Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Here in AZ we are in the midst of our "monsoon" season. It's been teasing us for weeks but today, the sky finally opened up and let go. It got me to thinking about water storage. A rain barrel would have been nice but we don't even have gutters. It doesn't rain much here but when it does, it's fast and hard and I'm sure a barrel would have been filled today. And rain barrel water would certainly ease the numbers on the water bill. Six years ago today, my husband and I married. Maybe for my anniversary he'll buy me a rain barrel!

Anyway, my poor deprived desert children happened to be in the yard when the storm started and  I just didn't have the heart to make them come inside. Once they were drenched and they complained of mud and clothing chafing, the clothes came off and my little wild ones finished their adventure in the nude. Here are some pictures of our absolutely lovely Saturday afternoon!

Happy Weekending! 

Friday, July 30, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} 

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words- capturing a moment you want to remember. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Recyled Craft-Planets and Stars

Lately, my daughter has been very interested in space. We watched a PBS show aimed at children about the solar system and ever since she has been asking me why we can't live on Jupiter or Neptune and why Saturn doesn't stink if it's made of gas. I was beyond excited at her enthusiasm and wanted to foster it in any way I could. Besides heading to the library for books on the subject, I used one of my favorite recycled childhood crafts to further engage her interest in the great beyond....

Melted Sun Catchers
Any easy project to make with what you've got!

  • First, we located all our broken crayons from the crayon box. Everyone has some but if you don't, consider snapping the most worn down ones. Remove the paper.

  • Grate the crayons on a cheese grater. Use an old one. I didn't and now we have what I shall affectionately call our "craft" grater. 

  • Spread the shavings on a piece of wax paper. You can mix colors together or use them individually. Cover the shavings with another piece of wax paper.

  • With an old towel underneath, place the sandwiched shavings on a flat surface and press with a warm iron. Repeat until the wax is melted and spread to your liking. Sorry. No pic of this step...I can't hold a camera and and iron at the same time.

  • Let cool. Cut into desired shapes. You can punch holes in the shapes and thread with yarn to make a mobile or tape them up in a sunny window. We cut ours into planet and star shapes and made a solar system on our sliding glass door.
Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grow Your Own Drugs

After yesterday's I-hate-crafting meltdown, I spent the evening focusing on something I really enjoy: gardening. I'm new at gardening too but it does not try to thwart me as crafting projects do. I plant, I water, I pull weeds, I kill bugs, I eat well. It really is that easy. 

It's almost time to plant our winter garden. Here in the valley, seeds should be in the ground no later than the 15th of September. At least that's what the local garden expert on NPR said. I believe him. I guess it's only fair. We harvest pretty much year round except these few sweltering summer months. While people are enjoying fresh summer tomatoes we are pulling their withered corpses off the vines and tossing them into the compost pile. We don't have a traditional "harvest time" at the end of the summer. We have "pull-up-the- plants-that-the-sun-killed-and-plant-for-winter time."

We sat down and plotted out the beds. Along with the usual suspects I want to plant potatoes which we haven't tried yet and luffah gourds, which you can dry and use as sponges. And, I would like to use one of the smaller beds to plant a medicinal herb garden.

Just like the vegetable garden, picking what to grow in my medicinal garden was the hardest part. I decided to make a list of my families most common ailments and then match those ailments with the proper herbal remedies. For my family, we are most commonly afflicted with:

Urinary Tract Infections
Cuts and Scrapes

I picked herbs that would be effective in treating the above ailments, as well as by how familiar I am with them. No use in growing some obscure plant that I'm afraid to use. I also picked plants that I just plain like because they are pretty and they smell good. These so-called "decorative" herbs I hope to use in homemade beauty treatments; lotions, soaps and the like. The list was long but space is limited. Here's what made the final cut:

Calendula-used for antiseptic and healing properties

German Chamomile-tummy soother and baby calmer

Echinacea-immune booster, good for fighting off colds

Lemon Balm-smells good, tastes good

Peppermint-settles stomach and I love it!

Spearmint-same as above

Feverfew-chewing a few leaves can relieve a headache

Goldenseal-good for urinary tract infections by keeping bacteria from adhering to bladder walls

Meadowsweet-helps with diarrhea, indigestion and heartburn

Garlic-multitude of uses but I'd like to experiment with it for ear infections

Lavender-it's my favorite!

