Sunday, December 14, 2014

ARWB Ornament Exchange

Christmas crafts always have a special sense of joy about them, and when you receive a hand-made gift of any sort, it makes life that much better.  I'm privileged to be part of the Arkansas Women Bloggers, and especially thrilled to be part of the 2014 ARWB Ornament Exchange.

Those of us who wanted to participate were assigned a "Secret Blogger" for whom we would make a special Christmas Ornament.  My assignment turned out to be a lovely lady named Stephanie from over at  You need to go read her blog - she's wonderful!  When you get there leave her a message and let her know that you stopped in and that I sent you.

I'm quite embarrassed to tell you that I neglected to take pictures while creating the ornament for Stephanie.  I didn't even take a picture of the finished ornament!  I have no idea how that happened. That's okay though, because this little post doesn't have to be about what I made, but what I received.

Time to thank the person who was assigned to me.  So thank you, Renee, for the wonderful ornament you sent me for our exchange.  Here is a picture of it as it hangs on my Christmas tree this year.  It makes me smile when I see it.  

Isn't it cute?  Renee did a wonderful job with the ornament and I was so surprised to find out that the glitter was on the inside of the ornament, not the outside!  So very clever.  

You can find Renee's tutorial for this ornament on her blog Married and Hungry.  When you get there, look around and leave a comment to let her know you stopped in and that I sent you.

What a joy it is to know that there are kindred spirits out there in the world, eager to be a part of something so fun, and willing to take time out of their busy schedule to make Christmas a little extra special for a total stranger.  

It was a privilege to be a part of spreading Christmas joy by making an ornament to send to someone else, and I'm grateful to be on both the giving and receiving end of this blessing.

I hope you take the time to spread a little joy in whatever way you can, not just this Christmas, but always.

Blessings to all of you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas Wreath Time!

The closer it gets to Christmas, the more antsy I get to do all things crafty.  I've had the supplies to make a Christmas wreath for a year-and-a-half, and finally took time to put it together.  It had been so long I almost forgot what I was going to do.  Fortunately I remembered, and all was well in the crafting world.

I thought I'd go through the creation step-by-step so you can make your own with whatever ribbon and mesh you want.  Fair warning - picture overload is about to commence.

And for your inspiration, some classic Christmas MUSICA . 
(Just click on the word "MUSICA" above to hear it.)

First, gather all your supplies.  For this project I have a green double-ringed wreath, a roll of mesh, a roll of a neat little wired twine ribbon that had little open squares in it, a roll of wired polka-dot ribbon, a letter F, some 1/4" white ribbon, and paint (not pictured).  (Please note that although there is some greenery in the picture, I later chose not to use it for the wreath.)

I separated the two rings of branches on the wreath and pulled all the little branches straight so I could easily see where they are.  This makes it easier to use in securing the ribbon, mesh, or whatever else you need.

Knowing I was going to use 12-inch strips of mesh, I measured 12 inches on my arm.  I strange.  But I prefer using my arm as I make the wreath instead of having to grab a ruler to make sure I have the same lengths in each section.  You can use a ruler if you prefer.

Then I folded each corner of the mesh in until I got a little point at the end.

Laying the mesh on the wreath, I twisted two of the branches on the outer ring of the wreath so I could tie the mesh to the wreath, leaving a little bit of a tail.

Because I like to ensure the mesh is extra secure, I folded the tail back over the top and secured it again by twisting the branches around it.

The spacing between each "tie-down" for the mesh is about 6 inches.  Since I like to use my hands, instead of the ruler, I set my hand down on the table and behold - it measured 6 inches!  How cool is that?

After finding the spot 6 inches above where I previously secured the mesh, I measured a strip of mesh 12 inches long.  Folding the length in on itself so the sides met in the middle, I then twisted two of the branches on the outside ring again to secure the new section.  

I did this all the way around the outside of the wreath.

When I got to the end of the wreath, I cut the mesh at about 16 inches in length.  Then I rolled the bottom up and folded it in on itself like I did when I started the wreath.

