Category Archives: Finds

Little nuggets of one-of-kind or unique finds. This includes collectibles, such as Fiestaware or vintage kinds of finds.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Martha’s Vineyard 1985
Thinking back to the summer of 1985, I was 17 years old and going to be a Senior in high school that coming year. My brother, Bob would be going to Duquesne College in the fall and my sister, Debbie would be a Junior in high school. Tommy would have been nine years old. And Aunt Mary, my Mom’s sister came with us, who in addition to being our Aunt was also a good friend.

I have so many fond memories from that vacation in Martha’s Vineyard — and I have wanted to return ever since that year. I think that vacation was bittersweet — not knowing at the time it would be our last big trip as a family.

Martha’s Vineyard 2015 — What had changed?
I’m glad we ended up going the last week of September over my birthday — during off season. It was probably about as busy as it was in 1985 during peak season. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in peak season if we had gone in June! I would think there would be traffic gridlock on the island and in the towns. We had a hard time finding parking almost anywhere we went. Of course, they recommended alternative forms of transportation, such as biking, but that’s kind of hard to do on crutches!

We noticed lots of contractors — I mean at every turn. Maybe everyone hired contractors at the end of the season. But these guys had big trucks with ladders over the top and buckets hanging off the back. And they didn’t stop at stop signs or yield to other vehicles whatsoever. The streets were narrow around Edgartown, and you could barely get by their vehicles. Thank goodness I had mirrors that flipped in, because I swiped a telephone pole more than once.

I can only imagine the Millers of 1985 coming into Edgartown with our big truck camper! It’s quite a different atmosphere today. The shopping in Edgartown is only for the luxury shopper. There would be nowhere to buy a water purse filled with glitter or pop beads today. Most of the stores were clothing stores and were exclusive and expensive — and we all know that’s just not us. They cleaned up the docks in a bad way. Gone were the birds — the cranes and the seagulls. I used to sketch those birds on the docks in Edgartown. They even built a restaurant where the fishing boats came in. It was so clean and there was no fishy smell. I’m sure that was part of the island’s tourism plan. Sometimes forward progress makes me sad.

I couldn’t wait to get to Chappaquiddick Island! I wanted to see what had changed and what had stayed the same — I have such vivid memories there. The Dike Bridge has been repaired and expanded — obviously a tourist destination — and you had to pay $280 to drive your vehicle across your bridge and out onto the beach. I remember the carefree day that we spent as kids crossing the bridge, watching our step so we didn’t fall through and going out onto Leland Beach. Deserted. Just us. It was amazing. We carved messages in the driftwood. Today, it is a nice touristy thing to do, but I’m so thankful that we had that day back in 1985.

Martha’s Vineyard had become a true tourist destination in every sense of the meaning. Regardless, we had the best vacation we could ever imagine.

Tom and I went somewhere everyday, despite the rain that had moved in on Wednesday and the fact that I was on crutches. We found great bar & pub restaurants — and even tried new food choices. We didn’t have fast food for an entire week, because it’s not allowed on the island (except for a Dairy Queen that was grandfathered in before it became law) . The fact that it was next to the last week of the season — almost everything in Oak Bluffs was 50% off. Oh, did I mention Oak Bluffs? I don’t remember that town at all from 1985. And wow, was I missing out!!!

Oak Bluffs was my kind of shopping! One entire street was dedicated to typical tourist souvenirs. And everything was 50% off. My favorite shop was Craftworks, a store that had artist works from all over the country (not 50% off)! I love glass work and bought the most beautiful bird plates and platter. I also purchased handblown glass pumpkins just in time for the holiday!

This town was nothing like I had ever seen before. There were rows of “gingerbread houses” — all with slightly different architecture and colorful paint. Some of them were bed & breakfasts, but we’d never stay there. We found plenty of parking in Oak Bluffs — maybe it was just the time of day or the fact that it was cold and raining, but we loved it.

Going to the Gayhead Lighthouse was a challenge for me that I refused to give into! You had to climb stairs, then a gradual climb to a steeper climb where we could finally get photos of the lighthouse and cliffs. Coming down was more of a challenge. I was afraid of losing my balance, so I asked Tom to walk in front of me! That night I had to use the ice pack!

We went onto South Beach the same day we arrived. We knew rainy weather was coming, and I was determined to see the ocean! It was tough-going on crutches— sinking in about 10″ — but I figured it out. There were probably about 10 people on the beach. Nobody was in the water that I can remember, even though Tom said it was really warm. I could see vehicles out on the beach about two football fields away. We found the entrance to that area, and I tried to talk Tom into taking my SUV out there. But he was too afraid we’d get stuck in the sand and have no experience with what to do. He was right.

We wore shorts on Monday, because it was so warm and even considered going swimming. Tuesday, we wore jeans with a light jacket and by Wednesday, we dug out anything we brought that resembled winter clothing! It was COLD.

