believers & broken snow globes & christmas ferrets

I love Christmas. In a completely different way than ever before. Before Jeff, I mean. And before after Jeff, too. Especially, in the middle.

I wish I could have spent a believer’s Christmas with Sally and Nannee. It’s only being a believer that makes it ok now. Well, more than Ok. My Christmas’s now are Thankful.

Oh, it’s still about the presents, but with a difference. I enjoy being the Christmas ferret. I’m sure I’m not the one out there trying to find something that will mean something more than just a gift. I listen all year in a kleptomaniac sort of way, hiding away personal tidbits. I suppose you could say I hoard memories.

One of which came to mind while I was drafting this week’s entry. The only thing that broke on our move from the townhouse was a Christmas gift we had purchased for Sally. I discovered it while my mother was helping us unpack in our new home. I didn’t grow up with snow globes. I know it sounds silly, but I didn’t know they could easily break.

It was irreparably broken. Another thing I didn’t know about real snow globes – the bottoms don’t twist off and globes aren’t always replaceable. I immediately burst into tears, and Jeff immediately promised we’d get another. It wouldn’t be hers but it would still remind me of her.

We made the trek to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth. It wasn’t winter but it never even crossed either of our minds that we wouldn’t find one there. Or that the particular one we were looking for would be discontinued. Still, we were well into the days of internet, so Jeff consoled me with the backup promise of finding it on line. He scoured, I scoured.

We both came up empty; just like the place in my heart I was sure would never mend from losing this piece of Sally.

In fact, it still bothers me so much that I interrupted my story myself just now, opened a new tab, and searched. My heart did a funny flip-flop as the very first image to pop up was my missing treasure. He was perfect. Just as I remembered. Even came with the original box. I couldn’t wait to buy him, my mind already jumping ahead: I’ll put it in my cart and then I’ll go get my wallet. I clicked on the image and a whole lot of other items came up. I carefully scrolled through and reviewed all 2 pages, twice. My shoulders slumped. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy.

But then again, it was. Just that easy to remember how much I thought it looked like her spirit. Easy to remember how her eyes lit up. Easy to remember her laugh. Just that easy to remember, it’s the memories that matter, not the matter of the memories.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 12 Its not the matter of your memories jakorte 12 12 2017
Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why We Hold On: Sentimental Items

Snow Globes: All About

And Just Because: Frosty the Snowman

 

Talk Turkey to Me

The first time Jeff used the turkey fryer, it was awesome. He followed directions,  precisely. No matter he was outside in the snow behind the townhouse and not too far from a neighboring house. It was quick and juicy and we vowed we’d never succumb to long-cooking turkeys again.

The second time, there was a little clean-up disaster as Jeff tried to return the used oil to the plastic jug. Unfortunately, the roiled oil was still too hot, melted the jug and ruined his boots. We were both very glad he was wearing full coverage foot wear and not his usual winter sandals.

The third time involved 2 Jeffs and a plan to cook chicken wings out of the way of the freezing wind, in a garage. For some reason, it took an awfully long time to heat. So, they waited and waited and finally decided to check out the problem by lifting the lid. The result was a flume of combustion that blackened the garage ceiling and singed eyebrows. The temperature gauge had not been in contact with the oil, so it was plenty hot and smokin’. The result was a heavily burned, super hot pot that ended up coming to rest in a big pile of cul-de-sac snow.

The fourth time, breaking in a recently purchased new pot, the turkey didn’t cook all the way through in some spots. Could have been the pot needed to be seasoned first; could have been we bought the lower grade peanut oil at a discount store, rather than the good stuff at Cabela’s.

The fifth time, nearly a year later, we took it along with us to a family gathering. To fry the main course turkey, of course. Apparently, the new pot must have not enjoyed the infield at MIS and/or disliked living in the shed. Because, as oil went in, oil came out, creating another slick situation.

So, off we turkey trotted off to Meijer, returning with a new pot, more oil and an ugly pair of fish slippers Jeff planned on bring to his family’s Christmas exchange. I’m not quite sure which brotherly direction it went, but one of them had either chased Jeff or been chased by Jeff with an actual fish head.

After attempt #5 and negative incident #4, the fryer was unceremoniously and unsadly retired.

Optimistically, we opted for a smoker….

Quote for the Week:

2017 11 14 when frying a turkey for the first time jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Turkey Fryer Fire Song: by William Shatner (video)

Turkey Fryer Safety:  by State Farm (list)

Turkey Fryer Reviews: 2017 Top Picks

Bonus Picture: First Time!

Jeff Turkey Fryer (2)

 

 

Fart Suite: Reluctance & Success

“I told you not to buy the Fart Corn!” I agitatedly exclaimed. “That’s just going to be a tacky waste of money.”  

“I don’t think so,” Jeff answered, reasonably, as always. “I think it’ll sell.”

Even worse, in my opinion, was that Jeff had purchased what he nicknamed “The Fart Suite.” Themed merchandise included 2 Old Fart hats, 2 Old Fart aprons, 6 boxes of Old Fart beans in 3 versions with various heats, 4 boxes of Fart Corn microwavable popcorn.

