30 May 2010

Weekend Book Review - Maniac Magee

One of the most heartwarming and charming books I have read this year. It is about a boy who is orphaned, and how he lives and how he changes the lives of the people he comes in contact with. It is told in the style of a legend. Well deserving of its Newbery Award.

29 May 2010

Front Porch Re-Do - Tutorial

This is my front porch, and those are my old wicker chairs. I made the seat covers about 5 years ago. It's time for new ones. I also want to brighten up the paint and maybe make a pillow for the back to make these chairs a bit more comfortable.

First, I painted the chairs. It took an entire bottle of spray paint for each chair - and they aren't coated and shiny. They still have a bit of a weathered look. That's OK, because the shiny look wouldn't last long, and I decided it wasn't worth 4 cans of spray paint.

I deeply recommend NOT spray painting things on windy days. I got totally high from fumes blowing into my face. I didn't look spray painted, but my lips tasted like spray paint. Yuck.

After the chairs were painted and dry, I put them back on the front porch to await the new pillows.

Cushion Covers

1. Lay out fabric and cut around the cushions, leaving a generous seam allowance. Yes, I did notice that I like polka dots...

2. Stitch around, leaving one end open.
3. Slide the cushion inside the new cover, and tailor it to fit pinning along where you need to sew to make the fit better.

4. Remove cushion. Sew along pinned seam line, removing pins as you go and using the next pin as a guide for stitching. Slide the cushion back in and check your work. Adjust as needed until the fit is good.

5. Pink edges and trim to 1/4 inch seam allowance. If you don't have pinking shears, sew a second seam 1/8 inch out from the first seam, then trim seam allowance to 1/4 inch.

6. Turn cover right side out and slide cushion back in. Again, check that the fit is good. Then, pin the opening and slip stitch closed. If you don't know how here is a great tutorial.


1. Measure and cut out fabric to the dimensions of your pillow form plus a 1/2 inch seam allowance. For example: if your pillow form is 18"x18", cut squares that are 18.5"x18.5" 

2. If you wish to trim the pillow, pin the trim to the right side of the fabric. Use a zipper foot to sew as closely as you can to the edge of the trim. You will notice that my trim hangs over the edge. I allowed for a 1/2 inch seam, and the trim is slightly wider than that, so I have to compensate. Ease the trim around the corners, sewing slowly.

3. Pin front and back, right sides together, making sure the trim is pinned flat at the corners.

4. Sew - leaving a 6-8 inch opening on one side for inserting the pillow form. Again, use the zipper foot and stitch as close to the edge of the trim as you can, easing around corners and removing pins as you go.

5. Trim corners, curving with the trim.

6. Turn pillow covers right side out and insert pillow form. Be careful not to rip the seams. 

7. Stitch closed using slip stitch.

And this is my front porch now - Hooray!


28 May 2010

Fly Off the Plate Pancakes

I am working hard to share a front porch make-over tutorial with you tomorrow. In the meantime:

In order to redeem myself from the recent dessert fiasco, I am going to post one of my family's favorite breakfast recipes. This recipe is found in the very desirable and exclusive family cookbook: Scrambled Dogs and Guckempuckie (pronounced Gew-kum-pu-kee, saying the ew like you are German and can do a u - umlaut).

Fly Off the Plate Pancakes

You will need 2 bowls and a fork and some measuring cups/spoons

In the first bowl, combine:
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
dash salt

In the second bowl, combine:
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 1/2 Tbsp. sour cream ( I use plain yogurt sometimes)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Beat wet ingredients until foamy, then add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. It should have little bubbles all over.

Heat your pan over med. heat. Put a pat of butter in the pan and wait until it is just melted. My pan is totally disreputable, but it cooks a good pancake.

Pour in the batter - I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup and cook 3 pancakes in my pan. Cook until little bubbles form around the edges of the pancake.

Flip them over and cook them for just a few more minutes.

Remove to a plate and keep on cooking. I double this recipe for my family of 5 - believe me - they go fast!

YUM! Happy weekend pancake eating.

24 May 2010


I am a pretty good cook. I'm pretty confident in the kitchen. So when things go wrong, they usually go very, very wrong. One notable incident involved whole.peppercorns in black bean soup. Let's just say it's hard to tell the difference between peppercorns and black beans.

Anyway, tonight I made this recipe for dessert. It's something I don't make very often, because, just as she says at the beginning of the recipe, it goes against everything I stand for. It calls for Pillsbury crescent rolls and soda pop. BUT... my family loves this dessert. I wasn't planning on making it, but this afternoon I noticed that I happened to have some bruised apples that needed to be used, and I realized that I actually had Pillsbury crescent rolls in the fridge.

As I was putting it all together, I noticed a funny smell. I couldn't quite place it, but it just didn't jive with dessert. I carried on confidently. It wasn't until I had put the whole schmeer in the oven that it hit me. I had just used garlic butter crescent rolls. I just sat down on the kitchen floor, and laughed until I cried. 

Later, after my husband and son had eaten their dessert, I asked them if they noticed anything funny. They said no. I couldn't eat it. All I could smell was the garlic. Is it because they didn't know?
What cooking mishaps have you had?

