What do butterflies have to do with writing?

IMG_3704Today’s prompt for the writing challenge was butterflies.  So here is what I came up with around the idea of our thoughts being like butterflies….

Butterflies…it brought to mind how our thoughts flit through our minds like butterflies.  If we don’t take a moment to capture that thought right then and there it will fly away sometimes never to be recalled.  What a loss.  I believe our subconscious mind is at work all the time.  First of all to bring  these thoughts to us and secondly to retrieve the important ones.  We need to focus on these prompts and follow through with what ever actions we can take.  Sometimes all that is needed is to write that thought down so that we can address it later.

  As I continued to think about butterflies it brought back this memory.

We took a family vacation to Niagara Falls about 14-15 years ago.  Dave and Jenny’s were with us, that made it even more special.  We went to a botanical garden where they had a butterfly house.  Hundreds of butterflies flitted around.  Beautiful colors in flight.  Large ones, small ones, lots of lush plants and trees for them to land on.  I remember it was very humid inside.  The kids enjoyed watching them and trying to coax them to land on their outstretched hands.  They were so close  yet just outside their reach.

A fun time to think back on and remember.  Those butterflies being so close yet just outside our reach made me think about our thoughts.

Those butterflies being so close yet outside my reach remind me of how I feel when I wake with a great thought that escaped upon awakening.  I have this sense that something good just occurred but I can’t remember what it was.  Oh to be able to have an instant screen shot ability to capture those moments.

So how can we capture more of those fleeting “brilliant ideas” that pass too quickly from our grasp?

Being present in the moment  helps us to recognize and capture those cues.  Turning off distractions, putting  away devices that keep us constantly on alert can help us be present in the here and now.  Eliminating clutter is important also.  Visual clutter can be very distracting.  Noise-the ping and dings of cell phones has disrupted our silence.  Noise can be as addicting as sugar, alcohol or drugs.  Noise is used to drown out that inner voice that is trying to tell us what we need to hear.  Eventually that inner voice stops speaking-at least loud enough to be heard over the rest of the noise.

That, my friend, is a very sad state to find ourselves in.

What butterfly thoughts are constantly surfacing for you?  Are you listening?  Are you following through on what your inner voice is telling you?  What distractions do you use to hide from it?

I myself let the cell phone dings and pings distract me.  Visual clutter is also a problem for me.  Noise not so much.  I enjoy driving without the radio on.  I enjoy the quiet of the country.  It is peaceful and restorative.  I think that is the appeal of vacations, when you stay at a hotel, a resort, a beach house, or a cottage in the woods, there isn’t all the clutter to distract.  The minimum of luxuries are there with out the accumulated masses of stuff.  It gives space to breathe, to unwind and to relax.  If it all works out we come home rejuvenated.  How do you feel when you walk back into your home after a week, or even a few hours away?  Do you feel opening arms welcoming you in and you are excited to be back home or do you enter your home and feel claustrophobic, depressed, or weighted down?

Interesting thoughts from a little prompt called butterflies and a beautiful photo.

I hope this has given you some food for thought.  I know what I need to do today.  I need to get a box and put away some a lot of this stuff that causes visual clutter for me.  So here I go.  Finding a box, not hard, there is one in my bedroom, and picking up stuff that is no longer needed and putting things away that have been pulled out and not put back where they belong.

If you are brave enough to share with me what your distractions are I will never be judgmental about them.  I am sure that I have many of the same, they just might manifest themselves a little differently.  Have a wonderful day.

PS:  I couldn’t find a photo of my own of a butterfly so I did the next best thing and shared a photo of a quilt I made for Brianne that has butterflies on it.  LOL.  Hey that’s me,  I am a quilter.

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Thirty day writing challenge…

I signed up for a writing challenge to get back into the habit of writing and perhaps give me some things to post about here on the blog.  The challenge is called Free Writing Fling and is created by Cynthia Morris to help people like you and me to fall in love with writing either for the first time or to fall in love with it again.  The challenge lasts for the entire month of October.  We are to write everyday for at least 15 minutes.  That seems very do-able to me.  Every day we receive “prompts” to help us come up with ideas to write about.  You can use the prompts or your own ideas.  Once you start writing you are not to stop the flow for the whole 15 minutes.  No inner critic allowed, to cause you to want to stop and edit.  This is not the time for editing.  This is just a time to get whatever thoughts come to you down on paper.  They don’t even have to flow together.  Just get them out of your head and down onto paper or on your computer.  What ever works for you.

