Wednesday, December 11, 2013



I have done lots and lots of crafts over the years, but this Christmas count-down calendar (cookie sheet pan painted black) has been by far my favorite for lots of reasons. 
I made it with a group of friends.
I used this and that.
It took on-the-spot creativity.
It is a visual delight.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I am going to assume that my niece, Rachael, read my recent blog post where I pledged my undying love for all things Anthropology, because I came home from a trip to the cabin to boxes containing more things to smile about.  I am writing this follow-up in hopes of inspiring other family members.  You know, with Christmas right around the corner and all.  *grin*

Don't you just want to lift that lid and scoop out that luscious butter?  I did.  I didn't think anything could make butter taste better.  
 And for a mere 70 cents, I will let you use the salt and pepper shakers.  They are just the cutest things.  Of course, I probably should put something in them if I am going to charge 70 cents.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I just sold a bunch of these darling little birdies at a get-together for local crafters and home-based businesses.  They make great package decorations or tree ornaments.  They are so much fun to make with just scraps of fabric you have on hand. 
bird decoration
The photos pretty well show you exactly what to do, but I will give you a step-by-step in writing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Every year around Christmas, my Etsy shop gets pretty busy selling the pattern for my almost famous little birds.  One thing you can do to personalize the bird is to add your logo or other graphics. 
logo bird 3
This tutorial was originally posted in 2010.  I have made a few updates.


I was at a book club last night hosted by my friend, Candace, from His Mercy Is New.  She writes a homeschool encouragement blog packed full of all kinds of good stuff.  Candace has a heart for the Lord, and although an introvert, is a pretty skilled at coordinating events that bring Christian woman together to share their experiences, perspectives, gifts, and humor.  I am mostly attracted to the humor part--which I'm sure is not her main focus going in. 
Last night we discussed Emily P. Freeman's newest book, A Million Little Ways.  And it seems that the nine of us had a million things to say about it and how it spoke to us individually.  I am not really sure that some of the rabbit trails we found ourselves on last night could be explained today in respect to chapters in the book, but it was engaging nevertheless.
One of the topics that we touched on, not surprising, was how our giftedness manifests itself.  For me it was easy.  At 56, I better have figured it out by now! 
I am clever.
Yep, cleverness is my gift from God. 
Nothing fancy. 
Honestly, I am nothing if I am not clever.  I say that a lot--usually right after I do something extremely clever. 
Last week I was at the cabin writing.  For two whole days I sat and let my fingers do the walking.  By day three, I needed a break.  I really did not want to get involved in a big project like painting, so I settled on coming up with a shelf for the landline phone.  It could no longer be perched on the electric heater.  It was 22 degrees and snowing, so the heater was on--full blast.
I do not have my husband's warehouse, my shed, Kelly's house, Hobby Lobby, or any other storehouse of great stuff to search through up in the mountains of Virginia.  My resources are extremely limited.  I decided to shop the cabin.  Slim pickings to say the least.
But in the end, my clever did not disappoint. 


Two L-brackets, some Velcro, and an old Scrabble board.  Now that is what I am talking about.  I cut the star out of the center of the board for the cords to run through.  I will deal with the black wires the next time my clever kicks in.  And I am planning on a photo enlargement of the kiddos playing a game for the space above.


Sunday, November 10, 2013


You just never know what will become a tradition in your family.
santa mike denise pat
I have very few great childhood memories, mainly because my father was a serious alcoholic.  He rarely interacted with my brother, sister, or me in a positive, nurturing way.  Well, maybe he never interacted in a nurturing way.    He traveled a lot as a salesman, and a good portion of the money he made either went to feed his addiction or to playing the numbers.  When he was home, there were fights and a lot of ugliness. 

But every Christmas Eve, we saw a side of my dad that almost convinced us that he did, in fact, care about us.  Yep, once a year, we felt special.  

We grew up in Pittsburgh where community ties were strong and relationships grounded in cultural traditions and sports.  You knew your neighbors; sheesh, you knew when they had bacon for breakfast.  Homes were lined up like teeth on a comb and not much went unnoticed.  Front porches were not just for decoration.

I am sure that everyone knew that our father was a drunk, and I am sure they witnessed his meanness toward us; but nobody, in that day and age, would have said a word about it.  There was a line that people did not cross.  That would be considered being "nebby" as they say in Pittsburgh.  Do you know that there is such a thing as Pittsburghese, words that only make sense to those who live there?   I digress. 

