Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Fitting Wind Down

It's the wind-down phase of the year. A time that causes many of us to be reflective, busy, determined, and/or just plain worn out. This morning, I must have been a little worn out, as I slept late - or at least it was late for me. When I woke and crawled from the bed (a bed with fresh, clean sheets and a down comforter, I might note) it was after 7:30 am! Highly unusual for me, even on the weekends.

Oldtimer and I were nursing our first cups of fresh coffee, reading emails on our side-by-side computers, and I noticed movement over the loft railing and out the hexagon window below. At first I thought one of the dogs was in the back yard till I noticed the brown rump moving past the window was beyond our yard and on the landscaped berm that separates our yard from the neighbor. It was a nice-sized doe, ambling through the shrubbery and into our yard.

Oldtimer rushed in his (very sexy new plaid) robe to the door, I brought the camera, and we tried to capture the deer gathering in our yard.

The first shot (above) shows the barely discernable head and back of the doe, through the railing. Ultimately, we realized she was joining five others in our yard, and there were two more at our landscaped berm next to the road. One of the six in the yard looked very young, as though he just lost his spots last week!

Some kept watch, some began crossing the road, ultimately eight of them zipped catty-wampus across the neighbor's yard and into an open field area. What a beautiful, beautiful way to start the day. Eight deer, dashing toward the woods...Oh, here's the other thing that occupied my time this weekend - my new vehicle! Her name is Gypsy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In the Kitchen with Oldtimer

No, he doesn't really cook, but he does look good standing there, doesn't he?

And this year he gifted me with the Kitchen Aid mixer I've been whining about for a couple of years - in Ice Blue. It matches the kitchen ceiling.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bright Blessings

May you find peace, harmony and fulfillment.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Thinking

A posting of The Rules on the CPS list got me thinking.

Some of you may have noticed this element in my regular, non-holiday blog header:
I made this Artist Trading Doll for a swap last spring, and ended up swapping a different one and keeping this one for myself. She stays near my art table in the treehouse, and keeps me mindful when I am creating, and mindful when I am stingy with my creating, and mindful when I become too critical of self and art. Her name is "Surgeon General's Warning: Excessive Self-Reinvention May Cause Enlarged Belly Button."

That's a take-off of one of Lolo's favorite phrases (she had thousands of them). The phrase was always some variation of "how dare you sit in the corner contemplating your navel and declaring the world ugly?"

It's a rare day that I find the world ugly; I tend to be a little too hopeful most days, but I am very critical of myself and my work. I want to ease up a bit, and plan to take my "Independence Day" posting into the new year and expand upon it. I hope to create with abandon, use the goodies from my creative stash, and particularly focus on rules 4 and 6 in that list posted above.

This is not, I repeat - NOT, a New Year's resolution. This is a personal goal, and there's a big difference, at least in my mind. I stink at New Year's resolutions. (Is that self-critical?)

There'll Be Some Changes Made

Good changes, I promise.

I've been selling fragrance and a few soapmaking supplies on the web for...oh, I don't know how many years now. I've been using the easy but limited Freemerchant/Safeshopper set up, but have been toying with the idea of making some changes. To my benefit, Freemerchant forced me to make some decisions, by discontinuing their little storefronts, so off I go, into the world of grown-up internet commerce.

In all my musings about what to do, what to do, I had finally decided that I was going to grow the storefront a bit, by adding more soap fragrances, a couple more luxury base oils, and feature more of my own soaps, including photos. I knew I'd get to it eventually, really.

Well, having always worked better under pressure, I am grateful to have been pushed in this direction. The problem is that between the full-time day job, and Oldtimer and my addiction to playing Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, I haven't put much together, and those Freemerchant folks are shutting down in mid January. Lousy time to pull that, don't you think? I have shopping and shipping to do!

Enter the cavalry. I'm getting help, good help, from Jim Lillicotch. He saved our bacon a few times at my day job, too. He's helping me put together a fresh new page, a secure new shopping cart, and maybe...oh just maybe...some automated shipping cost calculations. I know I've been driving you folks crazy with making you wait for that total.

For now, just know that we're shooting for a look that's clean, modern, and uncluttered with just a hint of rustic (like my sign and labels).

