Saturday, December 27, 2008

Scenes from Christmas at our House

Bebe's whimsical creation was a huge hit, and delicious. They really did eat it.

Red, glowing, warm coals. . . ahhhh. . .

"I really love you, Dad." That is really what he said, just as I snapped the picture!

Handy Manny Tool Box. The big hit of the day! The two, two year olds. The long blue one will be three really soon, though!

Dad and his sons. :) This is my Number 1 son, with his children.

Papa and the boys, spinning. :)

Oh Holy Night

Thank you to my Mother who sent this to me, and my step-sister Sherry, who sent it to her.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Blessing

Mark and I become kids again every year when we select our Christmas tree. The window behind it is 9 feet tall. We just can't help ourselves.
I'm all snuggled down in front of the fireplace sipping a cup of hot mulled cider. I am finally warm. Lovely, lovely fire. I have the television set to a radio channel playing Christmas carols. Mark has retired for the night. I am waiting up for Sam to come home from work. Since he has been home for his Christmas vacation, I find the best time for visits is on his schedule; late, late at night. That's okay, though. We always have been late night chatters. Since he has been away at college, I have missed our late night theological discussions. I'm falling behind.
I have been so busy getting ready for Christmas that I have really begun to feel that I'm missing it. I mean, the church programs, the carolers. . . Has anyone seen Christmas carolers this year? I wonder where they can be? Our family used to go caroling. We should do that again.
We began the repair work on my case of Christmas blues tonight, though. We went to Liam's school Christmas program. I realized some time into the program, that there were lots of children on the stage, but as far as I was concerned, I could only see one of them, and it was difficult to focus on him. . .through the Grandma tears. Precious. Precious. When he finally located us in the crowd, and his little face lit up, and he waved and waved. . .I mean. . . life doesn't get any sweeter than a moment like that. These are the moments to hold in your heart and cherish. I certainly mean to keep it safe in mine.
This moment, too. . .the one I am having just now, blessed all over by the Christmas program, snuggled by the fire with my cider and Christmas carols, under the Christmas tree. Merry Christmas, everyone! If you don't mind my meddling, you should take a moment to enjoy this beautiful season of holiness and love, too. ~Love!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some of that Pomegranate Wonderfulness

How to Easily Remove Pomegranate Seeds

We have made Pomegranate Jelly at our house for years. I think I have worked out the most efficient and comfortable seeding process. It's really easy, honest! And not nearly as time consuming as you're thinking!

Although, I remember fondly. . . sitting around a table outside with my children, each of us with a pot of water in our laps, giggling and seeding. Eating as many as we kept. . . .sigh. . . I would love to do that again. Those are sweet, sweet memories. . .

But to the task at hand. You will want to wear something old. The seeds definitely will squirt juice on you, and your surroundings, and the spots are notoriously difficult to remove. Consider yourself warned. :)

One more quick note: You will undoubtedly find a rotten fruit or two. . . or five, so make sure you have more pomegranates on hand than your recipe requires.

I like to fill the largest bowl that I have with enough warm water to fully submerge one pomegranate at a time. I use warm water because it is comfortable on the hands. Imagine an hour with your hands soaking in cold water, and I'll bet you'll do the same!

Wash the pomegranate, and insert kitchen shears into the flower end of the fruit. Snip all the way to the stem end.

Now, underwater, place your fingers into the fissure, and break the fruit apart. Separate the seeds from the membranes. The seeds will sink, and the peel and membranes will float! That's it! Wasn't that easy!?

Of course, you will want to skim the floating material off of the water and discard it.

I like to keep a fresh bowl handy and a slotted spoon. I transfer the seeds into the fresh bowl as soon as I have enough to scoop. Maybe it's an unnecessary step, but I do this because you never know when you're going to open a really icky pomegranate in the water. Any cooking process will kill germs, of course, but still. . .

Now, you are qualified to go forth and make pomegranate wonderfulness! Have fun doing so! ~ Love!

It Feels Like Christmas to Me!

But, one last thing before I go all Christmas. . . I've been neglecting my blog, and I want to rectify that! who knows when I'll get back! Right now, I'm neglecting my chores! Although, I have made considerable progress today! First, I want to show what I am most thankful for! . . . and they are decidedly not things, but they are the world's most adorable little boys!
Zach and his boys . . .I am so very thankful that my children and their wonderful spouses are such incredible parents! I wasn't along on this trip, Elizabeth took this photo and the next one.


