Friday, December 31, 2010

This Is What My Dog Lives For . . .

Zoe has had a huge past couple of days.  It all started on Wednesday when she and I went to the store to pick up some items we needed to fill orders at the mail center.  I wish I had taken pictures, but I was too busy just watching – there were at least 30 people in the store for various reasons and almost all of them were dog lovers.  So Zoe got (and gave) a lot of attention – and there were three young girls doing the make & take project (Zoe loves kids more than anything).  There was also a table full of snacks and desserts, so customers were sneaking pieces of Chex Mix under the table when they thought I wasn’t looking . . .

Zoe settled in once we got back to the mail center, but by 4:00 she was on duty at the front window, looking for Bruce.  Bruce is our UPS driver . . .

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And he brings treats!  Zoe is seriously in love with Bruce, but she was really confused a couple of weeks ago when Bruce forgot to reload on dog biscuits and ran out before he got to our place.

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Note to FedEx and any other package delivery service that may someday want to put together a proposal to get our business – your driver will have to treat my dog better than the UPS guy does (and that’s not likely).

I thought that after I shot the pictures of Zoe and Bruce, I had plenty for an End-of-the-Year Blog Post.  Then we came to work on Thursday, and Zoe hit the jackpot . . .

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First, my sister-in-law Lisa and nephew Tyler came by to drop off this year’s family Christmas picture.  When we have our family Christmas, my dad sets up a picture of the family in the same spot each year – so we can watch the boys grow up just by looking at the Christmas pictures we have taken over the years.  I had started the same thing with Ryan a few years before – I took a picture on the first day of school every year beside a rock next to the garage door.  Never knew what I would do with all of those pictures – until he graduated from high school . . .


It made a great thank you note.  But I digress – this post is about Zoe.  She loves Lisa (Tyler, too) – so the chance to spend a few minutes with Lisa and Tyler just made Zoe’s day.  But it got better still . . .

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Most of you have never seen a picture of Patti Gompf – she and her childhood friend Debbie Reed are the two nice ladies you talk with when you call the mail center to ask questions or place an order.  Patti walked in with her grandchildren, Kenzie and Isaac (who had never met Zoe), just a few minutes after Lisa and Tyler left.  Kenzie even figured out how much Zoe loves to play tug-of-war with her chew bones . . .

Then we got home last night, where Zoe discovered my brother-in-law Dex and his daughter Alexandra in our living room.  Remember my “Less-Than-Excellent Christmas Adventure” last weekend?  Well, Dex and Alexandra brought his mother back to Ohio from Maryland and stopped by to visit.  But they have to return to Maryland on Saturday – the baptisms have been rescheduled for Sunday (no, I’m not going – I have video duty at church here at home).  But Zoe was thrilled to see them, and again I was too busy just watching – and making a cheeseball to take to a friend’s for New Year’s Eve tonight – to take pictures.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Thanks to all of you who make such a fuss over Zoe.  She enjoys it so much (and so do I).  This is just another in a long line of things our customers do that makes my job fun.  Happy New Year – have a great 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Coupon Contest Winners

Karen called me Monday afternoon to see if I come up the store to take pictures of the Christmas Coupon Contest entries.  Honestly, with the hectic pace of my weekend, I had forgotten there even was a Christmas Coupon Contest.  But I took care of my photographic duties this morning . . .


Karen chose two First Prize Winners – each will receive a $25 Marco’s Gift Certificate.  This is Robyn Trimble’s winning entry . . .


And here’s an enlargement of Robyn’s poem in case your bifocals are like mine and you need bigger type!


Jeanette Alley created the other First Prize Winner.

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Nancy Galusha and Megan Chambers were the Runners-Up – each received a $5 Marco’s Gift Certificate.


The “Best of the Rest” – no prize, but they did get the 25% discount!  Thanks to all who participated.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Greg’s “Less-Than-Excellent” Christmas Adventure

For the past month or so, I have been planning a “quick-in/quick-out” trip to Southern Maryland over Christmas Weekend so I could represent our family as my brother-in-law’s three daughters were baptized on Sunday morning.  Even packed my camcorder so I could record the event, since everyone in Dex’s family was involved in one way or another.  My mother-in-law has been visiting with them for a week, so she would be able to attend as well.

