Thursday, October 30, 2014

Therapy for our Nation or Turn Away from Evil...and have fun besides!

My daughter's pumpkin art this year...from evil to fun!*
As I sew, I often sit in front of the TV and turn on either CNN or Fox News and simply leave it on that channel for hours at a time.  I only half listen to it as I sew. I have however had to turn away from doing this recently with all the scary news: serial killer confessing all with subsequent findings of women's bodies; the lack of containment of ebola; ISIS and their recruitment of terrorists from western countries; Ottowa, Canada on lock-down for all day to assure that there were no other terrorists on the loose; Ferguson and more racial unrest....Nothing seems to be positive.

For a change of programming I turned on Jon Stewart.  I needed to laugh, if even at my own political party.  Why not, I thought, this sorry world is in need of laughter and Jon didn't let me down.  He addressed what the politicians are all screaming about, "keeping America safe no matter what" and brought up the litany of things that we have to fear, and putting them all together I found myself giggling. ISIS terrorists with ebola on their backs making their way through our too porous borders, and then clips from news programs of politicians in arms about protecting America, unless it costs money, or time or effort or involves changing their carefully guarded ideology...always blaming the other party.

There is much to fear in today's world though I believe that focusing on the positive would take a giant step to abolishing the need for youth to run to ISIS for a need to belong. My daughter shared a program with me that does just that, though at first I couldn't imagine any theme less likely to spark my interest.  It is called Kim of Queens.  It features Kim, who is a beauty pageant coach, and features her working with young girls.  Mind you I have seen Toddlers and Tiaras and think putting kids into beauty pageants should be considered a form of child abuse. 

Kim's program is quite different.  She finds kids that are anything but beauty pageant sorts and teaches them to be comfortable with who and what they are, no matter how different and non mainstream they might be.  Her instruction is about building her girls into being complete and confident young women with emphasis on inner character and overcoming their fears and demons. She even emphasizes that their personal problems and imperfections may be their greatest asset for it is their connection to real people everywhere as well as community action. There is no harsh criticism for their less than perfect performances, but rather much praise when they simply do their best!

Another program I discovered that was also refreshing was the new program Somebody Has to Do It. This is a new version of the previous program, Dirty Jobs. This week a marching band was featured, and I am sorry that I didn't take notes as to its name.  It took black kids from an area known for high delinquency and gave them not only an activity that took them off the street, but gave them structure, fun and challenge and lifetime pride in themselves.  Their marching is no ordinary marching, but rather complex precision work. They have been invited to several presidential inaugurations and have traveled in Europe as well.  Their training is no less than a ballet dancer's would be with many different positions and steps that are then put together and done amazingly fast and in time with their marching drummers and majorettes! And once a member always a member!  Again, what a neat way for kids to build confidence and pride in themselves and their community!

"Small things done with great love" was Mother Teresa's motto and the above sorts of activities are just that....therapy for our nation to bind up its wounds and rebuild the nation that we love.

I fell asleep dreaming of such things and then awoke with an even better idea...picture ISIS marching like this marching band.  They might get into it so much that they would forget about their knives and beheadings and taking over the world, and decide to compete with other marching troops, and take pride in their precision moves and marching to a rhythm all their own, and then allowing their women to be coached by Kim to become as beautiful as they can be inside and out, and overcome their fears and demons, and compete in international competitions bringing pride to themselves and their country...I know it is only a fantasy, but what a wonderful world it would be...Nations full of people taking pride in themselves and their communities all working together to make the world a better place...It is a wonderful dream!

Somebody has to do it and why not us in our own ways, with our own talents right in our own communities right now...and about curing ebola?  Likely it will be done the same way, saving one life at a time and caring enough to not take any chances of spreading it to another.  That too is a dream, but I do think that we can make it happen if we try!

(*Thank you Sarah Kate for your lovely pumpkin art--another example of taking pride in small achievements...and The Joker, no less...Perfect for this blog about transforming the world...from evil to fun and pride in doing small things with great love!)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Quilting, A New Winter Sport?

