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!

Ten Things to be Thankful for This Morning…

1. We were home when “it” happened, so a major crisis was averted.

2. I was not the one taking a shower when it was
discovered that the water heater was not working.

3. My parents live next door, and their shower works just fine.


4. My Dad’s a builder, and his long-time plumber (and fishing buddy)
gave him a couple of slightly used water heaters that were removed
when clients decided to upgrade to gas hot water.

5. The new (to us) water heater holds 10 more gallons than the old one.

6. The new hot water heater was free.

7. My Hubby knows how to replace a hot water heater.

8. The vacuum and I got to spend some quality time in a hard-to-reach
place that hasn’t been cleaned since the last major appliance broke.

9. Ditto the mop.

10. It’s supposed to snow.



In every thing give thanks:
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus concerning you.
~I Thessalonians 5:18~

A Little Red Hen Sort of Day…

One of my favorite childhood stories was The Little Red Hen.

(Snagged this copy for a quarter at a yard sale this Summer!)

The early folk tale teaches children hard work pays off…
…And so does pitching in and helping!

I’m pretty sure that I pulled that story
out of my hat a few times as a Mom.

However, as a kid, the story intrigued me,
because it talked about how wheat became bread!

Long ago, every kid knew that wheat had to be planted,
and then reaped and threshed to get fresh wheat berries…

…And then it was taken to the mill…

…To be ground into flour, made into dough,
and baked into yummy fresh bread…

We live about 4 miles from the coast in Delaware, and this weekend was spent wondering where Hurricane Sandy was going to make landfall… The track kept fluctuating between Fenwick Island and Atlantic City… and we’re pretty much right in between those two places. Yesterday, my plans for a rainy, blustery day included doing a trial run of Annie’s pie crust, but in the morning there was a sudden concern that our bread supply would run out… FAST… if we were indeed stuck here with no power for days. So, the pie crust trial run turned into a “grind lots of wheat to make lots of flour to make lots of bread” sort of day! I felt just as satisfied with the finished loaves of bread as the Little Red Hen did!

Thankfully, we only got a little wet yesterday… just a few drippy leaks and a lot of water standing in low spots. However, our prayers are with those facing flooded homes and businesses, and dealing with power outages, downed trees, and heavy snow.

“And now,” said the Little Red Hen,
Who will help me eat the bread?” 


See all the blog posts about making
Pie from Scratch!
by clicking below!

Store Bought or Home Grown…

I bought eggs today.

Usually I don’t buy eggs…
We have a home-grown supply thanks to our gals…

But for research purposes, I broke down and bought a dozen.

This is what they look like in the box…
Pretty white, and very uniform in size and shape…

I don’t know how they get the chickens to lay eggs like that.

My chickens lay eggs that look like this…

The only thing consistent about the eggs around
Thistle Dew Farm is what’s inside…

The egg on the left is store-bought.

The egg on the right is home-grown.

Fresh, home-grown eggs have bright orange yolks instead of pale yellow.
They “stand up” in the pan… the white isn’t all watery.

And they taste like an EGG.

Once you get used to eating them, it’s hard to go back to store-bought!

Annie’s day of pie-making includes gathering eggs from her Pop’s hens.

Have you ever gathered fresh eggs?

We’ve kept chickens for about fifteen years,
and here’s what we’ve learned about them…

Hens… female chickens… start laying eggs somewhere between 4 and 6 months old. They lay about an egg a day, unless they’re molting, or getting new feathers. They sometimes lay more… especially in the spring. They sometimes lay less… like in the winter months, or extremely hot or cold weather. Young hens are very productive egg layers, and older gals space theirs out more and eventually stop laying all together. Sometimes the older hens will lay BIG eggs. Sometimes young hens will lay double-yolkers. Once, we found a triple-yolk egg… and boy, was it HUGE!

