Thursday, December 30, 2010

On being "30"

I have recently joined the ranks of the privileged members of the world that can be lumped into the category of "in their 30's".  I am no longer a sweet, young thing (lol!); am somewhat seasoned and getting a bit long in the tooth, officially.  Though I don't feel that way.

And for once, I don't have any long-winded thoughts on this topic (turning 30) or anything especially poignant to say, either. Just some pix to share of someone else (critter) in his 30's...

So, speaking of "long in the tooth" (if you're not familiar with horse terminology, that's just another way of saying "getting old"), this little fella, of unknown exact age, could quite possibly be approaching his 40's.  Cute, isn't he? 

This is Mo.  Mo is one of the hairiest old men I've ever known.  He's sweet and unlike most ponies does not take advantage of small children.  He does not buck, bite, rear, or run off; therefore, he is priceless and a valued member of the family.

Just don't get in his way when it's time for a feeding.  He's very serious about his food.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cape Continued: Inspiration Source

Call me crazy, but after I posted about Strapping Young Lad's cape, I had the desire to see the commercial again that inspired the cape and other free-spirited things I've made for Strapping Young Lad.

After searching for and finding the commercial, it did not disappoint.  Humor me, take a peek.  It still takes my breath away a little bit (refrain from commenting)...

Ah, little boys and the magic of childhood, horses, pirates n' ships...
And, yes, it's still a little humbling that my muse is a clorox commercial, but there it is.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celtic Quilt

This is a quilt that I'm working on presently.  This is the original layout (have not sewn the blocks together); and at this point, I felt that it was unremarkable and...boring (yawn).

I initially intended for these fabrics to be for a quilt for Beautiful Baby Girl, but as I worked with the fabrics, they just didn't "seem like her", if you know what I mean.

At any rate, with a family member's recent trip to Ireland (yes, we have "roots" there) serving as inspiration, I decided to applique some celtic knot designs on the blank white blocks of the quilt.  Here is my modest start:
This being my first trip out with celtic knot applique (might be my last; will have to see if I love it or not), I kept the knot designs fairly simple.

I am one of those quilters that generally does not pre-wash and dry fabric before using it and have never had a problem.  Unfortunately, I shrunk about 2" off of my blocks with the appliques on it, with what-I-believe-was overenthusiastic ironing.

No matter, true quilting is about ad libbing and making do with whatcha got, so I'll merely resquare them and add a border to each. Just a touch more work. :))

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Latest Arrangement

Like I said before, Strapping Young Lad likes to "arrange" things.  My favorite, most recent is this:

He had help, of course.  He could get Bear only half-way up on his own, and when he expressed his wish for Bear to be the tree topper...I was happy to assist.  Not everyone gets to have a bear for a tree topper.

This is only a part-time job for Bear though, because, more importantly; he is still occasionally needed for comfort, even for a Strapping Young Lad.

Is everyone ready for Christmas?  Almost here. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Cape

I looked high and low for a cape pattern for Strapping Young Lad.  The main inspiration for a cape for the young man: a TV advertisement (from a few years ago) showing a little boy gliding through a meadow on his white pony with looking glass in hand; it was all very dreamy and somewhat pirate-y/gypsy as well, and it would cause  tears to well up in my eyes.  And I always felt especially foolish, because the advertisement ends then, in a bathroom with a billowing shower curtain and it's promoting (wait for it, wait for it)...... a bathroom cleaner.

Anyhow, the cape. I did not want a superhero cape. Or costume cape.  As you can see here, what I ended up making for him could be called: "Lumberjack meets Robin Hood" or "Zoro Rides in Appalachia." Or something.
I really liked the cape pattern in a Japanese sewing pattern book, of all things, that I found online.  The rest of the book hooked me in, as well, so I bought it.

The only problem is, that it's in Japanese.  I don't even know the name of my pattern book.  There is a small niche of enthusiastic fans of Japanese pattern books, and I'm afraid that I've joined the ranks.
If you have a basic knowledge of general garment construction (ie you've made a couple of clothing articles at some point or another), you'd be just fine to follow the numbers and do some guessing as needed.

The pattern sheets are a bit intimidating, but not as bad as it looks.  You just need locate (the most difficult part) the correct pattern pieces in the mix and trace it onto separate paper.

I also took my time and researched and found online the interpretations of the Japanese symbols for some basic pattern terms such as "front", "back", "interfacing", "bias"..and etc, which was quite helpful.

