Friday, February 29, 2008

Busy as a bee

It's been a busy week. Looking after some loose ends in the business sale. Dealing with our phone company and trying to get the phone switched over to the new owner. Sounds easy, right? Nope. But I think it's done now...we'll know on Tuesday, which is when the switch over is supposed to happen. To the lawyers to get some papers signed so that the new owner can officially use the business name. Sending out faxes and emails to all the retail stores. Soon it will be wrapped up, and I'll just need to be on hand to answer questions for 90 days.

On Wednesday we popped down to Toronto (a four hour drive!) to take our son Cody to lunch. After the first 20 minutes of the drive, the roads were clear and dry, but the drive was a little scary nevertheless. I guess they must have had a storm the day before. We passed 5 transport trucks (one with a double trailer) and over 20 cars in the ditch. The last time we were down to Toronto was the day after Cody moved in. So we got to see the place all decorated (ha!). Two 20 year olds decorate a lot different than us. Lots and lots of movie posters, lots and lots of movies and gaming systems and games. Lots and lots of empty bottles. A couple of surprises...they keep a candle burning (which resulted in a mom lecture about "always remember to blow out the candle when they're not in the room") and they recycle. The three of us and Cody's roommate (Mike from the same theatre program as Cody when he was at college) went out for lunch. Then we went to look at Cody's workplace...a gourmet food shop within walking distance of their apartment. Cody seems quite happy, which makes us happy. The one bad thing about moving to Nova Scotia will be that we won't be able to "pop down" for lunch any more (kind of hard to do when the drive will be 20 hours).

Of course, I forgot to take my camera to Toronto. Cody has a camera in his cell phone, which resulted in some embarrassing moments for him as I took photos with it (Cody in front of his work, Cody at work, etc). Despite his promises that he would send them by email right away, I'm still waiting (no big surprise there).

I've been busy loading up the Search Me etsy shop with different versions of my rice bags. The photo at the top of this post is one of my favourites...a bright yellow fleece with red and blue elephants.

Tomorrow morning we're on the road bright and early to see our grandson's last gymnastics class. Then we're going out for breakfast with Mr. J and his mom. (note to self: don't forget the camera!)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This and that

Friday was a big day around here with the sale of my dog biscuit company. Thanks for all your kind comments. Wow. I don't know about you, but I often feel I'm not accomplishing much and tend to minimize my achievements. It was fun to put a blog post together about some of my business successes over the past 10 years. We should probably all do that on a regular basis instead of only when we achieve milestones. I'm not talking about just business, but life in general. All of us do so much, and so many things every day that we take for granted. When you stop and think about things that make you happy(big or small), it gives you a more positive outlook about everything.

Yesterday I sent an email to my special website customers to let them know that the business had been sold...to thank them for their business over the past few years...and to "introduce" them to the new owner. As I said before, dealing with my customers was one of the things I enjoyed most about my business. Well. Let me tell you how wonderful they are. Not only did they send me emails to congratulate me, they sent emails to the new owner to congratulate and welcome her...and assure her that they would continue to support the business. How great is that? Pretty fantastic I'd say.

John and I celebrated on Friday night by going out to my all time favourite restaurant. It's a local place called the branch. Not only do they have absolutely fantastic food, but I love the building too. It's one of the older buildings in town and has the original tin ceilings that must be 14 feet high or more. The owners are really really nice people and always come by and chat for a while. We were entertained by Pat Johnson, a blues singer. He brought along someone that accompanies him on a couple of songs on one of his cds...a tuba player! Have you ever heard the blues played by tuba? It was great! We liked it so much of course we had to buy the cd and have it signed by both of them. We end up buying a cd from all the performers we hear at the branch and we've not been disappointed yet.

No action on our house sale yet. Big Sigh.

