Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Gift Ideas #1

I've been busy, creating homemade goodies for Christmas... I'm planning to show several over the next week or so. These are not my own creations, but are so good they are worth sharing again:

First up, I've made dozens of microwave baked potato bags. Have you heard of them? If you give it a try I suspect you will not go back. It's not just the amount of time and energy that you will save, it's the texture of the potato. They emerge from the bag, steamy, moist and so fluffy.

The bags are really simple. There are several instruction sites on the web if you are interested. You can jazz them up or go simple. The most important thing to keep in mind is cotton cotton cotton. Use 100% cotton fabric and batting. I used muslin on the inside and chose from my cotton scraps for the outside. You can even piece the fabrics together if you want to use up smaller scraps. Anyway, if you are looking for a fun, useful, quick, handmade project I highly recommend.

Cooking instructions:
wash potatoes and wrap wet potatoes individually in paper towels. do not prick! place inside bag. place bag inside mircrowave and follow your microwave's directions for potatoes, and go. (my microwave has a potato button, you hit the button for the number of potatoes you are planning to cook and the readout shows 1,2,3 or 4. then it starts automatically, and about 2/3 of the way through it stops and beeps for you to turn the bag over and hit the start button again for the remainder of the cooking time. it takes about 15 minutes for 4 potatoes. your microwave may be different, so please read your instructions.) If you cannot find your instruction book, check online. There are tons of instructions manuals on the net and chances are you can find yours.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more? dr. suess

Monday, November 16, 2009

been a while...

Well, it's been a while since I've updated the blog, before today. It was an interesting summer and fall, I must say and it left little time or more accurately, little energy for blogging. Sometimes, when you are in the thick of it, all you can do is be in it. So, the blog has been neglected. And while I write this blog as though lots of people read it, I don't know if they do, and even if they do I really can't imagine anyone being interested in my little dramas or dramadies, as the case may be. So, all in all, I think that enough said about that.

I have been very busy creatively though and have several things to feature on the blog! I have also been re-inspired in the kitchen and have turned soup making into an art (no false modesty here!).

When I have a lot on my plate to consider, mull over, contemplate, or decipher, my creative urge skyrockets. Does that ever happen to you?

Life if change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.

#1 Meal - Time Saving Tip

My absolute favorite time saving technique is to make ahead one pound packages of browned ground meats, which I freeze in zipper freezer bags.

I start by buying differing kinds of ground meat at the grocery. Ground Turkey, Beef, Chicken, Sausage, doesn't matter. I usually usually make 6 pounds at a time and use two or three different kinds of meat. I use a small food chopper to chop up 1 stalk of celery, 1 large carrot, 1 clove of garlic and one yellow onion per 2 pounds. I brown two pounds at a time cause that's what fits in my skillet. I salt and pepper and include some veggies with each batch. When brown, I drain, then dump it into a huge bowl to wait until all the batches are finished. Mix well, then divide into zipper bags. ONce you fill the bags, squeeze the air out, zip, then smoosh the bag flat cause it stores much better in the freezer this way.

These little bags of wonder make in a hurry dinners! Just think of all the dishes you can make: spaghetti, chili, sloppy joes, omelet filling, pizza topping...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Monday!

I am happy. It's going to be an excellent day!

I'm going to get some stuff done that I've been wanting to for a while and enjoy the tremendous weather at the same time.

This rose is a climbing rose that I bought on a whim. It didn't bloom the first year and I wasn't totally sure what it would look like. When it started to bloom this year, I was stunned. It produces the most amazingly, shockingly pink blooms. The color doesn't seem real, but I assure the picture is accurate. It's started to send shoots up, which we are going to train it to grow on a wire, up the side of the garage, and so while thoroughly enjoying the show this year, I am eagerly anticipating next year.

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." Buddha

I hope your Monday is happy and all that you want it to be.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's time to find the JOY!

Okay, July has been a tricky month. Highs, lows, celebrations, tragedy, challenges, accomplishments. I've had some trouble gaining my balance, but...

Today is a new day and I'm finding the joy again.

That being said, this blog started out as fun. I intended to use it to document my activities, interests and whatever struck my fancy. Then, it kind of became a task, which I never intended nor wanted.

Since I'm focusing on joy, I've decided not to write about the disappointments or challenges that don't go well and leave it out in the world for all to read. So, I may be editing or deleting some posts as they don't really say who I truly am. They just reflect a moment in time.

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." Jane Austen

I wholeheartedly agree. I believe that life is what you make it and I'm making it beautiful.

This picture is of my oldest clematis. It's been moved three times, but is now in it's permanent home. It is a testiment to learning to adapt. Each time it's had to move, there was a period of adjustment, but each time it successfully rooted, and grew stronger. Did you notice the handcrafted garden teepee? A mother's day gift from my husband and kids. Quite something. This clematis knows it's finally home and has celebrated by growing to adorn the teepee and blooming for weeks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Completely Distracted

The weather is beautiful, the flowers are in bloom, we have chicks, goldfish in the pond, corn is knee-high... There is so much outside that it's difficult to focus on the stuff inside. Unfinished projects, unread books, neglected blog... but I just cannot help myself, I'd rather be witnessing nature.

