Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Guideposts - Week45

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.
~Mother Teresa


Friday, November 26, 2010

Cinderella Whips Potatoes

Final Score: Nevada 34 - Boise 31
One more thing to give thanks for.  Fun game to watch with drama, heartbreak, near misses, thrills, chills (it was only thirty-one degrees), frequent nailbiting, moans and groans, and more ups and downs than a game should have.  And I'm not a football fan.

Smiling ear to ear,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Snowbirds

It's their first snowfall.
They like it a whole lot better than rain, partly because we always have sunshine after a snowstorm. And dry soil under our incense cedar well-suited for frazzling.
And a nice bench perfect for catching the rays on. 

I'm not sure what they're going to think about temps falling into the low teens. Uh-oh, I think Norma Jean might have heard me.
"What did you say? Teens?!  And we're sleeping where?"
Don't worry, ladies, I have a plan for heating your coop. 
And our resident turkey has a message for all of you this Thanksgiving. 

Personally, I prefer this message from my son.
Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, replete Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Secrets

Fresh snow never lies. Miss Mousey spends her nights hanging out in the chicken run and sleeps in the woodpile during the day.

It's hard to devise a trap that won't catch chicken toes or a dog nose.

So for now, Miss Mousey gets a pass.
I guess the white stuff has gotten me in the Christmas spirit a little early this year.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Guideposts - Week44

Order is a lovely thing;
On disarray she lays her wing,
Teaching simplicity to sing.

~Anna Hempstead Branch

I am loving my cleaned-off kitchen countertop and my favorite canisters in their new arrangement--just in time for my annual Thanksgiving baking.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Last Gardening Day 2010?

Thoughts on a chilly November day:
    • From fifty mild degrees to fifteen chilly degrees equals a panicked motivated gardener!
    • Instead of movie-going with my sweetie, I'm spending a much-needed day in the garden.
    • I don't know who's running the weather, but it would be nice if all the leaves could be down and raked before the first snowfall.
    • If I don't get the leaves raked today, I might get the chance until next Spring when the blanket of white melts.
    • I don't want to see old leaves next Spring.
    • Keeping my hood up keeps me toasty-warm while raking, mowing and clipping.
    • The yard is was end-to-end leaves, including the pond.
    • The big net (formerly for pollywog catching) works great at "fishing" fallen leaves out of the pond.
    • My neighbors have oak leaves that are six inches long.
    • I hate to trim the last golden-yellow mums (even if they are long past their prime) because they're the last flowers of the year.
    • Having a kleenex in my pocket is a really good idea on a cold day.
    • Leaves work well in the coop--the girls enjoy nesting in them.
    • Pine needles are nicer to walk on than squishy chicken mud.
    • I like having the Bombshells for company while I garden.
    • Remember where the non-blooming phlox are.
    • Life is too short for flowers that refuse to bloom.
    • Sleep well, little baby rosemary plant. I'm glad I don't have to bring you inside.
    • I hope I remember where the new monarda, the white sage and the other newbies are next year.
    • It sure feels good to have the garden clean and tidy.  Snow may now come.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Creating a Velvet Pumpkin

    I was smitten with the gorgeous velvet pumpkins I saw last year at Olive Juice.  But did I act swiftly enough to buy one of her kits?  Sadly she was sold out by the time I had made up my mind.  (When am I ever gonna learn not to procrastinate?)  So I was stuck with creating my own version.

    • I not only had Olive Juice as inspiration, but also Plump Pumpkins and Hot Skwash.
    • Ahh, the colors! Could I have one of each, please? (Too bad they're not in our budget.)

    • Find the velvet.  I had hoped to find a high-quality velvet (not velveteen) in one of our many fabric stores to hand dye.  Alas, not a white velvet to be found.  Happily I found a squash-colored crushed velvet that I love.  Two-thirds of a yard was enough to create three pumpkins. (I also have a warm brown velvet tucked away that I haven't found the time to "pumpkinize"--I can hardly wait to see how it looks.)
    Finding a quality velvet in a great color is the hardest part of this project. Here is a link to an etsy store with lots of luscious silk velvets in case you can't find what you want locally.  Silk velvet is amazing!

    I did find the time to start my brown pumpkin since I first posted this tute--he won't acquire his stem until I'm done with my holiday pumpkins--but I think he looks pretty cute as he is.
    Now I'm yearning for a soft green pumpkin and a juicy purple one too!

