Friday, October 18, 2013

I Think I'm Going To Have To Learn Stenciling...

Hand-lettered signs are all the rage nowadays in country and primitive home decorating schemes.  All kinds of sayings and slogans are available in the pages of magazines and the displays of stores.  The downside is that those signs are pretty pricey.

Fear Not!  I have found a company, The Stencilsmith LLC, that has the coolest collection of stencils I have seen in some time.  The stencil above--the unofficial slogan of Pinterest users everywhere--was my first go at the craft of stenciling in years, and it turned out great!  I used a coffee brown for my background and a lighter shade of gold for the lettering.  I actually made two; one for my office and one for my home.  I was thrilled with how easily the technique "came back" to me once I got going.

Stencil project #2 is upcoming for a coworker (I will miss her greatly) that is moving with the family to St. Louis to begin a new life and career.  It is pictured below:

She chose a cream background with barn red lettering, and also to have the sign "distressed" to look old.  I am looking forward to completing this project!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August Angel

Late August, and here in Indiana we have finally entered something approaching the dog days of August--it is finally hot, humid, and hazy.  I am NOT complaining, but this summer has been a dream compared to the summer of 2012!  Cooler temps, sunnier days, plenty of rainfall.  We deserve it!

I hope this August Angel by Debbie Mumm brightens the rest of your August.  Enjoy!

"August Angel" by Debbie Mumm

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recipe--Caribbean Lime Coolers

While I'm at it, I thought I'd post my blue ribbon-winning recipe for Caribbean Lime Coolers.  This is a cookie that appears to be a soft sugar cookie but packs the subtle punch of lime and coconut.  I entered this in the Box Mix Adaptations class, in which you do just that; start with a box mix and start adding to it to create an entirely new product.


1-1 lb 1.5 oz pouch Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix
1/2 C coconut
1 T grated lime peel (one lime will give you plenty of peel)
3 T lime juice
6 T butter or margarine, melted (I use butter because you can't beat the flavor)
1 egg
1/4 C powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, stir cookie mix, coconut, lime peel, lime juice, butter and egg till soft dough forms.  Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased cookie sheets.  Bake 9-13 minutes (12 minutes was the magic time with my oven) or until edges are light golden brown.  Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet.  Cool completely, about 15 minutes.  With small strainer, sift powdered sugar over cooled cookies.  Store covered at room temperature.

YIELD:  2 1/2 dozen cookies

TIP 1:  Use a cookie dough scoop (similar to an ice cream scoop, with the spring-loaded handle) to "measure" your dough.  It was darned near impossible to get nice rounded cookies using a spoon, but the cookie dough scoop did a great job.

TIP 2:  The recipe calls for 1/4 C powdered sugar to be sifted on top of the cookies, but you may not want to use the entire 1/4 C, as that creates quite a layer of powdered sugar.  Eyeball it and only use what you prefer.


Recipe--Cherry Almond Quick Bread

The thought occured to me that maybe you all would like to try the Cherry Almond Quick Bread recipe that I entered in the Tippecanoe County Home and Family Arts Open Show this year.  Here it is:

Cherry Almond Quick Bread

1 C sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
2 eggs
1 t almond extract
2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C buttermilk
1 C chopped almonds
1-6 oz jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in extract. Combine dry ingredients; blend into creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in almonds and cherries. Pour into a greased and floured 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° for about 70 minutes or until loaf tests done. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Yield1 loaf.


2013--County Fair Success!

I took a huge leap of faith this year and entered eight items in the Tippecanoe County Home and Family Arts Open Show, which is held during the annual Tippecanoe County 4-H Fair (this year, the Fair is July 20-27).

First huge accomplishment--I actually finished and entered all eight exhibits!  I have found in past years that my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak.  Lesson learned; you don't have to do it all in one year.

Second huge accomplishment--I got blue ribbons on all eight exhibits!  I was very happy, to say the least.  Since my 4-H days, my goal every year in doing this is to win a blue ribbon.  I am very proud and pleased that the judges felt my handwork was of that quality.

Third huge accomplishment--I received two Sweepstakes ribbons and two Reserve Sweepstakes ribbons!  When projects are evaluated, the judge picks a Sweepstakes (best) and Reserve Sweepstakes (second) in each class.  I won Sweepstakes with my muffin basket and the play hutch built by my Dad for the three of us girls, which I entered in the Collectibles division.  My Reserve Sweepstakes wins were for my oval wood bottomed basket and my Cherry Almond Quick Bread.

