Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Last Day of The Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 15, 2017

What time is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Promises, Deadlines and Prayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Half 'n Half

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks

The "Thankful" banner I made two years ago after my second surgery.
We were so very thankful that year for all the good care I had received from the doctors and nurses during my stay in the hospital and during my recovery at home.  I was and will be forever grateful for the way my husband did all of my home care, while he continued to show and sell houses, take care of our home and meals and, with a loving heart, put me first and himself last. I am thankful for the kind of person he is and amazed at his capacity for love and his concern for the greater good of humanity.
 I dedicate this post to my husband, Paul.

It is Thanksgiving Day, which, for me, rates right up there with Easter and Christmas! Why? Probably because as a child, this time of year was especially meaningful to my family. My father was a cash crop farmer and by Thanksgiving, the crops were in and my father was not out in the fields working at night to get things stored away. I knew I would see my father at home before dark from now until planting time and we could all gather around the supper table together every night. I am thankful for that memory and the promise each Thanksgiving brought to our little family.

There have been many Thanksgiving days that are memorable, but not in the warm and fuzzy way of my youth. There was the time I was sick and had no food in the house. On Thanksgiving day I lost my voice, so I couldn't even call anyone for assistance! I managed to drive to the 24-hour diner and handed the waitress a note asking for a turkey dinner. She took pity on me and packaged it up beautifully and sent me on my way with the gift of a slice of pie for dessert. I was VERY thankful on that Thanksgiving!

A few years later, when I was making Thanksgiving dinner for a friend and my mother, who came to visit me for a few weeks, the oven malfunctioned. When I tried to open the oven door, it wouldn't open. It was closed tighter than Fort Knox. Fortunately, my neighbor was home and he came over with his tool box and took the door off so I could extricate the well-done bird. Again,  I was VERY thankful!

Beyond my Thanksgiving memories of long ago, I am thankful most of all for my husband. He  loves me even when I might not be all that lovable; and when I need it, he forgives me. I am thankful for his love.

We will be home today, just the two of us,  making a nice dinner, and counting our blessings. I hope you will enjoy some good memories of other Thanksgivings while you make new ones.

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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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 ( ) 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.

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 ( ). The host and the company representative from Roberta's Gardens ( ) 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.


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.