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Friday, May 3, 2013

Taking time for creativity

How is it that part of my reason for becoming a teacher is because I like to be creative, yet much of the reason I am not taking time to be creative is because I am so worn out because I AM a teacher?

Needless to say, the past four days were a much needed break from the school schedule and allowed extra time at home. We had nothing beyond attending lots of church services and celebrating child #3's birthday on the agenda. I also knew I needed to slow down and rest. What I didn't realize was how much joy I would find in just taking time to create.

First on the creative list was New England Clam Chowder. The recipe is one my mother got from a friend of hers that grew up in New England. It is pretty basic - just onion, celery, carrots and potatoes cooked in clam juice, along with the canned clams then added to a roux made with half & half. It was the beginning of the week-end of comfort food.

Next on the creative list was coloring eggs for Easter. My daughter and her boyfriend were up to the task while hubby and child #3 were otherwise occupied. We started by finally making the
Martha Stewart Egg Drying Rack. Then it was on to coloring eggs.

We used McCormick food coloring in hot water with white vinegar as directed. We tried some with rubber bands tied around it. Some we used q-tips and painted and others we put stickers on before dying.

We had a few we tried coloring by putting a few eggs in a strainer, splashed them with vinegar and then drops of food coloring. What fun! These were the fastest and easiest.

These two were my favorite. I used some tiny adhesive letters from my paper crafts collection and then just let my egg rest in a cup of egg dye for a long time. I waited until the eggs were quite dry before peeling the letters off. I used it as my Facebook greeting for Easter Sunday.

Now to finally post this after having it in my draft box far too long!

Creativity, a book and a wreath

Taking time to be creative has been my downfall for the past several years. I get a lot of great ideas, sometimes even buy or collect the materials, but less and less often were those projects becoming a reality. Guess what? That, my friends, is a recipe for sadness and a blah, rather ho-hum attitude about life. In the past few months I have found inspiration by attending the Unglued Craft Fest and attending a Women Inspiring Women afternoon. I am renewed and determined to both FIND time and MAKE time to be creative!

Since last November when I hosted Book Group, I have thought I should make a wreath with book pages. I had a styrofoam form and, well, I have a surplus of old books I have collected. As I was finally putting away Valentine's decor last week-end, I realized i didn't have any type of spring wreath for the front door. I remembered my earlier idea and decided, then and there, to stop and make that book wreath.

Here is what I used:

Styrofoam wreath form - 16" size
Here's a link to JoAnn's where I bought my form.

An old book. I liked the size of the pages. I tried a few of my old books by tearing out a page and folding it into a cone. This one is 5 3/4" wide by 8 1/2" long. Isn't the book jacket cute? I found myself wanting to stop and read the story as I was tearing it out. I refrained and focused on my project. :)

My trusty hot glue gun with it's thrift store plate to rest on. (Yes, that is years worth of hot glue remnants on the plate. I think it helps people know I really do use it!)

 And a roll of 5 1/2" wide burlap

The first task, after tearing out book pages, was to roll the paper into cones and staple the ends. I ended up using about 60 pages. I experimented to see how I liked the roll - tight and skinny, print which direction, torn edge out or in, and then proceeded to make lots of paper cones.

 Realizing that the green foam would show under the cones inspired me to simply wrap the foam frame with the burlap and attach with straight pins. Easy! I also tied a strip of burlap to the form to use as a hanger for the wreath BEFORE I glued on the cones.
Then came the fun of hot glueing all the cones in place. I found it worked well to have the pointy end into the center just to where I stapled and then I folded it and glued it down in the middle and on the main form. I glued one row in place and then another layer on top of those on the seam formed by every two cones together. After glueing all the cones in place, I took another strip of burlap and covered those pointed ends of the cone in the center of the wreath.
You can see that I had to cut slits in the burlap to ease it around the inner circle. I thought about cutting the width of the burlap down, but worry about majoring fraying and excess strings stopped me. Plus, it would have taken longer. I was ready for simple and quick.

I made three paper flowers I had planned to attach to the lower right inside edge of the wreath.
However, when the wreath was finished, it looked a lot like a sunflower and I decided (with advice from my dear sister-in-law) to try it without first. The family and I love it as is, so these pretty little flowers are ready for the next project.

Here is the finished wreath on my red front door.
What do you think? I think it looks fresh and welcoming. Perhaps a bit more fall, than spring, but it is better than the heart wreath left from Valentine's Day!

