Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review by Julia - Elle and Coach + Diabetic Alert Dogs

Kristin here: My daughter Julia wanted to write a Book Review about a book she read a couple months ago. I encouraged her to write and up and tell her story. I can't believe what a good job she did. I only had to fix a couple of punctuation marks but otherwise it was perfect. Here's what she has to tell you.  

From Julia:
About a month ago, I was spending a Wednesday afternoon after school hanging out at my favorite little local library - Cushman Library, browsing around at books and movies, when something intriguing caught my eye. It was a book with white and blue binding. I picked it up off the pile and took a good long look at it. It was a book with a girl on the cover probably about my age and a very adorable regal looking dog (a labrador retriever to be precise). I read the title for the book: Elle and Coach. So I thought to myself: “Well, isn’t that adorable?” After a minute I then noticed something else that caught my eye about the book. It was the subheading below that I didn’t notice right away. It read: “Diabetes, the fight for my daughter’s life, and the dog that changed everything." I read it again. Yes, it was about diabetes. I instantly knew that it was fate that I found this book (or was it the book that found me?). (For those of you that don’t know I have been a type one diabetic for nearly twelve years now -- since I was six). 

I sat down and instantly started reading. The book is written by a woman named Stefany Shaheen, and it tells the true story of her daughter’s struggle with diabetes. I immediately felt a connection to the story and didn’t put it down for hours. Ms. Shaheen goes on to explain how a labrador retriever diabetic alert service dog came into her family’s life. The dog is named Coach, and goes anywhere and everywhere that Elle goes. High school, dance camp, out to dinner, the theater. You name it, Coach goes there. 

But Coach doesn’t just follow Elle around for support. Coach can sense when Elle is having a low or high blood sugar. He can smell the sugar in her body as it gives off a very strong chemical scent. I don’t want to ruin the whole book, but in one part, Elle is upstairs in the bathroom taking a shower with the door closed and Coach is downstairs and he suddenly starts freaking out. So Elle’s parent’s told her to test and low and behold (haha), she was LOW. The dog was right! I was astounded and wanted to keep reading.  Overall, the book was a very quick enjoyable read. 

After I finished it, I knew my time with this book was not done. I told my parents that I wanted to apply for a diabetic alert dog like Coach. Elle had gotten her dog from an organization called CARES, Inc. The organization is out of Kansas. So, I made it my mission to contact them and find out more information. I recently called CARES, and spoke with their owner Megan Llewelyn and found some resourceful information. 

I have just recently filled out my application for a service dog. I have decided that I would most like a female Golden Retriever (although, I am truly happy with any dog that could save my life). When I spoke with CARES, they told me that once my application has been processed, the waiting period is twelve to eighteen months. After that, you go to the CARES training facility in Kansas for a week long class where you meet the dog you will be potentially be taking home at the end of the week, and work with the staff to train the dog. At the end of the week, if you pass all the tests, you get to bring your dog home with you...FOREVER!! 

The Diabetic alert dogs at CARES cost an upwards of $3,500 (CARES is extremely reasonable when it comes to pricing as some organizations sell their dogs between $25,000-$50,000), plus you have to pay for your flight to and from Kansas and the cost of the food and toys for the dog. Along with vet bills, it can become a lot of responsibility. I plan on starting a Kickstarter or GoFundMe page, when I know a little more information. If any of you readers know information about these dogs, the CARES organization, or if you even own a diabetic service dog, we’d love to hear from you!

You can find out more information on CARES, or Elle and Coach by going to these resources: 

You can purchase the book on Amazon here and you can find more about CARES, Inc. here:

Additionally you can find out about diabetic service dogs: 
The Bark

Thanks for reading - Julia.

p.s. From Kristin - If any of you readers have any experience with Diabetic Alert Dogs, please leave a comment on the blog of email me and julia at kristinnicholasATgmailDOTcom and juliadupreyATgmailDOT com. I am wondering if any smaller dogs might work considering Julia is a peanut (almost 5 feet tall and is frequently knocked over by our Great Pyrenees). Thanks - kn

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Garden Shed Project - Exterior

This week, I've continued working on the the new version of the Garden/Tool Shed. I scraped the entire exterior. What a job - I hate scraping peeling paint but someone had to do it! I washed it all down - with a bleach solution trying not to get it on the plants. Then I primed and painted the entire thing in an exterior basic white paint. What a job. 

