Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Each key I press as I type takes just a moment. I hear the click of the keys sounding a muted percussion. Sometimes rapid as I record my thoughts with confidence, sometimes melodic when hesitations create stanzas.

There are billions of moments, each unique, occurring all around me - downstairs the dog rolls over and sighs, outside on the street tires roll grittily across the snow covered road on their way to...where? For these few moments, I am acutely aware of every breath I take knowing that my moments are part of the world's.

Radiolab presents: Moments by Will Hoffman. This films is a celebration of life that was inspired by David Eagleman's book, Sum.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blizzard Conditions

The snow is coming down in earnest outside.  I can feel the wind buffeting the house as it wraps icy fingers around the roof.  Snowplows have been going down the road several times an hour, more often than I would expect for our road.

I have been putting away leftover wrapping paper and ribbons, tucking gift bags into the sides of the box for next year.  The pile of magazines is a great deal smaller.  I seem to be on a quiet quest for calm and order, cleaning out clutter and organizing drawers.  Bob is watching football and I check in now and then for the highlights and scores.

It is cozy and warm up in my sitting room. Since I had finished one of my Christmas books from the library this afternoon, I started a new one tonight.  Set in London at the turn of the century, its plot is starting out in the seamier alleyways of the city and I wonder where the hopeful Christmasy-ness will come in. I poured some milk and nabbed a few spritz on my last trip downstairs.  Maybe they will help me get through the icky parts and on to the uplifting ones.

In between bursts of reading, I have been going through old floppy discs from Creative NeedleArts days, transferring the files I want to keep onto my computer.  Since computers don't come with floppy drives anymore, if I want something, I better save it now.  There were journal entries and copies of letters to friends overseas from the 90's which were nice to find.  I didn't save the files from CNA, though.  It is time to let that all go.  I have my printed books and patterns if I want to reminisce.

Christmas has a habit of making me feel nostalgic and the week between now and New Year's Day has always been my time to reflect and regroup.  It is interesting to look back at the events and people which have shaped my life into what it is.  Being ensconced in a warm room while gales of wind throw snow around makes the exploration even more fun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peppermint Berries Box

Raymond Crawford's Peppermint Berries is finished!  It looks beautiful mounted in one of Sudberry House's boxes.  I love the graphic needlepoint design and the challenging fibers and stitches I used which give it so much dimension.  Its candy cane border is all glittery and a delicate red braided stitch surrounds it.  What fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boston by the Bay

I didn't realize how many projects I am completing lately.  Nice!  Here is a cute little nautical needlepoint ornament I made recently completed with a little flannel lobster tucked inside - Boston, of course!  Lots of memories grace our tree each year for sure - favorite places, special many good times.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Knit Two, Purl Two

I like how quickly doll clothes knit up.  I can do fancy cables and rolled collars and the garment is still finished in less time than it takes to rake the yard.  I made this adorable poncho and cable scarf for my granddaughter's new Christmas doll from the leftover yarn I bought in Lucca, Italy for her baby sweater five years ago.

I always loved the continuity of using remnants from handmade garments for family gifts.  The first quilt I made - for my son when he was a baby - included bright colors from other projects and the 'filling' is not batting, but a well worn baby blanket from my early childhood. Subsequent quilts included leftover scraps from hand sewn garments my mother made for me over the my childhood. I can remember the meticulous planning she did to get the plaid pattern to go evenly across the arms and bodice of a favorite red plaid dress with white collar and cuffs in junior high school.  I remember, too, snagging the pocket on a trash can while running to my next class and being worried she'd be mad after all the work she put into it.  The stiff patch material she ironed onto the inside of the dress held the tear closed so it couldn't be seen from the outside and all was well again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Most Amazing Cookie Ever Eaten

If you are making cookies this year, you just have to try these.  The rich chocolate, just the right touch of peppermint and a dusting of powdered sugar that gets all over your black pants but you don't care.  You're reaching for another cookie.

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies from Naomi at Bakers Royale have a surprise in every bite.  She's amazing!

