A month of thanksgiving ~ day 19

November 19, 2011


I was lying in bed last night, just before falling asleep, wondering…what should my Grateful blog be about tomorrow? This challenge is proving a bit difficult some days. I wasn’t coming up with anything earth -shatteringly (I make up words often) new, so I said to myself, “leave it til morning”.

This morning, after making pancakes for my youngest daughter and her fiend; they are headed to Kingston to watch their high school football team play in a huge game..GOOD LUCK HFCS FOOTBALL and a shout out the varsity girls soccer team, whom are also playing today in Cortland.(ok, I’ll focus now) I made myself a cup of tea, walked over to gaze out at the frosty morning through the kitchen window; daydreaming a bit…thinking then about how families change, evolve over time, and how holiday activities that have inspired our family’s celebrations have become family traditions.

I went on to think about Thanksgiving, and the fact that my eldest daughter and her boyfriend would be home for a few days. I am looking forward to their stay; being here with us to enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving Day activities, and the after dinner, before the Pro- or College games, flag football game, we use red and blue tinsel garland for “flags”, it is always so much fun, and funny, given that we have some very athletic sort, and some not so athletic sort (me)…my usual defensive move “tuck and cover”, usually we end up laughing so hard..no one can run! On a typical Thanksgiving Day we have about 25 folks here..family and friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Our memories are a time filled with laughter and lived fully. I am grateful.
Another holiday tradition is heading out to a tree farm for a “cut your own” adventure. I say adventure, because we always have 2 trees, one in the kitchen; a family tree, decorated with all of the home-made ornaments, some by my children, some made by friends, and the forever ornaments, those worn by time..yet they retain so much sentiment and history they must be placed carefully on the tree. The other tree, in the living/dining room, is a more formal tree (or as formal as we get here on the farm). Both beautiful in their own way. This year Juli and Josh will be cutting down the first tree of their own. Juli is very particular about trees, they must be full, they must be tall, they must be perfectly shaped….we have gone through literally acres of trees before my girls and I can agree on a tree(s). I guess we are all particular…

Sharing these traditions with family…a heartfelt continuity among generations, a time for Joy. Wasn’t it Tasha Tudor who spoke about children and Joy…( actually, I think they words were penned much earlier in the 1500’s, ” The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is JOY. Take Joy!” Most recently, Tasha Tudor, who’s books and illustrations I adore, wrote a Holiday book called “Take JOY”, an opportunity to cherish the simple magic of the season…without all of the commercial trappings. The simple joy of baking cookies together, hanging stockings, decorating the tree,(err..after we find them), taking a moment to breathe deep inhaling the crisp fresh air…inhaling the scent of the holidays. I think, we still invoke the magic of childhood in our traditions, every one eagerly anticipates all the rituals, and excitement, this season has to offer. Life is what you make it ~ we choose to make it joyful, by embracing each other(for what we are) and laughing as much as possible.


Gramma McHale...


from my kitchen window...

age , comfort, beauty...


the past...

soft colors...

the present sometimes mirrors the past...

stoic bunnies?

family decor ( or better known as Riley Cat)

flowers, always flowers...

“One of the most important things you can do for your children is to give them happy memories of their childhood.”

Be Well

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 17

November 17, 2011

I am grateful for my what?? Yep, my spinning wheel. I’m thankful for my creativity, I’m thankful my abundant llama fiber stash, and I’m thankful for the view from my kitchen window of my llama babies.

Spinning has taught me patience, perseverance, and above all..it makes me aware;I thrive on challenge. Stick-tu-it-iveness, my motto…

After purchasing a book called “Harvesting Color” by Katie Mendelson; I decided to add to my already too large garden ( wait, can a garden be too large, I think not)! I have always loved the colors exploding from zinnia’s…they it turns out are great for dyeing fiber… a beautiful deep golden color. And poke berries, they are plentiful here along the edge of our farm; perfect for dyeing fiber a gorgeously deep magenta. golden rod yields a bright sunny yellow…plentiful in our area much to allergy sufferers dismay. How about elderberry for a dusky lavender…pansies, violets, cosmos, and coreopsis..oh my…

As I mentioned in an earlier “grateful” blog…this activity also brings like- minded people into my life…People that are making a difference. People that are living joyfully, peacefully, creatively. People that are helping others go after their dreams, encouraging at every step. If I had a question or particular problem with my endeavor ~ their would be countless folks there; ready to help with answers, support and solutions. People that are living their dreams. People that love big & are loved big.

