5 sets of Studio Hummel Ornaments

FleaPirates Plunder is bringing her blog back to life with a test. (Yes, I know, it's been months since I've had something to say!) You all know that I am an OLA gal. Actually I've been exclusively listing at OLA for over 4 years now! Wow! But I read an interesting article the other day, about the competition, eBay. In this article, (or what I call a bundle of fluff), the author is attempting to convince the reader that it is feasible to earn $10,000 in a year, selling your treasures on eBay. Really?

The comments section is the most telling. There you will find a score of folks who have been there, done that and disagree with the author vehemently. So I thought, "Why not give it a try?" I'm in possession of 5 sets of Studio Hummel Ornaments, which are in like-new condition and highly collectible. This is the perfect opportunity to see if eBay still has a buying audience.

The ornaments are made by Berta Hummel. All the boxes are dated 2004, although 2 sets have ornaments which are signed 2003. With the exception of a single ornament, all come with COA's and original boxing and packaging.

I've researched these ornaments extensively. Some sell as complete sets, which I prefer, keeping the set intact. Others sell individually, with select ornaments fetching some mighty impressive values, I might add! Taking all this information into account, I settled on an opening bid of $34.65 for each set, with a shipping cost of $5.35, bringing a total investment, for one set, to $40. (Combined shipping is available at FleaPirates, of course!)

Now for those of you who are saying, What the heck is she thinking?, I must admit this fact... I paid absolutely zero in listing fees. I was shocked, never expecting that small windfall. Apparently, if you are listing in Classic Auction formats, eBay now allows you to list 50 items, (without "the extras"), at no cost to you. If they sell, I must pay a Final Value Fee.

If they don't sell, they'll eventually arrive at my standby, and favorite listing place, FleaPirates Plunder at OLA. I've got lots of great items listed there already... you should go take a peek!

In the meantime, I'd really love to have tons of folks browse those Studio Hummel Ornaments at eBay. It would sure be fun to find out just what the Final Value Fees have become since I left in 2008. Just click on the Set # below to visit the auction... the ornaments are real treasures!

Set #26
Dolly and Me
Hold Me Tight
A Helping Hand

Set #27
Holiday Errand
Wrapped with Love
Bundles of Holiday Cheer

Set #28
Special Christmas Greetings
Sneaking Christmas Treats
Christmas Lullaby

Set #29
Quiet Thoughts
A Shiny Christmas Apple
Holiday Anticipation

Set #30
Christmas Prayers
Christmas Train
A Story for Christmas


Ready for Fall Baking!

As a person who loves to cook, (and eat), Fall is one of my favorite times of year! This is due, in part, to the delicious array of autumn recipes that seem to arrive with the passing of the season. Apple Crisp, Baked Squash, Cranberry Sauce, and Pumpkin Pie... I am so ready for Fall baking!

One of my all-time favorite recipes was first published in the Chicago Tribune in 2007. (See the original post here.) The recipe is titled Mimi's Pumpkin Cookies, and was passed down from a Grandmother to a Granddaughter, who was the person who shared this with Tribune readers 4 years ago.

These cookies are fantastic! Easy to make and fairly easy on the budget, these light and fluffy delights are now a commonly requested treat in my home during the months of October and November. Watch for Pumpkin Puree, (Pumpkin Pie Filling), to go on sale at your favorite store. I always snap up an armful of cans. You just never know when you're gonna need to satisfy that sweet tooth... and there's so many tempting creations!

Not wanting the recipe to disappear in the archives, I thought I'd re-post it here, to share with all of you.  Are you ready for Fall baking? Enjoy! Happy Fall!

By the way, after they're baked, and you're scarfing them down with reckless abandon, don't forget to pour yourself a nice, hot cup of coffee, and stop by OnlineAuction.com to relax a bit, while browsing further treasures at FleaPirates Plunder!

Mimi's Pumpkin Cookies
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Yield: 3 dozen

For cookies:
1 cup each: granulated sugar, vegetable shortening, pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, baking powder, vanilla , cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

For icing:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioner's sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl; stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Beat sugar and shortening with a mixer on medium speed until creamy; add the pumpkin puree and the egg. Beat until just mixed together; reduce mixer speed to low. Add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, beating until combined. Repeat with remaining mixture, beating after each addition.
3. Drop by generous teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake until barely brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
4. For icing, combine the brown sugar, butter, milk and vanilla in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High (100 percent power) until brown sugar melts, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave. Stir in confectioner's sugar until icing is smooth, adding a bit more milk if needed to desired consistency. Spoon icing over each cookie.

