Thursday, December 22, 2011

the Spirit of Christmas

This year at Christmas is not the best of times. It is a little stressful, what with my new job venture not working out and me looking for a job at my age, but we'll get through it. I had been thinking about the season and that it is better to give than receive, because no matter how difficult it might be financially, there are always others worse off.

Tyler should learn about giving this year. That is what I told myself. Most of our neighbors are elderly. Then I got another one of the millions of emails about Christmas cookies and a lightbulb went on over my head.

Let me tell you that I have never made sugar cookies from scratch. Chocolate is more my thing, but Alton Brown's recipe seemed like a no fail plan for us, so I made a double batch.

Having made 2 trips to Joanns this week in between rain storms (EVERYTHING for Christmas is 70% off!!! more on that in another post) Tyler picked out a gingerbread man cookie cutter and big can of various red and green sprinkles, so the plan seemed made to order. We jumped in. Here we are rolling out the dough. We learned that it doesn't roll well right out of the frig, and not well after it gets too warm. And it requires a LOT of powdered sugar to keep it from sticking to everything.

Tyler loves learning about anything and everything. He wants to help all the time, even with sweeping and mopping, so he was very excited to use his new cookie cutter and the rolling pin. I was excited to get out my long neglected copper cookie cutters! 

Look at that effort!

This was a great crafty project to do with an almost 3 year old. The breaks we needed for baking and cooling of cookies allowed him to go play and then refocus. By the time we got to icing and decorating, he was still totally excited about it thanks to Claymation Christmas  (we have the whole dvd - a favorite)  and the Backyardigans.

Tomorrow should be a great day to walk down our little street and make gifts of cookies to the neighbors.

Hey, they might even want to leave these out for Santa!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pre-Christmas Activities

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas, friends! We are half way through December already, can you believe it???
Here's what is cooking at our house! We haven't had a Christmas tree in a few years. Now that Tyler is almost 3 it seemed wrong to not have one this year. He was SO excited to go with his Papa and Nana to pick one out and to help put it up and decorate. Christmas is a real thing to him already. The whole package. The movies, the songs, the baking, the lights, all of it. Childhood excitement about Christmas is what makes the holiday magical, if you ask me. And of course we are working on the concept of it being the birthday of Jesus.  

I took Tyler on errands yesterday and he spontaneously told everyone we saw "Merry Christmas!" He made a lot of people smile, including me.

Here is how you decorate a tree with a toddler boy. God bless his Papa (sore shoulders and all) because like me, he cannot say no to the grandson! If I had thought of it earlier, I might have made this photo into Christmas cards! Ha ha ha!  I can foresee a "Christmas Vacation" decorating team  in our future. Tyler with the ball of Christmas lights to untangle, Bryan overloading the electrical system. That is Bryan's favorite part of the movie - when the emergency switch has to be thrown to stop the blackout. It takes a former Navy gas turbine mechanic to appreciate the humor there. Or an electrician. Anyway...
I did not get the Advent calendar made in time to start the month. I told myself I would do it next year, but when Tyler started asking how long til Christmas, I knew I had to get this made, even half way through Advent. So here it is. It has a sleeve on the back and I found a magnetic curtain rod, so it is displayed on the back of our entry door! How cool is that? I am pretty pleased about it. No nail holes in the walls and it is out of reach.  This is a fabric panel from Makower fabrics that I have had for a few years. There are little pockets on and around the tree for gifts or tiny ornaments or what-have-yous. I plan to go out after Christmas for some major markdown ornaments that will fit in the pockets, and a small wreath to hang them on for 2012. For now, the remaining Advent pockets have candies and Hot Wheels. There is even a Scion XB Hot Wheel like my daughter's car!
While I made the calendar, my daughter and Tyler made their first gingerbread house together. Can you say sugar high? Tyler was eating the colored sprinkles by licking them off his sticky hands! When my kids were little we lived near this wonderful German bakery in Costa Mesa, CA. Every year they had gingerbread decorating days where the house was pre-assembled and you decorated it with what they supplied or brought your own items to add to it. When that was over, Santa showed up with candy canes and you could take pictures with him. It was fantastic! My kids and I had the best time there! Not having found something like that here yet, we were glad to find gingerbread house kits everywhere. I even saw a chocolate version at Cost Plus World Market. We don't have an IKEA, but we have Cost Plus!

My freaky camera created some interesting effects with the lighted tree in the background. I sort of like this ethereal image of Tyler, who begged me late at night to take his picture in front of the decorated tree. He's sort of the Ghost of Christmas Present, here, right?

I hope you are enjoying the countdown to Christmas too!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Little Baseball During Football Season

Tyler is an All Sports boy, my friends. He likes hockey,  football, golf, frisbee, basketball, soccer, but especially baseball. He got a tee stand and plastic bat set when he was a year old. He's only 21 months now, but he thinks he's ready for the major leagues already. 

He got a golf set then too (just the cheap $5 Walmart set) but that golf set has seen a lot of mileage. One club left, and it is a hockey stick, a pirate sword, an under the sofa ball retriever and any number of other things most days.  But the golf set, the basketball hoop and soccer set cannot compare at all with baseball.

This boy has never even been to a real game, but he loves it. Maybe in part because he's watched "the Sandlot" about 20 times. He could quote lines from the movie this past Spring. Anyone else have a 2 year old who tells you "You are Smalls, I'm Benny" when you go out to play?

And he really does not want to use the tee. He wants to take turns pitching and batting.

This weekend has been cold and windy and overcast, but that can't keep him from play. His pitch is very accurate, so look out, cause it might be coming at your head!

Notice the pants? Go Steelers! He has a Steelers shirt under his hoodie jacket too. He told me this weekend "I like Polamalu! He's on the Defense!" He may not understand exactly what that means, but it has helped him accept that our #43 is not on the field all the time for a reason.

It is so rewarding to be outside with a little one who is so enthusiastic about being active! I cannot wait til there are Little League games to go out to and cheer. No, I take that back. I can wait. He's growing up too fast already!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

O Christmas Wreath

I love making wreaths. It is really very simple, whether you use a straw base or one with artificial greenery, you can do what ever your imagination can come up with.

Here are some examples of past creations. 

I bought the foliage and straw base etc with my mom, then gave her the directions for creating this beauty for my grandparents. It is about as big as my tiny grandmother!

The second pic is the small wreath I hang out every Fall. There are silk butterflies on it and they are starting to come off the wires they are mounted on, so next Fall, I'll be replacing them.

To make one: purchase the long strands of silk leaves from a place like Michael's when they have their big discount sale, usually in August. Wrapping the straw wreath with the strands of foliage and using floral wires and wire cutters, one of these wreaths takes maybe half an hour. I stick sunflowers on stems and other items into the straw wreath base and wire them down separately. Sometimes a glue gun comes in handy, but you have to be careful not to melt what you are making!

Today I gave my Christmas a makeover. I made this one about 5 years ago and it had gold glass ball ornaments that have lost their paint and luster over time. I un-wired them and removed the ribbons that were wrapped around the wreath taking it down to the wreath I started with, plus the magnolia swags and the Cardinal bird ornament that hangs in the center. I just love that little Cardinal bird and his snowflake!  Last year a little finch tried to build a nest in the wreath.! I guess she liked his company.

I bought this heavy, very real-looking greenery wreath at Old Time Pottery. It is 3 feet across and the base of it is a double ring of strong steel. Very sturdy. Great for tying floral wire to and I know this wreath is going to last and not get bent or anything.

Initially I planned to put all plastic ornaments on here in place of the faded gold glass ones because they won't fade in the sunight of our West facing exterior wall, but I saw the cutest red glass ornaments that spell out J-O-Y and had to have them. Red plastic ones went on also going on. Red is my favorite color.

Here is the finished product. I reused the wires from the first version so I spent less than an hour on this. I hope I have inspired you to try this yourself. Do it with your kids or grandkids or friends! You could put stuffed animals, unusual ornaments, cookies, candy canes etc on it. Even a string of lights.

Next year I will be getting another wreath and assorted toy ornaments. I'll put a string of lights on it and hang it inside so that we can make it an Advent wreath, adding a new ornament to it every day until Christmas.

