December 26, 2010

A message to my children...

Hi beans. I ran across this in my saved documents, and you all know how much I loved, love, Erma Bombeck. She had a wonderfully witty way of netting it out. This article is for you, now parents and soon to be parents. My youngest boys, listen up...your time will come!
I love you all so very much.
Mommydoon


From her column, "At Wit's End" by Erma Bombeck:
On a rainy day last week I met my past.
It was a chance meeting. As I rolled over in bed and listened to the thunder outside, I declared for myself a day off from the typewriter. To do what? What was it I used to do before the deadlines, the travels and the mail? How did I spend my time before I became a "fulfilled woman," before my worth measured by a credit line, before I got my black belt in goal setting?
I sat at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee. It was 8 a.m. By this time in my first life I would have had three kids who smelled of spray starch and vitamin breath off to school with a lunch box and thermos of soup which they wouldn't bother to open.
I would promise myself that I would knit until 9 and then I would absolutely get dressed and bring the house up to minimal health standards.
During the years, I would remember birthdays with appropriate celebrations, clothes that were in the cleaners, pets to be fed, doctor and dental appointments for everyone, homework that was due, science projects to be started, bills to be paid, overdue books returned, deposits made at the bank, and five bags of fertilizer for the lawn.
I would remove spots, add water, scrub toilets, write letters, polish shoes, clean ears, plant trees, knot shoestrings, mend wading pools, and blow up balloons.
I would hustle food, keep laundry moving, volunteer in the community, decorate the house, keep staples in supply, dispense chores, counsel, discipline, mediate arguments, hand down decisions and listen. I would listen a lot.
As I showered I wondered if I could go "home" again. Home to that domestic treadmill that I had fought to escape. I called my mother "just to talk." I called my best girlfriend and we dumped on one another. I called our kids and invited them to dinner and proceeded to fry chicken, bake biscuits and snap fresh green beans. We ate laughed, argued, talked and disagreed.
By present-day standards, it had been a non-productive day. I hadn't earned a dime. Hadn't made an impact on anyone or put down anything on paper for posterity. 
Then why did I feel at peace with myself? Like I had done something special that day that no one else could do? It was the way I used to feel when I bedded down three kids between clean sheets and they all had clean feet and no one's nose was running. It was my turf and I knew it. 
Lying in bed I thought about that person of the past and her day. What had she done that made her feel so important, so vital, when she herself had categorized it all as crud detail. 
Then it hit me. My turf. Wouldn't it be ironic if my turf yielded the most important commodity being grown today...a family. A crop of children, seeded by two people, nourished with values, protected form disease and emotional storms and in 18-20 years harvested into worthwhile human being to go through the entire process again.
Nothing else I would do would equal it in importance. 
Wouldn't you have thought someone would have told us?

Food fight in Mom's kitchen!

December 13, 2010

Baker's Twine...

Do you love the colorful twisted twine that is everywhere, it seems, in blog land?  I am smitten. Some Etsy sellers are charging ridiculous amounts for five yards, wound around an old spool.  I ordered a small amount in a few colors a while ago. The quality was sorely disappointing.  It was very thin and hardly showed up at all on my brown gift packaging or parchment paper wrapped goodies. When I started to ration myself, I knew I had to find a better source or a substitute. I found both! I wanted something more substantial, and still all cotton. Look at what I discovered, in Wal-Mart no less. Yep, $1.47.  It is all cotton, strong and the twists come in many colors. Lily brand Sugar 'n Cream Twists. I picked up this green and a barn red. Each skein is ninety-five yards. You can also order it on-line here, at The Knitting-Warehouse, for $2.14.  Red Heart sells their Eco-cotton (a blend, some acrylic) recycled skeins in a few twist colors also. I love the marled linen. The price for this one is about $1.99. Far better than the other flimsy stuff.


Just look at how I store mine. This was a salsa jar, the perfect size. I crocheted a round top and pulled the string through, a very cute container. I keep mine right on the kitchen counter, along with the linen butcher's twine in a beautiful hand turned (by Mr. B) dispenser.

If you are still a purist, and insist on using authentic baker's twine, go to the source. A bakery supply store, like this one, Country Clean Paper Supplies. Here you can purchase a two pound cone, that 's 3400 yards of 4 ply twine in at least 5 twist colors, for $8.95-$10.50. I may do this in order to get the black/ white twine I need. Now go get some decent twine...it's hot, hot, hot!

