Friday, June 25, 2010

A River Runs Through It (Gumdrop Swap's Basement, That Is)

June just hasn't been my month. It really appeared I was hitting my stride at the end of May. A successful Grand Opening. The weather was improving. It's not surprising to need a jacket on Memorial Weekend in CT. So with the warmer weather, you can see people's mood changing. They can't wait to get some fresh air after a long winter. So I was getting some good traffic especially from those working in downtown Bridgeport and wandering during their lunch break. I even get a few jurors on break from the courthouse down the street. So, I was feeling good about opening my boutique instead of keeping Gumdrop Swap as a web-only business. Then WHAM! My store was burglarized. June 17. My immediate reaction was the urge to run for the hills. I can take a hint. Maybe this isn't for me. I mean, I don't have a retail background. I went to art college for goodness sake. My business experience was learned through many instances of being taken advantage of as a freelance artist while still in high school. And a string of administrative jobs taught me contract negotiation, legal ease, record keeping, and etiquette. But, who was I to think I could open my own retail store? The theft was a reality check that being a friendly business owner won't deter the scum of humanity from feeding off your hard labor. But what bothered me most was the idea of someone invading my personal space. In the last few months I've spent more hours in that store than anywhere else ever (besides my home). I've made a decision about every color, fixture, hanger, and object in that space. Some stranger came in uninvited, took things that belonged to me, rearranged things, stole papers with my information... It's so hurtful. So one week later I was beginning to recover. To smile and trust the customers coming into the store. I'm trying not to assume the people that enter my store are casing the joint.
    One week later, it was humid. My A/C had been out of commission for weeks and the technicians FINALLY figured out the problem and fixed it. Great! Things are looking up. I had a few new customers and a returning customer who spent some gumdrops she had earned from her swap a few weeks ago. She had some great suggestions about my store hosting her meetup group of local moms. We chatted for a while. Shortly after she left I noticed the sky was getting darker (remember there is an all glass roof over the atrium of the courtyard in the Arcade Mall). There was some thunder and lighting. We've had a few thunderstorms recently. No big deal. Then the electricity flickered on and off a few times. Ok. That caused me to pause because I was using my laptop at the time. Then the rain began. Abnormally heavy rain I noted. Right after that thought, a loud crash of glass breaking. Oh God, not the glass roof! I imagined the whole thing crashing down. I ducked and waited about a minute before investigating. I stood inside the door to my store and could see debris and glass from the broken roof panes. There was a piece of roofing that flew from an adjacent building that caused the break. I looked to the back door and above to see walls of water passing by. The building's superintendent waved me back from the door. I backed away towards the middle of my store and heard a strange sound coming from the rear stairwell that leads to my basement where I store off season and duplicate merchandise. The best way to describe the sound I heard was a waterfall. My heart dropped. I hope that water is staying in the alley and not coming into my store. Wrong. There was a river flowing in through the less than 1 inch gap under back door. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie or something. I grabbed some plastic bags and plugged the gap to slow down the flow of water. Then I went to investigate the damage in the basement. The floor is uneven down there so there was 4-6 inches of water depending on where I stood. I was in awe for a minute. You've got to be kidding. I think that was directed to God.

    I used an empty paint tray to push the water towards the drain on the floor. I began moving bins and boxes out of the water. Transferring the dry merchandise to higher levels. The security guard helped me for about an hour. The superintendent came to tell me there had been a tornado and outside looked like a war zone. He left to go help at another property where an A/C unit had been ripped from a wall and water was pouring into the building. The mall would be closed for the rest of the week until the glass could be replaced on the roof and normalcy returned.When I went outside I couldn't believe the destruction. Trees and light poles ripped from the ground. Awnings and signage crumbled and windows of building and cars shattered. People walked and inspected in a state of shock. I made it to my car but was detoured a few times with road blocks by police barricades or a tree blocking the street. It looked like a movie set. I was still processing what happened. I had been relatively safe inside my brick building unlike those out on the street when this unexpected twister came through. Some wet clothes in a basement was minimal damage compared to what I was looking at. I rushed home to my daughter and husband for a much needed hug.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    A Tasty and Healthy 10 min meal!

    I remember how hard it was to shop/cook for one person when I lived alone after college. I was on a tight post college budget. I ended up splitting up my groceries and freezing smaller portions because I couldn't stand eating leftovers more than 3 days in a row no matter how tasty they were. This meal idea can be prepared and cooked in less than 10 minutes! Portions can easily be scaled up for a family. I made this for dinner last Friday because my daughter was staying at my in-laws and hubby was at work. He has a seafood allergy so I rarely cook seafood at home.

