Sunday, December 21, 2014

USPS Mailing Tips

My packages awaiting pickup.
It's that magical time of year when often people show their worst side while standing in the dreaded Post Office line. In Charlottesville, you are guaranteed a long wait at any of the three main offices. Some of the best post offices to go to during the Holiday season are the small rural stations. My personal favorite is in Ivy. A teeny post office conveniently attached to a cute garden center out of a scene from Dr. Zhivago or It's a Wonderful Life.

If I had to go to the USPS 365 days a year.
After years of selling online, I have acquired many tips from my mail carrier. Last year I set the goal to sell one item each day and I actually exceeded this goal. Driving to the post office 365 days a year would not only be insane but time consuming! I would have shut my business down or gone postal if I had not changed my shipping habits. Standing in line is one of my least favorite things to do (inherited from my Grandmother English who was a notorious butt in liner). The only thing I miss about not going to the Cville Central Post Office is that I no longer run into Charlottesville's finest. On several trips, I wished I had taken my camera. I never figured out why the lady with the pink curlers was in the line to get a passport photo!

My vintage mailbox, an old door knob as the pull handle.
If you mail a lot of packages your first step is to upgrade to a bigger mailbox. I found our jumbo box at the Habitat Restore. When stuffing in the packages, arrange it so they all can be seen or attach a note with the package quantity (a substitute carrier missed one of my packages that was hiding in the back dark corner).

Debbie my exceptional mail carrier with my packages.
My mail carrier is what I will call a "full service carrier". I complained to her that I had to go to the post office and stand in line to get stamps. She looked at me and said, why did you do that, you know I have you covered! I never knew that stamps and other postal products can be ordered directly from your mail carrier! She handed me an orange envelop that can be filled out and placed my box along with a check. You can even request specific types of stamps, I think we often forget that behind the mailbox is a person that can make your life easier. In a pinch, you can also get a first class (.49 cent stamp), at the grocery store.

Gazing over Forsythia Hill instead of driving to the USPS.
Even with a big mailbox, often packages are too large to fit. After complaining AGAIN to my mail carrier about the long lines and wait, she told me to just pop the flag up and slip a piece of paper in my box saying there was a package at my door and she would drive up and get it. She always says, we want your business! Prearrange this process with your carrier, it's been working smoothly for 2 years for me on Forsythia Hill.

My organized shipping supply closet.
In four years of online selling, I have never purchased boxes, bubble wrap, wrapping paper, or peanuts. I have a strong commitment to reusing shipping materials. It not only saves money but it's environmentally responsible. Materials can be found on freecycle and from local businesses. My mother picks up boxes from a local optical shop in Roanoke and they are happy to unload them. My father has dementia and removing the labels is a way for him to participate in my business venture and he looks forward to it!

Sylvie my Shipping Manager oversees the action.

Because I recycle so many boxes, I asked my carrier what would happen if I mailed a package First Class but the box had a Priority Mail sticker left on it. She said the postal carrier would have to collect the extra postage on the other end! So if you are recycling boxes, make sure you remove all the old stickers!

My biggest dilemma was how to ship golf clubs. One day when browsing through the FREE USPS mailing boxes. I stumbled upon a FREE box that holds such a thing! EUREKA! Some items are what they classify as flat rate which means there is a set mailing price regardless of the package weight (if it fits it ships for that flat price), others are just priority boxes and you will be charged a varying priority rate based on the weight.

Don't be a chicken - just ask!
You can print mailing labels from your home in paypal. There are also online companies that you can buy insurance from, often cheaper than the postal rate and less of a hassle if you have to file a loss. Instead of buying expensive sticky labels, I print directly on a regular piece of paper and use shipping tape to completely cover and adhere it on to the package.