Even our ferry ride back to the mainland was an adventure for us! We moved our trip up to 8:00 am (from noon), because our family in Pittsburgh was worried about the hurricane and the weather. They wanted us to get off the island while we could, and we didn’t have anything planned for Friday. After all, we heard that Hyannis had already canceled their ferry transports. We got there about 7:30 am and were second in line. A freight ferry had just unloaded and the crew asked each of the cars that were lining up for the 8:00 am ferry if we wanted to get in early and catch a ride on the freighter. We were like, “Sure!” Tom said, “Can we get a spot near the elevator, because my wife is on crutches.” The guy laughed and said, “There is no elevator and you stay in your vehicle.” And that was that.

Of course, every time we boarded the ferry, both in Woods Hole and now in Vineyard Haven, we got harassed about our Steelers license plate on our vehicle. Tom would always talk scores with them and it was all in good fun. Once we boarded, we realized after about 15 minutes that we were the only vehicle facing out to the ocean, and the gate they closed was some kind of mesh net. Are you kidding me? The ferry was already rocking from the rough water. It turned out to be terrifying and exciting all at the same time! I was texting with my sister the entire time, and Tom was keeping his foot on the brake and emergency brake. We actually talked about what to do if our SUV plunged off the backend of this freighter. I mean — the water was rough! The waves were crashing over the sides at times. And it was rocking! But, we got to the other side safely and got an early start home.

I’m sure that Tom got sick of hearing the phrase, “30 years ago…” as I must have said that a hundred times, remembering all kinds of small things as we toured the towns in Martha’s Vineyard. But, that was 30 years ago, and I love the trip we took this year. It is now my new Martha’s Vineyard with Tom. So maybe one day we’ll be saying, “10 years ago when we were here…” and remember those days fondly.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Patience Pays Off

We completely finished the bathroom remodel earlier this month. It was a really a tough process to be living like a hoarder waiting for the master bedroom and bathroom to be complete. But it was worth it! I waited years, because of the inconvenience and wished had done it sooner.

Final ColorsFrom my earlier post, only a few things changed with the design. The Ice Stone material for the countertops was just too far out of our budget and the fabricator just wouldn’t recommend it (they said it may bow over time). When the most exclusive and expensive granite was less costly than the Ice Stone, it was a no brainer. We didn’t go with an exclusive granite either, we selected a beautiful green granite with teal undertones and “sparkle” that looked opalescent.

Hardwood FlooringWe selected light off white cabinets with matte nickel fixtures versus the bronzed color we had originally planned. We still went with the engineered hardwood flooring and ran it in two directions — vertical for the bathroom and horizontal in the bedroom. We opened up the two rooms by adding a french door instead of the single door. The hardwood flooring is so easy to care for. It’s easily swiffered and cleaned using Bruce Hardwood Flooring Cleaner.

Gray_Green_GroutThe shower and toilet area was originally a separate room with a pocket door. We removed the walls and opened it up to make one large room. This allowed us to expand the shower, creating a custom shower complete with a seat and built in storage areas for shampoo and other toiletries. We ran the shower tile over the entire back wall so the shower was not blocked off, and created a built-in vanity with the sinks with more storage.

Final RugFor colors, in keeping with blue theme, we selected earth tone teal colors and carried them into the bedroom. It took me hours to find the right rug online — we found it at We finished off the bedroom with a new comforter.

It’s finally complete and I can finally say that I’m used to it now. It took weeks just to get back to a normal routine. We finally have the rest of the house in order as well.

Before and After

Be sure to click on the before/after thumbnail. The difference is amazing.




The Winter Blues

Well, it’s definitely the dead of winter. It’s snowed every day this week. Despite the added stress it adds to the drive to work, It’s actually very beautiful. Monday’s snow was wet and heavy and just hung on all the tree branches. I had to drive to the dentist to have two teeth extracted for my implants. It was terrifying driving on untreated roads. At least there weren’t many people on the roads with me! 

This may not look like much, but it's about 4" of snow on an untreated road.

This may not look like much, but it’s about 4″ of snow on an untreated road.

There’s another storm predicted for Sunday evening into Monday. This one could be a whopper for us, or maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see. Someone told me on the phone today that it’s 41 days until Spring. She was from Boston who had over 30″ of snow with this same storm (above) where we got 5 or 6″ total. She was telling me that Nantucket was without power and they were still trying to get guests off the island. I was grateful that the winter hasn’t been that harsh for us. I hung up with her and my sister text me that this big gigantic storm was coming for Sunday. Oh the irony.

It’s wintertime. And it’s the same every year. It’s project time for me. So this year it’s the master bathroom. When we built/bought the house, it was a spec home, which meant the builder started to build the home and then sold it to us before it was completed. The builder had to choose many items that were ordered ahead, and everything in the bathroom was their choice. It was pretty generic — and cheap. I didn’t mind it at first when everything looked new, but as it got older, the cheap stuff just got ugly. I’d rather not have it if it’s cheap. Or I’d rather pay a few hundred dollars more to have it done right the first time. A light fixture at $79 versus $99 — that’s a no brainer. But I guess for a builder, every $20 they save adds up over 100 houses x 100 light fixtures. And so on.

