Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Funny...

I've received plenty of hate mail because of my last post- most of them full of lies, name-calling, and remarkably trying to defend a particular writer who in no way, shape, or form was pointed to in the post(NO ONE was called out in particular in ANY way). But for every anonymous nastygram(ALL the nasties were anonymous. Seems they don't have the courage to be firm in what they believe and put their name on it?) I received at least five emails thanking me for telling it like it is, and encouraging me to continue standing up even if I'm standing alone. A good friend recently gave me this analogy and it's PERFECT here: There is an enormous elephant in the room, and not only are people ignoring it, but now the elephant is crapping all over the place, destroying the goodness around it, and nobody has the fortitude to stand up and say, 'HELLO! THERE IS AN ELEPHANT IN HERE AND HE STINKS! LETS GET HIM OUT!'

Case in point: Just last night a WAHM sent me an email saying a customer had asked her to do a garment with a clearly trademarked symbol on it. She politely declined siting legal issues. The customer came back insistent, exclaiming how there are SO many Etsy and similar WAHM shops that do exactly what she's asking, so how can it be illegal?

On another good note, I reposted this on a WAHM chat group and we have had a really great conversation about the topic, discussing ethics, helping each other figure out where the lines are, not only legally but ethically. We've not always agreed, but we've been truthful and discussed the topic and treated each other with respect. That is so encouraging and makes all the nastiness and lies I've been deleting here daily worth it. :-)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why NOT Take the High Road?

This blog has been more than a year in the making. The initial title was "No Good Idea Goes Uncopied." While copying is the main topic, it's the true root of the issue that is the problem.
I work in a very competitive field. That may seem silly to say, but it is absolutely true. Small, boutique-style online shops abound by the millions. That is not an exaggeration. Everyone with a basic sewing machine and pair of needles sees the successful shops and seems to say, "Oh, I can totally do that!" So they try. And that's not to say they shouldn't. A very talented, internationally-known WAHM who happens to be a dear friend recently said to me, "There's room for everyone in this pond." She's right! Creating for many is therapeutic, as well as a source of income for millions. Some of the huge corporations we see today started in some one's living room, garage, or kitchen.
The problem comes when people stop relying on their own ideas and creative juices and start copying other successful designers/makers/creators in an attempt to snatch a piece of their pie. Or perhaps they want to cash-in on a world-wide popularity of licensed characters, names, or fads. Or maybe a small business STARTS by seeing some one else's product/design/idea and attempting to do the same. If she can do it, why can't I? It's called the free market in capitalism. According to Merriam Webster, free market is, "an economic market operating by free competition."

Then comes the old adage: Just because you can doesn't mean you should. And for many reasons!

Why shouldn't a WAHM create and sell goods using the likenesses of Hello Kitty, Superman, Twilight, etc? Well for starters- IT'S ILLEGAL. Companies like Sanyo, DC Comics and Disney did the legal footwork to have these things copyrighted an trademarked. To use them is infringement and illegal. It opens the maker up to lawsuits of up the three times the profit on said items. Believe it or not, yes, there ARE legal aides and interns who spend their hours searching for infringers and sending out the classic "cease and desist" notices. Haven't received one yet? You will. Even if you don't, does that make your actions any less theft or any less illegal? Nope. Is it okay to rob some one's house if the owners aren't home and there's no security system? Is it okay to run red lights if there is no intersection camera or police office standing by? For the record: Even if some one is not standing by forcing you to obey the law, you should still obey the law.


Why shouldn't a WAHM create and sell goods purposefully identical to the original work of another? For starters- respect. Where ever that WAHM got that idea she worked HARD to design it and make it her own original work, regardless of what it is.
Secondly- human decency. Her sales support her family in some way, shape, or form. When you steal from a WAHM, you steal from her children. Really now. You want to go there?
Thirdly- pride. Have you no pride in what you make? Does it bring you joy knowing you copied the work of another instead of creating your own masterpiece? If you are in this business then you MUST be creative. Do you not trust yourself to develop your own incredible works of art? YOU'RE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE! TRUST YOURSELF!


Why shouldn't a WAHM create and sell goods from a WAHM-created pattern with terms strictly forbidding it? Once again we're coming across this concept of respect. I know it seems a long lost art in today's society, but it is vital to human kind. Patterns are another one of those areas where legally you CAN, but SHOULD you?
 I realize there is much controversy surrounding the licensing of knit patterns- and any pattern that is for sale. The battle of legal necessity versus ethics will probably never be over, but my opinion on the matter is this:
Being licensed to sell something from another WAHM's pattern is an issue of respect. I spent months- if not years working hard, took meticulous notes, spent hours editing, thousands of dollars in resources, and repeatedly tested to make my patterns ready for use. Do me the honor of becoming officially licensed to sell the knits made from my unique patterns and I'll list you on my store as some one who respects my work enough to do so. I'm truly honored when ANY knitter respects me enough to go that extra mile. 

