31 May 2009

Sunday Moring Praise Team

Now that we're approaching the end of our daughter's junior year, I'm mindful that her high school days will soon end. I want to be sure that I've documented the important facets of her life. While I've done a good job capturing photos of her music activities, academic competitions, and friends, I haven't done as well documenting her activities at church, especially her work with the praise team, because I'm hesitant to take the camera along.

This is such an important activity for her that I decided there had to be a way to discreetly snap a few pictures. So we took the camera with us this morning and grabbed some pictures from the balcony.

I'm glad we took the opportunity to capture her work with the praise team. For the scrapbook page, I'll have her write about how she came to volunteer for this activity and what it means to her.

If you're reading this post today, my challenge to you is this: Are there important aspects of your life that you haven't captured in photos or documented in some way? This is your story. Find a way to write every single chapter.

30 May 2009

Saturday morning

On this beautiful Saturday morning, the ladder is positioned in front of the door for optimum viewing. The addition of the smaller step ladder eliminates some of the competition for a top seat. :-)

29 May 2009

Feline Friday: An Outdoor Moment

Tinsel and Lily are strictly indoor kitties. They love to go outside, but when we take them out for a walk, we always use a harness and leash.

Once the weather turns warm each spring, they sit at the window and gaze outside longingly. Sometimes they even run to the door and meow. When I see this behavior, I always feel a little bit guilty about keeping them inside, but my desire to keep them safe outweighs any guilt!

This evening, I took each kitty outside separately to the patio for a good brushing and a special little treat: Since it was a quiet evening, they each got to explore the patio for awhile without the leash. I stood with them as they walked around slowly and cautiously, smelling the flowers and grass.

After a few minutes, it was time to go back inside. It may not be quite as exciting as the patio, but it's safe!

28 May 2009

Beach Bingo tin

I was talking with a friend today about a travel game I made a few years back to take on vacation: beach bingo tins. Even though it's been a few years, this is still one of my favorite projects. (Of course, if I were making the tins today, nothing would be tilted!)

I made the bingo tins before our summer vacation to Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, off the coast of Virginia. Since it was our daughter's first trip to the ocean, I thought it might be fun to have a game to play to learn about things you might see on the beach.

Let me offer a word of caution here: I used three Altoid tins to make my beach bingo games. But instead of putting the Altoids into another container, I decided to eat them all. All three tins of Altoids. Take it from me: Don't EVER eat three tins of Altoids all by yourself! Luckily, I recovered by the time we were ready to leave on vacation!

I drew pictures of things we might see at the beach and attached the cards to the inside of the lid. Then I added a few strong magnets and we were set to go!
Because we planned to take the tins to the beach, I waited to decorate the outsides until we came home.

This would be a fun project to do with kids. You could customize your bingo cards to whatever you might see on your summer vacation. Of course, if you don't want to draw pictures, you could use clip art, patterned paper, or other images for your bingo cards.

Just looking at my beach bingo tins again gives me an urge to make another set for this summer. College Visit Bingo, anyone? ;-)

27 May 2009

Class project: Cosmo Cricket recipe album

I'm a sucker for most anything with a vintage/retro feel, so when I saw Cosmo Cricket's new Early Bird line, I was hooked. This line has several gorgeous papers that look like they were taken directly from a 1950's linen kitchen towel or apron. The chipboard is equally enchanting and even includes an adorable smiling toaster. As you can see, this line is perfect for a recipe book!

My recipe book is 8x8 with 20 pages. I used an SEI Preservation Series album, so it's easy to add pages to accommodate more recipes. I picked out some retro fonts for the divider pages and quotes (Easter Basket, Featured Item, and Rickles), available for free at Tack-o-Rama and Font Diner, two of my favorite retro font sites.

This class will be scheduled at Memory Bound in August and possibly again later in the fall. It promises to be a great time, as always!

24 May 2009

Landscaping improvement

I think one can safely say that "alive" is preferred to "dead" in nearly every situation, especially landscaping. Yet we've been in a quandary over this very question for the past few weeks.

