Saturday, January 13, 2018

Let It Snow!

If you've ever read some of my other blog posts, you might recall that I LOVE SNOW DAYS! Yes, I  love them. I love the day before, too, when I am excited about the anticipation of a snow day. The day after is a little bit like when all the Christmas presents have been opened and the excitement has passed; but for now, let me have my snow day.

Even though we're now 13 days into the new year, we still have our Christmas decorations up. We both love the house decorated for Christmas and we have collected so many beautiful and meaningful decorations over the years that we enjoy looking at them . . . especially on a "snow day", like today when the rooms are brightly lit by the reflection of the snow on the ground. (Technically,  it's really NOT a bona-fide snow day, but I'll choose to ignore that fact. There's a lot of ice and snow outside our door, and there's shoveling to do, so to me that constitutes a snow day.)

In anticipation of today,  I decided to make something I've been mulling around in my head for a week or so. To help make the transition from Christmas decor, I usually start putting out some of my snowmen and blue and white decorations in January. The change in the color scheme represents the change to the long winter ahead.

Since I am on a mission to use the supplies I have on hand and not buy more unless I need them . . . Please don't ask me to describe "need" to you . . . I shopped my stash and pulled some things out that I thought would work together to make a banner for our living room mantle.

I gathered my supplies.

Left to right: Stencils, blank corrugated cards, ribbon, hole punch, clear glue, gesso, pearlized acrylic paint, Diamond Dust  (which is actually finely ground glass), paper, and scissors.

I had four sheets of this in my stash. It was so pretty that I could never bring myself to cut into it! But, I finally did, but only one sheet!

A closer view of some of my supplies.
I covertly worked at my TV table on Thursday night, tracing and cutting out the letters I'd chosen from my stencil set. I do things secretly because I like to surprise my husband when I create something. He is very supportive of my crafting ideas and activities. He is my biggest fan, my cheerleader, and by default, my design consultant; which he does quite well. It's always nice to have another pair of eyes to look at something and some input, even a non-crafter.

 So, yesterday morning, with the prep work of the letter cutting complete, I started my project. I qued up my audio book, cut and glued, painted and glittered, while waiting for the snow to start falling, which was after record warmth and rain that caused flooding, ice jams, wet basements, and a myriad of other related not-so-fun events for local homeowners. In 24 hours, we went from this . . .

Friday morning.
 After the temperature soared to 60 degrees, the Tonawanda Creek spilled over its' banks. Thankfully, we live uphill from the creek.
to this . . .

Saturday morning.
What a change in only 24 hours! 
But inside where I was warm, dry and safe, I crafted. Here's how the afternoon and evening progressed in captioned photographs:

With all the little bottles of paint that I own, you would think that I would have some plain white paint!  But, no . . . I don't! 

I cut the corrugated cards in half, so I could get two flags from each card. After gluing the letters and snowflakes to the cards, I used gesso and acrylic paint to create the look of snow. While the gesso and paint were still wet, I covered the entire card with Diamond Dust.

After shaking the loose Diamond Dust off the surface, I put the flags aside to dry.

I waited for the gesso, paint, and Diamond Dust to dry overnight. I assembled the banner this morning. 

It is hard to see the sparkles in the "snow, but if you click on the photo and enlarge it, you can see the sparkle.

It really does sparkle!
(No pun intended!)

I think you can see some sparkles in the "snow" in this photo.

Let It Snow
I'm very happy with how it turned out and, as usual, I learned a few things about construction and materials while making it.

Had I been able to run to the store yesterday, I may have broken my own rule and purchased snowflakes that I imagine are on sale just about everywhere, but I persevered and used those hard-to-cut-out paper snowflakes! Between the weather and the fact I have been restricted from driving the past six weeks (post surgery) I wasn't going to go anywhere in the car!

I put the banner together this morning and waited...and waited...and waited for my husband to make his way downstairs. I thought he'd never come down! When he had finished his morning coffee that I had carried up to him earlier....which bought me more time to fiddle around trying to hang the banner... he descended the stairs. It is actually good that I had that extra time because I kept feeding the ribbon the wrong way, getting it twisted around the fragile snowflakes, and putting knots in the end only to discover it needed more slack. Have you ever tried to untangle a tight little knot in organza ribbon before your second cup of coffee?

