Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feasting from the Garden

My parents were (and still are, to a lesser extent) avid gardeners when I was growing up. At the peak of production we had 3 very large vegetable gardens and they grew just about everything: asparagus,horseradish, rhubarb, green beans, a variety of lettuces, carrots, beets, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, radishes, melons and of course zucchini. Keep in mind, there were only 3 of us! Consequently a lot of canning went on, in addition to some sales to a local restaurant. But the one thing that will always stick out in my memory is the zucchini. Let's just sa it thrived where it was planted. I think I have had zucchini prepared just about every way possible, and you'd think that at this point in life I would be sick of it and never eat it again. But to me, it wouldn't be summer without that fabulously versatile veggie and I serve it 2-3 times a week in some form or another (much to the dismay of my 11-year-old son, Brett).

So last night, when I was once again faced with the question, "Mom, what's for dinner?" I thought, "Why zucchini, of course!" After digging around in my fridge I discovered a couple leftover ears of corn from the night before as well as some ripe tomatoes from the garden in a basket on the counter. Armed with this information off to Google I went, and lo and behold good old delivered me the perfect answer to my dinner dilemna with their recipe for Zucchini-Corn Casserole. It was absolutely delicious, so I thought I'd share it here with you:
Zucchini-Corn Casserole
(Vegetarian Main Dish)
3c (1#) sliced zucchini
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. (12 oz) low fat cottage cheese
3/4 c dry bread crumbs (preferably whole grain)
1/4 c wheat germ
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil
Kernel from 4 medium ears of corn (about 2 c)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 oz cheese (e.g., cheddar, monterey jack, muenster) cut into thin strips

Place the zucchini in a colander and toss it with salt. Set it aside to drain for at least 15 minutes. then press the zucchini against the sides of the colander to extract more water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

In medium sized bowl, combine cottage cheese, bread crumbs, wheat germ, parsley and basil. Set aside.

Line bottom of a greased 2 quart baking dish with zucchini. Using half of the cottage cheese mixture, spoon on top zucchini and press on the mixture with a fork or spatula to spread it around. Sprinkle the cottage cheese mixture on top of the corn. Cover the casserole with the tomato slices and arrange the cheese strips on top of the tomatoes.

Cover the casserole with foil, put in hot oven, and bake it for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake casserole another 15 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and the it stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6

I hope your family enjoys this dish as much as mine did!

Now I'm off to make some cute little Halloween Treat Bags that will be debuting in my shop tomorrow.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Music Tuesday!

This morning found me being responsible. (I know! Right?) I was buried up to my eyeballs in marketing and business planning materials, working on that part of "the business" that I find least interesting but, lets face it, potentially most lucrative. When I'd finally had enough of that cr#p I felt mentally drained and well, blogless. I know myself well enough to not publicly state that I will post EVERY day (or do just about anything every day--refer to my previous post The Finishing Touch), but I have been posting every day and have been enjoying the flow of it. I couldn't help feeling something important was missing from my day (kind of like skipping my morning coffee). Then it hit me: it's Tuesday! New music! Instant blog fodder! And one of my favorite musicians, Mike Doughty, is releasing his latest album, Yes and Also Yes, today.

This song is from his last release, Sad Man Happy Man, and it's one of my favorites. Enjoy!

What new music are you hoping to grab today?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Spotlight: J.Crabbit & the Etsy Blog Team

I thought I’d diverge from usual musings today and bring you a something new: an interview.

