Fellow card designer Tom Rent alerted me to this hilarious video from the masters at Hallmark about how to sell greeting cards. Tom and I are freelance card designers who hope to lure away a few card buyers from Hallmark, which is a big dog in my hometown. Sadly, I’ll never be more than a runt of the litter, but a pup can dream, can’t she? (Freelance is an interesting word from the days of knights in armor. More about that later.) Here’s one of Tom’s cards.
Category Archives: Shopping
In this season, partly dedicated to consumerism, I’m posting this photograph I took this past January of the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center, one of Kansas City’s notable areas.
The Country Club Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. J.C. Nichols, a residential developer of nearby upscale homes, designed the shopping center after European styles, especially those of Seville, Spain. More than thirty statues, murals, and tile mosaics adorn the Plaza, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville (the tallest building in the Plaza).
Even though the Country Club Plaza was designed for automobiles, once you arrive you really need to park your car in one of the garages and walk from store to store. Pedestrians rule on the Plaza. Thousands of people live in condominiums and apartments nearby, and the Plaza is always teeming with activity. I drive by a lot, because my mother-in-law lives nearby, and it’s also on the way to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I’m not a shopper, though, so I seldom join the throngs, except to go to some of the great restaurants. A quaint restaurant on the Plaza with fantastic vegetarian food is Eden Alley, which is in the lower level of the Unity Temple. It also has a great people-watching patio outside.
The trend in Kansas City now and elsewhere is to look toward another European design, and that’s mixed use –Situating housing areas, restaurants and stores in the same area, so that you can easily walk to a store or restaurant from your home.
As a fledgling greeting card designer, I thought this was an hilarious video. The end was particularly silly!
It’s garage sale season in our part of the world. No matter where you live, I highly recommend going through your closets and basement and setting up shop with what you find. You’ll learn a lot.
About every five years, my friend Joy and I combine our sale items in her garage or mine. We recycle a lot of great stuff for low, low prices, including toys our kids thought they couldn’t live without like a barely used Xbox game. We never make much money but we have a good time. I’m not a big schmoozer, but I really enjoy the people who shop in my garage. I love to listen to their new uses for my treasures. We hear stories of why they are buying or who will get the items — college dorm, a son’s new home, daughter’s dining room, games to occupy visiting grandchildren, clothes for work and play.
This year my daughter was a big help. She was motivated to prune her possessions as she prepares to move to California. One of the sad things was seeing all of her no-longer-wanted stuffed animals. Where did those all come from? And where did my little girl go?
This year, it was so chilly and wet in early May when we had our sale that we almost cancelled. Even the blob in the lava lamp (for sale — only three dollars!) barely bubbled after a couple of hours of warm-up. Traffic was slow at first. We seriously thought of closing down, but we persevered. Joy jammed a new sale sign — bright green neon — in the wet earth on the corner. That brought a flood of customers.
Sandy, a great friend, brought a great, rich cinnamon cake, which lifted our spirits….The hungry teenaged sons of one of our shoppers wanted to buy some of the cake, but Joy offered slices to them for free. Their embarrassed mother added a dollar to the money she paid for her purchases. We tried to give it back. Really, after a while it seemed ridiculous to charge for stuff we didn’t want any more. Here, just take this stuff. Enjoy! But giving away stuff isn’t easy, as we found out. People don’t like free, they want to pay at least a dime.
•Ten cents is more attractive than free. When no one would take a free push broom, Joy put ten cents on it. The next person bought it. Maybe people think free means worthless, but I think people want to pay something.
•People can show you the value of your own discards. A woman holding my small heart box (only a dollar!) told us how a friend had given her a heart box full of heart-warming sayings that she could use whenever she needed one. Of course, I couldn’t sell our heart box after she told me that!
•People will buy items they don’t have any use for if the price is low enough. We sold a marble clock that told the time around the world.
“I don’t know what I need this for,” the buyer laughed. “I never leave Kansas City.”
I warned him that the batteries only lasted about a month. He didn’t care.
•Some people insist on paying full price. Others want a discount no matter how cheap the item is. Still, everyone was gracious and polite, even the hagglers.
•Most importantly, we learned how lucky we are. Near the end of the sale, a woman was looking through a rack of clothing, mostly my daughter’s. She held a pair of jeans to her hips and laughed.
“I know these aren’t my size,” she said in an accent I couldn’t quite place. “They are for my sister. She’s skinnier.”
She brought her choices to the card table, our command post.
“You’re so nice to buy for your sister,” Joy said.
“She’s lives in Ukraine. It’s hard there. I can’t buy from a store, but I can buy here,” she said. “Now I have five minutes to get back to work!”
I’m glad we stayed open. Sure, we like getting a little money for our decorating detritus, fashion faux pas and bikes ridden only a few times. But what we learned — or re-learned — was priceless.
Lately, a lot of people have been grumbling in our local newspaper about how cheap people are who shop at garage sales, but Joy and I have learned how generous they are — and how grateful we are for what we have. I know that in the real world of everyday retail, there are a lot of grumpy and whiney people, but luckily so far they haven’t shown up in my garage.
A shorter version of this post was published in the Kansas City Star on May 27, 2009.
Being frugal is cool these days. I like the new name — frugalistas, people who are experts at finding frugal ways to enjoy life. Becoming or remaining debt-free is one of their top goals. (See link below.)
I was born a coupon clipper and a recycler. There’s a photo of me as an infant with a pair of scissors (blunt, of course) with the caption “Cathy’s first tool”. OK, I’m just kidding about the photo….. (I did recycle the photo above from my post on consignment stores.)
Couponing and shopping at sales are two obvious ways to save, but only if you buy items or meals you need. (Yes, need is a vague term, which is why our houses are full of stuff we thought we “needed”. ) These days, the half-life of a coupon seems to be about ten days, so some of the joy is gone. What happened to “No expiration date”? Of course, companies don’t last that long any more, either. Being a frugalista is much more than coupon clipping, though. It’s an attitude. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy life. You don’t need as much as you think. Sometimes, it’s a decision not to buy something or to find a different, cheaper way to do something you enjoy.
- Check out books and movies from the library. Yes, it means you won’t have a clue about this year’s Academy Awards nominees, since you’ll still be catching up on last year’s. But so what? We haven’t rented dvds in years, but I have bought a few dvds that I want to keep. (More on those dvds in a later post, probably entitled “Shameless Promotion”.)
- Walk in the park. Kansas City has more than a two hundred miles of walking trails in stream-side parks with lots of access, so that’s easy for us. You can be a bird-watcher, cheap entertainment.
- I save the newspaper plastic sleeve and use it to clean out the cat box. (There’s no way you can make this fun, sorry.) Plastic grocery bags, if you’re still getting those, can line trash cans, but everyone knows that!
- Consignment stores. I’ve bought some great stuff there and sold some stuff, too.
- Garage sales. Yeah, I know, it’s pain in posterior, if you conduct one yourself. However, sometimes it’s the only way to clear out your house. You can donate your stuff to charities, which is good, too, but a lot of that stuff gets dumped, unfortunately, because charities don’t have the resources to sort, display, store and distribute the zillions of tons of donated stuff. When someone invests a dollar for an item in your garage sale, they might actually use it. There’s also www.freecycle.org Conversely, you can get some great stuff at garage sales. We’re working on putting together a garage sale right now, because our neighborhood and several others around us are having one May 1-2. I’m going to try to enjoy it.
- Eat at home, including making your own espresso and lattes. I tried giving up coffee, mostly to avoid caffeine withdrawal in the morning, but I just couldn’t do it. I have a cheap machine, but I’m not picky about my foam, which is a good thing because the foamer is clogged. I order my coffee in bricks by the case from www.cafebustelo.com with free shipping in the U.S. on orders over $50. I order six months’ worth of ground coffee. I’m not hung up on grinding it myself. I’m happy if it’s strong and full of caffeine.
- Since recycling is the theme this week of Earth Day, I’m recycling another blog of a young frugalista from Kansas City who explains how she does it. She also has other great frugalistas on her blogroll. Carrie on the Cheap, a young frugalista.
I’m recycling this blog post of mine because I forgot to put tags on it the first time around, Coffee, the Miracle Drink. I’m sure it’s still steaming hot, ha, ha.
This is one of my first posts on this blog, first published April 19, 2008. I’m re-cycling it, in honor of Earth Day on April 22. It is still a good, somewhat patched-up, usable post with some wear left, I hope.
The economic meltdown since I wrote this has focused more attention on cutting back, recycling, making-do, re-using, etc., but we’re still nowhere close to the same frugality the Depression-Era and World-War II Era citizens made such an integral part of their lives, even after prosperity returned.
On the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I slipped out of my house at 4 a.m. and hurried to the next street where my good friend Kathy Dawson was waiting for me at her kitchen door. It was chilly. Rather than dress sensibly, we were in our school uniforms — navy blue wool blazers, skirts and knee socks — as we began our thirteen-mile trek to our high school, Mt. Carmel Academy, a Catholic girls’ school where we were seniors. (There was a much closer high school within walking distance that we could have attended.) We soon left the comfort of Derby’s streetlights, crossing into the darkness of fields and pastures. We trudged in the ditch along Rock Road, passing the chain-link fences of McConnell Air Force Base. We picked up our pace as we reached Eastgate Shopping Center in Wichita. Traffic was getting heavier. There was nowhere to walk.
What were we thinking? This was no fun. Four hours after starting, we finally reached school just as the first bell rang. We hustled to our desks, exhausted, rumpled and relieved. We wanted to save gasoline for just one day to show our concern for the environment, although we did catch a ride home with our regular carpool. We knew how limited our lives would be without cars and how our lives were not set up for walking or biking, but we were already living fairly frugal lives because of the way we were raised. The following is an off-the-rack standard issue lament about consumerism. If I were you, I’d just go outside right now and enjoy nature!
Our parents lived through the Depression and World War II rationing. Frugality was second nature to them. They slowly and cautiously accumulated the comforts of technology and abundance. The baby boomers left that caution and frugality behind. On average, we had smaller families, but built bigger homes with all of the trimmings. Our expectations grew. We sought frequent vacations far more exotic than those old driving trips to Grandma’s house. Cheap energy, an explosion in innovation and far-off labor created thousands of new gadgets that soon became a necessity — we recorded our children’s every move, cell phones for everyone, televisions with a hundred channels in almost every room. Computers gave us instant access to the world. Food arrived from all over the globe in every season. Will we change? We don’t even know how to do to make much of a difference. (See the link to “Why Bother?” below.) It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.
We have to get back to the spirit of the first Earth Day. Appreciating the simple. Understanding the long-term consequences of our choices. Acknowledging and respecting what the earth gives to us. It’s the only planet we have. Since I wrote this, I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand, which I know makes me sound like a hypocrite, because that took a lot of energy and resources. Do I wish I hadn’t gone. No! Do I feel guilty? Yes. Would I like to do it again? Yes, but I probably won’t because it’s expensive. I do try to enjoy what I have right here at home — most of the time.
Will I walk again rather drive to my destination on Earth Day this year? Unlikely. I live in suburbia, at least a couple of miles from everywhere I usually visit. I’m dependent on a car. Biking in the traffic isn’t safe, as least not for a scaredy cat like me. In the heart of cities I’ve walked almost everywhere –Chicago, New York, Boston — I do love walking. It was great to have everything so close — for a while. Then I tired of walking in the rain, hauling groceries a couple of miles, not knowing how to transport anything large. I was happy to leave the noise and the congestion behind. My car seems like freedom, but I’m trapped by it, too. As gasoline costs climb higher again, I’m being even more careful about the trips I take. There’s no public transportation in my neighborhood, and won’t be until people are desperate for it and demand it.
One really important thing we suburbanites can do, as Michael Pollan (“Why Bother?) suggests, is turn part of our suburban lawns into gardens, which is what we’ve gradually been doing. More on that later. (In memory of Kathy. I still miss her so much.)
“Why Bother?” is a link to a story in the New York Times by Michael Pollan.
Last month, I stumbled across a photographer’s blog that mentioned the RedBubble art and photography website, so I checked it out — then I signed up. Now, I can’t stay away from it. The amount of incredible excellent art and photography on cyberspace is mind-boggling — and from teenagers, even.
If only we’d had digital photography and computers when I was a kid. (We did have electric typewriters with correction tape. And boy did I need the tape! ) All of my hard-earned darkroom skills are now archaic. Using film, an enlarger and developing chemicals these days is like listening to your music on vinyl disks. You have to be hard-core to do it. I love the instant gratification as well as the ability to edit in so many ways in digital photography! We “edited” in the film darkroom, too, but it was limited. And I only did black and white. (I won’t even go into cameras. More on that later.)
I started with Flickr, but I love RedBubble’s Aussie cheekiness. Etsy is fun, too. (I discovered Kenna Foster on Etsy. She’s also on Flickr. She’s on my blogroll. Check her out!) I don’t know how many photography and art sites are online, but there must be tens of thousands of photographers and artists looking at and commenting on one another’s work, everyone from professionals to the people posting their first work. It’s inspiring, overwhelming and humbling at the same time.
On RedBubble or Etsy, there’s a chance that someone will see one of your great photographs or artworks and decide that they can’t live without it. On Etsy, the artists themselves produce and deliver the work.
If you order through RedBubble, RB produces and ships the art as a card, print, canvas, calendar or poster. I suspect that much of the art sold on RB is to the artists and photographers themselves. I bought my own photograph (below) of the View from the Sydney Tower on canvas. Those RedBubble people know what they’re doing!
Anyone who signs up for RedBubble (It’s free) can also get a free photography website, which is very cool. You can organize your photos into galleries. It was incredibly simple. You can join a huge number of specialty groups on RB, such as landscapes, sunsets and sunrises, wildlife, doors and windows, old theaters, rivers, pets, food, skies — in fact not even the sky is the limit. Each group has sub-sets, too. There are groups with minimal standards, and there are groups by invitation only, and everything in between.
Featured photographs and art usually are exceptional, awe-inspiring, off-beat, fresh or eye-popping or else tug at your heart-strings (or else the person who selected it just took the next artwork that came along…..)
I know many of you out there are photographers. What is your favorite photography website? What are your favorite subjects. What do you do with all of your photographs? Do you print many? Why do you take photographs? I wanna know! If you want to see a RedBubble website, here’s mine. I’m still working on it. My favorite gallery is “Fun Stuff”. Catherine Sherman Photography.
Thanks to my daughter for saving the RedBubble screen shot for me.