Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to Kindergarten . . .

The last thing we had to do every day in Mrs. Irelan’s kindergarten class oh-so-long-ago was put our chairs up on the tables, to make it easier on the custodians when they came in to sweep up later in the evening.  That thought hadn’t crossed my mind for many years until I walked into the store this afternoon and saw this scene in our classroom . . . 


Suddenly, I was five years old again.  Once in a while, a sight or an aroma will take me back to a scene from my childhood.  A couple of years ago, I was in a restaurant after setup for a show.  I was following the hostess to my table when I stopped dead in my tracks.  I had just gotten a whiff of fried chicken, and for an instant I was back in my grandma’s kitchen on Sunday afternoon.  Must have been just the right blend of seasonings, because I have smelled fried chicken many times since Grandma died in 1977, and none of them affected me like that.

Guess what I ordered . . .

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not the First Time My Brain Has Short-Circuited . . .

I sent out an e-mail to our list on Friday (12,000 addresses – you probably got it).  In it, I mentioned that the first six of the 45 new Spellbinders dies had arrived as scheduled in mid-February.  And I put pictures of five of the most popular preorders above the heading, just to add some color.  It never occurred to me that people would assume that those were the dies that had arrived.  Silly me . . .

So let me clarify.  These were the dies I put in the e-mail:

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Left to right: S4-314 Lacy Ovals, S4-316 Heart Circles, S4-328 Foliage, S5-030 Fancy Tags Two, S5-031 Fancy Tags Three.  They are not here yet.

These are the dies that I should have put in the e-mail:

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Left to right: S5-034 Parisian Accents, S5-035 Parisian Motifs, S5-040 Floral Doily Accents, S5-041 Floral Doily Motifs, S5-042 Fleur de Lis Accents, S5-043 Fleur de Lis Motifs.  They are here now.  Of course, out of the several hundred preorders we have received so far, only about six included only dies from this group.  Those have been shipped – the rest of you are still waiting for the big batch to arrive in mid-March.  So are we . . .

Sorry for the confusion . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Post May Make You Thirsty . . .

This didn’t fit into yesterday’s post, but it was too cool to simply ignore – and I wish one of these was nearer to my neck of the woods (I love gadgets and gizmos).  When I went to Schlotsky’s Deli in Atlanta with Alan and Sherry Scott and their friends Eric and Gloria Mulville on Sunday, I took my cup from the counter person, went to get a drink, and was immediately confronted with “What’s This?” . . .

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This is called Coca-Cola Freestyle, and it’s a drink dispenser unlike anything I have ever seen.  It reminds me a little of the wall of dispensers at World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta where you can try out Coke products from all over the world.  But at a Freestyle dispenser, you can fill your cup with ice and then with any of 106 different Coke products – all from the same nozzle.  It’s done with cartridges – no syrup tanks.


You start on this screen by touching the soft drink you want, and on following screens you get choices of flavors and such.  As of this morning, there are 318 of these machines in the United States (yesterday, there were 316) – but none of them anyplace close to me.  Most of them are in Georgia, Florida, Texas, and California – my next shot at trying one will be when I go to see my parents in Arizona.

Does it make the Coke better (or worse)?  Nah – but it was fun to try.  You can find out if there is one near you at or by checking out the Coca-Cola Freestyle page on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Church That Puts the Message Into Action . . .

My drive home from Clearwater was eventful, to say the least – but it was truly one of those “God is in control” situations that I need from time to time.


Alan Scott is the Lead Pastor at Cumberland Community Church in Smyrna, Georgia (this is a rotten picture because he is always moving).  He grew up in my hometown and we have known each other forever – his dad was my Little League coach in the late 60s.  He went into ministry more than 25 years ago, first as an evangelist with his sister and brother-in-law.  I had lost track of him until about a year ago when we reconnected on Facebook, and I surprised him when I showed up in his congregation on the way back from Clearwater last year.

This time, he knew I was coming.  I had just cleared downtown Atlanta and was only a few miles from the church when I glanced at my instrument panel and noticed that my temperature gauge was rising rapidly.  I pulled off at the next exit and shut down for a few minutes, hoping that the computer would reset and all would be well (I know so much about engines).  Not a chance – so I decided it would be better to be stuck in the Cumberland parking lot than along I-75 on a Sunday and tried to limp the rest of the way.


And I made it, though pictures weren’t on my mind when I got there (I took this one a year ago).  I went into church, sat down, and for an hour and a half was almost able to get my mind off my truck dilemma – the service was absolutely amazing.  Alan’s message was powerful, and I happened to be there on a Sunday when they closed the service with praise music from four different bands (grunge, rock, country, and bluegrass).  Wow . . .

After the service, Alan came over to greet me and I told him about the truck.  He took me to meet his friend Eric Mulville, who is a chef at Maggiano’s Little Italy but also knows more than a little bit about cars.  Eric came out with me and looked at my truck – as soon as the hood went up he started using words that made no sense to me like “tensioner”. 

