Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did you buy Local for Small Business Saturday?

Maybe you saw the commercial before Thanksgiving with pleas from small business owners asking you to support us on Nov. 26? You're familiar with Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (dubbed this before everyone got the internet at home and on their phone because internet sales would spike tremendously when workers returned to the office on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend). And now the new movement is Small Business Saturday. American Express started this promotion a few years ago to reward their card holders for using their AmEx cards in a small business on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. If they spend at least $25 (after registering their card and pledging their support) they will get $25 credit on their next statement. Although I am not an AmEx cardholder I support what the intention of this movement. And no matter how I pay for my purchases, I try to support other small businesses year round. As a solopreneur, I appreciate the support and attention to us "small fries". Here I am featured in a story for local news channel WTNH.

I got a few calls and new customers out of the press. And I hope people will continue to support in years to come. I truly believe small businesses are going to be the foundation for rebuilding America's economy.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Should a cell phone cost more than a wedding dress?

Of course not! Doesn't that sound absurd? I confess that I watch reality tv shows featuring women shopping for wedding dresses and think to myself, "Why would anyone spend that much for a wedding dress they are going to wear once?" I will also confess that what I paid for my wedding dress 4 years ago was an unbelievable bargain! My dress shown here was on clearance at David's Bridal for $125 and was perfect for my destination wedding.

But for illustration's sake, I had budgeted up to $500 and even considered renting a dress. But this post is not about wedding dresses its about customer service failure. Failure over and over again. Mostly by Verizon Wireless and once by FedEx. These are not mom and pop operations. These corporations take in billions of dollars every year from millions of Americans. You'd think they'd have customer service down to a science by now.

So my rant begins a few weeks ago on a Monday. My phone was stolen from my place of business. Not pleased but took the blame for being careless so I ordered another through Verizon's customer service. The process was surprisingly smooth and my replacement (same model) was to be overnighted. The next day when my replacement doesn't arrive I find out I had to accept a new 2 yr contract before my phone could be shipped. I would have done that immediately had I known. Now I had missed 3pm daily shipment and was told the phone would be shipped the following day. On Wed I got a confirmation that my phone was being shipped via FedEx and given a tracking #. I track it on Thurs afternoon hoping it will be waiting on me at home and FedEx website shows it never left Memphis hub. Huh? Thurs evening I call Verizon back and their agent calls FedEx and they promise I will have Fri. Track again on Fri and still in Memphis w/o any updates?! I call FedEx directly and FedEx assigns a "trace agent" and I'm asked to call back in an hour. Instead I call Verizon ask if I can go to local store and pickup the same model because I cannot go another day without a phone? Verizon's rep cancels the lost phone and orders it be returned to HQ, calls the location I specified to explain my situation, they say tell her they have one and are expecting me. I get there and no one there by name I was given (Chris). Verizon store employee speculates the customer service agent must have called authorized retailer in same town instead of corporate store. What? Why would she not have called the correct store and sent me to a non-corporate location? This store doesn't have my phone in stock. Now 4 days w/o a phone which is critical to running my business. I'm so fed up that I decide to buy the next comparable which is twice as expensive as the phone I was supposed to get. I call customer service to complain about runaround on Saturday and was told that the original lost phone is still lost and no Droid Pros within 100 miles of me because that model has been discontinued. Also told because I used my early upgrade to get the phone I bought in the store that I would have to return the phone I bought let them process the return before I can order the original again. Unless I want them to charge my account the full retail value of $399.99! Inconsistent and even false info at every turn. Everyone passes the buck I'm left holding the bag.

So I resigned to the fact that I have purchased a more expensive phone, and signed a new 2 year contract with Verizon after being victimized in the 1st place which caused this whole mess. I get the bill which I expected to reflect the equipment charge for my new phone which will cost me about $150 after my $50 rebate card arrives. And to add insult to injury there is the original charge for the phone FedEx lost still on my bill! C'mon! Really? Another phone call means I have to retell the story. Just makes steam come out of my ears again and reminds me how unhappy I am with Verizon. Seriously thinking its worth it to pay the early termination fee and move to another company.

I feel bad enough that I'm so dependent on this contraption or technology in general but its a necessary evil when you're running a business and need to answer emails and phone calls no matter where I am. But its not right to fleece your customer because you know you have them in by the ehem... cahones. It sickens me to think I paid more for a cell phone that is sure to get lost, stolen, damaged, or otherwise fail and need replacing in the next year or so than I paid for the dress I wore on what some call "the most special day in a woman's life". 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Santa Claus is coming to (down)town!

