Friday, February 26, 2010

More snow and craft projects

Friday--I slept till 10, got up and it was just beginning to snow (again!) I decided not to go out looking for Lazertran waterslide decals that Flea Market Trixie tempted me with. Another time!

I made a cuppa decaf and visited my blogging friends. Myrna at More than Heirlooms showed me the gratitude journal she made inspired by her friend Joanne. It's so cute!  Diane Knott showed me some more of her adorable tags--So cute!  Terri at Dimples and Dragonflies showed me a beautiful mirror she decorated with a vintage print from The Graphics Fairy, then there's Dawn of The Feathered Nest with her bird and nest images--SO CUTE!

Okay, I get it! All this inspiration is supposed to make me do art! Blogging is not the end-all here, art is! Sharing and showing and telling about my ART!  At least that was my original goal. I spend way more time blogging than making art! I work in an office 4 days a week, so I like to catch up on my blogging on the weekend.  Must seek balance!

Mom called and reminded me about my Aunt C's birthday on Sunday. The gratitude journal sounded like a perfect gift. So to get into it, I made a huge salad, divided it into thirds. I ate the first salad downloading and printing some awesome vintage prints from the Graphics Fairy.  I quickly decided on a theme and began making a gratitude journal from a tiny composition book from Staples. I edged it with a satin ribbon with a long tail on top to become a bookmark.  I typed up a gratitude poem for the inside cover and stamped the word Gratitude on the cover. Ooh, pretty cute!

I oohed and ahed for a while, cleaned up my catbox, had a cup of tea and visited some more of my friends.  Cindy of Cottage Instincts showed me around her parent's lovely condo in Florida. Zuzanna played me an old song and make me feel young again. Oh, I feel great!

I decided that I should make a tag to match the book. I had another salad, and split a can of salmon with the cats. The second salad saw me through the tag process. Diane has been putting tiny envelopes and pockets on her tags to hold things. I could do that. I borrowed the prose by Melodie Beattie that Myrna had quoted in her post this morning and typed it up on flower petal paper, cut and inked the edges. I folded it and put it into the tiny envelope/pocket. Decided that I had not said happy birthday to my aunt anywhere, so I put another piece of flower petal paper behind the note and wrote a secret happy birthday message.

Now, as I sit here with my third salad, It's time for show and tell. My digital camera wouldn't flash, so the pictures came out YELLOW. I tried everything, then I remembered my scanner.  A piece of scrapbook paper makes a shabby background.

Oh, I hope you enjoyed my day as much as I did. There is not time or the room to mention ALL my friends today, but I so appreciate you all! Your comments make my day, boost my self esteem, make me feel like I'm part of a wonderful community of friends. It's been such fun creating with you today!

I'm not sick of salad yet, but I think some beans and rice for a later dinner would be good. I try to eat 5-6 small meals a day, as I explain in my other blog, Rustique Too Lifestyle. Yes, I love blogging so much I decided to try a different approach. In this blog, I talk about my weight loss journey and explore ways to eat healthier and feel better.

Have a wonderful, creative weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Could Spring be in the Air?

The Chickadee has been singing his spring song! It sounds like "Seee Sir! Seee Sir!" We used to call it the See Sir bird. That and the sound of chainsaws in the woods used to be sure signs of Spring.  We hardly hear chainsaws anymore, but I'm pretty excited about the See Sir bird.

The big freeze is starting to break up. We had 3 or 4 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday, making it all pretty again. The woods are a study in black and white. But it is starting to get above the freezing mark during the days. The icicles are dripping, only to freeze up again at night. As I looked out of the window at the office today, I saw what looked like an animal's tail flapping in the woods! After staring for a while, I realized I was looking at a man waving at his two children. The children were wearing pink and blue jackets-a splash of color. They have sap lines attached to the maple trees back there, and they were checking the hoses and connections. The weather is starting to cooperate with the maple producers.