Wide-planked, engineered hardwood flooring.

Wide-planked, engineered hardwood flooring.

The Winter Blues — blue will be a dominant color for the project — from the countertops to the tile in the shower to the new rug in the bedroom — so I’m calling this my “winter blues” project. I designed the bathroom using Adobe Illustrator and we met with a couple contractors. We chose one who had some excellent suggestions and a beautiful portfolio. He still disagrees with us on the hardwood floor in the bathroom, but I want it to match the new floor he’s putting in the bedroom. Plus, it’s just Tom and me and I read quite a few articles on the use of hardwood as an excellent choice for the bathroom. We will be extra careful not to get water all over it. The flooring is going to run horizontal in the bedroom and vertical in the bathroom for a lovely transition. We’re removing the standard door and putting in french-like doors that will open out.

We’ve scrapped the “soak tub”. We never use the tub and it collects dust and cat hair, and the grout is disgusting. Seriously, the tub looks like it’s 50 years old. It’s gone — trashed. That opens up half of the bathroom. We’re putting in a mega-shower. All glass with a sliding door. We opted out of a swing door to ensure that we’ll get less water on the floor. We’ve been to hotels where we’ve had to line the floor with towels, because you’d open the door and water would gush down the door and all over the floor. We haven’t selected the shower tile yet — not until we determine the countertop.

Recycled glass terrazzo.

Recycled glass terrazzo.

The countertop will be the show piece. I start with a focal point and design from there — it’s how I get a very consistent and well coordinated room. I’m not an interior designer, even though I love to do it. We’re going to Vangura tomorrow talk to them about using IceStone for the countertop and ledges along the shower. IceStone is terrazzo, a recycled material made of broken glass and a composite material. You can use it for all kinds of applications, including flooring. I love it because it’s recycled and just so original. I used terrazzo for my bar countertop a few years ago and it makes the entire room! If we’re a definite go for the Sky Pearl color, the rest of the bathroom will come together quickly.

Our cabinets will be an antique white to contrast the dark hardwood and all of our hardware and fixtures throughout will be the oil-rubbed bronze.

Our contractor has moved us up from a May remodel to a February 23rd start. So now we’re on a fast track and I love it! Having a condensed timeline will actually help us focus and make decisions quicker! Stay tuned for a picture of the final remodel in March. And by that time, we’ll be saying goodbye to the last few days of winter.

Always B E L I E V E !

Project On!

So I’ve decided that I wanted to start sewing again. It’s been a long time, but this thought has been in my head for the past couple of years. Every time I watched the finale of project runway, I could picture the colors and styles of my designs in the final show. I really could have been a fashion designer — if I had the patience to do the actual production. For me, ripping out a seam, if it’s not perfectly straight, is not something I enjoy.

I first learned how to sew in 4-H. I was nine years old when I joined the Blackhawk 4-H Club and signed up for my first sewing project. I made a poncho that was finished with this lovely purple ball fringe. The poncho was not even in style at the time, but was my first lesson nonetheless. It received a blue ribbon, even though was the most hideous thing you can imagine. This is where I also learned that sewing came with a lot of frustrations. Even though my Mom was a great seamstress, as well as my Grandma Miller, somehow the “sewing patience” trait didn’t get passed down, and I soon became an expert at how to properly use a seam ripper.

When I was in the hospital, my good friend Tracy brought me a stack of magazines, including a recent issue of Oprah’s magazine. There was this section of hot trends or Oprah’s picks — I can’t really remember which, but there was this awesome pair of Joe Fresh plaid track pants with ankle zippers in deep orange. I called the store listed in the magazine and searched the internet, but couldn’t find them anywhere. So I got this brilliant idea that I could easily make something similar — and that’s all it took. Project On!

So for the past month, I’ve been getting things ready. When I got home and finally had a good internet connection, I sourced and ordered the fabric for those pants (and some other projects I had sketched) from Mood, in New York City — the same fabric store they used on Project Runway. I made a list of things I needed to complete the outfits and went to Joann Fabrics after work one night to get the thread, zippers, elastic and other notions. My experience there reminded me why I prefer to shop online!

I cleaned out my sewing table and the whole area around it. I had a stack of things that needed mended and that’s what I did today. I had to get the strap on the top of one of my bathing suits done before I went to Aruba. I ripped that out at least six times and my lack of sewing patience came flooding back. But the best part of my day was when all the mending was done, and I started on my vintage legging project.

Vintage Velour Leggings

Vintage Velour Leggings

I decided to see if I could put a new waistband into a pair of Jones New York vintage velour leggings that I’ve had since the early 1990s. The leggings are a little looser than they used to be, but I still love the fit. And while the leggings still look wonderful, I wish I could say the same thing about the elastic waist. The pants were so well made that it took me several hours to rip out the old elastic on Saturday night. I figured I’d get myself used to using my seam ripper again! LOL. It was a very easy project and I finished it today in about 30 minutes.

