Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Saw The Dragonfly.

The last couple years have been rough. Learning to live alone again after several decades as one half of a whole - wife to a wonderful, slightly eccentric, sometimes overbearing, but always loving man - is difficult.

Grief never really goes away. It just becomes more bearable over time. But, the grief isn't what has made it so rough. It's anger. Anger because I no longer have my mate beside me at night. Anger because those children he loved couldn't recognize that love. Anger because I see reminders of him at every turn, spend holidays without him, and know he's not coming home.

The last few days, though, have given me some much needed insight - and made me a little lighter in spirit.

I saw a Dragonfly.

I mentioned that the last couple years have been rough - I lost my husband to Pancreatic Cancer, and my big brother a few short months later. Now, my nephew is fighting leukemia.

But, today, I saw a Dragonfly.

Even though I've known I need to let go of the anger I've been holding on to, today I finally realized that I could. Letting go of it is for me - no one else. It's the only way I can move forward - the only way I can begin again - the only way I can continue to grieve without it consuming me at every turn. The grief will always be there - just easier to live with.

I've been putting off keeping this blog updated, because even though I sit down to write, it seems to get garbled when translated from what's in my head to my fingertips on the keys. I am most definitely not a professional writer - all those instructional training processes I wrote at the college don't count. It's a whole, different ballgame. But, I get an idea, and what I want to say just doesn't come out right, so I put if off for another day, and another week, and another month.....

But, today, I saw a Dragonfly.

It may not mean much to many, but for me it's a positive sign - that good changes are on the way. If you look at my profile, you'll see that I've been fascinated by those beautiful creatures for many years - as long as I can remember.

And, today I saw one.

I have no pictures with this post - I have none that would do it justice. Simply seeing it, and knowing they've returned will have to be enough.

This is the best I can do with this post today. You have my thanks for sticking around.

Be well, love to all.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Spring Thursday in Illinois - Where We Get to Experience All Four Seasons In One Week

I found this in my news feed while I was taking my morning stroll around Facebook -

We don't have nearly this much snow today, but there has been a bit of the white stuff falling - of course, it started while I was delivering packages to the post office.

After I finished running errands, I decided to head to one of my favorite spots in spite of the weird spring weather.

Each spring these pretty, little Trillium grace the bank behind the band shell in one of our local parks.

The hillside is covered with them right now, but we are (unfortunately) under a freeze warning for tonight, so I'm glad I was able to get a few pictures of them today.

I have to remind myself to get the rhubarb covered tonight - and my little fern fiddleheads. Once those dainty ferns grow up, they'll be the stars in pieces like these small cheese plates.

My errands are done - packages mailed, a trip to the vet over and done with, the decision made to ignore the already long grass in the back yard. It's cold - I've gone back to wearing layers of t-shirts and flannel shirts, with my wool socks keeping my feet warm - so, even though the sun is out, I've made myself a cup of Cappuccino and am cozying in with my knitting and Blue Bloods re-runs rather than preparing the plaster reclaim slabs to get all that earthenware ready to work up.

What am I knitting? Comfort Mats for the animal shelters and rescues, but more on that next time!

Stay tuned!

Meet my shop supervisor Scooter. She adopted me a couple years ago, and thinks my work area belongs to her. Imagine that!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Goodbye Winter! Hello Spring!

It's finally here - Spring!

The weather the last few weeks has been crazy - sunny one day, and like yesterday, loaded with a dreary attitude and rain.

But, today? Today is loaded with sunshine, although it's still quite cool. We had a freeze warning overnight, so I worried about these little rhubarb nodes that were just starting to peek through, and leaf out. The first picking (and, maybe the second as well) will go to a local winery for (what else?) wine. But, then? My mom's Rhubarb Upside-Down cake, Rhubarb Sauce, Strawberry-Rhubarb Preserves, Rhubarb Custard pie, Rhubarb in the freezer (and, maybe even a few midnight Rhubarb runs, much like those wrongly accused Zucchini drops) - it's a very versatile plant! If I decide to thin out the patch, I can even use the roots as a fiber dye for some amazing reds! And, did you know that the Rhubarb stalks can also be used as a stain remover? Truly!

I pick my Rhubarb all through the summer, until the leaves start yellowing, and it starts slowing down in growth. Many people will tell you that "You can't pick Rhubarb after July!" That's just not so. Like my Mom, when the blossoms start to appear, I just pull them off, and let the plants keep on doing what they do. As long as you don't let them go to seed, you'll have that 'Pie Plant' available all summer long.