You know the song! Well, this year avoid the long lines at the mega-malls and get your portrait with out without Santa in front of a beautiful winter wonderland backdrop. Photography and props by Connecticut Photography Plus. This photographer specializes in daycare portraits so Carmen Nieves is very good with children. You can RSVP on Facebook if you like. Dec 3 and Dec 10. No appointment necessary. Here are a few from last year!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Easy Fall Recipe: Batter Fried Apple Slices

I've said it before, my daughter (almost 4) loves to help in the kitchen. I try to give her any task like stirring, dipping, taste testing, that she can handle. She's pretty good but I do have to remind her that we cannot reuse any utensil she "tastes" from. Sometimes she'll sneak and stick her finger in whatever we're working on if I've got my back turned. I have to promise she can lick the bowl once we're finished.

Its apple picking season in New England. I didn't know I lived so close to some orchards! An old friend invited us to go with her and her 11 yr old daughter to a popular one called Silverman's Farms. They have pumpkins,apples, a general store, and a petting zoo. Check out some photos we took there.

So, my plan was to attempt an apple pie with the apples I got from there. I've never made an apple pie before but I can follow a recipe. After I got home I thought about how I'm not a big fan of pie in general and really didn't want to make a crust and dough from scratch. I didn't feel like making a grocery store run for a ready made pie crust either. I thought about coring them and baking them like my mom used to do but that didn't seem very exciting. I mentioned the pie dilemma to my best friend in Georgia and she remembered making fried apples with her daughter some years before. She thought the recipe may have been from the Food Network and said it called for pancake batter. I had some "just add water" mix in box that has been in my cabinet for a while and I wasn't a fan but maybe if I spruced the batter up a bit I wouldn't have to throw it away?! I tried searching for the recipe she alluded to with no luck. So I decided to wing it. My daughter mixed water, a tablespoon of vanilla extract, cinnamon, dash of nutmeg and stirred. Looked a lot like tempura batter. I sliced the apples into half moons about 1/2 wide on the skin end (yes I left the skin on). I let her coat the apples with a spoon. I fish them out with a spoon and dropped them into hot canola oil and to my surprise they kind of poofed up and floated, They browned quickly (about 1 min) so I watched intently so they didn't burn and flipped for a minute on the opposite side. I drained the oil and let cool. DELICIOUS! I wanted to eat with a scoop a vanilla ice cream but alas, none in the freezer. Maybe that store run wasn't such a bad idea. I resisted the urge to sprinkle powdered sugar because I didn't want the toddler to overdo it on a school night. They were so good, I was kind of mad when I came back about an hour later and my husband had eaten the last few. Warning these are really addicting!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Fun Project: Making Healthy Yogurt Fruit Popsicles

As I gear up for a heat wave with estimates of 100 degrees with the heat index I figure what better way to beat the heat than a popsicle? I saw some fancy schmancy popsicle molds in a magazine about a month ago and planned to order online. Of course I was going to look for a bargain because $30 seemed pricey for popsicle molds. So, I was perusing the newly opened Whole Foods market in Fairfield, CT to see what all the hype was about. Talk about pricey! The things I sprang for were gourmet and worth every penny because you can't get them elsewhere, like the poppy seed chicken salad in the deli. I justified my purchases in my mind by telling myself "it's cheaper than a meal eating out at a restaurant". But I'm a frugalista so will continue buy my produce and canned goods at a discount store like Price Rite. But I digress, on my way to the checkout line I see an endcap display with nothing other than POPSICLE molds! $11.99? Ok, I'm in Whole Foods so I'm sure I could hunt down a  better price if I looked. But if I consider the precious time spent bargain hunting online or gas used to drive elsewhere, I'd probably break even. So, Tovolo popsicle molds it was. They came in a few shapes. I chose the star shaped mold. I knew my 3 yr old would be stoked!

We used fresh strawberries, a banana (both easy for toddlers to cut with a butter knife which also exercises fine motor skills).  

And We used lowfat Dannon yogurt with blueberries. She loved dumping everything in and licking the utensils.

 She loves being my kitchen helper. And I recently began letting her press the buttons on the blender. Who doesn't like that?