Everything else was fantastic. It took us about an hour to empty the boxes and gaze in wonder at the beautiful mess we’d made in the middle of our living room. Pieces of clingy Styrofoam peanuts attached themselves to Miss Fred speckling her with white dots like a reverse Dalmatian. Sadie didn’t care about the statics, she was too busy going wild over and chasing the crumpled paper purposely tossed to remove her curious nose from the goods.

We’d purchased two of each product to deepen the presentation, plus three of some things because Jeff felt he couldn’t recommend what we hadn’t tried. After a brief debate we settled on a presentation package. It made sense to grocery aisle the salsas in one spot, sauces another, all of the popcorn, chips candy and snacks, etc. In the end, though, we’d decided to shelve alphabetically for easy brand location and easier inventory.

Re-unpacking our goods in the store made us both a little giddy, and soon we were laughing over the ridiculously hard question of which end of the store the A’s should begin. We both beamed happily as we broke down the and hauled out the last box. Actually, Jeff hauled out the trash. It was while he was gone, that I saw it.

Jeff had apparently felt the need to ignore the alphabet and place the fart suite directly inside the door where it would never be missed, by anyone. I stealthily moved it to a less obvious spot, obviously between E and G.

A few days later, I noticed it had just as stealthily reappeared in it’s eye-grabbing spot. Only now, it was further emphasized by the adjacent wall hanging ball caps and hook swinging aprons. 

Wouldn’t you know, the very first item we sold out of was the dang Fart Corn. All 3 boxes went. Immediately.

Jeff couldn’t have been happier. At the other end of what I had envisioned as the classy, high-end the spectrum, I was pretty pleased, too. Sweet salsas and unusual savories were moving, too.

So much so, that two weeks after opening, we submitted another order to refill the outs, including the dang Fart Corn .

Quote for the Week: 

 

2017 11 07 its a lot easier to figure out who customer is jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:  

 Display: Organize

Do What You Love: Yes

Do What You Love: No

 

 

Stocking Sauce

Once in motion, we spent every spare moment immersed. I’d come home from work and ask Jeff what he’d accomplished during the day and what we were going to work that night.

One evening he replied that he’d spent the day ‘getting sauced.’ The next day he’d said, “I got more sauced!” Each time a creative answer followed. “I’m having a saucy day!” “I got saucified!” “Saucing!” 

We spent three weekends preparing, in grocery stores, on the web, on Food Network, and on the phone locating our opening stock.

In stores, because we didn’t want to duplicate easily found sauces, and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to match the big store low price.

On the web, looking for other hot sauce ventures: makers, sellers, stores, web sites. Yes, it’s true. We culled the names of the more popular brands and small start-ups.

On Food Network because BBQ challenges, and the many city specific food discovery shows featuring small business owners and local specialties.

There were a ton of tiny outfits. We learned that even if a popular brand was already stocked in mainstream or gourmet specialty stores, often the hotter-hottest of the line was not.

Jeff made friends. And, I’m talking more than acquaintances. Even over the phone, he had the gift of friendliness.

Within a few days free samples began rolling in. Some came from new makers/suppliers Jeff discovered. Two of the larger branded names couldn’t accommodate our small 2-4 or at most 6 bottle orders, but they were willing to provide the name of businesses who would.

Jeff spoke to both sources and within a day, after Jeff and I had agreed and disagreed on some items, our first order was placed.

The disagreement was about anything with the name or word ‘fart’ or ‘ass’ included. I know it’s more of a man thing than a Jeff thing, but no matter what, I just didn’t find it funny. I never understood the guffawing over the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, either. Especially after seeing it for the umpteenth time. I will admit the only time I’ve ever found a fart funny was when Peter Sellers was involved.

My vision was more gourmet, experimental, unique. Jeff didn’t think anyone would ever be interested in olive salsa or crab salsa, but his approach was, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.” 

On a Wednesday, two big boxes of serious shipment had arrived.  I only remember it was a Wednesday because we were debating the merits of waiting until we could get the shipments to the store or opening them now and just being excited.

 With enthusiasm we tore open the loot. The first thing Jeff pulled out delighted him and annoyed me…

Quotes (from friends and I) for the Week:

2017 10 30 The Tecumseh Herald Oct 2004 opening jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 Funny?: flatulence

What?: popcorn farts

How?: like this

Photo Essay Interlude …

Because old printed pictures tell a good story ….

First, the entire 8 foot by 8 foot Michigan Hot Sauce Club store! (See “Club?” blog)

Hand stamped spirals, hot pepper curtain, plastic shelves, and register counter.

2017 10 24 MHSC Store Layout jakorte

Next, the continuation of the driveway corn experience! (See “Canned” blog.)

We cooked 3 – yes 3 – pots of corn. Canned some plain, some with green peppers, chili peppers, onions and celery.

2017 10 24 Canned corning jakorte 10 24 2017

 

Plus, Jeff’s sense of humor and creativity – cabbage and cookies!

