Category Archives: Shopping

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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 !

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.

I Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I’ve been thinking about all the things that I’m thankful for. I’m so thankful for Tom for who he is and all he does, all the time, everyday. Of course, Sid and Ben Ben, my two little cats (and yes, Tom, they come second). I’m thankful for my family and friends — all the fun times we have, and all the things we celebrate all year long. I’m thankful for MarketSpace and all the wonderful family there. I’m thankful for my faith and trust in God. I’m thankful for my health that I’m here today, and for as long as God chooses me to be on this earth.
Four Seasons in Pittsburgh

I’m thankful that I get to enjoy all four seasons — winter, spring, summer and fall. It snowed last night and now feels like Christmas!
Finger Lakes

I’m thankful that Bob introduced us to the Finger Lakes in New York.
Friends

I’m thankful for friends, neighbors and celebrations at Peters’ Pub.
Boating

I’m thankful for weekends on Tommy’s boat — tubing, wakeboarding and jet skiing.
Cabin

I’m thankful for our family cabin in Tionesta, PA. Everything about it reminds me of my Dad, and takes me back to those days when he was with us.
CaribbeanI’m thankful for good friends, Caribbean vacations to Aruba, Antigua, St. Lucia, Bahamas and the Riviera, laughter, catamaran cruises and island excursions.

Homemade_PizzaI’m thankful for my Mom. Tom’s Mom. And all the wonderful memories of our Dads. Memories of Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson. Memories of Grandma and Grandpap Miller. Father Bob. Debbie. Debbie’s pizza. My beautiful nieces. Tommy. Dan. Scott. Aunt Mary. All my cousins. Our home. St. Rose of Lima Parish. St. Gregory’s Catholic Church. Humility. Faith. Miracles. Surprises. Birthdays. Great doctors. Creative doctors. New technologies. Friends. New Friends. Old Friends. Lost Friends. Turkey. Homemade noodles. Chicken and dumplings. Steak on the grill, medium rare. Arby’s curly fries with cheese. Pittsburgh Potatoes. Coca-Cola. White sand beaches. Crystal blue waters. Summer rain and liquid sunshine. Diamonds in the snow. Diamonds in the sky. Shooting stars. Rainbows. Sled riding at Mom and Dad’s house. Velour leggings. Amusement parks and water parks. Online shopping. Christmas shopping. Outlet shopping. Christmas caroling. White Christmases. Christmas movies. Super bowl games. Steelers’ parties. Playoff parties. Christmas parties. Giving back. Paying it forward. Photographs. Old photographs. Traditions. Art glass. Typography. Kerning. Handmade papers. Uncoated paper. Letterpress printing. Etsy.com. Recycled and up-cycled stuff. Cabins. Camp Fires. Cats. Dogs. Sheep. Cows. Horses. Baby animals. Farms. Hookstown Fair. Canfield Fair. Tear-jerker movies. Slot machines. Lake Erie. Ellicottville. Martha’s Vineyard. Charleston. Nostalgic small towns. Lakes, oceans and swimming holes. Country music and Christmas music. Sixties fashion. I’m thankful for all my memories of all that is good in this world.

I’m thankful for living in the land of the free — one nation, under God. I am thankful for our service men who won’t be home this holiday. And, as we give thanks this coming Thursday, I pray for those who are less fortunate and those who find only sadness this time of year. And will give thanks for all that God has blessed me with in my life.

Always B E L I E V E.

First Signs of the Season

It’s that wonderful time of the year. My favorite time of the year, too. The Hallmark and Lifetime channels have been running Christmas movies for the past week or so leading up to Christmas. I was fortunate enough this weekend to flip between the channels and get some good movies in. Tom always comments that, “we saw this one,” and typically, yes, we saw that one at least once, twice, probably even more than that! My response is, “yes, but we haven’t seen it yet this year!”

