Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Years Eve Decorations

I thought it might be fun, to share a few of the goodies I've been crafting lately.

With Christmas just past, I don't usually create any special decorations for the New Year. This year however, after finding a few cute ideas on Pinterest, I decided to create just a few new pretties.

This glittered skyline was created from foamboard and TONS of copper glitter. My inspiration came from this blog post. I fell in love with the concept, but decided to do the Minneapolis skyline instead as it's a bit closer to home.

The white sprays are balloon-weights from the dollar store, the fabric is a remnant from my stash, and the stars were punched from a single sheet of glittered scrapbook paper.

I also thought it would be fun to include a few clocks in our New Years Eve display, and created this tiny vignette for the top of my antique sewing machine.

The three pocket watches are my husband's. Both of his grandfathers worked for the railroad, and two of the watches were theirs. The third was a gift to my husband from me, before we were married.

The tiny mantle clock was a thrifted find, and the numbers were hand-cut from glittered cardstock.

And for one more small display, I thought that our large lantern would make a pretty centerpiece for the table.

The clock face was printed and fixed to a CD. The skating couple is a vintage greeting card that's been printed out & glittered, and I made the hat from a photocopy of vintage sheet music, and some vintage trims from my grandmother's stash.

The pinecones are from my mothers yard, and have been dusted with gold paint to add just a bit of shimmer.

It's amazing, what just a few simple supplies and a little bit of time can do to brighten a house up! I challenged myself this time to stay within a $20 budget and managed to come in JUST under that budget! As we enter the new year, I look forward to sharing many more fun decorations!

Friday, November 18, 2011

School Games

Back in 2004, my son needed practice adding with money. So we created a tiny "General Store" full of little treats and goodies for him. Each goodie had a pricetag, and he had multiple "shopping lists" printed out to work from. He would take a list, and choose the items from that list, then hand me the correct amount of change. He loved it.

This fall, as my daughter was reviewing making change, I realized we had never played this with her - and that she could use just a bit of help also. So we reinvented the game.

Now rather than having lists, we have "shopping scenarios" that are sealed away in security-envelopes. Each day, for the next four days, the kids will be choosing one of their envelopes and opening it, then working the math to see which goodies they can purchase.

Next week I'll have to create a different game to work on making change, but for now this seems to be working and the kids are loving it. Even my son, who didn't actually need a refresher in money, is loving it. Such a fun & simple game seems to be just what we needed for a short break from our daily studies.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a confession. Try as I might, I am not the woman described in Proverbs 31. You lose me at "She gets up while it is still dark..." (Proverbs 31:15a) and my shortcomings continue through the rest of the passage. Still, when taken in their entirety what this passage seems to say to me is not that I need keep hours with the owls - but that I should be doing everything I can to provide the best possible life for my family, given the resources I have - OR can glean from those around me.

This is where a new fascination of mine comes in. If you haven't heard of PINTEREST, I highly recommend checking it out. I love clipping inspiring ideas & photos from magazines and the internet. This website allows you to organize your ideas on "boards" with links back to the original source! I've cleaned up my computer's files, erasing nearly a Gigabyte of stored ideas by "pinning" them in nice visual order! You can check it out without subscribing, but you'll need an invite to join. Let me know, and I'll email one to anyone interested. My poor mother may have been corrupted by me as I fear she's a complete addict already so please, don't say I didn't warn you about it's addictive qualities!

So... back to the soap. I was searching existing boards on PINTEREST to see what others had pinned, when I ran across a homemade laundry detergent recipe. Years ago I tried a liquid detergent, but it was gooey and left our clothes looking dingy. A dry soap seemed promising however, and I called my mom to see if she'd heard of any of the ingredients. Her response? "That's what MY mommy used on our laundry when *I* was a little girl!" (always a clue that something works - tricks gleaned from those who endured The Great Depression seem to be "keepers" in my experience!)

To the store I went, to hunt down these "antique" ingredients. And to my complete shock, I found ALL THREE at my local grocers!

For this soap, I used:
* 1 cup: 20 Mule Team Borax (my cost: $4.26 for a box)
* 1 cup: Washing Soda (my cost: $2.99 for a box)
* 1 bar: Fels Naptha Soap (my cost: $.99 per bar)
* and a pretty 1.5-2 quart size container to hold the soap. (I chose one from the thrift shop for $.99)

First, I grated the Fels Naptha bar. I used a microplane grater for smaller pieces, so things would blend better. This part takes awhile... it took me a full 20 minutes (Hellooooo Netflix!) to grate a single bar. The house however picked up a very pleasing soap-and-citrus fragrance, that hung in the air for about an hour. To the grated bar, I added the borax & washing soda, and stirred everything together in my pretty container. That's it! It was time to test this little concoction for myself.