Happy December! Make it a memorable one!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Complete 180

My life is about to take a big turn. I am changing jobs. It will be quite a shock to go from the extremely easy and laid back job (where I actually kept my 2nd sewing machine and was a sewist on the clock) to a busy financial institution with a mandatory 50 hour a week schedule. But lets talk about Thanksgiving and the weekend first.

I remembered to take Before pics of the 2 turkeys, but totally forgot the After pics, so now you don't get to see any. Sorry. The whole dinner turned out really great, and my grandmother, who is 92 and weighs about 80 pounds, cleaned her plate AND ate pie!

Why 2 turkeys? Because I usually cook one big 23 pound or so turkey, but those were not available, so I bought 2 turkeys. One got cooked on the rotisserie and one in the oven. I like lots of leftovers when I go to all the trouble of making dinner for everyone. All day on my feet, chopping, cooking, cleaning, etc and then only enough left for one sandwich? No way. I send leftovers home with the grandparents, and then I expect to have sandwiches, casseroles, and the incredibly delicious Turkey Stew with Dumplings. Make this. You won't be sorry. Just add potatoes in with the carrots at the beginning and use frozen peas instead of green beans. And if you have some leftover gravy, add that at the end. That's my version of it anyway.

Here is Tyler making crumbs for the pie crust out of Ginger Snap cookies. What a good helper! He was so excited to use one of Papa's hammers, and then he was very serious about his work. What kind of pie, you ask? Double Layer Pumpkin Chiffon. The recipe is from a booklet by Bakers, Diamond and Jello brands, but I can't find anything online to link to. Email me if you want the recipe. I'll try to not take too long replying.

So on to Black Friday. I do not celebrate Black Friday the way most do. I refuse to join the frenzied, crazed masses at the mall. I don't care what a deal you can get, who wants to be trampled in the spirit of Christmas? But I did make it to the fabric store and of course THEY were having a sale, and these lovely red, black and whites called to me. These are getting added to the stash leftover from the Plan C quilt I made last year. Aren't they lovely? I'm drooling. I just love scrappy looks. And I poured through my Quilt magazines and came up with a great pattern. Do you find your pattern after you have fabric, like I do? I know that is backwards for most, but fabric is almost always my inspiration.

So, with this new 50 hour job, I do not foresee a lot of sewing in my future. Or blogging. Or blog reading. Or Facebook. This is a bummer because I have found so many wonderful new toddler art related blogs, and decorating blogs,.Some of the art blogs have invited me to link up. Isn't that just the way it always goes? I will try to keep up!

I have been very spoiled at my former job, but it is time to move on. Time to make some serious money while I can, and work where I have potential to move up in the ranks instead of just keeping a chair warm. Those of you who envied me the time to sew can now empathize with me. I'll be dreaming of sewing right along with you! I am a stay-at-home Nana at heart.

As much as possible I will be devoting my free time to family, so if a chance comes up, I will make new blog posts. Just know that they may be a lot fewer than you have seen in recent weeks.  Hang in there with me if you can. I love sharing about my grandson, my quilts, recipes and life in general. If I inspire one person to try something new, or value their time with children just a bit more, my time here has been well spent.

Take care! If I don't get to say it before then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year too!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inside and Out

This weekend was very busy again. As usual. In addition to continuing the bedroom makeover, Tyler was feeling great, so he kept us busy busy!

When I mentioned that I needed to paint some more in the bedroom, that gave Tyler the idea that he needed to do some painting too. Watercolor painting. We worked again on pulling - not pushing - the brush, rinsing it out between color changes, and who the paintings could be given to. He painted holiday related things like trees and pumpkins. He painted a scene from the book The Little Blue Truck. Then he was ready for other things.

I am glad I read about letting little ones make their own shapes and versions of things instead of showing them how to draw our way. Did you ever think that drawing the sun for them, or a person, might keep them from being creative? I didn't, but now when he asks me to make something for him, I ask him to make it for me instead. I don't want to limit how he might portray something as wonderful as a rainbow or sunset.

These days, we are all searching for economical ways to have fun and learn. What do you have at home that you take advantage of for other uses? Do you allow your toddler to see how things work and what outcomes are, in safety of course?  I have these heavy cardboard tubes that we usually put Hot Wheels cars through. Which one comes out fastest and goes the farthest in our tiled hallway? What happens if we elevate the tube to different levels? This weekend Papa (Bryan) and Tyler set up a ramp at the bottom of the tube.  Using ping pong balls and a super bouncy rubber ball, they saw that the balls shot up the ramp and all over the bedroom. Very entertaining! Just wait til that tube becomes a potato cannon or something in few years. I can see rocket launching in our future too. And erupting volcano school projects.

Since you may not know where to find a heavy duty cardboard tube, you can check at a local print shop, like the one we have here called Digital Now. Any shop that prints drawings for architects, engineers and contractors will have these tubes and pretty much give them to you free.

Daylight meant playing in the yard again. Soccer and tee-ball, drawing on the porch with sidewalk chalk.

There is nothing like a toddler to keep you moving! He gets so creative with the chalk drawings I am bursting with pride, and he is so good at pitching, his Papa can see him in the Major Leagues already. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I linked up to Living Life Intentionally's blog party

Last week I was invited to link up to this wonderful blog party  and I am invited back! I have to post more stuff about arts and crafts with my grandson, and this is a good motivation for it. If you click on the link, I am #153. I'm the dork that didn't rename the link to the title of my post, so it just says my name "Wendy P" as in poo. Oh well!

I am enjoying reading the posts others have linked to. I hope you will as well. There is so much possible to do and play in art with kids. There are so many do-it-yourself with-things-around-the-house ideas there, how can you say no?

I am a creative person. You probably already know that from reading here. I can't fall asleep some nights because I think about redecorating, remodeling, making quilts, learning to knit, what I can teach my grandson about art, etc.

When I was a kid, if I saw new crayons, colored pencils, fresh sheets of paper or a box of kiddie paints, I was excited. I wanted to draw all the time. I thought I'd be a fashion designer or interior decorator. I wanted to learn sculpture and watercolor and everything else art-related that I could. I got to take some art classes in high school.

 Sometimes our dreams have to be more reality based. Like using Play Doh instead of modeling clay. It is something you can do without language if necessary. The photo here at table is with my grandmother. Tyler's great-great-gramma. She doesn't hear well at 92, but she and Tyler can sit side by side and make dinosaurs, or eggs, or whatever comes to mind. (This is Tyler below, on the phone telling his grandma about the dinosaurs and what they eat.)

My daughter would like to pretend she's not very creative, but she made Bob and Larry of Veggie Tales. How cute are they? Don't they look like the real thing? That is talent right there. Tyler was so pleased to have Bob and Larry in his room.

Play Doh is also great for impressions. Learning about textures and reverse imaging, whatever you want to call it. It is learning while creating. What do you have laying around the house? A seashell? A beaded necklace? Cookie cutters? A plastic cup with a design on the outside? All of these are fascinating to little hands. We even used tools from the pumpkin carving kit just to see what design came out in the pancaked dough.

Don't have your own Play Doh? Make some! Here is a site that offers a lot of recipes for homemade dough! Oatmeal, Gingerbread, Pumpkin Pie? How about edible playdough for the season? Can't go wrong there when you have someone still in the Put It In the Mouth stage.

Next up? A Gingerbread or Peppermint House building and decorating day after Thanksgiving. I spotted both at Cost Plus World Market recently and must go back for them. (And their unique toy section!)

What is your art project today?


Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Etsy Shop is Open Again!
In a shameless plug for my own Etsy shop, which I just reopened, I am asking you to please look around and pass it on! I would love to sell my handmade things and have a little something for Santa to go shopping with this year. Wink. Wink.

There are more than quilts in my store! Aprons, baby items. If I do well, I will restock with other things.

Here is a picture of the gorgeous pine cone and bough quilting, best seen from the back of the patchwork twin quilt for sale now.

Thank you for stopping by!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Morning at Home Depot

Today was a great day! Tyler had his first experience with building something at the Home Depot Children's tables, which they set up every weekend on Saturday morning, and sometimes on Sunday too. Like tomorrow they will have the Home Depot NASCAR cars and trailers at our store and kids' crafts again.

I used to work at Home Depot part time, and at this store too, but this is not a promo for them. I do appreciate the wonderful thing they are doing for kids/families every weekend though. The little kits are free. There was no age restriction. Tyler is 2 1/2 and with my help and his Mama's we hammered together a picture frame, and then he got to paint it himself! Little foam brushes and plenty of colors to choose from. Hammers and screw drivers to use. No pressure. No one looking over your shoulder. And he gets to keep the little orange apron with his name on it.

Tyler, what is it with the squished up eyes when you say "cheese" lately??? You are hiding those beautiful blue eyes of yours, you silly boy.

I guess that qualifies as a promotion of sorts.It was just so great to finally see Tyler do this crafty thing. I have imagined him going there and making a bird house or wooden car or whatever is offered. I can't wait for next Saturday now. 

Here is Tyler and his lovely Mama, painting the picture frame he made. They added stickers to it later when it was dry. He is so proud!

Look at that little face in the picture frame! Such a cute clown. My son took this pic tonight. Thank you, Chris. Thanks to you and your wife Christy for coming over for dinner and a movie after my crazy day. Tamale Pie is always a winner. Salad made it better still. Next time we'll have more a lot more Cowboy cookies ready to eat for dessert.
You know, we went to Home Depot without any thoughts of this event. We were there for painting supplies. I have wanted to redo my daughter's room for more than a year. I love to repaint a room and make it feel fresh and new. If I could I would replace the carpeting in all 3 bedrooms too, but that is not in the budget. Paint, however, is so inexpensive when your spirit really needs a project to work on and you are a decorator at heart, right?

The paint chosen is supposed to be a light gray. I am trying to understand how painting over very pale yellow resulted in a lilac-ish gray?  When did yellow and gray ever make purple? Oh well. On to the trim and closet doors. Out with the tired, dry, chipped stained wood trim and doors, hello glossy and fresh white!

What? Pictures? Um, not yet. Of course I didn't take before pics! I was so busy getting things done, I did not think of it until I was on the 4th of 6 cans of spray paint in my blustery front yard. Trying to keep the closet doors from falling forward and wondering why I could no longer feel my index finger. Tomorrow I will make more progress and hopefully get some pics of the After at least! Oh, and wish us luck getting those closet doors back into their hardware and installed properly again. Not my forte exactly.


Friday, November 4, 2011

My Favorite Fabric Shops Online

Hello again. Nothing to report on the sewing front today. All those quilts in progress are still in progress. I hope I can call at least 3 of them quilt tops this weekend!

Due to yet another virus, I have not been motivated to do much, so those pics for the giveaway? Still not done. Tomorrow should be a good day for that. Between coughing fits. But enough about me!

I thought I would share some more on the shops I love to look at and occasionally buy from. Quilt fabric shops. Oh, I would buy from them every time I stop by, if I were a rich girl, but usually I am just Windows Shopping and drooling and sighing. You know what I mean, right?

First up is Hawthorne Threads. (Right now they have a $5 flat shipping rate!!!) Not only do Charlie and Lindsay have a fabric bundle giveaway every week, they have a nice newsletter and an awesome blog, and most importantly they stock the coolest, cutest, most adorable and awesome fabrics! Just take a peek at the selections! Their site is wonderful and very easy to use. I have not found a quilt shop site as useful as this one, EVER. You can easily look at individual designer lines, childrens fabrics, home dec, new arrivals and coming soon fabrics, themes, Japanese imports, and the stuff that is on sale. There are patterns and kits too. And that is not all. You can see other colorways and coordinating colors on the same page as the fabric you are looking at. They make it too easy! They restock all the time.If they are out of stock on what you want, input your email address and they will let you know when it is back in stock. And the shipping? So fast, your head will spin! The perk I really like here is that if you've made something with a fabric they carry you can post a pic to share with others. To me, this is very helpful. I can see the scale of the print and get ideas for projects. Purses, totes, kids clothing, etc. And I can share what I've made to help others get ideas too. The guitar jacket and the giraffe print pants on Tyler are all from Hawthorne Threads. Tyler likes them so much he had to wear them at the same time! ha! Here is a link to their blog as well. You will be lost there for hours, so get a yourself cup of tea and enjoy!

