Saturday, July 25, 2009

Robin's Visit, July 19-26, 2009

One of my high school buddies just graduated from Rockford College (liberal arts school with an accounting degree) and to treat herself, she decided to come to Florida for a week of vacation--without her hubby! She starts back at Rockford College this Fall to get her MBA--go ROBIN!!! Robin and I were really close in school so I was looking forward to reconnecting with her.

It was a real project picking her up from the airport. Those security people will barely let you stop your vehicle to let your passenger in...and if your party isn't right there when you drive up, they force you to go around and around and around. Argh...times have changed...

We spent the first few days going through yearbooks and playing out at the Disney parks...and one night Robin cooked for us. This is just a sample of the yummy meal, the appetizer, the main course was enchiladas. It was so good and so nice to have someone else do the cooking!
On Rod's days off we decided to go to Cocoa Beach. We stayed near the pier and took advantage of the great beach weather. It was packed with people, so lots of fun people watching. And, Robin loaned me the book, The Time Travelers Wife, so I had a good beach read. Which is partly responsible for the sunburn I got!!

That night we went over to restaurant row at Port Canaveral and walked around. One of the Disney cruise ships were going out which is fun to see. And when we were through with dinner at Rusty's we headed back to the Pier and walked on the beach a bit. There were only a few people out, so it was nice and quiet.

The next morning we were up early and hitting the beach again for sunrise. We decided to spend the day at Jetty Park for a change of scenery.

We did the obligatory turtle and pelican watching.

And then were treated to this submarine coming and going from the port. Whatever they had to offload or onload was done quickly...I don't think they were in port more than an hour.

I spent most of the day up here in the observatory while Robin and Rod sat on the beach. That sunburn was bad, but, I certainly enjoyed the book!! We stayed until just past lunch time and then beat it back to Orlando. The next morning I took Robin to get her rental car as she was driving up to Macon, Georgia to see another friend for the day. When she got back, I turned her onto the show Deadliest Catch and I gave her my Season One DVD's to get caught up.

All in all it was a great visit and I can't wait to be back in Rockford to be able to spend more time with her!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Stuff and Projects at the Folks' House, July 2009

The kitten terrorizing Bonnie Dog!
Jodie has a new kitten! She has been in search of a name but she really wanted to get a feel for the little one's personality before she gave her a name. Let's just say this little girl is a wrecking ball...climbing up the back of the couch, then the curtains and now the insulation in the unfinished basement. BUT, I have been loving being entertained by here when I come to pick up and leave my soap and display stuff in the basement.
So, I suggested the name, Nakita--which I see now is actually spelled Nikita. I liked it because the kitten reminded me of the spy assassin played by Petra Wilson is the TV series, La Femme Nikita. (I saw the original French version, but, I don't think it was Petra who played the lead) Jodie didn't have any idea what the series was about but when I described Nikita as a female Jack Bauer (think the TV series "24"), she got it. So, the kitten is now named Nikita or Nikki for short.
Then, I remembered another "Nakita" reference that I was sure Jodie would know. The Animal Planet series, "Meerkat Manor". It features a dominant female meerkat named, Nikita, who leads the Commando group. Sounded perfect for the little kitten too...but Jodie didn't know anything about this series either. LOL
The big project this summer was repainting the living room and hallway at Mom and Dad's house. Matt, my nephew had helped them do a water leak repair in the living room and I was up to bat to help repaint. Of course, once we found some new furniture a whole makeover was under way.
With my team (Mom and Dad!!), we moved almost everything out, taped off the trim and patched the walls the night before painting. We painted the ceiling and the walls one day and then shampooed the carpets the next day. Two days later the furniture was delivered. Jodie helped Mom redecorate with her existing items. On Monday when I returned from the show, the nieces, Aly and Skyler, helped spray paint the big couch sized mirror and we hung it the morning I left for Florida. Whew! We did it!!!

The only trouble is I didn't take any after pictures!!! LOL So, this is the repainted room before the new furniture arrived with a patio set from the porch doing double duty. The old furniture went to Matt for his apartment. I will update pictures on the next trip to Illinois early in August.

Chicago, Rockford, Roadtrips and Gal Pals, July 2009

Nephew Roger and his new dog, Honey. Roger bought a house near the Cummings' Grandparents in April--you can imagine how much they are loving that! I didn't get any pics of the house this trip, but, I will do it when Rod is here in August with me.

The Pease Girls were in town for graduations and birthdays, so, Jodie and I decided to get as many of the old gang together as we could for lunch. Jodie and Susan were coming from their workplace next door.