    So I bought a bag of individually wrapped talapia fillets (such a mild fish, yum) and San Francisco style frozen vegetables. That's the first I've heard of this blend. It contains: broccoli, french cut green beans, mushrooms and red bell pepper. I set the oven to broil. I put about a third of the bag of frozen veggies in a small pot that had a lid and boiled on high with about 1/4 inch of water in the pot. With a few shakes of Badia brand complete seasoning. This seasoning is great on EVERYTHING. I use it on eggs, meat, vegetables.

    I defrosted 2 talapia fillets and placed on a piece of aluminum foil lined cookie sheet that I greased with some butter. I seasoned liberally with Old Bay seasoning on both sides and put a half a pat of salted butter on top of each fillet. I broiled on each side about 4 min (flipping the fillets once). The fillets are delicate so I used a spatula. It was so simple and tasted better than dishes I've eaten in restaurants. I just had to share! I can't wait to have another night at home alone so I can make this meal again.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Curry Lamb Burgers with Cucumber Dressing

    I get tired of the same old meals. This is a relatively easy recipe for an experienced cook. I say that because I am estimating the measurements and you will need to use your judgment on some things. Not to keen on trying lamb? Or can't find it in your local grocery? Substitute ground hamburger or turkey. You can serve on a roll or hamburger bun but we eat it without the bread.

    • about 1.25-1.5 lbs ground lamb (not offered at some stores) I used to buy this at Shaws but they have moved out of the area. If you live in upper Fairfield County, CT this can be purchased at Food Basics on Park Ave and North Ave in Bridgeport. You can ask a local butcher if you cant find it. Stop & Shop butcher said they don't sell ground lamb.
    • brown mustard (about 2 tbsp)
    • about 1/4 cup curry powder (remember curry powder is not hot, add red pepper flakes for heat)
    • 2 large eggs
    • about 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs)
    • about 2 tbsp minced garlic (I use the jar of minced garlic) 
    • Optional: black pepper, finely chopped white onion or scallion, 1 tbsp celery powder, red pepper flakes
     For Cucumber dressing
    • cheese grater
    • 1 large cucumber
    • 1 container of plain Greek yogurt 
    • lemon juice 1 tea spoon
    • salt & white pepper (optional) to taste 1 pinch at a time
    1.  Make cucumber dressing first by grating the cucumber into a bowl, pour off excess juice from cucumber, mix in Greek yogurt, lemon juice and salt. Store in refrigerator while you prepare and cook burgers.
    2. Heat grill or skillet or hot plate to med high. 
    3. In a large bowl mix all ingredients for burgers.
    4. Form into burger shape no more than 1 inch thick
    5. lightly oil the cooking surface I use olive oil or non-stick spray
    6. cook on each side about 4-5min, remove from heat and let rest for another 5 min
    7. If you are serving on buns, prepare your buns and add lettuce and sliced tomato if you want
    8. Stir your cucumber dressing before adding a dollop to burgers. You'll probably have some dressing left over.

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    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Saundra Phillips - Miss Fat Back

    I heard this song on iTunes radio today and had to post! It's an anthem for us women with plenty of meat on our bones. Take a listen! "Miss Fatback" sung by Saundra Philips. On that note (pun intended), I thought this would be an appropriate place to show you a promotional photo of some of the models with the agency I am signed with. IPM Model Management of NYC.


    No such thing as a victimless crime. Yesterday, I became a victim. Sure, it was a non-violent crime (thank God) but I still felt hurt and wronged. I came to the boutique as I do everyday and unlocked the front door. The first thing I noticed was the contents of a bag of handmade items from my days as an accessories designer were spilled onto the floor at the end of my sales counter. I don't remember knocking those over yesterday is what I thought to myself. When I took a few steps closer I realized the bag that held those items was gone. Then I looked on my desk (behind the counter) and the cash register was gone. So was my laptop, it's carrying bag, my digital camera and more things I realized as I cleaned the disarray later that afternoon. But as soon as I realized I'd been robbed I did a u-turn and went outside to call the cops. I was 99% sure the thief had entered through the rear of the store and didn't want to disturb the scene or take the chance they were still in the building. Better to wait for the cops in the courtyard. And wait I did. The property manager waited with me for about 45 min. A female officer arrived over an hour after my initial call. We went through the store and basement together to determine the losses. Turns out the cash register was still in the store. Discarded in the back after they pried it open with a screwdriver and emptied the petty cash. In total, I'd estimate the value of the items they stole to be about $1500 when you figure in the merchandise they lifted. With a $1000 deductible, I'm contemplating if it's worth it to file an insurance claim. A higher premium is likely.

