Sunday, November 11, 2018

Mid-November . . .

This morning, as I sit down at my computer to write this post, we are experiencing some bone-chilling temperatures. Thank goodness for our fireplace insert. It keeps our house warm while we await the installation of a new boiler to power our steam heating system. There is really never a good time for your furnace to quit, but this was a much better time of year than in the middle of December, January, or February! We will be toasty warm in a few days and, if this boiler has as long a life as the last one, well . . . let's just say, it will be another 35 or so years before the next owners need to replace it.

And, while I am on the subject of goodbyes, I will mention how hard it was for us to say goodbye to our 2001 pickup truck this week. It has served us well, but it was at that age where we weren't going to invest in more repairs to keep it road worthy. We have used that truck for taking trips up and down the east coast, moving furniture, hauling mulch around the back yard and countless other things. We both agree it rode better than any car we have ever ridden in, including a few very fancy rigs. We were happy the young family that purchased it can put it to good use and enjoy it.

Gardening is definitely off my To Do List now; but it would be nice to have just a few more days of warmish weather to plant our spring bulbs. They arrived in the mail just before we had weeks of cold and rain, and we thought that we would get them in the ground before now. But, I have planted bulbs in very cold weather in the past and they were fine. I convinced my husband that we needed an auger that he can put on his cordless drill to dig the holes, so I am sure he is very enthused about this new bulb planting project. There are only 200+ holes to drill! ;-)

I have been making wreaths and spent a lot of time over the past few months watching tutorials and assembling the components for various themed wreaths. There is an endless array of materials you can use and it is fun to see how they turn out. Of course, sometimes what I plan is nowhere near what I end up with, but that is all part of the adventure of making things with your own creativity. I have learned through crafting and quilting that I need to embrace the opportunities for creativity when things don't go as planned. In my early days of learning to sew at my Aunt Mabel's knee, I learned perfection was the goal. I don't want to even begin to count how many seams and zippers I had to rip out when she was teaching me to sew! Aunt Mabel could sew anything. She made her own custom slipcovers for her furniture, with encased seams and piping, that rivaled anything from a store. Her dressmaking skills were excellent and she showed me how to alter patterns to get a perfect fit. The clothes that she and her sister, my Aunt Blanche, made for my sister and me were beautiful and I still have one dress she made for me when I was about 3 years old. Often our dolls sported matching dresses to ours. We were very lucky little girls.

For a closer look, you can click on the photos.

After watching several tutorials, I tried my hand at a fall-themed wreath.

So, I bring the skills and the caring that I was given by Aunt Mabel to all of my handwork. I like to do a good job and I know I always need to practice, but I also know there is room for error and that is okay. Like I said, I need to embrace those times as opportunities. Walking away and doing something else for a while is often all I need to get a better perspective and when I return to my project, I can usually come up with a solution.

While researching how to make wreaths, I discovered there are several other ways to use my newly learned skills for other projects. I decided I would decorate the lantern that has been residing on the stairs. I have never given it much thought as it sat there naked and cold. But, now it has a cloak of flowers and ribbons and a flameless candle to keep it warm . . . figuratively, at least.
I gathered the florals and ribbons I wanted to use for the lantern swag.

Lantern Swag
After a couple of attempts, I was satisfied with the results.

Different View
The view of the lantern from my chair in the living room.
You can see the bottom half of the floral portion that is hidden behind the ribbons in the photo above.
When I started to make a birthday card for my youngest grandchild, I was given many creative opportunities! Luckily, I started planning and sketching and shopping early; so when it came time to implement my ideas, there was time to regroup and take a different tack.

My granddaughter likes fairies. And now that she is 14, she may not be as interested in fairies for much longer! So, I decided that her card this year would have a fairy theme that would also incorporate a few of her other interests.

For a few weeks, I gathered the components I thought would work for a fairy-themed card and placed them in a box so I could find them when I sat down to start. Sometimes half the battle when I make things in my studio with all the little doo-dads that go on a project, is finding which bottle they are in! I try to stay organized and label things, but, well,. . . . it doesn't always work! So, my solution is to gather everything up and keep it together while I am deciding on how to approach whatever it is I want to make. You see, I can really make things quite complicated, can't I? I mean, for heaven's sake! It is just a birthday card!

Welcome to the Fairy Forest!
I found this cute fairy door at Michaels. I had the butterflies and dragon flies in my stash, along with the little bottles that a crafting friend sent to me from Texas. The background is watercolor paper that is stenciled with layers of various colors of stamping ink to give it that misty look of the interior of a forest. The greenery is cut from a die of sparkly cardstock and layered to resemble the forest floor.

