Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It Followed Me Home . . .

It followed me home from Florida.  I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first, but it grew on me.  After a week or so, I was sure that it would go away, but I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye.  And it gave me a bit of a warm feeling in the chill of winter.

But then it started itching . . .


I have never grown a beard – honestly, I never could grow a full one because I don’t have any sideburns.  I always envied my brother a bit – Blake had a full beard when he was in college.  I still remember when he got his first job and had to take off everything but the moustache – it was the first time Lisa (then his fiancee – now his wife of almost 27 years) had seen him clean-shaven.


I let mine grow out for a little over a week two years ago when Ryan and I were in Florida, but when it started to itch I cut it off.  You could barely see it then, but I got the lighting in the kitchen just right and had Ryan take a picture of me with Zoe.  This time, I decided to stick it out – mostly because I assumed it would come in almost completely white.  And it did.

If you just heard a gasp, that was probably my parents – they don’t know about this yet, and will discover my whiskers as they read the blog.

I played cards with some childhood friends on Sunday evening, and Dave Blair made a comment that was pretty close to what I was already thinking – he said that if what’s coming out of my chin is whiter than what’s coming out of my head, it probably isn’t time to grow one yet.  Dave would know – his comes out white on both ends.

So it’s going away soon – probably before the Indianapolis show starts this weekend.  I might keep it through setup on Friday, but I doubt that it will make it into the weekend. 

And it might just get cut off tonight – I don’t need to keep anything that adds ten years to my appearance.  But if I could have grown one 30 years ago, things might have been different . . .

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Birthday Memories . . .

My brother Blake joined Zoe and me at the mail center for lunch yesterday.  Blake’s birthday is next week, but he has an all-day meeting on the actual day so we celebrated a few days early.  We decided to get takeout from O’Leary’s next door, and Thursday after work I went to Kroger across the street to look for something desserty.  Wandered into the bakery area, and looked at the selection of  little cakes, pieces of cheesecake, and such.

And then I saw them . . .


If you didn’t grow up in my part of the country, this picture means nothing.  But for people in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois (and I think there were a couple in Florida), a birthday cake from Bill Knapp’s was an institution.  Bill Knapp’s was a basic family homestyle restaurant – when I was a kid, I remember thinking it was a place where old people went to eat.  But it seemed we always went there for family birthdays (and we had a large extended family, so we went there a lot) – and at the end of the meal, here came the waitress with a chocolate cake while Bing Crosby sang Happy Birthday.  That cake had a number or two sticking out of the top that corresponded to your age – and each number had a lighted candle on top so you had one or two to blow out.

Those cakes were amazing, at least in my memory – I hadn’t had one since the local Bill Knapp’s closed more than 25 years ago.  So when I saw that display at Kroger, I knew what Blake and I were having for dessert.


And it was wonderful – tasted exactly the same.  I remember back in the day that we occasionally picked one up at Bill Knapp’s to take home for $1.99.  Thursday night at Kroger – $9.99 – and it was worth the cost of inflation.

Happy Birthday, Blake . . .

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Truckload of Color . . .

This note has been waiting for me to catch up to it for three weeks.  Back near the end of January, on a day so snowy, icy, and generally yucky that Debbie and Patti stayed home and I brought Zoe with me to the mail center (isn’t that a long-winded way of saying “Once Upon a Time”?) . . . a semi truck arrived.  One of our suppliers had contacted Gary with the offer of a truckload of ten colors of Bazzill Basics Cardstock at a closeout price.  He jumped on it and it arrived just in time for me to take a limited supply along with me to shows in Georgia and Florida.

Now that I’m back, Gary has asked me daily when I was going to get that cardstock on our site so that we could start moving it out to make room for the next great item that he scrounges.  Yesterday was the day – I put it on the website with no banner, no announcement, no fanfare whatsoever.  And less than five minutes later, someone had discovered it and ordered some.

I did put a banner on the site this morning . . .


Here’s a better look at the ten colors and their respective finishes . . .


It’s a rare occasion when we find nice cardstock in colors other than white and cream at closeout prices – and rarer still when it comes in big sheets so we can offer it in both 8½” x 11” and 12” x 12”. 

Want to see more?  Click on this link and feel free to add some to your next order!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Appropriate Embellishment . . .

There was a small stack of mail on my desk when I got back to work, and I finally had a chance to go through it yesterday afternoon.  One of the cards was from a familiar face . . .


You might remember Barbara Walborn from three years ago when her husband Tom gave her a Vagabond as a surprise for Valentine’s Day and we got the honor of presenting it to her at the Lawrenceville, GA show.  Ironically, Tom was not at that show, but he has been there every year since.  Barbara won a prize during the Saturday giveaway, and her card was a thank you note . . .

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. . . with the winning ticket as an embellishment.  I like the unique and original – this qualifies.

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Update One Day Later . . .

I should have known that if I put out a note with estimated delivery dates, by the next day they would change.  And they did – refreshingly, for the better.  Yesterday, Ranger shipped the new Distress Paints, Alcohol Inks, Mini Distress Pads, Distress Spritzers, Archival Inkpads and Reinkers, and Stickles (sorry, no Blending Tools and Replacement Foam yet) – so they should arrive here tomorrow or Thursday at the latest.  Same with Advantus and all of the February Tim Holtz Idea-ology releases except his new book.  So it looks like the frozen shipping spigot has finally been pried open.  Stay tuned . . .

Monday, February 17, 2014

Updates . . .

I am back at work today, but I won’t kid you – to paraphrase W.C. Fields, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Florida.”  Since I’m not, on Saturday evening I planned the next best thing – a trip to Arizona to see my parents in about five weeks.  I’ll go hiking with Dad and take Mom to the Gaslight Theatre – if you ever go to Tucson, a trip to the Gaslight is simply required if you like goofy humor.  I was barely able to get tickets for one of the final performances of “The Belle of Tombstone.”

Now that I’m back, I was finally able to get updates on some of the new products and when we should expect them to arrive.  None of the news is good – everything has been delayed by the weather.  From what I read in the paper while I was gone, this is a common complaint in every industry.  And yes, many of you know that I am a dinosaur – I still start my day with the newspaper, though I have modernized somewhat so when USA Today isn’t available on the weekends when I’m traveling, I can read my local paper on my tablet.

Gary talked with Ranger on Friday and nothing has shipped yet, including the Distress Paints and Mini Distress Inkpads that were supposed to ship in January.  The past several weeks, snowstorms have closed Ranger more than it has been open – and I read an article in USA Today that said all of the New Jersey ports have closed each time a new snowstorm has rolled through.  So Ranger not only can’t ship, they can’t get their own shipments of supplies to make the new items.  They hope to start shipping later this week – realistically, that probably means next week.

Advantus (they make all of the Tim Holtz Idea-ology) is having similar problems – everything is delayed.  However, they still hope to get all of the February releases out before the end of the month.

Here’s one that surprised me – Zutter is based in California, but their new cling and magnetic storage systems and refills will ship from Chicago and get there by barge up the Mississippi River.  They finally arrived in Chicago on Friday (about two weeks late) and should start shipping later this week.

That’s all we know so far – as we learn more, I’ll pass it along.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Last Hundred Miles . . .

We are home.  You haven’t truly experienced a drive to and from Florida until you’ve made the trip  in a box truck – just ask Ryan.  I have a hydraulic driver’s seat, so I don’t endure the bumps and jolts of the interstate like someone on the passenger side.

I watched the weather very carefully leading up to our departure (what did we do before the Weather Channel?) because I wanted to make sure that Atlanta and northern Georgia had a chance to deal with their second major snowstorm in two weeks before we rolled through.  So we rode our favorites at Universal Studios one last time and then started north about 3:00 on Thursday afternoon.  Stopped for the night just south of Cordele, GA – far enough into Georgia that we could get home on Friday, but far enough south that anything that might have frozen on the roads in and north of Atlanta had ample time to thaw before we got there.

And it did.  We saw lots of downed tree limbs and mini-icebergs along the road, but really didn’t see a lot of snow on the grassy areas until we got almost all the way to Chattanooga.  We stopped for a bite just south of Knoxville and from there it was smooth sailing home – we were expecting a dusting of snow around home, but no more than an inch so it shouldn’t affect the roads much.

And then my cell phone buzzed twice about 90 miles into Kentucky, and I saw those three little words that bring unbridled joy to any northerner’s heart these days – Winter Storm Warning.

So I stopped to fill up and took a look at the radar while the diesel fuel was flowing.  What I saw wasn’t pretty – and it started as rain just a couple of minutes after we got back on I-75.  Just north of Lexington it started to mix with snow, and 100 miles from home it turned into a full-blown snowstorm.  And a drive that usually takes less than two hours took more than four.  The roads were bad, but it was one of those “keep it at about 35 mph and you’ll be fine” kinds of bad.  Unfortunately, we kept getting behind people who were panicking and creeping along at about 20 mph – those folks upset the truckers and they go whizzing by way too fast in an untreated lane.  And that’s when I start getting scared . . .

But we made it safely.  Got to the house, unloaded the luggage and my golf clubs, picked up a car, drove the truck to the mail center (if I had left it parked in front of my house last night, it would have been plowed in this morning), and then back home.  This morning, I got up and blew another 5”-6” of Mother Nature’s finest off my driveway, then came into work to catch up a little.

And what I saw clinging to the truck made me realize what we had been through . . .

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For those of you who never venture out of warmer climates, this is frozen road slop.  And there is a license plate underneath there someplace.

