Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our last day of 2008

We're still enjoying absolutely no schedule, lots of play time, and doing nothing as much as we can. I've "unplugged" from the computer for the last couple of weeks, and it feels just right. Hard to say when I might post again, but I'll be back. I'm keeping very busy with lots of sewing projects and knitting. My wish for this new year is greater peace, grace, and wisdom throughout the world, but also in my very own soul. New beginnings have always thrilled me. Happy new year to you, friends!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The most beautiful ornament on our tree

Isn't it just exquisite?! My sister made this for us. It is by far my favorite ornament. I asked her to share her recipe. She noted that you could also make these with kids using simple cookie cutter shapes and decorating just like cookies. She did this the next year with her four year old and the results were precious. So... here's the scoop:

1 c. cinnamon
1/4 c. applesauce
1/2 c. craft glue

mix cinnamon and applesauce then stir in glue. Toss dough over and over until consistency is smooth and dry. Let stand 1 hour. Turn out one quarter of dough onto cool, flat surface. Flatten with hands and roll out to 1/4/ inch thickness with rolling pin. spritz with water if becomes too dry. If it sticks, sprinkle pin or surface with cinnamon. Cut with cookie cutter of choice. For Birds, I actually photo copied different bird templates and traced onto cardboard. (the templates were given in the magazine and I am happy to share them with you). If you use a homemade template, you will need to cut them out with a utility knife. With drinking straw poke hole in dough at top of ornament. Lay flat on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 quarters of dough. Preheat oven to 200 and bake until dry. approx 2 hours, flipping once . Or you can let them air dry on wire rack lined with paper towels for 24 hours, turning them over every 6 hours. The biggest issue is turning them so they dry flat...they tend to curl up.

To decorate, use white craft clue over areas you want to decorate and pick fun tiny craft beads of choice. Tap off excess and wait for area to dry before doing next color. When completely dry string ribbon through hole.

She is so talented and creative. If you have other great ornament ideas I'd love to see them. Have fun!

Monday, December 15, 2008

My quilted women's bags are in the shop!

I got another prompt today when I checked my messages. Every one's always asking if I sell women's bags. That's actually how I started out long before I knew what etsy was. I just kept them in my car and women would buy them right out of the trunk. A regular dealer... of bags, that is. Honestly, I've been making these bags for years, but they never hang around long enough for me to put them in etsy shop. I've perfected the design and size; it's my own pattern. Each one gets it's individuality from the free motion quilting. It's my passion; I get to draw with thread! So... if you're looking for a nice holiday gift, go check them out. These are the two I have left right now.

On another note, I'm being teased mercilessly by husband for my recent foray into facebook. A high school friend talked me into rejoining. I had given it up as "not my thing." In one weekend, I have reconnected with a huge pool of friends, all of whom I am happy to be back in touch with. What kicked it all of was a series of photos that my friend posted. Think classic eighties. The mullets and big hair abound. Too much fun to laugh at ourselves!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New size range

Whew! Well the fundraiser is over and the final exam administered and graded. I just have some loose ends to wrap up such as tallying final grades, and then it's full tilt into the holidays. We're getting excited around here. We decorated our tree yesterday, and as of today, only part of it has been destroyed by our little guy. That's pretty good, trust me. I figured the entire tree would be on the floor by now. Here's a smattering of the latest bags that I posted to etsy today. So fun. I'm making them in 3 different sizes now, so I'm looking forward to some feedback.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crafting with my girl

I can't wait to do more of this with her this season. I have to say, I absolutely love making stuff with my kids. If I were a good blogger I would link you to the site that this came from, but it's all over the crafting blogs and I've long since forgotten where I saw it. This one took quite a bit of mama help, but was so great for her with regard to working on her numbers. She did fold several of the cups, but lost interest in that after a while. I don't blame her. She did hang them all up. Thirty-one gets a bit repetitive. The best part for me, has been coming up with a little goody every day to put in the cup. I love the "elfin" part in "elfin magic." It's up in the air where we'll go with it. It started as an excercise in counting. I hope to link it to some spiritual aspects of the season. We'll see... last night's discussion about homeless vets digressed to bees and how they raise their babies.I just had to show you my "little south paw's" numbers. I am just so proud of her. I love her "nines." She is getting so big, so fast. She wrote every single number on her cups. Wow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One more class to teach!

