Car Care Small Business

When my wife and I buy a car, we get it serviced at the dealership for the first few check ups. After the warranty kilometers are gone, it’s time to give the smaller automotive shops our business.

Our Honda Element is at 286000 kilometers now and still runs smoothly. I recently took it to a tire shop to get a screw out of the rubber and the guys were efficient and reasonably priced. They also didn’t try and upsell me on other stuff that I didn’t need. Kudos to them. I’ll be back when I need new tires!

Today I dropped off the element at a fellow’s shop that he runs from his home’s garage. He’s our neighbor’s son who is Honda Certified and has worked on our vehicle in the past for us. He’s putting in new shocks and the like in order to smooth out the ride. He’s always been able to take our Element in and get it back to us in a timely manner. I appreciate the work he does as well since working on cars is his passion.

Supporting a small business or local shop is important to me. Without these people, who generally take pride in their work, the car dealerships would gouge us every time we dropped off our car for service. Owning a car is expensive no matter what you do. But the freedom that comes with a vehicle is invaluable at times. Especially for my family where we have nonexistent public transit nearby our home.

Here’s to you small automotive businesses! Thank you for being a great alternative to the dealerships.

Berry Good

Living in the countryside means fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available. There’s a place I stop at throughout the summer that has cheap hothouse peppers in red, orange and yellow that are extremely tasty. I love to sauté them on the bbq with a bit of garlic or red onions.

We are also close by to not just one, but two berry farms. I love eating Fresh Berries in the summer. It means that I’ll be making more waffles, smoothies, putting berries in my sparkling wine, toppings for yogurt and ice cream or just eating them straight out of the bowl. Juicy, healthy treats.

Today I stopped by both berry farms. Mainly I wanted to see the difference in quality and price. Krause is all flash with a winery and food available. While Driediger is mainly just berries. Both have U-Pick available which is nice for a morning out with the family. Honestly, even though most people love Krause for its high end look, Driediger has better quality berries that are sweeter and lower in price as well. I do enjoy Krause for a bike ride to sample wine with fruit.

Whichever you choose to hit up, just remember that you’re supporting a local business. Which always adds sweet karma to your meals.

Roots and Wings

There’s a Distillery located just south of Fort Langley called Roots and Wings. We drive past it everyday taking the kids to and from school. I finally decided to stop in and sample some of what they had to offer.

Looking at the building from outside doesn’t seem like much. It’s still fairly new only being established in 2015. Supporting local businesses is always something I encourage. Since they grow their own potatoes and corn for their vodka, gin, and whiskey (or rather, rye because it hasn’t been aged long enough yet)- it didn’t surprise me that there was only a small tasting room.

Inside holds about a dozen patrons. I was alone when I sampled each of their liquors. Natural flavors and a taste unique to each bottle kept me wanting more. There wasn’t a throat burn or the cheap taste of “nail polish remover” you find in bottles of similar price point elsewhere.

As I sat there, the hostess gave me a history of the distillery and the name. “Roots” being their starting in Langley, and “Wings” for how they want to expand and grow. I also learned that in the following month or so they will be offering cocktails in their tasting room along with charcuterie. Sounds like I’ll be back for more when that happens.

I took a few small samples home. A coffee infused one, a cinnamon one and a horseradish one- that last one turned out to be perfect for a Ceasar FYI.

I recommend checking out Roots and Wings on a Saturday to try some of their offerings. Or be on the lookout for them at the local Farmers Markets coming up this year.

Handmade Decorations

Christmas decorations have taken over our home. I love to decorate for the season. I even love piecing together decorations from the craft stores and dollar stores. Here are some of the house decorations we have that I’ve made over the years:

I love our garlands. The red, green and gold baubles are simple and elegant. (Even if the items are from the dollar store.) Here is this year’s Dollar Store decoration:

It’s our Nightmare Before Christmas themed wreath. This was easy to make. A few years ago I made some snowflakes that took me hours to cut out with an exacto knife:

Over the years, we also pick up items from craft fairs. I have a friend who makes awesome cards. Another couple who knit. One friend who makes winter houses. A friend of ours makes these neat flowers from sheet music, (we tend to leave it out all year because it’s awesome.)

My kids discovered some other crafts that they’d like to try. One includes molding old records, and we have quite a few of those around. So our kids want to make bowls as gifts:

There’s always more ideas floating around. More crafts to make and buy. More decorations to create. I’m worried that one day our home will turn into a Christmas house 365 days of the year at this rate.

What do you make at Christmas? Do you support local craft fairs as well? Let me know.

Working From Home

My wife has been a stay-at-home parent since our first child was born. To generate some extra income, my wife began Her Own Business that she could do from home. It has been moderately successful and she has enjoyed it for the most part. Over the past few weeks, she has taken on a regular 40 hour work week for Shopify and she still gets to work from home.

My wife has been really good about it. She has figured out the right way to “check out” when she is done for the day. Even when she would get emails late at night for her business- it never bothered her enough that she would let it interfere with her home life. Working from home is definitely something that I feel she has successfully conquered.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be covering a coworker’s vacation. I will be working remotely from home for most of it. The hardest part is that I need to be available 24 hours/day for phone calls. Most of this time I will need to be able to access my laptop fairly quickly- unless I know the answer (or can fake my way through). Because this territory is new to me, I am unsure of how to balance time with my friends and family while continuing to monitor work.

I hope that I can create a stable environment for myself and that I can do this without regretting taking on a new challenge.

Only time will tell.

Saying Goodbye

Sunday was the last day of our Convention. I had to say goodbye to all of my friends. It was the last day of Calgary Expo, but also a bitter end to many years of shows. We won’t be returning.

