Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve Eve

Somewhere in time when my kids were younger, a Christmas greeting just seemed necesssary on the 23rd of December.  I think it just added to all of the excitement building for Christmas Day.  So around our house on this day, everyone was greeted with "Happy Christmas Eve Eve".  It made us smile and giggle to say that.  We still say it; and because I think everyone needs to take some time to smile and giggle today, I will wish each and every one of you a very "Happy Christmas Eve Eve" as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Chickens

I must admit that my little etsy shop has been a bit neglected over the past months.  But in trying to restock, and bring a little bit of life back into it, I have created a little Christmas family of chickens to give it a bit of a spark.  I have so many ideas of things I would like to make and sell; however, they usually just sit quietly in the design stage of my mind.  Recently though my workshop has been waking up from its dry spell, and so I would like to introduce you to Jolly, Joy, and little Jingle.

They promise to add a bit of fun to any corner of your current Christmas decor, as well as make a delightful gift.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Music

Each year on the day after Thanksgiving I start playing my Christmas music.  I like nothing better than spending the entire Christmas season listening to it.   Over the years my collection has grown quite large, as I never think one can have too much Christmas music.  My children are quite familiar with my liking, and this year two of my daughters presented me with a start of the Christmas season gift -- yes, a new Christmas CD:

 I have seen this particular CD for the past couple of years, and as I would have expected from Celtic Woman, it is very nice.  And what is even nicer, everytime I hear it I think of my thoughtful daughters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods

Thanksgiving Day brings a wealth of memories to my mind.  Some of the earliest are actually hearing my sweet dad sing "Over the River and Through the Woods" to all of us in the car as we crossed the prairie on our way to a nearby town to spend the day with my grandparents.  I can remember the wonderful aroma as we walked into their house, and the table, with all of its leaves in place, set beautifully with grama's pretty crystal glasses.  While waiting for dinner, some of my siblings and I would take turns spinning in my grandparents' chairs that actually were just meant to swivle; however, one could get them spinning around at a pretty fast clip.  And I might add, we were never once told not to do it.  It was just part of the fun of being at Gramp and Grama's house.  My grandfather would have a roaring fire in his fireplace that, compared to my small size at the time, seemed like it must have encompassed an entire wall.  After we had enjoyed an amazing feast, it was time to make my grama's glasses "sing".  The memory is still so vivid in my mind of us sitting around the table talking, when someone would dip their finger in their water goblet and begin to rub it around the edge of the glass until a tone began to play.  We would all then join in the fun of making Grama's glasses "sing".

It is kind of funny what kinds of things stick in a kid's mind, and even carry on into our grown up years.  When my kids were younger, and we would travel to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, I would sing "Over the River and Through the Woods" to them.  It just seemed like the right thing to do while traveling to their grama's house.  Nowadays we have Thanksgiving at home, my kids are older, and I just sing the song in my own mind; however, at the end of dinner when we are all sitting around talking, someone, usually my son, will dip his finger into his water goblet, and begin to make my glasses sing.  I still always join in because it just seems like the proper way to end a Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Vanilla Experiment

Real vanilla is a must in my kitchen.  I haven't bothered with the imitation variety for years, and some of the best vanilla I have used has been gifts from Mexico.  Their vanilla seems so much purer than the types found locally.  I typically purchase mine at Costco since their price just can't be beat.  But recently, I have been reading articles on making your own vanilla.  I'm always up for a fun experiment so when I saw Costco recently selling vanilla beans, I decided to give it a go.  After reading many, many articles on this particular topic, I finally settled on this basic method.

Of course first, you need vanilla beans.  As mentioned above, I purchased mine at Costco:

With the Costco package you get two vials with 5 vanilla beans in each.  And just as a totally unrelated side note, the vials are really cool, and I'm determined to find a useful purpose for them.

I just used pint canning jars for my concoction of vanilla.  My choice was pint jars simply because I have a lot of them on hand.  In each of the three jars I poured one cup of vodka.  And then I placed three vanilla beans in each jar making sure that the beans were pushed down below the top level of the vodka.

The jars then found a home on one of my pantry shelves that remains in the dark, unless of course I need something off of that particular shelf. 

To help the process along, the jars need to be shaken a couple of times a week.  And look here, after just one week, it is starting to look like vanilla:

I read varying reports about how long this whole process takes.  The times varied from 2 to 6 months.  I will probably lean more toward the 6 months, as it only makes sense that the longer it sits, the better flavor it will have.

The only regret I have is that I didn't start this 6 months ago.  Wouldn't it be fun to give homemade vanilla in cute little bottles as gifts for Christmas?  Maybe next year if this works out.