Don't be afraid to talk to your mail carrier. It can be a game changer and make your life so much easier!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Alternative Gift Giving

Desperate for a gift, maybe this Cow Necklace fits the bill.
There may be someone on your Christmas Giving list that is just plain hard to shop for. Don't despair, there are alternative gift choices for that person that seems to have everything or no longer wants anything!

or how about a nice Wide Tie ?
The other side of the coin is to sit down and think about what you are really trying to convey this holiday season. Gift giving is an expression of love, thoughtfulness, and kindness. I always try to purchase something meaningful, but often, out of despair buy something that I fear has little interest. A Soap on a Rope that will go unused hanging in a shower as a show piece for 25 years, only to acquire a nice coating of dust and dirt, seems a waste of a thoughtful gift moment!

Mom giving me a sack of Corn Meal for Xmas.
Why don't we instead select a local charity and make a gift in honor or in memory. Holidays are often tough for those that have lost someone during the holiday season. Sadly my Grandmother passed on Christmas Day and it was her favorite holiday. An "in memory" donation might be the best gift you could make.

My sweet Daisy Doodle, found at the shelter.
Because of my long involvement in Animal Rescue, I tend to donate to agencies that benefit animals. Think about the person you are giving to and if they or the person you are memorializing liked animals. I can't think of a nicer thing to do than to make a donation in honor of a friend and their beloved pet(s).

Local private animal rescue agencies have to spend countless hours begging (and I mean begging) for funding. It's often thought that local SPCA's receive funding from the national ASPCA, Humane Society of the US, or Federal or State funding. They do not. The only situation where a local SPCA receives county funding is when it operates the state mandated Animal Shelter. This is a rarity in Virginia but is actually the case in Charlottesville but funds only cover the collection and housing of animals, they do not cover spay neuter, vaccines, or other humane outreach. Many local humane societies struggle to keep the doors open and giving to them is a direct benefit to your community.

Saved by Animal Control with HOWS involvement.
I seek out agencies that work "in the trenches" or are located in low income areas as they tend to need extra support. Last year Voices for Animals in Charlottesville merged with Houses of Wood and Straw (HOWS) and both groups do amazing work for our local animals. If you have ever been involved in animal rescue, some of the saddest cases are animals left outside 24 x 7. Both of these groups help animals, that in my opinion, are the most needy in our community.

Now you get it ?
This year I received notice that the Humane Society that I worked for 5 years ago was CLOSING. Donations had trickled to a near stop. The group had worked so hard to help the animals that fundraising took a backseat. County shelter euthanasia rates had dropped to historic lows but so did donations. Fortunately, animal lovers heard the cry and donations flooded in. Grants were also written to help fund spay neuter programs. The Pulaski County Humane Society operates in a part of Virginia that has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the state. The last thing this community needs is to have an "in the trenches" group close.

Many privately run animal groups are teetering between opening and closing. This is not an uncommon case since they are rarely supported by local tax revenue like other charitable agencies. Think of how much work could be directed to helping the animals if a regular check came in the mail to support their programs!

Two more of my babies saved by the Humane Society.
I have talked about a non-profit sector that I personally know well but there are many agencies that do good deeds in your own community that can benefit from your charitable gift this time of the year. A meaningful gift is the best gift!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shop online this Holiday Season

It's time for my annual vintage Shop Sale on I'm having a sales sweep running from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. I'll be sweeping out the merchandise at 20% off all items in my Etsy Shop.

You might think that vintage is not the appropriate thing to buy someone for Christmas but you can find ~ one of a kind ~ special ~ items!

Like new ~ vintage Roses book.

Vintage Shiny Bright Balls.
Some of my friends like pristine finds and others like shabby chic. Think about how your friend or relative decorates and you can find something to suit their taste that they are sure to love. Nearly everyone collects something!

Screen printed T by PARCELwork.
Check out the Etsyville Team on Facebook and the Charlottesville Etsy Sellers on Pinterest for gift ideas featuring a combination of vintage, handmade clothing, art, t-shirts, pastries, and soaps.

Necklace by Spirit Girl Design.
If you live in Cville, most sellers are happy to meet you with your item so you can see it before purchase and also save you the cost of shipping. All items listed can be purchased no matter where you live! All sellers ship in the US and many ship globally.