Well, on Christmas Eve, my dad would actually pay a Santa Claus to personally come to hand out our presents--so what if payment was a fifth of whiskey.  He came.  To our house.  For us.  It was my dad's shining moment and our brief glimpse at the man he could have been--the man he should have been.

One year, the front door was left open, exposing Santa behind the storm door to the neighborhood children.   I'm sure that my dad had his reasons for not closing the door.   It was Pittsburgh.  It was cold.  I will never forget going up to receive my gift and looking outside to see my friends on their bellies sneaking a peek at my Santa.  That was my nanana-boo-boo moment.  *grin*

When I had children, I knew that I wanted to keep that tradition alive.  I bought the Santa suit with the professional beard, and for a few years I bribed a friend--with food, not whiskey--to ho, ho, ho his way into my children's hearts.  It just was not the same.

Maybe it was not the same because my children had so many other happy things in their lives.  Maybe it was because having accepted the Lord our focus turned more to Christ than Santa.  Regardless, the tradition died out after just a few years.

That's not to say that we do not have traditions.  Probably 20 years ago now, a friend introduced us to the pickle ornament tradition.  Hey, I was from Pittsburgh, Heinz territory, so I was an easy mark. 

On Christmas Eve, the pickle ornament (see below) is hidden in the tree by a responsible adult.  The child who finds it on Christmas morning gets a special gift.  This is where I changed it up a bit to make it more interesting.  I don't really put a lot of thought into making things more interesting.  They just come to me.  I think it's operating in my giftedness. 

One year, I forgot to plan for the "special" gift, so I went to the pantry and took out a jar of pickles.  That jar of pickles was thrown into a gift bag and a tradition was established.  You would think those kids were competing for a trip to Disney World.  No kidding.

Looking through pictures this week, I came across this one.  Apparently, I went all out on the pickle prize that year.  And apparently, Nate was the winner.

A few years ago, Tessa was asked on camera for a school promotion to talk about a favorite holiday tradition.  Her choice:  finding the pickle.  The clip made the cut.  Not many understood, and that's okay.  We are very content in our uniqueness.  It makes us smile. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Grief.  You cannot  prepare a plan for it.  The feelings and emotions cannot be rehearsed.  There is no getting it right.  It just is.

The only choice you are given when faced with the death of someone dear to you is whether you will wrestle with God to work through it or whether you will go it alone.  Because of my faith foundation, I chose to wrestle with my maker.  It probably would sound better to say I chose to trust God, and I am sure that I verbalized that sentiment; but to me that makes it sound easier than it really was.  
The book, Glorious Ruin, How Suffering Sets You Free, by Tullian Tchividjian was recommended by a dear friend, and it taught me more about this walk of suffering than anything else.  It challenged my response to suffering and exposed my unfounded cultural beliefs.  It truly did reveal to me how suffering sets you free.

The chapter titles hint at the deeper truths the author explores. 
  • Suffering Is Inevitable
  • Suffering is Serious
  • Suffering Honestly
  • Moralizing Suffering
  • Minimizing Suffering
  • The Freedom of Defeat
  • The Gospel of Suffering

Saturday, November 02, 2013


I have been so busy creating a new space at the cabin and keeping up with my 31 days of smiles that I have neglected my primary residence big time.  I have overlooked all kinds of things that would normally drive me crazy.  I also am feeling a bit of a disconnect with my space for a number of reasons. 
When we first bought the house we currently live in, the size alone was overwhelming.  We traded a cozy 1000 square feet for a spacious 4500 square feet that had been used to house a private school.


boxmoor 001

house 11-13
We traded five rooms and a bath in the country for twelve rooms and four or five bathrooms in the historic district of the city.  The Boxmoor needed a total renovation on a 1000-square-foot budget!  We had very little furniture, and what we did have did not fit such a formal house with a prestigious reputation.
Thinking back, I let the budget (first) and the expectations of others (second) drive a lot of the decorating decisions.  In hindsight, I would have done things a bit differently.  But it has been almost ten years since we began the project, so it is not unreasonable to start changing things up a bit.  And along the way, we split the house in half to accommodate Kelly and her family, so now I only have six rooms and two baths to deal with. 
And while I like some of the rooms, the smile project made me realize that I don't love some of them or the things in them.  I am going to be cleaning out room by room and uncomplifying as the Nester says.
So every single item will be held up to smile scrutiny.  It will either make the cut or be given away--which will make me smile.  The only exceptions made will be for things that hold extreme sentimental value or a connection to a story worth telling.  And there is the practical matter of not being able to replace all the functional pieces. 

