Home Sweet Home

This is our home. It’s a 1950s ranch, snugly nestled into a tidy neighborhood of similar homes from the same era. Our street is fairly quiet, except for the occasional hoot of children playing outside or the fading wail of a distant siren. Well maintained trees and shrubs dot each lawn. When the weather allows, American flags wave and porch swings don’t go unused.

Our neighborhood offers a modern glimpse into the era in which these homes were built. Though we live in a city, we know our neighbors. We chat over lawn mowers, dogs on leashes and bags bulging with Autumn leaves. In summer, some of us meet to watch the Independence Day parade that passes just a block away.

This is “Small Town America” at it’s finest – even though we are most definitely NOT living in a small town. Folks are kind. Whether it’s help with snow removal, a friendly wave, or home-made s’mores left on our doorstep – we have been shown time and time again, that we are very lucky to be where we are.

I think that June Cleaver would feel at home here. I know I do. It’s funny though… some folks would never be happy living in a house like mine. They are far too worried about square footage and attached garages.

Our house is certainly small by modern standards. You won’t find any vaulted ceilings or “Great Rooms” here. You know what? I don’t mind at all! I love that our “little” house is cozy and homey and call me selfish, but I also love that I don’t have a bunch of unnecessary rooms to clean!

Our house has character. There are nooks and crannies and quirks and oddities that only an older house can boast. We aren't decorators, but we know what we like. Our furniture doesn't always match. Most of what we have is a combination of worn (though comfy) pieces, mixed in with a few antiques. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the fact that when you walk into our home, you won’t mistake it for anyone else’s. Every piece of furniture has a story. Every wall color is there because we like it, not because it’s the trendy shade of the moment.

Is our home or our neighborhood perfect? Well, no. Of course not. But are they perfect for our little family?

Having Dan and Willie here with me is what truly makes this house a home of course. We could (and would) be happy anywhere, but it's hard to imagine being anywhere else. There is promise here. There is a future here. There is a lovely now here - a now we fill with work and play and laughter and hope and faith.
Maybe we all need to remind ourselves occasionally of just how blessed we are right now in this moment. Even when times are tough, health is shaky, finances are tight...there is always something to be thankful for, to be happy about. Sometimes I think we just have to remind ourselves to enjoy each and every second - just where we are.

I hope you find your place in the world to be just as wonderful as we find ours. I hope we can all appreciate the nowness of it all. Time passes so very quickly. I think that we should strive to enjoy this moment as it is. That may not always be easy, but I think it's worth the effort.
The now is wonderful and the future bright on our little street. It’s bright and it’s beautiful and it's HOME.


A Little St. Patrick's Day Project

Friday night was supposed to be Craft Club, but the ugly winter storm threw a big wrench in those plans. I was really in the mood to make something though, and decided I'd try a shot at making something like this. I then spent the better part of what "free time" my weekend offered working on it.

As you'll see in a few moments, my end result really doesn't resemble their version - other than in spirit. Hopefully they won't be offended that I linked to them before showing what I did do...

I'm a big fan of doing what I can with what I have on hand. I hate making trips to the store for only one or two items. Also, I find that the challenge of making do is often the best part of the project for me.

Of the suggested supply list, I did NOT have any of the following: cream colored 14" fabric for the background, five gold buttons, fusible web or a satin flower.

What I did have was white background fabric, green buttons and a lot of shamrocky fabric:

Without the fusible web, I did the applique by hand, ironing under the edges and doing a small straight stitch to attach it to my background fabric:

Instead of the ribbon flower, I made a little fabric "button" of sorts for the center of my shamrock, using a Claddaugh image cut from one of the fabric remnants I had on hand:

I put the little poem at the top instead of the bottom and made some decorative corners out of a few little quilt squares (the white space just seemed too open for me). I put the green buttons as anchors for each of the corners:

I ended up with something I'm quite happy with even though it's much different than the original inspiration...