I hate to see the leaves falling from the trees.  It has been so beautiful here in Vermont.  We are quickly moving into late fall, and of course, what comes next is winter.  I often think that Christmas should come at the end of winter instead of the beginning.  It is wonderful to anticipate and prepare for the holidays, but once they are over it seems that the winter season is like the one in C.S. Lewis's book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, "always winter and never Christmas". So why did we move to the north?  I am still wondering, though the spring, summer and falls here could not be more beautiful! Winter is pretty too, at least the first month of it, but after that I am ready for spring, months before the white season disappears!

Though I think that winter will be a great time to work on quilts, I do wish we could have the sun shine outside as well. I am in a Vitamin D-free treatment.  Yes, a person can live without vitamin D, at least for some of us that have a dis-regulation of it, though it is still nice to see sunshine outside! I feel a bit glum when the skies are gray! Although I have fond memories of ice skating, sledding, and skiing, this year quilting will be my new winter sport.

Small acorn pincushions in process.
Not only is the season changing but our household is too. As I continue to prepare for my holiday shows and will soon start sewing on some personal projects for Christmas, I am finding myself in the midst of big changes here at home. My oldest daughter that is still living with us, is quickly becoming attached to a very nice young man.  Although I have a tendency to count my chickens before they hatch, it is not hard to see that if this relationship becomes permanent, I may gain a son-in-law AND step-grandchildren for her friend is a widower with three children.  I will not rush the process but rather concentrate on the changes that this brings to our own household right now.  My daughter, spending more time with him and his family, is around less to cook dinner and this means that I need to re-cultivate my long-lost cooking skills.
Big acorn pincushions

I have just written about how difficult it was to think of preparing a meal for company, and returning to cooking every day also seems overwhelming.  I have been too happy to step out of the kitchen and into a life a sewing.  Quilting is my winter agenda, and so I am scouting on pinterest to get new ideas of making meals ahead of time and/or finding easy crock pot recipes, like I used to do when I was working full time. It has been so nice to have a daughter who loves to cook and try new recipes.  Our styles are different as I require quick and easy-to-fix meals that conserve my energies for what I enjoy most, which is NOT cooking.
Cactus pincushions, ready for market. Cheerful and bright for the winter!

We have acquired a used chest freezer in our newly cleaned garage and my daughter and I are scheming and dreaming of doing cook-a-thons to prep meals to freeze ahead so we can heat and eat them with little to distract us from our goals. Yesterday I tried a very easy casserole that was delicious. It was a buffalo chicken tater-tot casserole, not exactly health food but oh so delicious!! I do love Pinterest for all of their ideas and am building a file of quick and easy recipes--all gluten free! Some of my readers have heard of my plight and sent me some of their easy to fix recipes as well! I appreciate them all and meanwhile my husband is stocking up on Sriracha Sauce and ketchup, his favorite condiments to doctor my cooking!

(If you are interested in purchasing any of the items shown before they go to market, just contact me at and I will be happy to provide you with detailed information and prices. Do see my last blog for my show schedule and hopefully you can make it to one of these shows. There will be many great artists and craftspeople and I love to see what they have been busy creating. They are great places to purchase unique and different gifts for your holiday giving!)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Last Leaf

A calendar holder painted with blackboard paint became a welcome sign!
I have been telling my readers about cleaning our house and garage in preparation for having company from out of town. Steve and I barely knew each other in high school. He dated a friend of mine and we double dated. Steve and I became e-mail friends only a few years ago through this same mutual high school friend.

Steve was married and his wife suffered from Chronic Fatigue/ Fibromyalgia an illness that shares many of the same symptoms of Chronic Lyme. Steve wrote to me about the story, The Spoon Theory, which is a classic must-read for anyone with an invisible illness (just google it on line if you wish to read it). Shortly after that his wife was diagnosed with Late Stage 4 Lung Cancer, though she had never been a smoker. I continued to correspond with Steve to give him support through her dying days and after.

