Thursday, September 3, 2015

Masculine Birthday Card

Hi friends,

I needed a masculine birthday card.  Sigh.  This is probably my biggest card making challenge.  What to do, what to do, what to do....  So I cheated.  I went to Pinterest and found a card that inspired me.  I did not have the same flower stamp/die set, but I took the basic idea and came up with this.

Using blue's and browns was my best attempt to make a floral card look slightly masculine.  It's not my favorite card, but it will do.  Below is the card I made.

And here is my 'inspiration' card from pinterest.
This came from a crafty website called Scrappin and Stampin in GT.

So let's talk about being thrifty.  Do you think that being thrifty is the same as being cheap?  I don't. In my mind, someone who is cheap is someone who is stingy with their money and selfish.  A cheap person is someone who never takes his wife out to dinner.  A cheap person is someone who tips less than 15%, or only tips 15% when the bill is under $10.00.  A cheap person is someone who is not willing to pay someone for their hard work and looks to cheat people out of fair wages.  But a thrifty person?  Ah, that is something very different in my mind.  A thrifty person is someone who is careful with their money and looks for ways to repair an item before buying a new one.  A thrifty person is not hung up on brand names and will consider a brand that is not well known and consider buying a purse that doesn't have a fancy name, if the bag seems to be well made and fashionable.  A thrifty person is willing to buy second hand items when a need arises.  And, of course, a thrifty person looks for coupons and sales for times when they are buying new to get the best deal.  A thrifty person doesn't only buy from 'big box stores' and is often willing to pay more for locally made or hand-made items, but a thrifty person is aware of what they need and looks to get a good value for their money.

So, I would hope that my family and friends would lump me in the thrifty category.  Have you ever heard of a store called Savers?  It's my favorite store!   Savers is basically a thrift store, similar to the Salvation Army only much better quality and variety depending upon the store location.   There is a Savers very close to my office and I go there often, especially when looking for household items.  On Monday they had 50% off all furniture and large items.  I got a pasta bowl and three lawn chairs for $10.00.  (-:  A few weeks ago I found a salad spinner for $3.00.    All items are donated and the profits from sales all benefit local charities.  I feel good about buying things there.

I don't generally buy my clothes or shoes there, but have been seen browsing the jeans and belt section for my dear husband.  Especially when he kept wearing a pair of jeans (for cutting the grass) that were two sizes too big for him.

I also love to scout around Craigs list whenever a need arises.  And, of course, I love a coupon or sale at my favorite store or restaurant.  Sarah and I enjoyed a yummy lunch last Friday at Paparazzi's with a free appetizer. Then we hit Joanne fabrics and scoped out the clearance rack for fabric for the glider.  We scored 5 yards of a nice gray linen blend for under $20.00.  Happy Dance.

How about you?  Are you thrifty?  Do you know anyone who is cheap?  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Thanks for visiting today.  Make it a great day.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Garden

 Hi friends,

Do any of you garden?  I love to garden, but I only love to work with flowers.  I've tried fruits and vegetables before, but when I've tried in the past I found it a lot of work and not a lot of reward.  I have some great local farmers market, so I consider it helping the local economy to NOT plant a garden and instead frequent those establishments.

My daughter is giving fruits and vegetables a try.  She and my son-in-law put in a pretty decent size garden at the start of the season and they are now starting to harvest some food.  It's fun to see how devoted they both are to the garden.  And I do enjoy having fresh things arrive in the kitchen in time for dinner!

But before I show you pictures of their garden, let me show you a card with flowers on it!
This was a fun card I made for my co-worker who just moved into her apartment.

So back to Sarah's garden.  She and Ivan dug out the bed and put up the fence in April. Throughout May they prepared the soil and in early June they started planting.  She's got a mix of herbs and vegetables and a handful of strawberry plants.  so far we've harvested Basil, Zucchini, purple beans, lettuce and kale.

Here's our proud mother with her babies!  She does baby those plants.  You should have heard her fret about the hard rain storms (with HAIL!) and how her babies were surviving and don't get me started on her worrying about her tomatoes (that are not thriving.)  She's very passionate about her plants and is really enjoying working out there each weekend.