November 20, 2010

Folded Page Book Art...

Today I finished a little project I have had in my head for a while. It took a lot of folding time, so I worked on it over several days. Using an old book to craft new art has always intrigued me. There are some beautiful examples that I found here, here, and here.  Martha Stewart had an article in Living with directions for folded page book sculptures. I used a few old books to practice (they look like these) and liked them well enough to "shelve" in my niche at the top of the stairway. Truth is, I liked the fact that they had red hardcovers and I needed that color there. There are many artists who also slice ,  dice and crumple their books into incredible distortion, that is impossible to resist. I am drawn to it all. My favorites are the works of Cara Barer, Jacqueline Rush Lee, Su Blackwell and Brian Dettmer.


 It is pretty intimidating stuff for sure. (above: Cara Barer, Su Blackwell)
Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and here is my creation.  I decided to use newspaper for the garland, flowers and leaves...there are slight bits of color.


Do you think this is something you would like to try?

November 17, 2010

Sneak peek...

My fabric cornucopia design for my daughter's Thankgiving table. (The picture was taken with my cell phone, hence the quality is poor.) This is the first time I will not be cooking thanksgiving dinner in my home for over thirty years. We will all gather at L and T's house this year. I don't know if I am ready to pass the baton on permanently just yet, but I have to admit I am looking forward to handing it over to her capable hands next week. It has been a very busy fall and K (daughter #2) and I have the supporting roles. So, K who is a terrific baker is handling the desserts (it is also Lawson's fifth birthday next Thursday) and I will be contributing my stuffing and pecan pie, a special request from K's husband. the very first time I met him was at Thanksgiving and he loved the pecan pie...it has been on the menu ever since! I also volunteered to style the adult and children's table. Go ahead twist my arm.

Neutral tones will prevail, allowing the food itself to take the starring role.  It took no time at all to make this cornucopia with leftover slipcover fabric in a diamond pattern. It had enough body to forgo the usual interfacing and the burlap ruffle was a rustic addition. The pattern is just a basic cone shape with a little flourish on the end, cut from newspaper. Easy. One seam and stuffed with fiberfill, about halfway. The ruffle was simply pleated as I sewed and edge stitched after. It stayed open the way I thought it would.  The frayed, shabby roses were left over from another project. I like the vintage doily on the outside. Now comes the fun embellishing. Some painted walnuts, fabric and twine pumpkins, pine cones...anything else I can find. I will post a picture (using the "real" camera) of the finished project.

The children's table will have chalkboard placemats and little gingerbread houses on name coasters. the latter inspired by Martha Stewart as seen in the December issue of Living. I also thought they would enjoy these sweet paper toys that they can put together from here. The talented Marilyn Scott-Waters,  generously offers a variety downloads for free. You will be enchanted with her designs. Her books are on my Christmas shopping list.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

November 14, 2010

November 10, 2010

Faux deer head...

Here is my take on the faux deer head trend. It is on the wall in my foyer, headed (no pun, intended) up the stairs. Yes, my husband does think I have lost my mind. I really like it, though. He has a nice garland of dictionary pages and a fun paper ball to match. What do you think?



I made the ball with a small styrofoam ball (1 1/2 in), paperback dictionary pages cut into quarters, a pencil and hot glue.
Place the eraser end of the pencil in middle of one quarter page, and wrap around in a way that suits you. Put a small drop of hot glue on bottom of page and press onto ball with pencil. Easy, and no burned fingertips. I am going to make more of these, they are surprisingly sturdy!

October 19, 2010

Morning in Lapio...

