Birthday Flowers collecting hobby

Birthdays are one thing you can count on. We all have them and I'm willing to bet, all of your family members and friends have them too. Sometimes birthdays seem to roll around quickly. You can't believe it's been a whole year since you found the perfect gift for your cousin Susie, and now it's time to deliver again.
Whether the birthday boy or girl is a friend, lover or just an acquaintance, flowers can be ordered and designed to say just the right thing. Flowers have so much going for them, it's a wonder you haven't thought of this before!
Think of the blossoms as building blocks. Each has color, texture and form. They each have a personality and many have a tradition. The rose is elegant and says love. The carnation is sturdy and says you can count on me. The orchid is exotic and dares you to dream.
Next, think of your florist as an architect. She uses the building blocks to design a birthday greeting. An architect won't design a home for you until she has spent time with you and discovered your personality and your needs. A good florist should be asking a couple of questions to help her design the floral piece that says just what you want to say.
No, we're not talking about a million dollar home, were just talking about a birthday bouquet. Still, you should try to convey the message you are trying to send when you order your flowers from the florist. Your florist can translate your words into flowers. Using words like Romantic, Festive, Bright, Soft, Extravagant, Elegant, Simple, Fun, Young, Classic, Natural, Earthy or Modern will help your florist understand the personality she is fitting.
You can send flowers with little or no thought, and they'll probably be just fine. The enclosure card will say "Happy Birthday", and the message will get through. Or, you can invest just a few minutes into the process and choose flowers in a design that expresses the personality and message that fits the situation. It'll be worth the investment, I promise.

Batman Begins and the Mighty Fantastic Four hobby

Well, it looks like Hollywood keeps it continual pot of revenue filled with, guess what, comic book heroes. Batman Begins and The Fantastic Four have been duking it out on Hollywood and Vine. An age-old comic book company rivalry is yet renewing the heat this year. I guess all of us comic book aficionados always wonder who would win the battle between such and such superheroes.
Well at least in the next few months one way to keep score is to watch the revenues generated between the recently released "Batman Begins" and "Fantastic Four", which were both childhood fascinations of mine. Not only are there superhero "what ifs" going on here, but which comic book company will stand to gain the most economic substantiation? Batman Begins punches the daily time clock at DC Comics and the Fantastic Four was the brainchild of Stan Lee and crew at Marvel Comics.
And don't tell me there is a small comic book hero market. Batman Begins claimed the number one spot in gross revenue on its opening weekend. Hollywood is definitely increasing the thickness of its silver lining these days with comic book hero movies. Batman Begins took in almost $49 million it's opening weekend. How many mint condition old comic books would you have to sell to make that kind of dough? Are we in the wrong end of the comic book world (ha ha)?
The rivalry between Marvel and DC used to be a major dividing line amongst the tight knit group of comic book collectors. When comic book interest started to decline in the 1970s, this issue became largely irrelevant. But now as video games, online role-playing games and major motion picture productions are spreading across the globe, the classic Marvel-DC conflict is springing back to life.
Superman is coming back to life on the big screen as well as Wonder Woman. Marvel has been riding high off their major successes with the X-men and Spiderman. They are now digging deep into their catalog of characters and are working on screen adaptations of Iron Man, the Submariner, Thor and Silver Surfer, among others. Have we entered a new comic book age that will have to be defined around major motion pictures? Maybe it could be call the "Greenback Age". Do you have another definition?
And as computer literate as so many are these days, Marvel and DC will have to start developing more online games and virtual universes of all their characters that you and I will be willing to pay a monthly fee to access through our computers and game consoles. Ka-ching, Ka-ching. DC has already announced a deal with Sony Online Entertainment and Marvel is working with Vivendi Universal Games. With the massive successes of the X-Men and Spiderman movies, this has proven that the Marvel characters still have life and relevance in today's pop culture.
While DC may be playing a bit of catch up, they are quick to point out that they and Warner Bro. have been more successful on the small screen with TV shows like "Smallville" and several animated cartoon series. And further since their TV and film projects are filmed and aired by the Warner Bro. conglomerate, DC gets to keep more of the profit than Marvel does on their projects.
What do we, the consumer public, get out of all this? Well, for one, we get to see our heroes in a more realistic light than ever before. We can grab that popcorn and maybe an extra drink and watch our comic book heroes and characters come to life in a real world setting, at least for a few hours, and walk out with a little more joy in our hearts. Go out and get immersed in Batman Begins and hold your breath for the Fantastic Four. And besides, this new revelation in Hollywood may just increase the value of our old mint condition comics. We can only wait and see.

