Wrapping Paper Beads

My little holiday gift to you: an idea for all that post-holiday wrapping paper you’ve accumulated.


  • Wrapping paper, catalogs or any colorful paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue, such as Elmers
  • Wooden skewer, or other thin rod


1. Flatten the wrapping paper and cut out a long skinny isosceles (equal on two sides) triangle.

2. Place the design-side of the paper on the table and fold the widest end of the triangle back on itself about 1/4 inch.

3. Roll the paper around the skewer, beginning at the shortest side of the triangle and ending at the point of the triangle. Don’t let go or the whole thing will unravel.

4. Place a dab of glue at the point on the wrong side of the paper and press firmly to the rest of the paper. Your first bead! Carefully slide the bead off the skewer and allow it to dry.

5. Repeat with more paper until you have enough beads to make a bracelet, a necklace, a skirt, curtains for every window in your house.

Not only can you have fun, you can get your geometry in the for the day. Experiment with different widths and lengths of triangles to see how the beads turn out.

If you don’t manage to make all your wrapping paper into beads, see if you can recycle it at your local recycling center.

Happy Holidays!

Let the celebrating begin!

Maddie and her good friend Red Ball.

Maddie and her good friend Red Ball.

Sigh. Yesterday I shipped out my last custom piece due for Christmas. What a relief! It’s been a busy few weeks of making lots of Christmas gifts for customers.

After the run to the post office, I treated myself to a celebratory cappuccino, then sunk into the sofa with Three Cups of Tea. Imagine that! Reading a book in the middle of the day! I intend to do it again today.

Up above my dog is celebrating her victory:  The beginning of Red Ball Season. What? You’ve never heard of Red Ball Season? It often coincides with the beginning of winter, during the first decent snow.

Red Ball was a gift from Maddie’s “grandparents” many years ago. The plastic is really hard so the dogs can’t pick it up in their mouths and the humans can’t kick it (very painful if you do). Maddie loves this ball. She pushes it around with her nose, eats the snow off of it, gets it stuck behind rose bushes. It’s the most fun any yellow Labrador retriever can have.

My German Shepherd finds the thing a nuisance since he can’t pick it; red ball makes him very angry.

Once upon a time, Red Ball Season was year-round. That lasted about 3 minutes. My single-minded Maddie bowled over every single flower, attacked rose bushes that “stole” red ball and dug up the yard because red ball escaped behind the grill (she’s not a digger).

So Red Ball has been relegated to winter, when snow and ice safely ensconce all manner of precious vegetation. Despite being 11 years old and ready for the geriatric ward, Maddie chases this ball like she’s a puppy.

Gluten-free Scandinavian Almond Bars

Gluten-free Scandinavian Almond Bars

The other tradition we love around here right now is lots o’ cookie making. I’ll leave you with a great cookie recipe that is a family tradition among my husband’s Swedish relatives: Scandinavian Almond Bars. These are incredible. Bake them just until the edges are brown and you get a very chewy cookie, which is out of this world. The icing is not necessary, but adds another almond kick. Even better, I was able to easily translate this recipe into a gluten-free version, courtesy of Bob and his Red Mill. Enjoy!

Scandinavian Almond Bars

  • 1 1/2 c. Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • milk (to brush dough)
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds
  • Almond icing (below)

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until soft. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and almond extract and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat well. Divide dough into fourths. Flour hands and then roll each lump of dough into 12-inch roll. Place 2 rolls, 4 to 5 inches, apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten to 3 inches wide. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 325°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. While cookies are still warm cut them cross wise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips. A pizza cutter works well for this job. Cool. Drizzle with almond icing. Makes approximately 48 cookies.

Almond Icing

Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and enough milk (3 or 4 teaspoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency.

Merry Music

In my parents living room is a stereo my mom has had since before I was born. It was a high tech piece of equipment in its day. The turn table can handle six records and drop them (hands-free!) for continuous music play. There’s also a built in AM/FM radio.

Despite being a centerpiece in the living room, my mom didn’t spin the tunes to often. Come Christmas, however, holiday music was constant. Elivs and Andy Williams, Bing Crosby and Kenny Rogers were belting classic carols, plus a few originals. They came to be my yardsticks by which all holiday music is measured.

We’ve been cranking the carols since Thanksgiving, through cookie making and tree decorating. Here’s my list of my favorite Christmas albums.

Enya  And Winter Came…

The latest addition to my holiday catalog. There’s the ethereal music we’ve come to expect from Enya. The chant-like qualities of “Trains and Winter Rains” will having you humming them for days. There’s also a riveting rendition of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Silent Night” in Gaelic. My favorite track: “White is the Winter Night

John Denver and the Muppets  A Christmas Together

Doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult, this whacky Christmas listen spans the spectrum from funny to religious to near-irreverent.  Okay, so most carols don’t culminate with screaming “Run, run reindeer!” but the unexpected is what we love about the Muppets. John Denver’s stories and “The River Meets the Sea” balance it all out. “Christmas is Coming” cracks me up every time. Favorite Track: “Silent Night” (sung in German).