Here's to completing ideas and re-using books.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mr. McGregor's Garden Tablescape

Our church preschool has a tablesetting fair as a fundraiser each year. This year I was inspired by a friends' collection of green thumbprint depression glass dishes to choose the bunnies of spring as a theme for my table. Donna also collects bunnies, so I was well on my way to creating a lovely table. I snapped a picture of Donna (with a church friend in the background) because her collections allowed this table to develop.
 The green depression glass pieces are just beautiful, aren't they? I used every piece I possibly could. Including the creamer, sugar bowl, glasses, cups, saucers and plates. We had to improvise a bit because there were not eight plates just the same size. To remedy that, we used different sized milk glass plates underneath each green plate, followed by a yellow charger and a round green place mat.
 The silverware was wrapped in a paper doily and tied with twine to add to the garden feel. Each chair had a bunny on it.
 Note the small cake server that the gentleman rabbit is standing on. I liked how it allowed me to have varying heights on the table. A yellow water pitcher is hiding in the background. The napkin holders were floral watering cans Donna had picked up. I wish I had a better close up of those!
 The next two photos just show that simple chair covers can be made by draping a flour sack dish towel at an angle over the back and tying with with ribbon. I attached spring ornaments to each bow. The guests got to take the ornament and dish towel home with them, but not the bunny from their chair.

 Our friend Ruth had these two large standing bunnies. We had them near the table to regally greet the guests. In the far back is the extra table where guests could rest the bunny from their chair when they were seated.
 The pussy willows are actually artificial. They were bound together with rubber bands and then held in place with decorative stones. We needed a lot of weight to keep the tall tin vase from tipping over.
 The cabbage bowl filled with mints was one of my favorite touches. Being a teacher, I also loved including these favorite little Beatrix Potter books to remind people of where the theme, Mr. McGregor's Garden, had come from.
 This view shows the little watering can napkin holders a bit better. It also shows the square napkins that we used as placemats under the round placemats and chargers.
 Each table setting had one of Donna's glass bunnies and a tiny glass dish of candied peas and carrots. I used a non-traditional votive cup to hold the JellyBelly candied peas and carrots.

I got the packages for $1 each at our local Dollar Tree. Interestingly, those little candies generated more questions and comments than anything else on the table!
Gifts for each guest were presented in clear lunch bags. The bags included bright green moisturizing gloves, a packet of lettuce seeds, a Ghirardelli mint, a floral scented drawer sachet and the empty packaging for the JellyBelly peas and carrots to give nutrition information and make taking home the treats easier.
Putting this table together was particularly fun because I got to use so many pretty things that belonged to Donna and Ruth. At one point I was on the other side of the table, on my knees, tying a chair bow, when Donna approached and all she could see was my head peering over the table. She said I looked like a little girl playing house. I replied with glee, "But I am!"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 3 of 50 Days

Party Day!
Today was the official Birthday Party Day. My parents arrived yesterday, E & M and children arrived and Lolo and D were still here before heading to Arizona. It was a full day of fun!
*Mom and I dashing to West Fargo to pick up the handmade necklaces at Bead Boutique.
*Attending the parent preview of "Beauty and the Beast" put on through Moorhead Community Education and directed by Kelly Gerchak.
*Birthday Party with Everyone! Thai Orchid take-out food is a favorite and again was well received.
*Traditional Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting, the same cake and frosting I've had since I was 6, was made and served by my mom. The surprise was that mom had printed lots of pictures of me with my birthday cakes over the years, mounted them on skewers and then put them on the cake. It was so meaningful and sweet!
Lots of pictures of the birthday girl with past birthday cakes mounted on skewers!

*Cards:  A memorable card, the first that I opened, I read aloud.
"You're not old. In fact, let's check with a show of hands. Everyone who thinks the person holding this card is old, raise your hand." All the people around the table quickly raised their hands. It was like they'd planned it! After getting over that surprise, I opened the card. Inside the card was a classroom of students, probably from the 1970's, all raising their hands! Here is the conclusion, "Oh what do they know. They eat paste for God's sake!" It was just too perfect for me, as a kindergarten teacher! 
*Presents:  Of course, the big one arrived last August, my long-awaited Yamaha C-3 Grand Piano! An upcoming trip to NYC with mom is highly anticipated. The tear-jerker prize goes to the present created by the three most important woman in my life - my mama, my sister and my daughter. They created a photo book all about me. It started with baby pictures and ended with a picture of me standing on the shore of the ocean, looking off into the future. Sister said she knew it would be a success if I cried. Well, let's say it was really a success!