These hostas ring the garden area under the enormous walnut tree on the north side of our house. Hostas are terrific and these are among my favorites. Both varieties were splits from friends' gardens and as they are of the yellow green persuasion tolerate moderate sun. We have so many that this fall I may be stopping people driving down the road to share ;-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Storms and Stepping Out

My goodness but it stormed here this morning. Thunder, lightning, pouring rain. It was something to behold. I love a good storm, so I threw open the windows, shut down the computers and stood on the porch, until the wind drove me inside to shut windows, wipe down sills and marvel and the amount of water rushing out of every downspout. Mother Nature was definately putting on a show and I'm happy to say that all is well.

Our chicks, three weeks old today, are looking a little rough as the fluff makes way for the feathers. Yesterday was a big day for them as they ventured outside of their coop for the first time. Not all made it out, but most did, if only for a minute.
"Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become." ~uncertain

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Casual Garden

This is really the first place I've lived where I've had the chance to explore my inner gardner. I'm what you might kindly refer to as a casual gardner... I don't like weeding, I don't like fussy plants and I don't really have a plan. What I do have is an amazing husband who could 'poo-poo' my crazy ideas, but instead brings his own ideas and sense of adventure and jumps in with both feet.

Most of our gardens look the way they do because we chanced into something wonderful by saying, lets just try this. Mind you, it's not always sunshine and roses, but we've been married long enough that a cross word exchanged in the heat of rock wall building or dirt hauling is easily forgiven.

This year is our first without a major garden project, which is just a little bit odd, but really, really ok. I'm proud of the work we've done and am planning to spend time this year documenting some of the projects, perhaps thinking about next years adventure.

This picture is of our smaller pond, which is my husbands pride. The man hours required for hauling rocks is best not thought about, but the result is pretty awesome. The pond has two small waterfalls, which are not 'on' in this picture, and five goldfish, that survived the winter!

Here is my short list of gardening tru-isms:
Gardening is not for sissies... Even the casual sort must be willing to get dirty and sweat.
Not everything will survive... Hard, but true. Think 'Circle of Life'.
Be willing to fail... When you are willing to fail, there is great joy in the process. Even when you are moving something that you already moved once, or twice, or...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Voice
Shel Silverstein ~ from the book "Falling Up" (1996)

There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
"I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what's right for you - just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.

We love this poem in our house. If you haven't discovered Shel Silverstein or if it's been a while, pick up a book. You will never regret it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's raining!

I love the rain.

If you've read my previous posts, you might be thinking to yourself 'this woman loves everything'. Which is mostly true, I do tend to love more and dislike less.

This morning has become increasingly gloomy, as the storm covered the sun with clouds. Now the rain has started and I hope will stick around a while. I hear rumblings, but Mother Nature has her own plans... So we'll see.

Even the birds, which are chirping wildly just now, are enjoying this rain. We've had several warm clear days, so the rain is very welcome indeed.

I hope your day includes something you love :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last Day of School!

YES! Much like my children, I'm thrilled by the last day of school. Much anticipated and well deserved!

~ come summer, come summer, come quickly do...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Baker's Dozen

Our hens sat on about 30 eggs. Of those 14 hatched. One chick just wasn't strong enough for this world and passed yesterday. Of the remaining eggs, many were not fertilized, but some were that just didn't hatch. As we are not farmers, this was an interesting unfolding for my family. Knowing things can happen and witnessing them are sometimes very different. It was a blessing for me to watch my beautiful children experience the joy and sorrow of the hatching process. Hard, yes, but joyful, too.

A bakers dozen of fluffy tan wonders peeping, hopping, pecking, and scooting around the coop. It's just chicks becoming chickens, but my oh my, it's among the best things I've ever witnessed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Beginnings

Today, we have chicks. For three weeks, two of our hens have been 'setting' and today, the eggs have begun to hatch.

We noticed them in the afternoon and there were two, no three, then four, now six. We were fortunate enough to witness one chick crack through and unfold from the egg ~ wet, awkward and confused. Mama scooted the chick back under her and when it re-emerged it was fluffy and beautiful. Not the traditional yellow, but a soft warm tan more like their mama's coloring.

It's been a fascinating afternoon, filled with wonder and excitement. The third hen, who was not 'setting', has adopted two of the more adventurous chicks who wandered out of the nesting boxes. The chicks are still fragile and need the warmth of the mama hen for a few days.

As they were setting on a dozen or more eggs, each, there is no telling how many chicks we will have. Can't wait til tomorrow!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blackout fabric

The playroom is on the second floor and south facing, very sunny and hot. Not good for game playing, movie watching or keeping cool. So, long curtains, to replace the valances were requested.