Natural fiber,and the animals that bring it to us connects people with other people & with opportunities. It connects people to activities ,to an opus if you will…to explore….to challenge ourselves. It connects people to their passions…and creative souls.

Andy's fiber is ...lushy

The trade...KatDoll, "You want what?"

Andy, "They want what?"

"OK, we can trade" "Ok, Howie"???

"I'll take your boot in exchange for some fiber"...fair?

"Uhm, could you hold still"! "If I can just..."

Andy, " Kat Doll?...KAT DOLL?...."

loverly fiberliciousness...

hmm, wonder what they think?

Do you think, you want to offer me some fiber...huh, do ya?

cardin - o - the fiber

fiber, fiber, fiber....

my wheel....empty and waiting...

poke berry, dyed yarn...( from Harvesting Color)

Coreopsis steeping in the sun...(Harvesting Color)

lusciousness.... llama fiber...

LOVE, love, love...

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DONT’S.

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

Be well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 16 ( a re-post)

Last year I was able to write what I was grateful for and why, every day of November, I thought I would re-post this one.
November 16, 2011

Spring and summer flowers and my camera

I am always so grateful, excited, and completely awestruck by the beauty of flowers; So, when they are in full bloom, I take endless photos. Flowers always help me feel happy, relaxed, and refreshed. Through poetry, music and stories, people have been writing about the magnificence and meaning of flowers for centuries. Flowers and prose, how could it get any better?

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.”
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1865

“To pick a flower is so much more satisfying than just observing it, or photographing it … So in later years, I have grown in my garden as many flowers as possible for children to pick.”
– Anne Scott-James

“He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul.”
– Celia Thaxter

Be Well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 15

November 15, 2011

I am grateful for finished projects

Earlier I wrote a blog post ~ Grateful for my home. I mentioned that when I found before pictures I would post them. I found some; they are poor quality – early cell phone pictures, so bare with me. It has been a long and arduous 6 years,(on the 23 of December) and we are still not completely finished. Though we are nearing the end. I want to build a kitchen island from the barn wood we are up-cycling, then screen in the porch between the kitchen and the deck. Speaking of barn wood, I will add a few pictures of the beams that we brought home from the NOW dismantled barn. That was a project. The property owner was awesome, he offered us an additional barn for the taking! This barn will be my studio. I am so excited!!! Did I mention I was grateful?!

ok, pictures…

before kitchen...oh boy...

ah yes, the "dining area" of the old kitchen

kitchen a couple of years ago...same cupboards; I sanded, painted and glazed them..I think they turned out ok.

kitchen with Riley ready to pounce into the chair. The venetain plaster was a bear...it has been fairly easy keep though..I did this about 5 years ago..

the old stair way...can you imagine? ....nice 50's paneling and wrought iron even...

The second floor of the old barn hat will eventually be my studio!

Outside view.

beams from one of the old barns...priceless.

My kitchen island...(model) , I think weathered wood will do nicely don't you? It will be about 8 feet long, and I hope to build in my microwave and wine chiller...

I do have to say this has been A LOT of work, but it has all been worth it. I am also grateful all of the mechanics of the house were relatively new and well maintained…the previous owner was meticulous about that.

Be well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 14

November 14,2011

Pooh Bear

I know it may seem a bit odd to be grateful for a fictional honey stuffed bear; but I am.

The writings of A.A. Milne brought countless hours of snuggles, comfort, and, at times eased the grief of a troubled day for any one of my children. He was always a favorite bedtime read. I still have a copy of now we are six from my childhood; I am certain it will be read to my grandchildren as often (when I have some). Reading any Pooh story, is like comfort food for my soul. I will always cherish times spent snuggled on the side of my child’s bed reading as they wriggled down into their covers, all freshly bathed and smelling delightfully sweet from the Mr. Bubbles bubble bath. My children were incredibly active, so the quiet times, were bliss. As the holiday season approaches, I am always thinking of ideas for their “Stockings”…I think I will add a fresh copy of their favorite A.A. Milne book this year. Besides being a very lovable bear adored by children, Pooh’s clear-eyed wisdom may appeal to the hearts of my adult children. Maybe, a J.Herriot book as well…another favorite (Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small)…

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
The End

Jenn and Juli snuggling at Gramma's after a swim...