I know, I know - the patch needs to be cleaned up. That's the plan for this coming week - hauling out the big, brown yard waste bags, and getting things in order - something that's gone undone for the last couple years. (No excuse other than being pre-occupied in the role as sole caregiver for my husband. No regrets.)

While I was poking around for more signs of this long-awaited season, I found what I look for each year. My neighbor's Snowdrops are almost finished blooming. They were early this year. Normally, they don't poke their heads up until about now, but they've been showing off since the first of the month.

The last of the blossoms are in the lower right-hand corner of the photo.

When the Snowdrops are in full bloom, I know that these little Scilla around my bird bath will be blooming soon. They're like a miniature Amaryllis, with their tiny, trumpet-like blossoms at the end of a tall (for them) stalk.

Of course, we can't forget the little Dwarf Irises, and Day Lilies, and Amaryllis.

I know they don't look like much now, but when even the lilacs are starting to show some green at the ends of the branches, it's a sure thing that warmer weather is not far behind.

I'm a little behind getting my seeds started, but considering it's still quite cool, I don't think it will be a problem. So, I get to start my canning and preserving a little later in the year - no problem. At this stage of the game, I'll do what I can when I can.

The canning season for me will start when the violets take over the back yard. Why? Because Violet Jelly, that's why! In case you didn't know, Violets are one of many edible flowers, and they make the most amazing shade of Amethyst colored jelly you'll ever see. My Mom made it, I make it, my daughter has made it - it's not a strong flavor, but more like a mild flavored honey. It's a specialty, but a fun one. So, don't destroy these little gems. Or, the Dandelions! No, don't do it! They make an amazing wine, but also great for making lotion bars and scrubs.

You should see those patches of Chives and Oregano - they're coming on strong, and will provide a good amount to dry and use during the winter months. And, the strawberries! My goodness, are they going wild! I even found some little fiddle heads where my Painted Ferns reside, so I'll be able to use them for things like these Cheese Plates, and platters, and buttons, and spinners' tools, and, and, and..... Hopefully, my Lavender will start coming back soon, too, so the blossom stalks can be used in the same way.

This website has some very valuable information on gardening, with recipes, and tons of other great information. (They're also on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.)

I will plant tomatoes, and potatoes - all in 5-gallon buckets that are easier for me to tend any more. Container gardening can really pay off with tons of produce, as long as they're taken care of. Lettuce and herbs in hanging pots? You betcha!! But, the Farmer's Markets also play a big role in my 'grocery shopping' - I'm not only getting the best and freshest produce, but I know where it's coming from, and supporting my local small businesses as well. It's all important.

Go dig in some dirt - make yourself a garden. You'll thank yourself for it - for many reasons.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Shipping Day!

Maintaining an online business has its advantages, such as being able to work from home, on one's own schedule, and even in your jammies if you wish. But, it also presents some interesting challenges – shipping being one of them.

Many online sellers prefer to purchase all their packing/shipping supplies new. Because I'm sort of a tightwad (as my mother used to say), and prefer to keep as much 'stuff' out of the landfill as possible, my packing methods combine both new supplies and others that are just a little bit 'out of the box'.

My new supplies are boxes and bubble mailers that can go first class, as well as bubble wrap and tissue. For Priority packages, I order boxes and mailers from the Post Office ( because most of them are free – and, they deliver them right to your door free of charge as well. (You do need to set up an account, but it's easy and there's no minimum order, unlike many other suppliers.) They also have a large variety of sizes.

Shipping day is always an adventure - especially when your packing materials are slightly unconventional. But, as one who prefers to recycle or re-use instead of tossing in the landfill, I take every opportunity to do just that. I want my customers to know that I take my job seriously, and appreciate their business. But, I also need to keep costs down, and do what I can for the environment. Some boxes I re-use if they're presentable, but I shy away from those static generating packing peanuts.

What goes inside often gets a huge chuckle. And, is appreciated by those who understand why I use what I use. Namely, those odd tins that are saved for me by friends and family.

This is how my shipping duties start - rounding up and making sure all those precious 'shipping containers' are sparkling clean.

You are correct, those are cookie and mint tins - they keep the small breakables safe in transit. The mint tins are the perfect size for most of the spinners' tools, buttons, stitch markers, some of my jewelry - anything small that needs to stay safe from breakage. The tall cookie tins are used for the orifice hooks - again, keeping them safe from damage.

That IS an egg carton off the left - I like to think of them as sorting trays. They're also good for spacers between the inner and outer boxes when double boxing larger items such as yarn bowls, mixing bowls, mugs, etc. But, let's get back to the littles. We'll go into the larger work another day.

