Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Stuff on the Horizon . . .

Greetings from the Winter Wonderland – 6” more inches of winter got blown off my driveway this morning.  But not before I put this on my Facebook page . . .

“Ah, the thrill of the Saturday morning scavenger hunt ... wandering out onto a driveway covered with a blanket of new snow ... looking for that one tiny blemish where the snow looks just a bit deeper ... dipping my hand into that blemish ... and pulling out my newspaper”

And this . . .


“Perhaps our southern brethren would like to go out and sweep the palm fronds off their driveways in an act of solidarity. . .”

Yes, I was in a mood this morning.  But now to subjects more fitting for our business . . .


Nothing like putting them all in one graphic – these are the 32 new Spellbinders dies that released yesterday.  Click on this link or on the graphic to see all of them!


And this is something we hadn’t decided for sure that we were going to carry, until we started getting requests for them.  These are the some of the new Tim Holtz Kraft-Core Collections – the Metallics look especially interesting, and there are three sets of A2 cards and envelopes!

And now it’s time to go back out into the weather – I have video duty at church this afternoon and a cards/board games/snacks evening with some high school friends this evening.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In Bitter Cold, It Takes So Little to Make Me Happy . . .

The farther south you go, the less winter weather it takes to make everyone go directly to Defcon 5.  I have friends in Florida griping about temps in the 40s – friends in Tennessee with ice bringing down tree limbs – friends in Kentucky who got a foot of snow on Monday.  And here it was five below this morning (with –25 windchill) and expected to be ten below tonight.  So we take our enjoyment where we can get it . . .


Since I gripe at Ranger (and other suppliers) when new releases come late, it seems only fair to note that two boxes of the new February Distress Color arrived this morning – a day earlier than we expected.  So the first 100 or so of you who ordered these are going to start getting happy e-mails from our system.


And this one is personal – but fun.  In December 1975, American Legion Post 615 in my hometown sponsored a Citizenship Test for the seniors at our high school.  I don't remember much about the test -- except that we got out of class to take it -- but I got the highest score and was awarded a $50 U.S. Savings Bond.  I put it in a safe deposit box and have rarely thought about it for years.  But a couple of nights ago, I ran that bond and several others through the Savings Bond Calculator to see what they're worth today.  That $50 bond stopped earning interest nine years ago -- and now it's worth $269.50.  Ah, the power of compound interest.   The Legion is responsible for lots of good deeds in our town – this is just one of them.

I put this on my Facebook page yesterday – most reacted like I did, but one wet blanket started lecturing me about inflation and taxes and how in the long run I will have actually lost money.  His comment started with “I hate to burst your bubble . . .”

But my bubble is still intact – I didn’t spend a dime to get the bond, and it brings back a lot of fond memories.  Anything monetary that comes with it is just a bonus . . .

Monday, February 16, 2015

Flat Stanley . . .

I got an e-mail from my friend Judy Jackson a week or so before the Clearwater show.  She was going to be there and wanted to know if I would help her with her twin granddaughters’ Flat Stanley school projects by letting her take a picture with them in our booth. 

For those of you who need enlightenment, lots of elementary schools do projects where the kids make a “Stanley” out of cardboard – that way it’s easy to fold and put in an envelope.  Then it is either mailed or transported to friends, relatives and such – with the hope that pictures and cards and such will be sent to the students from all over.

And so we did – and I was honored to participate.  Yesterday, Judy e-mailed me a copy of the picture we took for Faith and Joy . . .


The sight of this sent me to the closet, where I went through boxes of pictures until finally I found the right box.  Ryan did this project when he was in the first grade in 1995-96 – they called it “Travel Mate.”

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This is “Elf” – I found him in the box with the pictures and postcards and stuff that were sent to Ryan from all over the world.  The timing was perfect – Ryan’s Uncle Dex was traveling a lot in those days, and he took Elf everywhere for months.


Everywhere that Elf went, he sent postcards to Ryan and picked up lots of little trinkets and stickers and such from his stops.

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Elf made it to the Grand Canyon before I did . . .

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And because Dex and Ella had just become engaged, Elf got to make a trip to her homeland – it’s obviously out of focus, but that shot on the right is Elf in Moscow, Russia.

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Since it worked out that the project ended during one of Ella’s visits to the U.S., we arranged for both of them to come to Ryan’s classroom and help with the presentation.

