Sunday, December 5, 2010

Here's a sweet newcomer to Necklace Town who is a sunny addition to the massive necklace making under way. This young lady is eco friendly, free spirited, world traveler and yerba mate tea drinker. She just had a Solstice party! I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.....

What’s your name?

Alexandra Nichols


Where are you from?
Upstate NY


Where do you live now?

Mount Kisco, NY


Do you have any other jobs?
Volunteer at Muscoot Farm, in Katonah, NY. Student.

When did you start making jewelry?
In my senior year of high school!

How much chain do you cut in an hour?

Not quite sure yet.


Do you do other crafts? What are your talents and specialties?
I'm a naturalist, and very involved herbalist. I love ceramics and painting, but don't do either regularly.

What do you want for Christmas?
Tuition! That's all. I'm a simple girl. :) Oh! And a Teleporter!

How did you find out about Necklace Town?
I got in touch with Melinda through craigslist, believe it or not.

What do you like best about working for Melindesign?
The accuracy that's involved. Also, it's nice to be surrounded by productive people. The energy is very positive.

Well Lexy, productivity is all the rage at Necklace Town! It takes a lot of happy energy to make it happen here in the USA and your positive Lexyvibes keep us going. And I want a turn on that Teleporter when Santa brings you one! So glad to meet you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Meet Cami Burmester! Visitor Spotlight in Necklace Town

We have been VERY busy in Necklace Town. We have about 1,500 necklaces finished and shipping has started. So many great, artistic, talented people drop by Necklace Town to lend a hand and I'd like you to meet some of them.

I'd like to introduce you to Cami, who passes through Necklace Town quite often. She's a super cutie, a wicked wire wrapper and is a very accomplished painter, I love her flair for boho fashion and wears the fiercest slippers and is a major Harry Potter fan. I love her outlook and how she sees the world through Camivision. You'll just eat her up too!

What’s your name?
Colette Burmester

Where are you from?

Kent, NY

Where do you live now?

Brewster, NY

Do you have any other jobs?

I am a surrealist painter, and Gallery Coordinator

When did you start making jewelry?

I started making jewelry when I was in College. Free form wire wrapping on semiprecious stones, and it became a passion.

How much chain do you cut in an hour?

I have no idea, a lot though.

Do you do other crafts? What are your talents and specialties?

I sew, I paint,and I spin fire poi

What do you want for Christmas?

I want new fire poi

How did you find out about Necklace Town?

The PennySaver

What do you like best about working for Melindesign?

I love that I am making art in some form, I am always happy when my hands are creating.

Check out Cami's AWESOME portfolio, she's amazing. Become a fan and keep watch for new artwork, paintings and upcoming shows. She's having a show this month and you MUST check it out!

http://www.coletteaimee.com

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who Is a Subcontractor or an Employee? When to 1099 or W2

I just came from a meeting with a Certified Public Accountant. I told him about Necklace Town and all the help I've been collecting to get 13,000 orders out the door and he gave me a guideline to follow when considering one an "employee" (W2) or "subcontractor" (1099). VERY eye opening. This was sent to one of his clients, by the IRS, when a subcontractor filed for unemployment (!!!) when the temporary job was over. So for all those that aren't taking out Disability Insurance, Worker's Compensation, insurance, payroll taxes, FICA, listen up!

  • A copy of any contract on which the services were obtained. If there is no written contract, please furnish the substance, in detail, of any oral agreement.
  • Where did the individual work? Were they requited to work on your premises?
  • Was the individual in an independently established business? If so, did the individual advertise in the Yellow Pages, or in local newspapers, craigslist? If possible, provide business cards, stationery, insurance certificates, ect.
  • Could similar services be performed for others in a competitive business? Is so, furnish details regarding for whom such services were performed and whether or not they were performed during the same period services were performed for you. Are they working else where?
  • Could work assignments you offer be refused? Under what circumstances could services be terminated?
  • Was there a requirement to devote a specific amount of time to the services performed for you or was the time required to perform the service left to the individual's discretion?
  • Was the individual covered under your liability insurance, Workers' Compensation or Disability Insurance?
  • Were deductions made from the earnings for social security and income tax purposes?
  • Who provided tools or supplies or equipment?
  • When services were not performed for you, due to illness, ect, who furnished a replacement? Must permission be requested for time off?
  • Who set the rate of pay and what was the basis of compensation, this is, hourly or weekly, or were the bills submitted according to the terms of the agreement? If bills were submitted. please furnish a copy or sample of such a bill.
  • How were the sruvices obtained? Furnish copies of any advertisements, applications, ect.
  • Did the individual have to call in absences?
  • Were there any requirement to report at established times and work certain hours, for example, 9:00-5:00, 8:00-4:00, ect?
  • Did you supervise or review the individual's work? if not, how did you insure the work was being done satisfactorily? If the work was not satisfactory, who was responsible to the customers?
  • Did you provide reimbursement of expenses, and what fringe benefits did you provide?
  • Did you provide training or required attendance at training sessions?
  • Could the individual subcontract work?
  • How free was the individual to develop their own design concepts?
  • Did the individual deal directly with your clients at any stage of the project to discuss project requirements?

If you answered mostly NO to all of these questions, you would 1099 them. They would be considered a subcontractor. If you are unsure and answered YES to any of these questions or can't provide proof or otherwise, you would W2 them. They would be an employee and you would have to pay all the necessary taxes and deductions required by the Labor Department. If they find you have not followed the guidelines, you would be penalized $250.00 per employee, have to pay all back taxes, compensation, insurance from first day of employment with penalties and interest from beginning of your business. Scary!

A tough pill to swallow. So you better straighten out your employment situation before you get audited! I can explain a little more of each of these questions above and how to figure out where you might fall under so please don't hesitate to ask. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Giving Thanks to the Most Wonderful People in Necklace Town! Happy Thanksgiving!


Supplies have been coming in to Necklace Town at a furious pace! Over 43,000 jump rings, 18 spools of wire, chain cutters, cartons of stones, 4000 jewelry tags, 2000 bubble baggies. We'll go through this in the next two weeks and then have to reorder. Well, maybe not the jump rings that soon, but there is more on back order.

Today we chopped miles of chain. I thought I'd be sending chain home to be cut but everyone chomped right through those hanks and spools. We used up all the stones left from last week's shipment and we eagerly await the next. A lot of pieces were assembled until we ran out of lobster clasps. That's fine, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend and a tiny window that I can finally read my British Vogue while the turkey is frying.

I'm taking this opportunity to give thanks to team Melindesign. I've met so many new people in the last two weeks that just dived in and got to work on this project. Thanks to Donna and to Cami who helped guide the newbies and made them feel welcome with silly jokes, anecdotes, advice, and shared their expertise and technical know how. They even share baked goods. I had the most wonderful piece of pecan pie today, thanks to Sweet Cami! Dedicated Donna! Her infectious laughter keeps us coming up with zingers for those giggles that spill out of her while she's intently wire wrapping under her "special light" Thanks to Jill I, who puts the Energizer Bunny to shame, who has organized a top notch team at her base, with star employee Bella, the fastest wire cutter east of the Hudson River. I thank two new ladies who stopped in today who took command of their tools and got right to work. Jill D (yes! Another Jill!), seed bead extraordinaire and Maggie who whipped up 50 necklaces in record time. Will I be able to keep up with them?? Thanks to Lexy, who finally found her way to my house the other day and fit right into the groove. Thanks to Mr. B, for having the muscle to separate 233 of the toughest bike chain link and boxes of thick brass link chains. Thanks to cheery Patricia, who has drummed up her own team down county with her friend and cousin, getting it done! Thanks to Pam, who is so innovative, she comes up with nifty apparatus to make the assembly swift and easy. I love my jump ring openers! Jody, quiet and swift, who mastered perfect the tough stainless steel wire on her own and came back to show me a bouquet of perfect rounds. I love it!

I give thanks to the jewelry designers that have the vision, the creativity, the innovation of making their art work here and making a living at it. We want to fill their every need to be able to not have to outsource jewelry assembly overseas. I give thanks that they want to keep it in America and we want to give them the confidence and support that they can. Thank you!

These wonderful people have such enthusiasm that is intoxicating. They want to see this succeed. They're doing something that they love to do, or have done in some form or another in the past and are coming back to it. Creating something by hand and getting rewarded for it is so satisfying. Doing it around like minded people, doing it in the comfort of their homes. And all coming together to make this work here, at home, in the USA. Thank you!

I give thanks from the bottom of my heart to my husband, Michael and my son, Simon. Without them, I would be lost. Michael has helped me so much with my inadequacies on the computer, business sense and common sense. I'm stubborn but he's right 99% of the time. Thank you Simon, who has surpassed my wildest dreams, watching you grow into the the wonderful, successful, kind, generous, HELPFUL beyond belief, young man you've become. What a blessing all of you have been to me. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Have a Winner! I Spy Game 4


How funny is this! Someone came for an interview today and she did the I Spy 4: Halloween Special: Find the Broken Bone this month and found the broken finger! I gave her her prize, which turned out to be her birthstone earrings too. What a nice treat to do that. I also hired her and what a wicked chain cutter and assembler. I'm so glad she answered my ad! I'll have more on her in an upcoming Necklace Town Employee Spotlight.

And the winner is:

Margaret T of Lagrangeville, NY

Thanks for playing, Margaret!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keeping the Local Economy Going in the USA at a Place Called Necklace Town

No one won the last I Spy. Do keep your "I" out for a special holiday one. My broken finger is getting better, albeit a little sore. I've canceled the rest of any doctor's appointments with their unnecessary tests, x-rays, MRIs, and cat scans. They couldn't do anything for it and I didn't feel like throwing any more insurance money away. It was so inadequate that had I not actually heard the snap of the bone, I would have just iced it, taped Popsicle sticks to it myself, and waited it out.

Thankfully it has healed enough for some serious work that has come into the studio very recently. A HUGE job, compiling of many thousands of necklaces, final figures aren't in yet. But we've started! We are going to make this happen, produce these necklaces, all here in the United States. We're going to improve our local economy by hiring MANY extra hands in the coming weeks.
We're hiring housewives, stay-at-home moms, musicians, students, artists, part timers and full timers, what ever anyone can give us. We're cutting miles of chain, opening thousands of jump rings, wire wrapping spools of wire and threading on truckloads of stones. We're buying dozens of pliers and timers, baskets and baggies. We're buying lunch once a week at local restaurants. We're ordering thousands of multiple products from companies in the United States from printing paper, bubble wrap, boxes, and stickers. We're shipping via the United Stated Postal Service.

We're sending people home with bundles of chains, stones, and directions so they can save gas on commuting and be there when the kids come home from school so they can be more productive and give us a hundred finished necklaces a week. We're doing it with a lot of people so we can have twenty times a hundred every week. We're meeting the most friendly, funny, personable, hard working, ingenious, creative people almost every day. They are telling their friends and neighbors of this opportunity and they are coming forward to lend a hand, learn a new vocation, learn of this awesome thing that is happening. It has made my head swim but we're staying steady. We are going to help our local economy, expand small businesses and keep it all in the USA. And meeting great people to boot!


In the coming weeks, I'm going to introduce you to these new employees of Melindesign and let you know of the progress of Necklace Town. If you live nearby and want to lend a hand for extra Christmas money, contact me! To date since Thursday 11/18/2010, we have finished 284 necklaces and 200 other styles just waiting for crystals to pop on to be shipped.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Spy Halloween Special: Find the Broken Bone!


Last night for Mischief Night, I went to see Saw 7 in 3D. It was the same Saw as all the others and I didn't think it had to be in 3D. Are they doing more 3D to get more money in ticket sales? Although I do know they use more specialized cameras but there didn't seem to be enough gore flying at you to warrant the 3D glasses. But the ending did leave you to believe that this may not be the Final Saw....

But that's not what this I Spy is about! After I came home from the movie, I was ready to settle in for the night and knock out just a few more pair of earrings for a big order. I jumped in my PJs and came downstairs and slipped on the last steps which caused me to slam my hand against the stair railing where I heard a pronounced "snap". Just like the sound of bones snapping in several scenes of Saw 7 I just witnessed just a half hour before but this was for real. Searing, stinging pain. And anger at myself for being so stupid as to cause any sort of damage to my right hand, my number one tool in what I do for a living. Do I have to think about insuring my hands now??

So simpering over to my dozing husband Michael on the sofa, I blubbered "I think I broke something." and he took one look at it and said, "Let's go to the emergency room." Fun! Emergency room on a Saturday night, Mischief Night of all nights.

2 1/2 Hours later I was on my way home with x-rays and a throbbing appendage. No sleep that night, even with the special pill the Doc gave me. But I did come up with this I Spy and thought it so fitting for All Hallow's Eve. A special edition! I am okay, and I'm working around it, albeit trying to avoid smacking it into anything is a little rough. It smarts when you tap it! I have to go see an orthopedic doctor this week as the hospital didn't feel it warranted calling in one to take care of it then and there.

I Spy: A Broken Bone

If you click on the picture, it will blow it up more. The first person who gets it right, will get this fabulous prize! For November Babies, a pair of sterling silver 6mm Heart Shaped Citrine Zirconia Euroback Earrings. Please e-mail me at melinda@melindesign.com with the answer. Please don't leave the answer in comments (but comments are appreciated) because I'd like others to play the game too. Immediate family members and past winners are excluded. Good Luck!

Friday, October 1, 2010

We Have a Winner! I Spy Game 3


Congratulations to Patricia Koller!
She wins the Pink Topaz Sterling Silver Earrings.
Good eye Patricia!

I Spy: Three Abraham Lincolns


In honor of October Babes (because I'm one too!) this I Spy game will be a little more challenging because I know you all are smarty pants and you'll get this, I just know it!

The prize for this one is a pair of 5mm Pink Topaz (October birthstone!) Cubic Zirconia surrounded in sterling silver band, swinging from a pair of sterling silver euro back earrings. They are about 1 1/4" long. These are one of my designs and are just the right amount of elegant sweetness. The winner of this I Spy gets these, sent in a beautiful drawstring mesh jewel tone mesh bag. Make it a present or make them yours! If you click on the picture, it will enlarge to make searching a little easier. Here goes:


I Spy: Three Abraham Lincolns

The first person who gets it right, will get this fabulous prize! Please e-mail me at melinda@melindesign.com with the answer. Please don't leave the answer in comments (but comments are appreciated) because I'd like others to play the game too. Immediate family members and past winners are excluded. Good Luck!




Thursday, September 30, 2010

Maximizing Profits or Just Get to Make a Profit

My SCORE meeting this week was about maximizing profits. They were shocked at what I was charging for my services. Apparently I'm working for peanuts and I thought I was doing well! We went over the last invoice I sent in to a client and they came up with a $5.36 per piece assembly. I'm not making enough money to make this venture worth while. They told me I could be making more money at McDonalds. And get a free meal with each shift.

SCORE- Service Corp Of Retired Executives

They said forget about maximizing profits, I have to get up to making a profit. We have to figure out per unit cost for each piece I assemble. I also have a variable going on, as I have employees I have to factor in. There's also shipping involved. The clients pay for shipping BUT I have to add on handling charges which they said is 2-3% total on an order. I was charging hourly but what they said makes sense. All companies charge shipping and handling if they are fulfilling orders per order and shipping out. While I don't pay for shipping, it's still my time to put the product in baggies, wrap in bubble, put in the box, go online to make a shipping label, print label, tape up box, tape on label, arrange the pickup. They're right, that's a lot of handling. And as the business takes on more orders, clients and shipping responsibility, I have to make sure I'm not giving it all away for free.

We're going to figure this out with all the new clients and get the existing clients up to speed. I'm fortunate I have these guys to help me with new clients so I can do this right the first time and from now on. Next week I have to bring in my financials so they can look at my numbers. Eesh! I hope those aren't too much of a laugh or appalled looks shooting my way. I think I'll bring a bottle of good liquor so we can have a toast before I become toast.....

I started a Quickbooks class this week! It's an eight week course led by Jim, one of the SCORE guys. Everyone says how easy Quickbooks is, it's not a quick process to learn all the lingo and where to put things in the right place. Once all these numbers get plugged in, you get to see the whole picture of what's going on. There's no room for mistakes when things don't add up. I have my homework cut out for me this week!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Can We Get Small Businesses Paid On Time?

My meeting with SCORE went well today. Ben and Vince were pleased and proud that I managed to be able get some aging accounts receivable caught up a bit. Now I have to stay the course and make sure payments are kept up. They are sticklers for when something is billed and getting the payment due. We'd like to be as small business owners. It is hard to confront other small business owners because they are waiting on payments from vendors or retail giants. You don't want to spoil good relationships with that uncomfortable subject called "bill is due". But money is money. You need it to keep your business operating. It's a hard pill to swallow. I want to keep everyone happy. Even if you owe me.

Why is it that retail stores make you wait so long for payment? It's just seems so unfair that they can take your product, have it on the sales floor selling it, and paying you some 30-60 days later. Or how about canceling an order when you're just about finished filling it? Or the COD payment that the store keeps refusing your shipped finished product, sending it back multiple times, because they "forgot" the check. Again.

Why can't they pay for the order when they get it? Would we be able to go into Macy's, pick up a necklace, go to the cashier and say, "I'm taking this. I'll send you a check for it in 60 days."? You'd be arrested for shoplifting. So why do they get to do that to your business? Why is there no union or revolution against this practice? Is this the way we keep this economy going in this day in age? With record fast technology of wire transfers, electronic payments and paypal? Make small businesses wait for money (check's in the mail!) that they can't lay out for long stretches like the big box stores? Who can survive that?

It's a bumpy road to follow. I can't answer any of those questions for you, I'm just as mad as heck with you. How can we stop this? Let us know so we can rise up, receive payment when product is released so everyone can keep the cogs moving. What if we could all do that? Nothing leaves the studio, home office, warehouse til money is in the bank. Just like when you shop for that necklace at Macy's, we have to pay for it before we leave the store. We may be wearing something that was made by a small business, that hasn't been paid yet for making it, who's struggling to pay their bills. C'mon stores, boutiques and retailers! Pay them!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beer Garden Tour 2010 Fourth Stop: Loreley Williamsburg Beer Garden

Yesterday we checked out the Loreley Beergarden in Willimasburg, Brooklyn to celebrate our friends birthdays. It's a carved out on a corner of Frost and Meeker, right off exit 32B on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. So it's a tad loud. But it's a sweet cozy space, the outside is surrounded by a high sculptured brick fence and it's well shaded with the beergarden umbrellas. The space inside was beautiful with a large skylight, the bar is open on both sides so you could sit outside or in. The space used to be a filling station.

The legend of Lorelei

They have 12 imported beers on tap and a the German menu of small plates and entrees. Get a basket of pretzels with your first round, made to order, soft and hot. I think our crowd ordered just about every beer, and we got the wursts and the cold platter. I want to go back and try those classic German dishes, Eisbein and Rheinischer Sauerbraten.

Bathrooms are individual, nice, clean and kind of dark, so I don't know what use the mirror is, you can barely see it. Odd, hidden, dark lighting.

We let our beautiful afternoon sooth into the evening, when the strand of lights came on and we had to leave this lovely little oasis. We were off to the Brooklyn Bowl to catch Those Darlins. It was just blocks away, right near the waterfront. It was a huge space, bowling lanes, big stage and dance floor, restaurant area, bars. There was so much room to mill about without feeling like you're crowded out. Large tables and benches you can sit without having to order anything. And it was a $5 door! It was a 23,000 sq ft entertaining mecca.

Happy Birthday Corinne and Juliet! Thank you for inviting me to a swell afternoon and evening!

All photos by Michael O'Keefe

Loreley Beergarden
64 Frost Street
(corner of Meeker and Frost)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Williamsburg
(718)599-0025


Brooklyn Bowl

61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718)963-3369


Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Afternoon with SCORE


I went to my first SCORE meeting today. This is a branch of the Small Business Administration that has offices in every state that work with small business owners succeed with advice and mentoring. These are retired business people with a variety of backgrounds who volunteer with FREE expert advice. I met with Ben, retired after 34 years at General Foods head of their marketing. Albert, former project manager of large development construction projects. Vincent, a project manager of a Fortune 200 (200?? I thought it was Fortune 500!) company. 90 years of business experience at one conference table. Another man, Jim, who came later, started almost every sentence with, "The law says......" He really knew about the law. I didn't get his story, but I highly suspect he is a retired certified public accountant.

What an eye opening experience this was. I wasn't doing a lot of things by the book but these are things that can quickly be taken care of to get me on the right path after my first meeting.

I have to get Quickbooks. Once I get on that program, I can fire my bookkeeper, which they deem, an unnecessary expense. I've had years of unnecessary expense. I cringe to think of that. I thought I didn't need Quickbooks. They told me it's a must. I will go out tomorrow and get it. You can get online support and my SCORE has a Quickbooks seminar class. They have webinars on several business subjects.

I provide a service that I don't tax because the finished product is for resale. So I have to get a Resale Certificate from all my clients.

Get my company either Limited Liability Company or Corporation. Why?? In case I get sued.
Will I really get sued? You could lose your house, they said. Oh....


Charging a 1 1/2% late payment fee on any over due invoices from the date I send them after my terms. My terms are 15 days. That's 15 days. NOT 15 "business" days. 15 days after the date. October 1, 2010 invoice will get a 1 1/2% late fee charge every 30 days as of October 16, 2010. They told me if I don't get paid by a client on their due date, not to send product back and refuse to do any more work for that client. They told me that I am not a bank, I am not loaning money to my clients. I did a service, I should get paid, that's it. No more Ms Nice Lady. Gulp!

Offer a 5% cash discount on invoices paid within 5 days. That one I really liked. Who wouldn't take advantage of that?

They set me up for counseling for next week, same time, same place. I have 7 days to show them I mean business so they can help me solve problems and move me forward to greater success. I highly recommend this free service to any newbie in business. BEFORE you get in too far. They really want you to do the right things, the right way, step by step. I have my work cut out for me but I'm really looking forward to their wisdom and experience. Go find your local office and set up an appointment, NOW!


Putnam County
SCORE
PCEDC
34 Gleneida Avenue
Carmel, NY 10512
845-225-6030

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From Kitchen Table to Fashion Brand and Keeping it in America

I watched CBS's Fashion Night Out special last night. The stories I just loved were about the designers that literally started on their kitchen tables. And now? They are employing hundreds in America to make a great quality product here in America.

Take Rag & Bone. David Neville and Marcus Wainwright wanted to make a dark denim jean in a new and modern way. They handcrafted these jeans and from there, developed their line handcrafting all their clothes. They employ people here in the USA, from suit tailors to pattern makers to seamstresses who are experts in their traditional techniques. All done with high quality fabrics and exceptional craftsmanship.

I work with designers handcrafting their product here in the USA. There has been a serious movement that designers want to keep their product here, employ here and not go over seas. I applaud that. I support that. We need to keep it here. I have employed excellent experienced wire wrappers, bead stringers, peyote beaders, metal formers, solderers, feather gluers, painters. I could not have grown my business without the quality work of these blessed hand crafters. Each one has their powerful talent and I appreciate it with awe.



This is Courtney and Colette. They are my new full time employees that really bring it to the table. Colette is an awesome painter and free form jewelry designer. Courtney hand makes one of a kind jewelry and hair wear.

Scoutiegirl writes about this in her blog. She's a major cheerleader of the handmade brigade and the support that is needed to keep this handmade machine going. I love her support and bright outlook for fellow artisans.

There's change out there, get in there and make it happen. Support your local artisans, craft people, farmers, gourmands, moms who are beading at home, and unemployed office managers who discovered their hidden talents they have yearned to explore. Do it! Now is the time! Let's keep the movement going forward and keep it in America.

Monday, August 9, 2010

We Have a Winner! I Spy Game 2



Congratulations to Julie Becica of Haddonfield, NJ who walks away with the
IMAGRL Multi Neon Chevron Bracelet!
Good eye, Julie!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Spy: A Bowl of Fruit


What a crazy two weeks it has been at Chez Melindesign! A very successful online sample sale, ten retail stores that had to be filled in just days and a huge sample line with multiple sets with each design to be twisted up (new client, psych!). I've had the pliers in my hand for just about every waking hour. For five days, I left my table open, all 82" of it, covered in spools of chains and gemstones. Michael was off to Munich that week so since dinner was not going to be happening, I left everything out.

Which only left a prime playing field for another installment o
f I Spy! The last one was so much fun, wasn't it? This time the prize will be a CHOICE of one of these two bracelets. This is a project I'm working on that I will be donating a percentage of proceeds towards helping girls rule the world. Here's some I talked about a little while ago.

I found even more organizations I like so I'm going to be spreading the wealth. I'm still working on the line, tweaking it, so stay tuned. The name of my foundation is a toss up too, but I'm not ready to dispel that quite yet. I'm working on getting the name tags for the bracelets.


These are made by girls too! I want to keep it all about the girls....They have been doing a terrific job. Every week I get another ten bright, beautiful, fun bracelets. I just love how they are coming out. I have quite a variety of neon colors in all sorts of patterns. Stay tuned..
The winner of this I Spy gets a choice of one of the two bracelets. You'll be the first on your block sporting these! If you click on the picture, it will enlarge it. So here goes:

I Spy: A Bowl of Fruit

The first person who gets it right, will win this fabulous prize! A choice between these two neon bracelets. The hot pink one is about 7 1/2" long and the multi neon is 7" long. Both are about a half inch wide.


First one to e-mail melinda@melindesign.com the answer, wins. Please don't to leave the answer in the comments (but comments are appreciated!) because I'd like others to play the game too. Immediate family members and past winners are excluded. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Did it Break Too Soon? How to Send Back Defective Products

I just got a Federal Express delivery. It was a brand new queen size mattress pad from Louisville Bedding Company! I had one from them that I purchased from Kohl's some time ago and washed it regularly, nothing hard core. The last time I washed it, the bottom part came out shredded. The label was still attached, had the address of corporate headquarters and I mailed it to them.

Yes, instead of throwing it out and buying a new one, I mailed it back. I've been doing this for a few years now. Mailing back broken, ripped or if I have felt that the product should have lasted much longer than I had it, I mail it back. I grew tired of defective merchandise and thought that the manufacturers should be made aware of it.

I always received a replacement and a letter from the quality department or product development. I have done this with a Swiffer. The handle broke, I mailed back the broken handle and got a gift certificate from Procter & Gamble for a Swiffer starter kit. I mailed back FIVE Cover Girl eye pencils, because when I sharpened them, the tips kept breaking so I never got to use the whole pencil properly. Cover Girl mailed me FIVE coupons valued up to $10 each for anything in their line. I've mailed back Burton snowboarding gloves that the stitching started falling apart on one of the fingers after one season. They mailed back a brand new pair from the next season. I've mailed back a pillow sham with a broken zipper to Target's headquarters that I used only once! Put it on for the summer change in my living room and the zipper broke right off! They sent me back two coupons because they didn't have a replacement sham in that pattern any more. I did the same thing with a sleeping bag that a zipper broke off. Had it only one season. They sent back a new sleeping bag.

When I mail something, I don't do it for a replacement. If nothing else I just want them to better their products. I always thought I'd chalk it up as an experience if I never get a response and go looking for a better made one next time. Like Columbia Sportswear. I sent a pair of defective gloves to them and never heard anything from them. Oh well, maybe it got lost in the mail. But I won't buy from them again. I'm team Burton all the way.

Why should I fill my landfill up with their trash? I'd rather send it to the CEO and have them have to dispose of it. Maybe I'm not the only person doing this, but if I was the CEO of XYZ Company, I'd hate to see my broken product sitting on my desk. To think that someone spent money on postage to let me know my product has failed them, would send a message.

So if you have something sitting around that you can't bear to throw out and yet you can't use it, here's what you do:

  • I'm starting to save receipts for big ticket items now. I keep with with the owner's manuals that I've started a file for. Usually if it's within 3 years, they will replace it.
  • If you don't have a receipt, see if there's a label with the manufacturer's address on it. If you get to the website of the company, see if you can find a site map that will have the people working in product development or quality control. If you can't find one, address it: CEO or Defective Merchandise Department
  • Write a NICE letter. Don't forget to add your address, phone number, e-mail. I always rave about how much I love their product and how it has improved my life. It's true, that's why I bought it. My hands stayed warm, my floors were dust free and I love my eye makeup.
  • Salutation should be: Dear Sir or Madam. Unless you have names, say Mr, Mrs or Miss
  • State what is wrong with the product. What happened to it? Why did it fail you? Put Post-It notes to point out where it's defective. I will say how bummed I am that it broke, ripped or tore. I always ask them to please repair it and to please to send it back. They never repair it, they always send a new replacement.
  • Always end with Kindest regards or Most sincerely.
  • Send it well packaged. If you send something flying around unprotected in a large box, it's going to look like it broke on the way there. Package it nice, show respect.
These are large companies that churn out product by the trillions from all over the world. I'd like to think if I paid good money for it, that they stand behind it and 99% of the time they do. I want better made products that we don't have to throw out after a few uses without thinking about it. I do think about it. I will buy from companies that will better improve their products and satisfy me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Newport, Rhode Island: Vanderbilt Hall Part 2 and Learning a Lesson from Peter de Savary


Day two started HOT again in Newport and I found it VERY hard to leave such a nice, comfy room at Vanderbilt Hall for our stay here. We set out for breakfast at Benjamin's Raw Bar before mapping out what mansions to hit on our tour this year. We went to the big three last year: The Breakers, Marble Hall and The Elms. This year, we went for the more modest mansions but still grand and impressive: Isaac Bell House, Kingscote, and Chateau sur Mer. These mansions have guided tours every half hour. These mansions in Newport were the summer "cottages" of America's wealthiest from New York and Philadelphia in what's known as the "Gilded Age".

Gilded Age
: Between the years 1865 and 1901 was an era of rapid economic and population growth in the United States.


Massive wealth was spent on a summer house here. An extreme case of keeping up with the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Astors, Morgans, Rockefellers was duked out from
service à la russe (14 course formal French menu service) to sherbet ice cream b
eing served. Mind you, there were no freezers, ice was kept in an ice house up in New Hampshire during the winter and it was SHIPPED by boat, down river, to Newport in the SUMMER to keep such a treat frozen. How fleeting! It had to blow the tails off your guest's tuxedo so you can be ALL the talk the next day in this high society. This was every night in the summer. Your job as a high society doyenne was to shock and awe your guests. If you didn't rock their world, you didn't make the cut. These ladies fought tooth and nail to stay on the Social Register.

Social Register: A formal guide to the members of the "polite society" or old money. Gobs and gobs of it.

We sweated out the tours and made our way back to the hotel. A lengthy dip in the pool during a pouring rain (I love swimming in pouring rain) in which they served us beer outside under one of the roomy umbrellas so they kept "dry". We decided after to go to Monty's Bar and Restaurant for cocktails. It was a beautiful room. It has a very extensive American Illustration Collection hung on gold leafed walls. Ted and Lis
a, our super friendly bartenders, served us up a couple of Pimm's Cups. My first one, it was so good.

But the special treat of the evening was meeting the owner of this grand mansion hotel and a guest this very night, Peter De Savary.


http://desavary.com/peter-john-de-savary


He was in town and what luck to meet such a charismatic, out going, generous man. We met his daughter,
Lisa and his grandchildren. And of course Monty, the namesake of this fine gastro pub restaurant. His little dog that goes with him every where. He was such a gracious host, making sure we LOVED everything (which we did) and he offered us dinner there to try out a new entry he was working on with Chef Peter that was to be put on the menu the next night. How could we resist?? A baked potato topped with sour cream and caviar! Surrounded with the finest grilled baby carrots, beets and sauteed watercress. Wow, Pimm's Cup and Baked Potato with Caviar. Another plate elegantly licked clean. Serenaded the whole time by Christine, on the baby grand piano.

There's one thing I took away from meeting Peter de Savary. His generosity in his ability to make you feel so comfortable and relaxed. I had no idea who he was other than seeing one of his pictures on the wall from his America's Cup Challenge participation. He had great enthusiasm in his new hotel here and it showed. He was meticulous in his renovation and interior design., keeping it true to it's former glory but upping the modern quotient. The people he had working with him there: the always bowtied Alex, Arielle, Derrick, Jameson, Ted, Lisa, Peter the Chef, Rich, Ray and if I forgot someone that we met during our stay, you too! They were all on the same level: To provide us in the utmost impeccable service and relaxation. I was gobsmacked. It was all so beautifully done and they were all so happy to share it with us.

Now there's a lesson in good business: making you come back for more.


Is this what it was like back during the Gilded Age? It felt like it to me. We were treated like
we were one of the Vanderbilts. I was pampered, delighted and my every wish granted here. I can't wait to go to there again.......

Vanderbilt Hall Hotel
41 Mary Street
Newport, RI
(401) 846-6200

Benjamin's Raw Bar
254 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840-6613
(401) 846-8768


Isaac Bell House
424 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840-6924
(401) 847-1000

Kingscote
253 Bellevue Avenue
Newport , RI 02840
(401) 847-1000

Chateau sur Mer
474 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840-4114
(401) 847-1000

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Newport, Rhode Island: Vanderbilt Hall Part 1

Off to Newport, Rhode Island on a very hot motorcycle ride, where we arrived at Vanderbilt Hall to check in. We got there too early, as our lovely concierge, Arielle, informed us. I was just about to cry a river on my already sweat soaked road clothes because all I want to do was peel off the long jeans, boots and socks right then and there. But fear not! We were allowed to use the spa downstairs, change into our suits in a beautiful modern locker room, slip on a thick terry towel to take a swim in the brand new outdoor pool or the indoor pool. When I went outside to get my helmet and gear, it was already swept up and put on a cart by Jameson. No more heavy lifting! I was done with the heat. He even offered to park my bike!

My bag didn't fit in their locker so they again, took it away to install in our room while we went out to the refreshing saline inground pool. Just opened 2 weeks before, how lucky we were to arrive after construction. Since it was Monday, their bar and restaurant, Monty's, was closed. But we wanted a beer! I walked two blocks to Spring Street Spirits and brought back a six pack. I asked permission if we could drink it there and asked for plastic cups. The ever attentive Alex, the house manager, bow tied and one of the sweetest guys ever, put our beer on ice, poured out two special plastic pilsner glasses and back to the pool was I. We were at the pool til after 6, not even thinking about the room (it was ready for check in at 3), drinking our ice cold beer and lounging on those teak comfy cushioned lounge chairs under market umbrellas, lazing over the view of the Trinity Church steeple, which was founded in 1698, before us.

www.trinitynewport.org

We were finally relaxed and sated enough to go up to our room, 309. What a room, large spacious suite, our motorcycle helmets and jackets were neatly placed on a chair in the suite part of the room, it was so cute and thoughtful how they placed them! Luxurious linens on a big fluffy bed, a great sofa to sink into with a 50" flat screen, a living room that I felt like, too bad we weren't having guests over. A wet bar, stocked with the essentials to have a swank cocktail party for those guests. Huge closet with shelves and drawers, two robes, everything was put away and out of sight.