Fairy Dust
I am sure that any good little fairy would have these in her arsenal.
Two of the bottles have nail art decorations inside that came in the bottles. I filled the other one with glitter.
A peek inside a little fairy's domain.
14 butterflies flutter above the clothesline where the fairies hang their skirts to dry.

A closer view.
The clothes poles are fashioned of wire and held by butterflies.
I took this little fairy and her books home with me from Michaels.
She enjoys reading.
The little fairy sits among some of her favorite books, just like my granddaughter who loves to read, surrounds herself with books.

This ended up being a rather long post . . . once again, . . . but I hope you enjoyed reading it and seeing the photos. I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time out of your day to read my blog and it is my wish for you and those you love that you enjoy today and everyday in good health and happiness.

Thank you for stopping by. Your comments and questions are welcome. I do read them and will respond. And, as always, may the Lord bless you and hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Themed Birthday Cards

If you have read my blog before, you may already know that I like to make greeting cards. The cards I make are kind of a hybrid I have come up with that combine what I have learned over the past several years . . . thanks to the hundreds of paper crafting and mini album tutorials I have watched on YouTube. I have a lot of supplies for making cards and really enjoy coming up with a theme for each recipient. And even though I have most of the materials on hand that I need, I still enjoy doing a little shopping for a few special components. 😉

When one of our grandsons came to visit us for several days this summer, one of the things he liked was playing Monopoly. It is possibly my least favorite board game, so I bowed out and listened from afar while he and his grandfather played game after game. They really enjoyed their time together. Being one-on-one with our grandchildren means so much to us, and we know the kids really enjoy it, too. There is no better way to get to know each other than having the gift of time together. There is no substitute for it. Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to name a few social media platforms, have their purpose and are useful for certain kinds of communication, but cannot replace the time spent in the physical presence of another person. Period. So much gets lost in the translation when communication is via a keyboard and a selfie. Body language, facial expressions, the sound of someone's voice are all missing with those modes of communication; and the give and take of a real-time interaction is missed when there is a lapse of minutes to days while you await a response from someone electronically. I'm not the first person to write about this . . . and I won't be the last, but I will always be one of the first to agree that being in the same room and experiencing things together is the best way to make memories with our grandchildren. We remember times we did things together much more than text messages or emails we shared. It takes planning, prioritizing and effort to build relationships, but the payoff is priceless.

So, when our grandson's birthday rolled around this year, I knew what theme I wanted to use for his card. I just needed to figure out how I would make it! After some Internet research for images, I settled on a small travel-size game I found online. I ordered it and used some of the components from the game for the card. It is pictured below. You can click on the photos to enlarge them if  you want a closer look.

I used watercolor paper for the card base.
It folded at the top, so it could stand alone, tent-style.

On the inside of the card, above the fold, I adhered the sentiment that I printed on card stock. Below the fold, I placed a card that resembled a property card in the Monopoly game, and used his first name as the property name. Of course, I made the color of the property card blue, just like the most expensive properties on the board! I used the little Monopoly money that came with the game and cut and matted some of the packaging, too. Not pictured are a Community Chest and a Chance card I made and tucked behind the Monopoly money with some funny little remarks on them that I thought he would get a kick out of.

Oh . . . and yes, he loved the card. 😊 In fact, he asked me for advice on how he could hang it on his wall in his room at college. 💓 This made me realize I need to include a hanger of some kind on the cards I make.

The next birthday card I made was for my step-son. He enjoys doing yard work, so we chose a gift for him that he could use in his yard. To go with the gift, I came up with a card that went along with the yard work theme and the season of the year.

For the card, I used Tim Holtz grunge board to make the tree shape and painted it with acrylic paints to resemble the color of a tree trunk. I made the "bark" by embossing the tree trunk with a script embossing folder running up the tree, instead of across. The tree branches were cut from grunge board using a dye that resembles bushes. The background is watercolor paper that I painted with acrylic paint to resemble grass and sky. I glued the grunge board branches and leaves to the background and then glued down the wooden fence that I dyed with Tim Holtz Distress Stain. I found a little basket and a garden tools set in the miniatures section at Michaels. I cut the basket in half and wired it to the fence. I stained the rake handle and wired and glued that to the fence, also. I used pop dots behind the fence. When I had everything attached to the background, I used glue and double sided craft tape to adhere it to the front of the corrugated card. I like the dimension on the card front.

