Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 8th . . . a memorable "first" . . .


At my age, I've had a lot of firsts. There are some I don't recall and some I'd prefer to forget. I don't remember my first steps. I've only heard about them from my parents and my cousin Virginia, who was holding my hands when I finally took a step. What I've been told is that I took my sweet time before I put one foot in front of the other. My parents wondered if I would ever walk! However, there are plenty of firsts that I do remember. The first time riding my bike without training wheels, my first swim in the deep end of the pool, my first kiss, my first car, my first apartment, my perfect little first Christmas tree, bare and without lights, in the converted barn that I called home, and so many others.

 

My best and most memorable first was 15 years ago. I was single . . . still . . . and worried that I might never meet Mr. Right. When I was in my 40's the news and women's magazines were full of reports on studies about the reduced chances of women over 40 ever getting married. The reasons why were as diverse as the women on whom they were reporting. Some women did not want to be married. Some women had been married, but chose not to repeat the experience; and then, there were the women who, like me, had not been, but would like to be married. I was somewhat discouraged, but I tried to keep my eye on the prize, so to speak, and continued to look in all the logical places for a man who would be, as the saying goes, good husband material. The relationships I had up until then had not ended up with the kind of commitment I needed and wanted. I didn't let the well-meant remarks from friends and relatives influence me and keep me from pursuing my dream. Plenty of times, I heard that I should be happy just the way I was and accept the fact that perhaps it just might not be in the cards for me to find a husband, and so forth and so on. I always trusted that God had a plan for me and I believed it included marriage. I just wanted Him to put His plan into motion and, if possible, sometime soon!

 

I had other help, too. My hairdresser knew my desire to be married and he made sure that I had a good look when I left his shop. We joked about me heading down to the supermarket immediately after my appointment to look for a husband. I told him I really did follow his advice and that I went directly to the store each time and while I shopped, I looked over the fresh produce for Mr. Right. He laughed at me and said, "That's not where to look!"  He advised me to change my course and head over to the aisle with all the instant and ready-made foods. So, I broadened my search to include those aisles. It was a wash, but while I was scoping out the men selecting their instant dinners, I discovered a few new grocery items for my cart.

 

My minister knew, too. She listened to my stories. We became friends and visited and had lunches together. She prayed for me. I used to meet another single lady friend after church for brunch and we would compare notes on our searches and dating experiences. Then, there was my dentist and her assistant. My dentist was a pretty young newlywed and her assistant was about my age, which at the time was my mid 40's. While I was in the chair, we would chat about all kinds of things. I had never had a female dentist before and it was refreshing to talk to her about "normal" things. I needed a series of appointments, so we all became well acquainted. Being very nervous about having dental work, I was probably very chatty . . . even more than usual . . . which can be a lot at times. The subject of my search for Mr. Right came up and I filled them in on my activities at every appointment. They were amused by some of my stories and also wanted to help. They began talking to each other over my head, while they were working on my teeth, and saying things like, "Oh, we should book so and so at the same time as her." I could tell they were half-joking and half-serious.

 

Internet dating was in its infancy in the early part of the new century; but after some consideration of my options, I dipped my toe in the water of the online scene. At first, I used a free site, but found it was not for me. The criteria were vague and the matches that came up in my search were all over the board. I chalked it up to a learning experience as I navigated the waters of talking online to men from all over the country and the world. I swam into deeper waters to a site that was more reputable and had a fee. Friends and family were worried about me using the Internet to find Mr. Right. They warned me to be careful and about the dangers lurking behind the computer screen. My reply was that I had already read all the "do's and dont's" of Internet dating. I was careful. I met some men who interested me and I dated a bit. Some dates were disasters, and some were fun and led to successive dates. But, there was just never that spark that I was looking for. I didn't want to settle. I was hopeful, not desperate. However, there were those dark and lonesome times in between the bright spots. I had a list. It was the kind of list I make when I need to make a big decision. It was my "what I want in a husband" list. It had three columns with the headings, RequirementPlusDeal Breaker. I wrote it around the year 2,000, I think; or maybe a few years before. I can't recall. I prayed over it and kept it in my desk. I fine-tuned it when necessary. It was what I referred to when I wrote my online profile for the Internet dating service I subscribed to. I had been on my search for more than two years when I hit bottom and started to wonder if my friends were right . . . that I should just accept my lot in life to be single forever and grow old alone.

