Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Texas Road Trip over Holiday

It was time to see family.  So by air and automobile, Texas was the destination.  From Colorado, where our temperatures were in the 40's (F) to Austin with high humidity in the 95+ (F) degree range, it was a definite change of scenery.
From Austin to College Station, from College Station to Waco, from Waco to Austin again: nothing but troubles driving.  I got lost more than a few times, but I surely went past many little cemeteries along the way.  And the scenic drive to College Station was lovely.  It is all in how you look at it. Listening to Mazie Dobbs and Pardonable Lies made the drive time shorter.

NEVER trust the Bing maps! The Bing map was ten exits off just in my first venture out from the airport to Round Rock, Texas to visit the parents at Parkview Meadows where they recently moved. An hour wasted on I 35 just trying to find the correct roads. Grrr.

I took lots of pictures.  Just a few here..
My brother Chuck and sweet SIL Karen McCarroll

Chuck has his own blog that you can reference at this link.  He calls it I'm Not Drinking O'bama's Koolaid, so if you are also in this mind frame, you might get a kick out of his editorial snippets and cartoons displayed.  He  is the brother with all that artistic talent that I previously referenced on this blog post
a picture of their east Texas evening skyline in College Station, TX
Aunt Mary Mays who lives in Waco, TX

Above is an oil painting of Texas bluebonnets that I remember from my earliest childhood that Aunt Mary has in her newly remodeled apartment where she now lives with her grandson and his family.

In all, I got to see both brothers and SIL, one nephew and his darling young family, my father and his wife, my sister, my aunt and various distant cousins, the youngest of whom was six months and an absolute doll.

Remember the blanket knit for him?  (Ravelry reference is on the bottom of the post)
It was good to visit and catch up on family issues.  It was even better getting home.  You know what I mean.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chemo Cap to Crochet

Ironically, sadly, three chemo hats are still in my cedar chest that my mother used during her cancer treatment in 1999, and that I saved because they reminded me of her.  She was not a complainer, and always grateful for whatever the day held.  I do try to emulate that quality, though sometimes it is a challenge.

This is my mom and me in 2000 just before she died, wearing one of her favorite hats covering her little bald head:

Then, lo and behold, wouldn't you know that I then had the "opportunity" to use those same hats, and especially the one shown above on Mom, when I went through chemo.  Yup, it is so.

And now my daughter will be the recipient of these useful little garments to keep her head warm after she loses her hair due to chemotherapy.  Three generations of women with cancer: bing, bing, bing.

Never fear, she won't have to just use those old hats (even thought they are quite attractive and still functional).  I am making her a couple more with crochet and knitting needles.

Here is a pattern I came across this morning: free, free, free and easy, Bernat offers this chemo hat as a download with a (also free) registration to their website:
As a quick update on Julie, she has been diagnosed with Stage III B breast cancer, and will have her chemo port placed on May 23.  They are trying to shrink her tumors prior to a mastectomy.

The chemo cotton hat will be started today as I listen to Frank Delaney's Ireland on audiobook.  If you are on Ravelry, there is an audiobook group and a podcast group that you might check out; this group has excellent suggestions on good listens.  I'm currently listening to several books on tape, depending on moods and inclinations.

Now I'm off to Michael's as soon as they open to buy three balls of cotton yarn so I can snuggle down for a good session with Ireland and my hooks and needles.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Crochet: Laptop Bag with Six Layer Padding

You know how Sandra Lee uses prepared foods and makes them look like a lot of prep time went into it, supposedly fooling her guests with a delicious end product?
This crochet project was done along the same lines, using a few things that were on hand in the craft closet and finishing it off with a handmade smaller project.  The end result looks like an expensive purchased laptop case,  IMHO.

Start with a $2 canvas tote from the craft store for the middle lining...sandwich that between the outer crocheted "public side" of the laptop bag and the fabric inner lining.  Then add in some pretty fabric for lining and attach a key ring for personalization.

The recylced canvas tote had sturdy handles, so they were disassembled and covered with matching fabric and zigzagged onto the bag (one is hidden and only attached to one side of the bag for ease ofloading the laptop into the jacket).
Directions for making this 9" x 12" cover:
  • chain 95 stitches of cotton yarn with Size E crochet hook
  • double crochet contrasting complemenery yarns in rows to your liking (I crocheted 4 rows, 3 rows, 4 rows, 3 rows to a length of about 23 inches, turning and changing colors at whim at the end of the rows).  Now you have a little piece of fabric that looks like a doll blanket.
  • fold over the finished crocheted piece of fabric to make a (roughly) 11.5"x 9" product; single crochet edges together
  • create lining using canvas and pretty fabric, right sides together, sewn together leaving the ends open, and pressed with a steam iron (only 1/3 yd. of fabric is required)
  • sandwich the canvas sturdy lining between with the pretty fabric lining cut to 23" x 9" to create a 6 layered, cushy pad for your laptop.   Add a finished fabric binding to the top of the tote to cover the raw edges.
  • create fabric covered straps from the canvas tote by sewing fabric atop the handles and turning the fabric over with 1/4 inch edges, tacking down with blind stitches
  • add a purchased key ring with charms to finish off the tote
Note: some assembly is required (grin)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Herbs of Provence