I have one lonesome vanilla bean left over from my original package so I have great plans to make vanilla sugar with that.  I will have to let you know how that works out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shoebox Time

When my children were very small, their grandfather would give each of them money to go buy little gifts to fill a shoebox for the Samaritan's Purse shoebox ministry.  It seemed like it would take a couple of hours for me to take all four of them through Target with their little lists in hand of the things they wanted to put in their boxes.  They loved doing it, and the time spent in the store, adding, re-adding, and adding yet once again all of the items in the cart to make sure they had stayed within their budget, was truly a blessing to me.  Seeing their little giving spirits wanting to buy gifts for children they didn't even know was a very sweet sight to see.  My kids aren't small anymore, but we still enjoy taking part in this ministry.  In the beginning we would use actual shoe boxes; however, now we use the small plastic boxes because it just seemed like it would be fun for the recipient of the box to actually have a nice container to keep all of his/her goodies in.

Some of the favorite things we like to put in ours are:  a small baby doll for a little girl, small trucks for boys, plastic farm animals, play-dough, stickers, art supplies, bracelets, hair barettes, socks, candy, toothpaste, toothbrushes, school supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks, and erasers, hair brushes, combs, cute bandaids, lots of candy, a small stuffed animal, hats, gloves, and little rubber duckies.  When we are all finished packing the box -- which really takes a great deal of skill to make everything fit -- we then sprinkle little hard candies all around in any open spaces.

One year my youngest daughter thought it looked like such a fun gift that she said she would like one.  So that year for Christmas I put together a box just for her, and she was thrilled.

The collection week this year is November 14-21st.  If you aren't sure where to drop off your shoebox, you can look at their website to find a location near you.  And now the shipping boxes are scanned so once they have been delivered, if you would like, they can e-mail you to let you know which country your box went to.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Apple Harvest

A couple of years ago, I posted about our apple tree which my son grew from the seeds of an apple that he had eaten.  Each fall I keep an eye on the tree hoping for a good harvest.  To my delight, this year I have had just that.  The other afternoon I went out to the tree and started picking, and filled up an entire large basket, as well as part of a plastic bag.  Now to many of you apple harvesters out there, this might not seem like many, but to me it was a lot.  To actually be able to go out to my own tree, pull up a ladder, and pick more than a dozen or so apples was such a treat. 

After picking the apples, I immediately went inside and started making a pie with them.  And of course the pie was to be for my son, now grown up, that planted those little seeds so many years ago.  He came over for dinner and I was so happy to be able to serve him a pie out of his very own apples.  We all took a bite, and to my disappointment the pie really wasn't very good.  The apples were still quite firm, and there just wasn't  much of the good juiciness that usually comes along with an apple pie.  The problem was that I have no idea what kind of apples they are; because really, who would keep track of the type of apple when your 7 year old son wants to eat an apple and plant the seeds to grow his very own tree.  And who really expects that the tree will someday actually grow and bear fruit.  But I'm not giving up, I have enough apples to experiment with them, and plan on trying another pie by cooking the apples first (which I have a recipe that calls for just that), and there is always applesauce. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A New Friend

I have a new little friend.  He is a squirrel that sometimes makes his little presence known around our front yard.  I don't see him very often; but occasionally when I go outside to sit in the sunshine, I will hear him scampering through the tree above me.  One afternoon after hearing him scurry around the branches, I decided I should befriend him by leaving him little treats.  So each morning (well I really try to remember each morning, but some days I do forget) I place 6 unsalted peanuts in various spots amongst the branches of his tree.   He found them in short order, and they were all gone without even one little shell left behind.  I think at first he must have thought it very unusual to find peanuts growing from a maple tree, and so he took them all home to add to his winter stash.  But now, he sees that those peanuts just keep appearing, and sometimes I see a couple of empty peanut shells on the grass where he has decided it will be okay just to taste one before he takes the rest home.  He will not allow me to take a photo of him just yet, but maybe some day.  I need to give him a name, any suggestions?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Random Gifts of Cookies

One of my daughters recently had a birthday that fell on the same day as one of her volleyball games.  I made cookies for her so that she could hand them out to her friends after the game; however, in the rush of everyone wanting to leave after the game (it was an "away" game, and the hour had gotten late), the passing out of the cookies never happened.  So we brought home the cute little packages of cookies:

Another daughter placed them all in one of my red mixing bowls so that we would have a place to keep them until they were eaten.