There’s something about aesthetics and colors, materials and textures that I love so very much. It’s part of that creative side of me that never shuts off and doesn’t know how to do something only part way. And while I do think I’m a better “creative director” than a seamstress, I am going to work on getting my “sewing frustrations” in check. So here we go — Project On!

Always B E L I E V E !

The Simple Life

I watched a video/short film today that really got me thinking again about this whole idea of the commercial side of Christmas.

It started off this morning with an article I read on one of my marketing sites where Patagonia, an outdoor gear apparel retailer was actually discouraging Black Friday shopping with their “Worn Wear” campaign, “a film about the stories we wear.” The short film (click on link for video) is 30 minutes long, and I have to be honest — I couldn’t really relate to the stories, but it did make me think of my brother, Bob — who lives for outdoor adventure. I’m familiar with sustainability and reducing our footprint on this earth, but this video showed me that there are some people who truly live that lifestyle everyday, and take it to an entirely new level than I ever imagined. As does Patagonia — they really embrace the same thinking.

But I could relate to the video. Or I at least tried to put myself in the shoes of the people in these stories, and I realized that part of me simply loved the simple life they led. The simple life. Maybe there’s something to the idea of living a simple, frugal and minimal life on this earth, leaving behind a very small footprint. I thought of Jesus and how his life might have some similarities if he lived on this earth today. As much as I loved the simplicity, I know there’s no way I would ever wear a coat that was taped together, just because it told the stories of where it had been and what it had seen. I guess that goes with the territory — the kind of people that loved the outdoor adventures were the audience for this video.

Yet it still spoke to me. The video is worth watching just for the amazing places these stories take place — that’s a common thread. I tried to imagine myself on top of the mountain I just climbed, hiking along incredible red rock walls, photographing amazing wild animals, cross country skiing in the wilderness or surfing the ocean waves. I wish I had that passion for the adventures of the outdoors. I guess to a small degree I do.

So back to the commercial part of Christmas. While Patagonia is one end of extreme, stores opening on Thanksgiving are the other end of the spectrum. Everyone is fighting for that one sale — to get your money before the competition does, because after all, people are spending less.

Or are they really spending less? I can’t see how they would be — with all the electronics today — $200+ televisions and $400+ iPad Airs. When I was a kid, we got Barbies, Fisher Price play sets, Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, dolls, puzzles, board games and all kinds of crafting things. We were fortunate — we got more than most. But, all of our clothing and toys added up for all of us kids wouldn’t total as much as one HDTV, computer or tablet that kids get today. I think I got a boom box when I was in high school — it was like a $125 purchase — and that was about all I got that year. Oh and I remember a year when I got a Polaroid camera.

Santa/Turkey CartoonSo people aren’t spending less, but they’re only buying a couple big ticket items — and those are the items that retailers want purchased at their stores. And once they get you in their store, you just might do another 75% of your shopping there. That’s a big deal when competition is so steep. So one retailer decides to open on Thanksgiving and then another, and before we knew what hit us — pre-black Friday deals are showing up in our email as early as Monday of the week of Thanksgiving. Most stores are opening at 8:00 pm on turkey day!!! It reminded me of this cute cartoon I seen on Facebook. Wait your turn Santa!

I won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving. I hope everyone else does the same and retailers get the message that we’re not buying it. But chances are, there will be those few who think they have to be out to get the steal of the season. I was talking to a close friend who is the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant. He now has to work on Thanksgiving, and he called it “corporate greed.” They have to be open, because the retailers are open — everyone wants that consumer dollar. It’s really quite ridiculous. It all makes me want to spend less this year.

My husband is laughing at that revelation right now. He knows I’m a shopper. He knows I would never wear a piece of clothing until it fell apart. He knows I like new clothes. But I can say that the Patagonia film really had an impact on me. I thought about it all morning and into this evening. As with anything in life, it’s about finding balance. And for me, simplifying my life has been a goal for the past year. If I take a long, hard look inside, I know that I have to change some of my thinking to reach that goal.

“Maybe Christmas”, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”
— from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

By the way, the article went on to say that Patagonia’s sales are up 40% since first running variations of this concept since 2011. It’s amazing what happens when retailers do the right thing.

A Canfield Reunion

RoosterIt would still be dark out when we got up for the Canfield Fair in Canfield, OH. As kids, we would be sooooo excited that we didn’t even care how early it was. The weather was the same every year — so cool in the mornings that we would have to wear a jacket — and as the sun came out and it warmed up, a thick dew would coat the grass. The Canfield Fair marked the true end of Summer and the beginning of Fall for us. It was held every year over Labor Day, starting the Wednesday before and running through Labor Day.