Justin, Julianne..with Jennifer ~ brandy new.

My little hula girl...19 years ago. My Hula Girl…19 years ago.

I am not certain, but I am fairly sure, they were warm enough....

Jenn ~ 3rd grade

My how they’ve changed…selecting these pictures made me realize…I need to digitize a LOT more pictures.folks in general

As with most children and folks in general…patience is key: If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
— Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

(I finally found the “before” pictures of the house) …tomorrow’s post.

Be Well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 13

November 13, 2011

Christmas Lights

I am grateful Old Man Winter hasn’t started blowin’ too much cold weather our way yet; in fact since our freakish October snow storm it has been quite mild, some might even say balmy (not if you are from a warm climate of course). It’s Just A Matter Of Time Till Old Man Winter Comes Blowing In! So, I decided to hang my outside Christmas lights; it is much easier when my fingers aren’t frozen and stiff. I can take my time and set them just the way I want them..no shivering even (I feel Like I’m cheating a little).
Most years it usually goes a little like this:

Scenerio: I wake up in the morning ready to decorate; it’s not only frigidly cold, but snow has fallen during the night and is still coming down hard. “No problem,” I smile to (my slightly delusional) self and finish untangling the lights “ I’ll go out, tie up these lights and have the whole place pretty in a couple of hours.”

Reality: Half of the lights don’t work, the extension cord is no where to be found … my fingers (cause I can’t work in mittens) are frozen solid ..like Popsicles with a wedding ring round the middle. I can’t feel my feet; they are buried in 2 feet of snow …the dog ran off with the last set of lights, and the snow is STILL falling and I wonder what I could have done to make this ‘enjoyable” seasonal chore more “enjoyable….grumble..brrr…grumble.

Thank you Old Man Winter for waiting ’til I hung my outdoor holiday lights! 🙂

Can you see Old Man Winter in the clouds?


Llama lights

Winter mornin'

PS ~ I don’t turn the lights on til after Thanksgiving…
Be Well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 11

November 11, 2011

I am grateful to have enough, yet be able to give….I am so ever grateful for the soldiers who gave all ~ for our Freedom. God Bless.

Despite the pile of bills, this time of year I am grateful for God’s blessings. And when I feel bad that I am un-employed, I look at my family and see the hope. And when I worry how to pay for the holidays, I have faith, He will help me though it.
And when I hear others complain about the time and energy spent cooking and preparing for their Thanksgiving meal; and anticipating the time and money needed to shop for gifts. I think how grateful I am to have the means to buy food, and a family to cook, family to shop for – others are not so lucky.
Many, many families with children are not so lucky as to have this worry; they are simply worried about today; how will I feed the children today..some children have no-one to worry and care for them.

I have to stop and remind myself; that it isn’t about how much food we can ingest in one day, or how big the gifts are, how many cookies are baked, or how decorated the house gets… it is about the memories made with my family while we are together…while I do love to cook, and prepare, and decorate for the holidays…I will try harder to keep it in perspective. I may make a new seasonal mantra: “How do I want my family to remember the holidays?” If the activity, or feeling associated with it, is not how I want to remember the season, I will pass ~ we can do without the stress. I want my family to have warm, comfortable memories of holiday seasons full of tradition and family. I want the extraordinary memories made during the holiday season to also reflect compassion for others; giving and helping in a charitable, meaningful way.

In the spirit of gratefulness; I am stating my holiday season with Veterans Day…as JFK once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

I am grateful.

This Veteran's Day, we honor those who have so bravely served this country. America is founded on the principle of freedom, justice, and liberty for all. Our nation's soldiers serve every day to protect our country and its ideals. On Veteran's Day, take a sacred moment to remember the those who sacrifice their lives every moment to achieve peace and democracy.

a memorial in Boston

as part of the Boston Holocaust Memorial, is a gathering of neatly placed cobbles...each one signifying a child''s lost life ~ when the Nazis murdered as many as one and a half million Jewish infants and children.

a must read...

in remembrance..