 

On Labor Day weekend, I was at home and, as usual, by myself. I was mad, disappointed and scared. I felt cheated and abandoned. In tears, I went to my desk and took the list out of the drawer. As I tore it into shreds, I sobbed and said to God, "Please God, show me why I am here or just take me now. I am done." I cried myself to sleep. Three hours later, I awoke. I felt completely different than I had just three hours before. I felt new. I felt soothed. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me and I felt hurts and fears melt away and my body felt strong and shielded. It is hard to explain all that I felt. Nothing that I felt was sad, scary or negative. When I went to work on Tuesday, I told a woman I worked with about my experience and she said the Grace of God had washed over me. She was a former nun and she shared with me a similar experience she had in her life and also said that the duration of three hours was significant . . . the same number of hours that Jesus was on the cross. Little did I know that those three hours not only helped erase the hurts from my burdened soul, but more importantly, they prepared me for the most memorable first in my entire life.

 

I continued talking to men on the Internet dating site and dated a few after that weekend. But in November, everything changed. There was a man who appeared as a match in my search. I looked at his profile and saw that he was a widower (Plus column, right there!), was looking for someone 5'10" or over (Deal Breaker column, since I am 5' 3 3/4" tall!), and Christian (Requirement column, because I am a Christian, too). I didn't contact him, but since he appeared in my matches, the same thing happened on his screen and I appeared in his. He reached out to me and we started to chat. I liked him right away. He was kind, funny and thoughtful. He warned me to be careful of the men "out there". After a few weeks of chatting online, we eventually took our conversations a step further and agreed to talk on the phone. I gave him my phone number and he called me that evening at 10:30 P.M. We talked and talked and talked . .  . until 7:30 A.M. the next day! That date will be forever etched in my mind. It was 15 years ago today . . . November 8th, 2002.

 

People have asked me how on earth we talked for 9 hours. I don't have a pat answer. We just did! After all, there was a lot of ground to cover with our two histories that spanned many decades! A week later we made a plan to meet and even though I felt secure in meeting my new Internet friend, I followed the rules I had established for myself and arranged for him to pick me up at my cousin's house about a half hour away from his home. He took me to dinner at a local restaurant and we both wished the night would not end. The next day was even more magical. He knew how much I like Impressionist art, so he picked me up in the morning and took me to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. I was in heaven! Being with such a wonderful companion and walking the halls of the museum was an extraordinary experience. I thought to myself, "this guy knows how to impress a girl"! After we left the museum, he took me to the Anchor Bar, which is the home of the Buffalo chicken wing. He was amused when I ate only 4 wings. I liked them, but they were kind of messy to eat on a date!

 

The weekend had to end, of course; and even though we had really just met, it was hard to say good-bye. I had a different kind of feeling about this man. He had many of the requirements and some of the plusses I had on my list and many others I had never even dreamed to include on it. I wondered if I had really found someone to spend the rest of my life with.

 

That winter was especially snowy; but we travelled the 100 miles between us just about every weekend and continued getting to know each other. We both thought the same thing . . . that we had found love. If felt so natural to be together. Our pasts were quite different, but there were many similarities too. Even something as simple as how he talked made a difference. He was from Western New York and because I had grown up there, I could hear it in his voice the first time he called me. It was comforting to hear that familiar regional dialect.




Souvenirs from our first year of dating.
We had fun getting acquainted and doing so many ordinary and special things . . .
from coffee dates, to seeing plays at Shea's Theater in Buffalo.


In the spring, he introduced me to his sons’ families and to his mother. This was a big step for him because he believed in only including someone in their lives if there was a reason to believe it would be a permanent relationship. I finally allowed myself to seriously think that this romance was going to lead to marriage. I wondered when he might pop the question and tried to be as ready as possible for something as unknown to me as a proposal.

 

But on August 7th, just short by one day of our nine-months-ago first phone call, he proposed to me. Excited and nervous, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. As much as I had been hoping and anticipating a proposal, I was surprised and even a little rattled. I looked down at my folded hands and had to ask myself if I was really hearing those precious words. My pause gave him concern. He wondered if my answer was going to be something he hadn't anticipated. For me, time seemed to stand still while I tried to soak it in and believe this was really happening. I slowly raised my head and looked at him and erased the worried look on his brow when I said yes.

 

Fifteen years is a long time. We never could have imagined when we started chatting on the Internet that we had each found true love. But we did. It all began for me when I pleaded for a sign from God. I wasn't challenging Him, but asking Him to intercede. He answered my prayers and led me down the path I had always hoped for. We were married on the first day of Spring the following year and our marriage has been a wonderful journey. There have been plenty of ups and downs, as there are in any marriage; but I always try to keep in mind how we got here. It was truly by the Grace of God and I am ever-grateful for the blessings He has shown me and us.

Happy November 8th, Paul . . . dear husband of mine!




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

Emmy



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hooray for Rainy Days!