Here is where we enjoyed morning cappuccino, the view from my uncle's large wrap around balcony was fabulous. On a clearer day you can see the Alps. It is just outside Vicenza (the home of Palladio, Jefferson's inspiration for Monticello, see picture below of a villa designed by Palladio in Vicenza), in the Veneto region of Italy. Venice is about forty miles away. We took the train to Bolzano, Venice and Florence. Eating our way there, of course. Beneath his large three bedroom apartment was a wonderful antica style restaurant, owned by good friends. The specialty of the house as well as the region was a pasta called bigoli. A thick, round, long, pasta, it was handmade with a unique contraption. My uncle has actually made this himself after a lesson from Guiseppe, and ordering a bigoli maker online. He has promised to show me how to make it on a future trip to his home in Maryland. It is especially suited to rich deeply flavored sauces. Particularly the thick meat Ragu, or as we sampled another day in Vicenza, a rich duck sauce. We were told by Guiseppe and his wife that they had just been to the northern italian fields the day before to pick wild mushrooms and greens. No contest, the first night that we ate there I opted for the Bigoli with Funghi sauce, rich and flavorful as my primo. Mr. B. chose the Bigoli with Ragu. Both were amazing! The bigoli was as big a star as the sauces, so light for a thick pasta. Ian enjoyed his bigoli with a simple tomato sauce. Secondi, wood fired mixed grill and those delicious fresh greens, sauteed with olive oil and garlic, a squeeze of lemon. The wine was a delightful rosso and the after dinner homemade liquor with espresso, a perfect end. We were happy to climb the stairs and tuck into our beds.

October 13, 2010

I am back...

We arrived home from our European vacation last night. I am still very tired. Five hundred pieces of mail and lots to catch up on!
I will share a few pictures after I get them downloaded. Istanbul was fantastic, exotic and colorful. Mr. B. went on to Moldova  for business reasons. My bags need unpacking, my laundry needs doing, my house needs cleaning and my doglet needs loving! See you soon...
R.

September 12, 2010

Etsy Sunday window shopping...


Some of my Etsy favorites. I hope everyone is having a relaxing day!

September 7, 2010

I love September, ramblings...



The heat is finally subsiding as well as the humidity. This summer has not been one of my favorites, for a variety of reasons. The high humidity we endured is certainly one of them. I would not make a very good southern belle! Air conditioning is a luxury, and I am thankful to have it, but it was on so often. I really missed having the windows open and pleasant breezes wafting through the house. Mr. B. thrives in this weather, perhaps because he grew up in Washington, D.C. and spent his summers at the family cottage (since the '30's) on Chesapeake Bay (the picture above is the road, single lane, that takes us to the cottage). We often went down in August (the crabs were abundant) and spent two weeks on the bay. I remember 108 degree days in Annapolis and eight months pregnant, not particularly fun. All of our children remember those days fondly and it is a beautiful, special place for sure. Our son Matthew wrote this poem about "our bay" in sixth grade. (He was recovering from a skiing accident, leg broken in three places, and was tutored at home for four months...a very long winter in a cast that stuck straight out. This is why he could not be in school. He must have been wishing for those sunny, hot and humid days!)


At The Bay

The warm, humid air,
Crab pots baited,
Crab pots steaming,
Newspaper laid tables.

The smell of fresh fish,
Whirling clouds over sun,
The dock worn and gray,
Hot feet on hot sand, the
Relief of thunderstorms.

Boat rides to Skipper's Pier,
Fireworks off in the distance,
Playing cards until late.

Hungry sea gulls loud,
Morning songs,
Grandma's corn fritters,
Feeding the horses.

The warm, humid air...

At the Bay.


We have been reminiscing lately about those days...so many changes going on there now.  Changes here too, our youngest Ian, started his senior year of high school today. Our last child beginning an exciting year with many wonderful things to look forward to. One of them is our family trip to Italy in a few weeks. We will be staying with my Uncle in Vicenza and will visit Venice, Florence, Bolzano, and anywhere else that we feel like wandering to. The adventure continues on to Istanbul, Turkey before Ian and I head home and Mr. B. travels on to Moldova for business. Istanbul was Ian's idea, he is fascinated with history and really wanted to see this ancient place. I will be sure to share our adventures upon our return! 

Meanwhile, I have been busy with a few projects around the house, mine and my daughter Lauren's.  She and her family have settled in to their gorgeous Arts and Crafts, turn of the century home and have begun the fun part, making it "their" home. I visited last weekend and we shopped until we dropped. Home Depot, Lowes, Marhall's, antique and thrift stores. So many treasures were found. We stayed up late and drew up design boards and made plans. Since I left, she has stripped, stained, and painted a variety of furniture. Including a favorite find, an arts and crafts style mantle/ over mantle that she stripped, only to discover solid tiger oak. The top piece of the mantle is a 2 1/4 inch solid slab of tiger oak. It will be installed in the dining room. The price you ask, $100, and it was delivered the same day, a Sunday! Score!!! Here is a picture after it was stripped (an iphone shot).



