Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Items . . .

I know that some of you will be simply shocked to discover that this post is entirely work related (if you don’t feel that way, trust me – there are those who do).  But I really do work for a living – and over the past week or so we have learned about quite a few new items that are begging to find space on your craft table.  If you’re on our e-mail list, you may have already seen them – but if you aren’t . . .

Rather than going through long drawn-out descriptions, I’ll simply share the banners that I put on our homepage with a comment under each – you can click on the banner to go to our site for more information.  You may want to save this post until you have some time to sit down with a cup of coffee and browse . . .

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It has taken most of 2014 to get all 48 colors of Distress Ink Minis out – 12 at a time in four releases two months apart.  The last 12 colors came out in late August – some of you waited until they were all available and ordered all 48 at one time (or perhaps as a gift?).

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There were supposed to be ten new D-Lites dies featuring flowers and petals and greenery and such shipping in September (they’re on their way here now), and 33 more dies that we couldn’t display until late October.  But a few companies jumped the gun on the October releases, so Spellbinders decided to let everyone show them – we can take advance orders on those 33 now, but they still will arrive about the end of October.

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About the same time, Spellbinders decided to discontinue more than 170 dies and folders – some of them for reasons that completely escape me.  At the time, I saw a list of how many of each they had left in stock – which ranged from six to several thousand.  So some of these will be around for quite a while because we’ll be able to order more.  But if Spellbinders doesn’t have any more, I put an inventory control on that die so we don’t take orders for more than we have – which came in handy for Labels Seven S4-231 (we had a run on those – wish we’d had more than one in stock).  Even with the inventory control, it may be difficult to keep up since we also sell them in our store and that doesn’t go through the site – so it’s always a good idea to check with us first.

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Four new items from We R Memory Keepers – one is a new punch board, two are complementary pieces for existing boards, and the fourth is a space-saving mat.

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Just announced this week – these came with a five-minute “how-to” video that you’ll find when you click on the link that also gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the production line as they’re being bottled.

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Announced by Ranger at the same time – if you use Texture Paste or any kind of spackle, this looks like a “must have” . . .

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These are so new they aren’t even on PanPastels’ website yet – six new pearlescent colors, four mediums, and a colorless blender.  They’re available separately or in several sets.  One word of caution – the colorless blender isn’t included in any of the sets.

Have a great time!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crossing One Off My Personal Bucket List . . .

This story started with a conversation my brother and I had last November.  A bit of background – my nephew Tyler plays the tenor drums in the Miami University Marching Band (the real Miami – not that pretender in Florida – Miami was a university when Florida still belonged to Spain).  Miami’s band plays mostly home games, but makes at least one major road trip each year.  When Tyler was a freshman, his first band performance was at the Horseshoe in Columbus when Miami played Ohio State.  Of course we went to watch – and I told him afterward that he had played in front of 107,000 people in his first performance, and would never play in front of more than 20,000 the rest of his college career.

How wrong I was.  Blake started that conversation in November with “Remember when you told Tyler that Ohio State was the only big place he would ever play?  Guess where they’re playing next year?”

I didn’t miss a beat – “The Big House?  We are SO going . . .”

And so it was that last Saturday my brother and his wife, her parents and I piled into Blake’s Explorer and headed north to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I have always wanted to go to Michigan Stadium, but I really didn’t want to go as the hated enemy – for the uninitiated, Ohio State and Michigan are bitter rivals.  But a chance to go there as a fan of the worst team in Division I college football (look it up – this week Miami is #128 and there are only 128 Division I teams) – a week after Michigan got throttled by Notre Dame?  They might drop rose petals in our path as we approached . . .

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We parked at this church, 1.2 miles from The Big House.  I did some research – we parked here for $15, but any closer was going to get a lot more expensive.

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Our first view of the stadium – that little building right above Lisa’s head.  I have watched Michigan games on TV forever, and I didn’t realize until last week that all but the last eleven rows and the press box and luxury suites are below ground level.