I secured the end with branches, pulling some of the end through the wreath to the underside so it wouldn't show in the front of the wreath.  Then I secured the end piece to the back of the wreath by twisting two branches around it, folded it over like I did at the start of the wreath, and tied it again. You can see the outer ring completed.

The next step was to secure the wired twine ribbon in the same manner to the inside ring of the wreath.  For this, I kept the roll inside the center so I didn't have to wrestle with the mesh already on the wreath.  It made it so much easier!

I folded the end of the ribbon under itself and twisted two branches over it.

Then I folded it over again, and twisted the branches over it again, just like I did with the mesh.

Starting in the center of one of the mesh bunches, I used the same 12-inch length for the ribbon, and secured it in the same 6-inch spaces, like I did the mesh.  This is what it looked like when it was finished.

In the next step I made five bows with the rest of the wired twine ribbon, and five bows with the wired polka dot ribbon.  I used the 1/4-inch white ribbon to hold the shape of the bows.  You can use floral wire, ribbon, or whatever you prefer.

Placing one of each of the twine bows at the bottom of the wreath, I spaced the remaining four at an equal distance apart on the outside ring of the wreath.  I tied them on by twisting two branches over the center.  Then I did the same with the polka dot bows.  When I was done with all of that, I fluffed the bows and ribbon until I liked the look of the wreath.  I tucked the ends of all the tails around the mesh to create what looked like flowing ribbon, but left the tails of the bottom bows out.

While the wreath looks fine this way, I wanted to personalize it. Because I had to wait for the paint to dry between applications, this was probably the most lengthy process of the wreath.  Crazy, huh?

I always have newspaper available to use to protect the surface I'm painting on, and used a roll of tape with the plastic bag the newspaper came in to raise the letter up, making it easier to paint.  I removed the tag and had my husband drill holes in the top of the letter an equal distance from the edge.

While I could have done this, I thought it would be nice to help him feel a part of making the wreath, and this allowed him to say "I helped make that wreath".  Hey - it's important to include the spouse when you can, right?  I painted on a layer of Kilz on both sides of the letter to seal the wood, and let it dry.

While you can't see it because I forgot to take a picture of it, I painted the back and outer edge of the letter dark brown.  You can see the color on the newspaper below.  I let that dry.  As you can see - I'm a very messy painter, hence the need for the newspaper.  After it was dry, I painted the front of the letter a dark green that matched the wreath.  When the paint was dry, I used glitter glue to outline the letter.

Using regular twine, I threaded it through the holes, tying knots in the front, allowing the rest to use in the back.  I then attached the letter to the wreath, using a zip tie around the twine and the metal wreath form in the back.  Then I used another zip tie to create a strong loop to hang the wreath.  You can barely see the clipped zip tie to the left of the loop in the picture below.

And...voila!  Christmas wreath complete.  Now get out there and make your own!

Love and hugs to you all!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Happy Fall Y'all!

Last year I featured a Fall craft I did for my front porch decor using branches from a bush I'd trimmed and some fake pumpkins I already had.  You can see the post from last October in the blog archive on the right.

Banners are pretty trendy so I decided to make a little banner for the entertainment center in our living room.  Of course, with as much scrapbook paper as I have laying around, I was able to find the supplies I needed pretty quickly.

Thankfully I own a Cricut, so I used it to cut the triangles out instead of trying to cut all of them out myself.  Not that it would be a problem to do it myself, but it was significantly faster using the machine.

Pardon the lack of pictures for the step-by-step process.  Usually I try to include these so you can get a good visual, but I was so excited to make this that I completely forgot to take them!

At any rate, I chose paper with a Fall leaf pattern for the background, and a solid tan-ish colored lightweight cardstock for the front.  The solid triangle is about 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the printed background.

The letters, however, were a MUST to cut using the Cricut, as were the leaf shapes.  You could stencil them on the solid color cardstock or use stickers as well.  But I didn't have either, and I'm trying to use what I already have instead of buying new every time.  That helps keep our budget in check and decreases my rather overly-abundant craft room stock.  I used a dark brown lightweight cardstock for the letters and leaf shapes.

