May 21, 2018


for the siding to be replaced, I sure hope he finishes this week.
There are only three dozen boards being replaced, maybe a few more.  We got an estimate to replace one side of the house which has the garage attached so it's not even fully sided, and the cedar alone would be over $8500.  Ain't happening.  So we'll just enjoy the warm weather, wait for our guy, and hope for the best.  By the way, he has a six foot level.  My hero.

Two additional issues with the door.  One door, many headaches.  They ordered a bright silver sill which shines like a spotlight on the dark house.  When the sun hits it, the light beam is enough to guide alien spaceships.  With black hinges, bronze weatherstrips, bronze sweep, why the hell didn't they order the bronze or black sill?  Now I have to paint it.  The door also came in with 2 3/8" backsets.  Standard is 2 3/4" which is what our door locks are, so we had to purchase a new set for over $100 that matches our others.  They are older Emtek and not adjustable, wrought iron knob and bolt.  Damn.  We have rags in the predrilled holes and a board secured across the interior.

Sometimes we have to put our heads together to come up with solutions.  Sometimes we use the other end.

Either way, I still am baffled by raw bacon being better for you than smoked.  I know nitrates in processed foods are not good for you, but if a rodent had a choice of nitrate or non-nitrate poison, would one be better for him than the other?   Like a stick of dynamite wrapped in red paper is better for you than the blue paper.  Why be concerned about nitrates being bad for you, but not the raw bacon itself, the diet, and the smoking?  Certainly a risk for a pace-maker, triple bypass coronary patient.  But I guess many of us are guilty of choosing our poisons by preference. 

I do choose the leanest slab for my order at the market and indulge in crumbled bits on my salads.  I do eat too many sweets.  I did smoke like a chimney years ago.  Too many of us wait until our health has a crisis or diagnosis to change bad habits.  But once they develop, we have to be reasonable about diet modifications.  I know several people that felt they had their "pipes cleaned out" so there wasn't a need to change.  Everything and anything in moderation will not harm you.  Or maybe some think they will die young anyway so what the hell.  I don't think anyone should tell others how to live or eat, even when we are upset about their choices.  Personal responsibility is just that .... personal.  But personally, I would love to smack a few knuckleheads. 
It just seems that as accountability for your actions has left our country, so has responsibility.   From looking at FB and other media, the rage and lack of compassion for others has become an epidemic, the brutality of fighting, the name calling and screaming, the hatred for those that don't agree with them.  Yet they call others haters.  When you hold yourself accountable for your actions you also respect yourself.   How people were raised and what they have endured, desperation they have felt, lack of love and belonging, all contributes to their self respect.  How difficult it must be, or maybe even impossible, to change the emotional development of the brain that was formed so long ago.  I enjoy seeing young people at work and doing an excellent job, or having fun while being responsible, or eager to learn and pursue their goals.  But in my area, I am seeing more of the opposite, with attitude.  And I am torn between blaming them, or blaming their home life.
A recent article claims that allowing babies to "cry it out" produces more adrenaline, affecting areas of the brain, which results in short tempered and sometimes violent individuals.  The child's brain is still developing and forming and absorbing significantly until 3, and continues on for years after.  When I see these young babies and children being treated so horribly, I wonder what personality traits are forming that will affect them for life.  And it seems to be getting worse with each generation's lack of understanding of the responsibility of raising children, the rampant drug use, and the casual attitude toward their welfare. 
Holy crap.  What the hell was that?  One thing leads to another.  That was a good song.  Is there one titled Time to Shut Up?

May 19, 2018

Excuse me ..... what?

The couple came today to take our old windows.  She is in her early 50's and talked about how all her prior boyfriends had six kids, her daughter has six, her step daughter has six.  She is on disability and can barely catch her breath, has a wheelchair, a scooter, and a power chair.  She is on pain meds for a previously broken back, had hips replaced, recent by-pass surgery, stents, and type 2 diabetes.
Their truck reeked of smoke and two different cigarette packs were on the dash along with a bag of candy.  She weighs around 300, and won't buy her bacon at my local meat market.  She only eats fresh slab bacon because the nitrates in smoked bacon are bad for you. 