The seeds have been ordered and soon I'll be growing my own drugs. I've been researching home herbalist courses that I can take correspondence style since my job as a stay at home Mommy prevents me from attending classes full time. If after completing the correspondence course I feel the need to dive deeper into study, I'll look into a more formal training program. For now I'm just excited that I will be able to care for my family on a whole new level.  Instead of running to the drugstore or the doctor's office for every little thing, I'll be able to walk into my backyard and find something that will help them feel better. There is a great sense of peace in knowing I hold the power to heal. I can't wait to see my seedlings sprout!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flight of the Rotary Cutter

I write this out of sheer frustration. I am seriously lacking in the "make something pretty" department. Once, just once, I would like to attempt a project that would come out just as I asked it too. I've let it slide thus far. I grit my teeth and try to ignore my mistakes because, after all, I'm very new to the world of crafting. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I just threw a rotary cutter across the room. Really. It left a little nick in the dry wall because in my fury I did not retract the blade before launching it. I was trying to cut quilt strips. I've never made a quilt and had enough fabric to attempt it so I thought, what they heck? All I need to do was cut some strips and sew them together. Easy enough. But do you have any freakin' idea how difficult it is to cut strips that are the same width and length without your ruler sliding all over the place? My old nemisis, the parallelogram, reared it's ugly head and no matter what I tried, I didn't have one strip the same size much less in the shape of a rectangle. Foiled again....curses!!

 (photo from

I visit blog after blog boasting gorgeous hand knit creations, quilted pretties for beds and tables...all made in these amazing mother's "spare time." It's nothing, they say. It's so easy, they say. Are they all lying to me or am I really that creatively stunted? Am I going too fast? Am I trying too hard? What's the deal here people? In the past six months I've tried knitting, crocheting, sewing, scrapbooking and quilting and I'll tell you now my ain't been pretty. I've not produced one thing that I am truly satisfied with and spent a lot of time and money in the process. And when you spend time and money and you don't like the outcome, it tends to get frustrating. Rotary cutters take flight...

There are many accessories I would like to buy for my home but as you well know, I'm learning to stop wanting stuff, and want what I have. Crafting, in whatever form, is a way for me to use what I have to create a wall hanging for that screamingly bare wall in the entryway, or a throw for the back of the chair, or a new table runner to replace the old peanut butter stained one. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that I possess the skills with which to do this. So since I'm not buying anything new, and I'm not making anything new, I don't have anything new. Yes, I'm a drama queen. No, this is not my typical things-are-so-great post. I don't need any of the things listed above but they'd really spiff up my house and make it feel a little homier. And I'd rather be able to tell people that I made it with a thrifted sheet and a long afternoon, than give them the name of the store where they, and everyone else, can buy one just like it.

Forgive me my rant. I couldn't help it. After prying the rotary cutter from the wall I walked away. And this is where I found front of the computer....almost in tears. Now that I've spilled my guts and calmed down a bit, I think I might try again. Or maybe I'll just buy a jelly roll of precut strips and go from there. It will hold me over until I can take that beginner's quilting class in September where hopefully, they will teach me the proper rotary cutting techniques.

Do you have any crafting horror stories? What is the thing you've made for your home that you're most proud of?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shoe Shopping

I hate shoe shopping. Maybe this makes me the anti-woman....aren't we supposed to loooove shoes? I have nothing against shoes. I think there are many very pretty ones that I wouldn't mind having. The problem is that they never come in my size. Ever. I have big feet. For high school sports I often shopped from the men's racks because I knew they would carry my size in stock. And while I was looking for the perfect heels to go with my prom dress, the sales girl actually laughed when I told her what size to bring out. She laughed! It scarred me for life. As a result I have a measly shoe collection which really doesn't bother me a bit. I pretty much live in five dollar flip flops and for some reason or other they always come in size gargantuan. 

I've been active pretty much all my life. I played basketball and volleyball in high school, intramurals in college and have done my share of training competitions and races. Women's athletic shoes have come a long way since I was younger and now it's not so hard to find a pretty pair of running shoes. But previous experiences keep me from the store and as a result I over-wear my shoes. The average pair of running shoes should give the wearer 300 to 500 miles before they wear out enough to cause problems like foot and knee pain. The pair I am currently slogging away in have many more than that.  My knees and hips hurt all the time and my feet will not push past that sixth mile.

 Looking a little rough...

Plus, I am in the process of training for a sixty mile (yes that's six-zero) charity walk in November. The Susan G. Komen 3 Day For The Cure is a cause near and dear to my heart. My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and my sweet friend Marilyn, who introduced my husband and I, is also a survivor. I am doing this walk for them. If they can go through chemo and radiation and do with a smile on their face, the least I can do to show support is raise a ton of money and wear out my body by walking 60 miles over the course of three days. But to do this, I'm gonna need some new shoes....