We usually went on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, getting up at the crack of dawn, meeting the rest of our caravan at the intersection of Rt. 168 and Rt. 51 in Darlington, PA to get prime parking at the fair. Yea, we were those people that were there before the gates opened at 8 am. The caravan consisted of our family car, my grandparents and Aunt Mary, and my Uncle John and his family. And all three vehicles would be fully packed with coolers and food, folding chairs and card tables. Uncle John and his family drove up from Parkersburg, WV — and we were just so excited — we could hardly wait to see our cousins Teresa and Matt. We got to see them three, maybe four times a year. And it was never enough! And when our caravan met up, we weren’t even allowed to say “hello”, we just had to get on our way like we would miss something! I remember turning around in the backseat of our car, just hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

Megan and Debbie with Antone's Fried Cheese (Debbie's #1 for attending the fair!).

Megan and Debbie with Antone’s Fried Cheese (Debbie’s number one reason for attending the fair).

It wasn’t good enough to eat greasy fair food — we had to bring our own. We would meet up and eat at the cars for lunch, pulling out card tables and coolers, even covering them with table cloths. My Dad made fried chicken the night before. Aunt Polly called my Dad’s fried chicken, “Uncle Bob’s Fried Chicken,” and we had the same conversation every year that he should open his own restaurant. I may be partial, but it truly was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Even with the recipe — I’ve tried to replicate it, but it’s just not the same. We always had a big spread. Teresa reminded me that Grandma always brought bananas, and after we were all done eating lunch, she gave each of us kids a banana. I don’t think I would have remembered that without the reminder — it’s funny what our brains retain and funny to realize what each of us remember the most.

Grandma and Grandpap always had a case or two of beer in the trunk, even though nobody really drank much alcohol. One year, Grandma’s beer was confiscated, and she was madder than bull in a china shop. When we were ready to leave the fair for the night, she was sure to reclaim her beer at the office and give them piece of her mind for the second time! I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of the wrath of that polish woman! But, little did they know that she had another full cooler of beer, and she enjoyed a cold one despite them anyways!

So this past Thursday, Tom and I met up with my sister, Debbie, my Mom and my niece, Megan at the fair. It had been an exhausting week at work, but I really wanted to go. Tom was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to walk the entire fair. And I knew he was right, but I figured we could take our time and leave when I wasn’t able to go any longer. That’s why going in the evening was perfect — a few hours and call it a night.

I was overwhelmed with nostalgia just pulling into the parking lot. Very little had changed, except now we made our way to the handicap parking lot. I felt privileged to park four rows from the gate. But, somehow it was deceiving. I felt like I was in some kind of bad dream — the entrance gate just kept getting further and further away, and I could ever seem to reach it. When we finally got there, Tom said he would slow down. Was I really walking so fast to get through the gate? My hip was already thumping, and I feared that this was going to be a long night. Little did I realize until we exited later that night that there was a slight grade and we were going uphill, while going at a faster pace. But by that time, Tom had to bring the car anyways. My leg had had enough.

Goats at the Canfield Fair.

Goats at the Canfield Fair.

The gate we went into came right to the goat and sheep barn. On the other side of that barn were all the steam engines. That made me smile, remembering Grandpap Knowlson. He would spent the entire day there — as a kid, I never understood his fascination with them, but later when he told stories, you knew he missed the “simpler times” in his own life. I wonder how the “internet kids” generation (those born after 1990) will define “simpler times” one day? Some of the old-timers still operated the steam engines — sputter, sputter, putt, putt, spoof and then all over again in a soft rhythm.

Pony in Old MacDonald's Barn — I couldn't get Tom to pet this one.

Pony in Old MacDonald’s Barn — I couldn’t get Tom to pet this one.

We walked past the steam engines and toward Old MacDonald’s Barn. This was a special barn where they showcased all the baby animals. Inside were baby ducks, rabbits, lambs, goats, ponies and more. Nothing had changed — only now it seemed smaller to me than I remembered. Plus, there were wash stations and the entrance/exit, and they encouraged you wash your hands to stop e-coli bacteria. I think I got more bacteria on my hands trying to use the pumps, because the sanitizers were empty!

When we went to the fair as kids, all the girls went together in the morning before lunch. This included me and my sister, Debbie, my cousin, Teresa, my Aunt Mary, my Aunt Polly, my Mom and Grandma. We followed the same pattern — first going through all of the “buildings.” Us kids loved the health/education building. We got Mr. Yuk stickers in there. And a big yard stick. And lots of pamphlets on stuff we didn’t know what it really was — and I wish I still didn’t! There were health demonstrations, screenings for blood pressure, glaucoma and other things. We were fascinated by it all. One area was set up like a doctor’s office from the turn of the century. It was so old and had original instruments and apothecary jars. I still have at least one wooden yard stick from the fair days.