May 17, 2018

A little door info

Greetings!  Are any of you thinking about changing an exterior door?  Here's something I found out the hard way.  Do not accept the "standard" size of 32"x80" or 36"x80" if you are replacing an existing door.  Always ask for the rough opening.  Standard doors' rough openings will be 2" larger than the door (a 32" wide will have a RO of 34").  If the RO is not 2" larger or has a 1/2" increment, adjustments will need to be made to the framing, slight, but a pain in the ass.  Not the case with most doors, but of course, with the one I chose.  I wasn't told this and the fiberglass door with composite jams (no more finger jointed peeling!) needed to have a 2x4 removed from the framed opening and smaller lumber installed, which changes the exterior trim also.  This means the edge of the siding doesn't line up either.  Goody.
SOOOOOOO glad we have this professional and know these bumps will be solved correctly.

May 15, 2018

The red cape

Yep, the red cape I've been showing is for sale in MA.  You can click here to view it and the interior.  I enjoy browsing homes for sale online and taking a peek inside from the quaint to the elaborate.

We just came from getting my flowers, had to go with the Vista bubble gum again, couldn't find the fuchsia.  The Vista series colors are bubble gum, fuchsia, and silverbells (left), all great performers.  Next year the newest color, paradise, will debut.  I did find a full basket of the silverbells color and brought it home too.  Geraniums for the front buckets with a few vines.  That's it.  No pots and tubs and others this year.  And this time, I'm sticking to that decision.
With all the hammering going on I played it safe and removed everything on the walls, and am loving the look.  I've always liked sparse with the focus on mouldings and paint color.  The windows have a light beige primer (old windows were gray) and along with the light and bare walls, there is a calming effect. When the curtains are back, maybe that will change the mood completely.  But I think the samplers will need to find a new place to hang out.  I may be selling a few when I get more organized.
I did check with Habitat for Humanity and the closest store is quite a drive from here.  That one doesn't take windows nor will they drive this far for pickup.  The stores offer very good used items but they don't take everything, the items are sold (stores are independently owned) and proceeds go toward housing projects.  Wonderful organization.  Another location in PA about an hour from here will accept windows but only in excellent condition.  The effort and calls and emails to find a local organization willing to take used items has become a hassle, and I plan to use CraigsList's free section from now on.   Sam (our contractor) gave me the idea because his worker listed the cement blocks they removed from the restaurant and kept them from a landfill while helping a farmer build a pen.
Hope the week is going well.
Thanks for visiting.


Two windows installed and trimmed yesterday.  When will he return?  Don't know, depends on the weather and his other jobs.  He's trying to work between storms and inspections at the other work site.  The interior projects I had planned will not be done anytime soon.  Contractor Sam is remodeling a restaurant and then building a massive home for the owner.  His brother, the best finish carpenter locally, is also booked until fall.  Summer passes so quickly, I better line up everything now.  I have complete confidence in both of them, totally impressed, so it's nice to be able to plan without apprehension. 
 When I found out that the old windows will be dumped, I decided for the very first time to try Craig's List.  Offered them for free in exchange for pickup and I had three hits within an hour.  I did not register or create an account and was able to delete the offer after it was fulfilled.  I've heard from many people that Craig's is a great resource, but a friend's son was murdered during an electronic sale.  Needing extra money he listed his devices and gaming, and lost his life.  It was about the same time that my sister's friend had a daughter stabbed 30 times by a stoned young man (nothing to do with Craig's).  Neither mother has recovered from their senseless and devastating loss.  I know you are supposed to meet elsewhere for the transactions but they already have our address and windows aren't something we can carry around in a trunk.  Besides, they're free so no money is involved.  I'm happy someone will use them.  Really irritates me to see remodeling jobs with dumpsters filled with usable vanities, sinks, cupboards, doors.  There should be a place to take reusables where people can get items, maybe not perfect but better than they have.  Offices are notorious for waste, especially medical when an incoming doctor didn't like the décor.  But what can you expect?  My neighbors won't even recycle glass and plastic.  Everything to the dump.  OK I'll shut up.
Guess how many chocolate dipped strawberries and melt-a-ways are left?   I am so upset with myself for gaining the weight loss back and now I'll be over that number.   Stress eating and pigginess.  I need to get a project started and hope I can do that today.  If my hands are busy they may not reach for more chocolate.  Maybe a little Santa.  There's too much going on here to start the larger project I had planned.
Another view of that lovely red cape.
Have a great day everyone!

