Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yummy New Year . . .

I only make these once or twice a year – they take a lot of time but they really taste great!


And a dreary New Year’s Eve morning seemed like a great time, so I put the ingredients together last night since they have to spend at least three hours in the refrigerator before baking.

If you’re new to these random thoughts, I have posted the recipe before – just click here . . .

Thanks to all of you for your support this year, both for Marco’s Paper and for my family.  We appreciate all of you so much.  Here’s to a great 2012 – be careful out there tonight!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Great Customer Service Is a Thing to be Shared . . .

I am a creature of habit – once I get used to something, I don’t want to change.  I bought a new gym bag in 2005 – at the time, I did a lot of research until I found exactly what I wanted.  It’s a High Sierra Water Bottle Sport Duffel, and it has worked very well (though I never used the water bottle).

Two weeks ago, the shoulder strap broke.


It was fine when I went into the YMCA that morning.  But when I pulled it out of my locker, the right side of the strap had come loose from the clip – I don’t know how, and I couldn’t figure out how to put it back together.  I carried it by the handles for two days, and that loose strap flapping around was driving me nuts – so I decided to take it off.  I barely moved the remaining clip when it snapped off.  So the strap was now worthless.

Those two days of “handle carrying” convinced me that I needed a shoulder strap – I kept switching hands so I could open the door, get my ID card out of my wallet, and such.  It was a pain.  I did a little searching for a new one online and in a couple of stores, but I didn’t find what I wanted – what I wanted was my old gym bag.

So I decided to take a shot at contacting High Sierra.  I got on their website ( and sent them an e-mail asking if I could buy some new clips to repair my strap. They did much better than that – they sent me a whole new strap in the mail and didn’t charge me a dime.  And this was more than six years after I bought the bag.

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The strap arrived today, and I just finished putting it on my bag.  Now I’m all set for my next trip to the Y on Monday.  And of course, my favorite canine had to wander in while I was taking pictures to see what was going on.

So if you ever need a new gym bag, computer bag (I have one of those from High Sierra, too), piece of luggage, and probably more similar items that I haven’t noticed, I can recommend a company that truly stands behind their products.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The 12 (?) Foods of Christmas?

For a person who is as “non-foodie” as I am, a lot of our Christmas season revolves around food.  Most of the time, though, it revolves around food that I make, but do not eat . . .

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Like this sausage and egg casserole, that I put together on Saturday evening before I left for video duty at the 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service, and baked yesterday morning.  These are the “before” and “after” shots – taken about an hour apart . . .


Then I made a cheesecake to take to Mom & Dad’s later in the afternoon, where it joined what was left of the pumpkin cream cheese muffins and cheeseball I took there on Friday evening.

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Don’t worry – Zoe isn’t starving.  For two days, she has been working on a chew bone that my niece Natalie sent from Maryland.

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After breakfast, Ryan took advantage of a rare sunny Christmas Day and went outside to test his new remote control helicopter.  Alas, it was too windy.  So we continued our recent Christmas afternoon tradition – we went to see a movie.  This time it was Mission Impossible, which was pretty good.  The surround sound will be even better in Ryan’s “home theater” when it comes out on BluRay.

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Last night, we sat around the table and decorated Christmas cookies – we usually do this earlier in December, but with Mom’s chemo we decided to wait until she was feeling a little better.  Ryan’s favorite was my rendition of Achmed the Dead Terrorist.

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Favorite gifts of the year – Zoe’s was this pull toy from my brother’s family (you tug, it squeaks).  And my favorite has to be the Slingbox that Ryan got for me – I have always wanted one.  Now I can watch my home TV when I’m on the road.  No doubt the folks at the Grapevine show in two weeks will see it in action.

One final thing that is not Christmas-related – one of these days I will learn how to get my cell phone switched to video mode when I see something worthwhile.  Several of you have asked to see Zoe in action, and one of these days I’ll do better.  But for now, here’s a clip of her begging for treats from the UPS lady . . .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Passage of Time . . .

I love the holiday season.  For some, it begins when the Christmas tree goes up.  For others, it begins when the first Advent candle or the first candle in the Menorah is lighted.  For me, it begins on the night that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airs on CBS – because it’s not Christmas until I hear Burl Ives sing Silver and Gold and Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

We have always celebrated Christmas with Mom and Dad and my brother and his family on “Christmas Eve Eve” – it’s a tradition that started when Blake and I were very young.  Dad’s side of the family had Christmas Eve, Mom’s side of the family had Christmas Day, so Christmas Eve Eve was just for us.  We spent the evening together, decorated Christmas cookies, and each of us got to open one gift.  While the evening’s activities have changed a little over the years, the Christmas Eve Eve tradition lives on.

And so does The Picture.  I don’t remember why it started – I suspect that Dad wanted the same view each year to watch the boys grow up.  I did the same with Ryan on the first day of school each year.  So the first thing we do each year on Christmas Eve Eve is take the picture.

In 1995, my parents sold their house and moved into the condo where they live now when they’re in Ohio.  So though the outfits (and some of the heights) change, the setting remains the same . . .

