Friday, December 12, 2014

Looking for that one picture....

Several weeks ago my daughter put in a request on behalf of the middle school for her Kindergarten photo and I've kept moving the task down the to do list because I knew it wasn't just going to be a two-second job. It would snowball into something. She's in 8th Grade and it's for the yearbook. I can't imagine being the individual responsible for acquiring these for every student AND putting the target deadline for Winter  Christmas Break. I'd love to see her inbox...

To put this in perspective, Kindergarten for us was 2006, right there between film cameras being stuffed in the back of the drawer and the complete acceptance of digital photography. Social media sharing also exploded around this time. Through this, the annual fall school picture day has still yielded an envelope of pictures that family loves to receive and display in their homes for years to come. Despite carefully posed selfies with clever filters that adorn Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and (insert 500 photo sharing sites here), the school picture is the annual avatar on the timeline of our kids' maturation.

I've never been the milk and cookies after school, June Cleaver type mom and I don't do a lot of the mom stuff in the traditional way, but I have done a pretty decent job at keeping pictures organized throughout my adult life.

I've shared my photo organization method with people over the years and it seems like a good thing to share here. While the above picture seems like chaos, it really wasn't. It was just one final organization step I had not completed yet in the overall system I use to keep pictures organized. It took me about half an hour to actually locate the photo I needed, and another hour or two to finish organizing this part of our photo archive.

The tips below are for the everyday folks trying to manage the day to day pictures. I'm not a professional....I'm sure they've all got a better system. One big suggestion as you embark on this process... when you are reminded of the story of the photos you see, jot it down on a piece of paper. Even if you aren't a scrapbooker, others seeing the photos later will enjoy the story if it's filed along with the photos. For digital photos, most photo management software allows for captions or notes or something.

Digital photography:
I'm a scrapbooker and the first thing I learned years ago was start with today and stay current going forward, then catch up the past when you have time. Get your workflow down that works for you. Then apply it going backward, most recent first.

Start the new year off right and set up a folder in your picture section on your computer or the cloud of your choice for 2015, make folders for each month. That's where you will start January 1, 2015 regularly transferring pictures from your phone, camera, etc. I do this on average, once a week from my phone.

I use Dropbox as the in between, then transfer to iPhoto after scrapbooking, editing, deleting the duds, etc for permanent backup. My DSLR has a wifi feature and they get automatically dumped into my computer when I'm home, but the same process applies if you transfer off your camera via USB.  Dates are embedded in the meta data (right click, properties) so there's no need to make weekly folders or daily etc...unless you are highly OCD, which I am, and I do, but it's more for my scrapbook workflow than overall preservation. By year, by month. Simple. Some photo organization programs use tags and facial recognition...if this helps you, go for it. I don't take more time to do that, plus I only have one child so it just became an unnecessary step for me.

This is the system I have used for digital pictures since digital started. The same structure is on my computer, my onsite backup drive, and the backup drive that I recently sent with my parents to put in their fireproof safe. If you don't have your digital pictures on a backup drive, please please do this. Been there, done that with a crashed hard drive and days of waiting to see if that last picture of me with my grandpa can be recovered. It sucks. I think this event was when I got as serious about digital photo organization as I had been my film photos.

The blessing of this effort: If I want to see my daughter's 6th birthday cake...I can find it in about 5 minutes. You'll thank yourself for this effort when it comes time to get that high school graduation slide show ready. Your descendants will thank you as well.

If you have a 10+ year mess of digital pictures on your computer (or phone, multiple cameras, multiple SD cards, CDs, etc) this is going to take some time so break it down into workable parts. Set up the years and months folders. Start dragging pictures and folders into them here and there. Then dig in year by year, month by month while you're sitting there watching TV, bored at the next family gathering, having coffee or a glass of wine while waiting for the kids at practice, etc. Don't forget to back up.

Pre Digital:
I developed the computer system I use from how I organized all my film camera pictures prior to digital after my daughter was born. Everything is sorted by year, then month and/or major event. If you can't break old pictures down by month, then do the best you can to get them by year or event, or decade if you have to.  It isn't always easy to remember. My sister and I started this process with my mom several years ago and it was challenging so use other people to help if you can. It's really quite fun! We need to finish the job with her sometime and I'd venture a guess that the same thing needs to happen on my husband's side of the family.
Gather film photos in a central location over the next few months. Feel free to throw out duplicates, dud pictures that are especially common with film photography. It's ok. Really. You don't need 25 blurry pictures of Aunt or two are fine.
Get some photo boxes. Michaels, Walmart, Target, etc have them. The beauty of digital photography....I only have 4 big photo storage boxes on the basement shelf for my entire life...up to the mid 2000s.
Get index card dividers that you can label or just cut paper, card stock, or use envelopes to label with the years, months.
Dig in, make piles, write on the back of pictures, sort sort sort. Then file.

