Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Sincere "Thank You" as 2015 Ends . . .

We appreciate each of you so much – I hope that’s obvious, but I still feel the need to say it.  You are so much more than mere customers – many of you have become friends over the years, even if we have never met in person.

I can’t count how many times this year I received an e-mail that started with “I don’t want to be a pest, but . . .”  And my response started with “You are not a pest – you are the reason I have a job.”

You are also the reason I get to travel – which I love – and the source of so much strength and support for my family (and our pets) as you share our milestones.

So for all of those reasons and more, Thank You.

I end the year by sharing an image that I encountered last night as I was finishing my New Year’s Eve baking . . .

This is Nala’s new favorite spot, no matter where we put it.  Last night, it happened to be in the living room.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Short, Sweet, and to the Point . . .

Something fun for the very end of 2015 and the very beginning of 2016 . . .

One Week Only -- Ends Monday, January 4

30% Off Almost Everything on Our Site and Free Shipping with a $50 Purchase -- online and phone orders only -- go to now!  Thanks!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How to Draw a Crowd for the 1:00 Make & Take . . .

Today was the annual Marco’s Paper Carry-In Luncheon in our store – it’s held after the 9:00-11:00 Morning Free Make & Take Project and before the 1:00-3:00 Afternoon $1.00 Make & Take Project.  I didn’t get there until 12:30 so I can’t attest to the size of the morning gathering.

But there was still plenty of food left and several didn’t arrive until after I did.  But the business of the day continued – Pat Hobson was cutting paper for a customer, and as folks visited the dessert table they got to make a fuss over Marian Henrich’s eight-month-old granddaughter.

Out in the classroom, there was plenty of eating and visiting.  Terri has that “gotcha” look on her face because I was trying to avoid her in the other shot because she was scraping leftovers into a garbage can – but I swung my cell phone around and snapped off a quick second shot.

And by the time Judy Davidson started the afternoon make & take, all of the classroom seating was full and there were folks standing off to the side waiting their turn.  Back in the back, others were clearing off the serving tables – and Karen had already laid claim to the leftovers from the cheeseball I had sent up earlier in the morning.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Holiday Feeling of Distress . . .

Yesterday was so busy – we are just swamped with your orders from the Thanksgiving Weekend Sale (this is a very nice problem to have).  And then I spent quite a while yesterday working on something that I usually put on the blog as well – but I forgot.  So that feeling of distress has a double meaning . . .


The final Distress Color was announced on Friday -- no word whether this will continue in 2016 (stay tuned).  Candied Apple is the twelfth in this year's series, and you can order all six pieces at 20% off the MSRP with free shipping in the Continental U.S. (or individual pieces at MSRP) by clicking on this link.


Reminder -- the release of the final Monthly Distress Color means that the third set of four Minis is now complete and should arrive at the same time as the December color -- you can place your advance order now at 20% off the MSRP with free shipping in the Continental U.S.


For those of you who have held off on jumping on the monthly Distress bandwagon -- and for those who need a great gift -- we are offering full sets of all 12 monthly pads, pads and reinkers, markers, and even the whole set of six pieces for each month.  You can see all of them by clicking on this linkThey are all 20% Off the MSRP with Free Shipping in the Continental U.S.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Coupon Contest Winners

While those of you in the hinterlands spent Thanksgiving Weekend overwhelming us with orders during our sale (and for that we thank you very much), the locals were having their own fun.  They got to make their own coupons to use in our retail store, and the most creative entries won gift certificates.  Want to see the entries?  I thought so . . .


This may or may not be all of them – I leaned back as far as I could in the foyer to get the ones posted on the bulletin board by the front door.


Our own version of Carol Merrill shows off the grand prize winning entry submitted by Jeanette Alley.

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Second prize (left) went to Linda Pritchett and third prize went to Sandy Barton.

