Monday, December 31, 2012

Have a Joy Filled New Year!

Dear friends, warm wishes for a joy filled new year!  This past year had it's ups and downs for most of us, I'm sure.  A new year always reminds me of a brand new clean slate yet to be written on.  Fill your slate this year with joy!

Even here in the desert, there is a freeze warning tonight.  Hot chocolate sure sounds like a good idea!  This is the tray that I prepared before Christmas as a hot chocolate "station".

For the 90 plus volunteers in my Nursery Program at church, I literally gave them "joy" for Christmas, but joy is a year round gift to all!

Using the computer to print a quote and deckle edge scissors to cut out labels, I made labels for a LOT of Almond Joy candy bars.  This is a personal favorite of mine and as it turns out, many of my volunteers expressed that it was their favorite as well.

The quote is from Luke 2:10, "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all the people."
The label was simply wrapped around the candy bar and taped on the back using double stick tape.
A basket full of JOY!
Stay safe, stay warm and above all, stay joyful in 2013.  Good things are coming your way!
Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

DIY Vanilla

Dear friends,

I have been missing you!  For all of us, this is a busy time of year and I've been, well, busy doing many things, but not blogging.  While I was busy, I have had some things in the works that did not need my constant attention and finally got one of those finished.

Several weeks ago I decided to make some vanilla.  There were several blogs where tutorials were given so I combined the information and bought supplies.

I know nothing about brandy, so just bought a bottle.  I forgot to take a photo while it was still full. And, no, I did not drink it!  The beans I ordered from Amazon after checking the price at the local grocery store.  These were much more economical.  (The silver tray was given to me from my son who found it somewhere and thought I'd like it -- I do!)
The instructions I found agreed on using 1 cup of brandy (or vodka) to 1 bean.  I just used jars from bottled marinara sauce that had been washed and dried.  I slit the beans lengthwise to release the flavor and the seeds. Then, the waiting begins.  Most instructions said to wait at least 6 weeks while the beans flavored the liquor.  I waited more than that as I didn't have time to bottle the results until this week.

You can see the seeds in the empty jar.  I used a funnel to fill the bottles which were from Hobby Lobby and other places where I found pretty bottles.  I'm only showing three here, but there is MUCH more vanilla!
When I tasted the vanilla, it tasted like brandy to me, so I tasted the purchased vanilla I had in my pantry and -- it tasted like liquor as well.  All these years I've been using vanilla I had never tasted it except in the finished baked goods.  Who knew it tasted like liquor?


 I think the results will make lovely gifts to my baking friends and family, don't you?

I put a fresh bean in each of the bottles and will tie a pretty ribbon around the top.
Do you make any of your Christmas gifts?  I love the way these look -- hope my friends and family do too!
Blessings to you during this busy time of year.
Sharing on:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The 25 Trees Of Christmas

What?  You don't have 25 trees for Christmas?  Actually, I don't either, but I've decorated 26 trees so far with two more to go.

However, 25 of the trees were only a foot tall and they were not for our house.  They were for an event we held for the kids and their families at our church. 

Here is one finished.
This gives a little more perspective to the size.
This is how the "good" trees started out.
Some needed a little help from a glue gun as the stands fell off.
Here is the "forest" fluffed and ready for the ornaments.  Funny how some of the foot tall trees were taller than others.
A few days later, they all had ornaments.
Yep, those little ornaments are 3/4" diameter.  There are 25 ornaments on each tree.
This is how they looked on the tables.
This event was to introduce "The Savior's CHRISTmas Tree" which is similar to the Jesse Tree if you are familiar with that tradition.  A scripture and family discussion to prepare for Christmas each day for 25 days.
This is the size the families were given to work with. We didn't make them do the tiny ones!  The Children's staff wrote the 25 devotions and prepared booklets for each family who attended.
There were other activities and snacks as well.  What's Christmas without cookies and cocoa and a rousing game of "bat the balloon"? The red team succeeded twice in getting more balloons across the rope to the green side.  Go red!
The families also teamed up to make human Candy Canes and told the Christmas story in a unique way with full participation of the kids.  Everyone had a great time.
And the trees?  they went home with some of the families.  I had the fun of making them -- they have the fun of keeping them and duplicating the ornaments as they do their devotional and activity each night leading up to Christmas.
Now, I can get back to the serious business of decorating the rest of my house for the holidays.
Sharing at:
Feathered Nest Friday  at French Country Cottage

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holiday Traditions 1

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had 10 adults, 6 teenagers and 5 children aged 2 to 10 around various tables and seated on sofas for dinner.  It was a very good day!

