.  It is full of stuff that is horrible for you: fat, beef, cheese, fat, salt, food processed until it no longer resembles food.  It will stick to your ribs, your diaphragm, your colon and your conscience.  All of that aside, it is my most favorite meal in the world and I make it a couple times a year and it is so very good.

With that warning out of the way, I present Reynold’s Mess, named after my father who made it for the family when I was a growing roach.

Reynold’s Mess

Ingredients

1 box of macaroni & cheese

1 brick of cream cheese

1 lb ground beef

1 can cream of mushroom soup

garlic salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare the macaroni and cheese according to the directions on the package.
  2. While the water is boiling, brown the ground beef.  Drain.
  3. After you have prepared the macaroni and cheese, add the cream of mushroom soup.
  4. Cut the cream cheese into chunks and add it to the macaroni/mushroom soup mix.
  5. Add the ground beef to the mix.
  6. Keep stirring and heat over medium heat until all the ingredients are combined.  Add milk as needed for the consistency you desire.
  7. Season with garlic salt to taste.  I use 1/2 t.  Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information

Hahaha … just kidding.  There’s no way I want to know just how bad this meal is for me.

Book Review: How to Show and Sell Your Crafts by Torie Jaye

As part of my continuing efforts to kick my marketing and selling skills up several notches, I picked up Torie Jaye’s How to Show & Sell Your Crafts from the library.  I will get books from the library first most of the time, and if I find the information in them to be valuable, I’ll buy a copy for my own shelves.  I won’t be picking Jaye’s book up, though.

The book’s focus is on branding: creating your own brand and making sure it saturates every  level of your business.  A good chunk of the book is dedicated to things like picking your  brand’s colors, creating great banner images, choosing an avatar.  This is a book written by a crafter who sees “strong brand focus” as “pivotal to her online success” (as stated in her biography), so the emphasis on branding is understandable.

There’s another section on how to photograph crafts that I found very helpful.  And there are several profiles of other crafters who have made a business of their designs.  The book itself is very pretty.  The layout and design is pleasing, and the pictures are beautifully photographed and presented.  This is the kind of book you want to flip through for inspiration.

However, I came away from the book  feeling that it is a blog’s worth of information stretched over a books’ worth of pages.  While the crafter profiles are nice, the focus was mainly on their bios.  Words of advice or guidance is would be more inspirational than reading about their passion for vintage items.

Included in the book are several crafts.   Ostensibly they were tied into the sections they were found in (paper covered cans as pencil holders in the section on organizing your work space) but they felt like filler meant to pad the page count.

Those sections that I was more interested in—the business of doing business—were sparse.  The page on business plans doesn’t really tell how to write one, or what one looks like.  It doesn’t even tell readers to research more information.  There’s no mention of dealing with taxes, or what it goes into setting up a business.

The book reads like a wish fulfillment manual: emphasis on packaging your crafts and setting up your booth space, talk of when you might need to hire help, blogging and social media.  While these are important things to consider, they’re really ancillary concerns (and in the case of hiring help, concerns that won’t crop up for 99% of the crafters out there) compared to things like finding venues, bookkeeping, taxes and other boring, but necessary details.

If you are looking at trying to make money from your design skills and passions, I’d recommend skipping this book and looking for something more in depth.  If I find one that fits the bill I will definitely mention it here.

Making it Work: Nickels and Dimes

We’re a month into the grand plan.  December being fairly low key, with only one semi-disaster, I feel we got a decent baseline on income potential outside of conventions.  The following is our net income from our creative efforts in December:

Etsy Sales $103.94
Amazon Royalties $1.40
Survey Gift Cards $25.00
Total $130.34

The Etsy sales are pretty self-explanatory. The majority of that revenue went to paying for the new cutting table and a cutting mat.

The Amazon royalties come from two books Stephan and I wrote and self-published  a couple of years ago.  We never did any sort of promotion for them, and they usually net us a couple of bucks a month.  Our goal up until this point has been to get enough in royalties to pay for a bottle or two of wine.  Maybe 2015 will see that goal reached.