*Some dashed to the Swim Meet to watch A in action.
*Some dashed to deliver Lolo and D to the airport.
It was a very full day of love and cheer. There was time to recall past birthdays and time to create memories for remembering in years to come!
Birthdays are good!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 2 of Turning 50

Day number two of this 50th birthday celebration held nothing special on the calendar. What I've learned, however, is that just because there is nothing special on the calendar, it doesn't mean the day won't turn out to be special.
Today's celebratory moment was the act of creating two necklaces at the Bead Boutique. This is their website:
Beads on Broadway
My dear mother saw my necklace, created last summer by the same company at the street fair, and said "I want one of those." Considering that moms in their 70's usually have everything they want, I jumped at the chance to create something mama wanted. I had a delightful time perusing all the metal pieces and necklace designs in the shop. I came up with a design for mom with her kids' names and her grandkids. I also created a piece for my mother-in-law with her 9 grandchildren. While I was there, I had fun visiting with the two women in the store. The three of us visited and shared ideas. Creativity is so enhanced when we put our heads together! I did find it funny that one woman said, "Sorry to tell you this, but the grandkids' names are more important than the kids. So if you have to choose when making a necklace, you better do the grandchildren!"

This is my necklace, the inspiration for the necklaces for mom and mom-in-law.
I am happy to say that both mothers were very happy with their gifts. I learned that it truly is better to give than to receive. (Well, almost!)
Happy giving!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 1 of 50 Days of Celebrating 50 Years

The BIG CELEBRATION started with a dinner for my book group based on our latest read, "Babette's Feast," by Izak Dinesen. (This is actually a short story from the book Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard  by Dinesen.) My son is a chef and created a menu based on the Feast prepared by Babette. Babette had 12 at her table, I had 10. I did line up candles down the center just like Babette.

This is Al's version of "Blinis Demidoff".  It is made with  Salmon roe, dill sour cream,and a blini. A blini is a little buckwheat pancake. This was served as an hors d'oeuvres with champagne as my friends arrived.

Chef Al is showing the Salmon Caviar.

Lolo decides to try this delicacy!
The most unique ingredient in the meal was turtle. This is a BEFORE picture of $50 worth of turtle meat.  Our chef removed all the meat from the bones and then cooked it and diced into teeny tiny pieces before making it into "Potage a la Tortue et girolles" (Turtle Soup with Chanterelles.)  Chef had been watching the chanterelles in a secret growing spot and we were lucky enough to have them grow to the perfect size just before the feast! The soup was served, just as Babette did, with "Amontillado Sherry." (I did have to go to several liquor stores before finding this exact sherry.) Chef told us that the perfect finish to the soup was pouring the remaining sherry from our glass into our soup bowl when we were just about finished. It was delicious, of course!
Sorry I somehow have no pictures of the soup.

The third course was "Salade de epinard avec gateau au fromage de chevron." (Spinach salad with a small cake of goat cheese.)

Course number four was "Paté de Canard e Faisan fumé en croute et Morilles a la creme." This is an incredibly rich puff pastry filled with a duck/pheasant mixture, complimented with a morel cream sauce and a side of sour carrots and accompanied by the red wine, "Ménage a Trois Red."

Finally, the dessert course arrived with either a glass of a sweet white wine, "Funf Moscato", or a hot cup of decaffeinated coffee.
Bhabas al rhum aux corinthe
Creme de epice et framboise

This is Rum-currant savarin with whipped cream and macerated strawberries. What you can't see is the savarin (it is the little cake) is filled with a cardamom custard. It was the perfect finish to the evening. We were blissfully satisfied but not stuffed. It helps when it takes nearly 3 hours to eat the meal!

We were served by these two delightful young people. They were dressed up in black and white. This is after they were paid in their other black and white!
Thank you to Lolo and D!

"May my food my body maintain,
May my body my soul sustain,
May my soul in deed and word
Give thanks for all things to the Lord."

We began our meal with this prayer, taken from the story, "Babette's Feast." I close this blog with the prayer wishing all of you well-fed bodies and souls.

50 Days of Celebrating 50 Years!

I have decided that a 50th birthday is important enough that one should celebrate it for 50 days. It is an experiment to see what life is like when we look for a celebratory moment every day. Today is officially Day 19 of the 50 days. Let me share with you what fun has been had in big and small ways!