Monday, November 30, 2009

Decorating Help from the Kitties

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, I like to be an early bird. Decorations were put out and moved around off and on all weekend. It looks like some of it will be packed off to Goodwill. Even though I cleaned out some of it a couple of years ago, I apparently didn't go far enough. I really want to refine the collection.

I purchased a new Christmas tree skirt after the holidays last year. I sure do love it. and Apparently, so do a few of the "babies". They have all been taking turns cuddling up under the tree. The skirt is beautifully embroidered, appliqued and quilted. It ties with a series of bows, which unfortunately, I had to tuck under. Emmy decided the ties would be loads of fun to chew on.

This tree is actually decorated. It looks pretty good further up. We have to resist the urge to hang ornaments from the bottom branches - it's way to tempting for our "babies". Many of our previous ornaments have lost their lives in kitty soccer ball games!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bonfire of the Vanities

A bonfire is such fun! Thankfully the fire department did not have to be called for this one.

We had a good bit of wood from cleaning up around the property. The fire was set with pile 1 - the smallest pile. Burn regulations require that piles be 6 feet or less.

We moved wood from the taller pile to the smaller one as it burned away. It sure did get hot around the fire! This photo shows both piles getting pretty small.

We also had a trailer piled high with more wood. Thankfully, help arrived. Linda and Nancy brought Jack and Jonce. Sarah was with us while my sister and brother-in-law went to a wedding in New Orleans. They were all soooooo much help!

Having their help meant that others could settle back for a bit and supervise.

It wasn't all work. We had contests to see who could pull out the longest branch. We roasted marshmallows. Sarah liked hers very well done - charbroiled. The kids still seemed to have lots of energy so they had a few races through the field. By the end of the day, all the wood was gone and everyone smelled like smoke. The adults were pooped. Everyone seemed to have had a good time. It would have taken so much longer without so much help and it sure wouldn't have been as fun.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Drape Dilemna

What in the world can I do with all these windows? Our family room and dining room has a long expanse of windows. It was a wonderful idea except when it comes to window treatments. I plan to make drapes, but it will cost a fortune. I've been using sheets which I can later use for the lining, but that's getting old.

I hung a bunch of fabrics around today just to get an idea of how different colors looked in the room. It's pretty obvious that with the wall color I have, I'll need a color with some pop to it - no whites or tans or creams - nothing safe. It looks like I'll be stepping out of my comfort zone.

Everyone who saw the fabrics fell in love with the red, including me. That fabric is perfect. It's Stonington Vintage by Waverly. Unfortunately, that scrap is a bit old and I can't find that fabric anywhere. I suppose I'll be on the lookout for something similar.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Visit From Judy and Steve

Judy and Steve came by this afternoon. It was so good to see them. Steve is such fun and always in a great mood. And Judy has been a VERY VERY good friend since 1973.

Judy had a bag of goodies. She is an amazing knitter. She made a wool hat for Rudy and socks for me. She made a washcloth, too, because she knows I love them. Washcloths are my biggest accomplishment as a knitter at this point. And I certainly use them - they are the best for doing dishes!

She also brought tons of roving for me to use in my felting. Plus, she gave me some felting needles and a felting book.

Judy and her daughter, Emmy, also love to felt. The mermaid, bear and monkey in the picture are things they've felted.

I am seriously worried about my thought process. I didn't take any photos of Judy and Steve. Last night I didn't take any photos of Susan. I am placing full blame on my lack of sleep.

Jennifer's Play

Yesterday I went with my good friend Susan to see her daughter Jennifer in a play - Still Life with Iris. Jennifer is a musical theater major at Shorter College. She is incredibly talented and such a sweet girl.

Susan and Brenda and I rode up together. Susan drove - she is no doubt the only one of us who could have stayed alert and energetic into the wee hours.

She had tons of friends and family there to see her. There were 22 of us who ate dinner before the play. We had a great time. It was a late night. It was so late when we got back from Rome that I just stayed at Susan's for the night.