I have been craving the ultimate comfort food.  I can't imagine one more satisfying than cookie dough. Dip it in chocolate and it is totally decadent.  I don't know about you, but I have scraped the last bits from the bottom of many a bowl and licked the spoon clean, so imagine if I had a private cache like this one from Joy, the Baker, tucked in the freezer for just the right moment?  Heaven!  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rearrange for a Change

Getting up really early on a Sunday morning gives you lots of time during the day.  We went to the firehouse to fill Thanksgiving baskets for the Lions Club at 7:30.  There was so much help that we were easily done by 9:00.  96 families this year - up from last year.  Still a lot of families are struggling to keep afloat.  News reports banter about 'recession over' - 'wasn't really a recession' - 'unemployment down' - no, it is up, like it is fodder to be juggled to fit the relentless broadcast schedules.  The point of view shifts with the uninformed opinions of the newscasters searching for anything to fill the time.  I thought they were only supposed to report news, not create it. Not worth listening to - have to take everything with a grain of salt.  I can get the real news from the 96 families who need help right now.  Repeat a number like that in every town in Massachusetts and it is unfathomable.  30% of the homes in Ashburnham are in foreclosure and close to that in Fitchburg.  Similar stories overseas.  What is happening to our world?

I am trying to create some order in my little piece of it (the effort of which seems inconsequential now that I wrote that).  Wasn't where I planned to go when I sat down a few minutes ago.  I cleaned, moved some furniture to make room for my paints and easel which need to come inside for the winter and made two batches of grape jelly with the last of the juice from the summer.  It is autumn and my efforts touch both the warm summer and chilly winter.  My bridge spans the seasons.
My Winter Digs

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A New Pair of Socks

My first hand-knitted socks!
With tiny needles in hand and soft merino wool flecked with the sparkle of sunlight on sea waves, I knit my first pair of socks. With every challenging step - heel flap - turning the heel - reducing stitches to make the toe, I was thrilled when I crossed each hurdle.

After I finished the first sock, I couldn't resist slipping my foot into it while I was knitting the second. Unlike any purchased sock I have ever worn - it fit perfectly. A cable runs subtly up the back - a secret pleasure since it is fairly well hidden by my slacks. I like that about them.

I finished the second sock while I was in France. For just being completed, they are very well traveled.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Fond Farewell

My mother-in-law passed away last Sunday.  We were far away in France but she was never out of our thoughts.  She was much loved and will be missed by all of us.  We celebrated her 90th birthday earlier than her August 11th birthdate and it was a wonderful visit - all of us together at Kathy's house.  She basked in the love surrounding her and gave us her heartfelt smiles all afternoon.  What a treasure that visit was!

Friday, September 24, 2010

On the Loose in Toulouse

Exploring a new area, especially in Europe where history mingles with everyday life, is like eating a rich dessert.  You lick your lips in anticipation and once the treat is before you, you savor every bite.

We landed in Toulouse during the latest French air traffic controllers' strike ahead of our original schedule as flights were cancelled, we were rerouted (in our favor) and tense moments at our Frankfort layover had us doubting we would ever get there that day. All went well in the end but Marty and Kathy's luggage didn't arrive for several days.

While Bob and our friends dozed their jet lag away, I couldn't bear to do the same so I grabbed my camera and headed out. And I savored.

I think I am at my best when I can see new things and touch history at the same time.  I love the shutters on the tall windows overlooking the narrow streets, the patina on bronze statues and the smooth grain of wood polished by centuries of hands running across it.  I love the dip worn into marble stairs and the waviness of the scenery when viewed through old leaded glass windows.  It is all good and I am glad to be here to enjoy it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tray Bien

It was fun to make a special serving tray for the library's exhibit and fundraiser.  Faux-painting the surface with layers of subtle colors, finding just the right mix of collage materials and watching the design evolve as I selected one element and removed another. 

I wrapped the handles with copper wire and beautiful, earthy beads, tucking in the sharp ends of the wire so they would not poke.

I can't remember how many there were on display but each was more creative than the next.  They raised a sizable amount for the library fund which was nice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Winds

It has been a tumultuous summer.  The ups are now being savored and the downs released to the winds where possible.  Illness has stricken family and many friends.  It is hard to take it all in.  My heart hurts for their suffering.  There are times when I reach for the phone to call someone I haven't talked to in a long time only to stop a hair's breath away from the dial because I am afraid to find out something traumatic about them, too.  I call anyway and, yes, the news is a mixture of good and bad.  It is what it is and I know we will all live through it as best we can.  
I find quiet places and cherish the moments of contemplation and peace.  A beach facing the expanse of the Atlantic ocean offers a soothing rhythm.  An island on our lake offers blueberries and solitude.  The cottage in Rhode Island shared with good friends is a welcome diversion.  As we sink our toes into the sand of East Beach, the coolness deep under the hot surface reminds me that all of nature consists of layers of intensity.  I attempt to ebb and flow through my conflicting feelings as nature directs by its example.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beach Angels

