Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Mini-Beach Vacation !!!

We took a mini-vacation !! (Well, sort of. We ran away from the weather for a whole 12 hours and went to the beach!)

For the first time in weeks, we weren't snowed in or afraid to go too far due to weather this weekend. It hit the 40s both days and the sun actually came out on Saturday! We caught a few glimpses of that bright light in the sky today but in between we were showered with some rather "substantial" flurries and some really heavy looking clouds. If it had been colder, we'd have been worried again.

Though the weekend got off to a slow start on Friday when we simply stayed in and watched the Olympics on TV, we did get an early start on Saturday. For weeks I've been craving a good seafood buffet. Unfortunately, we don't have one nearby. Don't get me wrong, we have some fantastic seafood restaurants but I wanted to sample a little of everything. (It's a very common winter urge around these parts - sort of like a withdrawal symptom or something.)

If we could travel "as the crow flies" (in a straight line, so to speak), we would be able to make it to the ocean in an hour or so. However, the fact that the Chesapeake Bay lies between us and the coast is a slight deterrent. We either need to travel about an hour South and use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or travel about 40 miles North and cross the C&D Canal and then track back down the coast to the beach resorts of Rehobeth, Delaware and Ocean City, Maryland. The northern route is a little shorter, much less hectic and a fair bit faster. It's still about 145 miles one way but a true Marylander will go a long way for great seafood!
We brushed the snow off the car (We had a light dusting through the night. Again.) and headed out. It was a peaceful, uneventful ride with a lot of snow-covered scenery. The closer we got to the beach, the less snow was around and by the time we drove into Ocean City, it felt like we'd left that winter world behind! (There were a few mounds left on corners and parking lots where they'd been plowed but you had to actually look for snow.) It honestly felt like a weight was lifted from my soul !

It was sunny and breezy on the boardwalk and we needed to wear our heavy coats but it felt fantastic !! Considering it is February and chilly and most businesses aren't open until late March or April, there was a fairly decent crowd on the boards. What a mood lifter!

We took a long stroll up the boardwalk and had an order of french fries at the most famous fry stand in the state (Thrasher's) and a small bag of caramel popcorn (Fishers, of course) which we shared with a few friendly pigeons (much to the chagrin of some nearby seagulls.) We sat on a bench here and there and people and dog watched for a while. One of my favorite shops was open and The Big Guy bought me a Jan Hagara figurine for my collection as a late Valentine's Day present. We even played some good old-fashioned pinball in one of the arcades.
When the restaurant opened, we were the first folks in line (Yes, there was a line waiting for them to open the doors.) We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and then began the trek back home to the Western Shore. The further North and West we went the more snow cover we saw. I must say, it was a bit depressing after that bright sunny snow-free day to drive back to this white (Okay, now it's sort of dirty white) snowy world.
This morning we went to breakfast and then to the casino for an hour or two. We drove in heavy flurries for a fair part of today's trip.

I do feel rejuvenated by that bit of beach and boardwalk though. It's given me encouragement that Spring is coming. I'm hoping it's enough to get me through the snow that's predicted for midweek.

I hope y'all think some "beachy" thoughts this week, too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It !!!!

Okay, this one'll be a bit of a rant tonight. Not about the weather (It actually turned out sunny in spite of the "blizzard" forecasts), but about those nuts at the grocery store, again.

So, everybody was predicting heavy snow for this area again. For our immediate neighborhood, the forecasts ran from about 6" right up to 14". They always joke that Baltimoreans all seem to hoard bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper in a storm. I can understand the perishables and those are things we tend to go through quickly but I've never understood why most people don't seem to keep any spare T.P. on hand. I mean, do they calculate out exactly how much their family uses in a week and only buy that much every week? I mean, do they count out the sheets or what?

Now we didn't need any of that stuff, before a storm that may keep us in, we want things like chocolate, pretzels, ice cream and fruit. So, since we were out of bananas, I trekked off to the store. I knew the mad dash would be on, so I set out early.

My preferred grocery store is a stand alone (doesn't share a parking lot with other stores). The lot was about 3/4 full when I arrived. I won't ride around a lot looking for a close space but happened to score one only a few spaces down a prime aisle.

Going into the store, I noted a snazzy new-looking Cadillac parked at the curb in the fire lane. It was not only illegally parked, it completely blocked the cart ramp. That ramp also happens to be the handicapped access ramp that corresponds to the adjacent 12 handicapped spaces. When I came out, 15 minutes later, that Caddie was still blocking the ramp. My order was small so it wasn't a problem for me but there were at least three folks with absolutely full carts that needed to drag them down the entire length of the store ( a pretty great distance) to the ramp at the other entrance and then trek back up the parking lot to their cars. Two of those were elderly ladies parked in handicapped spaces. They should not have been so inconvenienced.

