Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Window Decorations

Zoe Assistant Manager Tara loves merchandising and displays.  She recently embarked on a new design for Zoe's beautiful, large windows facing South Union Street.  Over the weekend, she told me the story of her design.

Pinterest was the first source of inspiration - just try a search for "Window Displays" and you'll have a feast for the eyes!  Intrigued by some displays created on the theme of Van Gogh's beautiful Starry Night, she went to work determining how to create a backdrop of floating, three-dimensional stars!  (and follow my rule of "I don't want it to cost much!)

Her next search took her to YouTube, where she found a video "How to Make An Origami Diamond".  This easy and detailed tutorial was created by a young boy!  After watching it together in the store yesterday, we all agreed that you can learn to do anything on YouTube.

But what to use?  Tara expertly recycled old Modern Luxury DC Magazines and InStyle Magazines to form the diamonds and then construct them into stars.  She especially liked the thickness of the DC Magazine paper for ease of folding and holding shape.  As a result, no two stars are alike and all are bright and colorful!

She and Alexandra hung the stars one Wednesday afternoon and the effect is beautiful!  Stop by to see it in person!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Retail Minded

A few months ago, the young lady in charge of social media and communications for the Old Town Boutique District put out a call for volunteers to be interviewed for an article on how to make the most of your time at market or trade shows.  I thought to myself "I've learned a lot in the past three years.  I wonder if they would think anything I would have to say would be valuable?"  So I volunteered myself.  Before I knew it, a writer had contact me to set up a phone interview.  Oh my!

We had an easy discussion over the lunch hour one day in February.  I shared my frank perspectives with the writer regarding everything from respecting appointment times to taking along water and snacks (so low blood sugar doesn't affect your judgement!)  My comments, along with those of three others, were included in their Spring Quarterly magazine (April/May/June). 

Retail Minded really is a great magazine for anyone who owns (or is considering owning) a boutique.  Their tagline is "News, Education & Support for Boutique Businesses."  Between their quarterly magazines, website postings (find them here), Facebook page, and Twitter feed (@RetailMinded) they curate and share timely and useful information. 

Retail Minded also recently conducted a day long conference (the Independent Retailer Conference) in New York City.  I could not attend so I sent Tara, Zoe's Assistant Manager.  She had a great day of networking with other store owners and managers, viewing panel discussions, hearing from retail experts, and visiting vendors. 

So if you are looking for a great resource (or are just insanely curious as to all that goes on behind the scenes), check them out. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What is Pre-Fall?

Before I owned a store, I would have asked the same question.  It's hot.  Summer has just started.  What on earth are you talking about?

Another of my my previous life, because I was always so busy with work, I usually did a major shopping trip about twice a year (typically Spring and Fall).  And I shopped whenever I traveled (always had to pick up a fun piece from a local boutique wherever I happened to be).  But I didn't particularly pay attention to "seasons".  I knew what I needed and when I could carve out time to shop and that drove my purchasing habits.

When I started shopping for Zoe, my second market visit introduced me to the concept of "Pre-Fall".  As I've researched the topic online, it really seemed to gain prominence as a "seasonlet" in the 2009/2010 timeframe.  As you know, there are two major seasons - Spring and Fall.  And we shop for our stores in the converse of those seasons (I bought for Spring 2013 in September of 2012 and I bought for Fall 2013 in Spring 2013).  The other Seasonlets (I love that word, by the way) are Resort, Summer, and Winter/Holiday.  I bought for Pre-Fall when I bought for Summer in January in NYC.

These seasonlets are much smaller collections that the large Spring/Fall collections.  Pre-Fall was created by designers to fill that period between Spring and Fall.  (Although personally, I still have a hard time thinking Fall clothes in our 100+ degree July days!)  Most Pre-Fall clothing is of lighter weight but tends toward the darker, richer colors of Fall.  And they can often be a preview into the direction the designer is going with their Fall collections. 

Not all of Zoe's designers create Pre-Fall collections.  The larger designers like Rebecca Taylor and Tracy Reese do as does Zoe's new designer (Pre-Fall arriving in July).  Some of my favorites from our recent Pre-Fall arrivals include:

I have seen this Rebecca Taylor dress on at least 3 body types and it looks STUNNING on each one.  I am in the process of re-ordering because this one is the one amazing dress you just have to try!

