Sunday, May 26, 2013


Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
“The lord begot me, the first-born of his ways,
he forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
From of old I was poured forth,
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet the earth and the fields were not made,
nor the first clods of the world.
“When he established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
Then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
Playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the sons of men.

                            Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

~ Lake Ontario ~

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Life is so beautiful it almost hurts.

'Beautiful and imperfect. If it were perfect, then how would we realize what our blessings are?

I am so thankful for my life ... for my husband and son ... for my family and friends ... for my church and the people there ... for my fulfilling career ... for my home and yard ... for my faith ... for so much that I cannot write it all down.

There is a lot of tragedy and pain on this journey, but it is punctuated by beautiful days and beautiful moments. Grab hold and savor ... never take a second for granted.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

For Sale By Owner

Okay - moving forward - we "officially" put Mom's house on the market yesterday by posting a website of info on Craigslist in Plattsburgh and in Montreal (for all the Canadian buyers, ay). By the way, I used Weebly to create the site and it looks pretty sweet, if I do say so myself :)

I sold my last house myself, but I was in the perfect village location with an adorable and affordable house, so I simply had to put a "For Sale" sign in front, take calls, make appointments on the weekends, and I had a buyer in two weeks. This sale is different, so we needed to do a bit of marketing. Realtors are awesome and if we need to we will definitely go that route, but here's hoping to saving a bit of money.

Anyway, we already have an inquiry! I did a bit of research on how best to handle things, and found a helpful article at Here it is:

... So your house may be prepared, as gleaming windows and a polished front door are all ready to greet your first prospective buyers; but how prepared are you as a seller? Here is a guide to what you should say to buyers and what questions you should ask them.

** 1. What type of buyer are they?
Before prospective buyers arrive at your door, try to gain as much information as possible about them beforehand. Find out from your estate agent what type of buyer they are, for example a professional couple, young family or retired. This will then give you the opportunity to mentally adjust your 'sales pitch' accordingly by preparing relevant information that your buyer may be interested in; a young family may want to know about schools and nearby recreational facilities whereas a young professional couple may be more interested in nightlife and transport links. Establishing your buyer type will also give you the opportunity to think ahead of how they may use your house. For example you could describe your conservatory as ideal play area when showing a young family around; whereas the same space could be described as a party zone to entertain friends when viewed by a young professional couple.

** 2. What's on their wish list?
Selling a home can be a fairly straightforward process and it is always so much easier to sell a house if you understand what the buyer wants. Only then can you demonstrate how your property fulfills their needs. The easiest way to find out what's on a buyer's 'wish list' is to start asking a few simple questions early on in the viewing, such as where are they living at the moment? Why are they looking to move? This will give you an indication of why their current home doesn't fit the bill; for example it could be too big, too small, in the wrong area, too noisy or too quiet. Whatever the reason, you should always be genuinely interested in their answers and point out the features in your home that they are specifically looking for.

** 3. Are they serious?
When a house is put up for sale it will inevitably attract a few 'window shoppers'. You can usually establish whether a buyer is a serious prospect or not by asking if they have viewed other properties in the area? If so what did they like or dislike about them? Or how long have they been looking? A genuinely serious buyer will normally be happy to relate tales of memorable properties or how difficult their search has been. Again this will give you the opportunity to relate to the buyer and mention aspects of your property that fulfills their needs.

** 4. Are they ready?
You may be very fortunate and find a buyer who falls in love with your property as soon as they walk through the door, but you need to establish whether they are in a position to be able to buy it. You may receive offers from more than one buyer and you will only be able to decide which one to accept if you know all of their buying circumstances. The following simple questions during the viewing should cover this:

Do you have to sell another home before buying? If they have already sold their property are they in a chain? 
Do you have a pre-approved mortgage or funding in place? How soon are you looking to move? Immediately, less than a year, or no hurry at all?Their answers will give you a clear indication of how soon they would be able to complete the purchase once an offer was accepted.

** 5. What do they think?
Buyer feedback is essential yet many sellers hesitate to ask direct questions. Without feedback you won't know what you are doing right or what aspects of your home could be improved upon. So, perhaps the most important question to ask a prospective buyer who has just finished viewing your home is:

