31 October 2007

Diary of a Mad Shopkeeper

Let us count some of the things we've learned from setting up Holiday 2007:

1. There is an element of the miraculous to being able to get this all done in four days. As a matter of fact, we're at the beginning of Day Four right now and I honestly don't know how we'll get this all done. But somehow when that first customer crosses the threshold tomorrow morning, she'll see nothing and know nothing of the battiness that has reigned for the past three days, and is sure to reign today.

2. We won't be surprised ever again if we pull up to our shop at 8 in the morning two days before the premiere of our biggest event of the year...and find a crew of roofers tearing off our roof. No joke. One frantic call to the landlord later, and the roofers are fast-tracked to finish our side of the building by dark last night, and the entire building by early Thursday morning. Please, God, let it be so. Last time I checked, we did not invite Din and Debris to A French-Inspired Noël.

3. Blogging with daily updates during such a massive store turnover is not realistic. There are so many funny and groan-inducing stories I could share, but there's no time, and I will have forgotten most of them by the time the party is over on Saturday night. Kind of like childbirth, I guess. So grueling that you wouldn't go through it a second time except that you dearly love your child and have forgotten the pain and discomfort birthing her brought.
In related news, have you heard that Melissa from The Inspired Room is hosting a satellite party from The Blissful on Friday, November 2nd? Check it out! Midway through our soirée, you'll be able to view photos from the event, read a bit of inside scoop from yours truly, and get Melissa's take on holiday decorating.
And after it's aaaaaallllll over, I'll put up a couple dozen photos, plus a full debriefing of how we did it. Thanks for reading, hope you're enjoying the last day of October, and I'll be in touch. Time to go trim a tree!

26 October 2007

The Countdown is On

Some of the nametags for our hostesses at A French-Inspired Noël. We could not do it without our friends and family.

My friend Kelly does a great impersonation of the Count from Sesame Street. Don't ask me why I know this. But I can just hear her saying, with that comically Transylvanian accent, "One, two, three, four, five, six. Six days 'til the holiday open house at The Blissful. Mwah-hah-hah-hah-hah." Don't mind me. I'm feeling a little kooky today, what with the overwhelming prospect of turning the shop inside out over the next five days in preparation for A French-Inspired Noël. And the Count? Consider that our nod to a scary, scary Hallowe'en, since we'll be closed over Hallowe'en to get the shop ready. So there. Boo.

In an act of brave self-sacrifice, I am foregoing a date with my incredibly charming boyfriend tomorrow night and staying after hours to work at the shop. Yes, folks, it's all hands on deck for the next five days as we close the shop Monday the 29th through Wednesday the 31st, haul out all the Christmas boxes, unpack them of their goodies, dispose of the packaging, reinvent existing displays and build new ones, put up and decorate at least one tree, string lights, stage new window displays, prepare our gourmet fare, get our outfits ready (with comfortable shoes!). By the time customers start arriving Thursday morning, I have a feeling I'll be buzzing with lack of sleep and running on premium-grade adrenaline. Put it this way: I'll have to be running on premium-grade adrenaline.

As next week progresses, I promise to try to post daily updates here on the blog, with photos. Maybe I'm crazy for imagining I can keep up with blogging during one of the busiest weeks of the year, but I would like to! Hard to believe that this time next week, every inch of this store will be be-decked for the most wonderful time of the year. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a reason to celebrate and to welcome our family and friends here to celebrate with us.

If you're in the area next weekend, please join us for A French-Inspired Noël on Thursday, November 1st, Friday, November 2nd, and Saturday, November 3rd, during regular shop hours. Bring friends!

21 October 2007

Shopkeeping in the Vernacular

I never dreamed I'd be blogging about Dante and Milton. Couldn't stand the guys, actually, when I was in school, both as a student and a teacher. But here we go!