I have little sentimental attachment to my current shoes. I love them. I'm reluctant to let them go because:

1) They are one of my most favorite shades of blue and they are the most feminine athletic shoes I've ever owned.

2) I ran my very first 5K in them. 

 Me and my shoes crossing the finish line 
(I'm the one in the magenta shorts)

I hate to think of my shoes in a dumpster somewhere, clogging up some landfill and not being loved. I know they're just shoes, but we've put in a lot of miles together. They're a little too ratty to donate so, I've decided that instead of throwing them away, I will recycle them. Nike has a program called Reuse a Shoe. You can either drop off or mail your used athletic shoes to their processing plant and they will grind up your shoes to make athletic and playground surfaces. I will have to mail them as there is no drop off within a reasonable distance. But just think, someday my kids could be running on top of my old shoes! Neat-o, huh?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pajama Mama

My son, like most kids, is growing like a weed. He is not quite two and is already wearing 3T sizes. For whatever reason, it seems like his pajamas are the first items to get short and tight and he's been sleeping in skin hugging high waters for a couple of months now. Sensing an opportunity to practice my sewing skills, I bought a pajama pattern, some super cute clearance fabric, and set to work.

This was my first solo attempt. The other garments I made I sewed in the presence of my mother. So when my seam started to get crooked, or my machine tangled and stopped, or I needed pattern interpretation, I had an expert at my side. This time, it was me, alone, in my makeshift sewing room cursing up a storm. I got them finished and from a distance, they look pretty good. But close up....whew! Hemming itty bitty pant legs is excruciating! And despite my very best efforts, I could not make the waistline casing hem straight and after I had already ripped it out twice, I decided he was just going to sleep in the damn things....who cares if the hem is straight? Well, I care. And even though I was so DONE with this particular pair of pajama pants, every time he wears them I will cringe and focus on that one spot where it all went wrong.

I have more fabric on the way (I hit an on-line clearance sale) and he will need several more pairs of pajama pants. I'm considering this first one my "practice" pair. Now that I'm familiar with the pattern and am confident enough that I can actually make something resembling pants, I promise to slow down and focus on the details next time. And I will rip out the stitches as many times as it takes. Making these pants has taught me a few important lessons about sewing:

  • My Mom is amazing. She makes every seam straight. Every time. And now I realize how difficult that sometimes is.
  • Elastic can be a tricky fiend. My non-roll elastic kept rolling and the safety pin with which I used to thread it through opened in the casing and stabbed my finger. Curse words ensued.
  • Measure the boy....then sew. He was napping while I finished off the pants so I guesstimated. I got lucky this time but I realize now what a risky venture this could have been.
If my sewing machine and I kept score, it would be sewing machine: 1000, Stephanie: 1. But despite all the ripping of seams, the cursing, the finger pricks.....I still like it. I still want to sew. Because crooked and ugly or not, I made it. I used to think I had no tangible skills whatsoever. I could write you a novel but what good would that do me if my family needed to survive? I set about on this journey to learn the skills that have been lost and I'm doing that. Slower than some, but I'm doing it. And I'm pretty proud of myself to tell you the truth. I'm still a sewing "virgin" so I think I can cut myself a little break. A few more pairs of jammie pants and I'll be good to go.

P.S. Forgive the quality of these pics. My sweet boy DID NOT want his pictures taken, the room was cave dark and the flash cast a weird orange glow on things. Photography classes next perhaps?

No pictures Mommy!

The pants seem comfy enough...

Not sure what's going on here....he wanted everyone to see his tummy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Must Be Butter.....Cause I'm on a Roll!

Some of my favorite books of all time are those in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I've read them all several times. The idea of pioneer life is romantic to me and I loved (and still do) to read the detailed accounts of their daily lives. My favorite book in the series is Little House in the Big Woods. In it, Laura meticulously described the day to day chores giving an intimate glance at their way of life. Just like my days, the Ingalls family designated a particular day to a particular chore. It went like this:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

Laura noted that she like churning and baking days best and I think I'd have to agree. Everyday should be baking day. And though I've never picked up a dasher, I think that making butter each week would have been great fun.

I have had homemade butter only once. When I lived in Virginia, we traveled to Pennslyvania and visited the Amish Country. It was there that I had my first taste of home churned, sweet, creamy homemade butter. There is nothing better. It puts 'ol Country Crock to shame, that's for sure! And it made the BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted! Though I have neither churn nor cow, all my experimentations with yeast bread has had me craving that yummy homemade butter taste.