    • Now the hard part--cutting into your lovely fabric!  How big do you want your pumpkin to be?  Oddly enough, I'm enjoying my smaller pumpkins more than the larger.  Want a six -inch pumpkin--cut an eighteen-inch diameter circle.  Want an eight inch pumpkin--multiply by three to find out what the diameter of your circle should be (twenty-four inches).  Now go in search of something around your home that is approximately that diameter--a pot lid, a mixing bowl, a lampshade, whatever.
    • My summer hat wasn't quite big enough, but I centered it on my fabric, used a Sharpie to dot around the brim with an extra two finger allowance and cut away.
    • With regular sewing thread in a color to match or blend with your velvet (my thread is dark to show up on this tutorial), turn the velvet under about a quarter inch or so, and take large half-inch stitches all around the circumference of your circle.
      (Isn't it nice to know that learning all those horrid math terms like diameter and circumference is finally useful?) 

    • Gather your fabric slightly, leaving a hole large enough to easily stuff your pumpkin.  
    • Keep your needle on the thread!
    • You could use fancy bean-bag pellets, or play sand stolen from your child's sandbox, or you could raid your kitchen cupboard for some inexpensive white rice like I did. 
    • How much to use?  This comes under the "it's not brain surgery" category--the amount isn't crucial.  Use enough to weight your pumpkin so it sits contentedly, probably more than less.
    • Now grab some fiberfil.
    • Stuff your creation so it has a pleasingly plump silhouette.  
    • Add, smoosh or remove fiberfil as needed.
    • Now tighten your gathers but leave a big enough opening for a stem. 
    • I happened to have saved the stems from our jack-o-lanterns, but a tree branch works nicely also.  If your heart is set on a genuine pumpkin stem with all its idiosyncrasies but you don't have one, use a branch as a temporary substitute until you can get your hands on a real pumpkin stem.
    • Insert the stem at an angle, pull your gathers tightly around it and take a few stitches to hold in place.
    • Knot the thread, leaving a long tail.  Pull the needle down into the pumpkin, then out, and clip.
    • For a tendril, curl some green wire around a chopstick/knitting needle/pencil and slide off.  Poke the end into the pumpkin next to the stem.
    • I wanted my pumpkin to have a leaf. Naturally I grabbed my fabric samples from this summer's bonanza and found the perfect soft khaki green, went outside and brought in a small fallen maple leaf for a pattern and was totally unimpressed with my creation! Tweaking ensued with only minimal improvement, so I went with Plan B. I borrowed a silk leaf from our cornucopia display--right size and shape, wrong color but, hey, that's what paint is for!
    • I put my leaf on a plastic grocery bag, used some plain old grassy-green acrylic paint straight from the bottle and loved the result.
    Half done--quite an improvement, yes?  I like the way the veins resisted the acrylic paint.

    The finished product was exactly what I was looking for: a late-autumn pumpkin leaf!
    • Glue a bit of green wire to the underside of your leaf, attach to your pumpkin, and wander around your home setting your new creation here and there, looking for the perfect place to display it.  On the dining table?  Entryway?  Mantle?

    I "sew" hope you enjoy your velvet pumpkin(s) as much as I'm enjoying mine!

    More goodness: Show and Tell @ My Romantic Home and The Tablescaper's Thanksgiving Cornucopia and BeColorful's Motivated Monday.

    Plumply, squashily yours,

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    I'm Officially Inspired

    Talk about perfect timing!  I found this wonderful holiday craft ezine 
    (via the Graphics Fairy ) just as I happen to have some extra time on my hands. 

    With Christmas right around the corner, I don't need any other reason to be sidetracked into an orgy of sparkle, elves, trees and stockings (each and every project necessary to make this holiday season memorable for my family and friends).  I'm going to be very busy indeed as I wind up some unfinished sewing projects and morph into my Mrs. Santa alter-ego.

    Check out Amy Powers for a just a small sample of the myriad delights to be found in her Inspired Ideas.  Just make sure you have plenty of time to leisurely browse when you check out her free ezine, otherwise the dinner will burn and the dogs will go hungry while you do some Christmas shopping.

    Tonight I know I'll have visions of sugarplums--and silk yoyo trees, glittering putz houses (oh how I've wanted to try making these little gems),
    vintage ornament wreaths, and sparkly Sculpey snowmen dancing in my brain!

    Maybe I don't miss summer after all.

    Ho, ho, ho,

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Nothin' Says Loving Like Pumpkin Gingerbread in the Oven!