Next up is my recommendation of the Fat Quarter Shop. They also have a blog you'll really enjoy, the Jolly Jabber. I love to read interviews with fabric designers! Book reviews are there too, and tons of lovely pictures of projects and fabric lines. The Fat Quarter Shop is where you want to go for all the current big lines of fabrics, like Fig Tree Quilts. And who doesn't love Fig Tree Fabrics? Do you like to do Block of the Month clubs and Quilt clubs? They have tons of them! This shop is where you want to go for the latest, most popular lines of fabrics, and they sell out quickly! Their shipping is also quick.

Last up is a place you can go to find deep discounts and fabrics that are hard to find other places because they were released many months ago. Thousands of Bolts  is just that. Their prices average $5 a yard or less, with quilt back wide widths that are also very low priced. Their site is a little tedious to look around at compared to some, but I like that I can shop by color, and that there are holiday themed sections. Shopping at Thousands of Bolts is more like being in a shop in person, because you have to look around a bit, but you will definitely leave with bargains. About half of the fabrics in this quilt were from stash, and the rest came from Thousands of Bolts after one trip around their black, red and white fabric sections. I was thrilled with the cost and the shipping. You will be too.

Just to be clear, I am not getting any kind of reimbursement or other compensation for telling you about these shops. I am sharing out of the goodness of my heart and love of fabrics.

Don't forget to turn your clocks back this weekend!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Just Because ( a not so girly post )

Maybe it's because cool weather is here to stay, or because my poor little BooBoo is very sick, or because my Steelers are kickin' a$$,  or because I've been pretty lucky this year with winning prizes from other blogs, but I feel like passing it along. The good luck of winning, not Tyler's germs. Want to win something?

>> Random picture of the grandson from more than a year ago!

I am thinking of doing a giveaway. Anyone interested, please leave a comment. I have a stack of fat quarters and also some patterns, all of which I won this year, and I would love to pass on my luck. Show of hands, if you are interested!

I hope to get pictures taken over the weekend to post here, just so you know what is up for grabs.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 21, 2011


I have about 5 quilts in the works right now. A tshirt quilt (my first attempt), a fall Snail's Trail variation, a Birds in the Air quilt in fall colors, a value quilt, and the almost finished Bali Sea Star from Kim Brackett's book Scrap Basket Surprises. This is a picture of the just completed blocks. I made them in 2 days. Not bragging, just saying that when you are excited about something and have the time, you can accomplish a lot. I love that all this is from stash. The remnants of 2 different Bali Pops and dark chocolate brown yardage!

I also have Picnic, from Kim Brackett's second book done and ready to be quilted, and a small hour glass that I think needs borders before it is finished. That makes 7. I will not mention all the UFOs I could be completing. Let me just say there is a ton of flannel here and it would be very appropriate to do something with it now that cooler weather has arrived, right? 

This is Picnic, before I assembled the top. I get so excited to share my progress that I don't wait til they are quilted and bound. Because who knows when that will be...

 Here you can see the Birds in the Air in progress.  I found the pattern in an older issue of Quilt magazine and realized it can be used with layer cake squares, which I had! Loving the use of my scraps and stash again. And who doesn't love a Fall quilt??? I just have to figure out what to use for the setting triangles.

Have you been stalling over a new technique? A pattern that is out of your comfort zone? Give it a try anyway! I'd love to hear what you've learned on your own in quilt making.  

This is the value quilt I have started. I wish I could be in a big city with lots of quilt classes to join, but I'm not, so when inspiration strikes, I go for it.  This is the first arrangement. I have since redone it 3 times. I still don't think it is right, but I do like it. Again, this is stash, except for six 1/2 yard sale purchases of light and dark fabrics, because as predicted my stash is mostly mediums! If you want to see where I found the tutorial for making a Value Quilt, see SewKatieDid's blog. And she has a new book out called Quilting Modern. (That is another avenue I have not explored that is looking more and more interesting lately. ) There are no actual quilt shops here in Pensacola. There is one a few miles away, but their calendar of classes is missing from their site last time I looked. When I saw the value quilt on Katie's blog I was stunned. Katie's quilt is awesome, and although I knew my stash was not in the pastel range like hers is, I wanted to try this. I want to learn and stretch. There is a lot I still don't know.