Butter is not all that complicated to make. In Laura's day, they put the cream in the crock and used a long wooden paddle called a dasher to agitate the cream. Eventually, the milk solids separated from the liquids and when they took off the cover there was a golden lump of butter, drowning in buttermilk. The butter was rinsed, salted and then molded. In the book, Laura spoke fondly of her mother's strawberry shaped butter mold. Nowadays, modern pioneers can make butter simply by getting out their hand mixers, pouring cream in the bowl and letting it whirl. Considering that Ma Ingalls worked up a sweat to have butter on her bread, an electric mixer makes me feel like I'm cheating a little so I came up with this: Shake it and Make it!

I hosted a butter making play date for my Mom's group. After the kiddos colored some super cute churn themed coloring pages, we poured heavy cream (from the store for I have no cow!) into mason jars and let the kids shake them. The kids gave takes quite a bit of shaking to make cream into butter and their little arms and their attention spans weren't quite up to the task. The Mom's took over and we riled ourselves into a fit of giggles watching each other shake our jars, shaking all our parts in the process. After about five minutes of vigorous shaking, we all had little golden lumps in our jars which we combined to make a mountain of butter. I added a little salt and we sampled our fresh butter on home baked corn muffins. Delicious! Better yet, I have enough left over that can make cookies!

  Butter Shakin' Mommas
 Drowning in Buttermilk
 The Finished Product

Monday, July 19, 2010


I've never really had the stomach for store bought cookies. Well, I take that back. I could eat an entire bag of Oreos in one sitting. But all the others I could do without. They're not even that good. They're dry, crunchy, and leave a weird taste in your mouth when you're finished. If I'm going to assume the punishment of creating a larger, rounder me, you better believe I'm going to make every calorie count. I'm not going to waste my precious sweets allowance on processed baked goods. Home baked, all the way.

Nabisco is now touting that their Chips Ahoy cookies are made with whole grains, and therefore, they are a smart snacking choice. Really? A cookie is smart choice? A cookie is a cookie my friends, no matter what kind of flour it's made with. And I'm pretty sure the fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sodium chloride and phytophosphates cancel out any health benefits that using whole grain might have given your mass produced, mediocre tasting cookie. Cookies are not a 'smart' snacking choice but choosing a home baked one is definitely a 'smarter' way to go.

I've been trying to leave my oven off as much as possible due to the weather, but I was gifted a brand new cookie recipe and have been dying to try it out. It's a Christmas cookie recipe but since we carved jack 'o lanterns in July, I thought Christmas in July would be just fine too. My sensational scrapbooking friend Brandi presented me with this:

Fancy, huh? Much nicer than the "wrote it on the back of an old billing statement with a Sharpie" recipe I'm used to passing along. She made these cookies for a cookie exchange we both participated in last year and they were my favorite cookie at the event. The original recipe calls for a sugar cookie mix but I altered it so that the entire confection would be from scratch. A bit more work, yes. But so SO worth it!

Fiesta Fudge Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup good-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, substitute 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 bag Hershey's Peppermint Kisses


  1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in shortening (or additional butter). Add egg and vanilla; mix until creamy. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
  3. Using one leveled tablespoonful of dough, shape mixture into balls. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.
  4. Immediately press one peppermint kiss into the center of each cookie.Cool cookies on cookie sheet 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheets. To get candy to spread slightly on top of cookie, tap edge of each cookie lightly. Cool completely. Store covered at room temperature.
They didn't turn out exactly like Brandi's did...probably because I didn't use a mix. Mine were a little flatter and took a little longer to cook but the chocolate/peppermint combination was still there and still scrumptious. And they were completely free of questionable ingredients. Well, the kisses have chemical stabilizers but I'll shut up now before I suck all the fun out of it. These home baked treats are a much better choice than anything you could buy at the store.

If you decide to try this recipe, keep an eye on the baking time. My oven is wonky at times and I could be feeding you completely false baking times. That's just how long it took my oven TODAY. This was a great recipe for the kiddos to help with. All those kisses had to be unwrapped and it was a perfect job for little fingers. But be warned! Those wee hands seemed to float straight from the wrapper to their open mouths so you should consider purchasing two bags of kisses. I'm certain some of them will just up and disappear...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Jack 'O Lanterns in July

This is our first year with a garden. I have to admit we got a bit carried away. It is huge, but well producing. Of course we wanted to grow everything just to see if we could. And basically, that was pretty much what we did. Most things did well, some did not. But we've been more than pleased with the results of our first efforts. As I've mentioned oh, about 100 times, it's HOT here right now. We've consistently been over 112 degrees for weeks now and though some of our plants have suffered (our tomatoes are more like stewed on the vine tomatoes) we're still raking in a pretty good harvest.