Professional family pictures, school pictures of your kids, your other kids in the family, etc:
The size and number of these made it inconvenient to store in the photo boxes, which is why I had the huge piles yesterday that were only partially organized. I use envelopes divided by year, child, grade.
My nieces and nephews school pictures go in envelope for my side, one envelope for my husband's side. It's their parents' job to organize those! haha!
When I started doing an annual album in the Project Life method these pictures became part of the album and are put in either digitally or placed in the large envelope stored in the album where I put greeting cards, etc.
Our cousins and their kids pictures are similarly divided...they all go in one envelope by family.

What about all that artwork the kids brought home through early elementary school?
Save a few favorites, take digital photos of the rest, and toss it. Then make a photo book on any number of photo sites out there or make it part of your annual album. I know when we moved this last time I got rid of so much of the artwork, but I photographed it for this purpose. Somewhere in the 2011 photo files are the pictures because that's the winter after we moved and when I did the big purge of all that stuff that was hiding in our closets for 8 years.

The job may seem overwhelming so take your time. Set a goal of a year or so to get it under control, while keeping the current year organized. It really is worth it to have this part of your life somewhat organized. Hope these tips have given some direction to the job. You don't have to scrapbook anything, just keep it organized. Post any questions in the comments.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Daily 2014

     I toy around with the December Daily every so many years. I love the concept of it. I am the family storyteller, so I get a little geeked out over this kind of stuff. With gearing up to do the annual album in 2015 Project Life style I'm trying to get back in the habit of writing and memory keeping.

     I've completed the project two or three times and I always enjoy going back and seeing what I might otherwise have forgotten in the whirlwind of activity, travel, etc that takes up December. December is also my reflect and plan for the new year month so I tend to get nostalgic. It's something one of the blog authors I follow, Ali Edwards, has done for several years and the scrapbooking community follows along in huge numbers.  Here's a link to her foundation pages for this year. The idea is to document the first 25 days of December and hopefully give some insight into your family traditions, fun experiences of the month, etc.

     I'd nearly given up the idea of doing this album this year. We aren't traveling or having guests until after Christmas. While we have decorations up, the big blowout gift opening really isn't happening as we are taking vacation. We have one side of the family Christmas already done and we've really cut back our gift giving to family over the years. It just seemed rather mundane to go to the trouble of recording the "same thing, different year". Our month is rather, normal, so why bother?

     Then I saw this post on Kerri Bradford's blog. What a great way to store, preserve, save, and keep organized all the happy mail we get during this month! Annnnndddd.....wherever binder rings are, an album will sprout. I realized then that I didn't have to do December DAILY, just December Whatever and add Christmas Cards.
     As I processed through the how of what method, sizing, etc I was going to use, I already had a lot of the stuff I needed. I decided to use some 6x8 digital templates and digital elements from Cathy Zielske  and some patterned paper that just so happened to coordinate. I decided to print the template pages I create at home, then add them to pattern paper backgrounds, and embellish as I wanted. (aka, hybrid scrapbooking) This way I can keep the album out for people to look at throughout the month. I like the immediate gratification of finishing a page, printing it, and having it in my hands right away on these smaller albums, whereas my annual album is exclusively digital and batch printed throughout the year either at Costco or Plus who the heck wants to deal with Costco anymore than necessary in December.
     As far as my focus and approach, I'm just kind of winging it and the Around Here theme Ali Edwards does sometimes kept coming to mind. In my annual album, especially if I get behind,  I use the concept of just jotting things down that are going on 'around here' to give a snapshot of life in a small space.  In this case I'm fleshing out the things going on around here a little more.
    Even though I have restarted the blog to kind of get back into the paper crafting, memory keeping circles, I don't plan to publicly share the album's pages beyond what I have in this post.

I found with my annual album it's so freeing of the mind and pen if you are just preserving life events for those who walk this life hand in hand with you, in person. 
     If you are inspired to do this type of project, click the links I provided, Google is your friend, and the #decemberdaily on Instagram will yield inspiration far more beautiful than I could ever create. ;-)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Raining diamonds

Today brought 72 degree temps, a strong breeze, bright sunshine and a crisp blue sky. As I stood drinking my coffee looking out the open screen door I was drawn to the patterns last night's rain left on the patio. It looked like mother nature had rained diamonds.... The contrast of shadow of the stair railing against the water pattern was just...pretty.
     It's hard to believe we are expecting significant snow in less than 48 hours. In the valley though, it could end up being nothing, which is just as well. We'll see.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Best Gift Evah...