The strength of his character came shining through as he took each step in he and his wife's challenging journey. He is truly a remarkable person and a good friend.  This year he planned a trip to the East to see our beautiful fall colors and took the time to come and and visit me and my family. His visit became the catalyst and motivation behind what I named The Steve N Garage and House Clean-up Project of 2014. Pictures of my nearly cleaned garage were featured in my last blog as were the before pictures a couple of months earlier.

His visit was really the excuse we needed to do what had become overwhelming projects put off for too long. He came Columbus Day Weekend and so the day before his visit became the deadline to complete these projects!

In Vermont, Columbus Day Weekend is typically peak leaf peeping season, though this year I worried that our fall was coming too early and I wrote to Steve about my concerns of whether or not there would still be leaves on the trees for him to see. Typical of Steve, he simply calmly wrote back insisting that I read, The Last Leaf  by O'Henry. For those who haven't read this story, it is truly a beautiful story of the power of hope and sacrificial love and all centered around a last leaf of the season. This story can be found on line too and is a lovely read!
Our maple tree in the front yard with lots of leaves left yet!

Steve's dry humor is great and he joked about deserving compensation for being the motivation behind our big clean-up project. While doing inventory of my crafts, I stumbled upon a tiny penny rug with a single fall maple leaf, surrounded by fall colored tabs, it was clear that this would be the perfect gift to commemorate his visit and what it had come to represent to us. It would also satisfied my concern that he get to see a fall leaf if none were left on the trees for his visit.
As it turned out, the fall colors were glorious for the weekend!

I attached a note to his gift, thanking him for the hope that he gave us all. Like the artist in the story, I didn't think this little penny rug was my masterpiece in terms of my artwork, but I did want to thank him for his friendship and encouragement, as well as him taking time to visit me in the middle of his touring New England. His friendship and visit are truly special gifts deserving of my token gift in return!! How appropriate that the last leaf in the story represented hope as his visit came to represent hope to me and my family to put our lives back together after a rough couple of years that taxed us greatly!

My husband's hope is that our difficult stretch of time is over and that this clean-up project will end with our cars tucked safely in the garage for winter. My oldest daughter's hope came to be represented in finally getting her belongings that were rescued almost three years ago from sheds that had collapsed under the weight of a severe snow storm, properly re-stored in plastic containers and returned to the sheds that had been made winter-ready again. And my hope was for a solid beginning of a “make-over” of myself, though my goal changed when I couldn’t yet physically tolerate swimming. I instead I cleaned some windows and curtains and added some decorations to my house, as it represents an extension of myself and my hope of what is yet to come regarding the return of my health after a very long treatment process!!
Some additional humorous deco signs added to our family picture wall!

Lisa Zador's animal portraits extended our family pics and made me laugh!

More deco signs remind me.that I love to sew and God sees my stitches!!

Oh dear!! If I am not positive, punishment  will follow!!

A deco ironing board cover made to match my room!!

An old sampler gets a $2 frame and hung up! (Not perfect, I know, but done!)

My penny rug framed was a fitting compensation for Steve for I came to see it as the very symbol of the tangible hope represented in The Last Leaf.  There was a reason that this one had not sold for it was meant for Steve! His friendship and encouragement has indeed been a remarkable gift!

My Last Leaf Penny Rug

Steve's recommendation of many terrific books have encouraged me in my journey through difficult days with a chronic illness! Should we all have such a friend during such times!  I am glad to report that Steve has continued on with his own life journey following his wife's untimely death.  He brought his girlfriend, Anne with him when he came to visit me. They share the bond of having both lost their spouses to cancer. Their courage and strength is an inspiration and hope that keeps on giving and reminds me that we all need to be a source of hope and encouragement to others!  Thanks Steve!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Catch- Up News and Little House's Upcoming Show Schedule

I have been hard at work with the Steve N. Garage Clean-up Project, as well as doing some serious house-cleaning, reorganizing and preparing for our upcoming craft shows and sales.  Take a peak and see our progress!
Car, warmly tucked in garage for the winter!! Goal #1 done!

