Saturday, February 27, 2010

Multiple Views of Winter . . .

I have had more than enough of winter – if you read these ramblings regularly, you already know that.  But I’m learning that I’m not the only one.  Yesterday was my brother’s birthday, and all he mentioned was how depressed he was with the weather.  I talked with several people from Florida yesterday, and they were all complaining about the cold.  Now to me, temps in the 50s and 60s don’t sound too bad.  But folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin probably laugh at me griping about temps in the 20s.  And folks up the east coast probably have little use for my complaints about six inches of snow at a time.  That said – we got three more inches of snow overnight, so Zoe and I were outside this morning.  We have different perspectives – I saw it as another chore with a shovel.  She saw it as an unspoiled white landscape to romp through.  Wish I had thought to take pictures – she was so happy.

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But I did take pictures of these – the two houses across the street from ours.  Doesn’t show much other than a coating of snow until you look closer . . .

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Yep – those are Christmas lights still hanging from the front gutters on both houses, and Monday will be the first of March.  I was fortunate – I took ours down the day after Christmas when it was 40 degrees, even though my family wanted them left up for a few days.  So that either makes me the Grinch, or very fortunate.  It snowed the next day – and we have had snow on the ground and the rooftops ever since.  This just doesn’t happen in our part of Ohio – we get warm days that melt the snow, and by now we’re looking at our crocuses peeking through the ground.  Sometimes they’re even in bloom.

But an hour out romping in the snow led to some other photo opportunities later in the morning . . .

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I have a tired puppy on the floor here.  I found her asleep out front where she likes to look out the window.  After a few minutes, she had moved a little closer to the sunlight.


A little later, she was working on her favorite chew bone – Zoe can chew on those things for hours.

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A little later, Zoe – and the chew bone – made their way into the room where I was working on my laptop.  My family loves the way she holds the bone with her front paws.

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Then it was time for a little quick grooming . . . and back to sleep.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Hot Time in Chilly Florida . . .

The weather may not have been warm, but the crowd was hot in Clearwater last weekend. By the time I made my way out to pass out flyers and greet the attendees, the lobby was sardine-can full and the line stretched way out into the parking lot.


See the pretty pink flyers? Yep – that’s a personal invitation to stop by our booth.


To get into StampFest in Clearwater or Orlando, you have to get past the sheriffs. Jim Drabik is on the left – his daughter Debby and son-in-law Rick are the show promoters and also own Just for Fun. And Bill Mielke needs something to do while his wife Dee shops and visits. Dee knows everyone – she and I first crossed paths years ago. I told her she reminded me of my favorite aunt, who had died a few years before. So she adopted me, and has been Aunt Dolores ever since.


This shot is blurry because these people are almost running into the hall as Debby announces that the show is open . . .

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This is not the giveaway crowd – this is the line waiting to get to my cash register. In the background of the left picture, you can see part of the line to Karen’s register. It was this way until mid-afternoon – I took these pictures long after we had gone through the freebie packs we gave out to the first 100 customers who spent $10 or more in our booth.

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I first got a picture from the angle at left, and then scooted around to see what the nice lady in the background was seeing through her viewfinder. Yep – the obligatory Sue Rothamel shot . . .


Two more very talented demo artists were inside the booth. At left is Anna Ely – Sue introduced her to us about 12 years ago and she has demoed for us in Florida (and sometimes elsewhere) ever since. And Andrea Cloutier volunteered to help us with setup and teardown a long time ago, and was quickly promoted to the demo table. The blue sweater in the background is Anna’s mom, Madelyn – she helped customers and ran errands all day. We couldn’t have survived the day without her.

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This is the giveaway crowd – filled the lobby and waaaaaay through the doorway back into the main room. I considered moving everything outside, but by then the weather was so nice that I was afraid they wouldn’t go back inside. We appreciate everyone shopping in our booth, but I always encourage them to visit the other vendors as well. There was only one problem – the folks on the other side of the doorway couldn’t hear me. If you look really close, you’ll see Karen’s head just to the right of the lady in pink in the middle of the doorway. Karen (and several other people) were repeating the numbers after I read them. Sounded like an echo . . .