Thanks to Old Fashioned Living for a great idea - I only hope I didn't do it an injustice.


Dreaming of Green Shoots

The snow on either side of our sidewalk is thigh high. The roads are icy. The wind is cold. This is the winter that seems it will never end. And yet....

I can almost feel the warmth of summer. Why? Because the catalogs have started coming. What catalogs? Those of the seed variety, of course. Burpee Seeds & Gurney's are old favorites. Others will soon be on the way. I love looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions. Some of the photos are so luscious, I feel that I can just sink my teeth into a ripe Big Boy tomato or a juicy Georgia Peach. Oh dear. My mouth is watering as I type.

I dream of having a garden with rows of well spaced tomato and pepper plants, poles of beans and hills for cucumbers and potatoes. I want vines heavy with pumpkins and watermelon. I want to see the bushy tops of carrots and tall stalks of corn.

I dream of having a garden that looks like this:

I won't of course...but that is always my dream. My garden will never look like the above picture for several reasons:

1) Neither of my thumbs are green. Try though I might, I often struggle to keep my plants alive.
2) Our yard is small. Well, technically the front yard is big and beautiful (we're on a corner lot), but the back yard - where any gardening would normally take place - is TINY. Small to begin with, it was made smaller by the addition of the family room, a large deck and a detached garage (all added by a former owner). What's left is itty bitty.
3) I have no idea what I'm doing.
Last year I tried container gardening on a small scale. I was pleased with the results. This year I hope to do more. More containers. More plants. More variety.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I tried my hand at canning for the first time last summer, and loved it. I want to grow enough this summer to can jars of salsa, spaghetti sauce, beans, corn...
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I'm not holding my breath. But I am reading these catalogs from cover to cover... and maybe I'll soak up some much needed Planting skill through osmosis? Well, you and I both know that won't happen, so I'll cross my fingers, say a little prayer and follow the instructions. Maybe along the way I'll pick up some good advice from folks who do have green thumbs. The combination of those things might work better than osmosis anyway.
If, YOU happen to have a green thumb and expertise to share... feel free to give me some pointers. I'd love to hear them!!


Flea Market Find Part 2: Orange Box 'O Recipes

I have a bit of an infatuation with all things Betty Crocker... so when Dan found this little orange gem at the Flea Market for a whopping $2.00, he knew it would be something I'd enjoy and snapped it up. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Circa 1976, this is a recipe file that was part of a Betty Crocker recipe club. How cool is that? I suppose these types of clubs could never survive in our current world where Instant Gratification rules. Who has time to wait for a shipment of recipes when she can go on-line?x

At any rate, this little treasure chest is in excellent condition and all of the recipes are accounted for.
The categories seem pretty random to me ( Split-Shift Specials, Your Kitchen Boutique, Cool Cooking etc), but there is a handy index that lists all of the recipes by title or main ingredient.
The intro to the Index reads as follows:

Here is the index for the complete set of Betty Crocker’s Step-by-Step Recipes. This handy, compact guide will fit right into your file box, and we suggest that you keep it there for ready reference.

The index was specially developed to help you get maximum use – and enjoyment – out of the hundreds of recipes and food preparation tips included in your recipe cards. Take a few moments right now to become familiar with the following pages. Discover how easy it is to locate the recipes that have already become part of your cooking repertoire. And because the index covers the entire collection of Betty Crocker’s Step-by-Step Recipes, you will also get a preview of the many recipes that will be coming to you in the months ahead.

We hope you will use the index often – to look for specific favorites, to garner ideas or just to do some armchair meal planning. And remember, the recipes have been thoroughly tested in the Betty Crocker Kitchens and in homes all across the country. If you follow the directions exactly, you can be sure of perfect results every time.

