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Lost in Space -  Miss Me?

No Matter How Old, She's Still My Baby

You're Tempting the Gods

Hanging on toTiger's Tale


See The Layered Gardens!

Solar Cooking Comes Home

Facing Retirement Slowdown

Spring hasSprung


A Very BUSY January

HolidayOver, NYLineup

ChristmasThoughts 2006


Barely Off the Ground, But Hello Cyberspace!

HandmadeGreat if (PackagedCommercially) Tweak,TweakMissingLink




Notes From Me to You About Creating Gifts of Love

June 18 - 2008 - Lost in Space - Did You Miss Me?

All I wanted to do was make it easier for everyone to purchase more than one of my eggs without having to do it one at a time. The answer, of course, was a shopping cart process.  So, I decided to upgrade Creative Handz with my web service, 1and1, and it's been an adventure, ever since.

Apparently, when you direct a website package to a particular web site, everything about the old disappears! Yup, files, pictures, e-mail addresses -- everything was gone.  Omigod!  No one could find me, and I had given out so many cards and brochures to people who could not locate me.  I just hope they'll come back.

It's been constant tweaking (again!) back and forth, but we've finally figured out how to pull it all together.  My e-shop is the actual CreativeHandz.com site and this friendly little place is a subdirectory (see how I can use the lingo!) of MCRPNC.com which automatically directs everyone to creativehandz.mcrpnc.com (that's us) -- which, in turn, makes this site accessible!  Yeah!   I'm pooped.


June 12 - 2008 -  No Matter How Old, They're Still Your Baby

Thank you, thank you, thank you, God! My daughter could have been killed but, fortunately, it was just her right foot that took the brunt of the accident. 

"Just her right foot" doesn't really convey how her next few months will be spent totally dependent on other people helping her get through the day. Family and friends have entered into controlled shifts for care and food. She has to keep her foot elevated for three weeks and won't be able to really attempt putting any weight down on it for three months.  Bad words for a jogger to hear.

But, she wasn't even jogging when she was hit. She was taking an early morning walk with her man and the trucker was watching a pretty young jogger while talking on his cell phone!  He must have thought he was in the clear and just didn't see two people in the middle of the road when he made his turn. 

But, as all you mothers can understand, the bright side is that I am getting to spend much more time with my 'baby' and that's always a good thing.

June 10 - 2008 - Everything Normal? You're Tempting the Gods

Just when I thought life had settled into a nice routine, the gods decided to amuse themselves.  What with high gas prices, the craft fair and my daughter getting run over by a truck, normal got thrown way back into the pile of life.

The 8th Annual Millstock Music & Clayton Arts Faire was a great success. The weather has been unusually hot for these parts and we were on a side street in the middle of tall buildings. Everyone had hand-fans. Arriving later than usual, we were left with one of the last available spaces -- right in front of a long alleyway. Well, lucky us!  The alley made a great funnel for whatever wind was available and we stayed cool throughout the day.  Like being on a sailboat! 

Discovered my sister is a great saleswoman, making sure everyone was taken care of and knew the history an meaning of all the eggs. Handed out brochures like crazy, while I was figuring out how to take credit cards offline.  But, my new portable card machine hadn't arrived in time and I was REALLY doing it the old-fashioned way -- rubbing a hard tube across the top to impress the name and numbers! 

The E-Z Pop-up Tent did as promised and it was in place in under a minute. We did practice the night before, just to make sure all the parts were there.  One thing for sure, I will have real cloth table covers for the next fair.  Fighting any kind of wind with plastic table covers is just too much work.

I've been invited to display my eggs in two separate art galleries and take part in some upcoming art fairs in the fall.  So, you'll be hearing more about that in the next few weeks.

When I got home, there was a message from my daughter.  While I had been busy at the fair, she had been run over by a truck!

May 2008 - Can the IRS be Your Friend?

Will be doing my first craft show for Creative Handz at the 8th Annual Millstock Music & Clayton Arts Faire, Saturday, June 7, 2008, from ten a.m. to six p.m. It's been several years since I've done one and found my portable pop-up tent no longer available. Just recovering from paying my taxes and getting a new printer, there just wasn't enough money to buy one of those new snazzy EZ pop tents that I've coveted for so many years. What to do? What to do?

