Sunday, August 31, 2008

~Yes, We Have No Bananas~

When Ella and Jackson stay at Grandma's, we make pancakes every morning. From scratch. They're Ella's favorite breakfast, and they're quickly becoming Jackson's favorite as well.

As I was assembling the ingredients, Jack Johnson's "Banana Pancakes" was playing in the background. Ella came running into the kitchen and said, "Grandma! Can we make banana pancakes today?" Mmmm. That sounded like a delicious idea. I readily agreed, and got out the bananas. I sliced them into a bowl, and told Ella it was time for her to add them to the batter.

With the biggest grin, she said, "Grandma....let's make Banana Pancakes without the bananas!" So we did.

They were the truly the best Banana Pancakes I've ever tasted. Ella agreed.

Friday, August 29, 2008


They’re comin'! Ella and Jackson are comin' back to RoseCreekCottage this weekend! We can hardly wait. I put on my favorite hat with the big crimson rose. And my red-patent-leather shoes. They don’t call me “Mercedes With the Red Shoes” for nothin’!

Ol’Bear put on his favorite “sweater with the pearl buttons”. That’s what he calls it. He’s quite fond of it. He even wears it in the summertime. Silly bear. It belonged to Ella and Jackson’s daddy when he was just a lil fella. And pearls. I don’t think he knows that boys are not ‘sposed to wear pearls. There’s just no talkin’ to him. Sigh. I do try. Often. I fear his ears don't work no more. He’s old, ya know. He belonged to Grandma when she was little. Can’t imagine her being little. But I hear she was. Just a little girl. Like Ella. Bear collects hats. Always with flowers. Old ones. The hat he's wearin' was Grandma’s. That ol’ bear is just too fond of all Grandma’s stuff. I have to watch him. Sometimes, in the morning when I wake up, he's dressed himself in a whole new outfit. Yup. Stuff of Grandma’s. Sigh. She just laughs at him.

Then there’s Ol’ Hare. He’s itchy. Made of mohair. I don’t think he bathes enuff. And he has what Grandma calls 'an attitude'. Thinks he’s related to the Easter B. Silly ol’ rabbit. He wears hats, too. Just like Ol’ Bear. And me. He’s jealous cause I can wear bigger hats. And shoes. Red ones. Patent leather.

Me? I’m a serious soul. I follow Grandma from room-to-room, overseeing all the scuttlebutt that’s going on at RoseCreekCottage. And ya know….I’m worried 'bout her. She’s gettin’ up earlier-and-earlier these days. Workin' in the studio. ‘Cept she calls it 'playin'. You should see the ‘stuff’ she’s ‘playin’ with: dolls with painted faces, St. Nicks with wool beards 'n knickers, long rabbits with glass eyes. They scare me. Too big. And there’s the jewelry! Some with diamonds. I keep beggin’ her to let me wear some. Just some. I’d be VERY careful and only wear 'em to tea parties. With my red patent-leather shoes. And for special times. Like this weekend. When Ella and Jackson come.

I have the teapot ready. I washed the teacups. Twice. Really. Ella likes sweet tea. With lots of sugar. Silly girl. Anyway….we’re waitin'. It's hard.

Oh….and if you see any elves around….would you please send 'em to RoseCreekCottage ASAP? Grandma’s been mumblin’ about them not showin’ up here again. I fear they’re lost. I promise cross-my-heart I’ll pay their travelin’ ‘spences. Grandma needs help.

In the meantime….we're just waitin’ for Ella and Jackson. Sigh. Hurry, Saturday. Hurry.

Verry Sincerelee,

Mercedes With the Red Shoes

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

~Beyond the 'Drive'~

"Why are you working so hard. Everyday. Now, at a time in your life when you can be slowing down? Where do you get the ‘drive’ from?" A friend of mine posed this question to me over the weekend. It made me stop and think.

Drive. Not the verb that happens when you get behind the wheel of your car, but the noun. The drive that makes you JUMP out of bed every morning, anxious to begin. I love what I do. I’m passionate about it. And although I’m very ‘driven’, it’s not work to me. I’m not saying that putting in 12 -14 hour days isn’t exhausting. Ask my back and my eyes. But when you’re ‘driven’ by the passion and love of creating…..of being totally alone in the studio while your ideas become real….you can’t call that work. It is pleasure. Joy. Watching a flat piece of fabric come to life before your very eyes is surreal; impossible to describe. Magical. And I don’t ever want it to end!