Backyard Croquet hobby

Backyard>croquet is a gift that keeps on giving. You can use a croquet set and you can use it again and again and again and again for friend or family entertainment. I recently bought a>croquet set and played a game of backyard croquet or poison croquet – another form of backyard croquet – with my family in my backyard. We had a nine-wicket, six player croquet set. Now that we have a set, we can play it as much as we want as a free, fun family outdoor activity. Anyone in the family can also invite their friends over for some cheap outdoor entertainment. They can also take it on dates or other group activities. For my family it is especially nice to have outdoor games such as croquet to play. Each Friday we have a family barbecue and find ways to entertain ourselves during the barbecue. Outdoor games provide a form of entertainment that we can enjoy many times over for an affordable price. We also have other outdoor games like ping pong, frizbee, Kubb, and more. We just had to purchase one croquet set and now we can use it as often as we like. The last time that we played outdoor croquet in my backyard, during our barbecue, hardly anyone in my family had played it before, so I got to teach them all how to play. It is always fun when it is someone’s first time, especially when they learn the rule of roquet or of placing your foot on your ball, next to another player’s ball, to hit their ball far out of play.
During our first game, the lawn was not mowed, so it made the game a little more interesting. It was harder to aim and set the correct distance for your shot, so it made it more difficult for the experienced players to get an easy win. My brothers and sisters were able to keep up with me or at least keep pretty close throughout the game, although, I had not played for years myself. My sister just younger than me even pulled ahead of me near the end. I thought she might even beat me. My brothers and sisters thought it was fun to roquet or hit my ball, since I was the experienced player. Everyone always gangs up on the leading player in any game, it seems like.
My sister missed the wickets at the end and passed them, so it gave me the opportunity to pull ahead hit the final stick and become poison. I stayed close by my sister just younger than me for a while, threatening to kill her ball with my poison ball, to stop her, but also to give the other member of my family the chance to catch up and feel like they had a chance to win before I crushed them. Finally, I finished my sister off, and subsequently defeated all of the others. Even though none of them had ever played before, I still felt a sense of pride from defeating them.
We mowed the game for the second game, and this time everyone knew how to play and understood the rules, so I did not have to play that time. So it was a little better. I recommend playing on a nice cut lawn. It is more fun to be able to hit your ball a further distance without hitting it hard. The second game was probably a little more fun for everyone once they knew the rules. We did not have to stop and explain things to anyone either, so it flowed a little quicker and more smoothly. Peter Jay is a Vice President with Yard Game Central and a manager and web administrator with For more information about>croquet sets, visit

A Word on Comic Book Pricing hobby

The going worth of individual comic books can range all over the board. Some issues have been know to bring in monetary value of six figures, while other issues aren't even worth the price you paid for them. Action Comics #1 (the introduction of Superman) in mint condition has been quoted at being worth $650,000. A pretty tidy piece of change. Then Weird Science, issue #13, in near mint condition can command a respectable price tag of $5,750. There are also multitudes of back issues purchased at a newsstand price of around 5 bucks, that are now worth even less than that.
So how does one go about determining the actual value of their individual collections? This is not an easy task or one to be taken lightly. Comic book worth is a highly perceived value and will vary quite greatly, depending on which opinion you choose to follow. By all means, if there is a reputable comic book dealer in your local area that you are comfortable dealing with, get his or her opinion. But in all my research so far, it seems that "The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide" is the bible of most active comic book collectors.
I have my copy in electronic format, reachable from my desktop. It is very handy. If you truly want to understand what your magazines are worth, the first thing you need to do is to determine the physical condition of each comic book. Is it raggady ass poor with pages missing and in need of a paper clip to hold it together or has it never been opened since purchased and appears to be in mint condition? Even brand new comic books may not make the grade of mint or perfect condition.
Overstreet gives a very detailed description of all the grades and sub-grades used in the 0.5 to 10.0 scale, generally acceptable by all comic book aficionados. If you follow his physical condition explanations and grading scale, you will get a pretty good feel for the conditions of your own collection.
The next step in your pricing exercise is to then go through the myriad of pages to find your particular issues. Along with your now determined physical and grade conditions, you can find your issue's current assumed value.
This guide also has tips on collecting, preserving and storing your comic books. And it defines the various ages (Golden Age, Silver Age, etc.) that comic book history has moved through.
I guess if I had to mention a drawback to this guide, it would be the fact that there is soo much information to go through, it could take you quit a while to devour the whole book. Once you get well acquainted and comfortable with the guide though, you could consider yourself an expert in your own right and help your friends out with their collecting and pricing questions.
I do believe this guide to be an invaluable and inexpensive resource to have and I don't think you will be disappointed with it. You can visit Heritage Comics at to learn more about the guide. While you are there, you may want to surf around Heritage's site. There are some very interesting subjects there. If you have never seen Heritage Comics' site before and you really enjoy it, just remember where you heard about it at (ha, ha). Of course if you would rather have a hard copy of the Overstreet Guide, I an sure your local comic book store would have a copy and I hope this little review has helped you with your pricing questions.

A whiff of Nostalgia hobby

Today I was given a whiff of nostalgia. No, not some bottled perfume from my youth (eg 'Evening in Paris', remember? On second thoughts perhaps you'd rather not!!), but the wonderful God-given smell of cowslips from a cottage garden. I was immediately whisked back to my childhood and to the wonderful sight of fields of yellow cowslips and of that never-to-be-forgotten smell of the untouched perfume of wild cowslips mixed with the clean country air. In retrospect, I do not know what use those flower-laden fields were to the farmers, but they certainly brought joy to us, and they would return each year along with the primroses. Alas, of course, they disappeared with the intensive farming and chemicals of the l950's, but the delightful visual memory together with the perfume came back in a flash along with the gift.
The cowslips evoked another childhood memory. How many of you got up at dawn in order to go 'mushrooming'. We only had to look for the 'fairy rings' as we called them (although to adults, they would have been just a different shade of grass), and then we picked mushrooms by the carrier bag full. Mother was waiting with the large family frying pan at the ready and after frying the mushrooms, a thick gravy was added, and then we all tucked in, the only addition to this luscious breakfast feast was the fresh crusty bread used to mop up the delicious gravy. What a flavour! Never to be tasted again and never likely to be. And who would add gravy to today's mushrooms? It just isn't done, and if it were, it would be tasteless, just like today's cultivated mushrooms in comparison. Of course, now I rarely eat mushrooms as with knowledge acquired over the years (and, sometimes I wish that I hadn't acquired this knowledge as it often spoils a favourite meal) I realise that mushrooms belong to the fungus family, and are to be avoided if you have a candida problem. However, we didn't seem to suffer any ill effects from them in those halcyon days, but, of course, they were part of a very varied diet of wholesome food devoid of chemicals and preservatives. Nowadays, we are advised to read the small print on the back of mass produced food packets in order to decipher all the listed additives, e-numbers, preservatives, colourings, etc. The best advice I was given in order to avoid an excessive amount of additives was simply this - IF IT TAKES LONGER TO READ IT THAN EAT IT, THEN DON'T purchase IT.
Apart from the 'fairy rings' in the primrose field, there was a monster that we approached with extreme trepidation - the electricity pylon. Then it was known as 'the standard' and stories of what would happen if we children ventured underneath it made our hair stand on end. Our parents forewarned us with stories akin to The Hobbit and Harry Potter, and we believed them. I was told that I would turn into a pig (perhaps it was the way I tucked into the mushrooms that gave them the idea). No one told us that it was simply dangerous, because, no doubt, that would have had the opposite effect and we would have revelled in the excitement of flirting with danger and proving how brave we were. But to turn into a pig, left to grovel in mud, and then, who knows, perhaps ending up on the Sunday dinner plate .... we trembled at the thought ....
However, a thought that crossed my mind when I was older, was how come that the electricity pylons were so near and yet none of the houses in the vicinity actually had electricity. Electricity did not arrive until my teenage years. Can you imagine life today without fridges, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, irons, hairdryers, etc? Yet we managed without quite happily, because what you've never had you never miss. Happy childhood memories are rarely linked to electrical items, they are usually linked to the pure joy of experiencing what nature provides, plus imagination - IF ONLY TODAY'S PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN WOULD REMEMBER THAT.

Autograph Collecting: More Questions and Answers

Autograph collecting terminology and common sense are vital for the hobbyist in order to make informed purchase decisions.
Question: What advantages does autograph collecting offer as compared to other collectibles?
Answer: Autographs have been called “frozen moments in time.” Autograph collectors are curators of history. The most personal item that one person can give is his or her signature. Anything that can be signed can be considered collectible…letters, documents, photographs, books, memorabilia, etc. Few objects give a collector the opportunity to own a unique or one-of-a-kind item that is actually part of someone who is known by millions of people. That is the main reason why autograph collecting has become one of the fastest growing hobbies in recent years.
Question: What guidelines should I consider when purchasing autographs?
Answer: purchase autographs that capture your interest. Don’t purchase items presented as “investments” or sold through pressure. Learn as much as possible the language of autograph collecting. The more you study, the easier it will be for you to determine what items are authentic and which items to purchase. Use common sense when purchaseing a signed piece. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Purchasing from reputable dealers, who will help you avoid risks and problems, is paramount. Most dealers offer a certificate of authenticity, which is only as good as the reputation of the dealer. If the dealer cannot tell you when and where the item was signed or how it was obtained, go elsewhere.
Question: I see many pre-printed autographed photos on eBay. What are these and is there any value?
Answer: These are facsimile reproductions of actual signed photos. With today’s technology, sellers can easily copy an authentic item with great detail and sell at a drastically reduced price. Novice collectors or those on a limited budget are usually the target of these sellers. Unfortunately, many purchaseers are unaware that the item is a copy because of the vague description. We recommend that collectors avoid these pre-printed photos and be extremely careful when purchasing autographs online.
Question: What is a COA? Must I have a COA with an autograph I purchase?
Answer: COA is an abbreviation for “certificate of authenticity”. Many collectors require a COA before they purchase an autograph. Frankly, a COA is just a piece of paper that is only as good as the confidence of the purchaseer and the reputation of the seller. Always make sure you are purchasing from a person who knows how and where the signature was obtained and will guarantee the item to your satisfaction.

Apistogramma , dwarf Cichlids in the aquarium

The real apistogramma's come from southern America, they all have the same characteristics, like a complex breeding behavior, as their large relatives, only their size is different. Besides the apistogramma group there are also some relatively popular dwarf cichlids from Africa, like the Pelvicachromis group. From this group the most widespread cichlid is the Pelvicachromis pulcher, also known as the Kribensis or Purple cichlid.
Generally the cichlids from the apistogramma group are more fragile and harder to maintain, and breed, for a longer period of time. In my opinion apistogramma's are not real beginner species. They are more likely to get diseases if not all the environmental variables are properly taken care of. They need soft and acidic water with a low PH value, a PH of 5.5 to 6 is preferable. They hardly eat dry foods, best is to feed them live foods or frozen food, like bloodworms, brine shrimp and mosquito larvae. Apistogramma species can be kept in a large tropical community aquarium, but be sure the other fish are not too small, they can defend their territory very fiercely, and can be quite aggressive when they are breeding. In my opinion it is best to keep the apistogramma's on their own, in a larger aquarium you could combine two apistogramma variants together, maybe supplemented with a small group of other fish, like some livebearers or betta's. They also can be kept together with discus or angel fish. I always have a harem of apisto's in my discus tanks, just to populate the lower areas of the aquarium and I really like these small dwarfs with a big attitude.
The cichlids from the Pelvicachromis group are much more tolerant when it comes to water values and feeding, I do consider these cichlids a good beginner species. They are hardened, beautiful colored and eat almost anything. The Pelvicachromis pulcher is maybe one of the most easy to breed cichlids as well. If you have an adult couple they will reproduce, in a community tank, a special species tank or in a pond, some people like to breed them in their pond during summer. Actually some of the biggest and nicest colored Pelvicachromis pulcher were pond bred and raised. The only thing to keep in mind with these cichlids is that they are capable of redesigning your aquarium, they can make huge holes and are real little bulldozers. So if you have, or want to setup, a subtile planted tank, don't add a couple of Pelvicachromis to your aquarium.
The last dwarf cichlid I want to mention is the Microgeophagus ramirezi, or Ram cichlid. Their behavior and care are roughly the same as the apistogramma's but they are more tolerant when it comes to water values, and in my experience they are easier to keep in good condition. Unlike the apistos they have to be kept as a couple, not a harem but that's the only breeding experience I have. I have tried several couples, have a couple in a breeding tank right now, but I have never even had a clutch of eggs. I know from other breeders that they are kind of hard to get going, but if they do they never stop.


