New and Interesting Things

I have found lately that I haven't been reading blogs and that has made me a very dull person it seems! Although didn't know that until this morning when I decided I needed to take some time out and see what some of my favorite blog friends were up to. I discovered this great free hat pattern at The Purl Bee, B. at Dog in the Hole Studio wrote about making pockets to put beside each plate at Christmas dinner. Inside each pocket would be questions to be answered either by the person with the pocket or they could ask another person at the table the question. One of the questions was fun...if you didn't have any bones in your body to break what activities would you do without fear? I also caught up on holiday doings and the end of Every Inchie Monday, which I only participated in part of the time. I still love looking at my little inchies and maybe I will make some more to join the twenty or so I already have. So, next time I feel I don't have the time to read blogs I hope I remember how energized and inspired I feel by all of your creativity. I waste time in so many ways...reading blogs is not one of them!


My Favorite Christmas Cookies

As the song goes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. The tree and decorations are up and yesterday I baked my favorite cookies, Fudge Peppers. They are a chocolate cookie with a chocolate mint inside. I was introduced to these delectable bites when I was a teenager. My mom's friend Jeannie used to make them and when I would babysit for her around the holidays I would eat as many as possible without getting found out. It was kind of like going after the brownies by "evening out the edges" of the rows. Then my mom made them and I also gobbled down as many as possible. The recipe calls for Rockwood Mints, a brand that is no longer manufactured, so for awhile, no Fudge Peppers. Then last year I got an idea to try Hershey Mint Truffle Kisses and voila! They were great! This year as I was making them I felt my mom and her good friend Jeannie, both who have passed, present in my kitchen. It was a nice baking day. Most importantly I want to pass this recipe on to you, but with a warning! If you have a babysitter hide your Fudge Peppers!

Fudge Peppers

Cream together:

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter


1 cup sugar

1/2 cupt brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Sift and add:

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt (I think this is a bit much, I reduce it to 1/2 tsp)

2/3 cup cocoa

Place Hershey's Mint Truffle Kiss or other chocolate mint in center of a teaspoon full of dough. Seal edges and roll into a ball. Roll in white sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes. Makes approximately 3 dozen.


Holiday Tutorials

I was doing a little blog hopping yesterday and came upon some wonderful ornaments at A Creative Dream. These cute owls what drew me in and I explored more and found many others including this snowman and monkey. Happiness in blogland is finding great tutorials and the blogger, who refers to herself as a Creative Dreamer, is posting 15 holiday ornament tutorials in 15 days (not counting weekends). Hop on over there and start making some ornaments. Gifts perhaps?


New Work

Sometimes when I work on a piece that has a lot of meaning to me it is hard to talk about, at least at first. I have just finished such a piece and I want to share it but not reveal too much about it, so here are some images. You will see that I have stepped back from an embroidered face and instead used watercolor and ink. Enjoy the images.


Early Winter

Two days ago the weather forcast called for snow in the western part of the state and I was so happy to see my area was not in the colored boxes on the weather map. Unfortunately the front moved and today we are getting our first snowfall, and it is a doozy. No little skimpy snow to get used to the next season, no sireee. We have the stuff just pouring from the sky.

One thing about snow, it seems to turn the air calm and quiet and a of peace settles in. It makes you want to snuggle in your fluffiest sweater, make some hot chocolate and settle in with a good book. Here are some images taken from my driveway.


Fall Gardening

I don't consider myself a great gardener although I've had a few gardens. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. For example I usually get a profusion of herbs but for the last two years not a single beet has turned into anything but bug eaten tops. But I keep planting and trying and learn something new with every garden. I have never grown garlic and this year I am going to give it a try. You can plant it either in the spring or fall so I am going to try fall planting and keep my fingers crossed. The variety I chose is Late Italian. I would like to say I scoured through all sorts of varieties and this one was best for my purposes, but in reality it was the variety the store had left and I'm sure it will be just fine. It apparently is a soft neck variety with a tight wrapper and nice fat cloves and good for braiding. I planted them this morning and so goes another garden experiment.

I have waiting for me a large bag full of green tomatoes. I was tempted to toss them in the compost bin but then I found a few recipes to try, some green tomato chutney and green tomato salsa. I'll report back after I get them made.

I also took some photos of my backyard as winter sets in, a cool dried fern which I might bring in and see if I can do something interesting with and some very sour concord grapes on the vine. I probably could have made jam with them but it would have taken 40 pounds of sugar to make it palatable. Even the birds haven't eaten them!


Get Creative

I was perusing my new favorite site, Pinterest, and found this great poster. It came from the blog Divas and Dreams which focuses on photography and lifestyle. While some of these suggestions focus on photography they could be transformed into the technique/media of choice. I think there are so many great ideas in this poster it should be pinned in several places in my house...my studio, of course, above my computer, the refrigerator, in the bathroom! Enjoy and get inspired!


Wisconsin Quilt Expo

One of the fun things I did this summer was go to the Wisconsin Quilt Expo in Madison. It was sponsored by Nancy Zieman, of Sewing With Nancy fame, and so my husband took to calling it the Nancy-Palooza which I thought was quite funny.

I didn't discover this event until a few weeks before it took place so I didn't go to any workshops. Taking in the vendor area was overwhelming enough and I only planned on spending one day. There were booths with fabric and more fabric, sewing machines and sewing machine cabinets, patterns and threads and one of my favorite really expensive things, the embroidery machines. I'm not really interested in owning one but the technology is pretty amazingCheck Spelling.

One of my favorite shops was Trims on Wheels which was a funny little booth filled with all sorts of trims and buttons. If I had an idea for some great trims I could have gone wild in that space. I got some marvelous badges that were made in India and kept my stash to just a few.

Marcia Derse has a line of fabrics that are very modern and fun. I spent a great deal of time there trying to choose among so many good choices.


Missing and a Trip

Lately I have been having a hard time getting here to post. I have been feeling a lack of inspiration in many areas of my life and, really, that isn't very surprising given the last year or so has been filled with upheaval, change and sadness. But, given that, I decided it was time to move forward and for the last several weeks I have been giving The Artist's Way a go again. If you are not familiar with this book, it was the first written by Julia Cameron and it is about how to get creatively unstuck. Some of it is hard work but so worth it. I immediately felt more energetic and now I have some ideas that I am working on in the studio.

In the midst of all of this my dad and I went on a short weekend trip to South Dakota to visit my great uncle and his family. The weekend was gorgeous and we took a really fun side trip to find the cabin on Big Stone Lake that my grandparents once owned. We only took one wrong turn but when we found the right road we knew it immediately because of the steep hill with a curve at the bottom that leads to the cabin. Of course it had changed some but it was still recognizable. There had been a large bank of windows all across the front of the cabin that have been replaced with two smaller windows which I am sure are more energy efficient but I thought the panoramic view of the lake was spectacular back in the day.

My great uncle had been a farmer and he had taken the farm over from his father, my great-grandfather and it is still in the family being run by my second cousin and his two sons. It is not the same farm I remember, but farming is not the same as it was 40 years ago. Visiting a farm in the fall when the harvest is coming in is truly a fun event. Enjoy the photos of the cabin, lake and some farm scenes!

P.S. I'm going to try to be a more regular blogger!



I ran into an old friend a few weeks ago who told me about a website that she loves, Pinterest. It is the strangest sight but in a really good way. It is a place for you to create virtual pinboards and place upon it any image you might find on the web or on their site. You can create your own categories and have as many boards as you want. You can comment and "like" other people's pins as well as repin them to your own boards. In addition, when you pin something you get the original website or blog link the images was from. That makes it a great place to save recipes and diy tutorials. The image above was my first "pin" and I am in love with that space. Can't you just imagine curling up with a good book and warm cup of tea in that porch?

The only catch to joining pinterest is you must have either a facebook or twitter account and if you have an aversion to those sites you are out of luck. However, the inspiration is worth it! The only other drawback I heard from my friend was that it takes awhile to get a reply if you want to join, so getting an invite is faster.


Early Harvest

Last night there were predictions of frost and it seems my garden is at the height of its productivity. We had a very late spring and I didn't get to it for several weeks after it was possible so the plants are acting as if it is mid-July, although the days are getting shorter and the temps cooler. This frost prediction is about a month earlier than normal, whatever that is anymore. I went out and harvested all of the tender plants - lettuce, basil, flowers, beans and lemon verbena that I thought wouldn't make it. I covered as much as I could with blankets and happily we stayed just above freezing. However, I now have all of these vegetables and herbs that I have picked. I'm planning on making big batches of pesto with the basil. After I make it I put it in ice cube trays and freeze. Once the basil cubes are frozen I pop them out and store them in a freezer bag. They are great for adding to pasta sauce all winter long! I think we will be having a pizza tonight with pesto, sundried tomatoes, calamata olives and marinated artichokes on my half! Delish! One more thing...today is my birthday, so this is birthday basil!



At long last I have gotten myself together and finished the patterns I was making for the Matryoshka dolls. Actually the patterns have been done for a long time but I just converted them into PDF files so they could be listed on etsy. A PDF is a much speedier way to get them on their way. So, if you happened to like them head on over to my etsy site and shop away! The patterns could be waiting in your inbox in just a few hours!


School Days!

This morning I drove by the elementary school that is just a few blocks from my house. I noticed little bicycles in the rack and the sign in front of the building noted that today is the first day of school. It made me think back to all of the excitement as well as trepidation that day usually brought. Deciding what to wear on that first day was one of the biggest decisions of my life back then. I found an old picture of myself standing in our front yard waiting to head out for third or maybe fourth grade. I'm wearing a dress that my grandma had made me. I think she spent quite a bit of time making me dresses for that year. Note, I said dresses, because it would be three more years before we were allowed to wear pants.

I have always looked forward to the new school year, even as an adult. Maybe because of the many years I spent as a student and then as a teacher, I have always found fall, rather than January, the time of new beginning. So here's to a grand new school year!


Cool Plant Stand and Inchies

Last weekend we discovered a really cool consignment shop called Milo Milo (sadly they don't have a website) in Appleton, WI and found this really great plant stand. I am quite sure it is a one of a kind made from a variety of wrought iron pieces that have been welded together. The minute I saw it (and saw the reasonable price) I knew it had a place in my garden.

It is also Every Inchie Monday and I've posted two this week. I missed last week and the theme was imagine and all I could think of was John Lennon singing the song of the same name. So, here is a version of his self portrait in felt and thread. This weeks theme is change. My line changes color as well as goes from straight to curved. A bit lame but it's all I had this week!


Carol Eckert

I have been pondering several things lately, among them are what to make and what to write about. I am interested in retablos, small wooden boxes that have vignettes or iconography in them and highly deocrated, and so I was doing an Internet search. I came upon the work of Carol Eckert, who calls the sculptures she makes retablos, although they are not in the traditional sense. The wonderful bird and animal sculptures she makes are copper wire wrapped with DMC embroidery floss. I thought they were amazing. Follow this link to the Jane Sauer Gallery to see more of Carol's work.


Strength, Popeye Style

Once again it is Every Inchie Monday and I am back in the game. Today's theme is strength and I decided to make a strongman's arm. When I got it cut out I realized it wouldn't be complete without a Popeye style tattoo! So, here's to strength in all it's forms. To see many of those forms, go to Every Inchie Monday .


A Bit More of the Fishing Story

After I posted the story yesterday about going to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame I got a note from my cousin. He remembered going with his dad and another of my uncles to take the rod and reel as well as some other things that belonged to my grandpa to the Hall of Fame. However, it seems it was never returned to family members and it has been lost. I went rooting around because I knew I had a photo of the fish and I turned up not only a photo of my grandpa, Victor B. Halls and one fish, but also a newspaper clipping of him between both of his giant fish. The date was 1941 and the fish was caught in Canada. After he returned home there was a fish feed held for the whole town of Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Of course, the town wasn't, nor is it now, very large, but what a great celebration for my grandpa!


Fishy Vacation

Our summer has been an unusual one but we did manage to get a vacation in. Because of my mom we didn't want to go far so we were gifted by old family friends with the use of their beautiful cabin in northern Wisconsin. We lounged, read, fished off the dock and took a few day trips. One of our trips was to the ultra-touristy town of Hayward, not usually a stop I would choose but I wanted to go to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. The draw was my grandfather's old fishing pole. Long before I was born he caught two record sized muskies and his fishing pole had been housed there. Unfortunately we didn't find it and my dad thought it had been returned to a family member. But!!!!! We found very kitchy and cool giant fiberglass fish, the largest being a musky that you could walk into and look out at the grounds from inside the mouth.

There were also displays of fishing boats, motors, ice fishing equipment, rods, reels and lures, lots of lures. I was most fascinated by these because the collections were huge and the shapes, sizes and colors appealed to the artist in me. What is the kitchiest vacation spot you have come across?



This weeks theme for Every Inchie Monday is Sunset. I knew immediately what I wanted to do because I used to teach fourth grade and we always did a sunset art project. To create the sunset, I would have the kids tear tissue paper into strips and overlap the edges and glue them down onto a piece of construction paper. Then with a piece of black paper they would cut out a landscape and always include a tree and that would be glued down on top of the tissue paper strips. They were always really colorful and looked great on the wall. So, I used a similar idea but instead of the tissue paper I took markers and colored a piece of felt and then cut the landscape from black felt and glued them together.


Summer Sandwiches

I made these great sandwiches a few weeks ago. They were simple and tasty, perfect for a hot summer day. I got the idea from looking through a cookbook by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa but I made a few changes.

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

3-4 Roasted peppers

vinaigrette dressing

goat cheese

chopped red onion

basil leaves

party rye bread or baguette

Roast the peppers in a hot oven (500 degrees) for about 30-40 minutes. You can also use a jar of roasted peppers. Whip up your favorite vinaigrette or use a good bottled dressing like Newman's Own and marinate the peppers for a few hours. Spread the goat cheese on the bread, top with peppers, red onion and basil.

These were especially good with a nice glass of dry, fruity white wine like a sauvignon blanc or pinto grigio (my favorite wines) Enjoy!



This weeks Every Inchie Monday theme is nest. That feels like such a perfect word for me today because over the weekend I attended my 35th high school class reunion which meant I was social for about 72 hours straight. Although I've had a great deal of fun I am truly ready for some nesting. So here is my quiet little nest as well as a photo of the folks I had a lot of fun with this weekend!


Love and Rememberance

I haven't been here to write for awhile and it seems that Every Inchie Monday's theme of love is a good place to begin again. Here is my little heart that goes out to all of you.

As many of you know my mom has not been well and sadly she passed away peacefully on June 29th. It is a very sad time yet we know she no longer has to contend with her diminished body and mind. I wrote a funny memory about my mom which I would like to share with you.

As I've reflected on my mom's life these last few days what keeps appearing is how much fun my mom liked to have. She was such a good person to play jokes on that it happened a lot.

Quite a few years ago my dad's family would hold gatherings in Las Vegas. They came from many corners of the country to see each other, laugh, play cards, gamble and the women would shop for matching polyester pantsuits.

One time they stayed at a hotel with particularly nice towels and my mom slipped a few in her suitcase and brought them home. A few days after they arrived back home the phone rang. A man on the other end of the line identified himself as the manager of the hotel. He asked if they had stayed in a certain room and my mom said yes. He then said the television was missing in that room and he thought she had stolen it.

My mom yelled into the phone "I might have taken a few towels but I didn't steal your TV!"

At the other end of the phone my Great Uncle Bob roared with laughter!

I shared this at the funeral and although I wasn't planning on sharing anything this story came to me that morning and it was as if my mom was saying, "Go on, write it. I want to make them laugh one more time."


Give Away Winners

I'm guessing you all thought I'd flown the coop, but no I am still here but had to take a bit of an absence last week. My mom continues to need more care and so we had to admit her to a nursing home. It was a sad day but we are all trying to adjust in our own ways.

But onto more fun things! Denise was the winner of the giveaway! The kit to make Anya will be winging it's way to her soon. Congratulations Denise!


Sew Mama Sew Give Away Day!


Today is Sew Mama Sew's Give Away Day and I am participating. I will be giving away a pattern and kit for one of my matryoshka dolls. There are three to choose from and you get to decide which one you prefer! The kit includes the pattern, instructions, felt and embroidery floss, enough to complete one doll.
To enter, leave a comment after this post (if you would like to follow me I will enter your name twice!) and let me know which kit you would like. Also leave a way for me to contact you if you are the lucky winner. You must enter anytime between now and midnight central time Wednesday May 25th. The winner will be chosen randomly. To see more blogs participating go to Sew Mama Sew. Good luck and have fun!

Anya (above) Sasha (below)