As I wandered around the store looking at my options, I stumbled onto blackout fabric, which can either reduce or completely block sunlight (for those, like me, who'd never really looked at it before). There were actually lots of different types, but one really caught my eye as it is fabric on one side and sprayed foam on the other. And, also important to me, it is white on both sides. Although blackout fabric wasn't requested it became my top pick as it also reduces heat absorption!

I did a little internet surfing for sewing suggestions, and was surprised how little I found. So this project became one of trial and error. After much pondering about hemming the sides, finish hemming the top and bottom, how to hang, etc., I decided to make window shades that hang from tension rods inside the window frame. I decided this for a couple of reasons. First, total blackout wasn't really necessary for us. Second, I wanted the option of adding back the valance or some other curtain-ing in future. So creating shades seemed the best choice.

I decided not to hem the sides as every stitch creates a hole for sunlight to penetrate. Using the manufactered edge as one side, I carefully cut the other side to the correct width, thinking smooooooooth the entire time. It turned out suprisingly well.

I cut the fabric 3/16" smaller than the width of the window and 4" longer than the length. I folded the top and bottom down 2" and sewed a straight stitch with 6 stitches per inch. I sewed a small loop of elastic in the middle of the bottom stitching line. We purchased a long length of wood called lattice, cut it to 1/2" shorter than the width of the shade, and slipped it into the bottom pocket. We put cup hooks in the top center of the window frame. The elastic loop hooks onto the cup hook, allowing sun and breeze into the room. The wood in the bottom of the shade, adds weight, keeping it in place in the 'down position', but also keeps the shade neat and tidy when it is hooked up in the 'open position'.

For anyone else who might be thinking about a project here are my recommendations:

Use a heavy weight needle for wovens. You need to puncture the backing cleanly, but not leave such a large hole that the thread won't fill it in. There was some discussion, on the net, of the type of thread to use, but I used what I had, which was all-pupose, and it turned out well.

Use a walking foot if at all possible. It makes all the difference. I tried several, including a roller foot, and the walking foot is super fantastic. It was the only foot to keep the fabric from shifting.

Do not use pins, use clips of some kind to hold your hem in place. I used some office clips and pulled them off as they approached the needle.

And that is all. Some very careful measuring, smoooooth cutting and 8 straight seams later and the playroom is all happiness :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

I love the library!

I have always loved books, as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid reader and so am I. Books have a smell all their own and a really good book smells of knowledge.

My earliest favorite book was 'The Snowy Day' by Ezra Jack Keats. I remember reading it over and over in kindergarten. I could feel myself inside this book. Feel myself track through the snow with Peter as he adventured. It was magic.

Lately I don't have as much time for reading, but have found the most amazing thing at my library. Needless to say, I love the library, from the feel, the look, the stacks and stacks of books to the technology and the people who run it. The library is filled with mystery, adventure, exploration, excitement, learning, knowledge...

Anyway, back to the amazing thing I found at the library, it is called a Playaway. It's a recorded book, but in a small MP3 type player. Simple, only has the one book on it with just a few buttons to operate it. It's a book on tape, only current. Being a true bookworm, book lover, bibliophile, I definitely prefer to hold the book, feel the paper, smell the binding and read myself. However, this little invention is perfection for books I know and love. I'm currently working through Jane Austen!

To be certain, this is not new technology, but to me it is and I'm excited. I've been grocery shopping, gardening, and marathon cooking, all with the sounds of Jane Austen's heroines filling my ears. I'm keeping up with other goals and still feeding my soul with beautiful words.

So, if you need me, I'll be sewing some new shorts to go with my new blouses (see previous posts), listening to Elizabeth Bennett struggle against her love for Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Custom Fitting

I'm a curvy girl. When I find something that fits my bust it swirls and balloons around my waist. If it fits my waist, probably won't get it buttoned, or if it is a knit, then I get that oh so attractive concave horizontal pucker line. This is not a good look for anyone.

This year, I decided to figure out how to fit a blouse to my dimensions. There are lots of good books on the subject. I suggest looking at them all until you find the one that speaks your language.

You can also buy patterns that help you customize, but my biggest problem with these is the lack of pictures. To understand how to modify a pattern for a larger cup size, I needed the pictures to definitively show where to cut and widen, etc.

But, learning from a variety of sources is good. I'm glad I tried all the books and patterns I could find because, I've done it! I've produced a custom fit, no gappage, no puckering, blouse. I sewed it with a combination of french seams and flat fell seams, so there are no raw edges. Which sound very complicated, but isn't and leaves the inside as beautiful as the outside.

This went so well, I've moved on to a second and a third. I've also just about finished a dress from a pattern that fit my waist and just altered the bust so it will fit properly. And... with the knowledge I've gained, I altered three knit shirts I bought at the store to fit my waist. I'm pretty happy, can you tell?

Have I mentioned that taking good pictures is not in my skill set? No, well it isn't. This picture is of the first blouse and is intended to show you all the interesting points with this shirt: if you look closely, there is decorative stitching around the collar, a french seam joining the sleeve to the shoulder, a flat fell seam on the side, and the elastic in the sleeve was sewn directly to the sleeve with a wide zigzag, eliminating the need for a casing.