Today I gave away a silk arrangement and a table runner.  I threw away several plants--which really bothered me, but I did not know anyone who would want them.  I removed a table from the dining area (center photo below) to free up some space, and displays were rearranged and culled.  
That huge spider plant in the center photo has lived on the coffee table for years.  It was traded out for a less bulky-looking plant in that beautiful pot that I got--I can't believe I am going to say this again--from my mother.  I also hung the cuckoo clock that was given to me a few years ago by Katja, our German exchange student.

The best part is that once I get going on a project like this, my creativity is fed.  I now have a vision for a pantry area that makes me happy, happy, happy!  I can't wait to show you the before and after.  And I just might let my husband install that downstairs powder room in our coat closet.  We shall see.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


It's the last day, and if I had gone into this 31-day challenge with a plan, then perhaps I would have thought to save the best for last.  Although I really don't know what the best would have been.   I do know that there are some things that I wish I had mentioned, some photos that I wish I had shared.  I did not expect to run out of days before I ran out of smiles.  I suppose that is a good thing.
The Little Cabin on the Trail is truly a gift from God, and I do not take that for granted one bit.  The desire of my heart is to walk in faithfulness, discerning the plan and purpose that God has for that little piece of heaven on earth.  With every visit, I want to get to know my Lord and Savior better.  I want my heart to connect with His.  And I pray for the boldness to testify of Christ and to share the good news with whomever He sends my way on that trail. 

In order to do that, I must actually spend time outside.   
The cabin has a darling screened-in porch on the front which, while great for keeping the gnats from circling our heads, serves as a natural barrier between the people on the trail and us.  That's okay sometime; but like I said, I really want to connect with folks.  
Daughter Tessa and I love to say hello to each and every person as they ride by.  Some smile and return the hello, some give us the slight nod, some give the slight wave, and some ignore us altogether.  And every now and then, some stop to visit.  I probably should mention that every now and then, some just walk right on in thinking we are a restaurant.  That is funny: me--running a restaurant.
I was thrilled when Michael added the deck on the back.  It is like having front row seats at a play.  We can be right there, just a few feet from where the action is; and I love it.  We can also see the stream or the creek or whatever it is.  Perfect.
So we eat out there on the deck and play cards and read books and play with little people.
And a few days ago, we kind of enjoyed the snow on it.  
I could just end by saying that the deck makes me smile and leave it at that.  And I would have if I had not met Eduardo and his son last Saturday.  So maybe it is a good thing that I did not plan how to wrap this series up.
The grandkiddos and I had been at the cabin for three very cold days.  We really did not see many people riding, and those we did see were moving quickly because they were half-frozen.  Nobody wanted to stop and chat; they wanted to get to the Creeper Trail CafĂ© for some hot chocolate.  On Saturday morning, the sun came out, and it looked like we would be able to spend time outside with the bikers and, of course, Elijah.  
Unfortunately a family situation forced me to make the decision to pack up and head for home.  I was very, very disappointed. 
As I sat down to eat before putting the kids in the car to leave, I was griping in my head about not getting to meet anyone on this trip.  And then through the window, I noticed two people just standing in front of the cabin sign staring.  I felt like I needed to go outside to talk to them, so I left my piping hot lunch and headed outdoors.
The tag line on the sign, where memories are made and hearts are healed, is a conversation starter.  People oftentimes want to know the story behind it.  And if I am lead, I will share it or invite them to visit the website to read it. 
I wish I could explain it, but as soon as I started talking to Eduardo, I knew that it was a divine appointment.  He had such a kind spirit, and somehow he seemed to relate to my personal need to make memories with my family and to have my broken heart healed.  He understood in a way that surprised me.  His compassion came from a different place.  I liked him.  A lot. 