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We got a U.S. map and a small map of Europe and put little flag pins on spots where Elf had traveled – with string leading from each pin to a picture taken there or a postcard that was sent from there.  We had so much fun with the project that we decided to continue it for the rest of the year.  Elf went to Australia with a friend of Dex’s, to the Southwest with Karen and David and their family, and on our vacation to Colorado and Wyoming.

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From Mount Rushmore to the White House – Elf was everywhere.  By the time we retired him to the box in the closet, Elf had been to 38 states and 9 foreign countries.

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And his year ended on New Year’s Eve at Dex and Ella’s wedding at Key West.

Time passes – more than 19 years since this project started, more than 18 years (and three daughters) since that Key West wedding.  That request from Judy and the picture she sent me yesterday resulted in a fun trip down Memory Lane for my family.

I hope Faith and Joy’s Flat Stanleys have a trip that is just as memorable.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words . . . Times Six

After sharing the note from the Copic folks about the dockworkers’ strike on the West Coast, a friend sent me some pictures that gave this ordeal a whole new perspective.  The first were taken before the congestion caused by the strike . . .

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And the rest were taken after . . .

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Another customer told me that this issue is dominating the news out west.  I am simply amazed that I have heard/seen absolutely nothing in our local news about this.  I wouldn’t even know about it except for updates from our suppliers.  And yet this is affecting everyone in the country in some way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Well Written Explanation . . .

We got an e-mail from Imagination International, Inc. (the Copic and X-PressIt people) last night – it was their attempt to explain shipping delays caused by the dockworkers’ strike on the west coast.  It was written well and I think it’s worth sharing . . .

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Severe West Coast Port Congestion Affects Copic Shipments

Dear Copic Customer,

We need to bring to your attention a product supply issue that may have already affected you.  As you are probably aware, our Copic products arrive by ship from Japan.  There is a long-running West Coast port labor dispute that is still in negotiations.

This has turned into a severe port congestion problem, with a tremendous backlog of cargo waiting to be unloaded.  As of last Friday, more than 40 container ships were anchored at ports up and down the West Coast.

We are feeling the pressure, as we aren’t able to re-supply our inventory in a timely manner.  Some of your orders are not being completely filled.

We are doing the best we can for you, but we wanted to explain the situation as we ask for your patience.

As it stands, even if negotiations lead to a quick resolution from here, normal operations are still months away because of the backlog so far.  It’s estimated that it may take the bulk of 2015 for shipments to normalize.

We are stuck in the middle of this – together with you – and we appreciate your continued support as we hope for a quick resolution to this supply chain disruption.

Thank you again, and please contact us if you have specific questions.

Imagination International, Inc.

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Me again.  Sounds like this could be a difficult year – especially with new items and such that come from companies whose products are manufactured overseas.  I have my opinions about how this might best be resolved, but I’ll keep them to myself – I try very hard to make this space light and fun, and to avoid controversy and politics and such. 

After all, I do work for a toy store . . .

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Cracked Pistachio Update – Ranger came through and we did get a shipment today.   Still not nearly enough to fill all of the advance orders, but 60 sets of everything is much better than nothing.  Hopefully, more will come next week.  And I officially retract half of my rant from a couple of days ago . . .

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday . . .

I first met Pat Johnson at StampFest Orlando in June 1997 – it was the first show I ever did and she is one of the few who actually saw my “deer in the headlights” expression that first day on the show circuit.  We still laugh about it.

Pat was working in a booth across the aisle from ours in Clearwater over the weekend – when she arrived on Saturday, she brought me a handful of pictures she found in a box recently.  They were taken at StampFest Orlando in 1998 – seventeen years ago – and this is the best one . . .

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Wow – were we ever really that young?  This was the first show where we ever used a demo person – Sue Rothamel from USArtQuest introduced us to Anna Ely, who has worked with us at Florida shows ever since (and in the early days even traveled with us for a while).  Those shirts were only a few months old at that point.  Karen and I wore ours out within a few years . . .


. . . but Anna wore hers to the show last weekend!  I wish I had done a better job of getting this picture in focus, but we were in a hurry to get out after the show (more on that below) and at the last minute I remembered that I needed a shot of Anna and the shirt for the blog.