Liam, the World's Greatest Tomato Farmer.

Christian helping Papa plant a new tree.

Christian, helping me rake leaves. His special Mommy took this photo.
Soooo. . .now that I have had a moment to reflect on my Thanksgiving, (and these are by no means my only blessings!) I feel all warm and fuzzy and Christmas-y today, even though the weather warmed up a little and it's sunny outside!
Mark finished the Christmas tree stands for the kids, Sam is coming home for the Christmas Holiday tomorrow! . . .and Amy will be visiting for a few days! . . .which is also wonderful because we get to spend a little time becoming acquainted with our new daughter!
Our neighbors sent over a huge bag of pomegranates a couple of days ago, so today's next project is pomegranate jelly!
Then, I want to wrap the rest of the gifts that we have already purchased, and believe it or not, we all almost finished shopping!
If there is any time left in the day, I'll ready Sam's room and the guest room!
Tomorrow, the whole bunch of us plan to go find our Christmas trees! It's always a silly, goofy caravan, Mark and I in the pick-up, and our kids and their kids in their respective family-vans. Everybody will be all bundled up and still freezing, but we will select three Christmas trees and deliver them to all of the homes! Mark and I, our three children, their spouses (and one prospective spouse) and three wonderful Grandsons! Sounds like hot cocoa and candy cane season to me!
. . .add those to the shopping list. . .hot cocoa and candy canes.
Saturday, the girls and their girlfriends will be holding a Christmas boutique at our house. They have made some of the most beautiful things! I'll try to post pictures. See you soon! ~ Love!

Christmas Tree Stands

I am sooo proud of Mark! He just finished building these for our kids! They're meant to be Christmas tree stands. He built one for us, oh. . . 20-odd years ago, and promised someday he would build them for the kids. . . and now he has. Sam and Amy will get theirs after they marry this next summer. Don't you just love this kind of tradition? It just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I am sooo proud of him!

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Path to Peace

Whenever I need a little time to clear my mind, connect with God, get away from it all, exercise, seek out nature, enjoy beauty, be inspired, take pictures or think uninterrupted thoughts, there is a path that I like to hike. It follows the river for about a mile. I wander over quaint little footbridges, around fallen trees, alongside rapids and calm, up acorn studded hills and down again, stomping through the crunchy Autumn leaves. I stop to peer into thickets teeming with birds of every size, shape, temperament and variety that I can imagine. . . and oh, the beautiful songs they sing! I come home with a different video every day, not necessarily for the video itself, but I'm trying to tape the bird songs. They are so various and beautiful. I'm pretty sure that I heard wild turkeys the other day, I want someone else to listen to the recording to try to help me identify whatever mourn some call I heard. I have photographed robins, goldfinches, woodpeckers, owls, ducks, hawks, vultures, finches and sparrows. Those are the varieties that I can think of off the top of my head. If I check my Field Guide I would certainly come up with more. We have seen deer, squirrels, otters and a fox. (I say we, because Mark is always the one who spots the animals when he goes with me, it seems I only have eyes for birds.) We have watched the salmon spawn.
I go out to walk in nature, and it caresses me. I can't explain how it does, but it just brings me peace. My Mother and I were talking about it the other day, and she said it too, something about being in nature is just soothing and calming, not like that's really news to anyone, but it bears retelling, don't you think?

Note: Today, September 20, 2010, Nina Bagley posted the perfect poem that I have borrowed to share here. I have not see the book from whence it came . . .

"from mary oliver's radiant new book of poetry/prose, Swan:"

How I Go to the Woods

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

I don't really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Break Walnut Shells Cleanly in Half

I am posting this here, because, I promised it on my Children's Blog, but I don't really want children reading the instructions. It involves a sharp knife, so I am providing links between the two posts.
I have read that the way to do this is by slipping a steak knife into the stem end of the walnut shell and working/wiggling it around the natural split. This does work, too, one time out of 50! So my thinking was that if I roasted the walnuts first, it might give way a little easier. And that worked, too! But with a much higher success ratio! I had success in fully half of the walnuts that I tried, 13 out of 26! Not to mention that this method made the walnut hearts pictured! So here we go! Please use caution. Be very careful.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Place whole shelled walnuts in a shallow oven proof pan, single layer.
Roast walnuts for 35 minutes. Odd time, I know, but it worked for me!
Cool walnuts till you are comfortable holding them.
Carefully slip the blade of a narrow bladed steak knife (non-serrated edge) into the stem end of the walnut.
Work the blade down through the meat.
Gently but firmly start to work the blade around the natural split, being very careful not to force the knife, because you don't want to cause it to slip, and, you know, cause you to shed blood.
Clear out the meats, and you have walnut halves suitable for a lot of fun crafting, for kids and adults.