A Very Special Christmas 3

This is the best of the bunch of Very Special Christmas CDs. Who knew there could be a ska Christmas song professing to love everyone? Sting, Natalie Merchant, No Doubt. Admittedly, this is my college years in a Christmas album, so I’m slightly nostalgic for the artists, but I love the songs, too. Favorite Track: Tie between “Christmastime” by Smashing Pumpkins and “I Saw Three Ships” by Sting

Bonanza: Christmas on the Ponderosa

Before you think I’m old enough to have enjoyed Bonanza in its heyday, hold on there, Hoss. I took to this album from my mom’s childhood because a girl named Susie with red hair got to put the stor atop the Christmas tree.  The stories holding the songs together make you feel like you’re there on the Ponderosa lighting candles  on the Christmas tree (yikes!). Favorite track: “The New Born King”

Barenaked Ladies Barenaked for the Holidays

Any CD that includes the infamous “Batman smells, Robin laid an egg” verse of “Jingle Bells” is a must listen, at least once a holiday season. Plus their folksy Hanukkha songs brings my knownledge of Hanukkha songs to 4 (you can guess the other two). The organ renditions of carols makes me think I’m at the Lowry organ store in the Lehigh Valley Mall in 1988. Favorite track: “Elf Lament

Elvis It’s Christmas Time

Hey, it’s the king of rock ‘n’ roll. And boy does he have a lot of Christmas albums. He brings a rockin’ Christmas, but you also believe he cried in “Momma Loved the Roses” ( one of the many tracks from my childhood that as an adult I realized was very depressing, right up there with Merle Haggard’s “If we make it through December”). Favorite Track: “Blue Christmas

Any suggestions for holiday songs or CDs I should add to my collection?

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!

Hot Chocolate

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

We interrupt the tutorial on making handwarmers to bring you a recipe for hot chocolate mix.

It was a must today.

Snow, yes S-N-O-W fell on us today at the busstop. Not just flakes either, actual snowballs. It’s still 2 days ’til Halloween!

While this isn’t unheard of here in eastern Pennsylvania, we like to keep our snowfalls around the holidays and into the New Year. We were surprised, to say the least.

So in honor of the snow I needed hot chocolate and low and behold we had none. So I whipped up 2 more batched of hot chocolate mix.

This recipe is based on Tyler Florcence’s hot cocoa and homemade marshmallow recipe. The flaws with his recipe are 1) My kids think the cinnamon makes the hot chocolate “taste funny.” That really is for the adult palate. 2) Four ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate. Really. If there’s 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in bar form in my house, it’s likely in my mouth. I use chocolate chips, which end up half melted on the bottom of the cup. Bonus! At the end of the drink you eat them with a spoon.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

3/4 cup vanilla sugar* or granulated white sugar

3/4 cup powdered milk

1/2 cup best unsweetened cocoa powder you can afford

1/4-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Stir all ingredients together in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container.

To make the hot chocolate: heat 1 cup of milk (always use milk unless the cow ain’t givin’, then water is okay) and stir in 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons of mix.

*Vanilla sugar is plain white sugar that’s been sitting in an airtight dish with vanilla beans. It gives the sugar a nice vanilla note.

The hot chocolate mix makes a nice gift around the holidays. This winter I intend to try Tyler’s marshmallow recipe, too.


Where My Sidewalk Ends…

My disassembled sidewalk.

My disassembled sidewalk.

…there is a sign.

My Halloween tombstone.

My Halloween tombstone.

It’s my bit of Halloween humor that will last until Tuesday, when the sign will be removed and my sidewalk repoured (hopefully!).

If you haven’t guessed, I’ve been doing a lot of home repair of late.

This little gem above is our attempt to get the rainwater out of our basement and into the storm drain. This month-long (and counting) project entailed ripping up a sidewalk, cutting down a tree, running a pipe through my basement wall. Before you think I’m superwoman, I didn’t do that all by myself. I had husband, neighbor, relative, arborist and plumber help.

Many standing atop my former (ex-?) tree as he cut it down.

Many standing atop my former (ex-?) tree as he cut it down.

Today I shoveled stone, chopped away some of the tree’s roots, cursed a bit, and got really dirty all in the name of getting the sidewalk ready to be formed and then repoured. Lots of red tape here, as I have to adhere to city regulations of 4 inches of stone and 5 inches of concrete. I’m bushed.

After all that, I thought it looked like a grave and had one of my little helpers make a tombstone for a bit of Halloween humor.

Tonight, I’m sitting with a glass of valpocella wine and relaxing.

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. *******

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.

Time Keeps on Ticking

Cooling their heels: Moccasins dry on fence posts, readying for another day of dancing.

Cooling their heels: Moccasins dry on fence posts, readying for another day of dancing.

Is it really Friday already? Nearly 11 p.m.? Where did this week go?

Fancy shawl dancers having showing off their steps and regalia in the circle.

Fancy shawl dancers.

I’ve been meaning to post photos from last weekend’s Powwow all week and this is the first moment I had. I’ll keep it short on words, long on photos.

I will say it was a gorgeous weekend. Usually during the August Festival we’re sweating our feathers off but it was sunny, breezy and downright September-like on a wonderful August day.

Susan from Heart to Hearth explains the Roasting Corn Festival traditions.

Susan from Heart to Hearth explains the Roasting Corn Festival traditions.

Dennis scraps a deer hide, readying it for brain tanning.

Dennis scraps a deer hide, readying it for brain tanning.



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.