Nutrition information per serving:
134 calories, 44% of calories from fat, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 82 mg sodium, 0 g fiber


A Dreary Day Battle

It was a dreary day. The temperature had held at a balmy 62 degrees for hours and the morning dragged on, alternating between periods of heavy, grey clouds and brief drizzles. Everything seemed calm.

I finished my lunch, stacked the dishes in the sink, turned off the lights, and hurried out the door, rushing, because I was keenly aware that I had over-extended my lunch hour and needed to return to work as soon as possible. Sliding behind the wheel of the Cubbie-blue Mazda, I gave thanks to my Mom, who had loaned me the Mazda that day, so that I could still enjoy lunch at home while my Jeep was visiting my mechanic.

It was then that I spotted him.  My heart froze. Clambering up my leg was my mortal enemy… the bee.

Immediately my left hand acknowledged his presence with a shoo-ing motion that remotely resembled an epileptic seizure. My right hand fumbled in vain to free my trembling body from the confines of the seatbelt from hell. After what seemed like an eternity, I sprang from the car amid a cacophony of shrieks and wails. Unharmed, but visibly shaken, I spent the next few minutes brushing aside the certain assault of the swarm of “invisible” bees.

Spying my neighbor returning, I collected myself and attempted to look normal. Then it occurred to me… where was that bee? Every fiber of my being knew that he was in that car, hiding, watching me, planning his next attack. I could feel his black, beady eyes on me, evaluating my defenses and plotting his strategy much like a hawk scrutinizes its prey. I combed the floorboards, the seats and the dash, but he was nowhere to be found.

Gathering my resolve, I stood to survey my situation and bolster my courage to retake the driver’s seat. Just then, he materialized from behind me, circling my head and dive-bombing with the vengeance of an angry bee. Swatting the air with my hands, I felt the juncture of our contact. He vanished from my sight and I took that opportunity to plunge into the car, slamming the door in my wake. Safe, at last.

As I merged onto the expressway at 55 mph, I was sure I knew his goal. That little bugger would have waited patiently, until I was engulfed in traffic, where it would have been guaranteed that not only would I feel the sting of his attack, but I would have run the risk of crashing that pretty blue Mazda, too! Smiling, I prayed that his razor sharp stinger was spent during the height of our battle, and I envisioned his little yellow-striped body writhing on the ground, feeling the grip of death over-take him. His last words… “But she smelled good…”


Home Decorating with Shutters

It has been said that the practice of home decorating with shutters can be traced back to Ancient Greece, where builders appreciated the versatility of shutters, providing both light control and ventilation. Early craftsmen most likely designed those shutters with marble louvers. Not long after, as shutter popularity began to sweep across Europe, craftsmen began using wood to construct shutters, as wood was a more suitable material. The use of shutters spread further west when the Spanish started colonizing the Americas.

Plantation Shutters originated in the southern United States, where grand mansions were erected on cotton plantations. This particular style of shutter has a wider louver, (or vane), than those early shutters from Ancient Greece. The Plantation style remains a popular style to this day, and may be featured on both the inside and the outside of American homes. Today's shutters are made from a variety of materials, including solid wood, faux wood and vinyl, while some manufacturers offer Soft Shutters, which feature fabric covered louvers. Solid wood truly enhances this timeless style, with it's ease of care, versatile function, range of size and shape, and the warmth and beauty of hardwood finishes. With normal care, hardwood shutters can last a lifetime and thanks to their rich history, you can rest assured that shutters will be in style for years to come.

There are some fascinating legends that include shutters. Did you know that Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry on a white horse in order to make her husband remit a heavy tax on the people? Residents remained closeted inside their homes on this day, except for a man named Tom, who peeped through shutter louvers for a glimpse of this beautiful lady. Hence, we have the term Peeping Tom!

Then there's King Louis XIV, who enjoyed watching the ladies bathe in the ponds of his gardens in Versailles... Louis did not wish for his palace guards to be distracted, so he installed shutters around the garden walls, so that the guards' view was blocked and he alone could peep through the louvers to gaze at the bathing women.

What is your reason for admiring shutters?

Many of you are familiar with my Antiques and Collectibles store, Fleapirates Plunder at OnlineAuction.com. Antique dealers, like me, often relish finding a shutter panel from years gone by. With their classic fashion elegance, those shutters can be re-finished to bring new life to a lost treasure, or showcased as is, for a more vintage style of decorating.