I asked him if I could take his picture to put up on the cabin's Facebook page, and he happily agreed.  When I came back with the camera, he said, "Let me tell you my story."
And you can Google his name and read his story for yourself.  You can even watch a movie about it or buy the book his wife wrote about it.  It will break your heart.  It broke mine.  Again. 
Eduardo Valseca was kidnapped in 2007 and held hostage for over seven months in a wooden box.  He suffered the unimaginable at the hands of other human beings.  His loving wife and mother of their three children negotiated his release and became his hero only to succumb to breast cancer last year.
And yet.
Eduardo Valseca got on a bike and rode the Creeper Trail with his son.  Eduardo Valseca stopped at my little cabin sign and talked with me about life and family and choosing to be grateful. 
And he smiled.  And his son smiled.  
And he gave me a hug that I will never forget, causing hope to rise up in my soul.  
A simple act of kindness and there it was:  hope.
And that is what I want to leave you with.  I now know at 1 a.m. on October 31, 2013, that the things I have shared over the past 31 days made me smile because they have represented hope.  Each item had a job to do on my cynical heart. 
God is so gracious and so patient. 
He reminded me no less than 31 times that He really does know the plans He has for me:  plans for a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11
Day 31:  Hope makes me smile.
It has been a grand adventure.  I thank you for sharing it with me.
An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013


"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."  ~Anna Quindlen
"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."  ~Charles W. Eliot

I really can't imagine life without books, so of course, there are books at the cabin.  And there are colorful crocheted afghans because I am kind of crazy about them right now. I think I am actually collecting them.
afghans and books

Day 30:  Books and crocheted afghans make me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


In April I was blessed to visit a friend's cabin in the very remote mountains of West Virginia and was smitten to say the least with the charm of her home away from home.  I could easily keep this theme going with 3100 things that made me smile at Becca's cabin, but I would have to go back with my camera--which is actually not a bad idea.  *smile*
One of the first things I noticed--besides the unbelievable copper tub and the antique chandeliers and the fireplace and the numerous candid photographs--was the number of hooks that adorned the walls.  They were EVERYWHERE!  And I filed that information away for the day that I would get to decorate my little cabin.  I knew that we would not waste valuable space for closets, so hooks here, there, and everywhere made perfect sense. 
Once again, Hobby Lobby was my friend.  I am sure that I have over 20 hooks up already to hang towels, coats, Enos, walking sticks, dog leashes, and all manner of stuff that would be piled somewhere to annoy me.  
I am hooked on hooks!
I took a lot more away from that trip to WV with my friend than the usefulness of hooks.  Fifteen months ago, she laced up her boots and committed to the difficult climb up the mountain of grief with me, praying me along and sometimes dragging me with all of her strength when I had none to offer.  We faced many dark days together, and I do not believe that I would have ever been able to even catch a glimpse of the mountaintop  without her friendship and her counsel. 
Visiting her special place convinced me that there truly is healing in the mountains.  God met me there with a word of hope.  For that I will ever be grateful; and every time I hang something up, I will thank God for Becca's friendship and her love.
Day 29:  The many hooks make me smile.
An overview of all 31 days can be found here.
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Monday, October 28, 2013


With no distractions like television, cell phones, computers, and the like, there is plenty of time to play games together. 
Just a few of our favorites:  Phase 10, Skip Bo, Rummy Cube, Rummy (cards), Mexican Train Dominoes, Backgammon, and UNO.
Some of the most precious memories I have with Nate are of playing games around the dining room table.  He perfected his card shuffling right before the accident and was so proud.  And one night in June, he kept the best attitude when he never picked up a tile that allowed him to start his train.  He just sat quietly making an intricate pattern with his many dominos.  It was just like him to turn his misfortune into an art project.  He may even have enjoyed that more than winning or playing for that matter.
Day 28:  Our favorite games make me smile.
An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013


This will probably seem like the silliest thing to smile about, but I am so very serious.  I absolutely LOVE my kitchen gadgets, spices, and favorite food products.
There are not very many things that I feel strongly enough about to promote.  One, you already know is Ferby pencils and now you know another:  Trader Joe's just about anything.
The reason it makes me smile to have Trader Joe stuff at the cabin is the same reason I smile when I open the cabinet and find Pampered Chef products.  Both make cooking, which I don't love, more enjoyable.   Okay, I just noticed that Penzeys Spices are front and center in the peach box.  I love them as well.  So now, counting the Pampered Chef opinion that snuck in, you have four endorsements. 