As I flip through recipes (like Applesauce Doughnuts, and carrot-pineapple cupcakes, and Quick Tuna Chowder...) I find myself envisioning some polyester wearing home-maker from 30-plus years ago-carefully reviewing each month's shipment before filing them in their correct category. In my mind she's drinking a TAB, and listening to the Bee Gees as she plans her grocery shopping list...


Don't you just love 70's Orange?

And old recipes?

And Betty Crocker?

And the Bee Gees?

And the idea of Tuna Soup? (probably won't ever try that one, but the idea intrigues me)

Well, in case you haven't figured it out yet... I love all of those things and can hardly wait to dig in to this beauty to see what wonderful dishes she holds for my little family.

Flea Market Find, Part 1: Needles & Hooks

I've wanted to learn to crochet and/or knit for years. It's been one of those "someday I'm going to..." items that lurked in the back of my mind. I want to knit sweaters and cute little baby caps. I want to crochet afghans and thick winter scarves.

But I've never gotten around to learning, so those dreams have taken a back burner to every other thing.

However, maybe (just maybe) the tides are turning. Recently Dan, Willie and I went to the local flea market. It's a big monthly (thankfully indoor) affair that we always enjoy even though we rarely leave with any purchases. On this particular day, we could tell right off the bat that it was a good group of vendors. Sometimes all the tables are covered with junky trinkets and Nascar memorabilia and little else. But this was going to be a good week. Antiques and kitchy items were everywhere, so we knew we'd have a fun time.

At one of the first booths, I found a few little pamphlets. One was all about learning to knit. One had some moderate to advanced crochet patterns, and the third was a "how to" book that taught beginner steps for knitting, crochet, tatting and embroidery. And the kicker? They were priced at 25 cents each! "Sold!"

Just two tables later we came across the following bundle....

I was curious, so I unwrapped the pretty pink roll to find..... a wonderful collection of knitting needles and crochet hooks!

Hurrah! What fun, and to make it even better, the whole thing was priced at only $5.00! "Sold!" So, now of course is the hard part. I have to use the books to teach myself to use these wonderful hooks and needles. I have decided to start with crocheting. I'd really love to make an afghan for my Grandmother for her birthday this year (November). Sometimes my plans are far too lofty though, so we'll just have to see how it goes.


A Lovely Valentines Day

Sunday was, of course, Valentines Day. My sweetheart and I tend to approach such holidays in a fairly casual manner. We are both pretty frugal, and Dan is not a big fan of huge displays of affection… so we keep it simple. We always exchange cards, and Dan outdid himself this year. He found the perfect card for me. It was funny and sweet all at the same time. He “helped” Willie pick out a card for me as well, and that one was perfect too! My big surprise came when Dan brought me a lovely bouquet of lilies. They were (and still are) just beautiful!

How lucky am I? And to make things even better…it seemed that Will understood the theme of the day was Love, because he showered me with hugs and kisses all day long.

Dan doesn’t like getting his picture taken. This is as close as I could get to a Valentine portrait of my fantastic hubby and I.

Dan and I don’t have a “song” to call our own. Not sure why, but I guess it just never came up. Lately, Nick Jr has been playing a little animated video for Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Allright”. It makes me happy every time I see it/hear it. That sweet song reminds me of just how wonderful everything can be in my life – and just how wonderful it IS as long as Dan and Willie are with me. They are my reason for “smiling with the risin' sun” every day.

If you don’t know that song… here are the lyrics:

"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don't worry!"
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing" - I won't worry!
"'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right" - I won't worry!
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, oh no!
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right! /fadeout/
I hope you also had a wonderful Valentine's Day!



My wish for you is that you have someone in your life who makes you as happy as my dear Dan makes me.

Happy Valentines Day!


Food Day

Tomorrow my department is having a "food day" in honor of Valentines Day, and a few new team members, and also the fact that we enjoy eating food.... all day long.

For those of you who don't spend 8 plus hours in a cubicle each day, a "Food Day" is often the highlight of an office work-week. It's a mini pot luck, often with a theme, which allows the usually sedentary to remain sedentary while also ingesting ludicrous amounts of calories. And I'm not talking about good calories - a typical food day does not include apples or carrots.

