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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Inside Out

I'm about to embark on the trip of a lifetime aren't I?

I'm pretty excited to begin and as you can see, I've got my creative space prepared. I have no idea what to expect mentally and emotionally. Sounds like an adventure to me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A time of reflection....

that began with an early morning paddle.

And entailed some great bird watching as well. Several species of Ducks, a pair of nesting swans (we steered a wide berth), geese (the alarmists), Red-winged Blackbirds, an eagle...and Sandhill Cranes. Oh, this was cool. They're back and they're feisty and they're noisy.

Pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I wish I knew them all.

I wish I knew all the women who owned these wooden spools of thread before they were handed down to me. I wish I knew what each thread was used to make. I wish I knew their choice of fabric. Who did they make it for? What happened to the finished product?

Each of these remaining spools has been handed down to me by my mother or grandmother and I'm very particular about using them. They do not get used for practice projects. Once a spool is emptied I save it in a basket with wooden beads that my granddaughter plays with. (Is that wierd?) She stacks them and strings them and sorts them. She takes care of them. Good for her.

I own 2 items that I know were handmade by relatives of mine. One is the yellow prom dress my mother made for herself in 1952. Dang! She was good! The other item is a framed piece that holds 3 squares from a crazy quilt embroidered by my g-g-great grandmother. Some day I'm going to try to duplicate all the stitches she used. Wouldn't it be awesome if she were able to teach me? Wouldn't it be awesome to know her? Wouldn't it be awesome to know her mother?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You light a candle...

to escape into the quiet. I reach for this to escape into my mind.

Ahhh, the urge to create. I can feel it pull at me, compelling me to do something, make something, anything. Just....create. And so I do...and when I feel satiated and satisfied with my creation, I'll escape to the outdoors for a walk around town, or a slow stroll in the woods, or a quiet paddle down a river. Yesterday, I rode my bike. Will you look who I found?

I laugh. Clearly, someone had a greater need to create than I.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I love it....

when the people in my life (females in particular) share my passion for handcrafts. Jewleigh is a much better and more daring knitter than I am. I love that she jumps right in with new projects and figures them out as she goes. I also love that I can go to her when I'm stumped, and believe me, she's fixed a fair number of mistakes for me. Thanks Jewleigh. She finished a hand-knit purse a year ago, but because she doesn't (didn't) sew, she needed my help with the lining. I gave her a quick lesson on the machine and how to hold the material and thread to begin, Jewleigh sat down, got her hands in position, paused, and then pulled her hands back and laughed. "I'm scared," she said. But then she just went for it. Not only did she make the lining, but she added a pocket, and not just a simple pocket. Nooo, not Jewleigh, she pulls out all of her necessities like her phone and pens and keys, measures them and makes dividers in the pocket to hold everything. Told you she was daring, and she's creative too.

Tah dah! A beautiful handmade purse.

The next day? Yeah, she was visiting with a friend of her mother's and the woman gave her a sewing machine that wasn't being used. Does Jewleigh say thank you, go home and put the machine in the closet because she doesn't really know how to use it? Nope, not Jewleigh. No, she goes to the fabric store for instructions on how to thread it and put the bobbin in and then she buys more material. She's so like that! Suppose I should brush up on my sewing skills so she doesn't blow right by me?

Love you Jewels...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breakfast, lunch and dinner

For me, there is no more delicious pancake than buckwheat. Ever since I was a little girl I've loved them, but never, ever have I had them taste this delicious. I bought buckwheat flour at the Farmer's Market last year and I'm sad to say I left it in the freezer all this time. A couple weeks ago, our local newspaper ran an article about The Jennings Bros. farm, a farm which stone grinds flour from grains they have grown. "That sounds familiar," I thought, and went straight to the freezer to peek at my flour label. Sure enough, same company. In the article was a recipe for buckwheat pancakes. My experience tells me that if you get a recipe direct from a company it will be the best showcase of their product. Oh, yes. Showcase indeed! There is a different texture to the batter, almost a resilience when stirring. The batter comes back to itself and perhaps that's what happens when you use good flour. I don't know. I just know I'm eating buckwheat pancakes every day until the flour is gone. Breakfast is at 7 if you're interested in joining me.