Maple syrup is a product of the sap or water of the sugar maple tree that grows in the deciduous forests of New England and other northern states and into Canada. When the days get above freezing and the nights are cold, the sap starts to "run" and enterprising country folk take advantage by tapping the trees and gathering sap. Buckets hanging on trees is a common sight, but more and more often you see blue hoses strung up from tree to tree. The sap is then boiled down into maple syrup. It takes 45-55 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, but the stuff is Manna from Heaven! I remember my Dad taking us kids off to a dark smoky sugarhouse. The smell was so sweet and woodsy! While the guys stood around talking, they gave us tastes in little tiny pleated paper cups. It was hard to get enough.

There were always a few sugarhouses around that ran rustic restaurants during the sugaring season. One was Gray's Sugarhouse in Ashfield, Mass. People came from all over, even New York City, to sit on logs covered with oilcloth and eat corn fritters and pancakes generously buttered and covered with warm maple syrup. Sometimes the wait was as long as 2 hours to get in. Gray's is closed now, but sugarhouse restaurants are becoming more and more popular--we all anxiously await the first ones opening. We all have our favorites-I love South Face Farm, also in Ashfield. They have pancakes, french toast, waffles, corn fritters, blueberry sauce, ham, bacon and sausage, and maple ice cream and milkshakes too! If you have to wait to get in, you can talk to Tom while he boils the sap, or peruse the museum-like exhibits around the room.

Another sign of Spring that goes hand in hand with sugaring is MUD SEASON! Every driveway and every dirt road turn into slippery, treacherous mud. There are places you just don't want to go during mud season. Gosh, the old "Nash Rambler" that my grandfather used to drive got stuck half way up the side doors in mud on the way to my uncle's dairy farm one year. They had to pull it out with a tractor. Cars are a lot lighter now, and most roads have more solid bases and don't get so deep. Many of us have all wheel drive. Its a good thing! I've had to be towed out of a few places because I couldn't wait till summer to explore this road or that lakeside drive. When there has been a lot of snow, the rivers burst forth with runoff, as in this picture of the dam in Shelburne Falls. I love to go and check it out on a rainy spring day. Below the dam when the water is lower, you can see the glacial potholes that the Native Americans used to consider sacred. The rock formations are smoothed out by eons of water, creating holes and hollows-some shallow, some deep, that are great to see and imagine climbing around in. For safety's sake the area is closed off, but there are great vantage points.

So we're on the verge of Spring ... maple syrup and See Sir birds ... meltwater runoffs and pussywillows ... snow drops and crocuses! I can just feel my own sap starting to flow.  I have always gotten new hairstyles, painted walls, bought flowering plants in February. It's like I'm waking up from a long nap. Bright colors start to thrill me. I begin to plan my summer trips, start looking for some good sturdy sandals. The kayak is waiting. It's coming!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

For now I'll make Sprouts

Yes, it is still cold in Western Massachusetts. Not much snow for us, but for all of you who are not accustomed to it--enjoy! I did hear the chicadee's spring call this week. Hopefully they know something I don't!  I long to get out there and plant flowers, but I have to wait till May, then the hearty pansies go in first.

So for now, I'll make sprouts! Sunflower sprouts grow in dirt and mixed salad sprouts, including alfalfa, radish, mung and lentil, grow in a jar-rinsed 3 times a day.  I chop them up in my daily salad and put organic, live, enzyme-filled food in my tummy. Yummy!  I also add organic romaine, dried tomatoes, black olives, persian cukes, red bell peppers and sheep's milk feta. My dressing of choice lately is Cardini's Caesar, combined with goat yogurt and dillweed and topped with fresh ground black pepper.

I never wanted to be a person stuck in routines, but I love the ritual of chopping the ingredients and making the salad. At work, I usually eat at my desk, but I take 15 minutes to make the salad from "scratch." It relaxes me.  It recharges me.  Time to make the salad!