I found a lot of information, such as figuring out their sizing (90 cm, 100 cm) to pick the right pattern size for my son.  If anyone is actually interested in sewing from some Japanese patterns, I'll post again with some basic information to get you started and all the links that I found helpful.  Just leave a comment on this post.

Otherwise, you just get to hear about my new fetish.  Back to the cape... the best part about this cape, frankly, is the view of Strapping Young Lad from the back when he runs in it. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mema's Divinity Fudge Recipe

Little round blurbs of white with a curl on top. That's how I remember my Mema's divinity fudge.

Mema was quite the candy-maker. She appreciated fine candy and had a knack for making fine candies herself. My Mom and I were reminiscing the other day, and Mom pointed out how it was not uncommon to find Mema sampling her goodies from a spoon, as she worked at making candies. (Ironically, Mema was a tiny, tiny lady. One would never know by her figure, that she was a

At any rate, I made her divinity fudge for the first time this Thanksgiving. It was at the point that I called my Mom and asked, "Can you beat this for too long in the mixer?", that I realized that I had; indeed, beat the fudge for too long. Not a major flub, but it was not quite the right texture. The directions say, "Beat until stiff"; well, there are a lot of ways that can be interpreted. And I'll try to detail that, so if you decide to try our recipe, you will know what "beat until stiff" looks like. :)
Here it is:

Mema's Divinity Fudge
2 C sugar
1/2 c water
1/2 c white karo
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg white

Boil sugar, water, and karo until syrup reaches the softball stage (use your candy thermometer!).  Meanwhile, beat white of egg until stiff and add to it, 1/2 of the syrup, beating constantly. 

Cook remaining syrup until it reaches the hardball stage, then add slowly to the first mixture.  Add vanilla.  And here's the part where you must use discretion: Beat until stiff.  This will be very shiny at first, just keep mixing until less shiny and thickens greatly; sometimes this takes several minutes.  You can test it by spooning a little dollop onto wax paper; if it hold it's shape fairly well, then you're all set.  (You do not want to beat this until it has zero-shine and has a dry, sandy texture.  This ought to be smooth.)

Once you have beat/mixed it to the proper stiffness; working quickly, spoon it in little round dollops on a piece of wax paper (or you can spread it in a pan like pan fudge).  It's gets harder to work with, so be hasty while spooning it out.  And kids and adults alike seem to appreciate the little curl on top of the dollop if you can manage it. :-)

After you're done, it's always nice to have someone on hand to help with the cleanup.  The beaters, particularly.

I'm not entirely sure, but Mema may have been more apt to let you pull her teeth than to share any of her candy recipes...
Nevertheless, I'm sharing this one, as a little nod to her and Christmases past.
(Wish you were here, Mema...)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Making Your Own Cards

As I go to post, I realize, as always, that I ought to have taken pictures of THE PROCESS. In this case, the process of making-your-own-card from wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, any paper, really, that you think is pretty. (Next time, next time, there will be more pictures...)

Meanwhile, the reason for this card-making session is because, while tightening down the belt on our budget, I became outraged at how fast one can blow $20 on cards, at one time, for merely 4 people for birthdays, special occasions, or whatever. And the cold, hard fact is that those witty, endearing cards are eventually going to be tossed. B/c who can save a lifetime of cards?

I have some truly great vintage wrapping paper, that my mother graciously shared with me; and this is what I chose to use for this particular card. Creative license is very freeing and in my case I did not mail this one, so dimensions did not matter; but if you wish to mail yours, keep in mind typical card sizes, so that you don't have to pay for extra postage.

Now, all you need is:

-your decorative paper of choice
-plain paper for the "liner", this what you will write or type your message on
-sewing machine or needle and thread

Cut two squares or rectangles; one from the plain paper, and one from the decorative paper. Line them up, right sides facing out, and sew. Yes, sew. Sew it up just like you would a straight seam on fabric with your sewing machine, with 1/4" seam allowance, all the way around the edges.

This must be done slowly and gently, and manually turn the dial to carefully backstitch or stitch in place to knot your threads at the starting and stopping places.

Also, you could sew by hand, with larger stitches for a more homespun look.

If you are lacking the witty or endearing comments which are the qualities that said-store-bought cards possess..."google" some online cards for ideas, which can be a great starting point to get the sentiments flowing.

And there it is for today.