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Lots and lots of tailgating going on at the high school just south of the stadium – and lots and lots of money changing hands to get a space.

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Much better views of the stadium – from outside, it looks like a four-story building with huge video boards at each end . . .

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To put it in perspective, here are a couple of shots from the top row of the stadium – which was only two rows above our seats.  You’ll note that like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Michigan Stadium is essentially in a residential neighborhood.

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But before we went inside, Miami’s band was going to make an appearance at an alumni tailgate at the golf course across the street from the stadium.  They were staging at the football practice field, which is surrounded by a chain link fence covered by tarps (which I assume are to keep the media and scouts from watching the football team – not the visiting band.  I took this pic by wedging my cell phone through the fence between a couple of tarps.

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The band made it across the street by marching through a narrow pedestrian tunnel.  The band normally marches four abreast, which was plenty of room for most of them . . .

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But not the tenor drums, who had to split into two rows to fit.

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At the tailgate, we got to get “up close and personal” – that’s Tyler on the right.

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After the performance, the band was encouraged to mingle with the alumni who had made the trip.  For Tyler, that meant a chance to give Mom a hug and pose for pictures.

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This is the funniest thing I saw all day – stickers that were passed out to the Miami Alumni.  My first thought was “Who are you kidding?”

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Michigan Stadium reminds me a little of the McKale Center (the basketball arena at the University of Arizona) – all of the concession stands are outside.  There was a video board showing advertisements, that suddenly turned into a “Marquee Cam” as we approached it (I blew up a piece of the picture I took to show Blake waving and my face obscured by my cell phone).

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And this is not to be missed.  My favorite little piece of Ann Arbor was “Officer Laura” (I should have taken a picture of her – instead I swiped this one from an old article in the Ann Arbor News) – she has a perch with her name on it and directs the pedestrian traffic in the crosswalks at the corner of Stadium and Main outside The Big House.  She has a microphone and talks with the crowd constantly – and she was an absolute riot.

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As we walked inside, an usher told us “There are no bad seats in The Big House.”  He wasn’t kidding – this was the view from our seats, 94 rows above the field.  After the game, we moved to a spot 25 rows from the field at about the 30 yard line to watch the bands’ postgame performance – I would have been happy in either place.  But even though the flags were billowing at our level, the wind was actually stronger on the field.

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Of course, Blake and I had to go to field level and get an “up close and personal” look . . .

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Then we wandered over to the sideline where Miami’s band was stationed – and I happened to look up toward our seats and realized that Lisa and her parents were directly between the goal posts.

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The tenor drummers were vamping, and we weren’t sure why until we realized that a cameraman from the Big Ten Network was getting shots of them that might be used as filler during the telecast.

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One of Tyler’s housemates couldn’t resist photobombing the shot . . .

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Miami’s band takes the field for pregame.  And the Michigan band did a nice tribute to the flag on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner.

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Michigan struggled with Miami early – and I couldn’t resist a shot of the scoreboard while the score was tied halfway through the second quarter.  I knew it wouldn’t last long – and it didn’t.  The final score was Michigan 34, Miami 10.

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Halftime – the Miami band performed a quick number, and then joined the Michigan band in another salute to the troops and the flag.

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After the game, the Miami and Michigan bands gathered on the field and performed for nearly half an hour.  The shot at right is out of focus, but I wanted to show the tenors swaying arm-in-arm while the Miami Alma Mater was played . . .

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Because it was on the stadium video boards at the same time – very cool.  And then we headed for the car and the four hour drive home – not realizing that the Michigan and Miami Drumlines would decide to have an impromptu “Drum Off” outside the stadium.  Thankfully, someone recorded it and posted it on YouTube so we got to watch it on Monday.