I am soooo looking forward to the semester ending, as much as I've enjoyed my students. I have been dreaming of creating final exams lately, and THAT is just not a restful dream. I would rather focus on enjoying this holiday season with my family and friends. Plus, I'm ready to get busy on some new projects! I won't mind being done with organizing fund raisers, either. One more sale to go this next weekend so I have some things left yet to knock out.

Should you have a chance to be inspired today, check out this featured seller at etsy. Her work is quite something. I love her designs. They are beautiful and clean. Next on my wish list is learning to do some print work on linen. I feel myself nearing that goal as I look at Skinny laMinx's work. It's an aside, but I'm fascinated by the way life has a way of unfolding into new paths when the time is right. For me, it always begins with a quiet dream kept all to myself. Then I talk about it a little with a close friend or two. Next thing you know, I'm sharing it on a blog. Yep. I'm headed for print work on textile. Mark my words.

In the meantime though, I'll keep drawing with thread and combining all the fabrics out there that I love so much. Here's the latest bag, created, finished, and sold.

I'll check back in after this next sale is over, the fund raiser's complete, and I give my class their final. You'll hear a big sigh of relief coming from my blog, I promise.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I am filled with gratitude because I have so much. I hope that you all have a restful holiday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Western North Carolina Blizzard.... Southern Style

It snowed a few flakes, so of course, school was cancelled on Friday. We live in the south eastern U.S. There were times on Friday when I thought it was a beautiful blessing, and there were other times when I was cursing my fate. It was wonderful to be home with the kids. The day slowed down entirely, and we have soooo needed that. We crafted, we cooked, we played outside, and we even made it to our local tail gate market. It was wonderful, and somehow incredibly challenging by the end of the day. I don't know why, exactly, but there was rough housing, squabbles, and out and out tantrums. The noise level and neediness just sent sent me sailing. I was reduced to tears by dinner time, and thinking that maybe I need a bumper sticker for my mini van ( can't believe I shared that I actually own one.) The bumper sticker should definitely say "I used to be zen."

The next day, my hubby went out of town for the weekend. I have to admit that I felt desperate. And then, just the help I needed arrived in the form of a phone call. My wonderful friend called and asked if my daughter could spend the night. Yes. Yes. Yes! It was so nice to focus on just my little guy. We went for two really nice walks, and the picture above is him fishing with the stick that he dragged with him on half the walk. I really struggle to find time to give each child undivided attention. Being completely present with him that evening and the next morning was good for both of us. I felt my mind still and my heart fill with joy. It is just so amazing to watch him navigate his world and listen to all of his revelations. The world is such a magical place to him.

This is the soup we ate all weekend. I just had to take a picture of it because it contains the lone butternut squash that grew in our garden. We were thrilled to roast it, but even more thrilling was how it tasted. This is the recipe and the bread that we ate with it is below. I've made the soup twice, the first time with a friend's gift of a Lumina pumpkin from her garden. This is a white pumpkin and it makes the silkiest most amazing soup I've ever had. I decided to try the same recipe for butternut squash since we had it. It was still superb. I used vegetable stock instead of chicken. Magnificent. The bread is from a recipe that my sister gave me and is kind of like popovers, but even yummier. Plus, it's idiot proof, and doesn't flop like my popovers have a habit of doing.

Gougere With Mustard, originating in the French Countryside. Gougere are cheese-filled pastries,which are served as an appetizer or salad accompaniment.

1-cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter
1-cup water
4 medium eggs
½ cup finely diced Chantal or Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and the inside of the outer rim of a spring form pain. Sift together the flour and salt. In a large saucepan combine the butter and water and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the saucepan. Cool 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition with an electric beater until smooth. Stir in the Chantal cheese and Dijon mustard. Place the prepared rim of the spring form pan (base removed) onto the baking sheet.Spoon the mixture around the inner edge of the rim, making about 8 piles.Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until well-risen and golden, 40-50minutes. To serve, cut into chunky pieces. Serve hot.