The hard part is waiting the suggested 4 hours for the pops to harden before enjoying. Run them under hot water for a few seconds if you have trouble with them releasing from the molds.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!
Get Paid to Tweet!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Woombie: A Love Story.

I'm in love with a Local Mompreneur's products! It all started innocently enough when I accepted a "connection" on MerchantCircle from a woman named Karen and her business, Woombie. "Funny name. Never heard of it." I thought to myself.  So, I visit their website to find out what a Woombie was. I was blown away! I LOVE finding other local mompreneurs. I instantly feel connected to other mompreneurs. I know we drank the same tainted Kool-aid. Every time I find a new one, I think to myself, I'm not the only crazy one to step out on faith and start a business? This time was more special because I also thought, This woman is running THIS business in my backyard? Why are we not best friends? MY customers would her products! How can I get involved? So, instead of putting it on my to-do list which is infinite and hardly gets revisited, I just did it. I became a seller of all things Woombie.
Check out http://Woombie.com/ and then order through me for my special 10% OFF deal and have your purchase shipped directly you OR pickup in the store! Great gift item for yourself or someone else!
Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Frugal Foodie Find!

I've shared another local frugal food find a while back. Snappy Dawgs is a food cart that serves delicious food during the week on the corner of Main St and Fairfield Ave in front of the Fairfield County Courthouse. But I work on Saturdays and they don't come on the weekend. I am partial to restaurants that deliver because I can't afford to close my business to go get lunch. So, one of my customers informed me that Amici Miei delivers too. Well then, I put that on my to-do list. And today I ordered a thin crust pizza from there called "Rurale" and had to share this with you!

It is topped with red sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms (fresh ones not those slimy ones from the can either), and big slices of prosciutto. And get this! With tax, I paid (drum roll.....) $8.50! I gave the delivery girl a $10 and told her to keep the change as her tip. I was in NYC the other day and paid $9 for a panini that wasn't even half the size of this pizza. What a rip off that was! These personal size pizzas are pretty big and a great value. Could easily share among 2 people. And if you live or work in downtown Bridgeport, I suggest having it delivered.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

I love my city of Bridgeport!

My city (Bridgeport, CT) gets a bad rap. We were even poked fun at in a episode of Family Guy. I'm wasn't born or raised in CT so I don't know first-hand what it was like 10-20 years ago. I hear it used to be a lot of crime and corruption. What former large city hasn't gone through a period of rebuilding? Bridgeport was once a major port and manufacturing city. I hear from customers how nice the city was when they were growing up 30-40 years ago. They reminisce when they come into the restored Arcade Mall because their parents used to shop for them here. People once flocked here for jobs and opportunity. When the jobs left, desperation and crime ran rampant just like Cleveland, OH (my birthplace) and cities like Detroit, MI.

We've got a long way to go with the public education system here. Don't think there's an easy fix for that. But I believe our worst is in the past. Every city has parts of town you shouldn't go to at night, alone, if you don't know anyone or have no business there. That's just common sense! I moved to CT in 2005. I moved into downtown because there was an experimental artist housing development placed here. I was familiar with Artspace from my time living in MN. They buy distressed properties all over the USA and rehab them and subsidize apartments for artists and their families. This gives them an affordable place to live as they work in their craft. Usually Artspace projects are located in urban areas that have been void of residents for a while. I lived there until I outgrew my apartment when I started my family. My husband and I purchased a home in Bridgeport's north end.

When I decided to go into business for myself, Bridgeport was an obvious choice for opportunity and growth and the retail home for Gumdrop Swap. I see the once abandoned buildings being refaced and replaced. I saw the potential about 2 years ago and everyone asked " Are you sure you want to open a business in BRIDGEPORT?" Uh, yeah. And I did. And now other people must be as crazy as I was because I see families and neighboring businesses are moving in. Sure, its not happening as fast as people (including myself) may want it to. But it took years to get the city in it's current state and it takes visionaries to invest, risk and make positive changes. I'm happy to be a part of the movement. I look forward to sharing some maybe-not-so-well-known things going on here. If you haven't been to downtown Bridgeport in years you've got to come see what you're missing! Delicious food, affordable shopping, relaxation, and great people. Park your car and explore! Unless, you consider the Family Guy cartoon a reliable travel guide. In that case, stay where you are, lol.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have you ever been blessed by the Coupon Fairy?