As I pulled out of my space, I saw a very nicely dressed businessman come out of the store and approach the Caddie. He had a small deli bag and a soda bottle in his hand .
So, here's where that devil showed up and gave me a shove. (I don't usually do such things.) I pulled along side the inconsiderate clod's car and called out, in one of my sweeter voices, "Excuse me, can I ask you a question?" He smiled and strolled over and said, "How can I help you?" (Bet he thought I needed directions!)

I know my voice changed when I said, "How come you think you have a right to park there and block the handicapped ramp? Do you know how far folks have to go to get to the other ramp because you're too lazy to actually park?" He looked a little stunned, and held up his lunch, saying, in a very defensive tone, "I was just running in for a few minutes to grab a sandwich."

I came back with, "Well, I just ran in for an entire grocery order. You were there when I went in and there when I came out. What'd you do get a 5-course meal?"
(Okay, maybe I did exaggerate about how big an order I bought.)

There was a little old man with a cane standing there watching this discussion. With that he applauded! This caused Mr. Fancy Driver to simply turn and retreat quickly into his car.

I did actually feel a little embarrassed about this confrontation but then, I was tucked safely inside my big vehicle so I felt a little powerful! Know what? It felt good!

I had reason to go to several other shopping centers that day (not for groceries, though) and, at each one, there were several cars parked at the curb when there were plenty of available spaces on the parking lot. A number of these had folks sitting in them waiting for their partners to finish their shopping and come out. That is just so inconsiderate of the other shoppers. It just causes so much congestion when they do that!

I can understand making things easier on on your companion. I often pull in and drop The Big Guy at the door to save him the walk, however, I then pull down onto the parking lot to park and wait. When I see him come out, I pull back up and pick him up. It's not a difficult concept!

What makes folk think they have a higher authority than everyone else?

Okay, got that off my mind. I feel better now.

Hope y'all have a good day and, please, be considerate of your fellow shoppers. They too have demands on their time and energy and most would rather be doing something else.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working the Shows Wednesday - ACC Winter Market

To tuly experience the ultimate in craft shows, one must attend the American Craft Council's Winter Market in Baltimore. This year marks the 34th edition of this amazing event.

With over 700 exhibitors, this is the largest juried indoor craft market in the country. Taking place at the Baltimore Convention Center located in downtown Baltimore, only blocks from the Inner Harbor, the doors opened for wholesale buyers yesterday and today and will open for the retail market tomorrow through Sunday. This is truly an elite event, or as The Big Guy would call it a "La De Da Craft Show." All of the merchandise available is of the highest possible standard and is displayed in a manner befitting any shop you might find on Rodeo Drive.

The Baltimore show is the flagship of the ACC's shows and is considered a MUST by gallery and shop buyers from around the country. It is highly competitive, very tightly juried, strictly monitored for quality throughout the show and features artists and craftsmen from all over the United States and Canada. The attendance figures for 2009 were 1,100 registered wholesale buyers and 19,000 general (public) attendees. It should be noted, public buyers pay a rather hefty admission price ($15) for the privilege of attending.

I highly recommend attending at least once in your crafting career. The quality of design and the expert execution of each piece is breathtaking. You can not help but be in awe of these great artisans.

It is NOT a show most of us will ever be able to consider doing. Acceptance is EXTREMELY competitive and your work must be gallery quality both in design and workmanship. Here's the catch, you've got to be able to produce in volume even if your work is each a one-of-a-kind piece. You've got to be able to fulfill wholesale orders in a timely manner. In 2008, wholesale sales totaled $7,500,000 ! Not impressed yet? How about public sales of $6,500,000 ? Even spread throughout 700+ sellers, that's a lot of merchandise!!

Most of us would have trouble swallowing the booth, expense too. A 10' x 10' is $2,000 with a 20' x 10' going for $4,000. (20' x 5' are available for $2,800.) Want a corner? Add $400. All booths are also assessed a $65.00 facility fee by the Convention Center. There are quite a few other incidentals associated with booth set up, too. If you are not local and must stay in a hotel, be forewarned, hotels in Baltimore are quite pricey.

Way back, oh about 31 years ago, I did check into doing this show. It was a local event for me. It was a new show and it looked like it might turn out to be quite successful. (I had a retail shop at the time so I had attended the first few years as a wholesale buyer.) It was a pricey venture way back then, too. After obtaining all the paperwork and prepping my application, I chickened out. I was definitely not sure I'd be able to handle the volume at that point. (My merchandise line was completely different from what I do now.) I knew it would mean giving up just about all other shows for the year and letting my shop suffer. I settled for continuing to just go and shop the event. I did that for many years. It's been a few years now since I went and I probably won't make it this week either. There's always next year.

If this has caught your interest, check out the show's website here or for specific information about applying to this show, or any of the other ACC shows (Atlanta, St. Paul and San Francisco), joining the ACC, or to just review the elaborate rules handbook that should be read carefully before applying, check out the Craft Council's site, here.