On the inside of the card, I used parchment paper for the sentiment. (I knew there was a good reason I saved that nice resume paper from way back when!) I adhered more of the leaves that I had punched out on the top portion of the insert and adhered it to the card with double-sided craft tape.
When my grandchildren shared with me this past year that they've kept the cards I've made for them, it warmed my heart. I wasn't sure they kept them or if they realized how much thought and effort . . .  and love . . . went into each one. I hope they will continue to keep them and enjoy looking at them from time to time, the same way that I do when I look at the handmade cards and gifts that I have saved over my lifetime. It always humbles me and I get a little emotional when I think that they were made especially for me. And like all of us, I get pretty busy sometimes; but when I slow down and spend time with my treasures and hold them in my hands, it brings me a feeling of comfort. It is always nice way to spend a little time alone with the memories they hold, to think back to when I received them and about the hands that made them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. There will be more handmade cards in future posts. Your questions and comments are welcome, either in the "comments" section below, or on my Facebook page. I will read them and respond.

As always, it is my hope that you and those you love are happy and healthy . . . and that you are finding ways to spend time with those who are important in your life. Thanks again for stopping by, and until we meet again, may the Lord bless you and hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

And, all of a sudden, it is Autumn!

The warm summer weather lasted into mid October this year and Autumn took its sweet time getting here. But when it finally arrived, there was only a handful of balmy autumn days; and then we were thrown into very cold, rainy, windy weeks. The color on the leaves seems to be late in coming this year, so that is a blessing in disguise, . . . if the leaves can hold on for a while longer before they drop to the ground. As I write this on an overcast and cold Sunday afternoon, the temperature is hovering around 37 degrees with a wind chill of 27 degrees, due to the nearly 20 m.p.h. wind. It feels like and looks like November. The optimist in me thinks we will have a beautiful stretch of weather in November . . . the kind of weather I grew up calling "Indian Summer". But, as with many things that have been habitual and taken for granted, I know that the term may be offensive to some people. I hope to never offend anyone or any race of people by the things I write about in my blog, so even though the term "Indian Summer", for me, evokes warm and positive thoughts and memories, I will include here a little piece I found on the Internet about the term. You can read it by clicking on this link:

I took to the back roads on some of the nicer days we've had lately and drove slowly through the countryside and took a few photos. They appear below. For a closer look, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

A sure sign of Autumn here in our rural part of Western New York is field corn drying out and rustling in the wind.
It isn't picked when the kernels are soft, like sweet corn; instead it dries on the cob and is harvested when it is dry so it can be used for feed for farm animals.

When I stopped to take the photo of the corn field above, this inviting path into the woods was on the other side of the road.
I was alone and it was in a rather remote location, so I opted to just take a picture and dream about what sights, sounds and smells I could have discovered in there. When I was a kid . . . and lived about a mile from where this was taken, I used to play in these woods. I would ride over to the "other road" on my bike and explore until I heard the whistle my mother used to call us home for meals. The world is different now than it was back then. It was quite obvious I was there, since there was a car parked along side the road. I couldn't hide it in the woods like I could my bike!

Late afternoon view of the sky to the west on Browns Mill Road, West Bethany.
The wind was blowing the clouds apart.
I love a moody sky.

This photo was taken on the same day as the one above, and in the same location.
The sky to the north was more homogeneous in color, probably due to the angle of the light.
I like to call these rolling hills drumlins and I think they meet the criteria.
The definition appears here:
This is one of my favorite places to stop and listen to the quiet and look at the unspoiled topography.
My husband will often take the long way home when we are out, just to drive me to this location so I can enjoy the view.

My morning haven is now scattered with leaves every day  when I have my coffee.

I used these garden labels to mark where the perennials in our garden are planted so I don't mistake them for weeds next spring!
It takes a long time for some of the plants to break through and it is easy to misidentify them.

I was surprised to find these three Black-eyed Susans blooming.

Russian Sage surrounds the brass sundial that is on top of an old bird bath stand.
The cone flowers, (Echinacea) are a new addition to the garden.
I originally wasn't planning to put reds, oranges or yellows in the garden, but I'm glad that I broke my own "rule".
I can't wait to see what they do next year. :-)

Froggy watches over the garden path and welcomes all who enter.
Behind him are some Autumn Joy and daisies.
I love the gray weather-worn wood on the barn in the neighbor's yard in the distance.
It was quite balmy yesterday morning, so I decided to make a video to record just how my garden looks this October. The video gives you an idea of what some of the plants look like in the fall and how, in my opinion, it still is very beautiful, even in the final weeks of the season. You can view it on my YouTube channel at the following link:  There is audio, so be sure to turn your speakers on for my narration.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this post. As always, your questions and comments are welcome. I do read them and will respond. You can leave them here in the "Comments" section, or on Facebook.

