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Archive for October, 2005

Orders and Groceries

October 20th, 2005 at 11:05 pm

Last night was a bit trying. I was trying to make lotion to fill an order, and while I did finish one batch, the rest got left unfinished. Why? Because something made me ill.

I was making Sensuous Sandalwood Shea Butter Lotion last night for a client, and suddenly the scent was overwhelming my senses and I had I not acted quickly, the batch would have been lost to my throwing up in it. Luckily, I DID NOT throw up in the lotion. I put a cover on the container and ran for the bathroom. I made it, but just barely. I guess my mother's fragrance sensitivity is finally manifesting itself in my DNA. I hope this is just a fluke. I can't keep making soaps and cosmetics if the scents make me sick. *worries*

Anyway, I took a shower to make sure I got all the sandalwood scent off of me (not to mention icky germs from. . .well, you know) and put some fresh work clothes on. I checked on the lotion, which was fine, and added a little extra anti-microbial agent just to be safe. I bottled it and cleaned all the equipment. Then I went to bed.

I'm trying to stay on my toes here, because I have an order of 14 gift baskets to fill for my parents before Thanksgiving. Between that, the nanny job, and getting the website ready for launch, I'm a busy bee!

I've noticed, however, that after last night's little episode that my throat is sore. Its probably nothing, but I'm going to take some extra vitamins tonight and go to bed early. (Note that early by my definition is before 1 a.m.) No amount of working myself to death is going to help anything.

On another note, the local Food Lion was having a "Mix and Match 10 for $10" sale today. Here lately I've been a little burnt out on cooking, so I picked up some frozen goods to try and lighten my cooking load. No pizza this time (boy, was I getting sick of it!), but I did get some frozen dinners for Brian to take to work for lunch and for me to eat when I'm in the middle of soap making. Lots of frozen vegetables and meat, too. I know that Hamburger Helper isn't all that great for me, but it DOES help with making dinner at the last minute when I've got a million and one things to do. That, and they were a buck a box today, so that helps. Even bought some cake mix, since it was so cheap today. I've been craving cake a lot lately. Not cake with gobs of icing, or mounds of ice cream, mind you. Just cake.

I've declare tonight a "fend for yourself" night. Hopefully this won't bother anyone. But I still have to make John's lunch for work tonight. Speaking of which, I should do that before I forget and have to throw it together at the last minute. Most people don't understand why I make John's lunch for him. My feminist friends think I'm "setting the movement back a few years" by taking care of domestic things while John works. Other people think that I'm being forced to do it. I have news for all the nay-sayers: I do it because it is one of the ways I show John how much I care. Its the same principle as when Mama or Dad would make my favorite dish once in a while, no matter how much of a pain it was. They were showing me that they cared. Enough said.

Good News

October 18th, 2005 at 03:27 am

I got the part-time nanny gig.

The people I'm working for are paying me $13 an hour to watch their 7-year-old and their 9-month-old. If I put in a minimum of 6 hours a week at this, that's $312 extra income a month that we didn't have before.

Woohoo! *dances*

John and I have talked it over, and we shall be splitting rent down the middle for the months that I have this nanny job. There goes $275 of my pay, but since our rent includes utilities, internet, and cable television, I don't feel too badly about it. We split Vonage with our roommate Brian, so that's $15 a month. So $290 is already spoken for by the end of the month, leaving $22 of my (minimum) $312. That will cover roughly half a tank of gasoline for my car. Not too shabby, since I'm only filling up the car twice a month these days instead of once a week.

I'm not entirely upset about all of my meager earnings being spoken for already. For two months at the very least, this will give John some breathing room in his paychecks. The holiday season is gearing up, so even if John changes jobs (he has an interview for a managment position at Circuit City this week), he'll be racking up overtime pay. The more that goes in the interest-bearing savings account, the better. This could be the beginning of actually saving enough money to finish building the house down the road. (Too long to explain that right now. More on that later.)

I have this job until December 13th, because that's when Kim (the mother) gets out of school for the semester. She says if things go well and I "haven't run away screaming" by the end of this year, she and her husband Patrick will most likely hire me on again once the school is back in session come mid-January. (Kim is going back to university to get her master's degree in education.)

