Coming Along...

Wondering what we're working on lately? Currently we are working on creating a strong financial foundation, preparing for a move to North Carolina (goal date: summer 2013), slowly building up a collection of spooky items, and starting our foray into miniature models.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Best Horror Movies On Netflix Instant: January 2013

I haven't seen all of the movies on Netflix by far, or even MOST of them, but whenever I do go to watch I'm always torn between what I should watch because there's a lot of time-wasters out there. If you're in the same boat, here's a list of the flicks currently available that I have seen, ranked by my personal preference.

If there's a movie available I haven't listed and you're wondering about it, leave a comment! I'll try to watch it and rank it.

5 stars
The Cabin in the Woods
subgenre: dark comedy
Brilliant send-up of horror movie tropes. Superbly acted, tons of detail, darkly funny.

Once Bitten
subgenre: dark comedy / vampires / cult / campy
One of Jim Carrey's first movies, this vampy teen sexfest gets five stars only because it was one of my favorites when I was younger. You will enjoy this if you have nostalgia value for it or if you like stupid '80s comedies (both of which are true for me).

The Collection
subgenre: serial killer / slasher / bizarre / brutal
Dark and creepy, fascinating and bloody.

The People Under The Stairs
subgenre: dark comedy / cult / dysfunctional family
One of my all-time favorite dysfunctional family films! It's spooky, it's funny, it's just all-around creepy fun.

Tucker & Dale VS. Evil
subgenre: dark comedy / slasher / backwoods killers / cult / campy
Another great send-up, this time of the 'backwoods slasher' genre. Campy but not overly so.

Event Horizon
subgenre: bizarre / brutal / scifi / hauntings
One of my favorite movies. Rescue team encounters a 'haunted' spaceship. Bizarre and bloody.

subgenre: dark comedy / cult / slasher / serial killer / revenge
One of the original comedic (yet still tense) send-ups of the horror genre; brilliantly done.

Jack Frost
subgenre: dark comedy / cult / campy / slasher / serial killer
This wintry thriller about a living snowman possessed by a serial killer knows it is a camp-fest and delights in going over the top. I was hooked in the first three minutes.

The Frighteners
subgenre: hauntings / serial killer / dark comedy / cult
Peter Jackson pre-Lord of the Rings fame shows his chops yet again with this dark and twisted but terribly fun tale that gets surprisingly dark by the end. One of my all-time favorites.

subgenre: hauntings / dark comedy / cult / bizarre / lovecraftian / creatures
Another childhood favorite that manages to be both funny AND scary, a rare combination.

Battle Royale
subgenre: japanese / cult / slasher / brutal
People often (unfairly) compare The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Just because two movies have a similar premise does not mean one rips off the other, or that they are remotely the same. This is a difficult but excellent film.

H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator
subgenre: cult / campy / bizarre / brutal / lovecraftian / creatures
If loving Herbert West is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

4 stars
The Ninth Gate
subgenre: devils and demons
Slow-burn thriller about Satan.

The Haunting
subgenre: hauntings
Not actually a terribly good movie, yet I love the atmosphere (the house is amazing) and I adore Lili Taylor. If you like haunted houses and haunted actresses, give it a watch. If you don't, pass.

American Mary
subgenre: slasher / bizarre / brutal / revenge
Katharine Isabelle gives a stunning performance as the titular Mary, a medical student who finds an unusual way to pay her bills… and seek some revenge after a terrible incident.

The Possession
subgenre: hauntings / devils and demons
Supernatural Dad and Kyra Sedgwick star as a divorced couple with two daughters; one daughter unwittingly gets caught up in the supernatural. Good acting, good pacing, fairly fresh mythos.

House at the End of the Street
subgenre:  slasher / dysfunctional family
I'm a sucker for crazy families and also for Jennifer Lawrence. Enjoyable, well made, fairly run of the mill.

The Haunting in Connecticut
subgenre: hauntings
Well-acted, well paced, relatively run of the mill haunting story. Big bonus for this one is that the main characters had heart and I cared about their story.