As much as I have enjoyed the many sunny days of late, I have secretly wished for a few rainy days so I could spend time inside without yearning to be outdoors. When it is nice out, I just can't stay in side! I would much rather be in the yard trimming overgrown bushes, dead-heading flowers, edging the flowerbeds, watering the gardens, and now that it is fall . . . raking leaves. There is enough to do outside to keep me pretty busy, but the house also needs my attention. There is fall décor to take care of, cleaning (of course), and putting all things summer away and getting the fall and winter clothes, blankets and other things out. I might even cook more hot meals and bake a pie. Oh . . . on second thought, don't let me get too carried away! ;-)


The mornings are definitely a tad cooler now and I sense that my forays into the perennial garden will be fewer and shorter. It is funny how this new garden has changed my perspective. I have always loved fall the most of the four seasons, and even though I do still love fall; I am sad to see summer end. My husband remarked that he never realized how much I loved to garden until this year. If he could not find me in the house, he usually could find me out in my garden or on a bench contemplating where to put the next new plant. Having warmer-than-usual temperatures right now is a blessing. The flowers are continuing to grow and bloom, but soon it will be time to put the garden to bed. I saved all the tags that came with the plants, so I know what they need for the winter as far as trimming and mulching and can learn more from the wonderful information highway of the Internet. That work is yet to come . . . after the leaves are raked and mulched.


So, on this rainy day, I will finish this post, run some errands in the rain, put the fall and Halloween décor inside and out, make some soup and continue to organize my sewing room. I lucked out when I found photo boxes on sale at Michaels a few weeks ago. I used them to store all the old photos I had stashed in totes and for quilting and sewing patterns. My shelves look great, and I actually know what is inside the boxes! As cooler weather sets in, I will be more inclined to sew and work in my studio. I have lots of projects to finish this coming winter! Being organized should help me stay on task.




Always striving to find the right organizational tool . . . perhaps this will be it!




The changes that have occurred in the perennial garden are quite remarkable. The area where the pool used to be was filled in last year and we began turning it into a garden by first installing landscape cloth. Ugh. That was not fun in the dry summer heat we had last summer. By springtime, it had wintered over with leaves on top and some torn corners. But now, it has become my favorite place to be. It will be interesting to watch what happens in the garden over the winter . . . most likely nothing; except perhaps some great photo ops for snowy landscape photos . . . and come spring, I hope all the plants will have survived and will thrive just as they have this year. :-)




Early April 2017.
The garden was just an idea . . .



Early October 2017.
The garden has become a reality.


The second blossoming of one of my delphiniums.
I had never grown them before, but they are really fun to have in the garden.




It is a little late in the season to see Rose of Sharon in flower.
This bush is a survivor, after being run over by the mower last  year.

There are still Monarch butterflies visiting my garden.
This one is on a butterfly bush.
I think they are passing through on their migration to Mexico.

My garden is protected by an angel. In my last blog post, I asked for suggestions for a name for her. I put all the names in a hat and pulled out the winner this morning. "Blossom" is her name and seems quite appropriate! Thank you to everyone who participated. And congratulations, Nancy E. for suggesting the winning name!


"Blossom"

Now that the day is coming to an end, and the soup needs yet to be made, I will close here. With it getting dark so much earlier now, I tend to think it is later than it is at night and after dinner I really need to get into my studio and work on projects for a few hours. That should help me make the transition from summer to fall and give me the satisfaction of creating something, since the beauty of the summer garden will soon be just a memory.


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. As always, your questions and comments are welcome. If you are unable to comment here, please comment on Facebook. Blogger is sometimes confusing and difficult to post on. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Emmy







Thursday, October 5, 2017

2017 Buffalo Sabres Kick-Off Luncheon

This is not my typical post with photos of butterflies, flowers, or things I created in my studio. Instead it is about the fun day we had this past Tuesday at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo. My husband and I were given an early Christmas gift of tickets to the luncheon, which featured a round table discussion with General Manager Jason Botterill, Head Coach Phil Housley, Assistant General Manger Randy Sexton, and team members Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly. We were seated at our table with a really nice group of fans. One group at our table was a grandfather from North Tonawanda, along with his son and son in law, and his 3 young grandsons. All three boys had come down with the same mysterious illness and were missing school for the day, but were healthy enough to make the overnight trip from Virginia to New York to attend the banquet. Uh huh! ;-) Attending an event like this can be once in a lifetime experience and the memories made for a family that loves the Sabres will last all their lives, so their little white lie is safe with us. The Buffalo Sabres is "our" team and our entire family loves them, too. Like the rest of the Sabres' fans, we want to experience them winning the Stanley Cup. This year. Yes, that would be nice.


Before lunch, each team member found the table to which they were assigned. We were delighted that Evan Rodrigues sat with us. He was so pleasant to talk to. He was genuine and quite funny. The conversation at our table was open and animated.


We snapped a few photos at the event. . .




