Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Gift-Guessing Kid


Aaron and Shannon

Growing up, Aaron always had a hobby that he engaged in 200%. (He still does!) For example, when he was ten or so, he started building model rockets, then started designing them, then won a national design contest for his age group with Estes Rockets. Somewhere along the line, he had a bunch of catalogs and circled all the rocket kits he hoped to get for Christmas. Supportive mother that I am :), I chose several, bought them, wrapped them, and put them under the Christmas tree.

One day, Aaron came into the kitchen and thanked me for all the kits he was going to get for Christmas by name. I was stumped! How did he know which ones I’d picked? When I questioned him further, he pointed out that all the entries in the catalog listed dimensions and weights for the kits, so all he had to do was measure and weigh the packages to know which ones were there. Smarty-pants!  But being fooled came in very handy years later when I needed to write a funny Reader’s Theater script. Thanks, Aaron!

Mini Bolster Pillows? No . . . Cinnamon Roll-Ups!


Because you can make this recipe ahead, freeze it, and bake a few at a time, it’s perfect for holiday houseguests as well as book club, finger-food parties, and any other occasion that calls for a sweet treat. Click on the recipe for a printable page. Enjoy! ♥  P.S. I use wheat bread.

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving …

If you really want to know someone, go to his house and eat with him…
people who share their food share their heart.  (Cesar Chavez)
Yay . . . our kids are on their way! Tonight’s meal will be simple so we can relax, chat, laugh, and play before tomorrow’s big day:
sloppy joes
corn on the cob
deviled eggs
brownies and ice cream
But I’m bumping up the brownies a bit with a trick I recently read in a magazine: Make your regular recipe. Pour half into the greased pan. Lay peppermint patties over the batter. Pour the rest of the batter on top, then bake as usual. Reviews to come! ♥

Thanksgiving Memories


Thanksgiving is the big holiday around our house. We love having our kids, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and friends join us. Besides catching up on each others’ lives and eating (alot!), we usually end up doing something crafty in the afternoon. Last  year it was playdough! I’m including my no-fail recipe for homemade dough, which got us through hundreds of rainy days and school projects through the years, but our guests made the ones in the gallery below with a 24-pack of the storebought brand.

Homemade Playdough: Mix 1 cup flour, ½ cup salt, 1 cup water, 2 t cream of tarter, 1 T cooking oil, and a few drops of food coloring in a pan. Cook on top of the stove, stirring constantly, until everything pulls together. Dump onto counter and knead. Store in covered container. ♥

Tea Towels (Literally!)


When my mother-in-law Vida gave me a big box of fabric and notions, I discovered a hidden treasure . . . a set of tea towels all stamped and ready for embroidery, each with a different teapot pattern. Although Dave and I are mostly coffee drinkers, I love our small collection of teapots handed down from family members, so I had a lot of fun choosing the floss colors to use for this project. Here they are . . . one for each day of the week. ♥

Musical Pillows


When I was in kindergarten, I got a toy xylophone for Christmas. I LOVED that thing and played it nonstop.  Soon, my parents enrolled me in piano lessons  . . . probably so they could take the xylophone away! :)

Long story short, piano grew to be a huge part of my life. I was even able to make a living accompanying, teaching piano lessons, and playing for weddings when I went to college to get a teaching degree, so THANK YOU, Dad and Mom! ♥

I made this pillow with embroidery a-la-mode in honor of the little music book that came with my xylophone, which has colored notes matched to the colors of the bars.  The finished size is 12 x 12.

Pillow Gift Baskets


Here are the finished gift baskets for the Art and Mission Market this Saturday!

(Click on any photo in the gallery for a larger view.) ♥

Autumn Walks


I saw the gorgeous flowers in the first photograph below a couple of weeks ago in front of a church where I attended a meeting. I love spring flowers, but those that hang on until autumn are my heroes!  They inspired me to photograph the flowers and plants in our yard (all thanks to Dave ♥) and to take special note of the color in our neighborhood when going for my walk. Being a city girl now, I don’t see much wildlife while I’m trekking anymore, but my sister does . . . you should check out the beautiful photographs on her walking blog!



My mother was an amazing artist, and she loved creating, but she freely admitted how hard it was to make herself get started most days. Even though throwing a pot or weaving a shawl was much more satisfying than, say, folding the laundry, the laundry often won out because it didn’t require the intense mental and emotional energy that creating art does. Even some of the strategies artists use to make their time and space more conducive to working can become just that . . . time spent creating the perfect work station instead of time creating the art itself. Lucky for us, she was often able to overcome her resistance. A picture I now cherish is this watercolor of the farmhouse where we grew up. I was really glad I didn’t have to wrestle my brother and sister for it! :)

Now that I’m a writer, I struggle with the same problem sometimes. I find that a straightforward assignment such as “write teacher’s guides for this new series of books” isn’t nearly as problematic as a highly creative project like “write a book for third graders about a child who uses an object to solve a problem” (which turned out to be Baby Song, my favorite book . . . ironic, huh?) Actually, the begin . . . the rest is easy sign in my office is my best motivation, because once I get started it’s really not that hard to get into the “zone.” And, for some reason, I NEVER have this issue when I’m getting ready to sew! Anyway, if you ever suffer from procrastination, I think you’ll enjoy the video below as much as I do. I know my mom would have loved it!

P.S. I was going to write this post a long time ago, but I kept putting it off.