22 May 2010

Weekend Book(s) Review - Knitter's Almanac

Some of the books/magazines in my library:

Right now, my constant knitting companion is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitters Almanac. Not only does it contain a series of projects for the unsure knitter, the blind follower, and all those who do not yet know they can design their own knitting it also contains pithy commentary on the process. Now, I wouldn't recommend the patterns in  this book if you are just learning to knit. They are for the certifiably insane knitter who feels desperate to try and knit something useful using instructions of the very pithiest. That would apparently be me. For more background on that story please visit my abandoned blog just for knitting.

Another favorite book is Adorable Knits for Tots by Zoe Mellor. Great patterns, many are great for beginners, no pithy commentary. I knit my youngest the blanket in this photo. It's got squares with stars in them.

I liked it so much, I knit one for my nephew. It's a great blanket. I used cotton and it washes up great and just gets softer and softer. Yum.

I also like magazines. I am absolutely certain that I have enough knitting magazines/patterns to last me for several lifetimes. I love to read about yarn, designers, and look at the beautiful knits. My current favorites are:

Vogue Knitting

Happy reading!

19 May 2010

I Love To Knit Because...

I just finished a book about knitters. About moms who knit. It was fantastic. Even if you don't knit, you will most likely find something to enjoy. Take a look.

The author, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has a blog called Yarn Harlot, which I love to read. She's a mom. She has good days and bad. I relate to her stories. In Free Range Knitter, she writes:

My knitting self-esteem, I realized, might be a whole lot healthier than my regular self-esteem, and the more I thought about that, the more it made a whole lot of sense. My knitting self-esteem is unfettered by my physical self, the Barbie I had when I was six, or the media's constant message about the size of my arse, what sort of clothes I wear, and whether or not I wear accessories while I clean my already spotless house and smile while I do it. Knitting doesn't think you need to lose ten pounds, knitting doesn't think you're getting older. Knitting doesn't even give a crap if you get fired or divorced. The only thing that matters in knitting is knitting. You're either doing it right our not, either that is two inches in ribbing or it is not, and I think that's why it's so good for my self-esteem.
When I knit well and make beautiful things or finish things, it reminds me that I'm a winner and a person who gets things done. It's healing and supportive, and I know picking up a piece of knitting and doing something right hundreds of times in a row, or eventually finishing a sweater and looking at how I was competent over and over and over again, I think that's got to start leaking. I think if your self-esteem is a little bit bashed up, then knitting could help you fix that...Knitting could be a phone line that rings straight into the kitchen of your inner self and says, "Hello? I just wanted to call and tell you that you're wrong about me. I'm great, and I have the socks to prove it.

That really resonated with me. I think it's why I knit. I think every (mostly) sane mother has something she does; run 5 miles every day, paint a picture, redecorate a room, read a book, that allows her to feel she has accomplished something. I mean, in a job where you get all the laundry done and then realize people are still wearing clothes, there has to be something that actually gets done and stays done. For me it's the knitting. Even just a row or two. 

I am great, and I have the hat/socks/blanket/sweater to prove it.

How To Knit

Want to learn to knit? Here are some good tutorials to check out:

Casting On 
Knit Stitch (English method)
Purl Stitch

and if you prefer photos over video:

Stitch Diva Tutorials

I am a self-taught knitter, and I learned to knit by knitting this dishcloth. You learn to cast on, increase, decrease and cast off. It's a small project and useful too!

Visit your Local Yarn Shop (LYS) today and sign up for a class!

18 May 2010

Knitting Week - Day 1

I must apologize to Elizabeth. Not that she's worried about it. I have completely neglected my knitting goals over the last few weeks. I am devoting myself to knitting this week. 

Some of the time, you will be subjected to what I am knitting and what I am thinking about it. Most of the time I will be sharing some of my favorite hand knits from Etsy, books about knitting and things I hope to be able to knit someday.

Some Favorite Knit Things by Etsy Sellers

Top to bottom, left to right:
A sweet elfin hat from Handmade by Jules
Stylish and gorgeous - check out this scarf by Homelab
Snuggle up your tea or hot cocoa with a mug cozy by Knit Storm
Tijusai crafts elegant and unique knitwear
This hat will keep you warm in style! Get it from Knits By Nat
Need a great prop for a baby photo? Try this little cocoon by Charbridge Knits
This cute flapper hat from Knitschmidt will keep your little cutie warm
I am smitten by every single item in KnitKnit's shop
Knits can be cool accessories - find something you love at aCatsNest

There are so many more! I wish I could list them all. Enjoy!

16 May 2010

Weekend Book Review - Little Women

My first classic, I received Little Women for Christmas when I was 9. It is the story of four sisters. The time period is around the Civil War, but other than the fact that the father is in the Army, the story is about the sisters, not about the war. It is heart-warming, heart-breaking and an absolute must read, especially for mothers of little girls. I have read it many times and I only love it more each time.

