Monday, September 08, 2014

This Is The Dumbest Blog Post Ever

It's been years since I posted on my blog. My life has changed a lot. I've been through hell. My kids are older now. Princess is 16, Sonshine 14, Bagel 10 and Knuckles 8. I'm divorced, and it's for the better. I no longer have my business; it never fully recovered from CPSIA and some other blows it was dealt. I'm working 3 jobs, one of which is being a Customer Service Manager at a Walmart.

I quit blogging because I felt like I had nothing interesting to say. The woman I was when I started blogging would not recognize the woman I am today as part of her future. Scarred, defeated, broken, betrayed, a shadow of the woman I used to be. I used to be Pinterest Mom, before there was Pinterest. My daughter had two new dresses a year of my own design and make, dresses which won awards at the County Fair. I made my own baby food. I was efficient and creative. I was successful too, but I didn't feel the success. All of that has been burned away in the refiner's fire. I wonder if there is anything left in the ashes worth reading about.

Still, here I am. Bruised and bloodied, but still standing. Somewhere in me, there are stories yet to tell. Sifting through the remains of what used to be my life, perhaps I can reconnect with something that I used to be, something I should have enjoyed while I had the opportunity.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recipe: Deviled Eggs, Medieval Style

I found this recipe in an anonymous Andalusian cookbook of the 13th century. It was a HUGE hit at the vigil. All the eggs disappeared. They are very flavorful, and the yellow yolks are spotted with green bits of cilantro. So if you like deviled eggs, but you don't like the whole mayo/mustard flavor palette and/or want to use a more heart-healthy oil, you might want to try these. I made 40 stuffed eggs; you'll want to make that many too, even for a small party. You can't eat just one of these!

Here is the original:

The Making of Stuffed Eggs
Take as many eggs as you like, and boil them whole in hot water. Then put them in cold water [peel them] and split them in half with a thread. Take the yolks aside and pound cilantro and put in onion juice, pepper and coriander, and beat all this together with murri [use soy sauce], oil and salt and knead the yolks with this until it forms a dough. Then stuff the whites with this and fasten the two halves together. Insert a small stick into each egg [to hold them together as a whole egg], and sprinkle them with pepper, God willing.

My redaction:

40 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 c. chopped cilantro
3 smallish onions OR 2/3 c. onion juice
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground coriander seed
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

Peel the eggs, slice them in half and remove the yolks into a bowl. (Keep egg halves together if you want to serve them as whole eggs; to serve them as modern half eggs, you can separate the halves.) In a food processor, puree the onions. Place the onions in a sieve over a bowl and drain out the juice into the bowl, working the onion pulp against the sieve, until you have about 2/3 cup juice/puree in the bowl. Back in the food processor, place the egg yolks, onion juice, cilantro, pepper, coriander, soy sauce, olive oil, and salt and puree until smooth. Put the yolk mixture into a pastry bag and pipe it into the egg halves. (For the full-egg presentation, pipe it into one half, over-filling it, then place the other half on top and secure with a toothpick.) Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard

This is what I sent in on this website, which is looking for comments from business owners so Congressman Issa can take politicians to school on the subject.


I sell baby booties retail at craft shows, but most of my sales are small wholesale orders to boutiques. The market for high end boutique baby items dried up. Part of it was the slowing economy, and part of it was boutiques waiting to see what would fall out with CPSIA. Once CPSIA was more or less settled and the closures stabilized, I saw a slight increase in business, which I attribute to me being one of the few businesses left standing. A lot of my friends in similar businesses closed theirs or changed to making adult or pet products, and others were dissuaded from starting up by CPSIA. These are just micro-businesses that would turn a few hundred bucks a month, but that's a few hundred bucks a month people are now not making. If you need that money for bills, you have to get another job, which is what I did when things got so slow that the business was no longer bringing in enough money to pay my bills.

For a lot of women like myself who have home based micro-businesses, closing these businesses *is* eliminating a job. Many of us chose to work this way because we *can't* work a traditional job. Some of us are disabled or have kids with special needs. Some of us can't find jobs in our field that are flexible enough with hours, or pay enough to bring in the same amount of money after paying child care expenses. We haven't turned to the government for solutions or handouts; we got creative and made our own opportunities. And now those opportunities are being taken away from us, in dribs and drabs, by every one of these laws aimed at the "big guys."

And even if the economy were booming, we wouldn't be able to expand our businesses. Could we hire somebody part-time to do the books or the shipping? I wouldn't even know where to start with that. It would cost me more than I could afford just to talk to a lawyer or an accountant to ask. Not to mention that they'd probably tell me I had to have MSDS data sheets on hand for the cup of water I offer my employee when he's thirsty, or that I'd have to spend hours finding an adequate health plan, or something. It would open me up to an entirely new circle of bureaucratic hell, deeper than the one I'm currently in just by having a business. You shouldn't have to hire a lawyer and an accountant to bring in a part-time teenage shipping clerk. The law should be clear and easy for the layperson to use.