Although we’ve only had a few flakes so far, some of you have already experienced your first blizzard of the season. One of the perks of working at home is not having to worry about driving in iffy weather . . . but I’ll admit I’ll miss hearing the early-morning news announcer say those magic words: SNOW DAY! this winter. As much as I loved teaching, this pronouncement always brought on a giddy anticipation . . . fireplace, hot chocolate, good book, nap . . . The front of this pillow was a decorative dish towel, and I simply embroidered the word as a little a-la-mode and chose a matching solid red for the back. The finished 12 x 12 pillow is now part of a gift basket for the upcoming Arts and Crafts Mission Market. Now . . . stay warm, everyone! ♥


Christmas is Coming!


My friend Janet gave me this pretty Christmas print square. I added a little a-la-mode by outlining the pictures and designs in embroidery and sewing on red wooden beads for holly berries, and it’s now sitting in one of the gift baskets awaiting the silent auction at the Arts and Crafts Mission Market at Calvary United Methodist Church on November 19 from 9:00-4:00. All the money goes to the prenatal program at GraceMed! They’ll also have craft booths, baked goods, and a German lunch (homemade bierrocks . . . yum!).  Maybe I’ll try a booth next year? Or maybe I’ll have a brand-new hobby by then! (insert groan from Dave . . .) :)

Homemade = Love


“Taking the time to create something by hand is the highest honor you can give any one thing.”

(Sara Carter in notthekitchensink)

I love walking through the rooms of our home and taking a moment to notice all the fun and beautiful things our family and friends have created. Here are a dozen  . . . more to come in future posts!

Lydia is the lovely, fun mother of our beautiful daughter-in-law Danielle. The first time I met Lydia, she gave me this gorgeous scarf she’d knitted from variegated green ribbon. I love it and wear it often!  
Our adorable granddaughter Miranda drew this picture of Dave and me that hangs on our frig. I love how petite I look . . . Dave can lift me with one hand! :)  
Greg painted this landscape in college. We’ve always loved it, and it’s perfect in the entryway of our “new” home.  
My mom quilted this festive table topper, which I love to put on the coffee table when I get out the autumn decorations.  
One of my second-graders, Shy’ann, drew these pictures of Dave and me after Dave started volunteering in our classroom. She was pretty excited to know that I framed them and put them on top of my frig!  
I LOVE this basket created by our amazing art-teacher daughter-in-law Tiffany. And I’m not the only one to admire it! The last time Ally and I were making crafts, she got it off the counter and said, “Now I want to make one of THESE!” :)  
Our little Tyler made these great coasters for us last Christmas . . . with a “little” help from his sweet mom Jen.  
Our lovely daughter-in-law Vickie painted this beautiful picture for me. She is definitely a woman of many talents!  
Our lovely daughter-in-law Mary Ann has a delightful and talented mom and dad who made these one-of-a-kind birds out of stones and driftwood they found along Lake Erie and gave them out to all the guests at Mary Ann and Joel’s wedding reception. Can’t you just tell what they’re thinking?  
Our adorable granddaughters Allyson and Kira made this colorful plate for me for Mother’s Day. I always put it out the first day of spring!  
My friend Kelly made this beautiful bracelet for me when we taught together at Frances Willard Elementary School. It goes with everything, and I wear it all the time.  
My brother David took this photo in Galveston. He’s amazing!  



I Love Lists!


Breanna’s List

One of my all-time favorite quotes is by Robert Frost: “We can make a little order where we are, and then the big sweep of history on which we can have no effect doesn’t overwhelm us. We do it with colors, with a garden, with the furnishings of a room, or with sounds and words. We make a little form, and we gain composure.” 

I think this concept  of avoiding overwhelm is why so many people I know are addicted to making lists. Somehow, putting tasks and ideas on paper makes them seem more manageable as well as allowing our brains to concentrate on more fun and creative pursuits. Even this blog is a type of list . . . once I post about a pillow I make, I can freely part with it and move on to the next project. I also love this fun article in Real Simple magazine that has a historical, literary twist on the topic of lists.

The list at right was created by our adorable granddaughter Breanna the evening before school started. I always knew we were kindred spirits! ♥

    • Wake up
    • Make bed
    • Clean up
    • Eat
    • Brush teeth
    • Pick out what to wear
    • Do hair
    • Get backpack
    • Kiss Mama and J.B. (her photo of Justin Beiber, of course! :))
    • Walk to school

Coffee, anyone?


This very small (6 x 9) pillow is a burlap coffee bag. After stuffing, I held the top together with a row of wooden and wood-colored buttons from my collection (different ones on front and back) using blue floss that matches the printing on the bag. I wouldn’t try sleeping on it, but it would be right at home on a kitchen shelf with cookbooks or mugs!

Bedtime Prayers


Talking about pillows made me think of bedtime prayers. When I asked Dave if he prayed beside his bed as a child, I found out that he said the same traditional Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep that I said with my mom, dad, brother, and sister.  I’m happy that the last two lines of today’s version are a little cheerier than they were back in those days  . . . May angels watch me through the night, and wake me with the morning light. ♥

Now that I’m a grown-up (most of the time!), my favorite bedtime prayer is “For Those We Love” from The Book of Common Prayer. While looking for an online version to use as a link, I discovered that this prayer is also used in the Prayer Shawl Ministry, an international movement of knitters and crocheters who meet to create shawls for people undergoing illnesses and other life difficulties. Here is a photo of the Prayer Shawl Ministry ladies working at my church . . . I hope to join them someday!

Tiny but Exotic


I made these tiny (5 x 5) pillows from two coin purses I bought for $3 each  from the clearance page of my all-time-favorite shopping site, the Greater Good Network. They were really too small for their original purpose (picture these flat with three corners folded in and the fourth corner as a flap that closed with a button), but I LOVE the fabric, which has all kinds of embroidery stitches and eyelets with little mirrors inside. The lining of the purses became the backs. They could be pincushions in their new lives . . . or just something pretty to look at on a bookshelf.