Serves 4

A.J. Rhodes 2006

Friday, November 21, 2008

Busy little bag bee

Wow. The show last weekend was a huge success... for everyone! It's so cool to have an event that supports handmade crafters AND women at our local homeless shelter. Thanks again, Rebecca and Liz for all your hard work!
These are 5 of the quilted women's bags that I made out of a total of 10. I'm so glad that I took pictures that morning because they're all gone now. I sold 8 of these bags and only have 2 left. I'm saving those other two for a show in a couple of weeks.
The show coming up is the reason I have not been posting lately. And it's not because I'm so busy making stuff for it! I'm co-organizing it with another lovely women. Holy cow. I had no idea how much time organizing a fundraiser for a non-profit could eat out of every day. It's exciting, though. I'm knocking out two of my passions at one time. The show is to benefit our Montessori school which is very dear to my heart. Plus, I get to help provide a high quality venue for local handmade artists! Now, how awesome is that? Oh... except that I am exhausted and overwhelmed because I'm still doing all I did before, plus this. Any women out there who can relate? So... not much blogging going on these days, but it's all for some good causes. The etsy shop is a bit quiet too. Big sigh.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sewing like a mad woman

I am sewing every second that I can squeeze in, including evenings. I've even put my mom to work and thank goodness because an extra hand is much needed. I'm participating in a craft show this weekend with a bunch of amazing women. Part of the proceeds will go to the women's shelter. Two wonderful friends organized the whole thing! Let me tell you, I know this is no easy task as I'm in the midst of organizing a craft sale fundraiser for our Montessori school. Busy, busy right now. My students were lucky to get a lecture from me yesterday. It was shameless how last minute my class prep was. I felt like more of a student than an instructor. Don't tell, O.K? I'm sticking to acting like I've got it together in public. You should see the state of our house right now.

So... back to sewing for me while my little guy is at Montessori and my big girl at school. Maybe I'll have time for a picture or two of some completed work before Sunday. We'll see.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A new bag

This one's a little bigger than the small "tot" size bag. Folks have asked for a bag that's one size up. I made one last weekend for my niece for her birthday, but of course, forgot to take a picture of it before I gave it away. I can't tell you how many bags and quilts I've given away that were never photographed. Oh, well. This one is made for our sweet friend who is having her 4th birthday party this afternoon. My five and half year old graciously modeled for me, and you can see that it's a roomy bag. I hope it fits our little friend's lunch box for school. We'll see.

I didn't win that quilt contest, but you need to see who did! Go here. The three that were chosen are the sweetest, most inspiring works. It made me want to get busy on some embroidery again. My quilt did make it in the group of samples shown for work that didn't win. It was fun to look at the comments made about it here.

Hope every one's having a great weekend. The weather here is amazing and the oaks are reddening in perfect contrast to the golds of the poplar and hickory trees. We're headed out the door for a little walk in our woods. Tomorrow's my day and I'm thinking a short run combined with lots of sewing sounds perfect!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

He won, he won!!!

No, not the snail, silly! Barak Obama!!! What a landmark election for our country. I was probably the only person I know that went to bed at 9 last night. I had to. I was just exhausted. A part of me really wanted to stay up, but I knew I wasn't up for the heightened state of anxiety that I would feel until the electoral vote became clear. So I made the decision to go to bed, and take care of myself. This morning I snuck to the computer in the dark of the morning after brewing my coffee. I was so nervous, and then I clicked on the server and up it popped. I started crying with a huge grin on my face. I watched the clips and I read our state results. I just kept crying and grinning. Never in my lifetime have I felt the sense of hope politically that I feel today. Our state voted "blue" for the first time in 3 decades. We elected our first female governor, Bev Perdue. The people in our state ignored it's incumbent Senator's negative campaign tactics, and chose Kay Hagan. Heath Schuler defeated his opponent with 62% of the vote without a single ad on T.V. or radio.