Craft Suggestions:
Toy Boat - Melt paraffin into the hollow half, stick a toothpick mast in it, slip on a paper sail, and fill the bathroom sink with water for boat races!

Thumbelina Bassinet - Cut scrap fabric to size and glue in hollow half for bed linens. Glue teenie trim around the edges. Make a teensie quilt. If you are lucky, you can still find a teenie tiny plastic doll in the babyshower favor section at your florist supply, otherwise you may have to be creative and make a Thumbelina. Polly Pocket might do!

Prize Package/Ornament - Spray paint two matching halves metallic gold. Slip a teenie prize, gift, money or message inside. Use white glue (or similar craft adhesive)to affix the halves back together. You can add a ribbon or hemp loop before you seal it up if you would like to tie it on a package, or hang it from your Christmas tree branches. These can also fill a bowl for a fun party favor, think stocking stuffers... go crazy!

The delightful things you're making!~

Mrs. Garland said...
Thank you! I make golden walnuts with little chocolates inside for a St. Nicholas gift for my 1st grade students.  {I so LOVE this!  You must be a magical teacher!}
Susan said...
I've been trying to find a way to open these little boogers without pulverizing them, thank you SO much for the info. I need to make 24 ornaments and I want to do little pirate ships!  {Oh, how I wish I could have seen this finished product!}

louise said.... {sorry, no link} I'm going to line the halves with felt, slip in ties and a hinge, then include tiny clay animals. All I needed to figure out was your trick of roasting the nuts first-- it worked perfectly! And the bonus is the nutmeats smell and taste delicious. Thanks endlessly!!  {We want to see!  How precious would those little animals be!?}

Mama Roots....
While she didn't actually leave a comment, she did provide a link back to this post . . .she has an adorable idea that includes drilling tiny holes in the shells to tie them with string . . . in case you're inclined.  She also thinks roasting them for a slightly shorter amount of time might make them less brittle . . . hmmm . . . I'll have to consider that . . .  maybe it will result in a higher success ratio? 

I'm off to restock my walnut supply!  There are children needing magical delights in their stockings!

~ Much love! ~

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Make a Pressed Leaf tray

After I made all of those pretty things with leaves, I had to do something with them, didn't I. ;)
Did you notice that my pretty tray ended up on the wall? I think I promised to tell you how to make that! Then, here, goes!

The little cloche is full of acorns and acorn tops. I placed this stem of dried oak leaves in the tall cloche, because I was lucky to find one on the ground with a acorns attached. That's a lichen covered twig standing in the old inkwell. Oh, oh, and I bought the pheasant feather quill at Jane Austen's House!

Now the directions, the steps are:

  • Press leaves and/or flowers
  • Cut glass, mat board, and backboard to size
  • Sand and paint frame, and backboard
  • Tea stain labels, write labels out
  • Drill holes for handles, place handles
  • Positioning leaves and labels, affix
  • Assembly, including backboard and feet, if desired

My tray is roughly 16 x 18 inches. Any size that you like will do. This was a fire engine red picture frame, with no glass when I found it stashed in that cupboard. So. . . assuming that you, too are using a 'found' frame, first remove the glass, and sand the living daylights out of the wood. This should ensure that the new paint makes a good bond. Spray paint the frame.

Find the center of the short sides of your frame, and measure from that point to drill holes for your handles. Unless you use flat head screws, you will need to counter sink the screw heads on the back side.

Cut (or have cut) a sheet of glass to fit the opening. This is usually very inexpensive at a regular, old fashioned, hardware store, if necessary.

Cut a black sheet of paper/mat board/foam core the size of the opening. I used mat board, but I have a stash.

Cut a piece of Masonite, or other 1/8 inch thick board to fit the back of the frame, approximately 1/2 inch smaller than frame. For instance, 16 x 18 frame = 15 1/2 x 17 1/2 backboard. This will need to be nailed onto the frame, so you will want to drill pilot holes, and use the shortest tack that will do the job. You don't want them to poke through the front of the frame. The pilot holes need only be drilled through the Masonite. You are drilling pilot holes because you don't want to be whacking on the back of the assembled frame with a hammer any more than is absolutely necessary. For my frame, I drilled corner holes, and three others per side.