I realized the other day that every quilt I have worked on this month is made with triangles. I used to LOATHE triangles! You may be like me, without a group to sew with, or not able to take classes, but you can still jump in a try things on your own. What have you got to lose? At the very least you are going to learn what not to do, right? That is what I tell myself every time I start something I am less than confident about.

On the other hand, I have to confess to being a quitter in one area. The 14 people who actually read my blog have probably figured out that I abandoned the Farmer's Wife Quilt Along. I wanted it to work out, but it just is not my desire to pull my hair out at this point in my life. Those teeny tiny templates, and paper piecing options, etc etc did not do the trick of bringing back my enthusiasm. C'est la vie!

What I NEED to do is start the Advent Calender. And make the flannel pajama pants before Christmas is here!  What are you working on?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Easiest Pot Roast You'll Ever Make

Okay, busy moms, listen up! You read my post about Little League Nights, right?

I know the boat you are in. You work all day, and you want a dinner fairy to get things on the table for you and do the dishes afterward. You'd like the house to be warm and smell incredible after your long day. There are sports, homework and many other chores ahead before you can rest, right?

I can't help you with the dishes, but I can give you a very crowd pleasing, too-easy-to-be true recipe for WEEKNIGHTS.

Have you got a frozen 4 or 5 pound chuck roast? A can each of Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Celery soups? An envelope of Brown Gravy mix? You are ready to go with this one!

Before you leave for work, place that frozen roast in a 13 x 9 pan. Pour the soups on top of the roast, then sprinkle with the gravy mix. Seal foil over top of the pan and put it in your oven on 200 degrees for the day. Abracadabra! When you get home you have a tender, juicy roast, swimming in delicious gravy. All you need to do is whip up potatoes (or rice if that's your style) and steam some veggies for the side and put it on the table.

I throw fresh sliced mushrooms in with it while I make the potatoes. The gravy will be hot enough to cook the mushrooms during the half hour or so that you'll need to peel, boil and mash potatoes. And yes, you have my permission to take shortcuts with the potatoes too.

Bon Appetit!

This photo was borrowed from Internet photos are always so much better than mine!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Weekend Update

Well, despite being sick this weekend, I refused to be bedridden, so I more or less stuck to my planned outing schedule.

We skipped the glass pumpkin sale at the Belmont Arts and Cultural Center, and it is just as well. I read that they sold out in an hour and a half. All would have been gone by the time we got there anyway! Disappointing, but I have told myself I have nowhere to put one of these at the moment anyway. I'll get one some year! Someday I'll have a whole collection. Maybe.

What we did make it to was the Panhandle Butterfly House's Monarch Madness event. There are pics posted on their Facebook page if you are interested. You could think of this as an East Coast version of the Monarch butterfly events in California's coastal communities. My aunt lives in "Butterfly Town USA"  Pacific Grove. If you ever get a chance to see the migrating monarchs on the West Coast, it is something. Huge pine trees covered in resting butterflies.

Our version is not a huge thing, but this not a major metropolitan area.  Kids can release a newly hatched butterfly into the open, where they hopefully will show up in Mexico (or thereabouts) with the sticker still attached to show where they came from.

Most kids around here were probably at the Corn Maze. Or a peanut festival or rodeo of some kind. This is NOT the big city by any means! However, our butterfly festival was crowded enough for the tiny parking lot and buildings. Tyler was more enamored with the rented Bounce House than anything else. Once he spotted that, he no longer cared about any butterflies or bugs, hot dogs, balloons, etc. But it was a beautiful day and we had fun!

Then we headed north to Milton, where there is one of the few remaining L & N Railroad depots, for their West Florida Railroad Museum Depot Days Celebration. They had a really nice set up of remote controlled train sets in a garden area, which they surrounded with a ride-able child size train. Another big hit with Tyler. They circled the garden area 4 times and he was so good about keeping his hands in. The older boys in the back were trying to pick up rocks on each pass, and I was holding my breath that no fingers came off.
Life in a sort-of-small town. Not overdone or too crowded. Free! Educational, and perfect weather to be outside. You can't beat that.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Layered Taco Bake Casserole and Life

Sometimes even I don't feel like cooking, but people must be fed, so I flipped through a Kraft Family Food magazine and came up with one of those "hey, I have all this stuff on hand!" recipes. I fancied it up a little with healthy additions of drained canned tomatoes with oregano and green chilies, and a drained can of black beans.