I hope you are finding special ways to enjoy the change of seasons, and that you and those you love are happy and healthy. And, until we meet again, may the Lord bless you and keep you in the hollow of His hand.




Sunday, October 14, 2018

Summertime Studio Fun with Mixed Media . . .

It is always fun when I have the opportunity to spend time with my grandchildren. In August, our 13-year-old granddaughter spent several days with us. When she visits, I try to find something fun to do together in my studio and do my best not to steer her in any particular direction or influence her. She has free reign to use whatever goodies she finds in my stash and want her to have fun. I don't want to be remembered as the grandmother who wouldn't let her use the "good" stuff! What could be better than having her just find what she likes and then create something on her own and of her own ideation?

Since I joined a group on Facebook this past winter that issues a weekly themed challenge to create a 6"x6" mixed media piece, I have become very interested in experimenting with various techniques and materials. Sometimes, it is quite a stretch for me and really pushes me and my comfort level. Something I really enjoy when watching my granddaughters work on projects is how they approach things with abandon and without any worry about technique or the "right" way to do something. I find this refreshing. I hope they don't lose that characteristic. :-)

After offering a few different ideas for what we might make, my granddaughter decided she would like to try making a 6"x6" mixed media piece, like some she had seen on display on our living room mantle. Her beautiful creative pieces are below with captions.

For a closer look at the photos, you can click on them to enlarge them.

"Women can do anything."
Without any help from me, my granddaughter scoured the specialty scrapbook papers, trims, embellishments, rubber stamps and floral sprays to gather what she wanted to include in her piece. She came up with the theme and decided what she would write for the sentiment. I love this piece and how she mixed the old-fashioned images, "Once upon a time," with the modern phrase she boldly wrote across it.

"Not All Who Wander Are Lost."
The next day, while I was doing other things around the house and in the garden, my granddaughter became rather quiet and when I looked for her, I found her hard at work at her little table in my studio. She felt the urge to make another 6"x6" piece and was deep in thought. I left her to her own devices, and checked in on her from time to time, She amazed me by the things she collected and used in this piece. In fact, she found a binoculars stamp I didn't even know I had. That is when you realize you have way too much stuff in your studio! Her use of the light bulb as a hot air balloon was so clever, as was her choice to cut some foam drawer liner for the basket. She braided little pieces of green wire that she cut from the stems of some flowers to attach the basket to the balloon! She found the perfect metal embellishment that has a definition of wanderlust on it and attached it with brads. "Wanderlust: (n) A strong desire for, or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world."  It made me so happy to know she felt comfortable enough to work independently and with confidence.

While my granddaughter worked on her first piece, I worked on this 6"x6" piece. I tried to use only one sheet of scrapbook paper and randomly tore it and inked the edges. I painted the watercolor paper with acrylic paint, added some torn corrugated paper, metal leaves and a compass. I cut the stems from the flowers, wound them around a pencil and glued them behind the paper roses. The little tag says "Let your heart be your compass."

Happy Birthday!
This is the front of a birthday card I made for my sister. I love any and all dress forms. I have used this die many times, and never tire of it. Hopefully, my sister doesn't either! I used chipboard for the dress form and wings. I dyed them with some old ink pads I saved that are getting dry. They work great for coloring things in when they aren't full of ink anymore! I used the same technique on the paper doily and the stenciled watercolor paper background. I added a little bling to the corners, but didn't add a sentiment to the front so it can be displayed any time of the year.

The weather has turned colder now and there is a sharp nip in the air. I love this time of the year. I will miss the garden, and will still spend as much time outside as I can until it is all buttoned up for the winter; but I also look forward to returning to my studio and making things. The leaves are falling from the trees and at times they look magical as they float down to the ground. However, I might not think quite so romantically about them after I have raked for a few days . . . or weeks! ;-)

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my post. As always, your questions and comments are welcome. I do read them and will respond, either here on my blog, or on Facebook. I hope you and those you love are well and happy . . . and until we meet again, may the Lord bless you and hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

End of Summer . . .

Some of my friends and followers have asked me where I have been. I haven't gone away and I haven't stopped blogging, but I found during the summer I was outdoors more than I was inside! There is always yard and garden work to do and when I take a break, it has been nice to just sit in our backyard and daydream. Since I don't spend as much time inside, like I do when colder weather arrives, I'm not at my computer organizing my thoughts into an outline or just typing some random ideas that might make their way into a post someday. You might think I could have squeezed in some time for a blog post here and there . . . and in hindsight, I think I could have, too; but . . . that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

This summer was especially tough with oppressive heat and humidity. It made me think a lot about my parents and how hard they worked every day on the farm in the heat of summer . . . and there were plenty of hot summers when I was a kid. My father would work in the hot sun and my mother would prepare big noon-time meals in the steamy kitchen. As I struggled just to have the energy to pull weeds and water my garden, I wondered how on earth they did what they did day in and day out for all their lives. Yet, I also think they enjoyed their lives and I am pretty sure they would be happy for me and the luxuries I have. They would be amazed at the conveniences we have today and would enjoy the time saved in the fields and in the kitchen because of technological advances.

