27 April 2012

Feline Friday: Our Dog, Lily

Since the day we brought Lily home to live with us, we knew she wasn't an "ordinary" cat. In fact, on her first evening with us, she stuck her head into an open bag to grab a few Sun Chips. Over the years, Lily's dog-like behavior has continued. As of this week, I'm now positive Lily has a dog in her family tree.

 Why do I think Lily is a dog?
  • She runs to fetch toys and treats.
  • She will eat non-edible items such as drywall, wheat kitty litter, and aluminum foil. We have to keep a close eye on what goes in her mouth.
  • She plays catch with puff balls, jumping and catching them in her paws.
  • When playing catch, she responds to the simple command of "push it back".
  • She begs for food at the table. Okay, I know that's a learned behavior, but none of the other cats I've had have ever done this.
  • She will eat a wide range of people food (not that she's allowed to, mind you) including green olives and mandarin oranges.
  • She rings a bag of bells when she's hungry, a trick I taught her when I heard about a dog who rang a bell to go outside.

Two things happened this week which have me convinced about Lily's dog lineage: 
  • In watching a documentary about dog evolution and behavior, I learned that dogs are the only animal which responds to pointing. Guess who else responds to pointing? When I point to a treat, Lily goes after it.
  • And now, Lily has started having some trouble with her (ahem) rear end. How did I discover this, you ask? I'll spare you the details, but according to the vet, this problem is far more common in dogs than in cats.
So now we know for sure that our Lily is really a dog in disguise! I wonder how she would do at obedience class...

26 April 2012

Garden Inspiration

Well, I've been a very bad blogger. Things have been very busy lately and unfortunately, my blogging fell by the wayside this past week. 

But I have a good excuse! In addition to working on my usual array of class and store projects, we took a five-day trip to visit our daughter at Indiana University. We had an absolutely wonderful time. But more on all of that later! As soon as we returned, I had to switch gears and get ready for the four classes and store demo I have scheduled for this week.

Today I took a quick break and stopped by our local greenhouse to pick up two hanging baskets of fan flowers for the front of the house. I couldn't help but be inspired by the beautiful blooms! 

I stayed strong and didn't buy any other flowers because it's still a bit early to plant. But believe me, I'll be heading back there in a couple of weeks! Can't wait to plant my patio pots and fill in a few spaces with color.

Click on the collage for more inspiration!
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20 April 2012

Feline Friday

 Mom, you missed a spot!

 Lily is now acting as the painting supervisor for my craft-room re-do. Notice the way her belly hangs down between the slats on the ladder. :) 

Cutest helper ever!

17 April 2012

Mulch Madness

We've been enjoying an early spring here in Iowa. Of course this means that my perennials took off WAY earlier than usual. By the time I got my mulch, spreading it was somewhat tedious. But it was a necessary task, and over the past couple of couple of weeks I've spread 20+ bags. Whew! And there is one large garden that I haven't even touched. Actually, it's more like a weed patch at this point...

Here's a BEFORE picture on one of my mulching days. I do have a wheelbarrow, but it somehow seems easier to lug bags of mulch around by hand. Good exercise, I guess!

This is a BEFORE picture of the front garden which I reworked a couple of years ago. As you can see, I still had fall clean-up to do before I could put on the mulch. Why, oh why didn't I get that done?

 And here's an AFTER picture, actually a week or so after I spread the mulch. My ground cover is coming back nicely.

I recently tackled the areas around the side and back of the house. This is a BEFORE picture. 

And this is an AFTER picture of one area. I'm really hoping this bed fills in more completely this year. I added several plants last year hoping to fill in some gaps.

Oh, look at this adorable bird bath! Clean, filled, and ready for business! I FOUND IT FREE ON THE CURB ON LAST YEAR'S NEIGHBORHOOD CLEAN-UP DAY! It weighs 200 pounds, as I discovered trying to hoist it into my SUV.