2017 10 24 Jeff took this picture cabbage

Stay tuned for next week’s blog: Stockings

 

 

 

 

 

Club?

(First, an embarrassing tidbit. So, I’ve mistakenly miss-remembered a crucial detail about our store. It was not 10 x 10. All of the newspaper article clippings I’ve saved clearly say that the space was even ridiculously smaller at only 8 x 8.  This makes me laugh. As do the many news articles, which I’ll share coming up.)

Jeff got to thinking… maybe having ‘Tecumseh’ in our name was too specific, too limiting. “Maybe we’ll want to open another store, someday, in another town.” he adorably, optimistically supposed.

I told him I liked the way he was thinking, and got to thinking, myself, too. I threw out, “Michigan Hot Sauce Company,” but that still seemed plain. And, then, from nowhere, I surprised myself and Jeff, too, by stating, “Michigan. Hot Sauce. Club.”

“Club?” Jeff wondered aloud in my direction, “but, we can’t call it a club if we’re not a club…”

“Well,” I started, “technically… we could be.” Looking at our dream blueprint, I pointed out that we were halfway there. We were already planning a monthly newsletter mailing; we already were planning on a ‘club’ type frequent buyer card.

All that was missing was meetings.

“We’re gonna having meetings? About what?” Jeff wanted to know.

“Well, maybe not ‘meetings’ exactly.” I explained. “I’m thinking special club member invitation only taste tests. Cooking demos. You love hot sauce and know so much about it. Do you think we could ask our members share recipes and make a cookbook out of that?”

Jeff’s big grin split and lit up his face. “You’re a genius,” he said. “I love the way you think!”

With a wonderful name on our lips, a license number to provide, we went into fast action. By this time, we only had two and a half weeks left in our promise to be open in three weeks. Timing was important because we wanted to be ready by the big ‘Grand Opening’ announcing the newest stores in the mall on September 23rd, 2004, and to be sure we still enough time to get our name out there before the Christmas and gift giving season.

We split up to divide and conquer and briefed each other throughout the day and every evening on our progress.

I had: décor, licensing, marketing, banking, budgeting.

Jeff had: fixtures, locating a manufacturer for our salsa (because we didn’t have and couldn’t afford a commercial kitchen), and the important cornerstone of hot sauce.

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 17 its embarrassing to have to fact check your own life jakorte 10 17 2017

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

About That: Memory

Fact Checking: Memories

Broadway Cat and: Memories

 

Pampered Peppers

After Jeff had been off work for a significant length of time, we co-decided he needed something to do. He took to gardening the 4’ x 6’ landing of the staircase leading down to our back yard. This became our first official salsa garden. It was truly amazing how many plants were living on the balcony and hanging off the wooden railing. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and cilantro thrived for a few reasons.

First, was the amount of TLC Jeff gave our greens. Second, was the fact that the planters that hung over the edge were really difficult for critters to get at, especially since they were at the top of a 7-foot stair case. Third, was that the bugs didn’t rise that high, either. Fourth, was our Sadie squirrel deterrent. For a little girl, she had an astonishingly loud voice. We saw quite a few early morning varmits take a startled dive over the edge. Jeff would always check, peering over the railing to be sure that the creatures weren’t hurt. There never was one that was.

The garden was awesome but didn’t really keep him as busy as he’d thought. Even with Sadie to take care of, being our designated chef and chief launderer, Jeff was becoming bored. Too many hours of TV and internet surfing lost their luster, so he wanted to find something that would bring in a little extra income. I supported that, too. Jeff was a people person, and the lack of daily socializing depressed him.

I’d been to a few Pampered Chef parties and I always would end up asking Jeff what he’d like me to get for him, because he was the one who’d be using the gadgets. With the help of his sister, Nicole, a consultant herself, and the input of a male friend who had begun consulting himself, Jeff saw an opportunity. He could share his love of cooking with the guys he knew were also cooks. For those who weren’t, he’d be able to give good recommendations as to which gifts his buddies should buy the women in their lives.

The things I remember most about his trial host party are the many men who came, and the constant hilarity and laughter. So much so that Nicole was forced off track numerous times, and ended up laughing so much herself. I didn’t actually attend the show. I don’t remember what the food demonstrations were, at all. I spent most of my time in the kitchen, staying out of the way.

I think  I remember who amongst Jeff’s friends, former co-workers and family came. But the important part is that I love you all for showing up. I still get teary-eyes about it, too. It did so much for his spirits to have personal connections there with him for a little while.

For Jeff, the term ‘friends’ included family and the term ‘family’ included friends. All of Jeff’s friends were close friends, and his close friends included his cousins and siblings, as well.

For me, the best term I can think of now to describe you all is, tribe.

Quote for the Week: (minor apologies for the awkward physical splicing of 18 year old old-fashioned prints.)

2017 09 11 anything can bloom anywhere you plant it jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Pampered: Chef

Social vs: Lonely

Balcony: Garden

[j1]