Monday, April 16, 2007

Hate Junk Mail and Pesky Telemarketers????

Seems like every day my junk mail increases, and the piles are getting larger and larger. Mostly it's solicitations from credit card companies, banks, and sales flyers from all sorts of stores. Luckily, we heat our home with wood, and all of this miscellaneous paper makes for great fire-starters.

In the summer when we aren't heating with wood, we just save it all in a paper bag, ready to be used in late September when we again heat with wood. It's a shame to waste all those trees needed to make the paper for this junk mail, but at least I have a practical use for all this excess paper.

Click here for a
1) website
which will help you lessen the amount of junk mail in your mailbox!

Click here for
2) another site
which will allow you to opt-out on junk mail for five years.

To eliminate those telemarketers who always seem to call in the middle of dinner (or your favorite tv show),
3)click here.

It only takes a few minutes to fill out the forms, and is well worth the time. Do all three if you can, and you'll see a noticeable difference in the phone calls and useless mail you've been receiving.

A couple of years ago I got rid of nearly all the aggravating telemarketing phone calls by adding my phone numbers to the Do Not Call list, and my phone has been blissfully silent ever since. You can find the link to the government's Do Not Call list on the 3rd site.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Ann Arbor Antiques Market

Stopped by the Ann Arbor Antiques Market today. The April show is the first of the new season, and it's always worthwhile to shop it since so many dealers have accumulated lots of fresh inventory over the winter.

In April, it's a two-day show (September is also a two-day show), while all the other monthly shows are one-day shows. All are held on the 3rd weekend of the month. The show is ever-changing in it's dealer roster, with anywhere from 200 to 300 dealers there each month. The show runs from April through November. These dealers come from many different states, with some traveling more than 1000 miles to exhibit at Ann Arbor.

Sometimes customers think that the same dealers are there every month, but that is not true. I overheard the following conversation:

Shopper to a dealer: "Can I get your card?"

Dealer: "Sure - can you tell me what you were interested in?"

Shopper: "Well, there were a couple things . . ."

Dealer: "Which ones?"

Shopper: "Well, let me have your card. You'll be here next month, right?"

Dealer: "Actually, no, I won't be here next month. Might be here in September, but I don't know yet for sure. What can I help you with?"

With that, the shopper turned and walked away before the dealer could hand her his business card. She assumed that all dealers return each month bringing the same items! She then decided that if he wasn't coming back for several months, she was no longer interested in talking with him. Such a shame that she wasn't comfortable with further discussion, but by the time he gets back in the Fall, he probably will no longer have the items she liked.

The Ann Arbor show has changed management recently, and there were plenty of new things I noticed at the show.

One of the changes is the location of the outside tent dealers - they were moved to a completely new location. Many of these dealers were quite unhappy about this new placement; they felt that they weren't getting the customer traffic they have received in the past, and therefore, not the sales. Also, it was quite cold and very windy, which usually means that customers prefer to stay in the heated barns, shopping the inside dealers. The old tent location was quite near the barns, and people often moved through the tents and then went back into the heated barns to warm up. The new tent location is a quite a bit farther away than previously, and I suspect that many shoppers just didn't want to walk so far in the cold and bitter winds, knowing that they wouldn't have the respite of warming up in the heated barns unless they walked all the way back to them.

Another change is the good look of the show - many more booths were walled and papered this time. It's a distinctly more formal look, and gave the show a good visual appearance. It made many dealers' merchandise look fabulous. Several dealers mentioned that they liked the look very much, and that they were given the walls and paper at no additional cost. Not all the booths were given this treatment. It appeared that it was mostly the dealers in the front few buildings only.

There didn't seem to be as many police officers at Ann Arbor this time. The local sheriff's department has for many, many years had an agreement with the show to provide law enforcement for a specified fee each month, but they were noticeably less in number this year. That might be a problem - Ann Arbor has had a reputation in the dealer community for shop-lifting problems. The clearly visible uniformed police officers walking around in past shows were quite helpful in limiting crime, also in helping find lost children, controlling traffic, answering questions, and generally being available if needed for any emergencies. Hope they bring back more officers!