Below are various photo's of the garden at each of the different stages of the season.

Weeding in August - Bob relaxing (a rare sight!)
August Crop
August crop (up close)
June - working and weeding

June - just getting started

May (keeping it moist with straw)
May - High Hopes
April - and so it begins
April - tilling the soil
April - Ivan working hard
April - the happy anticipation
April - working together

Thanks for visiting my blog today.   Stay tuned, I hope to be more crafty now that the heat waves are over and intend to blog more often.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Meeting the neighbors and from that naming the NH place

Hi friends,

So since we bought our NH place, we've been meeting some of the neighbors.  The first neighbor we met is a long-time resident of the neighborhood.  Felicia, her husband and daughter live in a lovely home toward the bottom of the hill.  One one of our first visits, when we saw a car in the driveway, we stopped in and introduced ourselves.  It was really neat the following week when we were checking out a local church to spot her in the congregation.  I whispered to Bob, hey isn't that our neighbor Felicia?  We went over after the service to say hi.  She was very friendly (both at her front door and at church) and she gave me a name for a pet groomer in the area.

She told us about the other neighbor that lives further up the hill, next to us.  She mentioned the guy is a doctor in Cambridge.  We keep watching for someone to be home there and have seen a car in the driveway every once and a while, but each time we drive up to say hello, no-one answers.  Ivan thinks the car we see is a worker doing some work on the place.  Now that summer is here, we might encounter the Cambridge Doctor.

Then two weeks ago, we saw a car at the bottom of the road and some work equipment.  Bob stopped and chatted with Mike.  Mike is the owner of much of the undeveloped land abutting our property.  Mike was there harvesting some trees for firewood.   He has owned the land for a long time and told Bob all about the different owners of our place.  I guess many years ago, the first owner was a politician in Boston.  When he owned the place it was a small place, just 3 rooms - a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and probably just a galley kitchen. He called it 'Poland Lodge.'  Everyone called it that and when he had some heat in Boston, he would escape to his lodge till things quieted down.  There were several other owners and several renovations - first the expansion to include the two bedrooms, expanded bathroom and kitchen.  Then later another renovation (by a different owner) to add the mudroom, loft and upstairs bedroom.  And lastly the final renovation to add the enclosed porch.  Mike had seen the place in all it's various renovation stages.  Bob encouraged him to stop by sometime.  I hope to meet him this summer.

So, the same weekend Bob met Mike, I met another neighbor.  This neighbor was not one I had any idea lived in the area.  I was driving up the hill (on the dirt road) in the late afternoon when I saw movement in the woods just up the hill from Felicia's place, but not quite to the Cambridge Doctor's place.  At first glance I thought it was a large dog.  Then I thought wolf.  Then a small black bear scrambled across the road, a reasonable distance from my car, but clear as day, just the same.   I arrived at the Cabin and I don't think anyone believed me, but Ivan hurried out the door going to look to see if he could see the bears tracks or evidence of the bears living space.  The next week, Sarah and Ivan encountered Little Bear in just about the same spot.

I'm glad our neighbor is a little bear (remember about the size of a large dog - maybe a German Shepard) and not a big black bear.  I imagine little bear will stay in his area and not venture up to our cabin.  There are lots of berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) so I'm hoping he is content to eat his berries and not come to our place looking for food.  There has been no evidence that he has been at our place.  We are very careful to not leave any garbage out in the shed or outdoor area, but I'll be extra diligent and I won't be leaving Tank and Joey outside unattended.  I did a quick google search and found several reports of black bears in our area.  It seems they generally leave humans alone, but it does say use caution around them and absolutely don't feed them!  Once they get acclimated to human food, it can be dangerous since they'll do whatever it takes to get to your food.