A friend sent my husband Herbs de Provence for Christmas.  It was a thoughtful gift that is a daily use as chicken dishes, eggs, and fish all benefit from a dash of this lovely mixture.  The crock contains finely ground thyme, rosemary, basil, savory and marjoram, and a small hit of lavender in the concoction. (Thank you, Dorothay!)
Coq au vin and this recipe with a whole chicken perched atop a beer can is one of the husband's specialties (he sometimes uses Herbs of Provence inside the chicken):

Currently in my little corner of the world we are growing:
  • mint (LOADS of it)
  • rosemary
  • chives
  • tarragon (the tag says "Texas Tarragon")
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • sage
  • cilantro
  • garlic
  • basil (hopefully the tiny seeds will provide the base for many containers of pesto)
Every time I try to grow thyme, it seems to fade in the heat.  Guess it needs a different spot.

Garden stakes with herb names imprinted on the front have faded over the years, so this is what I purchased from Amazon:
The ceramic labels have not yet arrived, so I went ahead over last weekend and planted some herbs with the old garden markers stuck in the soil.

Here are some recylcled window herb garden containers that perked up with Spray Paint refashioned by Centsational Girl:

Good idea, as I have several containers that could use a good slathering of paint to give them fresh faces.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Childhood Home in Watercolor

Just dusted off a watercolor I painted of my childhood home in Mereta, Texas.  We lived there during the drought in the mid 1950's.

Please visit my art blog that I updated with my better works (it's subjective, I know) on the sidebar.  HERE IS THE BLOGSITE.

And leave a comment if you are so inspired so that I know at least someone went to the Floral Art Blog.  Thanks!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Photography Tips for Crafters

This site gives seven excellent tips for taking photographs of projects.  These are two of most important techniques that I need to use:
Tip1 - Always, always, always use natural light. Unless you've got a tungsten balanced professional light kit or box, shoot your photos in natural light. It will keep your colors true, and add a certain warmth that you just can't get from an artificial light source. It is best if the light isn't too direct, as that can cause harsh funky shadows, and/or a washed out look. An overcast day is great, or late afternoon or early morning when the sun isn't directly over head. If you can't go outside, shoot your photos in a light filled room near a sunny window.
Tip2 - Never, never, never use your flash. It just looks bad. It changes the colors and causes weird glares, reflections, and hot spots. Do yourself a favor and turn the flash off.
This picture was taken inside, using a flash, (the project is the Drop Leaf Scarf, free download page here):

This picture was taken outside, without a flash, on an overcast day:

Can you tell the difference in the clarity of the picture using natural light?

Even after reading through the techniques suggested in the article, I'll likely just grab the camera, shoot a picture, and be thoroughly relieved that it downloaded to the computer.  No one is paying me for doing this, after all. :o)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Dogs never cease to fascinate.
Libby and Mercy, our current fur babies

"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog."
- Edward Hoagland

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cancer and My Daughter

Malignant, malevolent, invasive: cancer

It has happened again, and to my daughter.  And it is breast cancer.  And how will she choose to deal with it during the normal course of Stages of Grief ?
  • Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
  • Anger (why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
  • Depression (I don't care anymore)
  • Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

She could be stuck and stay angry and depressed.  But knowing her, she will not.

Allow me to give you a background for Julie.  This is a picture of my daughter and me in her first week of  life, along with a little social history:

(the rest of the story can be read at More Magazine by clicking on this link)

Daughter Julie has been dealing with this latest diagnosis of an advanced breast cancer for about a month.  She has a myriad of medical complications to go along with this recent diagnosis.  But she has taken on this current medical problem with her usual courage and a complete lack of self pity.

So when I dare to complain, I remind myself to look to my exceptional daughter and her life.  How can one not marvel at her successes and her positive outlook?  And how could I think of ranting my despair from petty disillusionments or physical pains? 

God unceasingly reminds me of Julie, my role model for serene acceptance of what life throws at her.  I am blessed because she blesses.

There are things that we don't
want to happen but have to accept,
things we don't want to know but have to learn,
and people we can't live without but have to let go.