    I just hafta share this seasonally delicious treat with you! In fact, I'm surprised you didn't call me up and ask about that irresistible spicy aroma floating out of the cottage and permeating the neighborhood.
    I started with the basic five-star recipe from which you can check out hereThen I started to make changes as suggested in the reviews and according to the current meager contents of my cupboard. Without further fanfare (although it deserves all the fanfare it can get), here is my (kinda healthier) version of
    Frosty's Pumpkin Gingerbread

    Oh yeah, the usual stuff:  grease the pans or spray with Pam and only fill halfway. I made a 9 x 5 loaf, two mini loaves about 5 x 3 plus ten muffins from this recipe. Bake 45 min. for the little loaves, 25 or so for the muffins. All were received with delight and glee by neighbors and family!

    I got to use up eggs from the Bombshells (they're still laying up a storm and we can hardly eat them fast enough) and more of my jack o'lantern pumpkin puree (there's a limit to how much pumpkin soup my family will eat without protest in a month's time).


    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    My Guideposts - Week43

    Home is heaven for beginners.
    ~Charles Parkhurst

    Nesting and dreaming in my own little cottage**,

    ** The charming home above doesn't belong to me:  my home is tan not grey,  I can't grow hydrangeas here and my trees are smaller, I have neither gingerbread trim nor gothic arch windows, my porch is only about as big as the area on the far left framed by two columns and I live in the midst of suburbia on a smallish lot--but I love the "heavenly" appeal of this cottage photo.   I do have loads of colorful flowers, sunshine three hundred and fifty days a year, brick walks, a pond, my chickens and the best dog in the world!

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Fall Fabric Leaves

    It's a Win-Win project: use up some of those fabric scraps that you've got squirreled away and gain some autumn decor in the bargain. Oh, and you don't have to rake these leaves!
    I have to admit that Kaycee, Jaycee and I first saw these fabric leaves as a wreath at a craft show and muttered to each other, "looks pretty easy, doesn't it?" For such a simple project it turned out to be quite a challenge to reproduce the right leaf shape. Eventually we came up with this:
    To use this as a pattern, click on the image, select "save image as" (file name: should be "leaf"), then use your printer to print it as a five by seven image. It's actually eight inches long and about six and a half wide so you'll need to add about a half inch all the way around.

    I love using various colors and interesting textures for my leaf fabrics.  Choose a variety from your scraps.
    Unless you don't have any fabric that will work and need an excuse to visit your local fabric or quilt store.  A quarter yard of each fabric that catches your fancy will be plenty.  Lay two pieces right sides together and let's get started.

    Trace around your pattern on the wrong side of your fabric--this will be your sewing line.
    Or maybe I should say it's your sewing suggestion.
    Obviously I don't feel like I have to sew exactly on the line.  Leaves aren't perfect.

    Trim your seam closely
    Before versus after.
    This leaf isn't going to be worn, handled a lot or laundered frequently, so the stitching isn't going to pull loose or unravel.

    Not trimming it closely will result in a lumpy bumpy shape when you turn it right sides out.
    See the difference?

    Now you'll need a little bit of fiberfil just along the leaf's center rib to add some dimension.
    This doesn't look like a lot, but it's actually too much (unless you think leaves should be puffy like the poor soul below on the left).

    See...I took about half of the polyfil away.
    Just right. Now tuck it inside along the midline of the leaf.

    Fold the open bottom seam inwards and sew. I took the opportunity on my last leaf of the day (naturally) to pin the midpoint, then fold in the ends a lot so I didn't have a straight bottom.  Any future leaves I sew will definitely look like this!  I did mark the change on my leaf pattern above.
    You can use green, brown, tan or gold thread depending on what looks best to you.

    Next sew the veins on the leaves, the center rib first.
    Then the lower veins. Then the upper. I like to curve mine a bit.

    Trim all those loose threads.
    Admire and enjoy.  They make a colorful base for your Thanksgiving table centerpieces.

    Now I have leaves under our table decorations and enough left over for the cornucopia on our entry table.
    I hope you enjoy the leaves you make from this tutorial.  Let me know if you have any questions and I'll get back to you pronto!

    Linking up with some parties new and old:  Show and Tell Friday @ My Romantic Home, SNS @ Funky Junk Interiors, Seasonal Sundays at The Tablescaper, Making the World Cuter Monday @ Making the World Cuter, Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps on the Porch, Get Your Craft On @ Today's Creative Blog, Sew-Cute Tuesday @ Creative Itch, We Did It Wednesday @ Sew Much Ado