So, after meeting all these neighbors we decided to finalize on a name for our place.  Everyone liked the idea of calling it a lodge.  We do have comfortable accommodations and have been hosting guests there often and the term lodge implies a restful haven, which is what the place is to us.   We wanted to also include reference to our neighbor little bear, so the name 'Little Bear Lodge' was conceived.  Now, Sarah and I will be creating a nice welcome sign with the name on it.  We'll have some fun with that.

What do you think of our name?  What do you think  of our neighbors?  Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The porch glider

Hi friends,

Do you have any childhood memories of a place that represented happiness and love?  I have several places that fit that bill.  One such place, was my grandparents (and later my aunt's) lake house.  The lake house was originally called 'the cottage' when I was small.  It was owned by my grandparents and was a small two story place on Canandaigua lake in upstate NY.

My sister and I loved going to the cottage.  It meant time with our cousins, afternoons spent on the raft, evenings spent at Roseland (the nearby amusement park) and mornings spent on the porch.

One of my favorite spots was on the glider on the porch.  It was old and creaky, but how fun to sit in the glider, looking out over the small lawn and lake and socialize with the family.  The porch glider just overwhelmed you with the feeling of SUMMER.

So, as we were looking at how to furnish the porch at our NH place, when I saw an ad on Craig's list for a porch glider, I was all over it.  How fun to have our own porch glider at our weekend getaway.  I had to do a little convincing of the others - Sarah and Ivan were skeptical.  Bob's concern was how to transport it, but we contacted the sellers and made plans to see it.

I also reached out to my cousins, to verify that my memories of a porch glider were accurate.  They confirmed that the glider is a great addition to the porch so we continued our pursuit.

There were two gliders for sale in NH.  One was quite close to our place, the other was on the other side of the state.  We decided to look at the nearby one first.  Why make life difficult.

This Craig's list encounter was a tad challenging.  We arrive to location only to be greeted (after a very long wait) by a tearful women.  She was an emotional wreck.  The glider was her mothers and her mother recently moved from her home to a family members house since she was suffering with dementia.  This glider was the first thing this lady was selling from her mothers house.  She was a basket case.  We were empathetic and tried to be encouraging 'our family will hopefully get many years of joy from this, like your family did.'  It wasn't obvious what the right thing to say was.  We just talked to the lady and tried to be understanding.  After about 20-30 minutes, we had made plans to return the next day with a rental truck to take it away.  We felt too bad to haggle over the price, but she was asking a reasonable amount.  Who knows, maybe that was her bargaining technique all along.

The ironic thing was that as we approached the house, Bob says 'let's just get in and out, no telling stories of our whole life and becoming best friends with the lady.  Simple transaction and we go.' Well, obviously that didn't happen, but I wasn't the one doing all the talking.  She showed me her mother's wedding dress, talked about memories of her mom and didn't actually cry, but teared up on numerous occasions.

The next day with the truck was kind of more of the same.  She heard us pull up and ring the doorbell, but didn't come to the door for almost 5 minutes.  She apologized and said she had been up all night crying.  At this point we wondered why one of the other family members wasn't doing the transaction.  This was obviously very difficult for her.  Her mood brightened considerably when I took out 8 twenty dollar bills, so we took the chance to escape (glider in the back of the truck) and headed off.

The glider fit perfectly in the corner of the porch.  We removed the cushions and took the cushions I got from my neighbors garbage and re-sized them.  We added a blanket (or two) as a temporary cover and everyone has enjoyed sitting on the glider, enjoying the warm breeze and the creaking, comforting noise of the old glider.  Sarah is tasked with making cushion covers.   We'll have fun picking out fabric and working the sewing machines to finish it up.  Or, if we don't get motivate, we can leave it 'as is' with the blankets on it.  That was how the porch glider at the cottage was always decorated and it didn't take away from the charm one bit.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Turning a cabin into a cottage

Do you know the correct definition of cabin and cottage?  What do you think differentiates the two? If you are stumped by this question, you are not alone.  Bob and I have been debating it ever since we bought our property up north.