I gave in upon a recommendation from a friend and started reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book is apparently the new sensation of the literary world, and I'm starting to think that's for good reason. Maybe you saw the author on Oprah a couple weeks ago? That was my introduction to her and her story. The title of the book alone had beckoned me over to the New Non-Fiction display at Borders a couple months back, but I didn't actually take a copy home. But last week, sweet Lindsay convinced me that I would like it and lent me her copy. Now I'm hooked!


A memoir, Eat, Pray, Love is Gilbert's story of how she came to terms with what she didn't want in her life and found her way to what she did want, which was to enjoy all of the pleasures the world has to offer while simultaneously experiencing a true peace and a connection to God. Sounds tricky, no? Gilbert chronicles with humor and raw honesty her journey across Italy, India, and Indonesia in hopes of learning how to experience life to the fullest while learning how to experience God in an authentic way, and learning how to balance the two. It's not an esoteric or heady read, but rather very funny! And it keeps you turning pages almost in spite of yourself.


The other night I was reading it while I was brushing my teeth. (I'm a multitasking reader; I almost never sit down just to read. Instead, I read as I take care of personal hygiene, blow dry my hair, etc.) The author was talking about why she wanted to learn to speak Italian. She dove into a fascinating explanation of how European languages came into "official" existence. Many of them, including French and Portuguese, were the tongues spoken in the most powerful and dominant cities of the regions that would later become nations. For instance, the language we know today as French is actually "Parisian," or, the dialect spoken in Paris, which was the most prestigious city in the region at the time "officialness" was bestowed. And modern-day Portugeuse is actually "Lisboan," or, the dialect spoken in dominating Lisbon. In linguistic terms, French and Portugeuse were the prestige dialects of their nations. The prestige dialect becomes and remains the standard, preferred dialect (or variant of a language) that is commonly thought of as "the" way to speak a language. Need an example here at home? Well, in the U.S., our prestige dialect is termed Standard American English, or S.A.E. (to linguists). It's what you think of when you think of the most "proper" way to speak American English, and it happens to be the dialect spoken by newscasters. In fact, there is an urban legend (which may be true) that newscasters from across the nation are sent here to Northeastern Ohio to get voice coaching, lose the "accents" and dialect of their own home states, and learn to speak "properly." Apparently, we Northeastern Ohioans are some of the most perfect S.A.E. speakers in the nation!


But back to Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert hails Italian as one of the most romantic and artistically-influenced languages in Europe, namely because the Italian we speak today was not the prestige dialect of Italy. Rather, when a group of scholars and lawmakers met in the mid-1800s to determine which dialect would be the "official" language of Italy, the dialect they chose was that which the writer Dante Alighieri used to pen his masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Far from being a prestige dialect, it was a casual, rhyme-y, singsong-y, street dialect spoken by commoners. It was the vernacular--plain, everyday, ordinary language, and it was beloved for its musicality, revered as the language of Dante, and thus crowned as the official language of Italy. How cool is that? 'The language of the people' and the language of a literary classic became the language of an entire nation.


I took special notice of this story because just by happenstance this fall, we included an old edition of John Milton's Paradise Lost in our front window display at The Blissful. Milton's book is usually paralleled with Dante's The Divine Comedy, as the books have similar themes and motifs, which boil down to one man's journey from Hell to Purgatory and ultimately, to Heaven, or "Paradise Regained". Even more by happenstance, when we flipped the book open to make it look as if someone had gotten up and left it behind in her chair, we noticed that it wanted to fall to the first page of "Paradise Regained," which is the last book within Paradise Lost. We were delighted by the symbolism here! As a former English teacher, you might be surprised to know how little I really knew about Dante's book (or Milton's, for that matter). I am sure I probably read it in college, but I never taught it, and for whatever reason, it did not remain active in my memory. I am thoroughly relishing my new knowledge that Dante's book (on which Milton's book is based) was written in the language of the people and esteemed throughout the ages for that very reason.


Which brings me to this idea, which is one I have visited before in past blog posts: the idea of a shop as a tactile, tangible, three-dimensional story of sorts. A story that people can walk through, touch, smell, listen to, and sometimes (when we're sampling our gourmet goodies) even taste! Every shopkeeper is the author of her own shop's story. I know one thing for sure: at The Blissful, we write our story in the vernacular. Our story is in the language of the people. Nothing hoity-toity, no fake Euro accents (like Madonna Ritchie's), nothing prestigious about it. Our selection of goods is intended for wonderfully everyday people with wonderfully everyday lives. And, of course, there's always something unusual thrown into the mix to keep you wondering, because life, on many levels, is about discovery. The Blissful has always been about this, and it always will be.


I hope you don't mind my divergence into literary analysis today. It's Sunday, and I think I'm hearkening back to the days when I could while away some good hours in a coffee shop on a weekend afternoon. But then, back in those days, I was writing lesson plans or grading papers. Today, I'm determined to take a crack at organizing all of the drawers and shelves behind our cash wrap area. There aren't too many more weeks left before the Holiday rush commences, and if I don't get this done now, I never will!


Here's hoping you regain your own little slice of Paradise this afternoon.

19 October 2007

A Sign for Good

We have waited and waited and waited to have an exterior sign we loved that embodied the essence of what awaits customers when they walk through the front door of our shop. Today, that sign was hung! The channel letters (individual letters spelling out The Blissful) were rough-cut from metal and finished with an imperfect, handpainted treatment. They are in just the right shade of platinum that strikes a balance between cool and warm. When the sun hits them at a certain angle, they almost appear mirrored! We wanted the letters to look very "found." See how our tagline sits in a winsome script on the shapely box beneath the channel letters? That piece, too, was handpainted with a finish resembling tarnished metal. At night, the letters appear to glow from behind, while the piece bearing the tagline is lit from within.

We wanted a sign that was chic, European, "found"-looking, and slightly funky. It's amazing what artists can do. Thanks to all those who designed, cut, painted, measured, and installed on our behalf.

A Note from Sid

We do our best to keep you posted on any developments with our collection of Sid Dickens Memory Blocks. Here's the latest: 23 Blocks are retiring on December 1st, 2007, some of which happen to be among our customers' favorites. The seemingly inscrutable artist always seems to leave us wanting more! So this is your opportunity to purchase the retiring Blocks before they go out of production. We have very limited quantities of some of them, but we can order them for you up until December 1st. In order to ensure you can still get them, we must place your order before December 1st. This means that after December 1st, we will no longer be able to order the retired Blocks for you. If you've had one in mind that is retiring, do not delay!

You can view the 23 retiring Blocks on the artist's own website. From the homepage, look for the Update link that will take you to the retiring tiles.

Just a reminder that because we are an exclusive retailer for Sid Dickens, we are able to offer you pricing that is extremely competitive with the pricing you will find on his site. To place your order with The Blissful, please telephone the shop at 330.492.2500. Pricing inquiries can be e-mailed to sales@theblissful.com. Merci!

17 October 2007

Hey, Look, Ma!

The Blissful is delighted to be featured today on The Inspired Room, a creative design blog written by interior design consultant Melissa Michaels of Portland, Oregon. From my perspective as a fellow blogger, Melissa is one of the sweetest and most genuine people out there. From my perspective as a writer, she has one of the freshest, most accessible, and authentically vibrant voices in the blogosphere. She takes on design, inspiration, and personal style at a level we all can relate to, no matter what kind of home we have (or don't have! see my last post...). Check her out once and you'll probably add her to your Favorites list. I have! Yes, this is one of those mutual admiration society moments, but it is well-deserved on Melissa's end. We are honored and excited to be featured.

And back at The Blissful, our gorgeous new gift cards have arrived. For our customers who want to give their gift-ee a plethora of options, a gift card is the perfect way to do it. With our slightly haunting and evocative design, we have a feeling that someone you know would be thrilled with a little Something Blissful.

15 October 2007

Seasons & Revelations

The other day I had the privilege of having a wonderful conversation with a lady who writes for many national home and decorating magazines. She told me she might be interested in doing a feature article sometime on my home and on The Blissful. What thrilling news! I told her that I would love to share my shop with her in a more personal way. To have one's boutique written up in living color in the pages of any glossy mag is, I imagine, a secret dream of almost every shop owner. So the shop, definitely a yes. And then, I told her my big secret, which I am going to divulge here today.