Well, waiting in my mailbox was a letter from the IRS (dare I open it?). There was no question about a refund -- none expected, this year. Not only was I more than curious, it was very obvious that I was out of the loop, as well.

My favorite government office informed me that I was getting a "stimulus" payment that I could just run out and spend to my heart's delight. YES! I could do that! And, I will! Thank you, IRS people. 

Creative Handz will make its debut under a new tent (with fake windows on each side, yet) and the other accessories needed to make the displays just right. Again, thank you, God, for your exquisite timing.

Should be fun and interesting to see what happens. Will not only have a sales display, but will be demonstrating the technique, as well. Wish me luck.

July 2007 thru April 2008 - Hanging on to the Tiger's Tale

With everything going on, something had to stop and it was this journal. Had all new flooring put in the house, which meant moving everything out -- again! -- and then, back in, again. I feel as though I've been moving for two years and have really lost track of some  items.

So, let's catch up . . .

The Garden - Production was way above what I expected and there was more than enough to give to friends and family.  Discovered what worked in North Carolina and what wasn't worth my time.  So, this year, the garden is more personal and defined for our tastes. Stayed ahead of the bugs and hope for the same, this year.  Swiss Chard has become a favorite for everyone and, because it's so versatile, a very regular part of our diet.  My green chard carried over through the winter and is bigger and better than ever. I cook the stems along with the greens and they're a great addition to recipes.  Have also decided to keep the orchard inside the back yard for easier kitchen access.

Solar Cooking - Stunned our electric company with the fuel savings of $70 per month.  Didn't even know about sun ovens and said I was the only one who actually used less energy during peak periods. It was no different from using a grill and the food was always delicious. My biggest most daunting problem was learning how to measure ingredients for my cookbook. Everything has been tested and re-tested and now I'm comfortable enough to actually publish it. Going through my fifth editing and proofing, and this should be it.

Was able to finalize my accessories to the sun oven and will soon have those items available on this site, as well. This year's projects include building a stone oven for bread baking. I've always loved the crustiness of stone-baked breads and decided it was an easy thing to build, so, why not?!

The Craft Shop - It has been so hot here in NC that it became almost impossible to work in the shop, even with several fans running. Decided to insulate and add air-conditioning.  Yup, that meant moving everything out and bringing in the heavy equipment to get things done. Found a great deal at Lowe's on white paneling (to help with the lighting), insulating, and flooring tiles. Put up shelving on three walls and built-in bookcases. Insulated and finished paneling in time for my Fall Open House, and it really felt good.

Didn't get the flooring down but plan on doing so in the next few weeks. Suffice to say, it took longer than I expected. Getting older now requires a different approach to measuring time. Going up and down ladders is definitely harder.  Don't even want to think about getting on my knees for the flooring! Aaaarrrgggghhhhh!

Well, that about does it for what's been keeping me busy.  The holidays were wonderful and this should be a good year. Now that I've finally found my niche for giving workshops (Ukrainian eggs) and have let go some of the other projects on my to-do list, things should settle into some form of normalcy at Creative Handz.

June, 2007 - Fresh Greens, Sun Cooking, Warm Days

I am the envy of all my sister's friends -- well, through association. She is actually the envy of her friends; but, since I'm the reason for their envy, it's a natural extension. You see, she had never actually had a garden-fresh salad until this year and she's been telling everyone how delicious they are and how the average restaurant salad can't begin to compare with it. And, of course, she's right.

Frankly, it has been years since I've had a garden-fresh salad and have really enjoyed the fruits of my bounty. Mostly, it has been the cool weather crop items: spinach, red and green chard, radishes, lettuce, beet greens, and anything else that looked young and fresh and green. Even the broccoli has offered up some tender shoots. It has been unseasonably hot, so they haven't headed up as they should but, since I'm not entering any contests, I'll simply enjoy it as offered.

I've used the sun oven almost every day and have tried all my recipes, without mishap. I can't believe this wonderful appliance has been available and totally slipped by me. I started keeping track by taking pictures of each recipe and actually writing down the ingredients so that I can have a cookbook done by the middle of next year. I'm going to need that much time for re-testing and making sure there's enough variety to make an interesting cookbook.

Having used it often enough, now, I've been able to stumble upon a new invention which will also be launched, next year. I've googled and googled and have yet to find anything near it so I'm pretty excited about what's happened. It's always easy to get excited about new things but it's rare when you find a new thing is actually something worth incorporating into your lifestyle because of the many advantages it offers. Stay tuned.