To make baby chickens, you need roosters. (Don’t worry Moms, that’s as far as I’m going with that. Keeping this Rated G.) Roosters are male chickens and they crow. A LOT. It’s a good idea to make sure your neighbors like the idea of farm animals before you get roosters. (Or you can bribe them with home grown eggs.) If you have roosters, some of your eggs will be fertilized, but chicks will not grow inside the egg unless a broody hen decides to set on them. Broody means she really wants to be a Mama Hen, and she will not be happy with you if you try to take any eggs out from under her. She may try to hid her eggs from you and set in a secluded place. If we have a broody hen, we’ll gather up a small pile of eggs for her and encourage her to set in the barn instead of the hen house. (Because she will try to set on every egg she sees and get them mixed up!) Her chicks will hatch 21 days from the day she begins setting on them… even if some are a week old before she sets. I think that is absolutely fascinating.

And that’s what I know about chickens.

If you ever come visit, we’ll introduce you to ours!

See all the blog posts about making
Pie from Scratch!
by clicking below!

Designing Sketches…

Sketches often seem to develop as they are worked on. The Whatchamacallit from yesterday’s post was going to be a small “spot” illustration, since my thumbnail for that page only included the one item. The sketch began with taking a bunch of pictures of it out in the sunlight. This one gave me the best light/shadow combination, which will help when it comes time to paint…

First, I sketched it in my sketchbook to practice the shapes and angles. Then I noticed an old milk can in the store that would look great beside it. And then I remembered that I want to try to tuck a pumpkin or two in each illustration, so in went a pumpkin. Then my kitty was playing the “I want in, I want out” game, which always involves lot of leg rubbing… and a bell went off in my head that she might be very interested if she lived on a farm, and this Whatchamacallit was in use.

Last, but not least, I looked back at my storyboard, and discovered I had drawn the whole scene backward. It needed to be reversed. So I flipped it over on my makeshift iPad lightbox and traced the lines on the back of the paper. (VERY makeshift… You have to draw carefully so you don’t damage the iPad screen, and the touch sensitive screen will also wiggle around under your drawing if it senses your hand movement!)  Then, I retraced a better version on my desk/lightbox… Several times, until it was “just right.” And then a final, very light tracing onto watercolor paper, using a sharp 4H pencil. (Not 4-H the club, 4H the hardness grade!)

It’s been challenging to learn how to design a sketch over the years. An artist has to think about the elements that should be in the picture, arrange them in the space you want to fill, and wiggle them around until they fit and seem balanced in the composition. I used to try to draw the whole thing from memory, and then get frustrated because it didn’t look right. Gradually, I’ve learned to take photos from different angles, use Google image searches to find quick reference pictures, and to keep a sketchbook filled with lots of various sketches that you might need later. And to be patient… a good illustration has been drawn and drawn and drawn again!

P.S…. Did you figure out what the mystery item is?

It’s a Cream Separator!

Fresh milk has the cream all mixed in with the milk, but if you let it sit for a short while, the cream will rise to the top. This style of separator has two small windows that lets the farmer see when the cream and milk have separated, and the milk can be tapped off the bottom. You can still buy a similar version!  The “whole milk” that we buy in the grocery store today is “homogenized,” which means it’s been processed so the fat or cream is broken down into smaller bits that won’t separate from the milk. Not too long ago, they even sold milk in special “Cream on Top” bottles, so you could pour the cream off at home… They’re a fun dairy collectible!

See all the blog posts about making
Pie from Scratch!
by clicking below!

A Sunday Post…

Short post today… Enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon!

After church today, Hubby and I stopped for lunch, and then headed to our local farm produce market in search of a good “pie” pumpkin! As soon as I asked which pumpkin was the best for baking or cooking, the gal there pointed to a wagon filled with these… Fairytale Pumpkins.

I thought that was rather appropriate,
since they’re going to be part of a storybook!

What is your favorite pumpkin to use for pies?
Do you roast them in the oven or cook them on the stovetop?

I bought two, so I could see which cooking process I liked the best.

Just a few more hours left for the
Pumpkin Drawing Contest!

See all the blog posts about making
Pie from Scratch!
by clicking below!