So I stumble out of bed each morning, and head out the back door with the puppies. The crispness of the cool air is invigorating. It already smells like fall. Inside, I fill my favorite cup with steamy coffee....the first of many more to come....throw the pups a treat, and head to the computer. After answering emails, printing labels, and ‘chatting’ with friends…’s off to the shower. And my jeans. Ah….one of the pleasures of working at home!

Then I’m off to the woods behind our house. Sounds of the creek and the birds…and already, the locusts, remind me that this is a little glimpse of what heaven must be like. And I pray. I thank God for all the gifts He has blessed me with. For the talent. And the drive. When I look around me I know that for right now, at this moment, this is what I’m meant to do. Joyfully.

I’m off to the studio. Have a glorious day!

"The joy of the Lord is your strength" Nehemiah 8:10

Monday, August 25, 2008

~Witchy Women~

Oh no! It's almost September, and there are Witchy Women hanging around my studio. Everywhere. They won't get to take flight until the beginning of October, when I pack them up for my first big juried show. It seems I can never make enough. They're my own design. No two are alike. Their whimsical faces appeal to both children and adults. It's difficult to see the bauble at their necks, but they say BOO! They have hand-painted faces, skinny legs, and silly floppy slippers. Oh...and they really fly. At nite. When everyone's asleep. How do I know that? Because each morning when I turn on the light in my studio, they aren't where I left them. And they have these playful grins on their faces. Really.

This morning I was up early (again!) and had to laugh when I turned on the lights in my studio to see all these Witchy Women staring back at me! I swear one winked. Yeah, I know....I need more sleep. Or more coffee. Probably both.

I'm off to make more. I need about a hundred...and I'm not at the half-way mark yet.

If anyone sees those elves I've been waiting for, please send them to Ohio. To RoseCreekCottage. I'll gladly pay their traveling freight!

I'll be listing some Witchy Women in my Etsy shop in September.

If you need them sooner, just email me!

I'm off to make a second pot of coffee.

Have a wickedly-wonderful day in your little corner of the world!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

~Stop the Merry-Go-Round~

Tuesday 5:10am.

Coffee. Scissors. Angel wings. Not enough. My life is spinning faster and faster. It's blurring around me. Breathe. Deep breaths. Don't close your eyes. You don't want to miss anything. Breathe. It's almost September. Panic is setting in. Not enough hours in the day. Or nite. The elves forgot to show up....again.

Ella and Jackson were here for the weekend. For Ella's party. And life became clear again. The merry-go-round slowed down just enough that I was able to jump off. For a short while. I didn't want to miss one second of time with these precious children.

Ella is in awe of what her grandma does. Wide-eyed, she picks up doll heads, angel wings, fabric. The smile on her face says it all.

It was only yesterday that she was only a twinkle in her parents' eyes. And here she is. Four. Loving life. Playing princess. Giving hugs and 'I Love Yous' when I need them most. And it makes me remember why I'm doing all this.

Today the house is empty again. The kids and grandkids are all back home. Where they belong. Where God means them to be. And I'm left alone with the angels. Real ones. Cloth ones. And the coffee.

Angels are beckoning.

And there's that merry-go-round. Spinning.

Too much to do.

Angels everywhere.

Monday, August 18, 2008

~Katie: Part II~

The phone rang last Thursday afternoon around 4:45. It was Katie asking if I could pick her up at “the mansion”, our affectionate name for the estate she works at once a week. Now, she usually works from 7 am, and is picked up by the van to take the Amish back to Middlefield at 1:30, so this phone call was odd. I asked why she was there, and she explained: “I cleaned at Caroline’s this morning. At noon she took me to “the mansion”, and she was to pick me up at 4 pm. We were going to buy fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market, and then she was to drop me off at home. It is very unusual that she is not here by now, and no one answers at her house. I’m worried.”

I reassured her that I would be right there, and suggested she call Nancy, one of Caroline’s good friends.

