Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wordless Wednesday ~ Winter at the Arboretum

A winter's day at the Arboretum.

A knot garden. I want one of my own.


An armada of pelicans and some sort of loon.

Ric Rac

A tranquil scene

Camilla. Why is it that I don't own one of these winter blooming beauties?

Flashes of orange and gold

Color. Kale

Sculptural beauty. Dusty Miller

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wrapping it up!


I like to take time to ponder what went well in the past year (and what didn't) and what I hope to do and accomplish in the coming year. By looking back, sometimes I can avoid making the same mistakes over and over and over again. For this reason, I usually take lots of notes on or about projects I'm involved with. Long after the details have faded in my head, my notes remind me of what to avoid or what to replicate.

Looking forward is lots of fun. The anticipation of new goals, dreams, and visions is delicious. I always start out with too many. I crash and burn on some of them. More remarkable is when I actually manage to accomplish what I set out to do. What a rush!

Wrap up your year with a pretty bow. Don't beat yourself up over things that went poorly. Forgive yourself and others, learn from your mistakes, and move on. An entire fresh year is opening up in front of us. What will we do with those 365 days?

I'm excited to find out!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reason Number 347...


....for cleaning out the nooks, crannies, and odd spaces in your home.

You find treasure!

We bought this quilt block kit and assorted fabrics last December. Yep, you read that right. December, 2008. The package got put in an odd place and then through out the year, other flotsam and debris ended up on top of it. Shortly before Christmas, I got a burr under my saddle about tidying up the master bedroom. And there it was...just waiting for me.

Now, at least, I know what my next quilting project will be. These little sunflowers will look great in either my kitchen or my studio.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

99 Things

White Purple pansy

I saw this on Harmony Art blog a few days ago. It looked like fun since I've been thinking hard about my ambitions this year. This list is more of a lifetime list, but still, it fits my theme. The ones in purple are ones I've done. See which ones you've done--I'd love to hear. If you answer on your own blog, put a link in my comments so we can all visit and read.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (Not well.)
11. Bungee jumped (Ummmm, no thanks)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (Walked, not run a 5K, but not a marathon.)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (France 1999)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (Still a work in progress, but I can grocery shop in French, Dutch and some German.)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted--Painted no, photography yes.
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (No, never)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle Fast enough, thank you very much.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (Magazines, yes. Books--I'm working on it.)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (Those Minor Prophets get me everytime.)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating--Fish count, right?
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (Do Estate Hassles Count?)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


May Your Day
Be Filled
Happy Memories!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mint Chocolate Cookies



3 pkg. Andes mints (28 each);
3/4 cup margarine;
1 1/2 cup brown sugar;
2 tbsp. water;
1 pkg. semisweet chocolate chips;
2 large eggs;
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour;
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda.

In saucepan (or microwave), heat and mix margarine, sugar and water. Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until all chips are melted.
Pour into bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
Beat in eggs at high speed.
Add remaining ingredients and beat to blend.
Chill dough for 1 hour.
Line baking sheets with foil.
Roll dough in 1" diameter balls and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Place an unwrapped mint on each cookie as you remove them from the oven. As soon as the mints have softened, spread them over the cookies.

Because I'm a chocolate snob, I love to use Belgian chocolate chips. I find them at Kroger, but you have to read the label to make sure what you are getting has components from Belgium.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

I love December 21. Not only is it our son's birthday--a joyous thing!, but it is the winter solstice.

Why would a sun-lover like me love the shortest day of the year?

Because after today, the sun begins it's journey back to our hemisphere. Every day between now and June 21, there is a smidgen more daylight each day.

Which means spring is on it's way.

Longer, sunnier days.

Rose blossoms.


Pool, picnic, and porch swing time.

Just knowing the sun is beginning it's journey back is enough to get me through the cloudy, gray, cold days to come.

It seems like a grand time to start a new project or two, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 20, 2008



I know I promised the Mint Chocolate Cookie recipe, but the SUN came out on Friday. After days of gray, gloomy, misty, foggy, windy, cold weather you didn't expect me to stay inside on a pretty winter's day, did you?

I spent the afternoon catching up on gardening tasks. Cleaning up some post-summer debris, harvesting seed pods, watering thirsty roots. Most of all, soaking up the sun.

Gardeners are a faith-filled folk. How else can you imagine the importance of a dry husk? Gardeners take a seemingly dead thing--a seed--plant it and hope for growth. Amazing thought. Even more amazing is when the seed sprouts and vibrant life springs forth.

As I ripped the crispy Moonflower vines from the trellis, I gathered seed pods. Holding them in my hand, I realized I was holding next summer's flowers...those saucer sized, sweet-scented, impossibly white blooms which unfurl as the sun sets. Long ago I read a saying about seeds....Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in the seeds. For a few minutes on Friday, I felt like I was sharing a secret with the Creator. I don't know how many blossoms are in there, but I know they are there. Isn't that marvelous?

There are lots of seeds in your creative life right now. Some of them are very dry and unpromising looking. Some are swelled with the potential for life. Some have been laying abandoned on hardscrabble dirt for years. All of them need water, a safe place to flourish, and nurturing. Isn't it exciting to participate in their coming to life? I know beautiful blooms are in there...waiting for their turn in the sun.

