Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are Your Window Coverings Child-Safe?

Major Recall of Blinds and Shades after Child Deaths, the headlines screamed yesterday. 5.5 million blinds and shades were recalled by six different manufacturers yesterday, after three children died after being strangled by loose cords. CNN Money carried an excellent article detailing the companies involved and more of the facts surrounding the recall. A Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman said that in the U.S., one child dies every month as a result of strangulation by a window cord.

I've long been an advocate for child safety when it comes to window coverings. I have been very thankful that the major brands that I sell, Springs Window Fashions/Graber, and Hunter Douglas, have been at the forefront of ensuring that their products are safe both for children and pets.

How can you keep your children safe around your window coverings?
* Repair or replace your pre-2001 window coverings - new safety standards were adopted in 2001 improving safety. You may be able to retrofit your old blinds or shades - ask me how to get retrofit kits.
* Install only cordless window coverings in children's bedrooms, and wherever else possible
* Move beds, furniture and cribs away from window coverings
* Use cord cleats and attach tension pulleys and safety hold down brackets if they are provided
* Keep cords out of reach of children

Still concerned? I can come and do a free safety audit on your window coverings and suggest ways to help. Together we can work toward the goal of no more child deaths due to unsafe window coverings.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The End of the NW Washington Fair for Another Year

It's been hard to get a blog post in today with the busy-ness all around. It's great to see so many people here after a quiet few days in the middle of the week. Yesterday was a good day for many of the vendors; we are hoping for another one today.

What makes a good fair or trade show for us vendors? I thought I would ask around. First of all: people, lots of them, preferably friendly. Personable, responsive fair staff and a clean environment is a plus; the NWWF ranks high on that list. Congenial fellow vendors help make slow times pass by more quickly and help keep the environment positive; one rude or uncooperative vendor can make life miserable. And for vendors who are selling product, not just raising their profile by handing out literature, a fair or trade show needs to be profitable.

A few tips: Good shoes are a must when standing on concrete for 13 hours a day. Resilient matting under the booth carpeting is a great idea too. Some type of seating is good in order to give feet and backs a much-needed rest during the day. Pack some healthy food along with your dose of fair food favorites. Dress professionally - it is amazing to me how many vendors don't. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, to prevent fatigue and headaches. All this will help keep that smile on your face and the energy level high to greet clients all day, day after day.

This week is drawing to a close. Only a few hours remain until the barn doors close for a final time and we pack up for the year. It's been a good week again. I hope I'll be able to be a help and a blessing to the people I've met through the work that I do for them. And now it's time to shut down the computer and hand out a few more cards, give away a few more brochures, and make one or two more appointments for next week...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 5 - Fair Friday

Somebody flipped a switch and the Northwest Washington Fair just came ALIVE! It was another quiet morning and early afternoon, and then the sun came out and so did the people. Maybe they finally realized that there weren't too many more opportunities to enjoy all that Lynden's own home-grown fair has to offer.

Our little row of vendors has become quite close in the past few days. Of course, many of us meet each year at this time. The consultants at Pampered Chef have been my neighbors for years; McGregor "The Plaid Books" phone books are across the aisle again and have been my favorite yellow pages for as long as I've been advertising with them; and the friendly couple at Solarus infrared health cabins are set up again at the end of the aisle. Directly across from me, personalized picture frames are provided by the Wilkins family business, J & A Concepts, Inc.; my other neighbors this year are the suppliers of yummy treats and gifts, Blue Heron Shirts & Gifts; and how could I forget the always smiling faces at Zaks Zoo, the beanie baby providers. Farmer's Insurance Group has kept us amused all week with their routlette give-aways as well.

I should get up on my feet and greet the fair-goers thronging the aisles... Till next time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 4 and the NWWF is abuzz!

There's an air of excitement at the Fair today. I don't know if it's because of Foreigner on stage tonight, the fact that it's almost the weekend, or the slightly cooler temperatures. But everyone just seems a little more energized and a little happier.

I'm excited that the internet is working today - all day. A midday update was possible today, in between talking with potential new clients and hugs from clients I've done work for in the past. The iced mocha made by the young volunteers at A Perfect Blend is keeping me awake as the Expo building gets warmer and noisier and more crowded.

The mix of passersby is always entertaining. The young urban professionals in pressed khakis and carefully casual t's, the Birkenstock crowd in their sloganed glory, the Lynden soccer parents with their wide-eyed, blue-eyed tow-headed family, young people, old people, in-between people, people with tattoos, people with plush toys, people with sunburns, people, people, people...

But back on my feet, my very pretty feet, today. Of course, bright pink wedge sandals are not very practical for 13 hours on my feet, but today beauty won out over practicality :) And back to work!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 3 - A Hot and Lazy Summer Fair Day

The morning began with great promise; a very interested couple even before the fair was officially open. It ended well; speaking with clients who were moving into a new home and needed my services again. In between - well, let's just say there was ample time for reflection. And who can blame anyone - the morning started out warm and proceeded to get even warmer. By mid-afternoon everyone was looking a little wilted. Thankfully, as the sun set, a cooler breeze swept through the Fairgrounds, bringing some relief.

I had a brief chance today to enjoy some Fair food, and to watch others enjoying perennial favorites. Unique to the Northwest Washington Fair are poffertjes, delicious little pillows of donuts sprinkled with icing sugar and garnished with buttery cream. Curly fries by the plateful are consumed; kettle corn is always a tasty treat. But the biggest lineups are always at one of the Dairy Women's booths. There you can purchase delicious ice cream treats, especially the Moowiches and lusciously thick milkshakes. Add to that a wide variety of burgers, Fair scones, ethnic foods too many to list, and top the entire concoction off with an Avalanche from Lynden's own Woods Coffee and a handful of candy floss. What a treat for the taste buds!

But enough about the Fair experience. The week is halfway through already. Time to massage my aching feet and get a good night's rest. Tomorrow will be another long day!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 2 - A quieter day at the NW Washington Fair

It's a quiet Tuesday morning; the weather is warming up and the crowds are a little sparse. Lots of seniors - is it senior day today? - and lots of kids in barn boots with tramping through the aisles with purposeful glares. It's funny how the seniors and the kids alike eye my candy bowl with glee.

I'm missing my family. Today Reece graduates from Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton and I'm not there. My husband is there to witness the occasion, accompanied by my daughter and her infant daughter. So I've taken a moment to walk over to the Veterans of Foreign Wars booth, to talk to the volunteers there and have a look at the pictures posted there. Stop by and write a note to a member of the military or contribute to Whatcom Homefront, if you get the chance.

And now, after some frustration, I'll continue this post late at night now that I'm back home. This morning the internet worked well for a few hours in the Expo building; this afternoon, no internet despite all attempts to reconnect. Attempts to reach the vendor were met with an annoying phone tree. I may have to find another, better solution.

The rest of the day was more quiet than yesterday, with bursts of activity. Once again good contacts, appointments for consultations booked, even a mini-design consultation on the spot. Also some great opportunities to taste fair food... but more about that tomorrow. Good night!

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Fair time!

And here we go again! There's a buzz in the air as the vendors slowly make their way into the commercial buildings here at the Northwest Washington Fair in picturesque Lynden, Washington. Exhibits are uncovered, displays are rearranged, dust removed, and last minute details completed. What will this week bring? The recession has been relatively kind to this area of the state; how will that translate into interest for the vendors at the fair?

My day started with a wonderful surprise - a dozen gorgeous pink-tipped white roses beautifully arranged and appearing in my booth while I was gone, a thoughtful gift from the vendor across the row. That's what's great about this fair - the relationships that have been formed over the years with the other vendors and the staff of the NWWF. It is one of the ways that make the 13 hour days here - dare I say it? - enjoyable.

But the best part is the people you meet. I just spoke with an old-timer who has been coming to the Fair since 1952. There have been a lot of changes in fifty-seven years, he says, but he still enjoys coming and hopes to enjoy the Fair for many more years. Then there was the couple who moor their boat in Bellingham, who were looking for a solution for their arched boat windows. They were happy to hear that I could provide a custom sewn option that would serve them well on the high seas. And I have a soft spot for the children, big-eyed, candy-smeared, holding tightly to the hands of their parents and taking in so many wonderful sights and sounds.

Day 1 is half-way done. For me, it's been a great start to the week - not only great contacts with potential clients but also the opportunity to get enthused again about my passion for window coverings! Until tomorrow!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Countdown to the Northwest Washington Fair!

Saturday, two days to go to the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden. My display is set up and looks great! It's the same Vignette that I exhibited at the International Window Covering Exhibition in Atlanta a few months ago. I'm excited and ready to face a week of 13 hour days again, greeting old clients and meeting new ones.

This fair is one of the old-time, good-time, all-time great fairs. There are animal barns filled with well-groomed cows, enormous Clydesdales and tiny rabbits and kittens. The Demolition Derby is always a crowd-pleaser; the grandstand is always filled with spectators for the great acts up on stage in the evenings. There are exhibit barns of stunning paintings, beautiful quilts, jewel-toned canning and prize blooms. There is the unforgettable aroma of curly fries and poffertjes, the raucous sounds of the carnival mixing with Mr. ShamWow's practiced spiel, the mile-wide smiles on the faces of the little ones as they take the first lick of their ice-cream cone purchased from the Dairy Women's stand with the cow on the roof.

And yes, there are commercial vendors too, for the fair-goers to come and see. For the past four years I have found a place for Edwards Drapery & Interiors under the roof of the Expo building. Fair week has been a wonderful time to reconnect with clients, to meet new clients, and to promote my cause of transforming the world one undressed window at a time.

So, yes, I'm excited to get started! I'm wondering a little what this year's Fair will bring with an economy in flux, but I'll trust that God will continue to bless my efforts; I'll just keep on working and doing what I love.

Let the Fair begin!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vehicle Signage Equals Sales!

One of the best investments I have made in the past year has been a pair of magnetic signs for my work vehicle. I drive a Chevy Equinox to appointments; it doubles as a family vehicle on the weekends. For that reason I have been reluctant to put any permanent signs on my workhorse; however, Tim at SpecialT Signs and Graphics came up with a perfect solution. He created magnetic signs closely color matched to my vehicle. They are beautifully lettered, advertising Edwards Drapery & Interiors, noting that I create custom window fashions, with my phone number prominently displayed. Three simple lines elegantly done, working with the contours of a vehicle that don't leave much room for signs.

I have had people notice the signs then approach me numerous times to discuss window treatments that have subsequently led to sales; the latest contact came while our family was camping at a lake close to home. This contact led to a great sales call; the client and I have one project started and are working on the next.

It's also true that when I'm at a client's home, the neighbors are noticing just who is there. Free publicity! Vehicle signage is one more way to increase my visibility in the local area, whether I am at work or at play. I do watch my driving habits - there's nothing more memorable than a company vehicle cutting you off on the freeway! You'll remember that company, and not for the right reasons!

I do want to take my signs off on occasion so I am pleased with the choice of a removeable magnetic sign. Others may decide that permanent signage is more appropriate. But however you decide, don't miss this opportunity to tell the world about what you do! In this economic climate, I'll make sure my signs are ON and working for me!

Monday, August 03, 2009

window + fashion: Beating the Heat with Window Coverings

window + fashion: Beating the Heat with Window Coverings

Beating the Heat with Window Coverings

Last week the heat was incredible in the Pacific Northwest. We broke the all-time heat record in Seattle,hitting 103 degrees and then further north in Bellingham, close to my home, with a whopping 96 degrees by the water.

I'm thankful for all the clients I have in this economy, so I am grateful to be able to have installs to do. In this heat, though, I am doubly thankful that I have a great installer, so I can just assist and watch him do all the hard work. Last week was tough! It really did point to the importance of window coverings for lowering the temperature in the home.

One of the last installs of the day was in Lynden, WA, a quaint little farming town close to the Canadian border. The windows we were covering were mostly west facing, directly in the full force of the setting evening sun. It was brutal! A large picture window in the living room, as well as a number of windows in the dining room, were no match for the enormous amount of heat radiating in from the sun.

It took only a few minutes for my installer to put up brackets spanning the width of the large window and install the beautiful Graber Traditions 2" Wood Blind in a Peru color, complete with a decorative wood valance. The relief from the heat was immediate! Then the next three window blinds were installed. Wow! What a tremendous difference that made!

There were other choices the homeowner could have made that were even more energy-efficient; however, these blinds suited her style, her budget and her home. Graber has a great article about Energy Efficient Window Treatments. When I go out to visit clients, I carry charts comparing the energy efficiency of various window coverings so we can choose the best option for a particular window.

There's no reason an uncovered window has to add to the misery of a hot house in a heat wave. Adding a window covering to that bare opening will lower the temperature in your home, protect your furniture and carpeting from UV radiation, and add beauty and style to the interior of your home.