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Then he showed me that my serpentine belt (in the old days, we would have called this a fanbelt) looked like spaghetti (this is what it looked like after we finally got it off), and a pulley in this tensioner had cracked and seized, causing all of this.

So now I had a diagnosis and needed a cure – but all of the International Truck dealers in Atlanta are closed on Sunday.  So we retired to Alan’s office, where Eric started calling parts stores.  Found a belt quickly, but a tensioner wasn’t available until Monday, so we were going to have to scrounge for a replacement pulley.  Then came the best part of this story – Eric told me, “I know someone who can fix this for you for about 50 bucks.”  My response was “If he can get me on the road this afternoon, I’ll give him a hundred and consider myself lucky.”  So he called his 17-year-old son, Loren – and started the conversation with “Do you want to make some money?”


While Loren went out to pick up the new serpentine belt, we went out to get some lunch at a nearby Schlotsky’s Deli (left to right, Alan’s wife Sherry, Alan, Eric’s wife Gloria, and Eric) – where I discovered one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  But I’ll save that for tomorrow . . .

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By the time we got back to Cumberland, Loren already had the old belt and the tensioner off the truck and was looking for a wiring diagram.  So we went back to Alan’s office to search for a wiring diagram, a pulley, and an open store that had one.

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A NAPA store about five miles away looked promising.  They didn’t have the exact pulley, but we went into the back and found one that was exactly the right size, just designed for a different vehicle.  Loren and a nice NAPA guy worked together to put the tensioner back together, and then the NAPA guy jumped into his car and came out to Cumberland to help us make sure we routed the serpentine belt correctly!  Then Loren finished up my repair job and I was ready to head for home.


There is one more important person in this story – the guy at left in this photo is Loren’s friend, Taylor.  Taylor acted as Loren’s chauffeur – because Loren knows everything about cars but does not have a driver’s license yet.  Taylor and I stood around and watched mostly – he may be one of the few people who knows less about cars than I do.

If my truck had broken down practically anyplace else but where it did, I would have been stuck until Monday.  But because I was able to get to Cumberland, I was able to get it fixed, meet some new people, and enjoy a great church service.  Eric, Loren, and Taylor gave up their Sunday afternoon for someone they had never met – and in doing so, put Alan’s message into action.  If you live near Atlanta and are looking for a growing church that lives its faith, I can recommend one.

Thanks guys!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine Like This Isn’t Bad, Either . . .

I didn’t get my act together in time for this to go out with the feed on Valentine’s Day, but it still seems fitting to share it:

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This was Tweety Jill's reaction to the roses that her sweetie had delivered to her at the Clearwater show on Saturday . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our Truck Has a New Big Brother . . .

We are in Clearwater, Florida – our annual hunt for warm weather in February.  Considering it was two degrees when I left Ohio, anything was going to be an improvement.


But honestly, the temperature when setup was completed wasn’t much of an enticement to get me to Clearwater Beach.  That, and exhaustion . . .


But the truck was happy all week long.  You may recall that the truck took over this blog about a year ago and ranted about its home beside our building and its cold covering of snow.  That home was empty all week, because I left the truck in Atlanta after last week’s show and flew home, then back on Thursday morning.  It was $200 cheaper to park the truck and fly – and a lot less wear and tear on me.

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This rig is so long it took two shots just to show it all.  And you might just see it at a show this year – this is the new home of Ted Cutts’ traveling roadshow (Art Gone Wild, Inky Antics, Stampers Anonymous, Darcie’s Country Folk).  He just picked it up on Thursday, so he hasn’t even mastered turning corners and backing up yet.  The trailer is a double decker car carrier – and I hear every bit of it was loaded with booths and product.  I want to see the inside of the motor home . . .


Here’s some perspective – our truck looks positively tiny next to Ted’s.  Wow . . .

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Moment on My Soapbox . . .

I woke up grumpy this morning, but I think I have a good reason.  If you will indulge me for a moment, I think by the time I’m finished ranting you will understand.


I have only had two jobs in my lifetime.  The first one was here, at the local grocery in my hometown.  In those days, it was called Ellis’ Super Valu.  Don Ellis hired me in July 1974, and over the next six years I learned so much – about the grocery business, about business in general, and mostly about dealing with people.  I grew up in that store.  I still remember the day I left in 1980 (the next day, I started the job I have now) – the last thing Don said to me as my employer was, “If you ever get hungry . . .”  Don retired about ten years ago (I still see him almost every day at the YMCA), and Ron Kronenberger owns the store today – which makes me feel old at times, since I broke Ron in on his first day as an employee there.

The first thing Don Ellis taught me was this – every customer who comes in the door, whether he or she buys a pack of gum or a cartload of groceries, is the reason you get a paycheck.  They do us a favor every time they come in the door, so make sure you thank them every time you check them out or carry their groceries to their car.  I have never forgotten that.  I don’t think I truly got it as a teenager, but when it’s required and you do it often enough, it becomes ingrained.  And somewhere along the line, I started to understand.