15 May 2010


Yesterday was my daughter's sixth birthday. It's hard to believe we've gone from this:

To this:

She is learning Spanish in school and insisted on going to the place where 
she can wear the sombrero while they sing "Happy Birthday Panchita," Her daddy made it happen.

13 May 2010

Great Sewing Tutorials

Need some great summer skirts or sundresses? Here are a couple of links that made my heart go pitt-a-patt. Even better, they are free! Choose one! Try it! Let me know how it goes.

The Domesticated Skirt from Sew A Straight Line

Dress Re-purposed by make it and love it

Also from make it and love it - the child's t-shirt re-purpose.

12 May 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

First, for all you book lovers out there, a great video. First Ever Call to Tech Support.

A t-shirt I saw on a guy at the mall:

A button from Beanforest. Many of the buttons in this shop are funny. Some are also dirty. Browse with caution.

And for all you mom's out there...I bet this has never happened to you right?

09 May 2010

Mother's Day

I thought I was going to give you all a list of ideas for gifts and brunches and stuff. I worked on it, and there is great stuff out there, as I'm sure you know. It just wasn't gelling for me. So, I thought I would talk to you a little bit about Mother's Day and how I feel about it. Kind of personal, kind of hard, and good at the same time.

Me with my Mom and Dad. Can you guess the year? Love those glasses Dad!

Growing up, Mother's Day was all about my mom, making her a great card, giving her a piece of artwork I made, telling her I loved her. I hope she knew that I loved her the other 365 days of the year too. My mother did not like Mother's Day. She felt inadequate to all the adulation and praise of mothers. I have to say that if my mother, who is the best woman I know, felt inadequate to the day... well I'm not even in the ball park. 

I grew up, got married, and was surprised to find that making babies was harder than it looked (figuratively speaking). Each childless year, Mother's Day became more painful. We ignored it. We went out of town. I didn't want the token pot of flowers or chocolates handed out to all the "mothers" at church. It hurt too much. Then, we adopted our son. The next Mother's Day, I understood how my mother felt. All the praise and reverence given to mothers, that I felt for my own mother, I was unable to accept for myself. Fast forward eight years. I am now the proud mother of one adopted and two biological children. My life revolves around these amazing people. They grow and they learn and they tell me all about it. I hurt when they hurt, I feel incredible joy with their joy. I know it is worth the work, sacrifice, pain and worry.

I know what it is to not have children, to love and care for the children of my friends and family. I know what it is to receive the greatest gift and trust one woman can give another, her child. I know what it is to conceive and bear and give birth to children. As my children grow and spread their wings, I begin to understand what God has given us, what he suffers and how he loves. 

This Mother's Day, I think of my mother, my best friend. I think of my friend who passed away last summer and how this is her children's first Mother's Day without her. I think of my daughter and how she will someday come to know and understand motherhood too, in her own way. I think of the mothers I know, my sisters, my friends, who give love and support to my children. I thank God for all the mothers in my life and I thank God for making me a mother. It is sure to make me a better person.

Weekend Book Review - Mornings in Jenin

"In a distant time, before history marched over the hills and shattered present and future, before wind grabbed the land at one corner and shook it of its name and character, before Amal was born, a small village east of Haifa lived quietly on figs and olives, open frontiers and sunshine."

The story of the Abulheja family is compelling and believable and heartbreaking. One thing the author does well is linking real historical events to the storyline of the fictional family. Mornings in Jenin is ultimately a story of loss, but also of love and family and forgiveness. I really liked the love story of Amal's brother Yousef and his wife Fatima. It was powerful.

To the great credit of the author, this book was relatively unbiased. It was clearly a Palestinian point of view, but she provides many examples of redeeming qualities for both sides of the issue.

If you are interested, a series of YouTube videos of the author presenting her book are available (listed below) and well worth watching.

05 May 2010

Raspberry Lemon Pudding Cake

Judging by how often I've made this recipe in the last week - I  will have to say this is my new favorite dessert. It has the feel of lemon pie, but without all the calories. It bakes into two delicious layers - cake on the top and pudding on the bottom. YUM!

Raspberry Lemon Pudding Cake
from Cooking Light Magazine

2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Finely shredded zest of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup low-fat (1%) milk
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 2/3 cups raspberries, divided
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set 6 ramekins (2/3 cup size) in a 9 by 13 baking dish.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and granulated sugar until thick and creamy. Whisk in flour, butter, lemon zest and juice and milk until blended.

3. In a deep bowl with a mixer on high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until whites hold stiff, moist peaks when beater is lifted. Stir one quarter of whites into yolk mixture until blended, then gently fold in remaining whites.

4.Spoon batter into ramekins. Drop 4 or more raspberries into each ramekin. We like 4, if you like raspberries more than lemons, go for 6. Pour enough hot tap water into baking pan to come 1 inch up sides. Be careful not to get any into the ramekins.

5. Bake until cake layers are set and tops are golden, 30-35 minutes. Remove ramekins from water; let cool at least 30 minutes. Serve with more berries on top and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Per serving: 189 calories, 4.4 grams protein, 6.3 grams fat, 2.9 grams fiber