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A Little House Christmas opens at Sierra Madre Playhouse 11/18

November 6, 2016 in Entertainment, Holidays, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Theatre/Stage

A Little House Christmas, click to embiggen

A Little House Christmas, click to embiggen

Opening  on Friday November 18 and running until December 23rd is Sierra Madre Playhouses production of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “A Little House Christmas”.  I saw the production of A Little House Christmas two years ago and was captivated by the quality of the acting and the sets. Under the direction of Alison Eliel Kalmus this time around I expect the play will be every bit as fun and enchanting as it was two years ago.  This is a play is really beautifully done and suitable for families with elementary age students, especially during weekend matinees.

For those of you who haven’t ventured out to see a production at the Sierra Madre Playhouse this is a must do on your bucket list.  Its a beautiful old theater that has 99 seats and every one is a great seat in the house.  They are a 99 Seat Theater  non-profit organization that produces quality plays based on the American Story and Experience.  I’m always amazed by what they do.

For more information and to buy tickets visit Sierra Madre Playhouse web site.

Deets: November 18-December 22, weekends, time vary so consult the calender.  Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre 91024, 626-355-4318

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It’s not the fat lady singing…it is Santa

December 4, 2015 in Entertainment, Events, Holidays, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

Yup…we end our Christmas Holiday Parade with Santa.  Not some fat lady singing an operetta.  AND in 2 short weeks he’ll be cruising the streets of “M” town with escorts rolling code up and down every street and cul de sac in town.  It’s Merry Christmas in my ‘hood.

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It’s #GivingTuesday sweet charity guide to giving

December 1, 2015 in Holidays, LA, Seasonal

Even Facebook is promo-ing Giving Tuesday to its users...click to embiggen

Even Facebook is promo-ing Giving Tuesday to its users…click to embiggen

Bah humbug to Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday and Cyber Monday.  #GivingTuesday is where its at.  Its the true fulfillment of the holiday dream.  Giving back to your community and those less fortunate.  It started with a whimper last year, but this year its getting promo’d to the nth degree by the big guys like Facebook.

There are multiple ways to help the many local charities and non-profits in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

First up…good old cash.  Cold hard cash fills their coiffers and ensures that they have operating capital to cover their overhead and fund programs.  Its usually tax deductible if they’re a 503(c) non-profit.  Also check with your employer, they often match cash contributions which is a nice way toy double down your good deed.

Volunteer “in kind” gifts.  Socks for the homeless, food for the hungry drives will take those donations.  If you buy new for the cause save your receipts as those too are tax deductible.

Donate your time to them.  EVen some employers will make a cash donation for your time donated to a qualifying non-profit.  As an example a friend at the Gas company helped out the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts at this fall’s Celebrate the Arts and ChalkFest.  The Gas company made a cash donation for the 16 hours she donated at the rate of $10/hour.

Check with your local food kitchens.  They need help putting out meals daily, not just for the holiday.  Check what they need and if your skill set fits jump in and help them prep, cook, serve or bus tables.

The point is, give back to your community and make lives a little better.  There are so many options and ways to help you can’t go wrong for trying.

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Sneak peak blogathon at “A Christmas Memory”

November 25, 2015 in Entertainment, Holidays, Media, News, People, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Theatre/Stage

Buddy (Jeff Scott Carey) and Anna Stabler (Theresa Ford) reunite at play opening. click to embiggen

Buddy (Jeff Scott Carey) and Anna Stabler (Theresa Ford) reunite at play opening. click to embiggen

Last night was the sneak preview blogathon at the Sierra Madre Playhouse for “A Christmas Memory” based on a short story by Truman Capote.  This is a musical with live musicians, not canned sound tracks.

I was captured from the get go with this play.  The performances by the cast were engaging and brought the story to life.  To avoid spoilers I’ll not give away too much of the plot or story line. The setting is a man’s boyhood home and sequences between the now and his boyhood spent in rural Alabama raised by cousins in the depression.  The story is about a man returning “home” after being gone a long time for the funeral of a cousin who raised him.  Its an interesting story of familial love and bonding, with adventures and making fruitcake.

The latter is central to the story and the song “Fruitcake Weather” is lively and just adds to the story line. Young Buddy (Ian Branch) and Sook (Diane Kelber) have a bond that is magical and plays out well on stage.

The music gets a big round of applause, but one of the best sequences in the production is when the cast breaks out the ukelele’s and busts out into song.  Fun, well done and did I mention fun?

To read more about the cast and production team visit their website HERE. The Sierra Madre Playhouse has another hit on its hands here.  The play has already sold out for Friday and Saturday night its opening weekend.  You can still get tickets for Sunday and the remaining dates (the play closes December 27) via the Playhouse HERE.