This Tracy Reese dress is a fun update on a classic look.  You can button up the sleeves or wear them long!  I confess I am coveting this dress.

Oh Rebecca Taylor - how I love your feminine creations.  This luxurious lace dress is not only gorgeous, but comfortable.  And a solid panel in the upper back adds an edgier twist to a classic.

This Tracy Reese lace front shift is a great weight - perfect for that late August, all through September weather!  And with football season coming, you know I have to start preparing for my Red and Black weekends!

Don't be afraid of Pre-Fall - embrace it!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Things We Say To Ourselves

My mother knows that I love to hear about the experiences and philosophies of other locally-owned businesses.  And she likes to give me the "lay of the land" so that when I do visit her home in Athens, GA, I'll know if there are any new places that I'd like to eat or shop.  So she frequently shares articles on new businesses from the local newspaper, the Athens Banner-Herald.  She is old school with her sharing so I get an envelope full of clippings about once a week, including the local Police Blotter.  (Don't judge).

Recently, she sent me an article about a new store opening and the owner's approach and philosophy.  The title of the article was "Watkinsville Boutique Works To Raise Women's Self Esteem".  (You can read the whole article here if you desire).  One of the key themes is that the owner doesn't like for women to say negative things about themselves.  Each time they do, she gives them a warning.  And when they do it a third time, they she makes them sit on a couch in store until they say something positive. 

While I can't quite imagine putting my customers in "self esteem time out", it is amazing to me what I do hear women say about themselves.  Just over the weekend, I heard a woman criticizing her bony knees.  She said it with such vehemence that I had to look!  And what I saw was nothing unattractive at all! 

We all have things about ourselves that we would probably like to be different.  It's human nature.  But it really makes me sad to hear the things that women tell themselves.  My counselor said to me a few years ago "How would you feel if your little niece felt about herself the way you feel about yourself?"  What a wake-up call that was!  Of course I didn't want her to view herself that way!  And it was a lesson to me to stop viewing myself in negative terms.

If you've seen my bio on Alexandria Stylebook, you know that I believe that every woman is a beautiful work of art.  I love the opportunity to help women find clothing and accessories that enhance their look (and if there are things you are uncomfortable with, allows us to present those assets in the best light!)  I encourage you to love and embrace the body that God gave you.  And be kind and gentle with yourself.  Your inner voice can be very powerful (in both positive and negative ways).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Shop Local

As the owner of a small business, you've seen me tout the "Shop Local" movement on many occasions.  But you may wonder, do I live it myself?  Let me share with you a recent Sunday afternoon...

The previous weekend, I had been given three of the most adorable pictures EVER of my niece and nephew.  Wanting to show them off as soon as possible (and have the opportunity to stare at that cuteness when I might be having a difficult day), I set off in search of frames.  It would have been easy to go to Target or Walmart but I didn't want to go that route.  I wanted to shop local.

My first stop on my Shop Local adventure was Stuart Nordin.  This charming shop had opened in Old Town last year and I had not yet had the opportunity to visit it!  While they did not have the frames I was searching for, I did have an opportunity to get a great idea of the unique items they carry - I know I'll be back to do some birthday and Christmas shopping!

Since I was right there on St. Asaph, I had to walk down to check out the newish home of Mint Condition.   I had actually been in this space before (several years ago when it was a Lilly Pulitzer store and more recently when it was home to Treat).  Toni, Mint Condition's owner, always posts the most amazing items on Facebook!  I am always hoping that the item will be my size (and that I could get there quickly enough to get it!)  So I had to stop in to see the new store and see what was new.  I was immediately drawn to this cute work dress that ended up making a trip home with me!

As I explained to someone that day, I love almost everything I bring in to Zoe.  But occasionally there are items that I can't stock for various reasons.  So I will sometimes look to my sister boutiques for items to augment my wardrobe!

Next on the list was a trip to The Shoe Hive for a pair of ankle strap pumps.  I had a vision of what I was looking for and found two difficult choices in my size.  I came home with these gorgeous Pour La Victoire pumps.