Although we are now into fall, in many ways my garden is more beautiful at this time of year than in the summer. The perennials have had time to grow and fill out and some are now in full flower. I have some favorite photos I have taken this summer that appear in this post with captions under them. Other than that, this isn't a post of much depth; but instead, it is a post of summer memories and the simple delights that I found in my own backyard. The photos are a bit random and in no particular order, but are some of my favorites. I have more photos to post that are more recent and I will include them in a post later this month. :-)
You can click on the photos for a closer view.

A frequent visitor to the bird feeders.
You can see why we seemed to be going through bird seed so fast if you take a look at his chubby cheeks!
We managed to curtail his visits by strategically moving the baffle on the pole that holds the feeder.

While driving home from Attica about dusk one evening, I saw this beautiful hitchhiker on the antenna of my car.
I pulled into a parking lot and was able to get a photo of him/her with the clouds in the sky reflected in the red hood of my car.

Our neighbors' back yard is visited just about every evening around 7 o'clock by this small herd of deer.
There are adults and fawns that still have their spots.
They are enjoying the apples that have fallen from their trees.

A Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar chomping on milkweed leaves.

I saw fewer Monarch butterflies this summer than last year.
Every time I see one, it still thrills me!

I did some shopping on Facebook virtual garage sales this summer.
I was very happy to find these little metal trellises.
They are pictured lined up on my work table in the yard.
I spray painted them with glossy black paint and now they are ready for me to use next spring.

These dianthus smell like cinnamon!

You might remember seeing "Blossom" in the garden last year.
I decided she needed a new look, so I removed her dress and wings.
She is still waiting for her new ensemble and I feel bad for her. She makes me think of Cinderella after the ball. :-(
I hope to get her dressed up and back out in the garden soon.

The clematis climbed up the trellis and gave us some blooms this summer.
All that remains now are the seed pods.

Those seed pods on the clematis intrigue me!

At the base of the clematis vine on the trellis, the hydrangea had one enormous bloom!

One of the four Mullein that we planted around the gazing ball in the center of the garden to fill in the spaces between the butterfly bushes. The bushes have filled in a lot this year and by next year, I hope they create a ring of color around the center of the garden.

This coral and pink coreopsis just bloomed and bloomed for us this summer.

The shrub roses had to fight for their lives this summer because of the Japanese beetles that devoured the flowers. It was hard to find a pretty bloom for a photo. These roses were very fragrant and had that old fashioned rose scent that I remember from my mother's rose garden.

I used several of the hydrangea blooms to make some wreaths.
I cut them directly off the bush and used them while they were fresh to make the wreaths.
I really like how they turned out and they still look great five weeks later!

I liked this friendly butterfly.
He was very cooperative and posed for me on a phlox blossom.

I also cut some hydrangeas for drying.
They are dry now and I need to find a use for them!
I am thinking they may look nice on a Christmas tree.

A big rose hip on the shrub rose bush.
I hope birds will find them in the winter.

A cluster of blossoms on the shrub rose bush.

These yellow day lilies are now long gone and have been cut back.
We plan to dig them and relocate them to make room for something different in this part of the garden.
The lilies and the hydrangea were here before we put in the garden.
It was formerly our pool and deck area.

I had to remember it is okay to cut my flowers and bring them inside the house!

This swallowtail butterfly visited the Echinacea.

One of the Monarchs who landed on the butterfly bush.

This is how the hydrangea bush looked in the summer . . . before the blossoms turned green.
I think I cut about 150 stems and there are still about 100 left!

Now that it is officially fall, I plan to get back in the groove and write posts more often. I will miss the warm weather and hours spent in the yard and garden, but as I write this we are experiencing what might be the hottest day for October 9th in over 100 years, so the warm weather hasn't left us yet!

It is time to decorate for fall and to start thinking about buttoning up a few things outside. My mind will turn to thoughts of apples, cider, chunky sweaters, raking leaves, trips to the pumpkin patch and that crisp cool nip in the air that says "it's fall"! I will have time to think about things other than my yard and garden and I will be back without such a long delay. I admit it . . . I get rather myopic when it comes to my garden. I am sure you have noticed! ;-)

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.