Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our first unveiling

Alice Young is a friend of ours, and she is a pretty important person in the life of our city. She has been an educator for 50 years, starting as one of 5 African American teachers in the whole Rochester City School District, and moving on to many positions in the school district. She was one of the founding group of citizens who started our local community college - Monroe Community College!

When MCC wanted to honor Dr. Young, and celebrate their Alice Holloway Young, Ed.D. Diversity Series, they asked Cheryl and I to create a special 6 foot tall piece to be on display on the campus. Today they unveiled our creation - our first unveiling!

Since it was also Dr. Young's 86th birthday today, we made her a small Maya to take home!

The whole event was pretty cool, including the actual unveiling below!
Glass on frame reflects the ceiling lights badly!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New home for my violets

I borrowed my Dad's lighted plant stand - modified it with some cookie sheets - and now have a great new home for some of my growing (pun intended) collection of African Violets!
Thanks Dad!
Spotted my first leaves sprouting from a leaf cutting from one of my originals - picture below!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A bit of history - Summer 1999 Toycrafter Newsletter

No picture for this one - I found the copy from a 10 year old edition of the newsletter we sent to customers periodically at The Toycrafter. Possibly more interesting to me than to others, but with The Toycrafter gone, it is a nice bit of history. I find the Y2K preparations interesting! For the uninitiated, TEO stands for "Top Executive Officer".

Newsletter = Summer 1999

It's been a long time between newsletters! If you read some of the other articles - like "Welcome Pat Pettis" you may understand the gap better, but we still apologize for not keeping up our end of the communication! If this is your first issue of The Toycrafter Connection, welcome. If you have been missing us, we're sorry, but we're back - or we're still here, or something like that. We'll fill you in a bit on what's happening in The Toycrafter family, what's new since we last talked, and a bit about where we are going....

Notes from the TEO

Don's Collection - images
My favorite method of collecting tops these days is via the Internet. The world of collecting a lot of things is being changed rapidly by the various possibilities of the Internet. Collectors of a variety of things report that their favorite events where they go to find whatever it is they collect, talk with dealers, etc are changing rapidly as dealers find they can get better prices for less cost of doing business over the internet. Many dealers now put their best finds onto an internet auction site, rather than pack it up, drive it to Wherever, USA, and wait for folks to come by. For collectors, the good news is they can now find a lot of things they would never have run into even going to dozens of shows... the bad news is that all the other collectors can find these things just as easily --- prices are higher because there are more folks trying to get a particular item --- and the joy of digging through piles of neat stuff trying to find that one odd item is gone.

On balance, I think I like the new world of Internet auctions. A few minutes a day on the internet nets me lots of really cool finds, where I only got to a few antique toy shows a year. I have discovered there are a lot of other top collectors that I knew nothing about, and have made several new friends. And while basic tops are going for fairly high prices, I find a lot of really neat odd things like the Nevada Red Top Gold Mine Dividend Check on page ?.
The other thing I am gaining is a lot of knowledge as I see lots of new tops and top related things that I would never see without the Internet, so even if I don't get the item in the bidding, I do know about it, and I can usually save the picture of the item to my hard drive. Several images of my finds grace this newsletter.... check it out!

Y2K - We're prepared!

You've probably heard more than you ever wanted to about Y2K - aren't computers wonderful! Our wonderfully complex and demanding $25,000 software package that we had sort of a love/hate relationship with, was not Y2K compliant, and nothing was going to be done about it! Thus our introduction to many software packages, our chagrin that almost anything was going to cost at most 1/3rd of what we had invested in the old package, and our delight when we ran into Sharon Sandvick, who has a business devoted completely to helping small businesses work with Peachtree.... one of the oldest and most respected small business accounting packages out there! Sharon has made our transition to Peachtree much smoother than I could have ever hoped for.. I'll knock on wood here because we only started using it on June 1st, but it sure looks smooth so far. We'll be adding UPS Office Online soon to improve our shipping procedures --- no more book to fill out, and you'll soon start getting boxes from us with all those neat squiggly things on them! All of the above, plus completely new computers and network, means we are ready for anything the new millenium can throw us...... if not we have stocked up on old fashioned paper and pencils! Along with Sharon, I want to especially thank Liz (the one you talk to mostly when you call us) for doing a lot of data entry work, getting all your addresses, phone numbers, etc. into the new software with an amazingly high degree of accuracy!