Susan Brown Carlson who now works with Jodie at a group of Physical Therapists. Susan and her sister Judy came to visit me at the show at St. Charles Illinois the first IL trip of the summer.
The Pease Girls--Cindy (now Waicukowski) on the left and Tammy on the right. Penny couldn't make it to lunch as she got sick. GIRLS, keep your eyes open next time. LOL Cindy's son Andrew was one of the high school graduates. Tammy is a Walgreen's manager in St. Paul MN.

A nice view of downtown Chicago from the Dan Ryan Expressway in traffic that is moving along nicely! Yippee!!

I am not a White Sox fan, but, who wouldn't appreciate a view like this! LOL I missed a shot of the Wrigley Field exit sign on the trip from the other direction.

This is what greeted me when I got back to Orlando--this little guy seemed to be very disoriented...and he would not move out of the street. My wildlife rehab friend, EVE, said it probably wasn't rabies, but, distemper. Aw!

The guy I come home to every trip...lucky me!!! :)

Plymouth MI Art in the Park, July 10-12, 2009

The trip through Chicago was finally quick AND enjoyable! Someone had mentioned using I-294 to go around town and I gave it a try. I should really check how much the tolls were on my I-Pass, but, I have a feeling it won't matter. When I hit Ohare, the big info sign said it was 45 minutes to downtown. I was actually though Chicago and to the Indiana Turnpike in 45 minutes, so, I think this will be my new route through for Michigan craft shows when I have to leave on Thursday or Friday mornings or afternoon!

This was my last chance to do really, really well in Michigan and I was so ready for a great show. I got it!! Yippee!!!

Plymouth is about a half hour west of Detroit. The town is a typical conservative Midwestern town with apparently a stable economic base and lots of people who support community events. You would not expect this to be a bedroom community of a city where the automotive industry rules...well, used to rule. For those of you in Florida, it reminds me of Winter Park. Nice shops, nice restaurants and lots of people out and about.

I really like how this show was set up. (I am the second tent from the left in the above pic and I took this early Sunday morning before we opened) The volunteers had us off the entry street and to our booth in a matter of minutes. When it appeared that my booth was only about 5 feet across (usually they are 10 feet by 10 feet), the promotor was on site and figuring things out in a couple of minutes. I was really lucky with my neighbors--the blackboard box couple again and my friend from Florida, Linda on the other side. When I asked about ice for the food vendors one of the volunteers made a note to ask and low and behold an ice man came by each day of the show to see how much more I needed. That was awesome!

Across the street we had NO vendors which is great...the people walking on the street have only YOU to look at and it usually is a good thing. This show was no exception. We did have two great restaurants across the street--a great Thai place (dinner on Friday) and a wine bar called "Grape Expectations" (dinner on Saturday and great homemade Sangria)!!! LOL The restaurants served as a good landmark for customers who were telling friends about us or going to come back and buy from us later. Almost everyone who said they were coming back, did!

The only downside I can think of (and even that turned out ok) was that the local banks would not give change to non-customers. Hmmmm. With all the twenty dollar bills I was receiving on Friday I was out of change cash by noon. So, I hit the local savings bank behind my booth and was told that no local banks would give me change. I pleaded--after all my customers were their customers! When the teller said no again, I asked her to please check with her manager. She came back a few minutes later with good news...and asked me to please not tell any of the other crafters they had done it! Believe me--it was our little secret!

Oh, I just thought of something else that was an inconvenience...the location of the vendor parking was several blocks away. My friend Linda said it must have been a mile away, but it was more like 6 blocks...past big, beautiful, nicely landscaped homes!! I enjoyed the walk each morning from the van (I was camping again), but, if you had to bring a lot to the show each morning, you definitely would need to make a stop at your tent before parking.

Linda and I discovered a great store, Meijers, on one of the evenings we finished at 6pm. It has everything that Walmart Supercenters have but with the convenience of being located where your grocery store is! I needed paper packaging stuff, toiletries and grocery stuff, Linda needed glassware and groceries, and we both found everything we needed! Nice store with great prices and NO WALMART necessary. LOL Oh, we also found gas for $2.19 all over the place. That was the cheapest I have seen since Georgia. Maybe the price is coming down all over, cross fingers.

So, the show was great, the company was exceptional and my cash box was FULL once again! LOL Plymouth's Art in the Park will definitely be on my to-do list for coming years!

