Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year, A New Life

It's that time of year again.  You know, where we all start to reflect on the past year,  think about where we've been, what we accomplished, and when we set new goals for the new year.  For most of us, our goals are the same:  lose weight, get healthy, get organized, save money, spend more time with the family, etc. etc. etc.  And for some of us, we will have totally new goals.  And hopefully, when we set our New Year's resolutions, we will be part of the mere 8% of who achieve them, and not the 92% who fail (according to research done by the University of Scranton).

For myself, I have begun a new journey.  I don't know where it will start, or where it will end, I just knew it was time to begin.  The past few years I've been working full time in a very stressful retail environment.  Before I started my job six years ago, I was a stay at home for twenty years.  But I wasn't a 'normal' homemaker.  Even though family and home always came first, I created a full time drama ministry at my church that took up the majority of my time.  Then, as my kids grew up and became more and more active in music, my life's purpose seemed to be chauffeur and coordinator of all their music lessons, performances, and rehearsals.  Later, after my oldest went off to college I had a friend approach me and ask me if I wanted to go to Italy with her.  Well, who could turn that down?  The problem was with a kid in college, who has the money to go to Italy?  So I had to get a job.  I never dreamed anyone would hire me when I hadn't done anything but volunteer work for over twenty years.  But to my surprise, two of the three jobs I applied for offered me a position.  I took the job that appealed to me the most and what started as 'just a little job to make some quick cash' turned into a career.

At first, I loved my job.  I never even thought that my job was work.  It was fun.  Going to work was like hanging out with my friends all day, I couldn't believe I was getting paid for this.  But, eventually, one by one all my friends started to leave for better opportunities, and women my own age were being replaced by college students, whose company I also enjoyed, but it just wasn't the same.   After a couple of years of working part-time,  a full time key holder position opened up in my store and I took the position because I was almost working full-time hours anyway so I thought I might as well get the benefits of it.  I held that position for over a year when an entry level management position opened up and I moved into it because it really wasn't much different than what I already was doing and I would get more pay.  The extra second income was nice for awhile.  We were able to take some very nice vacations and I could spoil my kids with gifts and buy myself any little trinket my heart desired, but I started to realize that the only time I was ever truly happy was when we were on vacation.  The other 48 weeks of the year I was miserable.   Because I live an hour away from my job, I was away from home 50 hours a week.  My beautiful home that my husband and I worked so hard to build, fell apart, my garden went to weed, and my crafting time was almost non-existent.  My days off were spent just trying to do the basics:  laundry and dishes….forget about deep cleaning or repairs of any sort.  I lost most of my friends, because I never had any time to spend with them.   I stopped virtually all my church activities with the exception of worship team and my card ministry.  And worst of all, my husband and I, on average, only saw each other twice a week.  Life ceased to be enjoyable and just became this endless circus of work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep,  which led me to question 'Is it worth it?'.  And after almost a year of asking myself this question I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth it, and I quit my job.

Now you would assume, most people would think that I was crazy to quit a full time job with great benefits in this economy.  But you know what?  Everyone that I told was genuinely happy for me and they all said that they could see how stressed out I was.  It was a real affirmation for me that I had made the right decision.  That, and the total peace and elation I felt when walking out those doors for the very last time.  For years I felt I was suffocating, and for the first time in a long time, I felt I could breathe again.  I felt so free.  So happy.

By now your probably all wondering,  "What are you going to do now?"  The answer is I DON'T KNOW!  Initially, when I first put in my two week notice, I immediately applied for two part-time  jobs.  I was called for an interview for both of them, and ended up not taking neither because either the hours weren't right or I didn't care for the job duties.  An old friend of mine stopped into my store during this time and I told her I had put in my notice, and had a couple of other job offers out there, and she looked at me and said 'You know Amy, it's o.k. to take some time off.  Don't feel you have to rush into another  job right away.  And, there's a lot to be said of retirement too!'.  And my husband about this time said to me 'Maybe it's time to just be a wife again'.  Both conversations really seemed to just confirm for me that it was time, for now, to just 'be at home'.