Resident Evil
subgenre: zombies / creatures / video game
A fairly decent video game flick with some good bloody scenes. Enjoyable even if you haven't played the games.

The Hole
subgenre: hauntings
This Joe Dante thriller isn't a traditional 'ghost' movie. The three kids carry the movie well and it has a good slow build of tension. Excellent intro to horror if you have younger horror fans at home.

subgenre: creatures / dark comedy / Irish / campy
An entertaining romp with a good monster, full of drunken Irish people. It's hard to go wrong.

Paranormal Activity 3
subgenre: hauntings / devils and demons / dysfunctional family / found footage
If you've made it this far into the series you already know the drill with these films. I thought this one was better than 2, on par with 1.

Pet Sematary
subgenre: hauntings / cult / creatures
Not a terribly good movie and yet I'm a big fan. The first Stephen King story to genuinely frighten me, and the movie has some shining moments.

The ABCs of Death
subgenre: anthology (hits most genres)
ABCs of Death is composed of 26 short films by various horror directors; one for each letter of the alphabet. Some are a total waste of time. There's enough of those to make it kind of 'meh'. Some are absolutely brilliant though, and make this film well worth watching.

Creepshow 2
subgenre: anthology / campy / hauntings / revenge / creatures
Not as good as the first, but still memorable and fun. Three creepy tales. The Raft scared me quite a bit as a kid.

Stephen King's Children Of The Corn
subgenre: creepy kids / cult / slasher / devils and demons
A decent representation of King's short story, with some truly memorable performances.

subgenre: serial killer
A decent, tense thriller about how far people are willing to go when they're desperate.

subgenre: zombies
Really well done zombie outbreak film with some interesting twists.

Scream 2
subgenre: serial killer / slasher / dark comedy / cult / revenge
A sequel that holds up well and manages to deliver some delicious twists and turns along the way.

The Woman
subgenre: bizarre / brutal / dysfunctional family / backwoods killers / revenge
A dark and memorable tale that simultaneously engrossed and repulsed me. A few shocks that even managed to get under my skin, and I consider myself pretty jaded. Well done.

subgenre: cult / slasher / brutal / devils and demons / creatures
Clive Barker always manages to get under your skin (sometimes literally), and Hellraiser is no exception.

subgenre: creatures / bizarre / cult / campy
Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. If that doesn't make you want to watch it, nothing will.

subgenre: vampires / dark comedy / cult / campy / bizarre
Hilarious little '80s vampire gem with some truly excellent bizarre performances.

3 stars
American Psycho
subgenre: serial killer / slasher
Saw it a long time ago. Don't remember a lot. Good performance, some good scenes, mostly meh. Worth a watch at least once.

Grave Encounters
subgenre: hauntings / found footage
I don't have much to say about this one other than 'meh'. Watchable but I wouldn't revisit it.

Nine Dead
subgenre: serial killer / revenge / brutal
I really wanted to like it because I'm quite fond of Melissa Joan Hart. It was just OK.

The Legend of Lucy Keyes
subgenre: hauntings
This movie was so bland that I watched it twice, and didn't remember I had already watched it once until I got to the end. It's not bad, but it's not good either.

The Ward
subgenre: hauntings
John Carpenter's movies are very hit or miss, and unfortunately this one is mostly 'miss'. It's another bland entry that is completely unmemorable. I've already forgotten the majority of the details about this film.

Evil Dead 2
subgenre: hauntings / slasher / dark comedy / creatures / devils and demons / brutal / cult / campy
I'll probably get flak for ranking this one so far down, but it's my least favorite of the Evil Dead films. The first Evil Dead and Army of Darkness are so much better.

The Devil's Carnival
subgenre: musical / dark comedy / devils and demons / cult
I'm a big fan of Repo: The Genetic Opera *and* carnivals, so I was really excited when I heard about this movie. Unfortunately it's not as good as Repo, both in terms of content AND music. It was worth a watch, and I heard they are making a sequel and I would watch that too, but this didn't catch me as much as I hoped it would.