Our Japanese Maple, planted last fall, failed to produce a single leaf this spring. Most of the stems were dry, yet the bark on the trunk was still green, so we couldn't tell if the tree was dead or alive. We set a "deadline" (lame pun intended) for Memorial Day weekend. If no leaves appeared by then, the tree would be replaced.

click to enlarge

Today was the day. With still no leaves in sight, Spouse removed the tree and returned it for a replacement. He came home with a new Japanese Maple, unquestionably very much alive. What an improvement!

22 May 2009

Feline Friday: Lily's favorite game

For today's Feline Friday, Lily presents her current favorite game. She suggests that you DO try this at home!

21 May 2009

Garden Project #3

Well, I chose the hottest and windiest day of the season so far to tackle Garden Project #3, the croissant-shaped bed next to our patio. Like the other areas I've been working on, I completely ignored this bed last summer and it had become a bit of a weed patch. (Well, truthfully, it has had some serious issues for a few years now!)

As you can see in the "before" shots above, the plants in this garden are oddly spaced. They were fine when I initially put them in a few years ago, but some have spread and others have died, leaving a lot of ugliness. As the summer wears on and plants reach their full size, this bed looks really awkward and out of balance.

As I hope you can see in the "after" shots above, I spent a good portion of the afternoon and evening re-working this garden. I'll be the first to say that I didn't solve all of the problems, but I hope that I've fixed at least a few. Notably, I have three large clumps of asters in the center of the bed which always start out looking nice (and provide lots of height) but by mid-summer begin to begin to suffer from some unidentified disease. I decided to give them one more summer and if the same thing happens again, I'll remove and replace them with something else. And the coreopsis (variety: Zagreb)...let's just say that I have PLENTY of it.

Although it may not be obvious, I added a lot of plants to the bed to fill in the gaps and fix some of the "balance" issues. Some were new purchases, and others were divisions of plants from this bed or others. I also added a small lilac bush to one end to provide a bit of a focal point. And finally, although it's difficult to see in the photos, I plugged in a few annuals for color. When all was said and done, I covered everything with six bags of mulch and watered it down so it wouldn't all blow away!

Now that the perennials are in place in all of my garden areas, I am planning to use my stash of metal plant tags to mark each one. I've done this in the past and have found it helpful. It also gives a nice sense of order to the garden. And we all know that I like order! :-)

This particular bed is going to take a lot of attention to cure everything that ails it. I hope that today's changes are a few steps in the right direction.

Next on my list: See that distant garden with the large bridal wreath bush? It's No Man's Land. I'm scared to even venture out there, but I promised myself (and our neighbors) that this is the year. Stay tuned.

20 May 2009

Garden Project #2

I'm undertaking a few long overdue garden projects this spring. I've already shared a bit about the garden overhaul in front of the house. This week, I'm working on the perennial beds behind the house.

The areas in question include one of the gardens next to our patio and the narrow border along the back and side of our house. They are all connected, so I consider this one big bed with three sections. When we first moved into our house, these areas were all full sun, but now that the trees are bigger, they have transitioned to partial shade gardens. Over time, many of the perennials have died or have had to be moved to sunnier spots.

The "before" photos in the collage above were taken last May (click to enlarge, if you dare!). You can see several gaps in the beds. Right after I took these photos, my mom passed away so I didn't do a thing with the beds all summer long. You can only imagine how pitiful they looked by the end of the summer.
And here's the "after" shot (click to enlarge...this collage is not nearly as scary!). This week, I've spent several hours moving plants and adding many new perennials plus a few annuals for color. Of course, a few bags of mulch help everything look a little fresher.

I'm going to keep a careful eye on these areas and see how the new plants perform. If the gaps don't fill in as I expect (or if the plants don't do well), I'll add more annuals or perennials. I'm hoping that with a little more effort and attention this spring and summer, I can make these areas colorful and interesting -- and hopefully a little less embarrassing!

Next on my list: Only two more major garden overhauls to go! :-)

19 May 2009

Signs of life

May has been a difficult month, as expected it would be.

But seeing signs of life in the garden brings me hope that maybe someday I, too, can emerge from this period of darkness with renewed strength. Someday soon, I hope.

