The High Deserts Social Network Blog…

We’re Not Just Realtors…We’re Talented Too

While flipping through the Antelope Valley Lifestyle magazine, I came across one of our own. Diana Blum was our very own Re/Max All Pro star as she is interviewed about her painting. This past year at the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, Diana Blum received the Ruth Prue Award for her beautiful painting called “Jenna on a Swing”. Although Diana has received this wonderful award, she explains “I’ve won blue ribbons at the fair, but the Ruth Prue Award…this is a coveted  award. And when I won it, I was like ‘whoa!’ It was hard to believe.”It is definitely hard to believe that Diana has not always painted. She says “I thought you needed to be able to draw to paint, but you don’t you can learn how to paint.” She goes on to say that she picked up painting as a hobby to release her creative side in 2000 after closing down her side business. “I talked myself into a six week watercolor class by saying, “I did this in kindergarten. How much trouble could I get into?” Little did I know, Blum continues, “Quickly realizing watercolor wasn’t for me. I needed to locate an oil painting teacher, so I went to a Cedar Centre art show…and took down the names of any artist that was showing great work.”

Within her search she met Jo Gayle Gerner, and she quickly began taking classes from her. Blum says, “If I had not found Jo Gayle, I don’t know what would have happened to my art pursuits. Finding her was like hitting the Mother Lode-local class, well known and respected artist and teacher, a friendly and interactive class.” “I was starting from square one. I didn’t even own any oil paints or supplies, or know what to buy when I started her class. Once I began, I was hooked.” From Jo Gayle’s class and some determination Diana transformed her family room into a studio and starting painting after work. It was only after she started entering paintings in the fair that many of her friends and clients learned she was an artist. Now, she has developed a love for her art. Blum said, “You are not hungry,are unaware of what is going on around you, you don’t get tired, you can stay in this state for quite a while and have no idea how much time has gone by. You are so focused on the present, time as we know it ceases to matter.” Thank you Diana, for inspiring us all. To read the entire article on Diana Blum and her work, please look at the November issue of the Antelope Valley Lifestyle Magazine or visit


October 31, 2011 Posted by | lancaster art | 1 Comment

KQ-X Project Clancy JG International

KQ-X is a $33 million DARPA program awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation on July 1, 2010. KQ-X will investigate and develop Autonomous Aerial Refueling techniques using two NASA Global Hawk high altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).[1] Northrop Grumman plans to retrofit two of the HALE UAVs so that one aircraft can pump fuel into the other while in flight via a hose-and-drogue refueling system. Several aspects of the KQ-X program are considered revolutionary. Not only will the aerial refueling be autonomous, but since Global Hawks are classified as HALE UAVs, the refueling tests will occur at an altitude higher than that typically performed using manned aircraft. The test will also be the first time that HALE UAVs have been flown in formation.[2] Engineering work will be completed at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Development Center in Rancho Bernardo, California. Pilots from NASA, NOAA, and Northrop Grumman will fly the Global Hawks from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, also in California. Sargent Fletcher Inc. and Sierra Nevada Corporation are major KQ-X subcontractors.[2]

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lancaster Pumpkin Carving Contest

@AVFlorist, 888.948.6006 we celebrate what nature provides, we mix that with imagination. and we have been doing this for nearly 60 years, I was taught by the best, my Dad Wes. We celebrate all events big and small, happy and otherwise, we realize its about You. We are in this together, sometimes you simply need to be served, other times we share stories, photos, hugs…Having people come and visit us on J at Lowtree is a treat, to see our 100 green plants to read our lit outside marquee, to say hello. Call toll free 888.948.6006, or look @…

October 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Aven’s at the High Point Furniture Market Oct. 2011. Palmdale CA, Lancaster CA, Antelope Valley

High Point Trip October 2011


The Best part of my job is the Furniture.

I love the constant challenge to devise a merchandise line up that our consumer…Mrs. Jones…will find appealing and want in her home.


