To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grab a cup of tea....

and get comfortable because we've got some catching up to do.

I've been to the beach with my new camera and I was so surprised at the colors of winter! Who would have thought?

I've also been doing a lot of sewing lately....

See those directions up there? The part where it talks about a 2" cushion? haha...oops! See, I have this wonderful rolling storage bench that I use when I'm sewing, but the hard top is not the least bit comfortable to sit on, which means I needed a cushion. So, I design this very simple seat cushion and off I go to the fabric store to buy a foam pad, but while I was there I decided 2" wasn't thick enough for my tush and I bought a 3" pad instead. Well, someone sort of forgot to change the sewing directions and then when I finished the cushion cover it didn't fit. (knucklehead!) But it turned out so well I simply had to buy the 2" foam to fit it. No way was I ripping out my marvelous sewing.

This is the close-up of my clever little zipper trick for getting the pad inside. Oh, it wasn't difficult to sew at all, but it sure taxed my brain as I was designing it. I have such a hard time visualizing how something will look.

And, yes, I still have the 3" foam, but I'll probably make a floor cushion out of that. It's a family thing that we sit on the floor alot. I don't know why....

Then there was this beautiful quilted fabric that just jumped into my arms as I walked about the store. I guess I'm cured of not being able to figure out how to use fabric because this one also had a definite purpose before I bought it. It's loosely based on Amanda Soule's letter satchel, but since the material was already quilted, I simply bound off the edges with bias tape. I so want to keep it, but I think it's going to my granddaughter instead. Hey, I want to be my granddaughter!

I intended to sew this up last night, but didn't have the right color thread. You gotta love a guy who automatically offers to take you to the fabric store for more thread. Right? Even better is when said guy is at the store, walks up, hands you a button and says, "this is perfect for your project."

And the button is perfect! How cool is that? This satchel was so quick and easy that I made it up before I went to work this morning. I have enough material to make another project but that one is still in the design stage. Again, it's for my granddaughter. Did I mention I want to be her?

You want another must make soup recipe? Another that will blow you away? Try this one.

Sorry about the half eaten soup picture, but at least I remembered before it was all gone. My girlfriend came up with this recipe first and all I said when I tasted it was, "mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm!"

Spicy Chicken Rice Soup
4 c vegetable broth (Imagine)
2 c cooked wild rice
1 chicken breast, cooked, diced
1 8oz can Mexican tomato sauce (El Pato)
1 8oz can water chestnuts, diced

Mix everything together in a pan, bring to boiling and add 2 big handfuls of spinach just before serving. Enjoy!

This has a bit of a bite to it (that's what the Leinie is for), but you won't believe how delicious it is. You'll soon be going "mmmm, mmmm, mmmm" too. I promise.

Alright, that's enough from me. I'm coming over to visit the rest of you for a while....and I'm bringing my tea with me. Save me a good spot, won't you?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One Small Change

Woo hoo! I found my change for February. I was uncomfortably aware of all the plastic produce bags going into my cart last night as I shopped. Today, I followed this link from Sara's site. I've seen directions for other bags online, but I thought they were too heavy for produce. Cheesecloth weighs next to nothing. Yippee!

Updated 1/28 - I made one of these bags last night and I don't think I'll be making more with cheesecloth. It seemed like a lot of work for something that turned out to be so fragile. Perhaps there are different qualities of cheesecloth, but mine snags very easily and I just don't think this will hold up very well. Still, it's a great idea and now I'm looking for a stronger, yet still lightweight fabric. I'm thinking of re-using the mesh bags that some vegetables come in. If I fold down the top and add a drawstring through the double thickness, it should be strong enough, right? That way I don't have to purchase any additional material either. What do you think?

By the way, composting has been going great and everything that doesn't get fed to the ducks or squirrels goes into the compost pile. Shucks, it's not so hard to walk across the yard in my boots. *grins*

One Small Change isn't so hard after all is it? How's it going for you?

Thursday, January 21, 2010


This was Brent's idea and I'm giving credit where credit is due, but since he didn't write down the original recipe (bad Brent), we played around with it again last night. Oh. My. Yummm. You should go make some right now! It's a Strawberry Vinaigrette dressing that he served over a salad of greens, Feta cheese and walnut bits. Did I mention it's super easy too? Did I mention you just might be licking the bowl clean? I didn't, but I could have.

Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing

14 frozen strawberries (I recommend thawing them a bit)
1/3 c Balsamic Vinegar
4 T water
3 T sugar

Whirl all the ingredients in a blender until it's all mixed up. Toss with your salad and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tah dah!

Look what I found! I have no idea how I got to Lia's place, but I know I was linking around (good term) and when I stumbled upon her blog I just knew I had to make her adorable bags. And you know what? These are next year's Christmas presents. Oh, I could jump for joy because these were so stinkin' easy and they turned out so stinkin' cute! Add to that, I used more fabric that Alex so graciously sent me last summer. Come on....what girl isn't gonna want one of these? Heck, I'm making one for myself too. I can think of many uses for an adorable bag. Hmmm, I'm wondering how well these will work to hold yarn for my projects?

