Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

I thought it would be fun to look back at the New Year's resolutions I made last year on my other blog, It's Always Something, to see how many I kept. Here is the list from this time last year with an update on how this poor blogger did:

1. Lose weight -  I actually did this one...joined Weight Watchers in September and have lost 20 pounds so far...25 more to go!

2. Grow my hair - Yup...did that too, although I'm hardly Rapunzel yet!

3. Quit smoking (already broken) - Quit from February to November and then all he** broke I need to do it all over again.

4. Learn Japanese - Does konnichi wa count? I'm afraid that my daughter-in law Tomomi's mother, Umeyo, is doing much better with her English than I am doing with my Japanese. 
5. Make my "bucket list" so that I'll have time before I'm too old to do anything on it - Definitely have worked on that. Bought a new little Casita camper (on the list) and hope to travel this summer...maybe to Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Somewhere In Time is one of my favorite movies). Later the list calls for a return trip to the U.K...not in the camper, of course. And I'd love to join Sisters On the Fly.

6. Stop making so many lists (already broken) - Impossible...I'll admit it: I love lists!

7. Overcome my fear of colonoscopies -  hmmm...

8. Make the blog even more exciting (?) - The year was exciting enough on it's own...I didn't have to do anything.

9. Spend at least as many minutes doing fun things as I spend in hospitals and doctor's offices - See #8

10. Have another "cousins weekend" in 2010 - Yes...we got all the cousins together in October for a "girls weekend"... great fun and Nancy was well enough to join us.

11. Learn all the words to the "Maine Counties" song so I could sing along with Nancy - Still haven't mastered that one. "There's sixteen counties in our state...Cumberland and Franklin" as far as I got.

12. Drink more Margaritas - Absolutely...on the rocks with salt and lime.

13. Be nice - Always a work in progress but I sure try!

How about you?  I'd love to hear about how you did on your resolutions for 2010 and what your goals are for 2011. Care to share?

As I went through my day today, I was trying to come up with some words of inspiration with which to end this New Year's Eve post. About to give up, I re-read more of last year's blog entries and found the perfect words...written by Nancy on our blog exactly a year ago, on December 31, 2009. I think she said it is her message:

"With the coming New Year I have been reflecting a lot on 2009. I am ever so grateful to be in continued remission. Tomorrow is the start of a new year, a new beginning for each of us, and it is a time to take stock of our lives and what we would like to see for the future. For me, I am thankful to be alive and in remission, and I am thankful for my wonderful husband, family and friends. This year, I will try to find a way to deal with life's stresses, I will pray more, and I will live my life to the fullest. I will love and laugh freely. I wish for all of you a very happy and healthy New Year, filled with love, laughter, and hope! ~Nancy"

Happy New Year to you all.

New Friends for a New Year

I am so excited to have so many new Followers to this blog. Many of these ladies have amazing blogs of their own and I wanted to introduce some of them to you.

First is Brenda from Cozy Little House. She lives in East Texas and takes the most incredible photographs of her home and gardens. In fact, Brenda just cost me $300.00...I was so inspired by her photos that I upgraded the wonderful camera Wendy and Rob gave me for Christmas to a higher end model that will do macro photography. (Oh, no...I feel the first stirrings of a new creative obsession coming on!) Brenda was kind enough to feature My Sister's Cottage in her "Welcome Wagon Friday" post today which has brought some wonderful new followers to this site. Be sure to check out Brenda's other blog, too, at A Fairy In My Garden. Hank had no idea that there could be a fairy garden in East Texas, too...quite the competition for his "Wizard's Forest".
Then there is Linda from Ohio whose blog is French Hen Farm. Linda and I have discovered so many similarities in our lives that we're wondering if we might have been twins separated at birth. Linda crafts with her little sister, who is an eight-year breast cancer survivor. She describes French Hen Farm as a big, red barn surrounded by perennial gardens, an old willow tree, and 100 acres of farmed land. She and her sister love antiques and have semi-annual barn sales at their farm...don't I wish I lived closer! Her sister collects McCoy pottery, as I do, and, strangest similarity, we realized from photos on our blogs that our fathers, who both passed away in 2005, look quite a bit alike. And Linda's favorite Christmas cookie? Why tea balls, of course!
Another of my new blog friend is Debbie from Pennsylvania who is a four-year cancer survivor who loves crafts, dollhouses and Victoriana. Her blog is called Debbie Dabble. Grab a box of tissues before you read her post about the elderly man with lung cancer who made her a can find it here .
And then there is Amy from Oregon whose blog is Into Vintage. She loves making new things from old things, and especially loves vintage textiles.
And Joyce from Michigan whose blog I Love Pretty Little Things features some wonderful craft ideas.
And Linda from Minnesota, whose blog Itsy Bits and Pieces reflects her love of "junking".
And I can't leave out Sewn With Grace , a blog created by Renee from Michigan. She creates beautiful hand-sewn and knit items that will make you want to rush to the fabric store and try some of them yourself.