What it really comes down to is that having a well-stocked and well-equipped kitchen makes me smile.  It is not quite there yet, but the cabin kitchen is very close to having everything I need to cook for my family just like at home.
And I should mention that I had a Pampered Chef party for the sole purpose of getting the things that I didn't want to live without at the cabin.  Many friends ordered for themselves and also purchased an item for the cabin.  It was a most thoughtful thing to do.   
Day 27:  The well-stocked kitchen makes me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013


I have to say that between the light fixtures and the recessed lighting, this cabin practically glows!  Seriously, you could perform surgery in any room! 
The chandelier below was taken out of my mother's house.  You probably think I just went around taking things while she was sleeping, but I assure you that she gave me every single thing because she knew that I was into old things caked with nicotine and dirt.  She was actually quite happy when Michael installed a brand spanking new fixture from Lowe's so she didn't have to clean this one--not that she would have ever gotten to it.  Bless her heart. 
Every now and then I actually splurge on something--like the chippy awning.  I just had to have this Ikea light fixture.  I just had to.  So I coughed up the $40ish for it.  It seemed like a lot for me at the time, but after that awning, I think it was a bargain.  I might just go and buy another.
I think the addition of the antique buttons--that I got from my mother, go figure--make it.  Ikea just put little felt circles on there.  That was boring.
I have been moving this Ball jar lamp--from my mother--around for several years.  Maybe a decade.  I finally made a shade for it, using a form from Hobby Lobby--you thought I was going to say my mother, didn't you?  *grin*
I applied the burlap to the sticky shade and then hot glued on the trim and the paper flower which Kelly made to decorate her packages one year at Christmas.  I just noticed that the trim is from one of those dust ruffles that I cut up.  That light stays on all night to keep me from killing myself when I get up to check on Jett or attend to other matters.
You have probably seen this light fixture before, but I include it here because I want to say again that I made this about 20 years ago--you know, pre-Pinterest.  It just kills me how easy ideas are to come by these days.  Back then, I tell you, it was like mining for gold. 
I will tell you that if you try this project, remember to poke some holes in the lids for the heat to escape.  You probably know why I am able to share that tidbit of information with you.  Yep, those light bulbs will explode and scare you to death! 
And finally, this pole lamp has been around for years.  I have no idea where I got it.  Let's just say from my mom's for the fun of it.  It has been out in the shed for a while because the wiring was messed up.  Son Michael fixed it, and I added the $5 shade from Dollar General--the only store in the town.  I would never have looked there for a lamp shade, but am very happy with it.

I love rooms filled with light.  Yes, natural is best, but when there is a window shortage, I hit the switch.  
Day 26:  The lighting makes me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Friday, October 25, 2013


Removing the original ceiling and opening the room up to the roofline has made the most impact on the space overall.  I adore the wood that Michael installed and probably should make that a separate post to smile about.  It is featured in so many photos already though, that it just goes without saying that I smile when I look up.  We all should smile when we look up.

Michael was able to install an old window that I've been carting around for a few decades in the place of the old attic vent.  What an improvement!  I think it changed the cabin from cute to charming. 

Day 25:  The stained glass window makes me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013


I just love when there is a challenge and my brain does its crazy thing and finds a solution that does not cost a single cent.  And this time I was able to shop my own shed instead of rooting through my husband's stuff. 
The screen below hides the awesome electrical panel.  You didn't know that, did you?  I was able to screw together an old window that I got from my mother's house, an old cabinet door that was previously painted to be used as part of a headboard in Tessa's room when she was younger which also came from my mother's house, and a shutter that may have come from the bathroom in the house we currently live in. 
Please ignore the fact that the counters are still painted plywood and concentrate on the clever screen, okay?

The very neatest part of this project is that the hinges were already on the pieces--like they were just waiting to be hooked up together.  They make a lovely threesome. 
I added an antique hook thing that was found in a closet of the house we live in now for the towel holder.  And as much as I love that Penzey's Spice towel, as soon as I walk through the door tomorrow, my new Anthropologie towel from my niece is getting placed there!
Day 24:  The clever screen makes me smile.
An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I obviously have an obsession with plates.  My staircase wall at my real house has 21 hanging on it, and apparently that is not the magic number at which I stopped buying them. 

I have a small fortune invested in plate hangers and don't know why on earth I have not already turned on my clever and figured out a cheaper way to hang them for goodness sake!
The cabin is not exempt from my plate hanging either.  We could play I Spy with all the photos I've already posted to see how many we could find.  I may do that with the kiddos this weekend.  Surely, I have not hit 21 there yet!



Have I told you how delighted I am that you are here?  I am.
Day 23:  Plates make me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

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