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.


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
Graphic 45 Birdsong Collection
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.


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.


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.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wedding Planner: Altered Composition Book & Altered Clipboard

It is March and the month is living up to its name. We have had terrific wind storms all winter and today, even though it is a beautiful blue sky day, we are expecting high winds with gusts up to 70 miles per hour. The last time we had this kind of windstorm, my husband and I stayed up all night to monitor the situation. High winds at night are even scarier than during the day. This warning will expire at 10 P.M. I hope it ends much earlier!

I have been continuing the clean, sort and purge method in my sewing room and other rooms throughout the house. I thought I would be finished with the fabric sorting by now. But, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Bags of items to donate are ready to deliver to local charities and with the coming of spring, I really need to complete this task so I will be ready to work outside when the warm weather is here to stay. This is the year that I will plant my much-anticipated romantic perennial garden. :-)

In between cleaning, sorting and purging, I have managed to make a few things in my studio. I was asked by a friend if I could make a planner and clipboard for her daughter who will be planning her wedding. The bride-to-be doesn't like fussy things, so I knew a frilly mini album would not be what she would use. So, I decided that a planner that would be useful to her would be something she could make her own and not have definite pages for this and that. I settled on altering a a composition book. Yes, the kind we used in school. They are still available!

I learned the bride-to-be is fond of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O., and Marilyn Monroe, especially black and white images. She likes clean modern lines, but also likes a bit of retro and rustic. The movie Breakfast at Tiffany's was mentioned, and her love of Tiffany blue, with a little shabbiness thrown in for good measure. What I came up with is pictured below.

The project.
Packed up and ready to deliver.

I tucked a tag beneath the tulle.

To: and  From:

The front of the altered composition book
I made a couple bookmarks using ribbon and word beads.
On the right are clips the bride-to-be can use to randomly divide pages in the book..

The back cover.
This image was too cute.
I had to use it!

Divider tags are printed on cardstock and circle punched.
I used a jump ring and iridescent beads to attach them to clips.

The reverse of each divider tag has a different, but related title.
There seems to be a really BIG space between some of the uploaded photos.
I don't know why and as much as I have tried, I can't correct it.
My apologies.
Please keep scrolling down!

Inside front cover.
I made a pocket with ribbon trim.

I have had two little booklets on hand for so long that I don't recall where I picked them up.
I wish I knew because I want more.
I used one here with Audrey peeking out over the top of the pocket.

This image just had to be used in the project!

And . . . who else would be on the back?

Inside the back cover.
I used the same ribbon to make a band that can hold things.

I slipped the second little booklet beneath the band.


The girl next door image of Marilyn.

Full size clipboard.
Altered with designer paper and matted images.
I used alcohol ink and acrylic paints on the metal to give it a softer look.

Charms attached to a removable clip.

The back of the altered clipboard.

For reference, I included a 2017 calendar.

I altered some mini clothespins the bride-to-be can use to harness some of her planning papers.

These are always useful and are fun to make!

The matched set.

 . . . But wait . . . there is more . . . in my next blog post! I decided I wasn't quite finished with giving the bride-to-be what she needed for keeping things in order, so I made an additional altered composition book / planner for her. I will try to get the next post written soon. :-)

In the meanwhile, I hope you and those you love are healthy and happy and that life is treating you well. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.