My own projects have involved a lot of painting. The back porch furniture needed some spiffing up. The southern exposure has been tough on everything out there. I decided to change up the color scheme and add some red (my favorite color) to the mix. I am not done yet with all the little details, but here is a peek at what I have done so far. Painted the dresser, wicker chairs, wicker table, wicker chest, and lamps. New lampshades, but they still need some adornment. The "Taj Mahal" of birdcages will not be staying. I will be making new slipcovers for the wicker chair seats and the table chairs. The table's chair seats will be covered with french styled grain sacks, drawstrings tied to the back of the chairs. I came up with this idea in the middle of the night and I will share a tutorial on how they are made. It all starts with drop cloths, of course! They will be easy to remove and wash when required, just undo the drawstring...I know, it  sounds crazy, but trust me you will love them!  Thanks for visiting and listening as always, friends!

July 21, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies, a bigger batch...



Let's face it, it is hard to beat the good old Toll House recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I have used it for years and really, I have not been tempted to try any other recipe. Until now. Someone gave me this recipe and it appealed to me in two ways. Basically, it is the Toll House recipe, the way that I make them, half butter, half shortening. Second, it increased those ingredients to make a bigger batch, ie. three cups of flour, instead of two and a quarter. I tried them and I now think this is the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever made. I know it is hard to stray from the tried and true, but I do not think you will regret trying this version. I use the larger cookie scoop and bake them for fourteen minutes...stick with the recipe time for the normal size cookie scoop. Don't they look amazing?


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
2/3 c. shortening
2/3 c. butter (not margarine)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped nuts(optional)
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix thoroughly first 6 ingredients. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop on greased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes about seven dozen. This recipe can be doubled.







July 20, 2010

Crochet covered stones...


Purl Bee has a lovely tutorial by Margaret Oomen of Resurrection Fern. She has graciously shared a beautiful pattern for a crochet cover for a smooth rock or river stone. Her art and nature studies are amazing as I am sure you know.  If you are not familiar with her blog, you must go over soon! I have not been lucky enough to purchase one of her gorgeous rocks (they are gone in an instant) in her Etsy store, but I do own this wonderful print.

When I couldn't find any more appropriate stones, I decided to try her pattern out on a couple of maple limb slices my husband cut for me. It worked perfectly, and even gave me a nice flat surface to display my little birds. I love how it looks on the pebble mat in the porch.


I also found these nifty ideas from Design Sponge DIY's for using wood slices,
embroidered and buttons!


















This pattern is fairly simple using basic crochet stitches. Give it a try! I am going to try and find some nice big stones when we go hiking later this summer (my outdoorsy son will be home visiting from SC). After all, a name like Stony Brook State Park is bound to have just what I'm looking for!

June 29, 2010

Pebble Mat


Dollar store craft alert! Look at this pebble mat I made from Dollar store pebbles and heavy wool felt I had on hand. I saw these in a local floral shop and knew I had to make one. Here is how I did it!

Supplies

2 bags of river stone pebbles
1 placemat or suitable sturdy fabric cut to preferred size
(mine was 11" x 16 ")
1 tube e-6000 or liquid nails
lots of time...think mosaics

Time was the only real "investment" in this project, and it was so easy!

Spill out your pebbles and randomly "glue" with a small amount of adhesive. Go easy, you do not want this to show later. Start at one corner and work outward for the best result. Fit your pebbles together as close as possible. This is why I chose a stony color for my base fabric.
Let dry/cure for at least twenty-four hours.

This mat would be lovely on a table as a centerpiece with a plant on it or if you were very ambitious you could make a set as placemats!













mmm button 
U Create
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Show and Tell ORANGE

June 28, 2010

Lauren's Upholstery Project

I don't think my daughter Lauren needs my help to recover her chair finds. Take a look at this beauty she did all by herself, first time no less! You will want to see the before of this chair, a hand me down from her sister-in-law. (scroll down)


I guess I'd better get busy with her other "barn" chair before she finishes these new chairs,
purchased for $12.50 each. They are very heavy and were used in an office. I love the lines and I know they will turn out beautifully! Good job, Lauren!