The kids in my family are getting older and it gets increasingly more challenging to select gifts that you know they'll like. Everyone is also spread out across several states and ease of packing and mailing often wins in the end. I subscribe to the K.I.S.S. method of the holiday season because it keeps me sane. Enter...the King. Cash. Would you like plastic or paper? (One of my nieces told me some time ago after receiving a Visa Gift Card; "Best gift EVAH!") Score.

I've done a number of things to present the gift cards or cash I gave in the past. Usually they just get placed in a card or bag with a small trinket, or just in a bag alone, then mailed or hand delivered, and that's that. Sometimes I actually do shop if I have a specific request. The last time I asked one of them for a gift suggestion via text, I was told 'I' Score.

Yes it would be easier to just go to Walmart, grab a money holder card, get the cash back at the register and be done... (yep, 'easier', Walmart during the holiday season, uh huh, anyway..) But that wouldn't give me an excuse to stay in my jammies, crazy socks, oversized hoodie, drink coffee , put the dogs to work, and singing along to iTunes Radio all day.
The dogs are helping me today. 

Besides...we all got into this paper crafting hobby to save money, right? ;-) Greeting cards are expensive!!!! my quest to be more crafty and creative this year I decided to embark on a clever way to present 'the best gift ever'. the interest of bringing the season of thanks into this Christmas focused post...I am thankful for......Google. The internet is meant for people like me. I really try NOT to be clever on my own. Very dangerous. Add wine and it can get downright messy. It's much easier to just copy (with credit!) someone else's cleverness. Google gave me several options, one of which I kept displayed on my MacBook Air for reference when I had time to put it together. It was from a blog post from 2009 (the credit for the cleverness) so I sure didn't want to have to dig for it again later. Sometimes that Google can be a teeny weeny bit inconsistent. 

Today I got ready to start the project since we are doing "Thanks-mas" with my side of the family, who are separated by I don't know, 12? hours, next week. I have a to do list a mile long so I wanted to get this done and have some peaceful creative time today. 

Since I'm over 40 now and according to the eye doc (who is maybe 17) I will need bifocals next time (uh, whatever!), I wanted to get that blog post onto my 21.5" iMac screen so I could see it across the room. Did you know that if you bring safari up on your iMac, things you've found on your other devices running safari magically show up? WHA???? How does it do THAT???? 

It's past lunch time, so here's the finished products. Happy pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping. You know you WILL forget something right? No sense getting upset about it. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More fun with CAS(E) this Sketch Blog

When I saw my email today from CAS(E) this Sketch Blog I immediately thought of this patterned paper pack I both the small and large 12x12. It's called Simple Elegance, by The Paper Studio. I originally bought it because it matches so much of my house decor that I knew sometime I'd want to come up with a wall hanging of some kind.

Anyway....the sketch was a bit scary...because you know, it looks like a lot of ..... Geometry.
I can do Algebra problems as long as my driveway, but I don't DO Geometry, which is why the sides overlap instead of come out cut just right from the corner of a paper, like one of those ruler that look like an L. There is a pattern to the overlap so I call it....a design element. ;-)

For the sentiment, I had the embossing tinsel out from another project I attempted that ended up in the round file, so I embossed that sentiment so it would pop off the black background.

I can say this was super fun and quick once I simplified the process.


We had a beautiful weather week, until today. Cloudy, 15-20 or so degrees colder than yesterday...just gray. For some reason labrador who is very convincing when she has to pee/is hungry we were up an hour earlier than normal despite the darkness of the mornings. Consequently I got some things finished around the house early (go figure). My early rising this morning gave me some time to play with another sketch challenge from Freshly Made Sketches Blog, while the dog snores at my feet. Thanks Halle.

This little guy arrived on my doorstep last month when I rejoined The Stamps of Life Monthly Stamp Club and I've been looking forward to using it ever since. Snowman2Build reminds me of the old Stampin' Up 'Frosty', which was always a fun winter set.

I've had some mica flake glitter for years, never used until today. Perfect for that snowman-y look. You may think I'm ready for the white stuff. I'm not. Here's the sketch....head over to the blog linked to see how many others interpret this sketch. Very fun!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Crafty Time

Wednesdays are our weekday 'rest day' from our four evenings per week at CrossFit.