I had three airports to choose from (Dulles and National in Washington, and BWI in Baltimore) and all involved a two to three hour drive from the airport to Lexington Park, MD.  I found the latest direct flight from Dayton so I could spend as much of Christmas as possible with my family, and made reservations for a rental car and a hotel room in Lexington Park – burned points for most everything, so the whole trip was going to cost less than $100.00.  And this past week I watched the weather, as a snowstorm inched across the country, invaded the south, and prepared to sweep up the east coast.  It was refreshing to watch the weather weasels admit that they really had no idea where the storm would go or how much snow to expect.

At a little after 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, I left my parents’ place in the middle of a euchre game (and I was winning!) and headed for the Dayton airport.  Should have known that there were challenges ahead when the economy parking lot was full and I had to head for an overflow lot at the outskirts of the property – where I stood, alone, in freezing temps and wind waiting for a shuttle to come.


This was a look back at my plane after it landed – it’s out of focus because I was shivering.  I found it interesting that at the little Dayton airport, when you fly on a smaller “regional jet” you walk down a heated ramp and straight onto the plane, but at huge Dulles airport in Washington they’re not equipped to handle that and you have to stumble down the stairs onto the tarmac and wait for them to deliver your carryon bags because the overhead bins aren’t big enough to accommodate them.


Not a whole lot of activity at Dulles on Christmas evening.  Walked and rode a mile or so out to Ground Transportation, where I waited 20 minutes in the cold for a Hertz shuttle, while shuttles from a dozen other rental car companies picked up their customers.  Then I waited 45 minutes in line at the rental desk (and there were only three people in front of me), which gave me time to check the weather forecast – Washington was now expecting 3-5” of snow, and Lexington Park was expecting 6”-10” – with the possibility of much more.

So I got in my car at 10:00 and started driving.  The snow started about 10:30, and by the time I arrived in Lexington Park shortly before midnight it was coming down hard.  I went to bed wondering what I would see when morning came.


This is my toy rental car when I left the hotel Sunday morning – you’ll notice that the parking lot was completely clean, with just a light coating on snow on the roof that was there when I arrived!  Yep – the weathermen missed it again . . .

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Dex and his family met me at the hotel, his three girls jumped into my car, and we drove to church – where we found this note taped to the front door!  You will note the absolute lack of snow in the parking lot – church had been cancelled on the threat of snow, with no warning to the members.  It never occurred to me that we probably should have called the minister and asked him to hop on his sled and come over and perform the baptisms anyway.


The forecast was still calling for 6-10” of snow, and it was starting to flurry a bit.  So we decided to go out for brunch – at Bob Evans.  Now I like Bob Evans, but this is a restaurant chain that started in Ohio, and one is located about two miles from where I am sitting.  It seemed ironic that I flew 500 miles to Washington and drove 100 miles in a rental car to have brunch “down on the farm” (that’s their slogan).


The family shot at the table.  Clockwise from lower left – my niece Alexandra, my niece Natalie, my mother-in-law Merea, my brother-in-law Dex, my sister-in-law Ella, and my niece Mary.  Bob Evans was doing a brisk business on the morning after Christmas, and while we were there the snow came down harder and harder.  Even though it was only 10:45 when we finished brunch and my flight was at a little after 5:00, I decided it was time to start heading home – CNN was still warning to expect delays for snow and wind at the Washington airports.


This was the view as I started my journey back from Lexington Park.  But I noticed that the farther I went, the less it was snowing.  By the time I got to the Beltway, it was only flurries . . .


And snowplows loaded with salt were sitting idle at the side of the road all over the place, waiting for a snowstorm that missed them completely and blasted Philadelphia, New York, and New England instead.  So I was on the outskirts of Washington at 12:00, with time on my hands.  And I hadn’t been there since 1978.  Time to make lemonade out of lemons . . .

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So I decided to head downtown.  When I saw an exit sign for Nationals Park (the new ballpark where the Washington Nationals play), I couldn’t resist.  Not much to look at from outside, other than the row of silver baseballs hanging around the outfield perimeter.


But from the corner next to the ballpark I could see the Capitol building only a few blocks away . . .