May 14, 2018

Right off the bat

there are problems getting the old windows out before anything else can be done.  We're forecast with storms all week including this afternoon so I think this will take weeks to finish.  And to make matters worse, his two workers decided they aren't working today.  He called someone else but Mark may end up being the helper.  He said this is common with the young men he hires.  The garage door company came out Friday to measure and said the same thing.  The younger guys want $25 a hour (with no experience and don't know the difference between vice grips and pliers), or they don't show up for work, or they are looking at their phones all day, or they can't pass the drug tests.  He said his business owner friends are having the same problem. 
Thank goodness I remembered to remove all the framed/glass samplers from the walls because they're 'a rockin'!
The boys can't figure out what's going on, but whatever it is, they are not happy.
I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day.  My nephew brought over a pound of Melt-a-ways and four massive chocolate covered strawberries.  Since I tell people that although I am 66, I have a 79 year old child, my sister (the child) bought me a Mother's Day card!  Smart ass.
And for a little eye candy on a Monday...
isn't this wonderful?  Love red houses.  This is a side entrance between house and garage of a cape for sale (thanks Pinterest).
Hope you have a great day!!

May 11, 2018

Winner winner

but no chicken dinner for capecodgirl565.  Vanessa, I have your email and will contact you soon for address.  Thanks everyone.
  I wasn't distracted by the big level at all.  'Cause he ain't here.  Trying for Monday, but the entire week is forecasting storms so it won't be done, I'm sure. 
We've been to every Amish greenhouse from here to Volant - beautiful full baskets of petunias but all mixed colors.  Yes those multi colors are gorgeous but not when I have several containers, barrels, and hangers.  Too much for my aging eyes.  A mass of solid color in the barrels doesn't compete with smaller displays, instead shows them off.  I saw something different that I loved, but it requires shade/morning sun which I can't provide.

No flowers, just beautiful soft yellow foliage.  She said it grows quickly and is very easy to care for so I came home with two 4" containers and will pot them for a shady corner.
This is a Golden Plectranthus.  Sounds like a dinosaur.  Maybe I should look for trailing foliage instead of flowers for the barrels.  Back to the nursery.
Hope you have a great weekend and a sweet Mother's Day.

May 9, 2018

Before I lose it

would anyone like the small trifold card for this design?  It is JBW Designs Miss Mary's Sampler 1796 and is a sweet little stitch.  I did not use the linen color recommended.  Please leave your name in comments or email me (at right) and if there is more than one request by Friday morning, I will draw a name.  Let's say Friday 5/11 at noon.  Mr. speak softly and carry a big level should be keeping me distracted but I'll try to remember.

Chris saw the doctor that will be leaving soon and he is making an effort to have the pump updated to the latest model, even though his contract is not up until 2019.  The doctor said it is not working well with the sensor he was given and was amazed at the number of times he was over 400 and under 40.  He will meet with the Medtronic team and see what can be done.   Fingers crossed.