A big part of the Etsy life is the community. There are many teams you can join and forums you can speak out on, or simply dialogue with other makers. One of the teams I belong to is the Etsy Blog Team (EBT). As much as I enjoy the other teams I participate in, this one has a special place in my heart because it’s full of people who love to share their experiences not only through their art, but through words. The team has been going through some changes lately and recently got a new Captain, one Mitch Wilson of J.Crabbit.
Mitch lives in Kennebunk, ME with his wife Heather and their two sons Ashton and Liam, and he tells a great story.
Tell me a little about you, and about how J.Crabbit got started…
I met my wife Heather in 5th grade.  I proposed in 7th Grade. She said no.  I waited 10 years and asked again--with a ring this time--and she said yes.  We got married in 2003.  Yes, that is a summary, but the long description of our relationship is a story all its own.
She saw the idea for an earring frame somewhere online, and asked me to make her one.  I did,  and she still keeps her collection on it. At the time she had a very successful Etsy shop called Brezomayo Designs, and she encouraged me to open a shop of my own.  So was born J.Crabbit, which actually doesn’t mean anything at all.  I like hard vowel sounds, and originally wanted to call it Jackrabbit Furniture Company.  I didn’t really care for the jack rabbit connotation and genericness (yep it is a word is use) so I dropped the A and K, and it was Jcrabbit.   Add the period, and there you have it J.Crabbit.  I already knew how to make earring frames, so that became my primary product. 

 J.Crabbit ~ Giving new life to vintage finds
What drew you to blogging in the beginning?
I remember about 8 years ago when someone I know mentioned they had a live journal--basically a diary that they were keeping online for everyone to read.   I thought that was about the dumbest thing I had ever heard of.  Little did I know that it was the beginning of blogging which obviously has become a common practice. 
I used to sit on the couch, and notice Heather browsing the internet. The pages she would look at were covered in awesome pictures and colorful fonts.  She told me that they were all blogs that she read.  I was amazed at how good they looked!  I was still trying to pimp my MySpace page.
I started my blog as a Xanga account.  I would just write about what was happening.  I love documenting.  It is fun to look back and read about what you did day by day on a vacation and the like.  When I realized that I should be on a more popular blogging site that had more options available, I switched to Blogger.  It was free and easy.  I had a very specific purpose for the Progressions blog:  show the process of creating the items I was selling.  It would provide the customer 1) proof it was handmade and 2) proof that it was art, not just an old frame.
Having a blog is not blogging...
How long have you been blogging?
I started my xanga blog Friday August 10th 2007.  I created Progressions much later but honestly, having a blog is not blogging.  So I would say I actually started this past March when I created and took the 30 day blog challenge, to post something every day for a whole month. It was amazing how all of the sudden, everything I saw in life was (and still is) a potential post.
What prompted you to revive the EBT Blog?
I discovered the Etsy Blog Team back in March not long after Karen Vowell-Mager (CremeMagnolia) and Karina Wetzel (CraftsByKarina) founded it in February.  It was great to see that after the forum makeover, someone had still created a place for Etsy shop owners who blogged to go and talk.  The EBT Blog itself was just jam packed full of useful and helpful blogging information.  Tutorials were great, PLUS the features of team members allowed us to see them and learn more about who they really are.
Summer always gets crazy, and this summer was no exception for me.  I missed a few months but when I looked at the blog a few weeks ago, I realized that it hadn’t been updated in a long time.  I was concerned because it is such a great site and resource, so I started asking questions.  I knew from the start that I wanted to get more involved in the team, so once I was able to contact the leadership becoming Captain just felt right. 
What do you see as the next few logical steps for the EBT and its blog?
The next step for me is to get the right people involved.  No one can run a team alone, and certainly not a team blog.  Besides, with the plethora of knowledge (we're over 1,500 strong) that we have on this team, why would anyone want to?  I will be taking steps to get people involved over the next week. There is still some administrative work as well, but I am excited to have this team up and running for the fall.  It is my favorite time of year!
Intrigued? The EBT and it's blog are open to all bloggers willing to abide by the rules that can be found on the EBT page. Stop by and check it out!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Feature: Meet the Staff

It's a gloomy, post-Irene Sunday here at ScrappyTudeStudios. We weathered the storm and are grateful that Irene calmed herself down a bit before she made landfall in NJ.

I thought I'd launch a new feature today entitled "Meet the Staff". There's no way I could get all this creativity flowing without the invaluable assistance of my behind-the-scenes helpers, so without further ado meet the CNO of ScrappyTudeStudios:

Chip - Chief Nap Officer (CNO), ScrappyTudeStudios 

Chip's primary duties involve showering the owner of STS (me) with unconditional love, writing grant applications, and daily reminders that the answer to that post-lunch slump isn't always a cup of coffee. He has an MBA from Harvard and has worked at numerous Fortune 500 companies. When recently approached to replace Steve Jobs he was tempted to leave STS, but found the iron-clad contract impossible to break and Apple unable to match his current benefits package. Being a yorkie-poo makes him the perfect fit for STS as his allergy-free hair causes no issues for our clients.

