Monday, August 27, 2012

in clover: everything old is new again...

My dad commented, "Back to the future!" 

After much soul searching and internal debate, I have decided to return to ebay as a seller, keeping the id Michael and I created in 1998.  I seem to recall that it was Michael's suggestion to call me "lextique" we struggled to hastily establish my new ebay account.  My friend was having some success on the new and novel site, selling vintage items over the internet. It had a weird name, ebay, and we didn't have a clue how it worked but we thought we'd give it a try.

My first ebay sale was a first edition Tasha Tudor children's book.  I bought it for $1 at a local thrift shop.  I had no ebay feedback and no photo in my listing.  It took Michael and me the entire weekend to figure out how to list that one item. It was NOT pretty!  After all that work,  I quickly became bored with the listing when after several days, it still had no bids.  And then, in the last minutes of the auction, a exciting flurry of bidding took place...eventually driving the price to $56! 

I was hooked.  The scanner I bought so that I could include photos in my auction listings  was rapidly replaced by a digital camera, capable of holding up to a dozen photos at a was all quite high tech!  I listed auctions until  very late at night and almost every lunch break from my bank job was spent in line at the post office.  For years, I had longed to quit that corporate job for something more creative. 

I took up selling vintage items while still in college.  When Michael and I met for our very first date, he was a bit shocked to see my entire car piled high with all sorts of "junk" destined for the booth I had just rented at a new antique mall. He was game, though, once we married, to help me scour yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets for fabulous finds we could use in our own home and bargains we could sell at a local antique mall or fair.   

When Big C was an infant, we teamed up with my father and uncle who had begun importing antique furniture from England...sight unseen! Both Michael and I were working 50 hours a week or more at our "real" jobs so with the birth of Big C, we had little time for antiquing.  When my Dad told me I could consign a few pieces of the English furniture in Lexington, we jumped at the chance to rent space in a new antique mall.  This time we had quality furniture to go with our well priced yard sale finds. Maybe I could quit my job....

Sales were up and down and the best we seemed to do over time was break even. Although I wished I could quit my "real" job, I knew that the business as such was not genuinely viable.  

And then I sold that book....and I began to imagine the possibilities.  That one ebay sale changed everything.   I loved my ebay clients.  I still get Christmas cards from some of them. I mailed things all over the country and sometimes I mailed things across the big pond right back to the country they came from.   I sold items to celebrities (like a member of the band Matchbox 20) and to folks who lived just across town.  Aside from my young family, being an Ebay seller became ithe focus in my life.   

I quit my job and sold happily on ebay full-time for ten years.  I took charge of selecting the inventory we imported from England and added French pieces as well. I managed the W. Ky store from afar and sold my wares at numerous antique venues in Central Ky, eventually opening my own brick and mortar store here. 

Ebay grew and grew until it became less of the community I loved and more of a hassle. With the addition of thousands and thousands of new sellers, fraud became an issue.  The economy began to suffer and sales in general began to wane.  The events of September 11th forever altered the import business, making it much more difficult and expensive to bring containers to the US. Big C was very busy with sports and I hated to miss even one game and then Little c was born with health issues. Michael took a traveling job. Eventually it just all became too much.  I closed the doors to the brick and mortar stores and allowed my ebay id to go dormant. 

For years people have been asking what I'm going to do with all that inventory...tucked away in storage....I've never really had an answer.  When I started this blog, I thought I might set up a shop on Etsy, in the vintage category.  But I never did anything about it.   

And then one day this summer,  the universe began whispering in my ear. "Put your toe in the water..." 

So I looked into Etsy again but learning from scratch seemed very daunting.  Old dog / new tricks, and all...

So the universe whispered, "Why don't you dance with the one that brung you?"

I worked through a bunch of reasons why I should not.  I was actually kind of mad at ebay....for changing.   But after arguing with myself, eventually I arrived at, "well, why not?"

This poem, from Rumi, kept coming to me:

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
-- Rumi

Well, why not? 