If you live in the area and decide to attend the show this week, be prepared, not just for the $15/person admission charge, but know that most parking in the area will be $20 for anything over 3 hours (and there's no way you can see this show in that short of a time period), a cold beverage at the Convention Center will run you $2.50. Wear really comfortable shoes and layer your clothes. The Convention Center will get hot!

I recommend driving in, even with the high fees for parking. There are a number of garages within 4-6 blocks of the Convention Center. If you choose to park in the Northwestern suburbs and take the Light Rail (the Eastside does not have Light Rail access), realize you will need to walk a few blocks and the weather should be cold and snowy this weekend. Mass Transit is laughable, especially on weekends.

I hope you do get a chance to attend one of the ACC shows. As mentioned above, they also have shows in Atlanta, St. Paul and San Francisco. They are not quite as large as this one but just as nice. It will give you a chance to see how the top of the industry does it and you will truly appreciate the creativity and workmanship.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Zhu Zhu Pets - A Social Networking Marketing Success

What's new? Kung Zhu !!
Ninja hamsters ?!? Yep.

In going over their phenomenal holiday success, Zhu Zhu Pet creators realized their little mechanical pets had a bigger appeal to girls than boys. (Winning "Toy of the Year" accolades, they also took the title of "Best Girls Toy" at the 107th American International Toy Fair last week in New York City.) So, how do they grab the other half of the market while still appealing to their original fans?

They evolve ... and, they multiply! (Just like the real thing!)

With only four of the fuzzy, squeaky little critters last season the family is definitely expanding. More than 40 new hamsters will hit the market in 2010. Joining "Mr. Squiggles" and "Pipsqueak" will be "Pax", "Kingston", "Rider" and "Roxie", Zhu Zhu Rockstars ! They'll be long-haired with A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E !! A smart chip gives each their own distinct personality but they won't interact with each other.

Then, there's the Kung Zhu crowd aimed at 8 - 12 year-old boys. These will be split into two battle groups - "Ninja Warriors" and "Special Forces." Again, a smart chip will create both good and evil action figures. They can be "trained" to change their personality from cute and mild-mannered to fighting, battling warriors. (Now, not to create a stereotype, but this appeals to boys!!) They'll feature snap-on armor, weapons, vehicles and even an arena called the "battledome" to fight in. The catch? You never know who will win. (Okay, I'll admit it. Our little lady will definitely want these! So, she isn't dainty!!)
Tiring of hamsters? Then check out the Zhu Zhu Wild Bunch - "Stinky" (you guessed it - a skunk), "Sweetie" (bunny), "Rocco" (raccoon) and a hedgehog (to be named later). There will be more playsets, hamster-powered cars and boats, even beauty salons. The critters, themselves, will still be under $10.00 with accessories going for as much as $30.00.
So, what made Zhu Zhu Pets such a hit?

Well, most obviously the price. then, there was the almost lifelike unpredictable activity involved. Everybody wants to see what they'll do next. All the fun of a pet without the mess, cost of feeding and responsibility. When you tire of it, throw it in the toy box for a while.

The big story here, though, was the marketing !!!

Ultimately, the general public hit the cyber world and pushed these crazy little rodents to the top of almost every kid's Christmas list! Sales took off mostly on the word of parents raving about them online in social network settings. Mom's tweeted about their sweet appeal and where they got them. Facebook friends shared the news and passed the word. Parents blogged about their antics and how adorable they were. Other media lifted this info from the web and put it into print and audio broadcasts. Demand went up, supplies got tighter. Moms, standing in line to get the precious little items (many stores limited purchases to 2 to a customer) tweeted to all their followers where they had found them. Word spread like wildfire!! Sales went over the top!

With the introduction of the many new characters, I foresee a collectible market much like Beanie Babies.

Still wondering if Twitter and Facebook can help sales?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Still working on it!!

Here's a preview of the post for tomorrow! (You know, the one I wanted to do on Saturday!)

Photo by Cepia

I'm really sorry but I got totally bogged down by family life and other necessities yesterday and by business demands today. (The latter is a GOOD thing.) I didn't want to just throw the post together as I want it to be worth your read.

I've actually been working on several posts for this week (another Working the Shows Wednesday is coming out this week) and I hope to be on track again by tomorrow. I'm designing a new Marketing Series to start in the very near future and I've got an interview or two just waiting for pictures to attach.

I've also been trying to actually produce some new designs for my Spring sales. I'm expanding on the adult-size merchandise, home decor pieces and some great toys. I'll be telling you about these items as they actually come out. Most of February was a bit dry for me inspiration wise so I'm eager to go with the flow since getting some of my mojo back.

Hope you're getting some Spring inspiration, too.

See y'all tomorrow!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened...

A funny thing happened on my way to publishing my post tonight. I had scribbled out a draft and began typing it in and then, while checking one fact, I found a whole font of information and was possessed to revise, and then, revise again. Soooo, in the interest of getting my facts straight, I elected to postpone that particular subject. Let's just say, it's about hamsters - Zhu Zhu Pets to be precise.

