The Biltmore Estate…
A fifty dollar ticket into the Biltmore gives you a self guided tour of the large house and access to the adjacent gardens, a lake and a shopping area with wine tasting, food and live music. We were there on a rainy, hot and humid Tuesday. It was crowded, very crowded. Wall to wall people from all around the world.
The house was an impressive time capsule… rooms with Haunted Mansion-like wood finishings, velvet tapestries and ornate wallpaper, fancy hand carved furniture, hallways packed with portraits, a large spiral staircase and the kitchen/pantry/laundry wing was fascinating. There’s an indoor pool in the basement with zero windows that everyone swears is haunted. A cinderblock basement room was festively hand-painted by a younger Vanderbilt for a New Year’s party. The art was taken from a Russian circus troupe’s flyer and it looked like a mash up of the Tim Burton signature spiral background, Dr. Seuss’ spikey bear-like creatures, matryoshka doll drawings mixed with some light opiate use. And to round out the 80+ rooms, there are many specific rooms for changing, smoking and sitting. Apparently, people used to change their clothing several times a day. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but if it was allowed, we’d all be trapped in a sea of selfie sticks and tripods.
There was a lightning storm passing overhead as we toured the house. The moment the booming stopped, we rushed over and had the gardens to ourselves before the masses descended behind us. We were so lucky to have a bit of quiet time with the flowers.
Afterwards, we ran up to the Deerpark lodge and had lunch at Cedric’s, named after Cedric, George Vanderbilt’s St. Bernard
. How cute is he??
It was a whirlwind tour! I think we saw more of Asheville in 2 1/2 days than most people see in a week! :)
Next up… Hillsborough and Charleston.
You know how your family would plan vacations months in advance? You’d research and read reviews, get a feel for your destination, plan out each day accordingly and budget your time at each place, right?
My Mom said she was coming out from Los Angeles fairly last minute and we decided to go to Asheville for a few days and the rest of the week was up in the air!
So, we rented an adorable duplex cottage house in Asheville from a lovely couple. Upon our arrival, we were told that we had just missed a mother bear and her 3 cubs, steps from the front door of the rental cottage. Bummer. Instead, we saw turkeys (and baby turkeys!), lots of lightning bugs and a few deer. Here’s the view from our back deck…
We went into town one day and did some window shopping, but missed the Pinball Museum being open! (dang it!)
With little warning, my Mom declared that she wanted to see waterfalls. We both only brought sandals… go us…
At the pace we were moving, I can honestly say that I can’t really remember where those waterfalls were… it was exhausting.
Next up… The Biltmore Estate…
Art Journal pages in watercolor and gouache from earlier in 2015…
Art Journal #121 – Kitty with a flower crown
Art Journal #122 – Hydrangeas in vase
Art Journal #123 – Mums in vase
Art Journal #124 – White dog in blue room
Art Journal #125 – Hobnail vase with roses and tulips
Art Journal #126 – Golden Retriever in a wedding
Art Journal #127 – Golden Retriever puppy in a pink tutu
Art Journal #128 – More hydrangeas
Art Journal #129 – Irish Setter puppy watercolor
Art Journal #130 – Cottage in the woods
There goes a tumbleweed!
Blogs are becoming abandoned ghost towns on the internet… so, I chose to put most of my new art, adventures etc on our Facebook page and Pinterest boards.
But then, something funny happened… Facebook is hiding posts, requesting payment to show said posts to followers and overall… regulating everything I do there. And Pinterest is turning into a similar world of promoted pins and things you can buy. It’s getting overcrowded and claustrophobic over there, metaphorically speaking.
So, I’m going to come back to my little blog a bit more…
Here are some art journal posts from 2014…
Art Journal #113 – Basset Hound bridesmaid without glitter
Art Journal #113 with glitter
Art Journal #114 – Christmas door with skates
Art Journal #115 – Christmas tree room
Art Journal #116 – Christmas door wreath with cute dog face
Art Journal #117 – Old barn Christmas door
Art Journal #118 – Christmas Carmel CA beach cottage
Art Journal #119 – Vintage Christmas bungalow
Art Journal #120 – Cotswold English country house
okay, so it’s hot. I’m grumpy. It’s summertime now. Which in the retail world translates into slower sales and the store being a browsing destination for “getting ideas” and not quite the shopping destination. (I understand why though… we have lower inventory than usual because there isn’t a big holiday around the corner). I think Moms are starting to get overwhelmed with the kids home from school and they come here to get some much needed adult “me” time, and have an adult conversation. I have never considered myself an adult so I apologize that I may not have been that grown-up conversation you were looking for ;) But I am a good listener!