Once each piece is safely encased in bubble wrap (one sheet of bubble wrap is used for each tin (cut apart into smaller pieces, of course, so that one quarter of the sheet cushions the contents, and one half is used to wrap the tin once it's been filled – the other quarter is cut in half again and rolled to cushion the wrapped tin inside the mailer), they go into their respective mailers - a bubble mailer for the flat tins, and a small box for the cookie tins.

The paper that surrounds the tin in the box? Don't go buying it – instead, head to your local newspaper and ask for roll ends. You may have to pay a dollar or two, or they may give it to you for no cost, depending on the paper (mine knows me, and calls me when they have a supply taking up room). But, it serves the purpose, saves more stuff from the landfill, and if you end up with more of the rolls than you know what to do with, the elementary school art teachers, and daycare providers will love you for sharing.

One layer in the bottom of the box, and another layer on top of the tin (or, whatever you need to ship).

And, there you have it – fiber dizzes and threaders, all packed safely in their bubble mailers, and orifice hooks in the box – sealed, labeled, and ready to head to the post office. Postage is purchased online for convenience (make sure you have a good, accurate scale) so that all the PO clerk has to do is scan, and drop the packages in the appropriate bins to start their journey to their respective destinations.

And, now, it's time for me to start my own packing and shipping for the day! But, before I do, there's a situation here that closely resembles this.....

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Almost Spring! That Means The Dreaded Spring-Cleaning!

Yes, it is almost spring! Even though our weather has been a bit strange this year, I'm confident that it will straighten out soon.

We've had snow the past few days - about an inch this morning when I got up and went out to take care of my studio kitties. I didn't shovel, though, because I figured it would melt off by the end of the day, just like it did earlier this week. And, I was right! It's gone for the most part already.

But, in spite of the weird weather, I've been graced with the presence of dozens of birds in my two backyard trees as well as all over the ground - cardinals, robins, cedar waxwings, chickadees, purple finches, and a few juncos. There have even been a couple of downy woodpeckers, and the occasional blue jay - all of these the best indicator of the better weather to come.

This was the best I could do for a photo - the sun was against me, but I did manage to catch a few cedar waxwings early morning:

I particularly enjoy the cardinals - it's said that when they show up, it's a visit from a loved one who has passed. Remembering the joy on my husband's face while sitting in the backyard, watching them, I have to believe they're a visit from him.

Watching these feathered visitors while working on updates makes the time go faster, and updates like these are slightly tedious. Tedious, because Spring Cleaning is in the works (at least as far as the shops are concerned...) Two of my shops have a coupon code just waiting to be used - SpringCleanUp - for 20% off purchases through 3/15/16. That would be and - I'm still adding a few odds and ends to both shops over the next few days, but if there's anything that strikes your fancy, don't wait. Once it's gone, it's gone.

You see, I'm in the process of re-engineering, refocusing, reworking what I do - not so much with the fibers, but with the clay. I'm headed back to stoneware and porcelain for a while, so the spinners' tools you see will be the last until at least the last couple months of the year.

Be well, everyone! Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A New Beginning

It's been a long time since I've written anything here – too long. Life has not been kind the last couple years, though, and has taken more of my time and energy than I care to admit.

I had considered just abandoning this blog, and starting a new one on another platform. But it would have meant giving up – I can no longer allow myself to do that. It's time to forge ahead and begin again – a new beginning.

I am a strong woman, but even strong women have their breaking points. I hit that breaking point with the loss of two wonderful men – my husband, and my big brother. And, now, another family member who has been diagnosed with Leukemia, which prompts my request for this favor – take a few moments to look at – it's a database for bone marrow donors.

Sadly, every 3 minutes another person is diagnosed with a blood cancer, but many of those suffering from those cancers have no match for a donor. So, please, if you would take a bit of time and get yourself entered into that database as a bone marrow donor, you could be the cure for someone – maybe not today or a year or two, and it may not be someone you love, but a complete stranger. But, if you're a match now or somewhere down the line, you could be a hero – you could save a life!

I'll leave you with that thought.

'Til next time.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Inserting Live Links?

Well, now I'm confused - yes, again!

I'm trying to add links to my posts - I've use the 'insert link' tool in the toolbar up above the copy area - but, it doesn't insert the live links when the post is published!

Well, heck!!!!! Guess I'll try and figure it out later - it's not like I'm not familiar with this stuff or anything, but maybe it's just so simple that it's going right over my head - ya think??

Have a great one!