I can't believe I didn't get a single picture with Susan in it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yo-Yo Mania & Betz White Kleenex Boxes

It didn't take but 2 yo-yos by hand to realize that I wanted the clover yo-yo maker. I found them at Hobby Lobby and bought two.

I've set up a basket (that my cats hopefully won't find too interesting).

I made 5 rather quickly while watching a little TV. The cats decided they would make excellent soccer balls and that just won't do. I remembered seeing a wonderful candy jar filled with fabric yo-yos on Bunny Hill's blog. I found a less attractive jar to put mine in. It will do nicely for now.

On a side note, Betz White, felter and craft-person extraordinaire, has her designs on 4 holiday Kleenex boxes. I bought 2 of them at Target. They are cute-cute-cute and will remind me that earning a little extra money can be fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fun Day in the Loft

The clover felting tool really works well and it's such fun. This could be seriously addictive!
I didn't do much with it - just put a couple of scraps together and punched away just to see what it was like. It was enough to know that I may soon be a candidate for felters anonymous.

After getting my felting fix, I move on to redesigning a walker bag. This time I played with tie straps. That worked out great - now it can be used on a walker or a wheelchair!

The pocket embellishments were a little more creative this time. On one side two yo-yos and a button were layered. It turned out nice. On the opposite side, the pocket was trimmed with fringe.

This bag also had 2-inch sides. Side panels are a bit more trouble and I'm not sure if it truly makes a difference in terms of usefulness.

Even though the bag is lined, it isn't quite as sturdy feeling as I'd like. I either need to stick to thicker fabrics or put in another layer. Another thing that bugs me is the pocket should have been a different fabric than the base. Unfortunately, there wasn't any that suited me for this purpose in my stash.

Even with all my criticisms, this bag still works fine and will hopefully make someone happy. But my quest for the perfect walker bag design is still on.

Wonderful Yo-Yo Pincushion

I'm so easily distracted! I've been dreaming up ways to add a little pizazz to my walker tote bags (which I've decided to continue making). I need more wool pieces before I have enough to do a wool bag with felting.

I came across something I had made with fabric yo-yo's and immediately knew that would coordinate well with some of my fabrics. Plus, it would be fun. I went to the computer and began looking through the world of fabric yo-yo's for inspiration. One thing I came across was this wonderful pincushion on the Simply Handmade blog. Ohhhhhh. How fun would this be!?!

Another good find - Lallee's Cottage has a good video showing how to use the Clover Yo-Yo maker, which is apparently a big hit in yo-yo land. She got my attention because she has an ironing board cover just like mine.
We both got them from Hestia Houseworks. I can't tell you how much fun is it to iron on a brightly coloring ironing board... especially after years of using an old basic silver cover.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dish Drainers & Rose Cuttings & Felting

Kitchen counters with very little on them look sleek and wonderful, but they aren't always the most efficient. I like to keep a dish drainer by my sink. It's not the most lovely thing to have on display, but it's quite useful. To make it a little more attractive, I use trays. I am on the watch for different trays to use with each season. I have been looking for a fall one for a few months and finally found this one. It won't see much use this year since it's almost time to switch to a Christmas one. I'm thinking I need to replace the white drainer. Red would be fun. Silver would go with more trays. Or maybe I will have several colors! Fun!
We put out a few knockout roses this year and they are really doing well. My uncle once showed me how to root azaleas by placing a branch on the ground in contact with the dirt and weighing it down with a rock. I am trying that with one of the rose bushes.

I am also rooting a few in pots. They are in a sunny window in the loft. Hopefully, I can put them out next spring. It will be interesting to see what works best.

Another blazer has been dismantled and felted. It was a Pendleton blazer and the colors are pretty. I only got a few decent size pieces, but the smaller pieces with come in handy for embellishments.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Upcycling a Blazer & Winter Tomatoes

I love the term upcycling. It sounds classier than recycling when referring to crafts. I hope my results turn out classy. At the very least, the process should be fun & interesting.