And this was the surprise of the day – some of our “family” came to visit. Jon Gompf is on the left – a lot of you have talked with him, because he spent several years taking and filling phone orders in our mail center. He and his wife Bobbi moved to Florida about a year ago – I showed this picture to his mom (Patti works in our mail center, too), and she said this is the first picture of Jon she has seen since he moved. Apparently he sends pictures, but he always takes them. And Joel Allen (he and his wife are in red) is also a local kid – his mom worked with us for a while and helped make the coverings for our demo tables.

It took me until today to realize why it didn’t matter to us that it was chilly in Florida – the sun was shining. The sun never shines in Ohio in the winter. But we do see some unusual sights at times . . .


Seagulls may not seem like a big deal, but I took this shot as I was parking at our local YMCA yesterday morning. I assume that the nasty weather north of us forced them to head away from Lake Erie – we don’t normally see them more than 200 miles from the lake.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Coolest Thing (Other Than the Temperature) About Clearwater Beach . . .

I have wrestled control of the blog content back from the truck, and we have arrived safely (more about that later) in Clearwater, Florida. The natives and the snowbirds are all griping about the chill here. But as I suspected, the lack of snow and the need for little more than a sweatshirt for warmth has a certain appeal for weary northerners.

After setup for Saturday’s show was completed, I threw caution to the prevailing wind and decided to head over to Clearwater Beach anyway. Just in the five miles or so from the Matheos Hall to the beach, the temperature dropped from 63 to 58, and the beach was pretty much deserted except for a few hardy (and bundled) walkers.

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From my perspective, this is the coolest thing about Clearwater Beach. I have problems parking the truck in any popular place, but here there are three parking spaces along the main drag reserved exclusively for oversized vehicles. Popped in four quarters for an hour, and off I went . . .

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You can’t tell from the picture on the left, so I cropped part of it and blew it up – these people are riding around on Segway rentals. I want to try one of those sometime.


I walked about a mile down the beach and then made my way back around some of the buildings along the main drag. Most of my walk along the water was shared with the natives.

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The sun broke through the clouds a couple of times, and I tried to get a quick shot of the breathtaking colors. I’m not a photographer, but pictures don’t do justice to what I was seeing.


Toys for oversized little kids to play with at the beach?

You’ll note from the pictures from the parking space above that there is no trace of the White Death left on the truck, so it’s wish from Tuesday came true . . .

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But this was as close as my “little tootsies” got to the surf. And this was my first effort at one of those self-portraits with a cell phone camera. If you look closely around the neckline, you’ll find three layers, which kept me quite comfortable.

Unrelated note – Perhaps the truck really did get even for being covered with snow – today, I spent three hours at the International Truck dealer in Tampa, getting it fixed. I noticed last night that the headlights were flickering – sometimes almost going off completely. I was only about 50 miles from my destination when I noticed, but it scared me to death. I called the International dealer in Dayton and got some suggestions based on my amateur diagnosis, but nothing helped. I got behind a semi truck going the same direction I was and followed it most of the way to Clearwater to make sure my path was well-lighted.


And this little rascal was the culprit – part of a connector in the electrical system, and not much more than an inch long. I was assured that the problem is fixed. It was a simple $10 part – along with $140 labor . . .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Even Dogs Get a Better Home Than This . . .

Greg has stepped aside for a day to allow me some space to vent.  I am the Marco’s Paper truck, and I have gotten tired of listening to him gripe about the weather.  He should spend a few days in my tire tracks in February . . .

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This is me, Tuesday morning.  In the eight days since I got home from Georgia, I have been snowed on three times.  And every time the parking lot gets cleared, all of that snow gets piled around ME.

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My “home” is between two buildings, so not only do I get the cold and snow, I get the swirling winds that drift and cover me over and over.  This is not a warm blanket . . .

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You can’t tell from this picture, but that pile of snow next to me is mostly solid ice, and it’s about four feet deep.  And see those icicles and that overhanging snow next to the building?  How would you like to have that inching closer and closer to you every hour?

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Look at this – just look at it.  I’ll bet it makes you shiver.  Me, too.  But I’m getting even.  I’m leaving for Florida today – we have a show in Clearwater this Saturday.  Greg has been so excited – he usually goes for a walk in the surf on Clearwater Beach after setup on Friday.  But he had to take care of me first, because if I don’t get out, he doesn’t get out.  So he spent over two hours chopping and hacking at the snow around me yesterday, and finally got around to plugging me in so my engine block will be nice and warm today and I’ll start.