While I love the gym time with my husband and daughter, I enjoy not rushing around on Wednesdays and planning my day/evening around the 4-6 pm block..which ends up extending way beyond that by the time showers, dinners, etc get going. I generally keep the errands to a minimum and lately I'm trying to commit to spending time on Wednesdays (and other days!) doing some creative things, reading, and just being at home. Home is my favorite place to be. In PJs. All day.

Today I worked (way too long) on a Sketch from CAS(E) this sketch blog. I say 'way too long' because I thought I'd never get it 'right'. The sketch is pretty clean and seemed pretty easy...hmmm...

I knew I wanted to use the Chrysanthemum stamp I had from The Stamps of Life, mums2stamp. The card was to go in the mail to my grandma today, who is recovering from an injury. Yikes! A deadline!

I tried to combine with a color combo challenge from another site and I just couldn't get it together without adding some green so I bagged that plan. Once I stamped the mums, they called to be cut out using some nestibilities dies I had on hand.

Well, I haven't done much paper craft stuff in several years and that process required doing some research on how to run the dies and stamped images through the die cutting machine...oye! I managed to NOT break the plates to the machine AND get the images cut pretty quickly with the help of 'Google'. I now understand why this Nestibilities Dies thing becomes a sickness among paper crafters.

I chose the pattern paper early on as 'the one'...but pushed it aside and tried at least 10 others when I was trying to make the color combo work without green...and brought it right back once I added the stems to the mums. I just can't do the free floating flower thing. It just seems incomplete. So there it is...and it got in the mail at least an hour ahead of the mail truck.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vintage Christmas

Through one of the other blogs I follow I was introduced to The Paper Players.

This week's challenge was to use something vintage on a card. I don't have a lot to choose from when it comes to Christmas vintage...and I wanted to keep making Christmas cards so my time had purpose! I came across this nutcracker tag punch out from Graphic 45 in my stash.

Nutcrackers are so traditionally Christmas....I added some paper from The Paper Studio Old World Winter stack and this went together so quickly! Keeping with my goal of clean and simple design for Christmas cards, I had three of the images on the sheet so I actually knocked out three cards at that!

Time to start the Christmas Cards.

Good afternoon. While I love Thanksgiving, I'm pretty happy to have my Thanksgiving cards ready to go so I can enjoy the month and the holiday.  I made a few Fall cards this year but I also went back through my stash from previous years and used some of those.

I tried so hard to decide to use some old Christmas cards I made in previous years this year as well so not to waste them, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I really like making Christmas cards. So if any of my non-crafty or time crunched friends would like my old hand made Christmas cards (maybe a couple dozen?), just let me know. We can work something out.

I know it's early, but the earlier I start on these, the more fun I have, and the less stress there is involved. I pulled out all my Winter and Holiday themed stamp sets, papers, embellishments, etc and I made my Christmas inspiration basket to put on my table to make it easier to see what I have on hand.

When it comes to Christmas cards, I usually go for simple and clean. I've made cards to sell in the past and these types of designs that lend themselves to mass production are often the most cost effective.

I love sketch challenges, because they allow for some creative interpretation and helps things often go together quickly.  This one from Freshly Made Sketches (#161) is the newest. I plan to do several sketch challenges in coming weeks to build my Christmas card selection to send out this year (or sell if anyone asks). If I don't get enough one of a kind designs, I'll go back later and mass produce some that went together pretty quickly. This is one of them.

Stamp Set: Lace Snowflakes, Stampin' Up.
Cardstock: Off white, red, silver
Papers: Fair Isle Christmas, Deja Vus
Miscellaneous: Silver heat embossing powder, silver cord

Monday, November 3, 2014

Early sunrise

Who was thankful for today's early sunrise to start the Monday? The hubby texted me when he got to work and said: "Beautiful drive, only good thing about DST (ending)."

I even got up early. Uh huh. It will take me a week or so to battle that sleep/wake monster.

I'm not much of a morning person so I personally would rather have a little more daylight in the evenings, but either way, around here the sunrises and sunsets are a spectacular event.

Have a glorious day!~

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Falling back, looking forward

Staircase: Handley Regional Library, Winchester VA
    Falling back...the time change.

     This early Fall event signals the start of our family's dread of dwindling daylight and all the mood and motivation that dwindles with the sunlight. We live near the eastern edge of the Eastern Time Zone so as I started this post at 430pm telling the dog 'it's not time to eat yet', it IS looking a lot like the dinner hour instead of afternoon...and it will only get worse the closer we get to the Winter Solstice.
     At any rate the flipping of the calendar to November always triggers in me a sort of reflection upon the year and thinking forward to the new year.
     In past years, around this time I usually get caught up on the annual scrapbook, start thinking about what goals I set at the beginning of the year, what I still have to accomplish or table for the next year, and begin really thinking about holiday plans.
     Let's take a little inventory of where I stand on some of those things and where I want to go....because some of these things will come up in my posts in the coming year as the goal of this site is a forum for creativity through writing, photographs, and artsy crafty productions.