Now…I have never met Caroline in person, but Katie has worked for her for a year-and-a-half. I knew by the fond, familiar way that Katie spoke of her, that she was a very special soul. For example: At Christmastime, Caroline hosted Katie and two of her sisters at her house for a weekend-long Cookie-Baking-Marathon. By Sunday nite, each person took home hundreds of cookies! Katie always had fun with Caroline, and Caroline went out of her way to do extra little things for the three Amish sisters that had recently bought a house together.

The day I received the call from Katie, she and Caroline had spent an enjoyable morning together, which included some deliverymen installing a new gas stove that Caroline was very excited about. The men teased Katie about not lighting any matches until they were very far down the road.

Caroline had promised Katie she could have a three-piece wicker set that she had no need for. She told Katie she’d put it in the back of her van, so that when she took Katie home at the end of the day, Katie and her sisters would have it for their empty back porch. This was SO like Caroline!

By the time I arrived at “the mansion”, an ashen-hued young woman climbed into my car, announcing that she had spoken with Nancy, who was putting a call in to Caroline’s husband at his office. Now, we were both very upset: Katie, about the woman she had a great deal of affection for, and me, for a woman who I ‘felt’ I knew quite well.

The scene was alarming. Police cars were everywhere. Caroline’s van was backed into the driveway, hatchback opened, filled with the wicker furniture, packed for the trip that never happened.

The police asked Katie if she was willing to be questioned, as she was the last person to see Caroline alive. It appeared that shortly before 4 pm, Caroline, age 58, had a massive heart attack and collapsed on her kitchen floor.

After a two-hour interview, I drove Katie back home. We rode in silence, until Katie, tears rolling down her face, said, “If only I had been there. Maybe I could have saved her. Why did God let this happen? We had SUCH a nice morning together. I’m SO mad at Him right now.”

Not the normal, faith-filled retort from my little Amish friend of 17 years. I said a quick prayer for the right words, and said, “You know, Katie….you should be very honored that God chose YOU to be with Caroline on her last day on this good earth. YOU. He knows she loved spending time with you. You said the two of you had a delightful time.”

She dried her tears, and we continued the ride in silence, thinking about this sweet woman whose life was snuffed out way too soon.

On my way back home that Thursday nite, I cried knowing that I missed meeting Katie's dear friend by one fatal day: We had plans to meet Caroline for lunch on Friday.

No….she did not have any signs of heart disease. She lived a healthy lifestyle and was not overweight.

Life is fragile. You never know which day will be your last.

Spend this day wisely.

Friday, August 15, 2008

~Katie: Part 1~

I first met Katie when she was barely sixteen. My business was doing well, and my little Italian mother proclaimed that I “needed help with the cleaning”. I was shocked. MY mother suggesting I needed help? But being a good daughter…..I listened! We live near a large Amish community. My friend, Cheryl, had been using Elizabeth to help her clean for a number of years, and Elizabeth suggested her 16-year-old niece. That's how it came about that Katie entered our lives, arriving early one snowy Tuesday morning.

I loved her from the start, and it wasn’t long before she was like a member of the family. Katie is one of the oldest of her 11 siblings. She arrived each week at 6:45 am, kicking off her shoes and socks the moment she walked through the back door. And when Katie cleaned, Katie sang. Always. Religious hymns she learned as a small child. Before too long, Katie was not only cleaning, but cooking meals, packing orders, and filling in wherever she was needed. She filled the house with unabandoned joy. She had such a 'crush' on my son, Jeff, that she blushed whenever he was around! She teased Tommy incessantly. Gently.

Things went well. I had the much-needed help with just-about- everything, and Katie loved us as much as we loved her. When she asked if she could stay overnite, I readily agreed. I could take her to her next job in the morning. First, she had to get the permission of her community’s “Elders”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I wasn’t tickled at the thought of being judged by a group of bearded Amish strangers. What had Katie told them about us? Would we be deemed ‘appropriate’ for this young Amish woman to spend more time with?

We were approved. But I was worried. I had a real heart-to-heart with Jim. He needed to clean up his act! He was not to say “damn” or “hell”, take even a sip of beer or alcohol…and NO television. Did I mention that I was worried? Well… so was Jim. “What are we going to DO with her all evening?”. I told him not to worry, as I knew Katie goes to bed at 9PM.