In some ways preparing for a food day reminds me of childhood birthday parties at school. Your Mom could bring in treats at the end of the day and everyone would sing "Happy Birthday". If you were lucky (I was!) you had a Mom who could make really good treats. What to bring would be the subject of many pre-birthday conversations. It seemed like an important decision at the time - confetti cupcakes with pink frosting? or Chocolate Chip cookies? Usually (in my house anyway) cupcakes won out. And with that in mind, I have decided to take some as my contribution for tomorrow's food day.

Valentines cupcakes need to be cute and tasty and have some pink or red incorporated... so I've decided on Red Velvet, with cream cheese frosting of course! I have a wonderful red velvet cake recipe in my Sylvia cookbook, but because it's a work-night, and I'm feeling lazy.... I'm going to use a mix. I know that's not the cool thing to do, and I know they won't taste as good, but they will work out fine for this particular event.

Mmmmm, Red Velvet batter...

And the finished cupcakes...


Willie's Kitchen Cabinet

We have an old Hoosier Cabinet in our kitchen. The bottom has two large doors that we couldn't easily baby-proof... so we designated that as "Willie's Cabinet". We put various plastic and metal bowls and a few assorted old pans in it for him to play with and bang about. The picture shows what he most likes to do with an old spring-form pan.

It's funny, how much joy such a simple little thing can bring.


So much "To Do"

There is a magical and lengthy “To Do” list that exists only in my head. It grows as I am inspired by new ideas or reminded of old ones. It may retract a bit when life gets hectic. Depending on the weather, supplies on hand, or my mood - some items get added and others dropped. On any given day my project list (if ever written down) might look nothing like the one that came before or the one that would follow.

It doesn't include the necessities of everyday life. There are always going to be holey socks to mend, cakes to bake and books to read. Those daily "gotta be done" tasks do not warrant placement on this particular mental agenda. Instead, this checklist is filled with crafty projects that allow my inner artist to come out and play.

In, what now, seems like another life – I earned a Bachelors degree in Art & Design. Though I no longer make sculptures, sketch with charcoal or paint with oils, I do try to stay in touch with my Artsy side. Since my day job as a technical writer for a large insurance company doesn't allow much room for any creative outlet; I need these extra activities to express myself and/or to retain my sanity. (only half kidding)

I learned early on in art school, that I was not one of the truly gifted folks who would someday be hosting gallery openings or have work hung in museums.

But I am crafty.

I like to dabble in this and that. I love learning new things and experimenting with different materials and techniques. As the old saying goes, I am a “Jack of all trades, the master of none.” I love quilting, needlework and sewing. I love scrap-booking, drawing, and making greeting cards. I like variety and I'm a whiz at multi-tasking, so at any given time I am in the middle of a few projects at once.

And I'm constantly inspired to embark on yet another. Sometimes I’ll come across a scrap of fabric that immediately says to me, “Curtains” or “Tote Bag”. Or maybe I’ll be browsing through a magazine and see an interesting wall hanging that I feel compelled to duplicate… or we’ll be roaming through a flea market and I’ll see an item that intrigues me. I’ll say something like, “Ooooh, I think I can do THAT!”. And my husband responds by muttering good-naturedly about all of the other projects I’m in the middle of… and I pretend to ignore him of course.

Right at the top of my current list is: hand sewing an apron (almost done & will share more when I am), planning a wool patch-work quilt (hope to complete in time to use next winter), and learning to crochet (I want to make an afghan - eventually).

I say all that, to say this: You can expect some crafty/sewing/quilting posts in the coming weeks and months. I'll be sharing my experiences (both good and bad) as I work on my list (or the current version of it anyway).