Lake Erie waves rush ashore just like the mighty ocean does and you can only see Canada on a clear day.  No salt spray here.  My grandchildren wiggle toes in the sand and giggle when the waves chase them toward shore.  Treasures are found among the rocks.  Sand towers melt away as the waves rush in and surround them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thinking Inside the Box

Naumann Architektur, Sweden

When I saw pictures of this project online, I was amazed at the simplicity of the solution.  It is genius.  The ancient, fragile exterior is preserved.  Inside is a new home.

How nice it would be if we could just put a new interior in our bodies when they become frail or diseased.  Woosh - new veins, new organs, stronger heart. Unlike a building, though, our skin is part of the whole and will not last hundreds of years or thousands.  We dwell in a house for such a brief time and it will go on without us sheltering another family and then another.  How fortunate we are to be part of that cycle.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Full Days, Peaceful Nights

June whizzed by in a flurry of activity.  In the midst of it all, there was time for reading (just finished The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux), get-togethers with friends and a myriad of projects from gardening to painting animal panels for our pontoon boat.

My family came to visit for the 4th of July weekend and I worked feverishly to get the panels done for the boat parade.  Our theme this year was a zoo or wild animal park.  Once started, they moved along and I like how they came out.  When we rode around the lake, the kids on shore loved the cartoonish giraffe, elephants, monkey and other animals.  Just the reaction I had hoped for.  It was so much fun!  The parties at the cabanas were great - lots of good food and music - the band was rocking!  Two nights of spectacular fireworks viewed from the boat and the shore enchanted us and a lobster feast on Sunday had us savoring every butter-drenched morsel.

It is quiet again and I wandered the house this morning, picking up pillows and linens in our living room/weekend dorm and washed two big loads of towels. I wish they were still all here so we could do it again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Italian Dreams

Frances Mayes wrote a new book recently and I have been savoring it. Like her other books, Every Day in Tuscany gives me a glimpse into what it would be like to live in Italy. What bliss!  What food!  What wine!

I love to travel and Italy has a special place in my heart. A sense of dolce vita pervades my mind just thinking about sun-drenched hillsides and I am transported to a region of the world where family and relationships are more important than things. My connection with Italy is intimate. I feel it in my soul. I would move there in a heartbeat if I didn't need to make a living. What struck me as amazing as we poured over our photos from the last trip is that we have only been on Italian soil twice. Twice.

Then why does it feel like we have been there countless times?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stitch Me a Yummy One

Creativity abounds the world over and with the Internet, we are now able to see the plethora of things talented people have come up with. It is mind-boggling. There are a series of studios in England called The Make Lounge where women can meet up for fantastic workshops - even events. It looks really cool. Wish we had something like this here in the States!

Lavender Bakery made these cupcake cuties for a cross stitch event at The Make Lounge and they struck my fancy. Cupcakes sure are a thing right now, aren't they? Funny how something catches someone's eye and grows into into a phenomenon. Remember popcorn stores? All those flavors? And bread stores - not just bakeries which have been around for eons, but bread stores. So specific. I think they are still doing well but there are none around me so I am not sure. I go to the bakery.

The absolute best is Mike's Pastry in Boston's North End. Yum. A trip into the city usually means a stop at Mike's for bread, a lobster claw to share and a few cannolis. Must plan a trip there soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Siren of the Sea

The ocean has been calling me. Sinewy sea grasses, rocks tumbled smooth be eons of waves and undercurrents...some are perfect ovals in varying shades - Easter eggs from the sea. Hundreds reside on a secluded beach in Gloucester. Rocky shores to the north and south, this unique spot had been the source for the rounded stones used as ballast for whaling ships heading out to hunt far from shore.

I found this outdoor dining room at Sia Home Fashion and it feels so invitingly coastal. Refreshing and cool - inviting cushions close to the ground and plates uneven like polished seashells open and ready for an exquisite meal. Sea urchins play as being vases for tiny blossoms.
We are cooking a birthday dinner this Sunday for a close friend and, if the weather warms up just a bit more, I can create a waterside setting on the back patio for our meal. I came across my seashell collection one night this week - extra scallop and clam shells that would be perfect for making candles to gather down the center of the table. My fairy house in the garden with its shell roof needs a bit of housekeping and repair, but will only take a few minutes. Hmmm...what else can I do to make the meal special?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Now that summer is showing its glowing face around here, I am stretched like a cat soaking in the warm rays. Stretching time, stretching limbs, stretching my mind. I feel it in every fiber.