My last day of work was Black Saturday.  Since then, I've been busy playing catch-up on the holidays by finishing up on my Christmas Card Challenge, decorating my home for Christmas, deep cleaning my house from top to bottom (Ugh!  What a mess!), baking cookies, and spending time with my family.  Everyone keeps asking me if I'm bored yet, and I usually reply, "Not now.  I'm too busy with Christmas stuff.  Ask me during January, February, or March."  But I don't think I will get bored.  I've always been the type of person who could occupy herself with hobbies, and if I tire of that, I jump in my car and go somewhere.  Before I worked, I participated in women's bible studies, and attended paper crafting and quilt groups.  But I had to quit all my support groups when I worked full time.

So where do I go from here?  Well, I still dream of traveling.  My husband said that until our last child is done with school we won't be able to take any trips for awhile, unless they are shorter and closer-to-home.  I have to admit, that does depress me.  But I can be patient and wait.  In the mean time I will dream of all the beautiful places on this earth I want to see through pictures and tales on travel blogs and websites, and perhaps, start planning on our next trip.
 For those of you who have been faithful readers since the beginning, you have probably noticed how my blog has really changed over the years.  I started this blog in 2008 to help promote my home paper crafting business.  But over the years as I've grown and my interests have changed, it has evolved into so much more.  Instead of just paper crafting, I now write about anything that interests and sparks creativity in me, including fashion and travel.  I have made a lot more friends in the blogging community by including these two topics and I have found that I really enjoy writing and look forward to creating new posts every week.  I'd love to see my blog grow more and perhaps even generate some income, so I'm looking into that possibility at the moment.
 I plan on spending a lot more time in my craft room.  At the moment, I am all caught up on my cards, but I have about four quilts I need to finish, and I wouldn't mind getting back into scrap booking…especially digital scrap booking.  I also have a ton of fabric that really needs to be made into something…anything….as long as I do something with it!  I can't even begin to tell you how much fabric I own!  You really 'collect' a lot of fabric when you work at a fabric and crafts store for six years!    If I ever get to the point again where I have an 'excess' of handmade cards or crafts I'm not using,  maybe I'll finally open that Etsy store!

In the meantime, I keep my eye on the want ads just in case anything pops up that I might be interested in doing.  But it would have to be the 'perfect' job with the 'perfect' hours to get me back into the work force again.  Life is too short to never be able to see your husband everyday, to not have friends, to not be able to do activities you really want to do.  I don't have many healthy, mobile years left on this earth, and I want to treasure every minute of it.

And finally, I do want to say that I'm thankful to have the luxury to be able to make the decision to quit my job.  I do realize that there are many people in this world who are stuck in the rat race and can't just quit due to family and financial obligations.  I understand, and I sympathize.  I know it's hard to keep going.  I know, because I did it myself for years.   All I can say to you is, don't stop dreaming, don't stop looking, and if you make just one goal or resolution this year, let it be that you will keep open to the possibility of a lifestyle change.  I know I have.  And I don't regret it.  Not one bit.