And so many more...I will feature more of my new Followers and blog friends in future posts but this should be enough to get you started on this morning's tour through blogland. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Good Recipe for a Cold Day

Here is another of Nancy's favorite recipes...thought it might be a good one for a cold day like this...comfort food. Leave a Comment if you try it; I'd love to know how it turns out!

Chunk 'O Cheese Bread
13/4 c. water
1/2 c. corn meal
2 t. salt
1/2 c. molasses
1 packet yeast
1/2 c. warm water
4-41/2 c. flour
1 lb. American cheese (I'd substitute cheddar), cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes
2 T. butter

Combine water, cornmeal and salt in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Cook until slightly thick. Remove from heat; stir in molasses and butter; cool 'til lukewarm. Soften yeast in warm water in large bowl. Blend in cornmeal mixture. Gradually add flour to form dough. Knead until smooth...about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled in size...about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Line two 8" or 9" loaf  pans with foil and grease well. Place dough on surface sprinkled with cornmeal. Work cheese into dough. Divide into two parts. Shape into oval loaves, covering cheese cubes. Place in pans and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees about 40-55 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The storm has ended here in Maine and the sun was out...a good morning for potting up the paperwhites I received for Christmas... a favorite old piece of McCoy pottery.

Last year's paperwhites in the dining room window...

“Under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream."  ~B. Winkler

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Winter finally made its way to Maine today...a good day for hot coffee, a warm fire in the wood stove, and quiet time in the craft room sorting through the mess I made yesterday. These photos were taken at Winn Farm this morning...the snow has finally stopped but the wind is still howling outside my window. Looking forward to a visit from my crafty friend, Sandra, tomorrow while Hank spends the day skiing at Black Mountain with Nancy's son, Kit. My only disappointment with this beautiful snowfall is that it means that my son, Rob, and his family...Tomomi, Taka and Toshi...are stranded in Brooklyn, N.Y. and won't be able to make their annual Christmas trip to Maine. I wonder how the boys will feel about Santa visiting them at Black Mountain in February? Hope you are all staying warm and enjoying a little quiet time to catch up after the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.  ~Thoreau
This post is linked to:
Saturday Nite Special at Funky Junk Interiors

Monday, December 27, 2010

Nancy's Craft Room

Tonight I feel as if my heart is going to's after midnight of the day after Christmas and our first Northeaster of the year is roaring outside; it's too late to call anyone so I guess I'll share my feelings with you, my blog family.
As I wrote when I started this blog, my sister, Nancy, had a creative soul and her craft room was her special place. We spent many hours together down there organizing and reorganizing her boxes and bins of craft supplies, talking over a can of tab, and, sometimes, actually making things. It seems our crafting went through phases...we would get really excited about a new idea, totally obsess about it for a year or so, and then move on to a new creative passion.

There was the year of the dollhouse...make that a few that time we built and decorated six dollhouses between the two of obsession but great fun. We'd debate about tiny wallpaper patterns, just the right doorknobs or gingerbread trim, and on which wall the tiny mythical family would want their couch placed for viewing their miniature T.V. set. As I obsession.

Then, there was the year of the birdhouses. We must have painted, distressed and decorated over fifty birdhouses that year...they were everywhere and, if you knew one of us during that time, you probably got one as a gift. Of course, these houses were never remotely intended to accommodate a family of birds; we made them to be "decorative accents" impart in our homes the perfect cottage touch. Too bad for the  birds...
Another year, my friend, Sandra, introduced us to rubber stamping. I convinced Nancy that if she went along with this latest craft scheme, she could save tons of money on greeting cards. We did not factor in the money we ended up spending on classes, rubber stamps, ink, glitter, papers, embossing powders and punches. By the time were were done, we had indeed made a few cards...probably worth about $25.00 each!