Welcome Pat Pettis

Our office manager, Jim, left almost a year ago. Don took over his duties, and after many years of not having much to do with the office part of things, he has learned a lot! In addition, Liz turned out to have many hidden skills as she took over many of Jim's tasks. Bruce also took on a couple of Jim's jobs. However, after many months, Mike, our accountant suggested - tactfully of course - that ...perhaps the services of a part-time bookkeeper might be helpful .... perhaps Don wasn't quite as good at some of the tasks as might be helpful? .... what are you snickering at??? When is the last time you balanced the checkbook? Anyway - Mike had just the right person in mind. Someone highly competent, someone ready for a change, and someone who just might fit in with the odd-ball crew around here! Boy was he right! You may not run into Pat much... she works 3 days a week, and Liz is still the one who answers the phone most of the time. That's good, because Pat still isn't quite sure exactly what a flipover is, but she has the checkbook balanced! Also she and Liz have put in a lot of time getting things ready for the new software - see Y2K article.

Pat is happy because she likes working here. Liz is happy because Don is not hanging around the office quite as much! Don is happy because he doesn't have to hang around the office quite as much! Bruce and Jesse are happy because Don isn't hanging around the office quite as much! Do you see a trend here??? Pat.... we're all glad you're here!

Parts Department / Better than those sticks

"Better Than Those Sticks" We've come up with a better name for Parts Department. What do you do with a container full of wonderfully odd shaped and colorful wooden parts? How do you convince people that this jar of colorful oddly shaped wood parts is the best toy ever made by The Toycrafter? While explaining "Parts Department" to a customer one day I said - "It's better than a box of those sticks!", and I realized I had hit on a phrase that very quickly explains what "Parts Department" is all about! Most folks know what to do with a pile of popsicle sticks or tongue depressors! They know you can make houses, log cabins, stick people, etc. out of them. If we call this jar of stuff "Better Than Those Sticks", we immediately convey that you can make cool stuff out of them. Unlike a box of sticks which are all alike, "Better Than Those Sticks", is different every time. Some folks like exact directions about how to make a log cabin out of sticks, but the really adventuresome types would rather be handed "Better Than Those Sticks" and be told to just go ahead and invent stuff!

We now take credit cards for payment on all orders - Great for COD orders... saves you the COD fee..... does not count toward free shipping for pre-paid orders because of the extra cost to us.

If you got this far - thanks for checking out a bit of history - if Bruce, Liz, Pat, Jesse, Mike or Sharon happen to read this, click below and send along a Hello! For that matter, if you ever worked for The Toycrafter - and a lot of folks did over the years (at one point there were a total of 23 folks on the payroll) - call, e-mail, snail mail, etc. and say HI. I miss all of you!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mom's trip to the Diner

Mom's first time at our neighborhood "South Wedge Diner" in about 3 months! Sort of trying out some things in preparation for return home soon. We had a great time - Mom and Dad were particularly pleased!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guest Photographer

Maya was having a lot of fun with Grandpa's camera, and with some help got a few nice shots of Grandma! The best is above, and she had great fun figuring out that the picture comes in through the "tunnel" on the front of the camera --- she came up with that description!

Close-up of Maya below.... exploring the tunnel!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


A small resident of our hedge -center -and to the left, a bit out of focus, is a former fly! Possibly a relative of the flies in my picture last week? By the way, the dog poop that the flies were feasting on is gone - possibly moved on to feed my spider?

A good one to embiggen by clicking!

Check back tomorrow for a photo by guest photographer Maya Louise Sams - age 26 months!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recent Violet Barn Haul

Above is the haul Anne and I made at the Violet Barn a couple of weeks ago. We lined up our purchases on her front porch for a portrait. Anne went for Begonias and other cool stuff, and I got mostly violets of course. I did get an Escargot Begonia - Anne got the "better" one on the far left - that is mine in the middle, but it now looks pretty much like Anne's, with a fine third leaf.