If you haven't tried custom fitting, think about it. Although it is time consuming to study and figure out what is right for you, the results are so worth it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A purse for a sweet birthday girl...

I am currently hooked on purses and this is my latest attempt. It's for a sweet birthday girl who is very feminine and will appreciate the glam I think.

The body is made from the crazy quilt style of piecing. I added some decorative stitching, beads, ribbon, and fancy yarn to embelish. I ignored the rules of convention, so there is cotton, satin, denim, glitter and synthetics and so very many shades of blue. In the end, the colors and variety of fabrics create texture and interest, making the purse very happy indeed.

Unexpected events...

A family member passed away last month, somewhat unexpectedly. Every person in your life is there for a reason. Sometimes you know why while they are in your life, sometimes you figure it out later.

As with every death, I find myself a little confused. The swirl of emotions, the inner reflection, the attempt to understand, the healing. I've been turned inward, trying to deal with the confusion, but it's time to open up again.

Tears have a wisdom all their own. They come when a
person has relaxed enough to let go and to work through
his sorrow. They are the natural bleeding of an
emotional wound, carrying the poison out of the system.
Here lies the road to recovery.
-- F. Alexander Magoun

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Whatever this day holds for you, may it be blessed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Favorite Things....

These two, simple beaded chains are among my favorite things. A friend had a new, really cool anklet a couple of summers ago, and I had the envy. So, sitting at my kitchen table with the beads I had, and much trial and error, I finally settled on the tiny colorful glass seed beads. They reflect light like crazy, are dainty enough for an anklet and I had hundreds of them. I decided to make the anklet long enough to go around my ankle twice. I like the movement of two layers.

A short time after, I found the glass cross with the embedded floral pattern. I know this has a name, but arrrghh... I can't remember it. Anyway, the funny thing is, the anklet can be a bracelet, wrapped three times around a wrist. And, it can also be a necklace. And the colors of the flowers in the cross match and it makes a terrific pendant.

Because I liked the short version so much, I made a longer version. Long necklace, three wrap anklet, five wrap bracelet, double wrap short necklace. All worn with or without the cross.

Simple, versatile, fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Totally Awesome Burp Cloths

A friend is about to become a grandmother for the first time! Luckily for me, it gives me an opportunity to make some great baby stuff. Searching around the net, I found this tutorial here . It's a great tutorial and a terrific idea! So simple, yet so useful. Best of all they are pretty, washable and super soft!

Thank you Jill for sharing the pattern and allowing me to post the link. Her blog is awesome... Go visit!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Be the spark...

Ecclesiastes 3:1
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

The spouse of a co-worker passed away this week. She'd been ill for a while. At the funeral, the pastor talked about her illness, the effect it has on the patient, the family and friends. Then he talked about his perspective. How he saw not the illness, but their faith, in God and each other. He saw the love they shared. He saw the opportunity for everyone around them to see faith and love in action. He said he'd never once felt sorry for them. Distress, sadness, compassion, yes certainly. But never pity.

It was a powerful sermon and I'm grateful for it. I'm grateful for my friend. I am grateful for the chance to see another perspective.

There is no reason to wait until you are in the midst of tragedy to be the love or to be the faith that will shine for others to see. There is a quote running rampant across the net: Be the spark, especially when it's dark (Mike Dooley).

The important part of that quote... Be the spark!

1 Corinthians 13:7
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


In March, two of my nieces celebrated birthdays... One is at the beginning of her adult life. So many choices, so much opportunity. I made a pin with symbols of things I wish for her... love, happiness, adventure, knowledge, excitement, security. ** Forgot to take a picture, dagnabit

The other, who is much younger, received a sweet little denim purse to hold all her treasures. I added her name to the embroidered flowers on the outside because it's always good to have stuff with your name on it :-) Inside are some happy frogs.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Friday!

I'm planning a girls day out today. It's going to be great! Probably a little shopping, a little lunching, hugs, tears, shared stories and a lot of laughing. Perfect for a Friday.

Wishing you a Happy Friday!

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shamrock Purse :-)

Recently, I found some really yummy orange fabric, that is to become my summer purse. There isn't enough of it to experiment so when I make it into a purse I need to know what I'm doing. And, I want to create my own, from design to embellishment. So, I decided to use some of my stash of bargain bin mystery content fabrics and this is the result.

I started with a drawing on paper, with notes about measurement and ideas. Then I began searching through the fabrics. When I found the scrap of shamrock fabric, I knew this could be fun. I paired it with a solid green, from a bargain bin. Originally, I wanted it to be reversible, so while the shamrock is repeated on the top inside, there is a different more casual fabric on the bottom. Due to an incorrect measurement, discovered too late in the fusing process, reversible is no longer possible. I knew I wanted to try beaded handles - I do love a good bead. The curvy top I have seen several places recently and really liked. Boxed bottom, for stability and to achieve the fluted shape I wanted.

I learned a lot. Several things that did not work and several more that did. I'm not quite up to a tutorial, but this is what I learned that is worth sharing, I think:

Double sided stiff fusible interfacing is the bomb. It gives the purse structure, but is still soft to the touch.