I finished my granddaughter's raspberry sweater a few weeks ago and have started an orange (by emphatic request) cardigan for my grandson. He absolutely loves orange. It is an easy pattern - perfect for my infrequent sitting spells. I'll look thru my books tonight to find a nice stitch to do across the chest to relieve all that stockinette-plainness.

I helped pick out a screen door for my studio for my birthday last week so have been priming and painting trim so we can install it. All windows have screens to keep the bugs away - now the door will be protected to keep them from feasting on me while I paint. I am so excited! Simple pleasures...

So, now that the sun shines and the boat needs scrubbed and plants fertilized and brush cleared and and and...I am stretching time as well as my limbs.

While the want-to-do-list grows, I was reminded this morning about the pleasure of being still. When I left for work, I glanced towards the beach and a heron was standing sedately near the dock. Never in a hurry, herons always prompt me to skid to a stop and drink in the wonders around me. Here. Now.

Sometimes I need the reminder that I don't have to do everything - often considerable pleasure is derived from just moving slowly thru the water.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Family Talents

One thing about family - they are always part of you no matter what. Miles cannot distance you from thinking about them. They help mold you into who you presently are. They continually influence your view of the world - when you are lucky enough to keep in touch.

My youngest brother, Jim, has been a pivotal person for me. As with all my family, I have enjoyed seeing his personal evolutions. Jim's talents have expanded over the years and I relish the times we discuss the wondrous feelings our expressions afford us. I never hang up from a phone call without food for thought and a new way of looking at something. His music has brought many friends together and I have seen faces suffused with pleasure on these occasions. His art is a joy. He has an eye for composition and his photography is memorable. When you have a moment, check it out at You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Lately, I have been rummaging under the eaves to unearth things stored there which, for the most part, have been forgotten. A few treasures were found - certainly a treat - but stored papers (why are there so many?) and bits that were shoved in one door or another at random are now reunited or tossed. My cache of yarn is bigger than I remembered.

I am reluctant to open the can of worms on the other side of the room. Over there are all the boxes of pictures and mementos of life, children and momentous moments. I know I will get lost in memories and not really clean up a thing. Perhaps that is a job for a chilly winter day; not one for today which is blazing with sunshine and the new growth outside
compels me to stop.

Our yard is coming to life. The forsythia is a yellow so intense, one feels lost in the color if standing close and looking into the bush. Muscari gifts that popped up a few years ago (not of my own doing) have now expanded their family along a ridge of rocks and a few have jumped ship and are happily blooming in the grass, too. The quince is orangy salmon and full of blooms. It won't be long before the lilacs, azaleas and rhododendrons open up. While I am looking forward to their release, I am quite content to revel in the color already here. This is a great time of the year!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In the studio

There is much to be said for a weekend of almost continual painting. Throw in sunshine and warm breezes and it is idyllic.

The seascape I started on Saturday came together sweetly and I was hard pressed to leave the studio for a minute. So I didn't.

I love the feeling of painting with intensity mixed with casual abandon. Don't ask me how that blend of feelings can coexist because I can't tell you but I can say it is most delicious. The painting is almost done. It just waits for highlights and a few shadows, a tweek here and there. What fun it has been.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sunshine on My Mind

All this sunshine makes me feel like I am in a foreign land! It is radiating down into my shoulders and warming all those tight places which had become so tense as I forded watery roadways and navigated tricky detours to get to and from work. It is like a whole new world out there!

Feeling a little capricious, I am like a kid in a candy store as I contemplate my options for the weekend. I know there are only two days, but for some reason, I feel like they will stretch fit whatever I want to do. Must be the sun - it is going to my head.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pick Up Sticks

Just put the fringe on a thick seed stitch scarf a few days ago and started on a luscious raspberry Berroco Comfort raglan sweater for my granddaughter. Apparently she has found her baby sweater and is wearing it again. She's five.

I love knitting raglan sweaters. They work up so neatly and have only two underarm seams to sew. Gotta love that! The one I am doing now is in Debbie Macomber's Twenty Wishes pattern book. Found a great pattern for a zip cardigan for her brother in my stash (since I want to have one for each of them). Knobby denim colored yarn. This will test my zipper sewing abilities again - or not. Maybe he would never zip it up at all and can just run around with sweater tails flapping in the breeze. I'll give him pockets instead - boys need pockets.

