I Always Wanted to Remodel an Old Farmhouse…

… But I was thrilled when we were able to build our new home…

…Nearly twenty-three years ago!

And the last couple of years, as we’ve been making
a few changes here and there, guess what?

I get to remodel an “old” farmhouse!


We’re trying our best to employ our “Thistle Dew” motto as we switch things around. Minimal cost… Maximum use. No wasted space. Use what we have to the best advantage. Over the years, we’ve swapped bedrooms few times. The attached garage became an art room. The original art room (the Work Room, as it has been called over the years) became a sewing room, and then a catch-all room. The Grand Plan now is to create a master bedroom downstairs, with as little new footprint as possible, but also without deconstructing the entire house at once. Why? Because us empty nesters need two empty bedrooms upstairs. Really. We do. There’s a Reason. And for now it’s a one-step-at-a-time process.

Before we took off for California earlier this month to see our Grandboys, Hubby and I tackled the upstairs “work room,” that crazy, pretty, big room that has been a little bit of everything to our family. We crafted up there, homeschooled up there, sewed up there… it was even a makeshift bedroom when a daughter decided she needed her own space. It was time to get that room under control!

Room2We gave it a fresh coat of paint and put in a window…
…Which Hubby accidentally ordered by mistake for a
construction job he was doing a while back.

When we returned from our trip, we tackled the floor…

FloorBeforeThe floor held evidence of craft projects from the past.
Tiny graffiti artists had left their marks as well.
However, the tongue and groove floor is also the ceiling in the art room below,
so I was reluctant to brush liquid stain on it in fear of it dripping through.

PaintI opted for using black semi-gloss paint, applied sparingly with a brush.


It actually turned out better than I expected,
and took less than half a quart of paint!

Floor MidwayThis is what the surface looked like… Almost finished!

deskareaAnd now the fun of putting everything back
together and organizing my art stuff!
Yep… The studio is moving back to the work room!

A Finished Project… And a Just Begun Project!

Since our youngest daughter Kate got married and moved out, we’ve been slowly but surely working on remodeling the upstairs. Plugging along, like Aesop’s Tortoise… and we know eventually we’ll get to the finish line. (And then we’ll move downstairs… but don’t mention that to my carpenter… he needs to see some light at the end of the tunnel!)

First, we worked on Kate and her sister Jordan‘s old room. And we moved in… How nice to have a bit of extra space to spread out! Then we began working on our old room. That went a bit faster because we had a deadline… Grandboys were coming to visit and needed a place to sleep! After Hubby ripped up the old carpet and sanded the pine floor, my Dad came over and helped me paint!

When we pulled the carpet up in the now-spare bedroom, we decided there was no time like the present to yank it off the steps as well. Our motto is, “If you’re gonna make a mess, you might as well make a big one.” So we did, and Hubby sanded the steps too. And we’ve been trudging up and down the bare construction steps since May. The California Kids went home mid-June, and then we had some wedding-related company, who may or may not have pondered taking up a collection for us, considering the state of our steps and the last remnant of original flooring in the upstairs bathroom. When it was back to just the two of us, I started the task of painting the steps.

Which, by the way, can be interesting. We went with an oil-based paint for durability, since the steps are a high-traffic area in our home. Each coat took quite a while to dry, and with each coat, I had to alternate steps so we could still get upstairs and downstairs. (Incidentally, if you go upstairs and downstairs by skipping steps for several days in a row, you will become well acquainted with muscles you didn’t know you had.) We also were careful to not paint on days when there was a possibility of little visitors or pregnant visitors due to the smelly-ness of the paint.

So. It took a while.

And then came the fun part! We’ve been trying to decide what to do to snazzy up those plain steps for quite a while. I had pinned a whole bunch of ideas on Pinterest the past few months. Maybe a carpet runner? A painted runner? Stenciling? Words? What words? One day toward the end of July, my friend Beth posted a photo of steps with the “In our home…” motif on my Facebook page. It was perfect! Almost. I thought I wanted a slightly more industrial feel to the lettering, so I went looking for it on Etsy, and found one I loved! And it was perfect! Almost. We had 14 steps instead of 13. And the shop graciously added another “step” for me in a custom listing!

I couldn’t wait to get started!
It took a bit of measuring…


And a bit of patience…


But it began to shape up nicely…


And I love the finished project…It’s good to get things done!


And if you look closely, you’ll notice a bit of dirt on the steps…


But that’s okay, because it means my carpenter has moved on
to the next project… A new bathroom floor!!!!!


I think I need to take this man out to dinner!


Do Fun Stuff with Old Friends.

Well, last week we ran away as just the two of us.
This past weekend, we ran away with Friends.