The Lexus Club at KeyBank Center before everyone was seated.


The 2017 Buffalo Sabres team members were introduced in order of their jersey number!
As they waited to be introduced, they stood right behind us.
They had just finished a morning practice.

Jack Eichel is on the far right.
He had signed an 8-year $80 million contract extension with the team, but had not yet announced it.


Paul and our table mate, Buffalo Sabre Evan Rodrigues.



Of course, I had to get a photo with Evan, too!
He is just the nicest guy.



We always enjoy these luncheons, and this one was no exception. We have met some really nice people over the years and look forward to the opening game of the season tonight! Go Sabres!


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today. Your questions and comments are always welcome.


And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Emmy








Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Garden Angel Needs a Name . . .

Over the years, we have decorated our front porch and yard with the scarecrows you can buy at Michael's and JoAnn's. They usually last three or four years, through rain, wind, and sometimes even snow. Eventually they actually begin to look scary as their straw legs and arms limply hang down and their hair falls off. But, being a saver, I keep patching them up with scraps of fabric, hot glue and staples, until it is time for them to go to scarecrow heaven. When my husband dragged our scarecrows upstairs from the basement this year, I knew the time had come for one of them to go. She was bedraggled, had lost her hat and hair to the wind last fall, and most of the straw was gone from her legs. I hated to see her go into the trash bin, so I put her aside and started to think about how she could get a second chance at life.


I had been toying with the idea of making a garden angel and have pinned several ideas to a board in Pinterest. Most are quite elaborate and require materials and tools I don't have . . . yet! ;-) However, I knew I had on hand some of the elements I needed to turn my scarecrow into a garden angel. I just needed to add a few things. So, over the past couple weeks, I shopped in the Halloween costume aisles at the usual haunts. I found a couple things that I thought would work and then one morning this week, when my husband was out for the day, I hauled the weary old scarecrow up to my studio.  I inserted a light-weight garden stake into her raggedy sleeves and across her back so her arms wouldn't droop lifelessly at her sides. I pulled out some of the tulle and organza I had used for my dress form ensembles over the past few years ( http://studioemmy.blogspot.com/2016/01/princesse-des-neiges.html ) and quickly . . . and I mean quickly . . . wrapped her, draped her, and tied tulle to her torso and arms. I just wanted to play a little and see if my idea would even work. I pulled a blue organza skirt with silver sparkles up to her "waist", and secured it with long quilting pins . . . because I couldn't get the staple gun to work. I crowned her head with a wig from Dollar General and pinned on the wings I purchased on sale at Michael's.


It was a sunny day, so I took her outside and planned to secure her to one of our shorter shepherd's hooks, but I had forgotten we took them out of the garden last week. So I grabbed the garden spade, plunged it into the dirt, and attached her to the handle. All the while, a Monarch butterfly was flying around and for a moment, I thought it was going to land on my garden angel! I think she turned out cute and maybe she will make it through the fall season. I don't have a name for her yet, but perhaps you can help me find one. If you have a suggestion for a name, please leave it below in a comment.


For now, she will stand guard over my garden and protect it from undesirable critters, like the big fat  woodchuck who I catch every now and again approaching my garden. At least I hope she will make them think twice before venturing inside.


She looks happy out in the garden, doesn't she?







I love her angelic platinum blonde hair and her pretty wings.



Just like most ladies, garden angels probably don't like it when someone takes a photo of their backside!
However, until I can get some help installing a shepherd's hook into the soil, the spade will suffice.
I should have covered the handle with the skirt, but I was happy just to get her to stand up long enough for her photo shoot!

There was a heavy dew this morning.
She looked kind of ethereal.
My hubby helped me attach her to a shepherd's hook, so she doesn't need to rely on the garden spade for support!
Her wings sparkle in the sun!

Thank you for stopping by to read my blog. Please remember your comments and questions and name suggestions are welcome. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Emmy

Friday, September 29, 2017

As promised . . .




My camera and tripod . . . and Hope.
Just about two weeks ago, I spent a Sunday morning in my garden. That is not all that unusual for me because I spend time almost every morning in my garden. The unusual part, though, was that I got to witness one of my very own Monarch butterflies take her first flight after emerging from her chrysalis. The story of how she even came to exist makes my husband laugh and he constantly reminds me every time I run outside when I spy a Monarch in my garden. :-)