In the hours and days immediately following the tragic attacks on America of 9/11, there was much speculation about the effects on the general aviation industry. While the events of September 11, 2001 have had a significant impact on the economy as a whole, sales of personal aircraft in Michigan have experienced a surprising boost. Certainly, the convenience of personal transportation has played a major role in this increase as airport lines and security have become more time consuming. The reduction of flights resulting from the airline cost-cutting have limited flexibility for the business person and affected the productivity of companies relying on commercial transportation. These factors alone can’t explain surge of people joining the flying community for more than just pleasure. Rebates, low and 0% interest rates, training allowances, and yes, even the IRS played a role in creating an environment that has introduced more people to the benefits of aircraft ownership and had an effect similar to that seen after the passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1995.
The IRS is here to help you? Well, believe it or not, a new tax law passed earlier this year represents a renewed attempt by our nation’s leaders to jumpstart the economic recovery. The bill applies to new airplanes acquired after September 10, 2001, and before September 11, 2004, and provides tax savings from economic stimulus provisions included in the Internal Revenue Code designed to encourage investment in capital assets. Visit your local airport and you’re sure to see plenty of forty and fifty year old aircraft operating for both business and pleasure. Even prior to the new tax law, Congress recognized that capital investment is an important part of our economy, and therefore allowed a five year depreciation of these assets. To further encourage investments, they do not require the depreciation to be spread evenly over the five years, but through a concept know as “double declining balance,” greatly accelerate depreciation during the first two years of ownership. Now with the additional incentives of 30% bonus depreciation on new airplanes, tax deferral opportunities are greatly expanded.
So how might a business person benefit from these new changes? First of all, the impact of these depreciation changes greatly reduce net cash investment for the purchase of a new airplane. Specifically, an operator in the 40% tax bracket who can successfully write off his aircraft ownership expense may have no cash investment in the airplane during the first four years. Additionally, when properly structured, many taxpayers have an opportunity to convert personal use into business use. The Internal revenue code provides an optional method of taxing an individual for personal use of an aircraft which many times amounts to less than 10% of the actual deductions flowing from the investment. Consult your tax professional prior to purchasing your new airplane or ask your Aircraft Dealer for the name of an Aviation Tax Specialist to set up your purchasing entity.
And you say you’re not a pilot? Local aircraft dealers like Suburban Aviation, Inc. in Lambertville, Michigan will actually teach you to fly your new airplane and even reimburse your expenses when you purchase a new Cessna airplane from them. Most of today’s pilots learned to fly in a Cessna airplane and the majority of these pilots continue to experience the freedom and flexibility that flight offers in one of Cessna’s many single engine models. For 75 years, Cessna has been the leader in general aviation aircraft providing a safe and reliable alternative to commercial airlines and the automobile.
So if your business can benefit from improved efficiency and tax savings, why not consider a company airplane? There are few tax saving opportunities as effective as fully depreciating an aircraft on a five year accelerated basis, and with today’s interest rate environment, a well-structured transaction often results in little or no after tax cash flow holding costs during the early years of ownership. Of course, arriving at your meeting on time and with all your luggage can also be pretty convincing!


"How safe is it?" Along with "How much does it cost?" this is a question we often hear when someone is considering flight training as an option for depleting his or her discretionary income. Our industry has experienced a marked reduction in overall accidents and statistically, a 27.8% reduction in the most recent 7 years! During this same time period General Aviation fatal accidents dropped 32.6% to just over 1 fatality for every 100,000-flight hours. Of these accidents, 80% are either partially or completely pilot induced, with weather related accidents and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accounting for the majority of fatalities.
So what is the industry doing to address the issue of pilot errors?
Bendix/King has taken the bull by the horns and addressed this challenge with several new avionics products, and Cessna has taken the next step by including the Bendix/King advanced avionics package in their aircraft.
Situational Awareness: With its moving map and IFR approach capability, the KLN94 GPS provides added safety through increased situational awareness. This GPS with its full color screen is as easy to operate, as it is to view.
Weather: Bendix/King Data Link Weather features a state-of-the-art data link system to bring textual and graphical weather to your cockpit with a high speed, high bandwidth system. With the KDR 510, weather information (including METARs, TAFs, and PIREPs) is automatically updated and displayed on your KMD 550 (multi-function display) in your cockpit. For a small monthly fee, you can also receive NEXRAD radar and additional weather products that promote additional weather avoidance capability.
Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT): The KMH 880 Multi-Hazard Awareness System combines traffic and terrain avoidance features in one unit. Combined with the KDR 510 and displayed on the KMD 550, you can have all the situational awareness available to ensure an up-to-the-second picture of your flight situation.
Workload Reduction: The KMD 550 Multi-Function Display (MFD) lets you spend less time looking at your instruments and more time flying your aircraft. The system gives you the information you need without added clutter, all while reducing the time required to manage each safety system. Along with its capability to display traffic, weather, terrain and moving map information, the KMD 550 also provides a wealth of reference information to the pilot including airports, NDBs, intersections, VORs, special-use airspace, victor airways, rivers, roads, lakes, cities and towers. When interfaced to the KLN 94, the KMD 550 can also display holding patterns, procedure turns and DME arcs for even greater situational awareness. Most importantly, this MFD is simple to use and sports a bright, razor-sharp display!