I've been spending the week finding out what's new in the toy world. The 107th American International Toy Fair has just wrapped up in New York. This is the annual event where toy manufacturers from all over the world get together to introduce new products for the coming year and flaunt their successes from the past season.

Zhu Zhu Pets were voted the Toy of the Year!! (Yeah, that was a big surprise, wasn't it?) [That WAS sarcasm]

Ultimately, I find this information helpful to me as a crafter selling my work as I see what direction things are going. Where they think the trends will go and what colors, animals and such will be "IN" for the holiday season. (Yes, I DID have hamster shirts for sale for this past holiday season. I only wish I'd seen them coming sooner.)

Of course, there are some duds each year. I mean, there are over 1000 manufacturers at the fair and not all are going to have a good year. But it's interesting to see what they've come up with and how they plan to market those creations. A little business like mine can learn a lot from the Mattels and Hasbros out there.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Puppy Tweets ! Coming soon to a collar near you!

For years, Snoopy (of Peanuts fame) has been sharing his personal thoughts with us, albeit through a translator, but soon every street-corner mutt can share their activities with anyone who chooses to join their social network.
Does your dog have it's own Twitter account yet? Better sign him/her up quick. Soon all the gang down at the Puppy Palace will have one and every four-footed mongrel will be yapping about how many followers they have.

I know we all understand (or think we do) what our own furry buds have to tell us but come Fall, Mattel's new Puppy Tweets will find it's way to a store or pet shop near you. (Amazon has already signed on as a distributor.)

Puppy Tweets is a new high tech toy (for grown-ups and their K-9 pals) in the form of a plastic tag that attaches to Spot's collar and, triggered by barking or movement, will generate an automatic update on Spot's own Twitter account.
The item features a USB receiver that you (Spot's owner) connects to your computer. Download the software and create Spot's Twitter account. Attach the plastic tag to Spot's collar and he's good to go. When he barks or moves, the receiver will get a signal from the tag and generate one of 500 random pre-recorded tweets.
Ultimately, we still won't know Spot's true thoughts just merely a possible thought like, "Woo, Woo! Check out that perky Labradoodle!" (generated by a woof, woof coming from Spot himself) or, (should Spot stop and scratch) "Hey, I've finally caught my tail!" But then, I've received less relevant tweets, haven't you?

I predict retailers will have trouble keeping these on the shelves for the first few months. I mean who wants to have the only pooch on the block who's NOT on Twitter?

Me? I'm going to keep an eye on the profiles for each of my new followers, especially anybody claiming to be "Sir Barksalot" or "Lady Bow Wow."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Babs is at it again!!!

Some women are such overachievers. I really think some of them are out just to make the rest of us look bad.

I mean, how are we to feel good about ourselves when a woman we grew up with and spent all our free time with is still tall with an hour-glass figure and blonde that goes all the way to the roots. Stay with her 24/7, 365 days a year and you'll still never see a dark root, a gray wisp or even one tiny chin hair. There's never a dark bag under her eyes, chapped lips or even smudged lipstick. She's always cheerful with a smile literally plastered on her face.

Did I mention she turned 50 on her last birthday?

Now, I hear she's embarking on, not one, but two new careers. C'mon, it's time to consider retirement plans. Hasn't AARP tracked her down, yet?

Yep, that danged Barbie! Now she's becoming a Computer Engineer AND a News Anchor Woman, too!! (They are careers No. 125 and No. 126.) I bet she carries a handheld digital copy of her resume. I mean just how many pages does it tke to list all those past jobs? I'm sure she'll make computer geek look tres chic. I guess she's figuring Barbara Walters can't hang in there forever so she might as well be waiting in the wings.

Personally, I think she should check out some of those property deals now available in Boca.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Janet and Me

I'm a voracious reader. I chain-read (like chain-smoking), finishing one book and starting another the same day. Sometimes, I have more than one book going at a time. I like mysteries best but read almost anything except vampire and werewolf tales. (I KNOW they're the "In" thing these days but I just don't like them.)

Janet Evanovich is one of my favorite authors, particularly her Stephanie Plum series. So, I was really excited to score big on Evanovich on my last visit to Half Price Books. She was featured on the dollar rack that week. I bought everything they had of hers that I hadn't read yet. Who knew she was so prolific! I rounded out my collection of the Plum series and loaded up on a bunch of her other stuff.

Since we don't have a Half Price Books store here, I stock pile when I visit. I have a bookcase where I keep all my "books in waiting." This way, I've always got a new book handy. When the big snows hit this month, I was all set.

First up was Evanovich's Full House (the first in another of Janet's "series"). This one definitely falls into the category of romance with just a touch of mystery. Touting only Janet's name on the cover, this book, in her words, is a joint effort with Charlotte Hughes. Set in Virginia horse county, the hero literally rides in on a horse to rescue the damsel in distress. Amid a few explosions (of the home-made bomb type), love grows (quickly) and all do live happily ever after.The plot's a little simplistic for me and doesn't seem to have the same action punch I'm used to from Janet. I'm a little disappointed in the "strong male rides in to save the little woman" theme but it's a light read for a snowy day.