Next I had to tackle the front porch section. This is what the floor looked like before. Notice the brambles growing up through the floor. It was a nightmare.

The little railing looked almost as bad. More bleach-y water and I was ready to go. 

I painted the floor a pretty mossy green - two coats did it. I painted the railing too. Two more coats of white exterior paint. I have been a painting maniac.

Then for the fun part - decide on a new door color. I had some leftover exterior oil based floor paint in a super fun color called Peony from Benjamin Moore. Two coats and the paint can is empty now. That is a good feeling. I think I used it on the stairs in my studio in 2010. 

I love how the moss green looks with the peony pink. 

Nice contrast of complementary colors although this photo is a little brighter than it really looks. 

I cleaned out the little garden that I had planted a few years ago and planted some pink annuals and the Heavenly Blue Morning Glories that will be all over the archway by September. It is so much fun to plan these projects in my head and then visualize what they will look like in a couple months. Oh the possibilities. Now we really need some rain!

Friday, June 24, 2016

This Week on the Farm - Progress

It's been a busy week here on the farm. Julia is finished with school for the year. Next year she will be a senior. I can't believe it. 

I finally finished the floor in the shed. Here's how the floor looked on about Monday. 

But before that, I forgot to show you the ceiling after 6 cans of white spray paint. I like how it looks. It almost has a blue cast to it which I think is from the reflection of the blue walls. I'm really happy I decided to paint it because the colors of the raw wood and the metal roof were really bothering my aesthetic sensibilities. 

I played with the idea of leaving the flowers on the faux rug just as they were but then decided to keep going with my style of outlining. (Thanks for all your input on that!) Here is a photo of half way done outlining. The flowers really do pop once outlined. Although it takes a steady hand, I like to make the lines thick and thin to give it more of an artistic touch. Interesting how the blue walls are changing the look of the colors on the floor. 

I applied 3 coats of a polyacrylic over a period of days. It will protect the floor. Although this little shed won't be walked in a lot, I thought it good to protect. There are only screens in the shed and because of the dirt that happens on a farm - along with the dirt from the dirt road, it will get dusty. 

Now I am thinking about doing something about window shades just so I can keep the dirt at bay during the off season when I won't be going in and out so much. Decoratively of course. Another opportunity to decorate with pattern! 

I'm also working on painting a little bookcase. I had some leftover yellow paint from the studio door and thought it would really brighten up the space and provide some contrast. My experience with yellows and oranges is that they don't cover well so it will be at least 2 coats of paint. Man my studio is a real disaster. That is how I roll - chaos all over the place. Serious chaos - everywhere I look. It's a good thing inside my head there is some order. Have to get this place cleaned up for the Creative Retreat that will be here in just about 3 weeks. 

While we are talking yellow, check out this gorgeous kitchen in the color of yellow egg yolks. Glorious. See more over on Ben Pentreath's blog. It is one of my very favorites ones to read. He usually posts every Sunday and his photos of England and the UK are fabulous. He also has a new book coming out.  It is called English Houses: Inspirational Interiors from City Apartments to Country Manor Houses. (affiliate link) Can't wait to see it because his last one was so gorgeous and inspirational. 

Bright yellow is really having a moment in the interior world

I also have been in the garden pretty much all this week when not at the Tuesday Farmers Market - planting annuals, cleaning up the little gardens around the house and sweeping up debris. Today is going to be hot along with this weekend. We do desperately need rain. 

My friend Kay sent me this video. Pretty awesome. Tom Riccardi is a local guy and he is frequently featured in photos by Paul Franz in the local Greenfield Recorder. Fun to see a video though.  

Hope you all have a great weekend. Get outside and enjoy the warm weather and long days. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Garden Shed Floor Project Update

I've been working away on the floor of the newly renovated Garden Shed. I'm pushing to get this project done so that I can move on from painting with brushes to printing fabrics and more. This week I decided to paint a faux rug design featuring easy to paint flowers. 

I began by drawing and cutting out 3 different size flowers out of a heavy paper. These were my templates. After I had the shapes, I used a quilting ruler to measure out a large square in the center of the room. Here is the start to the project with a border painted.