John Dies At The End
subgenre: drugs / surreal / dark comedy / cult / creatures
What the fuck did I just watch?

Lovely Molly
subgenre: hauntings
This made absolutely no impression on me.

Donnie Darko
subgenre: surreal / cult
Yes, I *got it*, Donnie Darko-lovers. I just didn't LIKE IT. It's got some interesting ideas it never manages to flesh out and it's not as brilliant as people want to think it is. Frank the bunny was pretty scary though.

Monday, October 7, 2013

When Is My Kid Ready For A Haunted House?

"Is my child ready for a haunted house?" A friend of mine asked this question on Facebook the other day, and since I am a horror AND haunted house aficianado with kids I took a stab at it. She told me I should take my advice and turn it into a blog post because she couldn't really find anything on Google and sometimes when we get old, we forget what it's like to look at scary stuff as a kid, when it's new and fresh and (often) ACTUALLY frightening. (Which is not to say adults don't get frightened too; I know plenty of them that won't set food in a haunted house!) It can be difficult to tell if your child is too young (in years or emotional maturity) to go to a haunted attraction. So here's my advice:

Number One: KNOW YOUR KID. What they can handle will vary widely based on their individual personalities and ability to separate fantasy from reality. I've got a 9 year old son who HATES horror and being scared. I have an almost 7 year old daughter who LOVES it. Neither has been to a 'true' haunted house yet. The younger one has asked to go but I am not sure she is ready, since some of them are pretty extreme. The older one was invited to a classmate's birthday party at one this year - I didn't even know that was a thing, I think it's AWESOME, but he's not going and NO ONE CAN MAKE HIM).

Number Two: CHOOSE YOUR HAUNTED HOUSE WISELY. Each haunted attraction will vary widely based on what kinds of scares they offer.

a) Check to see if they have an age limit. Most don't but almost all recommend your kids be at least teenagers.

b) See if you can find local friends who have been there and get their opinion on how scary it was.

c) Find out if the workers touch you or not. Some houses allow this, some don't.

Haunted houses use a variety of scenarios to scare. Total darkness. Strobe lights and other light effects. Scary sounds and music. Fog. Jump and 'startle' scares. Disturbing imagery. Some even have sections where you may have to crawl, be squeezed, feel like the walls are closing in, or go down slides or through tunnels. Can your kid handle stumbling through the pitch darkness, only to have someone with a chainsaw jump out at them and chase them?

We went through our local park district's 'haunted hallway' a couple years ago and it was actually REALLY well done. My husband and I ended up having to carry both kids while they buried their faces in our necks. Even charity or local haunted houses are staffed by people like me who take pride in scaring people and they're usually really well done. I worked a Jaycees haunted house when I was in high school and was in a very realistic torture scene, stationed next to an actual rotting pig's head (from a local butcher). We had a truck that looked like it was going to drive right into you, a bunch of scary clowns, a mad scientist's lab with actual edible organs, and more. This was 20 years ago. I can only imagine they've improved since then.

Number Three: TALK TO YOUR KID. Don't just drag them to a haunted house kicking and screaming or surprise them when you get there. Discuss what sorts of things they should expect from it, and ask them if they think they are ready for it. It's FUN to be fake-scared. It's NOT fun to be really terrified. Help set your kid up for success by making sure they know it's all pretend, that the people working there are having a ton of fun and working hard so that YOU will have fun too.

So you've considered the above and your kid says 'I'm ready Mom and Dad, I want to do this!' Is there a litmus test to see if they can handle it? Here's my personal succession of tests:

1) Read scary books together. 

From my daughter's first grade open house. All the other little girls had Barbies, princesses, American Girl, mermaids. Then there's my daughter's at the end of the line.
a) If they haven't even read Goosebumps, start there. My horror-hater can't even handle Goosebumps!

b) Grab your favorite anthology of scary campfire tales from when you were a kid. Read some of those together.

c) Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Any of them, as long as they have the ORIGINAL artwork. If your kid can look at the artwork without running screaming, you're off to a good start.