I am assuming, that you have already pressed your leaves, but if you haven't, scroll down a few posts, and you will find the directions for the method that I used. Artistically position your dried, pressed leaves onto the black (or color of your choice) board, leaving a generous margin and keeping in mind that you will need space for the labels. Glue them in place. I used glue dots, but I'm not certain they were the best idea, maybe spray-adhesive, white glue or 3M quick dry craft glue, definitely not hot glue, because it leaves thick blobs. The glue dots had a tendency to break the fragile leaves.

Labels: If you are lucky enough to get your hands on vintage labels, by all means use them, or color copy them, and use that! I tea stained regular old unlined index cards, then ironed dry and to flatten them.

Tea staining cards: Make a cup/bowl of really strong tea and while it is hot soak the cards in it. Soak as long as it takes to get the color saturation that you are looking for. Five to ten minutes is probably a good estimate. I like to have a little tea standing on the cards when I iron them, it gives them a nice, irregular, somewhat blotchy coloration. You will definitely want to press them on a tea towel. :)

Write out the names, and then cut the card to size. I used a sepia colored marker, but black would work equally well. If you do calligraphy, lucky you! You could print the names on tan card stock, and then trim to size. I just used my best 'scientific' penmanship, because I was hoping for an antique-like, handmade appearance.

Wow! This is a wordy description!

Using a straight-edge, carefully draw a border, or two around each label. This takes a little planning, but if you make a mistake, at least the supplies are inexpensive.

I filled my board with a lot of leaves, so I was a little short on room. Because of that I used only the familiar names of the trees, instead of both the common and botanical, as I had planned, but you can find the proper botanical names easily enough online, after all, you found me! I'm just teasing! I'll help! I liked Backyard Gardener.

Check the spacing for labels on your board by writing out the names on scraps of paper, cutting them to the approximate size, and laying them in place. I was really happy that I went to this effort, it really helped with the space planning.

Glue the labels in place, the pretty ones, not the samples, silly. I used the 3M quick drying craft glue, but glue sticks would probably suffice. Again, I don't recommend hot glue.

Now, you get to assemble it!

  • Place the frame face down across an ironing board. Assuming the size works, this is so that the handles hang off of the edges, use any surface appropriately sized for your frame.
  • Carefully lay in clean glass, and finished mat board. I added a spot of hot glue in each corner, yes, now hot glue, to hold everything snugly in place.
  • Position backboard, being careful that the pilot holes line up with solid wood, and tack in place. If desired, add silicone or felt pads to the corners.


Send me a picture, or post it on your blog and send me a link! Debbi

Note: If you choose a frame, like I did, that isn't flat, (can you tell that mine is made from a curved moulding?) it can cause a problem with the handle placement. In mine, the screw that held the handle on wasn't fully obscured. As I see it, you have three options. I chose the easy one, number 3. 1. Carve out space in the frame for the handle to sit squarely. 2. Choose a flat frame. 3. Hide the exposed screw by filling the space with a crafter's clay that is baked to harden. I used black Fimo, and smoothed it out carefully, then baked it for the time recommended on the Fimo package.

To clarify. . . I baked only the frame with handles attached, no glass. I checked with my personal firefighter who assured me that I was baking way below combustion temperature. (which is 400F degrees for wood, I think. . . but he is away at another forest fire, so I can't just ring him up to double check. Wish I could.

One more interesting note: I pretty well battered my poor frame, and needed to repaint it after I had hardened the clay. I did not want to try to mask the handles, but I didn't want to get paint on them either. I coated them with a thin-ish coat of Vaseline (petroleum jelly), spray painted, waited for the paint to dry, and then wiped it off of the handles with a paper towel! Worked like a charm!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Love in a Nutshell

Would you just look at what I found while cracking walnuts today? Know what? Today's our anniversary. Perfect. Just perfect!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

After the rain

It rained last night, our first cleansing Autumn rain. The air is just so . . . well, the damp, cool, freshly scrubbed air just makes the world feel beautiful. Elizabeth, Christian and I, took the opportunity to take a lovely hike through the river park where the salmon were beginning to arrive, and the trees were raining still. Lovely. Just lovely.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More Good Things to Make with Autumn Leaves

Framed Botanical

I just love this one! It's one of the favorite projects that I told you I would be posting. I haven't even finished the one that I expect to be my favorite, but it is begun. I think maybe tomorrow, I have to cut a sheet of glass. In the meantime, back to the framed botanical, I am very happy with the distressed frame (from Target). I think it gives the completed project the perfect aged look. The "scientific label" is a tea stained and ironed index card, cut down and outlined with a sepia felt tip pen. I think the photo corners are entirely optional, don't you?