  • Annual scrapbook: Yes, I'm one of 'those' people. I try not to let my pictures reside in the deep recesses of a hard drive for infinity. That being said, I take a very low stress approach to it. I use it as more of a storytelling and writing avenue and a reason to get all those pictures off digital media rather than a terribly creative one. Plus I suffer from CRS (Can't Remember, uhhh, Squat) and memory keeping and writing helps me preserve the thoughts in my head that leave as quickly as they arrive. (Thank you Day One App for iEverything) As much as I love paint, canvas, paper, stamps, ink and glitter for the purpose of cards or cutesy fun things, I actually hate scrapbooking in the traditional sense. I could never understand why people used all that stuff for one tiny picture on a huge 12x12 page. I tried it, and I was pretty decent at it, but I always knew it just wasn't me. 

     After being 'caught up' for all but two years in the mid 2000s, this year I bagged the family scrapbook way back in Week 2. I decided it just wasn't in the cards this year despite the easy to manage method I use (Becky Higgins Project Life with lots of inspiration from Cathy Zielske) I did, however make sure to keep my proven photo organization intact on the computer. If you want to see a photo from June 2014, I can get you one in about 10 seconds.
     My personal opinion on the scrapbooking thing is that it is very valuable in telling the stories of your life, especially the day to day things that at the time may seem mundane but when you go back later on are the most treasured bits and pieces. Plus, nowadays we all seem to have a camera in our hands. The stories behind them need preserved for the future. I have released the idea of our 2014 book being in the shelf. In future years its absence will be a void, but that tells a story as well. The 2015 book's opening pages will likely explain why to the future reader. My focus needed to be elsewhere this year.

  • Resolutions Goals for the year. I stopped making resolutions several years ago. Who keeps them? Really? Several years ago I was going through a refocusing of my life and ran across a blog post on Ali Edwards  website, who I follow still. She selected a word of the year, and called it One Little Word. I was inspired at the approach because she really has a way of embracing a word each year and making it hers, then seeing how that word shapes her year.      So in late 2008 going into 2009, I decided this was how I was going to set goals and approach things going into the new year. I chose the following that year and in subsequent years: Simplify, Focus, Discover, Leap, Build, and this year Trust. You can check out last year's One Little Word post to get the idea. It really is kind of fun. 
      The single best thing about choosing a word these last few years, for me, has been each word becomes a mantra for the year at the beginning, then toward the end it is a pretty accurate reflection on the year. Even though I didn't scrapbook my year I do recall times when the word (as well as previous years' words) found me in my every day life this past year. I often bring the word to mind when trying to make a decision or deal with a situation. Trust this year has meant trust the processes in my life, trust the people in my life, trust myself, trust God's plan for me, among other things.
      This is the time of year where I start looking for next year's word to find me, and it always does. I'm sure this will be the subject of a later blog post.

  • Holiday projects There's something about this time of year where even the least crafty of us tend to get a little creative. I've always thought it's a lack of outdoor activity thing bringing us indoors after active summers and a perhaps a throwback to our childhoods of making things in school to give as gifts to our families. Who doesn't love a paper chain hanging on the tree? 
     This fall I'm taking part in the 'thankful' movement and doing Cathy Zielske's 30 Days of Thankful project. It is a pretty simple documentation with photo(s) project of what many people post on social media throughout November. I may share a few things from the album here in more detail in coming weeks, but lots of what I photograph and journal is private family stuff, and the internet is a pretty public thing, so I'm guarded that way. (I'm trying here Dad, to do what you told me, and not waste my love of the written word, we'll see how it evolves. ;-)
     I may do December Daily along with Ali Edwards, but I've yet to determine a format that isn't too overwhelming and I want to focus on some hands on paper crafting with cards and things this year so we'll see what happens. These mini digital projects help me with my ongoing goal of learning more about Photoshop and doing most of my scrapbooking with digital templates, then either printing the final product in a book or printing the pages and dropping them in an album. I also want to get my habit back around to regular life documentation because I WILL be doing an annual album again in 2015. Just like anything else, if you have a routine and a habit, you'll be more likely to stick with it.
     I'm doing the Project Life  method again as the backbone of the album because it just works for me. If you are curious about scrapbooking but just don't know how to get going, check it out. I do digital pages, then keep the little pieces of life's ephemera and put it all in one album per year. But if all you want to do is print your photos and write a little something about them, it really is just that simple with the products available. Oh yah, and there's an app for that too which is a game changer for lots of people. No computer required. Just your iPhone or iPad, upload to a printing service or photo book, and you're done. (coming soon to droid)
     I spent some time today assembling folders on my computer with digital elements I plan to use, most of them from Cathy Zielske. I took last year's title page, which never got printed, and adapted it for 2015. I taped a few visual representations of the elements I chose to use this year to my computer screen so I can easily decide from week to week what to use in the albums. I have so many more options in my collection, but after the derailing of last year, I realize it's best to just keep it super simple. I realize that my super simple may be more complex than your super simple. I encourage you to find your own 'simple'. lol.
     So that's where I have been today, and where I'm heading. Thanks for coming along on the journey. it time for bed yet?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Time and Trees