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Karen insisted that I get shots of the outside and both panels of the inside of the fourth prize entry submitted by Gloria Foust – surely at least part of the reason was that she is thankful for us . . .


And the fifth prize entry submitted by Teri Grismer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Two-Day Sale Warning, and Emptying the Cell Phone Camera (Including a BABY PICTURE) . . .

First and most important – if you have forgotten or neglected or put off placing your order during our annual Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday Weekend 25% Off Everything on Our Site Sale, this is your reminder that IT ENDS WEDNESDAY AT MIDNIGHT – at least on the west coast – the east coasties get until 3:00 a.m. Thursday – but if you’re on Hawaii Standard Time you only get until 10:00 p.m.


Of course, if you’re a bit of a gambler you may be able to stretch a few more hours – the odds of me dragging myself out of bed to shut off the sale at 3:00 in the morning are extremely remote, so it will probably stretch until I get up on Thursday morning.

But you have been warned . . .

Now on to other matters – I spent the weekend before last at a show in lovely (especially if you love snowstorms and single digit temperatures) Madison, Wisconsin.  Hadn’t been to this show in several years, and it gave me a chance to touch base and catch up with my dear friends Chris Mode and Denise Pernetti (some of you may remember them when they were on our show circuit doing business as The Creative Mode).


This is neither of them – this is my wife’s cousin Carol Pappas.  Carla found out recently that Carol works at a Sam’s Club near where she lives in northern Indiana – and about halfway between Indianapolis and Chicago on my trip to Madison, I remembered this.  Guess who had the classic look of shock and surprise on her face when she turned around at her post at the jewelry counter and saw me?


This is what happens when the promoter tells me to grab a couple of props and stand in front of her “selfie stand” at the entrance to the show.


Faber-Castell generously sent their design team member Margie Higuchi to dazzle the customers at our demo table all weekend.  This was our first time working together and I’m sure we’ll do it again.


This was the view out of the breakfast room window in my hotel on Saturday morning.  Eight inches of white death in Madison – up to 18” 50 miles farther south.  And yes, it did have an effect on the attendance on Saturday – even hardy folks from Wisconsin and northern Illinois are affected by the first snowfall of the winter.


One of the best perks of my travels is the friendships I have made. In the Fall of 1999, I met Roy and Tyra Smith and their three children for the first time (Tyra was demoing for us at a show in St. Paul, MN). Over the years, we have become more than friends -- we have become family.  Their oldest daughter, Shyekara Shroeder, was 10 then – over the weekend she turned 27.  On Saturday night in Madison, Kara and her husband welcomed me, her parents, and her sister Angel into their home.  There, I met their eight-week-old son Parker -- and held an infant in my arms for the first time since my nephew Tyler was born nearly 22 years ago.

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Of course, last weekend was Thanksgiving – a busy baking occasion for me.  The first two of these have appeared on these pages before – Chocolate Mint Cookies and our family favorite Cheeseball.  The last one was a first effort – Pumpkin Cheesecake Lasagna.  I saw it on a friends Facebook page and gave it a shot for my family – it was very well received.  If you want to give it a shot for yours, you can find the recipe here.


And this is just a shock to me – this is what I paid on Sunday and there were no discounts involved.  Here in Ohio, gas is usually higher than it is in surrounding states, so we usually envy you folks in South Carolina and Texas and other states where it is traditionally cheaper.  But last weekend, Indiana and Ohio had the cheapest gas in the country.  A month before, a Midwest refinery went offline and for a few days ours was the highest.  So I guess this is our compensation – until someone sneezes and the price goes up again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Big Sale Starts VERY Soon (and Then I Can Start Baking) . . .

It is the day before Thanksgiving . . . and I have been given a lengthy baking/preparing to-do list (cheeseball, chocolate mint cookies, gluten/dairy-free brownies, pumpkin cheesecake lasagna) that I need to accomplish between now and 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.  But first, I need to finish the work stuff – and as s0on as I do, the following will begin . . .