My Grandma just giggles at the things she's caught me ironing this week.

Gift Tag

Scientific/Botanical Tray

I saw this method on a Martha Stewart program. The leaf is ironed onto the white stock, which is...believe it or not, a cardboard milk carton. Wash the empty (naturally) carton out, and dry it. This would look great if you cut it with scalloped scissors like she did. You will place your pressed leaf or flower on the waxed card (the inside of the carton, where there is no printing), cover it with a cotton, silk or linen fabric, and iron it for 10 to 20 seconds with a hot, dry iron; then carefully peel the fabric away while the item is still very warm. The weave of the fabric may be slightly noticeable, so you may want to make note of that and line the weave up squarely. This is really optional. You will want to affix your newly mounted leaf onto another card. Double-stick adhesive tape works wonderfully. Then embellish as you like! This is the same process that I used for the bookmark in another post. You probably wouldn't want to leave it long term in a valuable tome because of pH issues, but it is sooo lovely for a reading copy!

Go out and make wonderful memories! The world is your oyster!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(from the Quaker Oats package)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine, or butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees (F).
2. Beat together margarine and sugars until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.
4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.
5. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.
6. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

*In place of brown/white sugar, I used 1-1/2 cups white sugar, and 1/8 cup molasses. It seems to require another 1/2 cup of oats, but you know how real cream ice cream feels on your tongue? That's how smooth it is with the molasses. Go ahead! Try! NOW, it's officially Autumn! Love!

My "Limberlost"

Well, I live in California, so it's technically along the Stanislaus River, but anyone who has ever read Freckles, by Gene Stratton Porter, knows how I can imagine this is the path that Freckles took.

Lovely Things to Make with Autumn Leaves

Collage for framing

Greeting Card


Scrapbook page

I'm having trouble getting a good photo of that card...I'll keep trying, and two of my favorite projects still need tweaking. . . more later! Love!

How to Preserve Autumn Leaves

I searched the web for hours and found only one site that gave similar instructions. I knew this procedure existed so, as I am usually inclined, I dove in. My thought was that leaves are easily replaceable....if I ruin them, there are more! First I tried Liquid Amber leaves, from my neighbors yard, just in case. Even in California these trees have the most beautiful Fall colors, and it worked. First try! So here you go. These photos though, are wild grape leaves.

Collect fresh fallen leaves that are still soft and supple. I snipped off thick stems.

Place between two paper towels, on top of a pad of newspaper, on an ironing surface. You won't want the leaves to overlap.
Heat iron to it's highest setting, and turn the steam off. You want a hot and dry iron.

Press (on top of the paper towel) from about a minute to five minutes, checking occasionally to test for dryness. When you feel that they are almost right, flip them over, and iron the other side.

Next, pull of a sheet of regular kitchen waxed paper, twice the length that you need. Fold it in half and crease it down the center. Place it on top of a paper towel, place the leaves inside, fold the top half of the sheet over the leaves, add another paper towel, and press for 20 or 30 seconds. Turn the whole assemblage over, and press for 10 or 20 seconds, (we're just trying to get the wax onto the leaves, here). Pull the waxed paper apart while it's still warm, and remove the leaves. I repeated this step twice, because in my Internet search, several people mentioned that waxed paper isn't as heavily waxed as it used to be.

Voila! You have preserved Autumn Leaves for decorating!
I don't know how long they'll last, I only did it yesterday, but I know that this is a time honored practice. I have spoken to a few people (specifically, my 98 year old Grandmother) who remember that this was done. Grandma says, people used to do a lot of things like this. They didn't have any money, and beautification projects like this were free. The discussion included yo-yo quilts, and a paper decoration called a wasp's nest, which I am going to have her demonstrate for me again this week, and maybe I can show you. (crossed fingers, here) She says that her Mama always made wasp's nests out of wrapping paper, which, I think means, from the grocer, so think craft paper, tissue paper, or maybe butcher paper. . . maybe all three!
In a couple of days, I hope to show you the uses I found for my collection of incredible colored leaves, in spite of our climate!