May, 2007 -  See The Layered Gardens!

The sun oven arrived and I have been having a ball testing out my recipes. It seems as though it will cook anything and I've decided to buckle down and write a cookbook that will help middle America embrace this fantastic appliance. Will definitely keep you posted.

I've been able to get fresh greens from the garden, along with some radishes, and there is no doubt in my mind that a backyard garden is the way to go. It takes about 20 minutes from garden to table and the food is delicious. You can check out my progress with building the layered gardens here . There's no question I got very ambitious. This year will fill them with vegetables; next year, herbs and flowers for balance.

One of the advantages of working in the garden is that your mind can wander to other things. I've been trying to decide exactly what type of crafts I'm going to offer and how much time I want to devote to workshops, without losing my own personal freedom. So, for now, I'll focus on the gardening in backyard and getting the craft shop into shape before I start working on regular projects.

April, 2007 - Solar Cooking Comes Home

Made a major discovery (for me, anyway!) In the last few weeks while I was surfing the net. Solar cooking. Yes, the very thing you used to do at camp with tinfoil and hamburger, except, that it has grown up into a very sophisticated movement towards keeping America Green and helping Third World countries. And, I have to say, that the one put out by Global Sun Ovens is very attractive, as well. I ordered one, immediately, and anxiously await its arrival.

Although most of the sites seem to offer recipes geared more toward the backpacker and camping ground, I don't see any reason why it can't be used in your own backyard to help cut down on those heavy utility bills. Will definitely keep you posted on this one.

March, 2007 - Facing Retirement Slowdown

 Most of the garden beds have been completed and seeds planted. I'm really looking forward to fresh garden salads and veggies. This is mostly a year for exploration of what will grow well in my area and what produces the most for the least amount of work. I'm not trying to remove myself completely from modern-day conveniences; just want to incorporate a healthier lifestyle in my retirement.

There is still a lot of work to do in getting the craft shop ready for visitors, so I don't have to worry what to do when I'm not working in the garden. I've been making a list of all of the different garden tools and equipment I'll be needing, as well as tools that will have to be refurbished or replenished to get the workshop in condition. I'm going to have to get a list going to keep track of my other lists!

It seems to me things were a lot easier only 10 years ago. Now, I have to plan my day with the idea that things are going to take me a little longer and I'm not going to be able to lift as much weight as I used to. On the bright side, it means I'm definitely closer to full retirement; on the downside, it means I'm definitely closer to full retirement...

As much as I miss my 16 acre farm, downsizing was definitely the right way to go. I'm still ambivalent about the pool but we'll see how I feel during the heat of August.

February 11, 2007 - Spring has Sprung and Gates are Swung

One of the biggest problems with the new place has been getting about the yard with the old gates.  They all need adjusting and latches that could be accessed from either side. The front and back gates were dragging so low that it was almost impossible to get through without some very heavy lifting.

Got the new digital camera and have been busy taking pix of projects, the gardens, and crafting steps. I really think I need a tripod for some of these pix.  My hands are older and shakier than I like to think about.

January 30, 2007 - Layers Upon Gardening Layers

It's been fun trying to squeeze gardening time in between cold fronts, this January.  Barely got the first layers down before the weather turned and I had to stop.  And, so wanted to take pix.  But, there are several very good sites showing how others have been using the Lasagna Gardening method, so it shouldn't be hard for you to find them with a fast Google!

I went to work as soon as my guy showed up with a trailer full of "black gold" -- really old, feather-light, horse manure!  I told him I'd take all he could bring me.  And, of course, have informed all my friends to save their old leaves for me, next year. (You'll always need more for adding layers.)

Have located a really great digital camera on eBay and hope that it'll be here by next week.  Then, there's the old learning curve with new technology, but I really want to have some pix of my own gardens for you for inspiration.

Don't worry.  There's plenty to do and more opportunities to expand into fruit vines and trees.

January 23, 2007 - A Very BUSY January

It's hard to believe that January is almost over and so much has been accomplished -- albeit, not visible.  Planning for the year's gardens and trying to decide on a project for this month has kept me busy. 