18 May 2009

Typical Lily

Lily has a way of sitting with her front legs spread way apart. It makes it easier to lick her tummy, I guess.

Whatever the reason, it never fails to make us laugh.

17 May 2009

Bo Bunny book for a dad

Here's a sample I just finished up for a Father's Day display at Memory Bound. I enjoyed playing with these fun Bo Bunny products, including the chipboard book, paper, ribbon, and clips.

Anytime I create something, I try to make it as practical as possible, so with that in mind, I added mats for nine photos in this little album. One way I accomplished that was to cut and include an additional piece of chipboard that was in the package (I think it was packing!). It provided space for several more small photos. It would be easy to add even more pages.

This little album would make a great Father's Day gift!

16 May 2009

Remembering Mom

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

She did all of this and much, much more. Thank you, Mom.


15 May 2009

Feline Friday: Double Trouble!

Was it something in the food? Or too much catnip?

Whatever the cause, Lily was spotted with not just one, but TWO heads -- and FOUR front paws -- this week!

Fortunately, this unusual mutation was short-lived. Double Lilies would certainly be twice the fun, but also double the trouble!

13 May 2009

Hey, what's in YOUR freezer?

My friend, Sharon, asked me recently if I'd heard about freezing candle jars to loosen the remaining wax.

Oh, yes, I've definitely heard about it! In fact, I catch a lot of grief around here because you won't find much edible in our freezer. It's full of forgotten candle jars. :-)

12 May 2009

Two more satisfied customers!

Today was a great mail day for Tinsel and Lily. Their new Cat Squares, made by blogging buddy Sarah C., arrived!

Click to enlarge!

Lily was napping when I brought in the mail, so Tinsel was the first to inspect the very cute package. She could not wait for me to open the bag! By the time I did so, Lily had appeared. She knew something exciting was happening!

Lily and Tinsel inspected both Cat Squares, then Tinsel took the orange one for herself. Lily gave the pink one a good "product testing" and then decided that she'd better check the orange one, too. Tinsel was not too happy about that, of course!

The kitties love their new Cat Squares! They're completely adorable and feature little paw "tags" on the side. Check them out at Sarah's Etsy store here.

Thank you, Sarah! You have two more very satisfied customers!

11 May 2009

Great Outdoors mini-album

Here's an accordion album project I put together for a class. I used the Ki Memories Earth line of stickers as the basis for this project, which will house 10 nature photos.

Accordion albums may not be glamorous or new, but they're simple to put together, fun to make, and easy to adapt to any theme.

And of course, you can't go wrong with Ki Memories! :-)

09 May 2009

Recipe: French Toast Casserole

The recipe I'm sharing today, French Toast Casserole, has a special place in my heart. My friend, Ruth Hamilton -- retired Girl Scout guru, cat-lover, scrapbooker extraordinaire, and really great cook -- created this recipe. I've served this it for many brunches and Christmas morning breakfasts. It's also a great for times when you feel like having breakfast for dinner.

Ruth's recipe takes me back to the time when I was a Girl Scout leader. One weekend a few years back, I went to a lodge camping workshop at the same Girl Scout camp I attended as a child. I included a photo of the camp site in my (OLD!) recipe scrapbook (click to enlarge and read more about it):

While at the leader training, we learned how to cook over an open fire and in an indoor fireplace. (Dutch oven cooking can't be beat, BTW!) In addition, we cooked some easy dishes to serve a crowd, including Ruth's French Toast Casserole. Here's her recipe:

French Toast Casserole

1 stick margarine

1 C brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

12 slices Texas toast (I sometimes use only 10)

6 eggs

1.5 C milk

Salt to taste

Melt margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon in bottom of 9 x 13 inch aluminum pan (not glass). Cover with two layers of bread (sliced). Mix eggs, milk and salt. Pour over bread layers. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from pan promptly by turning pan upside down.

Note: Leftovers keep well for a couple of days!

