Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

My friend Jenn posted this quiz over at TSR and I thought it was beautiful:

One year from today, I hope to have:

Learned- To use Photo Shop. (I know, I should say something profound but I really want to learn PS)

Changed- my hair color at least three times.

Figured out- How to get Brayden to focus, Avery to read (for pleasure) and Trenton to slow down when he eats.

Completed- a 5K

Stopped- Taking pain meds

Started- Drawing and painting

Acquired-A little note from the bank saying our 2nd Mortgage is paid in full

Given up- Questioning my abilities as an artist, crafter and writer. Such a waste of time.

Visited- My friends in PDX and maybe my new friends in AZ.

Left behind- Concerns about my spine, for good.

Leave a comment filling in the list with your answers :-)

Come join me on a year-long adventure through the alphabet. For starters, CLICK HERE and visit the website I started to share ideas.

Don't know what I'm talking about? The posts are HERE and HERE.

It's going to be a blast!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bombshell Hippity-Hop

It's time for the Bombshell Stamps blog hop again. All I can say is WOO-HOO! These girls all have talent to spare and I consider myself ridiculously blessed to be be counted among their numbers and to have them in my life.

The December Bombshell sketch was made by the uber-talented Kathi:

Gorgeous, no? I can see using this again and again!

Here's my take:

How sweet is that Cosmo Cricket paper? It just said, " Bombshell Angel" to me so there we go. Just a mommy aside, Brayden (my youngest) bought me the pom-pom trim for christmas. Isn't it cute? I feel loved just looking at it.

Check out the other girl's blogs, they've been up to lots of great stuff too.

Mary G.

Ms. December - Erika




Miss Magoo


Leave a comment and you could win this:

In case you are on the fence about joining me on a year-long adventure through the alphabet, you should CLICK HERE and visit the website I started to share ideas.

Don't know what I'm talking about? The posts are HERE and HERE.

It's going to be a blast!


Wow. First off, thanks everyone for the overwhelming response to my little suggestion that we shake things up in 2010. Yay. Crazy ideas are always way more fun with friends. In the spirit of making new friends and sharing ideas with other A-Zers I created a Ning community. You can join us HERE

I started with about a dozen groups (hint, click "see all" or select "groups" from the top menu to access them) so people with specific interests (books, food, kids, art, photography etc) can inspire each other.

Several questions have popped up repeatedly so I thought I'd dedicate an entire post to them. Sorry to bore those who aren't intrigued.

Where did you come up with A-Z Year?
I was reading the paper in Portland, OR and there was a feature of a local restauranteur who felt her life needed a little more zest. She decided to plan her year around the alphabet and did everything from adding something appropriately alphabetical to the weekly specials at her cafe all the way to taking new routes home from work to go down "B" roads. She salsa danced, speed dated, tried Bikram Yoga, went on road trips... I was inspired! May I also point out that she was unmarried and didn't have any kids. Which brings me to question two~

Maybe if I had kids, but I don't think I'd do it for myself. This is a family thing, right?
Yes and No. It can be a family thing. Or a singles thing. Or a group thing. It's a PEOPLE thing; a fun idea for anyone who wants to break loose of the daily grind. Where families tend to organize their grocery shopping around a letter, singles can plan road trips, shots from A-Z, sky diving - you name it. If I didn't have kids, I'd probably be able to do more, not less.

Isn't it a lot of work and planning? I lack the bandwidth right now.
Last time we did it, I moved three times and we still had fun. For me, "B" is going to be for "Back Surgery" so I probably won't be playing billiards or bowling but I bet I'll be eating Braeburn Apples and reading Beowulf. To say it again, in the simplest terms, ask yourself, "In the next two weeks what can I eat, watch, read, listen, do?

Do I have to do every letter?
Life is hard and busy and often unexpected. Sometimes there isn't time or energy to think of one more thing. I suggest doing every letter you can but feeling free to skip if you need to. Whenever I feel too locked in, if I miss something it's like I broke it and then I'm free to quit altogether. I don't want you to quit - I want you to play along as much as you can.

Anything else?
I really recommend starting a journal, blog, scrapbook or plan to make daily/weekly updates to Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter - share what you are doing so you can inspire others to throw off the mantle of boredom as well. Also, tell your friends and family what you are up to. It's fun to have them join you on this year of adventure.

If you have any other questions please leave them in a comment so I can share them - of you're wondering, other people probably are too :-)

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Big Idea - You Must Play Too!

This is a reprint of an article I had published in a parenting magazine. It lays out the gist of my proposal. Hopefully reading this will inspire you to join us. It is the easiest way to build some memories, creativity and romance into 2010.

Our A-Z year

When you think of the alphabet, sweet-faced five year old’s singsong voices and Sesame Street come to mind. What we did was something else altogether.

In an attempt to sidestep the rut that inevitably comes from soccer practices and dinner at six, our family decided to devote two weeks of the year to each letter. This allows us to get through all twenty-six in one year and to have a broad range of new experiences.

We broke down our plan into categories: music, movies, food, fun and learning, chores/household/health.

At the start of each fortnight we brainstormed activities to fit into the two weeks ahead. We made play lists, sifted through our DVDs to find ones with titles or actors with the right initials and skulked through the grocery store aisles looking for the letter perfect ingredients.

Suddenly our life was full of possibilities.

This alphabetic emphasis led us down many unexplored paths. Instead of going to our usual pizza hangout, during B we went to Brick Oven and invited our friends the Bellows. M was a mish-mash of movies, mini-golf and visiting a nearby mine. S was a sweet surrender to Snickers, Skittles and Starburst. During D we baked donuts and tried duck and disco dancing. When planning our summer vacation, our boys suggested forgoing the usual theme parks and inquired if London was a possibility, being L fortnight, and if not, maybe Las Vegas.

We also read by letter. For years I have had a reading list and the accompanying guilt of never getting through it. H heralded my success - I managed to read Hemingway. My kids saw me struggle with not getting into a story but making the effort to read it anyway and learned a lot from my satisfaction, and I admit, enjoyment that came from entering into that particular “great conversation”.

We scheduled annual necessities on the calendar by letter as well: C was for check up, D for dentist and diet, G for garage, O for optometrist, S for stocking our emergency supplies - you get the picture. This spread the chores and maintenance over the year and freed up my mental space, as I no longer needed to worry about putting off activities that are vital to our health and welfare.

Another bonus of the A-Z year was connecting with long distance friends and relatives. I admit, we fell down a bit on this task but our intention was to contact the folks whose last name falls during the current fortnight. People loved getting letters and cards outside of the usual Christmas/birthday time frame and it felt wonderful to nurture those relationships.

I bet you’re thinking, “ That sounds like a lot of work and I’m already pretty busy.”
I can assure you that you can spice up your routine without making too big a dent in your mental bandwidth, honest!

During F week, ladle your famous tomato sauce over farfalle instead of the usual spaghetti. (Pasta is an A-Z Goldmine. You can get from ‘acomo pepe’ to ‘ziti’ without any trouble and it really helps to have Udon and Quadrefiore in the back of your mind when those tricky letters come along.)

During S rent Sleeping Beauty and Spy Kids, sing in the car, send email, smile at everyone, and spend time together.

It can be as simple as filling out this list every two weeks and trying to make it happen:


Here are some ideas to get you started:

A: Anne of Green Gables, Aladdin, Amazing Race, artichokes, astronomy, anagrams, acrostics, alfredo sauce on angel hair pasta.
B: Benji, bowling, billiards, beef and broccoli, the Beatles, baking, bananas, baba ganoush, baklava.
C: cinema, camping, cookies, Cranium, chess, checkers, clean closets, costume party, charades, calzone, coc au vin, corn dogs, crepes.
D: Dim sum, Dumbo, Dippin’ Dots, duck, deep dish pie, deep-fried ice cream.
E: Eggs, Ever After, Eragon, ecology, emergency phone list, edamame, elephant ears, eel.
F: Fishing, flossing, fair, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, fire drill, fossils, fondue, fudge.
G: Gardening, gallery, Geocaching, games, gingerbread (it is so fun to make a gingerbread house “off-season” you should try it.), graham crackers, german chocolate cake, goldfish.
H: Hockey, hiking, hair cuts, Harry Potter, home show, clean your house, hook-a-rug, hot dogs, honeydew, horse riding.
I: ice cream, Internet, insects, ice-skating, Italian food, icing.
J: Jam, jelly beans, Juggle, Jungle Book, jacks, johnny cake, jicama, jerky, jambalaya
K: Knot tying, kite flying, Kit-Kat, karaoke, karate, knock-knock jokes, Klutz books, knitting, knead bread, kegels, key lime pie.
L: Little House on the Prairie, linguine, lasagna, library, Lego, lemons, limes.
M: Museum, make a mobile, plan a menu, marshmallows, Malomars, mints, macaroons, magic, Monopoly, manicotti, marmalade, maple syrup.
N: Make a newspaper, New England Clam Chowder, nuts, noodles, newtons, nachos.
O: Octopus, observatory, origami, organize, Operation, orchestra, oranges, Oreos, orzo, oatmeal.
P: Pie, pizza, puppets, Pirates of the Caribbean, make paper, pap test, painting, picnic, polka, pumpkin, pork, penne.
Q: Queen Latifah, quiche, Quincy Jones, quesadillas, quilting, quick breads, quiz shows, quarters.
R: Risk, road Trip, recycle, redecorate a room, romance, Redwall, roller coasters, river rafting, read, red licorice, ravioli, rice pudding, risotto.
S: Scrabble, Solitaire, simplify, sushi, Star Wars, scavenger hunt, SuDoku, Sleep over, swimming, salsa dancing, scrapbooking, salmon, Saganaki.
T: Tango, table tennis, teepees, typing, tap dancing, tic tac toe, tie shoes, trampoline, trek a trail.
U: Ugli fruit, unpack, Uptown Girls, Untamed Heart, Uno
V: Vin diesel (The Pacifier), vineyard, vermicelli, vacuum.
W: Water park, wash windows and walls, write a letter, walk, wink, wrinkles.
X: (e)xercise. X-men, X games, (e)xtreme sports, roman numeral for ten.
Y: Yahtzee, yo-yos, yogurt, yakisoba.
Z: Zoo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, Zoom.

Don't forget about the adults in the house, this idea works equally well for mom and dad as it does for the kids. Watch the sunset for S, give each other a massage for M, have a candlelight dinner for C. Weave alphabetic romance into your life, your whole family will benefit.

Be sure to start a journal, blog or scrapbook recording your adventures, You'd be amazed at how many people will be interested in joining you as you celebrate the year from A-Z. Our online journal became another way for us to keep in touch with friends and family.

Try it; an alphabet of experiences is waiting for you.

This week I'll be posting updated suggestions - more adult pursuits like crafts, reading lists and even some sexy ideas to make this year great for your relationship too.

Please sign up in the comments section and let me know if you're interested in playing along with us. If enough people decide to join in the fun I'll start a little community for us with weekly email and ideas plus chatting and discussions. Don't stress, this is actually really easy. For example, the week I have surgery we'll probably set our iPods to the appropriate letter and call it done. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Keeping it Green

I got the coolest sewing calendar for Christmas:

and I couldn't wait to get making something from it. At lunch we made a big industrial sized can of tomato soup ( with lots of sickies in the house we'll go through it) and there was a project for covered cans (see it on the cover?). I bopped over to the Elsie Marley blog and got to work.

So imagine a tomato soup can and snip, sew, glue... I made this:

Here's the backside - my "obvious stitching" was a little rough:

I did make a few adjustments to the pattern, I'm one of those weirdos who paint the back of things so I covered the inside of the can with fabric as well as the outside. To do that, I used a longer piece for the top edge cover and glued it inside the can all the way to the bottom. I can see making a lot of these. Fun, not too tricky, great use of scraps.

The challenge over at Get Sketchy this week is to take something bound for the trash can and make it magnificent. I think this fits :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Benjamin is the sweetest baby I know. His smile and good nature cause people to flock to him - me included.

On a recent trip to New York, Benjamin was riding the subway on Halloween and an elderly lady pressed a dollar bill into his chubby little fist. Benjamin held on tight and his mom and dad asked me if I could find a nice way to preserve and display that dollar.

The last money project I did was the "In Case of Emergency Break Glass" frame and I wanted this project to be more charming and worthy of the adorable subject. I found an AOL box (love those, hope millions are still circulating and en route to my alter bag) and covered it with pics of the baby and made a rosette with the dollar.

Sorry the pics are sub-par. It was dark when I finished and I wanted to give it to our precious friends right away.