I can't wait to see what blossoms in your creative soul.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cookies

It's cold outside, so we've been cooking up a storm inside. Christmas treats for the most part. Recipes filled with yumminess and generous helpings of love and good wishes. I usually make biscotti with only almonds in it, but for Christmas it is fun to add color and additional flavor.

Cherry Biscotti

You can use either dried cherries or maraschino cherries. If using dried, soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes to plump. If using maraschinos, quarter and lay out on paper towels to drain for 10 minutes or so.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, beaten lightly

2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

Zest from one lemon. (An orange can be used if desired)

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
1 cup cherries

1 egg for an egg wash.

Toast the almonds on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes. Stir half way through. Allow to cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together 2 cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

In a small bowl, combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and almond extracts, plus the lemon zest.

Make a well in the flour mixture. Add eggs and sugar mix to the well. Stir the flour into the well slowly mixing. If necessary, add additional flour to make a workable dough.

Add almonds and cherries. Fold into dough until mixed.

Divide dough into two equal pieces. Flour your hands to keep dough from sticking to you. Gently form the dough into logs--about two inches x eight or ten inches. Carefully transfer each cylinder to the parchment lined baking sheet. Evenly brush the dough with egg wash.

Bake until dough is slightly risen and light golden. About 25-30 minutes. (If you are using maraschino cherries and the dough is a bit wetter, allow for the longer baking time.)

Allow to cool on a cooling rack for ten minutes.

On a cutting board, slice each cylinder at a sharp diagonal angle. Make the slices 1/2 inch thick. Stand the biscotti upright on the baking sheet with some space between them.
Return to oven and bake until biscotti are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.

These are dry crispy cookies perfect for dipping in coffee or a rich wine. Once cooled, the biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for up to one month.

To make even more special, melt some good chocolate and dip one end of the biscotti into chocolate.

My original recipe came from Patricia Well's 'Trattoria' cookbook. I have tweaked it a bit in the years I've been making it. Usually when we make this recipe, we triple it. It's that good.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Santa Fe Stew Day


It's a cold, gray, and windy Monday. I'm thankful for the bright cheerfulness Christmas lights and decor bring to my surroundings. A day like this is perfect for Santa Fe Stew.

Santa Fe Stew - makes approximately 4 quarts

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 packet taco season mix, if desired
32 oz. Velvetta, either hot or mild depending on taste
1 can whole kernel corn with liquid
1 can kidney or pinto beans
1 small can chopped green chilies
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 can beef broth or two cups of water (Omit to make the stew thicker)

Cook hamburger, onion, and garlic in skillet. Drain any grease. Add taco seasoning.

Add meat mixture to crock pot. Add all other ingredients. Let simmer several hours.

Serve with warm crusty bread, tortillas, or crackers.

Note: if cooked in a regular pan on the stovetop, this recipe will scorch. I prefer using a crockpot set on low.

It's even better the second day after all the flavors have mellowed together.
Freezes well.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's on your To-Do list?

Paper fan ornament
Tis the season of busy.
What's still on your list to accomplish before the big day?
Finishing addressing Christmas cards, seal, send.
Make a pie. Cherry, apple, or pecan?
Wrap some stocking stuffers.
Assemble a Christmas care package for oldest son.
Assemble a birthday care package for oldest son.
Ship care packages.
Drive around and look at Christmas lights
Finish Twilight Zone-ish short story.
Decide on next sewing/quilt project
Ongoing house tidying
Finish gifts for people in our lives. Give.
Here's to checking things off in a timely manner!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gift ideas for Creative Souls

Decorated mantle

Need some ideas on how to stuff the stockings of your creative friends? Or, maybe, you need to give a list to someone in your life so they can stuff your stockings in a grand fashion?

1. Small supplies.

For Quilters, a spiffy new rotary cutter with blades, a handmade pincushion, or a new ruler. Fat quarters and charm packs are always fun.
Gardeners love cool hand tools like trowels and pruners, knee pads, hand lotion, wind chimes, bird houses, seeds, small transplants from your garden.
Artists (gotta think of another name for these...we are all artists) brushes, portable cases, hand made papers, sketch books, inspiration books.
Writers--interesting pens, printer cartridges, paper, clever notebooks, Starbucks cards, small pillow for their backs while they write.

2. Magazine subscriptions to a creative magazine.

3. Artist Date supplies....entry to an art museum, promise of lunch out with like minded souls.

4. Creative books

5. Junque...cute themed key chains, mouse pads, Christmas ornaments, socks, tee-shirts.

What are some of your favorite creative boosting gifts you've gotten or given over the years?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Finished Quilt!


I finished it this morning!

This quilt was my 're-learn to quilt' project. It is a generous lap-sized quilt in rich purple solids, dark greens, and bright sunflower prints. The colors are my favorites and designed to be a cheerful spot of intensity during the cold, gray days of winter.

Some of the corners won't hold up to close scrutiny and the binding has more issues than a magazine subscription, but it's all there. Put together and and use-able.

My theme in 2008 has been Do It! For the later part of the year, I've enhanced the thought with Finish It! By completing the NaNoWriMo challenge, a significant church project, and this little quilt, I feel like I'm on a roll.

This is fun! Now what?