Checks in the MailI've been ordering my checks from Checks...


November 07, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Staff Writer

Checks in the Mail

I've been ordering my checks from Checks in the Mail for years now, ever since I found out just how much my bank was marking up the cost. I hadn't thought about the fact that the bank wasn't printing them itself, and that I could eliminate the middleman by buying my checks directly from the printer. After the first purchase, it's no more trouble than reordering from your bank -- and a lot cheaper.

Checks in the Mail checks meet the security requirements of the American Bankers Association and are accepted at any bank. The company, founded in 1922, estimates a savings of 50 to 75 percent if you buy your checks directly from them.

I appreciate the low cost and easy reordering, but I only buy the basic check. Others love the 21 different designs available at no extra charge -- including the new Santa Claus check just in time for the holiday season.

Checks in the Mail charges $4.95 for your first 200 single checks (reorders are $6.95). It also offers three-on-a-page business checks, as well as computer checks. Call (800) 733-4443 for more information. A lot of catalogs cross my desk, but two stand out this year that epitomize what the holiday season should be. Both feature gifts inspired by the garden, but you don't have to be a gardener to find plenty to interest you in their pages. Both catalogs offer beautiful, natural decorations and gifts in every price range.

The "Smith & Hawkins Holiday 1993" catalog is full of floral and herb wreaths, unusual wrapping paper and ribbons, Christmas ornaments and lots and lots of flowering bulbs to brighten dark winter days. There are serious gardening gifts -- tools and watering cans -- but there are also miniature carrot ornaments made of handblown glass (set of 6, $19) and tiny antique garden tool pins ($18-$28).

White Flower Farm's "Gifts for Gardeners & Their Friends" has double-flowered amaryllis, French flower wrapping paper, a Christmas tree by mail (!), and beautiful natural wreaths and flowering plants. Two of my favorite gifts are a shiitake mushroom patch ($28) and a miniature Zen garden ($30).

Call (800) 776-3336 for a copy of the Smith & Hawkins catalog; (800) 944-9624 for White Flower Farm's.

An artistic link to developing countries

As the time of year approaches when we especially want to help others, it's worth noting the recent opening of two stores in the Baltimore area. Both sell unique, handcrafted home accessories and gifts made by artisans from developing countries.

The SERRV International Gift Shop at 8 W. Pennsylvania Ave. in Towson, (410) 825-5785, markets the work of impoverished craftsmen. You can find baskets, rugs, chests, tables, wind chimes, candlesticks and more in this charming shop. There's a particularly strong selection of handcrafts from Africa. (Ask for a copy of the African Supplement catalog.)

A People United at 897 N. Howard St., (410) 889-4308, has recently been reorganized and reopened under new management. The organization works with different women's cooperatives in developing countries. For sale are unusual and beautiful handcrafts, which include blankets, bedspreads, rugs, paintings and small pieces of furniture from countries like Nepal, India, Guatemala and Thailand. A People United helps the women directly, and it helps their communities indirectly by giving the women economic power. Crewel work has a painterly quality. You need a good eye for color and technique to pull it off. "Chinese Crewel" by Betty Arbegast succeeds so well it won Best in Show in the "Guilded Treasures" exhibit at the Pratt Central Library through Nov. 30.

"Guilded Treasures" includes 65 examples of decorative work done by members of the local chapter of the Embroiderers' Guild of America, as well as antique embroidery tools and accessories. Most of the examples are cross-stitch or needlepoint, but there are also samples of cutwork, canvas work and other techniques -- 18 different types of stitchery in all.

Baltimore's Constellation Chapter of the Embroiderers' Guild is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. "Guilded Treasures" is open to the public free of charge. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information call (410) 396-5490 or (410) 243-8436.

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