Oh my gosh, I've been having way too much fun in the sewing room lately. Now, what should I do next? Oooh, I've got an idea.....but I might need your help. I have more material to make another of these and I would like to give it away, as a thank you, for all the guidance and fabulous ideas I get from all of you. But here's the thing, how do you handle a give away? Really, I want to know and if you don't tell me then I can't give one of these bags away. And they really are as stinkin' cute as I said they were.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I learned it from you.

A couple weeks ago, I was out for a sunrise walks, but this time it was bitter cold in the woods. I kept taking off my gloves and putting them in my coat pocket because I needed my fingers for the camera functions, and since my camera batteries kept freezing, I had to tuck spares inside my pockets as well to keep warm. Then there were the necessary things like tissues and chapstick and a snack, but with so much in my pockets, I was afraid that I would drop something really important whenever I pulled my gloves back out. I came up with the perfect solution (which I'll post once I make it), but that solution required a trip to my local thrift store. Oh, did I ever find a treasure there - a super long, super large cashmere turtleneck sweater that begged to go home with me. It was crazy soft and thick and plush and I promptly threw it in the washer and felted it.

So far, I've gotten two hats, this neck gator (I simply cut the neck off the sweater) a pair of mittens and a pair of leg warmers. I believe another pair of mittens is coming up too.

I wore this yesterday during another early morning hike at the lakeshore and let me say this just one is heaven to wear cashmere. Can you believe we got all of this heavenly goodness for only $13.00? You gotta love thrift stores!

By the way Nicola, I never would have come up with that idea on my own. It was only from the resourcefulness of my fellow bloggers that I thought of felting the cashmere and repurposing the felt. Thanks everyone. You're so darned helpful!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wrapped up in love

Waaay back in June my darling son sent me a package from Taiwan that contained fabric. Boy, was I surprised because fabric shopping isn't exactly his version of an entertaining event. Still, I loved the fabric, but then I was afraid to make anything with it because what if I made a mistake? What if I didn't like what I made? So, the beautiful fabric sat on the shelf next to my sewing table and though I would often lay it open on my workspace, I would always fold it neatly and place it back in a stack thinking I would someday come up with the perfect use for it. Now, I've read on many blogs where people have said, "I saw it and knew exactly what to do with it," but I've not held out much hope that that would happen for me. Haha....that was before Heather posted her first Circle of Stones, and before I followed the link to learn more about So Wabi Sabi, and before I saw the beautiful scarf she had made with cotton and silk, but that's when I finally knew. As soon as I saw Elizabeth's scarf I, too, knew exactly what I was going to make with some of my Taiwan fabric. So, without further ado, may I present to you the Wrapped In Love scarf. I say wrapped in love because even though Alex is half-way around the world I can still carry a bit of him with me whenever I wear the scarf. I'm sentimental like that.

Oh, it was so much fun to make and I'm delighted with how it turned out. It wasn't even difficult to cut into the fabric because I just knew this scarf was the perfect project!

As an aside, this berry case belonged to my Great Grandparents (I have lots of their belongings) and I love using it to hold my sewing notions. I feel like it helps me stay connected to them. Okay, I can't wear it, but I sort of look for their touch sometimes when I'm sewing. Do you do that? Do you touch old things and try to feel the people who used them before you?

So, I'm off to enjoy some time of quiet reflection and craftiness. See you Monday and may you find yourself wrapped in love this weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And....poof....he's gone.

Ugh....sometimes it's just so tough to be a mom to adult children. They think they can up and leave you any time they please. Who said they could do that?

Last night was our final evening with F.M.S. before he left. He's in the states until Sunday, but not where I can see him. I'm okay, or, I will be. I just don't want him to leave.

He gave the kidlings Taiwan and Japanese money.
Miss M wasn't at all sure about this paper money business because she knows that coins are the valuable money. After all, that's what her piggy bank is full of.

Yeah, these two are going to miss each other. She's the one he was most concerned about as far as not remembering him. He's got nothing to worry about now. Fortunately, she doesn't realize how long it will be before she sees him again.

Practicing her Taiwan Fab. Haha....she's American. She doesn't get that it's supposed to be like our wave.

Yep, got the Uncle to try it too.

Even got her Dad to try it.

Then, of course, we have to have the group shots. Isn't it great how easy it is to get them all together and how nicely they settle in for the pose?! Look over wiggling...really...I mean it....

That's better.

Then it was kisses and hugs all around, I love you's were professed, good travel blessings were bestowed, a couple of tears from me.....and then he was gone.......

I really don't like this part.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It didn't start like that.....

I swear - it started out all innocent and harmless. My beautiful d-i-l, left her children (my grandchildren) in the care of their dear Uncle who was thrilled to have a little bonding time with his niece and nephews after being gone for 2 years and missing them desperately. Personal hand-built pizzas were on the agenda and it went really well, except for that little incident when the pizza sauce somehow got slopped all over Miss M's face and hair...oh, and the glob of pizza toppings that slid off the pizza and on to the floor. That's okay, Tank cleaned that up. Ok, and there was that thing with the finger licking and then the spilling and slopping and dropping, but there were no cut fingers and no children were harmed (permanently) in the making of the pizzas. And they were delicious!