Back in January, while the snow fell and the wind howled, I ordered some milkweed plants from QVC (  http://www.qvc.com/ ). The host and the company representative from Roberta's Gardens ( http://robertasgardens.net/ ) pointed out that the plants would arrive at just the right time for planting in my area and that they would attract butterflies during the coming summer. The plants were shipped, but they arrived a tad early for planting. We were still having some frosty nights. I waited until the threat of frosts passed and on a warm spring day, I dug six holes along the east side of my perennial garden. I decided that since these plants had the word "weed" in their name, I couldn't take them too seriously; so I relegated them to a lonely existence along the garden's edge. They were weak and spindly and I pretty much decided they would probably never survive. Every time my husband, Paul, and I were on the deck overlooking the garden, or tending other plants, he heard me call those weak and defenseless little plants names. I had no faith in them. I referred to them as those stupid, stinkin' milkweeds. Paul got pretty tired of the daily name calling. He wondered where my farm girl faith had gone. I guess I never really made the connection between the planting and the harvest, although I grew up on a cash crop farm. My father and uncles planted things. They grew. They were harvested. And they were not grown from spindly plants, like my stupid, stinkin' milkweeds. They were grown from seeds! Corn seeds, kidney and white bean seeds, wheat and oat seeds, hay seeds (no pun intended, Daddy), alfalfa seeds, pea seeds and seed potatoes. Seven hundred acres of things that needed to grow so we could all have a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. I don't recall my father walking in and out of the back door lamenting over his fields and calling his money crops nasty names. He had faith, . . . along with some sleepless nights, I'm sure, when there was either too much or too little rain. Miraculously, all six plants grew and they thrived. They blossomed and they attracted Monarch butterflies, just as promised.



Mature Stupid, Stinkin' Milkweed Plant
The Monarchs laid eggs on the milkweed plants and they hatched into caterpillars that showed up in July and August.


Monarch caterpillar devouring an immature milkweed seedpod
The caterpillars feasted on the milkweed leaves and later on they devoured the seed pod casings. The caterpillars disappeared and I was not sure where they went. I figured they were either eaten by birds or drowned in the torrential rains we had over the summer . . . until one day when I spied a curious thing hanging from one of my Russian Sage plants about 20 feet away from the milkweeds. I had recently seen a photo on a friend's Facebook page of a chrysalis and eventually a photo of the Monarch butterfly that emerged. I was thrilled to have my very own chrysalis in my garden! I watched that little thing daily. I took about 50 photos of it, all looking the same, but I was enamored by it! Then on the Saturday before the butterfly emerged, I noticed it was starting to darken. My Internet research revealed it would take a day or two after it turned almost black for a butterfly to emerge.




The chrysalis as it appeared for several weeks.



This smart phone photo is a little blurry, but you can see the color beginning to change from green to black.

On Sunday morning, I poured myself a cup of coffee and went out on the deck overlooking the garden. I noticed the little dot of a chrysalis that I had watched from a distance with squinting eyes for the past few weeks was looking darker, just as promised by my research. I decided this would be a good time to get my camera and tripod out. I had wanted to practice putting my camera on the tripod anyway, so I could use it in my garden to photograph flowers; and I would be able to practice setting it up for the big event when the Monarch would finally emerge. I planned to keep a close watch on it and  hoped I would be home when it happened. I brought the camera and tripod onto the deck and took my time as I fiddled around with getting the camera on securely. I looked out at the garden again and my mouth fell open and I think I squealed. I took a deep breath, thanked God and Jesus, grabbed the camera and tripod and got down the stairs and across the yard as fast as I could. Without time to even set my tripod down, I somehow took a photo with the tripod tucked under my arm. I was shaking from my excitement, and yes, I was crying. I was so happy at the miracle of my very own Monarch butterfly. She was hanging beneath her chrysalis. Her wings were heavy and damp and I knew she needed to dry them in the sunshine before she could take off.


The first photo that I took of her right after she emerged from the chrysalis.
I eventually pulled up a lawn chair and sat with her. I stayed by her side for two hours. She moved away from the chrysalis and onto a branch on the Russian Sage. Then she stretched out her beautiful wings just a few times and took flight. She flew up into a maple tree and I didn't see her the rest of the day. I named her Hope.


The next day I scoured the garden for her, but didn't see her. My heart sank and I worried that she had been eaten by a predator. But, on the following day I saw her fluttering about. I tried to get close for a photo, but she was shy. Eventually she stayed still long enough for me to get a few good shots. It was then that I realized my "she" was a "he", by "her" markings. A black spot on each wing was the key to my discovery. I decided "she" would remain Hope and I didn't change her name. Hope represented the promise of faith to me. I found it easier in the beginning to just give up on the plants when they were spindly and weak. But I watered and fertilized them and they grew. They blossomed and today they are heavy with seed pods full of promise. I am using organza bags to collect the seeds while they are still on the plants. When the dried pods burst inside the bags, the seeds won't be scattered by the wind. I will harvest them and keep them for planting in the spring.