But I like how it turned out, and it really does serve to help me visually and mentally transition to January. My husband likes it, too. :-) He said it reminds him of one of our favorite movies, Frozen, which would be good to watch today while we are having a "snow day"!

Whether you are inside or outside today, dealing with snow or not, I hope you are enjoying yourself. These unplanned days when we are required to slow down and break away from the normal routine are what I tend to remember most fondly. Doing something other than the ordinary day-to-day activities we all must face is a gift. It is refreshing to break away from the familiar and the sameness of a typical day. Make today a day that, when you look back on it, you will feel a smile start to form on your lips. There's time tomorrow to resume the usual, expected-of-you stuff.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post today. It is my sincere wish that you will be making some memories this winter, and that they will make you smile in the future when they cross your mind. ♡ And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The smell of dirt.

Dirt. I like how it smells. I usually start noticing the earthy (no pun intended) odor wafting through the air in late March when the snow melts and the wet soil is exposed.

As I watered one of my three houseplants this morning, I got a whiff of wet dirt. It smelled so good! While recuperating from surgery the past several weeks, my exposure to most household activities has been diminished. But today, in early January, it felt like the first day of spring, just because I smelled dirt. I am discovering I can do a little more each day. Today the "little more" included carrying a small  plant to the kitchen for watering and...this is a real biggie...walking up the stairs. I hadn't seen the second floor of our house since the morning of November 30th, when we left for the hospital. 40 days! Things look about the same as when I left and I can't wait to sit down at my sewing machine soon. There are some small projects that I'm sure I can maneuver under the needle.

Now that I've had the little glimmer of hope that thoughts of spring conjure up, I think I'll take a glance at some of the gardening catalogs that have been arriving in the mail. I won't place any orders, but I might make some notes and pull a few pages out for future reference. It will be interesting to see . . .  when spring really arrives here in Alexander . . . what is pushing up through the dirt in my perennial garden. It will be its' first real springtime!

For now, I need to settle back into winter mode. After all, winter began only 15 days ago! We have a ways to go until spring.

Much of the snow that fell last week has melted in our warm 30° temperature today. But between the railing posts, you can see my perennial garden under a protective blanket of snow. It will be a few months before we will be having our morning coffee on the deck and enjoying the view of the garden. But I don't mind because I actually like the time for rest, reflection and planning that winter gives us.

Now that I'm starting to feel better and want to do more things, I still need to be mindful of the doctors advice to take it easy and not push myself too much. They say that the rest of my healing will require about 4 more months . . . just in time to dig some dirt in my garden . . . not just smell it!

I hope you are enjoying winter days and the prospect that spring will return. In fact, you've probably noticed the days are getting longer. Five minutes more of daylight tacked on the start of the day and ten more at the end make a big difference!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. As always, your questions and comments are welcome.  And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Good Gravy!

Good gravy! I'm not sure when I started using this expression so much, but I must say it at least once a day. Today I woke up very early and after a couple cups of coffee, I went into my studio to work on some projects. When I came to a stopping point, because I needed to wait for some ink to dry, I looked up at my cubby hole shelves and decided to clean them out a little. It was originally designed as a closet organizer to hold shoes, but when I saw it at the store, I knew it was just what I needed for all the miscellaneous clutter that was accumulating on my work table. It has turned out to be very useful, but also a good place to stash things and forget about them.

So, as I made my way through one cubby, then another and another, I made a few surprising discoveries. I fully expected that the stuff in there would be in a jumble and pretty much unrelated to each other, but I didn't expect to find something I had absolutely no memory of buying. It definately was an impulse item and probably ended up in my cart because it was marked down so much. I also discovered a few little books I was making, but had lost track of, and a 6" x 6" pad of really cool scrapbooking paper designed by a well-known artist. In fact, while I was watching YouTube videos this past week, I came across some things he had designed and thought to myself that I'd like to buy some of his specialty papers. Good gravy!

15 rather deep cubbies that were supposed to function as an organizational tool have ended up cluttered and full of miscellaneous crafty things. The pile of ribbons,  feathers, adhesive tape guns and cutting tools is part of the supply cache I need for my current project. 

My best finds of the day!
Clockwise: Three little books I'd lost track of that I'd love to finish, a Prima 6"x 6" Frank Garcia designer paper pad, and a metal corrugator that I have no recollection of buying!