The new July dates were a problem to many of the exhibiting dealers - they do not want the July show to change into a 2 day show. Historically, July is a tough month for sales at Ann Arbor. So many customers are on family vacations, and the heat can be unbearable at the show. Attendance is down, along with sales. Adding a second day to the show means adding more expenses for dealers - more hotel cost and food expenses for that second day add up, and most of the dealers feel that the second day does not produce enough extra sales to offset the added overhead.

Even though I was there primarily to research an article I'm writing for an antiques trade publication, I just couldn't help it and found myself shopping for antiques (okay, so I'm an addicted antiques-shopaholic). I was able to pick up two lucky finds - a pair of Shaker-made wood scoops (my husband collects Shaker items, so he'll be happy since he doesn't have any scoops in his collection), and a lovely mid-19th c small grain-painted table in a wonderful Hepplewhite style. I'll be taking this with me to Maine soon, where it'll be appreciated and won't last long. It's form is super - delicate yet straight, tapered legs, and good graining overall. It's not very big, but a bit taller than average, so it can be used just about anywhere in one's home. I just love early furniture which is practical too!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reminiscing about the Antiques business

When I first started in 1980 as an antiques dealer, I was very fortunate to befriend a couple of dealers and collectors who taught me the basics of the antiques trade. As we all know, this is one weird business. It's both wholesale and retail at the same time (how many businesses do both?), and the negotiating price thing can be outrageous (at one time or another, most of us have sold something for 30-50% off - and it's expected now!). How many other industries do you know buy things, clean and repair them, and then try to make a living from them? And that's not to mention the long hours, unusual characters, and strange working conditions many of us have endured . . .

The antiques business is most unusual, and without the help and direction of some very good and faithful friends early in my career, I wouldn't have lasted this long. They gave me the joy and laughter of finding wonderful old things, and made the tribulations so much more tolerable. They explained the hand-shake part of this business, and that one's word is their absolute reputation. And from the beginning, I vowed to pass on the same help that they gave me so long ago.

Anytime I can pass on assistance to my fellow dealers, I try to do so. I certainly don't have all the answers, but if it's something I've already done, or somewhere I've been, I'm very happy to share info.

Nowadays, I'm seeing more and more cut-throat antiques dealers, and it confounds me - why would anyone want to be alone in this business, being known as a poor excuse for an antiques dealer and having a bad reputation for treating others badly. Or being know for back-stabbing business techniques. Or taking advantage of newer dealers' inexperience. I just don't get it. I'd much rather be happy sharing with my dealer friends, laughing and giggling, learning new ideas and sharing life and business experiences.

I've had the good fortune of loving this business for nearly 30 yrs (more, if you count my collecting times prior to becoming a seller), and the pleasures of the antiques trade has given me many wonderful life stories not only here at home, but across the country and in several other countries too. Weird businesses bring together new friends, allow us to learn really odd information, and provide for much laughter and many smiles as we think back over the years.

I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Two weeks ago, a dealer friend who's been in this business as a nationally-recognized show dealer for more than 40 years told me that he just couldn't sleep the night before the four day show we were doing. He was so excited about the show he stayed awake a good part of the night! He has exhibited at this show for more than 30 years, twice a year, and he still has that inner sense of wonder and thrill, not knowing what awaits him at the show.

His open mind and willingness to just be himself has brought him many customers over the years, and many of those customers have turned into true friends. He is such an engaging person, and he's enjoyed his full-time life as an antiques dealer. The fact that he'd had not one but TWO flat tires on his van on the way to the show (a 1000 mile trip away from his home) didn't faze him one bit. He just took care of business (flat tires are a nuisance, but do not have to be a major problem) and was smiling and laughing the next day while telling his story.

