Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Summer Birth and Death of a Whirlybird Helicopter

Was watching Pawn Stars on A&E the other day and the guy actually bought a damaged helicopter! Then, he added about $110,000 in repairs to resell it at around $150,000! Wow. Well, that brought me back to the time when I was just a young girl of 19 and helped build a Bell helicopter, from scratch. It was a Whirlybird-type similar to the one you can see on the M.A.S.H. series. Big bubble cab, skinny tail, horizontal rotors on top and ski-thin skids. Don't remember how much it cost my buddies, way back then, but I know it was nowhere near $100,000!

To the left is a current picture of a 'kit' helicopter. Ours looked more like a dragonfly with a blunter, higher, face. We were going to use it for beach rides.

Yes, I say "we," because "we" were The Three Musketeers that summer: Jim, Tom, and me. Can't remember how we got together. We just did. And they needed me, really needed me, they said, because someone (SOMEONE, as it was so gallantly put) had to tear open and count the little plastic bags of parts that came every week and then place them in just the right order on the big sheet we had spread out on the floor of the rented steel quonset hut at the Opa-Locka (opa tisha waka laka) Air Base. In other words, I was a girl and that was the only job open.

So, there I was, in the summer, in Florida, in a steel building, away from trees -- forget balmy breezes -- 'glowing' (men sweat; women glow) profusely in the heat. It was fun.

We were a perfect team and really did work well, together. Jim had the know-how and a life-long desire to build his own helicopter, played the guitar and sang the beejeebies out of Nat King Cole's Route 66, too! He was a pilot with his own two-seater Piper Cub that he used for aerial advertising. Tom was his best buddy, an engineer between jobs with an open summer, who thoroughly understood diagrams, engines, etc. My contribution was sorting, pre-assembly of parts (widgets, in the catalogs), keeping track of parts, reading instructions aloud, swapping out tools, and making coffee and sandwich runs, as needed. It took almost the whole summer to finish.
This Safari looks like our Helicopter, pontoons and no doors!
Jim decided he didn't have enough money for doors, by the time the pontoons had arrived, and we really didn't need them, after all. But, we did need the pontoons because we would not only be giving short rides up and down Miami Beach, we'd be flying over and landing on the Intracoastal Waterway, too.

It's almost impossible to describe the excitement of that first time the engine started up and that old helicopter just hummed, waiting to get up into the air.  Suzy (christened by Jim) had entered our lives in little plastic bags, sent by the vendor in an orderly fashion meant to make the kit easier to construct. The propellers and side sections came full-sized, but everything else was built up out of those little packets. And, now, Suzy was going to take us up, way up, into the air!

Belted in, Jim at the controls, me riding shotgun, we rose off the pavement and began to soar over the trees towards the beach. Don't know why Tom didn't want to fly that day, but he didn't; and I didn't push. I wanted to go! I was young enough, then, to believe I would live forever -- me and my vertigo. I didn't care because Tom's reluctance meant I got a first-flight ride -- and, it was awesome. The pontoons weren't attached and visibility was, well, very, very, clear -- like, there-really-is-nothing-under-you-but-air clear! I fell in love -- not with Jim -- with helicopters. They can still turn my head.

Success! Business was brisk and reservations backed up for days. The little helicopter was beginning to pay for itself. As summer began to close, my own schedule got very busy, Tom got a job, and our little trio broke up. Jim kept giving rides and, then, disaster struck. He never understood why he let it happen. We rehashed it to death, trying to figure out how he could have been so taken in, but there it was -- he believed some fast-talking guy who convinced him that he had flown helicopters in the army. He made Jim an offer he couldn't refuse to let him take the helicopter up, by himself; but, not before he signed a waiver of liability. Jim said it was obvious from take-off, the fellow didn't really know what he was doing and wasn't in the air fifteen minutes before he was plummeting into the ocean. He wasn't hurt; but, the helicopter -- our Suzy -- was destroyed. Rebuilding it would have cost more than Jim had and his heart just wasn't in it, anymore.

Think you might want to build your own? Check out this faq at Safari Helicopters.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ah, Sweet Smell of Success - Decorated Sugar Cubes

My philosophy has always been that you can sell anything. All you had to do was find something you wanted to sell for more than it cost to make it. So, let me tell you about my first home-based business.

I decorated sugar cubes. Yes, you heard me, I decorated sugar cubes. I wanted a business that could be done from my home.  And, with caring for a 15-month-old toddler, taking care of hubby and home, and, another baby on the way, there was a limit to how much energy could be devoted to a business.

A Cup of Tea, A Lump of Sugar,  and Inspiration

I had had some success decorating birthday cakes for family and friends. Some were so pretty, it was hard to eat them! My friends were constantly asking me when I was going to start a real business decorating cakes at home. Then, one day during a visit with my next-door neighbor, as she added a small sugar cube to her tea, inspiration hit. 

Everyone enjoys having pretty tables for luncheons, parties, and weddings, I thought. Almost everyone can decorate a cake. I would have to be different and offer something unique to the ladies of my town. Instead of just one design on small petit fours found in bakeries, I would offer seven designs per box, using holidays, special occasions, or a client’s theme. Choosing square cubes rather than rectangular, each box would contain exactly 25 exquisitely decorated sugar cubes.