I hope to have everything ready to go before I leave the mail center this afternoon.  So by 6:00 p.m. EST it should be official – if you see this graphic on our homepage, the sale is on! 

So please save a little time in your busy holiday weekend to browse our site and submit your orders.  From the experience of the past few years, I know that we’re going to be overwhelmed for a while – so please be patient with us and we’ll fill your orders just as fast as we can.  And if a portion of your order is for a holiday gift, please put a note in the comments section at checkout – we’ll do our best to make sure those go out promptly.  Thanks!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fun and Frivolity at Home . . . and a Winter Wonderland (?) in Wisconsin

It’s a big weekend at our retail store in Dayton – they’re calling it the “Holly Jolly Holiday Affair” – the beginning of a week full of sale items, Make & Takes, and more.  And it begins tomorrow with two full days featuring Anthony Gilbert from Anthony’s Paper Craft – two classes and two Make & Takes – and he’s bringing a trunk show with his entire stamp line.


You can get more information about this weekend and all of this week by clicking on this link . . .


Meanwhile, I’m in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend for the One of a Kind Rubber Stamp & Scrapbook Show at the Alliant Energy Center – and it may just be a Winter Wonderland here.


The weather weasels are predicting 6”-10” of the white stuff from Friday night into Saturday morning.  Now I realize two things – weather weasels are notoriously wrong, and the good folks of Wisconsin, Chicagoland, and all points around are quite used to getting around in winter weather.  But since this is the first predicted snowfall of the season here, I might tend to worry.

So I’m counting on all of you to gas up your snowmobiles and get out here tomorrow and prove my fears wrong . . .

Friday, November 13, 2015

I Am Completely Out of Style - and I Don’t Care . . .

During the day, I usually listen to sports talk radio – I became an old fogey on the music scene a long time ago, and most days “regular” talk radio is too controversial for my tastes.  Sports talk is like the toy store of life.  But the sports squawkers just hit my hot button . . .


They were making fun of jean shorts – or “jorts” as they are often called.  I have heard this for years, but no one has ever given one good reason why they are so uncool.  I wear jeans all winter long, and I have never heard a negative comment about them.  But the shorter version of the same thing during the summer is a social faux pas?

And then it got worse on the same radio segment – I am now told that cargo shorts are out of style.  I just bought my first couple of pairs of those (small side pockets, though – not the baggy ones) a few weeks ago – mostly to wear on golf courses that don’t allow denim.

I really don’t know – or care – who on the East and West Coasts makes these decisions (sorry, Middle America – we don’t get a vote) – but I suspect this has more to do with trying to shame us into throwing our entire wardrobes in the trash and buying whatever “they” say is in-style.

Sorry – I stopped playing that game a long time ago.  Probably not long after I escaped the ‘70s and leisure suits and really short shorts and socks that went up to my knees. 

The only people who get a vote on my wardrobe now are the person who looks back at me in the mirror, and the wife who has to put up with it.  If it’s comfortable, and I like it – I wear it.

And I really like jean shorts.

Now that my rant is out of my system, I will move on with my life. 

Thank you for indulging me – have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Birthday, Karen . . .

Today is Karen’s birthday – and at the store any occasion such as that is a good excuse for a carry-in.  Today, it was a cake carry-in – there were three of them.  And I got a text this morning inviting me to come up and partake – so I did.


Karen wanted to know why I had my cell phone tilted – I was trying to get all three cakes into the picture.  But I failed.  So when everyone came back behind the classroom  to line up, I asked them to gather behind the table so I could climb up on a chair and get a shot of all of them with all three of the cakes, just before they sang to her.


I still missed half of one of the cakes.  I also missed all but the arm of the extraordinarily nice lady who moved the outlet box that hangs down from the ceiling.