Which leads me to this – last night I was in that grocery.  Picked up a few items, and went through the checkout line.  The kid who checked me out never spoke to me once – just rang up the order, ran my credit card, and handed me a receipt.  He didn’t seem to care at all – in fact, he seemed more annoyed that I had interrupted him.  I run into that way too much these days – when I go through the drive-thru line at McDonald’s (or any other fast food place), I rarely get a thank you.  When did it change?  These days, apparently I am an irritation and you are doing me a favor by taking time out of your busy day to take my money.

Not here.  You do us a favor every time you call on the phone, check out our website, come in the store, wander through our convention booth – even when you read my mindless wanderings on the blog or the e-mail list.  I appreciate it, and I thank you for it. 

And every now and then, I think of what Don Ellis taught me and I remember why.  And I wish there were a lot more like him who taught their employees why they have jobs.

Thanks, Don . . .

Monday, February 7, 2011

Welcome Back . . .

I forgot to include one picture from our fun-filled weekend in Atlanta – and I realized it in the middle of the afternoon Sunday.  It’s not earth shattering, but I suspect that some of you will be pleased to see it . . .


Rubber Stamp Tapestry has returned to the show circuit on a limited basis.  We’ll still have a display of some of their sets at shows where they aren’t a vendor (like Clearwater this weekend).  But I know they’re going to be in places like Allentown in April, West Springfield in June, and Novi in August.  There are two or three more, but they escape me at the (senior) moment.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

You Need a Valentine Like This . . .

We are in Lawrenceville, Georgia (NE of Atlanta) this weekend for our annual stop.  And I have the usual travelogue, which will come a little farther down the page.  But the best story of the weekend started on an icy Tuesday in Dayton . . .

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This was our parking lot on Tuesday afternoon, in the middle of an ice storm that roared across the Midwest.  North of us, folks in Chicago, Detroit and such got more than a foot of snow.  We got a skating rink – this was the scariest patch of ice I have ever experienced.  Just getting from my car to the front door was so dangerous that I didn’t leave the building until it was time to go home (and it was worse then) – lunch just didn’t seem that important.  Later Tuesday evening, the electricity went out at my house, and stayed off for sixteen hours.  When my dad called from Tucson the next day to inform me that the temperature there was 18 degrees (the lowest temperature ever recorded in Tucson), I just snorted -- “I can top that.  The low temperature here was 47 – in my house!”

That is all relevant to a Valentine’s story because I was at the mail center alone – Patti and Debbie are terrified of driving on ice and snow, so on days like this they stay home.  So I answered the phone when Tom Walborn called to set up a convention surprise for his sweetheart.


The lady holding the box is Tom’s wife Barbara (41 years), surrounded by friends who were in on the act.  Tom bought his wife one of Tim Holtz’ new Vagabond machines – she had been drooling at the thought of one for some time.  And he asked me to give it to his wife when the nice lady on the left (this is “OB” -- “Other Barbara”) and a group of friends brought her to the booth.  The gift came with a clue-filled card . . .


Corny, but sincere . . .

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Seconds later, an excited Barbara was on the phone, thanking Hubby for being so thoughtful.  Then she sat down at the demo table so Peggy could give her a test drive.  Feel free to show this post to your significant other – we would be happy to do this for you as well . . .


We were really looking forward to escaping Ohio for a few days – the weather has been really lousy since late November.  But we discovered quickly that lousy weather follows us everywhere . . .

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Thursday morning, I finished loading the truck on that sheet of ice in our parking lot.  Friday morning, I awoke to this view on the radar – 33 degrees and monsoon rains all day long in the Atlanta area.  Florida beware – we’re headed your way next!

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We got the truck as close to the building as possible and got everything off – felt like we were blocked in by our own boxes.  It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I noticed the changes at Sue Rothamel’s demo table . . .

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The banner was easy to spot, but you have to look a little closer to spot these catchy little cases – among the embellishments Sue added to this one is a working clock.

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This was the hot item in our booth – little packages of scraps and such for a dollar.  Gary’s 96-year-old father-in-law Walter puts them together in our backroom.  He had eight boxes full of them ready for us to take with us, and I really thought they would last for this show and the one next weekend in Clearwater.  Silly me – this was the view of the bottom of the barrels at 3:00 Saturday.  All gone . . .


This may have been the happiest lady in the house after the giveaway – in a way, she called her own shot.  In the middle of giving away nine or ten prizes, she started griping that I wasn’t drawing any tickets in the 300s.  Ticket after ticket had numbers in the 000s and 100s and 200s and 400s – no 300s.  And every time, I looked at her and gave her grief.  Then came the last prize – a Lacy Circles die from Spellbinders.  And I drew the winning ticket, stared straight at her, and started to read.  “Three!” I screamed, and then paused, just to rub it in.  Then I read the last two numbers – and it was her ticket.  The whole crowd howled with laughter as she came to claim her prize.  It was a perfect end to the day.