31 July 2014

Grandma's Journal

If you've been reading my blog you may recall that since last summer, I've been sorting through boxes of mementos from my childhood home. Included in this pile of artifacts are several boxes from my late grandma's house. When she passed away in 2004, my mom cleaned out her house and took home several boxes of papers. She planned to sort through them but never did. So I'm doing it now. 

 I'm sure my mom knew about Grandma's journal, but I did not. Of course, I knew my grandma loved to write and had read many of her stories over the years, but I had no idea she had kept a journal which included many entries about me growing up. These entries are precious to me, especially because the baby book my mom started for me was never completed. Grandma often stayed with me while my parents were gone, so her journal entries provide incredibly detailed glimpses into my early years. 

In addition to journal entries, I found folders containing Grandma's original poems and stories. I decided to corral all of Grandma's writings in a binder to preserve them and make them easier to read. I bought an 8.5x11 ring-bound album and page protectors at Memory Bound and set to work.

Rather than "scrapbook" the journal, I decided to just slip the pages into blank page protectors, as many are written on both the front and back. Many of the entries are dated but some are not, so I tried my best to put them into date order. After just a few hours of sorting, I had completed the album.

I decided to divide the album into sections using some plastic dividers by Becky Higgins. (As you can see in the photo below, they are too long for the 8.5x11 binder so I will cut them off after I finish labeling them.) If I ever have time to scrapbook my own childhood, I may move some of the journal entries into a larger album, integrating them with photos taken during those years.

The first section of the binder contains journal entries about my early years. Grandma's writing is lively and imaginative and includes many vivid details about my parents, my house, and our pets. 

  When we traveled on vacations over the years, Grandma often took care of our dog and cats. Imagine my delight when I found journal entries about many of those occasions. Some are written from the perspective of the dog or cat. :) I set up a section in the binder just for these entries. This one is about our dog, Tammy.

Here's one about my cat, Wrinkles.

Grandma also took care of my turtles when we were away. Of course, she wrote the "Daily Turtle Report". You cannot imagine how wonderful this was to find!

The last section in the binder is for Grandma's original stories and poems. There are so many and some are so long that I had to tuck entire stories into a single page protector.

There are short stories, poems, and essays about many topics.

 I even found the prototype "issue" of Dog Town News, a newspaper just for canines -- complete with advertisements and an editorial written by a cat.
Of all the artifacts I've uncovered in sorting through boxes, Grandma's journal entries are among the most precious to me. As I have grappled with losing my parents, I've often felt like I've lost my personal story, too, because there is no one left who shares my memories. Grandma's writings help tell the story of my childhood, which seemed lost to me when I lost my parents. Finding her journal entries feels enormously healing to me -- like a gift created and placed for me to find, exactly when I needed it.

30 July 2014

Bar Cart: Part 1 - Parts & Pieces

 Remember this?

Now it looks like this:

I know...Oooh! Ahhh! NOT! I've been slow starting this project, but at least now things are sort of underway!

Gentle blog readers, you surely know by now that I'm not a great DIYer (if that's a word). While my dad could fix just about anything, I apparently inherited none of his skills. I am pretty much tool-impaired, so when I get the idea to do a project, I usually need a lot of help. Still, I'm hoping that I'll be able to do most of this project on my own. We'll see!

In order to make the cleaning and subsequent spray painting process easier, I decided to disassemble the cart. I could tell that I would need some type of tool to loosen the nut (not sure if that's the right term!) around the screws on each leg.

I peered into Spouse's tool box and found a couple of possibilities. This one did nothing for me.

But this tool -- presumably some type of wrench -- did the trick! I was able to tighten the clamp so it fit right onto the nut, then I loosened and removed all of the hardware connecting the legs to the two shelves. I even remembered to save all of the nuts and screws so I can re-use or replace them. (At least I hope I didn't leave any in the yard for Spouse to find with his lawnmower...)