Government, with all their aggregate statistics, simply ignores cottage industry. And yet the internet has made it possible for cottage industry to expand exponentially. Congress seems to think that if the "big guys" agree to the regulation, that means they have the consent of businesses. But it's a power-law distribution: 80% of the business is done by 20% of the companies. Unfortunately the laws always seem to be written in ways that ignore the "long tail" of the distribution-- people like me, in the 80% of companies that do 20% of the business. We're too small to belong to any organization bigger than the Handmade Toy Alliance-- we can't afford the dues for Chambers of Commerce and the like, let alone lobbyists and certainly not top-notch lobbyists. If you want to defend the "little guy"-- defend *us*. Defend us against the trial lawyers' groups. Defend us against laws that bigger businesses can stomach but we can't. Defend us against predatory "consumer" groups who want to count coup on "big business" and don't care if we get hit in the crossfire. We are the ones who are truly defenseless in this fight, because literally all we have to "fight the power" with is a Twitter account.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

My letter to CPSC about table saws

This is in response to this news story.


Dear CPSC,

I read today that you're considering requiring table saws to have "flesh-detecting technology" so that woodworkers kids in shop class don't cut their fingers off. I know just how horrific these injuries can be; when I was a girl, my dad, an amateur woodworker, just about cut his fingers off in a joiner-planer. But I urge you NOT to make this "flesh-detecting technology" a REQUIREMENT for table saws.

As a beginning amateur woodworker myself, I dream someday of buying a table saw instead of having to borrow my dad's. When the proud moment comes for me to march into the Home Depot and claim the prize for which I have been saving, I would like this table saw to be affordable and not cost a jillion extra dollars because some idiot had one too many beers before working on the deck and some well-intentioned nanny heard a news story on NPR about "flesh detecting technology" for saws and thought it was cool even though she'd never so much as seen a table saw. Why should I be punished for the stupidity of the former and the ignorance of the latter?. Unlike (evidently) many people who use table saws, I'm aware that table saws are too stupid to tell the difference between wood and fingers, and so when using a table saw I make a point of not letting my fingers get near the blade. This is not rocket science. You use a push stick when you need to; sticks are cheap and expendable. My dad's accident happened when he was too lazy to turn around and pick up a push stick. He paid a terrible price for that mistake, but he took responsibility for his own stupidity and didn't try to force others to pay so that in the event he built a time machine and went back to replicate his mistake, it would be impossible for it to happen again.

Swimming pools kill more people than are maimed by table saws, but you don't ban swimming pools. I've cut myself many a time with my kitchen knives, but nobody's pushing for them to have expensive "flesh detecting technology" that can tell the difference between my finger and a pork chop. Don't you have your hands full enough putting children's product makers out of business with CPSIA? I know it's hard to buck the trend of doing everything the "consumer groups" and their trial lawyers want you to, but grow a pair for once and try telling them no. Leave the table saws alone.

[Wacky B. Hermit]
Tooele, UT

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A CPSIA Primer

Cross-posted at Utah Etsy Street Team.

Sit back and grab a cup of your favorite stimulant drink, and I'll bring you up to speed on a law you may not have heard about. Or if you've heard about it, you may think it doesn't apply to you. Read on-- it applies to everyone.

In 2007, lead in toys was all over the news. There were large recalls of toys that had lead in their paint. Reacting to this in the knee-jerk feel-good way that is their trademark, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008. The well-intentioned object of this law was to make extra-super-duper sure children's products laced with lead never, ever again appeared on the evening news. Unfortunately, we all know where the road paved with good intentions leads. The bill was poorly thought out and passed by huge bipartisan veto-proof margins, and was signed into law by Pres. Bush in August of 2008.

CPSIA addresses the problem of lead in children's products in a manner much like swatting a fly with a shotgun blast. Its scope wasn't limited to the "big guys" or the "bad guys," and it affects more than just businesses-- libraries, charities, thrift stores, even yard sales fall under its dominion. It allows no exceptions-- technically you can get an exemption for a particular item, but only if you meet an impossible-to-meet standard. And it covers waaaay more than just toys. Just about everything child-sized, child-colored or child-oriented or that a child 12 and under might touch is included, whether or not it's ever been a danger: clothing, ATVs, school supplies, bicycles, cell phones, lamps, books, hair ribbons, underwear, science kits, rocks, chairs, shoes, blankets, Cub Scout insignia, food-grade organic play-dough, and many, many other things you'd never have thought ought to be tested for lead in the first place. The requirements are so stringent that they amount to an outright ban on child-sized ATVs, bicycle tire valve stems, ballpoint pens with cartoon characters on them, rocks for geology class, thrift store clothing, charities that fix up bikes for poor kids, and books published before 1984. Even "adult novelties" aren't immune from being considered "children's products" by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the government agency tasked with enforcing this law.