The recipe can be found here.

The really nice thing about this dinner is that it made enough for 2 nights, with steamed broccoli and carrots on the side both nights. Score!

These kinds of recipes remind me of the Little League nights. I had a full time daycare at my home back then, and somewhere between getting most of them out the door with their parents, and making it to the practice or game field in time, I had to have some kind of plan for dinner. And if you are a parent with kids in sports, you know that dinner is usually after 9pm those nights, and everyone is trying to thaw out when you get home.

The recipes where I could dump cans of stuff together and let it cook while we were gone were the best. Even if it sounds less than healthy, I always made sure it was full of vegetables. Southwestern Turkey Soup, Tuna Mac Casserole, anything in the crock pot, we were sure glad to get a hot meal in us before bedtime!

Do you have a quick casserole or soup you use on week nights?

Those rushed, really crowded days and nights were some of the best with my kids. They may tell me how they didn't like sharing me (and their toys) with a house full of toddlers, but those were the years where I planned lots of fun things. Crafts, outings, parties. They loved them. We lived in Southern California near an old world style Bavarian village and we would go to Oktoberfest there. We lived near a German bakery that hosted gingerbread house decorating at Christmas with a visit from Santa at the end. There were swimming lessons at the local college pool, across from the Little League fields. In Spring we'd find a creek and capture tadpoles to raise in fishbowls. And so many trips to the beach each Summer.

Good times.

Are you one of the sports parents this time of year? Enjoy it while you can. Those years go by so fast. Before you know it, the kids are teenagers!

The late Steve Jobs said: "have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” This is so true. Especially with your family. Make them important. Cherish the everyday things. When you stop being busy and spend time with your kids, you are helping them feel confident and you can watch them find their creative side, what inspires them, what they love to do.

Technology is great, and no disrespect to Mr. Jobs, but turn off the tv, your cell phone and Ipad, etc and be with each other. None of us knows how short our time is, but we all can make the most of every minute.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Stylish Giveaway

Tatertots and Jello's blog is spotlighting a cute clothing company for girls and women, called Downeast Basics. There is a GETAWAY Giveaway involved! Who wouldn't want a free vacation??

Check out the cute clothing and accessories, follow a few rules, be signed up for the drawing!

Here is a link directly to the online shop. (  I want this sweater!  )

That's it for now!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I totally forgot to share the latest finish!

I'd like to introduce "Around the Block, a Variation" featuring the popular Simple Abundance line by Moda. I think it was Bonnie and Camille's first line.

Nancy, my quilter, did such a great job, especially making feathers fill the setting triangles. Having had this mostly together but in the WIP pile for over a year makes it seem like I dug up an older photo, but no! It is a newly quilted and bound finish!

Don't you just love those scarlety reds that Moda comes out with? Three Sister's Glace has another lovely, rich red like this. You'll be seeing that in December,when my Key Holes quilt is done. Christmas gift to me!

Both "Around the Block" and "Keyholes" are from the book of the former name, by Heather Mulder Peterson. She makes such lovely fabrics and patterns. Her decorating taste is awesome. You must check out her blog Trends and Traditions. PS That girl can also knit on a professional level!

How is your fall season coming along? Doing any baking yet? Baking (and cooking) when the weather cools off is my glory and my downfall. So far I have made an Apple Pear Crumb Topped Mile High Pie, and a huge loaf of Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread, and a hearty Beef Vegetable Soup. That is only the warm up. Oh yes, I will be churning out lasagnas and Cowboy Cookies and Pumpkin Chiffon Pies very soon, to the delight of my husband, my kids, grandson, and anyone else who is around.

Making things for Christmas? I have not even started Christmas THINKING, let alone making or shopping! I need to get that Advent Calendar together pronto! I don't know what happened to September, but it went by much too quickly!

See you back here again soon!