 Next I decided to wash the wheels. I know the tiny bowl looks ridiculous, but stay with me here. The wheels were greasy, so I thought I'd wash them in Dawn, just like they bathe oily birds after oil spills. Seemed to work pretty well!

 Much cleaner!

Once the cart was disassembled, I sanded the rusty parts so I would have a smooth surface to paint. I still have more sanding to do.

So far so good with this project! Stay tuned for the next installment: Masking and spray painting!

28 July 2014

Goodbye, Canon! :(

Several months ago, right in the middle of a class project, my beloved Canon wide-format printer stopped. Just STOPPED, midway through a line of beautiful brown text. I was SICK. I've had this printer for many years and have often said that if my house were burning down, it would be one of the many things I'd grab. Such is my love for this printer.

Even though I ran every diagnostic test possible, I could not be absolutely certain of the problem. Unfortunately, Canon no longer makes or supports the i9900 printer, so it's impossible to find anything but refurbished parts. And although I seriously considered it, why spend over $100 for a used part on eBay when it might not even fix the problem? For months, I put up with annoying "work arounds" for my wide-format printing while I resigned myself to the fact that it was time to let go of my favorite tool.

Given that my entire world is formatted in 12"x12", it's hard for me to accept the fact that there aren't just aren't many wide-format printers on the market. It seems that not very many people need to print anything other than 8.5" widths. There were no wide-format printers available in local stores for me to try, other than hulking office models which copy, print, and possibly brew a pot of coffee. So when my friend Katie told me she loves her Epson Artisan 1430, I checked out reviews and decided to order it online.

And here it is! Move over, -- WAY over! -- Canon: Epson has arrived!

 It prints beautifully (although not quite as sharply as the Canon...*sigh*...) and most importantly in wide format. But it is MASSIVE compared to my Canon. So large that it will not fit on my printer stand. But it is wireless so theoretically, I could put it most anywhere in the house. My plan is to replace my printer stand with something wider which can house the printer on the top shelf and my Silhouette Cameo on the shelf below.
Meanwhile, my Canon sits on the floor in the corner of the room, ready to go to the electronics recycling center. That's definitely a job for Spouse. I do not have the heart to do it. Goodbye, Canon! You have served me well! 

25 July 2014

Feline Friday: Lily Strikes Again

This, my friends, is a Dutch letter. It's a very special pastry filled with almond paste, a treat we don't get very often. Spouse brought home a package recently and tucked it away on the counter for later.

The next day when Spouse decided to enjoy a Dutch letter with his morning coffee, he noticed the plastic bag was strangely pockmarked. He was puzzled by this clue, but I was not. I knew exactly what had made those tiny holes....

Those razor sharp teeth managed to skim off the top layer of sweetness without making a big hole in the bag! 
Very sneaky, Lily!

24 July 2014

Missing in Action

 Blogging friends: I've been missing in action for the past few days as we took a quick trip up to Michigan to visit our daughter at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. She is spending a second summer working there, this time as a Unit Director responsible for a "unit" of six cabins, several counselors, and 65 campers over the course of four camp sessions. Campers at BLFAC have a very structured schedule with classes in instrumental or vocal music, theatre, and/or art. It's a truly beautiful camp set in the Manistee National Forest. There is no "dirt" at BLFAC -- just sand. LOTS and LOTS of sand!

 On my visit last summer, I failed to see the lake after which the camp is named, so I made sure to see it this time! Blue Lake is actually more green than blue due to algae and it's apparently home to leeches (YUCK!), so it is not actually used for campers. But it is still very pretty!

 On Saturday evening, we took in a performance of the Festival Orchestra, comprised of professors and counselors/staff members at the camp. It was a lovely evening for a performance at a beautiful venue! If you look closely, you can see Bailey's head at the very back left side of the band (bass drum).

This is the area leading up to the band shell. Very pretty!

I'm not quite sure what this tower is used for, but it's very quaint!