After everything was cut, I used my adhesive tape to put it together.  As you can see, I used a brown marker to draw little 'stitches' around the edges of the light solid cardstock for a little more depth and interest.

Here are a few letters and the leaf design I used.

Using a smaller hole punch I punched holes in the top corners of the triangles so I could thread the twine through it to make the banner.

It was very helpful to measure and cut my twine before putting the triangles on so the banner would be the right width and hang on the entertainment center the way I wanted.  

To make sure the letters and leaves stayed put while they hung, I taped the twine on the back of the triangles.  That way it will stay perfectly for years to come as well.

Living in the South for the last 15 years has my speech pattern a bit in the 'southern' way.  So, instead of using "Happy Fall to You", I decided to use "Happy Fall Y'all".  That adds a little whimsy to the banner as well. is the finished project.  Perfect fit, and perfect little addition to my indoor decor!

Happy Fall Y'all!

Friday, September 19, 2014


What is it that drives women apart?  Why is it that some of the meanest, harshest, ugly-hearted people we women know are other women?

The simple "Sunday School" answer is SIN.  Yes - obviously - it is sin that brings any negativity in our lives.  Because we are all human, all fallible, and will somehow hurt one another either unintentionally, or heaven forbid - intentionally.  It's just an unfortunate fact of life.

But the answer is more than just SIN.  The answer comes much deeper than I can even touch in my little post here.  So I'll merely skim the surface on a few things that are at the forefront.

We need to Release, Remove, and Relieve.

It starts in our Past.

Somewhere, somehow, a woman in our past has most likely hurt us in some way. Whether it is by words or actions, we've been on the receiving end of another woman's wrath.  This hurt from our past is something we continue to carry for many years.

So how do we deal with this type of hurt?  Have you heard people say "It's in the past! You need to get over it!"?

That's easier said than done, and while some are able to shrug past hurts away, others may need more to help them release that baggage.  If the hurt is too deep to overcome on your own, professional therapy may be what you need to help you work through this hurt, find a way to forgive, and allow you to move one with your life.  It's time to let go of the hurt and embrace the healing.  To finally let it go. Don't make me start singing that song!  You know the one.....

It's time to Release ourselves from what has hurt us in our past so we can not hurt others in the present.

It happens in the Present.

While there are those we'll never know are hurting, there are some who seek to spread their hurt to other people.  I have yet to make it a full week without being on the receiving end of some woman's negativity.  Most often this comes from total strangers, but occasionally it comes from women I know.

I work in retail, so I learned how to deal with ugly-hearted people and not let it bother me on a personal level.  It's important to learn how to handle negative people without letting them get us down.  If I can help change their attitude with compassion and kindness, I do.  But if there is a bad situation I can't deal with and need to just walk away from, I do that.  And that's okay.  For my personal life, I prefer to be around people who lift me up - not tear me down.  So I remove myself from women who bring hurt into my life, and surround myself with those who help my life, my testimony, and who genuinely spread love instead of strife.

It's time to Remove ourselves from the hurtful situations in our lives so we can stop the madness now and prevent it in our future.

It can happen in the Future.

Let's face it - there are a lot of hurting women out there.  There are a lot of women who continually radiate negativity, hurt, and hatred among other women.  We are going to encounter these toxic people no matter what we do or where we are.  It's a sad state of affairs indeed.  But there is hope. Hope for us and for our future.

Just because other women hurt us doesn't mean we need to follow suit and hurt other women.  There are a lot of us who seek to stop the cycle of hurt and make the change to a more positive, life-affirming world.  One of the most delightful quotes I've heard is one that I use frequently.  I first heard it on the introduction to the "Marie" show, by Marie Osmond.  She said "It's time we stopped competing with each other and started completing each other."  You've got it spot on Marie Osmond! I wholeheartedly agree!