"The willingness of America's veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude." - Jeff Miller


on the Freedom Trail...

Freedom is never free. ~Author Unknown

But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for, Is their monument to-day, and for aye. ~Thomas Dunn English It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

speaks for itself...

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! ~Maya Angelou

On Veteran's Day, let us pay our respects not just to the soldiers who died for our country, but also to the soldiers of the world who did their job unflinchingly.

As the President stated last Veteran’s Day, “To all of them — to our veterans, to the fallen and to their families — there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice.”

Be Well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 10

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. ~Ansel Adams

November 10, 2011

My camera
(Wow, this is a late one…)

Life goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

With photographs we can capture and freeze a moment in time, to bring back feelings of long agao, or to share with friends and family now.

I’ve been fooling around with cameras for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I won an instamatic; it was a cherished possession, I took pictures of everything and everyone. I can remember noticing and appreciating the way light can fall on a subject and illuminate it ~ turning it into something beautiful and magical. I remember childhood days of black and white film, and my artistic impressions. In high school, I took my first formal photography class and flirted with the idea of being a professional photographer and interior designer “one day.” But college life led me and my career in other directions.

One day, a child is born into the world: fragile, beautiful, and full of hope. The next it seems he is riding a bike, saving for his first car, starting college. As my children have grown older I am even more aware of time and how the face of child awakens so many things in us. In me, among a long list of other things, it reawakened my love of photography. While my early photographic interest was primarily nature and landscapes, now I discovered the inspiring passion of photographing people. Every time I look at my children, I see life! I see light, beauty, possibilities. I have become obsessed with capturing every moment possible. Photographing the faces and places that surround me.

I realized just how short life is, how quickly it passes, and how much our relationships matter in the end. One of my favorite expressions is: Live, Love, Laugh. I try to live life by it.

Here are photos I took through out the last year….:).

back yard swing

There is a funny story behind this photo…to sum it up; she called this camel over to her…through 2 pastures and as many fences…all the while his sheep friend followed…when the sheep left so did he. “Hey, Camel”…”Hey, Camel”…

Juli with Nali…<3


Jenn and Nikki

1 day old...Little Andy

boys in Spring tree

Andrew and Mali

Deil's foal, 1 day old..

Lake Champlain in March 11

sisters...Sarah's wedding

Sarah arriving with her Dad

makes me smile

flower girl

just a kiss

Cambridge Balloon festival

neighborhood barn...I love, love old barns

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this – as in other ways – they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it. ~John Berger

Be well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ Day 9

“Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.”
― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

November 9, 2011


I am grateful for my neighbors. I am grateful that I have time to spend with them; I am grateful I have the opportunity to watch their children grow. I am grateful for the time my youngest daughter spent at their home when she was younger, I am grateful for the times their children spend at ours.

The young boys are always eager to help with whatever chore needs to be done on the farm; whether it be feeding chicken and ducks, or graining llamas, to just raking leaves. They love to help and just be with us.
Just yesterday, little Andrew stopped by, he had something to tell me, his Dad said; I scooped him up in my arms and asked, “Andrew, what did you want to tell me?” Silence and squirming. I asked, ” Andrew, did you just miss me and want to come over to say hello?” He smiled a wry little smile and answered, “Yes.” I asked if he might want to help me fill the back of the pick up truck with wood my husband chopped and split, he agreed; I told him I would come over to get get him in a bit. Andrew is not quite 4, and not as big as a minute. An hour or so later, after I finished what I had begun; I walked over to Andrew’s house to see if he was ready…he ran to the door raring to go. “Get your work gloves”, I told him. (he picked up a pair of tiny knit gloves..too cute) As we walked together up to the top of the field, he said to me, in his very Andrew-ish way; “Jeck-asa (translated,Jessica), do you want to see my mutsos (muscles)?” Of course I did. “Yes, Andrew, have you been exercising?” He then flexed his tiny little arm; and I told him how awesome he was. He then informed me that he had “old” muscles, that could fight a monster. I just smiled. He went on to ask, are there monsters on the woods we were passing? ” No, I don’t think so Andrew” I assured him. ” Well, he told me, “If there are, you stay here, Jeck-asa..it might be dangerous;” precious, simply precious. He ended the conversation with this: “Jecka-sa, I love you.”
William and Ryan, Andrew’s older brothers are just as helpful and fun to be around. I wouldn’t be too far off if I were to call them family.