Almost Autumn…

Fall is still officially two days away, according to the calendar. But it officially started last week for me. When the store re-opens with fall stuff, and when I hear the diesel engine of the school bus picking up the kids next door, when my grandboys are learning their ABC’s, and when Mom and I begin predicting the weather by the color of Wooly Bears on the road… Fall is here, whether or not the calendar agrees with me. And just to prove it, we found this treasures on our walk this morning…

As I was heading in the back door, Hubby had left me a little present. Not exactly a “fall” moment, as we get more of these in the spring, but perhaps their small number is an indicator that cold weather is coming. He usually sticks them just inside the door, with the daily comment, “A chicken for your table,” but this morning they were outside. Since it was already in my mind to take a picture of the nuts and leaves, I grabbed my camera to capture the hen fruit as well…

And couldn’t believe my luck, as an unexpected drama began to unfold…

“Eenie” (or “Meenie or Miney?) found something interesting! The subject of his curiosity became rather defensive, however. I’ve never seen a “bug with a neck” get quite so feisty! You know the little crab in Finding Nemo? He was reenacting the seagull scene. I almost wanted to do the sound effects for him.

And he conquered! Or survived?

And proclaimed himself “Champeen of the World!”

Then gave me that “And what do YOU want?” look.

A Blessed Day

The past few weeks have been filled with activity!

Something Big was in the works.

Something Serious.

Something Fun.

Something of Eternal Value.

And now all the potato salad is packed away
and I can reflect a bit.

Our youngest daughter, Kate, was married to a wonderful
young man named Alex this past Sunday afternoon.

Prince George's Chapel

 They both looked radiant.

Mr. and Mrs. Donovan

In fact, everyone did.

The Bridal Party

There was a bit of smooching.

Kate and Alex

And a party on the farm.

Cutting the Cake

With lots of friends…

Em and Meg

… and lots…

Sara Jane

… of fun!

Nate and Meg

Special thanks to Kristin and Jamey for the early photos! The Internet is wonderful… you used to have to wait for weeks to see any pictures, but we were able to see candids by the time we got home that night! And also special thanks to “Uncle Chris,” whose technical expertise allowed the Photo Booth to happen! And to Kate’s sister Jordan for that fun idea! And to EVERYONE that came out before, during, and after the wedding to help! We love you all!!!

Unexpected Harvest…

We’ve had a couple of unexpected gifts from nature lately, and they’re being put to good use! Last week, my Dad was out cutting grass, and saw the peach tree out by the main road was LOADED with very ripe peaches. So he grabbed a bucket  and started picking like crazy! (I think the poor little tree was giving us a parting gift… DelDot has claimed her and the other little fruit trees as part of a road expansion project.) We ate peaches for dessert that night, and decided to make the rest into a spiced peach jam… a wedding project that we hadn’t expected to start right away! But who can turn down a bushel or so of peaches?! So the result was Midnight Peach Preserves, so dubbed by Kate’s fiancé, Alex, since that is the hour that we began ladling the hot sticky yummy stuff into jars!

And today, our dear friend Donna Lea whisked into the back room of the store with a huge bag full of homegrown figs for more jam making! They were frozen, so we could put off the processing until a more reasonable hour. And then as soon as I got home, my brother called and said Mom & Dad’s fig tree was ready to be picked! So we picked a basketful while dodging wasps and hornets, and there’s plenty more to come! We’re going to have to be vigilant about picking them the next few days so we don’t miss any of these yummies! What a blessing!

Aren’t they pretty in the sunlight?
They would make a B-E-A-UUU-tiful painting!

Exciting News!

I’ve been VERY quiet on this blog, because there’s been a LOT going on around these here parts!

First of all, I finally finished the Very Big Project! This winter, a gentleman from Texas asked me to illustrate a children’s book, and a new learning adventure began! The project truly took the full six months we had scheduled, and I’ll be documenting the process a bit more in upcoming posts. But as of yesterday, Zero and One is available as an ebook on Barnes and Noble! 

Zero and One is a story about friendship and forgiveness… These two friends rediscover why they love to be together and how they live and work together. Friendship, love, humility and forgiveness are powerful healing characteristics in relationships and productivity.

And there’s romance in the air around the Frey house! A handsome fella came a courtin’, and won the heart of our daughter Kate. (He won ours too!) They quickly realized they were two peas in a pod, and before we knew it, wedding plans are in the making! I think that engagement ring lasted all of four hours in his pocket!

So now the goal is to squeeze a great big crowd of people that love these kids into a historic chapel, and then bring them all back here for a farm-style reception. It will definitely be a fun day for Kate and Alex!

Add into the mix a summer cold for me, a bit of college work to finish, plus some home-fixer-up projects, and it’s been one busy crazy exciting summer!