I really wish I had the time and dedication to be like those serious EXTREME couponers. Have you seen that show? I would need to also build out my basement to store my stockpile of groceries and toiletries too. But the savings are impressive. That's undeniable. I'm so not organized. Then I would feel guilty if it was crowded that day at the store and I was holding up the line because I was separating my order into 11 separate orders to get maximum savings. Maybe store should have a coupon line like they have express lanes?!

The Target near my home just renovated to add a grocery store inside. A few days ago I made a mental note that I needed to stop to buy a loaf of bread on the way home from church. I shuffled through the mail to find a circular from Target. There were some coupons in there and the main one was for a FREE loaf of bread. I took this as a sign.

So, I'm in Target, navigating the new floor plan. There were items I get cheaper at my preferred grocery store but I didn't want to throw the unused coupons away. A saw a woman looking at the egg selection and offered her a coupon to get a dozen eggs for $.99. A good deal but I had a full dozen at home and wouldn't need another by the time the coupon would expire. So, I offered it to her and she was so thankful. Wow, that felt great! Maybe someone could use my other coupon I wasn't going to utilize? So I found the related projects and tucked the coupon in front so it would be visible. My 3 yr old asked me a few times what I was doing. "We're leaving these for someone else," I said. And she asked her knew favorite question, "Why?" Because its nice and it will make them happy like the lady buying eggs. Toddler was satisfied. Cool.

My last coupon I gifted was for Method laundry detergent. And as I reached to tuck my coupon I saw someone else had done the same thing. Now, I'm not naive to think I "invented" this practice but maybe this is going on more than I know. Do you often find coupons tucked among products when you're shopping? Or do you go around being a coupon fairy? I think its such a nice gesture especially when everyone is looking to save money.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!
Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Friday, July 1, 2011

Loving You as YOU ARE!

 I wanted to share a wonderful video of fellow curvy model Fluvia in collaboration with Plus Model Magazine. Fluvia wears a size 18 and she exudes sexiness and style. For all of us that second guess the image we see in the mirror, this should boost your confidence!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today! Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ultimate Swap-a-Nista Contest

Are you the Ultimate Swap-a-Nista?

Sign up on our Facebook Page for a chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate (store credit). Then make a WALL POST about why you like swapping or Gumdrop Swap. This is our biggest giveaway to date!
Get 3 or more friends to sign up for a chance to win another secret prize!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today! Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Friday, June 3, 2011

Model Portfolio Update

From April 17, 2011 Shoot
As I mentioned before, I "moonlight" as a "real-size" model whenever I get the opportunity. I've worked for clients such as Junonia and My Alli in the past. And in a previous post I shared some of the shoe choices I was planning to get for my spring shoot from endless.com. Professional models are expected to update their portfolios every 3-6 months.
From April 17, 2011 Shoot
From April 17, 2011 Shoot
It was nice shooting outdoors now that it's finally warmed up here in CT. So I wanted to share a few of my favorite shots from this shoot with Jefferine Kerr. She works freelance in Fairfield County. I highly recommend her services! Here is her blog. And the make-up artist, Nashiekah, writes a blog. We had to get one last shoot in before she relocated to Georgia. She's breaking up the dream team but I wish her mush success in my former state of residence. My natural looking tan was provided by Jenna of Healthy Glow on the Go! Jenna can bring her mobile spray tan service to you. Her phone number is 203.521.3402 and she is awesome and her service is so affordable.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!
Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Second Hand Just Won't Do.

It may be a little weird that someone who owns a store selling used items would advise the public to buy new. But in certain instances used items pose a danger or inconvenience not worth trying to save a buck.

About once a week a customer inquires about a used car seat and I have to explain that it is illegal to sell a used car seat in the state of CT (and most states). Why? Because the seller could be held liable if the seat malfunctions. There are laws forbidding these sales because there is no way to know if the car seat has been in an accident. People usually give away car seats. Just put the word out to people you trust that you need one. If the model is more than 2 years old, PASS. Your child's safety is worth the $50 + to buy a decent car seat. Its worth the investment to spend a little more to get a convertible car seat that can go from 5 point harness style to booster seat for larger child.