On the last day of camp, parents come to pick up their campers and attend a variety of performances and an art show featuring campers' projects from throughout the session. I loved these colorful silk panels!

While we waited for Bailey to finish with her campers, we walked around the camp and took in several performances. This is the venue for Shakespeare productions. The open air facility has a second story above this one and "theater-in-the-round" seating. Very cool!

Bailey also played timpani in a student concert featuring the camp's top orchestra. This is another of several band shells throughout the camp. If you squint, you can see her head at the far back right of the photo.

Staff members ride bikes through the camp because it is so large. It's good exercise riding on sandy paths!

After she was done with her official duties, we visited her "hut". As a Unit Director, she has her own cabin. It's nice and very well organized. She's a lot happier with her hut now that the mouse which had taken up residence is gone!

We had a great visit! Bailey is learning a lot as a Unit Director. It will be great experience for her to have under her belt as she prepares for student teaching and real life after college!

18 July 2014

Feline Friday: A New Trick!

And now, for your Feline Friday pleasure, a new trick from Lily with her Atomic Bouncy Ball!

15 July 2014

Woo Hoo!

Big day for Lily! 
New bouncy balls have arrived. Found them for next to nothing on eBay! Lily is so excited that she has developed a new trick. Watch for a video later this week!


11 July 2014

Feline Friday: Spot Bot Love

Lily has sort of a love/hate relationship with the Spot Bot, the incredible machine which cleans up all of the cat issues around here. She's fascinated by the scrubbing brush and water flowing through the coiled pipe, and she can usually be found watching it while it works.

But WOW, that BEEP at the end is LOUD, Mom!

Every time I clean up cat messes (which is almost daily around here), I wonder how I survived this long without a Spot Bot. Regardless of Lily's opinion, I love it!

09 July 2014

A Few (Very) Good Things

Today's post is a random collection of (very) good things I've enjoyed over the past few days.

1. I made a hot pad! Don't ask why, but I suddenly had the urge to dig out my old loom and whip one up. We definitely didn't need more hot pads, but it was fun to sit down and create something start to finish in a very short amount of time. (Not counting the one complete do-over!)

 2. In spite of their many issues, there are enough flowers blooming in my gardens that I can easily make bouquets right now. This vase was part of my mom's green glass collection. It's the first time I've used it since I brought it home last summer.

  3. I found a new drink which is probably an old drink to most people: The Cosmopolitan. And it includes cranberry juice, so it's almost good for you! :)

 4. This girl. Those paws! Precious.

5.  When Spouse picked up a coffee for me, our local Starbucks barista added this sweet note. She's the best. For our sake, I hope she never finishes all of those degrees she's working on. :)

6. Banh Mi Lemongrass Pork from Tacopocalypse in the East Village. I was too busy eating it to take a photo but this a pretty good likeness. This sandwich is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. I wanted to go back the next day and have another one. And just $4? Ridiculous!

 7. We're very fortunate to live in a development with a large well-managed prairie. We went on a prairie walk with a guide last night and could not believe how beautiful it is right now. This photo doesn't begin to do it justice. I'll be going back soon with my camera when the light is a little better. It's truly stunning.

 These are just a few of the good things I've enjoyed in the past week. As I've finished up some big stuff in my life, I've so appreciated having a bit more time to appreciate good things like this!

06 July 2014

Bar Cart: Before...

 Do you ever feel like you've got too many projects started and not enough completed? That's how I feel right now. So why not add one or two more to the list?

This cart is currently sitting in our garage awaiting a makeover. It is one of two carts which I brought home from my dad's garage last summer. As I was trying to decide what I could keep that would remind me of Dad, the two carts spoke to me. I wanted to keep items that would be useful, not just packed away in a box.

This cart actually belonged to my grandma (my mom's mom) who used it as a serving cart for our Sunday lunches. At Grandma's house, it carried shrimp salads and fruit plates. After she passed away Dad snagged it for his garage, where it lived a much rougher life as a tool caddy.