A few minutes later, I had parked my car on the street (free on Sundays) in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and was standing on the National Mall.

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I started walking down the mall toward the Washington Monument, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a banner hung on the Newseum a block to my right.  I have always been a fan of newspapers and journalism in general, and have wanted to go to the Newseum ever since it opened.  With an hour or so to kill, why not?  I thought it was really cool that the current day’s front pages from newspapers all over the country are displayed outside the front door.  Then I got to the front door – and discovered that unlike most of the other museums in Washington (which are free), this one costs twenty bucks.  Now that gets you admission for two days – and I will likely do that someday – but for a little over an hour?  Not today . . .


So I started back down the street, bundled up against the cold and wind.  There is something cool (bad pun) about the idea of walking down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on the way to the White House.


But not all of the sights are cool.  There is a person underneath all of those blankets (you can see the shoe).  And I saw five more in doorways and on benches as I walked.


This is the Old Post Office – I just thought the building looked interesting.


In front of the White House, with my cell phone just inside the gate so I could get a shot without the bars.  Unfortunately, Barack and family were not home – and I could have used a warm welcome and a cup of hot chocolate . . .

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National Christmas Tree across the street from the White House.  Seriously underwhelming – I assume it looks much better when the lights are turned on.  There is a shrub for each state arranged in a circle around it – this is the Ohio shrub.

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Two views of the Washington Monument.  The one at left was while I was standing next to the National Christmas Tree.  The one at right was from the base of the monument – and that is not the tip of the monument at the top of the picture.  You can’t see it from the base.


This sign was on the street next to the Washington Monument.  I took the picture because I thought it was appropriate that Ohio Drive in Washington was under construction, since every street in Ohio usually is . .

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Then I walked on down to the far end of the mall, and found the only Washington politician who was willing to sit down and visit with me . . .


The view back the way I came, from the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps.  I kept thinking that soon I would hear Forrest and Jen-ny hollering at each other . . .

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Alas, it was time to drive back to Dulles.  Filled up the gas tank, dropped off the rental car, and rode the shuttle back to the terminal.  Absolutely no crowd at security – and no, I had no body scans or pat-downs.  Made my way to the gate and found a Five Guys right next to it, so I had two hours until my flight and plans for dinner.  Then I noticed that on the Departures screen, right above the listing for my flight to Dayton at 5:07 was another for a flight to Dayton that was supposed to leave at 12:25, but was just loading because the plane was delayed getting out of Richmond on its first leg (there, they got snow).  And it was beginning to snow harder outside.  So instead of ordering a hamburger, I walked over to that gate, waited for everyone to load, and then asked the gate attendant if he would mind sending me home a little early.  Got the last boarding pass on the flight, and ended up landing in Dayton about the time my original flight was supposed to leave.

So I am back to work today, a little sore from my hiking tour of Washington.  And soon, my Christmas Adventure will be just a distant memory.  Oh yeah, I got a call from my mother-in-law as I drove home from the Dayton airport last night – my brother-in-law had just come back inside from scraping off his driveway in Maryland.  They ended up getting about two inches . . .

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to All . . .


Zoe and I wish you all the very merriest of Christmases.  Here at our house, we had a new coating of snow overnight that gave fresh color to two weeks worth of graying slush.  The presents are opened, a Christmas cheesecake just came out of the oven, and I am about to head to the kitchen to clean up a mountain of dishes that have accumulated over the past few days.  But I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your support over the past year – I look forward to seeing many of you again as we travel during 2011.

Speaking of travel, in a few hours my Great Christmas Adventure will begin.  I know it will span several states and it will be hectic, but at this point I don’t know how long it will last.  All I know for sure is there will be a story to tell when it ends.  Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A New Shipping Policy

As promised, the free shipping offer is over.  We ran it more than twice as long as in previous years – and thanks to everyone who placed orders and took advantage of it. 

So now we’re back to the same dilemma we have every year about this time.  The annual notice arrives from UPS that they will be raising their rates in January – and we have to decide whether we’ll hold steady on our shipping rates or be forced to raise them (again).