Handmade Copper Cuff by Fresh from the Flame.
I hope you will support small business owners this holiday season that offer unique and creative finds!


Leaf Soaps by Indigo Canyon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A look back at Gardening in 2014

Entryway to our front door, the Rose Trellis 
As Fall of 2014 winds down, I just stashed away my last digging fork and managed to crack my favorite spade shovel in half. At least it was during my last transplant of a native Red Cedar. I only had to use half a shovel for the last scoops of dirt. Such is the life of a gardener, wearing out tools and putting holes in gardening gloves.

One variety of my Grandmother's Peony collection
I seemed to stay around the house a little more this year. This tends to happen as plants get established and regular insect visitors come around more and more. My Grandmother's Peony collection is coming along so nicely that I transplanted (what I hope to be) the white doubles to a new section of my front flowerbed. This bed looked really good this year and pollinators tended to hang out here more than other beds in the yard.

One of our Eastern American Toads on guard for pests
My vegetable garden was a disaster and shockingly the only tomato plants I had success with were in pots or sprung up on their own beside the well fertilized chicken coop. Pepper plants grew and grew producing a lot of fruit this year... I gave up on trying them in the garden and now only grow them in pots on my very hot upper deck. They love to bask in the sun.

Just this year I discovered that Kousa Dogwood bear fruit.
Tiring of planting veggies that never produce or get eaten by critters, I switched my focus to fruit. I now have a nice assortment of Black Raspberries, native Blackberries, and Thornless Blackberry plants. I finally have an Elderberry that has made it past the deer and rabbit nibbling stage and actually saw some berries this year. My lone Blueberry plant is doing very well and I transplanted it to a more open spot, holding my breath that I did not kill another one.  My Fig had a few teeny figs this year as did my favorite grape, the Muscadine. I never have paid attention to the suggestion to dig up old Strawberry plants. I just let them keep laying down new extensions of themselves and seem to have some fruit to enjoy. I even decided to transplant native Strawberries 2 years ago and man have they taken off. I adore them (this is the wild berry that has white blooms - not the yellow blooming tasteless aggressive plant that is most often found in yards).

Freakiest bug of the year, Crowned Slug Moth Caterpillar
The only fruit damages that came about late in the season were to my Sickle Pear tree and my Peach trees. Darn those deer. Obviously someone has been having a good time rubbing their antlers on my young trees. I should have known better to leave them unprotected and alone in the back field - my fault really. They are not dead yet but they might never recover.

Lovely assortment of Dahlia's from Ted's Garden
My friend Ted has an amazing assortment of plants. A collector of Dahlia bulbs, you never know how many or what variety you will discover in late Summer. This is the first year that I noticed he has two Persimmon trees in his yard (the Latin name means, Food for the Gods)! He has been nice to share some fruit with me. In the past I've tried using the fruit in cake and cookies but have never found a pleasing way to use them until this year. They are a great addition to my morning oatmeal and to pancakes! High in Vitamin A & C and found to be a cancer cell killer! Ted's yard bursts with color and variety, I love exploring and each year I seem to find another interesting plant.

Spending Fall on the trails around Monticello
It's always sad to see barren Winter approach but I do love sitting beside the wood stove planning next years gardens and adventures. My garden beds will spring up refreshed full of new grow and energy, I hope to feel the same way!

~ Rebecca
One of the best flowers to grow, Foxgloves

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Where does Charlottesville Trash Go?

"Lawn Mower Art"
If you have trash pickup you probably have never ventured to the Ivy Material Utilization Center (Rivanna Solid Waste Authority or Ivy Center) in Albemarle County.  It's a magical thing, for your trash to disappear in the wee hours of the morning to never be seen again.  If you choose to dispose of your own trash, you can drive it out South of I-64 in Ivy to our old landfill for a fee of $2.00 for each 32 gallon bag.  The Charlottesville Landfill was closed in 2001 due to ground water contamination so our household garbage is either recycled or transferred to another jurisdiction for disposal. 