Organza bags tied over the milkweed seedpods
Seeing Hope fly about in my garden fulfilled the promise of those spindly and weak little plants that I gave up on before they even had a chance. This has been a lesson that I can apply not only to my gardening, but to my life. The smallest and weakest among us can thrive if given what they need. For plants, it is sunshine and rain. For people, it is love and compassion . . . not for just the strong and attractive, but for the weak and ordinary. Metamorphosis . . . from a caterpillar to a butterfly . . . is not a new story, but I'm viewing it with new eyes.




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

Emmy

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Beautiful September!

It is an absolutely gorgeous September day today, but the weather this summer was often stormy with hot and humid weeks and some torrential rains that resulted in flooding in many areas in Western New York. We are fortunate to live on high ground in the village. Our back yard slopes down to a field that leads to the bank of the Tonawanda Creek. Its a great place to observe nature. We have a family of deer with two fawns that graze along the tree line at the creek's edge. Last week I spotted two young foxes playing tag in the field and once in a while we catch a glimpse of an eagle as it floats on the thermals and goes higher and higher until it is out of sight.


We feed the birds and have enjoyed the melodious songs of orioles and watched with delight as they taught their fledglings to fly. The young birds would take short flights from the tree tops to the ground and then in spurts they would make their way to the feeders. They discovered how much fun they could have in our bird baths, and delighted us with their antics. But after we had some of the worst torrents of rain, the orioles disappeared for about a week. They returned, but not in the same numbers as before the storms. We took the feeders down yesterday because the only thing they were attracting was bees. They love the grape jelly feeders as much as the orioles do!


An oriole enjoying some grape jelly at the feeder.
Please excuse the distortion. I took this in a hurry with my smartphone.

The highlight of my spring and summer has been working in my yard and gardens. I trimmed back much of the overgrowth that had filled in some of my favorite spaces over the last few years while I was recuperating from surgeries and unable to do strenuous activities. Tugging on wild grapevines is a great stress reliever! My husband saw how much fun I was having and wanted to make the work easier for me, so he went shopping and found some great garden tools that I've used all summer long. He learned the way to my heart isn't with jewelry, but with rakes, trimmers, and mulchers!





When I was a child, Monarch Butterflies were plentiful and I saw them all the time in the summer. Their population decreased due to the use of herbicides that killed the milkweed plants that they need to survive. While the snow fell in January, I ordered many of the plants for my garden and I included some milkweed plants in my order. I have to wonder what my father would think about me planting weeds in my garden. He used to scold me for opening the pods on breezy fall days and tossing the little balls of fluff in the air, scattering the seeds along the hedgerows on our farm. He didn't want them to spread into the fields where he grew crops for the canning factory. When the plants arrived, I was very worried that they would ever amount to anything, but I put them in the ground and they grew . . . and grew . . . and grew! They did their job and attracted Monarchs, who in turn laid eggs on the plants' leaves. Those eggs turned into caterpillars that ate the leaves and seed pod casings on the milkweeds. The worms then travelled to places in the yard where they could spin their chrysalis and eventually hatch into butterflies. Having the opportunity to watch this all occur in my back yard this summer brought me immense joy.






A beautiful Monarch Butterfly visiting the blossoms on one of the milkweeds in the garden






Monarch caterpillar on the underside of a milkweed leaf.



A Monarch chrysalis that hangs from a Russian Sage plant in the garden. It is only about one inch long.
The caterpillar travelled about 20 feet across the garden to climb up here to make this!
If you look closely, you can see the stripes on the butterfly's wings inside the chrysalis.
The gold dots that form a line intrigue me. They shine no matter if it is sunny or cloudy.
I think the butterfly will emerge soon.



This is the fluff that was in just one seed pod!



The fluff captured from the seed pod in the photo above.
I read on a blog post that you can tie organza bags on the seed pods before they burst.
I just happened to have a bag on hand in my studio!
I caught this one in just the nick of time.
A run to the bridal section at Michaels is in my very near future!




So, if you wonder why it has been five months since my last blog post, it is because I have been outside as much as possible and enjoying my back yard with my husband. We have spent many enjoyable hours in the garden and on our deck looking at birds visiting the feeders and listening to their songs. We have used our smartphones hundreds of times while outside to ask Google questions about the birds and about plants we are considering for the garden. It is pretty amazing to think we carry little computers around with us in our pockets!




I will probably back track in my next few blog posts to fill in the gap from April until now. In the meanwhile, I hope you are well and happy and enjoying the blessiings of a good life. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Emmy










Thursday, April 20, 2017

In the Bin

Hello from the land of projects! 

Mother Nature has great timing. During the first few months of 2017, she kept me inside my brightly lit and warm home. I decided that I would take the time I needed while inside over the winter to dig deep into the recesses of my closets. It was time. In fact, it was way overdue.