Only $3.99! I mean how could I resist such a bargain? It was originally $19.99. I am pretty sure I didn't plan to make jewelry with it, but I have used metal in my albums and tags. Now I have a "new" toy to play with while I'm snowed in. I love shopping in my own stash!

These little chipboard books are only 4" x 4".
They are going to be so cute when they're finished! 

"The Archivist" 6" x 6" paper pad designed by Frank Garcia for Prima Marketing.
I have admired his work on YouTube and don't even recall putting this in my shopping cart, most likely at Hobby Lobby. Maybe it was on the day that I fell into the display of embossing folders while at the store. I couldn't get out of the store fast enough...after filling out a lengthy accident report with the manager. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Actually, I imagine each of my readers has a stash of things they put away for some reason. It could be skincare, makeup, garden tools, kitchen gadgets, paint brushes, clothes . . . just about anything! If you find yourself hibernating like I am during the brutally cold weather that has most of us hunkering down inside this week, perhaps you'll take some time to make a few discoveries, too. I have a box ready to donate and several other things have been put in the recycling and trash bins. It's a good feeling.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope you are staying warm, that you and those you love are safe, and that your new year is off to a good start. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Last Day of The Year

On a day when many of us, including myself, pause to look back at the last 365 days that have passed, I find myself feeling content and hopeful for what 2018 has in store for me, my family, and the world we share.
I'd never have expected some of the things that happened in 2017 to become part of my memories . . . both good and not so good . . . yet here I am . . . living proof of God's love and grace.
My main goal for the new year is to be thankful for each day that I awake and cast my eyes on the one I love. Hopefully, there will be 365 of them. When I live my days focused on being thankful, I see more good in people and more hope in the world around me. When I forget to be thankful, things look serious and seem complicated. For me, thankfulness begets clarity and simplifies my view. That being said, it doesn't mean that I wear blinders or view things through rose-colored glasses; but it does benefit my mind and body and my relationships to wrap myself in a blanket of thankfulness. I can focus on what is important and the details that are necessary to carry out whatever is at the top of my To Do list. The minutiae that can cloud my view and cause me to doubt myself falls off the edge of the page. 
So today my husband and I will write our lists of the most memorable events of 2017, talk about them, laugh and cry a little, and I, for one, will be thankful for this day . . . the last day of the year.
Speaking of thankfulness, I'm blessed to have my husband as my caregiver while recuperating from surgery. The very cold weather and snowstorms have made it more difficult for my husband to get out and do all of the errands, grocery shopping, and post office runs, in between cooking meals, doing laundry, keeping the house clean, and taking care of me; but he has done so with such skill and care, that I have wanted for nothing. I am feeling stronger and am counting on my surgeon's prognosis that I will be back out in my garden this spring. 
I can't reach many of the supplies in my craft studio and can't carry heavy stuff right now, so with the help of my husband, I chose a few things that I can use to make a simple mini album. Paper, ribbon, glue, and a few easy-to-use tools are all I need. It is actually a good challenge for me to make something using a minimum of materials, and to work on a small tray table where real estate is at a premium. It also created an opportunity for me to finally practice a variety of techniques that I've read about over the past five or so years while I've been honing my paper crafting skills. I am self taught, thanks to the many generous people who have shared their ideas on blogs and in videos. My YouTube playlist is pretty long and I owe these people my gratitude for the skills they've taught me. So, during my convalescence, I have spent many hours watching YouTube videos by some of my favorite designers and instructors. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of their techniques, but by using their methods, I learned I really need to practice! It was the same thing that happened, and still does,  when learning a new quilt-making technique. I admit that I don't like to practice, as evidenced by my short foray into the study of the piano. Poor Mrs. Hutchinson had to suffer through me murdering unpracticed pieces for three years until I finally convinced my parents the piano was not for me. (I think Mrs. Hutchinson might have pled my case for me, too!)
Here are a few photos of my progress on a simple mini album that I plan to use to document some of my garden highlights. My attempt to use a new-to-me method for constructing the covers and spine failed; however it provided an opportunity for me to try an idea that I came up with. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention!

The covers and spine of my mini album.
I used black velvet ribbons to attach the spine to the covers and a yellow organza ribbon for the closure. 

A collage showing the chipboard covers, cut to size and covered with black cardstock.