Nothing slows him down. He's dedicated, happy, looks forward to every day. He can make a family of snowmen out of a ten foot deep snowstorm. That's the kind of antiques dealer I want to be!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Winds of Texas

We just returned from Texas, where we exhibited in an indoor antiques show known as the Original Round Top Antiques Fair. It's quite large, having more than 100 dealers at the building we were in, plus two more buildings and one large tent for additional dealers.

The last night of the show a huge thunderstorm came rolling through the area. We weren't too concerned since our booth was indoors in a relatively new, well-built steel buildin
g. We heard the storms at 5 am, after an all-night rain, but since we were safe inside our hotel, it wasn't anything to worry about. Of course, we didn't know about the tornado that hit a Houston building about an hour east of us, taking off it's roof but luckily not injuring anyone.

If you
sell at antiques shows, weather is always a consideration. Show dealers are a hardy lot - they come prepared for all kinds of unexpected weather. We bring different kinds of clothing to cover both hot and cold temperatures, always have rain gear with us, and in general are pretty well prepared for the various extremes we might face.

The pictures here show the force of the strong Texas winds. The same storm that
ripped the roof off a large building in Houston was responsible for destroying this 30' x 40' brand new tent. The tent had been staked outside our show building with 3 foot steel rerod stakes. When the winds hit - estimated at approximately 50-60 miles per hour, it lifted this heavy-duty tent straight up twenty feet into the air, and then blew it across our building, landing it 200' away. The tent rolled across the top of the building, still attached to it's stakes and 3 inch diameter aluminum poles, tearing the edges and punching holes in the roof.

Down the road from our show, several hundred exhibitors at some of the tailgate antiques shows were showing in large tents. Many of them lost merchandise as their tents collapsed in the high winds. We heard that at least five tents were destroyed.

The tent next to our building flopped it's aluminum poles like legs, tumbling across one dealer's cargo trailer and then finally landing on another dealer's van. It covered the van like a giant spider, with it's aluminum poles splayed across the van. Some of the poles remained on the roof, while others were torn off and landed in various pieces on the ground. Both the van and trailer suffered some holes and dents, but neither was severely damaged.

Wasn't it fortunate that this didn't happen during the day, when patrons could have been eating lunch in this tent or walking around outside??

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Free Custom Business Cards for my Friends!!

For several years I've been ordering my business cards from an Internet company called VistaPrint. They are in Massachusetts, and offer a pretty good deal - 250 cards for just shipping costs alone, which amount to about $8. Over the years I've probably ordered at least 10 different styles for both my antiques business and my husband's massage therapy business, and have always been satisfied with my orders. The card shown here was one I used when I had an antiques shop a couple years ago. Since you can change the wording around as you please, I've used these cards as a discount promotion card for my antiques business, and I've given them as unique surprise gifts for customers, too. (How can you go wrong for only $8???)

Sometimes I'll order a couple different groups of 250 at a time, with each costing only $8 per order for shipping. There's about 40 or so different free designs - hundreds more designs in their "premium cards" if you wish to pay a slight upcharge - and lots of room on each card for your own individual wording. You can change it around however you wish, as it's really easy to customize your own cards.

They allow many options - you can get a matte finish card (that's included in the free card, and looks good, so I use that) or a glossy finish (there's an upcharge for glossy). You can also order more than 250, but since I regularly change my wording and information around, I like to order them in the 250 count free order.

Since I'm a regular customer, recently VistaPrint gave me a special link to pass on to my friends. It will lead you to their site, and give you a first-time customer special discount, plus it gives me a small credit towards my future orders. VistaPrint is always sending out promotions to it's customers - a couple weeks ago they offered me a free rubber stamp with wording of my own choosing ($15-20 value) with my order. I definitely took them up on that freebie.

They ship pretty quickly. Their "slow shipping" costs around $8 - I use that because it almost always gets here in 10 - 14 days. You can also get faster shipping, at a slightly higher cost.

If you think you'll need business cards anytime soon, give this company a try. They've been a solid company to work with, very reliable, and their designs are very professional. Once I ordered four different sets of free cards, ending up with 1000 cards for their shipping costs of $32 total, delivered to my door by mail. Try to order 1000 business cards from your local printer for that price!