So, all you folks who have been unnerved by the appendage of "safeshopper" on my domain name, will be able to rest easy when it becomes simply; all you folks who want to see before you buy, will get photos of the actual soaps; and everything will still be nice and secure, shipped promptly and smell divine. Nirvana.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Just Thinking

I signed in today, and looked at my profile there on the right side of the page. Most of it is still true, especially the part about being married to the love of my life. But I'm kind of wondering, at what point do the mid-50s end, and I have to say I'm in my late 50s? Of course, resorting to "ladies never tell," I guess I don't have to broadcast my age at all, do I? But somehow, I feel that if I'm trying to express who I am in this blog, the age thing makes it all make more sense.

The fact that I have adult children, for example. They are real adults, not just-barely adults. When I was my son's age, I was dealing with three small children, building a house, and the passing of my father. I knew then I was an honest-to-goodness grown-up. My youngest daughter is thinking of buying a house. I worry about my baby getting into a huge financial commitment at her age - and then realize that when I was her age, I had purchased a bigger, better family home for the second time.

And what about looking our age? (Let's forget the acting our age part of it!) As a child, I loved to watch my mother put on her make-up and fix her hair. I know how little make-up she used, yet what a dramatic impact it had on her appearance. These days, we put on layers and layers of things, and we highlight, and we feather, and we line and smudge and who knows what else? It takes me twice as long to put on three times as much make-up, and look like I'm wearing half the amount my mother did. And don't you think that those red lips and darkened eyebrows made the young women look so much older? Look at this photo of Lolo:

(Consider this partial fulfillment of my promise to post more glamorous photos of her...) She was a beautiful woman, wasn't she? Look at that smile, and note that late-40s glamour make-up. This woman is only 18 years old in this photo! Beautiful...

Lest I seem hung up on age (I know I mentioned it with the fun new shoes post), I'm not. What I am is *intrigued* by it, or at least intrigued by MY age. I am astonished to realize where I am in my life, how quickly I got here, and I think of how wise and respectable I expected to be at this point in my life. I think it's amazing. I'm in my late middle 50s. I want to walk around, take people by the arm and say "Can you believe I'm almost 5X years old??" However, complete strangers might not find that as astonishing as I do.

So, through all this meandering, I did manage to fulfill a promise of posting pretty pictures of my mother. I should probably do the same for my dad, no? Hmmm...should I have incorporated his name into my blog title? He had a nickname or two...

PS - We "elfed" ourselves. Look here:

Still Not Impressed

I guess Cosmo thought the snow wouldn't be as cold on his feet, if he explored in the warm light of twilight. He's still not impressed.

Neither am I! Gives you a chill, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

But it's not winter yet!

I thought the first day of winter was the 21st of this month??

We had a lovely day yesterday. We went to Little Italy to our favorite bakery for cookies and marzipan to send our children (who reside at the four points of the compass), had to make a quick trip elsewhere, then came back to Little Italy to get some pieces I'd seen in my favorite shop there - Xen Gifts. From there we went to an early dinner at one of the restaurants, and when we came out it was just getting dark, the snow began falling while we were inside, there were lights in the windows and music from some of the little shops. It was magical. Perfect ending to a satisfying day.

Today, not so good. The morning was 40 degrees and rainy, but the temps started dropping, the wind picked up and the snow began to fall. I tried to get some photos of the pre-blizzard time, while looking out from the garage door. You can almost tell the snow is driving sideways, when you look at the house across the street. And see our poor angels? Covered in snow, and still heralding.

We ran out to Chipotle for dinner, even in the winter blast. On the way back we spotted a house with LOTS of lights on it. You don't see that often, here. It kinds of looks like the Walmart house, but it also makes me happy, childishly happy. Here are a few of the pics I took of the brightly lit house:

And here's our neighbors house, with his herd of lighted deer:

Once we got home, we finished our wrapping. Cosmo helped.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ornaments & the Second Tree

As you can see below, I was told I needed photos of the second tree. It's so hard to photograph it - if I use a flash, you don't get the effect of the lights, and without a flash, things are pretty dark.

With our current room layout and all the plants we have downstairs, there's no real way to show you the tree as it appears to us, but at least I can give a bit of an idea. I wanted to show all of Phyllis' beautiful hand-painted ornaments, but only the red one was close enough to get the best photos. I tried reclining on the steps to get the full height of the tree, but that didn't work.

Cosmo approves. And so, without further ado...Phyllis' ornaments and the tall skinny tree! The red one below has our names, Gerry & Sue, on it. One of our friends got about a dozen one year, all custom painted, and we were the lucky recipients of one. This is before we even knew Phyllis - before she sold her art in our store, and helped with the CAP booth there, as well as with things in general around the store.