Sometimes, bargain bin fabric will not adhere to fusible interfacing.

Beaded handles are sparkly, but not all that comfortable.

Under the heading "Not intended for this use": Oval cord elastic and an old button make a right fine closure. Book rings, from the office supply store, are terrific substitutes for d-rings or other purse hardware. Bead findings stitched to the side of the purse, can hide necessary stitching to fix the measurement problem and be very decorative.

Under the heading "Reuse, repurpose, rejoice": The clear beads on the handles were two of a set of three Christmas bracelets on clearance in January. The ribbon is a sort of twill tape that I saved from a Christmas gift.

I had fun and I'm pleased with the results. My youngest said, with a touch of awe... "It looks profesional." Which is a terrific compliment!

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Life is as good as you want it to be...

I believe that life is good. I believe that happiness is possible for every single person. I believe that we can all achieve whatever we want.

It's easy to fall prey to the talking heads. They fill the TV, newspapers, radio, magazines with doom and gloom and make their fortunes on our fear. You're too... ________ (fill in the blank). No matter how you fill in the blank, the message is clear: you do not measure up, you are not good enough. But that is not truth, that is fear.

This attitude of fear is spreading. At work, at church, at school, in a restaurant, in the checkout line -- the talk is fear, negativity, sorrow.

I have found myself being affected by all this negativity, despite my absolute knowing that life is good. Have you ever noticed... when you are looking for bad, it draws it ever nearer, and you find it everywhere? But, when you no longer look for the bad, it slips farther and farther away?

I am taking back my happiness. I decide how I feel; I evaluate what is right for me; I will not allow others to tell me to be afraid. Right now, this minute and every minute going forward, I'm in charge of me.

Yet another lovely Irish Blessing, from me to you...

May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Favorite Book

A little off my theme of the week, but...

I rarely read a book more than once. There are three main reasons for that: First, I like to be surprised when I'm reading. I don't like formula books, much, because once you know the author, you know what is coming. Second, I'm not the sort who wants to memorize a book. I prefer to absorb and remember the essence or flavor or feeling of a book. Finally, there are just so many unread books waiting for me. So a book has to be really, really something for a second read.

This is one of those books for me. Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Soltice. There is just something about this story that really speaks to me. It is not in any great hurry, nor does it have spectacular special effects or a neatly packaged moral. It is a gentle unfolding of some genuine, interesting characters and their life events. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Irish Clip - Are you sensing a theme this week?

Well, how could I resist? The themed beads, the chance for a new clip, weakness for all things Irish...

I may have mentioned it before, but I really like these clips. Movement, sound, sparkle... All good things in my book. I made this one a little longer, to accomodate all the different beads and add few non-themed beads for balance. I like the length. Such a happy discovery.

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

Also in honor of St. Patrick's Day, a recipe for yummy bread. Like all recipes I can only tell you I think it delcious. You will have to try it to find out.

3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted

Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. It is a very wet batter. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes at 325 degrees. It is done when a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs, like a cake. Let cool 10 minutes in pan, transfer to wire rack to finish cooling. If you leave it in the pan, it will be moist on the bottom.

I actually make it year round, not just St. Patrick's Day :-) It's quick and easy and tastes even better on the second day.

Hope you enjoy it as much as our family :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Sewing :-)

My husband's family is Irish and I'm a wannabe, so in honor of the upcoming holiday I made chair covers and place mats :-)

Our chairs are classic 1950's with metal frame and padded vinyl back and seats. They've been well loved, but are the most comfortable chairs, so I spruce them up with covers for the top. Some are holiday themed and some match the kitchen. (The chair cover is folded up to allow viewing of both sides of the place mat.)

To make the chair covers fit our chairs, I laid the chair back down on a piece of newspaper, traced loosely around the shape. I then cut it out 1/2" from the traced line, for seam allowance, (except the hem, which is a 1 1/2" longer than the traced line.) I cut out two pieces, sew around the outside, press the hem and sew it. Simple and quick!

The place mats, are three layers of muslin, sandwiched between two coordinating fabrics. One is themed, the other in a pin dot, but I added a shamrock I cut out from the chair cover fabric. Because I planned to fray the edge of the place mat, I left the raw edge of the shamrock and stitched around the edge about a quarter inch in. I added the shamrock to the pin dot first, stacked the fabric, pinned and sewed a 5/8" all around the outside. Snipped around the outside and washed to enhance the fraying. It measures 14 x 18.

Both projects are quick and easy. I warn you, if you haven't tried fraying before, it's addictive.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Home Made Ice Pack

Fair Warning: I am not a medical professional. I am not recommending treatment of any kind to anyone. I do not take responsibility for anything that might happen to you, your family, your pets, or your possessions.

My kids are athletic. They occasionally need to ice this or that. After trying to work with frozen peas and other homemade remedies, or commercial packs, I've found something that works great for us.