When we were kids, we had four TV channels that came in clear. Channel 2/KDKA, Channel 4/WTAE, Channel 11/WPXI and Channel 13/PSB. We might be able to get another station from Youngstown, OH if the weather was clear. And maybe a couple of other channels that played old movies. Those were always fuzzy stations. Of course, we had an antenna that ran along the side of the house that was bigger than our chimney. Every house had one of them. And we had rabbit ears on the black and white TV in the game room. In the living room, we had this dial contraption device that sat on top of the TV set that you could wind up and it would turn the antenna outside to get better reception. It’s amazing how quickly technology has changed all that!

Anyways, we would scan the TV Guide and find all the Christmas movies. Of course they didn’t start running them until a couple of weeks before Christmas. The holiday didn’t ever kick off until Black Friday or the day after Thanksgiving. We watched all the animated Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Twas the Night Before Christmas (one of my favorites), The Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and a few others. Today, Tom and I will still catch those and make note every year of all the things that happen during the movie that would be inappropriate to say/do today. As we got older, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life that usually ran the evening of Thanksgiving. And we would catch Miracle on 34th Street at some point as well.

I love the Christmas season! I love when the house is decorated and all the preparations are underway. The Christmas movies kick that off for me. They remind me of things that are good this time of year. Did you ever notice that so many of them are set in small towns? I watched three movies yesterday set in the most charming towns in the middle of nowhere. Main Street USA. Those movies reminded me of Ellicottville, NY. Driving through that snowy town at Christmastime with all the Christmas decorations, the lights and the Christmas music. It’s very nostalgic and paints that picture from a Christmas card from long ago — the cards with all the glitter on them that I loved as a kid.

It all starts with Thanksgiving — which is second favorite holiday. Debbie is cooking this year and we’re going to her home. I’ll watch the Macy’s Day Parade before we go. When I get to Debbie’s house, I’ll probably leaf through all the Black Friday Sale ads, while Tom and the guys will find a football game somewhere. And my Mom and I will decide if we’re going to go shopping on Friday at all. It will depend on the weather and if we feel like it. Debbie and the girls won’t be going this year! But that’s because they are going on a shopping excursion in New York City on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and are leaving on Friday night!!! I would have loved to join them, but I just can’t walk that kind of a distance in an all day marathon of NYC shopping.

As kids, Thanksgiving was very special for us. My Dad and Mom got up early and put the turkey on. By the time we got up, you could smell the bird cooking throughout the house. Debbie, Mom and I loved the Thanksgiving Day parade. I’d watch most of it in my pajamas on the couch with a big glass of cold chocolate milk. We always had chocolate milk on Thanksgiving. And not the Nestle dry mix into white milk, but chocolate milk — the real stuff. We always had a full house — my grandparents and Aunt Mary and my cousins, Teresa and Matt and their parents. There were other relatives that came sometimes too. All of us kids ate at the “kids table”, which consisted of a card table set up in the living room. Later in the day, the girls played board games, while the boys always fell asleep watching a football game in the game room. It was the same every year and I liked it that way.

It’s almost Christmastime! That magical time of year when miracles happen if you believe. Last year we didn’t have Christmas until the end of January because of my surgery. It was a difficult year for us. But one of the best Christmases ever, because I believed in the miracle of Christmas — and had so many signs — it was truly a special experience.

Well, this year is a year of celebration! I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, since I missed all of it last year. So while many people are rolling their eyes at the first signs of the season,  I’m looking for ways to make this Christmas a very special one. Special for my family, my friends, my staff at MarketSpace and all those in need, especially during this time of the year.

Always B E L I E V E.

A&F: The Plastic People

So, if you caught the news today, you probably heard all the hubbub about Abercrombie & Fitch. The short story:  I guess the CEO of A&F, Mike Jeffries made some controversial comments around what kind of people are worthy to shop and wear their brand — you know, the beautiful people, the thin and popular people — the plastic people — they don’t want anyone else wearing their clothing and influencing their brand in a bad way. You know, because in this economy, you can take that stand, right? And, it’s okay to say that kind of thing publicly, because you’re some big CEO-type. Do you really need to make statements like that to make yourself feel better? You must be one miserable guy.