I was nervous about that baking; I really had not done it competitively for about 20 years, believe it or not.  I was very pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  I was more nervous that I ever was for 4-H judging, believe me!

Such a fun community event!  And, since you can take the girl out of 4-H but you can't take 4-H out of the girl, I think I have a permanent case of that bug.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recipe--Nutty Banana Bread

A recipe for banana nut bread is something that everyone has, everyone uses, and everyone swears by.  This recipe for Nutty Banana Bread is that for me.

In 1985 or thereabouts, I was lucky enough to get a copy of a cookbook called "Capture the Flavor", which was published by Favorite Recipes Press.  The cookbook is full of recipes from Indiana State Fair 4-H Foods prizewinning recipes in the previous year's fair.  Cakes, cookies, muffins, yeast rolls, quick breads, cakes--all there.

This is my cookbook--like one everyone else has--that is stained, dog-eared, marked with substitutions.  It is my go-to book and this is my go-to recipe when I have bananas that are ready to turn to mush.

Nutty Banana Bread

1 c sugar
2 T shortening (I use butter)
1 egg
3/4 C milk
1 C mashed bananas (I use three bananas for stronger flavor)
2 C flour
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 C chopped nuts (My preference is walnuts)

Mix sugar, shortening and egg in bowl.  Stir in milk and bananas.  Add sifted dry ingredients; mix well.  Fold in nuts.  Spoon into greased 5" x 9" loaf pan.  Let stand for 20 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes or until bread tests done.

Thank you, Krista Nichols of Union County (back in 1984), for sharing this yummy recipe that always turns out great!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Crash Course in Becoming a Techie

Ha, ha, ha--I went and did it!  I bought myself a computer.

The first freak out was the day I placed the order, it was unseasonably chilly in Indiana.  I came home to a house that needed the furnace turned on to take the chill out of the air.  Turn dial on thermostat; nothing.  Freeze all night.  Stay at parents the whole weekend because I wasn't going to arrange a service call on Memorial Day Weekend (yes, it was THAT cold).  Take afternoon off work to have serviceman come out, replace blower motor to the tune of $437.99 (which is cheaper than I thought it was going to be, so I'm not complaining).

Shout out to Mecko's Heating and Cooling and Jerry Leming for the great, professional service!

Anyhoo, I am great at using computers, but when it comes to the tech side--leaves a bit to be desired.  So I am learning all about technology the quick way by setting up the thing myself.

First "mistake"--when I bought the computer, I saw the words "Windows 8" and somehow came to the conclusion that that meant Microsoft Office was installed on it.  Duh.  Well, I have now given myself an opportunity to learn how to install Microsoft Office on a HP Pavilion Desktop All-In-One.

Last night, I got Windows 8 activated with the help of the HP tech support person.  I feel like such a freakin' genius!  The guy was Indian or Pakistani, so he was very hard to understand (overseas call centers, you know), but I "got" enough that I was able to do it flawlessly.  Dang!

Now, I think my next step is to get internet access.  I think everything I need to do from this point is going to be downloads and the like.  There's an exciting new fiber optic option beta testing right now in town that I want to explore.  They offer bundling of services, so they will be competing (finally, someone will be competing) with Comcast.  I am very interested in finding out more.

So proud I just needed to share!  I will keep you all updated on my progress.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bombdiggity Women, Part V

I want to be Judge Jeanine Pirro when I grow up.

This is one feisty, smart gal, not afraid to say put it on the line and say what she thinks--and what she thinks is pretty darned intelligent.  The above video clip in particular, I believe, is one of the smartest, most common sense things I have ever heard ANYONE say about anything.

Before she became host of one of the best TV news shows around ("Justice with Judge Jeanine, Saturdays at 9:00 EST on Fox News Channel, which I never miss), she was an assistant district attorney, district attorney and judge, all in Westchester County, New York. 

She also was a candidate at one time for New York Attorney General.  Too bad New York is a state that can't get past "R" or "D" at the ballot box; they missed a real opportunity by not voting this woman into office.

She also hosted another prime time talk show for a number of years for which she won an Emmy.   Add in the fact that she endured a similar marriage situation to my own and I am afraid she's got me hook, line, and sinker.  Plus, she appears to be so classy, intelligent, elegant and beautiful--which is so hard to find that combination in this world.