Things went well. We decided to pop corn and play Monopoly after dinner. And then to my disbelief, Jim offered Katie a beer, and as I heard her response of “Sure”, I was afraid we were going straight to hell! When she asked if she could sleep in Jeff’s waterbed (it's not what you're thinking...he was away at college!), I was sure of it!

Spending time with Katie taught me what was important in life. She lives a “no frills” existence. She doesn't have the encumbrances of material things to weigh her down. She lives a simple life. Her only goal is to help others whenever possible. She fully intends she will go to heaven when her time here is done.

I had to let Katie go 6 years ago when I abruptly ended my business to take care of Mom. She called me every week, and stopped in whenever she could.

Now at the age of 33, she is no longer the shy young Amish girl I met 17 years ago. But now, she brings tranquility to my life that is unequaled. She has taught me patience. And most importantly, she has taught me what it means to have faith.

Katie started back with us last month. She still sings while she cleans. And she still brings peace and calm to my life. But more than anything, she's taught me that life is fragile.

Next: Part 2

Monday, August 11, 2008

~Too Many Ideas...Too Little Time~

I've been busy producing lots of Truffles and Trinkets for my upcoming shows, and came up with yet another product to add to the line: Birthday Age Necklaces. Now...if you thought I was going nuts trying to figure out how to display the custom initial pendants....this one may just put me over the edge! But they're SO cute, and when I found the perfect little numbers print, I just had to add them in to the mix of the other Truffle products. I think I'll take as many as I can, and take orders for any I run out of!

Then there's Halloween.....which is right around the corner, and a holiday that every store owner will tell you is the second biggest money-maker next to, I'm making lots of these, too!

My house looks like Halloween and Christmas exploded, as many of the designs seem to creep out of the studio and into the kitchen. Jim never knows what he's going to find each nite when he walks through that back door! Thank goodness he's understanding and has a great sense of humor and unending compassion for the hours I'm putting into all this! If not....I'd surely be divorced by now!
And my Mom's comment when I showed her my latest creations: "You're nuts, Carol. Really nuts! How on earth are you ever going to produce the hundreds you'll need by October?" Remember Mom helped me with dolls through all the years I did shows. And no one knows as well as Mom does that once I make up my mind about something, there's no stopping me!

Let me know what you think of them!

Friday, August 8, 2008

~Bread, Milk and Lemonade~

I cringe each time the phone rings. I pray that I don't see the name of my mother's assisted living facility on that caller ID. Wednesday nite. 8:30. Oh no.

“Hello, Carol?”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Carol, I can’t find my car keys anywhere, and I don’t have any money!”

“Mom….You haven’t driven for quite a while. You sold your car, remember? What do you need money for?”

“Well….I need to drive to the grocery store. There’s nothing in the house to eat.”

“Okay, Mom. What do you need?”

“I need bread, milk, and lemonade. And money. I have no money.”

“Mom, I promise to come tomorrow and bring you bread, milk and lemonade. And money. You sound tired, Mom. It’s 8:30. Why don’t you go to sleep. Don’t worry about anything. I’ll come tomorrow. Promise.”

“But my hair! It got wet when I showered.”

“It’s okay, Mom. Tomorrow is Thursday and Annie will be in the beauty shop. She’ll come and pick you up and wheel you down there. She’ll wash and set it for you.”

“Okay. Will you pick me up? I can’t find my keys.”

She had been doing so well. She has no need for groceries. Her three meals are served to her in the facility's beautiful dining room. And there is no need for money. They are discouraged to have any. She's forgotten where she is again. We hadn’t seen signs of dementia for some time. Not like this. And here it was rearing its ugly head once again. How long would it last this time?

Thursday. Head to the grocery store to get bread, milk and lemonade. Don’t forget the money. Sigh.

Then I headed straight to Wendy's. “Please let this work, God. Please. Just one more time."

When I arrived, there was Mom, hair freshly ‘coiffed’, sitting on the sofa. "Oh, you're here! Did you find my keys?".

“Mom……how about a Frosty?” She smiled. Thank you, God. And Wendy's!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

~This Is Faith~

My son, Tom, sent me today's clip from ABC's Good Morning America show. Though many of you are aware that the daughter of Christian songwriter, Steven Curtis Chapman, died in May when her older brother accidentally hit her with his car, many of you may not be. I feel this is worth posting here. The remarkable faith that this family has, is a lesson to all of us. If you can have faith during the darkest hours of have true faith.