Decorated Sugar Cubes, a Craft Fair, and Publicity

My most expensive home business purchases included a set of miniature decorator tips, boxes for packaging, and professional business cards. (This was pre-computer days!) I sketched several thematic designs, created a flyer explaining my new home business, and stuck them under windshields at the malls. The designs were not only unique, they were realistically executed and, before long, my little business began to generate a small but nice income.

One day, during a visit, my pushy neighbor said I should exhibit at an upcoming local craft fair. (Am I not swollen with child?, I thought...) "Well, why not", I said. So, that is exactly what I did. This resulted in two very interesting follow-up visitations.

In the first instance, because my craft was so unusual and the Craft Fair people were overheard discussing a category for me by the local reporter/editor/Avon Lady (this was a very small town), I was interviewed about my home business for the Sunday edition of our local paper.

Imagine my surprise that Sunday morning to find a picture of my toddler watching me decorate sugar cubes at my kitchen table, with an accompanying article that covered the ENTIRE front page of the Sunday’s Food Section. (My husband, in passing by, less-than-graciously offered that he had seen a synopsis of WWII in less space; but, it could have been that he hadn’t had his coffee, yet.) Serendipitous advertising, for sure, that brought me a solid high-end clientele.

Second Visitors More Ominous in Sugar Cube Business

The second instance provided visitors that were a little more formal and ominous – and (I quickly ascertained from their proffered cards), that they were from the, uh, Vice Squad. Did I mention this took place in the late sixties?  Or, that I offered a variety of flavors, in addition to my beautiful decorations? This option, they informed me, was the focus of their surprise visit, and could we have a little talk...

Busy raising my family, I gave little thought to the dark side of the sixties -- psychedelic drugs, colorful vans, or, for instance, the part sugar cubes played in that scenario. Let's just say, as it turned out, these Vice Squad gentlemen held a more au courant view. Point of fact, they had come for random sample boxes of my packaged sugar cubes to take back to forensics for a “flavor” breakdown. I told them that they’d have to pay for anything they wanted to take.

Oh, my! Well, ever thirsty for knowledge, imagine my joy when I was gratuitously instructed on the powers of local law enforcement. Free of charge! They were able to clear up my misconception about what does and does not have to be paid for when you’re under the spotlight, so to speak. But, holding my heavy-with-second-child tummy whilst declaring my innocence and explaining all the hard work I'd been through, they proved the better person (in spite of their superior position) -- and graciously paid for their two sample boxes.

Within two days, I was cleared of all suspicion and my little niche business flourished for another four years before my husband was transferred. Decorated sugar cubes! Whodda thunk it...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hotpants from Handbags and Handguns Responds!

Hotpants(tm) has responded to my eight questions from The Mom Chef's Pay-It-Forward-Tagging Just take a look at that lovely lady and son -- tell me that's not someone you would love to have living right, next door.

She has a really cool site and a great way of presenting celebrities (Tinseltown Takes) for the week. Her pictures and fantastic commentary will have you coming back for more, so you might as well follow her, too. While you're there, please give her some comment love!

Here are her answers:

1. If you could change places with anyone in the world, who would that be, and why?
I want to be a female version of Ryan Seacrest. He seems to lead a full life and get by with only a couple of hours of sleep. He gets to travel a lot, too.

   2. How has your packing for travel changed over the years?

I make a list. I check it twice. I don’t worry about carrying too much stuff because that just saves more room in my luggage for the new stuff I buy. 
   3. Did you have a favorite pet when you were growing up? Why this one?
I had various cats and dogs over the years. My  favorite pet would have to be my finch, Chipper. Those birds aren’t supposed to live very long, but I had that thing from first or second grade until my senior year of high school. I got quite attached to that little stinker.
4. What was the hardest subject for you to study in school, and why?
Algebra; numbers and letters should not go together to solve a math problem.

5. Did your first love become the person you thought they would or did they totally surprise you? How?

I think he turned out to be exactly what I thought he’d be. He’s a divorced police officer and a great dad. I could have predicted the divorce, the job and the love of his kids. Ha!
6. Would you marry your first crush, if given the chance? Why or why not?

Well, that’d probably be Bret Michaels so I’m glad I didn’t.

7. If you were asked to speak before a roomful of seniors, what would you tell them?

I’d tell them that their parents are right about almost
everything so listen to them. I’d also tell them to live every day like it’s their last because people aren’t kidding when they say time flies after graduation.

8. Have you written down favorite memories to share with the next generations? Why not?

I guess my blog counts in a way, but nothing really on paper.

Oh, did I tell you that she also loves vampires?! Go, have some fun, come back, and let us know what you like the most about her blog -- and, don't forget the comment love...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving, Now!

I heard Christmas music at the Caribou, last night! Yes! Christmas music! Do you want me to sing it, for you? Ahem, lalalalala "...Chestnuts roasting on an..." I was so disoriented, I just handed my list to my gentleman caller and said, "You're late!"

