Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All . . .

The rush of the holiday season is mostly past. With a 21-year-old still asleep upstairs at 11:00 in the morning, the mad dash downstairs on Christmas morning is a faint memory. These days, I enjoy the quiet. I have read the whole paper, baked a sausage and egg casserole that I prepared last night, and a cheesecake that will go to my parents' in the evening is in the oven. Ryan and I may catch Sherlock Holmes this afternoon -- if so, it will be the first time I have been to the movies since we got the big screen hi-def TV back in May (better picture, better sound, and a pause button -- can't beat it).

This was what I intended for Zoe when we went to the store to see Barry Claus last Saturday (and missed him). The antlers belonged to my grandpa (yes, I gave them to him), but usually on Christmas morning you'd just find him with the bows from all of the packages stuck to his head.

If you could use a story to warm your heart, may I suggest this one from this morning's Dayton Daily News -- It's about Joanie Leach (we used to go to church together -- she lives a couple of blocks down the street) and how her dog has helped her recover from an aneurysm and stroke that nearly killed her 2 1/2 years ago. If you love dogs, you'll love her Emma.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you have (and have had) a joyous holiday season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thank You Note

Yesterday was one of those "WOW!" occasions you get from time to time. Something really good happens, and all you can do is take it all in and say "Wow!"

This is what the "Wow!" was all about -- Pat Hobson treated us to lunch. All by herself. Gary told me Monday that I needed to be at the store at noon Tuesday because Pat was bringing lunch.

So I strolled in yesterday and this was the spread I saw -- and Pat made most of it. I asked her if this was how she spent her winnings from drag racing (if you don't understand why this is funny, you need to go back to a post from the end of last week).

And we dug in -- all of the employees, most of the teachers, and a few of the regulars.

This is the only way I can ever get a picture of Gary -- have to put him close to food . . .

This man has more outfits than anyone I know. For the uninitiated, this is Barry Payne. Last Saturday, he was Barry Claus. A month or two ago, he was Elvis. Rumor has it that by Spring, he may be the Easter Bunny.

Even Zoe got some attention and a nibble or two.

A simple "thanks" seems insufficient -- this was a special act of kindness by a very special friend. And we truly enjoyed it. Merry Christmas, Pat!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Barry Claus Is Coming to Town . . .

It's amazing how the "celebrities" seem to enjoy making appearances in our store. You may recall that a couple of months ago, we had "The King" for a morning in our classroom. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when Karen called me last week and said there would be a Jolly Old Elf in our store on Saturday . . .

Sure enough, on Saturday morning "Barry Claus" came strolling in our front door (we don't have a chimney) with a pack slung over his shoulder and a jolly "Ho Ho Ho!"

Kris Kringle was accompanied by "Holly", one of his elves. She bears a striking resemblance to Dawn Cutter -- must be a distant relative . . .

Karen was dressed for the occasion. She has been asking Santa for the same thing for more than ten years (a grandchild), and this year it seems that a stork will be packed aboard his sleigh.

Donna Sheetz was really excited -- for days, we heard about how she wanted to sit on Santa's lap. And of course, when dealing with adults, the Jolly Old Elf gets better payoffs . . .

Finally, the little ones were allowed to make their Christmas wishes. I had planned to get to the store with Zoe and see if she could jump up on his lap, but I spent most of Friday night ferrying my mother-in-law halfway to Maryland so my brother-in-law could get her to his house for the holidays ahead of the snowstorm. By the time we got there, Santa and his sleigh were already on their way back to the North Pole.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Put the Pedal to the Metal . . .

Anyone who frequents our store knows Pat Hobson. She is here a lot -- lends a hand when we need it, answers questions for customers, works on her own projects, and more.

This is Pat -- I took this shot at one of our Make It and Take Its at the store today. I'm learning that there are many layers to Pat -- and that she has more guts than I do. Because last weekend, Pat went drag racing at a local track. No, she didn't go to watch -- she DROVE. Apparently there is a program where you can get on the track and drive your own car.

I heard it, but I still wasn't sure if I believed it. Then I saw this . . .

Pat is in the Pontiac Grand Prix. This is my first attempt at posting a video -- so if it doesn't work, you can click on the link below.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family Matters . . .

I got an excited call from Karen just after I got home last night. You may recall from last month that her birthday card from Scott and Alexis announced that Karen and David will become grandparents for the first time in the spring. Well, Scott called last night to announce the results from the ultrasound -- it's a boy.