The secret is that I do not currently have a home to call my own. I gave mine up two years ago in order to be able to start the shop. Since moving back to my hometown of Canton, Ohio, I have been living out of my childhood bedroom in my parents' house. Almost thirty years of my own accumulated finds, furnishings, and style now reside ingloriously in paper bags and boxes in my mom and dad's basement. How ya like them apples?

I miss having a home of my own. I especially miss having a kitchen where every purposefully-chosen utensil, all the dog-eared cookbooks, each adorable and impractical-looking tea towel, and the chunky cutting board, are all right where I want them. I miss flopping down on my own sofa at night. I miss not sharing a bathroom. But, you see, the sacrifice of home ownership (or even home rentership) feels worth it to me in this season. I would rather cultivate the shop and a lifestyle of entrepreneurship right now than cultivate a home. It's definitely something I look forward to for the near future...with a very hopeful emphasis on the near. After living as a self-supporting and independent woman for a number of years, and as great as my parents are and as mercifully easy as our relationship is, you might imagine that the transition is occasionally a little frustrating. You would be correct. But we're all in this together.

So that's my big revelation. When customers very graciously say things like, "Your home must be gorgeous," and I sidestep the question by replying with something like, "Well, it's a lot different than the shop," now you can understand why. While their minds are conjuring something very lush and offbeat and Euro-styled, my mind is holding a picture of my 10x12-foot bedroom, the perimeter of which is ringed with stacks of books and overflowing laundry baskets (holding clean laundry, I promise!). When I eventually get a home of my own again and am able to appoint it delightfully, I probably won't be able to keep myself from posting photos here on the blog, so you can be sure you'll get to take a peek.

But that's a story for a different season. Today, I'm focusing on enjoying the one I'm in. Tonight, in my parents' kitchen, I'll prepare a simple but tasty dinner of seasoned baked chicken breasts, rice casserole with mushrooms, and dilled baby carrots. The trappings might not be my own, but I can still put them to good use. :)

11 October 2007

Burn, Baby, Burn

This is the time of year that strikes both exhilaration and trepidation into the heart of every retailer. It's the beginning of the holiday season. If you've been out shopping lately, you've noticed this! The time is drawing nigh when, along with my fellow shop owners everywhere, I will begin burning the candle at both ends. Lord, let it be a scent I like.

I woke up spontaneously at 5:42 AM today, with one thought running through my head: oh my gosh, we have so much to do to get ready for the holiday party! Now just three weeks away, I have yet to mail the invitations, finalize my schedule of hostesses, firm up my menu (plus buy ingredients, prep recipes, and schedule baking days), conceptualize window displays and new holiday displays and how to zhuzh all the everyday displays in order to accomodate new seasonal merch and new everyday merch, plus figure out what the heck I'm going to wear! On top of this, we are still running the store, checking in new arrivals on a daily basis, etc., etc. The last week of October, we'll be closed for four days before the party (well, three actual shopping days and one Sunday, on which we're always closed) so that we can transform the shop into a holly bough-bedecked, glitter glass-encrusted, mercury glass ornament-adorned, twinkly light-spangled, hot chocolate and Joie de Noel-scented confection of wintertime merriment. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? It should be and it will be, my goodness. It's only the prospect of FOUR EIGHTEEN HOUR DAYS IN A ROW that makes me shudder. Thank goodness at the end of it all I can don my gay apparel, tip back a glass of something bubbly, and laugh and visit with friends and customers. Now, that is what the holidays are for!

Planning store events such as this upcoming one are not unlike planning a wedding. Minus the solemnity, of course. There are no "'til death do I's" around here. But the guest list is huge, the details are critical, and you're hoping to create memories for people that will make them smile every time they reflect upon it. [sigh]

So, beloved local customers, watch your mailboxes next week for a personal invitation to The Blissful Unveiling & A French-Inspired Noël. We hope you'll come and have a good time. And do bring friends! The more, the merrier.

