Thursday, February 20, 2014

Olympic Mug Rug Swap

My interest was piqued when Autumn told me about an Olympic Mug Rug swap. I knew I had to participate when I saw that we had to make a matryoshka doll as one of the patterns.

Our family loves watching the Olympic games, and I must admit that I like the winter games better than the summer. It was quite fun to  work on these in the evenings while watching some of the events.

My swap partner, Phoebe, was quite organized and had her mug rugs done before the opening ceremonies. The first photo shows the mug rugs that I received. She also included an adorable tri-fold tea wallet. I've shown it open in the photo.

My work took a little bit longer, but thankfully, after delivery was delayed by snow on the east coast, Phoebe received her goodies from me at the beginning of the week. I tweaked the mouth on the doll to look a little more traditional. I'm happy with the alteration. We had to make both patterns, and we were asked to label them on the backs, as well. Although the matryoshka doll is what made me sign up for the swap, I enjoyed making the dove just as much. I love that Phoebe used eyelet fabric for my dove.

I enjoyed these so much that I've got a few more in the works-one for a friend, and one for Autumn and Abigail. Go USA!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine Gingerbread Homes

Tradition. We've made gingerbread houses for years, and we all look forward to it. When a friend hosted this year, I was happy to be able relax and not have all of the baking, cleaning up, etc. that goes along with such an activity. But there's something to be said for hosting, too. You know, like if you're invited for Thanksgiving dinner, and it's wonderful, but you don't have the leftovers for sandwiches, and the carcass for broth. Yeah, it's kind of like that. But different, too. 

Verne especially missed me hosting since he wasn't able to partake in the house decorating. Sometimes I think that activities I plan are too over the top, and that maybe no one even cares. It's not that I feel under-appreciated; I don't. My family has always been very good about expressing their appreciation for what I do. It's just that maybe I don't need to go to the lengths that I do to show my love for them. Maybe I'm doing these things more for myself than for them, because they're what I would choose. Maybe they'd be satisfied with doing less, or not doing the activity at all. 

In any case, I had those feelings of missing something, and decided to proceed in a different way. Since Abigail did get to build a Christmas house and time was going to be very limited when we were all together over the holidays, I decided to move the activity to Valentine's Day. Abigail invited friends since her siblings would be absent. I baked and assembled eight houses: six for the girls, one for Verne, and one for me. 

The leftover dough was baked into hearts, big and small, and round cookies bearing a homemade stamp. Marshmallows were dipped in Dolci Frutta and topped with snowflake sprinkles and nonpareils. Pink lemonade was also served. 

The table was set with a house at each spot, and goodies for decorating were placed in bowls just before the girls arrived. 

Each girl was also asked to bring some candies of their choosing to share for decorations. 

Look! A real, live gingerbread person!

The girls had a great time, and it was fun to see their unique decorating styles. However, the highlight of the day was watching Verne decorate his house. I made his house a bit different, and added a chimney. He is special, you know.

The girls were allotted 3 hours for decorating. No one needed that much time, and they used the last hour to play games. But Verne? He worked, and worked, and worked. He took four hours on his house, and with that I got my answer. These traditions? They are not just for me.

Cookie stamp found here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter Fruit Salad

Fast, easy, and satisfying, this little bit of fruit can feed quite a few people.

Winter Fruit Salad - serves 6-8

1 apple, diced
1 orange, peeled, sectioned, and diced (You could use a small can of mandarin oranges, drained.)
1 banana, sliced
1/2 of a 20 oz. can pineapple chunks in their own juice, drained
1/3 c. unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans
enough plain yogurt to coat (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Though many are more than ready for winter to be over, I'm enjoying it immensely. It's full of beauty, especially at night.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cozy Days of Winter

Though most people I know are ready for spring, I happen to love this time of year. Snowy days mean slower days, fresh breads, puzzles being worked on the table, and broken pipes. Okay, I could do without the broken pipes. Yes, pipe(s). Two of them. Winter days also mean big pots of soup. A few we've had this month: Pasta Fagioli, Potato, Ham and Bean, and Italian Sausage Soup. I used dried beans vs. canned each time, saving money. Click on the names of the dishes to find the recipes.

Winter means higher heating costs, and trying to stay warm with hearty meals. For me, it also means getting creative and serving satisfying meals without breaking the bank. Planning ahead, and not reaching for convenience foods is one way to do that. Rich soups served alongside homemade breads are nourishing, satisfying, and pretty inexpensive.

Back at Thanksgiving, I cooked my organic turkey carcass for hours, and then canned the broth. I received 16 quarts of broth so rich it tastes like butter for my efforts. I paid $56 for my turkey, which seemed high at the time, but considering the amount of meat I got off of it, plus the broth, that turkey was cheap! It's easy to spend close to $3 a quart for watery broth at the grocery store. Even the non-organic brands aren't cheap. My broth is so rich, I can add water at a 1:1 ratio, and it still looks like I added food coloring(which I never would!) and tastes amazing. After seeing that good broth was being sold at a local grocery store for $7 a PINT, I was feeling extra good about my efforts.

