Dear Blog Readers,
We have become the kind of blogger we never wanted to be — the kind who has a "read our blog" button on our website but the newest post is months old. We blame Facebook for this — it's so much easier to write something there and we seem to have more followers there than we did here on the blog. Still, we can't quite bring ourselves to give it up altogether yet — so instead, we're posting this little note to explain our lack of current entries. Please do check out our facebook page, we think it's fun, if not quite as long form.
sincerely, the Joie de Blogger.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Classic Gets Controversial

Okay, so most of us have by now heard the remark made by would be President Mitt Romney's aide concerning campaign strategy: "I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."  It wasn't a particularly smart or considered statement, but one good thing - it brought the Ohio Art Company, makers of Etch-a-Sketch, a LOT of free publicity.  We have been selling etch-a-sketches at Joie de Vivre for over 25 years, and did not notice huge rush in the week after this statement, but guess what?  Some people did. Amazon reported that their sales of the classic toy increased 1556% in a matter of a few days.  (Of course I wonder why none of those people bought them from us, but that's another story, more about the change in American shopping habits than Etch-a-Sketch publicity.)  Anyway, I would like to give a shout out to the Ohio Art Company here. They are a pleasure to work with and very very friendly to small business - I can call them and order a dozen etch-a-sketches and they will send them the next day. (Unlike some toy manufacturers I might mention - okay, I'll say it - how about $5000 worth of Magic 8 Balls as a minimum order from Hasbro?)(That's a LOT of Magic 8 Balls!!)  So, we're happy to see Ohio Art Co. and the Etch-a-Sketch get some free publicity . . . and hey, a little more flack for our ex-governor is okay with us too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One of These Things is Not Like the Other Ones

A customer was in the store last week, and told us he had something to show us. He pulled out a camera - or maybe his phone, scrolled through some photos and there it was - one of our plastic finger tentacles, poking up from some coral in an exploratory kind of way. I can only imagine how delighted that tentacle was to get out of Joie de Vivre and into some real salt water! I asked if we could use the photo and was directed to his website where I found many other beautiful photos - though I think our tentacle was hands down the best of course. (And thank you, Mark, for letting us use the photo.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Story

A mother was in with two young daughters today, during a quiet spell on an otherwise busy Sunday. The youngest daughter - maybe three? or four years old? - soon informed me that "I have $5" and pulled a crumpled bill out of her pocket to illustrate her wealth. She asked me if we had anything that cost $5 in the store. I showed her our section of small toys - all under $5 and she started to browse. In the meantime, her older sister was peppering me with questions like "where is the penguin race?" (an item I had moved since her last visit) and "what is this?" - "how does this work?" They spend a fair amount of time looking around, playing with a few things, while Mom browsed the grown-up sections The girl with $5 finally picked out an elephant eraser that cost $1.50 but seemed a little confused about it not costing exactly $5. Her mother and I explained that she could buy it, and I would actually give her money back. (Her mother had told me she was trying to get the girls to understand money.) She sat on the floor, digesting this information, and then suddenly asked me "What did you get for Christmas?" She didn't seem too impressed by my answer: "books, and some hand knit socks, and a sweater." (I made up the sweater part because my mind had suddenly gone blank.) She looked at me sadly. "Your birthday will be coming soon!" she suddenly said. I allowed that this was true. "Christmas is coming again too," she added. I agreed with her again, (though thinking to myself, thank goodness it won't be here anytime soon.) Then, Mom said it was time to go, so the elephant and the $5 bill were thrust on to the counter. I wrote out a sales slip for $1.50 plus 9 cents tax, and handed her her change. I think she kind of felt she hadn't spent anything as it appeared she was getting back more than she had given me - three bills and a bunch of coins - and, an elephant! It was a very fun half hour for me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring !

We just began our garden today - and then I realized that it's actually the first day of spring! So . . it also seems like a good time to show you all the Easter window that someone painted for us this Sunday. Much to the delight of passerbys, the artist sat (& stood) in the window for almost 5 hours. First she drew the scene with sharpies, then colored the bunnies in, then the grass, then the birds - it was fascinating to watch, and we think it's rather magical too. Come see!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I was in New York a few weeks ago and stopped in to visit Eataly - an amazing if slightly overwhelming Italian food emporium on 23rd Street, owned by restauranteurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. The seared bitter greens at the vegetable bar alone ensure my return. Actually, I'm kind of glad I don't live close enough to be constantly going there - as you might imagine, Manhattan emporiums full of exotic delights are not generally known for their bargain prices. And so many treats and temptations in this one. (and, to be fair, all of the pricing is not completely over the top.) Anyway, to get back to the matter at hand - i.e. this blog post - they had a sign in the Expresso Bar that I particularly liked! And . . here it is!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Record Setter

I did something I never imagined I would ever do a few weeks ago - ordered some birthday cards that retail for $14 and $16 ! The image above is our $14 "large but cute yellow bird" (as described by its makers.) Lift up its wing to reveal a little pop-up flower bouquet - press the button to hear it wish you Happy Birthday in Japanese - and sing a little bit. It's just kind of irresistible - and I couldn't resist ordering it even as I wondered - will anyone ever buy this card? As soon as it arrived and we put it in the card rack, I got my answer - yes ! The other card is a singing animal orchestra - couldn't find a good photo, but it's equally cute.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Muchas Gracias - Hasta Luego!

In an attempt to improve the Spanish I learned my first year of college - and while waitressing in a French Hungarian restaurant with Peruvian cooks - I took four semesters of Spanish at the Harvard Extension School a few years ago. I really enjoyed the classes and felt almost reasonably fluent for awhile there. Then I moved on to other subjects and slowly my newly acquired vocabulary seemed to fade away. If you asked me, say, how to conjugate irregular verbs in the future tense, I would most likely look at you blankly even though I received an A on that exam. Problem - I rarely get a chance to speak Spanish. But sometimes I do. A few days ago an older man was in the store and I, the resident language expert (my French is pretty decent as befits the owner of "Joie de Vivre") - was called out to help. He was from Chile, and interested in the KitKat Clock. And we wound up communicating almost entirely in Spanish. It's not quite like riding a bicycle, but it does come back, and it's so fun and satisfying to be able to help in another language. And I learned a few new words too - like "pila" is the preferred word for batteries in Chile. So . . . viene a Joie de Vivre para hablar conmigo! Ou - nous pouvons parlor francais! ou . . essayer . . .

Sunday, March 4, 2012

5 Year Diary, Qu'est-ce que c'est?

I was staying with friends while at the Baltimore Craft Show a week or so ago - friends who kindly gave me their own bedroom! Their three year old daughter wandered in one morning and picked up a small blue book I had left lying on the bed - my Page-A-Day five year diary. We sell these at Joie de Vivre - you write a few lines a day and each page has five sections - so you write each year until when finished, you have a record of your last five years. It's very interesting (& occasionally distressing to see how predictable one's life can be, especially when you are older!) Anyway, J. picked up my book and started paging through it. I assumed she'd quickly put it down - no pictures and writing in script - but she stared at it for quite awhile. "Why is it written in different colored inks?" she asked me. Impressed that she'd noticed, I started to explain how I was writing in it every year so that I could look back and see what I was doing one, two or three years ago. And it suddenly struck me how funny that was - explaining to a three year old that you might be interested in what happened three years ago - a whole lifetime for her - a blink of an eye for sixty year old me!