I'm doing my level best to make myself indespensible to this family. (Well, considering that before me, they haven't been able to keep a sitter for longer than a week, I think I'm doing alright.) I want to keep this job. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to find other work, too, like the job at Bath Junkie or having my soap shop start producing a profit. However, that doesn't mean I don't want to keep this job, too.

My Immune System and the Flu Scare

October 15th, 2005 at 05:48 pm

I have a condition called primary hypothyroidism. To sum it up, besides having a moderate number of complications, it means that without medication, my thyroid does not process the fuel taken in by my body. Since its onset when I was fifteen, I've gained more than 100 pounds.

One of the added problems with this condition is having a twitchy immune system. Compound this with contracting meningitis when I was twenty and living to tell about it. My immune system has only just begun to bounce back, as it were.

As a result of my past health concerns, I make it a point to bolster my immune system in any feasible way I can. Not only do I take a regular multi-vitamin, but I take additional doses of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B-12. (I have yet to add selenium to the mix, but I've been told it helps. Personally, I'd like to find a natural source that doesn't cost out the nose, like Brazil nuts and cod do.)

While I'm sure it will cost me a bit to continue buying vitamins and vitamin-rich "odd" food stuffs, but in my opinion, being sick and hospitalized isn't worth the small savings I'd get if I cut those things from the budget. (Did I mention due to my medical history I have a $5,000 deductible? Yeah. . .)

I think this weekend will be dedicated to doing one huge scrubdown here at the duplex. I'm going to scour the entire place, check the seals on the doors and windows, check the air vents for dirt and blockages. I may not get another chance to do this, especially if I have the nanny job, find a seasonal retail job, AND have to fill orders for the Panda. So I'd better get it done right the first time.

Time for lunch. More later.

Magazine Subscriptions and Christmas

October 14th, 2005 at 07:44 pm

At the beginning of this year, John and I started cancelling magazine subscriptions to save money. I'm sure it is helping things a bit, but I know that John misses his Popular Science and Game Informer. It was like a treat once a month for him to get those glossy booklets in the mailbox.

I am wondering whether or not I should renew the Popular Science subscription as a gift for John this Christmas. Has anyone done this before? Was it a big hassle or was it a good move? I just don't know.

I just don't know what's going to happen this Christmas. We normally make large gift baskets in order to save money and give one to each "family," i.e. one each for John's siblings and their families, my parents, my grandparents, our aunts and uncles. It usually saves us a great deal of cash because we decide on a theme before October 1st and start looking for bargains accordingly. This year John wants to send everyone bath baskets filled with my products. He hopes that some of his more well-to-do family members will like them and brag to other folks about it, thus getting more awareness for Pampered Panda. This only works if the website is up and running before November, though.

Back to the grind.

Thinking Beyond Tomorrow

October 14th, 2005 at 06:09 pm

I am one of those people who likes having a pre-determined game plan. Yet, I am also flexible enough to know when "winging it" is not only acceptable but actually necessary.

Having said this, I know that lately I've been picking up bad habits from other folks, and it is getting on my nerves.

John has never been much of a planner. This is mostly due to the fact that he often loses tract of what day it is and forgets what dates are important. In fact, I'm pretty sure he'd forget his own birthday if it wasn't printed on his driver's license. *shrugs* This can sometimes put a serious damper on my planning abilities, simply because I have found that relying on John to remember his part in things can be very hit-and-miss.

Gwynn, while being a brilliant thinker and a great "idea person," is somewhat lacking in motivation to actually execute most projects. When something that sounds like more fun comes along, she abandons what she was working on in favor of having fun. I had a period like that in college, and it cost me a full point in my GPA. I vowed to never again let my life be run by my whims.

Jeff is the same way nowadays. He used to be the go-to guy when you needed something done RIGHT NOW. Now we're lucky if we can get him to acknowledge that he promised to do anything in the first place. That wouldn't be so bad if he weren't the flippin' LANDLORD for our humble little duplex.

Sue is a little better about thinking ahead, but since she has to rely on others to get anything done that involves a car, things sometimes fall to the wayside through no fault of her own. That, and the SCA store she does work for is actually in Gwynn's name (since Sue is Canadian, she can't actually hold a job or own a business until the US Citizenship is complete. Thank you Patriot Act. *rolls eyes*), she has to coordinate most things with Gwynn, who rarely sticks to plans that are made.

I have always been somewhat easy to distract, especially when something electronic is involved. I've spent years trying to cope with this mind-wandering tendency and for a while I had a handle on it. Now? Not so much.

I've begun losing track of the date recently. I've been going for a week at a time without checking my email or my voicemail. I wake up early, start working on something, and when I blink its 5 pm and I've gotten a dozen projects only half finished. If I were 50 and this was happening, I wouldn't be so worried because I've been told that this happens with age. But I'll be 25 in January. This shouldn't be happening yet.

I've also picked up the "put it off until tomorrow" mantra, and that bugs me. Now, when things are looking hectic and you put something off in favor of eating or sleeping, THAT is acceptable to me. Putting it off because you'd rather being playing Grand Theft Auto or Dark Alliance II is NOT. I have also caught myself ignoring chores because I don't feel like doing them. This will NOT do.

I feel like I'm losing myself in a series of funhouse mirrors. Things are so distorted that I have no idea which way is up. Thinking beyond dinner time is becoming harder and harder.

I think I need to eat. My head is starting to hurt.

Dogs in a Rat Cage

October 14th, 2005 at 05:14 pm

My current living situation is not ideal. It is workable, but certainly not what I had in mind when I graduated from college (almost) two years ago.

John, Jeff, Brian, Sue, Gwynn and myself live in a 1400 sq. ft. duplex in the middle of the Nowhere, North Carolina. (No, that's not the name of our town, but it might as well be. For those keeping score, we live between Cary and Chapel Hill, NC.) John, Brian and I live on one side while Jeff, Sue, and Gwynn live on the other. Each side of the duplex has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen with a "nook" for the washer and dryer. There is also a rickety deck on the back of either side. Our side has a grill, a chest freezer, our recycling bins and several plastic totes of my soapmaking supplies. I think the other side uses theirs to store trash, recycling, and container composting stuff.

Now, I know for some folks 700 sq. ft. is a dream come true compared to where they are now or where they have lived in the past. If it were just myself and John, or myself and Brian, I would completely agree with those folks.

However, this is not the case.

John has owned his own house previously, but always had roommates to help pay the bills. I've had nothing but dorm rooms. Brian has lived with roommates all of his adult life. You would think that we would know how to scale down our material goods by now.

Nope. Not by a long shot.

I once read an article on MSN Money called "The Hidden Cost of Too Much Stuff," by MP Dunleavey. I am a firm believer in scaling back one's life to live in a simpler manner and reduce one's ecological foot print. However, doing so is turning out to be easier said then Smurfed, as it were.

John (whether he wants to admit it or not) inherited not only money when his mother died (God rest her), but her packrat tendency as well. He has at least two 4-bedroom houses worth of stuff stored in the barns at his property up the road. I've tried to get him to go through it little by little so he can slowly diminish the amount of clutter up there, but to no avail. He works at night and sleeps during the day, so finding time to search through metaphoric MOUNTAINS of stuff is darn near impossible.

Brian calls himself a "collector". That's all well and good when you have your own house to store or display it all in. On the other hand, when you're living in a cramped space with roommates, do you REALLY need 11 plushie dragons, 5 plushie teddy bears, 3 dozen comic book hero figurines, 5 decorative katanas, two computers, 3 chest of drawers, a laundry steamer that you only use once very six months, two racks of DVD's and CD's, three bookshelves crammed with books, and exercise machine that you never use and the gods only know how many boxes stored under your bed and up at the barn? Personally, I think not.

I have had many packrat roommates over the years, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I picked up the habit myself. I figure I was doomed from the beginning anyhow, since both my grandmothers and my grandfather had the "Save it! You never know when you'll wind up needing it," mentality.

I know a large amount of the living room and kitchen clutter is mine. I have an experimental soap batch drying on the shelf above the dryer, clean laundry waiting to be folded littering the living room, boxes of supply shipments remain unopened and crammed under the coffee table, and my once clean and beautifully organized bookshelves now resemble something out of my 3-year-old godson's nursery room nightmare.

When I was concentrating solely on being a "hausfrau" (so to speak), things were ALWAYS clean. Now I can't remember the last time I was able to sit on the couch without having to move piles of clothes first. I can't remember the last time we all sat down at the kitchen table for dinner together. Heck, I can't remember the last time I made something for dinner that didn't come out of a Betty Crocker box.