Muskegon MI, Summer Celebration, July 3-5, 2009

I left Rockford at a different time this time to see if I could get through Chicago with fewer time troubles. I didn't. BUT, I do enjoy driving through the city and want to get back just to do some things (more than the usual Cubs game) there before I head back to Florida in September.
My show the weekend of July 4th was in Muskegon, Michigan--along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Muskegon was a big lumber town back in the day and it is evident by the big mansions that dot the city streets. Many have been restored to their latter day splendor--one to the tune of about $6 million! I loved the stonework in the architecture in the historic downtown. The pictures in today's blog are some of my favorites--there were about 50 more to choose from! Most of these mansions have been converted to public buildings now.
The show ran from Friday through Sunday with the hours a bit more like I am used to. We were done each day by 6 pm and on Sunday by 4 pm. Nice! The show was a bit slow for me, but, two Michigan soapers were also there. I was on one of the main streets, but, not in the park where my two friends from Florida were in the "art" part of the show.
I have not mentioned much about the weather the last two trips. It has been unseasonably cool. Both weekends so far on this trip the temps have gotten down to the 50-60's so I have been able to camp in my van. This obviously saves a lot of money on hotels and I really do sleep good in the van with my curtains up, my sleep mat and all the things I need close by. I do a "bath" each morning which isn't too bad either--except as my hair gets longer it is sure not as easy as with short hair!!!
The fireworks display on Saturday night was awesome. And, that coming from a former Disney employee and someone who sees the fireworks from Universal Studios Orlando right outside my door every night they have them! They also had music down by the waterfront, but, again I didn't partake. This trip I started reading (again) the book by Greg Mortenson, "Three Cups of Tea". It took this time. I am loving it--check it out at your library.
The show again finished ok--not great but better than Florida so I am happy. I started back for Rockford but hit horrible traffic jams in the construction zones in Michigan. What sucks is that there was no sign of construction--don't ya hate that?!?!? It added over an hour extra travel time to the trip. That was bad, but, even worse was hitting the traffic getting out of town from the Fourth and Taste of Chicago!!! LOL

By the way--extra credit question for you smarties out there! Where the heck do the unusual names in Michigan come from? I know in Illinois many of the weird ones come from Indian tribes. Need to check on this...

Mt Clemens, MI Stars and Stripes Festival, June 26-28, 2009

Shortly after the show in St. Charles I headed back to Florida and ROD!!! I was really missing him. For some reason, it is a lot easier when I go on the six week long trip in August. Maybe because that trip is half vacation??? These work trips are not so much fun when you can't get home during the week.

I had another blowout on the way back down so now I have four new tires. I think the HOT temps we have had in the south played a part...I drove in nearly 100 degree heat all through Georgia. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, luckily!

Rod had taken off some time for a trip we ended up not taking. Remember those supposedly free plane tickets that I had through T-Mobile? Well, let's just say that two tickets that end up costing as much as a whole ticket are not really free. A $25 fee to cover taxes or whatever...sure. But almost $200--jeez, I think that's ridiculous.

Anyhow, we hung out the first couple of days and then I hit the soap pots. I think I was in the kitchen three days solid. It felt so good to get out of the kitchen the next week, I was overjoyed. LOL

But, once again I needed to head North for those shows I had booked in Michigan. First up was one in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Mt Clemens is a little town about 20 miles north of Detroit. The little downtown streets where the show was put on are best described as "cockeyed"! LOL Very confusing to get around, but, very cute for a show.

The name of the show was the "Stars and Stripes Celebration" obviously to celebrate the Fourth, but, it was also a BIG music festival. For those of you that went for the music, I apologize, I just am not a big music follower. Those around me said that the music part of the show is fantastic...and you often see Kid Rock or Eminem in attendance or on stage playing with the acts.

My neighbors on both sides were great. First were the puzzle makers, Jean and Wayne. They are an older couple from the area who do scroll saw wood puzzles in lots of patterns---from barnyard animals, dragons to all kinds of dog. Their prices were great and I picked up several for stocking stuffers at Christmas.

My other neighbors were Kristyn and Rick who made the decorated kids blackboard chalk boxes. They are in Florida for part of the year (Michigan the rest) and travel all over the place doing shows. I am really surprised I have not seem them around somewhere in the last ten years. Rick was quite a salesman, but, Kristyn was sweet as can be and gave me lots of show leads for the Midwest.

The show itself was three LONG days long. Basically until 11 pm Friday and Saturday nights and until 8pm on Sunday. I can't say it was a good show, but, I certainly made more than I would have in Florida. So, all in all no complaints. And a huge compliment to Tom and Jackie, metal sculptors and jewelers who do shows in Michigan for running the show. They really did lots of extra little things for the artists--bringing water around several times a day, doughnuts and coffee in the morning. And a great breakfast on Sunday morning at the local bistro where they handed out the prize money for the best in show awards.