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Zoe is here at the mail center with me today -- she usually comes along to keep me company if I'm the only one here. Actually, she spends most of her time staring out the front window -- and today it paid off. Yvonne Holtvogt is our UPS driver -- I have known her for years, as we used to go to the same church. Yvonne usually brings Zoe a treat on Fridays if she has a package to drop off in the morning and when she picks up our shipments in the afternoon. This morning, she didn't have any deliveries for us, but she saw Zoe looking out the window and stopped to run a treat in for her, anyway. I was so busy saying thank you that I didn't think to shoot a picture until after Yvonne (and the treat) were already gone.

As I type this, Zoe is back sitting at attention at the front window. Gotta be more treats out there somewhere . . .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pictures Are Better Than a Note From Your Mother . . .

Charlotte Adkins has worked with us for years, first at the mail center and more recently at our retail store. About three weeks ago, she took a day off for a chance to hobnob with a celebrity and finally has evidence to prove it.

Charlotte and her son, Josh, headed for Indianapolis in the predawn hours on November 19. They wanted to meet Sarah Palin, who (if you haven't noticed) is doing a nationwide book tour. So first they stood in line at an Indy bookstore for several hours to get line tickets, and then came back in the evening to stand in line for the actual signing.

Charlotte and Josh are in the background (Josh is in the Kentucky sweatshirt). No cameras were allowed -- all of the pictures were taken by Shealah Craighead, who worked with the McCain/Palin campaign last year, used to be Laura Bush's personal photographer, and is now the official photographer of Kay Bailey Hutchinson's campaign for Governor of Texas.

Finally, it was Charlotte's turn -- and from what I've heard she could barely hide her excitement.

Looks like they got two handshakes for the price of one book . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

With Apologies to Karen Carpenter . . .

Yesterday was a yearly milestone in our part of the country -- the "first snowfall of the winter" (you'll be hearing Karen Carpenter in your head for the rest of the day -- you're welcome).

Now those of you in the south may cringe, and those of you in the north will surely roll your eyes . . .

Because this is all it amounted to -- just enough to coat the ground. I can remember when we would laugh at this. When a friend I grew up with moved to Houston back in the early 80s, he was shocked the first time they got 1/4" of snow and the entire city was paralyzed.

But we're getting that way. The snow didn't start until after 6:00 a.m. and it was unexpected (chalk up another swing and a miss for the weather weasels), so the salt trucks didn't get out until after rush hour had started and the roads were coated with ice. And around here, many people forget how to drive on ice and snow each year until they encounter it for the first time.

So the interstates were shut down and I saw several cars overturned in the ditches. And we had no heat when we arrived at the mail center. Our furnace guy was stuck in traffic on the interstate -- he said he pulled out into the grass and drove nearly six miles before he could get off. Now I'm not advocating driving off the paved highway, but we did appreciate the warmth when he finished.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The 12 Days of Christmas, Marco Style . . .

The first part of this post is for the locals. Apparently we had an ad for our retail store in the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday editions of the Dayton Daily News. I say "apparently" because it was in the "garage sale" section of the classifieds, so I didn't see it -- but I'm told that section works for us! The store is having a special event they're calling "The 12 Days of Christmas" that runs all this week and next. Lots of big sheets and closeouts in the vacant storefront next door (which I've heard may become ours permanently in the near future), and 1,000 items in the store with markdown stickers up to 75% off!

And here's the big news -- more FREE Make It & Take It opportunities this week and next. This week, the usual Wednesday edition will be from 9:00-11:00 and will be led by Sandy Livingston -- and there will be different projects offered from 1:00-3:00 by Judy Davidson and Barry Payne. Then on Saturday there will be two different projects offered from 11:00-1:00, one by Barry Payne, and the other by "Becky" (sorry Becky, I don't know your last name).

Here's a look at both of Barry's projects. For the uninitiated, this is the type of thing we do in the store every Wednesday from 9:00-11:00 and Saturday from 11:00-1:00. And it's FREE -- just bring along your basic stamping kit including scissors, double sided tape (or your favorite adhesive), pencil, bone folder, pop dots, glue stick, small ruler, and a paper cutter if you have one.

And for you folks out in the hinterlands, we have extended the FREE SHIPPING OFFER until December 17. Through December 17, place your order of $50 or more and we'll ship it free by UPS Ground or USPS Priority Mail (our choice). Retail purchases only -- applies only to Continental U.S. addresses. For Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada, we'll ship by Priority Mail for 1/2 the regular rate. For other international addresses, we'll be happy to check to see if we can do the same economically, but can't guarantee it. Please remember to ask for the Free Shipping Offer when you place your order.

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It was a great weekend in Ohio. Thanksgiving was cold and rainy, but Saturday and Sunday were really nice -- I was able to get by outside with a couple of sweatshirts while I was putting up the Christmas lights on our house.

I have always been afraid of heights, though it's much better now than it was when I was a kid. Still, the peak on our garage roof is WAY up there. I have done it myself for the past few years, but this time my neighbor was out doing his lights at the same time and he offered to get the highest stuff out of the way for me. I really like our neighborhood -- we help each other out.