While sitting down to write my TO DO list this morning, I paused and listened to that voice inside of me. You know the voice I'm talking about. It's the one that I, personally, often don't give my full attention to;  and later on I wish I had done so. I tend to pressure myself to get things done, as if I have strict deadlines, and I feel like I need to get on to the next thing as soon as possible. Today I wrote down what that inner voice said, which was,  "Take time to enjoy the tasks that make up your day. They are important, even if they're considered chores. Shed the guilt. Lift the burden. Enjoy everything you do today. This is your life right now and it is important."


It might be a little less than exciting to some people to rifle through boxes of fabric and unfinished projects. In fact, it used to produce so much guilt and anxiety for me, that I would end up just closing the boxes and putting them out of sight. However, I have become aware that, as my mother used to say, "I have a lot more years behind me than ahead of me". I've come to the clear realization that if I don't take care of things, these decisions will fall on someone else's shoulders; and that just isn't fair. I don't want to burden any of my family with the chore of trying to figure out what in the world all of these things meant to me and then assume the task of finding them suitable homes, or just donating them to charity, after I am gone.


So, without going on and on with these thoughts, I will cut to the chase. I decided that I would once and for all catalog my stash and projects. This kind of organization is a challenge to many quilters and crafters. There is so much stuff required to do what we do, from the various colors of thread, pretty papers, ribbons, embellishments . . .  to all the little tools for specific jobs, books, patterns, and machines, to the collections of fabric we amass. When I feel mired in all this stuff, I think to myself . . . "what was I thinking? I will need an army to help me get all of this used in my lifetime!" . . . but, a fellow quilter once pointed out to me that I am too hard on myself and that I should at least enjoy my fabrics and be happy when I see them and touch them, no matter if they ever make their way into a quilt or not. That is a concept that I am trying to embrace. I tend to be very task oriented and think of everything in terms of a project with phases that can be checked off as I proceed. And when I don't achieve that goal, I beat myself up. I'm trying not to do that anymore, and even when I slip back into my former modus operandi, I try to be gentle with myself and not feel defeated. I admit that I am still a work in progress.


Thanks to technology, I think I have found a really good solution that will allow me to know where things are stored and have access to them more readily than before. I used my cell phone to take photos of my fabrics as I folded them and tucked them away in bins. Yes, I know we are cautioned not to store our fabrics in plastic . . . but it is what I am using! I took the time to enjoy the view. I looked at the fabrics and dreamt of what I will make when I use them. It was fun, . . . as long as I didn't let any guilt get a hold of me. When I had a full bin, I labeled it with a letter, such as "Fabric Bin A" and then took a photo of that label. I made a folder in my cell phone labeled "Fabric Bin A" and in that folder I put all the photos of the fabrics that are inside. It may sound a bit cumbersome in my explanation, but it was rather simple. It is working out great and I have access to the system 24 hours a day. The photos will never disappear because they are not only stored on my phone, but are stored in the cloud, too.


Here are a few sample photos to show you what I am talking about.

This is a screenshot of the folder in my smart phone of the contents of Bin B.
Inside the bin are my
Black, White and Red Project
Black and White Fabrics
Batiks
Nautical
Retro
Graphic 45 Birdsong Collection
Juvenile
Depression-era Reproduction fabrics.

This is a screenshot of the folder in my smart phone of contents of Bin D.
Inside the bin are my
Blue & Orange Log Cabin Project
New York Beauty blocks in progress
Rayon dress fabric . . . I MIGHT make a dress again some day!
Split Rail Fence blocks
2 partially finished,  . . . or is that partially started? . . . Stack 'n' Whack Quilts
Friendship Star Quilt
2 paper-pieced mini quilt projects
Hawaiian applique block
,Amish Ocean Waves stored in an old cigar box!
For me, this is real progress! Now I actually know what fabrics I have and where they are. The same goes for my UFOs (to quilters, this term means Unfinished Projects). When I want to carve time out of a day or a week, I can refer to the folder of photos in my phone and locate something to work on without pawing through bins for fabric in frustration to the point of exhaustion.


There you go. I just breathed a big sigh of relief. It wasn't easy to bare my quilty .... guilty....soul, but this idea might just catch on and help you or others. I imagine that I will find more ways to use my phone for a filing, storage and retrieval system. Perhaps the next task will be to organize my paper crafting supplies in this way. Maybe this system is already used by others and isn't a new discovery. That doesn't matter to me. What does matter is the fact that I think I have finally found a solution to my perennial problem!


Let me know what you think. What methods have you found useful in your quest to organize your stuff?


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my blog post. I do appreciate your feedback and welcome your questions and comments.