Best children's book EVER.
2) Watch some scary movies together. It can be hard to find horror movies that are ok for kids but if they can't handle even a moderately extreme scary movie, DONT TAKE THEM TO A HAUNTED HOUSE. Haunted houses typically have a good amount of gore; so if your value system doesn't want them seeing gore / disturbing material (people sliced up, bodies hanging, bodies burning on spits, torture scenes), stay out of haunted houses. I actually would like to write up a list of scary movies that are appropriate for kids, more or less, and rank them. For the sake of this post though I'll just throw out a few suggestions.

MILD: Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Mr. Boogedy

MEDIUM: The Hole (Joe Dante). Ghostbusters. Gremlins (warning: talks about how Santa doesn't exist! I just tell my kids 'that's made up for the movie'. Because we separate fantasy from reality but goddamnit we believe in SANTA CLAUS.)

WILD: Poltergeist. The Frighteners. Insidious.

If your kids can make it through that whole list, they might be ready. (Haven't seen some of the films? Check out the Parental Advisory section for each film on IMDB or go to Common Sense Media. Both are excellent resources for determining if a film fits your family's value system.)

3) How well do your kids handle people's yard haunts ON Halloween? Will they walk through a scary yard where people might pop out at them, or do they make you go get the candy? If they won't set foot on the crazy neighbor's lawn, or they wet their pants when the dude down the street in the hockey mask comes after them, they're probably not ready. If they will stride up, play along, giggle right after they scream, take their candy, and skip away, you're probably good to go.

My costume for our yard haunt last year.

There's no exact way to tell FOR SURE if your kid can handle a haunted house this season, but if you follow this advice and your kid passes the litmus tests, I think you can safely give it a go and probably guarantee a good time.

One final piece of advice: if you are anywhere NEAR Mount Carroll, IL - we are three hours away and we still make this trip whenever we can - and I recommend that you do this OUTSIDE the Halloween season because they are open year-round and you will get a much better tour: TAKE THEM TO RAVENS GRIN INN. It's a haunted house that isn't at all a traditional haunted house: it's weird and wonderful, the owners are amazing people, they will tailor the tour to your kids' fear level, and it's my second favorite place on earth. 

Both my kids (even the scaredy-cat) have been there multiple times (my daughter was 3 the first time we visited) and they love it. You couldn't possibly find a better way to introduce your kids to the fun of being scared than you could here. 

The 3-year-old ringing the front doorbell... because none of the adults would.
(Here's a link to an old review I wrote of them the first time I ever went, if you want some spoilers!)

Best of luck, happy haunting, and have fun!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Trying To Stay The Course

It's been six months and I've made progress but at the same time feel like we haven't moved at all. The honest truth of the matter is that I am a heavy dreamer and over the years have moved without a lot of purpose or direction, just following whatever dream pulled me the strongest. I've ended up with some big messes to clean up as a result. The two biggest messes that really affect us starting a business are finances and home organization.

Finances are still rough. We are still planning to move to North Carolina next summer so most 'starting a business' plans are on hold until then (I do have some things I can work on in the meantime, and I have plans to do them after I finish tackling the next hurdle). We've taken Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course (wonderful material) and have improved the way we handle our finances as a family over the past year, but there's a lot more work we need to do. I'd love to start all my businesses debt-free and continue running them debt-free. I think that's a worthwhile and important goal, but it also means it'll take longer to get to the OPENING THE BUSINESS point. The focus for 2013 is to really cut back on spending, save enough for the move and for six months' worth of living expenses (my husband will be trying to find a job in North Carolina before the summer but if he doesn't, we will most likely be moving anyway), and to be debt free by the end of the year. There's a lot of dollar signs involved in those goals, so they're pretty lofty, but that's the aim.