I'm learning to felt. I'd like my felting materials to be upcycled. As a starter, I found a red thrift store blazer. I was on the lookout for anything all wool in fun colors. I had hoped to find sweaters, but all the wool sweaters today were dreadful colors.

Once home, I took the blazer apart. For the first few minutes I used a seam ripper and quickly realized that would take days. Then I started cutting.

After a bit I realized that I didn't take a before picture. Oh well. Here is a partial before.

The lining had to go. Some sections had a fusible web as well. Luckily it peeled right off.
Once done, this was all I had.

My pile of discards was more impressive.

An article I read this afternoon said not to bother with blazers. Apparently, blazers require too much time & effort to take apart and you end up with rather small pieces. I learned this lesson the hard way. I guess these pieces will be good for embellishments. Next time, I'll look for skirts and sweaters.

The whole lot went in the washer along with some old towels as recommended. After going through the washer & dryer, the pieces felt a little thicker and sturdier, but not much. I guess you get the most dramatic results when felting a sweater or something with a looser knit.

I hope I'll be able to start playing around with my felting needle tomorrow.

Winter Tomatoes
When walking in the field yesterday, we found some volunteer tomatoes. I had wanted to try growing some in the loft over the winter. I dug up a few, put them in a pot, set them up in the loft in front of one of our large south facing windows. Today, they all look perky and happy! Maybe we'll have fresh tomatoes in a few months!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Showing Old Dishes a Little Respect

Peter Walsh says you should only keep what you use and love. If something is tucked away in a box, it's not being honored. It's downright disrespectful!

Peter would blow a gasket if he saw the box of china my grandmother gave me. The china has been in a dusty box in the attic at my old house for years. I hated the pull down steps to our attic - I was sure I would be found one day in a heap at the bottom. My solution? Avoid the attic. Anything that went up there was in danger of being forgotten.

When we moved everything came out of the attic and is now in my new attic, which I can easily get to by going up our nice stairway. As I clean out the boxes up there I am finding all sorts of things that have been forgotten, including the dishes my grandmother gave me.

I have used plain white Corning dishes for years. They seemed safe. I never get upset when one of them is broken - which doesn't happen often. They match everything. But I am wondering, why use those when I have china? Who am I saving the china for? When I kick the bucket, they will likely be taken to Goodwill. Starting today, we will be using those dishes!

The pattern is not one that I was crazy about years ago when they were given to me. But I must say, they are growing on me. I have a decent number of pieces -

7 dinner plates
8 dessert plates
8 saucers
7 cups
2 serving bowls
1 platter

I have tried to find out more about them. I know they were produced from 1952 to 1957. They were designed by Russel Wright for Iroquois. They are part of the Interplay line and considered Mid-Century Modern. For awhile there was debate about the designer - there were 3 people in the debate, but apparently the debate is over. It was Wright.

In a 1952 ad for the line, it's said to be "a translucent fine china so rugged... so downright tough... it shrugs almost any kind of abuse. And here, for all it's suave beauty is a china you can cook in... roast, bake, or broil... serve in a step from oven to table."

There were 3 patterns to choose from in this set. I could find the names of two of them - Fleur De Lis and Arabesque. Wouldn't you know it? The one I can't find a name for is the one I have. Even Replacements, LTD just calls this pattern IRO36.
I sure would like to find out more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm a Coupon Queen!

I've seen women interviewed who save amazing amounts of money at the grocery store. They always look so smart and so together. For me, when I was working, I felt proud to make a list and get myself to the grocery store. Clipping coupons and comparing prices was not something I had time or energy for. Don't get me wrong - I did manage a coupon now and then. And if I saw something on sale, I might buy a few extras, but it wasn't something to brag about.

But today, thanks to my new state of unemployment and my determination to save money since I'm not making it, I became a coupon Queen!