I also hold a full-time job at an Interior Design Workroom, where, for years, we've fabricated high-quality window treatments and home decorating accents that grace beautiful homes all across the United States. Right now I have, featured in my store, a selection of brand new Plantation Shutters that were ordered, and later canceled, by a client. Alas, it was too late to stop production. The good news? This is your chance to grab those shutters at wholesale pricing!

You'll find two styles of Plantation Shutters available. The photo at the left shows a smaller single shutter panel, of which we have 12 panels available in different widths and lengths. Additionally, we have 13 taller panels. Panels with long lengths often feature a center rail, which is basically a divider, placed at the consumer's specified height, to provide support and structure for a tall shutter. One of the features I especially like about center rails, is that they offer independent operation to the upper and lower halves of the shutter louvers, (meaning that you may keep one half closed, for sun blockage, while opening the other half, for air ventilation).

These shutters were manufactured by Lafayette. Located in West Lafayette, IN, this outstanding company can trace it's roots back to 1942! Highly recognized as one of the industry's top manufacturer's, Lafayette remains a widely used supplier of not only shutters, but a variety of popular blinds and shades.

Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity to decorate your home with quality solid hardwood shutters!
Click here to view the available shutters.


Can Social Networking Sabotage Your Small Business?

Today's web-savvy small business owners are flooding to the social networking sites and finding that it is easier than ever to build new friendships, partner with peers and increase web sales. Transparency is the new trend. See who I am, what I do, the things I like, the people I know, and the places I visit. Once visitors see the "real" you, the hope is that you'll build trust and they'll feel motivated to do business with you. Sounds great, and works great often times, but today's thought to ponder is simply this: Can Social Networking Sabotage Your Small Business?

Let's focus upon two of the most popular sites, like Facebook and Twitter. For many of us, it is not difficult to figure out the person behind the store. Some people even use their personal profiles to advertise said store! Considering that we all share various levels of private information on those profiles, are the posts that you make ones that you want to whole world to access? The whole world can, to a degree. Twitter, unless you completely privatize your status, is available to all, and tweets appear in search engine results. Voila... you're public! Facebook privacy can be customized, to a point, but if you have hundreds, or thousands of friends, that's pretty public, too.

So what are you sharing?

You know, I was a bartender, back in the day. One of the unwritten rules of bartending is that you don't bring up subjects like Religion and Politics... it always ends up in an argument! So, inviting the inevitable, I am going to pick Politics as my subject here.

I see a lot of political rambling, at both Facebook and Twitter, from many people who I know to be online merchants. Usually, I just skim over it, because I am still that bartender above, and I really don't want to discuss politics. I worry about those folks, though. Why? Well, not only do I think that they could be alienating potential clients, I really feel that a little mystery, a little temperance, would only enrich their success. Look at the following pie chart:

This chart represents the United States in the year 2004. I found it at Wikipedia, while I was researching the number of registered voters. That's a total of 169 millions voters! Since 2004, I am sure that number has grown.

Now don't pay attention to the division in parties... just the number of voters. Regardless of your political party, that's an awfully large number of potential customers that you may piss-off with your side of the rhetoric. Can you take that chance?

I have two kids who are now registered voters. Appealing to the younger generation, I asked each of them the same question. Would a rant, taking a stance on a broad topic, such as Politics or Religion, influence your decision to make a purchase from a store? They both said yes. Once child even mentioned the word tolerance as being a quality that today's youth admire, whether it pertains to Politics, Religion, Race, Equal Rights, the Right To Life, or Gay Pride. To be tolerant, you must be socially accepting of others' views. I agree with them... do you?

Let's take a poll!
If a store owner was publicly against one of your views, political or religious, would it stop you from making a purchase at their store?

pollcode.com free polls

Please vote! Your answers may be very revealing.

And store owners, please take a moment to think about the consequences of what you post. Sharing too much on social networks just might sabotage your small business. Perhaps it's time to separate your personal profile from your business.


Blog Hosting for Online Sellers

In a previous blog post entitled Online Sellers: Should They Be Bloggers, Too?, I raised the following question. Do you feel it is necessary to own your own domain and host your own blog? It's a very personal question and I am sure my readers are divided upon the answer! After spending time researching, and soul-searching, here's how I feel...

No matter where you blog, blogging is an asset to your business.

