Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Dreary Winter?

Now that the Christmas holiday is over I have nothing else to look forward to but a dreary winter until spring comes. Winter is not my favorite season. I am not a fan of being cold.
Photo taken by me in 1987
It's about this time of the year I begin dreaming of my wonderful garden I'm going to have in the spring. Usually I run out of steam come April during prime planting season and my dreams never quite materialize the way I envisioned them.
Photo taken by me in 1987
For Christmas this year, I received a negative scanner so I've been hard at work scanning some of my old pictures I took years ago. I've come across some really funny ones -- one where my sister and I were goofing off with a cheap camera in the backyard, taking stupid pictures of each other.

There's one of me hanging upside down from the clothesline, but the best one by far was one of my sister tied to a tree with a garden hose! I laughed out loud at that one and had to email it to her. The quality is pretty bad because it was a cheap camera and I don't think I got the film developed until three years later.Here she is, the poor girl! The dog is diligently keeping vigil by her side, ready to chew through the hose if I don't free her after I take the photo! Like you can really secure a garden hose tightly anyhow! I'm sure she could have busted it loose like the Incredible Hulk if she'd tried.

So that dreary winter might not be so bad after all if I continue my scanning old photos project. Who knows what other treasures I might find?!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas To You!

Here it is, another Christmas holiday, but to my toddler it is the greatest thing EVER! He's old enough now to really get into the holiday and start forming those warm, fuzzy Christmas memories. I remember when I was his age listening to Christmas songs on my parents' radio while gazing at the lights on the tree for hours on end.

My parents took me to Sears when I was 2 1/2 years old to pick out Christmas ornaments. Here are some of them:
Apparently I had a thing for mice.
My beloved turtles, represented on the holiday tree. I was rarely seen without a stuffed turtle in tow.
This one still cracks me up all these years later! He's so silly!

I've started a new tradition with my son, letting him pick out a few ornaments each year. When he grows up, I'll give them to him to use on his tree. Assuming of course, that he won't be too embarrassed to hang them! So far he's doing well with his choices, mostly sweets like gingerbread men and cupcakes. Nothing too silly, like mine!

Christmas Eve-Eve

That's what I used to call December 23 when I was a kid, "Christmas Eve-Eve". Just 2 more days to go and I'm still shopping! Help! I think I need a personal assistant.

Gifts sure are fun to receive, but last minute shopping is the pits! I'm desperately scrambling around, madly grabbing anything that looks remotely interesting. This should not be what Christmas is about. I wish we could just boycott the gifts and spend time with each other instead. Hmmm...lemme rethink that one...there are some people I'd rather just shove a gift at! Just kidding!
I have to brag about a gift my husband made for my birthday. I made a passing comment that I needed a book press. I've been using The History of Modern Art and stacks of magazines to press my books. It works but is wrecking havoc on my bookshelf--you know how books fall over when some are removed from the shelf.

Well, he went to Home Depot to shop for my birthday present. I was thinking, "What power tools have I requested recently?? I have a chop saw, an electric stapler, and a cordless screwdriver. What more do I need?"

Then he came home and was sawing and hammering in the garage. I was a bit concerned. What the heck is he doing? Am I going to have to pretend I like it? What IS it??

Not to worry, no pretending here! Now the monstrous art books can rest peacefully on the bookshelf undisturbed. I have a book press. Now I am a real bookbinder! Ha ha!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Winter Garden

We rarely see snow in this part of the state, so when it snows it's really exciting! We haven't gotten any snow yet this year, but here's a look back at my winter garden from a couple years ago. In fact, while it was snowing in the deep south it was in the 70's here. I took advantage of the warm days to clean up my garden and prepare it for winter. I put an extra layer of mulch around spots that have washed bare with the rains and cleaned up the garden ornaments. I don't like leaving them out in case it freezes so they won't crack.