The song, Cinderella, that he wrote for his daughter, reminds me so much of my grand-daughter, Ella, and the day Jim and I took her and Jackson to Squire's Castle. I've added it as the first song on my playlist.

The Youtube video is here: Cinderella.

Life is too short, and too fragile. May God continue to hold this family in the palms of His hands.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

~A New Book Club and Congratulations~

I'm so swamped with orders that I'm starting to wonder what I've gotten myself into! I finished a Special Order last nite for one of this earth's angels, Melanie White. She is a dedicated nurse who is celebrating the completion of 30 years of nursing at the end of this year. As she was typing an email to me as to what her vision for a charm bracelet would be, I was typing one to her. Guess what? We both had the same ideas! it is, Melanie. And a heartfelt 'Congratulations' from someone who has witnessed, firsthand, angels like you. With everything my Mom and Dad have gone through these past years, I truly appreciate each of you dedicated Earth Angels!

I have a dear friend who is in town from Arizona. Susie and I started our teaching careers together in the same elementary school eons ago, along with our friend Karen. At a luncheon for Sue last week, I mentioned I would love to find a book club that meets during the day, but most of my friends are working. Surprisingly, there were other women there who were interested, so we met for the first time yesterday. In choosing to keep the first book 'light', we decided on Kirsten Kiernan's first novel, Catching Genius. You can check it out here on her blog, Kristy Kiernan's Amazon Blog. The group of women is very diverse, intelligent, and (this is the best part) fun-loving! At the end of yesterday's initial meeting, we found ourselves wondering whether we actually needed a book to discuss each month! The topics were varied and interesting. We didn't quite solve all the world's problems, but we tried! Now I'd better get myself to the studio. My boss is a tyrant!

Monday, August 4, 2008

~Truffles & Trinkets~

I've been working non-stop on my new custom jewelry line for children and teens. I'm very pleased with the way it's finally come together. It's called:

"Truffles and Trinkets for Tots to Teens".

The collection consists of recycled scrabble tiles adorned with pretty papers, swarovski crystals for the 'bling' that we girls love, and a monogram of your choosing. They come on an 18" silver ball chain (which is all the rage right now) with matching ribbons. They are packaged in little truffle cups placed inside round silver tins with clear lids. They're also available in Birthday Party Favor Paks.

Check them out over in my Etsy shop right now! Let me know what you think of them. I have a feeling I won't be able to make as many as I'll need for my fall shows! Off to the studio....have a great week!

Friday, August 1, 2008

~Angels Among Us~

August 1, 2008. A brand new month with a clean slate. To borrow a phrase from my Catholic grade school catechism in describing a new soul: clean, pure and new. Now, the big question: What will I do with it? How do I keep it pure, yet productive. How can I spend hours in the studio, yet have time for others? Time to do the things I was put on this earth to do?

I once sat at a wholesale show in Atlanta, on a melancholy Sunday morning. I had sent my sweet DIL, Jackie, home early, as there was not much need for her to stay for the remaining two days. Business was bleak. They had put artisans from the “Hand-Made” section in with the mass-produced Taiwan booths. Not good. Many of us were in the same boat. We couldn’t compete with their prices, their volume, their turn-around time.

I had arrived early. I needed some direction; some guidance. So I sat, eyes closed, head bowed. And I prayed. "What do I do now, Lord?” Sensing that I was not alone, I looked up to see Surrender, a 6’5” eastern Indian man who was set up in the booth next to me. No worldy description of his regality could do him justice. He stood with his feet firmly planted on the ground, dark three-piece suit, starched white mandarin-collared shirt, full beard, turban…….handsome beyond the heavens. Hands clasped behind his back, looking down at me with a fondness you seldom see in strangers, he said, “Carol, God knows what you need, and He will give it to you”. And as quietly as he had appeared, he left.

There are a handful of times in life when another soul says something profound. For me, this was one of those times. I have carried those words with me for 15 years now. There aren’t too many days when I don’t think of them and that kind stranger I met for a brief moment.

So I begin this clean, pure month with some questions, some fears, and the knowledge that God knows what I need. I am listening with an open heart.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2.