See the slideshow and Part 3 of the Dream Vacation below

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dream Vacation 3

Last week I left you all in a hotel room in Helena, Montana.  It was a lovely room. There was a hot tub and a pool. Boy, did I sleep well there!  Looking at the pictures today, I realize that the previously mentioned Montana Grizzly Encounter was the next day, on Bozeman Pass, not too far north of Yellowstone. We reached the northern gate of Yellowstone National Park late in the afternoon. The weather had been just beautiful for two weeks, and now it was cold, windy and starting to rain. We checked into the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, had dinner and it started raining in earnest. There was a great show in the hotel, with historic photos and narrative of the park in the early years. We were warm and cozy there. Our room was in the old part, way down the end of a long hallway. The pipes banged and popped all night, but after traveling as much as we had, we were pretty good at sleeping through it!

The next morning we learned that snow had closed the road we wanted to take south through the park, so we decided to take a side trip on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway to Cody, Wyoming.   The scenic byway was totally socked in with fog, snow, hoarfrost and more fog. It took a long time to get over the mountains and below the clouds, then we found ourselves at a beautiful canyon, outside of Cody. We got there in time for a late lunch in the historic Irma Hotel, took a trolly tour, sat outside the hotel for a shootout and spent the evening listening to music at the cowboy review in the old theater. The art museum I had hoped to visit was closed, so we spent hours the next morning visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum. It was great! The collections were extensive and the exhibits so well done. The garden there was lovely and peaceful. After lunch at the museum, we drove back to Yellowstone through the East Entrance. It had been sprinkly and overcast most of the day and as we approached Yellowstone Lake, the clouds started breaking up and lifting.

First we drove north a bit to the upper and lower Yellowstone Falls and Artist Point. The falls are spectacular and very impressive! The walls of the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" are "painted" in oranges, reds, greens & even blues, depending on the minerals that leached down through the layers of the canyon walls. When the sun peeped through, they glowed with richness.  After getting our fill of the falls, we headed back south and traveled the length of Yellowstone Lake. The sky was getting more and more gorgeous with every mile we went. I kept seeing glimmers out of my left eye, and thinking I was getting a migraine, I stopped and got out of the car. The faintest corner of a rainbow was peeking out of the clouds and reflecting in the lake!  No migraine, rainbows! After that we saw rainbows everywhere we turned. They came down in front of trees, over geysers, in meadows with buffalo beneath them, in the water at the geyser basin. I have never seen so many rainbows in one day! That's why it rained on us! 

Leaving Yellowstone behind this final time was sad, but we still had 4 or 5 days left and I had a couple of places I wanted to revisit. In 1993 I had taken my friend Doris in my VW Pop-top camper and driven to Yellowstone (from Denver, where I lived at the time). The van broke down, we parked it in the lot of the Conoco station in the park and waited for a part. It didn't work, so we got towed to West Yellowstone, Montana,  rented a car and drove from there into that corner of Idaho that is adjacent to the back of the Tetons. The map showed a dirt road over the Tetons, so as the sun was setting I took it. Of course, as it got darker and darker, the road got narrower and narrower and higher and higher! It finally came down to Flagg Ranch in the northern part of the Tetons. I have dreamed of that road ever since, and wanted to see it in daylight. An internet search named it for me: Grassy Lake Road.

We pulled into Flagg Ranch about 6:30 or 7 PM. It is a facility of the Grand Teton National Park. There is a big lodge with restaurant, several cabins and a campground. We opted for a cabin. After a nice hot meal at the Lodge, we settled into the cabin for the night. An evening walk showed an open area with a river running through, scrubby willows and sagebrush with mountains all around. I couldn't wait till morning to see what animals would congregate there!  About 7:00 AM, I snuck out and looked around-no animals. I got in the car and started up that dirt road. I couldn't wait for this ride! The air smelled so good-sage and pine. There were scattered wild flowers. Swallows flew over the river.  Then, there it was:  Road Closed! I rode back and found Trisha sketching on the porch with a big smile.