I found that having the cookies pre-wrapped as little gifts was actually a wonderful thing to have around the house.  So many instances came up where a random gift of a little cute bag of cookies was the perfect thing to give someone to brighten their day. 

I had found these little plastic food container bags in the Wilton baking section of I think WalMart.  I don't know exactly how many came in the package, but there was a very generous supply.  Combined with two cookies to a bag (I used the Originial Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookie recipe), and some cute ribbon that we just happened to have, they were so easy to put together. 

I think I will be laying in a supply of these little cookie bags, and make it a now and then habit of making cookies for the sole purpose of passing them out to others just to see them smile.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This time of year I find myself with bits and pieces of down time while watching volleyball games, sitting at the orthodontist's office, or even waiting for my daughter to finish one school subject so we can begin another.  During those moments, I enjoy working on a quick and easy knitting or crochet project.  It is sometimes amazing at how much can be accomplished when you only work on it 2 minutes here, or 4 minutes there.  Dishcloths are one of my favorite little projects to work on because they don't take much time, and before you know it, you have a cute little pile of functional items either to give as gifts or to replenish your own supply.  There are a wide variety of free patterns all over the internet.  I'm not sure exactly where I found this pattern, but it is one of my favorites.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Volleyball and Apples

Volleyball season has begun at our house.  This will be the second year that my youngest daughter has played, and she really loves the game.  She works hard at her practices; and in her down time at home, she loves to work on her serves out in the back yard.  And it just so happens that I have a small apple tree in this very same back yard.  My neighbors gave it to me several years ago, and it has never produced any apples.  However, this past spring I counted 25 blossoms on it which gave me great hope that it might bear fruit this year.  When the blossoms withered away, we counted three apples on it.  But one day during serving practice, the volleyball headed directly toward my apple tree, and promptly knocked off two little apples.  I think this was such a fluke that even if I had told my daughter to aim for those little tiny apples, she never would have hit them.  But in the big scope of things, I would never have traded seeing my daughter out working hard at improving a skill and enjoying herself for those apples.  Besides, I still have one left on the tree, and now I know that it actually can bring forth apples ----- maybe next year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seeing the Unexpected

A couple of evenings ago, I was heading outside to turn on my sprinkler.  It was getting dark, and as I came out my front door, I noticed what I assumed to be a medium sized black dog in our driveway.  You see, it was just dark enough where you can see close up, but some things just appear as shadows.  I told the supposed dog to go home, but as the shadow came closer and more into view, I couldn't believe what I was looking at running loose in our neighborhood, and actually in my driveway.  It was a pig!  A small black pig!  At first I was quite speechless, and when it spotted me, it quickly ran on through my driveway, and out into the road.  I had to follow it because I was still a bit dumbfounded.  As it ran next door into my neighbors' yard, I heard someone calling, "pig, pig".  I realized that obviously this was a pet, and not a wild pig of some sort.  I whistled towards the calling, and told him his pig was over my direction.  He soon was at my house, and explained that somehow the pig had escaped from its pen.  He then called the pig once again, and it was so funny to see the pig running very fast towards its owner.  Apparently they have two little pot bellied pigs as pets.  I didn't have my camera with me, but this is what it looked like:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Annual Chocolate Contest

If you read my previous post, then you know that the beginning of our local fair started at somewhat of a downturn for me.  However, I know that along with lessons needing to be learned in painful ways, God also blesses us with victories.  So this week when I entered my annual entry into the Mayor's Chocolate Extravaganza Contest, I was happily surprised with a first place ribbon.  Apparently they liked my mini chocolate spice cakes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lessons Learned

Today starts the beginning of what we call "fair week".  Technically our local fair doesn't begin until Wednesday; however, for kids in 4H it has already begun.  The fair to the 4H kids is like the culmination of all of their hard work they have put into their projects over the past year.  They get a chance to enter exhibits of the different things they have learned, and receive ribbons recognizing their hard work. 

This past year I decided I would help out in my daughter's 4H club, and offered to lead a gardening project.  Besides my daughter, there was only one other girl in my class, which actually made it easier for me as a first time leader.  It gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet with two familiar faces.  But as it turns out I not only got my feet wet, but basically sunk to the bottom of the lake as a leader this year.  I had read the requirements for a different gardening project than the one I taught the girls.  So yesterday when exhibits were to be entered into the fair, they had the wrong exhibits for the project they were entering.  You can imagine how terrible I feel.  They were still able to enter the exhibits, but will only receive a white ribbon as they obviously won't get all of the points since they entered the wrong project.  Fortunately my daughter laughed and thought it was funny.  So I think perhaps I am the most disappointed since I was the one that technically "led them astray".  But fortunately, I have a very dear friend,  who just happens to be the mother of the other girl in my class, that was extremely forgiving and understanding.  She reminded me that this will just give us something to laugh about in the years to come.  At least this wasn't the only project that the girls entered, so they have other chances to enjoy their successes. 