    The most frustrating part? I've been trying to get the property owner or someone to install a slide bolt into the metal rear door. I didn't have the tools to do it myself. They jumped a tall gate that lead to an alley behind my store and came in through my back door. For the most part they did little damage, made a mess of my desk looking for valuables but didn't ransack the whole place. What I've learned: Not to leave any valuables in my store, to count my blessings, and not to put off precautionary measures like installing an alarm. I'm trying to bring something positive to this community and I am a bit discouraged. But my faith comforts me and I will press on. I can't let "them" win.

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    Monday, June 14, 2010


    I love this company's mission. Similar to TerraCycle's but reclaiming the hard-to-recycle coated cardboard cartons for juice and milk. If you're looking for an stylish, eco-friendly, and affordable (ONLY $10?) wallet, buy this!

     (*copied from Milkmuny's Press Release)

    The creative Portland start-up wants to spread awareness about the challenges of carton recyclability, raise funds for struggling non-profits and promote a new kind of ‘trashion’ statement all at once.

    More than 510,000 tons of milk and juice cartons are generated every year in the United States, but sadly, less than .05% ever get recycled according to an EPA report of (MSW) Municipal Solid Waste). Paper cartons ARE recyclable, however, “because of the wax lining, are not universally recycled. Each locality is different, depending on their recycling process capability”, says the (NRC) National Recycling Coalition.
    That’s what got the Portland based industrial designer, John Schreiber, thinking and how was created. The first two initial lines of wallets, in 22 styles (from the reclaimed cartons of recognizable brands of both dairy and juice manufacturers) are available online and at specialty retailers. Milkmuny is already designing other lines of recycled products, as well, to be released by the summer of 09.

    “There is considerably talk these days about ‘green’ design but the vast majority of design, both graphic and industrial, is still about promoting consumption”, says John, who is also Milkmuny’s founder and creative principle. “It’s ironic that we continue to dispose of existing products and materials like computers or radios in order to purchase ‘greener’ ones. I wanted to challenge traditional design thinking and create a mass produced product that didn’t expend more energy to create or require more resources to produce but was also aesthetically pleasing and uncompromisingly functional. It’s a amazing idea to think that on one hand; here is this ubiquitous but seemingly inconsequential carton so routinely discarded and yet on the other, something that with a little creativity, has the potential to raise money for schools, be an example of innovation in design and reusability – and even create jobs.

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    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Do you have a special needs child? Therapy Ball Giveaway

    My friend Jean has a blog which is a great resource for parents of children with special needs, particularly Austism. She reviewed Fun and Function's Sens-ational T-Shirt (great for kids with sensory issues) and their Peanut Therapy Ball (great for OT and PT).

    You can enter to win a Peanut Therapy Ball valued at ($40)

    Visit her blog to enter: Please tell her I sent you!
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    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Easy Dinner Suggestion - Smithfield Pork Sirloin

    I am so busy these days. So I try to save time (and money) wherever I can. I aim to make meals that take less than 30 min to prepare and love to figure out shortcuts. For instance, instead of ordering wings from a restaurant, I have been buying the frozen ones. Microwaving makes them gross and soggy. Frying is fatty. Instead of following the instructions (who can wait 20 minutes for wings in the oven?) I set the oven to broil while I microwave the wings and then I broil them a few minutes on each side to get the crispiness. It cuts the oven baking cook time in half!

    Ok, so when grocery shopping the other day I decided to try a marinated pork loin from Smithfield (Garlic & Herb). The instructions tell you to bake at 425 degrees for 20 min for every pound. The one I got weighed 1.44 lbs so I cooked about 30 min. It did not instruct me to let the meat rest but I know this is a good idea for any loin. It keep the moisture in and finishes the cooking process. I'm usually not a fan of pre-seasoned store bought meats. I'm very picky in the way things are seasoned. Probably saltier than most folks prefer. There was a hint of rosemary and bold, savory flavor. I highly recommend this product.

    Do You Dream of Being a TV Star?

    Dreams of hosting your own cooking show? Do you have a flair for fashion or interior design? When Oprah announced this was her final season, did you think "I could take her place". Well, you should enter this contest to have your own show on Oprah's Network.

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