What do you think? Buyers are not generally expecting the question, so they will instinctively give you their true opinion. If their response is a little weak or general with terms such as 'nice' or 'okay' then your property may not have sparked their enthusiasm and you may need to probe a little deeper to find out what they really thought. They may add in a few extra compliments because nobody wants to offend you, but it's generally a good sign that they are interested if they want to talk to you more about the house after the viewing has finished.
How does this house compare with others you have seen? This will give the buyer an opportunity to talk about what kind of home they want to buy and how yours compares to their ideal. You may also find out about other houses for sale in your area and what aspects of your home are better than those in other properties for sale in the neighbourhood.
How would you live in this house? What would you use this room for? If a buyer happily tells you where they would place their furniture, that their leather sofa would fit beneath the window or they could use the third bedroom as a home office, then you can safely take this as a positive sign of interest. If the buyer says 'I don't know' or 'I'm not sure' then don't be afraid to ask why. It might be a simple answer such as the buyer wants three bedrooms with a separate home office, but your house doesn't have a spare room to accommodate it. You may be able to point out another place in the home that would make an ideal study area which may not be obvious to most people.
What did you like the most? This should get the buyer to think positively about your house and give you some inspiration for future viewings. There may be many attractive features in your home that you have simply forgotten about or other aspects that you may not think would make much of a difference to a buyer. The answer to this question will give you invaluable information about how buyers see your home, along with the opportunity to focus their mind on its positive points. Additionally, if a buyer enthuses about a particular feature in your home, then you can always add it to your future sales pitch.
What did you like the least? Many home sellers don't really want to ask this question, but all feedback should be welcomed and acted on. For example a buyer might mention a small aspect such as the colour of a room or maybe the flooring needs to be changed. You then need to ask the buyer at the next viewing what they think about the colour scheme or flooring. If you keep receiving the same negative comments then you will be able to identify the problems that could prevent a swift sale - and deal with them!
What do you think of the price? A buyer will almost certainly never admit it if they think the price is too low; rarely will they offer more than the asking price, except in the case of a bidding war. However, if a buyer immediately says the price is too high, then it may just not be within their price range. Sometimes buyers cannot afford the asking price but want to look at the property anyway, so you need to determine on what basis they think the price is too high. You could ask how they feel the price compares to other homes in the same price range. If you know of other homes for sale in the neighbourhood that are cheaper, then you need to find out how they compare to your property, why are they a lower price and why should a buyer pay extra for yours? If everybody says the price is too high then maybe you need to adjust it - you could always ask buyers what price they think it should be, at least then you'll get a clear idea of how serious they are about buying.Showing buyers around your home for sale can be a daunting experience, especially if you're not used to being in a selling environment. If you choose to conduct the viewings yourself, then a few simply prepared questions and answers will make the whole experience more informative and hassle free for both you and the buyer.

Article Source:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jack in the Pulpit

Along with the trilliums, we currently have many Jack in the Pulpits (Jacks in the Pulpit?) growing on our new property. It was an exciting discovery! I did a little research to learn more about these unusual plants and found many useful sites, including the following brief by Jill MacKenzie on the University of Minnesota Extension Service site:

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) can be an interesting addition to shade gardens and wooded areas. This native of moist eastern woods as far west as Minnesota is easily recognized by its unusual inflorescence that appears in late May. In botanical terms, the 'pulpit' is a spathe and the 'Jack' is a flower-bearing spadix. The spathe is often striped purple and green. Tiny flowers on the spadix may be male, female, or some of each. Female flowers give rise to bright red berries, revealed when the spathe dies and falls away in late summer. Also attractive are the plant's two large leaves, each with three leaflets, usually held about one foot above the ground, although some specimens can be more than two feet tall.

The red berries, along with all other parts of the plant, contain needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate that can cause irritation to sensitive or broken skin when touched, and a burning and swelling of the lips and tongue if eaten. This burning sensation is immediate and so intense that it is unlikely anyone would manage to swallow the berries; however, if plant parts were swallowed, they could cause a severe irritation of the throat and digestive system that would require medical attention.

Jack in the Pulpit is tolerant of a wide range of soil pH, from somewhat acidic to somewhat basic (alkaline), and will thrive in dappled to deep shade. This plant is winter hardy into zone 3, and will grow best in moist but well-drained soil. The below-ground parts of the plant can be harmed or killed by excess moisture during the winter or early spring. For this plant to thrive, the soil should be high in organic matter. Incorporate compost, well-rotted manure, peat moss or other organic matter before planting, and mulch the plants with compost, grass clippings or decorative organic mulch, such as cocoa bean shells or pine needles, each year.

Don't collect plants from the wild. Instead, buy them from nurseries that specialize in native plants and wildflowers. Some general garden centers will also carry Jack in the Pulpit plants in the spring. You can transplant the tuber of Jack in the Pulpit in early autumn, after the above- ground plant parts have died back.

You may be able to buy seeds through the mail, collect them in the woods, or get seeds in early fall from a friend whose Jack in the Pulpit has ripe red berries. Remove the red flesh and plant the seeds immediately; don't let them dry out. Sow the seed outdoors where you want the plants to grow, covering the seeds with ¼ to ½ inch of soil. Seedlings should come up in early spring. Another method is to refrigerate freshly cleaned seeds in a plastic bag with some moist sand or potting soil for six weeks, then sow the seed in pots. In spring, plant the seedlings outdoors. Once plants become established in a favorable site, they are likely to self-seed.

Some additional resources I explored - many of which cover many of the species found in our Western New York woods:

~ from Google images ~
Apparently Georgia O'Keefe liked these strange flowers, too ...

Neil Gaiman: Make Good Art

I happened to stumble upon an interview on NPR with Neil Gaiman, and he blew me away. Apparently he gave a commencement speech last year at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, and his speech has gone viral. According to the NPR blurb:

A year ago, author Neil Gaiman told the graduating class at Philadelphia's University of the Arts that life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and love, and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, Gaiman said, this is what you should do: Make good art.

Gaiman said he never expected to give advice to people graduating from an establishment of higher education, since he never attended college himself.

Gaiman has written a number of novels, children's books, comic book series and screenplays — and has a new book based on the commencement address, titled Make Good Art.

I intend to have my high school students listen to the speech on our last day of classes because I think it applies not only to those who will "make art" in their lives but really to anyone. 'Love everything he has to say!

Incidentally, my dear friend's son earned his degree from the University of the Arts, so I have had the opportunity to tour some of the studios as well as to witness the great success her son has found since graduating. It is a school I would strongly recommend to anyone looking for an arts-related career.