Bug covered door clean after 14 years!!
Now a nice warm curtain to decorate the garage!! Really?? Goal #2 done!
Stuff hung on the walls and easily accessible! Goal #3 done!

Shelf hooked to wall to catch what doesn't need to come inside! Goal #4 done!
OK, so we have a few more things to clear out from in front of the shelves!
.....and a few more things to clean up!!
A new-to-us freezer added; cords and tools to the walls, with a bit more to go.
...and a few more things to give or haul away!
I will post my craft show schedule below and between my sales my creations can seen and purchased in my Etsy shop.  If you see anything that you would like that isn't listed in my Etsy Shop, please don't hesitate to leave me a note and I will be happy to get back to you. The holidays are coming soon and I would be glad to take special orders as I have time, and or sell you any available items. Please note that many of my posted creations will be at sales.  We will attempt to eliminate any sold items from my Etsy shop immediately, but if there should be any delay in removing sold items, I will contact you. To date, there hasn't been a problem with the same item selling twice.
New cacti pincushions for this winter's shows! Acorn pincushion bodies too.

Still more fleece socks as my women's size 8-9 already sold out!

Taking inventory to be sure there is enough for the sales ahead!

Bins of fruit and flower and pennyrug pincushions!

Two-toned, biscornu, and designer pincushions ready to go!
There has been great purpose to my recent cleaning frenzy. Not only am I eagerly looking forward to seeing friends that are coming to visit us during Vermont's famous Leaf Peeping Season, but I am preparing to do some serious sewing this winter on the several quilts that I are cut and ready to be stitched. When fall comes to Vermont we know that winter will soon follow. It is a perfect time to work on warm quilts! This year even my car will be warmly tucked in my garage, free from ice and snow!!

Little House Home Arts 2014 Holiday Show Schedule

November 1st         Lake' Region Farmer's Pre Holiday Showcase
                                Holiday Inn, Route 7 South
                                Rutland, Vermont
                                9 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Novermber 15th      The Vermont Farmer's Market Fall Holiday Fair
                                Holiday Inn, Route 7 South
                                Rutland, Vermont
                                9 A.M. - 4 P.M.
November 28-29th  Lakes Region Farmer's Market Christmas Fair
                                Poultney High School Gym
                                Poultney High School, Poultney, Vermont
                               10 A.M. - 4 P.M.
December 6th         Lakes Region Farmers Market Holiday Finale
                                Holiday Inn, Route 7 South
                                Rutland, Vermont
                                9 A.M. - 4 P.M.
December 13th       The Vermont Farmer's Market 
                                Christmas Holiday Fair
                                Holiday Inn, Route 7 South
                                Rutland, Vermont
                                9 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Even the garden and patio got cleaned up!

The Front side porch is clean too!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sign Up for Our Common Thread Give-Away Drawing This Week!

Rachel Barlow is our Common Thread Give-Away Artist for this month.  Rachel, not only tells her amusing stories of raising her two boys, but also illustrates her stories and will be giving away 5 x 7 inch sketch, suitable for framing.  This is a piece that she has entitled "Hibernate". To win all you need to do is go to her website at Picking My Battles, and leave a comment for her anytime Monday through Wednesday and she will announce the lucky winner Thursday or Friday.  Good luck to all who enter!

Our Common Thread Artist Group includes Jon Katz, Maria Wulf, Kim Gifford, Rachel Barlow and myself, of course. For your convenience I have listed their websites on the right hand side of my site. All of us have blogs that feature our work as well as bits of our lives that we share with our readers. We all welcome your feedback when you visit our sites!

We will be adding other artists to our group, as permanent members as well as featured guest artists. It is our way to support each other as well as artists that we think you might be interested in getting to know.  We want our readers to continue to visit us frequently and our way of saying "thank you" is to feature an artist each month that will give away a free sample of their work to one of our lucky readers!