We would split away from the adults at some point, probably when they were ooing and awing over every single entry in the floral building and the arts & crafts building. We would walk the aisles, looking for things to spend our money on. There was one stand we visited every year — and older woman who owned a jewelry stand. The woman was probably close to 60 back then, thin with leather-like wrinkled skin. She always wore a black cowboy hat with lots of bling. We would go through each piece of jewelry, touching all the shiny objects, the crystals, the gemstones. Or we sifted through all the feathers attached to roach clips that people clipped to their cowboy hats. Boy was I surprised when I learned what roach clips were used for later on! She’s no longer exhibits at the fair. Maybe she got too old. Maybe she retired. Maybe she passed away. Either way, she’ll be burned into my memory forever.

We also loved the booths below the grandstand! They had the best stuff. There was a guy who sold pins — the kind you would wear on a shirt that had a tac on the backside to hold it in place. Aunt Mary and I bought a bunch of Duran Duran pins. I still have those. Teresa tells me that she still has a cat pin and a strawberry pin that she got on two different years. That pin stand is still there! As is the blown glass booth. We used to spend an hour at that booth, looking at the ornate pieces that we could never afford. I would marvel at my favorite piece — Cinderella’s carriage with its big glass wheels and finely spun cage. The detail was amazing and even included a pumpkin with spiraling vines. That same piece was there every year — they either kept making new ones or this one never sold! Either way, it may have well cost a million dollars  — it was far, far out of my reach.

Walking through the grandstand building was a bit depressing now. It’s only half full of vendors. The guy who sold the “natural gems” jewelry is no longer there. He sold tiger’s eye, black quartz and jasper with sterling silver. Of course those pieces were so much more expensive than our black hat lady. But we looked anyways.

Tom liked the custom Steelers' bike complete with logos.

Tom liked the custom Steelers’ bike complete with logos.

As we left the grandstand, we realized that it was “bike night” at the fair. There were all kinds of bikes all over the place. They all had entry tags. We took a rest on the benches in the middle of this chaos. We saw all kinds of bikes — from decorative painted to custom things I have never seen on the road! The big rock was still in the middle of all these benches — just like years ago.

There were all the same food vendors, the same salt water taffy man and the Culligan Water booth that featured a giant spigot with water going up the spout instead of the down. The same vendors selling fudge, elephant ears, funnel cakes and ice cream cones. The same vendors selling hot tubs. Seriously, who buys a hot tub at the Canfield Fair?

Then there was the commercial tent — we never made it to this year — but every year my Mom bought a new pairing knife or two. They used to put on demonstrations of things that were “As Seen on TV.” Things like the “miracle rug cleaner”, the “best slicer, dicer, all in one gadget you’ll ever need” or “the best pots and pans you’ll ever own.” I think everyone bought “salad spinners” there one year, and we all got super sprayers for our kitchen and bathroom faucets (those really did work great). We would stop and watch it all. I’m sure this year featured the “Aqua Rug” or some other gimmicky thing.

It’s sad to me that those days are gone and the tradition was lost. Things just change over time no matter how much you wished it stayed the same. But then again, the change is good and it’s forward progress. But, I’m thinking a Canfield reunion is in order for the original crew — the Knowlsons and the Millers and our current families. And for Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson and my Dad, we will always cherish our Canfield memories of them. So here’s to Labor Day 2014 — our Canfield reunion.

What are you best memories from the Canfield Fair?

Music to My Ears

So we got this new organist at St. Gregory’s who is still getting used to things at our church. I’ve only been at mass twice since he’s been there, but most of the time I feel like we’re in slow motion when we sing traditional songs — you know — the ones you know by heart. I couldn’t even sing during the offertory gifts last night. I looked at Tom and did the “slow motion running man,” and it cracked him up and gave us a little comic relief.

But, this new guy plays the piano. And he plays it beautifully! As I was sitting there during communion, and he continued to play after all the versus had been sung, it reminded me of fond memories years ago. I tried not to sway in my seat as he played the long strings and melodies. Just wonderful!

My good friend, Susan introduced me to the most fantastic piano artist when we carpooled in the 1990’s to work. We had a good 45 minute drive and besides writing my book together, talking about our Dads and growing up on the farm — romanticizing our early years — we explored music together. It was good for me, because at that time, I was listening to a lot of classic rock, current rock and some pop, and I think Susan wasn’t too fond of any of those.

Danny Wright "Phantasys" album.

Danny Wright “Phantasys” album (album cover screen shot from iTunes).

So I’m sitting in church making a mental note to look up Danny Wright on iTunes, and see if I can purchase his music from the 90’s. All my music from those days were cassette tapes, and I don’t have anyway to transfer it to my iTunes. Imagine my surprise when I realized there are almost 40 albums by Danny Wright — everything from Christmas music to patriotic music. And, they had the 1988 release of “Phantasys,” the album Susan and I listened to. It was like sweet music to my ears, remembering those carefree days when I really didn’t have a care in the world.

So if you love listening to the piano, or you never have before, take a few minutes to check out Danny Wright on iTunes. And if you pull up Phantasys, check out the song, “Spring.” It’s worth listening to and guaranteed to take you to another place and time.