Here's what the casserole looks like prior to going into the oven. Assemble it in the evening before you go to bed, then pop it in the oven in the morning. I guarantee that the sweet smell of cinnamon will awaken any sleepyheads! I might add that this is a great recipe to make with kids. Having girls over for a slumber party? Have them mix it up. It's easy and fun to make.

And here's what it looks like when it comes out of the oven! I invert it onto a cookie sheet, then cover it with the pan until ready to serve. As you can see, the brown sugar and butter create a nice gooey topping. No syrup necessary! (HOWEVER, an extra trip to the fitness place might be in order!)

And here it is ready to eat! Because it is so rich, I usually serve it only with sausage and fruit.

For an easy overnight recipe, this one cannot be beat. Thanks, Ruth!

07 May 2009

Ki Memories Pet Shop card set

Here's a set of Ki Memories Pet Shop cards I just finished up. I created this set in response to a couple of customer requests for a pet-themed greeting card class.

This line is perfect for cards! The colors are beautiful, and the rub-ons are just the right scale.

Can't wait to have the pet crowd back in class. There are always great stories, and everyone understands why I dress my cats! lol

Recipe: French's Crunchy Onion Chicken

I'm not a huge fan of onions, especially the dried, crunchy ones you find on top of the dreaded green bean casserole at Thanksgiving time. (I'll admit that I'm even a little bit scared of that casserole...) So my sharing a recipe featuring crunchy onions comes as a surprise.

This all came about today when, in a desperate effort to cook something Daughter would actually eat, I thumbed through the pages of a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens and ran across an ad for French's Crunchy Onions. The ad included a recipe for a chicken dish, which Daughter proclaimed she MIGHT eat. SOLD! Off to the store I ran to pick up the ingredients.

And to my surprise, this dish was actually good! Everyone ate it, including Daughter AND Spouse -- a very unusual occurrence around here. This recipe is a keeper!

Please note that the photo shown here is from the French's website...not my kitchen!

French’s Crunchy Onion Chicken

2 cups (4 oz.) FRENCH'S® Original or Cheddar French Fried Onions
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 (5 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten


1.Place French Fried Onions and flour into plastic bag. Lightly crush with hands or with rolling pin. Transfer to pie plate or waxed paper.
2.Dip chicken into egg; then coat with onion crumbs, pressing firmly to adhere. Place chicken on baking sheet.
3.Bake at 400°F for 20 min. or until no longer pink in center.

06 May 2009

Progress Report: Garden Project #1

I spent a good portion of the late afternoon and evening working on Garden Project #1, a complete overhaul of a bed in front of our house. As you may recall from my previous blog post, here is what I started with:

Basically, this area has been neglected for several years. At one time, we had a large tree
and a nice ground cover in the space. One day, however, a strong gust of wind blew down the tree. Finally last fall, we replaced it with a Japanese maple. I think the new tree is dead, but Spouse disagrees, so we'll give it a few more weeks to see if it produces leaves. If not, it's outta there!

This is what the area looks like now that I've planted it. The first thing you'll probably notice is that the foundation bushes are not evenly spaced! Ack! I'm going to have to fix that tomorrow.

We apparently live over a rock quarry (just kidding -- we don't) because there are tons of rocks in this bed. In addition, certain areas have old tree roots and clay soil. All of these factors made for very difficult digging today. Thank goodness I go to the Dreaded Fitness Place! I was able to do all the digging, planting, and mulching without any help whatsoever! Go, me! :-)

Here's another "before" shot of the area next to the sidewalk. A whole lotta nothin' goin' on...

And here's the "after" shot. In this photo, you can see some of the perennials I added to the area: coral bells along the sidewalk, astilbe at the left, and a sweetspire bush ("Little Henry" variety). This bush will grow approximately 2" high and will be covered with elongated white flowers. It already smells beautiful. I also added foam flowers, hostas, bugleweed, and cranesbill. You can't see from the photos, but we still have some Chinese astilbe groundcover in the bed. I moved it around for better coverage.

You can also see that I left all of my wild columbine, jonquils, and grape hyacinths in place. After a few weeks, those plants will completely die back and I'll need to figure out how to handle the empty spaces.