I am pleased to say that I got some good stuff down for a project that has been churning around for quite sometime in my head.  Now that I know how I want to proceed with it, the content is coming for it.  Wow.  I didn’t know that it would be so easy.  I am sure it will be a lot of work to bring it to completion but it is a start.  I will share more on that project later.

I will keep you up to date on how the writing is coming along, what challenges or epiphanies I have.  Have you ever thought of writing as one of your creative outlets?  When I started this blog I found that I really did enjoy writing.  It is a great way to bring clarity to your daily life, discovering what is important to you and also over time to see what events influenced your life choices and how they have placed you where you are today.  Lots to think about.

I hope you will consider a challenge of some sort.  It doesn’t have to be an organized challenge like this but even something that you determine for yourself, such as, walking everyday and notice something you never saw before.  Challenge yourself to learn a new word everyday and to use it at least 3 times throughout the day.  What about challenging some of your beliefs and seeing if they still ring true for you?  There are all kinds of things that we can do for a month long that can challenge us to grow.

My art show is one thing that has challenged me.  It pushed me  in the direction that I didn’t even know I wanted  to go.  I want to get my quilts and/or my watercolors displayed at UPMC Shadyside Hospital.  They have a hallway where they have artwork by local artists displayed.  One artist at a time gets to display their creations for everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy.

Here are a few photos of my show.

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So far sales have been pretty good too, the most amazing thing though is the validation that,  Yes, indeed I am an artist.  It is easy to dismiss that title, Artist, when what you have done  for so long  was your hobby.  Somewhere along the way, the skills, talent and hard work combine and move you from hobbyist to artist.  You have to transition your thinking also.  That was a very validating moment for me.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings today.  I hope that there will be much more to share with you over the month.  Until next time.  Challenge yourself in some way.

Painting in a hotel room…

I am away from home living in a hotel for 2 weeks while babysitting this adorable little creature.  IMG_4904Carolynn.  She is 11 months and generally a very happy child.  She definitely has a personality forming even at this young age.  If she isn’t happy everyone knows it.

My goal during this time is to do some watercolor.  So here are the challenges that I have faced so far.

#1.  Not having the supplies that I need.  I want to try some different techniques that require some normal household items, like saran wrap, magic erasers (used more for fixing mistakes), paper towels (for general clean up).  We were able to get these things at the local Target.  So I can’t use that as an excuse not to create.

#2.  Space limitations.  There is a small desk here and it is loaded with stuff.  DeskI have to clear the surface and there is always the potential to spill my water container on my work in progress.  Ask me how I know that is a real danger to watercolor paintings.  LOL.

#3.  Finding time to paint with the little one.  She is such a mover and a groover.  She loves music and dances and loves to sing a long in her own way.  So adorable.  The thing is she is always on the move.  She also loves cords so I have to be ever mindful of where she is and what she is playing with.  Carolynn also loves to walk around.  Of course, she has to be holding on to something and usually that’s my two fingers.  So no work gets done while she is awake.  Blessed nap time. IMG_5645Sometimes after nap she is content to stay in the crib and play with her toys for a while before being set free. IMG_5648

#4.  Fatigue versus exhaustion.  I forgot how much energy it takes to keep up with a little one that is on the go.  When she went down for a nap the other day, I too had to take a nap instead of painting, this was not just normal fatigue but sheer exhaustion.

#5.  Not much inspiration in a hotel room to get the creative juices flowing.  I have been doing some pinterest surfing to find images, tips and techniques related to watercolor.  Also google searches for images of (_____________) fill in the blank.

#6.  I had signed up for several webinars before I knew I would be coming here so I have taken some of my free time to listen to them.  It is still making good use of the time allotted but not for the primary purpose of getting more expertise in the painting realm.