As I said, we just planted things to see if they would grow. We involved my daughter by allowing her to pick out some seeds and she was eager to get watermelons and pumpkins in the ground. Despite the heat the watermelons have taken over a good quarter of the garden space and I'm growing watermelons as fast as I can give them away. And pumpkins. We have SO MANY PUMPKINS. I should have thought this one through a little better. Pumpkins in July? Who wants pumpkins in July? They're more of a harvest time thing, right? They're not huge thank goodness. The heat seems to have stunted them but I have several good sized orange globes littering my yard. 

With excessive heat comes excessively cooped up children. This week especially, it's been too hot even to swim so Momma has had to be extra creative with the indoor entertainment. We cut a couple of our prolific pumpkins from the vine and spent the afternoon carving summer jack o' lanterns. The kids loved squishing pumpkin guts in their hands and crying out "ewwwww" before bursting into fits of giggles. We had a little shape review when they picked out  the shapes for their pumpkin's features and got to stab their squash with toothpicks. How much fun is that?

My daughter had the honor of naming our summer pumpkins, calling one "Pointy Burt" and the other "Orange Head."  Here she is with "Pointy Burt."

The only place dark enough in the house to light our summer pumpkins was the laundry room so we moved the laundry basket (I really should fold those) put them on the washer, shut the door and watched them glow. I've never had so much fun in my laundry room!

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Moment

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!---SouleMama

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to overheat my lovely cast iron skillet and scorch the remaining crumbs from the most delicious chickpea patties I think I've ever made. I'm just forgetful. I often forget to turn off the burners when I'm finished. I blame this on my electric stove. I grew up with a gas stove. Gas stoves remind you they are still on by shooting blue flames up at you. Electric stoves are more tricky. Their heat is invisible and silent and you don't realize the burner is on until you a) burn the tar out of your hand when you touch it or b) burn the crummies of your dinner into a charred oblivion.  The skillet will recover and dinner was fantastic but the smell of burned chickpeas permeated our home.Everyone's house has a smell; smoke, laundry detergent, a certain often used cleaning product....but on that particular day, my house would be the house that smelled like scorched falafel.

Enter the candle. I love candles. I always have. I use them for light, for ambiance and to freshen those not so sweet odors that sometimes occur in an otherwise pleasant smelling household. The flickering glow of a candle soothes me in a way I can't quite describe and if I'm home, there's usually one burning somewhere in the house.

When I started to reassess the products my family uses, it never even crossed my mind that most candles are little environmental disasters waiting to release their toxins at first light. I might sound dramatic but listen to this. Let's talk about wax. Most commercially produced candles are made with paraffin wax. Paraffin is a waste product of petroleum refining. I've been trying to "just say no" to petroleum products so most candles don't fit in to my eco-friendly lifestyle. Plus, the chemicals used to process paraffin candles like benzene and esters, are released into the air, polluting both indoor and outdoor air with unhealthy fumes and soot.

And wicks. Don't even get me started about the wicks! Conventional candles often use a synthetic wick that have a metal or zinc core which, you guessed it, emits toxic stuff when lit. Lead wicks are banned in the U.S. thank goodness, but many countries continue to use them. Be wary of imported candles! Personally I can't believe any manufacturer would use such dangerous substances in their products. I guess that goes for many items in the world today but truly, I though candles would be one the last things I needed to worry about!

Luckily, I am not the only one disgusted by poisonous candles. There are several reputable candle makers who use soy and bees waxes instead of questionable paraffin. They use 100% organic cotton wicks too and they use essential oils to smell up their creations. I'm partial to the Eco-Candle Company out of Wisconsin. They are a Mom and Pop effort which I love and have enough scents to burn a new one every month for a couple of years. The candles burn clean and steady, no soot, and come in reusable glass tumblers. I used mine to hold cotton wool and swabs! (Please disregard the spotty mirror in the background. I haven't cleaned it in a while!)

The Eco-Candle company also has line called MANdles, candles for men. If you need a good giggle, I highly suggest you check them out. There's "Frat Boy" which smells like beer, "Dirtbag" which claims to cover up your man smells, and "Stoner" which smells like, well... you know what it smells like!

No, I am not being paid to endorse this company I just really like it. There are lots of other people who make sustainable candles. These guys are just my current favorites. Wherever you get your candles, make sure you're buying the paraffin free, cotton wicked version. The earth, and your lungs, will thank you!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My First Blog Award!!