Deets Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre CA

More pics from the blogathon in the a flickr album

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Fruitcake tasting at Vroman’s Hastings Ranch 11/20

November 17, 2015 in Entertainment, Events, Food & Drink, Holidays, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Theatre/Stage

acm posterFruitcake that ubiquitous bundle of fruit and nuts, sometimes soaked in booze that you either abhor or adore.  I fall into the latter and think this Friday’s Fruitcake tasting party at the  Vroman’s book store in the Hastings Ranch shopping center looks to be a ton of fun.  The tasting is a joint venture with the Sierra Madre Playhouse who is opening its holiday play “A Christmas Memory” based on a short story but Truman Capote next week.  ‘

There are planned to be over a dozen fruit cakes at this event.  They are sourced from bakers all over the country as well as the Los Angeles Area.  A sampling…

  • Sumi Chang and Europane Bakery, Pasadena
  • Karen Hansen and Copenhagen Pastry, Pasadena
  • Mike McLellan and Patticakes Desserts, Altadena,

Deets:  Friday 11/20 6PM Vroman’s  3729 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

If you’re interested in seeing A Christmas Memory you can order tickets HERE.  The Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre.

See The Rose Parade Floats Up Close And Personal

December 31, 2014 in Entertainment, Holidays, LA, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

Orange_Grove_before_Rose_Parade_2009_(3161432082)Do you watch the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day? (That’s tomorrow, FYI.) Have you wondered what those floats look like up close but have no desire to spend the night in freezing temperatures? (It’s going to get into the mid-30s tonight, that is close enough to freezing for me.) You can! It’s become a custom to view the parked floats for a few days after the parade. This year you can view them tomorrow (Jan. 1), Friday and Saturday (Jan. 2-3). It will cost you $10 per person and the money goes to the Tournament of Roses Foundation. For that entry fee, you can walk all along the floats (but no touching, please) and even talk with white jacketed volunteers who will tell you more about them.

The floats are viewable:
January 1: 1:00 – 5:00PM
January 2: 9:00 – 5:00PM
January 3: 9:00 – 5:00PM

Senior citizens and disabled persons are welcome from 7:00 – 9:00am both days for less crowded viewing.

You can buy tickets online here or you can buy tickets on-site until 3pm each day.
UPDATE: You can only buy tickets online if you plan to pick them up by 5pm TODAY at the ticketing office (See link). Otherwise, you must buy them on site.

Also, there is a Park and Ride Shuttle ($3 for those 6 years old and above) to ease in the parking situation as street parking nearby is limited.

I plan on getting there early on Saturday in warm cozy clothes.

Happy New Year!

12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA — The Results Show

December 28, 2014 in Holidays, LA, Seasonal

indexDuring the “12 Days of Giving” series here highlighting various awesome and local organizations that deserve your considerations and donations, I wrote about a 137-year-old institution near and dear to my heart (and my bank balance seeing as I work there): the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

FullSizeRenderIn that post, I talked about the ginormous difference between spcaLA and the ASPCA (whose heart-wrenching ads are all over the end-of-year airwaves), and at the end I threw in a twist by promising to donate to spcaLA the spare change my wife and I have collected in that half-gallon jug pictured at left (click to biggify) over the last five or so years, and also to donate it in honor of whoever came closest to the amount all that coinage added up to.

I was actually surprised I didn’t get a few more stabs at the amount, but I’m nevertheless thankful to have received the following guesses in the comments to that post:

  • Frazgo: $72.96
  • JozJozJoz: $89.27
  • LucindaMichele: $82.50
  • Jodi Kurland: $65.37
  • Alexandra Apollini: $89.23
  • BikingInLA: $97.13
  • DavidDavidDavidDavidDavid: $87.84

After the jump, find out what it took to get the coins counted, who the honoree is and how totally far off from the actual amount they all were…

Read the rest of this entry →

St. Nick’s Sleigh? No Santa Ana’s Winds… Merry Insomnimas.

December 25, 2014 in Holidays, Seasonal

Silver Lake (3AM): Then up on the roof there arose such a clatter, that I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. But instead of the sleigh of Santa Claus alighting, ’twas instead the wind of Santa Ana beating a palm frond it had been fighting.

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12 Days of Giving : Sierra Madre Playhouse

December 23, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, Entertainment, Holidays, News, People, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping, Social issues, Theatre/Stage

The playhouse at night, click to embiggen

The playhouse at night, click to embiggen

By now those who know me know I don’t just jump in half assed when I decide to support a non-profit.  They have to have a hook that gets my attention.  Sierra Madre Playhouse is just that and they need help…volunteers and donations if they are to grow to the next level.

In the last few years with the arrival of Managing Director and Estelle Campbell and Artistic Director Christian Lebano, they have brought a vision to change this once sleepy community theater into something else.  Its a very special place well on its way to being the regional destination theater they have envisioned.

There has been a lot of dialogue lately about the state of theater in Los Angeles. It is so often overlooked and under-appreciated, and there are constant wails over how theater is dying. But the magic of that combustion, the ephemeral now, is what I think will keep theater alive. If you haven’t experienced that, I invite you to see a show at the Playhouse. Once you feel that magic you will be seduced.” – Christian Lebano, Artistic Director

Like so many non-profits they are starved of man hours and money to carry out their mission to bring quality plays written by Americans about Americans.  This last year has seen them shake the joint up and brought in uniquely American plays like 6RMS RIV VU, 4,000 Miles and A Little House Christmas.  On tap next is “A Walk in the Woods” which continues the trend of stellar productions.  But they need helpif they are to carry out their plans.  If you got a few hours to donate, they’ll take it.  If you have some spare change to donate to the cause (Its tax deductible as they are a 503.c non-profit organization) they gladly accept that too.

You can easily pay via credit card through PayPal.  An even more painless way is bring the attached PDF Coupon to Ralphs when you go grocery shopping and they donate a percentage of your sale to Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre CA 91024

12 Days of Giving: Donate Blood

December 20, 2014 in FEATURED, Holidays, LA

This is the one of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit causes near to our heart. It isn’t always about monetary donations for these groups. Tight on funds? They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well. When it’s all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out. And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah, or Pagan rituals?

Hot Blooded!

Hot Blooded!

Speaking of “giving of yourself” why not literally give of yourself? Blood banks always need blood, not just in times of crisis. If you meet the requirements, you can donate a pint of your blood in about an hour. Easey peasey, stress-ball squeezey! No matter your blood type, blood banks need it. Are you Type O, the Universal Donor? Great, that means more people in the city need your blood. Are you a rare type – AB? Great, they need you too.

l_gotbloodMy favorite donation place is the UCLA Blood and Platelets Center. The staff is friendly, the place is clean and bright and they do all they can to make it easy and fun to donate. They have assigned parking spots just for donors right by their door in Westwood. And even if those spots are taken, they give you free parking in the nearby lot. They always have raffles and free gifts. I got a beach towel and a UCLA T-shirt from my last two visits. And those bonus gifts were on top of the free movie tickets you get for donating. Oh and the great selection of juice and cookies after! From start to finish (checking in, paperwork, getting your vitals checked, donating blood, juice/cookies) it takes about an hour. The actual donation part? about 10 minutes.

There are many places to donate in LA, just google it. Children’s Hospital LA has a donation center. The Red Cross has many donation centers in SoCal and hey! They are giving away red, long sleeved t-shirts if you donate between 12/24 and January 4.

It is true what they say, the more you give, the more you get. Please donate blood. It might cost an hour of your time every three months and the benefits to your community and your heart are huge.

 

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12 Days of Giving : Monrovia Association of Fine Arts

December 19, 2014 in Art, Education, Events, Holidays, People, Photography, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Social issues

LogoThis is a group that I have devoted tons of energy and time to over the last 10 years.  Their mission statement sums it all up:
“Enhance the lives of those within our community through interaction with the arts. Increase the opportunities of our children through art education.”

Its something I completely believe in, live and breath it.  I got involved 10 years ago as a way to help promote my art, but after a few meetings I found its something that benefits the entire community in ways I never knew.

My kids were in the MUSD system and I was disappointed to learn that Art Education wasn’t part of the curriculum as a separate class at the elementary level.  Monrovia Association of Fine Arts, MAFA for short, was just getting ready to make its first donation to the schools the year I joined to help fund art educatoin at the elementary level.  Over the course of the next few years our cash donations totalled over $75.000.  But it didn’t stop there. Read the rest of this entry →

12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA

December 17, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, Holidays, LA, Pets, Seasonal

spcaLA logoPreamble/Disclosure: There’s a subset of the fine folks who know I’ve been a scrivener for Blogging.la going way back to March 2004, who also know that back in 2011, despite all appearances of sanity, sensibility and advanced middle age, I committed to making a rather drastic career change in leaving behind a 20-odd year (emphasis on the word “odd’) career in journalism to become a humane law enforcement officer, more commonly known as an “animal cop.” Soon after that decision, I undertook what would become a lengthy, arduous and challenging process of training and preparation and hiring — I call it a “journey of a thousand hurdles” — that culminated this past summer when I was sworn in as a Level 1 Humane Officer working for, you guessed it: the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