Next I began tracing the flowers on the plywood floor - placing them randomly. 

I painted them in. 

I tried a few different colors to determine the background color. 

I decided I didn't like any of them and painted over them with the original light pink color. Then I added the centers to the flowers. 

Then it was to decide on the background color and do that. I chose a color I thought was bright pink but now looks more purple. I think I like it though. Lots of painting in the background and having to be very careful working around the shapes. 

Lastly, I added a bright lime colored inner border. 

Here's what it looks like after one coat on the border and background. I am going to add second coats to both of them - hopefully this afternoon. 

I'm not sure if I am going to outline the flowers with lines like I usually do. The colors and shapes seem to be working together without lines. It is always hard to know when to stop. Since this is a project I will be writing instructions for, I am thinking I might leave off the lines so that it will be a little easier for people to copy. 

What do you think? Would love to hear. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Men with Machines + Beautiful Peonies

When I was growing up, my parents always seemed to have people who helped them around the house - you know - house painters, plumbers, electricians, handymen and as they got older, men who mowed the lawn. They were always so appreciative of the men (and they were always men) who showed up and fixed things. My Dad gladly paid them because he was the absolutely least handy person. He really couldn't fix things and often broken things were fixed by my Mom. If Mom couldn't do it, she would call someone to fix it for her.  

Mark always teases me about my "people." He grew up in a Yankee family in the country where everyone tried to fix broken things themselves. I think many country people can't justifiably think of calling someone to fix something. It's not in their DNA - they just live with it broken because why/how are they going to pay someone when they may possibly one day fix it themself? 

When something breaks around here, it is just in my DNA to want to get it fixed and fast. I have to pay dearly for that though. Just recently both my dryer and my dishwasher broke within a week of each other. I called one of my "people" - Greg from the appliance repair place. He showed up when he said he would. I had 2 broken timers. It took another visit to the farm and more money - the dryer is fixed but the dishwasher can't be. It has a broken timer and it is too old to fix - no parts are available. I am limping along with it - it still goes just not by itself. Eventually I'm going to have to break down and buy a new dishwasher. I will call my friend Mike the plumber and he will come and install it. For now, I am saving my money though and doing it the country way -  advancing the dial manually and putting up with less than sparkling glasses. 

At this time of year, Mark is incredibly busy harvesting the first cutting of hay. He is on pins and needles - watching the weather - fretting about clouds and possible rain. Julia and I are getting sick of haying season because he is so grumpy. Yesterday, he broke a big part on the mowing machine. He is going to have to call his "people" to fix it because he is, like my Dad, pretty useless in the fixing department. Nothing some more money can't fix. 

Yesterday, a great old guy named Doug came with his truck, a trailer and his tractor. I think Doug is somewhere in his late 70's. 

Doug tilled my veggie/cutting garden. I used to beg Mark to do it for me but I gave up on him last year because he is too busy and doesn't have big tiller. It's better for our marriage if I call my "people". Doug arrived with a smile. 

The garden had grass and weeds 2 feet tall in it. Doug took it slow, looking behind him all the time.

The sheep were really intrigued and watched Doug till. 

The dogs thought it was pretty exciting too. 

Beau dug some huge holes in the tilled soil.

In less than an hour, my garden is ready to go. Thank goodness for men with machines. It would have taken me forever. Thank you Doug. I'm so happy you are around for me to call!

What about you - do you have "people" who help you fix things or do you try to do it yourself? Do you live in the country or the city? When you were growing up, did your family call someone or did they fix it themselves? Would love to hear because I think it is an interesting conversation. Has the way your family dealt with fixing things continued on with your generation? 

I'll end this post with some photos of the peonies that are blooming now. Oh, they are just so gorgeous aren't they? 

Did you know that you can store peonies in the fridge and force them to bloom later. Here is how you do it

Have a great weekend everyone! BTW, Craftsy is having a fantastic HALF OFF SALE on all their classes - embroidery, sewing, art, drawing, quilting, knitting, crochet, baking, cake decorating and way more. Here is an affiliate link to use:
Maybe there is something you have been dying to learn to do this summer. Here's a chance to save some cash. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Turquoise + Pink Garden/Tool She Shed Progress

This past Saturday was gorgeous. Even better was Julia and Mark went to a Reunion for Mark's 40th Class Reunion from NMH and I was left alone with hours alone. I went full tilt into working on the second She Shed for my upcoming book. 