I read lots of letters and articles written to Mike Jeffries, and I have to say, they have been some of the best quick reads on the subject. I was literally laughing out loud while watching the Pens game tonight. At one point, I had to double check the one author, because I could swear the humor and sarcasm of this story was written by an old friend of mine — but was written by Shelia Moeschen, a writer for the Huffington Post. Just brilliantly and eloquently put, gaining momentum with each sentence! Or this one, also from Huffington Post by Amy Taylor. I was laughing just reading the comments sections of the story! My favorite was by a woman [screen name Meanie Smith] who wrote, “…Since I wear a size 20, I am going to actively hurt the A&F image by purchasing two shirts from A&F and sewing them together. Try and stop me.” Brilliant. Hysterical. Great comeback! And, I hope that Mike Jeffries is regretting his comments and squirming in his seat — but I doubt it — because he’s one of those cocky-types who could never do that (the same type of guys that park in my Reserved Parking space everyday). Okay, I promise to let that go one day.

Some people may say this whole story was conjured up to start a controversy and get a ton of free publicity for them — while solidifying the 3% of consumers who actually fit the “washboard-type stomachs” image — well, I beg to differ (plus I ask myself — is it really as high as 3%?)  Negative publicity is never a good thing — not on this scale. It’s never a good thing for anyone to side with the “mean girls” or to openly flaunt that you cater to only beautiful people — plastic people. Some of the most wonderful and shared stories of the year involve positive marketing campaigns. Take Dove’s Real Beauty campaign for instance. It’s about celebrating how beautiful everyone is. And more and more brands are supporting a positive image for teenagers — why must there always be someone that wants to take a step backwards? Or is he really just that ignorant of how hurtful his words really are?

I can’t say that I’ve never said anything mean about anyone, and I doubt anyone else can either. But the older I get and the more I realize what’s important in life, I just don’t ever want to waste my energy again on something that hurts someone else — especially not when I’ve been on the receiving end far too often. This man is influencing all those women who already have low self-esteem, struggling with anorexia or bulimia or being overweight. It’s not okay!  It’s not okay, Mike Jeffries — shame on you! Wow, I’m saying that far too often these days.

What this guy doesn’t get (and will probably never get in this lifetime) is that lifting people up, encouraging people and giving them hope only inspires you to do more of that. Because, you can’t buy this at a store or perfect it in a mirror — it’s something that comes from somewhere inside of you. And other people are encouraged by it — and it becomes like a giant snowball that gets rolling downhill, growing in size and speed — of pure goodness. That’s not something you can buy at A&F — or probably find anywhere in their corporate culture.

Imagine you’re the brand that puts the clothes on a girl of any size and she looks in that mirror and feels beautiful. Or that quirky girl who can embrace her spirit by wearing a brand that allows her to be herself. Or the nerdy guy, who loves your brand, just because he’s comfortable — one day he may find the cure for cancer. That is the future of a successful brand. One that values diversity in all that it means — and embraces individualism, while supporting a strong code of ethics — a brand that supports real people — and not the plastic ones.

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.

Last Blast

Heavy snow coated the trees and branches. It had fallen off by 10 am.

Heavy snow coated the trees and branches. It had fallen off by 10 am. My poor little bird feeder is buried.

Last night, we got one last blast of winter. Now, we didn’t have any “major snowstorms” this year, meaning anything over five or six inches at one time. So, I guess we’ve been very fortunate that way. Today’s snow was the worst by far. But it was absolutely breathtaking this morning! Heavy mounds of snow hung all over the trees. It was gorgeous.

Sid and Ben peeking through the screen door at the snow.

Sid and Ben peeking through the screen door at the snow (it’s hard to see Sid on the right).

Tom and I both worked from home. We were supposed to get 1-3″ in North Pittsburgh, but somehow we ended up with over 6″ — not at all what they predicted. By the time I got out with my camera, the snow was already melted off of the branches. My cats wanted to go outside and play. But then they wouldn’t go out when I opened the door. Scaredy cats!

I’m hopeful to say that this is the last blast of winter for our area! It’s March 6th and the 30-day trend show warming temperatures in the 40–50° zone. Sunday it’s supposed to be 60°! I’m not going to do the happy dance yet, but I’m already getting ready for some serious Spring shopping!!!!

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 etsy.com 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.