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This is part of why we were in a hurry to get out – Matheos Hall where the Clearwater convention is held is the fellowship hall of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, and they are connected by an outdoor covered walkway.  About 40 minutes after the show ended, the fire alarm went off in the fellowship hall.  You know how we all are with alarms these days – we ignored it and just kept on tearing down our booths.  That is, until someone opened the side door and we saw smoke pouring out of the church sanctuary.


We were fortunate – the firemen allowed us to continue while they fought the fire.  Lots of equipment – even a crane – and it was quite a commotion.  I found an article online the next day and there was a lot of damage to the sanctuary – but services were held in Matheos Hall.  I was very impressed with the Clearwater Fire Department.

Here are two other unrelated images from the show . . .

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This is Daisy – she belongs to Linda Malcom from Lost Coast Designs, and travels with her to shows.  Cute little thing, just as friendly as can be – and incredibly well-behaved.  And Melinda Sutton was demoing Chameleon Pens in our booth, so I set up one of those Tim Holtz Stella Edge Lamps that we waited so long for to light her work space.  You can make it incredibly bright – our booth has bright lights all through it and the booth looks dark by comparison.

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It is entirely possible that I may have to retract my rant from yesterday – late in the day, Gary called Ranger again and discovered that a big shipment of Cracked Pistachio goodies is headed our way – may even get here by tomorrow.  If so, we will be back in the saddle again . . .

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arrgh . . . This Is Becoming a Bit of a Habit

Gary was on the phone with Ranger this morning to see when we’re going to get more of the January Distress Color – Cracked Pistachio (and while we were at it, the February Distress Color – Abandoned Coral).  We ordered a lot the first day it was announced – a lot more the next day when we realized how popular it was going to be – and a lot lot more several times since.  The first two “a lots” came in about the middle of last week (by then it was of course February), and based on assurances that the pipeline was now wide open, a small portion of that shipment was sent to me in Clearwater for last weekend’s show.

But now the story has changed . . .

Ranger says they severely underestimated the popularity of the Color of the Month idea and didn’t produce enough – now they’re working overtime to produce more, but it will likely be around the end of the month before any of it is ready to ship.  I assume that means they’re doing the same (the overtime part, not the underestimating part) with the February color.

It’s a long shot, but we are checking with other suppliers who stock Ranger products to see if they have any – it would cost us more than getting them directly from Ranger, but good will (translation – making our customers happy) is sometimes more important.

This reminds me a lot (I’m using a lot of “a lots” today) of the initial release of Distress Markers a few years ago – announced it . . . underestimated it . . . ran out of it . . . finally made more of it.  And I guess that’s what will eventually happen here.  Hopefully by next month or the month after, we’ll start getting what we need promptly – so we can ship it just as promptly.

For now, we wait – and I apologize for something we have very little control over.  The phones and e-mail are already busy with folks who are excited about their new playthings and wondering why we’re almost to mid-February and they haven’t seen theirs yet.  Hopefully, this will explain the situation for some of you before you feel the need to contact us.

Addendum – Four Hours Later . . . I may have to retract this whole rant in a day or two – Gary checked with Ranger again this afternoon and it appears that they sent us a big shipment of Cracked Pistachio stuff today.  Amazing . . .

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

First Day Back . . .

Today is my first day back at work after 12 days on the road – this is the longest I have been away from home continuously since a four-week trip (that was supposed to be seven weeks) through the northwest and back through Canada with Dad, Mom and Blake back in 1972.  Those few extra days in Florida were great – spent a day at Disney, two days playing golf, and worked in-between.  Oh yeah – and listened to the locals crying about the chilly weather.  It got to the point where I just pulled out my phone, hit the Weather Channel app, and held up the readout that showed it was NINE DEGREES at my house in Ohio.  Cold is relative . . .

So the first thing I did when I walked in this morning was walk through the back room to see what had changed.  What I found will please many of you . . .

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A lot of the January releases arrived while I was gone.  And of course they all arrived at the same time – so we are still scrambling our way through a mountain of advance orders.  Once I get through my “essentials” (like this blog post and all of the e-mail that came in since I was last on my computer on Saturday morning before leaving for the show in Clearwater), I will go into “shipping mode” and help out as much as I can.

But here’s a tease, especially for those of you familiar with the Facebook “Throwback Thursday” – at the show on Saturday, our friend Pat Johnson gave me some pics that she took at StampFest Orlando seventeen years ago.  We have changed a bit since then . . .

Friday, February 6, 2015

Jigsaw Puzzle . . .

I picked up a package at the desk this evening after setup – needed a few replenishments for the booth after a busy show in Atlanta last weekend.  This package had new goodies – January Tim Holtz releases from Sizzix and that infamous January Distress Color of the Month!

But the Distress Color came with a “jigsaw puzzle” – I had to put together the display, which was diecut out of corrugated cardboard and came with lousy instructions.  I should have taken a picture of it before I started construction . . .

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This is what it looked like when I finished.  I suspect it will draw a little attention in the booth on Saturday morning.


This came out while we were setting up – the February Distress Color of the Month – Abandoned Coral.  I immediately started referring to it as “Florida Pink”


Later in the day, I found this bloom on a bush near where I was unloading the truck – it didn’t quite prove my point about the Distress color, but for someone who enjoys blooming things in my yard (and longs for them in the dead of winter), this was a reminder that Spring can’t come soon enough.

Always Be On Your Best Behavior . . .

I arrived at my hotel in Clearwater last night (if you’re in Florida, come see us on Saturday at the Matheos Hall, 409 Old Coachman Road).  While I was checking in, I noticed a couple in the corner of the lobby at the computer desk – and they were looking at me.  I have gotten used to this over the years – it is entirely possible that I could encounter a customer practically anywhere, and especially someplace where we have a show in a couple of days.  And I always try to make sure I behave myself – my parents taught me that long ago.

So when this lady walked toward me, I figured I knew what was coming next.  But I was wrong – what she said to me was “Aren’t you Joe Smallwood’s son?”


I’m 1,000 miles from home – this was the last thing I expected to hear.  But it was certainly fun – this nice lady grew up with my dad and they were in the same grade (even took piano lessons together).  We had a nice visit, and then I called Mom and Dad – and they roared with laughter when I got to the punch line.

On another note, my brother takes great pains to make sure I feel warm and comfortable when I’m in the south during the winter.  Yesterday morning, he texted me this picture that he took in his front yard after a snowfall the night before . . .


The message was “Good morning from Ohio – I hope this picture makes you feel warm where you are.”  Yesterday afternoon, I sent one back to him . . .


My message was “The ground is also white here.”  And I was feeling rather pleased with my wit, until my phone buzzed again with his reply . . .

“I would have wiped the tear from my eye from laughing so hard, but it froze before I could.”

Blake wins . . .

Monday, February 2, 2015

Modern Technology Never Ceases to Amaze Me (And More Stories from Atlanta) . . .

Random thoughts in random order after a very full weekend in Lawrenceville, Georgia . . .


Went to Chili’s down the street from my hotel on Saturday evening after the show.  When I asked the waitress for my check, she pointed at the little gizmo that looked like an iPad mini on the end of the table and said I would find it there . . . could pay for it there . . . and when I finished it would spit out my receipt.  Which it did . . . amazing.


Dave and Pat from Heirloom Productions announced during setup on Friday that Melinda Doster (yes, our Melinda Doster – and she is doing quite nicely, thank you very much) had baked a cake and brought it to share with the vendors.  As it contained nuts (which I don’t/can’t do), she brought me some of the cookies that she had baked for her husband at the same time.


What the truck looked like shortly before I left Dayton.  That area next to the step to get into the cab was glare ice.  Scary stuff . . .


Sunset on Friday came while I was still setting up the booth – I always seem to notice them here.


I tease Darling Darlene that the Stampland backdrop is always crooked (and it almost always is, at least a bit).  This time, I stood by and directed until it was just right . . .


Since our promoters from Oregon were again in charge of the show, I again flew my Ohio State flag proudly in the booth.  There are Ohio “escapees” everywhere – I heard “Go Bucks!” and “O-H” all weekend long.  And of course I responded in kind.  If you are one who has considered ordering each month’s Tim Holtz Distress Color sight unseen, this is the nice lady who suggested it originally.

(Found out Monday that the January Distress Color will arrive on Wednesday, and of course we will start shipping immediately.  And the February color will be announced at noon EST on Friday – since we will be setting up our booth in Clearwater at the time, I will get the info and post it on our site later in the day.)

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At left . . . all the way back to the lady in pink just left of center . . . is the line that stretched to my cash register most of the day on Saturday.  At right is the much shorter line to the food cart outside the back door.

These ladies obviously came to shop . . .