Have a great day!  Amy

Monday, December 29, 2014

Our Road Trip Out West, Day Seven, Part Two: Pike's Peak

Hello!  I'm back with my last travel post as promised.  The afternoon of Day Seven was spent on top of the world!  Well, not literally, but from a mid-westerner, it seemed like the top of the world!  We went to the top of Pike's Peak…14,115 feet above sea level!  Did you know that Pike's Peak is the most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited mountain in the world?  After being there, I can certainly see why.  There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe it's beauty!
 To get to the top of Pike's Peak, you can drive, take the Cog Rail Train, bike, or hike up.  We chose the train since I still haven't recovered from my drive up to the top of Mount Washington over a year ago;  and I must say that even though there were a few nervous moments, it was much more pleasurable than driving.  The picture below is the train station.  Isn't it cute?  The prices to get up to the  top of Pike's Peak were much more reasonable than Mount Washington.  It only costs $12.00 per car verses $26.00 per car at Mount Washington.  And the train cost $36.00 per person verses $66.00 per ticket at Mount Washington.  So, about half the cost with twice the mountain height!
 This was our train.  They are not luxury cars.  They have hard little wooden seats and you sit knee to knee with the person in front of you.  At first, I was quite uncomfortable with that.  But we ended up really clicking with the couple that faced us even though they were half our age.  We had a lot of the same interests and talked pretty much non-stop all the way up and down the mountain.  They loved to travel and they shared a lot of their travel adventures with us.  So it ended up being a very positive experience for us, however, I could imagine you get stuck with someone in front of you that was not a desirable travel companion.
 The train had three cars, and there is an engine in the first and last car.  On the way up the first car pulls and you may be going backwards or forwards depending on how your sitting on the train.  On the way down, the train doesn't turn around.  They just switch engines and the last car leads, so if you had the view in front of you going up, you will now be watching it as if you were looking out the back window going down.  This was my view as we left the station:
 Now, as much as I preferred taking the train verses driving up, there are drawbacks.  The major one is what side of the car they seat you on.  The train has three seats on one side and two seats on the other.  If you are seated on the two seat side, you will get a view of the side of the mountain, and not the panoramic, scenic views of the landscape.  Well, we had the unfortunate luck of getting the two seat side, so we saw lots of trees, little babbling brooks, and rocks, and you have to crane your neck to see the gorgeous views on the other side of the train.  It would have been nice if the train could turn around at the top of the peak so everyone has a different view coming up and down, but it does not.

 This was how we got to see the more spectacular views:  blocked by shadows of other people sitting on that side of the train.  A little disappointing.  You can't pick your seats.  They are assigned.
 The view from the three sided seats above, and the view from the two sided seats below.  See the difference?
 But we were still able to catch some 'ooh' and 'ahh' moments through the sea of heads on occasion.
 There was a beautiful, crystal blue body of water on the way up to summit that just took our breath away.
 As we got closer to the top our own view started to open up and we were able to see more scenic landscape.
 There were a only a few times I was nervous on the train, and this was one of them.  There  is a spot on the route where it seemed that the railway was very close to the edge of the mountain and I couldn't see the turn up ahead so it seemed like we were going to drive right off the edge.

 We did catch a peek of the road that cars use to drive up to the summit.  It looked a lot safer than the Mount Washington road.
 We finally made it to the top after about an hour.  The entire round trip is three hours, and ten minutes and they let you have about thirty to forty minutes on top of the peak to explore.  There are several look out points with coin binoculars, and a restaurant with a gift shop and restrooms on top of the peak.  I will say that the facilities on top of Pike Peak are no where near as nice as the facilities on top of Mount Washington.  Mount Washington has indoor lookouts so you could enjoy the view without the wind and cold, and they also had a museum and exhibits.
 Unlike Mount Washington, we were prepared and brought our winter coats with us.  The temperatures on top of Pike's Peak can be thirty to forty degrees colder than at the base.  Since it was in the upper sixties or lower seventies that day, it was probably only thirty degrees on top, plus a strong wind.  We were quite comfortable with our winter jackets, although, it felt very strange to step in snow when I hadn't seen any since last winter.
 There is a plaque on top of the peak that has the lyrics to the song America the Beautiful on it.  According to historians, back in 1893 Katharine Lee Bates took a train trip from Massachusetts, to Colorado Springs and was inspired by the sights she saw along the way.  When she saw the majestic view of Pike's Peak she was inspired to write a poem, which several years later, was turned into a hymn by Samuel A. Ward.
 Up till now, I had several mountain top experiences, but this was by far the highest I have ever been and I did, for the first time, experience some altitude sickness.  Not much, but I could tell I was dizzy and a little difficulty maintaining my balance when walking.
 This was where the trains sat as they waited for us to re board.  Doesn't it look like they are about to fall off the edge of the world?
 There are probably two places on earth where I feel closest to God.  Number one is the ocean, and number two is the mountains.  I never tire of scenic mountains views, and neither does my husband.  I don't know how anyone can stand on top of a mountain and see views like this and not believe that there is a God.