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The rear view mirrors caught it as well.  I have had quite enough – I put the following note on my Facebook page this morning – “Somebody has to do it . . . I hereby declare Winter over . . . just cleaned off the driveway and ran the rest of the gas out of the snowblower.  It has worked hard enough and it's time for it to go back into hibernation . . .”


Think it’ll work?  Neither do I.  But all of this lingering whiteness is turning my front walk into a cavern . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Making Memories . . .

It is the rarest of occasions when the pace of my life slows down.  I can still remember the first time Ryan realized that I am a different person when I am on vacation and the rush of work and responsibilities of home aren’t pressing on me.  Since I travel so much, I don’t take that many “vacations” other than adding a day to an occasional show trip to do something fun.  But I’ll admit that it’s nice when the opportunity arises for a few days when the . . . pace . . . slows . . . down . . .

As it did after the Clearwater show last weekend.  Once teardown was complete, I went on vacation for a few days – honestly, I made the plans long before Mother Nature decided to put Ohio into the deep freeze.  But the timing was great – the rains ended just before we tore down the booth, and I woke up on Sunday morning to the promise of sunshine and blue skies.

Sunday was for me, and my friend Christine Yoder arranged for a golf outing on one of the Disney courses in Orlando . . .

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Northern Boy doesn’t get many opportunities to wear shorts in the winter, and the golf clubs hadn’t been out since early November.  So even errant shots in sand traps were welcome – especially since the rains kept me away from Clearwater Beach.

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And let’s face it – there are only so many places where you try to hit a shot past a Mickey Mouse shaped sand trap (I did – two of my playing partners got stuck in Mickey’s left ear) and line up a putt with a monorail passing by.

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We had a gallery – some tame, some not.  Christine doesn’t play golf so she brought along Karla, who is in training to become a guide dog.  And we were warned at the beginning of the round that we shouldn’t chase after errant shots in the woods or water – this gator was about six feet long.

Once the round was complete, I said goodbye and headed for the Orlando airport.  Ryan’s fiancee Emily braved another Ohio snowstorm to get him to the Dayton airport, and he took a few days of vacation and flew south so we could have one last father/son fling before the wedding.  I think Ryan would have chosen the Orlando theme parks as a perfect site for a honeymoon, but Emily is not a thrill ride fan.  So I stepped in and they’ll find another place for a post-wedding trip.

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I could bore you with lots of pictures of my son in front of Disney and Universal landmarks, but instead I’ll share just a few with a couple of stories . . .

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These were the two biggest reasons that Ryan wanted to make this trip again.  Two years ago, Spiderman was closed for renovations and Transformers was under construction.  Ryan is a Transformers addict – he even has two Transformers logos and a license plate cover on his Jeep.  So of course Transformers was out of commission the first day were were at Universal – thankfully, it was running when we were there on Wednesday.  And he loved it . . .

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. . . but not as much as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is still my favorite amusement park ride (even though I have not read the books or seen the movies).  And each trip to Potterville (I know, but I couldn’t resist the “It’s a Wonderful Life” reference) required a trip to the Butterbeer cart.


This is what’s coming next at Universal – another new Harry Potter attraction due in a year or so.

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Ryan has been dreaming about this since we were here two years ago... we stumbled upon the best ice cream cookie sandwiches at the Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom . . . two scoops of ice cream, between your choice of huge chocolate chip, sugar, or oatmeal raisin cookies . . . and not a bad deal for $4.29.  Alas, everything changes . . . now the Main Street Bakery is essentially a Starbucks, and the ice cream cookie sandwich is sold at an Edy's next door but your only cookie choice is chocolate chip (and now it's $5.29).  Ryan doesn't like chocolate chip cookies . . . so we got two scoops of vanilla ice cream from Edy's and two big sugar cookies (with Mickey sprinkles) at the Main Street Bakery/Starbucks, and Ryan squashed them together. 


He said it was just as good as last time . . . and it should have been . . . his “handmade” ice cream cookie sandwich cost almost $10.00 . . .

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Ryan loves medieval swords and such.  But they were a bit pricey so for a souvenir of the trip we settled on a personalized plate for the man cave in his condo . . .

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All good things must come to an end, and by the time this blog feeds by e-mail this afternoon we will be on our way north – I have timed the drive so we won’t go through snowy/icy Atlanta until midday Friday.  Hopefully, by then the roads will be much clearer than they are as I’m typing this.  The weather has changed here as well – these pics are a comparison of the temps here and at home as we got back to the hotel yesterday afternoon.  But a front came through overnight, and we’re going out this morning in long sleeves and hoodies – better to prepare for the cold a little at a time rather than get one shivering jolt . . .

Saturday, February 8, 2014

We May Need to Teach Florida What Winter Really Is . . .