In the background, auditioning papers for my garden-themed mini album. Upper right: watching YouTube videos on my tablet. Lower right and left:  chipboard covers with the chosen papers. I added a little brad and jump ring for embellishing the spine with charms. 

From upper left, clockwise:  Considering letters for the cover, the accordion binding system, the pages ready for embellishing and attaching to the binding,  and a photo of my husband across the room vacuuming while I play with paper on my tray table!

Thanks for stopping by today to read my post. I'll be continuing to work on some mini albums and a little hand sewing from time to time and will be back soon with a few more projects to share with you.

In the meanwhile, I hope your end-of-the-year thoughts bring you a smile or two, and that you are looking forward to the new year ahead. It is my sincere wish that you and those you love will have a healthy and happy new year. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Friday, December 15, 2017

What time is it?

I squinted to see the clock. I thought to myself, "Oh, good! It is 5:15. I can have coffee and start my day nice and early." I made my way out to the kitchen and pushed the brew button on the coffeemaker. I turned on a few lights, looked out the kitchen door at the frozen landscape, and listened as the coffee brewed and the room filled with fresh-coffee fragrance.

I poured coffee into a favorite Christmas mug and headed to the living room. I turned the Christmas tree lights on and decided to watch some early morning news, which is uncharacteristic for me. I usually like to wake up in a quiet house. I couldn't figure out why the morning news shows were not on. As I changed the channels, a few stations were re-airing last night's national news shows. It took a while for me to realize it was only 3:30 a.m.! I wasn't tired enough to head back to bed, so I decided to stay up and do a little writing.

Since I returned home from the hospital a week ago, I've been jotting down ideas for blog posts, short stories, and even a novel. I tried to write a couple times, but I was still in a post-surgery brain fog. My surgery was a success, but my recovery will be slow. The doctor pretty much wants me to do very little and take it very easy. I'm okay with that, but I have to admit that I get a little frustrated when I can't do things for myself. Simple things like picking up my sewing box or moving the hassock to put my feet up require assistance. Fortunately, I have a patient and generous husband who takes excellent care of me. He brings me little meals through out the day and when I couldn't get comfortable the first few nights after I got home, he sat up with me. Between taking care of me, doing housework, cooking, and grocery shopping, he is not getting much rest. He told me how happy he was to get me back home and in my own environment where he could take care of me . . . instead of me being in a hospital where I had to wait for someone to answer my call button. I know I can get better faster under his care.  ❤

Yesterday was the first day that I could actually concentrate enough to do a little hand sewing. I worked on my hexagons, known as "hexis" to quilters. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I started the project. I made a lot of hexis that now need to be sewn into blocks for a quilt. While I am recuperating over the winter, I expect to make quite a bit of headway on this project.

1-inch hexis ready to sew together into quilt blocks.
I have more fabric if I need to make more.

I am using batik fabrics, which offer a great variety of pretty colors. I have about 10 blocks completed. 

Before I left for the hospital, we decorated the house for Christmas. We didn't get everything put up, but there's enough to help us feel the spirit of Christmas. I'm glad we pushed to do it because there's no way we could even think about decorating now. While the snow piles up outside, I've been resting in my chair next to the Christmas tree.

The view from my chair.
While we rest and regroup, we are feeling blessed to be together. We are happy to spend quiet days at home. It is my hope that you will find happiness in your cherished traditions.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. As always, your comments are welcome. And, until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hands.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Promises, Deadlines and Prayers

I'm not exactly sure where I'm headed today with this post;  but then I'm usually not exactly sure where my writing will take me . . . or where it will take my readers. I sometimes come up with an idea and type up a skeleton of a post, let it sit a while . . . and add to it from time to time . . . while it marinates. There are quite a few drafts that I will probably never publish, just leaving them to stew. Other times I just type, proofread and post all in one sitting. I try not to get too caught up in details, but I still struggle with semi-colons, contractions, formal versus informal style, and the supposedly archaic serial comma that I do so enjoy employing . . . . . .

as well as my beloved ellipses . . . . . .

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, and the last few leftovers have been consumed, tossed out or put in the freezer, I am lazer focused on getting things in order for the next several weeks so my husband and I can fulfill the promise we make to each other and to ourselves every year . . . the promise that we will have the tree up, the house decorated, the cards addressed, the presents wrapped, and the packages mailed out to distant family, so we can sit by the fire beneath the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights, watch favorite movies, and listen to wonderful choirs singing beloved hymns and carols. The promise has yet to be fulfilled; however, we are closer to accomplishing our goal this year than in years past.