The gift cards come from doing online surveys.  They don’t really count as coming from our creative endeavors, but I include them anyway.  They are helpful in getting supplies (like the 1 lb of dice we bought for Midwinter).  And we are stocking them up for birthday gifts and perhaps the fourth season of Game of Thrones when it comes out in February.

It’s clear that our income is going to come from various sources.  There’s not going to be a single paycheck every two weeks.  As the months go on we’ll be adding more revenue channels: Amazon Affiliate links, an Etsy store for Stephan, e-book design services from me, perhaps even a Patreon account.  We will make every little bit count.  And I will keep chronicling our revenue.

The Zombie in the Basement and the Gremlin in my Head

To say that I have been happy the last few weeks feels like I am confessing a horrible secret.  It took forever to admit it to myself, let along to say it out loud—even to Stephan.  I feel guilty about my happiness.  Jerk Brain pipes up immediately to point out that I don’t deserve to be happy.  There are many reasons, the topmost being that I haven’t fulfilled my duties with regards to Eggplant and the Spellbound & Spindles anthologies.  No matter that there’s nothing I can do at the moment.  I am waiting on the printer.  Jerk Brain counters with the argument that I wouldn’t be waiting on the printer if I had gotten this done in a timely manner.  Ergo: I shouldn’t dare be happy with that unresolved business shambling around in the basement like a zombie I’ve trapped but have yet to dispatch.

More than the anthologies, though, the admission that I am happier than I have been for years brings up the question of why I was so unhappy.  When I reopened Eggplant I viewed it as a return to what I loved.  As time passes, I have started to view that move as a step backward.  With every bag I sew, every pattern I draft, I see that I never let myself enjoy my work as a costumer.  I looked at it as what I was doing to get by until I could do something “meaningful” again.  And now I find that I enjoy the sewing so much more than I did running Eggplant.

I have struggled to admit all of this.  It can be taken to mean that I regret going back to publishing, and that’s not what I am saying.  I’m glad I reopened Eggplant, even if I had to close it down again.  I am so very proud of what I published, and I won’t have to live with the regret of not having tried it again.  Still, it is clear that Eggplant was a way station on my journey, one that I wasn’t meant to revisit.

Until I can finish all of the Eggplant business I will continue to argue with Jerk Brain.  It’s a tenacious little gremlin, one that knows all of my insecurities and weaknesses.  That’s why it’s attacks are so successful.   And that is why I have decided to publicly admit that I’m happy.  One of Jerk Brain’s tactics is the fear of being judged by others for my happiness.  I make this admission to cut the legs out from under one of the gremlin’s most effective barbs.  And perhaps once I have laid that zombie to rest I will be able to banish Jerk Brain to the back closet of my mind.  If not, at least it can’t use my happiness against me any more.

Examine your patterns.

Examine your patterns. Consider first if the pace and the pattern of your life are of your own choosing.  Take the measure of your life, honestly and logically.  Determine which patterns are imposed upon you from external sources and which are self-imposed (or self-inflicted).

Make an honest assessment of what you have to do, what you don’t have to do, and of what you have consciously chosen to do, regardless of whether it is required or not.

Now reach a little further within to take a deeper measure of your personal life patterns. In doing so, realistically determine what it is you are striving for. Reexamine your life patterns in the clear light of personal truth and choice. Ask yourself what it is that you truly want from your life, from yourself.

If you are fairly clear on what you really want, then you can effectively determine whether or not your life patterns are structuring your success.  If you are uncertain about what you ultimately want, then you must ask yourself who or what is actually determining and managing thee patterns of your life for you and why.

These are hard questions, but necessary ones if you want to take more power over the patterns in your life. Know that you do have the ability to choose far more in the matters of your life patterns.  The first step—and the last—is taking your personal measure.

Amber Wolfe, Elemental Power