Here, I tried to stand back and get the full corner shot, but the chandelier obscures the top of the tree, and the plants in the foreground obscure the bottom.
This is from my attempt at lying on the stairs and shooting upwards. Well, it was worth a try.
Cosmo has his own ornament, painted by Phyllis, on the tree. I think in this photo, however, he's just waiting for Santa Cat.
See that light aqua ornament, to the lower right of the angel icicle? That's Cosmo's ornie. Phyllis painted him with his blue eye.
Here's the whole tree, but not the table it stands on. This was taken from the top of the steps, lookng down.

The chandeliers, by the way, one on each end of the room, are new to the room. When we bought this house, this area had a couple of mystery light switches. One day I looked at the high, sloped ceiling and told my Oldtimer I was certain there were metal plates in that plaster, centered in front of those tall windows, and that I was sure there were places for hanging lights. Sure enough, he uncovered the plates, and that's what one of the mystery switches was for. The other is for an outlet on the backside of the knee wall around the loft. We put a shelf under that, and it's now home to a piece of stained glass we can light with the flip of a switch. The stained glass, btw, is a beautiful green and white swirl, placed into a half-round, spoked old window frame. We had that done by one of the many artists we knew in Warrenton.

I just liked this shot of the red ornament and the fake poinsettia. Originally, this tree was done in all pink and sage green balls with the ribbon running through it. We've gradually added a few other things, but the basic theme remains.
Yes, another angle on the closest handpainted ornie.

Another angle on the tree, through the now-bare branches of the brugmansia. This poor plant bloomed up a storm when it first came in the house, and then dropped all its leaves. I think it's in shock. It's still alive, though, and just beginning to sprout a bunch of new leaves. Ah, here's one of Phyllis' kind of mauve-y toned ornaments. This one says Oldtimer & Lily and is from our first Christmas in the store.
That's it for now! I really should take pix of all the beautiful artwork we have around the house, just thanks to the Warrenton artists. We have several original paintings by Wanda Satterwhite, the fun and quirky clay art of the Smallwoods, fire bowls and other clay work by Copper Rain, beautiful watercolor landscapes by Billy Farmer, and of course the two custom pieces of otters, done by Barbara Parker. (I consider otters a "totem.")


We watched a movie last night, while putting up our second Christmas tree. This tree went in the lower level family room, where the ceiling is high. It's a tall skinny tree - it just about touched the ceiling in the front hall of our house in Warrenton, where the ceilings are about 12 feet high. We decided to put it on the antique work table we bought a couple weeks ago, right in the corner between two tall windows that look out on the back yard.

It's so tall and skinny, the weight of just about ANYTHING causes the top to sway. That does not stop my Oldtimer, though. He climbed the ladder, put a rope around the chandelier to hold it out of the way, and then *lifted* the fully decorated tree onto the table. I've put an old lace tablecloth around the base as a tree skirt, and let some of the wonderful wood of the work table show.

This is the tree that gets the three hand-painted ornaments done by my friend Phyllis. I love those ornaments, though I know she grew weary of painting them. There's one there for Gerry & me, before Phyllis knew us, one she made for us as Oldtimer & Lily, and one she made for Cosmo. They are treasures.

We have another of these tall skinny trees. Perhaps next year we'll put both up, one in front of each set of windows - if I don't have so many plants to winter over.

Tonight I *might* just start the Christmas shopping. Yes, you heard me. All I have so far are a couple of things for Olivia, and some ideas. Pitiful. Of course, my son and daughter-in-law have only requested one thing - a year's supply of pepperoni bread! I figure we better get some shopping started - the weatherman keeps saying "The snow is coming! The snow is coming!" We'll see if he's right this time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Messy But Productive Weekend

We had a good weekend around the house, despite the fact that we were both prone to messy accidents.

On Friday, my Oldtimer carried a five gallon bucket of cocoa butter down the basement stairs to my soaproom. On the way down the stairs, he bumped some of the cleaning supplies on the ledge, causing a full bottle of Future floor wax to take a tumble, breaking the lid, and spilling everywhere. I now have the shiniest basement steps of anyone I know.

Not to be outdone, I spent Saturday morning making soap, lotions, body butter AND testing four new fragrances for the soap fragrance line. I had poured all four testers, in the tube molds I use to differentiate the testers, and had turned my back to wash up my equipment. I heard a dreadful noise...and turned to see two full tubes of raw soap dumped out on the work counter and spread over the floor. Now that was a real "clean-up" job!