I am so energized by the collective decision of our country and state. Yes, the winners are people I voted for, but there is more to it. I feel energized by the voter turnout. Since I became of voting age, I have noticed an apathy among voters of my generation and younger. It has bothered me for years, and I've spent some time thinking on it. I've talked with my students who are a diverse group seeking Associates degrees. It is a sense that politicians are so crooked, that why should anyone bother to vote? It has been reinforced by the sense that one person can not make enough of a difference. This election showed that trend turning, and hopefully reinforced the idea for all citizens that "yes, you can!"

Hope and faith are elusive. Lately, I have been clinging to hope because it feels as if our country is in shambles. This energy that I call "hope" begins for me, quietly within, and radiates outward. I see that energy with our president elect and it is spiraling ever outward.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Democracy does not work unless we participate.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A busy weekend

It was the usual craziness at Halloween this year, and so much fun after all is said and done. Yep. That's my kooky husband. Even though he grumbles every year about trick or treating, he clearly has a ball... the goof.

On Saturday, we spent a lazy morning putzing around the house and then got out for a walk with good friends. Would you believe our incredible fortune? A mint condition 1942 Farmall tractor came driving up out of nowhere. I'm not kidding. Each of the kids got to go for a ride. Do you know how much my kids love tractors?! We talked about it for days.

Then on Sunday, was a little trip that my friend and I have talked about doing for a while. My daughter is 5 and a half now, and we deemed her ready for a special hike, just the girls. This spot is a secret, but it's spectacular, as you can see. It also involves some clambering up rocks, and careful footing. It is not for the faint of heart mama or five year old. She was all over it.
This little adventure meant a tremendous amount to all three of us. It was symbolic in many ways... a benchmark of sorts. My friend and I have been walking (and mtn. biking) for 12 years together. My little girl knew that it was special to come with her mama on a walk that I usually reserve as my get away time. I also think she secretly savored the fact that she was invited and her brother was left behind. I could tell even during the times when she was momentarily bored that there was no way she was going to do anything to make us reconsider having brought her. It was pretty sweet and it made me realize how much she has grown up. She is already so accomplished and wise, even though she is totally and exuberantly still five.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Is it really Friday?

When I feel this tired, I always plan on writing nothing at all, but here I am. It's the end of a big week and it's Halloween. There have been so many highlights to this week. I connected with an old college friend. During the course of that conversation we both realized how great it felt to talk with one another. We've both changed so much and so little nearly 20 years later. Good friends helped me out with a photography dilemma. It was just such a life saver because the task should have been small, but somehow turned into a mountain. Long story.... not worth going into. I had another conversation with a friend who reminded me how right everything is in my life, even though I worry and wonder about my career winking at me in the past, still "on hold." This decision I've made to be present with my kids while they're young is not always a clear one. I want it all, and that is no easy thing to achieve.

There were real downers too this week. A dear friend of ours has been struggling with MS for years. This month, the disease has been kicking his bottom, and it just breaks my heart. He is hopefully receiving some intensive medical treatment even as I write that can get him back to his old self. Send a warm thought his way if you can.

In an effort to avoid some of the things I needed to get done, and some of the things that are dragging me down right now, I got online. What good red blooded American doesn't do that to tune out I ask you? I came across this site and submitted two of the quilts from above in their contest. Why the heck not, right? You can too if you hurry, my quilting friends... the deadline is tomorrow. But surely you have something you need to avoid doing and should spend the time instead submitting a picture of your beautiful work. You can take a look at everyone's quilts... prepare to be inspired.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I did it!

I completed my first sweater... and it only took me 6 months! Still, I love it and all the flaws look beautiful to me. I've come far because I don't even cringe when I look at all those imperfect spots. There are many. The thing that really slowed me down was the seams. No one told me that sewing up all those seams would be such a pain. I get why folks "knit in the round."

The pattern is from Debbie Bliss. I got the book from the library and it was so long ago, I can't remember the name. It's a great first sweater pattern if you ask me. Then again, I'm no expert. I taught myself to knit last winter from a children's "Klutz" book on knitting. Do you know that series? I doubt they carry it in yarn shops. Still, after many attempts at trying to knit I was ready to try whatever. The simple projects, directions, and pics guided me along. I made everyone that I knew a hat from that book last winter. They're super cute too. My motto is don't diss the "Klutz" series.