But then a certain 12 year-old got his hands on the new Air Soft Guns and sort of shot a 'bullet' right into the backside of a certain Uncle. haha....that's when it got real fun and interesting.

Yep, that's the Uncle holding down the nephew with his knee while he empties the whole round on him. I promise, they're both laughing hysterically.

But now, the nephew is plotting his revenge on the uncle.

Complete and utter mayhem ensued while the 3 'boys' hunted each other throughout the house.  Three floors of hiding places. They used closets, doorways, the kitchen counter, blankets and pillows, anywhere you could sort of hide, but the living room was the designated safe zone for reloading so no shooting of guns in there. Good rule because that's where B, Miss M and I were...along with the dog and 2 cats who wisely decided that the space under the table was the safest spot in the house. Yep, we hung out in the living room and behaved ourselves. Not one bit of misbehaving from the three of us, no sirree!

I swear, the boys did not do this to her. She did it to herself. Um, maybe there was a little help from B and I. hehehe

Just so you know, if d-I-l were there she would have joined in the mayhem too. She really would have.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why risk frostbite?

My friends and I were supposed to go paddling over the weekend, but the biting cold, blowing wind and below zero wind chill made it the perfect recipe for frostbite....and that's no fun. Cold? Bring it! Cold with wind? Not so much. Oh well, we hit the winery instead, had ourselves a marvelous time, aaaand I found a couple of Michigan treasures to send back to Taiwan.

It hurt our cheeks to be out walking in this. B braved the cold for these shots while I watched from inside the warm truck. Smart girl, don't you think?

Back at the 'cabin', it was cozy and warm and friendly in this room so I played with the camera a bit while my girlfriends played with paper and pencils.

I snuck in a little bit of knitting in between playing a game or two. That knitting project is also going back to Taiwan with Alex as a thank you gift to dear friends of his who sent me coffee from their shop. On the off chance that you happen to get to Taoyuan, you must visit Shen Cafe and tell Shen and Fanny that Alex's Mom told you to go. They are a delightful couple and they take marvelous care of my son.

Oh, and for some really great news (rubbing my hands together).....I have a new camera. Someone, you might guess who, happened to find a fantastic deal on a used D70. It's sitting at his house right now and I'm chomping at the bit to get to it. Soon....very soon. I love my Pentax because it's small and waterproof (very important) and although it's wonderful for using on the rivers and lakes when we paddle, I find it to be quite limited for the many types of photography I like. I love close-ups and low light situations. The Pentax doesn't work so well for those.

I'll bet I get to play with the camera this weekend.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One Small Change

Check this out if you haven't already. The premise being that if each of us makes one small change, then those changes will add up to something big. I've been pondering what to do. I was walking through my house trying to come up with ideas and I admit, it needed to be something that wasn't going to make my life more difficult or cost a substantial amount of money to implement. I think I do a pretty good job of practicing green behavior. I already use cloth grocery bags, I recycle and reuse much of what comes through my house, I've changed out light bulbs, I unplug or turn off the power to appliances that aren't necessities, I don't buy bottled water, I use natural products for cleaning.....I could probably go on, but the point is that it was hard for me to come up with something quickly until I grabbed an orange for a snack. Ok, so I know they aren't grown locally and seriously, at this point I'm not going to stop eating oranges in the winter, but then I threw the orange peels in the trash. Um, that's not what I would do in the spring, summer or fall, but for some reason I don't compost in the winter. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because I would have to get my boots on and go traipsing out to the back yard? "Huh, well, big deal," I said to myself, "looks like you found your one small change to start with." So, I'm in....count me in. I'll work real hard to find more I can do for the next few months, but I'll start with that. Can't wait to find out what others are doing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm rather far behind

but I'm ok with that because I've been having a marvelous time.I have more pictures, but half are on Alex' camera and half are on Brent's...haha...that just means I'm going to be posting out of order. Goodness! I'm such a rule breaker with the start of the new year.

The lonely mitten because for the life of me I can't find a picture of both mittens.
They really do feel delicious and I have enough cashmere left to make two more pair, but this time I should make the cuffs a little longer. I'm thinking I might sell the second pair because, really, do I need two pair?

This little girl hadn't seen her Uncle in over 2 years, but the moment she saw him, she bolted towards him at a dead-run and leaped into his arms as she swooned, "Uncle Alex! I've missed you!" It appears the females in his life have a thing about leaping into his arms. So sweet.

Little bit of snowy paddling....

This child paddled with us and I laugh because I'm spoiling him for any type of tame summer camping or paddling. He'll be a seasoned pro with this outdoorsy winter business by the time he's 10.

A little sunrise walk-about at Pickeral Lake again. Such a beautiful area to hike and the proximity to town is an added bonus.

That's it...I'm out of pictures for now.