Anne's take is on the left - mine is center and right. Can't believe I'm on the right of anything, but being right of Anne leaves lots of room!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Found this little bit of nature in the pot with my Black Plum Tomato plant yesterday morning. Picture is a bit fuzzy because this mushroom was very fragile, and trembling in the morning air. Mushroom was about 3" tall x 1" dia. By night there was no trace that it had ever been there! I love the arrangement of "dirt" on top that sort of adhered at it emerged from the soil.

Click picture to embiggen.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I've always said (well, maybe not always?) that teaching is the second most important job on the planet. First of course is parenting, but teachers are responsible for making us into good citizens, knowledgeable about our world, and caring about what happens to our world. And, even without books, reading is the most fundamental of all those skills that teachers help us develop. When a teacher came into the booth Sunday with this tote bag, I immediately jumped for my camera!

A big shout out to Anne, Dick, Ellie, Francine, Kristel, and all the other hundreds of teachers that have been part of my life!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Clothesline visitors this weekend!

Had a 4 generation visit to our booth yesterday. Maya, Mom, Dad, and Casey in the pictures.

Of course Deanna was there too, and of course Cheryl and myself!
Mom has been staying at Wesley Gardens for the past couple of months, and with the nice weather and her recovery, she and Dad rolled a couple of blocks down the street to see the show and our booth. She really does not use the wheel chair anymore, but we thought it best for this longer trip!And, while not at the same time, Linda, Mary, and Dawn were there a bit later!

Not much money made, but lots of good vibes!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another African Violet

Rebel's Splatter Kake

Seriously - that's the name of the variety.

Click picture to Embiggen!

Neighborhood friends?

I know I'll get lots of "eeewww" responses to this one, but I just had share this shot! I won't bore you with unnecessary details, but I do have to point out that in addition to the three main characters in the picture, there is an additional tiny neighborhood friend in the lower left corner!

Click picture to "embiggen"!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Maya Tuesday

My first gift from Maya (unassisted by grown-ups) --- see below!
As always - click on picture to embiggen!

Monday, September 07, 2009

New favorite picture of me and the love of my life!

That's me and Cheryl! At Loretta's 103 birthday party, sporting our handmade political buttons as always - Barack Obama, Single Payer, and Yes We Can. Below is me with my ever present camera!Much thanks to Toni Robbins for these pictures!
She has a much bigger camera!

Sunday, September 06, 2009


One Hundred and Three years young.
Thank you Loretta!
I hope I can sit there in 40 years looking that good.
She says she has arthritis from her neck to her toes, but otherwise life is great!

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Steve has been in a wheelchair for 32 years. He is about my age, give or take a few, and he is not one to just sit on his #$%&^. Well, actually he has to, but he was working the Elmwood Festival last weekend..... juggling in a wheelchair! He has got quite a show worked out. By most standards, he is at best an OK juggler. No 5 or 7 ball tricks, no rings, no clubs, no fire, and no chainsaws! He just sits there and juggles 3 balls - not all that easy sitting down with the arms of the wheelchair limiting where your arms can go. He does not need to worry all that much about drops because there is pretty much always somebody around to chase after the loose balls and toss them back to him. In fact, I think that is part of the deal. I noticed that folks who chased after the loose props were more likely to drop a buck in his bucket! His one fancy move is a high behind the chair toss with just the right spin to bounce the ball back to his waiting hands. He usually makes it, but if not --- another audience member chases it down, and sets a good example by dropping some change in the bucket!

A little video of Steve below for your enjoyment. If you are ever in Buffalo, NY check around downtown, or wander the edges of a local festival, and tell him Don and Cheryl say Hi!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Colorful Transportation

Some transportation options seen at the Elmwood Festival last weekend!
The bicycle is an Amsterdam by Electra
And above - AutoMobius from Joe's Service Center..... for those who aren't sure which way to go?