Chip wanted me to be sure to give you all a sneak peek at the next quilt we'll be rolling out at STS. It's the perfect day to stay inside and work on a little applique...

Coming soon to an etsy shop near you!

Come back tomorrow when I will post an interview with a real person! ;-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Laughing in the Face of the Storm

It's been a rather busy morning here at Casa de Amberge (aka, ScrappyTudeStudios). I've been working on my first interview for this blog, spiffying up my shop, taking the daughter to the eye doctor and of course, prepping for Irene who is supposed to drop by later tonight. As I often do when I'm working at my computer, I've been popping on and off of Facebook just to see what everybody's up to. Last pop I spotted a video that my niece Katie had posted and it had me rolling. I think Steve Martin is one of the funniest guys to ever walk upright, and I love how his act has evolved. Take a few minutes, pause, and have a good laugh while you watch. Then, if you live on the Mid-to-Upper-East Coast like me, go get some buckets and sandbags ready...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Challenges and Triumphs

What a morning! It seemed harmless enough when the alarm went off at 6:30...I mean, the auto-program on the coffee maker had my brew ready when I came down the stairs, the car started so I could get Maddy where she needed to be, the garage door opener worked and the sun came out enough that I could take the quilt pics I needed to take. Sounds pretty good, right? Yup. Right until I sat down at the computer and tried to start a Facebook Fan Page for my business. That's when things really started to go south. I'll spare you all the gorey details and just say that I clicked a few wrong buttons and wound up sending a whole bunch of people a friend request for a new personal page with my name (not my business) and no picture. There was no easy fix. I was embarassed and super frustrated. But that's life and I'm moving on!

Enter my new twitter account! I'm a 100% newbie to twitter, but it seems pretty easy even for me in my technologically challenged state. I'm shamelessly seeking followers, so if you're interested pop over and click all the right buttons to make it happen, and while you're there, wish me luck!

My other success this morning I owe in large part to God, who saw fit to let the sun shine enough for me to take the pictures I need to list my newly completed Fall Batik quilt that I mentioned in a previous post.

Pop over to my shop and take a better look! And head on over to my playlist for my song of the day. There's something about folk music that makes me feel all fallish :) so have a helping of Nick Drake to ease you into your day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Little Muscial Snack for Your Day

Up until a little over 3 years my family and I lived in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Although it wasn't my "hometown" we were there for 13 years, owned our first (and 2nd) homes there, and had all 3 of our children at West Penn Hospital. It felt like home.

Pittsburgh has many awesome features. I'm no sports fanatic, but Steeler's football will always be a Sunday afternoon tradition in my house. And the Penguins? Hockey rules! But to me the best thing the city offered was (and still very much is) WYEP. They play the best mix of music I have heard anywhere (including my own Pandora stations) and have excellent dj's who follow the station's creedo "Where the Music Matters". I still stream it live over the interent in my studio, which has more than once caused some serious weather confusion for me (apparently, we have different weather in Philly).

WYEP has introduced me to many amazing new artists. Take, for instance, Michael Franti. They were playing him long before he hit mainstream radio and his album Yell Fire, with his band Spearhead, is still in heavy rotation on my iPod. But handsdown, my favorite Franti tune comes from a little solo accoustic album he put out called Songs from the Front Porch. Today I felt inspired to pause from the finishing of my fall batik quilt and share my favorite Franti song with you. It's entitled Sometimes, and is currently #1 on my playlist (look down and's can't miss it).

