Category Archives: Uncategorized

Learning

My son, Josh, gave me an online art class for Christmas. It just started on Monday. Step one was to copy a portrait (the instructor supplied one). Step two was to shade/color using charcoal. 
Now, my children will attest that my drawing skills are pretty basic. And I’ve never ever used charcoal in my life. It is messy stuff! But this is what I did today. 

For most of my life I lived with the mantra, “I am not a creative person”. I believed that I wasn’t creative because I can’t draw what I see in my head. I believed that I wasn’t a creative person because my writing skills aren’t publishable material. I believed I wasn’t a creative person because I couldn’t draft a sewing or knitting pattern to make something I imagine. 

But all that is a lie. I AM a creative person. I always have been. I can look at problems and find options that others often miss. I can make a nutritious meal out of the remnants of our pantry when the budget is tight. I can find joy when things look bleak. So I have always been creative, I just didn’t recognize it. 

Sometimes not knowing how to do something is such a huge roadblock, and it’s really easy to turn not having knowledge into “I can’t”. A few years ago I decided to start learning how to do the things I want to learn. This week I’m conquering portraits and watercolors by taking the Radiant Watercolor Portrait class on Jeanne Oliver’s creative network. (Check it out! She has several free videos, and the classes are completely flexible.)

I have a lot to learn, but, you guys! I drew that! And it looks like a human person!

Winding Up

I seem to be spending a lot of time sitting and waiting these days, and while I’d love to spend those minutes reading, my attention still needs to be at the ready to help, correct or direct the activities of a little one. Knitting is the perfect activity for those moments.

IMG_3798Zach requested a bearded hat for Christmas, so we made a trip to the local yarn shop so he could pick out his colors. One of them came in a hank instead of a ball, and while I could have just wound it by hand, I’m optimistic about my future knitting projects and expect to be purchasing more and more hanks. And while I really would have loved to grab an antique yarn winder, the ones that are in good working condition are out of our budget right now.

IMG_3795I found a good winder at a discount price because the box was damaged and ordered it. The Middles had fun winding up the hank we bought, then starting winding up all the tangled bits and balls I’ve had in the crafting basket. Then Zach made some yarn art.  IMG_3817I think he’s looking forward to winter a bit, yes?

Getting Off the Roller Coaster

IMG_1514Life has been running at a pretty hectic pace around here. But when we stopped to think about it, we realized that it’s been that way for years.

Years.

IMG_1512I envy my friends who don’t have multiple projects and life events happening all at the same time, but we’ve gotten so used to it that it seems normal to us. Until One More Thing comes our way. And then we realize that the slow carousel ride that we thought we were on has evolved into a scary roller coaster with so many dips and twists and turns that we can’t see the end. It’s time for us to get back to the carousel horses that rise and fall gently. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love a thrill ride. But there is a reason why the fast rides at amusement parks don’t last too long.

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While we’d like to get there overnight, it’s going to take us some time to really dig in to the life we’re living to peel away those areas that are less important than others, figuring out what stays and what goes. Some will be easy, some will be hard. Maybe some dreams will have to be set aside for a little while. And maybe some dreams will forever stay just dreams. I’m more okay with that now than I used to be. IMG_1490

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The photos really don’t have anything to do with this post. I took them on our recent vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, and they have such a peaceful feeling. It was during our vacation that my husband and I realized how very busy we’ve been for so long, and what started the conversations about changing what we’re doing. So maybe these pictures have more to do with this post than I originally thought.

Inspiring people

I love reading about people who make their dreams come true.

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Photo from PinkSlipInspirations Etsy Shop

When my daughter was browsing Etsy she stumbled on a shop selling stockings she liked (she was looking for a stocking design for me to make for her). When she saw the number of sales made so far, over 1700 she was pretty impressed. When we looked to see how long the shop had been opened we were pretty shocked, opened for only 4 months. So I did a quick search for her shop and found an article written about her success.

I looked at her page, read the article, looked at her page again, and thought, “I could do that.” And maybe I COULD do that. Maybe I could sew like that. Maybe I could have a successful etsy shop like that. But do you know what the different is between the owner of Pink Slip Inspirations and me (besides my 7 children and homeschooling ways)? It’s the same difference between someone doing something you could do, and you. The difference is that they are DOING it.

Christmas is coming pretty quickly and the wrapped gifts under our tree are growing every day. But there’s one thing that isn’t there. A gift from me, to me. A gift of a dream. Not a pair of sparkly shoes or a new camera. Not a sweater or a cookbook. A dream. All wrapped up, just waiting to be opened. Do you have one? A dream that might still be a little fuzzy, and maybe all you know is the direction you DON’T want to be heading. When you allow yourself to think about your perfect day, what do you see yourself doing?