They have plenty of interesting patterns and designs, from classics like the above card, to gardening and many other topics. They also offer their customers Specials that are useful, like the rubber stamp for free, also custom Thank You cards, note cards, magnets, post cards and similar products that you might be able to use. Please use my link - I'd appreciate the small credit for my next order!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vintage Jewelry, just for fun

In the past few years, I've been collecting vintage jewelry. None of it is very expensive stuff, maybe $10 - $35, but it's different and interesting. Almost all of it is circa 1900 - 1940s, although once in a while there's a piece from the 1950s that catches my eye.

I inherited several vintage pieces of jewelry from my Mom, and it was the start of a lovely collection. She didn't feel very strongly about diamonds and rubies, but she surely was one who liked those eye-catching, oddball pieces that no one else had. Some came to her from relatives, while others were found way back in the 1950s and 1960s in places like the Salvation Army stores, or at the Goodwill shops. She didn't have much money, but she had a great eye for the uncommon.

What's nice about finding more of these small treasures to add to my collection is that I didn't pay a huge amount of money for them. They always seem to bring a
lot of compliments, mostly because they are not anything seen today in modern jewelry, yet stand out in their style or design. There's even been people who have tried to buy them right off my lapel! (Ooops - "sorry - this one's a keeper!")

I especially enjoy wearing figural pieces - cats, dogs, horses, angels, just to name a few in my collection. I find them all over the place - estate sales, from other dealers in shops and shows, even the occasional g
arage sale will yield a fun find. If it speaks to me and it's a fair price, I usually go home with it.

I ha
ve friends who have started their own "theme collections," and have had a great time hunting for their favorite pieces. The hunt is always the best part of collecting, except with jewelry you can wear pieces of your collections out in public and share your fabulous finds.

One of my friends especially likes 1900-1920s cufflinks, since there were so many different kinds. She has a good variety - gold-plated, sterling silver, porcelain, mother-of-pearl, plus some figural ones like horses and dogs. She wears them on pretty blouses that are designed for cufflinks, or sometimes just inserts them into button holes on everyday blouses at the neckline.

Another friend owns a collection of old pocket watches, which was a collection started for him by his grandfather many years ago. He then began collecting 19th century watch chains to go with his old watches. Some of his chains are plain, some are quite fancy, and many of them have unusual watch fobs attached. He has quite a few now, as his family members quickly caught on to the birthday and Christmas gift possibilities!

If you have friends or relatives who have a particular interest, you can always search for jewelry that they would enjoy owning. I've sold so many Scotty dogs pins over the years, and anything showing a cat moves quickly too. Horses are popular, and there are a zillion elephant collectors out there who enjoy wearing elephant jewelry. When you are looking for gift ideas, a piece of theme jewelry just might be the answer.

I encourage everyone to find something they like in vintage jewelry - there are so many different kinds to find and enjoy. My friends always ask me what I have in my inventory, and you should take a quick look too - I often put them on sale as I find quite a bit and offer them in my Ruby Lane shop, Red Moon Antiques.

Monday, March 19, 2007

If you've been following the news these past few days, you've probably seen something about the pet food poisonings from the Canadian company Menu Foods. Although they don't seem to know exactly what the problem is, they do know that thousands of pets across the country have been exposed to the many different cat foods and dog foods sold under dozens of brand names.

These pet foods are responsible for kidney failure and the deaths of at least ten cats and dogs. In our area, where many cans and pouches of this food was sold, there are several cats and dogs who only have days left in their lives. Specifically, it seems the style of food involved is cuts-and-gravy style.

It's sad, because if this isn't caught quite early, these animals have little chance of survival. Symptoms include vomiting, or not eating, also lethargy. If you think you've fed your cat or dog one of the foods listed below, please have your pet checked by a vet as soon as possible.