I also realize that I'm not the only one in the world still learning lessons.  So I thank my God for all of the lessons He teaches me, even the ones that have to involve other people.  And while I am learning my lessons, the world keeps on turning, and the sun still continues to shine.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Glory in the Morning

Outside my front door, I have two built-in planters that I like to fill with zinnias.  And tucked in with the zinnias, I really like to have some morning glories growing.  They are usually volunteers, but over the years, I encourage them to "volunteer".  They just seem to fill in any blank spots, and besides that, I am simply fascinated by morning glories.  A delicate flower, blooming profusely in the morning, yet when the sun gets a little hot for them, they close up tight until the next morning. 

This morning I thought they were so lovely that I had to take a few pictures.  I love the way it appears that a bright light is shining right through the center of the flower, even though the picture was taken in the shade.  God's glory can certainly be found anywhere we look.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trailer Cuteness

This past weekend, the Funky Junk Sisters held one of their famous Junk Salvation shows right here in my hometown.  It was a very fun show, and I ended up coming home with a couple of vintage dress patterns and a set of vintage dominoes -- they are a necessity don't you think?

As this was my first Junk Salvation show I was surprised by what greeted us outside the building.  Three very tiny vintage trailers all decorated up very cute.  This one was my favorite:

Of course I had to step inside, and this is what I found:

I thought this was so cute, and immediately thought how I might do something like this in my vintage Airstream; however, I just don't think the boys in my family would quite appreciate all of the frill.  So for now, I will just enjoy looking at these pictures.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Enjoying the View

It is hard to imagine that August 5th is already upon us!  My oh my what has happened to the summer?  In light of this realization, I have decided that for the remainder of this month, I need to make a few "lazy days (i.e. moments) of summer" happen since they obviously don't just happen by themselves.  So recently I took some time in the afternoon, and stretched out on my outdoor swing for a bit.  Here is the view I had, and I think it is a most excellent view to say the least.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Farmers' Market

Due to circumstances beyond my control (a very long, wet spring), I do not have a garden planted this year.  Instead I decided I would just frequent our local farmers' market from time to time.  Besides being a fun thing to do on a Saturday morning, it is really enjoyable to wander past all of the stalls seeing all of the vegetables, flowers, and crafts that everyone has been very busy with.  This past Saturday I brought home carrots, onions, and tomatoes.  Still a little early for cucumbers, but I'm hoping they will be arriving on the scene soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Red Tulip

I like tulips, especially red ones.  Red ones remind me of my dad because those were his favorite.  But tulips seem to come and go so quickly each year.  Depending on the weather, some years they last longer because of a cooler spring, or if hot weather arrives too soon, the tulips just don't seem to be able to take the heat, and disappear for another year.  I now have a red tulip that will last all year long thanks to my son.  He is very talented when it comes to working with metal, and he made this flower for me.  I just love it :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Being Thankful

If ever you are feeling like you have been short changed in the blessing department, I recommend taking a moment, looking around you, and truly being thankful to God for the little things.  You will be surprised at how quickly you will realize that you are really blessed.  A few things I have been thankful for in particular today are having fresh cherries to make into a pie, spending time with my daughters, and picking raspberries at 6:30 in the morning during a light summer rain.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cherry Season

I have been away for a bit -- away to spend a few days with my mom while my youngest daughter attended volleyball camp in the same city where my mom lives.  My daughter had fun at her camp, and I had fun with my mom.  We went out to lunch, shopped at antique stores, and stopped by my brother's house with an agenda in mind -- that agenda being to pick cherries.  He has a number of cherry trees, all of which are absolutely loaded with cherries this year.  While my mom supervised from a nice shady seat on their outdoor swing, my brother, sister-in-law, daughter, and myself all grabbed a bucket and headed over to his orchard.  Within probably an hour's time, we had picked a plastic tote box filled with bing cherries.  My brother estimated that we had picked between 50-60 pounds of cherries!  So needless to say, I have been spending my morning going through my big canning book choosing a variety of recipes to give a try today, tomorrow, and most likely the next.  Besides the bounty of bing cherries, we also picked a bucket full of Rainier cherries.  What are your favorite ways to fix fresh cherries?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Bags

Do you think a girl can really ever have enough bags?  One  might think so, but then when you least expect it, new inspiration comes along, and of course you can dream up all kinds of ways to put a new bag to use.  This has been the case at our house after my daughter received a copy of one of Amy Butler's newest books, Amy Butler's Style Stitches: 12 Easy Ways to 26 Wonderful Bags.  It is the type of book that I not only like to look through over and over, but I would also just like to sit down and make one of each bag.   Here is a picture of the cover:

Amy Butler's Style Stitches: 12 Easy Ways to 26 Wonderful Bags

 After enjoying each and every page of the book, decisions were made, and fabric purchased.