Home organization. I'm probably a hoarder. I call myself a recovering hoarder, at any rate. Are you always a hoarder, or are you no longer a hoarder once you've moved out of the hoarding mentality? I believe I have moved out of it over the past few years. I don't NEED things anymore. I don't have a burning desire to acquire STUFF. I rarely shop. I have gotten rid of hundreds (literally) of boxes of items from our home. It's still like having ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag though. I'm not quite done with my first decluttering pass-through (which has only taken me, oh, YEARS to do, and that's no exaggeration) but I'm close. I can see the end, I know what's going to be left and what's going to go, and I mostly know where I want everything to live.

Over the past month I've been critically reevaluating my home and what will be left in it. It's a small home but it's still packed to the gills. There are a lot of things I'd like to keep. Things I just plain LOVE (books being the big one there; it breaks my heart to imagine getting rid of any more books than I already have, and yet I STILL have too many). Things I want to keep for the Not House. Crafting supplies, of which I have WAY too many - yet they are important for my business endeavors. General house detritus. Some days I'm ready to sell it all and start with a clean slate. Some days I'm on Pinterest, pinning beautiful homes and thinking I should just become a minimalist already. There's a balance I need to strike, and I'm not quite there yet. Do I box up all my collections, my Not House items, until I have the business? Do I box up all but my favorite books until I have the space? Or would it be better to let these things go, and acquire them again when my dreams are realized? (The books, by the by, can also go in the Not House.)

There's also the question of moving. How much of this stuff do I REALLY want to move with us in six or seven months?

Those questions are largely rhetorical, as what is right for YOU isn't necessarily what is right for me. They are just the things that go 'round my mind when I'm cleaning the same things over and over and feeling it wear on me. I'm slowly figuring it out. It's getting there.

This affects the business at this time largely because I don't have much space. I don't have much crafting space (I do have a crafting desk and some space to work, but it's small), I certainly don't have a lot of STORAGE space, and as far as crafting the miniature displays I mentioned in my last post six months ago? I REALLY don't have the space for those yet. It's frustrating, because it's something I really want to tackle, but I have to accept my current limitations and change course again.

Right now I'm planning, once I get just a tad more organized, on starting with a subset of the Not House that I will call Fudge & Oddities. My vision for the store itself is a fudgery (and popcorn, and possibly retro candy) with eclectic crafts / home decor for sale. I need to find a rental commercial kitchen up here before I can launch the food part of it (I already located one in North Carolina), but the Oddities part I can start pretty much right away. I can start it before I move because I can go to vendor fairs with my wares... and I can continue to sell that way when we move to North Carolina, and until we have the money for a storefront. At which point I will have to make a decision: buy land for the Not House and start there, OR open a store in town and then move later to the Not House land, wherever it may be. That's a ways down the road though. I'm still not sure where this whole thing will end up. I'm just going to start with making some wares and selling at fairs (and on etsy), and we will see where we go. I certainly never imagined two years ago that I'd be moving to North Carolina, so who knows where we'll be two years from now?? It's good to have a vision but it pays to be flexible because life throws lots of curves.

In the meantime the hardest thing for me to do is to pull myself out of dreams and stick to the path. There's plenty of room for productive dreaming ON the path, but I often get distracted by dreams not on this exact path. For instance, there's a piece of commercial real estate for sale in the town we currently live in that I keep dreaming about. I could start Fudge & Oddities AND a holiday store in one location, AND live above it! But it's in my home town, which we plan on leaving in six months, AND we are not financially ready to buy a building at this time. This isn't the first piece of real estate that has caught me like this, and it certainly won't be the last, but man they really tug at my heart when they catch me. I could do so much with it! It's hard to be a dreamer sometimes, it really is. I still mourn that bar in Mount Carroll. (It was so very lovely.) I still desperately want to start Spirits Haunted Pub (there's a restaurant for sale 15 minutes from me that would be a great location for it, and I dream about that frequently as well).