Recalled Dog Product Information

Recall Information 1-866-895-2708
  1. Americas Choice, Preferred Pets
  2. Authority
  3. Award
  4. Best Choice
  5. Big Bet
  6. Big Red
  7. Bloom
  8. Wegmans Bruiser
  9. Cadillac
  10. Companion
  11. Demoulas Market Basket
  12. Eukanuba
  13. Food Lion
  14. Giant Companion
  15. Great Choice
  16. Hannaford
  17. Hill Country Fare
  18. Hy-Vee
  19. Iams
  20. Laura Lynn
  21. Loving Meals
  22. Meijers Main Choice
  23. Mighty Dog Pouch
  24. Mixables
  25. Nutriplan
  26. Nutro Max
  27. Nutro Natural Choice
  28. Nutro Ultra
  29. Nutro
  30. Ol'Roy Canada
  31. Ol'Roy US
  32. Paws
  33. Pet Essentials
  34. Pet Pride - Good n Meaty
  35. Presidents Choice
  36. Price Chopper
  37. Priority Canada
  38. Priority US
  39. Publix
  40. Roche Brothers
  41. Save-A-Lot
  42. Schnucks
  43. Shep Dog
  44. Springsfield Prize
  45. Sprout
  46. Stater Brothers
  47. Weis Total Pet
  48. Western Family US
  49. White Rose
  50. Winn Dixie
  51. Your Pet

Recalled Cat Product Information

Recall Information 1-866-895-2708

Monday, January 22, 2007

Around the World with Google Earth

I've just learned about the Google Earth program, which allows you to "fly" (that's really what it looks like) to any location on earth and see a true close-up view from satellite on the location you want to see. I plugged in my home address, and saw our own little two acres, house and barn.

You can zoom in or out, and see what's nearby the location you are interested in. This is a fabulous program for experimentation - how about looking up your next vacation location, or a city you wish to visit? Or, you can look up a specific restaurant, or any other business. You can get directions to places you wish to go to. I'm still exploring Google Earth, but it has a lot of possibilities and it's really fun to "fly" around the world.

For giggles, I just typed in "Great Wall of China", and "flew" over the Pacific Ocean directly to China, landing over the Great Wall itself. I zoomed in and out, and saw other terrain nearby. This is fun!!

I should mention that these satellite photos are not necessarily recent. The two addresses I pulled up were summer-time views. The one of my house showed it with the old roof (we installed a new red roof in Spring 2006), and the view of a friend's home showed a van in their driveway which is only there from Maya through September. If you are searching for the most recent satellite photos, this particular program may not have them.

My computer is about 3-1/2 years old, and probably could use some resolution adjustment to get really clear up-close pictures, so I'm going to try to change that. Newer computers already have the finer resolution, so you might not need to make any changes.

Best of all, Google Earth is FREE. Click here to go to Google Earth for the download and have fun exploring our beautiful Earth!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Welcome Home, Jerry

In the Oval Office, 1976I wasn't very happy about having some kind of virus which has kept me virtually sofa-trapped this week. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be the best "sick" I've ever had.

For two and a half days, I've been mesmerized as the ceremonies of President Gerald R. Ford's funeral unfolded. Being only 45 miles away from his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I saw the local television stations center on the funeral events, placing all of it's news correspondents in every single funeral venue. Their interviews and observations were amazing, and I was transfixed on this live tv from morning to night for nearly the entire time.

Jerry Ford is so well-loved in Western Michigan that the locals consider him part of their family. They don't care if he was a Republican. They don't care that he only spent the first third of his life in Grand Rapids (the second third was mostly in Washington, D.C. and finally, his last third of life was in retirement in California). What they cared about and clearly recognized in Jerry Ford was his decency, his well-known fairness and honesty, and his genuine "love all and do harm to none" attitude.

He represented everyone in his congressional district for more than 25 years, and made many friends in both his district and in Washington. Some were famous, some were not; some of his closest friends were people now not particularly well-liked. It didn't matter to him; they were his long-time friends, and he was always true-blue to them, no matter which way the wind blew. He could separate his politics from his friendships, and it made him one of the most popular politicians the United States has ever known.