We use equal parts water and rubbing alcohol in good strong zipper seal freezer bags. I put one cup of each into a gallon bag, sealed up good and tight. Then into another gallon bag, sealed up good and tight. I slip this into a simple open ended bag made from a towel, for when the super cold is too cold against the skin.

The alcohol keeps the water from freezing solid and you end up with a stiff slushy concoction that molds to your injured body part.

As I said, it works great for us. Some people are concerned about the toxicity of the alcohol (hence the warning at the top), but my kids are not so little anymore and I don't have this worry. Plus, I've tried all the non-toxic or low-toxic stuff I could find and nothing works as well for us.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Blog on...

Okay, so it's been a busy week. Spring break, events to attend, roof repairs, busy time at work... You get the idea, and I'm sure can relate. Because it's been busy, I haven't been posting and I miss it. It's not like I've kept this blog all that long, but I really missed it.

Today, one of my children competed in a large group contest music event. We, of course, went to listen. There were dozens of schools competing. These young musicians are pretty amazing. They work hard for weeks and sometimes months to perfect their pieces, then stand in front of several adjudicators, and perform, nerves and all. Wow.

We are currently enjoying warm breezy weather. I sat outside today after our group's performance enjoying the sun, the breeze and the scenery.

Conversation, laughter, whispered secrets... High fives, hugs, hand shakes, fist bumps... Strolling, hand holding, running for the bus... Celebration, disappointment, frustration, patience, excitement...

Love is all around us and we've only to open our hearts to see it.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I learned to sew from my mother, who didn't love it and my grandmother, who did. Funny as it seems, I learned more from my mother. One important thing, perhaps the most important, I didn't really understand at the time.

My mother didn't waste time because she didn't enjoy sewing. The quickest way to be done is to get started. That kind of attitude is very freeing. You don't worry if it's the right fabric for the task, if you have the right color thread, what to do when the pattern calls for a 9" zipper and you have a 7", or if your skills are up to the task. You just go for it - with what you have right now and it seemed to work out.

I was drawn to sewing, but I wanted perfection and would get frustrated and set it aside for periods of time. But, I was drawn to it and kept coming back. In time, I learned to love sewing, but only when I gave up trying to make what I thought other people would think 'perfect'. Perfect is in the eye of the beholder. Only when you create for your eye can you achieve anything close to perfection. This is the thing I didn't understand at the time, but realize I learned from my mom's approach to sewing.

So, thanks to my Mom, who didn't love to sew but taught me anyway, now I can't imagine my life without it. It is soothing, and satisfying in ways that I'm not sure I can fully describe.

I recently re-discovered this book, a gift from my grandmother in the 70's, who recognized the seamstress lurking deep in my soul, I think. It was way over my head at 10, but was a great resource. It was pretty fun to read through again. Amazing really how much useful, good information this little book contains. It's a three ring binder, with tabbed sections like 'layout and cut a pattern'; 'tailor a jacket'; 'fit your pattern'. Thanks to my mom's mom from whom I received my sewing gene.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Reflections on Growth Opportunities...

It's quiet in the house right now and I'm enjoying the time to poke around on the Internet. From the first time I discovered it, to this day, this minute, I remain in awe of the world wide web. What an amazing gift!

I loved being a student, from the very beginning and never grew out of it. I still get excited at back to school time, even though I'm not enrolled in school. Someone else said it, better than I, but the more I know, the more I have to learn. Sometimes I go where the whim takes me, sometimes I go where I think I have the most 'growth potential'. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

These days, the net is one of my favorite tools to expand my universe. Such easy access to any topic imaginable. Last fall it occurred to me how little I knew of the 'cyber community', some of which, I'll be honest, is scary for me. Along with all the great, wonderful stuff, there is some that is not. But, being afraid is very often a sign of a 'growth opportunity' for me, so I've been pushing myself to explore.

Last fall I joined a 'social networking' site, something you hear much negativity about, and was a source of concern for me as a parent. It's interesting, fun, and yet another way to connect with my children. And, turns out, in the millions of other people on that site, are several members of my family and lots friends from all over.

One day in January, I was looking for a new lunch bag for work. (Okay, really, I've been looking for a new lunch bag for some time. But that could be an entire post of it's own, so I'll leave it for later...) I searched the net without much luck and finally decided to enter the unknown and look at some blog entries. Till this point, my only experience with blogs was the one our Pastor used to follow updates on a building project or mission trips. I had a huge OhMyGosh moment. From one site to another, I was blown away by the creativity and fun shared so generously on these blogs.

It's amazing, truly amazing (do you hear the angel chorus singing?) what is out there. I just want to say thanks to all the bloggers for sharing their stories. Like the books in the library, I'll never get to the end, but I will have fun trying :-)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Realigning my creative space...

My oldest took this picture of our Bleeding Heart, in April 2008. It gives me hope. Spring is coming.

I live in an old house that was built around the turn of the previous century. It's had its share of add ons and remodels, leaving it quirky.