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1995 and 1998 – you’ll notice that the positioning changes a bit over the years, depending on how tall the boys are.

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2002 and 2004 – didn’t take Ryan long to grow taller than all of us.

2006 2009

2006 and 2009 – Tyler finally passes Conner on the growth scale.  We have reached the point where one or more of the boys have to come straight from work.

Which brings us to last night.  Most of you know that this year, especially the past four months, has been very different in our family.  So two nights ago, Dad called and asked that each of us bring along one extra item for this year’s picture . . .


And I love it!

I called this morning to make sure we hadn’t worn Mom out.  Found out that she got up at 5:00 this morning to read through another batch of your cards and e-mails that I brought last night.  Dad came into the living room a little before 6:00 and found her in tears – she has been so overwhelmed by all of your tender support.  And I am so grateful to each of you who have taken the time to lift up prayers, send cards, and write e-mails for a very special lady.  They have made a difference.

Thanks – and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Absence Excuse . . .

I have been absent from this space for 2½ weeks.  The excuse is an easy one – we have been swamped.  The sale we had over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend was more than we ever imagined.  When that happens in a small company, you say a prayer of thanks, batten down the hatches, and get to work.  So we did – started with the first order that arrived a few minutes after midnight on Thanksgiving morning and worked forward.

Debbie and Patti take great pride in filling your orders quickly, but this was more than they could handle by themselves.  So Gary and I jumped in – filled and boxed orders, transferred merchandise from the store to the mail center, and more.  And we nearly attacked the UPS and FedEx drivers when they made deliveries (especially from Spellbinders or Ranger – it meant more orders were going to get completed and shipped).  I usually made a run to the post office just before it closed at 7:00, so it was often between 7:30 and 8:00 before I got home.  Am I complaining?  Not for a second – we’ll probably do it again next year.  And we thank you very much.

But some things had to be sacrificed, and this blog was one of them.  Now that things are calming down, I have a few stories to share over the next couple of weeks.  Here is one of them . . .


Last Friday, my nephew Conner graduated with honors from Miami University.  It was important to me that I be there – I missed his high school graduation 3½ years ago because I was away at a show that weekend.  So I picked up Dad (Mom got the OK from her oncologist to go as well, but was concerned about sitting with several thousand people in the middle of cold and flu season) and we drove over to Oxford to join my brother Blake and his wife Lisa, their younger son Tyler and his girlfriend Rachel, Lisa’s parents Ron and Mary Jo, and her brother Kevin.  And we were one of the few families that followed the instructions to not clap and make a bunch of noise when our graduate’s name was announced!  We also got a special bonus – about five years ago, Miami started a tradition of inviting that year’s “Effective Educator” recipient to give the Graduation Address at the Fall Commencement.  This year, it was a professor in the history department who also happened to be Conner’s advisor.  During her address, she mentioned four graduates by name – and one of them was my nephew.

Another story may come tomorrow night during my family’s annual “Christmas Eve Eve” gathering.  If it does, you’ll hear from me again on Saturday.  If not, I’ll go ahead and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  You are all very special and we appreciate you very much.

One other thing – Mom is doing great.  Her fourth chemo treatment was last Wednesday.  She has quite the collection of hats – I still haven’t seen the same one twice.  And this weekend, we have a lot of reasons to be thankful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sympathy Cap?

I stopped by to check on Mom and Dad yesterday after church.  When I walked in the door, I had to laugh at Dad – my first thought was that he was wearing a sympathy cap so Mom didn’t feel bad about her lack of follicles.  But he has been wearing driving caps to keep his head warm for 20 years or more.


Still, I had to put the two of them together so I could get a shot to share with the family.  And yes, you can consider yourselves family as well . . .

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reaffirming My Faith in Our Customers . . .

A package came in the mail today – it caught my eye initially because it was addressed to “Marco’s Paper – Attn: Man at Conventions”.  That was enough to qualify for my laugh for the day.  But I wasn’t expecting a package and had no idea what was inside.

So I opened the padded envelope and found two identical Spellbinders dies and a note on two Post-It-Notes attached.  It was from Diane Smith, who visited our booth at the Birch Run, MI show three weeks ago.  And it started with “OMG!  I am SO embarrassed!”

Diane won a Spellbinders die in our giveaway an hour before the show ended.  I had grabbed it at random, and told her that she was welcome to swap it for one she really wanted.  So she did – but it wasn’t until a few days ago that she started to open the package and saw that she had accidentally picked up three dies that were stuck together.  It happens all the time – I usually feel the packaging when a customer is checking out to make sure there is only one.

The irony in all of this is Diane is a retired prosecuting attorney – as she said, “I put people away for shoplifting.”

When my son was little, I taught him that the true test of honesty is what you do when no one is looking.  And when I first started doing shows, a fellow vendor taught me to expect that our customers are basically honest folks.  While there have been exceptions over the years, for the most part that has held true.

And today, I am grateful to Diane Smith for affirming it once again.