We had a few more days to explore Jackson Hole and a drive over the mountains to DuBois, which is a charming town tucked into red rock formations up against the hills. There we visited a store that provided skulls and antlers and the art that they made from them. Fascinating, mildly yucky, but so Western! We flew home after 3 weeks. It's always good to be home...

Of course, I have to go back. I have to hit those closed roads or I'll never be satisfied!  I hate to leave a road unexplored, especially when they show so much promise!  We'll have to explore closer to home for a few years and save our pennies. Maybe I'll have that cute teardrop trailer that I dream of, and we can go off and explore the west again.  Anyway, that's my plan and I'm stickin to it!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Its all in the ATTITUDE

Well, the last 15% of the Craft Room Redo is moving pretty slowly. If only I had more time off!  I'm so ready to retire, but need to work at least 5 more years and pay off the new car.  I keep reminding myself that the job supports my habits: it pays for my cozy home, my good food, my art, my travels and the insurance that takes care of me.  I must adjust my ATTITUDE!  So here's a little piece by Charles Swindoll called--


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude to me is more important than facts.
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, 
than circumstances, than failures, than success, 
than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.
It will make or break an organization...a school...a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday
regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change our past...
we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have.
And that is our attitude...

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 
90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you...

Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dream Vacation, Part 2

Last week I left you hanging as Trish and I continued our Western Tour. We had a great visit in Portland. Now we headed northeast into Washington. Since we arrived in Portland via the south side of the Columbia Gorge, we left on the north side. We pretty quickly left the city behind and cruised along a 2-lane scenic drive overlooking the river. We planned to go up and see Mt. St. Helens at the eastern visitor center. We left the river drive heading north and after some time arrived at an overlook. We actually could see Mt. St. Helens pretty well, though the top was in clouds. We had snacks, used the facilities, took pictures and went on. After a couple more miles that road was barricaded! It was the end of May, and the road was closed in snow. We backtracked and stopped again at the overlook, another drink, another pee, took more pictures, as the clouds had lifted some. Then we headed north, hoping to go into the Cascades and come out near Leavenworth.  After going quite a few miles, that road was closed too! Again we backtracked, stopped at the overlook, peed, had a snack, took the best pictures yet, and went back to the Columbia River road. We drove east for a while and took another route north. End of day 1!  Be sure to see my Dream Vacation 2 slideshow.

The next day we headed for Leavenworth, a ski resort town in the eastern Cascades that is modeled after a Bavarian village. We stopped and shopped for a couple of hours. It felt good to walk around, we'd been driving for hours through lovely green country and over mountain passes. I was determined to cross into Canada that day, so we drove and drove. We went through Customs, drove till I was starving and stupid. Trisha picked out a hotel in Penticton, and we ate, drank, hot-tubbed and crashed.

The next day we wended our way through many cities on pretty lakes, stopped at Staples for more camera memory cards, and headed for the Rockies. Another LONG day of driving! When we got near Revelstoke, we were getting pretty excited about the mountains looming around us. But we hadn't seen anything yet! We made it to Banff Provincial Park, Lake Louise area at sunset.  Wow! Talk about mountains!  The rest was a blur of snow covered mountains, turquoise lakes and rivers, elk, bears, glaciers, gift shops, and finally the Banff Hot Springs for a REALLY great soak. The city of Banff was a pleasant surprise too, a college town surrounded by mountains. Warm days, crisp cool evenings, dining outside...nice!

The next place we headed was Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park. Waterton was glorious. The lakes area is quite extensive, and the mountains surround it. After driving through prairie for hours, you come to this beautiful area, which is only the beginning of another mountain adventure. After dining, we took an evening ride into Red Rock Canyon. It was so beautiful at sunset, that we did it again in the morning sun.  Then we headed south to Glacier National Park in Montana, where we saw all we could see on the eastern side. The Going To The Sun Highway was only open part-way, so we didn't see all we wanted to. We drove up it for 18 miles, then there was a big snowbank, and the road was closed. We headed south toward Helena and found Montana Grizzly Encounter, where we took too many pictures of the two grizzly bears that were out that day, Brutus and Chrissy. (see the slide show on the website) Finally, we ate, drank, soaked and rested in a cushy hotel in Helena. Can you guess where we went next?