I think I have learned something over the past three days here in Florida – no one is ever satisfied with the weather they have.  Seriously – never have so many griped so much about 60 degrees and mist.  There are areas of the population these days where a majority might be willing to give up the use of one arm for 60 degrees and mist.

For example, take these two images that I shot this week . . .

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At left is a view of the six inches of snow and about 1/2” of crusty ice that had to be blown/chopped off my driveway so that I could get out of Dodge in the predawn hours of Thursday.  Flew to Atlanta, picked up the truck, and drove to Florida – and yes, I hit rain before I got to Gainesville and it rained all the way to Clearwater.  It made for a better picture if I didn’t mention it, but that bright light in the right pic is a streetlight – it was raining still.  And it rained off and on Friday – and all day Saturday.  Still, it was 50-60 degrees warmer than it was at my house.

But this malaise is contagious – I found myself griping about the rain by midday Saturday.  And I was inside . . .


There were signs of spring to be found – this hibiscus was in bloom on Friday right next to where I park the truck to unload.  I have been here on the same weekend for the past several years, and it has never been in bloom before.  This bloom just demanded that I stop unloading the truck and take a picture of it.  So I did.


I took this picture during setup to send to our friend Andrea Cloutier – it’s the first Florida show in at least 12-13 years that she has not been a part of.  She got a new job and moved to San Jose, California three weeks ago.  But until about a week ago, Andrea still thought she might fly back to join us.  So I put this picture on her Facebook page with a note – “You are missed…”

By now, you have seen nearly every possible view of a show – so I look for things that you might find interesting.  This one got me . . .

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I’m not sure that I agree with the sentiment – but I know there are those of you out there who do . . .

As the show ended and teardown began, there were signs in the sky of better things to come . . .

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Enjoy your winter, Florida – those of us in the frozen north envy you.  Even when your weather is lousy, remember that ours is usually worse . . .

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And a thank you from Nancy (and me) . . .

I got a call from Nancy on Tuesday, just before she left for her first radiation appointment.  She said that when the first two or three e-mails of support came in on Sunday afternoon, she decided to write a nice e-mail of thanks to each person who took the time to send one.  By Monday afternoon, she realized that process might take a week.  So instead, she called me and asked that I convey to each of you how much she appreciated your acts of kindness.

You never cease to impress me – this is quite the little community we have.  Thanks again.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

As Prayers Are Answered, We Ask for More . . .

I saw Melinda Doster at the Lawrenceville, GA show yesterday.  For the first time in nearly 15 years, she came as a customer – she doesn’t have the stamina yet for a full day at work, much less at a show.  So poor Mitra was chained to the demo table at Impression Obsession as Melinda and her friend Zaira Cardenas wandered around shopping and visiting with friends.  I saw her as the show opened and was amazed at how good she looks – I should have taken a picture to share but didn’t think about it until later.  About three hours later, they stopped to say goodbye – Melinda looked tired and had obviously had enough.  Radiation takes its toll while it does its job – and it will be another month or two before she is finished with that.

Please keep up your prayers and support for my sister Melinda.  And while you’re at it, I have a similar request – this one is for another of my sisters.

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Here are a couple of shots of my mom’s youngest sister, Nancy Lynch.  I swiped them from her Facebook page – the first was a shot of the three sisters, taken while Mom’s hair was growing back after her bout with cancer.  The second is Nancy doing what she loves best – supporting her grandchildren at their activities.

Nancy is obviously my aunt, but she’s only 11 years older than I am so to me she has always been my older sister – I have said many times that since I have no natural sisters, I have the right to choose my own and Nancy was the first.  We have shared many things over the years besides our love of baseball – I presented her flowers at her Rainbow installation when she was a teenager, and my first out-of-state trip without my parents was when my grandparents and I went to visit Nancy when she lived in Washington.

Nancy was the second of the sisters to battle cancer – Janet was the first. But we learned about the first of the year that after many years in remission, Nancy's cancer has returned with a vengeance.  After years of regular checkups that came back clean, her latest PET Scan came back with cancer throughout her body and a devastating prognosis that I am simply not yet prepared to type.

But Nancy is a fighter with an effervescent personality.  Her response is much easier for me to share – “It was the worst case scenario, but I’ll beat that!”  She starts radiation on Tuesday and chemo on Friday.

Nancy has much to look forward to.  Her granddaughter Sage graduates from high school in May and her grandson Josh is getting married in July.  And of course she will be present as my son Ryan is married in June and my brother’s son Conner is married in July.  It’s what we do – we are a family and we share each other’s sorrows and joys.

And when cancer packs a punch – we punch back.

I sent Nancy a text yesterday – explained what my extended family of prayer warriors had done for Mom and asked if I could share her situation as well.  She responded within two minutes.  So please lift her up – and you can send e-mails of support to