Old Friends. The Best kind.

We’ve been buddies with Randy & Beth since our girls
were toddlers… back to the time when you  had to wait
for film to be developed… long before anyone heard of a blog.

About twenty years. Two decades.


Both our families had a Favorite Place to Be.
But we hadn’t Been there together…

Our first glimpse was exciting…

We had to refrain ourselves from shouting “WhooHoo!”
and running wildly down the street. So instead we dined
at Chowning’s and stopped at Charleton’s Coffee House
and tested out their Chocolate.

Yum. We bought some to take home.

We took long walks…

…down paths that our forefathers may have taken…

We saw Grand Palaces…

and abodes for those of the Middling Sort.

The guys talked about everything…

and we even came up with a possible
cure for America’s current political problems…

No. Really. We wouldn’t do THAT.


But we definitely laughed a LOT.

Empty Nesters! The Freys and the Bakers heartily recommend
a weekend away with old and dear friends. You will have fun,
make new memories, and feel young again.

And you will really get a kick out of it
when your kids text to check on you!


Old friends, after all of these years,
Old friends, through the laughter and tears,
Old friends, What a priceless treasure!
~Bill & Gloria Gaither~

A Date with my Sweetie, Part Two…

I took way too many pictures last week on our little day trip to fit into one post… so here’s the what we did AFTER we left the museum! We headed  to Longwood Gardens! We usually make a “Girl Trip” to Longwood around Christmas. Over the years, it’s included Mom, Robin, Jo, Kate, Nana Anne, and Me. I don’t think Chris has gone there at Christmas since the girls were pretty young, so it was all new to him! Every year, Longwood decorates with different flowers and has a different theme… this year was mostly red and white, and the theme was Gingerbread. Here’s what it looked like when you walked into the Conservatory…

And as you walked toward the back…

The photos really do not do it justice…

Hubby loved the Poinsettia Topiaries…

And I loved the Moravian Stars in the Rose Room…

There were trees made of Real Gingerbread,
and a Gingerbread Train…
THAT room smelled heavenly.

And a Gingerbread and Sugar-Glass Conservatory…

… And a Gingerbread Peirce duPont House!

But the best of all is the Indoor Children’s Garden!
We probably looked silly exploring in there since
we had no children with us!

All throughout the Children’s Garden, water drips, pours,
and spurts. It’s pretty amazing. The kids are so fun to watch as
they try to catch it or figure out where it’s going to come from next!

And I’m definitely not into scary Gargoyles…

But SOMEONE was a genius when they thought of this…

There were paint brushes available for the children
to “paint” with! The light changes color,
so they think they’re really doing something!

And I even came away with a new idea for an art project!

The ornaments on this tree were made by local elementary
school children… If you look closely, the designs were
taken from antique Butter Molds! What a neat idea to
combine art with early American history!

Hubby and I really did enjoy our “just us” day. We topped it off with a great Mexican dinner, and got home WAY past our bedtime! Being self-employed and usually having a mile-long “To Do” list, we often feel guilty taking a day off, but it’s a good thing to do every now and again.

A Date with my Sweetie, Part One…

Last week, Hubby and I took a day to go exploring. We don’t do that often enough, but have resolved to try to go “do something” at least once a month. So we headed North, and ended up at the Delaware Art Museum for the first part of the day. Which actually ended up being pretty much the whole day, because one of us likes to read Every Single Plaque when in museums. (Name withheld to protect the guilty party.) However, the other one of us really likes art museums, so that person didn’t complain. Not one bit. We ended up seeing about half of the museum, and helped them close up. So that means we need to go back and see the other half, right?


One part of the museum focused on early American artists…

Still Life with Fruit by Severin Roesen

…And I can’t believe they let me take pictures!

I wrote a paper on Frederic Church last
year for an art history class…

South American Landscape by Frederic Church

…the paper also included Benjamin West!

The Return of Tobias by Benjamin West

There was a beautiful sculpture by John Rogers…

Coming to the Parson by John Rogers

And there was an exhibit of works on paper by a
twentieth-century Color Field artist…
I recognized her from my Art Appreciation textbook
and thought I’d better take a look…

Work on Paper by Anne Truitt

 It was definitely an exhibit that made you stand back and say “Hmmm…”
I took a picture of this one because green is my favorite color.

A guard came in and explained to my dear perplexed
Hubby that the exhibit was “Arty.”

There was a momentary bonding between the two guys.