The only problem is that my digital camera died on me. I had used it for the holidays, inserted new batteries (which, apparently, weren't) that corroded almost overnight, and now I'm without all those great pix.  Grrrrrr.  I know; I know. Should have uploaded them, right away.  But, I didn't.  I'd like to say I've learned a lesson, but will probably mess up, again, down the road.

One of the projects I wanted to share for January is how to prepare a garden in almost no time, at all, and have fresh veggies for family and friends throughout the year.  Then, a fast way to create markers for all your plants while you learn the actual structure and leaves of the plants.  Veggies are pretty easy; it's those darn flowers and shrubs that will really throw you.  Will take pix of completed signs with new camera and post, later.

January 3, 2007 - Holiday Over, New Year Lineup

It's hard to believe everything was finished in time for the Holidays.  There's been a wonderful response to the Christmas for $15 e-book and I hope that those who are trying out the ideas will share their finished products with the rest of us.

Located a big box of leftover yarns from projects over the years, so I have a head start on my blankets, bonnets, and teddy bears for those in need.  I really love the Teddy Bear project.  Will share photos of the new ones for 2007.  Hope some of you had joined in the project and are keeping busy. 

I've been waiting for permission from another crafter to use her pattern for our January project, but, if I don't hear from her before the end of the week, I'm just going to get started on my own.  It's a great project for revitalizing those old silhouette pictures your kids brought home from kindergarten.

December 21, 2006 - Christmas Thoughts for 2006

Having a great response to the new e-book, so I'm looking forward to hearing some of the ways new items have been created by all of you.  That's the fun of seeing a new project -- discovering even more exciting things to make with the same materials, which is why, I suppose, crafting never grows old. 

There's an exciting new idea I'm hoping to use for our January project and just waiting for permission before setting it up. 

Hope you all have wonderful plans for the Holidays and will have lots of opportunities to make some beautiful memories.  Don't forget to have them made even more special by ordering your own Staria Melody before the rush!  I know there are already several Christmas gifts waiting to be scheduled, so it never hurts to get your orders in early!

If you get coal in your stocking, just remember that Santa wants you around for a very long time or else you wouldn't have gotten a baby diamond!  Merry Christmas!

December 11, 2006 - One Can Only Tweak for So Long

The time was late (or, early in the morning, depending on viewpoint) and I had to get several things finished -- including an e-book and website to be ready for a published article promising the world the same. 

Well, it's been an interesting experience, to say the least.  Every time I would tweak one thing, something else would go awry.  It could well have been that I was just tired and looking at things, oddly.  In any event, it seemed to be a non-ending job.

The book, "Decorating for Christmas on a $15 Budget," was put online as a .pdf document, and the actual executable e-book will go up later tonight with its own section.  Pages needed alignment, and I'm going through one of those phases where I type letters out of sequence, so everything takes twice as long.  And, that's been for every page. 

Now, I seem to have a problem with one of the breathing exercises books in the Bookshop. I see the price everywhere but online.  Check the "Source," and there it is; check the preview, and there it is.  Go online, and -- there it isn't!  This will take some time. 

But, mission accomplished!

December 9, 2006 - Barely Off the Ground, But Hello Cyberspace!

It's been such fun getting this site altogether.  Of course, there will be some mistakes and I'll have to redo links, but, at least we're flying -- low, though it may be.  I'm trying for a leaner look with faster access to pages.  We'll see.  

My holiday budget book, Decorating for Christmas On a $15 Budget, is finally finished and online.  I've tried to create a well-rounded holiday theme with crafts and a few surprises thrown in for good measure.  It's a whopping 70 pages, but there's lots of photos to fill that space.  I've kept the price very low ($3.99) so that it won't suck up the whole budget and more will be able to take advantage of it. 

The next few days will be spent preparing for the holidays, getting cards addressed, and transferring what needs to be done from other sites.  The last several months have been so hectic, there has been little time for just enjoying the change of seasons. 

Please check out Jil's Shop, while you're here.  She does such beautiful work.

And, don't forget the less fortunate.  Check out my new found page for children of tragedies.  Any of you have any small scraps of yarn should have a ball making these super-easy Teddy Bears.  Fill a box, through the year, and send them on the ladies located in your area.

November 30, 2006 - Handmade is Great (Packaged Commercially)

'Handmade' gifts, made in China by exhausted, underpaid, workers, always look as though that was how they were created. Just thrown together, with painted eyes and lips askew, and rest of the colors just dabbed on without regard to the end of one part as it joins another. The manufacturer wants an incredible price, to cover packaging, for something you would never allow out of your own home as a handmade craft.