Where do you go for your music fix? Who's your dealer? ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Finishing Touch

At this point in my life (middle age...GULP!) it seems less than likely to me that I would suddenly wake up one day and be organized, efficient and have become a "finisher". I've learned that I am a great starter--I have a vision and tend to jump in with both feet--but a finisher? Not so much...Yet lo and behold, lately (the last year or two) this does in fact seem to be changing. I firmly believe that this is largely due to the fact that I've become a bit more restrained about what I start (for those of you who know me well, please notice the use of the phrase a bit). Not taking on every little thing that catches my interest has been a huge help! And that feeling of success and accomplishment that I've discovered comes with finishing is a pretty big incentive, too.

Last year, at the gentle and necessary urging of my husband, I completed a major endeavor. I finished my master's degree and earned my certification as a School Counselor. This was no small task at the age of 44 with 3 kids and a busy household to manage, but at least I wasn't trying to balance it with a job, as so many others students were...Of course, the next logical step would have been employment in my field. Enter the economic woes of our nation and the slashing pen of Governor Chris Christie, and exit any chance I had of realizing that next step. So now what? I faced a choice: hold on to the sense of accomplishment or see only the failure to obtain employment. Well, what would you choose?

Here I am a little over a year later embracing my love of fabric, color, texture and creating, and finding my voice through this blog. Today I will finish something. It's a lovely little fall quilt crafted from some of my favorite fall colors of brown, rusty orange and gold. I've used some of my beloved batiks in its making and am preparing to head over the sewing machine and quilt it.

A sneak peek at my fall batik quilt

The thread's loaded, and the machine's making that quiet little hum that beckons me...But before I go I thought you might want a preview of my next project...It's another quilt (after all, fall is rapidly approaching) and I'm pretty excited about the fabrics I found:

Ooooooo!!! Ahhhhhh!!!

But now, back to what I was saying above: The Finishing.

Come back in the next day or two to check out the finished fall quilt, or visit my etsy shop where it will be for sale!

Don't be a stranger!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Did You Feel It?

As determined as I am to get to work on my latest quilt (ok, maybe not that determined) I couldn't resist the urge to do a little theme-of-the-afternoon DJ'ing...So head south to my playlist and take a listen to #1. If you can resist grooving, you need to see a doctor...

And tell me, did you feel it? (In case you were comatose or totally disconnected from the news, we had a little 5.9 earthquake here on the east coast of the US of A.) What was the first thing that went through your mind?

Driving to Philly, Adding a Soundtrack & Slaying Dragons

I'm a small town girl. The town I grew up in had 1 blinking light and a post office. I could walk up the street and buy fresh eggs from my neighbor. We didn't have cable because it wasn't available in our area. I went to sleep with the windows open and the doors unlocked, listening to the sounds of the not-so-distant train whistle and awoke to the crow of roosters. We didn't have a computer, or internet (but then who did in the early 80s?).

Fast forward 30 years to this morning. I live in a suburb not too far from Philly but I'm still that small town girl, so knowing that I had to battle rush hour to deliver Maddy and her friend to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia nearly gave me heart palpitations. I awoke at 6:00 and poured an uber large travel mug of my favorite coffe (8 O'clock Columbian :), toasted a bagel to go & smeared it with Philadelphia Cream Cheese in honor of the trek ahead of me, climbed into the cockpit of my sexy beige minivan & hit the road. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. I did it! No accidents. No profanity. No tense moments of confusion or massive traffic jams. I'm kind of proud of me.

I arrived home with every intention of heading out to the backyard for some much needed weeding and pruning. It's another gorgeous day here and I thought I'd seize the opportunity to make my house look inhabited again. But the computer beckoned to me...I've been admiring the blogs of others and longing to follow in their footsteps by adding a music player to mine (because what is life without good music? to truly get to know me you need to hear my soundtrack), but I'm technologically challenged and had no idea how make it happen. There was something about successfully executing that trip to Philly this morning though, that made me say "I can do this! I can figure this out!", so inside I went and down I sat. And again, success! So when you get chance (and your boss isn't around) check out my playlist. I'll be adding music often, so stop back and see if you share my taste in tunes.

What challenges will you accept today? What dragons will you slay?