I think I’m going to write one of my dreams down and wrap it up and tie it with a bow and put it under my tree. My dream. From me, to me. I’d love if you joined me in this. It’s more than a New Year’s resolution. It’s a gift you can give yourself.

What dream will you put under your tree? A gift for you, from you.

Patriotic Antique Crib Quilt

I love fabric. I love quilting. I love history. A friend of mine stumbled on an old quilt but didn’t have much interest in it and it ended up in my hands. My hands are very happy to have it.

This treasure, waiting to be unfolded.

I’ve learned quite a bit about fabrics and the tradition of quilting.

I learned that the romantic idea of Colonial women quilting in the winter by the fire is really just a romantic idea. Because of poor lighting, most quilting took place during the summer months when there was more natural light. Most bed coverings were woven from wool or linen, so quilting to provide warmth probably didn’t take place very much. I think I respect those hardworking Colonial women even more for quilting during the hot summer months.

I learned that pieced quilting became common after 1840. It wasn’t until then that fabric was more readily available to an ordinary housewife. It was also around then that she didn’t need to spend as much of her day spinning and weaving, so she had time to be more creative and could turn to quilting.

I learned that during the 1920s and 1930s, quilting became very popular. Magazines printed the latest quilt block patterns. At first, fabrics were colonial reproductions, but during the mid 1920s, a shift to light and bright colors came.

During the 1940s, as in previous times, patriotic patterns were very popular. I found that a Blue Star Banner Quilt was made to hang in the window of a home of a family who had a soldier who was away serving.

I love that tradition.

After doing a lot of reading and researching, I’m guessing that this quilt was made sometime during the 20s. It is entirely hand pieced and hand quilted. The backing and some of the quilt square fabrics are, I think, feed sack fabric. It has been lovingly repaired in a couple of places.

It’s a crib sized quilt. Perhaps it was made for a child born in July. Or maybe it was made for a baby whose father was a soldier during WWI or WWII. I wonder about the hands that stitched this quilt together, and I wish the make signed it or dated it somehow.

I’ll be making sure I sign and date the quilts I make from now on.

Isn’t it lovely?

As much as I’d love to keep this, it is for sale at the School House Antique Mall. Wouldn’t it make a beautiful wall hanging?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We bought our home 3 1/2 years ago from a wonderful couple who built it themselves. Around us, there are a lot of people who build their own homes, but I know from living in other states that it is not a common occurrence these days. We often joke that we bought the land and the house came with it. Why? Because it is just beautiful out here.   The previous owners created the most beautiful gardens.They are definitely not in as good of shape as they were the day we moved in, but I’m working on it a little at a time. It’s still quite lovely though. I need to thin things out a bit, as it has become a little overgrown. But the bees don’t complain, and the birds seem happy.

So, come take a walk in my gardens with me.

This is one of my favorite garden spots. It leads from the side of the house to our new terraced gardens.

I’ll tell you about them in another post because they’re still a work in progress.

The stone path leading to the front of our home is another favorite. Someday I’d like to build an arbor and plant some climbing roses.

This is the first garden area you can see from the front windows of our home. The weeping cherry tree just finished blooming. I wish I had a picture to show you, it was covered in beautiful pink blossoms. There’s a small fern-leaf japanese maple hiding in there. It’s hard to see right now, but in the early spring, before the other plants have leafed out, it’s a focal point of the garden.

The next garden out from the house is the first you see when you pull into our driveway. It has more of a wildflower look. Right now the lupines are blooming. Soon it will be the irises.

This is the garden on the road side of the driveway. This is the one that I think showcases the planning that went into the gardens. In the early spring, this garden bed is a sea of daffodils. Waves of yellow everywhere you look. Then in late spring it becomes a wave of blue. Then the poppies and roses bloom, dotting the waves with pink, white and red. I so wish I could capture it for you on my camera. But take my word for it, it is just beautiful.

Here are some of the shrubs that are flowering right now.

A bee is enjoying this late blooming lilac. It smells heavenly, and I have a vase of lilac flowers on my table to enjoy even now at the beginning of June.

I’m not 100% positive, but I’m pretty certain this is a spirea, but I’m not sure which one. It’s so very pretty, and the bees enjoy this one a lot.