I’m severely saddened by this. But many factors have come into play over the past little while. Last year I toted about My Fandom Family and how great everyone is. I love these people. Even back in 2016 we were hoping to Expand our small business- it just won’t be happening.

Since 2016, sales at Conventions have dropped. To be honest- the sales more like nosedived. What used to be lucrative and profitable, suddenly became, “Are we going to just recoup costs?” We gave it a couple of years, but sadly no increase.

Besides our declining sales, a few other factors have also come into the decision to not return. First, my wife has started a new job. She will be working for a company full time and can’t create stock or take off time for out of town shows. So her Business will be scaled back to just online sales- no more travel to conventions. We can now use vacation time to vacation!

Secondly, our children are getting older. We do not want to take them out of school as their workload is heavier than it was when they were younger. Our oldest has entered adulthood by getting (and loving) her first job, so time off for her means she makes less money. She is now saving up for her next big purchase.

Lastly, after doing Conventions for nearly a decade, we’re a bit burnt out. So many stresses lead up to a show as well as when we are there. We also haven’t done a decent cosplay in a couple of years. There was just too much going on in life. I am hoping to take on a new hobby and just make replica movie props for myself.

Yes, I’m saddened by the fact that I put down in words the finale of our traveling business. And just like that, our convention circuit is pretty much all done. We went out with hardly a whimper. No big fanfare saying it’s over. It’s just over.

Just some hugs and handshakes to say farewell to our friends- with many a promise to stay in contact. All of the conventions were a blast, but now it is time to move on. Let the next stage of life begin.

Weekend Haul

Here’s some of the fun stuff we got this weekend. These Conventions always mean souvenirs and fantastic art to come home with us. We already packed up some of the artwork safely for our drive home.

First off is a T-Shirt from Calgary Expo. A quick freebie for getting a bunch of stamps.

I got this cute pin from Anne Wheaton as she is here promoting her new book. I gave her a set of pink cosplay ears that reminded me of “Piggy” from her book.

My son bought a “Box of Mystery” from one of our artist friends. It contains some fan art stickers, magnets, and pins. Pretty cool for only $5! Sadly, it is our friend’s very last ever convention.

After our recent trip to Japan, we have had a renewed love of Studio Ghibli. I found an artist that makes glass with shadows over prints. So I had to buy one.

Lastly, my son worked hard helping me this weekend, so I picked up a Mudkip Pokémon for him. It’s rare for us to find this Pokémon, and he loves it.

As usual, we also traded some of my wife’s hats and such for other art. People love using the barter system. We all have a value that we put on our time and work. Sharing is a great way to create new friendships and showcase work.

Only one more day to go. Maybe more art is going to grace our home.

The Bad Eats

Traveling around and doing convention shows often means eating poorly. It just goes hand in hand. Like fries and a burger…

It starts on the first leg of the road trip with a stop at Costco for a cheap hotdog. We always get a hotdog on our way from our home. It doesn’t matter if we are driving east or south. We plan Costco as the place to stop for lunch. Cheap and easy so that we can hit the road again quickly.

Yesterday’s Dinner was cheap pizza. After a day of sitting at our table making idle chitchat with strangers, making a food choice is tough. So basic pizzas get ordered. Ham and pineapple, pepperoni, or meat lovers are always easy and quick to choose. Pizza is like the safety net of food.

Throughout the day we end up grazing through candy, chips, granola bars, and sodas for the most part. Sure, a bottle of water or heavily processed vegetables are consumed periodically, but not enough to offset the other junk.

Dinner on day two is usually a side of french fries and some sort of grilled sandwich or burger. Again, just like pizza- ordering is easy, quickly served and digested. Then off to end the evening in the rented room before day 3 of the show is upon us.

That is pretty much every Convention weekend for us vendors. I’m positive our next couple of days will involve bad eats as well. It’s the price you pay to do these shows.

Haha. Ya, I’m Supposed To Be An Adult.

After the show last night, my son and I were going to meet up with some of my Convention friends for dinner. However the place we were intending on going to would not allow minors in after 9pm. So my friend Dominika joined my son and I to go get a pizza from Dominos. We were already laughing and joking before we walked in to get a our dinner.

Turns out that Dominos has a tv screen that tells you the progress of your pizza order. After we placed our order, it seemed that the cashier didn’t hear my friend’s name correctly. We tried to tell him it was Dom. That is not what he heard.

Her Dong was being made.

Then Dong was in the oven.

Dong needed a Quality Check.

Finally Dong was ready.

We acted about as mature as my 11 year old son. He was giggling uncontrollably as well but didn’t know what a “Dong” was. We were the only ones in the store so our laughs were raucous and hearty. We thanked the staff for a great laugh and we walked back to my car and headed to my friend’s place and continued to laugh with more of our friends.

Sometimes after a long day all you need is to laugh at something so ridiculous it makes you happy. Sharing a laugh with friends makes it even more enjoyable. Ya, I’m an adult laughing like pre-pubescent boy at a dick joke. It felt good.

My Favorite Convention

My son and I leave today for my favorite convention- Calgary Expo! We’ve been coming here since 2012 and have enjoyed every year so far.

This year has all of the artists placed in the “Big 4” building. So many of my friends have been designing pictures to showcase their new locations. It’s one of my favorite things to follow along on social media and see how excited they are getting. Countdowns, messages, fun new products… so much to see and talk about when we get together!

It’s also nice that there is so much love shared throughout our groups. Last year I mentioned how I feel that they are all A Fandom Family. I look forward to seeing them every year. These are some of the most artistic and energized people I know.

Oh, and I’ll be having fun as well being a Table Tart at table AA 5211 for Ningen Headwear. If you need to find my son- he’ll be teaching people Table Top games like he does every other year.

So remember to stop by the Artist Alley in Calgary this weekend if you want to see the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse…