Twiddling my thumbs

My Cricut still hasn’t come in at the scrapbook store. It was supposed to be there on Monday. They’re closed now through Friday while they move to the new location next door to their current storefront. I know it’s a busy and crazy time for them since their grand re-opening in the new store is on Saturday.

I’m not mad at them or anything, just anxious to use my new machine! So, I’ve been reading up on the Cricut and Sure Cuts A Lot boards and I’ve been twiddling my thumbs…

While I was at it, I made the above animated gif myself, a first for me. How? Thanks to people creating some handy conversion applications, it wasn’t that complicated.

First, I shot a brief video of my hands as I twiddled my thumbs. I shot the video with our Sony Cybershot DSCW150, using the lowest quality 320×240 MPEG video setting so the clip would be a small file. Don’t let it fool you – that little camera can shoot some really nice video. I had to go with a lesser quality video for this purpose, though, because highest quality mode produced a file over 30MB in size and I just wanted to do a quick conversion.

Converting the clip to an ani was easy, thanks to an online file conversion site I found: VTubeTools. It worked like a charm! I told it to start about 2 seconds into the clip since the beginning shows my right hand coming into the frame right after I pushed the shutter button. I had it capture the next 5 seconds of video.  It came out right the first time through, surprisingly. You’ll notice a little hiccup where it loops, but it’s really not too bad for a first attempt.

Scrappers Gallery Zanesville and small businesses in general

Scrappers Gallery, the locally-owned store where love to crop with friends, has opened a sister store in Zanesville, Ohio! My friends Mary-Jo and Jen spent several hours at the store on Saturday, enjoying the grand opening celebration. Mary-Jo and I played with our respective projects while Jen just hung out with us and talked. We laughed a lot…And I mean a lot. It was a great day with friends.

While the new sister store just opened, the owners are gearing up to downsize the original store in Heath. The hard economic times have really hit retail, especially special interest/hobby type stores. The owners decided to be proactive and change things up a bit.

They decided to scale back their store in Heath, going from a 4-unit rental space to a single storefront, while at the same time opening the similarly-sized store in Zanesville. It will take some getting used to, but I know we’d all rather deal with a little less space and product than no space at all because the store’s had to close. Mary, the store’s owner, said that, across the country, 75 scrapbooking stores close every month. 75! None of us want to see Rick and Mary’s business become a casualty of this economy.

Anyway, it’s not like they’re downsizing to a shoebox. Each store still has seating for 12, and they still have the best assortment of unusual patterned papers and embellishments in town. And they still have a lot of solid colors to choose from in cardstock, too. They have albums, refills pages, adhesives, tools, and other items. They know their stuff and will special order items they don’t carry so people can have just the right touch for their projects. No, you probably won’t get the item for about a week, but hey. I can deal with that when it comes to the majority of my purchases.

Speaking of special orders, I made one on Saturday. My Christmas present this year is a Cricut Expressions automatic diecutting machine. It’s basically like a printer, only it cuts out shapes and letters with a blade instead of printing the shapes. I’d been hoping to get one and planned on getting it from Scrappers Gallery. I knew this would mean paying more than I could get it for online or from a mass *cough*wal* merchandiser *cough*mart*. But that’s okay. More on that later.

The cool thing is, Mary told me they’d decided to drop their regular prices on the Cricut line of products. They’d knocked a sizeable chunk off the product’s price, plus I also had a 20% off coupon good for that day only. Between the price drop and that coupon, the item cost less than I could have gotten it for on Amazon!

It was a win-win. I paid much less than I’d expected, and they made a sale. Happiness all around!

I love a good bargain like anyone. But my mind has been turning toward home — my home town with its businesses and the families that own them. Howie and I are trying to move more toward the adage “buy local, but buy less”. What I mean is, I would rather buy the majority of my “stuff” from local merchants, even if it means I pay more for some things. I will make up for the cost by buying less stuff. There’s nothing we really need, so why go out and blow money on a bunch of “bargains” to hoard when I don’t really need them? Why not hold on to that money and get some things I *really* want or need, but get them locally?

Anyway, buying locally from small businesses provides some intangible benefits for me as a customer. In the case of Scrappers Gallery, I receive personal service from people who know my name and know my scrapbooking style and the kinds of things I like. They provide a friendly atmosphere for me and my friends to gather and scrapbook together. Their store is a meeting place, a community center. They are good people. That means something, and I want to support that.

The same goes for Cord Camera, a chain local to our part of the country. The people at the Heath store have been there for years, and they know their stuff. They get to know their customers and can effectively advise them on purchases because of that. If there’s a problem with something I buy, I know I will not have a hassle when it comes to returning or exchanging it. I also receive free prints each month for a year when I buy my camera from them. And again, they’re good people.

Do I buy everything locally, from independent businesses? No. We still buy online and from big stores. We do try to find items from the little guys first, though. And if we see a truly phenomenal clearance deal on something, we’re not going to pay 75% more just to get the item from a mom & pop. There’s a balance to everything. We’re still finding it, and I think we’re doing pretty well.

I just want to encourage my readers to support their towns’ little guys, too. Remember, those business owners have families just like yours and they’re doing everything they can to stay open.

Courthouse Christmas lighting in Newark, Ohio

We went to the annual courthouse lighting ceremony last night. This year we had quite a crowd of our own, including Howie’s mom, brother and sister-in-law, niece, four great-nieces and one great-nephew. Add to that our best friends and their three kids. Our friend Mark came by, too.

We’ve been going ten or eleven years now, attending more years than not. I think I’ve mentioned it before. It’s always the day after Thanksgiving. The MC and various music groups take up the steps on one side of the courthouse, and at 7pm Santa makes his appearance, riding in on a firetruck. He ascends the steps, greeting the crowd on his way, and makes a big to-do with the kids.

He holds up an over-sized plug and extension cord socket, telling the crowd he needs their help to get the courthouse lit. He counts down with them, “One…Two…Three…MERRY CHRISTMAS!” and plug in the cord. A few lights flicker, but then go out.

He tells them they need to say it louder! Really shout it out! He leads them through a chorus of a Christmas song. Then, they try again, with more enthusiasm: “One…Two…Three…MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

More lights come on, but they waver and go out. The crowd utters “ohhhhhh…” and laughs. He’s so good at stringing along the people. The kids are SO into it, keyed up with anticipation. The crowd feels electric.

The third time he goes through this, the crowd’s single voice cries out so loudly it seems their number has tripled.

Some lights come to life, followed by others, and finally the rest light up, too. The crowd cheers and the last of the lights blink to life at the pinnacle of the old building. It’s a success!

Last year, I got a good video of it all. For whatever reason, I never uploaded it, so I did so today. Just pretend it’s 2007 — it’s not a whole lot different, I’d imagine. 😉

I wasn’t up to walking around in the crowd year. That bummed me out because there are so many great subjects to photograph. Still, it was good to see everyone. I hung out in Howie’s office with him and his mom as our friends and family took their kids around the square to see everything. We did leave the office door open, though, and listened to the music and goings-on through there.
Everyone came back to the office after the courthouse was lit and we had coffee, hot chocolate and cookies together. This year, we headed back to our house and had pizza with family – brother and sister-in-law, niece, four great-nieces and one great-nephew. We had our own crowd. 🙂