" Oh beautiful for spacious skies…for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain" one can definitely see the inspiration for these lyrics when standing here!
 After we soaked in all the beauty and glory of God's creation we could possibly contain, we grabbed a couple of hot chocolates to warm us and headed back to the train for the ride down.
 It felt cozy, warm, and relaxing going back down after being out in the brisk, cold mountain air for awhile.  I noticed a number of people actually started to nod off, which surprised me.  How could anyone peel their eyes away from this view?
 I even saw children playing computer games rather than looking out their windows.  It saddened me and angered me at the same time.  First of all, they had the best window seats and they weren't even looking out the windows, and then to find a silly techno game more interesting than this view was a sad commentary of our modern culture.  I wanted to scream at them "If your not going to enjoy your window seat, can I switch with you!"  But I didn't.

 This was my first experience seeing snow capped mountains. I will say that as much as I hate snow, it does make for a pretty mountain picture.

 It was sad to come down from our mountain top and back to the base.  But it was much warmer, we peeled off those winter coats quite quickly.  And it's not as if we couldn't just look up and say 'Hi' to Pike's Peak from wherever we were at in Colorado Springs.
Well, this concludes my series of posts of our road trip out west.  I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them.  I don't know when I will be taking another big vacation to start a new series, but I will always have travel posts about my 'Staycations' to share.  In the meantime, I'll be back next week showing you all the treasures I found on my vacation and to share a little bit about our trip home.

Have a  great day! Amy

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Let's Party - Redo!

Hello!  Did you all have a nice Christmas?  Even being sick, I still had a very nice Christmas.  All my kids came home (even though I told them not to since I was sick) and we had a very nice time.  I don't have any pictures to share because I really wasn't feeling well and it took all my energy to still cook a prime rib dinner and set a nice table that I couldn't possibly add photography to the list.  If your wondering how I did it, I simply took a lot of 'sofa breaks',  and it really isn't that difficult to cook a roast once it's in the oven.  The worst part of it was not 'looking' or 'feeling' Christmasy.  Dressing pretty and wearing festive clothing is part of Christmas to me, and well, lets just say I looked like a truck ran over me so that's another reason why cameras were forbidden this year.

But despite outward appearances, the spirit of Christmas was definitely there.  I love having adult children that we can share great conversations with, laugh, and play games.  It is wonderful.  I absolutely love my little family.  After dinner, we read the bible story and then opened presents.  The kids graced my childlike hubby with some fun gag gifts just for him:  a whoopee cushion and a fart making toy.  He liked that.  Then Ashley and Jason gave Jordan (my percussionist) a triangle from the dollar store.  It was meant to be a gag gift, but it made a quite a pleasant sound and he thinks he can actually use it in a recording.  If your wondering what my favorite gifts were, well other than a silver ring from my husband which I showed you earlier this year, my daughter bought me to more Michael Kors shirts (my designer collection is growing!) and my son gave me the most beautiful, soft, leopard blanket.  I was so spoiled this year!

Well since I have no holiday pictures to share with you today, how about a festive card.  This card was actually re done.  Do you remember THIS CARD?  As cute as the original card was, I had let it sit for weeks before I went to use it and it had warped!  I was so upset!  Rather than throw the card away I decided to rip it apart and see if I could salvage some of the pieces and this is what I came up with:

When I ripped the vellum off the main panel I ruined it and then had to cover it up.  So I took some festive paper scraps and cut them on an angle and adhered them to the damaged spots.  If you look closely, you can still see some damage spots on the edges of the main panel, but they were so minor I decided to let those be.  I then added a K & Co sticker for the sentiment and my ruined card was fixed! The only waste was the vellum and dots, everything was re-used and re- purposed.

So what about you? Have you ever had to re-do a project before?   Did you have a nice holiday?  I'd love to hear from you!

Have a great day!  Amy

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have a Happy, Healthy Christmas!

Hello! Guess what I got for Christmas?  Sick!  My husband was very ill last week and I did everything I could think of to try and not get sick too, but it finally got me.  I'm not quite as sick as he was, but I'm still sick.  Merry Christmas to me.  Oh well.  I suppose a lot worse could happen. There are many people who will have a lot more to deal with this Christmas than just having a cold.   I will try and not have a pity party here.  But getting sick is never fun, especially when it happens on the biggest holiday of the year. So enough, onto today's post (when all the pictures were taken while I was still healthy!)