I've sent out a couple of Search Me bags over the past weeks. I received an email from one of the purchasers...her daughter loves it. Yay! So nice of her to send a note to let me know. Since this is a new venture for me, I was a little nervous. I also received a note from someone who is interested in buying them wholesale. Double Yay! A few more items will be uploaded later this week. (and some for the DIYers too)

Funky Finds has one of my Search Me bags too. They'll be using it in their March giveaway. They've got a fantastic jewelry giveaway going on this week...30 items! Here's the link...Go have some fun.

Now...time to go. John is cooking me a steak dinner. Yum. (did I mention how lucky I am?) Tomorrow...we're off to Toronto (a 4 hour drive) to take our son to lunch!

Friday, February 22, 2008

So long baby, bye bye, farewell

A little Ode to "The Biscuit"

I started my dog biscuit business in 1998 after leaving my job as bank manager. My job had been eliminated and I was given a choice...take another job in the bank, or take a severance package. I grabbed the package. We sold our downtown home in Canada's capital and moved "to the country". We had 2 dogs at the time and I got this crazy little idea... I decided to start up a dog biscuit company. They are fairly common now, but at the time there weren't many around. We were the first in Eastern Ontario, and because of that I received lots of press for a few years for various reasons.
In April of 1999, we did our first "event"...we sold biscuits at a street fair called "Maplefest" in Perth. It was a dismal failure. It was freezing cold but the sun was shining brightly. At the time, I had the biscuits packaged in cellophane bags. Sunshine + cellophane = moisture. Not good for biscuits! Sales were terrible. But you can't keep a good woman down. (especially a woman who has a great partner...John has been with me all along this great adventure!)

My first large order was a BIG surprise for me and I wasn't prepared for it. Here's the background...

I went to a local pet store and asked to speak with the manager. He was available, so I talked to him about my biscuits and asked if he'd be interested in carrying them. He said yes, and he'd like to start with 12 bags. I was a little disappointed that it was only 12 bags, but hey it was a new store and I only had a few stores at the time. Then I found out that he wanted 12 bags for each of his stores. Then I found out that he had 50 stores. Turns out he was the District Manager, not the store manager. I tried to act calm and that this was no big deal, but HOLY SMOKES. That was more biscuits than I had sold year to date! I was the only one baking at the time and I had to go home and bake for DAYS and DAYS to make that many biscuits. It actually took me 10 days...13 hours a day...to bake up that order. Then I had to package them. I printed my own tags, and cut each tag by hand to make a wavy edge on the bottom.

Shortly after that experience, I hired a couple of women to bake biscuits in their homes for me. That didn't go very well. I wasn't happy with their results. And I found myself a professional baker who took over the baking of my biscuits. That was a HUGE boost to my business, and we went from producing a few hundred bags a month to thousands of bags a month.
Our success got us noticed. My business was chosen as the "poster business" for Ottawa's Entrepreneurship Centre in 2001. They ran advertisements in the Ottawa Citizen using my photo with a little blurb about my business.
These photos are just a few from the photo session. There were 4 people there from the ad agency for HOURS taking photos. I couldn't smile anymore. They were getting irritated that our Husky Bailey wouldn't stay with her head tilted "just so". It was kind of frustrating, but definitely worth it for all the great FREE exposure in the paper.
I had this great idea that I would sell tshirts and I paid an artist for some dog designs. We had 4 designs: "Paws to smell the flowers", "It's a dog eat dog world", "Barking up the RIGHT tree" and "Starting off on the right foot". The back of each shirt had our logo and website between the shoulder blades. We had some fun with our own photo shoot.
That's me on the left, John, and Cody. In the trailer are Bailey, Mulligan, visiting pug Spencer, and Cinder. None of my stores were interested in carrying the shirts, but they sold well on my web site and I donated shirts when I was asked by dog rescue groups for raffle donations.

Our next bit of fantastic luck was winning the 2002 NEBS/CCNA award for "Most Innovative Local Business in Ontario". Along with some prizes (a scanner/photocopier/printer, a phone, 5 nights at any Canadian Holiday Inn, etc) I got some absolutely FANTASTIC magazine and newspaper coverage. It was a national campaign, so the sponsoring company sent out press releases with the names of the winners. I was in local papers, as well as a two page spread in a national pet magazine. There is no way I could have paid to get that kind of exposure through advertising.But really the best things about having my business over the last (almost) 10 years were my loyal customers..."meeting" their loyal canine friends (either in person or by photos over the internet)...and helping the charities that I've been able to help along the way.