This might explain why a huge billboard was erected this past week, with a gigantic yet simple message. Grand Rapids loved Gerald Ford. The sign had only these words:

Gerald "Our" Ford

Ford family touched by public response

During these past couple of days I learned all sorts of things about Jerry Ford. He represented Michiga
n's strong, beautiful Midwestern values, and his reputation shined like a light in the pitch-black darkness during the Vietnam War days because of those values.

But back to these past couple of days. Prior to the funeral, local military veterans wanted to honor him during the processions (there were several motorcade processions, since President Ford's body laid in state at the Museum, and then was moved to Grace Episcopal Church, and then returned for burial at the Museum). WOOD-TV Channel 8 placed phone calls to local vets groups, asking that they come down to the Presidental Museum as the funeral motorcade arrived. They were asked to wear anything from their uniforms that they could still fit into - full uniforms, jackets
, even just their hats - as a show of support.
By 8:3
0 am, they began showing up on the motorcade route next to the Museum. The hearse was not expected to arrive until after 2:15 pm. The Secret Service asked that the veterans limit their numbers to 50 - 100 total. By the time the hearse and it's accompanying 70+ vehicles arrived at 4 pm, hundreds and hundreds of veterans lined the street, including honor guards, flag waving vets in their 90s, and at least one recently-returned Iraq War veteran in full uniform. The Secret Service gave up.

Click to view full size imageDid you know that Jerry Ford is the only President to reach Eagle Scout status? The Ford family asked that Boy Scouts come down to the motorcade route next to the Museum, and more than 200 showed up in Scout uniform. The Gerald R. Ford Council of Boy Scouts is the only known Council named after a still-living person. The Scouts who were there during the entrance motorcade were the very first to be allowed to pay their respects at the Museum during the 18 hour Presidental repose.

Click to view full size imageSince the repose was available to the public from 5 pm Tuesday until 11 am Wednesday, there wasn't much time to pay last respects to their favorite son, Jerry. More than 12,000 were waiting when the Museum opened at 5 pm, and it was estimated that 60,000 waited in line during the night.

People from across the state
drove hundreds of miles to give him a well-loved send-off. But they also came from Chicago, Indiana, Ohio and other states, and at least one fellow drove straight to Grand Rapids from Connecticut. They stood in line for 4 to 6 hours, quietly waiting for their turn to say goodbye. The long line of people, 6 to 7 deep, extended more than one mile. They waited patiently, sharing Ford stories - so many of them had in one way or another been touched by Jerry Ford during his many decades of being a local attorney and congressman.

Years ago, Jerry Ford said he didn't want a State Funeral when he died. He was a man of the people, and didn't believe in all that pageantry nonsense. He didn't want a Riderless Horse in the processional, and didn't want a caisson either. Referring to those days in the 1860s when President Lincoln was honored at his funeral with both, Jerry said, "I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln."

Instead, Gera
ld R. Ford wanted a very small and quiet funeral for his family and friends. It took those family, friends and his post-presidential staff a long, long time before they finally convinced him that he must have a funeral that could be shared with the public. Although Jerry saw himself as an everyday kind of guy, the people around him knew how special he really was.

On the last day of the funeral, tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Grand Rapids, waiting hours and hours. They were there to send Jerry home. The Ford family understood the connection Western Michigan had to their husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and they carefully chose t
he motorcade route to drive slowly, at 20 miles per hour, along residential and then city streets so his friends could say farewell. Click to view full size image

Click to view full size imageThe hand-made sign along the motorcade said it all - "God - Country - Family". It was Jerry's personal motto, and he used it frequently during his 93 years of life. The message on his crypt is similar: "Lives Committed to God, Country, and Love." He meant that statement in exactly the order it is written.

Click to view full size imageThe President Gerald Rudolph Ford Museum is on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. Several years ago, the Ford children planted spruce trees as a tribute to their father. The trees are grand now, very tall and stately. They line the location where their father is now buried, part of a living memorial to a man they know as "Dad".