Monday, July 25, 2016

A Not-So-Happy Beginning to a Well-Deserved Retirement . . .

Many of you are aware that William “Picasso” Gaglione (along with his Faithful Sidekick, Fred) and Darling Darlene Domel, the King and Queen of Stampland, decided at the beginning of the year that they were going to retire after the Grapevine, Texas show in mid-July.  Through word of mouth, signs in their booth, and such, the message was spread.

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If you enjoy sitting in your crafting room and making cards and artwork using rubber stamps, these two delightful folks are the roots of the stamping family tree – if you missed it, click on this link and you’ll go to a blog piece I wrote three years ago where you’ll find links to the path they took.

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Over the 20 years that we have been on the show circuit, I have simply come to love them – so much so that when “Picasso Masks” were created for a performance art piece last year, I simply had to have one.  I am staring at it on my wall as I type this.

Darlene and I live to tease each other – without fail, our greeting to each other on setup day at a show is some version of “Oh Gawd – not again!”  For months I have begged her to make my fondest wish come true and retire early (some of you will take this seriously – Darlene won’t – this is sarcasm, folks).

We have had conversations about where they were going to settle – I knew they were leaving Chicago, but they have always been “city folk”.  For a while, they were moving to Panama – then their thoughts turned to Georgia or Tennessee, and they finally decided on Knoxville.  Knowing that, I put a shelf life of three months on their retirement – assuming they would miss us (and you) so much that they would rejoin us at the show in Sevierville the third weekend in October.

We parted company after we tore down our booths at the end of the Collinsville, Illinois show on July 10 – with plans for a Gala Farewell Weekend in Grapevine.  Some customer friends were planning a cookout and there was to be a cake during the show.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I stopped for the night in Memphis three days later and found the following e-mail on my phone . . .

“Looks like we will be missing our own going away party...
the head gasket on our van blew up...anyway...the car is pretty much dead...
or just sick and tired of moving after 215,000 miles
not worth the very very costly repair it would require
and we cannot find any vans to rent this week in southern Illinois...

we are putting stuff into storage 
until we can find a new vehicle...
make a new plan
not sure how we will work that out yet

but we are not getting to Dallas area at all in the near future
so so sad!

send good thoughts our way...
Please

Darlene and Picasso”

I went on to Texas the next day, certain that they would somehow find a way to get there.  But to the disappointment of many, it didn’t happen.

Darlene is a writer as well as an artist – I think that sometimes putting her thoughts on paper is her way of thinking.  I got a long e-mail from her the day after the Grapevine show explaining their saga – she has shared this narrative with a number of people so I will also share it here (if you don’t want to read through it, please scroll to the bottom of the post) . . .

“as you know, I came to realization that I just could not do any more shows, the driving was just getting to be too much. Since our lease was up at the end of July we felt it was a good time to end our traveling and relocate to a warmer climate.  That was something we had been considering for a while.  Our last shows would be Collinsville  Illinois and then Grapevine Texas.  Then off to Knoxville Tn. to find a new place to live.  That was the plan.

We had an airbnb in Collinsville...and stayed over on Monday so I could have a chance to see my sister who was visiting her husband's family in Springfield.  Also  had a chance to do laundry and relax for the rest of the day since the previous 6 weeks had been pretty frantic...packing up our lives, having an estate sale to sell off most of our belongings, arranging with a moving company to pack up the remainder of our goods and put it in all in storage until early August, clear out the leftovers, clean the house and hand over the keys to the landlord.

We were staying in Belleville Il, just a bit south of Collinsville and stopped for a late lunch in town on Tuesday.

When we went back out to the car, where we had parked in the lot, I turned the key and this very odd growl noise was the result....a sound unlike any I had ever heard before....at which point a man in a plaid shirt and jeans came over and said, "Lady, you have a real big oil spill under your car.   You should take a look under the hood."  I agreed and he and I opened the hood.  He pointed out the dark oil stains on the hood insulation and the leak under the van.  "You had better call a tow to the nearest mechanic."   These are the words you NEVER want to hear.  But worse was to come.

Called AAA and waited in total anxiety. 

The tow driver was very nice but seemed to agree with the plaid man.  We went to a local garage.