Because BlogLand is very slow this time of year, I decided to post pone my weekly travel and fashion posts and show you my house decorated for Christmas.

 Look at that healthy, radiant smile! Oh, if only you could all see me now.  I look nothing like that happy woman in the picture, I assure you.

I really down scaled my Christmas decorations this year.  I normally decorate every room of the house; there isn't a door frame anywhere that isn't dripping with garland!  However, this year I got off to a late start due to our fall vacation and my work schedule, so I did minimal decorating.  And you know what? I like it better.  I might do this every year.  Less really can be more.  I put just a 'touch' of Christmas in every room.  Some rooms you barely know it's there.  But I do.  It was a lot less work, less stress, and a lot less cluttered.  It's still elegant and at times flamboyant, like the arrangement on top of t.v. stand below, but because it's more contained, it seems more relaxed.
 I usually put up two trees;  a skinny tree in our dining room and a bigger tree in our family room.  But this year, I only put up our dining room tree.   I felt that we just didn't spend enough time in our family room to justify putting up another tree in that part of the house.  The dining room tree would be seen continually throughout the day, for it's in an area where we spend the most time.
My birthday this year fell on Black Friday.  Yes!  Black Friday!  Can you believe that?  But my sweet family made it all better by throwing a little party for me when I got home for work.  Ashley decorated the dining room with pretty birthday banners and she made a gluten-free chocolate cake.  My husband bought my favorite pizza (Chicken Mediterranean De-lite) from our local pizzeria for us to eat for dinner so I didn't have to cook.  And I got two awesome birthday gifts:  a Cuisinart Grind and Brew Thermal Coffeemaker  (The BEST coffeemaker on the planet!  How did I ever drink coffee before I don't know)  from my husband and a designer brand tunic from my daughter and son-in-law.

 I'm wearing the tunic in all the pictures.  It's from my favorite designer,  Michael Kors.  I love the detail in this tunic.  It has a zipper in front with silver studs on the pockets, and silver sleeve tabs on the arms.  The zipper pull even has the famous MK label on it.   Isn't my daughter just the sweetest?  This is the second Michael Kors item she was able to find for me.  Last Christmas she gave me a beautiful pair of gloves by him.

 Here is the pretty silver buckle on the sleeve tab.  I really love the subtle, interesting touch to the sleeve.

  This is how I dressed my upper level staircase with garland.  I used primarily golds and browns in the middle level living space of my house because those were the colors that complimented the room the best.
Here  are some little snibbits of how I decorated the rest of my home.  The first collage shows the master bedroom.  I draped both dressers in garland, and added some embroidered Christmas pillows to my bed.
This set of pictures shows the upstairs hallway and bath.
Most of these pictures are of my entry way and family room.  The top two on the right are what I did for son's bedroom.  I simply draped some garland on his head board.
This is the formal living room and dining room.
And finally, here's a little bit on how I wrapped my presents this year.  Since my tree is brown and gold, I simply wrapped all my presents in Kraft paper and tied them with a combination of gold and brown ribbon.  For tags, I cut two tag shapes out using a Spellbinder's Nestability.  On one of the tags I wrote the recipients name and the giver's name.  I then covered it with a second tag on top made of glitter paper.  I don't like my handwriting, and I find this gives a more polished look.
If you'd like to see more pictures of my home completely decorated for Christmas, start HERE.  I did a series of posts of how my house was decorated for Christmas when it was featured in a local Christmas Walk in 2011.  

I wish you all a Happy, Healthy, Christmas!  Amy 

Monday, December 22, 2014


 Hello!  I've had to make three sympathy cards in the past few months.  It's always sad when someone passes away, but it is especially hard when it happens during the holidays.  The card below was made for my co-worker who lost her mother-in-law right before Thanksgiving.

Because I don't pre-make sympathy cards (too creepy), I often have to make them in a hurry.  I usually keep them clean and simple for lack of time, but I also want them to look like a lot of care and thought went into them.  To do that I find a 'wow factor' like these pretty vellum 3D stickers by K & Co.  
My card is basically just a sentiment and flowers stamped onto designer paper.  I used a set from Papertrey Ink that did not require any coloring.  Just stamp it onto the pad, then onto the paper, and I'm done.  The drama on the card comes from the pretty butterfly stickers.