This is a much harder job that you might think. While I travel to Market and spend hours looking at new bedroom, dining, and occasional table collections. All the while hoping she will find them all to be dazzling, she spends about 1 second walking past them in my store, casting all my planning into the trash can for one reason or another. While I agonize over which new sofa styles to cover in which new fabric or leather, she will dismiss with a glance, and move on to the next style or completely out of my store!


For Mrs. Jones to buy it, we need to get it completely right. The right style, cover, feel, and price. She needs to see it to a value and of benefit to herself, and her family!


We have a 20,000-foot store and I am constantly hunting for the right mix of products. Sometime we hit it right on. Most of the time however the best efforts of me, and the manufacturers go unappreciated by the consumer.


It’s not from the lack of trying. We all buy with expectations of finding a winner; it’s just that the desires of the consumer are so difficult to predict. After all…look how long it took Ford to get the Mustang right again! About 35 years!


Furniture Markets are a chance to revive and reinvigorate your passion to get it right for the consumer. It’s also a chance to see what others are doing that Mrs. Jones really likes. We all need to hear a success story


I’ve been coming to “Market” since I was in college. Back then; then being 1980, I worked for Aaron Schultz Furniture in Long Beach California, we always went to San Francisco Market in January and July to see new products. San Francisco was a great place to have a regional market. The whole vibe of the city is so filled with energy and history. And the food is some of the best in the world. San Francisco was well attended by hundreds of furniture dealers from all the western states.


After a long day of working the market looking for new exciting products, working existing product lines making changes to our merchandise plan. We all looked forward to some incredible culinary experience either on Fisherman’s Wharf, or in some high end Italian restaurant on Market Street.


Even back in those days the real push was for dealers to attend the
High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina. After all, that was where all quality US products were manufactured. Within a 30 mile radius of High Point nearly all US furniture manufacturers, leather tanneries and fabric mills had some type of facility. All the biggest and best lines were only shown at High Point.


The trip to High Point in those days however was for larger dealers than Aaron Schultz, or the Aven Furniture Co., the company I now own. The trip was too expensive and the buying requirements to large, to work with companies like Thomasville, Drexel, Pennsylvania House or Century.


That all changed for me in 1991. I initiated contact with Tom Krugel, the southern California representative for Thomasville. I wanted to establish Aven’s as the dealer for Thomasville in our market area of southern California. This was a huge undertaking for me. Thomasville demanded 5000 square feet of floor space to open us as a dealer! I didn’t have an extra 5000 feet. We needed to terminate relationships with companies we had dealt with for years!


The previous year we had installed a 3600 foot La-Z-Boy Gallery. By adding Thomasville, Aven’s would become one of only a few stores in the country that could boast representation of 2 of the biggest names in the industry! La-Z-Boy and Thomasville. This commitment to these two powerhouse brands would end up defining Aven’s and securing our future for the next 20 plus years.


On a side note you may wonder how these names got to be so well known? The answer is that both brand names became household words from their involvement in the TV game shows in the 60’s and 70’s.


Now that we were a La-Z-Boy and a Thomasville dealer my attendance at High Point was nearly a requirement. I had been hearing about High Point since I was 15 years old and in 1991 I was about to attend “The Market” for the first time. I was a bit emotional when I saw the “Welcome to High Point” monument sign the first time. I had purchased the company from the Aven family in 1988, and I brought along my long time adviser, critic, and sometimes friend Bud Aven to help me not screw this up.


I’ve been attending in April and October since that first trip in 1991. They are invaluable to my business. It’s not just the products. It’s the interaction with every level of the companies I deal with. From the designers to the sales reps to the management, it’s been very helpful over the years that we all have faces and personalities to put with companies.


Although I buy from the companies, my real relationship is with the sales rep. The good ones put their jobs on the line to give me the straight story on what is selling and what is a dog. Buying the wrong headboard can kill an otherwise great selling bedroom collection. The wrong fabric can kill a great frame. I only have one chance with Mrs. Jones.


Some of these sales reps are the best friends I have in the world.