Merry Christmas, Everyone :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Diagnosis

I saw the super-duper fancy-pants neuro-surgeon today and he was awesome. He looked at all the evidence and said that I'm a "fringe case" meaning that all the facts don't add up very well. He said in these circumstances he looks for something more rare. He guessed I may have Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome. He then flipped through the layers of my MRI and low and behold - there it was. My spinal cord extends a good four inches beyond where normal cords stop. It's a deformity closely linked to Spina Bifida and nowadays it's the sort of thing an OB would look for in an ultrasound.

Since it wasn't treated at birth I have adult-onset symptoms. Typically a person rapidly goes from having some pain to completely debilitating pain. The next stage is even worse, you lose bowel and bladder control and then you have total loss of feeling and paralysis. Fortunately I'm not there yet. The other symptoms are things I've dealt with my whole life. It's funny to think back to health problems I had in third grade in light of this rare disorder. It's odd to have lived with poor health as long as I can remember and now see how TSCS was the cause of a lot of it.

On January 22, 2010 (Friday) I'll be admitted and the doctor will perform a laminotomy in my mid-back. Here's a picture of a vertebrae - he's cutting off the front triangle piece (the lamina). Then he'll dig a trench down along the spinal cord cover, cut through it at the appropriate part and insert a microscope in my spinal cord. At some point he'll inject a powerful coagulant hardening that spot on my spinal cord and then he'll sever it. That will "untether" my spinal cord and should resolve my issues.

I have to lie perfectly flat for 36-48 hours and then I'll have two more days in the hospital getting back on my feet. After that I can come home on Tuesday and I'll have to rest for two weeks. Then I'll have no doctor directed restrictions - basically I can do whatever I feel up to doing.

This is a wildly different recovery than the year of healing with the coccygectomy. It's also a much scarier "bigger" procedure. Dr. Awesome has done fifteen in the last three years and has been asked to write a paper on it. He's definitely the guy to go to. He's very comfortable with this surgery and was glad to find this rare disorder that puts all the puzzle pieces together.

As for my two broken bones - both are old breaks and they have healed reasonably well with no spurs or arthritis. He thinks removing the coccyx would be a poor choice and may have made things worse.

Thanks everyone for the prayers. I am excited and terrified about going forward with this. Severing my spinal cord sounds like something you avoid, not something you make an appointment for *grin*

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas :-)

Why I love Targeted Acts of Kindness

I love gifts. Big ones. Little ones. My husband knows that you can buy me a pencil and I'll love you forever. I personally believe in the Five Love languages concept. Basically, everyone receives love better some ways and worse others. The five types are (ordered in my hierarchy):

Physical Touch
Acts of Service
Words of Affirmation
Time Together

Everybody gets something from all of these but if you ordered the list according to preference, you would probably have a different list than I do.

Being a great lover of gifts, when people send me something it's like having a piece of them with me. I never go to a doctor's appointment without wearing the socks Elizabeth and Holly sent me or the bracelet from Amber. Doing that makes me feel like I'm bringing an army of friends, prayers and good wishes into "battle" with me.

Over the last ninety days I've been going through a really rough time and I've received some incredible gifts. I'd like to thank a few people specifically:

Amber: Thank you for the jewelry. I wear it to all my appointments and it helps me feel less alone. Having a reminder right there on my wrist of the incredible people in my life is a great blessing.

Elizabeth and Holly: My amazingly soft striped socks have gone with me into every procedure and test I've had. I wiggle my toes when I'm scared or in terrible pain. It's nice when I'm wiggling to feel your love.

Cathy: You are such a dear, attentive friend. You not only knit me beautiful socks (they are so soft and the perfect weight for everything) but you also asked my husband my favorite color and included my very favorite ribbon and a stamp I wanted badly. I know how much time goes into knit presents and how expensive they are. I wear my socks every single day when my feet get cold and offer a little prayer of thanks for you.

Karen: I can't believe the shawl you knit for me. When you needed comfort and your life was crashing down, you set time aside to write me a beautiful letter that is in my treasure box forever and you sent me soft, warm, handmade love. I don't know if I'll ever be able to explain how much that meant.

Kathi: You know I just adore you, right? I have a special spot in my craft space for your gift and I take out the slide holders, grunge board and stampboard and spend a few blissful minutes to imagine craft projects I want to dive in to once I'm on the mend. Your attention to my likes and dislikes, what I've tried and what I haven't made me feel really cared for and utterly spoiled.