The mechanic there made some very growly kind of sounds as he poked around under the hood.  "Do you have a regular mechanic?   Did he ever mention that your head gasket was leaking?"   I answered in the affirmative.  I also said that my mechanic felt it was nothing we had to worry about for awhile.  He said, "I think your time is up.  There are more than 215,00 miles on this van and that is more than I have ever seen on one of these.  You have to rebuild  with this kind of problem and I don't think it will be worth it, since the value of your van is probably not even twice what it would cost to do the repairs.  You should contact your insurance company."   We did.

The mechanic and the insurance people talked on the phone awhile and then they talked to me.  An adjuster would be out to see the van soon. 

Progressive is really a good company and we only had to wait about an hour until the man showed up with his ipad and his checklist.  He agreed with the mechanic.  He said that now we had to talk to the finance company and have it declared a loss.

This turned out to be the sticky part.

The agent from the insurance and the person from finance had differing views.  Apparently based on some sort of percentages the repair would still leave several thousands of value in the van.   Very few several, but enough to warrant repairs.  The mechanic felt this was stupidity in the extreme as did the insurance man.  They felt that the repair of the head gasket would be severely detrimental to the value.

I decided to consult another expert, my nephew who owns a lot of car dealerships in Chicago.

After a round robin of conversations with the mechanic and the insurance agent my nephew agreed that we should just call it a loss.  The finance company could argue but without further payments they would have to take the car back.  The problem would be the reprocess on my record.  He could help me with that.

So the final result was a very heated conversation with the finance people, a tow out of the mechanic's lot to a lot outside town and a ride with the tow man to the nearest Super 8 along with a few pieces of our luggage.

At the hotel we tried to find a van to rent.  There was nothing available, not even in St Louis, until after the weekend.

Now we had no car, a van full of our stock and personal effects sitting in an unattended space.  Not an optimal situation. We had the van packed with a month's worth of clothes and things we would need after the show to hold us over until we could find a place to live in Tennessee.  The plan being to do the Grapevine show, visit my niece and her family and head out to find a new home. Now here we were in a hotel without any transportation at all.

We finally found a rental company that would pick us up and a storage space with a reasonable rate and then made about 6 trips back and forth with the stock and put the boxes into storage along with any unnecessary critical items. The bare essentials we packed into the car and headed back to Chicago.

We returned the car to the rental company and took a cab over to my nephews offices.  He gave us a car to use for a few days and started looking for a cheap, safe, fuel efficient car for us.  We checked into a hotel and fell asleep for what seemed like two days.   The stress levels dropped considerably.

He found us a Kia Soul, a boxy compact, 2012 with only 90,030 miles.  It is an odd mossy green color, so we call it Froggy.  It ranks 3rd in safety on the road and gets good gas mileage.  We worked out very good terms.

We set off for Tennessee yesterday with a stopover in Kentucky last night.  We will be in Tennessee today and can start searching for a new place to rent to call home and a place we can set up the shop again and make stamps and open up the website. We ended up paying out a lot of the $$ we saved for our move, the moving company costs, the first and last deposit on a house on hotels and car rental and the storage costs and car payments.  We will still have to make a trip back to Collinsville to get our stamp show inventory out of storage. 

But we have had some very helpful angels come to our aid along the way and we have faith that this will be a good move in the end.  Challenging situations seem to be the ones that increase our level of gratitude, however taxing on the nerves while it is going on.”

For people who have been self-employed most of their lives, the leap into retirement can be really scary – even more so when a blown head gasket takes away the income from their last show and requires the purchase of a replacement vehicle.

We are hoping that space will become available (the show is currently full) so they can do that “last show” in Sevierville in October – if it doesn’t, I have offered Darlene a demo table in our booth and we will make space for them with us.

Another friend of theirs has started a GoFundMe Campaign for those who would like to send a tangible thank you to two really nice people who have shared so much talent and love with us over the years.  If you would like to be part of that, you can click on this link and go there.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Our Baby Grows Up . . .

It happens in every family – milestones.  The first child goes to school . . . the last child goes to school.  One child gets married – another joins the military.  Our store has its own little family – and its own milestones.  Yesterday was one of them . . .

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Chris Mach turned 50 – the last one at the store to reach middle age – and the occasion was celebrated in the best way they know . . .