Always B E L I E V E !

One Rainy Day

Shops at Volant Mills, PA as seen from porch of the old Grist Mill.

Shops at Volant, PA as seen from porch of the old Grist Mill (Volant Mill) as I relaxed on a beautiful swing.

Well, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a White Space Friday this past Friday. It was tough keeping my calendar free — but I had already made plans with Gert and Val to go to Volant for the day — which made it easier to keep it open.

Home at Volant Mills

The homes located in Volant are from the 1800’s.

Volant, PA is located about 30 minutes from Zelienople down Rt. 19N, within minutes of the town of New Wilmington, along the Neshannock Creek. This is Amish country, and it’s not uncommon to pass a horse-drawn buggy on your way to Volant or New Wilmington. However, it was such a rainy and cold day, we only saw Amish farms on our way to New Wilmington — and an Amish farmer plowing his vegetable garden with three horses.

Volant is known for it’s little shops — handmade and gifty kinds of things. Although, I was a little disappointed, as it seemed to me like most shops didn’t offer original, handmade crafts, except for a few. I really love a couple of the shops — one called the Purple Paisley and the other, Nifty’s Gifty’s, although I purchased the most things at a shop called A Little Bit of Country (and my home is not country at all).

Purple Paisley had the most awesome fashion scarves. I could have bought a dozen of them, but I managed to pick my favorite — finished with furry pompoms. I figured I’d have to save it until next winter, but who knew it would be 38° on Saturday, and I actually got to wear it now. Her store was so cute too. Everything was purple, including the little trees outside — complete with purple lights.

Nifty Gifty’s was by far the perfect shop for me. It was full of works by various artists. I recognized a few of them, including a favorite artist of mine — Michelle Allen. They carried some really unique pieces that I haven’t seen anywhere before either. Val bought a really cool candle made in an upcycled wine bottle.

It rained the entire day. It started out around 65° and by the time I got home at 4:30, it was 46°. At one point the wind was blowing so hard on the way to the car that the rain was pouring sideways. We were soaked — my right side from my shoulder all the way to my shoes was drenched — the umbrella didn’t help much at that point. Now we were freezing too, so we decided it was time for lunch.

We drove into New Wilmington to grab a bite to eat. If you’ve never been to New Wilmington, it’s a college town where Westminster College is located. They hold an annual 4th of July fireworks at Lake Brittain, located on the campus. My Mom and Dad used to go to this every year and my brother would meet up with them. Dad loved the River City Brass Band, and they always played patriotic music during the show. One year, Tom and I went with my Mom and Bob, and we sat on chairs and blankets on the grassy hillside beside the Lake. If you’re from western PA, you know that fireworks is pretty popular in Pittsburgh — because it’s home of two of the largest fireworks providers in the nation. And we’ve worked with Pyrotecnico at MarketSpace — who I believe puts on a better show Zambelli — plus they’re still family-owned — I like that. We live in an area that’s about the same distance to the fireworks downtown Pittsburgh or here — and it’s much more enjoyable to drive into the rural area than in the rat race of the big city. I’m thinking we’ll have to make this trip this year for sure.

We left a note in the books on the tables — what a great idea!

We left a note in the books on the tables — what a great idea!

So anyways, we go into New Wilmington and someone had recommended that we eat at The Tavern on the Square. They are best known for their famous Sticky Buns. It has the feel of the same shops we just visited in Volant — a huge, victorian home converted into a restaurant. Gert, Val and I had a hard time narrowing down what we wanted, because the menu just had so many awesome options — it was fantastic. They provided these hardbound notebooks on the tables and guests could write a story or a note in there. So, of course I had to write in the book. We read through the other posts — it was such a great idea to hear what people were celebrating, who they were with or why they were there. I tried to draw pictures of three drowned rats — I was so cold during lunch that I had to put on my winter coat. We leisurely ate lunch and by the time we left, the rain had let up a bit and my sweater was finally a little drier than damp. Leaving the restaurant, we saw the beautiful Easter flowers that we missed on the way in — tons of bright yellow Daffodils and bright pink and purple Hyacinths. I could only imagine that those would all perish by Saturday morning with the frost on Friday night.

We had planned to stop a few more places before heading back to Zelienople. We stopped at the Amish Peddler and the Volant Mill Winery. Val needed to get a bottle of Gewürztraminer for her son, Matthew. But they didn’t have that, so she got something else. And then we slowly made our way back to Zelienople as we all had plans for Friday evening — the Pittsburgh Penguins were in Boston playing the Bruins — Tom had the guys coming over to hang out in Peters Pub. But we learned on the way home that with Boston still on lockdown, the Pens game was being moved until Saturday afternoon.