Last Wednesday I took off, alone, to Ohio to visit my grandmother and other family. We usually travel as a family, but I wanted to go longer than a weekend considering the seven hour drive and work and school schedules for everyone just wouldn't allow for a family trip this time.
     We moved a lot when I was a child, and my parents have changed houses and home towns in my adult life, so Grandma's house is the closest thing I have left of a childhood home that is still tangible to me in a physical sense. It is always heartwarming and nostalgic to go there. Memories and long standing routines flood me at every turn. By not having any other responsibilities other than myself, I was able to spend some one on one time with my grandma doing the things we always do. Additionally, I was able to just look around and really see the place I spent so much time as a child. 
     Grandma is usually up before the rest of us and I generally find her reading in the 'new' living room, which predates my existence on this earth. There is never a paragraph or chapter to finish first. She simply places her bookmark in the book and we start our day with a hug. I don't think I've ever spent a night there where the morning hug didn't occur. Then we have coffee and breakfast. Even if she's already eaten she sits at the table with me. In recent years she's adjusted to the idea that we make our own breakfasts but she still asks if she can make me anything special. 
     The rest of our days are simple and easy:  talking, playing cards, running an errand or two, planning meals, watching the news and the game shows, reading, visiting with other family members who come in and out, sitting on the front porch. I occasionally go out and do my own thing for a few hours but I'm never gone from her very long. 
      The conversations are loud so Grandma can hear and filled with a bit of repetition that naturally occurs with the older folks. We talk about the past and what family members are up to. We talk about Grandpa. His absence is the proverbial elephant in the room and has been for nine years. It isn't the same for me without him there but I often feel his presence. Talking about him keeps him alive between us. 
     We usually play any number of games of Rummy 500. We all play Rummy 500 with Grandma. The whole family puts in their Rummy time. It is one of my favorite things to do with her. She's good, really good, and taught us all the game when we were kids. The lessons were hard because you learned to lose gracefully, because you did lose...often. Grandma never let you win because you were a kid. If you won, you always knew, and still know, you earned it 100% on your own. Once when I stayed for a week helping her when she hurt her knee I think we played 25 games. We tied at 12-12...and played that last game way past her 830 bedtime in order to not end up even. I don't remember now who won that last game, but the competitiveness and concentration rivaled the final rounds of the World Poker Tournament.
     All these routines of a visit settle against a backdrop of a house and property that has seen 64 years of evolution. The home's only inhabitants were my grandparents and all of us. The scissors are still in the same drawer they were ever since Grandpa put the new kitchen in place when I was very young. I can always find a pair of nail clippers, the Oreos, and the bottle of bourbon.
     I still remember the old kitchen, straight out of the 1950s with its pink walls and blue and red tiles. I still picture it sometimes when we sit at the dining room table, because to this day it seems odd to sit there. We always sat at the kitchen table before the new kitchen.
     I took a walk around the property on Thursday, a most perfect fall day,  and took some photos of trees and flowering shrubs. It gave me pause to think how the trees have grown over the years and I no longer felt like a little girl as I always do when I'm there. I felt every year of my almost 41, especially when I stopped to remember distinctly trees that used to stand but have long ago been cut down. Very few things can illustrate the passage of time like the size of trees on a familiar landscape. My mind's eye always seems to fill in the missing items when observing the property.
     One tree in particular was so large that we always feared it would come down in a storm and destroy the house. My grandma retold of the day my grandpa leaned against that massive tree and it moved. They had it taken down shortly after and was rotten in the middle.
     In the front yard stands a tree about 30 feet from the road. I stayed there in summers for extended visits when I was young and Grandpa still worked. He took part in a carpool to the office. I would spend my days with Grandma watching the stories on TV, hanging laundry on the line, playing cards when I was old enough, and she'd start supper in the late afternoon. Around the time it was getting close to him being home, she'd let me sit under that big tree by the road and watch for his carpool. As soon as I saw the big red four door truck, I'd jump up. He'd get out at the end of the driveway and we'd walk up to the house together.  I still see myself under that tree every time I'm there. My mother used to do the same thing.
     As Grandma and I sat on the front porch the last evening I was there we talked about the trees. She relayed when they were planted, when some were taken down, and how the place had changed over the years. I thought about the changes not just to the trees, but to the entire place. A ten point buck leaped across the road and through the yard into the neighbor's back yard. We were both awestruck and speechless. When she went inside shortly after, I closed my eyes for a few moments to recall the sounds I used to hear, what I still hear if I listen. In general it is so very quiet compared to when I spent time here growing up.
     The buzz of activity the garage once hosted and the normal household routine of keeping up with kids and grandkids is present in my memories and again my mind fills in the details. I see Grandma's beautiful annual flowers in the flower bed which is now a concrete patio, rarely used. The garage, closed usually, is always open in my mind with the hum of the air compressor and the clanking of tools in the background. On the quiet front porch I hear laughter of family and friends with the occasional 'pop' of a soda or beer bottle. The kids are riding their bikes up and down the driveway or playing ball in the front yard. It's all there and always will be.
     It cannot be denied that the time there is limited now and that is an incredibly difficult inevitability. Grandma is a pretty healthy 91, but still 91. I still see her as 60ish...I don't know what's going to happen to this place when she's gone, but I'm happy she is still able to live in her home and has the support of nearby family to make that happen. I wonder if, in her quiet days spent there, her mind also completes the scene in a similar way mine does and it gives her the same peace it brings me. I hope so.
     We are approaching the season of thanks, and I'm so grateful to have this place that has served as a second home to me all these years and that I can still experience it hands on. I have so many places I've called home and like the trees that have come and gone here over time and left seedlings or roots behind, there are pieces and parts of me that live on everywhere I've been.
    I felt called this past weekend to slow down, observe, look, and feel the place that has always been special to me. It is very much a part of me as are the people that are part of the mental picture I paint of it, and I'm ever thankful I am a part of it as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