On a side note, it took six bags of mulch to fill this space. Can you believe that? I could have gone with fewer bags, but I don't like to skimp on the mulch!

Overall, it's a good start to Garden Project #1. I'll be adding a few annuals to the bed for color and to fill in some of the gaps, after the new plants have a few days to get settled. Stay tuned for further gardening projects! This is just one of MANY I need to tackle this spring.

05 May 2009

Trees in bloom

The weather was beautiful this past weekend! I decided to take the camera out and snap a few photos of the gorgeous flowering trees in our neighborhood. The blooms seem to be particularly profuse this year. But it's a fleeting pleasure...in a few short days, the flowers will be gone!

04 May 2009

Garden Project #1

The first of many gardening projects on my list is this eyesore in front of our house. It's been bad for awhile, but it has now become embarrassingly bad. By that, I mean so bad that you know it has become a subject of conversation in your neighborhood!

We pulled out the foundation bushes last year but didn't replace them because we were undecided about what to purchase. We added a Japanese maple to the space last fall to replace a serviceberry tree which fell years ago. Well, I discovered today that the new tree is pretty much dead. This is an unfortunate turn of events, because the now-dead tree was to form the centerpiece of my grand design! It needs to be replaced before I can move forward with my plan.
I found this plan in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens and thought it would work well for the space. I know just enough about gardening to be dangerous, so I thought that following some sort of plan might be helpful. I soon discovered, however, that our space is quite a bit larger than the space in the sketch, which means, of course, that it's going to take more plants to fill the area.

I started with a few bushes. I picked out boxwoods ("winter gem" variety) because they can handle heavy/clay soil. (I'll amend the soil prior to planting, but there's only so much you can do to counteract the poor soil immediately next to our house.)

Following the plan, I picked out a few coral bells, hostas, and astilbes. I've grown all of these successfully in the past in that same general vicinity, so I'm hoping they'll work. But in order to fill the space nicely, I'm going to have to invest in some larger plants or move some in from other areas of the yard. I'm willing to fill in a few spaces with annuals, but I much prefer the look and ease of perennials, if I can find the right mix.

Stay tuned as Garden Project #1 progresses.

03 May 2009

A visit to the greenhouse

Each year at this time, I'm filled with optimism and excitement about my flower beds. "This is the year I'll finally get it right!" I say to myself. But by the time July and August roll around, my optimism generally changes to disappointment. My flower beds almost always fall far short of my vision for them.

Over the past few years I have learned, however, that gardening is not something that you suddenly get "right". A garden is constantly changing and evolving, so things may only look "right" for a short time. A garden is, by definition, a work in progress. It requires ongoing tinkering to create and maintain the design you see in your mind.

With that in mind, I visited our local greenhouse today to gather inspiration for the growing season. Surrounded by a host of vibrant colors, varied textures, and sweet scents, I began planning for a new bed to surround a tree we planted last season. I selected foundation plantings based on research I did over the winter. I purchased a few perennials I've grown successfully in the past. I'll eventually fill in the empty spaces with annuals to add color and interest.

And I'll lower my expectations. Beautification, not perfection, is not the goal!

02 May 2009

First flowers of the season

One of the things I most look forward to each growing season is being able to pick flowers from the yard and bring them indoors. There's nothing like a pitcher of fresh lilacs or a casual gathering of colorful zinnias in a simple vase. In a week or two, I'll be able to pick tiny bouquets of lilies of the valley. Their strong, distinct scent reminds me of springtime in Paris, where street vendors sell the delicate white flowers in paper cones.

The bluebells pictured here were given to me by my late grandma, an avid gardener whose yard was dotted with them every April. I started a few plants in front of our house and look forward to their colorful blooms each spring.

01 May 2009

Feline Friday: Repurposed Crockpot Hat

I found a little crocheted hat in the basement this week. I have no idea where it came from, but attached to it was a label: "Just a little hat, much too small to wear. Use it on a crockpot lid so when it's hot, it's there."

Well, I have a better use for this crockpot hat:

I'm sure Tinsel and Lily would agree! :-)