Monday, December 29, 2014

A Weekend in the Mountains

The wintry weather that had plagued the northeast early in December had warmed up enough for my husband and I to spend a couple of days in our mountain retreat. It turned out to be a lot more work than either of us had bargained for when we discovered water all over the floor in the master bath. Apparently the shower faucet had not been completely in the off position. We didn't know this because the last time we were in the house there was no heat, no electric and no running water. In our absence, all those utilities were made functional. Although all the sink faucets had been checked, the shower faucet had not and the little drip-drip-drip accumulated in the base of the shower. There would have been no problem had it not been for the rubber mat that was blocking the drain. It was a mess but not nearly as big a mess as in the basement below which caught all the water that seeped through the floor. This will haunt us for some time to come in the form of mold, mildew and warped floor boards. SIGH. Lesson learned.

Still, the weekend was not a total wash out (pardon the pun). We did, after all, have working utilities which made all the work a lot easier to deal with. For the first time I was able to really wash and sanitize the bathroom so we could wash, bathe and use toilet facilities. The heat was working and greatly appreciated. We have three heating systems in the house: a gas fireplace, electric baseboard heating and a wood burning stove. The gas and electric are currently operational. The wood burning stove will be cleaned and serviced during the warm weather in preparation for the winter, The house is surrounded by acres of trees so we'll have no lack of firewood. Here's the gas fireplace in the corner of our living room. The logs are ceramic and only for show but, boy, do they put on a show. It truly emulates a wood burning fireplace.

In order to fit some of the things we took up to the mountain house, we had to remove one of the car seats and leave it in our home on the living room floor. My husband, who parked himself in front of the television after our return, found himself looking at the folded seat, particularly at the two holes at the top of the backrest that hold the removable headrest. Perhaps all the mountain air spurred his creativity because the more he looked at them, the more they reminded him of eyes and he decided to "dress" the seat using Christmas stockings and a Santa hat. After I stopped laughing, he asked me to rig up some "teeth" which I accomplish with some bathroom cups and double stick tape. Our beagle, Marla, appeared to be jealous of all the attention we were lavishing on the "Chair Monster" so she pulled out its tongue but seemed appeased enough afterwards to pose in front of it. My son quickly proclaimed that his father possessed a very strange and deep seated sense of humor, something he doesn't often demonstrate to this degree. 

2014 is drawing to a close and I have to say that, in spite of many stresses and uncertainties along the way, the year-end activities have been very enjoyable. 2015 promises to be interesting to say the least. I'm looking forward to it.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My December Garden

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Spike plant and Ivy
It is the middle of December here in New York and Mother Nature still amazes me. I still have flowers blooming and my cilantro is still perky. In the glass shed I use as a makeshift greenhouse, there is a pot of white snapdragons that won't quit. It just keeps blooming and blooming. Right next to it there is a pot that contains a spike plant and some ivy that is as fresh now as it was in June.

Sweet Allysum
Lest you think that the only plants performing well are in a sheltered environment, let me introduce you to some of the others that are planted outdoors. Although my white sweet allysum which grew and bloomed like gangbusters all summer is waning, it is still putting on a show with a handful of tiny white snowball blooms.

In raised beds on either side of the allysum I have lavender and cilantro. The cilantro doesn't grow tall in this weather but the leaves are still fragrant and tasty and I just harvested some for my kitchen. In my backyard I have purple pansies that apparently missed the memo that winter was upon us and are still blooming with impudence.

I've been making adjustments to the hoop house I erected over the raised bed in my front garden. Last year I dismantled it for the winter and covered the bed with a layer of bubble wrap to insulate the soil somewhat and protect the onions I had planted. It seemed to work well enough. This year I'm trying something different. I'm planning to keep the hoop up and covering it with plastic and have added a ridge pole across the top of my hoops to strengthen the structure. I'm making a fitted cover for the hoop house from a roll of heavy duty plastic. I'm going to order special clips to hold the plastic in place and plan to install openings that will allow me to access the interior of the structure. I've never done this before and have no clue how this will work out so wish me luck. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Until then...

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crunch Time

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Thanksgiving has come and gone and my head is still reeling from the speed with which the holiday season arrived. You would think that by now I would get the hang of this seasonal timing but I seem to be slipping backwards each year. I can almost feel Christmas sitting in my lap already and I haven't done a thing about it yet.

As my To Do list gets longer and longer, it's becoming more difficult to carve out time to make cards but I was able to eke out two simple ones in the last week. When my time gets crunched, I have to do away with frou-frous and work simply and quickly.

First, there is a birthday card for my purple-loving daughter in the Coast Guard who loves all things aquatic. The color choice and theme were obvious and it gave me the opportunity to play with a die set I had not used before, Spellbinders Shapeabilities Nautical Frame and Accents. It features a frame sized for an ATC (Artist Trading Card: 2.5" x 3.5") with a cute little sand castle in one corner, as well as other dies related to the nautical theme such as the wave pattern along the bottom of the card. I embossed the background with Spellbinders M-Bossabilities Sea Beauty embossing folder, then stamped and embossed the sentiment. Simple.

The other card was created for a swap with Oriental Stamp Art (OSA) Yahoo group, of which I am a member. This was part of the monthly Black and One Color swap. Participants make a card using only black and shades of a second color. This month is was red. Again I had the opportunity to play with a stamp set that I had actually forgotten about and never used before, Floral Vine (CS220G) by Forever in Time. I had a small piece of the black and red dragonfly washi paper and layered it onto red cardstock. Stamped the dragonfly from the Floral Vine set onto the red circle with VersaFine Onyx Black ink, then stamped a portion of a swirl from the same stamp set in VersaMark watermark ink and dusted it with PearlEx pigment powder (one of my favorite techniques). I lightly sponged VersaFine Smokey Grey ink around the edges of the circle, layered it onto the card then stuck on some red rhinestone bling in one corner. Again, very simple yet effective.

I'm still hoping to find time to make some Christmas cards to send out. Oh well, one more thing for my To So list.

Ballo ergo sum .
- Gitana, the Creative Diva