Here's a few of the items I chose to begin with.  If you'd like to see all my listings, just click here: 
a french fishing creel....

several pieces of french enamelware....
a french wire market basket....

old english gardening tools...

a french ag award placque...

Same as it never was....

Although my devoted ebay clients have given up following me by now, my (perfect!) feedback picked right up where I left off.  A few hours spent getting up to speed on listing practices, image hosting, USPS fee schedules and bringing my PayPal account up to date and just like that, I'd shaken a good deal of  rustiness off. 

And while my inventory remains the same, I am not the same.  Becoming more contemplative in life is sure to change me as an ebayer.

I hope there is more balance in my life...last time around Ebay often took time, my energy...the buyers, rather than my family,  received my patience....sometimes I was so stressed that I was ugly and angry with Michael who was only trying to help me.  I hope that is different, this time around. 

This time around I'd like to be mindful of the process rather than only excited about the result.  I'd like to remember why I chose each of these old things, to relish cleaning and polishing slow down and enjoy being creative while photographing them and while writing the words that describe them.  

This time around I'd like to keep the excitement but lose the fear.  There was always some amount of fear....fear of making a mistake....and lots of fear of the future.  What if I don't make a profit this month?  This year?  What will happen?

I'd like to let that go.

Apparently even ebay selling can be my spiritual practice.  Who knew? Everything old is indeed new, again.    

Back to the future! 

peace and all good, 


Monday, August 20, 2012

in clover: in a jam

Since my first experience pickling cucumbers two years ago, I have wanted to try my hand at canning jam.  When blackberry season came to the Bluegrass, Michael and I seized the opportunity to make an early morning drive out to Boyd Orchards.  

We drove our 1986 Porsche 944.  My Dad handed this car down to us.  Michael has spent the last two years working on rebuilding the front of the engine and fixing many (MANY!) other issues.  All his hard work has finally paid off.  It runs great!  It was fun to drive on the country roads and even more fun to watch Michael enjoy his accomplishment. I'm really proud of him.  

Boyd’s orchard store is a feast for the eyes and the nose!  Every where you look there is fresh everything.  The day we visited, there was plenty of two of my favorites....peaches.....

and blackberries. 

To make and can the jam, I followed the simple recipe in the classic Ball Home Canning book.  I used the pectin method.  

I have a glass topped stove so Michael bought me a stainless water bath canner made especially for glass topped stoves.  To cook the jam, I used my fabulous Paderno saute pan (Christmas gift from my mother and her husband last year....LOVE it!).  

The recipe was simple and easy to follow.  One jar did not seal properly so I put it in the refrigerator for us to enjoy right away.  It didn’t last long!  

 The jam as it cooked (above).

Jars loaded in the canner (above.)

I did make one mistake.  I sent my dad a short video of the canner “bubbling” on the stove because he shared with me his memories of my grandmother’s canner “bubbling and rumbling on her stove.”  When he called to ask me about my jam experience, he asked if I skimmed the foam off the cooked jam.  I had because the recipe told me to do so.  When I told him that I poured the foam down the sink drain, he let out a loud groan!  I had discarded, according to him, the BEST part!  He said the foam is kind of like cotton candy, only grainier, and that my grandmother always gave it to him as a treat.  She was careful, he told me, to also “accidentally” include some of the cooked jam as well.  Ah well.  I will have to have a “do over” next year. 

Boo, with cooling jars.

I enjoyed a nice outing with Michael, supported a local business, the kitchen smelled great, my kids enjoyed snitching blackberries off the counter and I have a nice little stash of homemade blackberry jam....and I have scratched another experience off my “really want to try this” list.

I have been thinking (a lot) about eating more mindfully.  When I began buying organic and higher quality local food for my family, the price forced me to be a bit more mindful.  It is much easier for me to waste orange juice that cost me $3 a gallon than it is to waste orange juice that costs me $6 for a half gallon.  (What I had forgotten was how much better it REAL orange juice tastes!)  To offset the expense, we drink more water.  We should have been doing that anyway.  