And then the bathroom. The ultimate spa bath with large frameless glass doored shower with TWO adjustable shower heads with different jet settings. Thick white terry towels and a glass shelf that ran the length of the room underneath the mirror that also ran the length of the room with top notch toiletries laid out on wooden trays and a dispenser with cotton balls and q-tips and two glasses, NOT plastic cups. I spread out all my goodies on every 7' of that shelf. It was a pale sand 12"x 6" tile and accented with a frosted green glass 2" sq tile throughout. The toilet had two flush strengths: 1/2 and full.

We went to dinner at Sushi Go which had 1/2 price sale on all fresh catch of the day sushi after 8pm, got a bottle of wine at the shop I was at earlier (open til 11) and we took out $50 (with a bottle of wine!) dinner to the roof deck of the Vanderbilt, which was just heavenly. A table up a small fight of steps had the entire harbor laid out before us with the lit up Pell Newport Bridge.

http://www.bostonroads.com/crossings/pell-newport

The roof deck is fully equipped with a kitchen and teak furniture and we stumbled upon
an iDeck that we popped in the tunes and had one of the most nicest evenings. We went back to the room and there was a turn down service, our bed completely undressed, turned down with chocolate covered apricots, the roman shades drawn, and the bathroom! It was completely cleaned, new towels replaced and trash taken away. Like we were never there and it as all brand new again. I never want to leave here......

I'll have a little more of the history of this grand mansion hotel tomorrow so stayed tuned!

Vanderbilt Hall Hotel
41 Mary Street
Newport, RI
(401) 846-6200

Spring Street Spirits
137 Spring Street
Newport, RI

(401) 846-0959

Sushi Go‎‎ ‎
215 Goddard Row
Newport, RI 02840-6607

(401) 849-5155



Trinity Episcopal Church
One Queen Anne Square
(GPS: 141 Spring St.)
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 846-0660

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Good Life in Providence, Rhode Island

Last weekend got a great start on Friday night at the Monster Ball starring Lady Gaga. I gave tickets to the sold out MSG show to my husband, Michael, for one of his anniversary gifts. She is truly the Queen of POP. I kept my paws up the whole time, cheering and screaming every word to the lyrics with my fellow l'il monsters, like a rallying cheer at the big game. I had so much fun, watching the crowd's reactions to her every move and change up with some of the most fab over-the-top outfits commanding the stage. It's been a while since I've had a sore throat the next day after a concert from singing back up. Long live the Queen!

The next day we started out on our motorcycles to Providence, Rhode Island under thankfully, cloudy skies. We arrived in Federal Hill, which has gone under a renaissance in the last few years with DePasquale Plaza as it's jewel on Atwell Avenue and De Pasquale Avenue. We stayed at the newly renovated Hotel Dolce Villa in a one bedroom suite, which was like a one bedroom apartment! All white on white, full kitchen, large bedroom, two closets, jacuzzi bath.

My only complaint was the mattress! It was the strangest "foam"
. Not a form fitting temper-pedic sort of mattress but hard foam. Crazu! And someone smoked in that room, 3B! Too bad. Otherwise, for a lovely 14 room hotel, it was really nice, clean and quiet. But count on taking a handful of sleeping pills (that should come with your welcome kit) to get any sleep on that brick called a bed. Please get real mattresses!

Out in front of the hotel was the plaza, laid out like a piazza. Really nicely done with large planters of petunias and requisite Italian flava, from the faux painted buildings to the "star" lights strung over the square. Every night was scheduled live entertainment in front of the large c
entral fountain, from karaoke to Frank Sinatra-esque singer. There were outdoor cafes, Venda Ravioli store, bakery, and a night club, Solo Burger. At this club you can get a hookah, $20 pitchers of sangrias and margaritas and park yourself in the outdoor sofas to watch ladies wearing outfits WAY too tight and short for their body types, toppling on 5" heels over the cobble stones with the boiz following along in Ed Hardy glitz t-shirts and giant watches. I liked the club and the show. It was quite a giggle.

We had a pretty good meal at Mediterraneo Caffe, down a few blocks on Atwell, with a 20% off coupon th
at came with the room. They gave us three 20% off coupons, perhaps to make up for the weird mattress situation? We had pizza at Geppetto's and breakfast at the Caffe Dolce Vita before heading off to Newport.
For a stay in Providence, this spot was a fun stopover. Everyone was super friendly and helpful. Hopefully, you'll have a better bed to sleep on than we did!

Hotel Dolce Villa

63 De Pasquale Ave
Providence, RI 02903

(401) 383-7031

Caffe Dolce Vita
59 De Pasquale Ave
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 331-8240

Geppetto's
55 De Pasquale Ave

Providence, RI 02903
(401) 270-3003

Venda Raviloi
265 Atwells Ave
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 421-9105


Solo Burger
58 De Pasquale Ave

Providence, RI 02903
(401) 272-5440

Mediterraneo Caffe
134 Atwells Ave
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 331-7760