Deadlines are part of life. I set them for myself every day. I know some won't be met on time when I write them on my TO DO list, but it is a habit I don't want to break. I don't mind if a few of them are moving targets. Some of them have several  moving parts. Some depend on other people meeting their deadline first before I can meet mine. Some are set for me by others and they can't be altered. That kind of deadline is what I am coping with today, and that is the primary reason for us being closer to keeping our Christmas promise to ourselves this year than in any previous year.

I will be having surgery tomorrow and will be hospitalized for three or four days. It has been on the schedule for several weeks and now that it is almost time to pack my suitcase and head to the hospital in Buffalo, I want to do ALL the things on my list. It isn't practical, but it is so me! Whenever we're preparing to go away for either a little getaway or a full-blown vacation, I suddenly want to clean all the neglected corners in the house, rearrange the canned goods in the pantry, sort the paper piles on my desk, and catch up on my knitting, sewing, and correspondence! I am not sure why, but I think it has to do with my fear of never coming home again and leaving behind messes for others to clean up and questions that can never be answered. It's kind of a fatalistic view, which surprises even me! I have faith and hope and believe God will be with me every step of the way on my life journey, but my fear of the unknown is running a little deeper as I write this.

My surgeon is one of the best at his job. He will be doing robotic and laproscopic surgery to repair weakened areas and remove scar tissue where I had abdominal surgery in 2014 and 2015. He advised me that it will be a long and complicated surgery. My beloved husband will be there waiting the whole time that I'll be in the operating room. I hope the doctor gives him good news when he is finished. It will be a long day for him as he waits for news and then waits for me to come out of recovery.

I have been praying for strength for my husband, good weather for the hour-long drives he will make to visit me at the hospital, and praying for my surgeon. I can't imagine doing the kind of work he does. It amazes me that people, like him, can do the things they do in medicine. I pray for a short hospital stay and a fast and complete recovery. I ask you to join me in praying for my doctor and the nurses who will be taking care of me...and for my husband and me as we go through this together.
This photo was taken two years ago at the Christmas tree lighting in Le Roy, New York.
It was my first outing after my second surgery.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my blog post. As always, your comments are welcome. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Half 'n Half

There's no denying it. Since coffee with half 'n' half first touched my lips, I've been a slave to this socially accepted addiction. Dairies will continue to thrive as long as I can still order coffee . . . on the very light side, please.

The adrenaline rush I experience when I push the coffee maker's "on" button is too scarily close to a junkie scoring a fix. My first hour of every morning is spent affectionately hugging my coffee cup. My TO DO list and a pencil are silent voyeurs to the romantic interlude. When we've ended our tryst, I exhale deeply while placing the cup in the sink with a trace of a knowing smile on my lips . . . and begin to make my way through the day.

It might be 4 o'clock or so when I start to get that unmistakable urge to have an afternoon cup of coffee. I always cave in. The only decision is "real" or decaf. I don't want any syrupy flavoring added. No sugar.  Just be sure the cream in my coffee is real half 'n' half.

I had a lot on my mind this morning, but it didn't keep me from my precious morning ritual. I shared a pot of coffee with my husband. He in his easy chair catching up on the news, me in my studio with my planner.

Deep in thought, I wandered out to the kitchen to get my breakfast. Corn Flakes topped off with Raisin Bran and an over-ripe banana. (It wasn't too mushy to slice!) When I had just about covered it all with milk, I realized the usual gallon jug in my hand didn't feel right. It wasn't a gallon of milk at all. It was a quart of half 'n'half, and I had just poured about a cup of it into my bowl of cereal! Now jolted out of my dazed state, my first thought was,  "oh, no . . . will there be enough for our coffee this afternoon and in the morning?" . . . followed by my second thought . . . "hmmmm . . . now what should I do?"

I'm not one to waste food. My mother did a good job of training me. If I put it on my plate, I needed to eat it. Her upbringing during The Great Depression was apparent. Waste not. Want not. Make do or do without. So without guilt, I ate that half 'n' half-laden bowl of cereal.

And now, it is almost time for some afternoon coffee . . . on the light side, of course!

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my blog post. As always your questions and comments are welcome. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.