The clutter is costing us money because when we can't find something, we wind up having to buy a replacement due to time constraints and what not. It is also cutting into my productivity because I have to stop and clean up the house before I have space enough to get work done. That takes anywhere from one to four hours to accomplish. I could be making soap or lotion or printing labels with that time. Lather, rinse, repeat every flippin' day.

*sigh*

I can't seem to convey to the guys how important it is that we ALL pitch in with cleaning the common areas, such as the bathroom, the kitchen and the living room. Brian says that if he didn't directly make the mess, he shouldn't have to clean it up. Well, you use the bathroom, do you not? Would it kill you to clean the bathtub/shower once in a while?

You eat the food I cook, do you not? Would it kill you to help me clean the kitchen more than once in a blue moon?

You walk through the living room to get to your bedroom, do you not? Vacuuming it wouldn't cut too far into your online World of Warcraft playing, would it?!?

John tends to be only marginally better, but having a leg to stand on in that arguement is difficult. Part of me feels like since he is the primary bread winner right now that I should do more of the grunt work around the house. Yet, another part of me feels that if I had more help, I'd be bringing in more money.

It feels like a no-win situation.

Speaking of which, I need to change over the laundry and load the dishwasher. Later days.

Update on Sue

October 13th, 2005 at 03:16 pm

We believe Sue might have "trench foot," a weird kind of frostbite. And all she has right now is her Canadian emergency room insurance.

Son of a biscuit eater. Frown

Nanny

October 13th, 2005 at 03:05 pm

Too long to explain, so let me sum up.

My parents are friends with a couple, Craig and Debbie Chamberlain. They have a daughter named Kim who lives near me (its approximately a 20-minute drive between my house and hers) who has just started going back to school. Kim has two children, and needs a part-time nanny to watch them while she is in class and her husband Patrick is at work.

Kim was worried about the potential for freaks and weirdos she knew nothing about staying with her children. Alone. (I completely understand her concern. It seems no child is safe anymore, really. Its heartbreaking.) Debbie thought of me and remembered that I now live in the area, and called my dad. Dad told her to give me a call and long story short, I'm meeting with Kim and the kids today after their previously scheduled playdate is over.

She needs someone for less than 10 hours a week until the end of the semester, roughly December 13th. After that, Kim said that if I'm still willing, she might hire me again for the following semester, which could mean more hours.

Granted, this isn't going to be huge amounts of money, but its better than no money at all! Big Grin

If she hires me, at the very least I'll have one more positive reference on my list. If she hires me AND I get the job at Bath Junkie or EB Games for Christmas, I just might make it to New Year's without losing my mind. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that I have a 14 gift basket order to fill for my dad's office between now and Thanksgiving. Can you imagine if the website opens on time and orders start flowing in like water? I'll never be bored again!

Then again, I might never SLEEP again, either. Not until after New Year's, anyway. . .

This is GOOD NEWS. Hoozah! Big Grin

*sigh*

October 12th, 2005 at 06:37 pm

This weekend was NOT what I thought it would be.

To sum up the backstory, John and I are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, SCA for short. It is an organization for medieval enthusiasts. We attempt to re-enact the clothing, food, chivalry, and day-to-day life of the Middle Ages. . .if only on the weekends. Big Grin

The small business I mentioned in the first entry here? I'm a soapmaker. As of right now, my only way of getting exposure for my store (called Pampered Panda), is to take the show on the road (as it were) and set up a tent at SCA events.

Fast forward to this past weekend.

Our neighbor, Sue, road tripped with us in the interest of saving gasoline and diminishing hassle. (She owns a store called The Whyte Weasel.) It rained the entire time, until Sunday morning when we were packing up. (Sunday's reprieve from the rain was a godsend, because packing up in the rain is almost as bad as pitching a period-style tent in the rain. Almost.)

We arrived at the campsite around 9 p.m. Friday, and didn't get Sue's store fully set up until 1:15 a.m. We were soaked to the bone, and the rain wasn't letting up. I made an executive decision. I decided that John and I would wait until the morning to set up our flimsy little dayshade in favor of getting showers and some much needed shut-eye. This didn't make John very happy, but since I have insurance and he does NOT, I put my foot down. As our only consistent breadwinner, John getting sick would be a deathknell for us. We helped set up Sue's cot, left her with a propane heater, a lantern, a flashlight, several bottles of water, and John's cell phone. Then we drove to our cabin and set up for the night.