Check it out -

I bought 55 items and only spent $38.69. Everything I bought will be used - nothing was bought simply because I had a coupon so I might as well try it out. I saved about what I would have earned for 2 days work at my part time job. Nice!

Now before I get famous and folks start lining up at my door to interview me, I think I'd better get serious about that diet and earn enough to get a good haircut. I'm beginning to look a bit straggly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An All Day Walker Bag Project

I spent the entire day making a walker bag. Actually, most of the time was spent thinking it out. It took ages to decide which fabric to start with.

Before I go on about the fabric, maybe I should explain WHY I'm making a walker bag. My mother-in-law was confined to a wheelchair & walker for years. I learned from her the importance of functional items to help you keep things you need nearby. That lesson really sunk in a couple of years ago when I broke my ankle. I used wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches for what seemed like ages, but was actually only about 6 weeks. They were 6 really looooooong weeks. It gave me a chance to think long and hard about what I wished I had to make life easier. One of the things I wished for was a good walker bag.

My mother-in-law used a walker bag for years that her sister-in-law had made for her. It became pretty worn so one year for Christmas I made her 3 fabulous walker bags including one just for Christmas. That was one of the best Christmas gifts I've ever given. It was a joy to make, to give, and to see used.

I like being creative and I'd love to make a little extra cash being creative. I also prefer to make things that are useful. One of the first things that came to mind was walker bags. So that's my explanation.

Note: It just occurred to me that I don't think I've blogged about my new state of temporary unemployment. I had been earning a little extra money working for an accounting firm. I knew that this was the slow season and was expecting to cut back my hours. However, they are really struggling right now (lots of slow paying clients who've hit on hard times) so they cut me back to nothing until mid January. I'm OK with that except I wish they'd given me more than a week's notice. That hurt - emotionally and financially. The bottom line is that I am a retired teacher. I do have a retirement check. The extra income from the part time job was helping us as we wait for our other house to sell. (We are not 2 home people. We just had the bad luck to build and move at the worst time in history!) We are a bit uncomfortable right now, but not in dire straits like so many. For that I am very thankful.

Back to the fabric. I like the idea of repurposing fabric rather than buying new. I am an eco friendly kind of gal. At a recent to trip to Goodwill, I found a valance panel for about 3 bucks. The fabric was thick and in great shape. Plus, it had a coordinating stripe on the back. There was enough fabric in it to make 2 walker bags - it was a large valance. I decided to start my new career with it.

Next, I needed to decide on a design. I had wanted to make bags just like the ones I had made for my mother-in-law. However, when I pulled out one of her bags I had kept after she passed away, I saw that they worked perfectly on her style of walker but not on all walkers. This meant that I needed to spend more time thinking about a design. Then more time working out a pattern.

The bottom line is that it took way too long to make this walker bag. The fun part came when I started laying out the pieces and playing with vintage buttons to use.

The final product is definitely a beta version. I'm not satisfied.

I would have added two more vintage buttons at the straps, but since I'm not satisfied with the design, I decided not to waste them.

The bag is actually not bad and I'll probably give this one away to someone who will hopefully find it useful and pretty. It had pockets on the front and the back and a large section inside that is perfect for magazines and larger items. It stays on the walker just fine. Still, I think I can improve on the function and the aesthetics as well.

At the end of the day, I was questioning whether or not this was worth pursuing. Once I have the design and pattern down pat, I will be able to make them much faster. I don't want to make them so fast that I lose the joy of of making them. And I don't want to make a zillion of them. My husband asked could I make ten a day and I nearly smacked him.

But, in the end I am wondering how much money I could possibly make from each bag and would it be worth it. Hmmmm. I just don't know.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Parmesan Chicken

I was feeling all domestic today and decided to make Parmesan chicken. It's one of my favorite recipes. It's special but not goopy or overly rich. You can play around with the amounts and it still always tastes good.

First I pulled out the recipe notebook (the best thing ever!). Then I gathered all the ingredients.