#7.  When your art critic is 11 months old you don’t get a lot of helpful feedback on your painting.  Unless trying to rip it up is saying “it stinks.”  What are your thoughts.  These are what I’ve done so far? watercoloriris watercolor

So far these have been my challenges, even so I am having a wonderful time caring for and playing with my darling grand-daughter, especially since they live in Germany and I don’t get to see them all that often.

What challenges do you face when you are trying to do a specific task?  It doesn’t have to be creating art.   How have you overcome them and what have you learned from them?

So far I have learned to be flexible.  Go with the flow.  Listen to my body and nap when I get the chance.  (I remember that one from when mine where little.)   Don’t expect masterpieces.  Do what you can when you can.  Enjoy the moment. Work smaller.

Princesses in the jungle

Avery wanted to play with her princess dolls today so we took them on a grand adventure to the jungle.

01b29e34d4aba28a4cdf65573a18296d209f75a024First, they found these giant rope vines  to climb on.   What great fun climbing up and then sliding down the ropes.

On their way to the Enchanted Forest they stumbled upon this awesome little park with a swing.  They hung out here for a while.

011ed1c1ad2b22dff52ef6e597219a5ed65ca6b1a6Tianna and Elsa tried their hand at swinging.  It wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be since the seat was made from an old board which gave them splinters in their backsides and the ropes were not made from silk braided cords like at the palace so they got blisters on their hands.

010d0e85a8099b68fba5953d42fd90f3e137efa502 01de9828b2a21573b7dcededdcc108288f4c49f8f0They made the best of it though and had a great time.  A trip into the enchanted forest was of concern to the princesses as many bad things can happen inside an enchanted forest.  Fortunately they had a good time and nothing bad happened.

01543c2ec076c6497eb9e917af4addf1b8ec6faf27As Tianna and Elsa were a little braver than the others they did a little further exploration deeper into the forest.

01f29c4ab972705eda20ae49f47ffff66c3704b090Tianna blended right into the background and it was a great advantage point to watch everything that was going on around her.  Elsa found a giant fern that worked great as a hammock.  She took a little rest before going back to the group for the grand finale of the day.

012983f59442562bc8d4b3832862a66ed7028d061e01f9a5eb8ac83633a113cccabe7a87b31b3d422eeeA big princess party among the vines.  What a wonderful day to play and explore together.  Everyone had a wonderful time and especially loved getting out of the castle.  They are already planning another day of adventure coming soon.

Catching up…

First of all, Dan was home for a few days and  Norman, our yellow lab, had to have some one on one time with him.  I don’t truly know if Norman was attracted to Dan because of him or if it was because he had a bag of chips he was trying to eat.

IMG_5195Either way I do believe it made Dan feel good to have a dog to wrestle with again.

IMG_5196Of course there wasn’t too much wrestling going on here.  In any case, they had a good time.

I went out and check on my peaches.  I wanted to see how they were doing.  They are growing nicely.

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As I was quilting, trying my hardest to get this wedding quilt done, the dogs were keeping me company.  Evidently, to dogs, quilting is quite boring.

IMG_5192On the other hand shredding tissues doesn’t seem to get old, especially to the pup.  I couldn’t pick them up before taking the photo or the dogs would have been up and ready to go outside in a heart beat.

I also added a couple of new pottery pieces to my collection over the weekend.  My brother, Bill, always gave me his gift card to Campbell Pottery for my birthday as he didn’t have any use for it.  Well, I found it in his mail when I was cleaning out his stuff along with Visa gift card.  So Tina, Debbie and I went on a road trip on Saturday and I got these beauties.

IMG_5193The 3 pieces on the left are from there.  I had the piece on the right.  I also got a butter plate.  In the past I have gotten a chip and dip set, a serving bowl that can also be hung on the wall for display, a sponge holder and another small bowl.  They have some really beautiful things there.  Gorgeous.  I am trying to be intentional about purchases and I want things that are beautifully handcrafted rather than machine mass produced.

Tina, Deb and I had a wonderful day together.  We stopped at a quilt shop along the way, discovered that there was a quilt show in Erie.  Since we had already planned on going to Erie to have  lunch at the Sloppy Duck we decided to check out the quilt show too.