Next in the series is Full Bloom. This one does list Charlotte Hughes as a co-author with Evanovich. The style is quite similar to Full house and there is some character overlap giving a sense of continuity. (They're starting to grow on me.) There is a little mystery and a resident ghost which adds an interesting touch, and, yes, once again the mysterious dark male hero rides in to save the distressed little lady. He does ride in on a mighty fine Harley, though! I do plan to search out the other books in this series. I want to know what else happens to these fine folks.

Last up in this batch was The Grand Finale, not part of the "Full" series. This one is something Janet produced prior to giving birth to Stephanie Plum. (The "Full" series, with Charlotte, have come about mid-Plum, so to speak.) She did 12 romance novels back then and 9 were published between '88 and '99 only to very quickly go out of print. These have now been reissued with a little editing by Janet to give them a little more pizazz. This is one of those early stories.

In The Grand Finale, again the hero swoops in to save the day. This was absolutely the quickest read of them all but cute and very light and bouncy. Oh, yeah, it involves pizza. So I figured it had to be fairly good. (Maybe you should be sure to have one on hand while reading it as it may make your mouth water a little.)

Overall, they all make for a quick, pleasant read. They've all got some Evanovich trademarks like tall, dark and handsome leading men. (Stephanie does have both Joe and Ranger.) The leading ladies all have wild hair that needs to be tamed. Each tale includes a pet of some sort. (Yes, Stephanie has Rex.) Little old ladies attached to our heroines is also a recurrent theme (Stephanie has Grandma Mazur.) although the quirky"old" lady role is replaced with just a young really ditzy relative in Full House. The character serves the same purpose, though, to kind of round out our leading lady's character and to help move the plot along in a little different way. Janet also seems to believe in love afirst sight in these romance novels. Surprisingly, it usually seems to be the guy who melts first!

So, while I do still prefer the Plum tales, I will continue to read all of the Janet Evanovich items I can get my hands on. I'm working on Metro Girl now and just finished Hot Stuff.

Here's hoping y'all have a good read handy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Something Normal

Amid the snow and ice, we did something normal today!! We met another couple for a movie and dinner.

The guys thought this one up for themselves. Believe it or not, they actually picked what could be classified as a chick flick. So you think maybe they just wanted to score points?

Yep, they took us to see Valentine's Day. This one features a lot of well known stars from various age groups, Ashton Kutcher, Shirley MacLaine, Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey, Julia Roberts, Emma Roberts, Hector Elizondo, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Garner, George Lopez, Jessica Alba, Jamie Foxx and more.

The basic premise is celebrating Valentine's Day through the eyes and actions of a variety of couples and singles living and working in L.A. The whole movie encompasses just one 24 hour period. Ashton is a florist who, on the busiest flower day of the year, takes a major step forward in the name of love and finds his world thrown for a loop. Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo are an old married couple (51 years) caring for a young grandson (a 5th grader who's in love with his teacher) but who, ultimately finds a Valentine closer to his own age. There are high school sweethearts, young marrieds and even a lonely hearts club group involved. Some of the relationships are solid as granite, some crumble as the day progresses and a few surprise us but, all in all, it's a light-hearted, feel good flick. We all enjoyed it and left smiling.

Then we crossed the street to a favorite pub. We used to eat there every Tuesday for years but in the last year or two, we haven't gotten there as often. We miss it and it felt good to be " back home."

We had a great evening. What a nice respite from dealing with the weather.

Hope y'all had a good evening, too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Just another day in paradise, er. I mean, the ice palace!

As most of you know, this post-blizzard period is about as far from paradise as my mind can conceive.
I'm still doing quite a bit of reading and cooking as I am not one to venture out in the cold and snow if I can help it. The road leading to our house is still in poor shape with just a very narrow lane clear, allowing only one car in the block at once. This happens just past a sharp curve in the road at the lower end of a hill. It can be nervewracking to need to back up or sit and wait in this area. This is what we have AFTER the plows and front end loaders have worked on it. The last few days, the county has actually had someone out hand-shoveling the roadway here.

The last bit of road we need to use to get to and from the main drag is also on a steep and curving hill and, until this afternoon, was less than a lane and half wide at the peak of the hill. At that point, the snow piles are about 12' high making it difficult to see oncoming traffic as you approach the point where only one car fits. The Big Guy said they were working on that section today when he came in. Hopefully, we will have passing room there tomorrow.

All driving is complicated by pedestrians in the roadway as they simply have nowhere else to walk. The sidewalks along those stretches of roadway are owned and maintained by the county and are not in front of residential homes so no one has cleared the walkways. Although there has been some settling of the snow, one still needs to wade through snow that is well-over two feet deep if you are to attempt to use the walkways. For this reason, our school systems are still closed. Bus stops are impossible due to the piled snow, many residential streets are totally impassable and children cannot walk to their local elementary schools. For many folks, tomorrow will be the first day they return to their normal work routine.