I checked about two dozen blogs of others' successes with this and read EVERY SINGLE comment on each blog before deciding to make it myself. Each site said all I would need is ONE TABLESPOON (some claiming they had used as little as a teaspoon!) per load of laundry. Feeling rather dubious, I dropped a single tablespoon into my washer and watched it dissolve away in a few short seconds, tempting me to dump in a full laundry-scoop. It seemed positively ridiculous that such a tiny amount of soap would truly clean anything - especially since I wash 95% of our laundry with cold water! Resisting that temptation, I filled the machine. On a whim, I tossed in my husbands' knock-you-over stinky socks and one of his work-shirts with collar-staining that resists traditional stain sticks & sprays. Forty-five minutes later I pulled things out, and gave them a critical look. The shirt collar is MUCH better - not perfectly white, but better than I've gotten it with anything short of an overnight bleach-soak. And his socks? I sniffed those socks, and all my nose could detect was... CLEAN!

Feeling optimistically impatient & not wanting to wait overnight for things to air-dry, I popped everything into the dryer. Just a few minutes ago, I ran back to check on things. EVERYTHING looks clean. And even those nasty-awful socks smell... CLEAN! There's no fragrance, so I'm sorely tempted to add 1/2 teaspoon of mandarin essential oil since I like my laundry to smell pretty, but it all came out clean. Not just clean... but better than my traditional detergent! After making this batch, I've got enough washing soda left over for at LEAST 3 more batches, and enough borax for at least another 7. At those estimates, this would cost approximately 4.3 cents per load. Compare that to the 14.9 cents per load I paid a month ago for my favorite traditional detergent and there's just no comparison.

Add me to the list of converts, I'm a believer. This stuff WORKS!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mama's "Four Thieves" Antibacterial Spray

I thought it might be fun to share a few of my cleaning recipes over the next few weeks, and with flu-season nearly upon us I wanted to start with my favorite all-purpose cleaning recipe. This was created in honor of an odd fascination with the Black Plague.

Legend says that during the 16th century, four brothers snuck through the streets of Paris at night, raiding the homes of those infested with Plague. Yet they somehow never came down with it themselves! Upon their capture, they were given two options: share their secret for avoiding the plague & go free, or hang for their crimes. Supposedly their mother had been an herbalist, and taught them to mix herbs into a strong tea to drink, which kept the illness at bay. I have found dozens of different "Four Thieves" recipes online. Each one is just a bit different, but they all share three main ingredients: vinegar, rosemary, and sage.

My recipe is a combination of several recipes I've found online, with a few ingredients omitted to take into account personal allergies, and several additions gleaned from my own understanding of herbal healing properties. Each ingredient was chosen to target a specific bacteria, and it seems to be working well. This can be used as an antibacterial all-purpose spray in any room of the house, and also works well to deter fruit flies & ants! I like to keep it handy during flu season for wiping down doorknobs & telephones, but use it all year long in the kitchen & bathrooms. It has a strong, but pleasant herbal fragrance, and is free of all those scary toxic chemicals found in modern cleaners. While I haven't had a laboratory do any high-cost tests, I CAN attest to having reduced sick-days since starting to use this three years ago. Does it work? I believe so!

To make this, take a 24oz spray bottle & fill it halfway (12oz) with vinegar. To that, add:
30 drops lavender essential oil
30 drops sage essential oil
30 drops peppermint essential oil
30 drops rosemary essential oil
30 drops thyme essential oil
30 drops eucalyptus essential oil
30 drops lemon essential oil
15 drops bergamot essential oil
15 drops citronella essential oil
15 drops tea tree essential oil
and 15 drops hyssop essential oil.
Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water, and give it a good shake. To use, shake the bottle EVERY time, and spray wherever a disinfectant is needed. Wipe up with a soft, lint-free cloth for a sparkling germ-free clean house.

It's amazing what can be done with essential oils, once you've picked them up. Each oil has specific and POWERFUL capabilities to repel, and kill germs. A little goes a LONG way too, so buy small! 1/2 to 1-oz bottles will be plenty to last you at least a year.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Birthday Goals

A friend of mine has been writing & completing lists of goals for quite some time now. I have watched his goals, envied his ambition, and told myself that I should do the same for quite some time now. With my three-dozenth birthday looming closer & closer I told myself that I should indeed create my own list. Today, as my deadline ended, I completed my first 101 in 1001 to-do list.