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Mr. Turtle

IMG_5182IMG_5199The quilt show was nice.  It was hosted by the Hands All Around Erie Quilt Guild.  They had a lot of  beautiful quilts. IMG_5185IMG_5184 It was held at Villa Maria Academy, not to be confused with Villa Maria Apartments also on W. 8th Street.  That’s another story.  All in all, it was a great day.

Have a great day and smile.  It might be the only ray of sunshine that some may see.

Don’t judge a book by its cover…

Don’t judge a book by its cover.  I am pretty sure that everyone has heard this saying before.  Well, I want to share a story about judging a plant by its “leaves”.  I was given a rope plant.  I accepted it graciously.   I thought that it was rather interesting.

IMG_5187 Several years later after it had grown significantly my mother in law was checking it out on the coffee table.  She said she thought it was the ugliest plant she had ever seen.   I don’t remember exactly how I responded to that but I do remember telling her that it had been a family member’s plant that had passed away and was given to my by her family.  Fast forward about a month, I was watering it and I noticed that it had this gorgeous bloom on it.

IMG_4910I had no idea they even bloomed.  I immediately went to my mother in law and told her she needed to come check out what the plant had done.   As she looked at it, she accused me of gluing a fake flower onto the plant.  I admit that it did look like little fake with velvet petals underneath and beaded petals onto.

IMG_4909It was beautiful and so unusual.  It is hard to believe the beauty that was inside that plant.

The truth is that we never know what beauty lies underneath surface of the people that we are acquainted with.  Many times the scars of life disfigure the visage but when we take the time to love and nurture the brokenhearted we get a glimpse of the beauty hiding underneath the surface.  Those scars start to relax their hold on them and smooth out the rough patches and the healed, true nature can shine.   I also had my episodes of  judging.  For one,  the Duck Dynasty folks.  Before I watched an episode, the beards, the guns, the backwoods persona threw me.   I decided that the show was not for me.  I didn’t watch it for quite a while until Kate told me that she loved the show and we began watching it while we were visiting her in Hawaii.   Once I watched an episode, I was hooked,  here were God fearing, family loving men who were not afraid to share the love of God, family, and hunting.  Yes their antics are sometimes crazy and wild but in the end they all come together to share a meal and to give thanks for all the many blessings that they have, including crazy Uncle Sy.

The un-lovelies in your life are there for a reason.  Just as Cinderella was transformed from the dirt encrusted ugly step sister into a beautiful young ball attendee who caught the eye of the prince, so can those broken, unlovely, unlovable people be transformed when they are loved for who they are, as they are, and where they are.

So never judge a book, plant, or person by the cover they wear.  Love them in spite of the damage they carry.

I hope you have a wonderful day and smile.  Some of those scars that you carry can also be smoothed out with that smile.

 

My favorite longarm quilting moment

You might not believe what my favorite moment is when I am quilting on the longarm.  In case you don’t remember or have never heard, my longarm’s name is Lola.  Can you guess what might be my favorite moment?  No it isn’t when I am finished although that is a great moment especially when I have worked on a quilt for a long time.  It isn’t when I load one onto the machine either.  This is the moment that is my favorite.

IMG_5171Can you tell what I mean?  Yes it is when the batting no longer touches the floor.  My favorite moment.  I don’t let the batting lie on the floor though.  I don’t want the threads and dog hair to get on the batting so I have laundry baskets under the frame that I put the batting onto.  You can see the baskets peeking out from under the batting.  I also don’t want to walk on the batting when I am going back and forth.  So my favorite moment is when I don’t have to worry about where the batting is and if it is getting dirty.  The other reason that I love this moment so much is that I can see how much more quilting I have by how much batting is left.  In this case, I know that my batting is about 10″ longer than my quilt top so I have less to quilt than what the batting indicates.   This really spurs me on to keep going and to get the quilt done.  I am hoping to have this one off the frame before next Wednesday.  Jeff goes back in for chemo then and I am going to Pittsburgh 4 days in a row, by the time I am done with all those trips I need a day or two to recuperate myself.  I won’t be completely done with it as I plan to do a little detail work on my home sewing machine.  Her name is Lilly.  Although she is really Lilly the second.  I am not sure if I ever mentioned it here, but if I ever get another machine of any sort her name will be Claire.

