Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Itty Bitty Kitty

I have not properly blogged about our kittens. Perhaps I was being cautious; not wanting to shine a spotlight on them ( if you call call my blog a "spotlight"... more like a candle) until I knew they were going to live through the introductions to the dogs. Seriously.

I think only Dave really knows how much I love kittens and cats. I become transfixed by kittens. (Trying to put the feelings into words would convince you that I am a "crazy animal person" and I'd like to avoid the label.)

The timing is all wrong or all right depending on how you look at it. We are stressed, cramped, and unorganized thanks to the kitchen remodel and so I go and bring home two tiny kittens. While keeping tabs on their safety, whereabouts, and litter box adds to my list, watching them play, having a tiny weightless soft fuzzball asleep on my chest, even watching them sleep, unravels any tension that I might have.

After plenty of discussion and days of observing them, we finally named them. Larger, older, spunky male kitten is Fisto. Tiny, younger, runt of a female kitten is Itty Bitty.


The dogs seem to have concluded that they are not targets but fixtures in our family. The first night the dogs couldn't leave them alone, sniffing and licking (tasting?) them. The second day they all relaxed. By day three only Maive, our mutt rescue, still had any interest and she seemed to be keeping tabs on their whereabouts and licking them all over as if they were her puppies. Now Maive actually enjoys a gentle paw batting play with them.

Our fat gimpy cat Mrtyle (she deserves her own blog post - good story there) was horrified by the kittens. But she too has settled into their presence. She particularly likes Itty Bitty Kitty and holds her down for a good tongue bath once in a while. If Fisto gets to spunky with her she hisses and bats him with her snaggle foot. Fisto is a bit dense if he doesn't realize that Mrtyle exists to eat and sleep and playing is the last thing she'd ever do.

They have settled in nicely. In a week or two more I can relax further because they will finally be too large for the nearby family of hawks to carry away. Well, Itty Bitty might be at risk of capture by talons till the end of her days.... tiny thing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Artistic Suicide

I wonder - how many truly successful artists there are out there. Let's define artist as someone who makes a one of a kind product to sell. Let's define success as an income capable of supporting a person: some sort of shelter that at least has insulation; enough food to not be "starving;" enough money to invest back into their career, like buying a laptop, painting supplies, or a pencil perhaps; health insurance would be nice.

To make money selling something that you have created there are two requirements. First, you have to be making something that people want - a lot of people. Second, you have to be able to make enough of it, get it out there, and sell it. This does not come easily to anyone. Few might be so genius either creatively or in the marketing department that they find Easy Street. But for the vast majority we have to work... hard.... forever.

There are further complications with making and selling art. Artists can't sustain their creativity in a constant linear direction. We get something good going and then the muses withdraw their support and send you hurling into another direction of unexplored creativity. Try to sell THIS now. The muses don't stand a chance against THE ECONOMY. We are trying to sell the most superfluous product of human existence; adornment. You can't eat it, drink it, live in it, or even smoke it. When THE ECONOMY has spoken, all artists listen.

The artist's greatest challenge is to find their way through the pitfalls to thrive, create, SELL, defy the muses and THE ECONOMY.

All of this said, I will not be deterred and I personally know dozens of others who have chosen this path. Give your artist a hug. Or even better, buy art.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mohonk Awesomeness (Evan's title suggestion)

Under the stone arches where the carriages used to pull up to drop off guests

What I love about Mohonk Mountain House:

I don't have to cook - Not only do I not have to think about what the heck I am going to feed my family three times/day and then make it happen, I am SERVED the most fresh, delicious, decadent food I could ask for.

Everywhere you look is something extraordinary - Whether God made it or inspired a person to make it, Mohonk is a visual feast. The mountains, lake, and blooming mountain laurel are the back drop for the sprawling Victorian castle, stone work, antique furniture, gardens, and thoughtful wooden walkways, ladders, steps, and gazebos.

Looking back at the front of the house from a cliff top path

The kids love it - I was lucky enough to create memories at mohonk when I was a kid and this weekend my boys got a chance to make their own. Rock scrambling, great food, picnics, wildlife, swimming, exploring, and happy parents make good memories.

There is so much to do - You can be active all day and never do the same thing twice. Or you can sit like a bum until the next fabulous meal.

Hiking the Laborynth

Family - When you are not busy with work or maintaining your own household you get to focus on the people you love.

History - Next time I will learn more about the history but I am sure it is fascinating!

Dave went exploring in the Barn Museum and took a picture of this steam engine that used to power the place

Seclusion - Just the deer and chipmunks up here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Kind of Like Pregnancy

Incredibly strong truck effortlessly lifting away about 30,000 pounds of concrete ex-floor.

When we embarked on the kitchen remodel, my sister compared it to pregnancy. She said, "In the beginning you are nothing but excited. Planning and dreaming. Then you realize it will be a long road with more than a few bumps (literally in pregnancy). Towards the end you are uncomfortable, cranky, swollen, and wanting it to be over with. And after that you are blessed with the results."