Oh, and this really does not take any more time, (less actually, and less aggravation) than a trip to a store for cards. No standing in indecisive angst, squeezed into the card aisle with other impatient shoppers bumping you...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Baby Christmas Dress

I bought this fabric for $1.50 a yard at (cough, cough) Walmart, not knowing what I would do with it; just knowing that I really, really liked it.

Another descriptor that I tend to overuse is "charmed", but charmed I was, by this fabric. I ought to have taken a close-up picture so you could see better, but it's puffy, little red birdies with sprigs of pine and pinecones, and the's flannel.
Since the taking-of-this photo, I have appliqued a birdie and pinecone on each pocket. The back ties with a red ribbon.
And I am particularly proud of the red ruffles at the sleeve and hem...not b/c of the actual ruffle itself, but b/c I didn't buy the red flannel that I had planned on buying. Instead, I re-purposed a red t-shirt that I never wear anyway and did not have to spend another penny (If you could see my fabric stash you would have a better understanding of why I'm trying to use-what's-on-hand instead of buying new. :) ).
At any rate, my bright-blue eyed, strong, little Angel Baby Girl looks like a precious peep herself in this dress. It's not quite Christmas-day-dinner quality, but whatever..I had a ball making it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Gingerbread House

We decided to do a gingerbread house this year. I bought this particular set from Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $9.99 plus shipping (it was the best deal I found online; it beat out; and it is the best 10 bucks I've spent in a long time. The frame of the house was a snap to put together. It was at this point that I said,"Perhaps next year I'll bake a home-made one..." The directions were clear and simple. There was also enough icing for construction and decorating, as well as, sampling. Same thing for the candy; there was plenty there for sampling AND decorating.

We were deep in the throes of detailed decorating, when we noticed that one of our walls had fallen in. And one side of the roof was detaching and sliding off the structure. And the chimney refused to stay put.

It was at this time, that I determined that next year, once again I will opt for the pre-made gingerbread house kit, as this is more suiting for our skill level; and that making it from scratch could very well push me over the edge. :)

Doing the pre-made kit was a lot of fun to do with Strapping Young Lad and stress-free. Oh, and we eventually did manage to stabilize our structure.

The gingerbread man and lady were consumed shortly after this photo was taken; and I noticed today that the tree is now missing. :)) (We have a loose rule; it is acceptable to select one tasty tidbit when passing by where the gingerbread house is set..which equals into many tidbits partaken of in one day, but...we only live once. Might as well eat the gingerbread house and trimmings before it becomes rock hard.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Decorations Part 2

Yes, so like I said, I decorate all at once right after Thanksgiving. I simply don't know why, but about half-way through it, I start to feel bummed out, quite the opposite of how one ought to feel while decorating.

This time I rallied my spirits by taking the decoration-box to Strapping Young Lad's room. Which I might add, was well worth the effort.
It is ridiculously enjoyable doing something with someone who is so easily delighted.

Our first Christmas-touch for his room was this snowman light (a Friend made it for me! know who you; which he heartily approved of.

Then of course, Strapping Young Lad needed some lights strung and a few ornaments.

And last, but certainly not least..the whole reason for the Season: A Nativity Scene

This was mine, as a child, and it's time to pass it on to Strapping Young Lad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Decorations Part 1

The day after Thanksgiving...tradition holds to trudge out together as a family to get our tree. So we do. I also take upon myself to decorate for Christmas, in it's entirety. Hubby gamely wielded a hammer while I directed. Now, we do not purchase Christmas trees. Huh unh. No money spent, no groomed trees. Rather, we end up with trees of "character" (lol!!).

The three of us meandered down to the horse pasture while Baby Girl slept; to pick out a choice Christmas tree. We did have a small falling-out in the pasture, while Strapping Young Lad and I debated which tree and how many ( I was lobbying for an additional one for the porch, as well as one for Strapping Young Lad's room; which Hubby was strongly opposed to). We (Strapping Young Lad and I) did come to an agreement on a tall, slender specimen for our Christmas tree; while Hubby obligingly sawed it down. Strapping Young Lad and Hubby proceeded to dicker over who was to drag the tree (though we all know who can, and who cannot drag the tree, at this point...Strapping Young Lad was then appeased by the privilege of carrying the saw...)

And here is this year's Beauty...

It was regal and graceful in a scrappy way, until we had to cut off 3 foot of it, because where we put it is the lowest point on our ceiling.

Nevertheless, we are bound by this tree's charms. And fittingly, it is evident that Strapping Young Lad had a strong hand in ornament-placement (some branches have 3-5 ornaments; other branches are batting zero :) )...