To fully appreciate where this cart came from, you must see the state of my dad's garage when I first started organizing prior to our auction. You can see the cart -- piled high with stuff -- in the lower portion of the photo. 

 After I organized his garage, I could see that the cart was quite a nice tool caddy, very handy to roll around while working working on projects. Dad actually had another cart just like it in a different building, complete with little hooks for his wrenches. I gave that cart to the neighbor boy who used to help Dad with his projects.

I thought about Grandma's cart all summer long and finally decided to keep it, along with a second three-shelf cart. I will be refurbishing the three-shelf cart for my craft room, using this "before/after" photo from Pinterest as inspiration.

I am planning to refurbish the tool caddy to use as a swanky bar cart. (Of course, it would work great for any type of beverage. Maybe I've been watching too much Mad Men!) The metal will be bronze to match our finishes and I'll use some type of geometric/retro print on on the shelves. This "before/after" photo from Pinterest is one of my inspiration photos.

The bar cart project is at the top of my list for this summer. I hope to get started on it in the next few days!

04 July 2014

Feline Friday: Lily Sings!

 If you've been reading my blog, you already know that Lily is very talented, but did you know that she can sing? Check out her short -- but sweet! -- debut:

Thanks to my sister-in-law for alerting us to the Talking Pet app, and to Daughter and her boyfriend for helping Lily produce her first music video!

01 July 2014

Garden Re-Design Update

I wrote this post over the weekend only to discover this morning that it had completely disappeared. POOF! Add that to the ongoing issues with uploading photos and I'm not too pleased with Blogger right now! Anyway...

Awhile back I shared that I am working with a landscape designer to help me re-imagine my flower beds to create cottage-style gardens. I've been frustrated with them -- or myself -- for a long time. Each summer I work so hard but fall so short of my vision!

There are lots of ways to create cottage-style gardens but this internet photo is a good example of the look I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to create -- very full, informal beds with lots of colors and textures:

After a few more "tweaks" I think the plans will be ready and I will be able to get started on whatever can realistically be done at this point in the summer. I have a ton of perennials but many are in the wrong places. The idea is for me to move and/or divide as many as possible and fill in with some new ones, following the new garden design plans.

The only flower garden I'm happy with is this one in the front of our house. It started out as a woodland garden, but it has some of the same characteristics I'd like to achieve in other parts of the yard. I had the designer look at it to help me articulate WHY I like it so that we can replicate some of those same ideas. We concluded that this bed works because of the variety of textures, colors, and heights. The ground cover -- which I once tried to kill...don't ask why! -- seems to pull it all together. Other than the ugly black plastic edging, this is the one thing in our yard which I seem to have done well.

Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there!

Trouble starts at the back of the house with large gaps between plantings.

Looking deeper into that same garden, you can see that there are height issues, too: tall plants where there should be short ones, and short plants where there should be taller ones.

 Here's a view from the end of that garden. You can see the gaps and height issues. In addition to a new design, the shape of this bed will be changed and expanded to smooth out the sharp corner near the windows.

Worse yet is this garden which is shaped like a giant crescent roll. It will also be expanded to soften the lines and allow for better design flow.

There have been serious issues in this flower bed for a long time. Each time I think I have the problems fixed, it seems to look worse. When it comes to garden design, a lack of knowledge goes a long way!

  This bed is my most recent creation. You'd think I wouldn't be able to mess up an area this small, but I did! This bed will stay the same size but the mix of plants in it will change.

I've also asked for help with the design of this back area, an overgrown, embarrassing No Man's Land. It needs serious attention because it adjoins our neighbors' garden which is neat, tidy, and newly planted. I'm afraid to go out there because Spouse told me recently he once saw a snake in the vicinity. I may have to hire some help with this bed...or get a very long-handled shovel!

So now you can see the scope of my issues. I'm excited to jump into this big project. I'm pretty sure I'm about to get in way over my head, but isn't that what gardening is all about?