Holy Moly! Someone other than my Mom has been reading what I write and they like it! I was absolutely stunned and honored to be awarded a "Blog of Substance" award from fellow blogger HomesteadGirl at The Knitty Gritty Homestead. I cannot express how touched I was to be one of her "chosen ones." Thank you!! Blogging about my experiences gives me great joy and those who are living similar lives are a great inspiration to me. Though I've not met them and many live half a world away, my readers have become much more than that. They have become my friends.

The Rules for Acceptance of this Award are fairly simple:

.:thank the blogger who bestowed the Award on you.
.:sum up your blogging experience, philosophy and motivation in five (5) words.
.:pass the Award on to 10 deserving bloggers.

Five words that capture the essence of my blog are:

And now, the big 10. This was the most difficult part. I read several blogs every single day and all these woman inspire me in one way or another. If you have the time, do stop by and check out what they have to say. I promise it will be time well spent!! Here they are in no particular order...

Thank you, thank you to all who visit. And if you visit one of my friends, why not become a follower and show your support? Plus it strokes the I-Wanna-Be-A-Famous-Writer ego we all have but will never admit to :)

Live Simply, Be Humble,

Monday, July 12, 2010


For all the times I rolled my eyes at your hand knit sweater,  I am sorry. For hiding that atrociously fluffy hand crocheted shawl, I beg your forgiveness. For tossing unopened jars of chutneys, assorted pickled pleasantries and hard but homemade fruit cakes I am wrought with guilt. For burying the quilt of avocado green and pumpkin orange in the back of my linen closet, I am truly shamed.

Though it's only July, I've been thinking about Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Though I thoroughly enjoy the holiday and all that it entails, about this time of year I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. As much as I consider myself one to "fight the man" Christmas means presents, which means consumerism, which means money. Or lack thereof. I tend to be on the "lack thereof" side and it is in July when I start to assess who gets what, how much it will cost and start squirreling money away to help soften the blow of the Christmas shopping frenzy I am forced to indulge in every year.

But I think things will be a little different this year. Different in a good way. I think some of our gifts this year will be homemade. I'm getting more confident with my sewing skilsl and have a whole slew of new books with projects just waiting to come to life. My knitting and crochet abilities are improving too. And I swear if I put one more jar of pickles in my pantry it might explode. When I was younger, I received an assortment of homemade gifts that, well, quite honestly I thought were hideous and either hid them or promptly threw them out. A 16 year old does not wear crocheted shawls. And who pickles peaches? Yuck! 

What my young and and inexperienced brain did not realize was that these gifts were worth more than any store bought item I received. Granted, 16 year olds do not wear shawls but the person who gave it to me thought I might need one. She thought the color of the yarn would look nice with my eyes and that I could wear it on the bus for my away basketball games to keep warm. She took the time to pick out a pattern, sit down and hook it. And I might not like pickled peaches but the person who gave them to me picked them from their own tree, sliced and pitted them and decorated the canning jar with fabric scraps and lace. They took time, a lot of time, from their day to produce something just for me. It's not so much the actual items that they gave to me. It was their time.

In an effort to live a more simple and fulfilling life, I have learned just how much time it takes to perform the necessary tasks to produce a homemade gift. By learning to sew and can and cook, I recognize the love that goes into something prepared by the giver's hands.I know how long it takes to can something. I know how long it takes to crochet an afghan or knit a sweater. I know how long it takes to make a quilt, even if that quilt is made with the most heinous shades of orange and green. Whether you like the item or not, I know that it was made with me and only me in mind. In the 11 or so years that have passed since I received that shawl, I've grown to understand just how treasured a homemade gift should be. As I begin my gift lists and determine who gets what, I just hope that the receiver knows that I was thinking of them while I made it. I picked out the colors/flavors/shapes just for them. I hope they know that I love them enough to give them some of my own precious time.

Lacking the skills for a homemade gift? Learn them! Just kidding. But really, go out and learn something new! If you want something handmade but don't want to make it, try a website like Etsy, who supports all things homemade. Many of the merchants will let you customize color, fabric, size ect. I realize that you aren't really the one making it, but it is homemade. And you will be supporting independent craftspeople and giving something truly unique, not another sweat shop, everybody-has-one, bad for the economy and the earth, gift. Go forth my friends. Create and give of your own precious time!

 Green Family, Christmas '09

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fashion Show

I've been feeling ambitious. Maybe it's the fact that I'm back in mountains. Maybe it's the rain. I don't know what it is but with my Mom's assistance we have sewed and sewed and sewed. Every night, in fact. And in the week since I've been here, my daughter has gotten a new dress, a pair of shorts and a top. 