If I won the lottery these are the things I'd be launching right away, along with a few other key businesses. I would happily work these businesses until the day I die. I certainly wouldn't be trudging along, spending years of my life digging myself out from the pile of STUFF in which I live. I'd hire a few professional organizers to help me sort it all out, I'd hire a cleaning person to help me keep my house clean (I LOATHE cleaning, I really do), I'd figure out exactly where my ideal Not House location is, I'd buy some land, and I'd start launching my businesses.

Since I don't have millions of dollars at my disposal though, I can't even hire ONE professional organizer. I have to keep doing it myself, step by step (with my limited home-organization skill set, at that!). It's slow, sometimes excrutiatingly slow. Sometimes it's hard to see the progress and I have to slow down and remind myself of all the work I've done. Sometimes I dream about where I want to be and I want to fast forward SO DESPERATELY... except I don't really want to fast-forward my life. I just want the drudgery to be done.
It's important to lay a good foundation though, or the whole thing will crumble; I know this. I think we are working hard to do it the right way. I'm proud of us for taking the time to do it RIGHT.

But if any eccentric billionaires happen across this blog and want to donate some money to the cause, I certainly wouldn't turn you down! I ain't gettin' any younger... and I have enough dreams to occupy me for several lifetimes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The State Of Our Abnormal Nation

It's been a while. Spookytown remains a dream. One I'd like to see become a reality. Unfortunately it doesn't seem as if it's going to happen with Spirits Haunted Bar... at least, not at the location in Mount Carroll that we had our eyes on. In the end, it just didn't make financial sense.

What we have from the whole experience is a decent business plan and... experience. Which we will use to continue working on the dream.

Financially in general, things are rough for us. That's no surprise I'm sure; they are rough for a whole lot of people these days. We have lots of work to do before we can launch a new business. We will keep working on that behind the scenes.

We are also talking about moving to North Carolina in a year. It may turn out that Spookytown will end up being in the mountains somewhere. We'll just have to see as things come together.

In the meantime, I'm going to start working on one of the other pieces of Spookytown... the Not House. For those outside of my inner circle (those poor souls have been hearing me come up with wild and crazy 'Not House' ideas for years now!), there is a future post coming explaining this new project. For now, suffice to say that it's something for which I've been gathering ideas for ages but have never really worked on. It occurred to me recently that a) I'm not getting any younger and b) a lot of these ideas are things I can start working on even if I don't have a display space for them at the time. Many of the ideas for the Not House involve displaying different collections, for instance; no point waiting until I have the whole business mapped out and space purchased before I START collecting, right?

Project one: miniatures! Specifically, my miniature Tales From The Crypt mansion. More on that later as well.

Crazy dreams mean lots of crazy twists on the way, right? Looking forward to seeing where this one takes us.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


our crazy crew at Lincoln Park Zoo
It has been a little while since my last post so here's an update.

Last week was a mostly "off" week for us; we had family staying with us as part of their vacation, which meant we were on a kind of stay-cation. Cleaning before they arrived, and then socializing and having fun while they were here. Not much got done on the bar-work front. We were going to try to take a trip out to Mount Carroll so the family could check out the bar AND see Raven's Grin, but with so much other driving, it just didn't happen.

We continue to plug along on the business plan. I am thinking that I will probably share rough draft sections here as we get them hammered out, looking for feedback and questions and the like. I have several sections pretty well fleshed out already so those blog posts will probably start coming in the near future. I look forward to everyone's feedback.

Our biggest news: we created and launched a website to raise funds for the bar! We're calling it The $250,000 Project. We had been talking about using an indie crowdfunding website like Kickstarter, but upon further consideration we decided to make our own site and try to raise all the money ourselves. With Kickstarter or the like, we'd probably ask for donations of around $10,000 and then use that to beg for further money (from banks, investors, friends, relatives, etc). With those sites, if we didn't reach our arbitrary goal by our arbitrary deadline, we wouldn't get ANY money. If we DID reach our goal and get the money, we'd still have to beg for more money. Rather than keep asking and asking and asking, we figured we'd just let the world know what we need and keep working until we get it.