For this job, I recruited my toddler. I was trying to make room in the new shed for the ornaments and my son kept knocking things over. Giving him a job to do was a great way to get him out of the shed so I could straighten things up. "See if you can find any turtles," I assigned and he ran off on his mission with great exuberance.

A few moments later I emerged from the shed to check his progress. He was squatting in front of a hollow terra cotta turtle, tugging and grunting as if the thing weighed a ton. I came over to help him, flipping the turtle over to clean him up before putting him away for the season. As I flicked mulch and dirt away I suddenly discovered a black widow spider! Aaaaahhh!

This is only the second black widow I've ever seen. My heart almost stopped to think my son could have gotten bit doing a task I assigned!I used the opportunity to educate him about venomous spiders. This is the female southern black widow spider. Photos courtesy of From the top, she looks like a big black ant with a huge bulbous abdomen, but when you turn her over you can see the red hourglass. My son kept calling it an "Ant Spider". To their credit, it is reported that black widows are not aggressive and only bite when endangered or protecting their egg sack. However, with a toddler and a nosey dog around I can't take any chances! I hate killing spiders because they're such a benefit to the garden and our environment, but sadly this one is no more.

I guess I'll think twice now before sending my son out to the garden to poke around under rocks and such anymore!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Time To Celebrate

This holiday season I am celebrating my "Winter Damask Guest Book" hitting the front page of Etsy this past Thursday! Woot woot!

I missed seeing it on the front page. Instead I was struggling with gift wrapping some jewelry boxes for a customer. I wanted to wrap the box so it could be easily opened for her inspection, but the wrapping paper wasn't cooperating.

I kept hearing my email chime go off on my computer and when I checked my messages, found several regarding the same journal! I thought this was strange but it never occurred to me until after the fact that I could possibly be on the front page!

My book sold within minutes and I got a custom order for two journals for someone else. Then I sold yet another book, my "Sand & Sky Seaglass Journal", the next day!
Here it is, the famous "Winter Damask Guest Book"!

I'll be busy this weekend finishing up the custom order and then I have GOT to start on my holiday cards! I've been putting them off because I ordered a rubber stamp to use on my holiday cards this year, but after 7 weeks, it STILL isn't here. I'm not happy. The vendor reports having some family problems. I'm all sympathy about that, but 7 weeks is ridiculous. Shut your website down if you can't operate it for pete's sake! That's just unprofessional in my opinion. Needless to say, I won't be ordering from this vendor again and may just cancel my outstanding order.

So now I have to come up with plan B for the holiday cards. I could just use some store bought cards, but everyone will be so disappointed. They've come to expect handmade cards from me. Argh, the pressure (which I've brought upon myself)! Enough piddling on the computer, off to the drawing board I go!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

As promised, here is a photo of my Christmas tree. C'est fini! (I think I remembered my French correctly). I finally stopped decorating it! The story behind that statement as follows:
Our first house was tiny, so our tree was always tiny. Our next house was larger, but we didn't plan to stay there so we kept using the tiny tree. Now we're settled in another house and I took the plunge and bought a 7.5 foot tree after Christmas last year on clearance. It's amazing how many ornaments fit on this tree and how much ribbon I used going round and round the tree!

I realize I'm not going to like this larger tree when it's time to take the tree down! Just when you think you've got them all, another ornament shows up stuck somewhere between the branches. I think they hide, dodging you as you walk around hunting high and low for them. The ornaments wait until you pack the last box away and then, VOILA! they pop out, snickering at you!

Here is one of my homemade ornaments, a drum circa 1974. I made these with my Nana when I was a wee tot. Nana is currently in her 90's and sadly, not quite all there anymore. It's made from a toilet paper tube, covered with felt and trimmed with sequins, beads, and trim. The drumsticks are made from toothpicks and beads, painted gold. It was a fun project and a memory I'll cherish for years to come (until I get squirrely and can't remember things anymore either--not looking forward to that part of aging!).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Recipe of the Week

One of my all time favorites, chocolate chip cookies! This recipe is the best I've found yet. It makes really light and fluffy dough and I get tons of compliments on these cookies."The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever"
Recipe courtesy George Duran,
makes 36 cookies

2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (12-ounce package) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. (I never do this, mine have a nice patina.)

Put the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and stir it with a whisk to combine. Set aside.

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter until it is lighter in color. Slowly add in sugars and beat until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and beat until they are incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture using low speed, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for a few minutes and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Argh! My first gray hair!

I looked in the mirror and saw something shining back at me, and it wasn't my smile! Actually, it was several somethings. I'm not sure if it's really my first few gray hairs, since my hair is light anyway, it's been hard to tell. My younger sister has had gray hairs for several years now and I knew I couldn't be far behind.

<--- This is not me...yet. I hope I'll look that great when my entire head is gray! Photo courtesy of O, The Oprah Magazine. She has a great article called the Gray Hair Bible.

Why does hair turn gray? Being the research maniac that I am, I looked it up. As we age, the pigment in our hair follicles gradually dies leaving less and less melanin in the hair which gives it a gray tint. Once all the melanin is gone, it becomes white.

I think I'd look pretty washed out with gray or white hair. Thank goodness for chemicals! I recall a TV commercial from years ago where the lady sings, "I'm going to wash that gray right out of my hair..." Heh heh, that'll be me for sure!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Continuing my holiday recipe series, here is another one of my favorites. These cinnamon sugar cookies are a delightful little snack! I tried to look up the origin of the name, Snickerdoodles, but there was so much conflicting information I couldn't find any official authority on the subject. Oh well, it's a cool name, nonetheless!Snickerdoodles:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.

2. Mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening and eggs in large bowl. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

3. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Mix 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yummy Christmas Cookies

What evokes pleasant holiday memories better than sharing food with family and friends? I'm going to celebrate the Christmas season by posting some of my favorite holiday recipes here throughout the month of December.Here is one of my favorites, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies! I remember making these as a child with my mother. The patterns the white sugar against the dark chocolate always surprised me. Some friends and I did a cookie swap last Christmas and these were voted the best by the husbands, so you know it's good!

There are several recipes out there for these cookies, but the one I grew up with is Betty Crocker's recipe. Two things to call to your attention before making these: 1) The dough requires refrigeration before baking. I tried to skip this step once. Only once. I ended up with a big sticky mess, more dough on my hands than on the cookie sheet. And, 2) They dry out very quickly, so freeze what you don't think will be eaten within a day. They thaw quickly, so don't be afraid of freezing them!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. In large bowl, mix oil, chocolate, granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours. Be sure to periodically sneak into the fridge and pinch a bit of dough for a little snack! :)

2. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray.

3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into powdered sugar; roll around to coat and shape into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting into the holiday spirit

Now that the Thanksgiving festivities are over and my family has gone home, I'm anxious to get back into my routine. I've missed blogging and tweeting and obsessing over my Etsy shop! :)
I think these little pine cones are the cutest things, I wish I had a tree that produced such dainty pine cones! (Photos courtesy of

My family stayed five days, so we decorated the house for Christmas to keep them busy! We put the tree up, complete with a little train tooting around and around for the toddler's enjoyment. He likes putting the folks from the nativity set on the train to go for a ride. He's doing well with not messing up the train. The dog has been worse than the toddler; he keeps stepping on the track to sniff at the ornaments, causing the train to derail!

I'm still in the process of perfecting my tree. Once I get it how I like, I'll post a picture of it. I've been busy making bows--I've probably made 40 bows over the last few days! My Christmas wreath was in dire need of refurbishing. It got a little squashed packed up in a box and the bow was pretty pathetic!

Some more holiday decorating ideas. I like the wreath on the mirror. What a great way to add a holiday touch! The little door hanger is made of bells. You'll never miss a visitor with that hanging on your door!
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