This was the most walking I’ve done since my surgery in December. I have no pain in my hip anymore at all — so I can walk much better — but I did rest if there was a nice bench on a covered porch. I was so sore after I sat for an hour when I got home that I could barely walk into the kitchen. My feet, ankles and calves were in pain — and I must have favored my right side, because I could barely put any weight on it at first — pathetic!!!  But, I know I need to slowly get back to full mobility and that is the only way that’s going to happen — by getting out and walking. I assumed I would have cramps in my legs all night (like I did after my Mom’s retirement party), but I didn’t. And that made me sooooo happy!

For most people, Friday was a washout. It went from a warm morning to winter temperatures in a matter of hours. But for me, Friday was a great day — despite the rain, despite the return of winter, despite the rough week of terrorism and other horrific events. It was a day for me to step away from my office, from my email, from my worries for just a day — and spend that day relaxing with best friends. To do something I enjoy and for myself. We all need a little white space in our lives. And, I hope that I can design my life with more white space, louder typography and more colorful images.

Always B E L I E V E.

One Day Things Will Get Better

Even Sid likes the orange cat on the stepping stone. She thinks it's hers.

Even Sid likes the orange cat on the stepping stone. She thinks it’s hers.

Ok, so last week after my sister and I started to plan my the details of my Mom’s retirement party (about a month away!), I had gone on to look for a gift from us kids. I was looking for something that we could get her that she would enjoy in her garden or around her house. We were thinking a handmade bird house or some kind of mosaic garden stones. Well in looking for her, I came across this awesome stepping stone for my own garden!

Mosaic glass tiles make up this design.

Mosaic glass tiles make up this design. I love the little pink, translucent tile that makes up his nose.

Now, I’m not into cutesy kinds of things, but I love mosaics, especially if they’re custom and creative. This one made me laugh and the little orange cat was just too “cute.” Okay, so it is cute, but it’s not cute like the cartoony cute. The saying says, “One day things will get better, until then, here’s a picture of a cat.” I don’t know why, but that was just funny to me.

Now as a designer, I think the typopgraphy could have been designed so that there wasn’t a hyphenation right in the middle of the word “Picture.” And it’s not like there wasn’t room to reconfigure it on the tile (or you’re on my blog where I can’t figure out how to get the text to stop hyphenating). But, I loved it enough to overlook that. And it’s really quite delightful in person. I can’t wait to figure out where to put it! That was the first question Tom asked me and then he said, “ugh, this thing is really heavy.”

Love is All We Need

Love is Ale You Need

Love is Ale You Need

I LOVE this little Valentines Day card from Night Owl Paper Goods. LOVE is ALE we NEED. It’s so true, and it’s how we all should look at Valentines Day.

It’s not about whether you’ve finally found the one true love that you’ve been waiting for your entire life. Or whether your husband spends a ridiculous amount of money to bring you a dozen red roses that die in two days. Or whether or not you have someone to take you to dinner, while you wait for an hour and a half to actually get seated. Or whether he gets you that chocolate diamond you’ve been hinting about. These are all the things we think are important on Valentines Days, when in fact, they’re not.

There’s something incredibly wonderful about dedicating a day to LOVE. If every person in the world focused on love for just one day, imagine what a wonderful world it could be! Unfortunately, many people see it as a sad day — they haven’t found love or they’ve lost love, or their relationship is in turmoil — and this day is just a cruel reminder. But in fact, it’s about the love that’s already all around you! So this year, let’s look at it differently. Let’s think about all those people who love us and we love back.

I loved those old school day valentines. Folded in half and stuck in a white envelope.

I loved those old school day valentines. Folded in half and stuck in a white envelope. Compliments of The Vermont Country Store.

Love is All we Need — let’s send Valentines (like we did in second grade) to each other, so I can tell you how much you mean to me! Stupid, silly little cards. I want to make them and stamp them with — Love is All we Need.

I want to send one to my Mom who has been alone since May 2002. She misses Dad everyday. We all do. She already knows this, but on Valentines Days, I want to tell her I love her, my husband Tom loves her, Bob loves her, Debbie loves her, Scott loves her, Tommy loves her, and her grandchildren, Megan and Tara love her — and she has so much love around her — Love is All she Needs. And I can see her putting the silly cards on her refrigerator with her signature smile and humble thank you — and at that moment I know Dad will be with us, and there will be more love around us than getting any dozen red roses or waiting an hour and a half for dinner.

I’ll send one to Tom’s Mom in Phoenix, AZ. So she too is reminded on Valentines Day that we love her. She opens a goofy little card from me that makes her laugh at the nostalgia — and Love is All she Needs! I can see sit her sitting in the living room just thinking about how nice it was to be remembered.

And to my friends, you know who you are. I would make you special valentines. And your cards would say…

Just  B E L I E V E

for true love is coming your way. Oh, it does exist. God has a plan for you. But until then, you believe with all your heart and remember how much love is already around you. So this Valentines Day, no matter if we are married, single, dating, alone, not quite sure, we will celebrate all the love in this world and all that good. Imagine sending all that positive love into the universe.