We're trying to raise $250,000 (hence the clever name), and we're willing to do it in pretty much any legal way possible. Donations, merchandise sales, eBay sales, micro loans, advertising, and more. Aside from completing the business plan, raising funds is our second most important step, so we're working on those two things simultaneously.
It would be really helpful if all of you did the following:
1) Check out The $250,000 Project website. See if there's any way you can help. Let us know if you have any feedback on the site itself.
2) 'Like' The $250,000 Project on Facebook. Daily updates and eBay listings will be posted there.
3) Spread the word about us to your family and friends in any way possible! This is probably the most helpful thing anyone can do for us. The more people that know about us and lend a hand, the quicker we will achieve our dream.

The biggest problem I have with the site right now? I have paypal donation buttons on there that just won't work. I am by no means a code monkey (I used iWeb to make the site, it's very WYSIWYG and that's about the only way I could pull off something like that), so I have asked my very good friend Kate to take a look and see if she can help me fix whatever mess I made there. Hopefully we'll have this resolved soon. And if you have any web building needs, check out her site! MissHTML. She's awesome.

I've started listing some of our things on eBay. I'm working hard on decluttering the house, getting rid of the extraneous items we have lying around (and we have a LOT). I doubt we have 250,000 saleable items in the house, but hey, if we DO and each one sells for $1, we'll make our goal through eBay alone. Any little bit we get this way will help. I'll be maintaining lists of everything we have for sale here as more gets posted, but if you're interested in seeing what we've got for now, here's a listing of our eBay sales.

Moving forward, I am going to try to post every day about what I've worked on as it relates to the bar. The background work can be very slow and tedious and I don't always have much to say here about it... sometimes not acknowledging what I HAVE done feels like we aren't really moving forward at all when in fact, we are. It just all takes time. (For instance, the business plan is taking hours to hammer out... building the website for The $250,000 Project has taken quite a few hours as well!)

I think that's it for our current updates. Let me know if you have any questions or advice. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Being Pulled In Different Directions

It seems that one of the biggest challenges in our adult lives is often the need to manage multiple tasks, often at the same time. You hear a lot about work-life balance, achieving a good one, following dreams, nurturing family, relationships, and friendships, and so on. It can be difficult to find solid footing in the sea of to-do lists we find ourselves surrounded with.

Things are no different over here. I often feel like we're not making a lot of progress on the bar because there's so much to do. Even though I put some work into it every day, sometimes hours of work (depending on my current family and life commitments), it still feels like we're going nowhere.

Logically, I know we are. I've got a really good rough-draft business plan... but it's VERY rough. More like a skeleton with a little bit of meat. Still lots of questions to be answered on there.

We have quite a few boxes packed for moving, and quite a few things put aside to sell.

I have some (hopefully strong) ideas for fundraising, and almost have the main platform we are going to try to use for it ready to launch.

I've been working on spreading the news about our business venture throughout the horror community as well as to all our family, friends, and acquaintances. Since our budget is so limited, a lot of our publicity at first will come through word of mouth... and we need all the help we can get there.

I've been doing all that stuff as well as taking care of my house, my family, our finances, our pets, our general life crap, our activities, our friendships, our grocery shopping, and anything else life feels fit to throw our way.

It's a lot of work. It's not easy work, but it's not hard work either. It just... is. Most of it I actually enjoy, which is funny to me. Granted, I'm not getting paid for any of the work yet, but I'm working on all of these things in the hope that we will have our own money-making business in the near future, so I consider it my job. I've never really had a JOB that I enjoyed before. I like the feeling.

Mostly, I get frustrated because parts of the process take so long. I'm impatient by nature and I want everything to just HAPPEN. Life doesn't work that way. And there is definitely value in the process. Working on the business plan, for instance, has really been helping us solidify our ideas and paint a solid picture of what we want and what will WORK. Packing things up now and sorting out things we don't need will both help us raise money AND make the actual moving process much easier. There is value in taking the time to do things right.