May 7, 2018

It's starting

Got the call today, windows and cedar being delivered tomorrow!  Everyone thinks I am crazy to paint the new windows but it's what I've always been thought as anyway.  He is giving me a day to prepare, prime, and get a coat on the frames before installation.  The sashes rotate so I can install the screens and turn the outside in to paint later.  I know the painter can do it but this is so much easier without ladders.  We aren't having the back of the house changed since it faces north and those windows aren't warped.   Starting early tomorrow I need to remove the curtains and wooden rods, clear those walls of furniture on both floors and make a decent mess.  I was so hoping this could be completed by now so spring cleaning and cleanup would be done before summer, but the weather would not cooperate.  But it's happening!  And he has a really big metal square!  And a 4' level!  Yippe ki yay baby, he knows what he's doing!  Hopefully it's not for appearance sake only.   Wish us luck!

May 6, 2018

Still looking for a start

Hello people.  While browsing photos, I saw the one of my mom holding me and transferred it to a post for Mother's Day as a draft.  Well guess who clicked on the wrong post to publish today?  That would be me.   Sorry - this is the correct click!
Hi all.  Hope you're enjoying the weekend.  I didn't get my flowers yesterday.  The nursery we usually visit was mobbed and the baskets huge.  I've found being too large this early fizzles out by August so I prefer a dense younger plant, which other places had, but the baskets were mixed colors.  Next week I'll try again.  We did get the Golden Dagger and Inferno peppers, Giant Marconi and Mucho Nacho (large jalapeno) were too small to bring home.  But it was a sunny warm day for a long ride in Amish country with a warm donut.  Or two.
Still going through charts and trying to be mindful of the fact that I don't feel like stitching, so the design has to be easy enough to stitch, but not boring.  So I came up with these two.  Harriot involves freehand at the bottom, Ann is larger overall with very little over one.  There is another file of small and simple samplers that I will look through this afternoon, and although  I prefer them, I don't know where to hang them all.  But perusing the file will stall the decision for another day and the longer I can put off searching through linen colors and counts, the better.
This odd twin pocket piece (I split a reproduction sampler into two) no longer agrees with me and I will tweak my finishing a little and offer it for sale soon.  For those of you that inquired about the Betsy Ross machine, I need to check with my brother, he may have offered it to his dealer friend to sell.   I'll see him this week.
Carole is coming over for spitini, parmesan potatoes, cranberry walnut salad and lemon bread for dessert.  Chris will come too unless he's called out which seems to always happen on Sundays. 
We've found three doctors that deal with Medtronic pumps, all over 90 minutes away.  One does not have a good rating from some patients but does visit New Castle (about 40 minutes away) once a month.  He was at 54 yesterday morning and the sensor alarm did not go off until 40 minutes after that finger prick.  Now we know the delay in reading and warning is far too slow for his rapid declines.
Enjoy the day.
Thanks for visiting.