 The beautiful fall explosion of color in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

We took a drive roughly 30 miles along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park today. The difference from just two weeks ago is unreal in terms of the color. This is my favorite time of year here, but truthfully, the mountains make it pretty all year long.

Shenandoah River serpentines through the valley.

Texture on the ground...liked the mix of green grass, pine needles, and multiple leaf colors. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Sketch Challenge

The internet is a beautiful thing. I'm amazed how much is out there to inspire. The hardest part about card making, scrapbooking, or really, any paper craft is the layout, especially when you've not been in the habit of creating things. Eventually your own vision takes over and you come up with layouts on your own, but for now, wow it's making things just happen. Sketches have long been a springboard for creativity. It's like a puzzle you assemble, but you make up your own pieces. I came across Freshly Made Sketches Blog yesterday so decided to play along with this week's sketch.
The stamps are from The Stamps of Life, Branches4Flowers and the patterned paper is from Basic Gray, Green at Heart paper stack.

Rainy days

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there really is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." -John Ruskin     

I often stand in this spot with my morning coffee. Some mornings, when I'm up early enough or season is right, I catch the sunrise over what we call in the neighborhood, "Mt. Wakeland". It's a man made berm with trees between two phases of our planned suburban community. Not at all a mountain by local standards, but it's all we've got in our back yards. The back of our house faces several other homes, and toward the east and the sunrises are usually beautiful. Today, I just look at the mud that remains from a patio installation (ahem, reinstallation) this summer, the withering remains of a cherry tomato plant among other hodge podge plant items, the patio furniture that needs to just go, and the soon to be minor stream that will present itself in the corner of the yard. I also remember that the cleaning people came on Monday and by days end their work on my kitchen tile will be for nothing what with the dogs' paws tracking the gunk inside. 
     Fall has descended on the Shenandoah Valley and daily the palette of color changes around us.   It is by far my favorite season here and one of the reasons I immediately fell in love with this area when we moved four years ago.
     Today, it's a dreary gray color with steady falling rain. Too much rain. This is the type of day that I always think of my grandmother, Adele. I often call her on days like this, thankful I still can, but a week from today I'll be visiting with her, so I forego the call. When I was little these were the days that the electric bill be damned, every light in her house was on. I sometimes do this myself to brighten things up a bit, to attempt to ignore the blah.
     Today though I'm just listening to the steady drip drop on the siding and windows and enjoy the peace it brings. I notice how green the grass still is and has remained most of the mild summer. I like green. I hear the occasional starting of the sump pump in the basement, which is music to the ears. I process through some emails, look at some creative stuff online, pay a few bills, pour another cup of coffee, and get ready to tackle the mess I created for myself in my guest room when I moved furniture to the den for my craft stuff. Kent's parents are coming Friday, and the current state of the guest room is well, not conducive to guests.
     I could complain about the rain, but why? It's just another kind of good weather.
Edited: Guest room put back together. I'm glad to have comfort in the fact that my normal rotation of house  guests don't really care too much if there's a few things lying around or things are put in the closet out of sight. It's tidy and functional. 😄