Impossible as it seems, we dodged a bullet today and the snow they had predicted didn't happen! It did snow lightly for about two hours this evening but it didn't stick. So, while they are calling for some flurries through the night and a few snow showers tomorrow, we shouldn't pick up more than an inch or so from that.

I do usually love watching the Olympics but I have to admit, I'm having trouble getting into them this week. I think I have snow overload. I just can't stand seeing more.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, pro-baseball pitchers and catchers report to training camps this week!! Spring MUST be coming!! (Even with the home team record the Orioles have maintained for the last 12 seasons, we remain staunch baseball fans.)

I did manage to get some new listings up in my etsy shop, Splashin, this weekend. I'm trying out some mini-signs featuring cute sayings about all sorts of things. I've never put these in the shop before but they are a solid part of my show stock and have been for years. I believe everybody needs some sort of bread & butter item at shows that are priced low and have some appeal for everyone but this is the first time I've tried any "little" items in the online shop. I wonder if they will sell well enough online to make it worth all the photography and listing time involved. Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ain't love grand ?

Love is in the air but there's a lot of smog out there, too!

In addition to all those chocolates, roses, cookies, fudge, etc., maybe we could all use a little "couple advice" . What better opportunity than Valentine's Day ?

I recently came across this excerpt from an actual wedding ceremony. These are the words of the pastor to the couple:

"[Mary] look at [John], [John] look at [Mary]; Neither of you is marrying Mr. or Mrs. Right. Keep that in perspective, work out your differences, and all will be well."

Another minister cautions all couples, "Marriage is not easy." He then follows it with a few tips for a happy relationship. I recently found his "scared straight marriage speech" on line. It was, well, quite basic. I preferred the interesting advice given in the many comments from readers. Check some of these out:

1. Watching television does not count as "spending time together."

2. Never, ever, introduce your current spouse as "my first wife" or "my first husband." Your spouse will not think it is funny.

3. Don't ever tell another person in the presence of your spouse that you are training him or her.

4. In a "discussion" , don't EVER say, "I'm gonna break this down to your level." It just causes all kinds of things to get broken.

5. "I'm sorry" should not REALLY mean, "I'm sorry...until I do it again."

And these are specifically for my male readers (Ladies, you may want to show them to your man.) :

6. Don't ever call any pair of jeans your wife is wearing a "really nice pair of mom jeans."

7. Never ask your wife if she is PMSing.

8. Don't make pig noises while your wife is eating. It's NOT funny. EVER.


I'm not sure where I found this tidbit, but it does give one food for thought:

Think about what your spouse is living with. How easy would it be to be YOUR spouse? Now, treat them accordingly.


So, go out there and have a great Valentine's Day!!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm baaack - I think.

I can't believe it's been most of a week since I posted here. So sorry. What can I say, I've simply been overwhelmed with the snow!! In less than 7 days, we were inundated with just shy of 4 FEET of the white stuff !! I'm up to my neck (or at least my chest) in this junk. (All of the pics I posted were from the first storm. The second dumped another 17 inches on us.)
Picture after the SECOND storm!

The bad news is: they're calling for more of this stuff on Monday. Hopefully, only a few inches. We've shoveled "flurries" in the past so I'm not so sure about believing these guys. As for us, we'll stock up on some groceries again and plan to settle in.

Realistically, we were lucky. We never lost power but our phone and internet service was interrupted for a short while. Inconvenient but not a big problem. I had more computer interruption by The Big Guy being home with me. The nerve of him. He expected to use the computer - often for hours at a time!!

I spent a lot of time reading, cooking, photographing stock for my etsy shop - Splashin, and even doing a puzzle. I've polished off nine books!!!! (Okay, nothing epic - mostly some Janet Evanovich and such. These are usually quick reads but it does give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete a book every day or so.) I made real meals for dinner each night (got to keep those shoveling men fed!).

I've had a whole pile of things to get listed in the shop and needed to take time to take photos and write up descriptions. I finally did that and will be adding to the shop on a daily basis for a while. (I don't add everything at once so as to give things a chance to get seen on the front page or In the new listings.) Listing in the shop can be very time consuming because of the background work. So, with that done, I should be able to roll right along with these new items.

What I didn't do was make anything new. I just wasn't very inspired. I find snow soooo depressing! I didn't just develop that opinion. I said that way back in the hot. sticky summer. I didn't even like snow when I was a kid!

So, that's what I've been up to. How about you?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Might as well read a book!

So, what does one do with a mountain of snow in their yard, streets still treacherous two days after the snow stopped, most parking lots not yet cleared and more snow on the way?
I choose to hibernate. While hibernating, I'm cooking, playing on the computer and reading. I've read five books in eight days!!