It's time to Relieve our lives of the hurt we women bring to other women - right here - right now!

Imagine the power we women can have!  Imagine the love we can spread!  Imagine the support we can give!  Imagine the joy we can embrace!  Imagine the life we can love living......when we Release...Remove...Relieve!

Ladies!  Let's "stop competing with each other and start completing each other"!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rainy Day Sauce

We had a cooler, rainy day last week.  The view from our windows showed the wet roads, dark clouds, and rather dismal-looking situation.  But I loved it, no matter how it looked.  The temperatures were in the mid-60s and the rain fell softly on the ground.  I opened the windows to feel the glorious, cooler, fresh air, and enjoyed the morning.

While there wasn't much that could be done outside, there was a lot I could do inside.  I had a pile of assorted tomatoes and a few sweet peppers from the garden that were waiting to be eaten.  Rather than let them go to waste, I decided to make some homemade spaghetti sauce.  In between rain showers I ran to the garden and picked the fresh basil I'd need.

The last time I made my own spaghetti sauce I made up my own recipe.  So I decided to be adventurous and do the same this time.  I love that all of my ingredients are from my chemical-free garden, and that the spices I chose to use are also non-GMO, all natural additions.  I used some dried, organic garlic pieces as well.

My choice for the main seasoning of my sauce was the Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil and Absolutely Onion Blend by Wildtree.  The Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil is so good I sometimes put some in a tiny finger bowl, dip my bread in it and just eat it that way. Oh my goodness - it's soooo good!   Since I didn't have a fresh onion, and didn't feel like getting out in the rain to go to the store, I used the Absolutely Onion Blend.  This added the perfect amount of onion flavor!  Yummy!

My beautiful daughter-in-law sells these AMAZING cooking spices, sauces, oils, and more.  You can find her here:  Wildtree with Amber.   I usually order directly off of her website and have them delivered to my home.  So easy, and we've yet to be disappointed by anything we've tried.  I rarely cook with anything other than Wildtree now because I can trust the product to give me incredibly rich flavor.  And it's important to me that I feed my family food that's all natural, has no preservatives, additives, MSGs, food colorants or dyes, and is non-GMO.  A lot of Wildtree products are also certified organic, so that's definitely a plus.  No - I have not been remunerated for this post, nor has anyone from Wildtree - including my daughter-in-law - asked me to talk about these products.  I just love sharing with you when I find good stuff that's also good for you.

Now....on with the sauce!  While I was chopping and dicing, this song came on and I thought it so apropos that I had to include it here.  After all - why not an Italian singing a great tune while I make some good sauce.  A little Musica maestro!

The first step was pouring the garlic grapeseed oil, the onion blend, some freshly ground pepper corn (I have a little peppermill I use for this), some salt, and the dried organic garlic pieces in the saucepan.  Then I diced the sweet peppers and added them.

I wanted to save the seeds from the Sweet Peppers for my garden next year, so after I cleaned them I set them to dry on a paper towel.  When they were completely dry I put them with the others I'd already done before.  We'll see if my efforts are worth it in my garden next Spring.

The next step was to cut the little bite-size pear tomatoes.  They are so cute and colorful in their yellow splendor.  See how plump and juicy these have grown?  I love picking them and eating them right out in the garden.  They have great flavor and are not bitter like some of the other bite-size tomatoes.  They look great in the saucepan don't they?

Next came the little Roma tomatoes.  The type I planted this year are a lot smaller than what you usually see in the supermarket.  These are about the size of two cherry tomatoes.  I wait to pick them until they are this deep red, and every time I cut into one I'm delighted at their meatiness.  They are SO delicious, and perfect for sauces. And...dump!  On top of the pear tomatoes.

I read that the seeds of tomatoes can make a sauce bitter, and I've had a couple of these little Romas be a little bitter.  So I took the seeds out of the majority of them before adding them to the saucepan. When I made my sauce before I didn't do that and it wasn't bitter, so this time I did it to see if it made any difference.  I couldn't really tell a difference when it was all said and done, so I'll probably not remove the seeds the next time.