Now, off to tackle those weeds...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Slowing Down While Life is Speeding Up

So here I am, back in South Jersey after 10 days in Colorado plus a few to recalibrate. This morning marked the beginning of the end of summer vacation as Maddy started volunteering at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and I had to get up at 6:15 (EGADS!) to drive her to her friend's house for a ride into the city. I thought it would be horrible and torturous, but it was actually quite lovely. It's a beautiful day here--one of those rare summer days in my town when you can turn off the a/c, open the windows and enjoy the sounds of the birds (and various lawn equipment). The boys are still deep in their summer sleeping habits (enhanced by the time difference between here and CO) and I had, for I believe the first time all summer, the opportunity to sit with my coffee and granola on the porch and enjoy reading a book uninterrupted. I was even able to get a shower, do a little laundry and whip the kitchen into shape with nothing but my own thoughts to attend to. What a gift!

By the end of the school year, I (like many parents) am longing for the lack of structure and schedules that summer break brings. I've been at this parenting thing long enough to know that by week 3 I'll be missing that big yellow bus that comes to whisk the kids away (after the bickering begins and they start chanting that summer mantra, "I'm bored...I'm bored...I'm bored..."), but I'm also acutely aware of the years flying by and the fact that 2 out of 3 of my babies are already in high school and will soon be leaving the nest. What better reminder of this than onset of that exciting yet sobering activity know as The College Search? My daughter Maddy is a highly motivated young woman determined to get the best education she possibly can, so at the advice of her guidance counselor we started working college visits into our travel plans this summer. So far we've visited Cornell (love at first sight) and CU Boulder, and are planning to see Williams and Dartmouth before the year is out. All I can say is, wow! How did we get here already?!

So, I'll take my peaceful morning--I really needed it to recharge--but I will also embrace all the craziness the day brings: the chauferring, phone calls, apointments, school forms...all while trying to give my shop the attention it needs. I will embrace it because the clock is ticking and soon these amazing young people that God has shared with me will move off into the world on their own, and this will all seem like a blink of the eye.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to Get an 11 Year Old Boy to Sit Still (without the aid of electronic games)

Yesterday we made our annual journey to one of the kids' favorite spots in CO: the little ghost town of St. Elmo. It was the smallest group to make the trip this year though as Kit (my 14 year old son) was golfing with Nonnie B (my mom), Maddy (my 16 yr old daughter) was feeling the need to get back to her AP Chem summer work, and Kyle (my dh) had already returned to NJ to earn the money to pay for all this fun. So it was just me, Grampy Earl and Brett (the 11 year old son referred to in the title of this post).

It's a little over an hour from the house, through the ranches, past abandoned mines and through the oh-so-Colorado town of Buena Vista before you hit the dirt road that takes you up through the chalk mountains and into the little town of St. Elmo. I must be getting used to the "roads" out here as I seem to remember being terrified of driving so close to the edge with no guard rail in sight in years past, yet today it seemed perfectly safe (must be that trip over Independence Pass shifted my perspective).

What's left in St. Elmo (a mining town in the 1800s) is old buildings that some stalwart souls are working to preserve, elevated wooden sidewalks, some cabins that people still live in (at least in the summer) and a general store that caters to the atv'ers, hikers and tourist that make the trek up.

 Downtown St. Elmo

Other than the history, one of the really special things about St. Elmo is the "wild"life, which isn't all that wild. A phenomenon that I've never experienced anywhere else is the boldness of hummingbirds. These minute little creatures seem to have little fear of humans up here in the Rockies and are not bothered a bit by those of us that which to capture them in pixels to share with friends and family...

Lunchtime at the general store.
It was quiet today...I've seen dozens of them
vying for position at the feeders.

As amazing and entertaining as the hummingbirds are though, they aren't what pull us back year after year, and they certainly aren't what keeps Brett motionless and spellbound. Imagine the fascination of a having a little wild animal crawl across your lap and eat right out of your hand! Chipmunks, picas and a few adventurous squirrels have learned that there's no need to scramble around tress for nuts. It seems they've unionized, moved to St. Elmo and entered into collective bargaining with the owner's of the General Store who sell little bags of sunflower seeds for 50 cents apiece. All that's left for visitors to do then is mosey across the street (you have to mosey in St. Elmo--it's the old west), sit down on the timbers and scatter some seeds across your lap or in the palm of your hand....

