637: Benefits

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There are advantages to living in a small town. Wonderful, affirming advantages.

There are also issues. One of those is the stranglehold a large employer has on the people who make up their current employees and their potential workforce.

See, in a larger metropolis, employees who are treated unfairly or just don’t feel appreciated for whatever reason, those employees can vote with their feet and take a different job with another company, generally without a huge amount of disruption to their lives. Many don’t even have to move their households to change jobs. As a result, some employers understand about treating their employees fairly, since they know the people have choices. At the same time, there is a correspondingly larger pool of employee candidates in a larger town, too, so maybe that advantage actually is a wash when all is said and done.

However, in a smaller town, a large employer is much more impervious to treating employees fairly because they know they are one of the few places anywhere around that has the pay and benefits people need to survive in this modern age. If an employee isn’t happy, they often are forced to suck it up, knowing that they will have to move their families and sell their homes to be able to relocate somewhere that has equivalent pay and benefits compared to the job they now hold with the abusive employer. This prospect is fairly risky, and many play it safe (throwing no rocks, here – I totally understand) and put up with being abused on the job, because it can be expensive to relocate – and it is certainly stressful to most people. I understand about needing a job, but at what cost?

Management has to get pretty obviously lousy to even casual observers before enough employees begin to lose their fear of the costs of calling it quits, and stand up for their rights, or just pack it in and say to hell with it, and get the heck out of Dodge.

I have been blessed in this employment department on several counts. First, I am a preacher’s daughter and for my dad, that was akin to being a military brat – we moved every year or so. I learned not to get attached to a house, or a geographic location, for that matter. It does not freak me out to move. I know I can land on my feet and be pretty content nearly anywhere.

The second advantage I have is that my career preparation happens to be a fairly unusual one that just happens to be in high demand in my part of the world, and indeed, pretty much the entire world over. I have always known that if I got fired today, I could pretty much be working tomorrow in SEVERAL locations not too far away, or as far away as I chose to go. Not everyone else has that security. Plus, I discovered that I can make a go of it even if I decide to leave the country again, so even if I were to be blackballed (yes, that does happen), I could still quite easily be hired overseas, because I am good at what I do, and I know it. That is also pretty liberating, and also something most others are unwilling to contemplate to escape an abusive employer.

They’d rather be abused, and stay where they are. Change is scary. It is also liberating, and full of infinite possibilities for a better life. Sometimes counting the cost costs too much. Be willing to take a chance.

Consider all the things that can go RIGHT, for once.

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623: Amish Friendship Bread

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Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

Over the course of my life, I have gotten from several acquaintances a container of Amish Friendship Bread starter. For those of you who have not been so blessed, it is a sourdough (sweetened) fermented dough, used as a leavening agent in a future bread product – in this case, a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread. Whether this has anything to do with the Amish, I haven’t a clue, but it does impose on your friends, hence the Friendship part of the name. See, when you get this container of starter, you have to stir it daily, and feed it in about a week, and stir it daily for another week until it is ready to bake; at which point you feed it again, divide it into three new containers, leaving you with enough starter to bake one recipe loaf of the bread, and one starter for the next loaf (plus three), in another two weeks – after the stir and feed routine. You are supposed to give the three starter containers to three of your friends, who are then obligated to do the same, like a kitchen coffee klatch-style pyramid scheme. I can foresee the stuff taking over the world.

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There is a Facebook post that I have seen several times, and it goes something like this: If you send me a messenger post that tells me to copy and paste, and repost to 10 of my friends (TEN!!!! Like, who has ten friends?): know this, dear post sharer: my inbox is where your messages come to die. I do not repost. I do not share.

I have learned similar lessons about the Amish Friendship Bread. I accept the container of starter, of course – who wants to be labeled a non-friend for refusing? I stir and feed it for the requisite two weeks, and when it is ready for dividing, sharing, and baking, I simply kill all of it by mixing up and baking four loaves of bread at once. Problem solved. No friends involved. I will take the finished loaves of bread to work to share with friends as it does make a tasty coffee cake and such is usually received with delighted gratitude and disappears with alacrity whenever anyone is moved to donate.

Just in case you are intrigued, poor hapless soul who has no IDEA what you are starting: here is the recipe.