Oh, and our holiday VOTIVOs have arrived! We may not get them out onto the sales floor until the big weekend, but if you're desperate for some Christmas Sage or (my favorite) Gingersnap, hie thee to The Blissful and we'll happily let you sneak one.

10 October 2007

Where the Wild Things Are

For fall, we invite you to come with us to a place that's a bit out of the ordinary. As you begin to nest and cozy up your home in preparation for holiday gatherings and get-togethers with family and friends, we suggest you do one thing differently than you usually do. For instance, let your old standard fall wreath rest in the attic for another year and try a more unexpected adornment, such as a bushel basket filled with gourds and fall foliage. Same thing with getting dressed for this (gloriously, if I do say so) cooler weather: try a new apparel item you might not have dared to don before, such as our fingerless gloves, made of the softest and most breathable bamboo. These are available in black and bark (shown below).


One of the consequences of being a retailer is that the continual search for great new items makes you a bit impervious to the charms of many things you could buy. When I go to market, there's a lot I like, a little less I love, and even less that I actually find so irresistible I just have to take home for myself (or, in other words, snatch up the last one before it sells). One of these items is our luxe quilted velvet throw in hollyberry, shown below in the bedscape. Neutrals upon tonal neutrals are wonderfully soothing in a room, but we still love an unexpected pop of color. It's hard to resist this rich lipstick hue. Not to mention the feel of velvet and silk against your skin on a cool Autumn night while you're curled up on the sofa watching a movie. La Vie en Rose, anyone?


With the big meal just several weeks off, now's the time to pick up those props you'll want to have in place the morning of. Don't forget to add to your list: the perfect after dinner candle (something warm and spicy, please), an adorable hostess apron (for wearing or gifting), and one of our copper glitter glass Thanks garlands.


Our favorite pooch, anticipating a season of holiday soirées, sports a tulle bow on her ear. Somebody please buy this little lady tickets to The Nutcracker!


Let this interesting charm necklace be the conversation piece at the next cocktail party you attend.


It doesn't feel like fall until you first wrap that new scarf around your neck and head out the door, ready to face the wind. We've got stretchy printed cottons, crimped velvets, ruffles in satin and silk, and even some silks from Lake Como, Italy. Try on one!

Our curious mushroom candles, straight from France.


Give a gift that evokes travel and the mysteries of the ages, like our handsome and inscrutable Jaipur Journals, perfect for both guys and girls.

05 October 2007

Fall Goodies

Black birds and ravens and Orange Amber candles...oh my!

A new collection of Thanksgiving-worthy dishes and serving pieces to make any table proud as a you-know-what (look closely).

Sundries for all who have a love affair with paper. We can so relate.

Pick-me-ups for your next chic soirée...or for your dream life in which you throw chic soirées. There's nothing wrong with buying for the life you want to have.

We've expanded our collection of Sid Dickens! Remember that the newest Blocks for Fall and Holiday 2007 should be in our shop by the middle of the month.

Now's the time to stock up on candles in all the best fall scents. Fragrance your home with all of autumn's ripe bounty! We love Sweet Almond and Blood Orange, D'Anjou Lychee (like pear or quince), and shown here, Golden Fuji Apple. Our Holiday VOTIVOs are coming soon!

Some of us really get the urge to cook and bake this time of year. What about you? Feed your culinary yearnings with an interesting new cookbook.

Add a little something pretty to your dresser or shelf in the boudoir or WC ("water closet", or, as it's pronounced in French, le doo-bla-vay-say).

Treat yourself to a fun new fall accessory, like our Bibliothèque Bangles. Covered with slips of Shakespearean drama and dotted with Swarovski crystals, I think of these as "subversive vintage." These look best stacked three or more deep on one wrist.