~ Author Unknown

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

"Making a decision to have a child-it's momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around
outside your body."
~Elizabeth Stone

Elizabeth Stone's quote was found on Susan's blog this morning.

Today, I want to say an even bigger "thank you" to my own children, for they have made me grow, stretch, be aware of my glaring and not so evident faults, and have taught me gratitude and a modicum of forbearance.  Thank you for being my children, Julie and Heidy.

“It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”

 Erma Bombeck

Mother's Day is the Big Day to say "thank you" to the mothers of the world. But there are others who also lay blame when "things go wrong" with children...

Thoughts on Mother's Day from The Citizen:
While fathers, teachers, religious leaders, and numerous other elders in the society deserve acknowledgment for their roles in the nurturing of children, it is a mother’s role that is extraordinary. Mothers are naturally the primary caregivers for young children.

It is a mother who teaches how to nurture and how to love. It is through her guidance that we as individuals learn how to be empathetic and sympathetic to those around us.Today mothers have lots of routine work, and responsibilities. They are normally always busy fulfilling their children’s needs, in such a way that they forget to care for their own.

However, there is a tendency to put blame on mothers when things go wrong with children. This isn’t a new aspect. Everyday we hear how mothers are to blame when children fail to live up to our expectations.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Coffee: Flavored and Otherwise

When is the best time for a cup of coffee?  Your mood dictates the answer, but here is a thought from Bon Appetite Magazine:
The Daily Mail reports that Professor Spence and a team of experts nailed down a formula that combines great flavor (F), the perfect environment (E), the coffee container (P), the company you drink it with (C), and the time of day (T). These factors add up to the most enjoyable coffee moment (M). In other words:

M = 0.5 x F + (0.5 x E + 0.3 x P + 0.15 x C + 0.05 x T)

M = the perfect coffee moment

The study showed that the best time to have coffee is actually at 11am in a well-lighted room or outdoors in the sun with friends listening to Italian opera or any singer with a low raspy voice. (According to the research, a person's palate is most sensitive at 11am.)

11:00 AM you say?  How about the moment you awake? 

After debating for a week over the issue of whether or not to buy a one cup coffee maker, I took the plunge and ordered a Black and Decker beauty for $17 (no shipping 'cause we are Prime members) along with a bit of flavored coffee just for moi, as the husband wants no part of fu-fu java.

It should be at the doorstep Monday, along with some flavored coffees.

Carin, video podcaster at Round the Twist, is always talking about her San Marco coffee as she chats about her crafting projects, her pup, mentions her job as a night nurse, and just generally entertains with her dog begging for pats in the background.  She got me thinking that I really need my own coffee maker for just that one perfect cup of flavored coffee.  Whenever I want it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf

This Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf  by Karen Baumer (free download available here) will get lots of use because of the color combinations inherent in the superwash yarn.

The yarn is a wool superwash (machine washable) made especially for sock knitting.

Stripes evolved as knitting progressed.  Fringe was added.  Dimensions: 8" x 74".

These are a few other scarves made by other ravelers from the same pattern,  displayed on Flickr.

I'll definitely be knitting this pattern up again in a different self striping yarn, as it keeps you wondering how the next section will appear.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Twig Art and Lime Buttermilk Chess Pie

SIL Jack sent me a link to twig art by Patrick Dougherty from North Carolina.  Jack took this picture of Dougherty's work displayed in Rock Hill, SC.   Cool picture, eh?
More Dougherty artwork:

From a linked link on the Deep Fried Kudzu website (i.e, the sidebar had a link) the original recipe for Lime Buttermilk Chess Pie was given, and since I am a big fan of chess pie, I just had to make it.  But I digress.  Here is the recipe from Ginger:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
splash good vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp lime juice (I think I actually used a little more. Taste the mixture and add more if you think it needs it, but be careful.)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl, add vanilla and salt. Set aside.

In a Kitchenaid, mix buttermilk on low speed until frothy. Add eggs, butter, lime juice. Add dry ingredients. Don't mix for a long time - just incorporate. (my note: the idea is to keep all of this nice and cool. Frank says to cover and put the mixture in the refrigerator for two hours, but again, it was late in the evening.) Pour the mixture when it's nice and smooth into the pie crust. Bake at 300 degrees F.

The cookbook says that this needs to cook for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is just set but still jiggly in the center. At 25 minutes, this filling was only beginning to set at the very edges. It took about an hour for it to cook properly (and again, you don't want it to be completely set in the middle
Here is how it looked after an hour of cooking time:

but with three modifications: 1) added the zest of one lime; 2) covered the edges of the pie crust with foil; 3) cooked it for 60 minutes. Note: this pie was cooked at high altitude, so it took longer to bake.

Ginger at Deep Fried Kudzu says to let it set overnight and it will firm up.