Impressions – we could not have been treated better.  We heard “Welcome to The Big House” dozens of times during the day – of course, we also heard a few “We’re glad you’re not those awful Ohio State fans” and “What a shame you have red in your school colors like those awful Ohio State fans”.  Ann Arbor is very much a college town – much like Oxford (where Miami is located) but on a much larger scale.  And getting in and out of town couldn’t have been easier.  I was very impressed with Michigan Stadium from the outside – lots of personality and so much of it below ground level.  But the inside was very vanilla and that surprised me – it was just a big bowl for 110,000 people, with nothing all that distinctive and no tributes to famous players from the past (those were also outside).

Still, at least once in a lifetime The Big House is not to be missed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Fight Well Fought, A Life Well Lived . . .

You may remember that back in February I asked for prayers for my mom’s sister Nancy, who was beginning her second bout with cancer.  That battle concluded on Sunday evening.  I have heard many times about people who “lost” their battle with cancer, but I prefer to remember that her perseverance allowed her to attend three of the four events that were important to her this year – her granddaughter Sage’s high school graduation, my son Ryan’s wedding, and her grandson Josh’s wedding.  She was too weak to attend my nephew Conner’s wedding at the end of July, but even that went right down to the last minute.

The hospice folks think that Nancy had a stroke last Wednesday night and started “transitioning” – by the time we got there on Thursday, she wasn’t able to speak and was taking constant medication to keep comfortable.  But she occasionally responded with a motion or a hand squeeze – especially for her grandchildren, who meant everything to her.

Nancy was far too young to be my aunt – it seemed much more appropriate to refer to her as my “older sister”.  And so I did.

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I will remember Nancy’s smile – she got it from my grandpa – and how much she loved her family.  She was overwhelmed by your support, and I know she would want me to thank you once more.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gremlins in the System . . .

I got at e-mail about 3:05 EDT Monday afternoon and the subject was “Marco’s Paper Blog Post” – which seemed rather strange to me since I haven’t written anything since Friday.

Then I looked at the heading – “Arizona on My Mind” – and realized that it was a post from back in May.  I assume it went out then – I have no idea why it went out today.  Similar reruns have happened once or twice before, so I guess there must be gremlins in the blogging system somewhere.

But I can assure you that I’m in Ohio – and so are my parents (I saw both of them Saturday and Sunday).  Dad just got back from a week of hiking in the Rockies – by himself – so I got to hear his stories over the weekend.

So to those of you who subscribe to the blog, please accept my apologies for clogging up your inbox . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Answering the Challenge . . .

Anyone who knows me well knows that there are two things in life I truly dislike – cold and wet.  Therefore, I have kept a very low profile during this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge sweeping the nation through social media.  And still, Sandy Sandrus (her sister and brother-in-law are Debby and Rick from Just for Fun) called me out Wednesday night.  So I share my response with you (those I challenged are all local friends of mine) . . .

Here’s a link to the video in case you can’t see it here . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEKCBcV4Y80

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More Proof That Our Customers Have the Best Ideas . . .

I was home only two weekends between the last weekend in June and this one – one of them was the Fourth of July Weekend and the other was the weekend that my nephew got married.  So all of my weekdays have been filled with either preparations for the coming weekend’s show or family gatherings.

So this week has been a blurrrrrrr . . . as I tried to catch up with all of the e-mails and new items and such that I have missed.  All the while, Gary has been wandering through my little corner of the mail center asking the same question – “Has the e-mail gone out yet?”  He is being your advocate – he knows that many of you have been waiting for the new toys and trinkets and goodies that have been released in the past few weeks – and that you’re also waiting for us to get them on our site so you can get the special pricing for advance orders.  He also knows that I don’t like to do anything until I’m sure that it’s complete and just as close to perfect as I can make it.

So he and I walk both sides of that fine line between perfection and speed . . .

I finally had it all ready on Thursday afternoon, so I wrote the e-mail and hit the “send” button.  Because there is a “speed limit” on the amount of e-mails our system will allow to be sent per hour, it takes almost 36 hours for all of them to go out (which is why some of you didn’t see that e-mail until you woke up this morning).