When it rains it pours and I’ve been getting bombarded by all angles and I’m slowly going insane. Poor Nathan has been so patient with me the past few days as I ditch dinner to come work on paperwork at the shop. He’s also been awesome on our nightly post office runs. I’m starting to hate being at the store. Every time that phone rings I think to myself… “What do they want… now”. That’s not a good thing.
When I feel this way, I pick up my copy of Be Our Guest
, Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, by the Disney Institute. Disneyland is my retreat when I’m a big grouch, and I instantly turn that frown upside down (groan) when we get there. Disney has customer service down. I want to be like that and make people smile and leave here happy (or at least, happier
)! So, please bear with me, I’m learning ;)
I guess part of my problem is that there is too much to do and I’m already dedicating my days off on top of running the store, to run the behind the scenes of the store. It’s like I work my 11-7 or 8 each day, work on things at home on Sunday, run around doing errands most of Monday and I still don’t get everything done. It’s enough to make you want to run, screaming. I thought the “startup” days of not being organized would go away, but alas, I’m still learning how to juggle this… and I’ve lost friends in the process (Which is SO hard)
*side note/tangent* Small tip… learn how to separate business from friendship/favors… otherwise, it WILL bite you, and it’s usually super petty. Another tip… get everything in writing, even if it takes you weeks longer to put together. Have it all on a form in triplicate and go over it with the person you are going to work with more than you feel is necessary. You may think something is obvious, but sometimes, scratch that, most of the times… it’s NOT obvious to both parties involved. That’s one sure fire way to lose a friend or colleague. And I have to admit, I can be hyper sensitive and when a not-so-friendly comment is made regarding how I’m running my business, I get defensive. That’s my fault, the store is an extension of me and I need to start a mantra… “I am not the store, the store is not me” until it sticks.
Sometimes, I’m scattered. Sometimes, I don’t get things done right away. Sometimes, I’m not the best communicator. I’m an artist struggling to be a bookkeeper, class scheduler, publicist, janitor, shipping and receiving manager, supplies manager, buyer, merchandiser, accountant, blogger, plumber, repairman, window cleaner, landscaper, etc and so on (whine whine whine). When someone calls and says… “May I speak with the person in charge of….”, I just cut them off and say, “That’s me!”. Now throw Christmas into the equation and I may be passed out on the floor… just ring the bell on the counter when you need me :)
I share this because some of you enjoy hearing such things. To know that running a store has its ups and downs and that you can’t be an android with a wonderful demeanor every moment. This job takes acting sometimes… even if the laundry ate your favorite sweater, you have to be here… smiling (I guess that goes with every job you would have, but here… if you are unhappy, the customer will go to another store where that person behind the counter IS happy… in all honesty, I would go somewhere else, too!). And for goodness sake, numero uno, most importantly, don’t do what I did… Have money (or a loan) set aside to hire people! I’m not quite there yet and I really wish I was. I could be out there promoting the heck out of the store, instead I’m standing behind the counter. And I do enjoy the oohs and ahhhs and pats on the back from some of the customers, and I do like to have the confidence in knowing that 90% of the time I’m the smiling face of Violets are Blue… BUT… being here… all the time… is a tad much. My wholesale line is calling me! I wish I could answer that call ;) All in due time.
So… if you own or have owned a store… what do you do to keep your sanity through the summer? I’m trying to be creative, make jewelry while I’m here, occupy my time selling on ebay… but… all I want to be doing is sipping iced tea while floating in the pool (anyone have a pool I can borrow?)
If you have any other questions about running a store, please ask! I haven’t seen much out there besides the “you go girl!” inspirational books on how to open a store… or very form-y formal books on business. There is SO much more to it, I could go on and on and on…
On the other hand, if I’m being a downer, tell me… I’ll leave this to my private blog ;) I vent a small fraction of the time (I would like to think that, please correct me if I’m wrong) and all the other posts are (hopefully) love letters to the store… because in all honesty, I do… LOVE it :)