What an accomplishment, to look at my life and decide what I want to complete & change over the next three years. To look, not at what I cannot do, but what I WILL do - and put an expiration date on those expectations. To dig deep to find not only a dozen goals, but 101 goals to dig-deep & stretch my limits.

For anyone interested, my list is LINKED HERE.

Making the list seemed monumental. I can only imagine the "rush" when I actually complete my entire list. So here, now, on my three-dozenth birthday, I begin a new challenge. 101 goals to complete in the next 1001 days.

To borrow a popular phrase, "Go me!"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Cook a Husband?!?

I have been working on preparing next years' school lessons, and seeing as I've finished MUCH earlier than planned I thought I would search the internet for fun recipes & crafts to augment our lessons. My daughter will be studying the 19th century this next year, so recipes are positively everywhere & many of them will be used. I just stumbled across this gem however, and HAD to share it with everyone. As I understand, seeing as this is well over 100 years old it should be free of copywrite laws & therefore safe to share.

Apparently this recipe has been found in dozens of old cookbooks though *I* have never seen it before today! The oldest cookbook that seems to claim this recipe is "The Yankee Kitchen Cookbook" published in 1808 - but oh, how true it still is! Enjoy!

How to Cook A Husband

A good many husbands are utterly spoiled by mismanagement in cooking and are so not tender and good. Some women keep them constantly in hot water; others let them freeze by their carelessness and indifference. Some keep them in a stew with irritating ways and words. Some wives keep them pickled, while others waste them shamefully. It cannot be supposed that any husband will be tender and good when so managed, but they are really delicious when prepared properly.

In selecting a husband, you should be guided by the silvery appearance as in buying a mackerel; not by the golden tint as if you wanted salmon. Do not go to the market for him as the best ones are always brought to the door. Be sure to select him yourself as tastes differ. It is far better to have none unless you will patiently learn how to cook him.

Of course, as preserving kettle of the finest porcelain is best, but if you have nothing better than an earthenware pippin, it will do---with care. Like crabs and lobsters, husbands are cooked alive. They sometimes fly out of the kettle and do so become burned and crusty on the edges, so it is wise to secure him in the kettle with a strong silken cord called Comfort, as the once called Duty is apt to be weak. Make a clear, steady flame of love, warmth and cheerfulness. Set him as near this as seems to agree with him.

If he sputters, do not be anxious, for some husbands do this until they are quite done. Add a little sugar in the form of what confectioners call kisses, but use no pepper or vinegar on any account. Season to taste with spices, good humor and gaiety preferred, but seasoning must always with great discretion and caution. Avoid sharpness in testing him for tenderness. Stir im gently, lest he lie to flat and close to the kettle and so become useless. You cannot fail to know when he is done. If so treated, you will find him very digestible, agreeing with you perfectly; and he will keep as long as you choose, unless you become careless and slow the home fires to grow cold. Thus prepared, he will serve a lifetime of happiness!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Halfway to Christmas - are you ready?

Every year I begin my Christmas crafting in June. Because I like to make most of our gifts, this gives me the time to spread things (and finances) out a bit and allows me to be creative rather than feeling rushed. Starting in June also gives me the entire summer to craft, when school lessons ease up giving me more time to devote to my projects. This year is no different. I already have a few goodies completed, and have a LONG list of to-do projects to keep me busy.

Because I recently shared my blog-site with my mother, I can't share most of the goodies in my basket right now but I CAN share this one. I took the photo inside a CD case so you could see the scale - this is just small enough to cause my eyes to cross if I work at it for too long. I have NO idea how I'll ever progress to crocheting with thread!

I am working on getting my crochet-stitches even, and decided a quick but pretty way to practice would be by making a simple chain-garland for our Christmas tree. For anyone who crochets, there's no pattern necessary. Each chain is 20 chains worked into a loop, with a single crochet in each chain. I'm also working on weaving the ends in to my satisfaction. The good news is that by the time I have a chain long enough to wind around my tree, I have a feeling my stitches should be MORE than even enough to make me happy. The not-so-good news is that it may very well take me 'til nearly Christmas to finish this!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding Update

Just one quick update. The wedding was positively beautiful. Princess & I have been enjoying ourselves since 3am, hat-watching, Prince-watching, and snuggling up together being princesses. And look! Our nighttime photos turned out for once!

I let the princess frost these. She was so excited to be able to wield the frosting, and I love how every single cupcake (there's another 22 in the fridge right now) turned out different.