I’ve never been a big fan of rhododendrons, so I’m very glad there were some already here, otherwise I would have completely missed out on the beautiful purple blossoms in the late spring. These rhododendrons are huge.

We have several azalea shrubs including this pink one.

I don’t know what this one is. I thought it was a honeysuckle, but it doesn’t taste like one. Do you know?

EDIT: The previous owners told me it’s called a Beauty Bush. So lovely!

I love Bleeding Hearts. They always make me think of my Grandma.

Did you know that there is a wild bleeding heart? I didn’t until I moved here. They’re lovely.

Tucked in among the other flowers are lots and lots of another of my favorites – Forget-Me-Nots

I was told that the previous owner belonged to an iris gardening group. There are definitely a lot of irises that I’ve never seen before. The irises are just beginning to bloom. This lovely pink iris greets me by the kitchen door.

The Dutch Irises are starting to bloom.

Look at this beautiful purple and white iris. Stunning.

The Mountain Bluet is another flower loved by the bees. And since bees seem to be running short these days, I’m glad we have lots of flowers they can enjoy.

There are several colors of columbine. This purple one is a beauty.

And this lovely pink one is tucked away in the front garden. So pretty.

Lupines don’t only come in the purplish-blue they’re famous for. We also have pink and white.

There are several different types of peonies. Those that are getting ready to bloom.

Those that are blooming.

And those that have just finished blooming. All beautiful.

The poppies are preparing to show their lovely flowers.

So are the Rugosa Roses.

Dame’s Rocket is a favorite for the butterflies.

We also have several different types of shrubs showing promise of a bountiful harvest and lots of canning and freezing.

Our raspberries.

The strawberries, if I can keep the birds away.

Grapevines we planted just last year.

And the highbush blueberries that can barely make it into the house before they’re all eaten.

This is what my garden looks like today. Next week it will be a little different. In a month it will be completely different. I do love it here. Thank you for coming for a garden walk with me. I enjoyed our visit.

What flower was your favorite?

I shared this post with:

Jennifer Rizzo’s Garden Tour

Our new adventure (part two)

 (If you haven’t read it yet, you should read part one of our story here.)

Shortly after our 4th child was born, my husband started his cabinetry shop back up. He was working with another cabinet maker with years of experience and was learning much from him. Word got out that my husband was pretty amazing (it’s so hard to keep awesomeness a secret), and he ended up working on the remodel of an absolutely stunning mansion. He bid on the kitchen work, but because he was working full-time, both he and the owners of the home were concerned that he wouldn’t have enough time to do the work, so instead they hired him to install a custom coffered ceiling in the kitchen and the former servant’s prep room, work on some demolition, build some custom shutters (9 foot tall shutters), and a few other projects. The work lasted for a few years, then we were transferred. (Do you see a pattern here?) My husband learned a few things –

Working from home isn’t quite the same when you end up on big projects working on site and working with someone who values your creative input is tremendously satisfying.

Sometime during those few years, we thought it would be nice if my husband could leave his full-time work and make his part-time work become our main source of income. He didn’t earn enough on the part-time work to make it a full time source of income though. So I thought I’d start a business of our own that I could run on the side. Out of a few conversations with a friend, the thought to start a nail salon was born. But instead of just a nail salon, we decided to open a full day spa. I did a ton of research, found the perfect location, decorated (with lots of help from my husband), bought furnishings, had plumbing installed, interviewed and hired staff, worked on advertising, bought products for use and for sale, built a web site. I had a blast! I even hired someone to manage things on a daily basis so I could still be a stay at home mom.  Unfortunately, three weeks after our grand opening, I had to fire my manager for doing, well, not much of anything at all. I spent lots of time at the spa in the evenings and during my husband’s days off.  I had made a mistake of hiring staff members who were new to the industry. On the bright side, because they were new, I could afford to pay them. On the down side, because they were new they made a lot of mistakes. And of course, I didn’t know much about the industry myself other than what I learned in my hours of research. We were able to keep things running, and we were even showing a small profit, when my husband and I decided it was just taking way too much time away from our family. So we sold the business. And I learned some things –

book learning can’t replace hands on work, a good employee is hard to find but is worth their weight in gold, starting a business from the ground up is a lot of work but the work of creating something new is tremendously satisfying.

And then we moved. Again.