My first appointment this Market is with Maria Steinberg at La-Z-Boy. La-Z-Boy is now by far our most important supplier. During slow economic times people continue to buy upholstery and we sell a lot of La-Z-Boy products. Last year over 1000 units.

La-Z-Boy shows in a 60,000 square foot showroom. My La-Z-Boy Comfort Studio is 6500 square feet. I need only what’s best for my store and my demographic. Maria helps me sift through hundreds of new style and fabric combinations to the 30 or 40 pieces I will order. This year we are on track to beat last year with La-Z-Boy!


The after Maria and La-Z-Boy I will spend some time looking at Fairmont Designs, a new upholstery vendor. They offer a starting price point that we are lacking in the south end of our store. We used to rely on Thomasville for upholstery in the area of the building. As our consumers appetite for $2000 sofas decreased so did the productivity of this real estate in our building.


Initially I tried to fill it with a combination of Flexsteel and Thomasville, but the prices are still too high. Fairmont will give us a nice quality, comfortable, California look for a starting price of $799, and sectionals from $1995. The best part is that they are a California based company and the freight to us is much better. This allows us to present a better value to the consumer. Freight is a huge deal!


Just what we need.


Flexsteel is introducing down seating to its best frame styles. Great News!

Thomasville has down seating but a limited number of well priced frames and a small number of California fabrics. Believe it or not…there is a difference. The east coast frames and fabrics are boring. In California, we like larger scale frames and bold, exciting fabrics.


We added 1500 fabrics in a huge Flexsteel Gallery effort last market. It has yet to pay off. The down seating story will help. Flexsteel now sits like the money!


After spending the rest of the day with Cyndi at Fairmont Designs, and Jon Lum at Flexsteel; It’s now time for my favorite part of the trip, Dinner with Jon Lum and his wife Jen at Nobles Grill in Winston Salem.

I’ve become a “foodie” since my wife left the furniture business and went to Chef School. I really appreciate the culinary arts involved in a fine dining experience.

This market was no exception!

Duck, Veal, Great Wine, Desert…Fantastic.


Day 2 is also an 8:00 start. This morning is Thomasville first thing. I nned to be fresh to make good decisions with these high priced goods. I can no longer rely only on the Thomasville name to sell this product. With the flood of lower priced and lower quality goods; Mrs. Jones really needs to feel the passion to spend this much money. I happy to say the in general, she is. Our Thomasville business is also up this year. We have made some great upholstery decisions between markets, and the Casegoods are also selling.

Thomasville introduced 2 new wood collections. One is sophisticated, good looking and pretty likely to sell. The second collection is to lust after…just what I’m looking for. It’s what Thomasville does best. Detailed veneer work, carvings, large scale pieces, rich finish, blending of textures. Fantastic. No photos are allowed of the new collections at Thomasville. I’ll post them later though! Also bought 2 vibrant upholstery frames. Both of these are north of $2000, but are down filled and very comfortable.


After Thomasville is Hooker. The ladies sent me here to buy a fantastic new bedroom, dining, and occasional collection with one of the best looking beds I have ever seen…






Needless to say, and much to the horror of my Rep, I did not swallow hard and did not accept their excuses and buy the alternate bed. Without the best bed possible Mrs. Jones simply wont buy it.

I ended up just buying accent items from Hooker. Very disappointing.


Then on the Sam Moore. This line was a pleasant surprise from last market.


I ordered 6 expensive chairs last October. All over $1000. They all sold. The combination of fabric and finishes were just what Mrs. Jones the consumer were looking for. I ordered 8 new looks from Sam Moore.


After Sam Moore I was off to Magnussen Home. They are a super bedroom, and occasional table source for us. This market, no bedrooms for us. Tables on the other hand I always need. I found some super new styles.


I spent the rest of the day back at Flexsteel rethinking my fabric to frame combinations from the previous day. I agonize over this I know…But if I don’t get it right, I have no chance with the consumer.