But enough about me. More importantly, I need to clear up an important misconception. You know those heart-wrenching ads that inundate your TV screens around this time of year, soundtracked by Sarah McG’s “Angel” and featuring some celeb (last year it was the guy from “Will & Grace”) guilting the hell out of you to donate NOWRIGHTNOW while a slideshow of horribly mistreated animals scrolls by? Yeah: that’s soooooo not spcaLA. That’s a whole different animal: That’s ASPCA, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But Will, you ask, isn’t ASPCA the “parent” of spcaLA? Great question! Answer: Not in any way, shape or form. They are entirely individual and separate entities. It’s a common mistake people make believing that ASPCA is some sort of national umbrella under which all SPCAs in the country operate. But they don’t. Each and every SPCA is its own independent organization. The same goes with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They have absolutely nothing to do with, say, the Pasadena Humane Society.

But Will, you ask, why should that matter to me? Another valid query! As an Angeleno it should matter to you because at the end of one of those above-mentioned ASPCA ads that will be dominating the local year-end airwaves, when you rush to your computer or telephone, whip out your credit card and ship some money to their headquarters across the country in New York City, not a penny of it will benefit any of the animals in your own neighborhoods. Think of it like donating blood to your local hospital versus the American Red Cross. In both worthy cases, the precious resource will almost certainly go to someone who needs it, but the chances are exponentially greater that the blood you gave at, say, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will go to a child at that hospital. Donate locally, I say… which rhymes with spcaLA!

After the jump, a bit of history before we get to the fun part.

Read the rest of this entry →

12 Days of Giving: The Peace Project

December 17, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, culver city, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

2014 has been a great year for my family.  It wasn’t always like this.  We’ve had some pretty lean years in the past but hard work, faith, and determination put us on a blessed path.  There are plenty of places in the world where, no matter how hard citizens try, those qualities still don’t offer up a dream life.  This year, I felt it was important to give back to the universe that has created joy and plenty in my life but still finds so many people suffering around the world.  My husband and I both come from from traditions of charitable giving and volunteership.  No matter how impoverished we’ve been, we could always put food on the table and our parents taught us that meant we were still fortunate and it was our duty to offer assistance to those without.

So our regular checks to charitable organizations weren’t good enough this year.  A stellar year means we’d have to reach a little deeper.  But I’m lazy and volunteering with an infant while my husband is working overseas is more difficult than I can manage.  Instead, I found a great way to give while doing my regular weekly shopping at the Culver City Farmers Market.  The Whole 9 Gallery had a booth I could not avoid.  So many cute and cool things to buy!  And what’s this??  The money spent helps to support their charity The Peace Project??  Perfect!  Holiday shopping AND charitable giving, combined!  I bought more gifts than I had people to give to just so I could throw more money at a worthy cause.  And all of it was reasonably priced and very well made and unique.

The Peace Project is an effort by The Whole 9 online creative community to transform lives globally.  Started in 2010 by the community’s founder, the project has distributed crutches to amputees and victims of civil war in Sierra Leone, sponsored educational grants for African school-age children, built houses for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines, and been the benefactor for several artists on six continents.  Through their works, they’ve used art to bridge the gap between necessary resources and the community members who desperately require them.  The Whole 9 Gallery in Culver City sells the wares for several artists whose proceeds fund these works abroad.

To learn more about The Peace Project or to donate directly, visit http://thepeaceproject.com/donate.php.  Just want some last minute gifts that will fund the future happiness of others in our world?  Check out The Whole 9 Gallery at 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232.

12 Days of Giving: Help A Mother Out

December 16, 2014 in FEATURED, Holidays, Social issues

This is the one of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit causes near to our heart.  Its not always about monetary donations for these groups. Tight on funds?  They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well.  When its all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out.  And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah or Pagan rituals?

HAMOlogoNo matter their race, gender, or income level, all babies have one very basic thing in common: They Need Diapers. And lots of them. For YEARS. One in three families in the US struggle to afford diapers and 22% of children live in poverty. Diapers are not cheap and they are not covered in any public assistance programs – not even WIC (Women, Infants and Children). How much? Diapers can cost on average $75-$100/month. And most childcare facilities require parents to supply diapers every day for your child. If you are a poor working parent, childcare is critical for you to be able work. If you can’t afford diapers, you can’t use daycare and if you can’t use daycare, how can you work? Vicious cycle.