The CPSIA law puts in place many requirements, but here are the highlights that relate most frequently to handcrafters:
  • You have to make sure your product and all its components have less than 100 parts per million of lead in them, BEFORE selling your product. There's a list of materials that are exempt from lead testing and phthalate testing, but if you use any material that's not on that list, you have to either get it tested yourself (at great expense) or find a source for it that provides test results.
  • All tests must be done by a CPSC-certified laboratory. These tests destroy the sample completely. Home lead test kits do not provide enough information to meet the requirements, and XRF testing (a cheaper, non-destructive method) is not allowed.
  • All children's items must bear a permanent tracking label that has enough info on it to identify your name or company's name, where you are located, and when the product was made.
  • You must keep records of where you bought your materials and on what basis you claim they meet the lead standard.

In addition, CPSIA also requires manufacturers of ALL items (not just children's items) to provide a General Conformity Certificate that certifies that it meets all the standards that apply to that product. You have to list the standards and give the name of the laboratory that did the testing. These certificates are required for exporting to other countries. If your products don't comply with CPSIA, they cannot legally be sold or even given away in the United States, nor exported to other countries.

Now, the CPSC is very busy and they've made it clear through their enforcement actions that they don't intend to really go after us small-time crafters or crack down on yard sales, mostly because they can't extract big newsworthy penalties from us. But they have also said that they're watching eBay and Etsy (yes, they know about Etsy) so you may want to make sure you're in compliance. CPSC hasn't been enforcing a lot of the provisions because they decided to stay enforcement of them for two years, but that stay is about to expire and they've said publicly that they won't be renewing it.

Affected businesses large and small (mostly small) have been trying for two years to get Congress to listen to us tell them that CPSIA is going to either drive us out of business or drive us to not make children's products. As the deadlines rolled in I watched many of my friends' businesses go under. Mine was six days away from having to close permanently, as CPSC was unable to write the regulations they needed to enforce the law before the enforcement deadlines passed. Fortunately, with the change of parties in the House, we're finally able to get some action. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has oversight here, and they have already had a meeting to hear suggestions for improving CPSIA. We are hopeful that they might take action before the CPSC's stay of enforcement expires.

This is just an overview; there is much, much more in this law that makes it even worse. In some cases it's physically impossible to comply. I could have written a book on it-- heck, if you add up everything I've written over the last couple years on the topic, it'd probably be book-length! I'll be posting more later on about meeting specific CPSIA requirements and keeping you abreast of the breaking CPSIA news.

If you have questions about CPSIA you'd like to see answered in future posts, please put them in the comments.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tutorial: How to make a fake mantelpiece, part 1

I wanted a fake mantelpiece for my craft show booth. I figured I'd hang booties on it. I looked everywhere and while I could find fake mantelpieces, they all (a) were very expensive, (b) had functional heaters where the fireplace should be, and (c) were not collapsible. So I designed and built my own. It comes apart into 5 pieces by pulling the pins on hinges. It will collapse flat enough to store underneath a bed. And it cost about $120 to make.

Here are the materials:

  • pine board, 1x12, cut to 4' long
  • pine board, 1x8, cut into 2 pieces 4' long
  • MDF boards, 1x8, cut into 1 piece 3'6" long and 2 pieces (4' - the width of a 1x8) long
  • one piece of plywood-like substance, approximately 2'x4' (I used a scrap piece but you could use real plywood or particle board)
  • (not pictured) 10' of molding of your choice (I used MDF baseboard molding)
  • (not pictured) 8' of crown molding
  • 9 12"x12" self-adhesive linoleum tiles that look like real stone tiles
  • two square "bullseye" blocks
  • 10 brass hinges with removable pins
  • 3/4" screws
  • finish nails
  • wood glue
  • (not pictured) black fabric

First, prepare the "hearth". Stick 8 of the tiles on the plywood base.
Cut the 9th tile in strips and stick them on the sides of the base.
Cut the molding to the right lengths. Two pieces the same length as the two MDF boards, and one piece the right size to fit in between the bullseye blocks across the top.
Line up the pieces of the front. Attach the molding and the bullseye blocks with glue and/or finish nails. You will have one piece of molding on each of the side front pieces, and on the top front piece you will have one piece of molding and two bullseye blocks.

I will post Part 2 later.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Praise Inflation

A couple years ago I noticed I was being too negative with Bagel, and he was going to bed upset. So I started looking for chances to praise him, and then in the evening we'd recap all the praise right before bed. He enjoyed it very much, but it wasn't long before he started fixating on counting the number of praises. I didn't want him to do that-- partly because I wanted him to focus on feeling praised rather than meeting his quota, and partly because I was so exhausted that at the end of the day I couldn't remember (and he'd get quite upset if I didn't remember). So I started giving him "super-praise" instead. One super-praise, I explained to him, was worth 10 praises. At the time he couldn't count much above 10, so I deliberately chose a number he'd find too immense to count.

And it worked, for a while. But he's learned more about numbers now, and super-praise just isn't enough. So we invented super-duper-praise (100 praises) and super-duper-looper-praise (1000 praises). It was all downhill from there. Now he regularly claims super-duper-looper-pooper-praise, and even higher denominations of up to 1 million praises.

I think we've hit the point of praise hyperinflation and it's only a matter of time before the praise currency collapses.