I say “extraordinarily nice” because Marsha has put up with me for more than 30 years – she works at my optometrist’s office.  Marsha is a hoot – and her brand of sarcasm is almost a perfect match for mine.  When I learned that she enjoyed crafting, I urged her several times over the years to stop by our store – so I was surprised and delighted to see her there today.

Friday, November 6, 2015

November Distress Color . . . and a “Heads Up” for the Locals

If it’s the first Friday of the month, it must be time for another Distress Ink Color of the Month.  Is anyone else besides me wondering if this will continue into 2016?  As popular as it has been, wouldn’t it be nuts if it doesn’t?  That said, here it is . . .


Lucky Clover is the November Distress Color of the Month.  As always, you can order all six items for 20% off the MSRP with free shipping in the Continental U.S.


While you’re at it, I also created an “item” on our site for Distress Minis Kit #15 – the last four colors of 2015 – which will be released at the same time as the December color on the first Friday of December.  You can order yours now, or wait and do both in December.


And here’s a “Plan Ahead Alert” for the locals – Marco’s “Holly Jolly Holiday Affair” begins in our store in Saturday, November 21 with two days of classes and make & takes with Anthony Gilbert from Anthony’s Paper Craft.  That’s just the beginning of a whole week of fun and frivolity (not to mention sales, classes, make and takes and more) including Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.  So click on the link or the graphic, clear your calendars, and plan to spend the week at our store.  You won’t need an absence excuse to spend Thanksgiving with your families, but other than that . . .

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Filling Your Trick or Treat Bag . . .

In the past, we haven't started this until mid-November -- but a conversation about "trick or treating" led us to put this in your treat bag a little early!


From now through December 16, all retail orders $30.00 or more ship FREE in the Continental U.S.  For orders from outside the Continental U.S., we'll ship by Priority Mail for 1/2 the rate the USPS charges us (there will be some exceptions to areas were the Priority Mail rates are just outrageous, but this should work easily for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Canada, etc.). When you are asked to "calculate shipping & handling" in your cart, make sure to click on the button that says "Free Shipping"

Friday, October 30, 2015

Drawing the Red Lite-Brite Peg After 34 Years . . .

I live in a town that is known as “The Antiques Capital of the Midwest” – there were once 75+ antique shops on Main Street – but I am not an antiquer.  I have just a few heirlooms in my house – and each of them has a story associated with a member of my family. 


This is the first one I ever got – a little ceramic bulldog wearing a sailor cap.  It belonged to my great-grandma and I always noticed it when I was growing up.  After she died, her possessions went to the family, with first choice going to the children and then the grandchildren.  So when the great-grandchildren’s turn came, I was thrilled that the only little piece I was interested in was still there.

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Years later when my mom’s parents downsized and moved into an apartment, I picked up the trunk that my great-grandparents “set up housekeeping in” and my grandma’s old Singer sewing machine and cabinet.

But my favorite (and least favorite) story of family heirloom furniture started in 1981, a few weeks after my dad’s father died (his mom had died four years earlier).  Dad and his three siblings gathered to disperse the furnishings before Grandpa’s house was sold.  In the interests of fairness, my dad brought along four of my brother’s old Lite-Brite pegs – three clear ones and a red one.  As the kids went to each piece of furniture, if more than one wanted it a Lite-Brite peg for each was put into a bowl – which was held high as each pulled one out.  And whoever got the red Lite-Brite peg won the prize.

Since I was about a year from getting married, Dad asked me if I was interested in any of the furniture.  There were only two pieces that I really wanted – the old console radio in the spare bedroom, and to a lesser degree the china cabinet in the kitchen.  With my interest in broadcasting, the radio was fascinating to me – a huge floor model that stood about four feet tall, with pushbuttons to switch from AM to FM to shortwave to TV audio (which was amazing to me since TV didn’t exist yet when it was built).  Alas, Aunt Jean got the radio and Uncle Orris got the china cabinet.