A storm was brewing so I cut my shopping short for the day.  I still need to check out Red Barn Mercantile and Maggie James for frames for those precious children.  I use olive oil from Olio, wear jewelry from Mystique, buy clothing for my husband at Periwinkle, pick up wine at The Christmas Attic, buy dog treats for the store at The Dog Park, buy shoes and bags at Bishop Boutique, shop for sweet treats at The Sugar Cube, buy gifts for my niece and nephew at Monday's Child, Why Not?, Pink and Brown, Hooray for Books, and Pink Palm, and shop for beauty supplies at Bellacara. 

This isn't to brag.  This is to say "I make the effort because I want all of us to be successful."  Of course I still go to Target.  I go to Giant.  I go to Costco (unwillingly).  But I'd MUCH rather shop in my local, independently-owned stores. 

The week of July 1- 7 is Independents Week (clever, eh?)  I challenge you to pick one day next week and do your best to only shop at (and dine at) locally owned businesses in your community.  And come back to the comments on the blog and let me know your experience.  Thank you from all of us!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Scout Guide - Volume 2

With all of my recent travels, I had to miss the launch party for Volume 2 of The Scout Guide!  It was held at the Torpedo Factory (just down Union Street from Zoe) last Wednesday night. 

The Scout Guide has a new focus this year - all of Northern Virginia as opposed to Alexandria - Arlington - McLean.  And what an amazing and eclectic group of businesses Sarah (the new curator) has selected for the Guide!  I can't wait to visit some of these great places! 

It is hard to improve on perfection, so I elected to use the same photo we used for Zoe last year (wishing I could freeze my hair and make-up for perpetuity!) but we added a second page with product shots of some of our Zoe favorites!  I was so pleased with how it turned out!

If you aren't already, make sure to follow The Scout Guide Northern Virginia on Twitter - @TSGNorthernVA and check out their blog at

And make sure to let the businesses featured in the book know that you found them through The Scout Guide!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Do you know my friend Jamie?  If not, I'd love to introduce you to her.  She describes herself on her blog as:

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Friend.
Runner. Lipstick addict.
Researcher. Patient. “Survivor.”

(Photo by Sally Brewer Photography)

She describes herself perfectly in her "About" section on her blog - A breast cancer researcher turned stay at home mom turned breast cancer patient, I'm navigating my way through cancer treatments and my quest for normalcy in its aftermath. Sometimes normal is hard, and sometimes it's as simple as going for a run, throwing on some lipstick, and heading out to chemo.

I've known Jamie for a number of years now - we first met through out church.  I have watched her bring two beautiful children into our world and admired her creativity and her sewing skills.  She and daughter Emma Clare have been Zoe cheerleaders and supporters since the day we opened our doors.  So you can imagine it was a shock to learn that my friend had breast cancer.

The grace with which she and her husband, Clay, navigated this difficult time was truly inspiring.  Whether she realized it or not, her determination and perseverance touched and encouraged everyone around her.  She is an amazing person and I am so thrilled she has decided to blog about her experiences - I know that countless others will be uplifted by her experiences.

In early September, Jamie had attended the Fashion's Night Out event at Zoe.  As part of the store's swag bags (given with each purchase that night), we included an infinity scarf from customer favorite brand Velvet.  As she started to go through chemo, Jamie needed a scarf for her head for warmth and style!  She used a seam ripper to transform the Velvet Infinity Scarf into the gorgeous head scarf you see in the picture above.  It became her favorite "go to" headgear!  When I told my Velvet rep about it during my visit to their showroom in May, she actually teared up!  I can't wait to share these pictures with her.

I hope you'll continue to follow Jamie on her journey.  I know I can't wait to do so!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Inspires Me?

While Zoe always inspires me, I am not feeling inspired on my blog posting tonight.  But I have been thinking a lot about the store and thought this was a good time to share this post that originally appeared on the Old Town Boutique District website blog just before Zoe's second Birthday in April.