NEVER buy a USED car seat or crib without doing research to make sure that model has not been recalled and crib has all necessary parts. Cribs already dismantled could be missing parts or screws. If its an older model, finding replacement parts will be difficult. Again, only buy from a source you trust if buying used.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Saturday, May 21, 2011

‘Hardest Working Small Biz Mom’

Saturdays are bring-your-kid-to-work-days at Gumdrop Swap Kids Boutique. It's part of the reason I started my own business almost two years ago. Setting my own hours, not having to lie about when I have to take time off for my child's illness, finally being praised for all my hard work were all the "freedoms" I thought I'd enjoy as an entrepreneur. Sure, there's a lot of fulfillment in working for yourself. But I now realize, I work more hours than I ever did in corporate America, it's going to be a while before I can pay myself, and I took employer-paid benefits for granted. Self-employment is NOT for the weak! You have to push forward every day with blind faith and determination.

As a new (unemployed) mom in the recession of 2009, I launched what I expected to be online national kid's clothing swap club. The interest from local parents to swap in person pushed me to open a retail location. I invested my personal savings. In a year, I've built a customer family on little more than word-of-mouth referrals.

I laugh as I write this. This is an entry to Verizon’s ‘Hardest Working Small Biz Mom’ Contest and I'm supposed to answer " how do you manage running your own business and your household?" If I'm honest and brief, I'd answer "Not very well." As I type, my 3 yr old daughter, Corinne, is yelling "Mommy!" because I'm not participating in her  impromptu Knock Knock joke. I just celebrated my first anniversary of my children's boutique, so maybe I'm being a little hard on myself? I get discouraged after a long day at work and I come home to a sink full of dishes or hampers of dirty clothes. No matter how hard I work in my business, it doesn't cancel out any mom/wife responsibilities. I "manage" because my customers tell me what a blessing my business is to them. That helps.

Monday, April 4, 2011

4/23/11, 1pm-4pm Eco Kid Bash at Gumdrop Swap in Downtown Bridgeport

So excited to announce this FREE event for Fairfield County! Like our Halloween event, Boo Bash, last fall, this event is open to the public. We will feature sponsors and vendors geared towards families, children, sustainability, wellness, and recycling. Kids will make crafts from recycled material and can plant seeds in a container they decorate. The Bluefish mascot (minor league baseball) will make an appearance at 2pm. Please RSVP on Facebook! If you have a business and are interested in sponsoring, opportunities start as low as $20! As of 4/4/11 there are 2 vendor spaces left.

Event planning by Pryceless Consulting. Thank you to all of our vendors and sponsors so far!

Community Residences Inc.
Clockwork Learning Center Black Rock
Veridian Energy for Less
Foster Adoptive Mission
Greater Bridgeport Transit
Snappy Dawgs, Gourmet Street Food
Cook and Grow, A Healthy Classroom Project
Uniquely Yours Handmade Greeting Cards
Natural Awakenings Magazine (Fairfield County)
Bridgeport Theatre Co.
Center for Green Builders
Main Street Pharmacy
Toppings Cupcakes
Gofer Ice Cream
Viva Cantina Mexican Restaurant
Moe's Burger Joint
City of Bridgeport
Email gumdropswap(at)gmail.com with any questions. We hope to see you there!
| FCBuzz.org

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring means new photos!

 Spring is peeking out. I'm excited because this is my favorite time to update my modeling portfolio. I know some awesome photographers that I found when we were all just getting started in this industry. Now they've gone on to being very successful. So much so that they are too busy to "test" (work for trade i.e. free) which is understandable. Paying customers always take precedence over non-paying associates. So, I'm on the hunt for new go-to photographers. I'm posing for a photography group next week. The photographers range from novice to expert so it will be interesting how many good shots I will get. But I don't feel pressure like when I'm preparing for a paid shoot. I need to shop for new wardrobe and accessories for all the shoots for spring but this opportunity presented unexpectedly so it gave me the inspiration to begins shopping. I used my old faithful endless.com for shoes. You can't beat free shipping (even on returns!) and no-hassle returns up to ONE YEAR after your purchase. That's takes the fear out of shopping online. And I did return a pair of boots from my order last fall months after they arrived. It took me that long to find an outfit to wear with them and when I thought I did they were too high of a heel for me. I had the refund within a week. These are the three shoes I picked. I'm planning to wear the yellow shoes with a fitted black and white dress. And I have a green satin dress to try with the other two. What do you think?

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I am the featured Venture Mom!