There are two places that take trash, the Ivy Center and Van der Linde, a privately owned center, down 250 E toward Richmond.  All trash waste of Albemarle County and Charlottesville City ends up down 250 E way outside of Richmond.  That's a lot of trash.   

One of the most interesting articles I have read was in Garbage Magazine about where your toilet water goes and what happens to it along the way.  I know, you are scrunching up your nose and making an eeeeuuuuu sound, but seriously now, it doesn't just dissipate into the atmosphere, it GOES somewhere.  Americans throw away 4.5 lbs of trash a day - that's the equivalent to a sack of flour.  Locally, we only recycle 34% of our trash -- bad, bad, bad.  You should spank yourself if you do not recycle! There are several places to recycle in Charlottesville, downtown McIntire Center and on the UVA campus.

As the world becomes more populated and resources more limited we all should stop and think about what we're consuming and ultimately what we're each contributing to the waste stream.  The more valuable land becomes and the less available spots in which to bury our discarded consumables, the higher our fees for disposal will climb.  Disposal fees keep going up at the Ivy Center, not significantly but it does show there was some need to gain more revenue.  Apparently this need was partly due to the Cville trash dramas concerning hauling fee collection or the lack thereof.  Trash hauling is a money maker, disposal seems to be an inconvenience for any jurisdiction.  No one wants to live by a landfill and most people have a trash collection service and never think about where their trash ends up.

Trash disposal at the Ivy Center varies from $8.00 - $66.00 a ton, depending upon what type of material you are bringing to the center.  There are spring and fall FREE disposal days for certain large household items.  We took advantage of this last fall and took our water heater to the center.  There is nothing worse than living next door to a neighbor that accumulates trash so before you make a large purchase, think of how you are going to dispose of that product (and how much it's going to cost you) after your done with it. You can also pick up a truck load of mulch for $24.00 a ton. 

Personally, I find the process quite interesting.  The Ivy Center has its very own Thrift Shop. The Encore Shop is the end of the road for disposed of "treasures".  I have actually purchased several storage racks, a filing cabinet, a cool rooster platter, and a box of glassware at the Encore Shop.  It would be any easy thing to just let people drive in, dump, and run so it is great that some of our waste is diverted from our earth.  It is a small moneymaker for the center and a good all the way around concept. 

Kudos for reducing, recycling, and reusing even at the end of the road.

Tempting "Collage Table" at the Encore Shop

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fresh local food in Charlottesville

Forest Lakes Farmers Market
You have probably heard by now that Charlottesville, Virginia has been judged the Happiest city in the nation. A recent 19 News story attributes its happiness partly to abundant food options. I'll have to admit that I'm certainly much happier with the local fresh food options in Cville compared to where I lived previously. Moving here from a small rural town in Southwest Virginia, I didn't realize that I was moving to the Garden of Eden. There are three farmers markets within 7 miles of my house!

Home grown in Albemarle County
Years ago I sold produce in Pulaski and Blacksburg, Virginia. I even set up selling crafts at the Roanoke City Market at Christmas time. The desire for farm fresh produce has really grown since the days of my attempt to be a farmer. It's evident that Charlottesville residents support our local farmers by the number of markets that promote local food in Albemarle County where the city of Charlottesville is located.

Forest Lakes Farmers Market
Yesterday I checked out the Farmers Market at Forest Lakes. The market was larger than I anticipated and is heavily supported by those living in the North side of the county. A sea of fresh produce, bread, meat, eggs, frozen drinks, popsicles, jam, pesto, and even bee propolis and pollen can be found at the market. I love the fact that this market is open in the afternoon each Tuesday from 4 pm - 7 pm (NOTE: on Thursday, same time, there is a market in Earlysville).