50 cents is a pretty minimal investment 
for this shot
Brett is a perpetual motion machine, constantly "battling" (he's a pokemon fan), actively imagining, and chatting away to himself in normal circumstances, but take him to St. Elmo and he is transformed. I could easily paint or sculpt him (if I had the ability) he's so still and quiet. I love to sit and feed the little critters myself, but even more I love to watch Brett experiencing it. Given that the teens have already moved on and were too busy to make the trip they wouldn't have missed for anything just a year or two ago, I cherish the opportunity I had with Brett today. If his big brother is any indication (and my Dad, whom he looks just like), before long it will be girls, not chipmunks eating out of his hand.

What a beautiful day....

Day Tripping...

Welcome to the 3rd (or is it 4th? I've lost track) installment of tales of my Colorado journey!

Yesterday we took a road trip to Aspen for the day. If you've never driven over Independence Pass, you really should. It is quite the scenic and challenging trip. This is where I would normally insert an impressive picture that I proudly snapped with my little point-and-shoot digital camera. Unfortunately, I was too chicken to get out of the car or even ask mom to pull over...The scenery is huge, dramatic and stunning, and the road clings to the side of the mountain traversing switchbacks and sometimes dropping down to a mere 1.5 lanes for the traffic traveling in both directions. At the top you reach the Continental Divide, and like the rivers you flow in a different direction on the way down than when you were headed up. Pretty cool.

We lunched at the famous Woody Creek Tavern, the decor of which was not to be missed...

The guacamole and margaritas weren't bad either ;). Part way through the meal, mom leaned over and said, "Charlie Sheen made his last stand just a little way down the road from here." That got me thinking about what we might do after lunch...we settled for wandering around town and visiting a few shops. At Brett's insistence  we made a few purchases at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (ok, he didn't have to work it too hard), after which we bounced through The North Face and Radio Boardshop where Kit settled for a cool new tee after I refused to lay down $550 on a new snowboard.

Then, the 5 of us climbed back into the Rav4 and prepared for the looooooooong journey home. I was fortunate enough to sit in back between the two brothers (Kit is 14 and Brett 11). It was the best way to prevent bloodshed. We had lots of laughs, especially after Kit really got rolling after downing a coke at a rest stop. I've never seen caffeine and sugar hit someone's blood stream so fast before! (One of these days I'll dedicate a post to Kit and his humor. He'll be knocking 'em dead at the Laugh Factory before he's 25.)

We were pretty beat after the approximately 2 hour trip home and everyone retreated to the their books and electronic pacifiers. There was talk of a 7:30 a.m. hike, but somehow that never happened. Ah well...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What the Heck's a Yurt?

So here I am, back in civilization after 3 days off the grid. My little family of 5, plus 1 grandmother and 1 grandfather, returned yesterday afternoon from our stay in the yurts in Colorado backcountry. What's a yurt?... you might ask...In case my last blog entry didn't compel you to immediately google that fun little word (say it out loud--it's rather catchy) let me tell you a bit about yurts.

 One of the two yurts at our little compound

Yurts are round structures made of canvas stretched over a wooden frame. Under the fabric shell that you see in the picture above are walls made of a heavy-duty wood lattice and wooden trusses that support the roof. Their shape and unique design makes them strong & aerodynamic (no, they can't fly, but they are great for windy spots because the wind flows right around them). That's the Cliff Notes version of Yurts 101. If you're interested in learning more, you can visit Pacific Yurts website.

If you're fortunate enough to have a mother who hikes all over and finds cool places like this to stay, you too might be able to visit a yurt. They have more amenities than you find on your average back country camping trip. For instance, there are bathroom facilities...
OK, so it's an outhouse. But I can tell you 
that the setting more than made up for the smell.

And you get to sleep in real beds...

They were pretty comfy, but my 11 year old son can tell you 
that it hurts when you fall out of the top bunk in the middle of the night. :(

And you can cook inside...
Our handy propane cook stove. 
I used it to make "yurtcakes" (you know them as pancakes) our last morning there.