Well, that might be more than you ever wanted to know about me and my quilting life but now you know it and it might be hard to forget me now.

Have a wonderful day and smile.  May your batting always be off the floor.

Yogurt update and window boxes

Yum is all I can say.  The yogurt turned out perfect.  Nice and thick and creamy.  It is plain yogurt at this point.  No sweetener or flavorings but that leads to all kinds of possibilities.  Doesn’t it look beautiful?

IMG_5157 I got a quart of this yummy goodness.  I am going to try to make cream cheese with the rest of it.  That is pretty easy too.  You just put it in a strainer witha clean cheese cloth lining and let the liquid drain off into a bowl, keep it in the fridge during this time.  To top off the yogurt I sliced up our homegrown strawberries that we picked over the last couple of days, gathered a small bunch of basil and made …IMG_5156

Macerated strawberries and basil

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Sliced strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp Honey or agave nectar
  • 1/2 juice of lemon
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 small handful basil, chopped

Directions

Directions 

Place strawberries in a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients into the strawberries, stir and let stand to let the juices escape the berries. Chill.

I even got the basil from the garden but not the lemons…LOL  I would grow lemons if I could but the weather here isn’t conducive to citrus growing.IMG_5155

I had some with my lunch.  The only thing I didn’t do was to sweeten the yogurt a bit.  I thought that the berries and juice would be enough but it wasn’t quite. IMG_5158

After having a yummy yogurt fortified lunch I tackled a job that I hadn’t done in 3 years.  I planted my window boxes for the bay window.  The coconut husk liners were so thick that you couldn’t get enough dirt in the box to really give the plants enough nutrition.  I made new liners out of burlap for them.

IMG_5160 I saw this tip on pinterest for window boxes, place a (clean) diaper laid out flat in the bottom

IMG_5161 It will hold the water and keep the soil moist longer.  So in it went and then I used ProMix Growing Medium.

IMG_5162 It is the stuff with the little white pellets in it that hold lots of moisture.  Pretty much all the potted plants you get these days are grown in this.  Another benefit of ProMix is it is light weight.  Great for planter boxes and hanging baskets.  I planted my flowers,  got the ladder out and got those babies hung.

IMG_5165 I also must say that my trusty little garden wagon Jeff got me several years back helped out a lot.  I was able to put all 3 boxes in so that they would stand up while I was filling them with the soil and transporting them back up to the house for planting and hanging.

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So that was my big project yesterday.  When I was done I was swimming in my own sweat.  It was hot and humid out there.  I am glad that project is done though and now to keep them well watered and fed so that they will fill out.  I love those window boxes that are just dripping with cascading flowers and fillers.  They have 2 weeks to get beautiful before all the family gets here.  Ok plants you have your marching orders.  Grow, grow, grow.  I want you full and overflowing little plants.  Much like the blessings that God pours out on us daily.  Full and overflowing.   My cup truly is overflowing with goodness from above.

Enough rambling for today.  I hope you have a wonderful day and smile.  It will keep the bugs away.  Ok I just made that up, it probably won’t deter the bugs, but I bet I just made you smile.

Have you ever made yogurt?….

 

My Photo Stream2I have never tried to make homemade yogurt before but yesterday was the day I tried.  Later today will tell for sure just how it turned out.  You only need 2 ingredients.  Milk,  you can use whole, 2%, or skim, it is up to you which you prefer.  The second ingredient is some yogurt starter which is just plain yogurt that has the live yogurt cultures.  Just look for “Contains active yogurt cultures including L. acidophilus.”  on the label.  I used Dannon’s All Natural plain yogurt.

You scald your milk first and as soon as it comes to a boil you remove it from the heat and pour it into your container. IMG_5145   I used a quart mason jar.  This has to cool down to between 105-110 degrees.  Once it is cooled stir in 2 tablespoons of your yogurt that you have brought to room temperature while you were preparing the milk.