I didn’t think about it for years – but one night Dad and I were talking about those Lite-Brite pegs and I mentioned how much I had wanted that radio.  The next day, he called Jean to tell her in case she ever decided to part with it – and found out that two days before she had pulled it out of the barn loft (seriously?) and donated it to her church rummage sale.  Oh, I was crushed – even considered trying to track down the buyer to see if I could get it back.  I didn’t – but to this day I still regret not voicing my interest sooner.

All of this brings me to Tuesday of this week, when Dad called to tell me that Orris and his wife Patty were downsizing and wanted to know if I was interested in the china cabinet.  They live about three miles from our mail center – I was there within an hour.  The cabinet was in a part of their house that I had never entered when I visited – but it looked exactly like it did the last time I had seen it 34 years ago.  During the process, I learned more about its history – it originally came from the Sears Roebuck catalog (in the days when you could order a house – and practically anything else – from Sears) and was assembled by my great-grandfather, who died before I was born.


Last night, I loaded it into our company truck and it came to my house – where it fit perfectly into a corner of the dining room.  It didn’t come with a red Lite-Brite peg, but I am thrilled after all these years to have a part of my grandparents’ heritage in my home.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Her Hiking Trails Aren’t Blacktopped Anymore . . .

My mom loves to walk.  Not hike – walk.  On asphalt or concrete.  When Blake and I go out to Arizona, the goals are to keep up with Dad on the hiking trails – and with Mom on her walks around the park where they live.  Both are a challenge.

But last spring, in the couple of months between our visit and their return to Ohio, Dad started sending us pictures of Mom at spots that we had seen with him on our hikes – and some of them weren’t easy to reach.  And yet, there was Mom in her Keds . . . and I shared those pictures in a blog post in April.


This was one of those pictures – in front of a pile of rocks that I have scrambled atop several times over the years.

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Yesterday, he sent me this – which sent me searching for a similar shot he took of me several years ago.  Needless to say, I am impressed – and again, I wish I had been there to see it.  Looks like Blake and I might have another hiking buddy when we go back in the spring.

Monday, October 26, 2015

You Need a Chauffeur Like This . . .

One of the things I treasure most about my business travels over the years is the acquaintances I have made along the way.  Everywhere we go, there are faces that I simply have to see before “all is right with the world” again.  And sometimes I see enough of those faces that acquaintances become friendships.

So it is with Brenda Carbon and her husband, Bill.  For years, I saw Brenda at shows in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan – always with her husband in tow, often wearing his touring cap.  Bill usually brought a book along to read, but would always come in to visit for a while during the afternoon.

A year or so ago, they moved to a town near Nashville – and there aren’t a lot of shows within shouting distance.  But Brenda and Bill came across most of Tennessee a couple of weekends ago to the show in Sevierville – and it was so nice to catch up again.


Brenda wanted a picture before they headed home – and I asked her to send me a copy.  When folks ask if I like what I do, an image like this is a much better response than any story I could tell.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Two New Spellbinders Collections and a Look Behind the Scenes . . .

First business, then frivolity . . . I’m on a time schedule today.


Spellbinders has two new lines of dies – Woodlands and Amazing Paper Grace.  Some of them you just might find very useful, especially this time of year.  And if you click on the graphic above, you’ll go to a page where you can see all of them.

And now the friv0lity – the following has been waiting on my cell phone for me to have a few minutes to give it life.  I walked into the York show building on Sunday a couple of weeks ago and discovered Sarah Justison from The Paper Cut and Mitra Friant from Impression Obsession practicing their jump rope skills behind Mitra’s booth (which was right next to mine, so I couldn’t miss it).  So I shot some video to share with you.  Sarah and Mitra are very creative – they are also very athletic (they have both done a number of walking/running events) – so I suspect that with time they will be experts at jump rope.  But not quite yet . . .

If you get this blog by e-mail, you won’t see the video above – but you can watch it by clicking on this link . . .