And they even have a heat source (it did get down into the 30s at night, but we just snuggled in under the covers and left the woodstove unlit).

I'm sure this comes in handy for those adventurous souls who stay here in the winter.

But by far, my favorite part of the yurt was the view...

It was a great experience and I have lots more to share, but it's rapidly approaching midnight here in the Rockies (I've been here long enough to stop thinking about what time it is at home) and I need to go have a visit with the sandman.
I'd love to get some comments from others who've had unique or challenging vacation experiences!
Don't be a stranger!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So here I am, enjoying my vacation 10,500 feet above sea level. Yesterday was acclimation day. If you haven't been to high altitude you probably can't relate to the sensation of climbing a single flight of stairs and arriving at the top breathless, feeling like your heart is about to burst. And then there's that strange sensation in your legs when they get the message from your brain that there' a heck of a lot less oxygen to go around and they're just going to have to get in line...But I did start this post by saying I am enjoying my vacation, and despite the lack of oxygen I truly am.

Yesterday had a nice slow pace starting with Coffee over etsy...some reading...hanging with the family. In the afternoon, mom and I walked and took in the scenery and planned and dreamed together. It was so nice to reconnect in that spectacular setting. We talked of plans for the house back east, and the new phase we're heading into as we begin the colllege search for my daughter.

Today will be my last post for a few days as we are heading out into the wilderness until Friday. We are going to experience yurt living in Colorado back country. There will be no electricity and no running water. No wifi or HGTV. Just us, the montains and more sky than I've ever seen in my life.

So I'm off to get packed up and ready to unplug. I'm sure I'll have lots of thoughts, experiences and pictures to share when I return.

Don't be a stranger!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Philly airport, 6:15 A.M. & what happens to your blog when you have a new iPad...

It's only 6:15 in the morning and I already have a sense of accomplishment. Kids up (including teens), luggage loaded, car turned over to valet, luggage checked and we're through security and at our gate breakfasted and ready to board in plenty of time. Not bad for someone who only slept about three hours...

That's how my ambitious, if slightly deluded, day started about 18 hours ago. You see, I arrived at the airport thinking that the new iPad my sweet husband bought me last week would be my ticket to staying connected (and particularly jumping into blogging with both feet). I didn't factor into that vision the appeal of said iPad to my 14 year old son who HAD to play Fruit Ninja and rent and download a movie before our flight boarded. I decided that I would set a good example in sharing and indulge him, because I was certain that while we were waiting for our connection in Chicago I could hop online and get right down to business. Who knew Chicago wouldn't have free wifi?

Next stop, Denver...deplane, find badly needed iced soy latte, grab bags off carousel (ALL OF THEM! God is good :), meet up with my mom, picnic lunch at Red Rocks (and I have to say WOW! I need to go back there when my daughter is feeling better and I can roam around with my camera), and then an hour plus in the car before finally arriving at Mom's in Leadville. All-in-all a really good trip that went very smoothly, but here it is almost 11:30 here (1:30 am in my body) and I'm finally finishing this post.

So all of the deep and inspired things I hoped to share today have been lost in a haze of fatigue and oxygen deprivation (elevation here approximately 11,000 feet). But I have met my goal nonetheless and completed another post. I hope you've enjoyed your visit!


Don't be a stranger!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Preparing for Take Off

I'm not quite at the "tray tables locked and seat back in an upright position" yet, but tomorrow morning at this time I (and the 3 kiddoes) will be. It's off to the Rockies for us to meet God's creation in one of the most glorious places on earth and I can't wait!

I took this on one of our summer trips a couple of years ago
when we were doing some hiking and atv'ing. Glorious!

I'm anxiously anticipating time away with family and a chance to unplug (well...for part of the trip--more on that later). I can almost feel my blood pressure dropping already...

But not quite yet. Today is my last day to wrap up all the pre-10-day-trip projects and preparations and I'm feeling it...right in that spot where my head and neck become acquainted with eachother and I tend to carry stress. I have been deep in the throes of a highly productive creative time and have felt driven to constantly be in my studio indulging in the creative process. Add to that the desire to have items complete, photographed and ready to list in my etsy shop for at least a few of the 10 days I'll be away (in between chauferring the kiddoes and various other household duties) and you have a picture of what things are like here.