As many of you know, I'm into reading what are known in the literary world as "culinary mysteries." Culinary mysteries, part of the genre I like to call "murder mystery lite," involve the food world in some way with the mystery (usually a murder). One of my favorite authors in this arena is Diane Mott Davidson.

Diane's culinary tales revolve around the hectic life of Goldy Baer Schulz, a caterer and personal chef. In the earlier books in this series, Goldy Baer is a newly divorced single mom struggling to get her new catering business (Goldilock's Catering - Where everything is just right!) off the ground and simultaneously struggling to establish a stable home life for her young son. Somehow, she frequently finds herself caught up in a murder investigation. (Some people just have one of those lives!) Later in the series, Goldy marries homicide detective, Tom Schulz, and against all of her spouse's advice still seems to find herself tangled up with what seems to be a fair number of murders occurring in her small Colorado mountain community. Throughout all the books, Goldy shares recipes with us. I've tried a few and they're pretty good!

This week I've read two of her books.

In The Cereal Murders, Goldy has been contracted to provide refreshments at the College Advisory Dinner for Seniors and Parents at her son's exclusive prep school. Wouldn't you just know it? The class valedictorian bites the dust, I mean, snow (It IS Colorado!) (Snow was a nice touch for me this week. How appropriate!) As usual, Goldy discovers the body, and, to complicate matters, a teen in her care, and living in her household, stands to benefit from the tragedy. Yep, the authorities find this suspicious. Of course, Goldy gets overly involved in the investigation and does help resolve the mystery in her own special way.

Among the recipes included here, I recommend the Chinese Beef Stir Fry, the Nacho Schulz and the Cereal Killer Cookies.

So, with another 12"-18" of snow set to start here tomorrow afternoon, I've got another stack of books lined up to get me through the storm!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

There IS a morning after!!!

When the snow stopped, we did get about an hour of sunshine and a pretty sunset.

(Sorry about the screen effect. I was too lazy to go outside and take the shot!)
Then, today, the cleanup began. The men folk went out with snow blowers and shovels and began the job early today. Then, this afternoon, a county front end loader arrived to help. I may have a mountain in the yard for a while but at least we're no longer trapped!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I've got to stop looking out that bedroom window in the morning!! It was even worse today!!

It didn't look any better looking out the front windows, either.Seriously, there were about 7" of snow there at 9:00 last night. At 6 a.m., The Big Guy measured 21". When all was said and done about 4 p.m., we had about 26" in my neighborhood. Some other nearby areas had 30." Not a bad total for only 26 hours of snowing! ? (Pretty much all of the snow from Wednesday was gone before this came down. The streets and sidewalks were clear and there was less than 2" on the grass.)

We have not seen a plow yet today. (One came into our court last night about 9 p.m. and cleared the first 6"off. The street behind that Hummer in the last picture was clear at that time.)Hopefully, by tomorrow night they will have at least run through the main street in the neighborhood and by Tuesday, they will most likely plow our street. Only 3 cars even attempted the small hill going by our house today. None made it.

I am NOT a winter person. I do NOT enjoy snow. I HATE the cold. (It's 12 degrees!) I AM NOT HAPPY TODAY.

We're expecting more snow Tuesday night.

I HATE GROUNDHOGS!!! (It's Punxatawney Phil's fault!!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Uh Oh! Here it goes again...

You've heard the old song, "Shrimp boats a'comin', there's dancin tonight..."? Well, around here today, you'd think it went something like this: "Blizzard's a'comin, there's panic today!"

Up until last night, forecasters would only describe the oncoming storm as "substantial" and "strong". They likened it to the December storm when we received 19"-20" in less than 24 hours. Last night, they used numbers like 12"+. Today, the predictions for my neighborhood are running from 12"-17" to 18"-24". Now, a few brave weather folk are actually listing it as 24"+.

They're panic terms in these parts. Forecasts of under 6" around here send folks scrambling for bread, eggs and chocolate - all the necessities of life! Authorities are actually advising people to get their shopping and errands done "by noon" so they can get off the roads.

Citizens took heed. The stores were mobbed. People even made a run on the banks. I stood in line there this morning for 37 minutes!! (After 15 minutes, it dawned on me my routine errand could have waited till next week but by then I'd already committed to the wait.) I'd allowed an hour to go to the bank and stop in for a few groceries that had been on my list all week. I glanced across the street at the food store and knew I'd have trouble just finding a parking spot at that moment so I went on to my appointment.

In the afternoon, after my luncheon date, I again attempted the groceries. That same store had no available carts!! I didn't even try it there. I do need to make a 7 a.m. run for those few items I DO need. In a crisis, we will survive though. I'm just not that determined.

I do wonder about those people who rush out to buy a snow shovel. What did they do with the one they used last week?

While we still have a fair amount of the white stuff on the ground from the other day's 6" snowfall, the streets and most sidewalks are completely clear. The good news is, this mess is happening over a weekend. We have the option of hibernating!!