A quick foodie-pic; our little snack platter & berry-bowl, filled & ready to be nibbled away.

And just one photo, of the two of us curled up together. My husband snapped this photo as Princess Catherine was making her way down the long red carpet. It was truly a wedding to remember, and somehow I doubt either of us will ever forget our special little night.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Princesses for a Day

Thirty years ago I remember my mother waking me up in the middle of the night to watch television with her. She told me in a conspiratorial whisper, "It's not everyday a lady becomes a princess" and led me by one sleepy arm into the living room. That night I watched as Lady Diana Spencer became Princess Di - and everything about that wedding was magical to me. I still remember the gown, the colors, the music - oh, it was a fairytale come true. But it's not the wedding so much as having one special night with my mom that I remember most fondly. Having both a toddler & baby sister at the time, there wasn't time just for the two of us anymore. But that night she made time for me, and I WAS that new princess - for a few special hours.

My own daughter is eleven now, and I'm counting the days until her Mama becomes an embarrassing creature to hang out with. But with the announcement of the wedding between Prince William & Kate I knew I HAD to do something special with her.

In honor of the royal wedding AND as a special celebration just for the two of us, I have been working on creating a tiny but special "Princess for a Day" party. We will be waking at 3am to begin watching the festivities, and our card-table is already set for the occasion.

I used my daughter's fancy china, and created the tiny runner from fabric-scraps. The chairs were decorated simply with ribbon, tulle & silk-roses, and the centerpiece started with my wish for a "Cinderella's Coach" centerpiece. The frame was thrifted for less than $3, and decorated with more tulle & silk roses for a coordinated look.

This was my big splurge... because what would a princess-party be without tiaras? I got both for just under $20.

And for our little treats, the table is set - but the goodies won't be set out until tonight. My camera doesn't like nighttime photos, so just in case none of my photos come out here's a daytime shot of the table.

We will have tea, and just a few of our favorite finger-foods, along with two special cupcakes. The centerpiece for this table was so easy to create... and I love how it turned out!

Near our front door, is a chair we call "The Throne." It's where we put on & take off our shoes, but it also doubles as the perfect spot to set up a foot-bath.

For our evening, I have the foot bath ready to go, and a small basket of goodies ready for quiet mother-and-daughter pedicures. The bath-salts were homemade in our favorite lavender-vanilla fragrance, and the foot-cream is my own cocoa-butter recipe. We also have a new bottle of water-based nontoxic nail polish to make our toes extra fancy before sliding into new footies.

I only hope that tonight is every bit as "magical" to my daughter, as my own memories are some day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My A-Z

I saw this on my friend Julia's blog, and decided to play too!

A. Age: 35
B. Bed size: double
C. Chore you dislike: scrubbing things... counters, floors, toilets...
D. Dogs: Would anyone believe I'm not really a dog person?
E. Essential start to your day: tea, of course! (Irish Breakfast or Chocolate-Cream)
F. Favorite color: sunflower-yellow
G. Gold or silver: gold
H. Height: 5' 3"
I. Instruments you play(ed): piano & alto wood-recorder
J. Job title: short-order chef, teacher, student, counselor, inventor, housekeeper, mentor, and friend (aka: mom)
K. Kids: 2
L. Live: Twin Cities, MN
M. Mom’s name: Patti
N. Nicknames: Mama, Mom, Mouse, Teacher...
O. Overnight hospital stays: two children, two hernias & a kidney infection
P. Pet peeves: telemarketers & intentional meanness
Q. Quote from a movie: A newt?!? ...I got better!
R. Righty or lefty: 90% ambidextrous
S. Siblings: two sisters
T. Time you wake up: around 8, most mornings
U. Underwear: What about them?
V. Vegetables you don’t like: I'm learning to appreciate eggplant - it's an uphill battle.
W. What makes you run late: procrastination
X. X-rays you’ve had: hundreds of broken fingers/toes/feet, chest x-rays for pneumonia, enough knee x-rays I've lost count, a couple CATs of my brain as a toddler, dental photos... I'm pretty sure I glow in the dark!
Y. Yummy food you make: I think my best attempts are baked goodies.
Z. Zoo animal favorites: the ever-adorable moustached tamarins

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spring Crafting - vintage wall-basket

I'm gearing up for St. Patricks Day & Easter decorations, and found the cutest little tin wall-cone at the thrift shop for eighty cents. I have been sitting, staring at this for about a month now, trying to decide how best to decorate it so it could sit on my front door for BOTH holidays. Today inspiration struck.