Kinda vague, isn't it? But consider this... I just spent a day at a motivational seminar in Chicago. One of my favorite speakers was Rudy Guiliani, who I consider to be a man-of-action - a problem-solver. So I was very interested in what he had to say about motivating yourself to success. He stressed the importance of setting goals, in writing. After you've made that list of goals, make another list with ideas on ways to achieve those goals. Then take it one step further and write down the pros and cons of each idea in your plan of action. This will help you sort out the good ideas from the bad and prioritize your steps.

We've already determined that blogging is an important step in your online business. So let's look at the pros and cons of hosting your own blog versus writing a blog on a hosted platform, like WordPress or Blogger. 

The Pros of Hosting Your Own Blog:
  • Customization: The free sites offer an array of templates to create your blog, but to develop something unique, you'll need the freedom of owning your own domain and site. 
  • Monetization: Placing specific ads and affiliate programs is accomplished more easily through a paid site. While the free sites allow you to monetize your site, the ads your viewers might see are not always governed by you.
  • Credibility: You'll be taken more seriously if people see that you've invested in your blog.
    *** I am not sure I whole-heartedly agree with this, but let's place it as a Pro for the time being.
The Cons of Hosting Your Own Blog:
  • Cost:  I love free, (just sayin'). There are many options for web hosting and I've investigated a few, which we'll talk about below, but suffice it to say that you can expect to pay a minimum of $5 per month, and up to $20 per month, depending upon your choice of plans. Are you ready to shell out $60+ dollars to start a year of blogging? If you're a beginner, or someone who is not truly committed, this may not be the avenue for you.
  • Computer Literacy: Ok, so some hosting plans offer WordPress automatically installed for you, but if they do not, your level of computer skills may hinder your progress. Do some research and find a plan that you can work with, without needing to take web-development classes.
Other Arguments:

One topic of discussion on many forums is the search ranking of blogs. Some adamantly argue that self-hosted blogs offer better ranking results. I disagree, as do many others. With proper SEO and good keywords, any blog can rank high in search engines. What do you think?

The other argument is credibility, mentioned above. Let's say, for example, that your business is web design. Then yes, it will be expected that you will have the knowledge, and the creativity, to wow us with a self-hosted blog. Online sellers, however, have other skills, and products, that quantify their importance in the online marketplace. A blog, free or otherwise, is just an added tool. It's that simple! Just get out there and write... remembering that content is king. Good content will get any blog noticed.

Things To Consider:
Is your store on a personal website or a venue, like OnlineAuction.com? I ask, because while you cannot add a blog on outside venues, you can easily add WordPress to your existing personal site. It's free, as long as you do not need to upgrade your site size. WordPress requires 4.0 or greater MySQL and 4.2 or greater PHP.
  • MySQL is a database management system, that runs as a server, providing multi-user access to a number of databases. SQL stands for Structured Query Language. This is a standard at most web hosting services, but be sure to check your site's availability.
  • PHP is a scripted language, embedded into the HTML source document and interpreted by a web server with a PHP processor module, which generates the web page document. PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. You should again, check your site's availability.
See why I mentioned your computer literacy?

Another thing to consider is backlinks. If you are adding WordPress to your existing site, your site name will have one search result in the search engines. What I believe is advantageous for sellers at outside venues is the addition of a second link on the search engine results page! One for your store, and one for your blog, similarly named... at a free site or self-hosted. Think about it. Those backlinks support each other and as your blog grows, or your store grows, they each empower the other.

Lastly, if you're considering that self-hosted blog, you'll need to figure out which hosting service is the best for you. I investigated only three, based upon recommendations I found in forums and blog comments. They are:
At all three services, I was able to choose a plan that would fit the needs of a beginner blogger. Personally, I would probably choose GoDaddy, because I read a lot of good reviews on support and "up-time". The cost of a WordPress blog and hosting at GoDaddy, ( the "Ultimate" plan), with unlimited space and bandwidth, is $7.99 per month, or $95.88 per year. Be aware that many plans include options a-la-carte, for important add-ons like:
  • Domain Registration
    You must choose a domain name. This can be done independently, for a cost of about $10-$12. Many plans offer you the option of choosing your domain along with your hosting plan, at a reduced price.
  • Site Analytics
    I always recommend analytics. Many hosting services offer analytics options for a cost of about $2.99 per month.
  • Search Engine VisibilityThis is an add-on that I found at GoDaddy. The cost is $29.99 per year, and can save you the hassle of submitting your site to the search engines yourself.
  • Social VisibilityThis is another GoDaddy option, which helps you stand out at popular sites like Facebook and Twitter. Available for $1.89 per month, I would certainly give this consideration.
  • SSL Certificate
    This is not necessary, unless you will be selling product, or accepting sensitive client information on your blog.
Now, are you ready to jump in? I'm not. At least, not yet. I really like this Blogger blog! And I have a free WordPress blog, too, which I like, but admittedly do not devote as much time to promoting. I have, though, convinced myself that it is not in bad taste to use the free blogs, nor is it detrimental to your purpose.