And then I opened my inbox this morning, where I discovered the following note from Kathy English in Texas . . .

Hi!  I love your blog and your website!!  I just noticed that the last of the Tim Holtz mini ink pads are coming soon.  Wouldn't you love to package an entire set of all 12 of these sets and sell it for a really good price?  Such a good idea--'cause I really want them all!
Thanks for all your years of supplying us with things we need.
Kathy

Now I will admit that stroking my ego a bit is always a good way to start a request!  But beyond that, I will also admit this – “That’s a great idea – how did I miss it?”  I have always said that the best ideas come from our customers, and over the years I have had enough requests for complete sets that you would think it would have sunk in at some point.  But until it does, I am grateful to Kathy and others like you who keep me on my toes.

That said . . .

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This banner is now on our homepage, and if you click on it (or on this graphic), Kathy’s wish was my command . . .

Thanks to her – and to all the rest of you who help me do my job.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sights from a Sleep-Deprived Weekend . . .

So many have have assumed over the years that the Cincinnati show must be the easiest weekend of the year for us – and seem surprised when I snort in response.  Nothing could be farther from the truth – when we’re on the road, anything that isn’t in the booth is simply out of stock.  When we’re this close to home, anything that isn’t in the booth is “I’ll pick it up at the store tonight and have it for you in the morning.”  Such was the case during the Preview Party on Friday evening – I left the Sharonville Convention Center at 11:10 p.m. and finally hit my front door at 2:45 a.m.  Made for an early wakeup call at 6:15 a.m. – thankfully, a building full of excited customers makes it easier to stay awake . . .

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The Friday night “costume” theme was Crazy Hats – and yes, it was a rerun from last year.  So are these pictures of my chapeau – you’ll find them in the blog post from last year’s show as well.  Ted Cutts saw me and shouted that wearing the same getup as last year was not allowed – my response was “Connie didn’t change the theme – I didn’t change the hat.”

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But Karen did – her headgear was quite different from last year.  And after Friday evening, it spent Saturday atop the gridwall above her cash register.

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I wasn’t the only one who pulled out last year’s hat – but Bill from Repeat Impressions did add more recyclables to his previous entry.

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Speaking of Ted Cutts – it won’t be long before his son Trevor will be looking down upon him.  We have watched a lot of kids grow up on this circuit.  It was nice to see Ted looking so good – he parted with his appendix in mid-June after gutting out the misery through a weekend show (and a couple of trips to the emergency room) in Arlington, Texas.  By the time the diagnosis was confirmed, the surgery wasn’t nearly as simple as it should have been – and Ted now has a nine-inch scar as a reminder.

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It was fun to see so many vendors get into the act.  I didn’t get far away from our booth – Our Daily Bread and Sweet and Sassy Stamps both shared the same aisle with us.

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These were two of my favorite customer entries . . .

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And then there is this sinister looking individual – who wears a hat at all shows . . .

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On my way in the door on Saturday morning, I had to get one last image of our good friends Nicole and Lucie from Luni Stamps – this was their last show, as they are headed into retirement (or at least semi-retirement).  We love them dearly, wish them well – and will miss them terribly.

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I spent some time catching up with Pat and Paul from Northwoods Rubber Stamps – my stories were about Ryan’s wedding, and theirs were about their infant grandchildren.  Both made sure to inform me that their grandson was named Maddox Paul . . .

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Our booth rocked all day as usual.  Faber-Castell sent their crack demo artist Rita Barakat in from Texas to show off their wares . . .

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. . . it isn’t as easy to see in this picture as it was when I noticed it, but the crush of customers during the early part of Saturday pushed Rita’s demo table in at an angle from where it was originally positioned.

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Always on alert for distinctive t-shirts . . . this was my favorite.  Had to get a closeup to send to Ryan – and of course he loved it.