I hope you and those you love are well and happy. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Emmy



Monday, April 10, 2017

A Trip to Savannah and A Few Handmade Birthday Gifts



Hello! It has been a few weeks since my last post. When  I have had the opportunity, I have spent a lot of time reorganizing my paper craft studio and making some wonderful discoveries along the way! There are enough supplies in there to last me a long time and provide the materials for some really fun-to-make projects! I plan to be back in the studio more often this spring and will put much of what I have to good use!

Today is an exceptionally warm day for early April in Western New York State. It is going to be 70 degrees and sunny! It will be a good time to start cleaning up all the debris in the yard and gardens. There is a lot to do before we can even begin to plant anything. The temperatures still dip down in the 30's at night.

My husband and I returned a week ago from a trip to Savannah, Georgia. While we were there, we also visited Parris Island, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. The weather could not have been any better. It was warm and there was a constant soft breeze. What a treat!

The historic homes we had the chance to view and visit were marvelous and the city and region's history is rich. If you have never been to Savannah, I urge you to go. The best months to visit are December through March. After that, the heat can be oppressive for northern tourists, like us!

We had the opportunity to tour Mistletoe Cottage on Jekyll Island.
The island was a private resort for a select few of the very rich from 1888 until 1942.
The island has an interesting history and we wish that the walls could talk.
There would surely be some intriguing stories.
We just ordered a book that our tour guide recommended,
Splendid Isolation, The Jekyll Island Millionaires'  Club, 1888-1942
Inside Mistletoe Cottage, this room is at the back of the building, adjacent to the dining room.
The ceiling is covered with imported hand-painted silk panels from China.
The large brass lamps resemble Chinese Lanterns.
The residents of the island built a chapel and inside is this Tiffany window.
It was made by and signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.


Upon our return home, we were greeted by crocuses in bloom.
A sure sign of spring!
And a few days later . . . winter was trying to hold on.
After torrential rains and flooding, it snowed heavy wet snow.
We usually do not have a lake in the back yard, but the banks of the Tonawanda Creek were overflowing.
We had a birthday in the family, so I made a few things to put in the mail. Whenever I sit down to make something in my studio, I end up adding to my original idea! :-)

A collage of sorts on the front of the card.
I rounded the corners and inked all around the edges of the papers that I used.
I added a few dots and the metal embellishment.

I don't know about  you . . . but I love using fancy paperclips!
I altered these with ribbons in spring colors.
The recipient said she really liked them and said she always needs paperclips!


I made this little envelope to hold a special little gift.






The back of the clipboard that I altered.


It is hard to make something and not include some charms!


The front of the altered clipboard.
The little pocket held the small envelope perfectly!
I added a metal piece at the top, but forgot to take a photo before I mailed it.
It said "Enjoy the Journey".
The spring market for real estate is about to get very busy and we are rolling out a new listing today, so I will close here. It is a nice benefit to have a home office to work from, and with so much telecommuting technology available in our profession, we can start early at home before we hit the pavement.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. As always, your comments and questions are welcome. I hope you and those you love are well and happy.

And . . . until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Emmy







Thursday, March 30, 2017

Altered Composition Book / Wedding Planner Version 2

As promised . . . in my last blog post . . . I wrote I would post the second planner I made for the bride to be. Here are a series of photos from cover to cover, along with tags, photo mats and pockets that can be used to keep things in order and make notes along the way. The reverse sides of the photo mats and tags can be used for journaling or photos to document memories she will make as she plans her wedding.


The cover.
The diecut heart is open at the top, so a photo can be inserted.

There's a pocket inside the front cover.
It has five photo mats in the pocket.
On the opposite page, there's a pocket made from ribbon.
It holds three photo mats and has a metal keyhole embellishment.

Three photo mats from the pocket along with two additional ones made especially for the bride to be and her fiance.
😉

Three photo mats in the ribbon pocket.

Pocket page with ribbon trim.

Three photo mats.

Another pocket page made with wide polka dot ribbon.

Three photo mats.

Pocket page with little wooden glasses that I stained with alcohol ink. Adhered with Glossy Accents and space to tuck a small tag.

Two photo mats and a tag for journaling.

Ribbon-trimmed pocket page.

Three photo mats.

Pocket page with second small pocket to hold a small photo mat.

Three photo mats.

Pocket page with an open-sided pocket to tuck a photo.

Four photo mats.

Pocket page on the left has a small open-ended pocket for a tag.
On the right is a pocket page with another little pocket for a tag..

Three photo mats and a tag.

Four photo mats and a tag.

The back cover.

Side view with ribbon tie.
A photo mat is tucked in behind the die cut heart.

The little divider clips I made for her with her first planner / journal can be used interchangably with this planner. You can see them if you refer back to my previous post.

Thanks for stopping by. As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

Until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Emmy