Dinner on Saturday was at Tripp’s in Winston Salem. This was always one of my wife and my favorite places to go. The crab cakes are the best we have ever had. In fact we gauge all other crab cakes on the “Tripp’s Scale”. None have ever come close. Tonight I enjoyed them by myself. I also enjoyed the Horseradish Crusted Filet.


Day 3 started with the guys at Grey Suit Retail. I had never met them face to face, but I have entrusted them with They are a great bunch of techy guys. I could not be happier with the work we have done together to put Aven’s on the map in the online world. We are expanding our Facebook effort to a huge degree; Incorporating more completely and


I always do accessories last. I need to get a feel for what is happening in color, and style before I order these very trendy items. If I get this wrong they will sit around the store long after their “fashion expiration date”.


I currently buy accessories from Imax and Uttermost. I like buying from as few vendors as possible. I like to mean something to the people I do business with. That way I don’t get a lot of distribution problems in my trading area.


I ordered enough accessories to keep the ladies at the store energized and fashion forward thru the holidays. This is a huge relief for me. Happy salespeople are successful salespeople.


I always leave High Point Market wandering if I missed some gem of a company that would end up being a drop dead winner for my business. The Market is an area of about 2 square miles, and it’s impossible to see everything. In the San Francisco Market days we would take the elevator to the top floor and walk every corridor looking for new lines and exciting new products. That is simply not possible in High Point. But I do try to find one line, or great new idea every trip.


This Market I hope that find was Fairmont Designs. The next 6 months will tell!






October 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October Furniture Market, High Point NC

At LAX Friday about to board the plane for my semi annual trip to furniture central. High Point North Carolina.

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bark in the Park Smith Veterinary Hospital 661.948.5065 click here to get your $5.00 off on your pet’s next examination @

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bark in the Park Smith Veterinary Hospital 661.948.5065 click here to get your $5.00 off on your pet’s next examination @

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pumpkin Carving at AV Florist 888.948.6006 1302 W. Ave J Lancaster, Ca.Pumpkin carving this year at Antelope Valley Florist. Bring a decorated Pumpkin to Antelope Valley Florist before Halloween and receive a $30.00 gift certificate. One Pumpkin will be judge by everyone becoming the fan favorite and will receive $50.00 cash.

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fed pensions underfunded by $673B

Fed pensions underfunded by $673B

Thanks to Sid Wugalter, Danny Hamilton and Dick Reynolds

By STEPHEN LOSEY | Last Updated:October 16, 2011

Two years of pay freezes and no pension adjustments haven’t made federal employees and retirees very happy, but they have had one benefit: eliminating part of the retirement systems’ unfunded liabilities.

The Federal Employees Retirement System at one point was predicted to be about $9.7 billion in the red. But the Office of Personnel Management on Oct. 7 told Federal Times that due to freezes in pay and cost-of-living adjustments, FERS has not only eliminated its unfunded liability, but is now projected to be in surplus for 2011. This is because the cost of future pension payments will be lower than originally expected.

The older Civil Service Retirement System is still carrying a massive unfunded liability, however, of $663 billion when fiscal 2010 began.

OPM refused multiple requests from Federal Times to release the amount of the FERS surplus it claimed at the beginning of fiscal 2011 and the updated unfunded liability for CSRS.

OPM said it cannot release those numbers until they are finalized and first submitted to other agencies, the White House and Congress.

Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., in March introduced legislation that would eliminate the FERS defined benefit pension for future employees, citing FERS’ unfunded liability as evidence that the government can’t afford such plans.

Coburn spokeswoman Becky Bernhardt said the elimination of the FERS unfunded liability does not change the senator’s opinion that the defined benefit pension should go away.

Coburn believes pensions are outdated and reinforce careerism, she said, and that the Thrift Savings Plan provides enough of a nest egg for a comfortable retirement.

Dan Adcock, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the evaporation of the FERS unfunded liability should help weaken the argument for killing federal pensions.

But Adcock said he doesn’t buy that unfunded liabilities are a sign the pension plans are unsustainable.

“The overall concept of an unfunded liability is a red herring,” Adcock said. “The trust fund can pay benefits as far as the eye can see.”