As a solopreneur, I constantly need inspiration. Nothing is more inspirational than hearing the story of other people who have started their own successful business. Its even better when they are women and I can relate even more when those women are moms. As working moms and wives, there's is not much time left in our pies (think pie chart) for much else, especially running a business. So when I stumbled upon a website called Venture Mom a few months back I sighed in relief. "I'm not alone" I thought to myself. People (usually customers) ask me how I came up with the idea for Gumdrop Swap. So, after reading a few of the stories about Featured VentureMoms I decided to submit my story. I heard back from Holly (woman behind the site) and she interviewed me for a future feature. Which you can read here. Her site also allows you to submit your business in her online directory of Mom Ventures for FREE! I highly recommend that you sign-up for her newsletter. That way you'll never miss a featured VentureMom. She also shares tips and advice for those who are just thinking about starting a venture of their own. Holly can be hired for speaking engagements. She is based in my state of Connecticut but willing to travel and inspire!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!
Get Paid to Tweet!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dusting Off the Old Stilettos

Being a curvy woman, I've never mastered the art of walking in stilettos. I prefer a more comfy shoe seeing that I spend a lot of time on my feet. But www.stilettowoman.com has nothing to do with thin-heeled shoes and everything to do with celebrating being a woman and facing the world with your chest out and shoulders back (the posture that wearing stilettos demands). If you are a business woman, you NEED to visit this site get a copy of the magazine (in print and in PDF version). The website is professionally designed, easy to navigate and full of inspiring stories, articles and so much more.

I submitted my business to be featured and (surprise!) I was accepted. So, here it is my interview http://www.stilettowoman.com/2011/02/stilettology-meet-gabby-fludd-gumdrop.html
I won't hog all the limelight. There is a link to submit your business for consideration. I was also interviewed by Stiletto Woman's founder, Karlena Wallace in a podcast for The Women's Information Network.
She was such and gracious host (although she didn't get too many words in between my babblings). I felt comfortable like I was chatting with an old friend. Her tips read like advice from you best gal pal and I love that! I would love to hear your comments!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!

Get Paid to Tweet!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen Recipe: Mexican Pizza

My toddler loves to help in the kitchen. She loves to pour and stir and of course lick the utensils when we're done. She's been helping since she turned two years old and is getting more and more comfortable in the kitchen. She really takes pride in the tasks I give her now. So I am always trying to think of meals she can help me with. This is an easy one that she found fun to assemble.

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings):
  • Corn tortillas (8)
  • 1 can of refried beans, black beans OR I used Glory brand red beans & rice which you should be able to find in the International food aisle with Caribbean canned goods
  • grilled chicken (about 1 1/2 chicken breasts)
  • shredded cheddar cheese or blend (about 1 cup)
  • 2 chopped green onions (scallions)
  • (optional) sour cream and salsa
  1.  Heat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Grill your chicken and chop into small pieces
  3. Spray non-stick spray on a cookie sheet
  4. Place 4 of the tortillas on sheet (good job for the toddler)
  5. Spoon a large spoonful of your canned beans of choice and spread out evenly (good job for the toddler) 
  6. Top with another tortilla (good job for the toddler) 
  7. Place chicken on top 
  8. Sprinkle scallions and cheese (good job for the toddler)
  9. Cook in oven for 10 min top with your favorite condiments

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!
Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

DIY Small Business Accounting Made Easy

 When you are running a small business one must wear many hats. As solopreneurs, we're always looking to save money and do things ourselves to cut cost. Many things are worth hiring a someone else to do. Lots of administrative duties can be outsourced because, lets face it, our time is often more valuable elsewhere. I highly recommend hiring a CPA to file end-of the-year taxes. Tax laws change and professionals know about all kinds of write-offs we may not know about. But how do you handle the day to day numbers? If you are a public speaker or consultant, you may not have daily revenues or expenses to track. You are doing yourself a disservice by saving receipts and check stubs all year and waiting until the end of year to tally everything. You may be in for a shock.