Shop Owners are asked a lot of questions. But with Zoe’s Second Birthday almost here, one of the most intriguing pops to mind.
I had just completed an enjoyable discussion with a customer. As I was ringing up her purchase, she was talking about the selection of items available at Zoe and she asked, “What inspires you?” I had to pause for a moment and then my answer was obvious–”The beauty that comes from all forms of art.”
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My budding artist revealed herself at the age of 4, when I refused to do anything but paint for two weeks at my hometown Montessori school. While it was quickly determined that my talents didn’t lie in this discipline, I happily filled my easel paper with bright colors and broad brush strokes. I still have those pre-school paintings and they remind me of one of the earliest instances where art brought me joy.
All forms of dance followed and as I graduated from wobbly tondues to pointe shoes and grande jetes, I developed a great appreciation for the human form, the elegance of defined and clean lines, and stories that could be told without words. And music! The sheer loveliness of a well-written score, the ability to deliver the notes on cue, and the memories that songs provide for us influences me every day. In fact, any time you walk into Zoe, you never know what you might find playing on our iPod – I appreciate and embrace all genres of music.
But what does this have to do with style and Zoe? Oscar Wilde once said “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” I would disagree slightly with him. I believe all of us are a unique work of art and the clothing that we choose to wear should enhance our beauty and express who we are by painting a picture for the world to see.
When selecting the items sold at Zoe, I look for pieces that are going to allow women to express themselves while at the same time be functional and comfortable. I look for beauty in the patterns of the fabrics. I imagine what the drape of the garment will look like on a real human form and what feelings it will evoke for those wearing it (and those who see them). I seek embellishments that add interest to the garment, not overpower it or distract from the wearer. I look at how the piece will move with the body and what the visual impression will be.  Where one person might see a pleat, I see possibility. As James Laver once said “Clothes are never a frivolity:  they always mean something.”
I’ve often thought it was meant to be that Zoe was located a block away from Old Town’s artistic gem, The Torpedo Factory. The many talented resident artists that I’ve met as well as creative students continue to inspire and motivate me. When you stop in to celebrate Zoe’s 2nd Birthday this weekend, make sure to ask me about my favorite pieces and why I chose them for Zoe’s customers. And learn why I think of clothing as more than just something to wear.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I Love Skirts

If you've been to Zoe, you can tell I love skirts.  And it is so wonderful to have an outlet for the fun, feminine fashion statement that a skirt can be for you.  I have to confess that I spent much of my career life dressing very conservatively - tailored pantsuits (think Hillary Clinton), knee length skirts with matching jackets, monotone colors.  The skirts at Zoe are anything but!

I loved this Beth Bowley Retro Paisley Skirt so much that I had to get one for myself.  With all the different colors in the skirt, I'm able to pull out a different look depending on the shoes, jewelry, or top that I pair with it.  And it is just so comfortable!

If you don't yet know about Contrarian, you are missing out!  This former Alice & Olivia VP designs some of the best skirts in the business.  This 3 Pleat skirt has a thin navy pinstripe that can pair with almost any color.  And the lightweight cotton makes it perfect for the hot Southern summer.

I have to confess that I have an obsession with the orange/coral colors this season. And the Contrarian Willie Wide Pleat Skirt just feeds that obsession.  The combo of cotton/silk makes for an easy wearing, easy packing skirt that can be dressed up or down.  And its got such great movement - it makes you want to twirl!

You know I love Rebecca Taylor.  And this flare knit skirt is no exception.  An easy way to wear white, it can be paired with anything in your wardrobe.  We only have one left (Size XS) so I wouldn't wait if you would love to add this skirt to your closet!

As we think about Fall, more skirts are on the way.  I got this Rebecca Taylor leather skirt and jacket for myself.  Would you wear it?

It may be the only thing making me look forward to Fall! 

Skirts really are so versatile - you can change the look of them by pairing them with a t-shirt, a jacket, or a sweater.  And don't feel like I used to feel - that your skirt and jacket had to be purchased as a set.  Stop in and let us find the perfect skirt for you!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Nearby

Have you heard of The Nearby?  I hadn't either until my friend Kelly, who owns Bishop Boutique, suggested I take I look at it.  This fun iPhone App connects stores with potential and existing customers and allows a beautiful web presentation of in store items as well as the ability for customers to Like and Comment on the items.