On to the beefsteak tomato.  I'm very pleased with these this year too.  This one was as big as 2/3 of my hand!  And oh so juicy, plump, and very 'beefy'.  See?  Yes - it was as red and juicy as it looks.

Into the pan with the rest of the tomatoes!

My basil has been growing extremely well, and I really should have dried some to use throughout the winter.  Maybe next year.  Isn't it pretty, with it's deep green leaves? Basil is full of great taste and is a great source for Vitamin K and Vitamin A.  Lots and lots chopped and added to the mix.  It smelled and looked so good I was tempted to just eat it as a salad instead of cooking it down for sauce!

And now...I have a confession.  I didn't stay true to a good Italian tomato sauce.  As an added bonus to my husband, who likes spicy foods, I decided to add some Wildtree Fiesta Salsa Mix.  This stuff has a deep, rich, bold flavor that adds a little kick with full-body flavor.  So I dumped some of it in the pan purely for experimental purposes. Well...and to please the hubby!

We have this wonderful old electric Tappan stove in our home.  I love the space between the burners.  It's perfect for setting pans on that need to sit for a while, or anything that comes out of the oven that needs to sit somewhere other than my counter, and all the while I can still cook on the burners.  I have no idea what year model it is.  It was in the house when we moved in, and everything works wonderfully, so we've never replaced it.  Isn't it charming?

Onto the stove goes the mixture, to boil and reduce down.  All the colors and the spices look delicious!  I started it out on medium-high heat to get it boiling, all the while stirring it so nothing would stick to the bottom.  After it boiled a few minutes, I turned the heat down and let it continue boiling on its own, checking on it and stirring it only occasionally.  

After a few hours had gone by, this is what it looked like.  Some of the tomatoes had begun to reduce, and the fragrance of all of the spices was wafting throughout the kitchen.  

Let's keep the mambo beat going.  How about good ol' Dean with this Musica!
(Yes - I did dance around the kitchen a little bit.  Got to love that beat!)

After about four hours, the rainstorm had passed, the dark clouds replaced by a few fluffy white clouds, and the sun was once again shining.  

And...the sauce was reducing very well!  The fragrance of all the blended spices made me hungry.  I wish you could do a scratch-n-sniff on this picture, because although it may not look appetizing, it smelled A-MA-ZING!

After being on the stove for around 4 hours or so, I let it cool down.  Then into the blender it went!  It all blended so well, and although it's hard to tell in the picture, was a wonderful red colored mixture of deliciousness.

After all this...imagine my surprise to find that I didn't have any spaghetti in my cabinets! You would have thought I'd have checked that before I started right?  Nope!  That would make too much sense! Ha!  At any rate, I did find some elbow macaroni, and used it instead.  Unfortunately I cooked a bit too much for the amount of sauce I had, so when I added cooked ground turkey to the lot, my meal turned out more like a goulash instead of a spaghetti.  How silly is that?!  Silly...but oh so delicious.  The added fiesta blend did add that kick, and my husband was well-pleased.  He was very possessive of the leftovers too, so I guess it was a success.

While I didn't use a recipe, I used what I knew from reading recipes in the past, and previous experience cooking to create this spaghetti sauce.  If I had never seen a recipe before, or cooked before, I would have been lost.  The good Lord saw to it that I learned from family, friends, and cookbooks, and used my own ambition to learn how to cook. Because of this I was able to use what He provided, some of it right out of my own garden, as nourishment for our physical bodies.

Our spiritual lives work on the same premise.  If there is nobody to learn from, we don't know how to access God's 'recipe book' - the Holy Bible - or how to use the 'recipes' - His Word - to provide the nourishment our spiritual bodies need.  The good Lord saw to it that His Word was written down for us to read.  He sees to it that there are people who can help us learn.  And He relies on us to be ambitious enough to learn how He wants us to live.

I pray that you have physical nourishment today.  Most of all, I pray that you have the spiritual nourishment you need today and every day.

Blessings to you!