The "Opening Statement" on each Judge Jeanine show is so damned powerful, factual, and correct--I don't know how this woman ever lost a case (if she did).  I hope that if and when I am ever challenged to stand up for my beliefs, I can toe the line and lay it all out like she does.  What an inspiration!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Longing For Spring

Today is March 1, and I am really getting antsy for spring and springlike weather to arrive on the western Indiana plains.  Today is gray and dreary, not unlike my attitude lately.   The weather doesn't seem to know whether it wants to rain or snow outside; sometimes, it does both at the same time.  And the cold--around 32 degrees--is that damp, bone-chilling cold that keeps you looking for the closest warm place in which to stay.

I want flowers, and warmth, and baby animals, and the green leaves popping out on the trees.  I'd love to open the windows of my house and let in the fresh breeze.  I am ready to drag the outdoor furniture from its winter home in the garage to its summer headquarters on the front porch.  I am set for a trip to the local hot dog and root beer stand; it wouldn't be open if it were to be winter much longer, would it?

March is the month of my birthday, and also in 2013 the month of Easter.  Let it rain, let the sun shine, let the gentle winds blow--let it be spring soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Knuffle Bunny Story

The absolute highlight of my job with a local school corporation is that I get to administer tests to move-in students whose parents want them placed in the high ability classes we offer.  Most are simply not qualified for the classes, but a few shining examples do stand out and are offered any spots we have available.

Today, I tested a young seven year-old girl who was a student at a gifted magnet school in the Chicago Public Schools system (yeah, those words don't quite go together, but believe me, she is one smart little whippersnapper).  She is currently being home schooled; honestly because I believe that her parents believe that our "hick" schools aren't up to the task of educating their gifted little one.

She was an absolute delight to be with!  She had that self-confidence and cockiness of a seven year-old whose parents have constantly made her aware of how gifted she is and who has known nothing else in her short life.  Once I wore down that defense, however, she warmed up to me and was full of smiles and words for the rest of the test period.

In fact, she was ripping through one of the tests and was going to have ample time to spare, so I gave her a "talk break".  She instantly brought up some books she thought I should read (!).  They are from the Knuffle Bunny series of books by the children's author Mo Willems.  Knuffle Bunny evidently is a little stuffed bunny that has a knack for getting lost or misplaced by his owners and finding his way back.  I got her condensed version of the plots of each book and what she liked about them.

Then, in truly gifted child fashion, she explained the titles of the books (Knuffle Bunny, Knuffle Bunny Too, Knuffle Bunny Free), and suggested that the next book be titled Knuffle Bunny For (note the play on words in each title).  We both then delved into the possibilities of the next plot and what it might contain.  It was truly a wonderful, creative conversation with a very bright seven year-old mind and a very tired almost-51 year-old thought process.  I am thankful to her for the injection of positive thinking and hope that she unknowingly gave me.

When all else fails, listen to a child.  You will be recharged and rejuvenated.

Monday, February 11, 2013

2/10/13--Oval Wood Bottomed Basket

Check out my little watermelon basket!

Oval Wood Bottomed Basket
Of course, that's not the name of it.  It really doesn't have a name other than Oval Wood Bottomed Basket.  But it looks like a tiny watermelon to me.  It also is the same shape as a mini laundry basket.

It was so much fun to put together because of the solid wood bottom.  Solid wood bottoms have a groove around the outside.  We stuck the ends of our spokes in Gorilla Glue and inserted them into the bottom, evenly spaced them out, and let them dry for 20 minutes.  Then, the weaving began full bore!

There were three of us in class that day, and although we ended up with the same shaped basket, the reed we chose to weave with gave us three completely different looks for the same basket.  One basket was woven with dyed red and dark blue reed, which gave it a very cool checkerboard look.  I will have to remember that pattern for a future basket.

That's it for basketmaking until April (unless I do something on my own, LOL).  I'll miss it!  I was trying to save some money (due to the tax cut uncertainties at the beginning of 2013) and allowing myself time to work on the Home and Family Arts Open Show entry book, which will be at full steam in March (deadline of April 1).  I will be ready to get back into the creative flow of things by that time!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Knitting Chronicles--Introduction

I have decided to take up knitting.  It has proven to be a comical journey to this point.

I pinned this pattern from Pinterest for my first project.  I know enough about knitting to be dangerous (basically knitting and purling), so I figured an easy new stitch (seed stitch) and a new technique (knitting on circular needles in the round) might be just what I was looking for.

"Blue Agave" roving yarn
As I was ready to start my project sooner and not later, I journeyed to the craft store and selected this roving wool yarn (the color is "Blue Agave") by Martha Stewart/Lion Brand Yarn.  The pattern only calls for one skein; I hope it's right, because that skein is awfully small.  I might be learning another new technique--how to add another skein of yarn while knitting :-)

Lesson Learned #1:  I CAN cast on like the method described in the book.
And I must say they look nice and even and consistent.  I had no idea I could do it!