Of course the biggest Farmer's Market in the area is the downtown City Market that is open on Saturday's from 7 am - noon. A lively market located in an open parking lot where one can buy produce, plants, crafts, and prepared food and drinks. Each year it becomes bigger and bigger and a permanent market space appears to finally be on the drawing board for this hugely popular and growing market.

The Farmers in the Park market is held at Meade Park on Wednesday from 3 pm - 7 pm. Located near the water park on the East side of downtown, offering veggies, fruit, plants, and more.

Hunt Country Market Daily Menu
Another popular market in West Albemarle County near the Horse Race Track is the Shady Lane Market. Open Thursday from 11 am - 5:30 pm  One family farm located in Free Union provides breads, produce, and plants.

While you are in the area, if you would prefer have your meals prepared for you, check out the historic 1911 Hunt Country Market and Deli. Each day their exterior chalkboard touts a new take home dish. Dinners are available for pick up from Monday - Saturday, 4 pm - 7 pm (call ahead to reserve).

Each Fall Market Central hosts Meet yer Eats. This tour of local farms is amazing, check out my prior year blog post about this event.

I would be remiss to not list a few grocery store options we have in Charlottesville for local foods, Relay Foods brings items from stores and farms and trucks them to various pick up spots all over the area. You order online and go pick it up. A good way to get a large variety of items from several stores and farms in one spot. Our local Whole Foods was relocated several years ago and has grown in size from a small crowded and honestly not the "happiest" place to a large welcoming fun grocery store. Read my blog post about the relocation, it was one of my all time most enjoyable write ups. Other popular groceries embracing local foods are Foods of all Nations, Rebecca's, and Integral Yoga. Even Harris Teeter carries a local line of produce.

I'll end this post listing a few of my favorite Cville food finds:

What's your favorite Cville local food find? I would love to add to the list!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Through the Garden Gate Tour features Vintage Finds

Entryway into the gardens.
Today a fellow gardening friend and I visited the interesting garden and home of The Askew's of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the featured garden for July in the Piedmont Master Gardeners tour series, Through the Garden Gate. Tours are hosted the 2nd Saturday of the month from 9 - noon, in a different garden each month.

Great mix of herbs and collectibles in the garden.
The Askew's are huge collectors of vintage and have designed their home and gardens around the items they have acquired. Sturdy industrial metals and large ceramics are tastefully woven throughout their garden. I especially enjoyed the collection of old farm equipment, fencing, and building discards that had been artfully placed into select garden spots. It takes a creative mind to find uses for found items that might have otherwise been tossed out.

Re-purposed entry door block A/C Unit. 
For some time I have been scratching my head trying to decide how to put some of my collected items to good use and the Askew's have inspired me to think out of the box. I really liked their placement of an old (but really cool) door to block their air conditioning unit and how they hung an old window frame and shutters on the side of a shed to make it look like a real window.

A quiet place to sip some tea - love the fence!
There were many quaint nooks in the garden in which one could sit and relax, all providing a different view of the grounds. The Askew's love of the garden was obvious, all vistas within the house were really extensions of the garden. The expansive front porch and back sun porch providing panoramic views of the garden.

Rarely Through the Garden Gate tours include the inside of the home but today was one of those days. Throughout the house, walls displayed family photos and memorabilia. I loved the feminine touches like the sweet handkerchief collections dotting the rooms and the cool framed vintage bathing suit along with the historic swim team photo. One would have to return again and again to really digest all the cool finds in the house.

Whimsical shed just for "her", MEN KEEP OUT.
Because I collect and sell vintage, I especially enjoyed this tour. I couldn't get enough of the found and family treasures and wish I had more hours to explore this interesting home.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Downtown Cultivate Charlottesville Garden Tour

Casa Alma veggie garden, one of many
Yesterday the Cultivate Cville Urban Farm and Garden Tour was held to bring awareness to the many community gardens operating in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. The five gardens on the tour ranged from children's educational gardens to open citizen volunteer gardens. There is a true back to the earth movement in Cville and I was happy to see it in full swing. All gardens operate on organic principles with sharing and caring a top priority.