But before I get into that debate, let me share a card I made for my daughter Sarah to give to her friend Alyssa and Andrew.  They are getting married next weekend and Sarah is a bridesmaid.  Alyssa loves bird cages and girly things so even though I didn't have any stamps that matched that description I had lots of patterned paper and just got busy adorning the heck out of the card and voila - a wedding card for Alyssa and Andrew.  The only thing stamped is the sentiment.
So now on to the debate.  At first, I insisted it was a cabin because it had wood on the floors and walls and a big stone fireplace.  Bob insisted it wasn't a cabin because it had heat, running water and a full kitchen.

To me, a cottage was a quaint place on a lake or outside a village in U.K. and it took me a long time to try to re-imagine our 'cabin' as a 'cottage' but now that we've been fixing it up for the last few months, I'm finally ready to make the change.

Since we moved in, we added a lot of quaint and pretty little touches and now I'm happy to call our little getaway up north our cottage.  What do you think?

Below are some photo's for you to use to make your consideration.  What do you think?  Cabin, Cottage or other?
Mulched garden and doggie area

Mulched flower bed in front of enclosed porch

Hallway from main room to bedrooms
Tank on the cozy bed (don't tell Bob!)
Front Bedroom
Front Bedroom
Colorful Kitchen
Colorful Kitchen

Enclosed porch
Blueberries and flowers in the meadow
laundry on the line (drying in the sun!)
Colorful bathroom (with a toothbrush holder for everyone!)

Enclosed porch with son and papasan chair
Decorated mantle over stone fireplace
And probably some of the best photos of all, the view of the fishing pond and forest.  This fishing pond is a 20 minute walk from our front door.  There are no houses on this pond and the only access in is from trails.  Now that summer is here (and fishing season has begun) we do see an occasional fisherman in a boat, but generally it's very peaceful and natural.  Tank loves going to the pond (and going for a swim), Joey not so much so often he stays home for a nap while we head out.
The view of the fishing pond from the hiking trail
View from the pine covered clearing

It's actually pretty big.  Lot's of beaver dams.
The ferns in the woods off the trail
So what's your vote?  Cabin, Cottage or other?  Thanks for visiting today.  Make it a great day.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Daniel Shapiro (law professor at Harvard) you are an idiot' (said Linda Monroe)

Daniel Shapiro 
Yes, that is right.  I called Daniel Shapiro, Ambassador of the United States of America to the State of Israel and faculty professor at Harvard Law School an idiot to his face in front of an executive leadership class at Harvard.  Now that quote has to be understood in context.  You need to read the story below to understand.  But before you read please hear this. I think Daniel Shapiro is a brilliant teacher and negotiator and not in the least bit an idiot!  Oh and in case you couldn't figure it out from the title today's post has nothing crafty it in (that will come next week) but instead focuses on my 3 day experience at a fabulous Harvard Negotiation Class.

So this past week, I had the privilege of participating in the Harvard Negotiation and Leadership training in Cambridge MA.  This was a 3 day training session that is part of Harvard Law School’s executive education program and was very worthwhile.   Let me tell you about my experience there.

First, it was VERY intimidating to walk into the Charles Hotel on Monday morning.  I do not consider myself to be an executive and knew the course would have some very smart people in attendance.  To help lower my self-confidence a tad bit, I found myself seated next to a woman who was the associate director of regulatory affairs who had a PHD from Harvard.  Luckily I have the type of personality that is not easily intimidated and I overcame my fears and started a conversation.  Turns out she now lives in the town I grew up in and we chatted about the bike path off Route 118 across from Turkey Hill in my hometown.

Next, I looked over the participant list.  Also, not an ego boost for me.  Here are some of the titles:  Director of security policy analysis African initiatives for peace and human security (from Nigeria), Supervisory attorney advisor government of the district of Columbia, office of labor relations and collective bargaining (Washington DC), Head of IT policy and strategy UN world food program (Roma, Italy) etc, etc.  There were some very powerful and smart people in that room.  About 150 of them.

Then, I see the credentials of the teachers.  Robert Bordone, Gabreialla Blum, Francecesca Gino and Guhan Subramanian; all professors at Harvard Law School plus Lawrence Susskind a professor at MIT.  Pretty impressive.  I was humbled as the program started and eager to see what I could learn in that environment. 