Chicken Breasts Parmesan

2 cups bread crumbs
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 /2 cup parsley, chopped
garlic powder
4 to 10 chicken breasts
1 cup butter, melted

Mix first 5 ingredients. Dip in butter coating well. Dip in bread crumb mixture. Place coated chicken in foil-lined roasting pan. Do not overlap chicken. Drizzle remaining butter & bread crumb mixture on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Make sure pan is not too close to bottom heat.

While it was cooking I took a quick walk down to the pond. The leaves are starting to turn and I love looking at them reflecting off the water. Our pond is not very big and needs a lot of work, but I still enjoy it.

Then back to the house just in time to hear the timer - chicken's done!

Bon appetit!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Reed Diffusers - Part Deux

I found some very inexpensive reed diffuser sets in Wal-Mart the other day. They were less than $5. I decided to get one to put at the house we are trying to sell. Since I wouldn't be going back over there for a few days, I thought it would be nice to try it out temporarily at home. I opened it up and placed it upstairs. It wasn't long before an orange-y scent began to fill the air. The next morning that scent was hanging in the air upstairs and down to the point where it was disgusting. I put the whole thing out on the front porch. Maybe in a few days the smell will be more tolerable.

Meanwhile, I made my own reed diffusers. I used the recipe I found on the internet (see my first Reed Diffusers post). It was so easy. The only things I purchased were bamboo skewers (97 cents at Wal-Mart) and a really cheap bottle of vegetable oil. I already had a couple of clay containers that were a good size and shape. Note that I didn't have cheap vodka - I had Absolut. I've had this bottle for years and since it probably won't get polished off around here, I am perfectly happy to see it get used in this project.

I put the tall vase in the bathroom. It was scented with Olbas (which is mostly eucalyptus & peppermint), Siberian Fir Needle (very Christmas-y), & orange oil.

The smaller vase is scented with ylang ylang & orange oil. I put it next to an old piece of furniture that has an "old" smell that I wish would go away.

I think I'm going to prefer using my own diffusers. They are natural and no doubt more healthy. Plus, I can control the scent.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New "Vintage" Kitchen Curtains

I had some very old fabric that came from my grandmother. I've had it for years and knew that I'd use it one day. Today was the day!

I had about 8 yards, but it was only around 35 inches wide. When I first saw this fabric, it didn't impress me. I loved the vintage look, but I wasn't crazy about it. Now, for some unknown reason, I really like it. It certainly looks good with my ironing board cover!

The fabric is Country Lane by Waverly. I have no idea how old it might be. I googled it and came up with nothing.

I decided on just a plain valance. This window faces east. I wanted the valance to be long enough to block with early morning (blinding) sun as it comes up over the trees. Here's the end result:

I love changing the items on the window sill. The sill is about 6 inches deep so it's easy to find things that will work. What's there now is the best I've got on hand for Fall. I'm watching for better pieces. Christmas is so close and I have a good many pieces that will look great with the curtains.

When we first moved in (almost a year ago!) I thought I didn't want any curtains on this window. I certainly exercised my prerogative to change my mind! It looks so much cozier.

Here are a few other kitchen sink areas I'm crazy about -
This is the kitchen of Tina Smith at Cherry Hill Cottage. Her sink and the curtain under the sink are so fabulous I nearly swoon every time I see it! The Eat Cake sign above the window is wonderful, too, and very fitting since Tina is always cooking up something wonderful.

This kitchen belongs to the people who own the Fresh Produce t-shirt company. It's in their beach house in California. I saw the article on their home on the Coastal Living website. Apparently, the article is no longer there. I love the bright green vintage-look counter top.

The photos below are more kitchens I love. Unfortunately, I no longer remember where the photos came from. I will try to find out and will update this page if I have any luck.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Thing Leads to Another

My favorite wake up thing to do is browse blogs while I drink a cup of hot tea. I subscribe to way too many blogs - too many to truly keep up with. The blogs I have listed on the right are the tip of the iceberg and that list is way out of date. I've added so many since I made that list. I always start out reading the latest from a favorite blog. The problem is, these blogs often mention another blog and my curiosity is peeked (peaked?) and I jump on over. By the end of my cup (or two) of tea, there's no telling what I may be reading about. I enjoy it thoroughly and am always inspired. And I almost always end up with a new blog on my list of subscriptions.