One bag is now completed with two more on the burner.  My daughter made this one, and I think it turned out really cute:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Love Seattle -- Part 3 of 3

One morning we got up early and caught the ferry to Bainbridge Island.  My parents called this island home when my father was stationed there in the Navy after World War II.  It is such a quaint little island.  I would really like to go back, rent some bicycles, and spend some time exploring.  We walked for as long as we had time for before heading to the ferry to take us back to the city.  Before leaving though we bought some sandwiches and drinks at a bakery so that we could have a picnic lunch on the return ferry ride.

And of course a trip to Seattle just wouldn't be complete without a stop at the original Starbucks where the coffee craze all began:

Finally, we made one last swing through the market before heading to the airport.  I'm so glad we did because all of a sudden we noticed one of the floral stalls selling sweet peas!!!  They were gorgeous, and I would have been content to take a picture and bring that home; however, my daughters decided they were each going to buy a bouquet and take a chance on the airport allowing us to carry them on the plane.  Being the prepared girls that they are, they just happened to have small baggies and rubber bands in their luggage.  We filled the baggies with water and rubber banded them to the flowers.  Right before we were to go through the airport security, they emptied the water out of the baggies, sent them through the security check, and immediately upon the other side, they refilled the baggies.  No one seemed to even balk that they wanted to hold them throughout our flight.  And once home, we put them in a vase, and enjoyed their beauty for several days.  It really was a perfect end to a perfect trip.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Love Seattle -- Part 2 of 3

Additional highlights of my Seattle trip were of course a visit to the Space Needle:

The weather was quite pleasant when we were at the top and we were afforded a nice view of the city:

We made time for tea and crumpets one afternoon .... very delicious!  I now need to find a good recipe for crumpets:

I have some very kind cousins living in Seattle that gave up an entire afternoon/evening to show us the sights that we wouldn't have otherwise been able to see on foot.  They took us to the Ballard Locks where we were able to watch some kayakers making their way through the locks:

Besides taking us to a wonderful little quilt shop and treating us to a delicious dinner, they also took us to a park where we had a different view of the Space Needle, as well as a nice sight of watching the ferries returning from one of many trips across the sound:

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Lupine

In my previous post, I mentioned how beautiful my lupine have been this year.  They are just now beginning to show signs that they will be finishing up their show in the coming weeks.  I have enjoyed them so much; and I have so many this year, that even as you walk by the house on the street, their peppery scent fills the air.  Lupine are truly one of my very favorite flowers of all time, and what a bright spot they have been during this very wet and cool spring.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy First Day of Summer

Wow, the first day of summer has finally arrived!  And believe me, around here it is a most welcome sight.  I just found out this morning that our local spring weather was our wettest in history; and believe me, I don't remember ever seeing so many wet, gray days all lined up one after the other.  Today however, it is a different story, and we have been blessed with sunshine and warm weather to boot.  On the upside though of having a wet spring, my lupines have been blooming non-stop for quite some time, and putting on quite a grand show at that.  Typically by now, they are just finishing up.  And my clematis, even though they are behind schedule, have just begun to show their pretty little faces.  Happy 1st day of summer everyone!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Love Seattle -- Part 1

For Mother's Day this year, my two oldest daughters gave me a vacation.  I think that is possibly one of the nicest gifts I have ever received.  The vacation took place a couple of weeks ago when I flew to Seattle, Washington, to meet them for three days of fun.  We stayed right downtown where we would be within walking distance of many venues.  After we ate lunch at Ivar's (a very famous fish and chips spot) on the water, we of course hiked over to Pike's Place Market.  A trip to Seattle just isn't complete without a stop here.

There are so many vendors, but what really caught my eye, were all of the flower stalls.  Pretty much as far as you could see there were fresh flowers for sale.  They were being sold in bulk or in pre-made bouquets at amazingly reasonable prices:

Nearly every direction that you looked ladies were carrying around bouquets that they had purchased. 

Many more vendors fill the market such as the famous fish mongers, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat, jewelery, t-shirts, etc; but in my mind, the flowers stole the show.