This year, we’ve decided to try a happy medium – instead of raising the rates, for most orders we will be lowering them.  Here’s the scoop – All Domestic Orders Ship for $5.95.  That way we recover part of the cost to ship your packages, but you get a break (in many cases a really big break) on the rates we have charged for years.  This is only for retail orders, and as before orders $10.00 and under ship for $3.95.

Still haven’t figured out what we will be doing on orders to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, etc. (you know who you are).  Probably something similiar to the half price shipping we offered when we were doing free shipping.  As always, contact us in advance for shipping rates before placing your order if this applies to you.

I put a big banner on our homepage and adjusted the shopping cart this morning.  But if you call to place your order, you may need to remind us – it will probably take a while to get used to this after all these years.

Any feedback?  I’d love to hear it . . .

Monday, December 20, 2010

Free Shipping Extended 24 Hours for the Businesspeople . . .

Sunday evening, I checked the progress of the e-mail I sent out to the list late Friday – and suddenly realized that it went out too late for most of the businesspeople to see it before they left work for the weekend.  So we are extending the “Free Shipping with a $30 Purchase” Offer for one additional day to give them (and you) time to take it home and spend some time with it!

This is not a gimmick – I picked today as the original end date to give folks time to put an order together over the weekend and then get it to us on Monday if they had to use their work computers (yeah, I know – but I shop online at work, too!).  But then I got busy and sent the e-mail out too late on Friday. 

So I felt it was only fair to move the finish line back a day – plus a few hours, since it will end when I get to work on Wednesday and adjust the system.  Thanks to all of you who have sent in your orders already – it was a blast watching them come in on my computer over the weekend!

In case you missed it in the e-mail – I put 84 retired Spellbinders dies on the website on Saturday at way low closeout prices ($3.00 for S3’s, $5.00 for S4’s, $20.00 for font dies).  It’s a test of the inventory function on the shopping cart – and it worked (once a die ran out, it couldn’t be ordered anymore).  They are still quite a few left – click here if you want to see them!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Weather Outside Is Frightful . . .

I came in grumbling a bit this morning – it was pouring snow (again).  I have come to the conclusion that people should be required to pass a Winter Driving Test to be allowed on the roads during bad weather.  I followed two who would have failed all the way to work.


This was the view out my office window this morning.  The picture is not fuzzy – if you look at the buildings across the street, you can see the snowflakes.  We got get three or four inches by the time it ended – and most of the schools are closed.  Go ahead and laugh, northerners – I think it’s funny, too.  A friend of mine in northern Wisconsin got 14” on Monday – and the schools there were on a two hour delay. 

Patti and Debbie are taking a snow day, so I have a visitor today . . .

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Zoe was all excited this morning – she loves snow.  When I let her out this morning, she ran through the backyard – took about four leaps and bounds, then buried her nose in the snow and snapped her head up to spray it about.  Then she repeated the process over and over.  She will spend most of the day looking out the front window here.  I talked with a lady last week who had driven to our store from out of state, and detoured to the mail center on the way – hoping to see Zoe peeking out the front window!  Unfortunately, they missed each other by a day.


Reminder -- The Free Shipping with a $30 Purchase Special ends Monday, December 20.  So if you need last minute gifts, as long as we have it in stock we should be able to get your order to you before next weekend.  We have lots and lots of gift ideas for under $10, including lots of “how-to” crafting books from Tweety Jill for $5 each.  And Tammie is counting a bunch of retired Spellbinders dies that I’m going to put on the website by sometime tomorrow for a limited time.  The shopping cart has an inventory function on it that I want to test – if everything works as I expect, the cart will only allow you to order a die from this batch if we still have some left to sell!  With the store, the mail center, and the show booth, we’ll never be able to do everything that way, but at least I want to try it!

Yesterday, I finished a project that we have been working on for some time – enough of you asked for it that I finally convinced Gary that we had to make it a reality . . .


Yep – you can finally use PayPal when you shop online at

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Has to Qualify as Some Kind of Abuse . . .

Cold weather has struck with a vengance here over the past few days – temps dropping each day and off and on snow showers.  For the past three days, I have texted a picture to my parents to show them what they are not missing in warm and sunny Arizona.


This was today’s offering, with the caption “Today . . . more of the same.”


Five minutes later, I get this in return, with the caption “Same here . . .”

My revenge comes Friday, when they fly home for the holidays . . .