The holidays of November and December are my favorites of the holidays.  I think it is partly due to the fact that we have more traditions built on Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of year.  They are also fun to decorate for and I LOVE to do that!

One tradition we have for these holidays is pecan pie.  When I was growing up there seemed to be pecan pie on the menu.  For family reunion , either Aunt Amy or Aunt Opal would bring a pecan pie and while many kids don't like nuts, I always have -- especially pecans!

My mother also made pecan pie for the holidays and they were always good.  Unfortunately, Mom was one of those "little of this and a bit of that" cooks so many recipes were never written down.  I never had her pecan pie recipe so had to find one of my own.  My friend, Betty who is from Kentucky provided the recipe I've used "forever".  She contributed the recipe to a church cookbook when we lived in the Milwaukee area where she still lives.  That was so long ago that the cook book was printed using a mimeograph - remember those?

Here is Betty's recipe for Kentucky Pecan Pie.

                        1 Cup White corn syrup                                   1/4 cup melted butter
                        1 Cup brown sugar                                           3 eggs, slightly beaten
                        1 teaspoon vanilla                                            1 heaping cup shelled pecan halves
                        1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine syrup, sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and mix well.  Add eggs.  Pour into 9:" unbaked pie shell.  Sprinkle pecans over all.  (You will notice I carefully place mine in radiating circles.  Some people just mix chopped pecans into the syrup mixture - your preference.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  When cool, top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
Though the original recipe says you can use margarine, I never, ever do.  Butter and the brown sugar make a wonderful almost caramel taste which many people have commented on when I've served this pie. 
This is what the pre-baked pie looks like.
And here it is again, all baked.
We have other traditions and I will be writing about those from time to time, as well.
What traditions do you have?  Food related or otherwise?  Which is your favorite tradition?  Ooh, as I wrote that, I realized I couldn't pick a favorite!  Maybe you will have trouble as well.
Do your traditions come from your own family traditions or did you create your own?  We have some of both.
Hope you try this pecan pie.  If you like pecan pie, I think you will LOVE this one.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chasing Rainbows

Do you love surprises?  I do if they are good surprises.  Today I had one of those moments.

My studio is on the second floor so I have a birds eye view of the neighborhood.  The sky had suddenly turned dark and ominous looking which isn't all that common in our part of Arizona.  We are used to blue skies and sunshine.  I grabbed my camera and went outside to take some cloudy sky photos and this is what I saw --
I almost missed it.  I had the wrong lens on so only took a couple of shots before returning to change the lens.
When I came back out, I only caught glimpses of the ends.
From one part of the street I got this end.
The other end almost gone!
Just a bit remained as I looked across the street.
Sometimes behind these are wonderful surprises.
I'm glad I didn't miss the rainbow completely even if the clouds are amazingly beautiful!
Yesterday I took these photos of another kind of rainbow.
My sweet little two's and three's classes made this rainbow as part of our lessons on Noah and the Big Boat.
God's promises are the best!
*** On another note, life had been so busy lately that I totally missed my blogiversary! In November of 2010 I started this amazing journey blogging.  During that time I have met so many wonderful readers and bloggers that I feel very blessed.  You have stuck with me during my quirky schedule when I'm so busy I can't blog or create anything to blog about.  I love you all!  Thank you for all the sweet comments, questions and encouragement! 


Monday, October 29, 2012

Vintage Milk Cans

Whew!  The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity!  Eventually, I will post a few photos from the wedding.  I only took a few with my phone, so they are not the quality I'd like nor are they posed -- they are truly just snapshots trying to freeze the moment.

For years I have had a couple of milk cans that my dad gave me.  Many years ago I had painted one green and an artist friend had painted daisies on the front.  Unfortunately, I do not know what happened to that milk can.  .  But, there are two that I had been contemplating painting an antiqued white and putting French graphics on them.  Then I read a blog where the blogger bemoaned the fact that she wanted a vintage milk can with the original rusty silver patina still in tact.  Hmmmm, since I had two, I looked at them with new eyes.