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Food!  I had to get a separate shot of the cake because it was still in the refrigerator.

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And a shot of Chris with her elders – and with her daughter, Kiley, who is working part time with us this summer.

Happy Birthday, Chris!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Return of the Trader Joe’s Bag Ladies . . .

You might remember this image from last year’s July show in Grapevine, Texas . . .

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This was part of a group that has an annual retreat at a nearby hotel and spends their Saturday at the show – and last year, all of them came with Trader Joe’s bags.  They have been doing this for more than ten years, but I had never noticed before the bags appeared.

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They have an annual theme – this year’s was “Vintage Patriotic” and they decorated the conference room at their hotel.

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We have been planning ahead to do something special with them – I took these pictures Thursday evening while our friend Rita Barakat was conducting a class that we had prepared for them.

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And yesterday they came back to the show.  I couldn’t get all of them together at one time this year, either.  But I did get a “first” – one of them left her giveaway ticket back at the hotel, and called her son to read it off for her so she could write it down!

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I was invited back to their conference room for an informal cookout on Saturday evening – but a couple of them decided to come in formal attire matching the theme for the week . . .

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Meanwhile, there was a show going on behind that black curtain that secludes our booth until the show starts and the toy store opens . . .

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We were not immune to the newest craze – I “caught” three people playing Pokemon Go in our booth (they actually caught a few in the convention center).  I really thought I had seen the last of Pokemon when Ryan was about 12 . . .

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Another appearance by the Canine Campaign – this time in a red state.  And no trip here is complete without a trip to In-N-Out, where I also picked up this year’s t-shirt.

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I’ll bet you wish you could do this with your hair . . .

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Crazy Dogs, Mini Crazy Cats & Dogs, an Ellen Update, and Poor Sam . . .

How’s that title for a tease?  Should be something in this post for everyone, so let’s get started . . .

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Here they are – Crazy Dogs . . . and Mini Crazy Cats & Dogs!  The cling mount stamp sets should be here in a week or two, and the matching dies in September.  As always, advance orders are 20% Off the MSRP with Free Shipping in the Continental U.S.  I was up late last night adding lots of new Tim Holtz items from Sizzix to our site, and I suspect the next few days will be busy with new Tim Holtz items Ranger, Advantus, etc.

Instead of sending you all over our site to find all of the new Tim Stuff, here’s one link where you will find everything!

While we’re at it, here’s a chance to catch up on “Anything Tim” you might have missed – all of the Tim Holtz items on our site except the new releases are 30% Off the MSRP through July 20!

While I wouldn’t blame you if you went straight to our site and started shopping now . . . here are a few other tidbits that I need to share while they’re still fresh . . .

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Cristina Tessler handed me this “Ellen Update” as I was leaving Collinsville on Sunday and asked me to share it with you – I can’t wait to see Ellen on the show circuit as soon as she is healthy enough to travel.

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Poor Sam from Stamp On It – I think he is still wandering around the Gateway Center in Collinsville hunting for a signal for his credit card machine . . .

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And finally, one of those “too cute for words” pics of the “Kristi and Christy Show” from Sunday in Collinsville – Christy Daugherty (right) was Kristi Parker’s hostess/innkeeper during the show and spent the day with us in the booth.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sights from Collinsville . . .

We are in Collinsville, Illinois this weekend – essentially in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.  And surprise – it’s hot and muggy here!

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Any story involving the Gateway Center begins with one thought among the vendors – “Do you have signal?”  This place is built like a bunker and cell phone signal does not come inside.  I tell my family before I leave that they likely will not be able to reach me all weekend during business hours.  This weekend, I was close enough to the back garage door that a bit of signal leaked through – but not enough to boot the credit card machine at the beginning of the day.  I had to go outside for that – afterward, everything was fine.  But poor Sam from Stamp on It wore out a path between his booth and the back door all day long on Saturday, carrying his credit card machine searching for a signal.

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This is a blast from my past – Kristi Van Doren and I met about ten years ago at the go-kart track across the street from the Gateway Center.  Several of the vendors went over to have some fun after Saturday in Collinsville.  Kristi now coordinates the Gel Press Design Team and spent the weekend at our demo table – but we both decided that our backs could not handle a return to the go-kart track.

