Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New Year -- and Happy, Healthy Cooking!

Did you set goals for 2013? For me, the word "resolutions" is so laden with past years' failures, I decided not to use it. So, I set "goals", instead!

Three of my goals for the New Year are:
• Resurrect my long-neglected blog,
• Cook simple, good-tasting meals that don't require much time, and
• Eat foods that are higher in fiber, lower in fat and eat more veggies.

Today, I'm combining all three of those resolu goals by sharing my new dish, Wild Rice / Wild Mushroom Soup. It's surprisingly simple, vegetarian (can be vegan) and meets my goals for healthy eating (and good eats!).

I hope you like it, too!

Wild Rice / Wild Mushroom Soup

• Makes about 3 quarts (about 8 - 12 servings)
• Low-fat (you can omit the butter)
• Use the celery leaves; they add lots of flavor
• Fresh lemon and lots of pepper really bring out the flavor
• Refrigerates well and tastes even better the next day!
• If served with pine nuts and a piece of whole grain bread, this makes a well-balanced meal including proteins
• A pinot noir makes a delightful accompaniment!

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
3 carrots, small dice
3 celery stalks with leaves, small dice
1 1/2 cup wild rice
1 cup brown rice (long or short grain)

3/4 lb. assorted fresh mushrooms (i.e. shitake, oyster, cremini)
1 C dried porcini mushrooms; look in the bulk spices section of a health food store, if not in the produce section (soaking in 3 C hot water)

Juice of 1 fresh lemon
½ to 1 teaspoon chili powder (not cayenne)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2/3 C pine nuts

1. Brown the onion in the butter and olive oil in a large pot (6 qt.), just until beginning to be translucent
2. Add the wild rice; sauté about 3 minutes (stop before the edges of the rice are “opened”)
3. Add the brown rice, carrots and celery; sauté on medium-high heat about 2 minutes
4. In the same pot, add water to about 1/2 full
5. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, wash and trim the fresh mushrooms. Slice into fairly thin slices; set aside.
7. Using your hand or slotted spoon if the water is too hot, scoop the porcini mushroom out of the hot water. Set aside the top 2/3 of water (discard the bottom 1/3 of water as it will have sand). Chop the porcini mushrooms into small pieces; combine with the fresh mushrooms.
8. When the rice is almost done, add the fresh and porcini mushrooms, the top 2/3 of hot water, chili powder, salt and pepper.
9. Check for doneness: the rice should have "body" but not soggy
10. Depending on how thick you like it (like a thick mushroom stew or thinner like broth-based soup), you may need to add more water.
11. Add the fresh lemon juice.
12. Return to a simmer.
13. Toast the pine nuts: in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stir the pine nuts; stir frequently until thoroughly toasted (but not dark brown, else they’ll be bitter)
14. Spoon the soup into bowls and top with the pine nuts.

I'll be interested in how you like it, and suggestions you have to make it even better!


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Monday, January 7, 2013

Etsy Treasury Team Blog - Nifty Resource!

One of my favorites teams on Etsy is the Etsy Treasury Team (ETTEAM)-- a delightful group of committed, supportive and knowledgeable shop owners.

Do check out the ETTEAM's blog for resources and links, and more!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Create a Useable Business Plan That WORKS for YOU!

When you think of a business plan, what comes to mind?

Is it a leather-bound tome of perfect grammar, financial projections and graphs, complete with bibliography?

Or, was it written at your kitchen table and now has coffee stains, scribbled updates and new ideas in the margins?

If your mind’s idea of a business plan is the former, you’ve got lots of company: most people think a business plan looks more like a Master’s thesis than a working document.

However, if your idea of a business plan is the kitchen-table, hand-scribbly kind, you probably have benefited more from your efforts. Here’s why: a business plan should be a “road map” that changes with the terrain (changes in your business), road improvements (growth and expansion of your business) and new models (new product ideas).

Sometimes a formal business plan has its uses for presenting to your banker when you want to apply for financing for new equipment, a larger studio or national expansion (hey, it could happen!). But more frequently it is simply an outline of where your business is now, where you want it to go and how you plan to get there. Read on for some ideas to help guide you in keeping it simple.

• First, get started! A general, hand written plan is better than no plan.
• Discard any fears about someone reading it or judging you. This is your plan for your business! Don’t worry about spelling or writing skills. The point is to write down your ideas and plans.
• I prefer bullet points to a traditional outline with numbers; it’s faster to write and easier to add or delete items later.
• Be sure to save your document as you go, and save a backup copy, too.

Of course, the owner of an online shop has different goals, needs and concerns than the owner of a brick-and-mortar shop. Business is business, though, wherever we set up shop. The following are some general sections you’ll want to include in your plan:

• What’s happening now
• Where you want to go (goals, objectives)
• How you plan to get there
• Who is your competition
• What could stop or slow your progress (i.e. Etsy shuts down your shop, new competition)
• When you plan to get to each step (set intermediate or milestone target dates)

Notice that I used the W’s of Who, What, When, Where, etc. I find it’s easier to really think things through in these terms, rather than the more traditional Competitive Analysis, Risk Analysis, etc. Remember, having the best ideas won't help you if you don't get started!

Review your plan with someone you respect and trust, and whose opinions you value, such as another Etsy seller who is successful but not in direct competition with you. In our old coffee shop, I’d write the business plan and review it with my husband. We’d divide up the things to be done, and write down who would be doing which items. AND (and this is really important), the target dates for completing our tasks.

I reemphasize the last statement: target dates for completing the tasks. The process of zooming in for a close look on your "road map" is critically important – almost as important as the actual “doing”! For example, suppose your primary supplier quits supplying. What is your Plan B?