I gotta say, it's hard to write a capsule version of this. We had so much fun! I did all the driving, and I'm pretty happy driving, especially in the western mountains. Trisha was in awe of everything, and we giggled and sang the whole time. I had loaded my Ipod with travel music, oldies, cowboy, blues, folk and anything else we could sing to. When I got tired and hungry, she guided me into a hotel and restaurant and we giggled through dinner and drinks and hot-tubs when we could get them. We made up words and told stories over and over. We discussed everything under the sun. The picture above is Trisha spinning around singing, "The Hills are Alive!"  There's nothing better than traveling with such a good friend! Look for Part 3 next week.

Don't forget: The destination is the journey itself!

Monday, February 1, 2010

85% Finished

Yes, 85%. That is my answer, and I'm sticking to it. The Craft Room redo, that is. I worked on it all weekend except when I went out to lunch Friday and Saturday, had people over Sunday evening and discovered an old friend on Facebook that I had to chat with for hours. Hello Lil Suzie!

First thing, was the mold on the corner of the ceiling, under the roof leak. I know, you're supposed to fix the roof leak first! Well Jim is an Olde Yankee, and they never ask for help.  He has worked on that section of roof 2 or 3 times now, and it still leaks. He can't fix the ceiling till the roof stops leaking, and it's winter and dangerous, etc. I was going to bleach it. But the more I thought of bleaching over my head, the less appealing that sounded. So I covered it with plastic (on a slant, so any new drips would drain off) and I covered the plastic with a white sheet. Clever? (slipshod, I know.)

Moving the furniture was damn near impossible, and even though I live with my brother and nephew and niece, I wouldn't think of asking for help! (see a trend here?) There was no place to put anything in my living room, so I moved things mostly filled, rather than unloading everything. Those Ikea shelves weigh a ton when loaded and don't like to be moved! And those old tables, well they are great, cause the tops are enameled and can be scraped with a razor blade. But the legs are all wobbly and the leaves want to fall off, and the floor is way crooked! So I shimmied and shoved and grunted and groaned till they were in place, then I took Tylenol and slept in the recliner till my knees wanted to work again.
Saturday I finished moving the tables and started to organize the stuff, which is a process of discovery: every piece of paper has to be checked out; everything has to be dusted and read and examined; every gadget and geegaw has to be placed with other gadgets and geegaws; everything that can goes into containers that go onto the shelves; everything else is stacked and awaiting classification. And the magazines have to be looked at again. Trash needs to be hauled out. It's HUGE!  So, I'm about 85 percent done. I seem to have lost the camera in the mess, so I had my computer take the picture. It is mirror image, so it is backwards, but here you go!

 What I have learned from the Studio Redo:
I have too much stuff
Don't spray bleach on the ceiling
Staple guns are not made for human hands
I'm not as strong as I think I am
I need a crew
I have too much stuff
My favorite ivy has scales!
I'm stronger than I think I am
Good enough is good enough
It will never look like a magazine redo
I have too much stuff

On the upside:
The room is flooded with light in the winter, as it faces south. It's cool in the summer, as the other part of the roof shades it in the afternoon. I will have a big L-shaped work surface under a window looking out at the woods and the river. I have tons of ephemera and all kinds of projects waiting to be made and I will have ready access to all my STUFF! Now I can get to work. (well, after that 15 percent next weekend!)

Here's the best part: You All!  Thank you all for visiting me and encouraging me in all my endeavors! As I have mentioned before, I'm so thankful to have found this community of wonderful people who want to exchange ideas, art and encouragement.  I love seeing what you do--the art, the beautiful pictures, the flea market finds, the furniture refinishing, the decorating and projects you are working on, and best of all, your wonderful spirits. I am inspired and empowered every day!  Thank you so much!

P.S. Part two of the Dream Vacation should be out next weekend!