03 October 2007

Road Trip: Country Living Fair

As promised, here is our writeup on the Country Living Fair. I couldn't have been more excited to hit the road this past weekend with my dear friend Rebecca for what promised to be a three-hour drive filled with girl talk, shenanigans, and the turning of the leaves toward all their radiant autumnal glory (wow, someone thinks she's Robert Burns today!). What is it about Autumn that just begs for a road trip? Must be the slightly cooler temps, the gorgeous reds and sunset hues whizzing by, and the bluest of blue skies. And the fact that you can usually drive for hours without getting a sunburn through the windshield. :)

Last Sunday, we set off for the Country Living Fair, hosted this year at The Workshops of David T. Smith in Morrow, Ohio (that's southwestern Ohio, for anyone who's not familiar with the state). With fall-inspired flavored coffee drinks in hand, we set out not knowing what to expect.

As a retailer, embarking on an event like this one, sponsored by CL (one of the leading home magazines on newsstands), comes with much excitement and a sense of possibility. You look forward to seeing what's new, who's there, what vestiges of the actual magazine have been translated tangibly into the trappings of the weekend. I was hoping to spot the editors, but no such luck!

So excited when we saw this sign! The word is the Fair got triple the expected attendance.

When you drive down the lane toward The Workshops, this house beckons at the end. While this may look like fairly humble country accomodations to some, this place is a version of my dreamhouse: a century home with a wraparound front porch or one spanning the length of the front, like this house has. I could also go for a few eaves and gables...and maybe even a widow's walk and one of those covered areas where a carriage would pass under. What's the architectural word for that?

Sorry...didn't mean to feature the Port-a-Johns (or as I called them, the outhouses) so prominently. I just wanted to get a shot of the big orange banner. This lovely girl is unintentionally a model.

Here you go. Haybales and all, it must be fall.

And here we are. Notice Rebecca's adorable ruffly collar? After a few hours in the sun, she had to change into her equally adorable new McMaster & Storm tee. It may have been September 30th, but it felt like July 30th. I noticed after a while that everyone walking around looked dazed and hot. You'll have that.

Now this is a ride with style. I have always said to myself that if I ever bought a vintage pickup, it would be robin's egg blue. And here it is. Of course, mine would have to say The Blissful on the side.

A prodigious pile of pumpkins and gourds, flanked by chrysanthemums in fall colors. Does anyone out there remember the scene in Anne of Green Gables when Anne wins the class spelling bee after trumping her would-be paramour Gilbert Blythe by spelling the name of this flower? "Ch-rys-an-the-M-u-m." Emphasis on the M.

We both loved this pewter tableware. What fun to drink a cool glass of water out of one of their tumblers. The chargers alone would look great on a table mixed with other pieces.

An abundance of enamelware.

I have a thing for hands. This funny sign caught my attention.

In my opinion, the crowning glory of the Fair was the booth run by our friends Darcy and Kara of McMaster & Storm in Greenville, Ohio. Delightful, French-y wonders everywhere. I love seeing a fellow retailer pull out all the stops and really go for it, and these ladies clearly did. Although we arrived on Sunday and in Kara's words the booth looked "picked over," that sooooo wasn't the case, as you can see here. Read more about the Fair from their perspective on their blog.

This is the last shot I captured in the McMaster & Storm booth before my camera batteries ran out of juice. Why, oh why, do the batteries always seem to know when it's a crucial moment?

These guys were so cool and had such a fun, twangy, bluegrass-y sound. The true bluegrass or banjo-music afficionados out there will have to excuse my lack of correct terminology! I wanted to take a video/audio clip on my camera and post it here on the blog for your listening pleasure, but I didn't want to hold up the traffic flow.

I've always been obsessed with old letter organizers such as this one. I could think of so many ways to use one of these in the shop. This slot holds a stack of cartes postales tins, this one holds mittens, this one candy bars. Just a cache for some of our novelties.

This handcrafted birdhouse found its way into my heart. I love all the detail work on the "front door."

Will The Blissful put down stakes at next year's CL Fair? We'll let you know... And the next time we take a road trip, we'll be sure to take you along with us!