The customers will be all excited when they get to our booth on Friday, because we’re going to have all of the new Ten Seconds molds, the new Position-It from Scor-It, and almost all of the brand new Spellbinders dies that everyone has been asking about.  And we’ll have Sue Rothamel from USArtQuest in our booth – the first time she has done one of our shows in Florida.

And I’ll get a chance for all of this snow to melt off me.  But Greg will still be griping, because I heard that the weather in Florida is running 20 degrees below normal and he will freeze his little tootsies off if he goes to the beach.  It’s just breaking my heart – heh, heh, heh, heh, heh . . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

It’s Not Our Fault Anymore . . .

I have been taking the blame for the rotten weather in the south this winter.  In January, we went to Texas – coldest weather in at least 20 years.  Last week, we went to Georgia – same thing.  I was sensing a pattern, and getting very concerned about the poor souls in Florida since we’re heading for Clearwater next week.

But no more.  Ten inches of snow in Dallas/Fort Worth yesterday – not my fault.  And two or three inches in Atlanta today – not my fault.  I can’t even imagine how they’ll deal with snowstorms and no snowplows.  And there probably isn’t a loaf of bread or gallon of milk left in the south.

So I’ll offer pictures of something “y’all” won’t find down south . . .

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Overhanging snow and killer icicles!  This was the scene outside our building yesterday afternoon.  And yes, that IS blue sky overhead.  The sun never shines in Ohio in the winter, but for a few minutes, there it was!  But it was gone within an hour.  And we only have about ten inches on the ground – the folks in Maryland and Pennsylvania got it much worse.


I just had to share this.  Linda Malcom from Lost Coast Designs gave it to me last Saturday in Lawrenceville.  We haul her booth from show to show, and in return she helps us during teardown.  But once a year she gives cards and goodies to Karen and me.  I thought this card was very appropriate – looks like something Zoe would do (not to mention the dog even looks a lot like Zoe).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Difference Between Rain and Snow? 500 Miles . . .

When we go south in the winter, I usually expect an improvement in the weather.  Not this year – two trips since the first of the year have sent us to Texas and Georgia, and each was experiencing its coldest weather in at least 20 years.  Last Thursday, I drove from Dayton to Atlanta.  When I got up on Friday morning, it was 32 degrees at home – and pouring snow.


In Atlanta, it was 34 degrees – and pouring rain.  The picture just doesn’t do it justice – the rain was coming down sideways.  So I backed the truck as close to the building as possible.  Worked pretty well, except for that overhang at about forehead level.  Smacked it three times – ouch . . .

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Thankfully, by Saturday morning the rains were gone but it was still really cold.  First customer in our booth were the Bag Ladies from Charlotte.  The other shot is the view of the convention from my cash register later in the day.


Sue Rothamel from USArtQuest was holding court next to my cash register (you can almost see her behind the book on the left).  This crowd was alive – they clapped, laughed at her jokes, and responded like few groups I’ve witnessed.


There was a food trailer outside the back door.  This is the line waiting to go outside, one by one, to order food.  The wind was howling.  Every time that door opened, the blast hit me all the way across the room.  By the end of the day, my throat was scratchy from the draft.


This is a group of people looking at the Copic Marker display.  When I first saw it, all of these ladies were crowded into that one space (except for Peggy Gould in the print blouse, who was working for us).  But some of them had backed off before I clicked the shutter.


Not everyone thinks this is a thrilling experience . . .

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By giveaway time, Dave Carlson from Heirloom was sneaking around the back trying to get a shot of me up on the ladder.  So these are my shots of him trying to get a shot of me . . .


And the obligatory “wave for the camera” shot . . .

We often try to sample some of the local cuisine when we’re on the road.  David had seen a piece on the Travel Channel about a restaurant called The Varsity that is an Atlanta legend.  The original location is downtown near Georgia Tech (according to their website, on football game days they serve 30,000 customers), but when we found out that there was one near us, off we went . . .

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The sign outside looked like we were heading into an old movie theater.  And I really liked the mirror with their logo inside.


We had no idea what to expect.  This is fast food – burgers and dogs, onion rings and fries.  And the server at the counter greets you with “What’ll you have?”  Now I’m not a food critic – I’m not even a food fan – but for my money the atmosphere was better than the food.

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That said, the whole thing was worth it just for the pictures I took after Peggy, Karen and Sue put on their paper Varsity hats.  I will likely hear from Sue about this shot of her slurping her chocolate milkshake with a straw . . .


But she’ll like this one . . .