Photo: An Embroidery pattern from Perfect Little Stitches


It is what you make of it

I'm in the early design stage for my next quilt (more about that some other day), and for me that means re-reading my old quilting books for new ideas & inspirations. One of my favorites* includes a passage from "Aunt Jane of Kentucky" by Eliza Calvert Hall. In this short snippet, "Aunt Jane" explains how life is like a patchwork quilt...

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did:

"How much piecin'a quilt is like livin' a life! Many a time I've set and listened to Parson Page preachin' about predestination and free will, and I've said to myself, 'If I could jest git up there in the pulpit with one of my quilts, I could make life a heap plainer than parson's makin' it with his big words.'

You see, to make a quilt you start out with jest so much caliker; you don't go to the store and pick it out and buy it, but the neighbors give you a piece here and there and you'll find you have a piece left over every time you've cut out a dress, and you jest take whatever happens to come. That's the predestination.

But when it comes to cuttin' out the quilt, why, you're free to choose your own pattern. You give the same kind of pieces to two persons and one'll make a 'Nine-Patch' and the other one'll make a 'Wild-goose-Chase' and so there'll be two quilts made of the same kind of pieces but jest as different as can be. That's the way of livin'. The Lord sends us the pieces; we can cut 'em out and put 'em together pretty much to suit ourselves. There's a heap more in the cuttin' out and the sewin' than there is in the caliker."

That about sums it all up, doesn't it?

*The Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting by Marguerite Ickis
photo: Bing Images


Beating The Winter Blahs

Earlier this week that Pennsylvania Groundhog made it official – there will be no early Spring for 2010. We were a wee bit disappointed, but not at all surprised. The snowstorms here have been less frequent of late, but the cold temps have not wavered enough to matter. We are still surrounded with piles and piles of snow. Snow on our rooftop & snow on the lawn (I assume there is still a lawn under there somewhere, but we haven’t seen it for some time).

It seems that everywhere I look… there are only varying shades of white – grayish-white, brown-ish white, mystery speckled white, and more white, white, white. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever melt?.

The snowman we built New Years weekend is still in our front yard, for goodness sake. He’s laying there in three sad round-ish pieces thanks to some ornery neighbor boys, but he’s still THERE. He should have melted long ago.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s a snippet from a story posted to a local news station’s website on Monday…

We have seen a record 55 consecutive days with at least a 4 inch snow depth this year. The old record was 54 days set back in 1961-1962.

So far 42.6 inches of snow has fallen this season. The Metro area has around 9 inches still on the ground as of Monday morning.

No wonder the Winter Blahs have taken over my usually positive temperament. I miss green. I miss flowers. I miss warm breezes. I miss driving with my windows down, and letting my hair whip around with the wind.

I don’t remember ever being this bothered by the weather. I don’t think I have SAD, but this year the weather has really gotten me down in the dumps. In general I’m a pretty happy and upbeat person. It’s rare for me to be grouchy or short-tempered for more than a few minutes. My husband and various co-workers might have a different story to tell at the moment – but usually there’s a smile on my face.

I know I need to just snap out of it, and I will. But what I really WANT to do right now is go home, curl up with a cozy old quilt, a cup of tea, my big guy & my little guy… and not step out of the house again till the birds start chirping and the flowers start blooming. It would never work of course… no matter how much I would love to be a hermit right now. Clearly I need a better (more feasible – less financially horrifying) solution.

So here’s my plan… I’ll work, and play, and enjoy life as it comes (even if more snow falls and the temps get colder). I’m going to sit back, take a deep breath, and enjoy every moment of the next forty days. Regardless of how tempting it may prove to be, I promise myself not to wish those days away. I make this promise because I do understand that the time we have (with our significant other, our children, our family, our friends) is so precious – and in reality, so very brief.

I don’t want to miss out on any of the wonder that my life may hold just because of some stupid snow.

It will melt eventually, after all. That’s what snow does.

I feel better already. I guess I just needed to vent. Thank you for letting me do exactly that.
photo: Bing Images


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