How the system works

One thing is beyond dispute: There is a multibillion-dollar hole in the government’s pension fund. But the unfunded liability is essentially a hangover from a problem that was supposed to be solved 25 years ago, when the government began to wind down CSRS.

The generous CSRS plan was designed with a major flaw: All of its future costs were not covered by the combination of agencies’ contributions and employees’ contributions, which amount to 14 percent of payroll. Those combined contributions, along with interest generated by the Treasury securities they are invested in, cover only the so-called “static normal cost” of the pension program — that is, the cost of future pensions that employees would receive if they got no future pay raises or pension COLAs. Since employees do get pay raises and retirees do get COLA adjustments, the amount being contributed into the fund falls way short of what is needed. That shortfall amounts to roughly 12 percent of payroll.

FERS was created in 1986, retroactive to 1984, and was supposed to be entirely self-funded.

From that point on, all new employees were placed on FERS; CSRS became a closed system. OPM estimates the last retiree or surviving dependent covered by CSRS will die around 2070, at which point the program will be shut down.

The government regularly re-examines its assumptions on interest rates, inflation, contribution rates and other trends affecting CSRS and FERS’ future funds. Sometimes those long-term economic assumptions have to be revised, and if rates of return are underperforming, for example, the government can find a slight underfunding even in FERS.

OPM’s actuaries in June 2010 dropped several assumed rates down after one of those re-examinations. As a result, OPM this month increased the amount agencies must contribute to FERS from 12.5 percent to 12.7 percent.

FERS has run surpluses before, such as in 2006, when it had a $5.3 billion surplus. Adcock said the government’s slight adjustments to the plan’s contribution rates, and slight variations in future economic assumptions, keep FERS’ projected future liabilities varying slightly between surpluses and underfunding.

One positive for the government is that current FERS employees are contributing to the fund and not drawing benefits, Adcock said.

The government puts money contributed to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund into bonds and securities backed by the Treasury Department. The interest from those investments also helps cover some of the cost, and is projected by OPM to continue building over at least the next several decades.

But that still leaves a large unfunded CSRS liability. The government covers the remainder of those costs with supplemental payments from Treasury, amortized over 30 years. Those payments are roughly $30 billion per year.

Safety in assets

OPM had almost $759 billion in retirement fund assets at the beginning of fiscal 2010, largely in the form of bonds and securities. The only way the government’s $600 billion-plus unfunded liability would ever become a problem would be if all employees in the government were to retire at once and demand their pensions, or if the government were to go out of business, neither of which can happen.

“Private-sector businesses are required by law to prefund and set aside money for future benefits in case they go out of business,” said John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service. “The expectation is that the government is not going to go out of business. I’ve literally had this conversation for several decades, and it’s getting attention now because of the bad economy and huge deficits.”

President Obama last month proposed increasing the amount all federal employees contribute to their pensions — by 0.4 percent each year for three years — and using the additional contributions to pay down the unfunded pension liability.

But there’s no evidence to suggest federal pension plans are a financial bomb waiting to go off. That was defused when CSRS was ended, and since FERS is legally required to be fully funded, the unfunded liability will fade over time.

OPM and outside observers such as Adcock and Palguta aren’t the only ones saying the system is sound. The Congressional Research Service has published several reports in recent years on federal pension programs, all of which concluded the programs are on solid ground.

“Although the civil service trust fund has an unfunded liability, it is not in danger of becoming insolvent,” CRS said in a January report.

Audit firm KPMG has consistently given OPM’s financial statements and retirement programs unqualified opinions, meaning they found no significant problems.

And the Government Accountability Office said in a 1995 report that CSRS’ flaws, which resulted in the unfunded liability, were resolved with the creation of FERS.

“Provisions have been made for the retirement fund to always have sufficient budget authority to cover future benefit payments,” former Assistant Comptroller General Johnny Finch said at a House hearing.

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Please stop the Myths have your pets spayed and neutered.

TOP_MYTHS_ABOUT_SPAYING.doc Download this file

October 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment