Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Next time you are at the beach,

don't forget to completely let yourself go.

Run, giggling, headlong, in a race with pure joy.

Finding Smiles, the Beach Edition

The sand castle decorations were put in place by a certain 5 year old. When I asked him what made him think to put a Smile on the top, he looked at me, quite puzzled, and asked, "what smile?".

So, although boy-made, since it was unintentional, this counts toward my Smile Collection:

And it wasn't until I was editing photos that I noticed my artsy little beach action shot, (which was simply me trying to capture a combination of sea rock, sea weed, and wave) holds not one, but TWO smiles. See them?

What He Was Looking At

Anyone who has visited an Ocean Beach (or Great Lake, I would imagine), knows that there are strange and interesting things washed up on the shore every day.

Do you want to see what he was investigating?


Because you might get a little creeped out.

He did.

So did I.


Poor Barbie.

Monday, August 29, 2011


What you don't know is that most of last week's blog posts were scheduled to post automatically, because we were away at the beach!

Oh... it was such a nice time away. Our first "extended" vacation as a family. Really! The last time I was away from home for this many nights in a row, I was pregnant with my 5 1/2 year old.

I took 487 pictures, some of which I will be sharing with you later. But for now, I have laundry to wash, groceries to buy, and various other un-vacation duties to take care of.

See you soon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Little Girl, Big World

A few recent funnies that came from our little Sweetheart's mouth...

To her brother:
"Don't do dat! Dat makes me fwus-ta-tated!"

From the bathroom:
"Oh, for Pekes Sake! Da wetters are all at da fwont!"
"Oh, for Pete's Sake! My panties are on backwards!"

After choking on her beverage:
"Dat Woot Beer made me cough down in my wumps!"
"That Root Beer went down in my lungs and made me cough!"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Local Favorites

If you were to come visit me, I would most likely take you out for a Peanut Butter milkshake at Calamity Jane's.

We could customize a dollar bill to add to their ceiling collection.

And add lots of pepper to our chicken strips.

I would probably also take you to Mike's Second Hand Store, arriving a little early so we could thoroughly examine everything in the window before shopping.

We might find a few treasures to add to our collections,

but only if we abide by Mike's strict code of ethics.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I like to spell words with photos.

I have a friend who has challenged me with a new word for each of the last few years. It is always a bit of a treasure hunt, me and my camera, wandering the perimeters of my yard.

This is the latest:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four Generations

My Grandma, age 85
My Mama, age 29 (*ahem*)
Me, age 36
My Daughter, age 3 1/2


My Great-Grandparents had all passed away by the time I was born. I know their stories, but never felt their touch or heard the sound of their voices.

That is why these picture sequences are so precious to me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ah, Summer

Last night, for dinner, we ate eggs from our chickens, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and broccoli from our garden, applesauce that I made last season, and toast.

That means 90% of our meal came fresh from our own property.

That felt really amazing.

Then, for dessert, these two Dear Ones were excited to eat popsicles!

And what kind of popsicles were they?

Grape. Frozen grape juice made last year from our very own crop.

And that is why we choose to live so far away from the convenience of restaurants and well-stocked markets. For a few brief months each Summer, we can live off of the land. A choice that I hope will have lasting benefits in my children's bones, muscles, skin, and hearts.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Bait

A week ago, I mentioned a free exclusive chart that I would send off to anyone who participated in My Heartstring Around the World contest.

I finally finished stitching the model... want to see?

I was so proud of myself it was ridiculous, the day I wrote the little poem. It just came to me, and sounds so much like the fatalistic sayings we find on those old school girl samplers... Poor little girls, stuck in parlors and classrooms, stitching poems about their bones rotting, and early death, and wondering if their sampler was the only way by which they would be remembered.

My poem reads:

With a needle I sew'd my heart
on a piece of linnen

T'wil linger here
still Bright and Clear
when I am gone to Heav'n

I signed my sampler with a fictional name, Star Felicity Jamison, and a date 1836, but if you were to end up with this exclusive chart, you could freely replace the name with your own. There is a heart of course, some tulips and bell flowers, a peony and a bird. I finished the model quite simply, with hem-stitched edges, and pinned it to my work basket.

All you need to do, to get a free copy of this chart, is send me a photo to add to my growing collection. A photo of my blog header live at a location you like. If you don't have a portable computing device or smartphone, see if you can recruit a friend who does, to help you out. I myself am limited to just my PC, so I can relate to your inability to take the internet with you. Get creative! Have one of your friends pull up my blog at your stitching group, pose the group with my blog header, and I'll let you share the chart with them. Take me to the beach, the mall, the library, the pick-up line at the end of the school day, wherever...


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Change of Focus

I have this mug. I was going to buy just one recently, as a gift for my Grandma's birthday. But between the shelf and the checkout counter, I fell in love with it (and the idea of having a matching Grandma mug), and went back to get another.

As I sipped my coffee this morning, still piping hot from the brewer, one of my favorite features of the mug was slowly revealed... the word "Joy".

While I tend to be an optimistic person, I still get caught up in the daily grind, the common features of my current life as a housewife and Mama to 2 young children. Seeing that word "Joy" opens my eyes a little wider and reminds me to feel the vibrancy of the blessings I have been given.

Quite frankly, this is one of the main reasons I keep this blog. As a reminder to myself... a live journal of my life. I know that I tend to keep the personal stuff out of my writing, choosing to not share with you when there are ugly things going on in my head. The hard things I talk about with God and those close to me, and if I have to write them down, they go with pen onto paper. There are enough hard and ugly things around each of us every day; you don't need to read more here on my blog. I want this to be a place that you always visit and leave with a lighter heart...

My intent when I sat down this morning was just to share a couple of photos, and somehow my fingers started banging away, so bear with me if I'm rambling.

I guess I just want to share a little of my heart with you, to let you know that although I might come across as a woman who has it all together all-day every-day, firstly, it is not because I am trying to present myself as such, hiding behind a facade, and secondly, it is not because I live a charmed life. I have been blessed in so many tangible ways, but there are plenty of real-time struggles with money, health, inter-personal relationships, cleanliness, politics, emotions, you-name-it. I just happen to prefer looking for the highlights in life, fixing my thoughts on those moments of Joy interspersed with the grit.

And sharing those moments here with you, helps to cement them into my own narrative, creating a permanence for the Joy, allowing the grit to sift away for lack of attention.

Then, all it takes is a slight adjustment for my mind's eye to shift from a mere focus on Joy...

to an ever-thankful attitude of praise toward the One who created me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Generous Daughter

She really enjoys giving "presents".

The other day, I was the lucky recipient of...

1. a Wighthouse
2. a Moosical Instrooment
3. Free Bawoons
4. a Swan on her Nest

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sing We Then Merrily... New Release!

The second of my Market Releases for this Fall, I give you "Sing We Then Merrily"...

The history of the holiday that we now call Christmas is long and quite interesting.

In Colonial America, the Puritan leaders disapproved of it so strongly that they banned all celebration of Christmas. The ban was eventually lifted, but it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region. While the celebration of Christmas wasn't yet customary in some regions in the U.S., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow detected "a transition state about Christmas here in New England" in 1856. "The old puritan feeling prevents it from being a cheerful, hearty holiday; though every year makes it more so". In 1870, Christmas was formally declared a United States Federal Holiday, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.

A fabulous year to commemorate with a sampler, in my opinion.

Stitch Count: 145 x 173
Model stitched on Weeks Dye Works 40ct. Angel Hair

Using flosses from The Gentle Art: 0190 Forest Glade, 0390 Buckeye Scarlet, 7061 Caramel Corn, 7078 Toffee

And flosses from Weeks Dye Works: 1236 Mocha, 2220 Curry

The frame is an antique.

This chart is now available for purchase in my etsy shop or directly through me via email, and may also be found in a needlework shop near you.

Harvest Sampler... New Release!

The first of my Market Releases for the Fall, I give you my "Harvest Sampler"...

Inspired by crisp air, wild turkeys, log cabins, pine forests, Autumn Leaves-colored floss, a Thankful Heart, and a sweet quote from an old sampler.

I love almost everything about Autumn, including gathering wood and waiting out rain storms. This sampler is a little nod to my favorite season, with a gentle reminder to be ever Thankful for the blessings that have been provided.

Speaking of blessings, I could have never finished this sampler in time for a Summer market release without the Swift Needle and Generous Heart of Charity Watral, who stepped in at the last minute and finished the model in record time. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Stitch Count: 193 x 103
Model stitched on Weeks Dye Works 40ct. Putty

Using flosses from The Gentle Art: 0350 Mulberry, 0410 Tarnished Gold, 7000 Harvest Basket, 7073 Autumn Leaves, 7079 Heirloom Gold

And flosses from Weeks Dye Works: 1268 Molasses, 2202 Bullfrog, 2219 Whiskey

The frame is a thrift store find.

This chart is now available for purchase in my etsy shop or directly through me via email, and may also be found in a needlework shop near you.

Friday, August 12, 2011


We decided a few years ago to let this native plant take over a few patches in our flower beds.

I have not regretted the decision for one second.

It never has to be watered.

The tallest of the stalks are over 7 feet tall, creating a lovely mini forest.

I do wish us North Americans had a bit more imagination though, and called it by the name our British counterparts use... doesn't Rosebay Willowherb sound SO much more romantic than Fireweed?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Heartstring Around the World

So... it would appear that most of you are not nearly as interested in my little experiment as I am. Isn't that how it always goes? Oh well...

Perhaps a little motivation by way of example?

Check out this fabulous photo just sent to me from a Labor and Delivery room in Idaho:

If a person can have the presence of mind to snap a photo of my blog header in the delivery room, then surely you can do the same at your local coffee shop, library, needlework shop, park, you-fill-in-the-blank.

And to sweeten the deal, if you send me a photo that fits the parameters of my contest, I'll send you a free exclusive chart in pdf format. One that has previously not been made available to anyone, anywhere. Interested? Send me an email:

And if one of you can manage to take a photo of my blog header (live on your portable device, of course) at the TNNA show in Baltimore this weekend, I would be so over the moon that I would probably let you choose from any of my printed charts as a thank you.

Life is Beautiful

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'm about to let you in on a little secret.

I watch So You Think You Can Dance.


I can't dance. I was never interested in dance when I was young.

But I am hooked on the beauty of movement and expression that the contestants display. And I love that each season, there seems to be an un-trained street dancer that makes his way into the top group, somehow making each dance style look effortless because he was born to move.

My favorite dancer this season, hands down, is Sasha. Here she is, dancing with Twitch, another favorite of mine, from a previous season:

My next favorite dancer this season is Marko, who dances like a man, yet with artistry, and can do amazing things despite a bullet permanently embedded in his shoulder. Here he dances with Melanie, another season 8 contestant:

Each week on the results show, there are groups from outside the contest that perform. I am often un-amazed by them. But this group left me with my jaw on the floor, and is the real reason I decided to post about this show. Watch:

No-Pectin Added, Lower-Sugar Raspberry Freezer Jam

The first year I made jam by myself, I was absolutely horrified at the thought of putting SO much more sugar in than the precious little berries themselves. But I did it anyway, since that was what the instructions told me to do. And we ate it. And we enjoyed it.

Ever since that first year, I have been on a half-hearted quest to find a better solution. I have used just about every low-sugar or no-sugar pectin available on the market, with varying result.

Varying, mostly because I never actually wrote down which brand I used, or to what degree I followed their loose "add your desired amount of sugar/sweetener here". Some batches turned out great, while others were bricks in the freezer and syrup in the refrigerator.

This year! I proclaimed! This year, I am researching and writing my methods with a purpose! I will determine the very best way to make Raspberry Freezer Jam (my most favorite jam in the whole wide world, I might add).

And its a good thing I chose the easiest berry in the world to make jam out of. For as it turns out, Raspberries fall into that category of fruits that produce a rather high amount of natural pectin. Who knew?

Armed with this knowledge and an offhand comment read in a 4-year-old jam forum by a man that his no-pectin Raspberry jam was bomb-proof (but with no further explanation), I set to work.

Batch One: 4 c. crushed Raspberries, 3 c. sugar, brought to a rolling boil for 1 min.
Result: Perfect flavor, but syrupy in the fridge and although slightly soft in the freezer, not spreadable.

Batch Two:
Ball No-Sugar Pectin stirred into 1 3/4 cups Tree Top 3 Apple Blend Pressed Juice and brought to a rolling boil for 1 minute, then stirred into 4 1/2 cups crushed berries sweetened with 2 cups sugar.
Result: Good flavor, but not as pure as I like, with a perfect consistency in the fridge, but hard as a brick in the freezer.

Hm. Added pectin and harder in the freezer than my no-pectin version?

Batch Three: 6 c. crushed Raspberries, 6 c. sugar, brought to a rolling boil for 1 min.
Result: Slightly sweeter flavor, but no off-taste from boxed pectin, and PERFECT spreadable consistency straight from the freezer, which was my goal. In the fridge it has a rather soft set, but is certainly more spreadable than pourable.

So there you have it. I have made two more batches since the third, following the same method, but with different quantities (11 & 8 cups respectively), and both have turned out perfectly.

There are a few key steps that I truly believe helped me along in this process, both based on knowledge I gleaned online that almost-ripe Raspberries have more pectin in them, and that running them through a food processor would destroy much of the natural pectin.

So, this is how to go about making the most perfect and easy Raspberry Freezer Jam ever...

1. Pick some Raspberries. Don't worry about only getting just perfectly ripe berries, but rather, get a mix of ripe and almost-ripe (but not hard) berries, even throwing in some of the slightly over-ripe ones for good measure.

2. Gently pick them over, only rinsing when absolutely necessary (this is when having my very own row of organic berries is nice, since I have no questions about what may be in the air to contaminate them).

3. Crush the berries with a potato masher or the bottom of a soup ladle. Don't worry too much if there are some un-crushed in the batch, as you will have a chance to smash them while they are heating, and more will break down during the boil.

4. Take note of the final volume of your crushed berries before pouring them into a large pot. Add an equal amount of sugar. This is the most beautiful part of this method... no more having too many or not enough berries. If you have 2 1/4 cups of crushed berries, add 2 1/4 cups of sugar. If you have 11 5/8 cups of crushed berries, add 11 5/8 cups of sugar.

5. Heat, stirring and crushing any stray berries until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil that can't be knocked down by stirring. Continue to stir for one minute.

6. Remove from heat. See the foam on top in the next photo? That is an indicator of pectin. Nice, eh?

7. Ladle into prepared containers.

8. Allow to cool completely before placing your finished product into the freezer.

Is your mouth watering?

Just a note of warning... don't try this method with Strawberries, because it won't work. They fall into the category of fruits with the least amount of pectin. Scroll down a little on this page to see a basic list of fruits and their level of natural pectin.