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Next you need a yogurt nest.  This is very easy to put together.  You probably have a heating pad tucked away somewhere in your bathroom.  While you are getting the it grab a towel.  The last thing you will need is some sort of cover.  You can use a box, a pie cover, or as I did I used my tall pasta pan.

IMG_5146 You will take your jar of milk with the yogurt added, wrap it with the towel, place it on the heating pad and cover it with whatever you are using.  Now you just walk away and don’t touch it for at least 8 hours or up to 11 hours. You don’t want to shake it up or stir it at this point or the whey will separate and cause your yogurt to be runny.  Once this step is finished very carefully take it to the fridge and leave it to cool down.  The yogurt culture grows best between 86-113 degrees.  Using lower heat takes longer, but produces silkier yogurt.

So I will have to give you an update tomorrow on how it turned out.  For now though it was a fun experiment.  I have a recipe for homemade cream cheese that uses yogurt and since I love cream cheese, especially on a bagel, I am going to give that a try too.

You may ask why I would even care to make my own yogurt when you can go to the store and there is a section full of every kind of yogurt  you could ever dream of just waiting to be chosen.  Well several reasons.  I know exactly what went into my yogurt because I control the ingredients.  There aren’t any harmful additives.  I know just how fresh it is since I made it.   I can flavor it anyway I like.  To top it off I can use my yogurt as the starter for the next batch.

What do you think?  Is this something that you would try?  Is it too much work for something that is so readily available?  If you made your own yogurt would you flavor it or leave it plain?  I would like to experiment with flavorings and find one that I like best.   Well, I will fill you in on the taste test when it is ready.

Have a good day and smile.  You never know who’s day you will brighten with your smile.

Lots of outdoor work done…

Another Arrrrgh.   I wrote 2 paragraphs of this post and all of a sudden it was gone.  GONE.  The automatic backup hadn’t saved any of it either.  Arrrrgh.

Ok enough of my rant.  Yesterday morning, I worked on the wedding quilt that I am quilting for a dear friend.  I am sorry that I don’t have any photos to share as it is to be a surprise for her.  It is her daughter that is getting married and she has entrusted her heirloom piece to me to add to the beauty of it.  She has done a fabulous job piecing and hand appliqueing the top and I have been working hard to come up with a quilting plan that will enhance it and not detract from what she has done.  I am past the half way point so the rest should go faster.  I don’t have to stop and plan what  I am going to quilt.

After supper, Dan, Jeff and I headed outside to get a few chores done.  Dan got up on the roof and cleaned out the gutters.  I am so thankful for that as it is usually my job to get up there and do that.  Dan had it done in no time and made it look effortless while he was doing it.  I held the ladder while he went up and came down and then spotted him while he was up there.  I don’t know what I would have been able to do if he had fallen except call for help.  LOL.  Maybe break his fall and then we both would have needed an ambulance.

Jeff was busy weeding his roses by using the Mantis tiller.  I raked up all the grass and smoothed out the soil again and then Dan dusted the roses to keep the pests away.  They had already started to munch on the leaves.  Next Jeff used the 4 wheeler with the blade to move a pile of top soil to condense it with another one that was in the garden.  While Jeff and I weeded 8 of the raised beds Dan used the last of the mushroom compost on the roses.   It took us no time to weed the beds with them being raised and the soil so light and airy.  We could run our fingers through the top 1-2 inches and the weeds would come right out.  I also spread a bale of straw around the blueberry bushes as it is all mud there and the dogs love to run through them while chasing each other and if they get to roll in the mud all the better.  Norman was a wet muddy mess when he came in this morning.  The rest of the bales of straw (4) got moved to the other end of the garden.  I put them in my trusty little garden wagon to move them.  Although Dan had to show off and carry the last one down for me.  Jeff finished up by doing some mowing around the garden and workshop.

I took some photos of some of the flowers and interesting things around the house the other day and made this collage.  I added a photo of the house here as it will be changing soon.  We are getting a new porch addition with decks and stone fronted planter boxes.  I am excited about that, I can’t wait until they get started.

Recently UpdatedWell, I hope you have enjoyed another day of life in the country.  Have a wonderful day.