I had a ham bone in the freezer that I used to make a huge pot of ham and bean soup. I boiled it alone for several hours, and then removed every bit of meat from the bone. I added about 6 cups of meat back to the soup pot, and froze 10 more cups. I seriously have no idea how I got that much meat off a leftover hambone. We hosted four post-college guys from our church for dinner, and I served that big pot of soup with homemade cornbread and homemade cookies. We had made several batches of cookies and set some aside for a gathering with friends the next afternoon. I allotted several dozen cookies for our gathering with the young men, and what they didn't finish here I sent home with them.

Three moms, and seven children gathered for lunch and games here the next afternoon. I cooked a big chicken ($12) the day before and took every piece of meat from the bones. I saved 6 cups out for lunch, and froze two more cups. I cooked the carcass all night, and got 5 quarts of rich broth. I froze the broth rather than canning it and unfortunately, two jars broke in the freezer. I nearly cried. I'm convinced canning is the way to go. It saves freezer space, and allows you to use the broth at a moment's notice rather than having to wait for it to thaw.

I made homemade tortillas, and lots of them. 32, to be exact. What would have cost me $10-12 dollars to buy was produced for about $2. The menu was build-your-own chicken quesadillas with cheese, sour cream, peppers, black olives, and homemade salsa, home-canned fruit cocktail, and cookies that had been made in advance. This wasn't the cheapest lunch to provide, mostly because of the toppings for the quesadillas, but it was a splurge since I'd spent next to nothing for our meals the rest of the week.

In the photo with the tortillas, you'll see my Farberware electric skillet. I love this skillet. Nearly 25 years ago, my brother Brian bought me a stainless steel electric skillet for a wedding gift. I used it nearly every day, sometime several times a day, and it eventually wore out. My mom was no longer using hers much, and gave it to me. Though it's the same age as my original skillet, and identical, it's still going strong. Except it wasn't heating quite like it should. Verne started looking to replace it for me as a Christmas gift, but stainless steel electric skillets are very hard to come by these days, as most are teflon coated now. No, thank you! If you can find one, they're upwards of $200. Knowing how much I use this skillet he was willing to buy one, but I was convinced to make the current one work. I scoured E-Bay and while I could find a replacement cord, the reviews said that they didn't fit quite right. I mentioned it to my friend Lynn, and she suggested checking an electrical store in town. I mentioned it to Verne, and he mentioned it to another friend who also suggested a different electrical store. Verne tried both places, and sure enough, Lynn was right. Verne bought me a new, off brand cord for $14! It fits and works perfectly. We live in a disposable society, where people think having the newest thing will bring them happiness. Sometimes, keeping what's near and dear to us makes us the happiest of all.

While organizing the sewing room I found this cat quilt that I started way back in 2005. I had it all pieced, and hand-quilted when I lost interest in it. All it lacked was the binding. I considered not finishing it, when I was reminded of another project I had thought the same of and decided to bring it to completion. I'm glad I did. I think it's charming once again. Each cat is quilted differently, and the alternating corners have balls of yarn and mice quilted into them. Abigail has claimed it, and uses it on her lap in the evenings while she sits and draws. Chester loves it, too. Lucy? She loves any quilt you lay on the floor.

Monday, January 6, 2014


...and then came spring. One early morning as we were running through town and had just come over the crest of a hill, she said, "I feel like I'm running six weeks pregnant." Again, words failed me. My mind raced. Is she pregnant? Is this her way of telling me? What if she isn't, and I ask: will her heart hurt even more? I remained silent, and we finished our run and parted ways.  

Several days later as we ran in the hour before dawn and we were talking about upcoming races, she counted herself out for a fall marathon. That's when I knew. And I had the courage to ask, "Are you...?" Yes, joy comes in the morning! My heart was happy, and light, and thankful. 

The months passed and Amy kept on running until finally we had to train separately as we approached our marathon date, and she approached her due date. But still, nearly every day she'd check in with me, asking me for updates, and coaching me along the way. At the local fabric store I spied a piece of number fabric and was instantly drawn to it for a baby quilt for Amy's little one. Runners are constantly crunching numbers, trying to set PRs, and so forth. The rest of the fabrics were chosen to coordinate with the colors of the numbers, and to suit a baby boy. The pattern is from Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew, and is called Kaleidoscope

I started cutting pieces in early September, and had the hand-quilting done by early December. I just had to wait for the new little babe to make his appearance so I could label the back with his name. Waiting is hard, even when you aren't the expectant mother. ;-)

Finally, on December 16, Grant came into the world healthy and loved. I shared with Amy how much I loved his name, and how I thought it was so fitting since God had granted her another baby after losing Jack. (I was reminded a bit of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.) Two full weeks passed until we got to meet this new little beautiful person, and it was good to finally hold him. 

It was good to see Verne holding him, too. It took me back to the days when our children were newborns. He definitely still has the touch, and was able to put Grant to sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127:3-5

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