Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bulk Spice

     My favorite spot at the grocery store is the bulk aisle. We all know that. It is the perfect place to really start cutting costs. Most of what we pay for at the grocery store, or any store really, is the packaging. If you avoid that you can often save some serious cash!

     I am super fortunate in that my local grocery store also offers bulk spice options. This is so amazing. Spices are so stinking expensive! It's hard to rationalize $5.49 for a tiny jar of name brand powdered mustard, especially because you know, if seen by the children, it will also incite riots in the kitchen. Shrieks of, "I dooooon't yyiike SPICE!!" will be audible for miles. Is it worth the cost? Really?
     Now there is no rationalizing. I cave a cupboard full of spices! I've even started experimenting with more spices because I am able to save so much!

     I was able to get the same amount of thyme that is in one of those small name brand jars (I know because that's what I poured it into at home) for literally pennies!

     Yeah, that says TEN CENTS! In fact, I have enough bay leaves to last me a life time. They were so light the scale couldn't read them. I had to buy about 40 of them just for it to register. It cost me $0.16.

     Now if you don't have a bulk spice section there are still some ways to save on spices. Remember my other favorite aisle? The "Ethnic" aisle? Yeah, see it turns out spices are just spices. Apparently, no matter your ethnicity, basil is basil. Who knew?
     Hit up the shelves there for large jars in the $2 or less range. This is still an enormous savings!
     Just remember to look around you. If it seems like an outrageous price, it probably is. Investigate alternatives! Be creative.
Now, go. Get spicy.
Simple City Sam 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Busy Being Awesome

 I'm sorry, I know I've been woefully absent lately. Or have I?


     I've been working around the clock...well that's not entirely true either. I've got a 40 hour/ week work-from-home job, a first grader, a 4-year-old who has only 3 short mornings of pre-school a week, and a husband who works a minimum of 60 hours a week. Oh yeah, and a house to try to not let fall into disarray. So, in actuality, I've been working every spare minute I can find to re-vamp my entire Simple City Sam face.

     I've been at the Etsy and craft fair game now for almost two years. I've learned a lot in that time, too. The items that I was sure would sell, are still sitting on my product shelves in my sewing room. The item that I made as an after thought, with scraps on the first run, is one of my biggest sellers and helped launch my other biggest sellers. I've tried to listen to your feedback and the feedback at fairs. I like what I'm doing, in the broad sense. I work for myself (in this capacity), I get to sew and create, and then I get to interact with people and deal with sales. Great! Beyond that I'm happy to accommodate to what you all like. I'm a giver that way.

     With that in mind, I set out to revamp the whole thing. I have chosen new, vibrant fabrics. Fabrics that read more, "me". They are colorful and sassy, need I say more?

Soothing Lavender Eye Pillows ~~ Microwaveable or Freezeable ~ Great Gift
     I designed and purchased cloth tags to sew into my products too.
     I've stopped making pillows and large quilts for retail sale and am only taking custom orders for those now. Thanks to some of my most loyal customers this has become a necessity! I really like devoting time to the handmade quilts and even pairing them with the custom pillow, and I know you guys like having a say in your final piece.
     I do still have time for the occasional throw or baby quilt though, so keep your eyes peeled. They don't always stick around too long.
                        Free Shipping ~ HandmadeTie Quilt ~ "Cooky Cozy" ~ Perfect Throw or Couch Blanket Free SHipping ~ Handmade Baby Quilt ~ Gender Neutral ~ Perfect Handmade Gift ~ "Prairie" Free Shipping ~ Handmade Wool Quilt ~ Cozy Throw ~ "Winter Lake"
And of course, there are a few stragglers, product left behind that (lucky for you) is now on sale in one way or another.
                          FREE SHIPPING!!! Handmade, Detailed Large Blue Geometric Accent Pillow ~ Antique Fabrics in Great Condition SALE- Last Remaining Stock!!!!!!!!-Soothing Lavender Eye Pillows, Eye Mask, Sleep Mask, Heat Pack
     You know me, I like tidy shelves! I need more room for all the new stuff!! In addition to prettying up the Soothing Lavender Eye Pillows, Neck Wraps, and Back Pillows I also bumped up the Laundry Detergent production. I've even made a Vegan Detergent that is now available as well!
      ...and brought in a whole new item too!

     This is just the sneakiest of sneak peaks. But these reusable market bags are an item I made as gifts that I then had just as many orders for. I love them!! They are so versatile. From Farmer's Markets to grocery stores, dog parks, to karate classes, these bags are a steal! Priced individually from $5-$20. All different sizes...and wallets and clutches!!
     Watch the Etsy store closely, these posting will be live soon! Like the FaceBook page for links, updates, giveaways and COUPONS!!! Visit the shop to purchase or contact me for pricing or with ANY questions.
Thanks for hanging in there with me! Remember Easter and Mother's Day are right around the corner...and don't we all know someone about to have a baby?! Get your gifts now!!
Simple City Sam

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Please Don't Buy Pampered Chef At The Craft Fair

     Ok, ok. Before you get angry. I have absolutely nothing against Pampered Chef! In fact, I have a number of Pampered Chef items in my kitchen as we speak. On the whole I like them very much. I also enjoy the Scentsy candle I got for my birthday as a gift, and the couple necklaces I have left from my days as a Lia Sophia representative (yep, I've just about done it all). Heck, I even have a trusty Thirty-One bag (or 3) that I'm not entirely sure I could do without.

     I love going to the little parties at my friend's house or receiving the random useful gift. But that's what those vendors are intended for. The living room, Holiday party, online bazaar, and inevitable FB group are ideal locations to gorge yourself on these items and all the amazing discounts, savings, hostess gifts, and sign on bonuses you can take.

     The local craft fair is not.

     A craft fair is a gathering of artisans. Or, at least, it used to be. It should be. It's a place where an individual can display and maybe even profit from his or her artistic talents. Where one can showcase the results of hours, weeks, or even months of dedicated, hard work. Sure, every real crafter will say, "No biggie, I like doing it. It's easy once you know how." We are lying. It's hard.

     It's hard to carve out time to cut patterns, link beads, carve walking sticks, paint ornaments, build toy boxes or any number of other unbelievably creative things you'll see at a craft fair. The supplies cost money, maybe a lot, considering most crafters and artisans chose to work with high quality supplies and a crafter almost NEVER gets to figure labor into any of his or her costs. That would make the item too costly. Consider that it takes me an average of 100 hours to complete a Queen size quilt.

     Often the crafter is someone who makes the endeavor a second, or part time gig. Maybe they are retired. In any event they make time to bring in a little extra, to support themselves with their hands...locally. When you claim to "buy local" consider the true source not just the venue. At the craft fair when you purchase the small introductory gift from one of those in-home sellers you are negating the work done by the artisan at the booth next to them. If that's the case, why come to the craft fair at all? Enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. Those deals are typically either a monthly sales give-away or an item bought in bulk by the advisor to be able to sell at little to no profit to bring in more sales...I promise, it'll be available the very next day. Just take her card and tell her you'll call her tomorrow if you're really interested. Host a party, that's where the real savings are at!

     I implore you! Go to every craft fair for which you see a sign. Stop by and check out what's being made in your area. Know of one happening? Go, be prepared. Bring cash (though most of use take debit/credit now) and be prepared, nay AIM, to spend more than $10. It's not a flea market. It's a craft fair. They only come around every once in a while, take advantage. The gifts you purchase from local crafters and artisans will be the best and most well received gifts you purchase. Mark my words!

All I ask is that you try to acknowledge the real work and save the in-home Which reminds me, it's about time for another Thirty-One party.

Simple City Sam
Come see me at the few remaining fairs of my season!

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Am Crushing It!!

     It happened without me even knowing it! I hit 40 sales in my Esty shop. That means I've already reached my goal for the year of making as many sales as I did my first year open. Of course that was only 20 sales but I'm not complaining. I measure my year from February to February, too, so I've still got plenty of time, and a Holiday season, to do some damage!

     I really could not be more pleased. I am so thankful for all the support, it really means the world to me. Just as I may be feeling discouraged I remember to look closely and see that there IS real growth here. Maybe not a crazy boom, but growth. I'll take that! I have to remember that this is still a "side" business for me. Remember that I have a full time job, 2 children under 7 years old that I stay home with, and a myriad of other responsibilities.

     I like setting goals for myself but that doesn't mean that they need to be super lofty or impossible to achieve. I'll start small and come in with a sneak attack, just like always! It's more my style.

     Either way let's celebrate! The very next number 41 will receive 2 free eye pillows- 1 lavender and 1 clove (new) in addition to whatever is purchased. This is my small way of saying thank you.

     Also through the rest of the month (October) use COUPON CODE: MORETHAN40 to receive 10% off all order $10 or more. Let's see what we can do in a few short days!

My humblest thanks,

Simple City Sam

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fairs 2014

     It's that time of the year again! I am all booked up for fairs this year and will be pushing my wares all over southern Maine and New Hampshire. Please come see me! Get a chance to touch and see everything in person...except me of course. You can't touch me. You will definitely see me though, you can't miss the bright pink hair!

     I will again have my hand made neck and back wraps, perfect for hot or cold therapies (microwave or freezer use) and soothing eye pillows. I will have a few small quilts, accent pillows of all sizes, draft stoppers, stadium seat cushions and so much more!

Oct. 25th, Saturday, 9-4, Standish Baptist Church, Standish, ME
Nov. 1st, Saturday, 9-4, Hampstead Mother's Club Fair, Hampstead Middle School, Hampstead, NH
Nov. 15th, Saturday, 10-2, Steep Falls Elementary PTO Holiday Fair, Steep Falls, ME
Nov. 28th, Friday, 9-4 &
         29th, Saturday, 9-3,Christmas in the Country, Bonny Eagle High School, Standish, ME

Dec. 3rd, Wednesday, 4pm-8pm Salt Water Grille Holiday Artisans Show, So Portland, ME
Dec. 6th, Saturday, 9-2, Peaks Island Craft Fair at Inn on Peaks Island, Peaks Island, ME (no link yet, Peaks is easy going come take a winter boat ride and get some nice gifts)

Thanks for all the support everybody!

Simple City Sam

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two Kids. Two Hungers. One Nuker.

     There's always that day, at least once a week, where I've managed to seemingly starve my children. We've all been there, right? It's super late in the afternoon, like 11:26 a.m., and the kids are either going to pass out (as threatened) from hunger, or annoy you to death asking when lunch is. Reminding them that they ate a "snack" of an entire apple, a cheese stick, and a handful of peanuts less than an hour ago is futile, don't try. Thinking back in wonderment to breakfast, not more than 4 hours ago, when they each devoured 2 eggs, bacon, a piece of toast ("with jelly!") and then split a pear because they were still hungry, will get you nowhere. Having them drink yet another glass of water won't do the trick. No. They need something hot and now!

     These are the days when I reluctantly forgo the oven or stove and plug in the microwave (Nope, ours does not stay on all the time. No need to suck energy for something we rarely use.) and heat up left overs from the night before or maybe soup. Today's installment features the ever popular, though not very nutritional, pizza left overs.

     Now don't forget one of my daughters has a dairy allergy, so their pizzas stay separate. Go ahead...YOU decide which one has to wait while the other gets her piece cooked. Then, TELL her she's the one who has to wait.  Mwahahahaha! Good luck my friend.

     Fear not! I just add a second level. Stick a small coffee mug in the microwave and place the second plate on top of that. Our microwave is so small that the cup has to be placed on the first plate. Either way, now there are two, different, plates in the microwave at the same time. Each kid gets her lunch, at the same time.

     Crisis: averted.


     Of course this never would have been an issue if I'd just feed them!

Simple City Sam

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We Do The Mash. We Do The Pumpkin Mash.

     We are at it again. You saw that we went apple picking a few weekends ago. Well, I'm certain none of you thought that's all we got! Of course we walked away with quite the pumpkin haul as well. We are a tad pumpkin obsessed around here. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest things in all the world is pumpkin soup. My hubby happens to make one of the absolute best too! Totally planned it that way.
     This year we got the ONE pumpkin that I allow to be sacrificed in the name of Jack-o-laterns and 3 little Jack-be-littles for the girls to color and tattoo. Yep, you saw it here first. We tattoo everything around here and the pumpkins are no different! Temporary tattoos work like a dream on the pumpkins and are far less messy than paint or other craft supplies. The white pumpkin that we "splurged" on this year was especially nice for this technique.

     Now let me just preach for a quick second. Purchasing, even these few, pumpkins that will inevitably be wasted (in terms of food) still makes me nuts. That is why we only do the small ones for painting and one large one for carving. I don't want my kids missing out on what can arguably be a rite of passage, but I also don't want them to become complacent about waste. Adding insult to injury is the fact that they are too young to care about making it look like anything but a scribble or a "design". There is simply no need to spend hundreds of dollars on pumpkins that will just be thrown out a few weeks later after rotting on the front step! Ok, whew, thanks.
     Now don't forget,  even that Jack-o-latern will yield a good amount of seeds. Roasted pumpkins seeds are divine, just a little olive oil and salt. My youngest prefers sweet "pepitas" (so called because that's what they are called at her favorite Mexican restaurant), with brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and paprika, so we always end up making a few batches. They keep for a solid week, especially in air tight containers, and make really excellent snacks.
     Back to the pumpkins...We break down the remaining pumpkins and freeze the "meat". Halve the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds (use them!), I usually use a spoon and elbow grease for this.

     Place the pumpkin halves face down on a parchment covered baking sheet. Placing them face down helps trap the natural moisture in the pumpkins. Roast low, at 275 degF for around 2-2 1/2 hours.

     For best results we've spoken to our local farmers and tested a few theories. We find that the pumpkins that are about the size of a basketball yield the best meat to seeds and skin ratio. They are also more manageable at that size and are never hard to get on a tray or in the oven. In this case bigger isn't necessarily better.
     When we take them out of the oven, we let them cool and then scrape out the meat. We store it in gallon size freezer bags (about 1 whole pumpkin per bag) and stick them in the deep freeze. The mash will be pulled later and made into soups, pies, breads, sauces and whatever else we can fathom. Which is why we didn't season it prior to roasting, we want nothing but pumpkin flavor! One pumpkin, or one bag will yield roughly 4 quarts of creamy pumpkin soup. Don't worry you'll get that recipe later...probably.
I can't wait!
Simple City Sam