I scraped the peeling paint on entire exterior and then washed it with a bleach solution. Then I went inside and painted the walls and floor. (I had primed the inside on Friday.) I had a whole lot of extra Poolside Blue left from the first She Shed so that made my color decision easy for the walls. If I didn't like it I could always change it. On the floors, I went with a pink which is really not me but lately I have been loving the combo of turquoise and pink. And this is a shed and I want it to be fun and colorful. I've got further plans for the floor too. 

By the time that was done, I went back outside and primed all the bare wood on the exterior of the shed because it was dry. It was a big work day Saturday. We had massive amounts of rain on Sunday so I'm glad I got so much done on Saturday. 

Yesterday I began with the decoration. The theme for this She Shed is Gardening and it seemed appropriate to do something "gardeny" on the walls. I began by paint undulating stripes down the walls. The shed isn't big - just 8 x 8 so the painting goes quickly. I primed part of the upper walls but it was too much to paint all the woodwork. I'm thinking of using some cans of spray paint for that - or maybe tenting the ceiling with fabric. Not sure what yet. 

I cut out a leaf shape from heavy paper and used it as a template. Using a pencil, I drew the leaves onto the stems. Then it was a mad dash to paint them all before dinner.

I had just enough time to slap another coat of pink on the floor. When I went outside, I looked up and the sky was so pretty.

And there was Beau waiting patiently for in some weeds next to the chicken coop. 

Tuesday Farmer's Market in Northampton today. Maybe I will see some of you there. I'll be there from 1:30 to 6:30. Enjoy the day and the week everyone!

Friday, June 03, 2016

Beautiful Green + Progress This Week on Shed

The colors have been astoundingly gorgeous this week. Green has always been my favorite color so I love this time of year when the greens are so lush and new. Here is a photo of our dirt road.

I've been working hard on my new pottery shed. This week, I finished the interior including scraping the paint off the windows and washing the windows. It is looking good. Although these photos do not do the space justice, here are the wall treatments. I'm not showing the floor because there are still stacks of things all over - including all the paint buckets and tools I used. 

This is the east wall, looking towards my yet un-tilled garden. Next week that is happening. Do you see the Ball Jar on the table? I found these great lids at the Farmers Exchange that turn a Ball Jar into a drinking cup with a straw. They come in packs of 4 and are really handy if you are on the go. Order via Amazon here (affiliate link). 

Here is the same wall with the windows closed. The color is so off - sorry - cellphone camera. One of the cats submerged my good camera's battery charger and extra battery in a pot of water in the sink so I am without my good camera until the replacements come in. At least it wasn't my camera!

This is the same wall showing the door.

Here is the west side which looks out to the sheep pasture. Another awful photo. The windows are a pretty electric blue and the walls are turquoise. 

While I was painting, the sheep started their evening grazing. 

This is the south facing wall. 

I still have more to do in here - like outfitting it with my pottery wheel and getting some shelves. But I have no time to throw pots right now so that will wait. I'm probably going to get these shelves. They are reasonably priced, hold a lot of weight, are easy to put together and pottery sits nicely on them. Now that there are spray paints that you can paint plastic with, I will probably change the gray color to something more fun. 

Yesterday I started the second shed which is going to be a garden and tool shed. It was originally Julia's playhouse but she never used it once because she hates to go outside. What a country girl she isn't. Just ask her. Not only do I have to paint the inside and decorate it, the outside is peeling so badly that I'm going to have to paint it too. Back to the paint store. I'm hoping for a good stretch of dry weather so I can rock and roll on it. 

Thanks to everyone who have been signing up for the Creative Retreats here at the farm this summer and fall. It is looking to be a fun time for all - including me! Have a great weekend everyone! 

p.s. I just got an email from Spoonflower - the digital printing fabric company. They are having a 25% off sale on their Linen/Cotton Canvas through Monday. I've ordered this weight fabric for tablecloths and upholstery and it is really nice. Regular price is $27/yard. On sale $20.25/yard. If you are tempted, this is a good savings. Here is a link to my fabric designs on Spoonflower.