May 4, 2018

Freehand and a Betsy

Greetings folks.  My brother came across a little working electric child's sewing machine called Betsy Ross.  It's green and comes in a red case.  My little Singer is not electric and I didn't realize some of these miniatures were.  Do I want it?  Nope.  I may ask the only shop we have here if they are interested.
I found a lot of vintage hooks and eyes on cards that are solid brass.  I'm sure someone would use them, maybe Amish, so I will take those to Goodwill.  A reader buddy wanted my Simple Life so the entire lot will go to a good home which I'm happy about.  Thanks for the suggestions to use Media Mail.  I was told that rate is for retailers or mailers, not general public.  Now that I know that is incorrect, I will choose another post office for information. 
I was thinking about the sampler I showed with the winding freehand border.  Not that I want to stitch right now, but I'm thinking!   Mary Hazlehurst had a freehand border of mostly stem stitches, can't remember the others (chain?).  It really wasn't too difficult because stitching the body first makes it easy to see placement and it's OK if it doesn't match exactly as the chart shows. 
The only part I did not enjoy stitching was the little leaves, too small an area to know which way to fill.  I'm sure it was because of being inexperienced since they are a simple shape and solid color.  Mary Elliot's border has petals and flowers that are made up of very small colored sections so I don't know if I would enjoy that.  Really getting ahead of myself, I didn't start or even decide on the design yet.
Contractor hasn't shown yet but I can imagine he is behind because of the very cold and snowy spring.
We've had a rough few weeks with Chris, three days in a row and this morning the phone rang at 5:45.  When I saw her number it brought back the nights of Carole gasping at the other end, unable to breathe and needing an ambulance, the feel of a hand squeezing my neck while Rocky Balboa was pounding my chest.  Takes my breath away.  It wasn't about her, it was for Mark to get there for Chris again.  The paramedics had to be called twice in a week because he was unresponsive and clenched, Mark knew it was best for them to be there.  At that point, an IV is necessary and he was brought around from his 42 low.  We need to locate a doctor experienced with his pump, no one is local, and this temporary and worthless endocrinologist is leaving.  I want to see if the Dexcom CGM can be used with the Medtronic pump, it would be much better because it allows his numbers to be monitored on several devices.  And the volume on the Dexcom alarm can be increased, I can barely hear his current, not loud enough to wake up a gnat.
Going for flowers this weekend, will probably end up with the usual.  And a donut.  Amish sell their fresh donuts there on the weekends.
Hope your weekend is enjoyable and relaxing.  Or exciting.  Whatever makes you smile.
Thanks for visiting.

May 1, 2018

Some days

you can chase tail, fighting with it until you think you've won,
but then you just give up and realize it's a losing battle. 
But not always. Sometimes you just can't let it go.

I've looked through charts, handled my linen, almost started a large sampler, but my mind is elsewhere and relaxing is not possible.  I don't really miss the needle at all.  Whether I will start stitching again at some point, only time will tell.  It could even be tomorrow, but that will depend on how soon I can settle myself.

 I actually considered this one for a few days, simple and uncomplicated letters, until I realized the freehand border may be a threat to my sanity (or what's left of it).  Maybe work on the easy body and leave the border for another time?  Scarlet Letter's Mary Elliott.

Our weather has been warm and cold, more warmth coming this week.  But there is sun, finally.  Mark's been golfing and taking a few bucks from his buddies.  And the sun shining in allows me to see the errant M&M peanuts on the floor that jumped from the pile in my hand, grabbed from the cupboard next to this table.

My sister is very upset about her friend's adult addict son.  He can't afford the ACA insurance, would qualify for a subsidy for his family of five, but cannot afford the massive deductibles.  She is afraid he will die.  Did this start with prescriptions?  No it did not.  There is no where that offers free help, regardless of their ads making you think they will.  He's checked everywhere and payment may be lowered without coverage, but still not affordable.  I should have him talk to my friend's friend who paid $80000 cash for a house and vacations in Dubai for tips on how she stays on Medicaid for free.
See this pile of A Simple Life?  The local shop does not want them and shipping one copy would be $4 so after Paypal and Ebay fees, why bother?  They are going to the recycler today.  They are wonderful for those that like a dark and dusty look, but I like lighter, colonial, less clutter.

Have a good week folks.

Thanks for visiting.

Apr 26, 2018

Finch win

          After Random scrambled the entries for me, #3 was the number drawn.  Kathy, please email your address to me and I will get him in the mail. 
Thanks to everyone for offering a home to the finch on blue.  I appreciate all the comments and emails.
         A sunny day today, warmer next week, we're finally on our way!