My creative space is one of those parts of the house that's been remodeled by every owner. It's been a porch, a bedroom and a den (all before our time). When we moved here my husband said it was for me and I thought "Who am I to argue?". So, I have a small quirky space that until recently has been called 'the Craft Room'. But, I've decided to rename it my studio, for a lot of reasons, but partly because it makes me smile when I say it :-).

I make a lot of gifts, especially at Christmas and the studio was looking a little ragged. So this morning I decided to treat myself, and everyone else who looks in, to a tidy up. Or what I dubbed 'realigning my creative space', which is more accurate and more inspiring. Now it looks like a studio... organized and creative.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whim to Woo Hoo! aka Blue Bag of Happiness

Last night I decided on a whim to make a bag to carry stuff back and forth to work. I've begun working at home one day a week and there always seems to be something to transport.

So, I went into my 'studio', which is what I'm now calling my 'craft room' cause it sounds glamorous ;-)

In November '08 I became the proud owner of a new deluxe embroidery sewing machine. For the previous 12 years, I'd been using a very, very, basic machine that could no longer maintain a tension, or feed consistently. So, much researching and dreaming later, I purchased a new machine. And it does just about everything, except make dinner. I can't tell you how it's changed my creative life. Every day is an adventure in just what it can do. Tools are critical to results.

Okay, back to last night. Want a bag. I went into my studio, sat in the sewing chair, spun around to look at the fabric choices. Let me just say, this is my favorite way to sew. No plan, no pattern, no deadline, just free thinking. So after considering all the choices, I decide on the robin's egg blue twill -bright, happy, durable, washable. Now a lining... lo and behold, hiding in the scraps, left over from a niece's dress, 4 years ago, is the same color plisse with white flowers. It looks like spring and I could seriously use some spring. I even found a new pack of 'D' rings tucked in a drawer. Kismet!

I used white thread, for the white flowers on the lining and because I liked the contrast and thought it would show off the decorative stitches, but the wale of this twill is so big that the thread gets a little lost. It's subtle, rather than striking, but I like it. I put a pocket on the lining, from leftover scraps of the plisse, boxed the bottom, and made long handles to easily fit over my winter coat. Best of all, I was able to try new things, like the decorative stitching on the handles. My old machine did not have the power to stitch through four layers of heavy twill. Because I didn't have a real plan, nor a pattern, I just let it flow. It was totally fun and I'm pretty happy with the results. Okay, really happy.

In about an hour, I went from whim to woo hoo!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ripple Bliss

I am an avid fan of the Lion Brand Yarn website. Of course, I love the yarn, too. The best part of the website is all the extras. So many fun creative patterns, ideas, and tips. Just before illness struck, I discovered the ripple pattern dishtowel. Inspired!

What can I say... I love the ripple. Love, love, love. Enough to work on one when I felt pretty low down, and then another cause I liked the first one so much.

In my time I've made dozens, perhaps even hundreds of dish and wash cloths, but I never thought about making a towel. It's pretty, absorbent, and as it's 100% cotton it dries in a snap.

Yep, I'm a woman of simple pleasures (which I'm totally okay with), but look at it! Ripple Bliss.

Good! Good! Good!

I feel good today. It's the first time in many days I've been able to say that. I'm recovering from bronchitis. This morning, when I woke, my husband commented that I was smiling and to my surprise I was. I woke up smiling. How often does that happen? For me, a serious non-morning type, not very. After days of feeling blech, I awoke feeling pretty darn good.

Philosphers say you cannot know joy with knowing sorrow. Perhaps you cannot know good, without knowing blech... however, I'd like to try.

All I do know, right this minute, is I feel good. I hope the same for you.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Much to be grateful for...

This morning, I awoke to a tender gift from my sweet husband. A bouquet and home made heart shaped cake. So much love in the hand lettered "Be Mine".

Heartfelt words from my oldest who is away this Valentine's Day.

And sweet hand made cards from my youngest, secreted down when no one was looking.

I am ever grateful to love and be loved.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love's all you really need...

I like Valentine's Day. I like to make a fuss for my family with something special for dinner and turning the dining room into a heart-fest. Hearts hanging from the ceiling, heart confetti sprinkled on the silver tablecloth, iced tea and milk served in champagne glasses.

These heart coasters are the most recent addition to the table top. I found a potholder pattern on the net, but used thread instead of cotton yarn and voila... Coasters. They measure 5 1/2 by 4 1/2 (not counting the lashes of the eyelash yarn). The eyelash yarn is two strands held together and single crocheted around the outside.

Our kids are getting older and our Valentine traditions are changing. But, I'm still a sucker for hearts and for love and these coasters make me happy.

May your Valentine's Day be filled with whatever makes you happy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clips and children...

Okay, it's fair to say that I'm totally crazy about my kids. They are pretty amazing people, talented, kind, compassionate, smart, loving, clever, witty. You get the idea. I know I am totally biased. But, as they are very nearly perfect you can understand my bias ;-)

I discovered these clips last year, when I was looking for graduation themed stuff. They have since become one of my favorite bead findings. I don't really like traditional pins, but do like a little sparkle on a jacket or coat. I like movement and these clips facilitate that. The clip, while not particularly beautiful, easily and securely attaches to collars, purses, book bags, jeans pockets. It dangles and sparkles on whatever I clip it.