WAHMS need to RESPECT one another's work, not steal from each other. We are already fighting the battle against cheap, imported goods in the corporate world and trying to prove ourselves as worthy of the dollars spent. When you cheapen your goods, steal because you can get away with it, and disrespect each other proves you have no pride in your work or yourself. Again- YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS! The high road is not the easy road, but it is the road that leads to a better end. You may feel like the loan moral sheep in a pack of hungry wolves sometimes, but what is the point of being a WAHM in the first place? To stay home, raise your children yourself, and make a living while you're at it. We teach our kids that lying, stealing, and plagiarism are wrong. Wake-up call: This is not one of those 'Do what I say not what I do,' things. Your children are watching and learning all the time. Show them the high road. Show them it's okay to stand up for what's right even if you're standing alone. You will ALL be better off for it in the end. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

DIY Roasted Red Peppers

As a professional knitter I spend a lot of time sitting, knitting, and if my three children are asleep that means the television is on. Because I am a work-at-home-mom running a business by myself, raising three small children, homeschooling a kindergartner and special-needs preschooler(while simultaneously entertaining a toddler), doing my best to grow my own produce and make every bit of our food from scratch, on a tight budget, and preservative-free, I don't have time or brain power at the end of the day to make an effort to keep up with a series with any type of a story line. That leaves me with three choices: Food Network, Cooking Channel, or National Geographic. Let's be honest- at the end of the day the last thing I want to do is wrack my brain with further tension and becoming upset over Whale Wars or Animal Cops, or frightened by a new, mutating species of bug, or the massive snakes being set loose in the Florida Everglades by irresponsible pet-owners when the vermin are too large for cages and how they're now migrating North. So there it is: food wins.
During my hours of foody-tv I have actually learned A LOT! New techniques, ingredients, ways to do gourmet at home, and just all around shown me things to try in the kitchen that I'd never thought I could. So while I can't climb on board the Sea Shepherd and scourge the Asian whale market or wrestle an albino boa in the Florida Keys, I have been introduced to the world of things like quinoa, jicama, and poaching meats. 
Oh, and roasted red peppers. I am not a pepper-lover, per se, but I don't mind them either cooked or raw. It had never occurred to me, though, that roasting the pepper would bring out any other flavor or texture than I'd ever had from a pepper. Then one day I went to Panera. The panini I had was delicious, and there was this one ingredient in it that I just couldn't pin-point the flavor of, but it was the key to deliciousness in that sandwich. I grabbed a to-go menu and read the description while making sure cream-cheesey finger-smears on the table and booth were kept to a minimum, and cinnamon crunch bagels were eaten in bites, not stuffed whole into little mouths(mmmm, crunchy, crystaline sweetness on top of fluffy, chewy, bagel goodness!). That's when roasted red peppers jumped out at me. That had to be it. I hadn't even realized I was eating peppers, but that was the only mystery in my sandwich. Every shopping trim after that, a jar of roasted red peppers was added to my cart and I put them in everything imaginable- pasta, quesadillas, omelettes, pizza, panini- you name it. YUM! 
One evening I sat on the couch knitting a tiny Schlüttli with a silk-blend yarn, the bliss of sleeping children floating down the stairs, and watched to my amazement as Alex Guarnaschelli made a pasta dish with roasted red pepper sauce. And she roasted her own peppers. What? You mean I can do this MYSELF?! I make my own bread, yogurt, tortillas, salsa, sauces, roux, grow my produce, sew and knit my kids' clothes- AND NOW YOU'RE TELLING ME I CAN ROAST MY OWN PEPPERS?! This may seem ridiculous to some, but I. Was. Thrilled. THRILLED. This was new to me. I didn't know if they'd taste as delicious as the accouterments I'd come to crave in nearly every meal, but I was going to do it myself
The next shopping trip I left the 12-ounce jar of store-brand roasted red peppers that cost $3.49 on the shelf and instead spent $1.99 on six beautiful, fresh red bell peppers. As soon as the groceries were put away, I did exactly as Alex Guarnaschelli. And now I'm going to show you. 

First, rinse the peppers and put them on a clean, dry  baking sheet and turned the top broiler on the oven.



Then move the top rack down one. You don't want the peppers touching the broiler itself and the skin can bubble as it heats, so make sure it's low enough that this doesn't happen.







Close the oven and let the peppers roast for 3-4 minutes, or until the skin  is turning orange and has blackened in spots. Don't worry! This is just the skin burning. The flesh underneath is roasting, not burning. Using tongs, turn each pepper and allow them to roast until every side is orange and blackened. 




Pull the peppers out of the oven(don't forget to turn off the broiler! If your house is a constant dull roar of tiffs, fits, and sword fights like mine, you need this reminder) and immediately put them in a large glass (plastic works in a pinch, too) bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pulling tight and ensuring it's sealed, then put the bowl in the refrigerator. This needs to be done quickly because the super-hot peppers will immediately begin to heat and melt the plastic wrap if you're not quick. 

Let the peppers rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes, but a full hour is better when the peppers have completely cooled. Once cooled, take the plastic wrap off, pour the extra liquid out of the bowl,  and one by one peal and seed the peppers. The peals will slip right off with less effort than a hard-boiled egged, and if you slice the pepper open the seeds pretty much slide right out with t pepper's inner membrane. 
That's it! You can leave them whole, halved, slice them into strips, or dice them- whatever is easiest for you in future meal prep(I prefer strips). You can do one pepper for the actual meal you're making, or you can do a huge batch of 6-8 at a time like I do, and keep them in 1-quart storage container in the fridge. They keep nicely for 2 or so weeks, and now YOU can have people wondering what that delicious mystery ingredient in your cooking is. 

The verdict: They taste EXACTLY like the store-bought canned roasted red peppers, and they cost half the price for twice as much- not to mention they're preservative-free!