Apr 24, 2018

Finch me

Hey.  What's happening people?  Not much here.  Just a really bad entire afternoon wasted on this little fricking finch.  I've had distress before when a project would not cooperate, but this bird riled my feathers big time.  And every time I had to make an adjustment, he got a little bit smaller.  Much smaller.  Over and over and if the lighter was in my sewing room, well, let's just say the siren would have gone off.  Instead of discarding or destroying, I decided to allow him to fly elsewhere.  You want him?  Leave your email or full initials in the comments and Thursday evening at 9, I will draw a name, get an address, and set him free.
As the others, button on the back to hold a ribbon which can be removed.  The button wasn't sewn on until after it was stuffed and shut since I had planned on an execution, so it may not be dead center.
Enough ribbon to hang over a large knob.
Just untie and adjust to the length required, like shorter on a basket handle.
This is not a perfect finish, may have a little anger misalignment, a little spot of undetected glue, a cat hair, a few obscenities buried in the batting.  But it's free.
Fly away you little finch.

Apr 23, 2018

Houston, we have a color

Eureka.  A powerful vacuum cleaner, a city in California and Missouri, a SyFy series, and my scream of the day.  Another gallon, another day, this time close enough.  I think I have finally achieved what I call a charcoal brown.  Not reddish not greenish not taupey not orangey not saturated, just a dark yet soft shade of gray in the shade and brown in the sun.
The trim and windows are waiting, the door is ordered, the stain is finally chosen, last step is having them match a flat exterior paint to it for windows and garage doors.  Tints are not the same for stain as they are for paint but I am assured the tweaking will not be complicated.  The contractor is coming this week to check what lumber is required and we're off to the races.
My girls are shedding their coats for summer and looking rather messy, but still cute as can be.  I am shedding the winter clothes in my closet.  When I find something that fits and I like, I buy different colors of the same item.  But this year, all those sweats and sweaters sat because the necks were fitted crew and I could not get them on or off with my shoulder problem.  Might as well pack them up and move on, especially since I believe spring is finally here.  Beautiful sunny and warm days gracing my section of earth.
Hope your week goes well!
Thanks for visiting.

Apr 21, 2018

Beyond the crabby

Some needleworkers like to punch.   I would love to do that right now.

Some needleworkers prefer stitching.  It's what a victim of my ire would need.

Some needleworkers enjoy the finish.  Oh how I would love to get there.

Some needleworkers prefer a sharp needle.  Nothing can be sharper than my tongue.

Some needleworkers like a larger eye.  I'd like to blacken a few.

Some needleworkers like their linen to be soft in hand.  I'd rather have a rock in mine.

Some needleworkers have their threads wound.  Tight enough to break?

Some needleworkers are very nice people, with kind words, forgiveness, and patience.

And one needleworker is not.

But she will get over it.  Nothing is worth ruining a weekend, a day, an hour, when we don't know if it may be our last.  And if it's not (whew), starting it with an attitude sets the tone for a wasted day.  How many more do we have?   Daily trials and tribulations are a part of life and nothing compared to the life and death and suffering of others. Get angry, get over it.  Have an extra chocolate or two or three.  Pull up your brand new big girl panties.  Look up at the sky in the morning and start fresh.  And ponder why panties are so damn expensive.  I know why they're big.
Have a great Sunday folks.
I know I will.  Pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) does indeed help.

Apr 17, 2018

Change is good

At least it was for the goldfinch.  Removing the 924 at the bottom, for some reason, made a big difference in the look of this tweet.  The softer neutrals worked out well and I think the yellow looks fine on this blue whereas before it was just too much.  I tried my best to make this little guy recognizable as the finch, he's a little too tall I believe, but I wanted to keep the counts similar.  Close enough.  I am thinking about a chickadee with his black accents on a pale yellow linen as a companion.
I changed the stitch pattern at the bottom and the two extra stitches are just that and will be within the seam.
Backing requires a decision, which requires too much brain space right now.
It's snowing.  Happy tax day.