Wall mural a vibrant backdrop to the Buford School garden
I was impressed with the Buford Elementary School garden and the commitment by the Principal and staff to incorporate school curriculum with hands on garden experiments. This garden develops more and more with each passing year.

rustic garden shed Buford Elementary garden
Physical Education classes provide the option for students to work in the garden. Being that I have now gardened for over 25 years, I can attest to the physical requirements necessary to work a garden. Science classes conduct growth experiments with plants growing inside their new hoop house verses outside. It's a darling garden with flowers, herbs, and vegetables.  A handmade shed, sitting ring of logs, and cute garden features make this a joyful garden. All six of the Charlottesville City Schools are now involved with the City Schoolyard Garden program.

Flags representing each garden bed in the 5th Street garden
We headed over to the 5th Street Community garden which was just started this year. It is mainly an immigrant garden with each, of the many, planting beds representing an individual country. Speaking with one of the proud gardeners, it made me think of my move from my family home to Charlottesville and how I tried to bring as many of my plants with me as possible. I couldn't move the house, but I could move my plants! Our gardening friend on the tour showed us his huge squash plants that he was growing on 10' tall bamboo poles. Explaining the seed was from his home in Mexico and that in that country, "this is what people do", meaning GARDEN. He obviously knew what he was doing as his beds were clear of weeds and plants were thriving. I know his garden often reminds him of his homeland and was proud to tell us about his crops and how to prepare them once harvested.

Now you know where the term Goatee comes from
Hopping over to Casa Alma on Nassau Street one finds a little farmstead in a off the beaten track mixed use neighborhood. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlottesville seems to operate in harmony mainly due to the ability of it to do its own thing. This is my second visit to Casa Alma as two years ago I visited it while biking on the Tour de Coop Chicken Tour. It has really come along. The houses have been rehabbed and the grounds continue to be worked to provide food for those in need. Darling little goats and chickens greeted us and bee hives a plenty were thriving. Fruit and vegetable plants surround the two residential homes which house low-income and formerly homeless families for 2 years.  

Volunteer at the UACC and u can get a token for Cabbage!
An interesting garden is the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC). Anyone can garden here and for every 30 minutes of time, you get a token that you can use to buy crops harvested in the garden. It's a very large garden located in a large residential area in Charlottesville near the busy downtown Mall on 6th Street.

Black Giant Chicken at Casa Alma
Our last stop was to the International Refugee Committee New Roots Garden hidden in a quiet residential section just steps away from the busy intersection of Main and Ridge. A small garden but one that has every bed full of beans and tomatoes ready to harvest. My friend, Cindy, that was with me volunteers with the IRC and sponsors a local family. Charlottesville opens its doors each year to hundreds of refugees that can not return to their homeland due to religious or ethnic division. Refugees often have lived in camps for many years and are relocated to other countries all over the world where they must find employment and housing often without ever living their adult life with a real roof over their head. Can you imagine being in a tent camp for 15 years since the age of 10 and not ever using an air conditioner, stove, washing machine, light switch, or even operating a window! Upon arrival to Charlottesville some refugees can not speak English, drive a car, use a cell phone, or computer. Can you imagine trying to find a place to live without a computer!

IRC chat among the Beans and Tomatoes
The purpose of the IRC is to aid new arrivals in finding a place to live and employment, and help with daily activities... transportation, medical, and the like. Refugees can be dealing with personal sadness from leaving family, friends, and a homeland along with the daily struggle to adjust to a new community, language, and culture. One thing many refugees are familiar with is gardening. In their chaotic new situation, a refugee can touch something familiar, and feel accomplished in their little garden plot.

Purple Echinacea at Buford Elementary School garden
The gardens on this tour offer so much benefit to so many in our community. I can imagine Charlottesville without them and their generous supporters. All of the gardens mentioned in this article are always looking for volunteers and a little financial support and the pay off is BIG in my opinion.


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