Mt. Whitney bound

Mt. Whitney, rising to 14,497' is the tallest point in the contiguous United States. Not one to be able to climb to its top, at least at this point in my life, I can sure park myself at its base and marvel at its beauty. The drive in was easy, the roads passable and well maintained, we set up camp at the Tuttle Creek Campground outside Lone Pine. Quiet and peaceful there were only two other camps set up in the massive park. Hiking was over large boulders and down massive washes, and the sounds of the creek lulled us to sleep at night. The stars filled the night sky as we listened to the coyotes off in the distance. A beautiful start to a southern trip.  
graffiti as art????  art as graffiti???

creek side that we parked along

 hope to return some day in the Spring and see the wildflowers in all their glory

 between a "rock and a hard place"
 this is the guy that got me here, thanks Bob

Maiden Voyage

This was the maiden voyage for what is now known as "The Apartment". Bob and I spent months and months and MONTHS trying to decide what we wanted to do with part of our upcoming re-started life. He retired in May, after 31 years of military/federal service, one of our businesses sold this month, and we knew that the time would come when we wanted to just set out and explore this amazing country of ours. ....and so begins "The Maiden Voyage".

I came to the realization over the last few months, that much like you hear in life, you sometimes really do end up being a lot like your Mom. Lucky for me I had an amazing and encouragingly kind soul for a Mom. My Mom and Dad spent 12 years full-time on the road before they settled in the little house on the river behind the nursery. It was some of the best years they ever had in their life's, and marriage, and I always marveled at the stories and photos they shared of their travels. We owned an Airstream for years, but always found it while ~ WAY up there on the COOL factor, it was WAY DOWN there on the practical side. Hence we didn't use it very often, other than short trips out to the desert close to our home. After stepping inside and trying out what seemed like 1000's of  different styles of RVs over the last year ~ we hit the right one. We are set. We are going. Often. Join along, I promise to show you some sites that may seem a little off the beaten path......after all.......I will be traveling with Bob.

Lake Tahoe, up to this point in my life has been one of my "go to" places to relax and reflect. When we planned our first trip in the apartment it was to go to Susanville, Ca. But I came home last week and Bob said, "How about we take it up to Tahoe for a day or two and make sure we have everything we need before we head off for a big trip" ....really....was I going to say No!

Couple of hints for the future....check the weather and come prepared. While we knew there was a slight.....storm forecast for the area we didn't really expect to wake up to 5" of snow on the ground. But all worked out for the best. It showed us that we could really spend three days in close proximity and survive. We still got in some walks, but the bikes never made it off the rack. It was a great first trip. The first of many!

 the BBQ grill didn't get much use...but it sure was pretty the next day

  Came home to find that Fallon also received the first white blanket of the year. I spent some time out in the garden cutting the last of the summers blossoms.

On the Road Again

The first of the year is always a great time to take stock of the year just passed, and look forward to the one in front of us. That is why everyone contemplates their resolutions so much isn't it? I am not one for making resolutions, but as a business owner ~ I do have lots of tasks to resolve. The mountain of paperwork that accompanies "year end", the physical action of taking inventory......and the mental one as well. This coming year isn't going to start exactly as I had planned it to, business decisions sometimes get in the way of best laid plans. But I am going to make the absolute best of some new challenges that have been thrown my way and take the time to re-energize the passion that I have for both of our stores.

So as this new year begins, I am taking "inventory" of my thoughts and plans for the coming months. Need a little Jump Start at your own small business? Here are a few things that always seem to work for me.

1. The best way I know how to go about jump starting.......get out there and.........TRAVEL

2. Open your eyes, and more important....your mind. See what's out there, see what others are doing, what new ideas can I gather from being in a different state, different coast. Even from the small little stores at the airport I have found inspiration and new products, and don't even get me started on the dusty little second hand stores on the back roads of the south.
3. Get out there and talk to other business owners. Trust me, your way is not always the BEST way. Don't just walk around their store and try and copy some of their ideas (come on, if you are a small business owner you BETTER be trying to copy your favorites). If I am in a store that really moves me I like to try and find the owner or manager, and 9 times out of 10 they are there......remember....we are talking SMALL business here, and they are probably minding their own store. I always let them know that I live 3000 / or 300 miles away and that I really am inspired by some of their displays. Or maybe just their product mix impresses me and I don't want to be so obvious when I turn over the item to see who the manufacturer is.  I am always so pleasantly surprised how these interactions go, and I can tell you from experience almost half of my newsletter/emails that I get on a regular basis come from these businesses and many have gone on to be great business "pen pals". As small business owners we all work really really hard, and sometimes it is really nice to be able to take the opportunity to "pay it forward" by complementing someones business sense that you admire. 
4. Step outside the box. Visit a store that you THINK may have nothing in common with your own, and see how they do it. One of the original choices for some of the display materials at Red Zinnia (juxtaposition of antiques and stainless) came from a  gourmet grocery store in downtown Chicago. I walked in and KNEW that someday I would use that exact same layout for a store. And this was a year before Red Zinnia was even contemplated. I just liked the look that much and had noted it in my "Ideas" book.

5. Get to the trade shows for your industry, and take as many of your staff with you that you can afford. Sure the shows are a lot of work, and yes they do cost money to attend, but how else are you going to find the new and exciting.....oh #3!

So with those few things being said, I am on my way outa town! See you in a month or so, and until then you can keep track of me here, or over on FB and Pinterest. Oh, that leads me to 6 and 7, you do have a FB and a Pinterest account don't you??

Get going, and if our paths cross along the way....make sure and say hello, I would love to meet you and swap ideas! See you soon, Susan