Friday, May 24, 2013

HOMEWORKS: How to pick from the crop at children's resale shops

Patricia Thompson, owner of Children's Orchards in Sterling Heights checks out the merchandise in her store.

My daughter frowns at the runway shots I have of her as an infant - decked out in frilly dresses, ruffled bloomers and a bonnet of some kind - but she always looked cute. I can't tell you how many times another mum would ask me where she could find such an outfit. I'll admit, some of the pieces were purchased at shops such as Gymboree and Little Lords Little Ladies, but a great many others were discovered in resale shops.

Whenever I ventured across the border to visit my family in Canada, I would make a point of visiting this quaint little shop near my favorite coffee house. One of the mums who supplied items for the store had twin girls - a bit older than my daughter - and it is her clothes that I would seek. Like me, she loved Beatrix Potter and Winnie-the-Pooh. Thanks to her, I would find all sorts of cute Peter Rabbit rompers or Winnie-the-Pooh sleepers and tees. Since she had twins, I loved that there was two of everything.

What made this shop such a success, however, was not that it carried a huge stock of designer labels, but that its owner scrutinized what she would buy and sell. You never had to worry about zippers not working or discovering a stain that you didn't see under the shop’s dim lights.

In Michigan, a lot of mums have the same experience at Children's Orchard. The upscale resale shop was first started in 1980, and because of its success became a franchise.

"I've been with Children's Orchard since 1999," said Patricia Thompson, who owns a franchise in Sterling Heights. "My sister told me about the franchise in Ann Arbor and I thought it was a great idea. My husband and I owned a Little Caesars franchise in Virginia 15 years ago. We were looking to move back to Michigan. I thought this would be a good adventure." Thompson is still in business and 13 years later is enjoying every minute of it.

"They have a very good system in place," Thompson said of the process by which Children's Orchard obtains its clothing, furniture and toys. "There's a reason it has been around for 40 years."

Thompson chooses products for her store the same way parents should when buying items that are gently used.

Not all shops follow the same system, which is why Thompson advises parents to consider the following tips when shopping at any children's resale shop:

Do a thorough inspection

Make sure you inspect clothing for holes and stains. Thompson has special lights that she uses to inspect clothes and often finds stains that might not appear under normal lighting at home. Ask about the store's inspection process.

Stay in touch

One of the reasons I was successful was I stopped by my favorite shop regularly. Some days there was nothing, others a bonanza. Also, despite already deeply discounted prices, Thompson said resale and consignment stores often hold generous promotions during the summer season. “We have a promotion coming up June 1 where we give them a bag and they can fill it for $5, and another sale in July where all of our 12-months and under clothes are $1.”

Stay abreast of recalls

When it comes to such items as cribs, strollers and high chairs, parents need to be sure that the product is safe. Ask the seller about how they stay up-to-date on recalls, said Thompson. “Since most items at resale stores do not come with their original packaging, it is up to consumers to make sure they are not purchasing faulty equipment. You can also look up recalled items on the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) website: www.csps.gov/en/Recalls.

Get into the game

Got clothes that no longer fit your little one? “Some stores will actually give you cash for your kid’s gently-used clothing, toys, furniture and accessories,” Thompson said. “Call ahead for information on what your local resale store is buying (or in need of). Some stores will set up a 1-on-1 appointment with the buyer and others allow you to walk in at your convenience to sell your outgrown kid’s stuff.”

Designer labels

Most upscale stores such as Children’s Orchards receive new inventory daily so shoppers should be able to find current styles by designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Even if you don’t find the clothes you’re looking for, it is a great place to visit and you never know what other treasures might find.

“I’ve been here 13 years and I’ve seen mothers who came in with their newborns, who are now 13 years old,” Thompson said.

Children’s Orchards is located at 44915 Hayes Road, Sterling Heights. For more information or to make an appointment, call 586-532-8280 or visit www.childrensorchard.com.

Gina Joseph is a reporter and columnist for The Macomb Daily. Send comments to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com, follow her on twitter @ginaljoseph

Thursday, May 16, 2013

HOMEWORKS: Proper planning can make painting ideal for DIYs

Not all do-it-yourself projects are easy to do. It just depends on where your talents lie. I for one will not tackle anything having to do with volts or bolts but painting? No problem. As a child – my parents had no qualms about letting me help them out – whether it meant whitewashing the fence or painting the a room. They usually used latex paint – which was easy to wash off and nontoxic. And other than the odd spilled can – I held my own with a paint brush. However, if there’s one thing I learned by working with the two of them it was the importance of planning ahead and using the proper tools. 

“Whether your painting projects call for sprucing up your indoor space or freshening up outdoor trim, a little advance planning, sweat equity and the right tools can go a long way in ensuring a professional looking result,” said Carmen De La Paz, designer and former host of HGTV’s Hammer Heads. 

Big on La Paz’s list of proper tools is tape. For outdoor projects she recommends a tape with EdgeLock technology to ensure sharp, clean lines. “Scotch Blue has an exterior painter’s tape specifically designed for exterior paint jobs and is resistant to sun, wind and moisture.”