June 19, 2010

Glass Spinning Wheel

Beautiful kinetic sculpture by Andy Paiko, a very talented glass artist. Amazing video!

Concrete Casting: Rhubarb Leaf Birdbath

This birdbath was created by casting concrete over a large rhubarb leaf, and is my Father's Day present for Mr. B. I know he won't see this today, he is traveling home. So, I can share my secret with you! This was such a fun project. I will definitely be making more of them. The leaf is a shallow pool for water that is just perfect for his new cockatiel chick, Ollie. He can be spritzed here too (I hear they like that). A small wrought iron plate stand, picked up at GoodWill for $.50, turned out to be a perfect pedestal. It elevated the leaf nicely and is a stable base.

A very big thank you to Joy Beadworks for the excellent tutorial found here. Oh, and another thank you to my friend Kathleen, for supplying the rhubarb leaf plucked from her yard! I hope everyone has a wonderful Father's Day!




June 8, 2010

Sweetness...

Nice  hair "do"(don't?), I think Ava is trying her best to look like Mr. Darcy doglet. It took her whole nap time to work this one up!


That dog just loves her.

Speaking of sweetness, I made these S'Mores Bars (Baked Perfection), using homemade Marshmallow Fluff. Thanks to Homemade Mamas (via Craft Gossip). They are more like a candy and small portions are sufficient. If you are a big fan of S'Mores, you will love this recipe! I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make the Fluff. There are several ways in which it can be used. We were dipping fresh strawberries in it...yummy! It would be fantastic layered in a parfait glass with my chocolate pudding (maybe with some graham cracker crumbs as a layer?). The consistency is much easier to deal with than that commercial stuff. Give it a try, just because it is such a cool idea! Here is a picture of my bars...

P.S. I made a few changes...the Marshmallow Fluff recipe calls for 1/2 tsp. salt, I used 1/4 tsp., and it was plenty.
A nine inch pan is a better size for the S'Mores Bars and I used Hershey milk chocolate bars (5) of the six that come in the package usually used for outdoor S'Mores. I also had no problem,  just sprinkling the top crumbs over and pressing down gently...no need to put into a plastic bag first and press out.

That frisbee definitely does not belong in the house naughty doglet!!!




Have a great day, everyone!!!

June 2, 2010

Hummus Recipe..

A great treat to serve with drinks outside, it can stand the heat without spoiling. I have been making this for years and everyone loves it.
The other day it was 88 degrees and humid. Mr. B. and I were sitting by the pool with iced Coronas in hand. We were hungry for a little something. I went in the kitchen and whipped this up in no time. I cut up some multi-grain pita breads and put them in a cloth lined basket, so that we could cover them up if the flies were about. Then I made the hummus, a very simple version.


Hummus

1 can 15.5 oz. garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 heaping T. tahini (sesame paste), optional
2 T. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/3 c. olive oil
2 T. plain yogurt or sour cream, optional

Drain and briefly rinse the chick peas. Place in the food processor with tahini, lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Pulse until well mixed, scraping down sides if necessary. Remove tube and slowly add the olive oil and continue blending until very smooth. Add yogurt or sour cream if using. Mix again until well combined. Place in a bowl and serve with pita chips or vegetables.

There is room for additional ingredients or garnishes if you like: minced parsley or mint, roasted red peppers, or feta cheese, for example.
That day we left it simple, it was delicious. I hope you will try it and let me know what you think. In a post coming soon, I will show you how I incorporate this recipe into a Greek summer feast. Featured are:  marinated, grilled, butterfly leg of lamb, tabouleh salad, moussaka,
tatziki sauce, feta and pitas! 

May 22, 2010

Chocolate Pudding...

It has been a while since I have shared a recipe. It will be a very warm weekend here and I don't feel like baking. This is such an easy chocolate pudding recipe, nothing fancy, but it is very good! I make it often, it is a family favorite. Enjoy!

Chocolate Pudding


1 cup sugar 
1/2 c. cocoa (regular or dutch)
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt


2 1/2 c. milk (I use 1%)


2 T. butter
2 t. vanilla extract


In medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Slowly add, while whisking the milk.
Place over medium high heat and whisk constantly until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and immediately add the butter and vanilla extract. Stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into a large bowl and cover with clear plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming while it cools. Refrigerate until set at least two hours.