Have a great day!  Amy

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fashion Over Fifty: Holiday Wear, Fantasy Style

Hello!  As we begin to enter our biggest holiday week (now through New Years) I wanted to showcase two different holiday outfits:  One is my fantasy holiday outfit, and the other (which will be posted separately next week) is what I will actually be wearing for Christmas.

Everyone celebrates Christmas differently.  Some people have lots of formal, cocktail parties to attend, or maybe their family just gets dressed to the nines for a Christmas gathering.  Other's celebrate very informally wearing 'ugly Christmas sweaters' or pretty casual holiday attire.  We tend to celebrate Christmas as home, with just our nuclear family, and I'm usually in the kitchen half the time, so a Christmas sweater (or tee shirt if the kitchen is too hot) with a pair of leggings is about as dressed up as I usually get.  I do wear something 'Christmassy' to church and if we happen to have friends over sometime during that week, but  that's about it.  Usually it's just a pretty sweater with some sparkle in it and I add some glam with accessories, or it's a traditional Christmas color, like red, combined with black.

But because my reader's vary, I wanted to show you two different holiday outfits.  First up, my fantasy outfit.  What I would wear if I had a fancy party to attend.  This dress was borrowed from my daughter just for the photo shoot.  We shot these pictures when she was home for Thanksgiving.  You can read about the fun we had that day HERE if you missed that post.  Ashley is a professional singer and has lots of formal wear that she wears for her performances, and various galas and events she has to attend. I don't have her glamorous life, so I don't need dresses like these, but it's fun to try them on and play dress up for a little while.
This dress is by Ralph Lauren and it is very similar in style to the dress I showed you in THIS post, only it's blue, not red.  When I put this dress on, I said to Ashley 'Boy, this guy sure knows how to dress a woman with curves!' and Ashley replied, 'Yes, but it also works with women without curves because the way it is cut accentuates and flatters a woman's curves, and it gives curves to women who have more boyish figures.'.  I couldn't agree more.  His dresses suck you in where they need to, yet drape and adorn your figure at just the right spot to make any figure thinner and curvier.  Sounds impossible right?  But it's true. Go to a store and try one of his dresses on, and you will see for yourself!
The dress just seems so romantic to me and would work well for a special Anniversary date too.

This outfit, as fun as it is to try it on and play dress up, couldn't be less 'me'.  I absolutely love this look,  I just don't feel comfortable wearing clothes like this.  If I had to go to a formal event, I would probably wear dark pants with flats or a mid-heel, and a fancy top and lots of jewelry.  I like to feel comfortable (and warm) no matter what I wear or where I go, and I always feel more comfortable in pants than dresses.  But that, is another reason, why this is a fantasy post.  It is not my real life, nor the real me. But if I had to wear a formal dress, this is the style of dress I would wear.

My shoes I bought in the spring, they are by 9 West.

To accessorize this outfit, I kept it simple with a double strand pearl necklace, a crystal blue bracelet, and I carried a vintage silver metallic clutch from one of Ashley's thrift store hunts.
If you'd like to see what I wore last year for our church's Christmas service, click HERE.

And here are more Christmas outfits to be inspired by:
Photo Credit

I love this outfit.  I adore the soft, relaxed sweater,  and the  sparkly skirt.  It's just a too short for me.

Photo Credit

This one I'd wear in a heartbeat, but with different shoes.  I could never wear those heels.

Photo Credit

I love this one, but I would never wear it.  Definitely a fantasy outfit.

Photo Credit
I could definitely see myself wearing this on Christmas Day curled up with the hubby near the fire!
Photo Credit
It would be fun watching Christmas movies with the family wearing these pajamas!
Photo Credit

Now these look cozy!

So what about you?  How do you celebrate the holidays and what do you wear?  Which one of the outfits from Pinterest most represent you?  I'd love to hear from you!

Have a great day!  Amy