Since I run a retail business, Gumdrop Swap, I have to record data daily. I wasn't sure if I should invest in a program like Quickbooks. I've heard good things about it but I just didn't want to purchase it yet. I designed a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel with my basic skills in formula making. It was beautifully colored and prettified and then... my laptop was stolen (my mistake for not backing that document up and I encourage you to back up everything! Even email it to yourself if you don't have another drive to save things on.) I knew I wouldn't be able to duplicate that Excel spreadsheet so I went on the hunt for a (free) or cheap one online. I figured if I could find a sample one I could tweak it to my needs. I stumbled upon a site called Basic Accounting Help. I read a few articles and then there was a claim to have free spreadsheet for download. I bet this is a scam or virus, I thought to myself. But I dared to download it and I was so glad I did! There was a simple but sophisticated Excel workbook that has 12 months and an end of year summary. You plug and play to tailor it to your needs. It was better than the one I had designed from scratch! So, I am sharing this with you. The woman behind the scenes is named Vickey and she'll answer any questions you have. She is passionate about helping small businesses. Soak up her advice. All she asks is that you sign up for her Small Business News (enewsletter) then she'll send you a link to download the spreadsheets. Feel free to tell her you learned about her from my blog. I told her how much I appreciated her and that I would spread the good news.

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

RECIPE: Everybody in the Pool! Easy 15 min recipe.

This is another "clean out the fridge before the veggies go bad" dish. And by using a steam-in-the-bag shortcut I was able to complete in less than 15 min!

The point is to use fresh veggies like broccoli, roasted red peppers and squash to make a colorful and healthy dish. I try to think of my dishes as vegetarian with meat (lol) meaning chocked full of fresh veggies but an addition of meat for flavor and because I married a carnivore and I was raised on meat and starch so its hard for me to feel full if there isn't meat. Does that make me weird? If not, there are a laundry list of other things that do so I've got that covered.

What you need:
  • A large pot with cover
  • (Optional) Turkey Kielbasa sliced small or chopped
  • Med white onion chopped
  • 1 fresh bunch of broccoli cut into florets and pieces of stalk
  • 1 jar of roasted red pepper cut into smaller pieces (I used Table Joy brand)
  • 2 yellow squash or zucchini sliced or chopped
  • 1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth (replace with oil from red pepper jar for vegan version)
  • Cooked rice or my shortcut Steam-in-Bag white rice with peas, corn, and carrots

1. Cook rice and put side
2. (Skip to #3 if doing vegan version) Slice kielbasa then cut slices in half and begin browning in med-high pot
3. Add chopped onion and chicken broth (or oil from jar of roasted red pepper) and cover
4. Add chopped squash and roasted red pepper, stir well
5 Add broccoli, stir well
6. Incorporate your cooked rice, stir well, recover for about 5 min then Serve!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!
Get Paid to Tweet!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fresh Start

I don't set resolutions. Probably because I know its unlikely I will stick to them.  But what I do like about celebrating New Years is the feeling of pressing the reset button. NYE is a sort of finish line allowing us to take stock, manage progress over the past year, access what needs to change. I applied this to my business even though Gumdrop Swap's boutique has not been open a full year (opened April 6th). And I determined that I was not addressing the needs of every time of customer that Gumdrop Swap can appeal to.

The key to being a successful small business is being able to adapt. Over these 8 months as a retail store owner I have learned a lot about my community and the type of customers I attract. I was surprised at how many people come in  looking for gift for a family member, co-worker, and friend. I prominently place all new items that have tags out so they're easy to access to those kind of shoppers. And I offer free gift wrap, box or bags. I even showcase samples of gift baskets and socks rose bouquets which can be custom ordered.

I initially designed the business for large families who have been storing (read: hoarding) clothing and other baby wares in their home. I figured they would benefit most. They would be so happy to clean out closets, basements, and attics and be able to get things and clothing the kids needed in return. And these families immediately saw the value in a 3 month membership to the Swap & Save Club.

But I had not anticipated people would be turned off by the commitment. I would hear things like "Well, I need to go home and go through the kids closets" (as if they were unsure if they'd have anything to swap) and I thought to myself, "Um, ok, unless your kids are done growing, they are going to outgrow some things in the next few months." Or, people would say "I wish I knew about this before! I just gave away a bunch of stuff." I had to figure out how to motivate those people to come swap even only a few items at a time. The whole idea is to get you all to stop hoarding and waiting. So, I decided to revamp the Gumdrop Swap business model slightly to hopefully appeal to all.

I got to dust off my arsenal of art/design skils (disclaimer: so out of practice) to create a few simple illustrated steps. So I present them to you here. (click on it to open separately and control speed of slides etc)

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!Get Paid to Tweet! http://ad.ly/publisher/refer/251902558