Apr 16, 2018

I found it

The tweety I was working on disappeared after I removed the 924 thread.  Being distracted by family matters, I didn't do a thorough search and assumed it would show up.  It did.  When I used the dusting mop under the sofa.  Since it was found in the area where Missy destroys my threads, I assumed the hole in the linen was caused by those mini mouth daggers.
No big deal.  I've woven a linen thread in a much longer area before and this was a very short distance to weave.  I removed the longer piece and started from the break working out, leaving a long enough tail to complete the other side.

The mistake I made was removing an end linen thread vertically when the patch was horizontal.  There may be a slight difference in the thickness, sheen, something, and although it looks OK I will pull from the same direction next time.  Just in case.

She is a stinker.  She was enjoying the two warm days we had and investigated a door she never entered through.
Can you believe April is half over? 
Have a great start to your week.
Thanks for visiting.

Apr 15, 2018

One man's junk

is now my treasure.  I've been helping my cousins go through Aunt Helen's house, and brought home a few things they were throwing out.  We took a very large crucifix and other religious items the boys offered to Carole.  When delivering them, I mentioned to her that her bedroom is starting to look like a chapel.
This was a screened trough she was filling with corn for the deer, hasn't been used in several years since her boys blocked the steep steps to the back yard.  It was at the curb!  After lining the bottom with two layers of landscape fabric, I see a coat of white or bright blue chipped paint with Creeping Jenny and Vinca vines cascading.
My grandparents were from Italy and Poland, all came with nothing.  The only time there was a gift given was when they became citizens.   As time went on and the children became adults, that frugality stayed with them and rarely was anything purchased that was not necessary. 
So my mom's and her sister's rhinestone jewelry, rarely worn, are now with me.  The only glamorous items they owned.  Even when they could afford a little splurge, their parents' way of life was still a great influence, and if anyone got a gift or new shoes, it was the children.  Back then, mothers sacrificed all for their children.  It was understood that bringing a life into the world required 15 years of selflessness and total devotion, the absolute and most important task on earth.  So for me to own what must have made them feel as beautiful outside as they were inside, is a privilege.
I have Baba's and Nona's pearl collars that dressed their plain sweaters, and the other pieces were mom's.  When in today's world we get what we want, and credit cards make it all possible, can you imagine how meaningful it was for a woman back then to own a few special pieces?  So although they are costume jewelry and tossed aside by others, I can see how important and treasured this jewelry was.

Apr 12, 2018

Shades of black

Am I the only one that is getting a notice stating a low threat virus is blocked every time I visit a blogger page?
To anonymous Carole, YES!  The Linen Sampler in Niles Ohio was a wonderful shop.  Loved visiting, probably my favorite.  A close second was Friends Count in Cortland Ohio, and runner up was Count on Cindy in Boardman/Canfield. 
For Amanda, I can't contact you, but wanted to clarify the paint samples.  The paper swatches at the store for stains are tiny compared to those for paint. You can have almost any paint color swatch mixed in a sample jar, but not for exterior stain.  Some do, but not the brands that the painter recommended for quality.  SW and Cabot can only be purchased in gallons.  That's an expensive test!
 Benjamin Moore may offer stain samples, but they sold my sister the wrong paint for her house.  Even after the painter questioned the new product (Advance) they insisted it was the latest and greatest for applying over oil based exterior paint.  It started peeling off in sheets within a year and we called, emailed, they did nothing.  The product was new and now is labeled for interior only. Too late.  Was it the clerk's fault?  No.  The store's OWNER is the person she and the painter spoke with. I was so ticked that they did not even offer new primer or paint or come out to look at the house, especially since the fault lies with the store, that I refuse to purchase their products.  Her house is a mess and she does not have the money for a remedy and new paint job. 
Almost every intense stain I've seen in photos has been on a saltbox, not our house style, but still doable. Black houses sound evil don't they?  But it's not a deep glossy black, the stain is soft and weathers.  If nothing else works out, I may just opt for it.  After seeing these (and all the others I've saved) I am leaning heavily.  For your viewing pleasure, here's a few of my favorites from Pinterest. 


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