My entire life, we have always had "Charlie Brown" (home-grown)trees. And I love them. Love, love, love. I prefer things that are "interesting" to look at, rather than "perfect."

The "Charlie Brown" tree evokes feelings for me beyond it's inherent charms..Back in the day, my beloved Dad planted hundreds of Christmas trees, with the intent of using them to help save towards his children's college funds..until the deer "nailed" them.

Those trees did not quite cut the mustard for college funding, but they sure did contribute to making every Christmas merry.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grape Cordial Recipe Tutorial

This is a brief introduction to the world of cordial-making. I have not had the pleasure of making my own cordials, but we can thank my lovely sister-in-law (we'll just call her Sister J, here), who lives just over the mountain from our house, for the subject matter here today. So, my Sister J is not only quite adept in the kitchen, but she is a talented photographer as well (please note the unusually high-quality pictures in my blog today...). Oh, and did I mention that she's also a beekeeper...

I have kept the recipe with her endearing comments intact. Let's begin, shall we...

Grape-Honey Cordial

  • 1 C grapes (or one half jar)
  • 2 C vodka (or brandy)(or filled to the shoulders of the jar)
  • honey syrup (directions to follow): for pint jar about 1/3 c, for quart jar 3/4 cup
    (in place of honey syrup) sugar syrup 3/4- 1-1/4 c (2x as much needed as the honey syrup)
Syrup directions (to be made later):
Bring 1 c honey and 2 c water to a boil. If using sugar, boil 1 c sugar with 1-2 cups water for 5 minutes.

Wash and dry grapes. Then, either pierce with a needle or cut in pieces (helps the alcohol get to the good stuff inside.)

Place grapes and alcohol in a tightly closed jar. Steep for 1-2 weeks; shaking jar occasionally.

After the 1-2 weeks, strain. Place grape pulp in a large piece of cheesecloth and twist to get out all the juice. Add that juice to cordial, then filter. Now, add the honey syrup/sugar syrup, to taste. Mature for two weeks (or the deep of winter). Drink. Be happy.

This last picture just about says it all (yes, you want to spend an evening at Sister J's house, don't you...), but in her words:

"The cordial, finished, smells like wild concord grapes, and is sweet...the grapes and honey came from my little piece of land, the closest thing to heaven that I've got."

How about a toast to a bit of self-sufficiency and homemade goodness. (I know what we're doing with our grapes next 'bout you? :) )

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nighttime Reverie

It is 10:46 PM. Both my "babies" are tucked snugly in their beds, while the wind howls outside. And all is right with my world..if only for now, if only for this moment. It does not matter that this feeling and contentment is temporary; what matters is that I've had the fortune to live it.

In an hour or so, Baby Girl will howl; needing my care. But for now.. I tip-toe into Strapping Young Lad's room. Though I try to be stealthy, I stumble on a toy that has not been put away. Still, he sleeps. I come up to him and nuzzle his neck and inhale the sweet, fresh clean of his today's-bathed-precious-flesh. He smells of the baby lotion that I still slather him with after his bath.. And yet, as I gaze upon him and his innocence, I see the man that he is to be. He is my little wee boy, at 4 and 1/2 years; yet I see the man that he is becoming (and longs) to be.

I first came to the personal understanding of his "man-heart", when he cried his heart out, at age 2, when his Uncle Joe and Daddy left our house together for a day's errand; he wanted to run with the men...I finally saw for myself how his little heart needs to be nurtured and allowed the freedom to strive after the man he will become. "Mommy" must let him go, and encourage him, so can he grow to be the man he was meant to be.

And so, as any other mother, anywhere, at anytime, I celebrate his journey into manhood. At the same time, I reconcile and mourn the loss of my baby boy.

Ah, he's so beautiful. And I thank God for the gift of being the one to raise him. May I suggest to any mamma out there, to read " Wild At Heart" by John Eldridge. It gave me so much insight into the man-heart of my baby-boy. You see, as his Mamma, this is really not about's about launching my little fellow into the big world, capable and armed to be a Man. Without his Mamma. It's the way it's supposed to be. And I accept that. I'll always be his Mamma, but he'll pave his own way. I know this. And I pray for him accordingly.
And thank-you-God that our lives our entwined during this precious time of his-growing-up. And the Beauty in my life is so sharp and vivid that it hurts; thank you, God.