I have always had a fascination with European robins. They're not like the robins here, they're small, round, and just too cute for words. So I hunted through my vintage clipart for the cutest little Victorian bird print, and printed it onto transfer paper. This was ironed onto a heavy-duty faux-suede, and glued onto the front of the tin. Then I dug into my "stash" from my grandmother, and used a piece of vintage lace & the prettiest little antique brass & glass button to finish it off. Voila! One adorable little tin basket, to hang on my door this spring!

Now I just need to decide what to put IN it!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Modern-Day "Good Samaritans"

A friend of mine shared THIS news-link yesterday on Facebook about Muslims & Christians in Egypt. As I read through the article, tears came to my eyes... and today as I sit buried in fabric, paper, yarn & glue making Valentines Day decorations, this story and a single Bible verse fill my head.

John 15:13 reads:"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

How easy it is to say that we would lay our life down for our friends. How much more so, to be willing to lay your life down for a perfect stranger. And yet this is just what these people were willing to do.

What a beautiful act of selflessness these Muslims displayed. In a time when it seems that everyone is against anyone who is not the same religion (or sometimes denomination) as oneself, it lightens my heart to see such an act of selfless love.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A new year, and new goals

I started today, contemplating Isaiah as I took up the task of completing my list of goals for the new year. Isaiah 42:8-10 reads: "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.

This is what I am basing my goals for this year on; eliminating distractive "idols" from my life, and "singing new praises" to God. That seems easy enough, right?

The distractions in my life are everywhere. Being a naturally-distracted person, I have troubles completing tasks that take more than an hour or so. I have begun straightening one room, to bring something into another room, to be distracted by the floor that needs vacuuming there, to finding a dirty dish on my way to the vacuum cleaner, to finding a book that needs putting away on the kitchen counter, to deciding to straighten the bookshelves, to finding a ball of yarn on the shelf... yep, it's really no wonder that my bedroom is in a constant state of disaster. But that's only half the battle. Choosing the idols to eliminate is the hard part.

What are my idols? Those things that rob me of the time I SHOULD be spending on God or my family or... those things that I use as excuses for why I haven't enough time to exercise? Being honest with myself, there's really ONE huge culprit. The computer. That's a tricky one too, because I *need* the computer for so many parts of my life! I use it for comparison & discount shopping. I hunt for new recipes & healthy-living ideas. I brainstorm decorating & renovation ideas & hunt up instructions for things like fixing the dishwasher. I use it for teaching the kids. I connect with my friends. Oh, the excuses and the LEGITIMATE uses I can list are endless! But... do I NEED to be playing online games? MUST I check in with facebook nearly as often? SHOULD I get sidetracked into searching Youtube for funny videos of talking dogs or laughing babies? Yeah, I think that's my biggest idol and YES it's a distraction - not only to God, but also to my family. So goal number one for 2011 is to limit my "free time" use of the computer.

So to work on eliminating my distractive-idol, I plan to:
* limit mindless youtube-meanderings & online gaming to weekend-only passtimes, AFTER the daily housework AND school planning has been finished
* not begin using the computer until I've finished my morning exercises, gotten the kids started on school AND finished my morning chores
* limit myself to checking Facebook AND my other usual online "haunts" to twice daily; once at lunchtime & once in the evening.
* and the computer WILL be turned off each night by 9pm.

One goal down, one to go.

When I think of singing new praises, I think of beginning something new; something that I haven't done before OR haven't done in quite some time. I could say that I'll read the Bible through in a year, but I KNOW I would get bogged-down in numbers & fail. (been there, done that) I COULD say any number of things, but what comes to mind first is my daily quiet time. It needs more structure and FOCUS! (there's that easily-distracted personality again!)

To begin with, I have been thinking about reading through my books by Hannah Hurnard again. They have "resonated" more with me than any other devotion-style books I've read, so that's where I will begin. And rather than squeezing my devotions into the morning when I need to be three places at once I will NOT be beginning my days with God as so many people have suggested... I will END my day with Him - as for me, that's my time of clearest thinking!

So the "new praise" I intend to "sing" is:
* to go through a chapter of one of Hanna's books, complete with prayer, meditation AND journaling time (as this helps me focus my attention) IN MY BED rather than in the living room each evening at 10pm... beginning with Hinds Feet on High Places & continuing through each of her books.

These are not my usual annual goals, but these are the goals I feel are most important. Sure I'll continue to work on losing weight, and yes I still want to work on finishing more crafts this year. Somehow I get the feeling however that if I can keep up these four goals I WILL accomplish that as well.

Happy New Year! I'm ready now... are you?