Here are a few nods to my latest finds -

Tracey from Notes From A Cottage Industry (one of my all time favorite blogs) has moved to Oregon and has a boyfriend. This is no small thing. Both the move and the boyfriend are incredible acts of bravery on her part. Better yet, her boyfriend blogs about cooking and wine. Of course I had to go check out his blog to see if he was worthy of Tracey's company. He is! This guy will make you want to eat Brussels sprouts and I'm not joking! I now have 3 recipes that I am determined to make - this week if possible. Plus I have a fabulous new blog on my list - The Duck Juice Chronicles.

Next I set off on a real adventure starting with Linda MacDonald's Restyled Home (another favorite blog). One fabulous adventure was over to High-Heeled Foot in the Door. She is setting up a shop, painting furniture, and being quite creative. One of her crafty ideas was a Be-Dazzled Pumpkin which she guest blogged about on Sweet Nothings.

My High-Heeled reading also led me to I Suwannee - another new blog for my list - to see her bookcases of the day. I had a glorious time there and even though I am mostly watching for decorating ideas, I just loved her blog about the Grey Gardens Party. Of course this sent me off on a wild tirade finding out about Grey Gardens and Little Edie and her mother BIg Edie - the eccentric relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I vaguely remembered the story but needed a refresher.

Restyled Home also led me back to a blog I have enjoyed often but have missed for a while - Twice Remembered. I went there first to see her post on gumball machine makeovers and stayed for ages catching up with her latest projects. She's creating a studio and I can't wait to see the final results because this husband and wife are really talented!

My browsing also led me over to Whispering Wood Cottage to see her fabulous Barn-Style Door Entry to Master Bath. I am fascinated with these door styles and am determined to use one somewhere one of these days. In fact, I already have a small collection of pictures I've been collecting of doors hung this way.

Now I ask you... how am I supposed to get ANYTHING done when there are so many fabulous blogs out there?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reed Diffusers

My realtor called last night. The old house, which we are hoping will sell soon, is starting to smell musty. We've had a ton of rain and the house is shut up. It's losing that freshly smelled house smell.

I put basic air fresheners (which I personally don't care for) in the house a couple of months ago and they've obviously played out. At the time I was concerned about the smell that might come up in a vacant house and I had looked online to see possible solutions. Back in July I never found much of a solution.

This time I asked the realtor what she recommeded. She said she likes reed diffusers. She uses them in her house and gets compliments on them all the time. How have I missed these?

Apparently, a group of reeds are set down in a bottle that has an essential oil mixture. The fragrance soaks up through the hollow reed and wafts out into the room. No flames. No electricity. Perfect. While looking online I found a couple of sites with ideas of how to make your own for much less than they sell for.

Here's the recipe I plan to try :

You will need:

* Willow or rattan reeds (which can be purchased at your local craft store)
* A small vase or jar with a narrow opening
* Essential oil
* Inexpensive Vodka
* A light vegetable-based oil such as safflower or sunflower
* Glass Beads (optional)

Fill the vase about halfway with the vegetable oil, and add 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Add a teaspoon of inexpensive vodka. (The high-proof alcohol content in the vodka will help emulsify the oil and water together, and will help with rapid evaporation. Rubbing alcohol is not a good choice because the alcohol content is not high enough for this purpose). Shake gently to mix. Stand the reeds in the vase (as shown in the picture above).

You can adjust the amount of essential oil to your liking, but remember a small amount usually goes a long way. If you use a clear vase, you can add small glass beads for a bit of color. Remember to flip the reeds occasionally to recharge the scent.

Recipe and picture found at: Big Big Forums


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