Stay warm, y'all !!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

That Darn Groundhog !!!

Woke yesterday to Punxatawney Phil seeing his shadow and then, as if to punctuate that pontification, look what I woke to today !!!!

I've gotta stop looking out my bedroom window first thing in the morning !!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I need a shower !!!

I need a shower - not the soap and water kind. I need the kind that involves William-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Kitchen & Co. I want a chance to use that little scanner thingie at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Most of all, I want fluffy, new, matching bath towels, a blender that works and a hand mixer whose cord doesn't fall out when you punch it up to high. (This list could go on for a long, long time!) I need a bridal shower !!!!

Problem is - I'm married and have been for quite some time now with no plans to replace him anytime soon. I don't see anyone deciding to throw me a bridal shower at this point in time.

Any of us that have been married for, Oh, let's say, about ten years or more, knows how all those neat gadgets and kitchen appliances and such, wear out, break down and simply become outdated. Oh yeah, both garbage disposals and dishwashers have been known to chew up and spit out silverware! (My Tupperware is in harvest colors for goodness sake! Do you know how many years it's been since they did that color combination!!) Let's face it, we don't rush out and replace these things. We make do.

I mean, I've learned to hold my mixer in such a way as to hold the cord in with my little finger while mixing. It took a fair amount of practice but it can be done. My 7-speed blender only operates on 5, but how often do I really need to use the "chop" speed? When company is coming I can still find some "fairly nice" guest towels in the cabinet and, for overnight guests, I can still dig up a couple of presentable matched towel and face cloth sets. I would love to have some truly sharp kitchen knives, though.

We all want to replace these things and we even make plans to do it. Then, the car needs brakes or the furnace dies or the kids need braces and matching towels just don't seem such a priority. Buying a new blender just because two speeds don't work really seems to be a bit of a splurge. It goes on the "when I have spare cash" list. (That list is sort of like a Letter to Santa around here.)

So, I'd like to make a suggestion. I believe we should embrace the concept of Mid-Marriage Showers ! You know, best friends, sisters, cousins, even daughters, could throw them for folks who have been married 12, 15, 20 or more years. I'm sure Target, Macy's and the above-mentioned retailers would be thrilled to incorporate Mid-Marriage Gift Registries into their systems. (Do you really see them ignoring such a marketing concept ?!?)

Okay, it might take a while for this idea to catch on. So, next time your best friend's anniversary rolls around, instead of a nice bottle of wine, consider a new kitchen gadget or two. She really will love you more for it.

In case you need to mark your calendars, my anniversary is in May.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wake Up !!!!

Wow, did I have a nightmare !! Actually, it was a daymare - I was awake. I was trying to decide what to put on for my day of housework, grocery shopping, blogging and working on some new merchandise when I imagined a loud knock (Okay, banging) on my front door. I swung open the door to find Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not to Wear standing there.

OMG, what to do? Before I could slam the door shut and double bolt it, they had shoved their way in. They marched straight up the stairs, down the hall and into my room. There they confronted my closet and all my clothes neatly stowed in my dresser. (Okay, they perused the pile of laundry still sitting in the basket waiting to be ironed and folded. It was easier than trying to wade through what was tightly jammed in the dresser drawers. Oh, and some of my hanging items were on hangers hanging from a hook on the outside of the closet, easier to get to, of course.)

Before I could blink, Stacy was tsk, tsking away and Clinton was shaking his head. My lip began to tremble and I started to mumble about comfort and ease. I tried desperately to wake up.

In the distance I could hear a steady beep, beep. I just knew it was a dump truck backing up to the door to load all the clothing this team deemed wrong. Oh no, Stacy was calling for back-up! They wouldn’t be able to handle it alone. I heard her leave voice mail for Dr. Ruth (Dr. Phil was unavailable) and I think I even heard Niecy Nash mentioned with regard to closet clutter.

“Okay, I get the Niecy call but what’s with Dr. Ruth?” Clinton glanced me up and down and, with a shake of his head, said, “You stand there before me in black knee-hi socks, turquoise knit jammie pants and a long red t-shirt style nightgown that “used” to have an applique on it which seems to have half-peeled off and you wonder why we’ve called in Dr. Ruth. How could you possibly be having a wild and crazy time at night in that outfit?”

Good, they don’t seem to have found my Jockey for Her drawer yet !
While Stacy was grabbing from the closet and stacking a discard pile, I ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. I realized they really weren’t there in my room (just in my head). I went ahead and pulled on those warm, knit comfy pants and that great, heavy gray turtle-neck sweater that I’ve literally had for years. I may not be stylish today, but I’m warm and comfy which is good when there’s a blanket of snow outside.

Wait. There is a knock at my door. Do you think maybe it’s Rachael Ray or Paula Deen there to make me something good and tasty to ease my nerves?

I’ve got to start reading more and watching less T.V. !!