One of my favourite projects was introduced in 2006...Crunch for a Cure. Through that I helped raise funds for breast cancer research...a very personal thing for me. That project wouldn't have been possible without our models...breast cancer survivors Betty and Triona who generously agreed to appear on dog biscuit packages. And the wonderful photographer Suzanne Bird (the URBAN dog photog) who photographed the models and designed the tags. I lost my mom to breast cancer so this project was very special to me.

I want to thank all my stores, my web site customers, my Paws for Charity gang, and most of all to John for helping me (unpaid!) for the last 10 years, and to Cody who was always proud to say his mom owned a dog biscuit company.

So, I'm saying goodbye to my baby. I know the new owner will look after it well and give it some new life. I'm very happy to move on and do something different (no, I don't know yet what it will be) but a little sad too.



Here's to a new chapter in our lives!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

a little moonshine

Usually I'm in bed before 10:30, but last night I was outside in my pajamas taking photos of the lunar eclipse. Even though I had a tripod, the photos didn't turn out very well. Oh well. By the time the full eclipse rolled around, I couldn't seem to take any photos at all. Too dark? I don't know.

Yesterday was also a memorable day because we made our last dog biscuit delivery. We delivered to a gourmet food shop in Merrickville....Mrs. McGarrigle's Fine Food Shop. Oddly enough, Mrs. McGarrigle's was my very first wholesale customer way back in 1999. It seems fitting that they would also be my last customer too!

Tomorrow the business gets handed over to a new owner. Our taste testers (our 3 dogs) have been given their severance packages...a couple of bins full of dog biscuits that should last them a while. My Vice President of Logistics (aka John) is considering lodging a formal complaint because he didn't receive a severance package. I guess he doesn't consider dog biscuits fair payment!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Purple people cupcake eaters

Monday was the first ever Family Day in Ontario. John's daughter and grandson came to visit. We had a scrumptious brunch cooked by John (who does the majority of cooking around here) and cupcakes that Mr. J brought along with him. He was already stuffed with icing from baking the cupcakes with his mom in the morning, but enjoyed the icing on this cupcake nevertheless. We joined him and made sure we got icing on our lips too. Bright orange for John. Bright green for me. Do you know how hard it is not to lick your lips when they're full of yummy icing?

P.S. am I dating myself by referencing the song "one eyed, one horn flying purple people eaters"? Does anyone else remember that song?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Off to the races

Today was absolutely beautiful. Bright and sunny and not too cold. A perfect day to watch some dog sledding races. Here's a rather strange sight we saw before the races started...
Quite the fashion statement. Not to my taste, but I had to take a photo of it. I believe it's a fox on that lady's head. We had a little talk with her about her sledding team (she had a couple of standard sized poodles by her truck but they were just family dogs along for the ride). From the front, the fox is complete with a nose, etc. Yuck. Foxes are beautiful animals and in my opinion not meant for that type of thing.

On to the races. Things start to get quite exciting when the drivers start to hook up their dogs to the lines. The husky in this photo was howling. Most of the dogs start barking when they get harnessed. It's quite a din let me tell you.
They race one team at a time. Here is a team waiting to start.There are 4 people holding the team so that the lines don't get crossed. The dogs are so excited about running that they jump around and are straining at the harnesses. If the people weren't holding them, they'd be off like a shot.

The announcer lets the driver know when there's one minute to go, then 30 seconds, then 10. Go, go, go!
And they're off!
And this is what they look like at the end of the race. Can you see their tongues hanging out?But don't they look happy?

John and I love huskies and seeing them brings back good memories of our Bailey. She was only a member of the family, not a working dog like these guys.