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Here’s another blast from the past – Deb and Duane Steines were “Endless Designs” on the show circuit for years.  They live in Louisville now and came over to visit – it is always nice to see good friends.  Deb and Duane were the first to use the gridwall that we have used in our booth for many years – I walked into their booth to see their new layout and that was the end of our “tabletop” booth.

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There was a “classroom” area set up in the corner near our booth with rows of chairs – Julie Creek from Creekbank Creations preferred to have everyone gather around the table – and when they finished, everyone put their chairs back in the rows where they found them.

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We start ‘em young at shows – and apparently there is something about this family that attracts me, because his mom said I took a pic of another of her kids a few years ago and put it on the blog.

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Don’t get many of these at shows – this is a 1935 Silver Certificate, from back in the days when our money was actually worth something tangible.

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And the “campaign” goes national – I put this up in the booth next to my cash register and the customers had a lot of fun with it.  One suggested that “Zoe for President” needed its own Facebook page, so that’s what I did last night.  Join in the movement and “like” the brand new Zoe for President Facebook Page – we’ll have some fun with this over the next few months . . .

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Updates, New Items . . . and a Presidential Alternative

Due to popular demand (imagine that) . . . the store has added a set of Ken Oliver classes on Sunday, July 31 to go with the set already scheduled for Monday, August 1.

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You can find links to all four of Ken’s classes here -- http://bit.ly/19D1YzH

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Meanwhile, I am almost finished loading almost 250 new Memory Box dies, stencils and clear stamp sets on our website.  And for a limited time, we’ll ship them free in the Continental U.S.  You can find those here -- http://bit.ly/29hlwc3

And last for today, but certainly not least -- after the utter failure of our political system to give us a better choice, my dog throws her collar into the ring . . .

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Now aren’t you glad you read this far?  Have a great day!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Something Lighter for the Holiday Weekend . . .

Last weekend was my 20th StampFest Summer (previously known as StampFest Orlando until it moved to Lakeland last year).  There have been 21 of them – so I only missed the first one . . .

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And yet I get occasional glimpses of that first show – yes, this is the original StampFest t-shirt.  I have seen two of them over the years, and got a picture when this nice lady wandered into our booth last weekend.

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Scenes from the Make and Take on Friday evening – the project at our booth involved Gel Press plates, and required enough steps that my presence was necessary.  So I took pictures in-between my cleanup duties.

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Cindy Chilton says that I will not be putting on the blog that she doesn’t clean up after herself . . .

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This special lady in purple is my honorary aunt, Dee Mielke.  She reminds me so much of my favorite aunt that I adopted her years ago.

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Living proof that I actually did more than just take pictures . . .

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The “train” waiting for the show to open on Saturday morning . . . and a line of “pack mules” waiting near our booth.

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The highlight of my weekend was an appearance by the patriarch of StampFest – Jim Drabik is Debby and Sandy’s dad.  He and Bill Mielke have been the “sheriffs” at the door for many years, but Jim hasn’t felt well the past couple of years.  It was great to see him.

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My favorite t-shirt of the weekend – handmade.  And a family shot – Anna, her sister-in-law, mom, and sister.

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We had canine assistance during teardown – Avery is being trained by Christine Yoder, step one on her way to one day being a guide dog; Daisy is Linda Malcom’s (Lost Coast) therapy dog.

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While we’re at it, this is Nala at home before I left, after she decided that she had a better use for the hard shell case that holds my golf clubs when I travel.

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After the show, I “visited” my way home.  I grew up with Jack and Beth Stubbs, and spent Sunday evening with them at their home near Orlando.

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Then I spent Monday on the golf course with Avery and Christine – they were the designated lost ball searchers while I played golf with friends Paul and Suzanne.

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Tuesday, I got to play golf again – this time near Knoxville, TN with friends from my spring and fall golf trips.  Cypress trees don’t grow in my part of the country and I enjoyed them – Frank says these growths around the trunk are know as “cypress elbows” (or maybe it was “cypress knees”) and people use them for all kinds of creative things.

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I’m sure that golfers are a bit puzzled when there is a big box truck parked in the lot near the clubhouse.  But when I’m traveling, it’s also my car . . .