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Christmas motivation

For the nearly 4 years since we moved to Virginia from Indiana I had my craft area set up in the basement. It's unfinished so I really had as much space as I wanted or needed. The problem is my previous space in Indiana was full of light and in a more public area of the house. This led to many harmonious hours of creative time without having to hide away from the family in the dark.
I would go downstairs here and there and try to focus and get some things done, but it just never felt right. I've also spent a lot of time the last few years getting healthy, eating right, exercising, reading, etc. I've also gotten away from the cards and paper stuff and into more art journaling and painting...sort of spread my wings a bit. I definitely need the creative outlet though, and always have felt more in balance when I'm doing something with the fun supplies I've hoarded  accumulated over the last 12ish years. 

Last week I made a plan to move my supplies to our office/den right off the family room.  This meant resolving myself to the idea that the dogs' kennels would need to be in an unused area of our formal dining room...they can move the one time a year we actually use that room. It's been a good move thus far. I'm finding I feel like creating again. And that's a good thing for me. 

I've reconnected with Splitcoaststampers and found lots of inspiration and some challenges that are helping me get back my creative vibe. It's overwhelming to look at the vast selection of images I have on hand to work with so I'm focusing on one or two companies which seem to speak to me right now. 

I remember from before that I am more motivated when I have a goal or a purpose in my work. So, with the Christmas season coming up, I may 'practice' a bit with images that I can send out the door when the time comes. Used to be I'd make duplicate cards, one to keep, one to send, but thanks to digital more. The majority of what I'll be making will be given to someone. Lucky friends and family! 

About this card: Stamps are from The Stamps of Life, set is Holly4Christmas. Papers are from The Paper Studio Old World Winter pack.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lovely as a tree.... always a classic.

A male friend had an accident a couple weeks ago. I wanted to do something nice for him and his wife as they welcome us to their home always, and I value their friendship a great deal. It is always a challenge to come up with a masculine card for a guy. Well Lovely as a Tree, Stampin Up! is a classic choice. It always works. I used some patterned paper I had in my stash, and coordinating solid papers and inks. The image is stamped on glossy paper. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Daughter is 14....and likes owls.

This week I brought all my fun creative things upstairs from the basement to the den right off the family room. In the process I found a lot of unused things from The Stamps of Life. My daughter loves owls right now, and her birthday is tomorrow, so it was logical to come up with something in her favorite colors of pink and green. The set is called Owls2Love, it's from a couple years ago. She loved it! I know it's typical to be specific as to what was used in these things, but I have so much stuff that I am trying to use through, I have no idea where most of my things came from. I'll do my best to describe. 


     Some of you may be returning because I let you know I was restarting this blog thingy. While the name is the same, none of the old content is here because, well, it's old content. If you are really that interested, I can figure out how to grant you private access to the old blog. I read through it last night and this morning and it was some good stuff, but I just couldn't click the button to reactivate it and editing things that were very out of date was too daunting.
     I shut it down several years ago because I just felt too 'out there'. Social media has evolved to such a degree that it seems like you always have a window into your life and something had to go. I'm a different person now, in a different place in my life, with different things to share and the purpose of restarting the blog is to, well, restart.
     For those of you who are new, welcome. Originally I blogged to share my paper crafting (cards, scrapbooking, etc) with the folks I interacted with in that circle, and EVERYONE had a blog. I still interact with a few of them and I hope they visit again. I plan to do a little of that again, plus photography, writing, etc.
     Over time, the 'Old' Watercolor Garden evolved into a place where I could discuss the random stuff that went through my mind and satisfy that writers urge. Facebook became the preferred method of sharing randomness, but it and other social media are just not fulfilling something inside me that I'm needing right now...I guess I need to flesh things out more. I don't know...We'll see where this ends up...