For every obstacle, find a possible solution and you'll sleep better at night!

A business owner benefits from second opinions, third opinions, and fourth opinions. Consider an informal “board of directors” of two to three trusted, knowledgeable people on whom you can draw for honest feedback, ideas and brainstorming. One of my Etsy teams periodically critiques a member’s shop, joined in by as many as can attend online. The result is a condensed (about 1 ½ hour) but intense session for marketing, photography, customer service, etc. This is great because it’s online sellers, familiar with the Etsy community and rules, and who are familiar with your work.

I also find it beneficial to ask for opinions from a select few people “on the outside” of Etsy for a regular consumer’s or business owner’s viewpoint. Both avenues of gaining insight have worked very well for me.

A road map without distances is just a pretty collection of colors and lines – great art but skimpy on how to get from here to there.

It is the scale and distance that give your road map and business plan its meaning, and without the structure of the W’s plus your target dates, you’re just completing a writing assignment.

And, remember that perhaps the most important step is to just get started!

I'd love to see your ideas, too, so let me know what you think!

Good luck -- and tune in again for our next episode of "When the Petal Blooms." Or, something like that. Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Care for Your Christmas Ornaments

Those wonderful ornaments that you've accumulated over the years are rich in memories and reminders of your traditions, so take a moment or two to take the best possible care of them.  Here are some pointers:
  • When you unpack your treasures, keep the wrappings in the same box for easy repacking.  Check the bottom of the box for loose parts that may have detached from the ornament.
  • The small scratches and wear on ornaments give the character and vintage look we love so much, so don't worry about cleaning or 'touching up.'
  • Trying to clean or wipe off an ornament is tricky, as even water may change the finish or shimmer of glossy surfaces.  If necessary, just use a small feather duster and a light touch to clean your ornaments, or perhaps a baby toothbrush.  Don't use cleaners or stiff brushes, etc. 
  • Think of the safety of wee ones and pets.  Place breakable items out of reach of children and pets. Consider using florist wire (thin, flexible green wire, very easy to use) to wire the ornaments to the tree to prevent inquiring paws or little fingers from plucking off the tree.  Florist wire is more stable and secure than conventional ornament hooks.
  • Generally, place the larger ornaments at the bottom and smaller ornaments toward the top to keep a balanced look.
  • If an ornament keeps turning, twist the wire or hook around the branch to stabilize it.
  • To store, remove the hook or wire from the ornament and loosely wrap it in soft tissue paper or scraps of cloth (how about that year's outgrown children's flannel pajamas?).  You can reuse the wrapping from year to year, too.
  • That said, for fabric, yarn or soft ornaments, I sometimes leave the hook in place, wrap the ornament in tissue with the hook extending out of the top of the tissue paper.   Just be sure to not let the wire scratch the ornaments or get tangled.
  • To pack, I roll one ornament in tissue paper, place another one next to it and roll those two together and continue in this way, depending on the size of pieces. When I unwrap them the next year, the unwrapping step goes nice and quick!
  • I once made the mistake of wrapping some ornaments in bubble wrap; the plastic adhered to the vintage paint and came right off when I unwrapped it.  
  • Be sure to pad the bottom, sides and  top of your ornament boxes with bubble wrap or newspaper in case the boxes are moved, dropped, or stacked.
  • Store the boxes in a cool, dry place.  When we moved to Texas, I was used to storing them in our dry Colorado basement.  Without a basement in Texas, I stored them in the garage, not considering the differences in the heat and humidity.  Oops.  Storing them in the spare bedroom would've been a better choice.
  • Be sure to label each side of each box; that way, if the box is turned, you'll always know what's inside.  
  • Store your tree lights and tree topper on top of the ornaments (wrap separately, and don't let the cords scratch the ornaments, etc.).  That way, you'll unpack the lights first, ready to put on the tree before the ornaments.

Lastly, you can use a marker to write the year you received new ornaments, so you'll always know which darling son or daughter made which treasure!  You may also enjoy keeping an "ornament journal", similar to a travel journal, noting the story associated with your ornaments.

I'm sure you'll have some ideas to contribute -- so let us all know of helpful hints that have worked for you and yours.

For now, enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend with all its blessings!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Little Things

This morning, I received a note from someone I've never 'met' who said she liked my work (I'm always happy to hear that!) and also mentioned that roses are very spiritual creations.  Her name is Cindy, and she probably has little idea of how her note touched me.   She took a little time to send a little note to someone whom she didn't know.   Yet, it truly IS the little things that sometimes matter most.

You may remember my sharing this before on my old blog.  Someone somewhere needs to read it today, so here it is again.

While I was trying to find my way toward recovery from the brain dents, I began to paint. Roses had some connection to 'somewhere' that I couldn't really identify and thus began my spiritual journey. Someone gave me a little note card with St. Theresa's prayer and that prayer gave words to many of my feelings: bad things may happen but God gave us the tools to handle them -- if we quiet our minds to listen and find the path offered to us.

May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that
has been given to you....
May you be content knowing you are a child of God....
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

I cannot tell you how many times the words and feelings in St. Theresa's prayer calmed me!

The hardest lesson of all -- for me -- has been learning to accept a different Life and capabilities than what I anticipated, and to accept that I wouldn't, couldn't and won't know all the answers I've sought.  The phrase ". . .allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love" is very powerful because it reassures that we still CAN sing and dance in the face of challenges. 

So, I offer up a prayer -- a song of thanksgiving -- for the person who sent me St. Theresa's prayer, and for Cindy for reminding me of the power of reaching out and doing the "little things" that remind us we are all connected and not alone.  And, that is the power in each of us.

May today be your day to discover "the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love."