So I'm up, boarding passes printed, coffee poured, laundry sorted and iron heating...and it's off I go!

Don't be a stranger!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Collaborative Quilting With Women of the Past

As promised in my previous post Tying on the Feed Bag, this post is all about my latest quilting project. While poking around my favorite auction website recently I discovered dozens of handpieced quilt tops made with my favorite: feedsack! The prices and condition of these quilt tops vary widely and it took a bit of vision to see what some of them might become, but I decided to take the plunge and buy a couple to experiment with.

Here's my first purchase:

I was instantly drawn to the bold patterns and "wonky" piecing that reminded me of a crazy quilt. When it arrived and I layed it out I was mystified however, as to what to do with such a skinny quilt. The blocks were coming apart in places and clearly it needed some love. But like an old house it had good bones and I knew that if I stared at it long enough, and walked away and thought about it, and ate little chocolate, and had a glass or two of wine, and slept on it a few times (the concept, not the quilt ;) inspiration would strike. And it did.

First I decided that I would need to separate the blocks and rearrange them into a more practical configuration. I had a lot of time to ponder my next steps as I sat with my trusty seam ripper (I'm designing a holster for it) and carefully took the quilt apart. Once the blocks were liberated from eachother, it was off to the ironing board & then the cutting mat where I squared up the blocks in preparation for putting it all back together. I knew I wanted to wind up with a touchable, usable quilt as a final product and that would require adding fabric. I chose a cheerful cheddar yellow to accent and brighten the feedsack. Then, I was off to the sewing machine...

And eventually, hours, weeks, days, years, decades after the feedsack had first been cut and handpieced by a woman of the past....The quilt was complete!

If you are interested in purchasing this quilt or seeing other pieces I've completed, visit my etsy shop at

Thanks for visiting!
Don't be a stranger!

Tying on the Feed Bag

I have a confession to make. I have an obsession with feedsack.

That may sound a bit strange, but I can assure you that I am not talking about the stuff the local farm gets their chicken feed in--well, not anymore at least. In the late 1800s through the early to mid 1900s however, that's exactly what it was. Cotton became cheap and plentiful and feed companies, as well as those selling flour, sugar, beans, etc. realized that it was more economical for them to ship their products in cotton sacks than the barrels they had been using. Initially, plain white cotton was imprinted with logos and the resourceful women of America began using this cloth to make quilts and clothing (try doing that with a barrel!). When manufacturers eventually caught on to how popular this "free" fabric was they started dying and eventually putting prints on the sacks. Trips to the feed & general store became almost competitive as women vied for their favorite prints. Feedsack frenzy reached it's zenith in the 1930s-40s during the Great Depression and tapered off as synthetic fabrics became more popular.

Now that you know what feedsack is, let me tell you a little about why I love it so much. Have you ever looked at something and felt transported--not just in space, but in time as well? That's what these fun, happy prints do for me. It's as if I'm suddenly in my grandmother's kitchen (the one who always had a bag of tootsie roll pops in the bottom drawer and ginger ale in the fridge). I get that feeling of being loved, treasured and spoiled right down to my toes. I also am filled with a sense of the peace that came with a simpler time in my life, which is how childhood usually seems in retrospect. But the time travel goes beyond that to a sense that I've been jettisoned into a whole other era and am suddenly planted firmly in the pre-WWII US. I know I'm idealizing an era, but these are the feelings that this practical textile evoke for me.

A sampling of my collection of reproduction feedsack...

One of my favorite pieces: vintage feedsack that my
grandmother used to make the kitchen curtains for the farmhouse
my mom lived in as a child. It now lines one of my favorite tote bags :)

Much to my delight I recently discovered that there are bunches of handpieced feedsack quilt tops out there just waiting for me to complete. Stop by later and see my first collaboration with a quilter I've never met who lived before I was born! I will be listing a reworked feedsack quilt top in my etsy shop at and blogging about my hand in it's completion.

Don't be a stranger!