I'm sure you can buy the flour direct from them, but I'm going back to the market to buy more, lucky me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another new to me.

The Cotton Friend books are my new best friend. Well, let's just say I really like them, especially when I combine the projects with a little bit of embroidery work. haha....I just sort of whipped this up on Tuesday.

See, I was clearing out clothes for the March challenge of Reduce Clutter-Create Space when I found 2 t-shirts with advertising on them that had never been worn. They went straight to the donation pile with nary a thought from me until I started browsing through the Cotton Friend books again. I saw a hat that I thought would be fun to wear while paddling and I immediately thought of those perfectly good t-shirts. I wouldn't wear them because of the advertising, but the bottoms were in perfect condition to be remade into the hat. Yep, got out the scissors and went snip, snip, snip. But really, what's a paddling hat without a little embroidery?

So, a couple hours later....voila! Me, sporting a brand new hat....

and I consider it free because I didn't pay for the shirts. Woo Hoo! Goody, now wear it this Saturday when we go paddling.

Monday, March 8, 2010


B reads my blog and knows that I'm participating in the One Small Change. He encourages me and agrees to go along with my commitments even though he didn't sign up for the change. This time though, I was concerned he might think I was a little kooky for giving up my dryer for the month, but he didn't. In fact, yesterday, after I did a quick load of wash and found that my collapsible drying rack wasn't big enough to hold everything, he gave it a quick inspection and said, "I can build you one of these."

Oh, yeah. He's brainy like that. I have no idea how he does it, but he took a few measurements, wrote a couple notes, drew a few pictures and then we headed off to the hardware store for dowels and screws. He just happened to have scrap pieces of maple in his garage that we could use for the supports.
This is really all the supplies we needed. A few dowels, scrap board and screws. B figured out all the dimensions and we set to work ripping and cutting, drilling holes, sanding and such.
He talked me through what to do with these power tools because even though I'm afraid of using them, I always want to learn how. I did my part by keeping my fingers out of the way. Love that belt sander. Oh, man, it made quick work of removing the old finish from the boards.
Almost finished.
Tah dah! A brand new collapsible drying rack that is bigger and much stronger than the original one I bought at the store and now I have enough racks to hold all the laundry.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

One Small Change

Can you guess what my One Small Change is for March? This has been a good challenge for me and I think it’s because there is accountability with those of us who are participating. I mean, really, if I were doing this by myself I probably would have cheated and then what’s the point of the change? I’m still composting all the kitchen scraps, which I hadn’t typically done in the winter. I love using the reusable produce bags, which has led to me hosting an upcoming sewing workshop for women to make their own. That should be fun. This month I’ve decided to not use my dryer. In truth, I read about someone doing this last month and I tried it with a few loads of laundry just to increase the humidity in the house. Michigan is so dry in the winter and any extra moisture helps tremendously. As you can see, the drying rack is located in front of the heat register in the kitchen. Well, you can’t tell it’s my kitchen, but it is. The flow of warm air dries everything quite quickly and since it’s just me in the house most of the time, I don’t mind stepping around the rack.

Wait til you hear what I’ve come up with for April….oh, forget it, I’m so excited I can’t wait to tell you. Yesterday, I called our local Environmental Action Council, WMEAC, and signed up to host a neighborhood rain-barrel workshop. Each participant will be making a rain-barrel at that workshop, which he or she can then take home and install. Haha….talk about one small change. Think about the impact that change will make when I have a whole neighborhood using rain barrels for watering their gardens instead of tapping into the municipal water supply. Plus, it cuts down on storm water run-off flowing into the sewer system. Now that’s a cool change that will last a long time and is incredibly sustainable. Let me know if you want the link for directions to make your own rain barrel.

Have you tried the One Small Change? Is it working for you?