The Delaware Art Museum has a wonderful
collection of Pre-Raphaelite art,
like this painting that illustrates a scene from
Briar Rose, or The Sleeping Beauty

The Council Chamber by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

 And an allegorical painting depicting the
composition of music…

Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 The Pre-Raphaelites produced beautiful paintings that focused on nature, literature, and the Middle Ages. Early Pre-Raphaelite paintings had a Christian emphasis, but unfortunately as they grew toward a more aesthetic approach, they veered away from their origins. (If you read all the little plaques about them, you may get a bit disillusioned.) However, their illustrative style greatly influenced the artists of the next generation…

The Storyteller’s Art:
ReImagining America through Illustration

What a great exhibit.

Of course, Howard Pyle was the star.
He’s just plain incredible.

This is Hubby’s favorite…

The Fight on Lexington by Howard Pyle

 I liked his black & white pen drawings
that look like old woodcuts…

Lady of the Lake by Howard Pyle

 I also loved this poster for the very first
Children’s Book Week by Jessie Willcox Smith…

Illustration for Children's Book Week poster, 1919 by Jessie Willcox Smith

And I discovered a new female illustrator…
I LOVE this picture…

She Loved to Have the Children About Her by Eugenie Wireman

 Howard Pyle operated a school for illustrators in Wilmington, Delaware in the early 1900’s, and N.C. Wyeth was one of his students! What I found to be really amazing was that about a third of his students were young women! There were some beautiful illustrations at the Delaware Art Museum by these talented ladies. Go see them if you get a chance!

And of course, we had to leave because they
were starting the turn out the lights…

The Crying Giant by Tom Otterness

And it’s the end of the post too…
but Part Two is coming soon!

The End by a member of Pyle's weekly sketching club

“They were never so finely told in prose before.
And then the pictures – one can never tire of
examining them & studying them.”
~ Mark Twain, in a letter to Howard Pyle,
on Pyle’s The Story of King Arthur and his Knights~ 


Day 31 – Not quite the end…

Well. We have made it to the end of October, and reached the finish line of the 31 Day Project! Only there are still a few loose threads hanging on this project… namely the half-finished new master bedroom! We’ll keep working on it, and show pictures of the progress, I promise! Just maybe not daily.

A little over a month ago, just a day or two after our youngest daughter got married, I heard about The Nester’s 31 Days of Change blogging project, and thought it sounded like fun! And it has been… it’s kept my mind busy for that first quiet month with no chicks in the nest, and kept my hands busy with typing, demolition, and painting. And most of all, it provided a very interesting community of like-minded and inspiring ladies… all blogging about different subjects! I actually couldn’t wait until November arrived, mostly so I could spend a bit of time exploring all those other great blogs! They would make great mini-challenges to follow throughout the next year. Nester, I hope you do it again!!!

I’ve put up a page that lists all the posts for this month, and will work on switching the links of all those “Mama Bird” pictures so they go there. Please be patient… it might take a while! Also, all the 31 Days posts can be found by clicking the “31 Days” or “Empty Nest” categories down on the right sidebar. (And I really need to clean up those categories… way too many options! Future Organization Project #132.)

And now I’d like to share a few
of my favorite 31 Days blogs…
…just in case you’d like to visit!

31 Days to Make a House a Home

31 Days of Photography Fun 

31 Days of Art 

31 Days of Photo Tips

31 Days from Blog to Biz 

31 Days for the Struggling Mama 

…And a whole bunch more!

Something I've been avoiding...

Day 30 – ReFeathering with Patience and Courage

When we go to shows, the most frequent comment heard from customers seeing papercuttings for the first time is, “You must have the patience of a saint!”

If they only knew.

Confession. I am NOT the most patient person in the world.

Matter of fact, I think I actually took up this craft because I could finish a papercutting much faster than the two or three months it took to finish a counted cross-stitch piece. It is possible to think of a design, sketch it out, and, depending on the size and intricacy, have it cut by the end of the day. Papercutting is a great medium for impatient artists! However, I pretty much always respond that “Doing papercuttings has helped me LEARN patience.” There are a lot of little details, and many leaves, vines, and occasionally, heads and legs have been accidentally removed in the process of papercutting. And if that’s not enough, if I’m going to mess things up, it’s usually when I sign my name to it. Sometimes, when I’m on a tight deadline, I will actually think to make two of something… just in case of sudden disaster. Sometimes. When I don’t, sometimes my lack of patience shows up in not-so-pretty and rather grumpy ways.

So waiting to see what this new season will bring
is exciting and challenging and scary
and will involve patience,
which I don’t have much of,
and courage,
which I probably have even less of.

Where to get it?