Lesson Learned #2:  There are different lengths of circular needles.
I had my 49 stitches cast on as described in the pattern I chose.  The pattern said you could cast on extra stitches as long as you kept it to an odd number so that the pattern would be effective.  So I kept casting on because I couldn't reach one needle with the other (a circular needle is two knitting needles joined together by a thin plastic cable, so that you can knit in the round).  After a while of still not being able to reach the other needle, I set my work down and read the book more carefully.  Well, it so happens there are 13" needles (the size called for in the pattern), but they come in different lengths (which I didn't come to until the comments section of the pattern).  I needed a 16" needle and I had bought a 29" needle.  Oops!  I got the correct length needle and yes, it does make a huge difference.

The good thing is that I think I can just transfer the cast on stitches by sliding them carefully off one needle and onto the other, then undoing the extra stitches I had cast on in order to get back to 49.  Oh well, it's a learning process, right?  I just hope wool roving yarn is forgiving enough to not lose its shape.

I am planning to share my knitting victories and defeats with you on this blog, so I hope to have something more to share with you soon!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Good Advice

I need to memorize this.  I've already posted it in my office so I can see it every day.  Now, just to follow it...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Quote of the Day

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Blessing

Last Sunday (January 13), I had the extraordinarily good fortune to be invited to a dear longtime friend's house blessing.

Joni went through the Habitat for Humanity program to serve others and eventually become a homeowner.  Her lifelong dream came true last fall when her house started construction from the concrete slab upward.

Joni's new house!  Isn't it gorgeous?
The amount of sweat equity that she and others in the Habitat program devote to building houses for those who need them is just amazing and, frankly, awe-inspiring.  Taking home maintenance classes, home ownership classes, actual labor building houses, and labor in the local HFH's ReStore had to be a lot of time and a lot of effort--but look at the payout!

The house blessing ceremony was just as wonderful.  The HFH representative I talked to at the door estimated that at least 140 people were in that home on that blustery, snowy, icy January day.  He ran out of programs; he said that had never happened before.  There was lots of love and happiness in that little house that afternoon.  Blessings, gifts, and hymns all were said, given and sung.  It was a lovely ceremony and lovely celebration for someone that deserves all the good that happened that day.

Laurie and Joni holding happiness :-)

There are five of us--Joni, Linda, Karrie, Stacey, and me--that have been friends since high school.  We were in the same youth group at church and have kept in touch, especially with the coming of Facebook.  Linda, Karrie, Stacey and I went together to buy Joni a housewarming gift (or rather a flowerbed-warming gift)--a 20 lb. decorative stone with the word "Happiness" etched on the visible part of the rock.  I've posted a photo of Joni and me with "Happiness" for you to see as well.

The house blessing also blessed me just for being there.  I felt a lot of love for a person dear to many people, a lot of community, and a lot of unselfish, unabashed happiness for a person's good fortune that day.  It touched me then and continues to do so today.

I've also posted a photo of Joni's new house in this blog post so you all can admire it for yourselves.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Recipe--Traci's Cheesy Floret Soup

Christmas Eve Day 2012 found me in the local grocery store getting some ham at the deli and a half-gallon of milk in preparation for a "blizzard" that every meteorologist in the universe was calling for on December 26.  Well, what they call a blizzard and what I call a blizzard (note:  I lived through the Blizzard of 1978) are two completely different things as it turns out, but I digress.

I don't know what it is about snow, but everytime the forecast calls for 2 inches or more, I get the urge to make a big old pot of soup.  One of my favorite recipes made me sidetrack to the produce department for the fixins for Traci's Cheesy Floret Soup.  "Traci" is Traci Bratton, the owner of Walnut Street Traditions in Lafayette, who loves to share yummy recipes in her e-newsletters from the shop.

It's easy and it's yummy; you can't ask for more than that.  Here it is:


3 C fresh broccoli florets
3 C fresh cauliflower florets
3 C diced celery
2 C water
1/2 t celery salt

In large saucepan, combine first five ingredients; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 12-15 min or until veggies are tender.

3 T butter
3 T flour
2 1/3 C milk
1 lb Velveeta

In saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour till smooth. Gradually stir in milk; bring to boil; cook and stir 2 min or till thickened. Reduce heat. Add cheese; cook and stir till cheese is melted.

Drain veggies; add cheese sauce and heat through. ENJOY!