Nothing makes my day more than watching my little adventurer run by in his new sweater. See? He's trying to climb in there and show Mrs. Alligator what his mommy made him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today in my world

These are the zinnias that I frantically picked at the end of the day yesterday when my husband said it might snow in the night. Secretly I thought he was surely wrong, but I cut a bunch, not all. Yes, they are in a bucket from the beach and yes, that is lovely designer 50's Formica in the background. No fancy granite back splash for this house.

Tuesday mornings are always a frenzy in this house because that's the day I teach so we all have to get out the door and look halfway decent. This morning's frenzy involved lots of excitement about snow for the kids. For my husband and I, it was all about figuring out if work would continue, possible school closings or delays, and where in the heck were the winter jackets, mittens, and hats from last year?! When I got home I took a few pictures my little guy ran wild exclaiming over and over "SNOW!!!!"

Finally, I wrangled him inside for a nap and he could just barely stop talking about it. Looking out the window now it is as if it never happened.... our blizzard in October in the southeast.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our trip

It was amazing to spend a week together, just the four of us. The whole idea of "getting away" has never really been something we've done as a family before... just us, no other friends or family. It is rejuvenating in a way that I can not explain. It made me realize how great we are together, just the four of us. We have a rhythm that is all our own and it works so well for us. Our way of being together is full of joy, lots of activity, plenty of peaceful moments, sibling squabbles, two year old tantrums... you know.... the whole real deal. The thing that is so precious is that it's "ours". The realization that we're a "family" just bowled me over because I can remember a time just six years ago when I wanted all of it so badly. I think with the fatigue of child rearing and every day stressors I had lost sight of some of that.

A major focus of the week for our entire family was fishing! When my husband does anything, he does it whole hog. I mean this in a good way. It is one of the things I love about him. He is filled with energy and enthusiasm when he is interested in something. I can see the boy, that I didn't know then, in the man I know so well now. It is really incredibly sweet. But, hang on, because whatever he's focused on, the family will be consumed in. So, we all became intense fisherpersons. I caught the first and it was a skate. This looks very similar to a sting ray. Then there were days more of watching that pole to no avail. We waited. The fish laughed. Then he bought a bait net, and kind of learned to throw it. Good technique or no, he caught lots of mullet. Suddenly, we were no longer having to purchase those frozen bait. No... not us experienced fisherpersons! Then, in the last two days we were there two blue fish were caught. He says that each of the kids caught one, and laughs that he never caught a thing. Let me tell you, we ate those fish that night, sorting through the tiny bones, and claimed ourselves full! We were one proud group of fisherpersons.

There were plenty of moments like this playing in the sand and water. I got in lots of reading, knitting, sewing, and playing with the kids. I could have lived like this for days on end.

One of the things I will never forget is the two of them together on this vacation. We plan to do this trip once a year now, but I know that the dynamics between them will shift with the ebb and flow of their development. On this trip, though, they were so tight. They played together constantly. It could be argued that this was because there were no other kids around. I don't think so, though. They played for hours like this together, driving trucks, him following her (for now.) They dug sand, made cakes, played bakery, fished, ran, laughed, and got wet. On the last night there she told me she didn't like her bed anymore. I asked her why. She answered that she didn't like it because she wanted to sleep in the room with her brother like at home. I snuggled her close and marvelled at how often we receive exactly what we need.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Indian Summer

I know that it's not a politically correct or culturally sensitive term, but Indian Summer describes this time of year so perfectly in the southeastern United States. There is still plenty of produce handing itself up in the garden, flowers, bright blue skies, and leaves starting to change all at the same time. It is magnificent and will be hard to leave right now. We are headed for a family vacation at the beach for a week. There will be no business, no blogging, no teaching, just the four of us settling into a relaxed schedule that we really need right now. I am taking my knitting needles and my sewing machine, though. See you in a week, friends.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Quilt Giveaway

I stumbled across this lovely blog today, Pigtails and Snails. This generous and talented woman has made a beautiful quilt and is giving it away. Go take a look. Alrighty then, I thought I would write more but my two year old is yelling at the top of his lungs... "go!" Really, he is. What a whipper snapper.