The Nearby is based in Charlotte, NC and has its largest concentration of stores in that market.  But they have quickly expanded into other markets, with New Orleans being their second largest market and other cities in the Southeast also quickly adding to their beautiful collection of boutiques.

I love the App because it is so easy to use - I load my photos, include a description (if I desire) and the app does the rest.  The user has the ability to search for stores in their area (or in areas they may be visiting) and get an idea of the style and type of items offered by each store.

I currently follow all of the stores in Alexandria and one in my "other" hometown of Charlottesville.  The developers of the App want to give small, locally owned boutiques the same ability to show off their selections that users are used to seeing on websites such as ShopBop.

They also send a daily email that includes all of the new images loaded by the shops you follow so you don't have to look at the App every day if you don't want to (although it is so pretty and well done, I look at it frequently!)  I try to update Zoe's selections about every other day with 3 or 4 items available in the store.

I'd love for you to try it out, follow Zoe and the other Old Town boutiques, and let me know what you think!  It is available on the iTunes App Store under The Nearby and can be downloaded for iPhone and iPad.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Change of Pace

If you've been a long time reader of this blog, you know that I started out going to Market in Atlanta and then started going to New York just before the store opened.  I had originally enjoyed going to Atlanta because I could then see my family in Athens, GA.  But when time was of the essence and I wanted to be able to see many brands at once (big and small), I starting taking day trips to NY for Market.

Last weekend was the first time I have been back to the Atlanta Market in over 2 years.  Due to work commitments, I wasn't able to attend market in NY in early May.  I made a quick day trip to NY see a new brand (more to come on this in a future post) in Showroom, visit Velvet/Graham & Spencer, Waverly Grey, and Cluny.  But I hadn't gotten to visit everyone else.  So a trip to Atlanta was in order.

Fortunately, the Atlanta Market stretched from Thursday - Sunday.  I was able to fly down on Friday night, stay in my favorite Atlanta hotel (the Marriott Marquis) and be at Market when they opened the next morning!  I had a busy day of appointments but had to stop to take a picture of this gorgeous flower arrangement in the main foyer.

And...I got yelled at for taking the picture.  There is a rule that photos aren't allowed in the AmericasMart.  When I told some of my reps my story, they said they had never heard of such a thing!  You know me...such a rebel.

The Mart is so large and showrooms are truly like large office spaces that it has a much more laid back feel than the temporary booths in the Javits Center and Piers in NY.  It is not unusual for the reps to offer you food and drink and for you to be able to look at a line by yourself.

One of the best parts was getting to visit the showrooms of the reps that had either only visited Zoe or I had always met in NY.  One of my favorite showrooms is Leib Associates - home to Alice & Trixie and Amy Matto.  I'll bet I spent close to two hours visiting with them and reviewing the Holiday collections.  If you recall, the amazing Maye actually visited me in my home prior to Zoe opening.  I will always love her for that.

Some of my other favorite things from Atlanta Market:

New Wrap Bracelet Style from Chan Luu.

New Bangles and Cuffs from our New Designer (coming in July)

Very Cool Elephant Necklace worn by Maye (so on trend with the feature in Alexandria Stylebook - have you checked out Zoe and our sister shops Kiskadee, Shoe Hive, and Bellacara yet?

This Beth Bowley Dress was to die for!

By 3:45, my work was done.  It was off to Athens for the night to see my family!  And for those wondering, the packing mentioned in the previous blog post worked out perfectly - everything fit is a small rollaboard bag!  And yes, I did not start packing until Friday morning.  Some things will never change.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's Time to Pack

I rebel in very strange ways.  Of all of my idiosyncrasies, the one that probably drives Jim the craziest is my inability to pack for a trip until the 11th and a half hour.  And here I am, ready to travel tomorrow evening and have I even gotten a suitcase out yet?  Nope.

But, my argument always is "I'm thinking about what I'm going to take.  I've packed in my head."  (Please note that I use this rationalization in other areas of life as well.)  I do have a busy weekend coming up - I'll be at the Atlanta Market for the day on Saturday and then driving to my Mom's house on Saturday night.  I'll spend Sunday with her and with my brother, his wife, and my niece and nephew before getting on a plane and flying back late Sunday night.  And because I won't be coming home before going to work on Monday, I also have to have an outfit for Monday (and to top it off I have a presentation that day too!)