What a great day!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

For John

Happy Valentine's Day to my friend, partner, and love of my life....all wrapped up in one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stop to smell the roses

A couple of photos that I took last year...miniature roses I received for my birthday. Aren't the colours lovely?

I woke up with a terrible headache this morning. No, I didn't have a wild time last night. I think it's just the cumulative effect of too much stress...too many things to think and worry about. We generally try to keep a positive outlook on things. Negative thoughts take up too much energy.
Yesterday was a bit stress filled. We had another showing on our house (feedback received today was good about the house, but bad about the location). Then I spent the afternoon meeting with the purchaser of my business. We have almost all the details hammered out, but one little snag to deal with. I spent 3 hours talking non stop and going over all the details about the business. I'm not used to talking so much (John is the talker in our family) and was worn out by the end of the day.

Even though I started today with a headache, it disappeared around noon. John volunteers as a Meals on Wheels driver every week with the local Senior's Centre. They had a Valentine's Lunch today and we joined them. Two hundred people were there. Let me tell you, it was a great remedy for feeling old. I'm headed towards my 47th birthday this year and now and then it hits me how old I'm getting to be. (almost 50....yikes!) Grey hair has appeared so quickly over the past year that I'm now closer to white than my previous black. Aches and pains sometimes where I didn't know I had things that could ache. Anyway, I was a young'un today! The average age in the room must have been about 80. We were entertained by the "Swinging Singing Seniors" and the "Hootin' Nanas and Papas". The 2nd group played instruments (washboards, kazoos, tambourines, spoons). One woman in the band didn't play an instrument but every now and then she'd get off her chair on the stage and shuffle around in a little dance. Totally cute. It's a little scary to think about being 80 (but better than the alternative...not reaching 80) but those folks seemed to be having a gas. The 80ish gent sitting beside me was belting out the tunes.

You're only as old as you feel, eh?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The best laid plans

Looks cold, doesn't it? Well it is cold! -25C and windy. Dreaming of spring.

Today turned out differently than expected. We have a new holiday in Ontario called "Family Day" and our grandson and John's daughter will be visiting us. We thought it was today, so I got up early and vacuumed and did dishes, etc. I was looking forward to a yummy brunch cooked by John. Then a school bus went down the road. ?? There's no school on Family Day. So, off I went to the computer to check it out (isn't the internet great?) and it turns out that Family Day is next Monday.

So...I got all my business deliveries into Ottawa done today that I was going to do tomorrow. Always good to be ahead of the game.

And...now I get a breakfast for dinner. I love having breakfast at supper time! Nothing like hash browns, eggs, and sausages with a little white wine.

A little note about the upcoming Valentine's Day... John says he doesn't believe in Valentine's Day...just a holiday made up by some card companies. But he surprised me with a "Happy Saturday" gift on the weekend...a beautiful red leather hand bag from Rowland Leather. What a nice surprise!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ok, maybe not everyday

Well, my vow to do something creative was blown after one day. Wednesday was dedicated to my Search Me bags. Thursday was not so creative. But. I did some work on putting together a manual. I am in the process of selling my dog biscuit business as we prepare for our big move to Nova Scotia. Everything has been agreed upon. Papers are at the lawyers. And I am in the process of writing a manual on everything involved in the business. Easier than it sounds. But it's coming along and almost completed.

Friday I did get back to my vow and worked on a sweater for myself. I started this sweater in Jan 2007 and knit up all the pieces very quickly. (Patons 500838 Cardigan knit in Shetland Chunky Tweed Deep Red)
Those pieces sat and sat for months, waiting to be sewn together. For some reason I intensely dislike this stage. On Friday I buckled down and did it all! The last step is to knit the collar and button hole band. Today's goal is to get started on the collar. I'll have to find some nice big buttons before I start the button band.