After setting up our beds, we showered, and I pumped John and myself full of vitamins and NyQuil.

We didn't get to bed until 2:45 a.m., but we were warm and dry, which is what mattered to me.

Around 8 a.m. Saturday, my cell phone rang. It was Jeff, Sue's husband. He said that Sue called saying she'd had a bit of rough night, and that she could use some help down on Merchant's Row. John and I got into our Medieval garb as quickly as we could, and drove down to Sue's tent.

Jeff didn't exactly convey the. . .gravity of the situation over the phone. Then again, Jeff can be a bit of an airhead when it comes to figuring out situations that he isn't actually physically present for.

The tent canvas had been so soaked when we set it up that without a chance to dry out even a little, the normally waterproof Sunforger was wicking like a sieve. Most of the merchandise was damp, if not completely wet, and there were puddles on the vinyl floor.

But that wasn't the worst part.

Right after John and I had left the night before, Sue had accidentally bit down on her tongue ring, which slid between two of her bottom teeth. (Only one thing to say about that: Swallowing blood SUCKS.) This was apparently an omen of things to come.

After not being able to sleep, Sue set up as much of the displays as she could. Then she tried to go to sleep. The roof started flapping constantly, letting rain in and making the tent cold. Sue tried to light the heater, but it was wet and couldn't stay lit. Her bed got dripped on to the point where it was damp and cold. Then Sue began getting physically ill into garbage bag. After a while, she tried to go down the row to the port-a-johns near one of the buildings.

Sue slipped on the mud, went tumbling down the hill and hit her head on a rock. She believes she lost conciousness for a while, because when she came-to, the sky was lighter than it had been when she left her tent. She trudged her way back to the tent and called Jeff. Then Jeff called us.

Upon hearing all of this, I immediately did three things. First, I grabbed the flashlight and checked Sue for a concussion. Her eyes dialated just fine, so I believe that if she sustained any concussion at all, it was mild enough NOT to interfere with normal function or cause any internal damage. Second, I checked her head for swelling and open wounds. She had a nice goose egg, but no blood or massive swelling, so I told her she'd be fine. Then I helped walk her to the bathroom and back.

While waiting for her in the bathroom, I made another executive decision. I decided that the health of myself, John, and Sue was more important to me than the hassle and risk of setting up my tent and selling my wares. When I got Sue back to the tent, I told John that I was taking her back to the cabin to rest and warm up. John said he'd watch the shop while I was gone. When we got to the cabin, I cleaned Sue up, put her in one of my sleeping gowns and put her to bed with some NyQuil and a Coke. (She has asthma, and her inhaler was making her naseuous, so I did what my mother always did for my brother: I gave her a soda to serve as a bronchial dialator. *shrugs*)

John wasn't happy to hear about my decision not to set up my shop, but I just didn't want to risk it. One, soap gets really gummy when wet, so that would have ruined any product I brought with me. Two, our dayshade roof has seen better days, and I didn't want to deal with it dripping on my stuff. Three, the health and sanity of those I love is much more important to me than money. So, we watched Sue's shop all day. We sold $175 of stuff, which was enough to cover the gas to and from the event. Oh, well.

To sum up, as a result of circumstances beyond my control, I would up making a grand total of $6.50 this weekend from selling a bottle of lotion to my friend Achbar, who had arranged for it prior to the event.

But the worst part is, Jeff is asking us for money to contribute to gas for the trip. While I'm sure most folks think that's reasonable, mark this: We wound up taking care of his WIFE because he didn't want to go on this trip. Not because he was sick or injured or couldn't miss work. He didn't FEEL LIKE DRIVING. Dude, your wife is in the process of getting her US Citizenship, so she can't get a driver's license in either this country OR her own. You knew this when you married her. If you don't like driving (and he doesn't) then why marry someone who CAN'T DRIVE THEMSELVES AROUND?!?

I really, really dislike Jeff sometimes. Hell, Sue thanked me profusely a million times over for taking care of her and her shop. She even bought me a video game as a way of saying thank you. I told Jeff that had I made any money this weekend, I'd gladly give him gas money, but since I couldn't because I can't watch two stores at one time, I didn't have any to give him. He said, "Well, shit happens. Pay up."

I told him when I got some money, I'd give it to him.

Why is money so much more important than friendship to some people? Why?

I just want to scream.

*sigh*