One of my neighbor’s and I became good friends. One day she needed help with some work. She cleaned model homes with another friend of hers, but for a reason I can’t remember, her friend wasn’t able to work that night. So I went along to help. How hard can cleaning a spotless model house that no one lives in be? (Silly me. Guess how they get and stay so spotless.) Well, the work was kind of fun, because I got to see these beautifully, professionally decorated homes, and the pay was pretty good, and the friend never came back. So my neighbor and I cleaned houses together four nights a week. Then more houses were available, but we couldn’t work them into our separate families’ schedules, so we divided the houses. She cleaned with her son, and I cleaned with my husband, and we’d lend a hand to each other when help was needed. I cleaned model houses for a couple of years. Then we had our 5th baby and cleaning with a newborn along wasn’t something we wanted to try to do. The timing to leave was good, because the  woman we subcontracted under was being underbid on many of her jobs, so business was pretty slow. And then we were transferred. Again. We learned a few things –

if you make a mess, someone has to clean it up, even if you never see it happening, subcontracting is nice because someone else deals with clients and you just do the work, very large unlived in houses can be creepy at night.

So here we are. We’re living again in the beautiful state of Maine. I pray almost daily that we’ll never move again. We’ve welcomed our 6th and 7th baby, and our 1st granddaughter. And once again, the call of having my own business beckons me like a siren’s song.

I’ve always loved antiques and vintage treasures. I enjoy painting and giving a new life to things that look worn out. I enjoy creating and crafting, but I need a purpose for what I make or I feel as though I’m wasting time. So Ever After Cottage is not just where we live. Ever After Cottage is where you can find some treasures for your home. It is a bit of antiques, a touch of vintage, a smidgen of homemade, and a dash of furniture that is rescued and redone. And we’re selling at a local antique mall, so I still get to be home with my children while pursuing something creative.

So check out my new facebook page and see some of the pretty photos of things for sale. And make my day and “like” my page. Pretty please?

Oh, and if you are local, we’re selling at the School House Antique Mall in Brewer. This weekend everything is 20% off in the whole store.

Our new adventure (part one)

Earlier today I was thinking about the events in the years my husband and I have been married, and I thought we’ve had two businesses together, but there have been more. I’m not sure how long ago it was that I first dreamed of having a business of my own. There’s something about it that appeals to my fiercely independent nature.

Many years ago, my husband and I started a “homemade” little bit of everything business. We sold birdhouses, doormats, lawn chairs, stuffed animals, dried flower arrangements, decorative shelves. Everything had a country crafty look. It wasn’t exactly our style, but it’s what we could make so we went with it. It didn’t last long but we learned something from it –

never try to sell something you don’t love.

Then my husband started a part-time cabinetry business. The man has a gift, let me tell you. He started building small things, then worked on some home remodeling finish work, then was asked to build some beautiful custom pieces. He started to have a waiting list. Then we were transferred out of state. My husband learned a lot –

do something you enjoy and don’t overestimate your abilities and people will be pleasantly surprised when you exceed their expectations.

Around the same time and before we moved, I wanted to add to our household income, but I didn’t want to start a business from scratch. A friend of mine had a party and invited me and I ended up signing on as a sales rep for a multi-level marketing company. I was pretty good at the sales thing. I followed the outline for having a party, put a couple of custom packages together, and did pretty well. But I didn’t like trying to keep up with the ever changing inventory. Too many “limited editions” made the company prosper because reps had to keep ordering, but it was hard on me because just as soon as I got a limited edition item in, they were discontinued and I had to have a sale. They probably worked well for reps with a ton of customers, but I wasn’t one of them. Our out of state transfer made it easy for me to stop selling the products. And I learned something –

never try to sell something you don’t love (yes, I’m a little slow) and I don’t like following someone else’s path, even if the path is well marked.

After our move, I thought I’d love to own a coffee shop. Coffee is a product with a HUGE profit margin (did you know that?). At the time, it cost about 2 cents to make a cup of plain old not so special coffee that sold for $1.50 a cup. The ratio is probably still about the same. I also loved the idea of creating a destination. A place that customers wanted to come to. We looked into buying an existing coffee shop for sale, but after working out all the details and arranging for financing, I knew I’d miss being able to do it on my own. The customers had an expectation of what the shop would look like, smell like, and taste like, so we decided not to buy the shop and started on the path to open our own. I had suppliers all lined up, menu items picked out, the location selected, business plan written. We picked up the lease and took it home to read it over before signing a long (three year I think) lease. Just before signing it, we found out we were expecting our fourth child. We knew I wouldn’t be able to handle pregnancy, new baby, new business all at one time, so we stopped everything. I learned a few things –

there’s nothing wrong with using someone else’s dream to inspire your own, but at some point you need to go in your own direction.

Come back tomorrow for part two, and you can find out what our new adventure is.