Perhaps leaving them with the patina is the best course after all.  As I had only put a couple of containers of pine cones in our entry way, the milk cans were added to see if the look worked. 
This basket has a few more pine cones now than are in the photo as my friend, Diane, gave me another bag.  For the first time in a very long time we don't have a tall pine tree or two shading our yard, so I don't have the easy access to the pine cones as we have enjoyed in the past.
The look is a bit stark, so I will be adding more mums or other Fall colored flowers and maybe a few more pumpkins as well to make the entry look more inviting.
When I was very young, I remember bits and pieces of us having milk cows. We no longer did by the time I would have been old enough to actually help with the milking.  I DO remember that I do not like the taste of raw milk, however!
Each of the milk cans has a "36" stencilled on it.
I'm assuming this is how the dairy my parents sold the milk to were able to return the cans to the right farmer. Unfortunately, many of the small dairies went out of business and many of the farmers no longer had a market for their milk unless they expanded greatly.
My mother in law gave us this milk can from the farm where my husband grew up.  She had it painted with a lovely Autumn theme on it.  From that time, it has always been displayed somewhere in our home.  She wanted us to have something of the "old homestead" after they moved from the farm.  It was a lovely gesture for one who loves vintage things!
Another treasure from the farm that my dad gave me was this cream separator.  It was originally green with red legs.  I painted it to match the patio furniture about 20 years ago, so it has quite a bit of aging to it again. Though there are heavy rocks in it,The monsoon windes regularly blow it over and  that has added a few dings here and there.
The cream pail that sits below is not vintage.  I don't remember when or where, but I purchased it several years ago to use by the creamer.  On occasion, it has held flowers as well.
So there you have it, my vintage milk cans and dairy paraphernalia that remind my of my country roots.  So what do you think -- leave them with the original patina or paint them with the French graphic?
I've missed you, my firneds!  Now that the dust is settling again, I hope to get back to a regular schedule of blogging.  Thank you for sticking around!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn Chains Blocks

Because I love you and miss you when I don't get a chance to post, I wanted to share what I've been working on. I love hearing what you are working on, too!

These are part of the blocks that I started at the Mini Retreat in August.  The other blocks are exactly the opposite -- light where the dark is and dark where the light is.  Those blocks are partially finished. I have not decided what will go in the setting triangles yet.  Any suggestions?  Maybe I'll wait to decide until I see the darker blocks on the design wall, too.
Here is a little closer look.
This is a really simple block and, though unusual for me, no triangles in it!  My quilts almost always have half square triangles in them! Since the last quilt top was a log cabin, this is two in a row!
I love the chain that the darker squares form from block to block and the light ones in the dark blocks will add a lot to the complexity of the quilt. 
I used a similar chain block in my quilt Redwood Forest that I showed you here. The chains in that case almost seem part of the tree block as the background fabric disappears and only the chain stands out.  This is a wonderful block to use as an alternate block in a quilt.  Hope you will try it in one of your quilts someday.
Our granddaughter is being married this coming Sunday so this will be a very busy week for us.  Tomorrow and the next day I work and in the meantime, I have her dress here as it needs a small alteration made to it.
Hope you are having a fabulous, creative day!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Hostess Gifts

Oh, good!  You are still here!  After my absence of a week, I was hoping you would be waiting for me! My sister even called to make sure everything was okay since I had not done a blog post for a week.

Life has changed a bit as I am now working again.  I am serving as the Interim Nursery Director at our church while one of the employees takes care of some health issues and is back up to caring for her ministry.  It's fun, I love it!  I have been a Children's Director, but this is more focused on the Birth to 3 year old children and they are precious!

In addition, this past weekend, our dear friends Deanna and Ron came for a visit -- a long overdue visit!  It had been at least 30 years since we had seen them.  And, do you know what?  We took up where we had left off when we all started moving and having kids that required a lot of attention, etc.

We met when our sons were around 2.  They both have the same name.  Deanna and I became instant friends and were inseparable most of the time.  We did everything together that we could until they moved to another state.  We crafted together.  We gave parties together.  We shopped together.  We increased our families at the same time. We went to a Neil Diamond concert together. We even vacationed together. And our husbands enjoyed spending time together, too -- what could be better than that?

Deanna brought wonderful hostess gifts! I was just thrilled to get to spend time with them, but she brought these.

She made almost everything!
They look perfect under the Thanksgiving quilt that was also a gift from another friend.
Who knew you could make a pumpkin from folded scrap booking paper?
Is that not adorable?
And another pumpkin with scroll cut edges, a bird from Prague, and lovely silk rose that is a pen and a cute harlequin jack o' lantern.
Did you notice the bank money bag?  It will be a pillow eventually.
It all came in this gorgeous basket that Deanna made! Oh my!  This will be used for all the seasons!
But the best gift?  The gift of getting to spend time with a dear friend who greeted me with, "I was afraid I'd never get to see you again!"  And her parting words brought tears to my eyes as she said, "You are the best friend I've ever had!. "  What a precious gift is friendship!
Do you have special friends that you have not seen for a while?  Give yourself a treat and contact them.  You will be glad you did. Friends are the sisters we get to choose for ourselves.