Weekend Recovery

My treasure hunters trying out their new cargo-pants-turned-field-bags.

My treasure hunters trying out their new cargo-pants-turned-field-bags.

What better way to recover from a weekend than a creativity binge?

Instead of cleaning my studio and re-shelving all my props from the Powwow this weekend, I’ve been sewing up a storm. At last count I had 2 field bags, 6 bibs and a bunch of cloth napkins.

The Powwow was a good time, despite the weather. Saturday the sun showed up, and therefore, so did the crowds. I demonstrated porcupine quill, wrapping a rawhide medicine wheel with dyed quills.

Sunday saw a stead rain ALL day. Honestly, in the 5 years I’ve done this festival (3 times a year, at that) this is the first time it rained for an entire day. Rather than be miffed by the fact that rain keeps the crowds away, I took it as a vacation day. It’s all in the attitude, right?

I sat under a dry tent, worked on an easy quillwork project and listened to the rain. No kids to entertain, no laundry or cleaning to distract me. Just drinking coffee, listening to the drums and the music of the weather, enjoying my craft. During the especially slow afternoon, my neighbor the flintknapper and I traded secrets; I showed him some quillwork, he let me bang rocks together.

Although the spectators were few, the Native dancers were still out there dancing in the rain. In a day and age where rain equals holing up in front of the TV, it’s great to see people who aren’t scared off by a bit of weather.

Come Monday morning I didn’t record my sales for taxes or put away quills. Instead, I set to work on some treasure-hunting field bags for the kids. I saw this idea on some one’s blog (if it was you, let me know so I can give you credit!) to turn turn old cargo pants into a kid bag with lots of pockets. I cut off the legs, sewed up the bottoms and added new fabric to make the strap and flap. The kids were so excited. A great place to stash all their dandelions and rocks from neighborhood walks. My pockets will be so empty!

Bibs and napkins will keep everyone clean!

Bibs and napkins will keep everyone clean!

The studio is still a mess, maybe even a bigger mess. But the way I look at it, I am cleaning up my studio by using the fabric crowding the space. It’s all in the attitude, right?

Off to the Snail Races!

Aren’t these the happiest snails you’ve ever seen? When I saw this pattern for snail races a month ago, I knew this was the perfect gift for my nephew’s first birthday. It’s so cute!

The snails are made from the same sweater I used for the handwarmers. I think i have just enough sweater left to make my 2-year-old a snail racing game, too.

I made a few modifications to the game.

The snails advance on the racetrack by color rather than number, using a big colored dice I “borrowed” from another game. The color blocks on the racetrack are 13″ by 4 1/2″ pieces of fabric, stitched together and surrounded by blue bias tape.

The top of the racetrack is open so the snails can nestle inside for storage. I stitched between the green and yellow color blocks so the kids can’t shove the snails all the way to the bottom.

Snails going to bed.

Snails going to bed.

Snaps (yeah for Melody’s new snap setter!) keep them snug.

Snapping the snails into bed. Yet another 30 minutes of entertainment for the kids beyond the gameplaying!

Snapping the snails into bed. Yet another 30 minutes of entertainment for the kids beyond the gameplaying!

Snug as snails in a racetrack.

Snug as snails in a racetrack.

Craft Your Turkey: Bone Whistle

A turkey bone whistle

A turkey bone whistle

You’re rolling around on the floor, stuffed full of turkey and cranberry sauce and you can’t help but wonder: What do I do with that turkey carcass? (If your dog didn’t devour it while you were distracted by football. My dog ate an entire rotisserie chicken last week. He was just practicing for Thanksgiving.)

Sure there’s the usual: Snap the wishbone and hope your dreams come true or make soup stock.

If you want something more lasting, make a turkey wing bone whistle. That’s right, get all the relatives back at the table and make whistles.

All cultures around the world have made whistles and flutes from bird bones. Native American Indians played eagle bone whistles to signify bravery, and early Americans called in turkeys while hunting. You can find out more about bird whistles these sites.

Alaska Native Knowledge Network

Lewis & Clark: Gifts of the Mandan

History of Whistles

To get started on your turkey bone whistle, you need:

  • turkey wing(s)
  • saw or sharp scissors
  • pipecleaner or other wire
  • sand paper
  • Elmer’s glue

Warning: This project does not work with Thanksgiving Tofurkey.

1. Harvest the wing(s) from the turkey carcass. One wing makes one whistle. Do not wrestle dog for the wings, as you may get hurt. Boil the wing bones to loosen meat. You should find you have 2 bones (1 large, 1 medium-size) that are connected by ligaments and 2 smaller bones that are fused into a single bone. Keep the large and medium bones and dispose of the rest.

2. Scrape off as much meat as possible with a knife.

A pipe cleaner works well removing the marrow.

A pipe cleaner works well removing the marrow.

3. Using a saw or sharp scissors, cut the ends off of the bones, to expose the pith and marrow inside. Using the pipecleaner, knife or other sharp object, clean out as much marrow and boney webbing inside as possible.

My dog, trying to "help."

My dog, trying to "help."

4. Boil again. Scrape the outside of the bones again and run the pipecleaner through the bones to remove the last bits of marrow. The bones will be somewhat transparent when they are wet, and you can see where the marrow still remains.

The flat end of the small bone goes into the large bone.

The flat end of the small bone goes into the large bone.

5. The smaller of the two bones will have a very rounded end and an almost flat end. Insert the flat end of the small bone into the smallest end of large bone. If the bone doesn’t slide in, sand until the small bone fits inside the big bone. Don’t take off too much.

6. Put glue into the joint of the two bones and let dry.

7. Embellish the whistle with permanent marker.

8. You’re ready to call turkeys! Place the smallest end of the whistle between your lips, sightly off center. Purse your lips around the bone and suck in, like you’re kissing. You sound like a turkey! Even more than usual.

One year as a gift, I made a turkey bone whistle from a wild turkey my father harvested for our Thanksgiving. I drew the turkey tracks on the whistle with permanent marker and added copper ring and leather carrying strap.

I made a 3-part turkey bone whistle for my dad.

I made a 3-part turkey bone whistle for my dad.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Pale Shade of Pink

Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

I’m feeling like a chipmunk! These last few weeks have been a flurry of canning, freezing, drying and generally storing away as much food as I can for the winter. I forgot that summer isn’t about sitting back to enjoy the sun and margaritas, it’s about storing as one season of fresh fruit and veggies melds into the next.

Since the hurricane apple-picking, I’ve been making dried apples and applesauce. I wanted to share an ultra-fast recipe for making applesauce in the pressure cooker.

My little apple washer.

My little apple washer.

With my two tools of choice–a pressure cooker and a crank apple peeler–I can make 2 quarts of applesauce in 30 minutes.

The key to getting the pretty pink color is to leave some of the peel on the apples. The last step will grind up any peel.

This dojiggy peels and slices all with a crank of the handle.

A peeler/corer/slicer like this is "in season" at many grocery and kitchen stores right now. Or search on Amazon.com.

1. Peel, core and slice apples. Apples should be same size for even cooking.

2. Fill pressure cooker about 3/4 full of apples (there should be a line on your pressure cooker). Add 1/2 cup water.

The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

3. Cook until pressure regulator begins to rock gently. Remove from heat and cool under cold water.

4. Run applesauce through food processor to smooth out the lumps.

*******Update: This process works with just about any fruit you want to make into sauce. The options I’ve tried:

  • Applesauce
  • Peach Sauce
  • Apple-plum Sauce
  • Blueberry-peach sauce
  • Rhubarb sauce
  • Peach-plum sauce
  • Strawberry-rhubarb sauce
  • Pear sauce

They’ve all been good. Anything tart, like rhubarb, plums or not quite ripe peaches, may require 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar. *******

Fall Fun

Guide to the fall hotspots in the neighborhood

Guide to the fall hotspots in the neighborhood

I always thought of myself as a packrat, but maybe I’m really part squirrel. This realization came today as I weaved through the streets of our town showing three kids where all the “good trees” are, those dumping acorns and beech nuts and colored leaves.

Swirly squirrely mask.

Swirly squirrely mask.

Autumn is here. So says the calendar today. So said my mom yesterday. “A fall party,” was my 5-year-old’s answer to celebrating the beginning of fall. Did I really expect a different answer from her?

By this morning she’d concocted grand plans of 5 friends, handmade invites, decorations wafting from the ceiling and treats. All to be accomplished in the 4 hours before school.

I was thinking more along the lines of collecting colorful leaves for this craft.

When her Monday Morning comrade arrived we took to the neighborhood streets, my memory of nuts guiding us to the beechnuts and acorns, hemlock cones and chestnuts. Honestly, it’s amazing we have such variety here in little ol’ Easton.

Back at home they ate walnuts and pecans for a snack (like squirrels) and started the craft. The 5-year-olds loved cutting the spirals and the fall streamers slowly devolved into masks, many of them squirrel masks. Moms know how deviating from the craft is both endearing and infuriating at the same time…after I got out all the supplies for the craft we were supposed to do. But I’ll save that rant for another day.

Two 5-year-olds with screwdrivers make short work of my chair.

Two 5-year-olds with screwdrivers make short work of my chair.

We had some time to kill before going to school, so I gave the two 5-year-olds screwdrivers and told them to take apart a chair that had seen its better days. The only thing the chair had to do with autumn was that it was fall-ing apart. They thought the joke was funny.

My plans of celebrating fall with a cute craft ended in me making one fall spiral. I like it. I think they had more fun taking the chair apart (after removing screws, I let them bust it apart with a rubber mallet). Maybe tomorrow I can convince my kids to glue leaves and nuts to another spiral. Or maybe we’ll just destroy another chair.

Come to think of it, the plumber’s coming tomorrow to bust up the basement and make the sump pump hole bigger. Maybe the kids can get in on some sledge hammer action.

Happy autumn!

My (rather pathetic) fall swirly streamer.

My (rather pathetic) fall swirly streamer.

Return from Sea

Treasures from the beach: shells and sea urchin spines.

Treasures from the beach: shells and sea urchin spines.

Last weekend was my annual girls weekend at Bethany Beach.

The key ingredients for girls’ weekend: no kids, no husbands, lots of wine, lots of coffee, lots of chocolate. little bit of shopping.

We women vent our frustrations about life, kids, husbands.  In the grand scheme of things, the five of us have nothing to complain about. We all have healthy kids, husbands who held down the fort at home with the kidlets while we let down our hair, and lots of friends and family who love us.

I think I found a shark tooth.

I think I found a shark tooth.

Still, once in a while it’s good to let it go, feel like you’re heard, and realize your are not alone in the vast ocean of trying to balance family, work/career, exercise, relationships and personal growth.

After the emotional cleansing, we went for the external cleansing with a dip in the ocean. A little salt-and-sand exfoliation.

Then I got my yearly ass-kicking.

You know the scene: you’re happily rollicking in the ocean when a huge wave knocks you ass over tea kettle and next thing you know you’re swirling around among the crabs on the shoreline. There’s so much saltwater up your nose and sand in your ears you can’t even worry if the cute lifeguard saw you make a fool of your self. The main concern: are all of your parts are still inside the swimsuit?

The ocean doesn’t care if you weren’t ready. It knocks you over and moves on to the next person. The ocean reminds us that there are still things larger and more powerful than us, than our internet connections, than our excuses.

I returned from the sea renewed and ready to say for the 20th time (with a smile on my face): “eat that peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the table.”

Do what you can to get away for a weekend, a day, an hour. It’s good for you and those around you.

Apple Picking in a Hurricane

Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.
Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.

There we are, my kids, niece and mom (plus my sister-in law, who is beside me snapping pictures, too) slogging through Hurricane Hanna’s downpour with our apples.

An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.
An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.

Today was the day I scheduled for apple picking. So we went.

Mind you, we weren’t getting the high winds from the hurricane, just lots and lots of rain.

So am I so saddled to my schedule that I’ll take on a hurricane to meet today’s tasks? Or am I a free spirit, not constrained by such things as weather?

Most people don’t do enough in the rain. The first sign of a drop, a they’re in the house because it’s wet. Being in the rain is so fun.

Some were eating more than picking.
Some were eating more than picking.

Today we had more than our fair share of “fun.” We were drenched; even our underwear was wet. But the kids had a great time, and I got my bushel of organic apples to store up for the winter.

Tomorrow, the cozy smell of apple sauce and drying apples will fill my kitchen.



I just returned from vacation on an island.

Birds! 6I just like to say that because it sounds like I went somewhere very exotic.

It is an exotic place in its own special way. Not exotic in the floating pool-side drinks and cabana boys style, but the opposite extreme of exotic where the cabin didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.

There I am on the island’s rocky beach bordering Lake Champlain sewing birds.Birds! 5

After mentioning my vacation to many different people, I realized this type of experience really is “exotic,” foreign to many. I’m surprised at the number of people who have never “showered” in a basin or carried their water supply somewhere.

When you have to carry your water from a lake, then boil it before you can make coffee, do the dishes or bath, it really makes you consider energy consumption and waste in a whole new way. My dear friends who invited us to their cabin are considering different solar options for powering their cabin. I highly recommend this kind of vacation as a crash course for anyone who wants to reduce their energy consumption, go green, reduce their carbon footprint, or whatever you want to call it. Try this lifestyle for a few days, and it will make you rethink your whole household.

Surprisingly, my 5-year-old didn’t complain once that she had to put shoes on and walk with a flashlight to the toilet in the middle of the night. The lack of conveniences didn’t phase her when she had snakes to watch and water to splash in.

Truth be told, we did have cell phone service, which was helpful when we sent the men out a huntin’ to the mainland for ice and pizza to go (it was a vacation, after all). And the kids had battery operated toys to keep them entertained while we made dinner. The whole vacation was such a blast!

Before setting out to the island with–dear me!– no internet service, we did more traditional vacationing by visiting family.

Birds! 3

My nephew was baptized and I made him this bird mobile for a gift. Shall we say they’re doves to go with the baptism theme?

No matter what kind of birds they are, they are so cute, and they’re my latest crafting obsession. I downloaded the pattern from Spool Sewing blog.

So cute, so simple and a great 3-D project for beginners. Getting them to balance is tricky, but the eye hooks are key.

I’ve become so enamored with these birds, I want to make them for everyone. My nephew got the first flock, although I think his mother may have claimed them because she loves birds.

The cabin on the island got the second set. (This photo is not the best!)

Birds! 7

Through 6 hours of driving, daytime kiddie naps and lakeside resting, I stuffed and sewed birds. I even got to take my sister-in-law’s Janome sewing machine for a spin stitching them up. Sweeeeet machine!

On the island I found odd-shaped driftwood for the mobile.

These birds look like they’re talking to each other.

Birds! 4

I used awning fabrics and regular cotton for those birds, but was thinking of spraying them with Camp Dry so I can hang them outside.

Next I’m hoping to make a flock or two for home…one for my porch and one for my 2-year-olds’ room. I’ve got all the time in the world right now because mentally, I’m still on vacation.

Best Mother’s Day Ever

I just had the best Mother’s Day ever.

Canoe Opener

No flowers or candy involved. No breakfast in bed (even though a little one said she was going to). No gifts at all. Okay, so I did get a little bag my wee one made a preschool, filled with very fragrant potpourri and a badge. But nothing store bought.

And yet, it was the best mother’s day…

Reason #1: The WHOLE family slept til 9 a.m. That’s right, we ALL slept through the night and until 9 a.m. If you have kids, you know what an accomplishment this is. If you don’t have kids…well…I won’t hold it against you that you can sleep ’til 9 a.m. every Sunday.

Reason #2: Laid back friends. Yes we awoke at 9, but we had friends coming at 10 a.m. to go canoeing. One hour to: dress four of us, make breakfast for four, get “I fell into the water clothes,” find paddles and life vests, put canoe on car. Sure.

We got most of it done, except for the canoe on car. My canoe hasn’t seen water in many years (last permit expired in 2002) so I couldn’t even remember how to get it on the car.

Luckily my friends and their boys roll with the punches. We got canoe on car with not damage to our car, no damage to any neighbors cars (we live VERY close to other people) and hopefully no embarrassing video on YouTube (very close to people with video cameras to tape their schmo neighbors doing something stupid).

Canoe with kidsReason #3: Goofing on the river. Nets, buckets, canoe. Throwing rocks. Watching ducks. Trying to catch fish smaller than my fingernail with a butterfly net. Shuttling kids up and down the river on their first-ever canoe rides.

Reason #4: Leaving the vestiages of society behind. I was so excited to go canoeing I forgot my mongo bag with wallet, cell phone, day planner, etc. All I had in my pocket was my keys, 2 clothespins and a twist tie.

Reason #5: Lunch on the fly. I scrounged up a credit card between us adults and headed to a local store to pick up lunch. No planning or cooking. No thinking about nutritional balance and who likes what. Just hoagies and macaroni salad. Yum!

Canoe ShoesReason #6: Coming home to a clean house. My husband’s gift to me was cleaning the whole house on Saturday. So when I returned to the homestead after a rough day on the water, I had nothing to do but relax and put up my raisin-wrinkled toes.

Best Mother’s Day ever.

Re- Something

Sewing Machine and fish

Good ol’ Earth Day is coming up next week (April 22, same day as the PA primaries, but we won’t go there). I still occasionally wear a ratty old sweatshirt from college that says “Earth Day every day.” Fraying sleeves and practically see-through fabric…it’s finally worn to perfection! Wouldn’t throwing it out be a real slam in the face of its message?

What strikes me this year, though, is how prevalent Earth Day and its message are among the mass media and major retailers. Everywhere I turn there’s a mention of Earth Day. Has Earth Day made it beyond a celebration in school where kids turn garbage into an art project?

Part of me is happy the message is getting out there. Part of me thinks they’re missing the point. Take for, example, the T-shirts made from recycled soda bottles: The ad says “If every shopper purchased one recycled T-shirt, we could keep 21,000 tons of plastic waste out of landfills.” Great, except rampant consumerism–buying a T-shirt just to say you have a T-shirt made of soda bottles–doesn’t reduce anything. If you go to the store in search of T-shirts because your summer wardrobe is lacking, then shell out those pennies (especially for the one that says, “I recycled a soda bottle and all I got was this T-shirt.” I think it’s funny).

I will now leave my little soapbox and show you some things I’ve done around here in the spirit of the “re-“s:

Reuse: I finally got around to using my “new” sewing machine. This 1941 Singer is a family heirloom, coming from my husband’s grandparents some 5 years ago. It’s like a dream they way it moves across the fabric. I can see why people seek out old belt-driven machines.

Boo FishIn front of the machine are my fish. I used the bib pattern from Bend the Rules Sewing and realized the cutout for the neck looked like a fish. Some are stuff with polyfill. Melody suggested I stuff some with flax seed and lavender, then put them in the freezer at the ready ice injuries.

Reduce: Baby towels into plate covers. How annoying is it do work twice? Such was the way of using serving platters in my house: wash them after I use them, then wash them before the next turkey/hors devours/fancy dessert because they collected a lot of dust atop the fridge. I contemplated buying pillow cases for them. But, since my babies have outgrown the towels (so sad), I sewed the towels to fit the plates. Cost to me: $0.

Toothbrush scrubber

Recycle: Electric toothbrush into toy scrubber. When a kid multiple times asks for a My Little Pony electric toothbrush for Christmas, can you really say no? Even when the heads on the toothbrushes are not replaceable? No cavities won out over environmental conscience and Santa delivered. Now that the bristles have gone their separate ways, I put the toothbrush into service outside, where my super-teeth-brusher can use it on to clean her toys when they get dirty. She loves it.

Revive: On Saturday, April 19, my family helped clean up the Bushkill Creek as part of the “Great PA Cleanup.” This initiative runs April 19 through May 3. Other states are holding Earth Day activities through the week, too.

Enjoy-my-summer tote

Repurpose: Gardening bag is now an enjoy-my-summer bag. Yes, my kitchen is only 10 steps from the patio, where we practically live all summer. But after running in and out 50 times for sunscreen, the ringing phone, a water bottle, etc., I got smart. I stock the bag with water bottles for all each morning and take the whole kit and caboodle 10 steps outside so I can actually sit and enjoy the magazine in the bag. New addition to my bag this year: ID guides for my little explorers who want to know what kind of bug that is.


Reinvent: Chandelier to ???? I thought this chandelier too pretty to live out the rest of its life in a landfill and carted it home, where it has been on my patio all winter. I think the little knobs and tubes may have at one time shuttled gas through it, but it’s been fitted with electrical wiring and bulb sockets. Check out that fringe. It’s all metal.


Four of the six stained glass panels are missing, but the two that are intact are a swirly golden color and curve along the chandelier.

The only use I’ve come up for this lost soul: flip it upside down, stick it in the ground, place a wide, shallow pan on top and make it a rather elegant bird feed or bird bath.

Any ideas what you would recycle/reuse/reinvent the chandelier?

Oh, and Happy Earth Day.