I love holidays -- all holidays! And, I definitely know that my neighbors love them, too, because they start celebrating them so early! I'm all for lawn ornaments and pretty trees festooned with garlands of this month's special event. I really am. I swear it. But...

Is it really necessary to set out Halloween decorations the week before September ends? Do they have to stay up through Thanksgiving Day, only to be replaced with Christmas
decorations? What does this mean to us less than johnny-on-the-spot neighbors? Does it show a lack of love of the holiday to not add our own display of this year's new caricatures? I don't know; I really don't know.

What I do know is:
  • It irritates me, no end, to see how commercial each holiday has become, and, then, not putting up my own Easter tree.
  • I'm not always in agreement with choices made for publicly expressing the joy of that particular season.
  • There's always one neighbor who goes w-a-a-a-y overboard, covering every nook and cranny of their roof, yard, and car.
  • I hate feeling GUILTY about not following suit.
That's it, in a nutshell. I'm guilty over not putting up my own
display with the same fervor as my neighbors -- especially, when every visitor to our neighborhood is drawn to my lawn by the brilliant display of... no wooden creatures, no air-filled greetings, no sparkling decorations... just, lots of empty.

Have I created a "them-against-me" situation? Do I need to watch out for tp-ing next year? Should I move? All of these thoughts are racing through my head whilst I try to resolve my own feelings about caving in and festooning.

My personal decorating pattern means the tree goes up on December 15th and comes down January 15th. It's an eco-conscious artificial tree, filled with the memories of every Christmas before.  

I love sitting by my tree with all its lights and personal decorations created by my family through the years. At the end of the day, when all the gifts have been opened and visitors have gone, it's my special time to enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, rocking and savoring newly created memories along with those of family and friends who are no longer with me, except on memorial ornaments. I want to enjoy it as long as possible.

But, I did wait until the same month as the holiday to decorate. Is that too much to ask of my neighbors? To wait until the same month? to keep the voltage under a million watts? To be, well, more like me! Alas, I fear I ask too much. Oh, Lordy-lordy-lordy, where did the time go? It's getting late; I have shopping to do. Where are my dark glasses?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Craft Shop Starting to Look -- Well, Like a Craft Shop!

Sterilite Cabinets People Mean What They Say

Just so you know that I don't spend all my time venting, there are good things happening in my world, too, and I wanted to share my most current.  My Craft Shop has been the last on my list for getting a facelift since moving in a couple of years ago. I had quickly thrown up some home-made shelving to get some items out of my way! and it was time to get started. I do have lots of crafting materials and equipment but I don't necessarily want the world to see it all when they stop by.  Besides, with solar cooking (click on button at right, if you haven't followed me from there) taking more of a front seat, it was time to attack the storage and display problem.  This is an ongoing project, until it totally works for me.

The shop isn't really that big, so I needed something that was higher but not too deep. Something that would hold other plastic containers, etc. By buying one a month, until I had enough, I've been acquiring those Sterilite buff-colored cabinets that will lock (unless you want to open them with a kitchen blowtorch!) and hold LOTS of stuff...

You can put these Sterilite cabinets together in ten minutes...Yes! You can, because they show a clock on the side of the carton with ten minutes shaded out!... Must have been a different clock or time zone because mine didn't get done in ten minutes. Oh, there's a real good reason (there always is) and it's that little cloud that follows me, everywhere, to make things a little more... well... challenging. Moved more items around shop to give me plenty of room for assembling the cabinets.

Opened first box - checked pieces -- ? Two (2) TWO left doors! Uh, oh...
Opened second box - checked pieces - Yay, full count off; ready to go!
Opened third box - checked pieces - Yay, full count off; ready to go! 
Assembled cabinets two and three. Vey happy camper. This is going to end up being a very nice shop. But, first things, first. Back to box one, the one that contained two, count them, TWO, left doors. But, wait! Let's look on the side of the carton. There's a number to call Customer Service for instant replacement should the unthinkable happen!  (Two left doors qualified as unthinkable, in my book.) I called the number and got -- oh, yeah, a recording. Recording promised Customer Service would do their part, if I did mine. Having an interest in achieving a good result, I did my part at 3:12 p.m. Shared my name etc. and Part Number as listed on the assembly instruction sheet. Stuffed some of my, uh, stuff, into the finished cabinets (so that I could turn around!), dusted my hands and went back into the house for a cup of tea and a new calendar to mark off just how long it was going to take for the "instant replacement."

This was too good to be true (and, I strongly suspect it was because I had the forethought to have a calendar at the ready). Those Sterilite people are cool. Called me first thing Monday morning and said they would send me the missing part, that day! What is that all about? Real INSTANT REPLACEMENT. No questions asked. "No; no, keep the part. More trouble than it's worth!" What were they trying to do! Would I be ready for this challenge? I mean, geez, I was counting on a few days off to just kind of gripe about lousy-service-this and lousy-service-that. Well, thank you, very much, Sterilite, for living up to your promises and ruining one of my few opportunities  to post a blogging tantrum.

 But, I did want you to know that there are still some companies where customer service is a priority, and Sterilite is one of them. 

P.S. No, they don't know about this post, at all. Just wanted you folks to know, that's all.