Here's a BEFORE picture of the area behind the garage, another bed I recently reworked. Once again, I had to do all of my fall clean-up before I could mulch. Look how large the plants were in early April! 

And here's and AFTER picture of the same area, looking a little tidier.

The bed near the patio (not pictured) has given me fits for years now. I added quite a few plants last year, so we'll see how it looks in a couple of weeks. If I STILL have spacing issues, I may have to seek professional help!

Here's to another year of gardening adventures!

16 April 2012

Cards, Cards, Everywhere!

 When you teach classes, you always are in one of several places on the "wheel of productivity": planning classes, making kits, or teaching classes. Right now I feel like I have one foot in each of those places. WAIT! That must mean that I have three feet! :) At any rate, I sure have a lot of that going on at the moment!

 I'm in the midst of making kits for the first session for this upcoming Year of Cards class. I'm teaching it next week and again in June. These detailed cards are made with the very popular This & That line by Echo Park.

Soon I'll be making kits for my next card class, this time using a colorful new line from Fancy Pants. I decided to make these cards in my personal "clean and simple" style. I'll also be teaching this one twice, in May and in June.

Last week, we ordered product from Simple Stories for another big card class I'll be teaching this summer. I can't wait to get my hands on this fun new line!
This week I'm also starting to plan a July card class (details to come!) and very soon I'll be picking out product for our annual Christmas card classes which will start in September or October. Now THAT is hard to believe!

Lots going on this week...will share more in the coming days. But for now...it's all about CARDS!

13 April 2012

Feline Friday: Home Invasion!

 HELP! The normally peaceful dollhouse has been invaded by a large, furry monster!

The monster has situated herself squarely in the kitchen, where she's knocking over appliances and straddling chairs.

Even the family dalmatian is no match for the likes of this creature!

Her long arm reaches menacingly out the open window...

...lured by a piece of fake bologna.

Occupy Kitchen!

 Awww...don't be scared! It's only Lily!

11 April 2012

Recipe: Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

We tested a new recipe this week and deemed it a keeper! It was fast, simple, clean, and yummy. Credit for this recipe goes to my mother-in-law who saw it in a publication from Skiff Medical Center in Newton, Iowa.

These days, we're on the lookout for dishes which include "clean" ingredients -- unprocessed foods in their natural state. This recipe for Quick Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili fits the bill. It made enough for dinner on two nights, plus more to freeze.

Quick Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, no salt added, undrained
1 teaspoon cumin (I added more)
1/2 cup salsa
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) fat-free chicken broth
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn (I added more)
1 cup Quaker Quick Barley
1/2 cup chopped green pepper (I used the entire pepper)
3 cups water
3 cups cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces **
1 tablespoon chili powder 

** I used meat from a whole roasted chicken. Anytime I buy one, I use the leftovers to make chicken broth. I freeze the broth in small containers.

In a 6-quart saucepan, combine everything except the beans, corn, pepper and chicken and bring to a boil over high heat; cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans, corn, pepper, and chicken and increase heat to high until chili comes to a boil. Cover and reduce to low. Simmer for another five minutes or until barley is tender. If it becomes too thick upon standing, add more chicken broth or water until chili is the desired consistency. Note: We added a bit of salt to taste. Yield: 10 cups

10 April 2012

Tabby Tuesday: Getting Organized!


When organizing your crafting supplies, don't forget to organize your CATS! Tinsel and Lily help on every project so they need a cubby, too!

06 April 2012

Feline Friday: We miss her too, Lily....

The other day I heard a most unusual sound coming from Bailey's room. It was a slurpy, yet scratchy, sort of sound. With Lily in the house, one always investigates a sound like this.

As it turns out, the strange sound was Lily painstakingly LICKING two items of Bailey's clothing which she wore when she was home in March. Lily's claws gripped the fabric as she covered every inch with her little pink tongue.
 I ran to grab the camera, and when I came back, she was still licking. She was so intent about her work that she didn't even notice me.