I will lift mine eyes to the hills
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
~Psalm 121: 1-2 ~

Early this morning, I happened on a devotion by Elisabeth Elliott, which led me to some verses on waiting to see what the Lord had in store for the future… whether it’s tomorrow, next week, or next year. I’d really like to know what’s coming up next, or at least find a how-to book entitled “The Path to Success as an Empty Nester in Five Easy Steps.” But I think it’s going to be another lesson in patience, and it will most likely take courage. Plus, knowing the future would be like knowing what you’re getting for Christmas. It would spoil the surprise.

Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart:
Wait, I say, on the Lord.
~Psalm 27:14~ 

Day 29 – ReFeathering with Love

Can you tell I’m stalling a bit?

Not much has been done in the new bedroom in the
past few days… hoping to make some more progress
next week, but for now Hubby and I are in a
self-induced frame-making  frenzy!


When we were first married, I discovered counted cross-stitch. I cross-stitched up a storm, collected oodles of patterns, wound hundreds of hanks of embroidery on little cardboard spools, and organized them ever-so-neatly in plastic bins. I still have those bins. I think they may be a symbol of the last time my life was in order. Not too long ago, I went through my old cross-stitch patterns, and donated just about every single one to the thrift shop.The majority of the patterns bespoke “1980-something,”  and I figured I wouldn’t be cross-stitching too many cute little bears or geese with bows on their necks on anything any time in the near future. Today, as I was looking for a picture to go along with the idea of “Love,” I found one of the patterns I used to own…

Most of the Bible verses in our home in those early years were little fragments and snippets that we had heard, accompanied by a cute little picture of some sort. I’m SURE that somewhere we had a little bear hugging a heart that said “Love Bears All Things.” After all, that scripture was in our wedding, and we knew it was important.

Eventually, after a few years, a couple of kids, and most likely more than a few disagreements, we came to realize that love is much more than warm and fuzzy. It’s hard work sometimes, especially when two people are involved. Now that we’re a bit older and wiser, we both REALLY know how important that chapter in I Corinthians is…

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not…
jealous, boastful, prideful, or rude. 

Love doesn’t demand its own way.

Love isn’t easily angered.

Love doesn’t keep a record of being wronged.

Love does not rejoice about injustice,
but rejoices in truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never ends.
Three things will last forever…
Faith, Hope, and Love…

And the greatest of these is Love.

It really helps me when I  take some time to go back over something familiar, like that chapter, and see it with fresh eyes. After many years of focusing on the needs of our family, it’s been interesting to focus on what holds “us” together, and to spend some time brushing up on the real meaning of Love. If anyone is interested, there are some good resources out there! Here’s a good one for couples, or individuals…

The Love Dare
(From the movie FireProof

and for the ladies…

30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge 

Day 28 – A New Purpose

Empty Nesters have basically worked their way out of a job. And into a new one. I was sad when we finished homeschooling, but the goal was for the girls to graduate, and we got there, and it was a good thing. It’s the same with Mommy-ing… we miss the “baby” years, but we’re so glad when they can tie their own shoelaces. And run an errand for us. And manage their own home. Our goal as “Mom” is to raise adults. And then we’re done.

Or are we?

We ladies still go on being Moms. We still worry when they’re sick. And stay up late to see their headlights come in the drive. And help them out when they need it. And give advice when it’s wanted. And bite our tongues when it’s not. (Sometimes.) We still have a “Mom” purpose, though the official job description has changed somewhat…

Older women are to live in a way that honors God,
They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.
Instead, they should teach what is good.
Then they can train the younger women
to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled and pure,
working at home, kind and good,
obedient to their husbands,
so that the word of God is not reviled.
~Titus 2: 3-5~
(Several translations combined)

This new job is going to take a LOT of…

Day 27 – ReFeathering with Purpose

This morning I’ve been thinking about time.

And Seasons.

And Purpose.

In each Season of Life, there are certain things
that are the Big Things.

And the bazillions of little things that can fill our days
and keep us busy and frazzled and in constant motion.

Time has to be guarded so that
we choose the Best Things
over the good things.

You know that old saying that goes something like “If you think you’re indispensable, stick your finger in a bowl of water, and then take it out and look for the hole it left”? I think TIME might be like that. When we suddenly have more free time, it can quickly fill up with lots of activities. I’ve heard so many retired folks say they’re busier now than when they worked. It’s probably a good idea to think about time as a brand new Empty Nester… where it is best spent. How to use it for the best purposes. How to find the best balance between work-play-worship-family-friends-others-ourselves. I’m thinking this is probably not the best time to rush out on my own and go sign myself up for new things, but to wait and see what the Lord has in store.

For I know the plans I have for you,
declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.
~Jeremiah 29:11~

 P.S. Something else that went through my mind
before I had my second cup of coffee…

…I always thought 45 was “middle age”
but that means I have to live to be 90.