What about you? I'd love to hear your opinions in the comments section of this post! What kind of blog do you manage? And how did you choose?


How to Dress Up Your Site Without Scaring Away Customers

Just recently, my friend Jaswood and I learned a valuable lesson. Jas and I are frequent creative decorators, and since coming to OnlineAuction.com, we've both come to love adding new techniques to our budding knowledge of HTML and CSS. What recent lesson did we learn, (the hard way)? How to Dress Up Your Site Without Scaring Away Customers!

It all began during the annual Halloween Store Decorating Contest at OLA. I only own stores at OLA, so I do not know how many similar venues allow you to customize your pages... do any of you sell at communities where you can add backgrounds, graphics, colors, and HTML to your listings and storefront? If you own your own website, or manage a blog, then this would certainly apply to you, as well.

Flea's Field, (my Sports Collectibles and Trading Card store), was used as an example of our blunder. I posted about this in our chat forum at OLA, but wanted to share the experience with my blog readers, too. I know, I know... I promised to continue my previous blog post with a post about owning your own domain for blogging purposes. I'll get back to that soon. This post needed to be written, however, as we are entering the holidays, and people are getting excited about decorating for the seasons! Here's something to remember before you decorate.

Some codes may limit the functionality of your store links:

We found a really fun site called 123mycodes.com. This site caters to the MySpace crowd, but in honesty, you can use the codes to dress up almost any site. You can even tweak the codes with your own graphic images, for real personalization. Look for fun ideas like custom cursors, glitter text, backgrounds and icons! The one that I tried at Flea's Field was falling objects.

Below is a screenshot of my Flea's Field Home Page during the test. The leaves fall beautifully, although you cannot see them float about on this screenshot.

"What's the problem?", you ask.

See those links, to my Free Shipping Challenge, my blogs and Fleapirates Plunder? Well, my customer cannot successfully click those links if they are viewing my page with a FireFox browser! Internet Explorer, amazingly, seems to work fine. Opera, which came standard on my android phone, does not work. But what about the other browsers? There are many and you cannot guarantee that your visitor will be using a specific browser, so be sure that any code you add works on all of them! If it doesn't, you might lose a customer.

Now let's talk about load times. Another friend, DraggonTagger, was kind enough to check the load time on the Flea's Field storefront during my test, as she has slower internet access than my high-speed DSL. Guess what? It took so long to load that she gave up! Do you want your customers giving up and backing out? Thought not! So be sure to check the speed of your page.

Another friend I know has a slight case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Objects that flash brightly, or have fast, repeated animation, or vivid contrasting colors seem to bother her immensely. She will vacate any page that seems to "jump out of the screen" at her. There are millions of internet users who are affected by similar disorders... one just may be your next customer. Make them feel welcome!

So what can you do?

  • Customers today have the luxury of transparency in the online marketplace. They want to know who you are and why they should buy from you. I've got profiles at OLA, my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and other link directories. Do you? If not, add them.
  • Decorating with color and images can add a personal feel to your site. Let them see the real you and bring some creativity to your site. Just remember to keep your users' experience in mind.
  • Spelling and grammatical errors are one of the biggest turn-offs to customers and blog audiences. Use tools like Spell Check to eliminate any typos!
Another tip I can offer is a tool I found in the Photobucket photo editing software. Under the Decorate tab, you'll find the Color Grabber. This tool will tell you the exact color code of a color in an image. Use it to match or coordinate a color scheme for your background, borders or fonts.

And lastly, exclusively for Online Auction Founding Members, Jaswood has written a Tutorial For Decorating Your OLA Store / House. I encourage you to give it a try! Be sure to ask questions, if you have them... someone is always willing to lend a hand. There's a new contest coming up! (Hint, hint!) With all these tips and tricks, you will certainly know how to dress up your site without scaring away customers! Have fun decorating!