These garments were my first attempt at working with patterns. I combed the pattern books to find one with no zippers, no buttons and no fancy notions. I settled on a pattern from Simplicity (pattern # 5531 to be exact) and set to work measuring my daughter. Determining her size was pretty easy. But opening that envelope and unfolding those giant sheets of tissue was pretty intimidating. Mom gave me a quick rundown of what all the pattern symbols meant and let me go. After laying out the pattern, pinning it down, taking out said pins because my Mom said I did it wrong, and cutting, I was finally ready to sew!

It really wasn't that hard. I just followed the instructions. I learned all about the glories of adhesive bonding and that there is, despite my fervent objections, a wrong way to pin something. I had issues with my machine that cost us some time. The bobbin. Again. I'm not sure why my bobbin continues to give me issues by either tangling or un-threading itself. The manual wasn't much help and the only way we could keep the machine on it's path to righteousness was to wind a new bobbin EVERY TIME. Perhaps it needs a good cleaning. Or oiling. Do you oil sewing machines? 

Anyhoo, the dress was finished first. It's a cute halter dress, perfect for the hot Arizona sun. I really like the fabric we chose. It has a sweet hippie vibe I'm really diggin' right now. 

My Mom picked the fabric for the shorts and top. My daughter's nickname is K-Bug and she thought that ladybugs would be appropriate. They turned out pretty cute. I love the shorts. They were easy to make and I imagine many a remnant will become a little pair of cotton shorts.

My family and I return to the West Valley today. Back to the sun, back to the heat.  I am hoping that my ambitiousness carries over and isn't squelched by the soaring temperatures. Who knows? My kids could have whole new wardrobe come autumn. My son has yet to receive any Momma-made clothing. I can't wait to go dig through all the little boy patterns at the craft store!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I'm still hunkered down at my Mom's and since I had her and and her crafty abilities held captive, I decided to try my hand again with crochet. Mom taught me the double stitch which is pretty much essential if you want to do anything crocheted. My previous efforts had left me with one parallelogram shaped blanket and a wonky dishcloth. Apparently, my fingers must either add or drop a stitch somewhere along the way. Stitching the same number of stitches in each row is pretty much impossible for me unless I count each one, an impractical solution since I'm usually interrupted by phones, kids and other domestic catastrophes.

I decided to try another dishcloth as they are small and can be easily completed in an afternoon or in my case, during that blessed block of hours known as nap time.  And now that I was familiar with the double,  I figured my project would come together that much faster. Single crochet is sturdy but SLOW. I pilfered some forgotten cotton yarn from my mother-in-law's stash (boy would I like to have a go at that woman's stash!!) and set to work practicing my new stitch.

Things went swimmingly for about six rows or so before I noticed that blasted parallelogram-like shape taking form. Crap! As I began yanking out row after row, my Mom, who was smirking at me from across the room gently removed the hook from my hands,  re-stitched my rows, and sat next to me so she could actually see where I was dropping and adding stitches. It turns out I was forgetting to chain at the end of my rows (Duh!) and starting my crochet on the first chain when I should have been starting on the second. For those of you who don't crochet, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. But let's just say if Mom would have sat next to me 10 years ago and watched what I was doing I could have turned out normal shaped afghans and perfectly square dishcloths. Heck, I might even be doing sweaters by now! That's right Mom. I blame you :)

I was planning to break out the sewing machine and finish a dress for K but I think I might just pick up my hook and my pilfered yarn and try another dishcloth while I watch the rain roll in over the mountains. This desert girl doesn't get to see nearly enough rain. Maybe I'll try the fancy pattern I found on the back of the yarn wrapper and make the most rockin' dishcloth this world has ever seen. Everyone will want to scrub their plates with it but they won't be able to. They can't go pick up an identical one at Wal-Mart or order one off the internet. There will only be one, just one, and it will be uniquely made by me. Super cool.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Herbal Remedies

Wow! It's been nearly a week since I posted. I've been traveling around with my family but have settled in at my parent's house, otherwise known as middle of nowhere, New Mexico. I've been enjoying the quiet stillness that a lack of population provides. Our days have been filled with porch sitting, sunset watching, star gazing, lizard chasing, elk spotting, horse petting, Indian ruin exploring and a bit of water hauling as the well pump at my in-laws broke and it will be Thursday before a new one can be installed. Gotta flush the toilets somehow...

Another thing I've been indulging in whilst on "vacation" is food. Good gracious do my parents have lots of good stuff to eat. Combined with the "road food" from the previous weekend and my digestive system was a hot mess. I felt terrible and I couldn't zip my pants without sucking it in. Besides drinking gallons of water and eating oatmeal three squares a day, what else could I do to cleanse my system?