To make the starter, in a glass or plastic jar (with a lid) or a gallon zipper plastic bag, mix one cup of milk (any fat level), one cup of sugar and one cup of plain flour. Do not refrigerate it. Stir it (mash the bag) daily for five days. You should see it begin to ferment (bubble) during this process. On day five, feed your starter with one cup each again of milk, sugar, and flour. Stir or mash well.

Day 6-10, stir/mash once daily. On day ten, you are ready to bake your one loaf and abuse/addict your friends. Feed the starter again (1 cup each milk, sugar and flour). By now, you may have to move up up a mixing bowl. Put three cups of the starter into three new containers (1 cup each), and give one container to three of your friends that you don’t care for overly much. They will each think of you repeatedly over the next two weeks, believe me.

You will also have a cup of starter for yourself, to return to your original, cleaned container to start your own feed and stir routine for the next two weeks, on your way to your next loaf (and next three friends, because the first three will delicately avoid you when they see you coming). That will leave you with one measure of starter with which to mix up your long-awaited loaf of Amish Friendship Bread.

To that last measure of starter, add the following:

1 cup oil (vegetable-based, your choice), 1 cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 2 cups flour, 5 oz box of instant pudding (any flavor you like), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Optional: chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, applesauce, craisins, etc. It’s a pretty loose recipe. Mix well.

Grease two loaf pans, and dust them with a sugar/cinnamon mix. It should take a teaspoon of cinnamon to a 1/2 cup of sugar to dust both greased loaf pans. Fill each pan with half of your batter, and bake 45-60 minutes at 325 until done – test with a toothpick in the center. Let them stand 10 minutes in their cooling pans before you loosen and tip them out to completely cool.

Or, forego the three new containers of friendship starter, and mix up four loaves’ worth of bread batter and bake the whole shebang yourself, and spare your friends. It is a pretty tasty coffee loaf, it freezes well, and it’s difficult to screw up the recipe, pretty much regardless of the extra ingredients you add. So, maybe you will want to share the starter for the first few batches – but nobody lasts longer than three months, trust me. Eventually the whole thing will sour on you – and I don’t mean the sourdough starter, either.

If someone ever tries to give you a container of starter – you are now forewarned and forearmed. You are welcome.

375: Retirement Income

I will get, assuming the USA does not implode in the next few years (a distinct possibility, unfortunately) a small teacher’s pension. I’d like more money than that to live on in my “golden years.” It won’t be a luxurious amount unless I can supplement it with some part-time income. I COULD continue to teach, but who in their right mind wants to continue doing that? That is like voluntarily joining the line for physical and mental abuse, as discount prices! Besides, there are only a few countries that allow older folks to teach, so as I age, my options shrink considerably for teaching. I’m wanting something ELSE.

What I WANT to do is start a co-operative business with some like-minded people, so that nobody has to tend the shop full-time. Each co-owner can work one or two days a week, and enjoy the profits from sales made every day. Plus, not having to mind the shop every day creates free time for people to create, either in an in-store workshop, or at home in their own studio. I’d like a varied sort of co-worker/co-owner: perhaps someone who grows herbs or fresh produce to sell, perhaps someone who makes soaps and bath products, perhaps a furniture maker, some artists and craftspeople, a potter, someone who does fiber arts….a range of people means a range of products that can be offered for sale in the shop.

I need a PLACE to do this. Location is paramount. I don’t want to pay rent on a store, because I don’t want to have to make the choice to prop up a business either at the start, or later on during an inevitable sales slump. I need to own the property. Or, ONE of us in the group needs to own it. Ideally, it would be in a location appropriate for a specialty shop of this sort. A touristy sort of spot would be ideal.

Then, I need some FRIENDS. I need some friends who do these sorts of things as their hobbies, or as their living, or as their part-time jobs – and they make quality things that people will buy. I don’t mind having some of them who just contribute stuff to sell, those who are working a full-time job and can’t volunteer to take some days at the store, to help them get established. AND, I think 15-20% of sales is a good commission for the store to take to pay for electricity, seeing as how it is my intention to own the store location outright.

Plus, co-owners could teach classes in the shop if they would like to do that: painting, making jewelry, crochet, knitting, sewing,  etc. Some people want to learn how to make their own, and are willing to pay for that privilege. I think we might could accommodate that!

I expect it would start slow, and grow accordingly…which is just fine by me, especially if I live on an upper floor of the place. That would be ideal. It is something to plan for, anyway! Everything starts with a DREAM, right??