We received some good news last week. Our son Cody (who moved to Toronto in December) finally found himself a full time job. He was working part time, which pulled in enough money to pay his rent but we'd like him to eat once in a while as well! Now he's working a full work week and once he gets settled into his job he'll pursue his acting dreams. He seems to have adjusted well to Toronto...a big move going from a town of 3500 people to Canada's largest city. He has 3 very good friends...one roommate and 2 others in the same 3 apartment building so they are very close. Nothing better than good friends to share your ups and downs with.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Search Me Etsy Shop

Here's my project from today. I ran across an "I Spy" bag on the internet a few weeks ago and decided to make some for our grandchildren. I changed the design quite a bit and filled the bags with brown rice rather than plastic pellets (I prefer to be environmentally friendly!)This project was not as easy as it might appear. Each bag is filled with 25 little miniature items. Finding 25 different tiny items was a challenge that obsessed me for a while. But I did it.

Unfortunately, you have to buy most small items in multiples. So...

I made a few extras and set up an etsy shop called Search Me to see what happens.
A completely non tech toy to keep little hands and minds occupied when you need some peace and quiet...in waiting rooms, at church, in the car...you name it. And...you might even like to try to find all those 25 items too!!

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

However she goes, what

We received a book called The Nova Scotia Phrase Book (Sayings, Expressions, and Odd names of Nova Scotia) a while back.

However she goes, what

is supposed to mean "Whatever happens happens, that's life" Also "That's how the cookie crumbles". "That's the way it is".

I can't really imagine that anyone actually uses this phrase anymore. The locals will probably give us some interesting looks if we say it once we move down east.

However, it's a philosophy I'd really, really like to live by. I think we all know people who live in the past. "I wish that this happened instead of that" People that can't move on and live in the present. Usually they slant to the negative way of thinking. They lost a job, they lost a relationship, they lost something they thought they deserved and just can't move on. I find people like that to be a real downer and I try not to hang around them too long.

On the other hand, living in the moment is a real challenge for me these days. I'm so focussed on the future and moving and living in Nova Scotia that I'm finding it truly difficult to live in the here and now. I feel like I'm in limbo land. Other than cleaning house in preparation for a viewing as we try to sell our home...and waiting for the phone to ring...I don't seem to be accomplishing too much.

I think that's got to change before I drive myself crazy. So, my pledge to myself is to do one creative thing (maybe not a big thing, but something creative) every day.

I started working on something a couple of weeks ago but put it away. I'm going to pull it out, take some photos and see what you think.

However she goes, what

Monday, February 4, 2008

You Make My Day

Yesterday I received the "You Make My Day" blog award from Julia at Lineanongrata and I'd like to thank her very much! I've mentioned Julia before on my blog. She lives on a winery in the south of France (doesn't that sound lovely?) and is a wonderful illustrator.

"You make my day-Award" works like this:
1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make me think and/or make my day.
2. Acknowledge the post of the award giver.
3. Display the "You Make my Day Award" logo with a link to the post that I wrote.
4. Tell the award winners that they have won by commenting on their blogs with the news.

I'd like to pass this award on to:

Angelique at Peach Tree Bliss. Angelique is a power house of talent, currently specializing in photography.

Jamie at Simply Me Art. Jamie has the most wonderful jewelry creations using vintage items.

Amanda at Every Little Thing. Amanda creates unique creatures, posts wonderful recipes, and has all sorts of miniature items in one of her shops.

Leslie at good-ness for some Japanese culture.

Sarah at Thistle Downs Wool Design. I am a new reader to Sarah's blog. She creates the most amazing original bags.
Take a read...and get your creative juices flowing!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Open House Day

It's open house day! Something we said we'd never do. It's a nice sunny day here...and our open house was advertised in Ottawa's paper yesterday...so we'll see how many people turn up.

Oh, and here's open that the people who do show up are actually looking for a new home and not just house tourists.

After some mad morning cleaning, we'll be off in the car with 3 dogs and a cat driving around for 2 1/2 hours.

Fingers crossed!

Update: well, our agent was happy with the results but I'm not so sure. We had 6 sets of people come by...one set was some neighbours! Tsk, tsk. Nosy people. Our viewing on Friday went well. The people loved, loved, loved the house but think it's too far to drive from their jobs. We'll keep positive...it's the only way to be.