Did I mention the penny rug phase? Off we went to Searsport, Windham and Oxford in search of the perfect wool, the exact colors of embroidery floss, and patterns to inspire us. We actually did complete a few penny rugs that year but they definitely cost us a lot more than a few pennies...

Which brings me to why I am sitting here blogging after midnight to heal a broken heart...For those of you who haven't been following this blog, my incredible sister, Nancy, passed away last month after a six-year battle with ovarian cancer. Today I had offered to help her husband, Aaron, sort through her craft room so that there would be room to use part of the space for family that will be visiting him over the New Year holiday. Not only am I the "big sister" (translation from Psych. 101: "the responsible one") but I helped her drag all that stuff down there, and definitely helped her create the mess, so it seemed only natural that I should help him sort through it. As I unloaded the empty boxes and bins from my car, I had no idea what an emotional task lie ahead.

On one wall of the craft room sits Nancy's old oak teacher's desk. When she retired due to illness after 34 years of teaching 3rd and 4th grades, she inherited her desk. I just don't think she could face leaving it behind. On top were her reading glasses, perched as if she had just taken them off. Inside, the trappings of her teaching career...notes and cards she had saved mixed in with the red pens and sticky notes. And in one drawer, her lanyard with her photo card hanging from it marked "Wells Elementary School 2007-08". Time for my first break...

On the walls, hung Nancy's "hats". When she faced her first round of chemo in 2005, we gave her a huge "hat party" to cheer her up...all of her friends made her funny hats to wear when she lost her hair. And there they were, saved and displayed on the walls of  her craft room.

The rubber stamps were there, too, and parts of birdhouses, and scraps of wool...all there as she had left it.

I know that her craft supplies will go to people who will use and appreciate them...I'll make sure of that...but it just makes her loss so terribly real. Oh, what I would give tonight for a few more hours with her in that little craft room...

I comfort myself with the words Nancy stenciled on her craft room wall...I now see them as her message to those of us she left behind:  "Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh at it all." That's how Nancy lived her life and, I guess, that's how she would want us to continue to live ours as well...

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Way We Were

"the Stunning Smith Sisters" ~ Christmas 1952

Andi, Cheryl & Nancy ~ Christmas 1953

"God gave us memories that we might have roses in December."  ~J.M. Barrie, 1922

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Memories from my Pattern Box

I was looking for a pattern in my craft room this morning...first day of school vacation for us teachers...and found myself on an unexpected a trip down Memory Lane. Who could have thought that a box of old sewing patterns could tell a story? As I leafed through the box, quiet memories unfolded before me. I thought I'd share some of the stories my pattern box told...

Little Lulu first birthday

Raggedy Ann & Andi daughter was six

The Cabbage Patch Craze  1983...
Sewing clothes  for my son and daughter  1980's...

Jumpers 1990's...didn't every teacher need a few of these? My sister, Nancy, and I shared this pattern and must have made the cullotte one on the right in every color...we were chalkboard fashionistas!

 A vest for my husband...What was I thinking???

2006...the year I sewed Chrismas aprons for everyone on my list...
and actually made Nancy wear one!

My grandmother's old buttons

and a jar of buckles ...just in case I decide to make everyone belts next Christmas...

The clock in my craft room...I won this one in a Yankee Swap a few Christmases was supposed to be a gag gift but I knew that some poor woman, out of a desperate need to get out of the house by any means, had endured a lot of ceramics classes back in the 70's to make this.  I couldn't bring myself to part with it...still keeps good time...

Sometimes it does...

*Note to Santa: This blogger needs a new that takes good close-up shots...just in case you were wondering...

Monday, December 20, 2010

First Snow

Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
-Robert Frost

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Loading the Sleigh

The granola is wrapped...along with Hank's canned peaches, applesauce, pickles, biscotti and pasta...and the sleigh is almost ready to roll. If you hear a tapping sound at your house this afternoon, it's probably not reindeer on the roof...but it could be Hank and I making our rounds. Got Bailey's?

Making Granola

We spent Saturday morning making three gallons of granola for Christmas gifts...
It's made with oatmeal, sunflower seeds. sesame seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, fresh coconut, Maine maple syrup...
dried cranberries, raisins, and dried apricots...yummy!
Tomorrow is packaging day...and then deliveries to friends far and near!

The sun was beautiful this morning...
a perfect day.