Well, we are not exactly towards the end yet, and I am not swollen, but I can see how the analogy works. I began buying, washing, and folding tiny little unisex clothes long before I was even pregnant. I also dabbled with my rulers, draft paper, pencil, and eraser years before we had $ to tackle the kitchen. Half way through my pregnancy the aches, pains, and unexpected changes crept in. Why does my hip ache? Where are my ankles? No one told me my mind would function at half speed. The kitchen situation has its share of the unexpected and growing pains. I need to make how many decisions by Friday? The plumber (God) is on vacation for how many weeks? No one told me my mind would only function at half speed.

I"d say in pregnancy terms that we are at about 25 weeks. More than half way but the real intensity yet to come.

New door and window openings are in place and floor is ready for radiant heat then concrete.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I love my contractor.

I hate my contractor.

I love my contractor.

My contractor and his sub-contractors hold the balance of my sanity in their hands. One day they are Santa Claus on steroids delivering to me the concrete fulfillment of a vision that I have been cultivating for 10 years. The next day they are just the dust swirling in my deconstructed hole of a kitchen. They are strong. Skilled. Seasoned. I need them to do what I can not.

I love my contractors!

When they are here.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I am feeling extra blessed today.

The kitchen construction has cast a dark cloud on my mood lately... the irony of being fortunate enough to make such a significant home improvement. I was having difficulty summoning a positive thought to save my life. Overwhelmed, out of balance, buried, deep in a quagmire. Even my back, which has been strong and happy for two years strait, was tight and aching.

In the midst of the night, as I slept, God must have flipped the switch on my moodometer. Maybe it has something to do with the humidity level and temperature dropping significantly. Or that Dave and I crossed several chores off my list yesterday. No matter the reason, I am so relieved to feel back in control, to recognize my good fortune, to be able to bend without a shooting pain, and to have a smile on my face.

I"m going to ride this wave as long as I can!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Carmelita (I wrote this 3 years ago.)

Carmelita by Hammer out of Carmen from Joy to me.

I wasn’t even looking for a horse. And now, I can look out of our home and see Carmelita, my four year old Nokota mare, in our humble pasture. She seems too majestic for our nook carved out of a hill in the “holler” on Providence Road in good ‘ole Cecil County, Maryland.

I first saw Carmelita in some photos in a home made “horse for sale” flyer. I was perusing Joy Cully’s shop, The Merry go Round Room, at Fair Hill International 2006 where I also set up and sell my artwork. “What a neat looking horse,” I remember remarking. “What is a Nokota?” Joy suggested I look up the Conservancy website to find out. I was thrilled to learn about the breed and the efforts to preserve it. But, I wasn’t looking for a horse.

Some Nokotas on Seth Zeigler's Pennsylvania farm: they have to most wonderful colors.

Two months later, I ran into Joy at a Taco Bell in the Perryville outlet mall. Christmas shoppers were hungry and the line was out the door. I didn’t know Joy very well but was still surprised that she was at an outlet mall and in the Taco Bell to boot. We said “hello” and before she left she stopped at my table to talk to me about an art trade. I love to trade so we arranged for me to come to her place.

With the trade completed, the conversation turned from art to animals. “Do you still have that mare you were selling?” I asked. Joy said, “She’s out back. Would you like to meet her?” Of course I would.

One of our first trail rides - I LOVE that she loves water

Despite the fact that I wasn’t even looking for a horse, I visited Carmelita several times that winter, fell more deeply in love, and began to plot how she might end up out my back door. Joy and I got to know each other that winter as well. I realized that Joy was selling Carmelita while still wanting to hold on to her with all of her might. When she realized that Carmelita could be with me and still be a part of HER life, Joy did everything she could to make it easier for me to decide to buy Carmelita. I had work to do though: fences to fix; grass to grow; hay to buy. A horse was coming!

She is everything that other Nokota owners know and are familiar with; strong, brave, curious, calm, noble. And through my relationship with her I get to see that she is even more. Every day I marvel that she is here. I walk up my hill to her and bury my face in her and try to steel some of that strength and grace that comes so easily to her.

Pay attention to what fate throws in your path. I wasn’t looking for a horse, but in a Taco Bell, in the middle of Christmas shopping mayhem, I found one.

Recent trail ride

Thank you Kuntz Family - gaurdians and advocates of the breed. Thank you Joy for making the path to Carmalita as smooth as possible. Thank you to my husband Dave for encouraging me to spend the time and money that horses require so that she can be a part of my life.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Country Living

I have submitted my blog to a "Country Living" magazine Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards contest. If what they say is true, my blog with be reviewed by a panel of "Country Living" Editors and noted bloggers. Do tell! Categories include: Collecting (check), Decorating (not so much), Crafting (I got that goin' on), Entertaining (not lately but, yes), Food (yes, please), Gardening (does it count if I hire that out?), Green (my recycling bin is green), Home Renovation (indeed! please see previous posts of our kitchen), Lifestyle (WAY country), Pets (we have enough I think).

Here in the holler, we are living country. I'd say anyone with fencing that serves more than a decorative purpose, more than 2 acres, several misused outbuildings, a baby pool with a playground slide in it, and the need for hay ... can call themselves country. So I've got the lifestyle going for me. I'm sort of Martha Stewart with an edge... and dirt.... and maybe less organized... smaller empire.... less "people".... okay, I'm nothing like Martha Stewart except for my medium length blonde hair.

They want to see eye catching photos and design that lure in a reader. My blog design is pretty run of the mill. I don't know how those fancy bloggers do it with frilly picture frames, fancy backgrounds, and custom heading banners. I'm a blogger not a web designer.

As for eye catching photos I try my best to punch up my writing with interesting well positioned accompaniments. Like, here's me right now concentrating really hard on my post.

I hope the main emphasis of the judging is on blog content. I might stand a chance if they are looking for creative souls who can convey their anecdotes and ideas with humor and a sense of entertainment.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Statistical Recap of the 2nd Grade Talent Show

45 students
33 acts
2.5 hours
5 hoola hoop acts
4 acts featuring the song "Dynomite"
50% of parents texting
10 technical glitches causing
8 start overs
6 joke acts
10 one minute routines set to 3 minute songs

It was still a joy to watch those little people get into their thing on stage.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My White Hen

This little white hen came to me when my friend, Caitlyn, picked her up off of the road after her box was thrown from a chicken truck.

Maybe the hen was thinking she had come into some bad luck as her box left the truck and she was flying through the air into the unknown oblivion. It must have been a strange feeling. But the daily life of factory farmed egg laying hens is where the real misfortune lies. I won't go into detail about the conditions; honestly what I imagine is probably not even as bad as it really is.

So Caitlyn asked if we would take her. I love a rescue. When we released her into our run she stumbled around like a drunken sailor. She must have never stretched her legs in her life. Her feet may have never before touched solid ground. I noticed that the tip of her beak was cut off. She was skittish and skinny on top of her wobbly legs.

My big fat content hens made sure she knew that she was not one of them - all crazy and untrustworthy as she must have seemed to them. "Girl, that bird is CRAZY." "Oh my! Maybe she hit her head." "And why's she so white?" "Do you thinks she's blind?" They chased her away from the best bits of kitchen scraps for a while. They can be so caddy.

After a few months she found her strength and her place among our hens. She can run like the wind when she needs to. And she lays one huge white egg every day. I know in the scheme of things her life has little meaning, but she is her own epoch novel of dispair, escape, mistrust, acceptance, and salvation. If only we had a rooster she could also find true love.

You're Messin with my Mind, Man

I have not blogged much lately because the thoughts that want to stream from my finger tips are not the happy upbeat sort that I want to convey to the world (Okay, "the world" is an exaggeration; I have 12 followers). We are starting week 5 of our kitchen remodel and so far we have seen about one week's worth of progress.

I am told this is normal. I get a lot of "that's contractors for you." And "It's going to take twice as long as you think and twice as much money." I'm just not sure what to do with comments like that.

I am trying my hardest to relinquish any expectations I had/have. I am trying not to let the hope for a returned call, or even better, an actual visual sighting of a contractor creep in to my mind. I am trying to concentrate on creating critters and paintings worthy of sale in a home that is cluttered, cramped, and ripped apart. Every day, three times a day, I search our makeshift kitchen for healthy meals for me and my family.

Does anyone have a happy kitchen remodel story? Does anyone have a dinner invitation? Are any of my friends Zen gurus? How about just a piece of cheese to go with my whine?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Kitchen: Money and Meltdowns

kitchen before

Since we bought our home 10 years ago, we have wanted to remodel the kitchen. Five weeks ago we moved out of our kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom - 1/4 of the square footage of our home. We are camping in our own home with a sink on the porch, grill outside, washer and dryer in our dirt basement, and fridge and small appliances in the dining room.

Kitchen renovations are notorious for high stress and high dollars. So far we are managing quite well on both fronts. In addition to new cabinets, appliances, countertops, and so on, we have taken out our walls, floor, ceiling, and windows. It is a deep project but we don't have deep pockets.

as it is now

We have saved the most money by recycling cabinets from another kitchen. We really lucked out when the sister of a friend was tearing out her very large kitchen and was willing to give us the cabinets in exchange for a donation to Habitat for Humanity. She also gave us a nicer refrigerator than we ever would have bought. Score!

We also saved a bit by doing to demolition ourselves. This was no sacrifice on my part. I could not wait to take out my pent up frustrations on the crappy cabinets, rusty appliances, and ill built walls. We let the pros handle the floor which was a mishmash of concrete, stone, wood, tile, and linoleum.

in between

Dave took the time and effort to set us up with sink with hot and cold water which has been a life saver. Were I carrying dishes to the second floor bathroom, I would be bald by now. He also rigged up our washer and dryer. Since we do a load of laundry every day (or more likely seven over the weekend) this has been a hair saver as well.

Today the Mason comes to block in the old windows and open up two new windows and a French door. Next will be the radiant heat and the concrete floor. When the floor has cures the new walls will go up and we will begin to see the new space as it will be. GLORIOUS

I am sure the real freakout and meltdown stress will come. I am also certain we will spend more than we intended thanks to our champagne taste and crazy old house with issues. So far so good.