Getty Images

Tips for painting impressive interiors 

Instead of starting from the edges of the surface area load your brush with paint. Then start by painting strokes in the middle of the paint area – working your way to the edges. La Paz said the goal is to lightly whisk the paint on. “The brush has more paint on it than you think,” La Paz said. “So let the brush do the work.”

Lastly – a tip I will definitely give a try. And that is – when doing a two day job instead of washing the brushes at the end of the day put them back in their bags and toss them into the freezer. The next day – pull the brushes out 15 minutes before you plan to use them again and you’re ready to go. 

“You’ll be amazed by how beautiful your home can be when you take the time to tackle those do-it-yourself painting projects and do it right,” La Paz said. 

Tips for painting outdoors

Because of their exposure to the elements and various surface types painting outdoors can be challenging. La Paz recommends that the nap or thickness of the roller is appropriate for the surface you’re painting. Stucco surfaces, for example, have a rougher texture so you need to use a thick nap roller to help pull paint in and out of the crevices. 

Choose paint that’s appropriate for the project.  For example: Choose masonry or stucco paint for exterior or stucco surfaces or paint that is compatible with wood or metal. Read the manufacturer’s label to find out what the paint was designed to cover; as some surfaces will even reject the wrong paint. 

La Paz advises painters to back prime any newly installed woodwork. “This means you should prime and seal the whole board before installing it,” La Paz said. “This will protect the backboard from moisture and prevent bloating and cracking once new woodwork is applied.”

Thursday, May 9, 2013

High school choirs take note!

With Freedom Hill's summer concert series comes Foreigner’s High School Choir Search!

Can your choir rock the rafters at Freedom Hill?

Would you like to sing backup on the song “I Want To Know What Love Is” when Foreigner performs at Freedom Hill on July 3?

If your choir is up for the challenge -- not to mention anxious for a totally awesome opportunity –- submit a link of your group singing to info@freedomhill.net by May 17.

Your choir will be posted on The Macomb Daily on May 22 and voters will determine who will sing with Foreigner!

Besides landing a very cool gig -- the winning group will receive $500.

Choir must be 25 people or less. The choir will also be selling Foreigner CS to the concert-goers in order to help raise money for The Grammy Foundation, which successfully raises funds for high school music programs throughout North America. For more information call 586-268-9700.

Friday, May 3, 2013

HOMEWORKS: Make your own seaside accent table

If I had to pick one topic that I know readers of this column enjoy it would be projects. Gardeners and homebodies love to create things, be it natural settings in the great outdoors or chic furnishings and dodads for the home.
With everyone finally able to get excited about summer, we have a project created by the crafters at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores that uses fun-in-the-sun photos to create an antique-look table. Once completed it could be used in a breezy sunroom or formal living room, along with other beach-theme accessories including nautical brass accessories or oceanside trinkets like a glass bowl filled with sand, shells and pieces of coral.

* Large picture frame with glass
* Table legs and brackets for attaching to back of frame (4)
* L-brackets and screws for securing the photo panel to underside of frame
* Martha Stewart Crafts acrylic paint: Gray Wolf, Porcelain Doll, Wedding Cake, Linen
* White household candle
* Sandpaper (sheet of coarse, sheet of fine)
* Foam core board
* Linen fabric (color of choice)
* Batting or felt
* Adhesive or tacky glue


  • Begin by attaching the hardware for legs to the frame.
  • Set some paper down and using the Gray Wolf paint apply two coats to the table legs and set them aside to dry.
  • To create the distressed finish, take the candle and rub it onto all areas of the frame and legs (once dried) where a distressed look is desired.
  • Next, apply two coats of a mixture of all the whites onto all surfaces. Set it aside to dry.
  • Lightly sand the surfaces using the coarse sandpaper first, then the fine.
  • To prepare the insert for the frame: Cut foam core to fit into the opening. Now cut a layer of batting or felt slightly smaller than the foam core; being careful not to create any creases, affix it to the foam core. Then cover all with linen fabric and glue to foam core on the underside, stretching the linen tightly to create a smooth surface.
  • The next step is the photos. To avoid having to pull off a glued photo after the fact, do a dry run first. Spread the photos out on a table or flat surface and move them around until you've got a design that you like. Consider adding embellishments such as nautical-theme charms or captions created with scrapbooking items. Once you're satisfied with the design, attach the various photos to the linen. Then insert the glass and attach it to the underside of the frame using the L-brackets and short screws.
  • Attach the legs and set your awesome seaside table in place. If you're concerned about damage to the photos beneath the glass should someone spill a glass of water, consider sealing it with silicone or white caulking - just a thought.

NOTE: If you should decide to tackle this project, let me know. Send me a photo or video of your completed project to share with others. Perhaps you decided to go with red instead of white or blue polka-dots, either way the more variations the better.
Gina Joseph is a reporter and columnist for The Macomb Daily. Send comments to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com, follow her on twitter @ginaljoseph and visit her beat blog at macomblife.blogspot.com.