“Diapers are a must-have. You can’t skip them like you can breakfast. Getting donated diapers has helped me because I don’t have to have my child do without other things, such as food.” ~ Mom, Center for the Vulnerable Child

This is where Help A Mother Out comes in. Their sole mission is to provide diapers to families who need them. They do this by raising money, raising awareness and working to change laws specific to diaper needs in public assistance programs. And they need your help. Families and babies need your help. They are based in the Bay Area, but they have a small volunteer crew here in Los Angeles who run diaper drives and distribute diapers to various organizations in LA County.

Please click through to read more and to find out all the ways you can Help A Mother Out.

Who are these families in need? They can be anyone. Families hit hard by the recession. Families whose circumstances have changed unexpectedly due to a health crisis. A mom and her kids escaping domestic abuse with only the clothes on their backs. Homeless families trying to get on their feet. Working families barely getting by. It’s not just one type of family that needs help. And clean diapers mean much healthier and happy babies. Parents who can’t afford diapers often leave their kids in dirty diapers for ong periods of time. This can cause sever diaper rash and could even lead to infectious diarrhea, Hepatitis A and viral meningitis. Clean diapers help the whole family and the community.

“With the help of diapers, I am able to use the little money I have on food and other important necessities for my kids.” Mom of two, Women’s Daytime Drop in Center

How can you help? You can donate money online, you can host a Diaper Drive, you can also donate diapers, you can even buy diapers on Amazon to ship directly to a local organization. Do you have a child who has just potty-trained? Fist of all, congrats! Second – do you have a half opened pack of diapers in the closet? Help A Mother Out will take those too. You can find out how to help here. You can also make it really easy and contact me. I’ll come and get your leftover diapers personally to deliver to a local shelter or organization that needs them.

(You’ll notice these donated diapers are the disposable variety and many of you might have environmental concerns. Homeless and poor working families often have limited or even no access to laundry facilities on a regular basis and cloth diapers require much laundering as well as the soap to go with it. Just something to keep in mind.)

Click here to see specifically who Help A Mother Out serves in California.

Every baby deserves a clean diaper. Period.

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season for Crowds: Krampus on Parade & Renegade Craft Fair

December 13, 2014 in Art, Crafts, Downtown, East Side, Entertainment, Events, Fashion, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

I braved not one but TWO crowds today.  First up…  The Echo Park Holiday Parade!!!  I had high hopes for this because I’d heard a bunch of Krampus revelers were going to be there and I was not disappointed.  If you’re one of the uninitiated, “Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved… Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children and drag them off into the black forest.” (wiki)

Krampus was made popular a couple years ago by a viral video of hairy-costumed nightmares rampaging through a northern Italian mountain community and beating the ever-loving crap out of passersby.  I needed the little one to see this so she’d be on her best behavior for the next couple weeks.  But unlike Italy where it is apparently legal to beat innocent tourists, it’s frowned upon here, especially for 6 month olds.  That’s probably for the best.

There were other parade participants but I honestly can’t remember who they were after seeing the Krampus steam engine car built by Bay Area artist-engineer Kimeric Smythe.  Also several members of the Salzburg-area Alt Gnigler Krampus and Perchten Troupe joined the parade of domestic brand Krampus… Krampuses?  Krampen?  Krampai?  Whatever.  It was a hoot.

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As if seeing Krampus in Echo Park wasn’t enough, I dragged the kid downtown to Grand Park for the Renegade Craft Fair.  It’s one of my favorites.  Although I had nothing to buy this time (poor wallet…), I got to see some new friends like the ladies at Ave Dee.  I bought a fanny pack from them at the Patchwork Show in Long Beach and it’s been my saving grace on short outings with the kid.  Contrary to what movies tell you, you do not need to travel everywhere with a full diaper bag breaking your back.  Sometimes you just need your wallet, cell phone, car keys, and an emergency pacifier.  Maybe some chapstick.  Ave Dee’s fanny packs are the perfect hands-free device for busy mommas like me.  And they’re cool!  Anyone who says fanny packs are lame are probably pretty lame themselves.  And I guarantee you they’re carrying around way too much crap.

I also stopped in on good friends and former roommates extraordinare from Outlaw Soaps, Russ & Danielle Vincent.  These amazing villians started their business in our house just a couple years ago and look at them now!  Masters of saponification.  Lauded by the mighty Oprah herself, even.  I highly recommend you jump on their bandwagon, stat; they’re moving their productions from Oakland to a little parcel of land just southeast of Lake Tahoe and they’ve quit soap making until the new digs are up and running in January.  When I saw them today, they had very little stock left.  That’s what happens when your goods are being bought for wholesale by the likes of national retailers like Urban Outfitters and ThinkGeek!  I’m so proud of them, I could scream.

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