I am debating on either picking up sticks in the yard or heading up to the seashore this weekend. It is supposed to be in the high 70's - bliss.

The sticks will still be there on Monday and it is staying light later in the evening. I am sure it is better as an after-work chore. Maybe I'll do some tonight.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Stash Quest

In my quest to finish cross stitch already in the works, I got working on a design by Need'l Love called Shaker Town which I started many moons ago. There's not very much to go (just the details on the houses and a few little areas). I am working with matte cotton which creates lovely stitches well suited for a prairie style design like this.

Another love of mine are the E-Z Stitch scroll frames from The Stitchery. A friend of mine who lives on the west coast developed them way back when we were much younger (but just as feisty). I can't remember a time when I used anything else for cross stitch. I love the furniture finish on the frames and that I can use them in a lap/table stand like this or in my floor stand. I have all the sizes now! The tension is wonderful and they are so easy to stitch on whether I am on the couch or outside on a lawn chair in the summer.

Ahhh, summer. It is coming, isn't it? While we have been deluged with rain for days and days, Easter weekend promises sunshine and temps in the high 70's! I am so looking forward to it. I'll be the one doing the happy dance in the front yard.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Simplify, simplify, simplify

My mantra. Not one I actually adhere to. Ever. New threads, lovely bamboo knitting needles, a paint color I just have to have - they all tempt me into excess.

Stash - isn't it the most wonderful word? Heaven forbid I should actually reduce my stash! What if I need it? So what if my Irish linens in multiple colors and counts fill an entire drawer? There are plenty more projects in my future and I just might need it.

Now, the rest of the house...and garage! We have a huge garage - bigger than any couple should ever have. It is lovely to have all that space, but we have been in this house for eight years now and there is a lot of stuff in that garage that hasn't seen the light of day since we got here.

A Spring garage sale is in the offing. It promises to be an event of major proportions. I mean, I need to make room for more stash....

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rainy Mondays

I wonder if 2010 will be the year of extreme weather. So much rain! House has stayed blessedly dry, but the dehumidifier is chugging along out in the studio. No paper curling yet, but I think the paper towel roll may have gained weight this past month.

In my quest to finish what I start (a novel thought), I am adding a few decorative borders to the olive branch design I started awhile back. I am toying with finishing it as a box cover if I can find one in the right shape or perhaps simply frame it. I need to check and see if Sudberry House's jewelry box will work. I love its elongated, almost William Morris style design and textural stitches. The silvery green leaves remind me of peaceful hillsides in Italy where the wind once gifted us with a symphony as its breath rustled the leaves in the olive trees on its pathway from hilltop to valley floor.

I have many other works in progress (WIPS) as I tend to move from one craft to another on a whim. I am easily taken in by shiny new threads and a painted canvas. It is all about the design. I could stitch for the rest of my days and still want to do more.

Now, with Spring officially here, the earth is calling to me so my fingers are flying to get the most out of my cozy inside stitching time. I can see a few plants in the front garden which need to be separated and moved so the blue hydrangea doesn't shadow them this summer. Almost time to split the irises again. I love the scent of freshly turned soil.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Winter's Slumber, My Awakening

I enjoy each of the seasonal cycles. Living in New England, winters can be dramatic. Hunkered down under an afghan with a cup of tea, I knit scarves and sweaters and finish up the needlepoint projects I started before Christmas. Winter is my best stitching time, expansive in both duration and projects.

I can't remember a time when I didn't stitch. Well, maybe I can - Mom says I all but flunked out of home ec in high school with my misshapen dirndl skirt. Setting in a zipper was definitely not my forte at the time. I got better over time as my interest grew. I learned to sew better, knit and crochet. Needlework became my passion when I started a family.

All thru this, I painted and drew. Not with any regularity, but with wonderment that my hand and mind could work together to create something on paper and canvas.

My paints live inside the house for the winter and spring fills me with anticipation. The closer it gets, the closer I get to my own seasonal change. We had a weekend of near 70 degree weather two weeks ago and I was out in the studio like a flash, cleaning around the stored deck furniture and scooting early ladybugs out the door. I carried the paints out of the house and put them back in their home on the drawing table. I played with watercolors for an hour or two...ahhhh.