This clip is in honor of my youngest, who plays basketball. The white beads are actually alpha beads and spell my star's name. I included the school colors and some beads that reflect what an athlete brings to the game.

I'm in the process of creating a collection of these clips... Greens, blues, pinks, reds... Not to mention Christmas, Valentine's... At what point does a collection become an obsession? I'm on the lookout for music beads as my oldest is a musician and I definitely need a clip for that!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Cover!

Okay, it's fair to say I've recently been obsessed with this color combination. Black, white and lime green. But it's also fair to say, it's rockin'.

Today's foray into sewing happines is a book cover. Except for the high school book covers of paper bags, this is my first attempt. It's a good first try, but I think for the next one I make I may use a stretchy twill or other stretchy bottom weight fabric cause it's pretty snug and requires much figeting to get it on. But once it's on, it looks... nice!

The bookmark was a recommendation from another, and is sewn into the back flap. I added the bead dangle, cause I enjoy beading, and even a book cover will benefit from a little sparkle.

The only downside is that now I'm hooked. I need more covers to fit larger sizes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chicken on the roof

We have chickens, which we free range. One rooster, and three hens - all bantams. They are new, since summer 2008, and still a novelty. Chickens are pretty entertaining, believe it or not, so it's possible more chicken stories will follow.

Ours do not like snow covered ground. Driving rain, no problem. Frigid temps, okay. Gusting wind, totally fine. But snow covered grass, no way, no how, not happening! They've spent a lot of time inside in the past few weeks, but yesterday a small ring of grass encircled casa chicken and out they came.

The rooster and two of the girls are pretty tight, moving around together. The third hen is more independent, sometimes with the group, sometimes following her own song. Yesterday's song took her to the roof of the garage, where she spent several minutes in the sun and wind, moving up the roof, to get a better view I assume.

High, yes, especially for a bantam weight chicken, who cannot fly very long distances. Slick, yes, steep pitch, high gloss, metal roof. But, the sun was shining and the roof is black, so it must have been warm. After weeks of near zero temps. Not to mention, the view from way up there!

So, while the others were milling around, she had an adventure...

Follow your song!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tidy up and other creative pursuits...

Every once in a while, I'll hear a phrase or slang or catch word, that instantly becomes part of my everyday language. Sometimes it drifts away as quickly as it arrived and other times it sticks for good.

From a friend, with an Irish mother, comes the phrase 'having a tidy up'. I'm charmed by it. Much better than cleaning! Somehow funner.

So today, as the sun is shining and the icicles are melting away, we are having a tidy up. There is something about a tidy kitchen that makes my world just a little more right.

Surfing the net recently, I discovered a tutorial for making a change purse. I thoroughly enjoy reading and seeing how others create. Although I don't need a coin purse (thanks to my sister who gave me a totally perfect one), I was inspired to 'tidy up' other aspects of my purse.

The tissue holder is simple and eliminates the noisy rumpled plastic the tissues come in. I love a quick project! Nearly instant gratification. And it went so well, and looked so good (oooo, that doesn't sound very modest) inside my purse I decided to make a check book cover to match.

I am working on another organizer, to hold the myriad of small things that gather in my purse... chapstick, eye drops, lotion, sanitizer... It's still in the planning stages, though, so best left for another day.

I am feeling especially hopeful today. It has been a long cold winter and it's just February 1st. The warmth of the sun brings the promise of spring, which I will hold on to as winter will surely show itself again before the season ends.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Today is my husband's birthday! He is pretty terrific and we are going to make a fuss!
Happy Birthday best hubby! Love you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Scissor Happiness

I like to sew, bead, crochet, and what not. Very often I need small scissors to clip a thread, yarn tail, paper. Are they around where I can find them? Nooooo...

After years of hunting around for my scissors, inspiration struck... Okay, I saw someone with a lanyard on TV , but I like this better.

If, like me you need a little help keeping track of your scissors, here's what I did. On one end is a clip that I can clip to my shirt. On the other is a lobster claw that is big enough that it will fit over all of my small scissor handles, even the cushy rubber covered ones.

Between, on .7mm stretchy cord, is an assortment of beads in an orange theme. I used jump rings and crimp beads to attach it all together. If you are a beader, you know the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

From tip of claw to tip of clip, it's 11.5 inches. It hangs down pretty far, but that way I can leave it clipped while I'm using it. And, the stretchy cord helps me get just that much farther.

The beauty of the lobster claw clasp is that I can use it with various scissors, or take it off if I want. Don't know if you can tell, but I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. And so far... I can find the scissors when I need them!

In the beginning...

Well. This is probably a momentous occasion, so I should say something befitting, but probably won't. Here's hoping this is the start of an adventure! The name is from one of my favorite quotes, excerpted from Martin Luther King, Jr. "Stick with love... hate is too great a burden to bear."