This is the finished product, which of course doesn't show up very well in the dark! We didn't do outside lights for years, but I built a rock wall around the landscaping on one side of the house about four years ago and I wanted to run some lights around the stones. And then I wanted to try something else, and then I wanted to try something else again, and one thing led to another. Our neighbors especially like the lights above the dormer windows.

Zoe loves it when I'm putting up the lights, since I'm outside all afternoon for two days. Sunday, I was stringing lights on a shrub when I heard her bark -- just one short bark. I was ready to get after her and then I saw what she was doing . . .

Our neighbor's grandson Tanner was out in their yard and Zoe was trying to get his attention. Tanner's mom and dad were helping with Grandma and Grandpa's outside decorations. Zoe LOVES Tanner (and vice versa). This may have been the only time Zoe was still -- she spent most of the time running back and forth in front of Tanner and sprinting laps of our backyard. There is still a lot of puppy in Zoe, and that's what she does when she's excited. You should see the damage she can do in our living room . . .

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thelma and Louise Make the Newspaper . . .

Everybody knows Karen, and the locals all know Joanne from visits to our store. But Thelma and Louise? This is a story worth telling . . .

Several years ago, we scheduled a show in St. Paul, Minnesota. I don't remember why I didn't go (probably a school conflict), but it was decided that Karen and Joanne would take the truck. Joanne was the driver; Karen was the navigator -- it was their first time out on the road together. In the midst of loading the truck, some smart-aleck (and it wasn't me) took a finger and wrote "Thelma and Louise" in the dust on the back door. And there it stayed, all the way to Minnesota and back, and halfway through my next trip, until I stopped at a truck stop for fuel and realized how strange that looked with a guy driving the truck.

So to this day, whenever Karen and Joanne are doing something together, the Thelma and Louise reference will come up again. Yesterday, they made the local newspaper.

There was a two-page article in the Life section of the Dayton Daily News about homemade gifts, complete with a picture of Karen, quotes from Karen and Joanne, and mention of upcoming classes and make it/take its in the store. No picture of Joanne? She politely declined -- something about running late, wet hair, etc.

If you'd like to see it, go to

And another completely unrelated thing you have to see . . .

Nikki and Sheila from Heirloom Productions (Heirloom is the show promoter at about half of the shows we attend) have started a blog called "Stamping Shenanigans" where they share stories from their travels, tips, and such. Their Thursday post was classic -- it's a "paper play" entitled Black November (A Turkey's View). When I finished, the question I couldn't answer was "Where did you come up with all of those old workout tapes?"

See for yourself at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

At Long Last, Genesis Trimmers Are Back!

I got an e-mail this afternoon from our friend Bonnie Boyle -- for the first time in years, she is accepting new orders for Genesis Trimmers.

This is a plug from me for something we do not sell -- the only place you can get a Genesis Trimmer is from Bonnie at I met Bonnie at a show in Atlanta eleven or twelve years ago, and as soon as she showed the Genesis to me I bought one. At that point, they were manufactured by a small company in Maine that was very satisfied with making them one at a time at their own pace. I waited six weeks to get mine -- soon the wait was six months, and then it got even longer. And still the orders piled up.

Several years ago, the folks in Maine decided to go out of business (I think they retired). Bonnie made them an offer and brought all of the machinery and such to Atlanta, got everything up and running, and then contacted all of those customers who had placed orders (some went back several years) to see if they still wanted their trimmer. She told me that she wasn't going to offer it to the public until she took care of each of those customers.

And that time has come. I promised Bonnie a long time ago that I would help her get the word out when she was ready to take orders again.

We sell little personal cutting machines from Fiskars and such, but whenever customers asked, I told them to save their pennies and get a Genesis Trimmer if they were ever available again. I kid you not -- this thing is great. Mine looks just like the picture above, complete with the edgelight. And I wouldn't get one without the light -- I like to print several pictures on one sheet of photo paper and the light illuminates the edge of the picture so I can trim it exactly. In all the years I have had mine, I still haven't had to replace the blade.

The Genesis Trimmer is not cheap -- the 16" model with the edgelight is $390.00 (there is also a 12" version). But if you use a cutter as much as I do, it's money well spent.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sights from Deer Widow's Weekend in Michigan

The theme for last weekend's Birch Run show was "Deer Widow's Weekend". Sunday was the first day of deer season, and evidence of the theme was everywhere. The outlet mall, restaurants -- even a truck stop where I filled up was trying to attract the hunters and/or their "widows". But the hunters weren't all men -- one customer on Friday assured me that she would be in her tree stand come Sunday morning, trying to bag her buck before her husband did. And on Sunday morning, we saw a hunter park his truck in the corner of the expo center parking lot, and go marching into the adjacent woods with his shotgun over his shoulder.