As the day progressed, I did not feel especially confident in my negotiation skills.  The whole program was about negotiation and I have very little experience with negotiation and am not especially good at it.  I don’t even negotiate when I buy things on Craig’s List and I make my husband negotiate all the real-estate and cars.  I really just hate the process and avoid it as much as possible, but here I was in the class and was forced to participate in exercises in negotiation.  My morning experience was fine.  Turns out my PHD lady from my home town also has little experience in negotiating so our first exercise I was up against her.  We worked out a fair deal we were both happy with.   Then came the afternoon session.  The topic of the afternoon ‘Diagnosing and responding to manipulative, hard bargaining tactics.’  Fun Times (NOT!)  In this exercise I had a partner.  My partner was a meek Asian man.  Our opponents were a large, loud man from Africa and a handsome conniving man from Europe.  We were doomed.  The exercise was a real-estate transaction where we were the buyers, they were sellers.  The market value of the property was between 350-440,000.  We agreed to a deal where we paid the sellers $550,000.  A lot of things went wrong on our end and they used lots of manipulative, hard bargaining tactics (including lying which wasn’t part of their script.)  They seemed quite comfortable with playing the role of ‘manipulative negotiator' and enjoyed the exercise far too much (in my opinion.) 

At the end of each exercise the professor asks around the room about the different deals and highlights a few things.  Of course Mr. Success (the conniving EU guy who was against me) took the mike and told the whole class ‘we got $550,00 for the property.’  The room was stunned at the deal and the above market price that was agreed to.  Mr. Success bragged about his aggressive tactics and the professor had to ask ‘who were you up against.’  Mr. Success proudly pointed to me and I was left to cower in my chair embossed and humiliated beyond compare.  My boss and bosses boss were in the room and everyone was staring.  All I could think was they were thinking ‘what a bunch of fools!’  But the point of the exercise was to highlight manipulative tactics, and that it did.  My opponent extracted every available penny (and then some) from his weak opposing team.  The point of the exercise was to recognize these manipulative tactics, and that we did.  But a deeper lesson that was in play was that in negotiation you can win a battle but lose a war.   I learned quite a lot about my experience in the exercise.   I don’t know if Mr. Success did.  I don't think he really picked up on the fact that the deal wasn’t as good as he thought.  In the real world, so few negotiations are single deals.  To leave a customer feeling humiliated and taken advantage of rarely results in long-term business success.  If I had been buying a car from him, I would not only never buy again, but I’d tell everyone I know that he was dishonest and a bully.  He should have left the exercise with an understanding that just because you can take advantage of someone in a negotiation that is not always in your best interest.  I don’t think he learned that based on the boastful way he described his success.

So I left day 1 with my head low.  I felt shame.  I felt weak.  I felt humiliated but I also saw that I had both a lot to learn and had already started learning from the first day.  I went home, had a glass of wine, invited to dogs on to my lap, watched dull TV and went to bed early.  Sigh.  It wasn’t a good day.  I wanted to cry.

On day 2, I mustered a lot of courage to walk into the room.  I was determined to pay attention and learn as much as I could.  I also was determined to not get taken advantage of in any exercises.  Day 2 was a much better day for me.  The morning was spent on the topic ‘managing the tension between empathy and assertiveness.’  The afternoon topic was ‘Building Successful Relationships.’  I found that I was actually much more skilled that most in the room on these topics.  One of the exercises in the morning was on ‘active listening.’  I couldn’t believe how hard it was for the others at my table to actually listen and playback what the others said.  This was just basic to me.  In my job (for the last 12 years) I spent almost all my time drawing information out of people to get requirements.  I am quite skilled at asking inquiring questions, listening and feeding back information to ensure I get it right.  The others at my table simply couldn’t do this.   I did my best to coach them through the exercise ‘it would be better to not share the opposing view at this point, but to first ensure you really understand what Sue is saying.’