The rest of our time was spent decorating the house and getting into the holiday spirit. Frankly, since selling the store, we haven't had much holiday spirit, haven't felt like decorating a thing, and have been generally pretty bah-humbugish. It felt so good to get lights to drape on the pretty pine at the base of the back deck, and Oldtimer worked hard to get spotlights on the front of the house just so. I began some interior decorating and tablescaping, too - and we put up the tree in the living/dining room space.

We still have to decorate the tall skinny tree that goes in the downstairs family room, but the photos below show we've made some progress:

For the exterior, we have lights and an angel and peace "theme." Actually, I just wanted an opportunity to show off those wonderful willow angels. I used to use them in the store windows, too. For the interior, it's a bit of an elegant earth-tone feeling on the main level.

We went for a ride to check out other lights last night, cruising the street of newer large homes behind ours. We pulled into a cul-de-sac, and I thought I saw a very large dog jump off the front porch of one house, chasing two deer around the corner. Then I realized the "dog" flashed a white tail as it ran away. I knew the deer in our neighborhood were pretty nervy, but I had no idea they would come right up on the porch! We've been seeing them almost nightly in the yard across the street, and there's strong evidence they've been partying by our pond, but not up on our porch!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

For Your Viewing Pleasure

This is my all-time favorite photo of our beautiful dumpster cat, Cosmo. When we first got Cosmo, he was our store cat (Oldtimer & Lily, An Emporium of Practical & Beautiful Things in Warrenton, NC) and he quickly became the main attraction. He did tricks for the customers such as fetching his toy mice, climbing ladders, jumping for spinning pennies. One of our good regular, seasonal visitors loved him much, and actually laid on the rug in front of the door to capture this photo. It was worth it, I think.
Cosmo now rules the roost in our home here in NE Ohio. He keeps the three dogs in line, demands treats on his schedule, and has learned to use the doggy door. I never intended to allow him outside, but he had other plans. Right now, however, he is not venturing out. Poor Southern kitty does not like the 20 degree weather, and is totally unimpressed with snow. I see him gazing longingly out the doggy door, and I just know he's thinking "What fresh hell is this?"

The noisy, messy, uncouth dogs, on the other hand, think snow and cold weather is glorious. They snort and snuffle, roll in it, toss it in the air with their noses, and track it in stuck between the pads on their paws. Cosmo will walk up and push his nose on the dogs' backs and feet to check if that stuff they are carrying around is still just snow. He's not impressed.

Just so you know...

Those letter images in the post below, spell "Lolo's Child" but...because I'm not technical enough to get them to fit within the boundaries of this template, so that you can see right away what they spell AND because I received a negative reaction to the changes in the new template I chose, you're just going to have to take my word for it. Or squint when you read the post.

Luckily, Blogger makes it fairly easy to change colors in the templates, but I haven't the time this morning to juggle this back to what it was. It looks too dark to me today, but I don't remember what I had. I just know I had this template with some changes to the colors.

I really want a template that uses more of the page, and Blogger provides those, but they are all rather spare and stark looking. I feel as though I'm wasting that entire left side - I guess they want to leave room for advertising, should I choose to sign up for that. It seems strange to me that more people aren't creating nice new templates for Blogger users. to push some paper.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Love It!


C Bead Letter H I L DUNLOP

Found this on Tamdoll's blog - it's called Spell with Flickr. Isn't it great?

Here - go try it yourself!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Really Poor Pictures

These are probably the worst pictures I have ever taken, ever. Really. However, I'm going to post them anyway, just so a couple of folks can glean the feeling I was trying to capture for them. The gals on the FDA list love to decorate for the holidays, and some have very definite favorite colors and styles.

Tonight, Oldtimer & I stopped at Gale's Garden Center to pick up a few things for decorating around the house. This store always does a wonderful job of decorating at Christmas time with all kinds of themed trees. I was so taken with a few of them, I grabbed shots with my cell phone. They are poor, but the intention was good, and maybe, just maybe, you can get a little something from it. If you pay close attention, you can see that the top portion is clearer than the bottom.
So, Sandy, because you love purple so, look at this purple and silver themed tree:

And Sherry, look at this Victorian tree:

I loved the woodsy, rustic one:
And for Linda, who's been doing so many beaded ornaments, how about a beaded log cabin?
I wonder if I could go back with a real camera and get some more shots. I'd like you to see the upside-down tree, the peacock tree, and the all red tree.
Incidentally, I only got one more pair of shoes - black - low boots. I like 'em! Especially since I only paid $12 for them.