 Eventually, she took a short breather. 


Yes, Lily, we miss her, too. Only one more month and she'll be home!

Meanwhile, I think I'll be doing some laundry...

05 April 2012

Lucky 8 Projects

This month, I'm doing some tool demos at Memory Bound, so I've had the opportunity to play with a few new toys. The first tool I've been working with is the new WRMK Lucky 8 "Classic Wreath" punch. The Lucky 8 punches, which come in several styles, create a decorative edge on 12x12 cardstock or paper in just 8 easy punches. There are actually three designs on each punch -- the "combined" punch which you see in the tool photo below, the "outer cut", and the "inner cut". The punch can be used (on the "outer cut" setting) on smaller sizes of paper, too, to create unique designs.

 Here's a page sample I made with the "combined" setting on a 12x12 sheet of patterned paper. I used Black Onyx Liquid Pearls around the paper edge. Couldn't resist using this photo of baby Lily taken a few years back! :)

My next sample was made with the "inner cut" setting on a full 12x12 sheet of cardstock. After punching, I cut the cardstock down slightly to mat it on the white background. The inner cut is a nice design which could be used in all sorts of ways.
In the example below, I used the "outer cut" on a 6x12 piece of white cardstock. Paper or cardstock punched with this border could be used in so many ways. (Hopefully Bailey will not be too upset that I posted this old Halloween photo!)

The Lucky 8 punch can also be used on cards. Here I punched a corner from white and light blue and layered them on the front of the card. Of course, I had to add a few dots of silver Liquid Pearls!

 Finally, I made a mini-album using  6x12 paper punched with the "combined" and "outer cut" settings to create a front and back cover. I used half-circle pages inside the mini-album and (of course!) a bit of pink Liquid Pearls on the cover. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture with the coil binding in place, but you'll get the idea!

I found the Lucky 8 punch to be quite easy and fun to use!

03 April 2012

Wallpaper Border, Begone!

When we first moved into this house 20 years ago, it came with plenty of wallpaper and borders. But as if there weren't already enough, we added EVEN MORE borders to the few untouched rooms. Borders were all the rage at the time, but now I'm done with them. DONE. If I ever, EVER get the urge to put up fruity or flowered wallpaper again, someone needs to stop me. Please make a note of it.

We've tackled most of the wallpaper removal projects, but the one I've been putting off is our home office. For several years now, I've wanted to do something with this space, which doubles as my crafting/work room, but I couldn't justify it since I'm really the only one who sees it. Sure, the space is relatively functional and organized, but it feels disjointed and hodgepodge. After a good deal of thought, I've finally concluded that for as much time as I spend working in this room, it really needs to be a better reflection of my style and work habits.

Last year we got rid of the very outdated ceiling fan and I began replacing my plastic storage bins with Target cubes. Now I'm moving ahead with the bigger projects -- the walls and floors. The room features a forest green paisley border which we hung shortly after moving in. The carpet and paint are both original to the house -- yep, you read that right -- ORIGINAL. It's time for a serious update.
 The only good thing about this particular wallpaper border is that we used sizing under it. Unfortunately, most of the wallpaper in other rooms was adhered by the builder directly to the drywall, meaning it will NEVER come off. Because it was sized, I managed to take down this particular border in about six hours.
I sprayed it with warm water, let it soak in for a bit, then began peeling it off. Compared to other wallpaper we've tried to remove, it was a breeze.

Seeing the room without the border -- as bad as it looks right now -- makes me unbelievably excited because this is just the start of what I hope will be a low-budget but great transformation.

My next task will be to paint the walls a warm caramel color, the same color we used in my daughter's bathroom last summer. After that, I'll be replacing the carpet with some type of hard surface which will be more practical for the space. Before that can happen, I'll be removing everything from the room and being very, VERY selective about what comes back in.
Stay tuned for updates on this project -- and hopefully photos of more than just a corner of the room!