But, what really tickles me is how many people say they love handmade items but, invariably, buy factory-made items in commercial packaging at gift-giving time.  They're like crows, caught up in the sparkle of the plastic protective wrapping.  The product, itself, is cheaply made and will usually fall apart in a few months, while homemade items, picked up at craft fairs, are made with pride and attention to detail.

I actually conducted an experiment, a few years ago.  Made my usual ornaments and headed off to the craft fair. At one fair, the ornaments were being sold just as they were made, in all their beauty, ready for purchase with the little handmade cards on a string -- but, no packaging.  Less than a third were sold.  I can't tell you how many thoughtless people walked by saying, "Oh, yeah; I can do that!"

At the next fair, the exact same ornaments were for sale but these were packaged in plastic bags or containers with insert cards, and I raised the prices by 25% to cover the cost of packaging.  They sold out!  So-o-o-o-o, lesson learned: handmade is all right, as long as it's offered as a commercial product. And, by the way, not a single person said, "Oh, yeah; I can do that!" 

Scarey, isn't it.

November 27, 2006 - Tweak, Tweak, the Missing Links

Just when you think you can upload, you find another missing link!  Aaargh.  Seems to me, I'm in deja vu -- all over, again!  Sure enough, checked my blogs for the Captain and went through the same process, back then.

The beauty of it all, this time, though, is that preparation and planning have made the task so much easier. Knowing what I want and how to achieve it has been a hard-earned skill.  Understanding my checklist notes is a novel treat, too.

While I appeared to be in a daze for the better part of the summer, my mind was in constant motion, deciding what went where, what to include, and how many pages were actually required for each sales item (it's at least three, by the way) and had I done them all. 

But, I do like the look and think it gives everything a comfy, cozy, crafty, sense.  The tag line came about because I really do believe that home made gifts that are original and done especially for someone you love are gifts of love. 

November 25, 2006 -  Creative Handz is Launched Online

Do I hit the monitor with champagne to launch the site?  It's been a long time coming but I've finally reached that point - breaking down my larger web site thePenmanShip.com into smaller mini-sites to make it easier to control and keep them focused on my varied interests. The latest server crash convinced me that, without a lot of office help, rebuilding more than 100 pages was too exhausting. 

More and more, in retirement, I'm crossing over into the more creative side of my life, and being more selective with my writing. Still do consulting, but only if the pay is really right!

Having moved to a home with its own Craft Shop on the grounds was just too much temptation.  Have christened the shop, Creative Handz, and, of course, it needed an online presence.  Sooner or later, those original works I've been creating over the years will find their way into the Shopping section.  Granny Grumbles is moving over here, too, and will be offering her own line of items!

Look for online mini-workshops in the newer crafts.  And, yes, I'm going to have a Newsletter so you can keep track of upcoming events and what's happening at Creative Handz in Willow Spring.  For local residents, I'll be scheduling onsite workshops, offering a new craft every month.

Before long, there'll be something for everyone. Why? Because local crafters will also have their mini-shops on site for you to discover their beautiful crafts.  Jil Green's magnetic lanyards and necklaces in your choice of real glass bead colors can be found in Jil's Shop; Laurie Partlo will soon be coming aboard with her beautiful handmade silver and bead necklaces and earrings; and, I'm hoping to get Jan Ryals to offer some of her original wooden home decor items.

The kilns are hooked up and plans are being made for some great springtime projects. And, with the wired Workshop, I'm really looking into ways of incorporating the pottery with some woodworking projects. 

The garden (though, small) really fed us through the latter part of the summer.  Have already figured out new places to set up additional gardens , as well.  Will be able to get an early start, this coming year. I built this layered garden up to waist level, using three concrete blocks and a light spraying of green paint. (This year, I will darken the colors. Just didn't like the concrete look.)  Waist high is the way to go, whenever you can.  Garden fresh is the best!

Still, setting up this web site has been quite an adventure for an old lady.  But, the time's are changin' and you have to keep up or get left behind.

For now, getting the site up and functioning is reason enough for a tea break!  Phew!


And, Here are some really great United Kingdom sites with lots of pictures and interesting crafts!





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