The factors are comfort, style, and a small suitcase.  So what am I going to take?

For Market on Saturday:

This Amy Matto Ellis Shirt Dress is so stylish and comfortable and the perfect weight for a hot Atlanta summer day.  I have a neutral scarf and Nude LK Bennett Pumps that I'll pair with it.  And I'll still be dressed to go to dinner with my Mom when I arrive in Athens that night.

Sunday with the Fam (and Travel that evening):

I would LIVE in my Red Engine White Cinder jeans all Summer if I could.  I'll be wearing them on Sunday along with one of my favorite Rebecca Taylor tops and Michael Kors red flats.

Monday's Presentation:

Why, my Kathlin Argiro Pink Python Wrap Dress, of course!  There is no better dress to pack for a trip.  And I can leave my matching black LKs in the car since I won't need them until Monday morning.  Always have to conserve room in the suitcase!

See, I'm packed!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Have you heard the term "showrooming"?  Have you ever done it?  If you are scratching your head and thinking "Is this what you do when you go to NY?" then you aren't on the right track!

The definition of showrooming from Wikipedia is:   "The practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item."  As you can imagine, overhead costs for online stores are much less than a bricks and mortar store.  So they can often offer items for a less expensive price. 

I've had showrooming occur at a small store like Zoe, believe it or not. One of the ways that stores can combat showrooming is by carrying products that aren't commonly available through other sources.  It is one of the reasons I love to carry small, independent designers who create limited amounts of product.  And we always ground ship anywhere in the US at no cost with no purchase thresholds to meet for free shipping.    And while Zoe would never do this, some stores in the UK have instituted a browsing fee that is refundable if the customer makes a purchase!  (That is extreme!)

The American Independent Business Alliance had a great article on why communities and local governments (as well as local businesses) should want to combat showrooming.  Next time you are considering showrooming, think about the impact on your favorite businesses!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Who Do You Dress For?

Recently, through the Twitter feed of @corporette, I found a link titled "Kind of an awesome essay from a woman tired of being told she "doesn't have to dress up for work"".  Having been asked the question "What are you all dressed up for?" many times, I had to read the blog post.

The general premise of the article was the perfect expression of how I feel (but I will note that the language and the tone were not typical of the way I would share those thoughts!)  I've linked to the article here but just be aware that while I condone the message but not the delivery!

Key points:

1) I dress for myself.  Period. And I encourage you to do the same.  Don't dress for your friends.  Don't dress for your husband.  Dress for you.  If they like what you wear, that is icing on the cake.

2) Be comfortable.  Your definition of comfortable.  And that doesn't have to mean a Sloppy, I belong in a "People of Walmart" photo comfortable.  I love when the author says "Maybe I'm comfortable going home and putting on a ball gown." 

3) I wear heels.  And I like them.  My feet were ruined by years of ballet.  Heels aren't going to harm me much more than that.  Often, I feel more comfortable in them than I do flats.  (I have a whole other post coming on shoes!)

She included this photo (note - I wouldn't wear this one to work.  But I actually know someone in the fashion business who would!)

Dress for you - you'd be surprised how wonderful it feels.

Note:  If you don't already read the Corporette Blog, I highly suggest it -

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Time

To do something with the blog!  Knowing that I haven't written in it for a month and a half taunts me every day.  My husband (the official blog conscience) asks me about it on a regular basis.  I met someone this past weekend who had read it and really enjoyed it.  But if I don't update it, is it serving a purpose?

Just having finished Year Two of Zoe being open (and Year Three since I started the blog) coupled with my current time-challenged schedule, I had to make a decision - keep going or let the blog go dormant?

I decided I want to keep going but I've got to find a way to keep it manageable.  I can't let my perfectionist streak prevent me from writing at all.  Perfect is the enemy of good, after all (Thanks, Voltaire). 

So keep an eye out for a Reboot of Zoe's Blog.  I know - very cliche, especially with my IT background.  But it just makes sense.

Watch for shorter features, things that are top of mind for me in the fashion world, things I figure out about myself and I how I react to the fashion business.  I will still include fun Zoe things too.  And let me know what you think - did the reboot work?