Andrew with KatDoll trying to get into the photo


Rebecca and William's first egg.

feeding chicks with Andrew

Malakai lovin' on Andrew

Daughter Jenni lovin' on Andy

Jenni holding Andrew

evening fun on the farm

walkin' Maeve

This was taken when they both were 2 years old.


muggin' We were taking Jenn's Senior photos ( not to be left out)

“The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is.”

Be Well,

A month of thanksgiving ~ day 8

By consciously giving thanks each day you set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.
(not sure who originally said this)

November 8, 2011

My Home

There was a time in the not so distant past, where this statement was not so true…when we purchased this property 6 years ago on December 23rd; I moved in with a whimper..literally. The land was perfect for the animals; all open field…no clearing to be done (big bonus). The interior of this 1840’s farmhouse/ eyebrow colonial however left a lot to be desired..the kitchen had room for a small table (pushed up to the window), the appliances and the washer and dryer. The dining area was a 10 x 10 space with the only bathroom access and low, low ceilings. The only bathroom was so tiny your could sit on the toilet with your feet soaking in the tub, if you had such a strange desire. Walk forward 1 step you were in the living room (and I use this term loosely) It measured 8x 12 mostly because the family who lived her for the previous 50 years(and raised 6 children here) were now elderly and had transformed half of the living room into a bedroom, in their nineties, climbing stairs was out of the question. Upstairs was one long bedroom and a bedroom/bathroom(?). That was it! Oh and a 2 car attached garage. Let me just say here..I had not seen the interior of the home until we moved in…We were moving from New Hampshire, and as he was already working here..he looked at properties…that is all.
Our closing was 2 days before Christmas 2005. I am a HUGE Christmas fan, HUGE! Our trees, decorations and baking usually up just after Thanksgiving. My first mission was to get the tree up. This also proved to be my first problem; we had to remove the sofa from the cramped quarters to fit the tree in! Actually this was the second problem, the enclosed stair way up to the second floor was not wide enough to get our bedroom set upstairs…Hubby had to take a wall down (on Christmas Eve)…but, this is another story all together.
I took a look around and decided..this was never going to work as is. Hubby and I put pencil to paper, pulled our 28 ft camper around back…and tore in. literally. first we (just hubby and I)started on the kitchen…enlarging it to measure 20×24, took laundry appliances out (moved to the new laundry room), added a hearth for a wood-stove, new wood floors, and 3 windows. The kitchen cupboards were hand made by a local artisan, so we kept those. I sanded, painted them a nice warm vellum, then glazed them with burnt umber.
The bathroom had to be moved, not only was it small, off the dining area; it had the only interior cellar access. Why, I ask you? Sorry Hubby, you are about to lose your garage. I designed a new space, accessible from a new hallway off the living area. A new larger bath, and 2 bedrooms each 12 x 18. Much better. I should mention how grateful I am that hubby is so talented and handy to have around. We could now move out of the camper!!!!
Next we took the wall down that separated the living room into the two areas. It was now a respectable gathering space. The flooring we chose was brought through the entire lower level for continuity. New (I use the term loosely) woodwork and things were looking up.
Upstairs had to be gutted as well, we created a master bedroom, with a large walk in closet…and a creative space for me ( smiling really hard).
We were lucky enough and resourceful enough to be able to re-use and re-purpose most of the materials for the project. The new flooring, wiring, and new plumbing, and some lumber, was all the was purchased new. We even were lucky enough to obtain a 20x 18 deck for no money, well the sweat equity on the part of my husband was the cost.

Gratefulness for my home is an understatement.
I wish I had pictures of “before” , I can’t find them at the moment…but here are a few of the after and some in betweens.

Brandy new path to our little cottage!


sorry about the garage...hubby.

partial kitchen shot...

Venetian plaster..a labor of love???

This is a mid point photo…the wood work not complete..and such..

mid project living room..

I really need to find the before(s) and some afters…I will, I will. I am grateful for the quiet and solitude our home provides.

Be well,