At the same time, the frustrated Veruca inside me is stamping her foot and screaming "But I want to be at the bar NOOOWWWWW!".

So many tasks to complete. They really are coming along, even if it doesn't always LOOK like it from the outside.

We will likely be back in Mount Carroll in two weeks. Who knows what will come of that visit, eh? We have some ideas and some hopes... but we'll see.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing An Effective Business Plan

It probably comes as no surprise, given my propensity for blogging, that writing comes very naturally to me. It is also likely that it is no surprise that IDEAS come naturally to me. I am constantly generating ideas for projects in many different spheres. Indeed, I have often wished that it was possible to find someone to pay me just to give them brilliant money making ideas... because I have some really great ones, but folks? I'm often lousy on the follow-through.

It seems to me that the reason I am often lousy on the follow-through is because the idea I have generated isn't the right fit for me. It's a good idea and I'm excited about it... but I am not the person meant to follow that path. Sometimes I try, and inevitably I fizzle out.

This idea, my Spookytown idea, is one that I've had for years... I keep coming back to it... but I've been lousy on the follow-through because, quite frankly, it seemed like a pipe dream. It is such a huge vision that it was nearly impossible for me to break it down into steps or even know what direction to turn in order to get it started.

Finding a location we love, and the idea of opening the bar, was one of those moments of serendipity where everything just gelled together in my mind, and it all seems to FIT.

We've done all the work we can up to having a completed business plan at this point, I believe. The business plan is the next logical step. We've been working on it (indeed, I have 16 pages of it rough-drafted), but it's a much bigger task than I expected it to be. It seems, from my research, that there is no one set business plan. Most of them have elements of similarity, but depending on your purpose and your business, each one is very unique. It's POSSIBLE to have a small, two or three page business plan, but for what we want to do, that doesn't feel right. The two primary purposes of our business plan are 1) to help us secure funding and 2) to make sure the vision we have in our heads is REALLY a good, worthwhile investment (inasmuch as research can support, anyway). That means lots of market research and financial documents.

I am certainly capable and confident about all of those things, but they are taking longer than I expected. Since I am an idea generator, naturally I keep generating more and more ideas for this project... and it is somewhat frustrating to have to write them down on a list and keep focusing on the business plan until it's complete. I'm not used to focusing on just one thing. It's a bit of a challenge for me.

For instance, the other day I generated what I believe is a great idea to raise funds for the project (actually I have generated TWO great funding ideas in the last week, heh), and I'm eager to get started, BUT the main one will take a lot of time and focus. So if I start working on it, the business plan will fall by the wayside, and suddenly we might find ourselves with a decent amount of funding but only a half-completed plan. That doesn't make logical sense.

So I have to reign in my impulses and complete the task at hand. It's a challenge for me, but that's OK. It's good to push ourselves out of our comfort zones once in a while. I'm just so excited about all of this that I want to tackle everything at ONCE! ... And there's not enough time or resources going around to manage it all effectively. So, one thing at a time.

In terms of writing the business plan, the two resources I have utilized most have been:

A) the free website, which has a TON of useful advice, sample outlines, and a large variety of free sample business plans.

B) The book The Complete Idiot's Guide To Business Plans PLUS, which has been chock full of information as well AND has a CD with a ton of information on it. I took it out from my local library for free, but I am thinking it will be well worth the purchase price and am considering buying it for our own personal reference as well.

When the business plan is complete, I'll be looking for a few sharp eyes to look it over. I'll need folks that are willing to proofread AND ask difficult questions. I'd like to make sure we didn't leave any holes and that the plan is as complete as possible before we use it to try and secure funding. If you are interested in being one of those people, please let me know.

Additionally, if any of you have any advice or resources regarding business plans that you'd like to share with us, please feel free! We appreciate all the help we can get.