And those deer widows came out in herds -- this was the view out the front door and around the corner on Saturday morning. Notice all of those pink flyers -- I had already been through the line handing them out!

Our booth continues to grow -- 60 feet this time -- but I think we have reached our limits and need to scale it back a little. Our usual 30-foot booth strikes me as "10 pounds of potatoes stuffed into a 5-pound potato sack", so there must be a happy medium somewhere.

Like several other shows this year, Tim Hammonds from Scor-It had a demo and a free make it/take it at one end of the booth. He taught Judy Davidson, Nora Bussell, and Donna Sheetz how to teach his make it/take it, and they went to work.

And no, Nora is not bored -- just intense . . .

In the middle was Sue Nelson from -- Sue has such a following from her website. Everywhere we go, customers mention her card gallery. And there may even be the tiniest bit of envy from some when they find that we know her. Sue was right next to Karen this weekend, so she had opportunities to teach Karen about the art of spoiling a first grandchild rotten . . .

We put Judy at the opposite end of the middle table for most of Saturday, demoing Flower Soft. Judy, Nora, and Donna are quite versatile, but at one point it looked like Judy had misbehaved and Karen sent her to stand against the wall . . .

And Sue Rothamel from USArtQuest was holding court at the other end of the booth. Sue even brought her own visual aid -- that is one seriously big bottle of glue . . .

And then there were the hats. These aren't really hats -- they're vases -- the lady at left was selling them in her booth. But once Sue put one on her head, it became her constant companion. Can't you just imagine it decorated with all kinds of glitter and paint?

There were also sights to behold. Elvis and Pricilla made an appearance (see the "Blue Suede Shoes" post from earlier this month) . . .

And I really liked this lady's crown. It had ribbons that were marked "Chemotherapy", "Surgery", and "Radiation" -- and the caption said "TREATMENT -- The Only Thing I Completed All Year" . . .

There were LOTS of t-shirts and sweatshirts with lots of unusual sayings. Some of them were even repeatable -- the one at right is a little out of my league, but it did seem rather fitting for one of our customers!

I didn't get to take a picture, but I did want to send out a special thank you to Elizabeth Sova. She came into the booth on Saturday, and when she checked out she told me about a purchase she had made at the show in Novi back in August. When she got home, she realized that we hadn't charged her for a $20 set of Spellbinders replacement mats, and insisted we charge her for them. Honesty -- what a concept. Our customers are the best . . .

One last image to burn on your retinas. As I said, the theme for the show was "Deer Widow's Weekend" -- the promoter sent out an e-mail last week encouraging the vendors to dress appropriately.

Apparently I was the only one who got the memo. The promoter actually screamed and ran down the aisle when she saw me (I didn't think I was that frightening). I had a customer take the picture with my cell phone so I could text it to my son -- the camoflauge pants are his. He outgrew them years ago, but they're about three sizes too big for me!

A Heart Attack on Every Plate . . .

When we announced that we were going to a show in Birch Run, Michigan, customers who knew told us two things -- make sure to hit the outlet mall (obviously), and make sure to eat at Tony's I-75 Restaurant. We were told that Tony's is a Birch Run legend. No kidding . . .

Too bad my son wasn't with us -- Ryan would have felt right at home as soon as he saw a picture of the Mythbusters on the menu. Mythbusters is required viewing on Wednesday evening in my house. The waitress told us that Grant, Tori, and Kari stopped by on the way to test out a myth in the Upper Peninsula a while back.

Tony's isn't a fancy place, which suits me just fine. But they were having a wedding reception in one of the side rooms (first time, according to the waitress) -- on Friday the 13th! We crowded eleven people around our tables, but I couldn't get them all in one shot. Clockwise arond the table -- Sue Nelson (, Sue's husband Bruce, Tim Hammonds (Scor-It), Crystal Copperstone (USArtQuest), Sue Rothamel (USArtQuest), and Marco's staffers and local teachers David Ihle, Karen Ihle, Donna Sheetz, and Judy Davidson.

This was the only way I could get the other two -- our local teacher Nora Bussell and some nut with a camera.

It's the portions that are legendary here -- take-home boxes are mandatory for most items on the menu. Judy's sandwich took up the entire plate.

Views of other sandwiches at our table.

But this is the sandwich you go home from Tony's talking about. We didn't order one, but the guy at the table next to us did. The picture is lousy, but this is a BLT. They explain the ingredients on the menu -- two or three slices of tomato, some lettuce, two or three tablespoons of mayonnaise . . . and a pound of bacon!

And he ate it all . . .