I went to lunch feeling much better and not hanging my head in shame anymore.  We returned from our afternoon break and our professor, Daniel Shapiro announced to the class ‘wow, we are really running behind this afternoon.  I know the agenda shows we will end at 5:30 today, but based on where we are at, we’ll be going till 6:15, maybe 6:30 and I need all of you to stay the full time’.  He then turned his back to the class and started to forward to the next slide.   The class murmured.  He turned around again and said ‘I’m just kidding’ but who believed me?'   Many in the room raised our hands.  He made eye contact with me and I was given a mike.  So began my discussion with Daniel Shapiro.  Our afternoon topic was on emotions.  He asked what emotion I was feeling when I heard his announcement.  I announced ‘anger’ because I had a parking ticket that would go from $17.00 to $28.00 if I didn’t leave the garage before 6:00.  The room laughed.  Then he asked what I felt about him.   I said ‘I thought you were an idiot! you are a Harvard professor.  You should know how to manage your time in a classroom to end on time.’  He and the class roared with laughter.  It was actually a pretty ballsy thing to do, but thankfully everyone agreed including the professor. Then he went on to talk about the importance of autonomy.  He explained that I had felt a tremendous loss of autonomy.  No-one asked me if I wanted to stay late.  I felt helpless in the situation and angry, frustrated and sad.  He described that in negotiations it’s important to try to enable people to feel they have some voice in the decision.  I left day 2 feeling much better and more confident.  One lady (a lawyer) asked me in the hallway ‘are you the lady who called out the professor in class?’ I smiled and she gave me an encouraging acknowledgment.  I was now a force to be reckoned with.  A courageous soul willing the ‘say it like it is.’  It felt good.  
Day 3 was awesome as we drilled into organizational obstacles and then put it all together.  Day 3 had several case studies that were fascinating.  It was fun to share ideas across the table with all those super smart people.  We studied the Challenger O-Ring decision and a case study on Fairstar Heavy Transport.  Both case studies were complex and intriguing.  I left the day with my mind full of thoughts on both studies and what the individuals in the situations could have done differently to get a better outcome.

Overall it was a fabulous learning environment.  I was so impressed with the quality of teaching.  Each professor was interesting and engaging. There was a lot of great information shared and I learned so much about negotiating.  I now know to consider my Batna (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and look for moving from positions to interests.  I know to consider the range of possible outcomes.  I know to consider emotions (mine and the others) and how they are impacting decision making.  I know now that it’s very important to discuss the process of the negotiation before starting and to leave room for a safe way to discuss possible mutual benefits prior to ‘dividing the pie.’  I know these skills will help me in my job and it will also help in my personal life too.

Sadly, I cannot be a Harvard Business student for life, although I would love to be a full-time student at a top business school.  I loved spending the day thinking about complex business problems and how to achieve optimal results.  Sadly, my days of being a full-time student are over, but I am reflective of how thankful I am that back in my early 20’s I was able to be a full-time student at a great business school and that I work for a company that values continuing education and that I was able to join a 3 day session on a relevant topic for my work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Happy Anniversary Sarah and Ivan

Hi friends,

It's hard to believe that my daughter Sarah has been married one year already.  It feels like just yesterday that we were celebrating with family and friends.  What a wonderful day we had.  Everything was just perfect.  To celebrate the 1 year anniversary I made this card for them.  We also provided a gift so they could go to dinner together.

Sarah was cute.  She called today and said that they went to dinner Sunday night and ordered 'everything!'  normally (since they are still on a newlywed budget) they split an entree and an appetizer and don't often get drinks or desserts.  But with a GIFT, they were able to each get an entree and split an appetizer and dessert.  I remember those days of having to watch each expense carefully and I applaud their discipline in spending.  It also made it that much more of a treat for them to get a gift of a dinner out!

So, I can't even remember if I shared pictures on my blog of the wedding.  So many of the pictures came in drips and draps.  I only had a few photo's on my phone on the wedding day, but we got so many great pictures from friends, family and of course the photographer.  the best pictures came from the photo booth that my brother in law set up.   Here are a few favorites from last June.

 Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.