Our teeny tiny town has recently acquired it's very own herbalist. Run by one, Ms. Barbara McCrimmon, Cactus Herb Company offers herbal remedies, teas, and organic cosmetics. I've been interested in herbal medicine for quite some time and have even been considering studying to be an herbalist so that I might practice on my own.  As I've said before, Western medicine certainly has it's place but I feel that 80% of what ails us is caused by our actions and that there are more natural therapies to help us achieve optimum health.  Vitamins, minerals, herbs, probiotics and proper diet fix so much if only we would let them. Yes, I may sound new age-y and hippie-like, but wouldn't you rather prevent illness than treat it with chemicals?I thought Barbara might have some words of wisdom for me in starting my study of herbal medicine as well as concocting something to help my ailing tummy.

What would have been a ten minute visit turned into a forty-five minute one. Barbara shared with me how she got started, where she received her education and loaded me up with names and phones numbers so that I might find someone in the Phoenix area who can help me. We poured over her library and I wrote down all the ISBN numbers of some great introductory books (Amazon here I come!) She offered to take me on a "discovery walk" in which we would hike around the area and identify local medicinals and edibles. I can't wait!!

And last, but certainly not least, Barbara approached her wall 'o herbs, filled her arms with mason jars and made me a "Roadtrip Remedy" tea made with Chamomile, Licorice and Cascaba Sagrada. One teaspoon in one boiling cup of water before bed and I should be right as rain by morning. Here's hoping. I'm tired of sucking it in!

What herbal remedies do you stand by?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Write me a Letter

There are four things that I love getting in the mail. They are:

1)A new Netflix DVD
2) Books from Paperback Swap
2) My Martha Stewart magazine
3)A hand written card or letter

The Netflix DVDs are a weekly bright spot. And I usually get a book every week too. The Martha Stewart magazine is rarer, only once a month so I'm pretty stoked when I see it peeking out from under a mound of bills. But my all time FAVORITE thing to receive is a letter. No one writes letters anymore. I feel so special when I get one and I am positively glowing all day. The fact that someone took the time to hand write a note for my eyes only makes me feel very loved indeed.

I came across a blog called The Letter Writing Revolution. The purpose of the "movement" is to revive the lost art of letter writing and encourage us to take up a pen and paper, sit down and just write. I love the idea. I used to write letters all the time. I've saved every real letter I've ever gotten from the love poems Hubby used to write to the quick handwritten note from Dad upon graduating high school. They are precious to me, and I treat them as such. 

I was so excited at the prospect of letter writing I couldn't wait to get started. But who would I write to that would actually write back? I asked a couple of fellow bloggers if they would care to pen pals and lo and behold, they jumped at the idea! I now have a pen pal in Canada and one in Australia. I look forward to getting to know these women through their letters and hope to form lifelong friendships with them both. 

Half the fun of writing and receiving letters is finding pretty paper on which to write them. Shallow, I know, but pretty paper makes letters so much more interesting than lined notebook paper (which is what I had to use for my first letters to my pen pals. May they forgive me.) Being the eco-conscious girl that I am, I decided that I would make my own paper out of the mountain of junk mail I receive each week. The kids were happy to help. First, we tore our paper into pieces.

Then we soaked the bits in warm water over night. The next day, I got out the blender and my homemade deckle (fancy word for paper frame) and we were ready to roll.

We made paper slurry by adding a couple of handfuls of the soaked paper to a blender half filled with warm water and blending until the mixture resembled paper soup. I also added some rosemary from the garden for texture and fragrance. I'll spare you the step by step but long story short, I couldn't get the blasted paper off the frame. I got one sad little sheet of paper from the whole experience and ended up composting the rest of my slurry. There must be something wrong with the way I made my deckle. Creative scissoring managed to make my wee piece of recycled paper look like something usable, though I'm not really sure what I'd use it for. It's too small for a letter....perhaps a little note card.

Not to be discouraged, I did a quick internet search (seriously, what would I do without the internet?) and found a plethora of eco-friendly paper options. I decided on one from a company called PooPoo Paper. It's made out of elephant poop. How's that for sustainable? They also offer paper made from the droppings of pandas, horses and cows. No, it doesn't smell. That's the first thing I did when it arrived: one big sniff. Nada. Armed with my interesting paper I am willing able to write up a storm!

On a slightly unrelated note, I'll be road tripping for the next week or so with my family so my posts will be sporadic if at all. I hope to find some quirky postcards to send to my pen pals on my travels. Just imagining the smile on their faces when they see something other than bills and junk in their mailboxes will keep me writing. Who will you write a letter to?