One thing is for sure....when I make food from "scratch" like this jam,  I am far more likely to savor it more. 
peace and all good, 


Monday, August 13, 2012

in clover: giving

As I feared in June, my garden this year is indeed a failure.  The only thing doing well is the basil and I am grateful for that.  The dill I nursed through the early spring... that looked so beautiful going into June...turned yellow, then brown, and finally withered away.  Michael had to buy a big bundle of dill at the Farmer’s Market for the one batch of dill pickles we’ve put up this year. 

Cucumber beetles took the dozen plants I had hoped would yield enough small cucs for at least one batch of gherkins this year.  I’ve harvested exactly two peppers.  Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of tomatoes, especially the cherry tomatoes.  I love cherry tomatoes.  My favorite is a variety called “Sweet Baby Girl.”   Cherry tomato plants are usually heavy producers so I limited myself to two plants.  Unfortunately I’ve harvested just a few handfuls...mostly from one plant. 

Michael and I sat in the garden one evening, sipping wine (me) and bourbon (him) , and discussed the irony of our nineteen years of gardening together.  It appears that the more we know (and the harder we try), the less success we have.  Our most successful garden was the one we planted at our former home, as newly weds.  We knew absolutely nothing.  We planted at least one of everything and our harvest was astounding.  When we moved to our current home , we decided there was not room for a vegetable garden.

And then, a few years ago, we decided to try again. I scratched out a tiny garden patch between our blacktop driveway and our neighbor’s privacy fence.  That garden didn’t stand a chance.  We got a late start....we did not amend the soil...heck, we didn’t even really dig deep enough. It was full of weeds and rocks and dirt clods and little pieces of blacktop.  The plants left to us at the gardening center were picked over more than once and I let them dry out in their pots several times before getting them in the ground.  And yet we had a big harvest.  I froze bags and bags of diced peppers and large batches of basil tomato soup. 

The next year Michael built a lovely raised bed along the driveway and we filled it with a compost and soil mix from a highly recommended local place.  We bought the best plants and I researched the best planting methods and for two years running....nada....failure.  Of course, we had drought and high temps this year and last year the compost was too hot.  There’s always next year......

Gardening can be quite humbling. 

A few weeks ago, Michael and I took a day trip to Bardstown, Ky.  We had a wonderful dinner with good friends in the evening after visiting the Trappist monastery, Gethsemane, in the morning.  At Gethsemane, I bought two wedges of cheese made right there by the monks. 

When we returned home, I found an egg carton sitting on our front porch.  At first I thought it was empty.  Neighbors sometimes save egg cartons for us.  But when I picked it up, I realized the carton was filled with something which I assumed was eggs.    I wondered who in the world would give us eggs?  I mean, we have six hens in the backyard! 

When I opened the carton I found not eggs but.....

lovely cherry tomatoes!  My friend had left me an egg carton filled with exactly what I desired but did not have....lovely sweet, red, homegrown cherry tomatoes.  I was thrilled. 

I ate a few right then and there.  The rest I used in a simple frittata....nothing but our fresh eggs, some salt and pepper, those lovely tomatoes, and the monk made cheese we bought at Gethsemane.  There were exactly NO leftovers from supper that night. 

My friend doesn’t have a large garden but she shared the bounty of what she had with me. 

In return, I filled the egg carton with what I did have, despite the failed garden,....a dozen eggs! 

She sent me a note and said that it must be “magic” that turned her cherry tomatoes in fresh eggs.  I think she’s right.  It really is magic when you share what you’ve got with others.   Often, one act of sharing inspires another.

I am convinced that sometimes we do not share because we fear that what we have to share is not “enough.”  But the truth is that often, we have no idea what our sharing will mean to someone else. 

For one friend’s birthday, I tucked into her birthday card a miniature book.  l liked the book and I thought she would like it.  But I had no idea that several weeks later she would call and say that the tiny book “changed her life.”  We never know how our sharing will affect someone else. 

Today, I resolve to be less fearful about sharing.  Today, I give thanks for friends and neighbors and family who share so much with me...big things like grace and love and support and small things like cherry tomatoes. 

peace and all good,

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