Updated: Here's the link for the WMEAC rain barrel video. There are also instructions for making your own rain barrel on the bottom of the page. Please, please, please let me know if you make one of these. They look so darned easy.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Feeling smug and proud.

Alex sent me a package from Taiwan a while ago that contained two Cotton Friend books. I love the books and the project offerings in spite of the fact that they’re in Chinese and I can’t read a word of what they say. Still, the abundance and clarity of the illustrations is amazing and with a bit of studying, I can figure out what to do. This particular project intrigued me right away, but at first glance, I thought it had to do with cutting away fabric and sewing another color to the backside. Thinking that sounded difficult, I put the book away until this past weekend when I got the urge to try out a new crafting technique. Oh, this is much cooler than I thought because the fabric isn’t cut away at all. Heather, you may be intrigued as well as I believe it was you who nearly painted everything in your house not too long ago. *grins*

You transfer any design you wish onto fabric… (I used the Cotton Friend pattern because I’m learning something new and I’m funny like that.)

And using a fabric marker, you color in different areas…

And then embroider around the lines of the design. Oh my gosh, that’s it? What was I afraid of? This is too stinkin’ easy and cool.

Well, now that I had this beautiful piece of embroidery, I simply had to make something with it and another letter satchel seemed like an appropriate showcase. The purple seersucker fabric comes from a 1980’s dress I rescued from a heap destined for the trash and the green is a cotton sheet found at Goodwill. Oh, I sewed the embroidery patch on fabric from an old sheet as well.

The idea of the letter satchel is from Amanda, but the design is from me falling in love with so many different projects that I’ve seen online. The offset button? Yeah, I knew I was doing that from the moment I decided to make this, but I’ll tell you something, figuring out the dimensions and curves and seams and visualizing the final product really taxes my brain. In the end, it’s still not quite right, but I think I’ve got that figured out for next time. And there will be a next time because this gave me so many new ideas for future projects.

So, what do you think? The button also came out of my stash so if the only thing I actually bought recently is the green sheet, for which I paid $3 and I only used a tiny portion, my guess is this project cost me, what, all of .25? I would say it's okay to feel both smug and proud of this project.
(Rubbing hands together) So, I wonder what my next new technique shall be.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I did it!

The challenge was posted to give yourself one hour to clean out your closet. Awesome! I can do that, and one hour doesn't give me time to overthink what could go back in. I either had to love it or I've worn it in the past year. If not, the item had to go. This might not have been fair because I sort of did this a while ago, but I knew there were items in the closet that were just taking up space, or I had paid good money for, or I might lose weight and they'll fit me again, or....or....or.....

Riiiight, outta here!

I completely emptied the closet and dumped everything on the bed and floor. First, I put back all the clothes I wear all the time for work, then my much loved casual clothes, then the items I love that are for dressy. Shoes were easy to put back because I love the shoes I have, but I did dump 2 pair that weren't all that comfortable and I rarely wore. Really, why wear shoes that hurt my feet? Belts? Dumped all but 2. Purses? Okay, okay....I put those all back in the closet, but I love my purses and several are vintage from grandmothers and such. Besides, there are only 7 (in that closet, oops). That still left a good sized pile of clothes that I was pretty ruthless about sorting through.

"Crap! You mean I bought these 2 shirts and never wore them?" Fine, shed a tear or two and get rid of them.

"I haven't worn this in a year? Really?" I knew it was true because I did a trick in my closet last year. I turned all my hangers backwards on the rod and once I wore something, the hanger was turned the right way so I knew exactly what had been worn. Try it, you won't believe how many items just hang there taking up space.

And I purged...a whole pile of clothes, shoes and belts. Then I went straight to my computer, booted it up to ItsDeductible, priced the items, tossed them into a large trash bag and tied the bag shut. Now, it's ready to be donated. Whew! Doesn't that feel good? All of that in 1 hour and 7 minutes. That includes pricing.

Um, do I have to do the dressers next? I think so because I have 3 that are full and it's just me. So, one hour for each dresser and I'm done with that room. Yippee!!!