Kat: Wow. Wow. Wow. You really made our Christmas with your incredible gifts for the whole family. I'll never watch the Sound of Music again without feeling your care and generosity. The kids haven't seen the gifts yet but I can assure you they are going to freak. There will be much joy and celebrating :-) One of my few budget regrets this year was that I wasn't able to get Avery Werther's candy. When I saw them in the gift I had this intense feeling that everything would always be okay. That God and friends always lighten the load.

I've been touched by dozens of people in dozens of ways. Marilyn sends me a card nearly every week reminding me she's praying for me and wishing me a speedy recovery. The TSR girls have been sending cards. Amy and Heather keep dropping Gauche Alchemy lovelies in the mail to me with heart-filled messages of "don't worry" and "we're here for you." My friend Jason listens, at length to my fears and boring doctor news. He makes me laugh and provides a needed break from mom-ing. He and Estela even offer to feed my husband and kids when they need it.

Each of these gifts and cards I draw around me like one of the beautiful quilts my Mom makes. Or even more specifically, I hoard them like a crow with shiny things. When I'm too scared and all of this feels too big and too much; I take out these treasures, look through them and remember I am not alone.

I'm sure some of you thought my last post was Grinchy. It wasn't meant that way. All I wanted to convey was that meeting a specific need when you see it can mean a lot to a person (like me) and that is why Targeted Acts of Kindness are my very favorite.

Today I am seeing the surgeon at 10:00 AM. If I can ask for even more, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers today.

With a heart full of gratitude for all of you and all you do,

Merry Christmas!

With Love,

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why I Don't Like Random Acts of Kindness

It all started with Avery's gauntlets. He's a skinny little chicken bone of a child and he gets cold easily. (He also packs away huge amounts of food so you needn't worry about him.) Avery is a big fan of blankets, wool socks, hand warmers etc. Last year I was trying to learn how to knit a gauntlet (arm warmer with a thumb hole) after a lot of frustration, I made one. Then I gave up. He wears that thing all the time and adores it. In an act of love, I tried to make the matching one. No luck. In fact, I've pulled it apart many times and have two neatly rewrapped balls of yarn to prove it. Knowing with all this back/meds business I'm not getting smarter or faster; I decided to meet his need for warmth another way. We watched a craft show where they made leg warmers from a thrifted sweater so I thought I'd try it - arm warmers and leg warmers are practically identical. We had a lot of donations packed and ready for Goodwill (Deseret Industries here in UT) so we hauled them over there and I went shopping for some sweaters to cut up.

I'm going to digress for a moment here... I know several people who think people with a nice income shouldn't buy second-hand as we should (and this is a direct quote) " Not steal affordable items from poor people who need it." I don't agree. First off, it's a store. I shop there. So what. Secondly as someone who cares for the earth, I'm not terribly enthusiastic about rushing off to buy brand new things when perfectly usable existing goods are available. And three, with our super-tight budget it is much friendlier to buy used as opposed to hauling our cookies to Buckle at the mall. Back to the story~

I found four sweaters that would make great hats, arm warmers and still have enough pieces left to sew plushie animals. As I was making my final selection two ladies came up to me and shoved a white paper in my hand and said Merry Christmas. I thought it was a coupon or a religious tract. I thanked them and watched them high-tail it out of the store - seriously, they sprinted.

When I looked at what they gave me, it was an envelope with a one hundred dollar bill in it. We looked for them to return the gift as they were obviously trying to lighten someone's burden during tough economic times and we certainly don't fit the criteria of needing help. Didn't find them. So we paid for our sweaters and left the store. Utterly unsure of what to do.

We considered giving it to someone else but didn't feel right about picking who looked like they were having the hardest time. We thought of friends we know who could really use the cash but didn't want to risk making them uncomfortable.

In the end. We donated it to to a local homeless shelter that we are involved with. One hundred dollars provides shelter for seventeen days. It's nice to know that with a big storm bearing down on Utah, we did a little to help make sure there is funding to keep people warm and safe.

The gift brought up our personal concerns and quirks. My husband immediately started berating himself for his outfit and decided he must not be dressing as nicely as he could be.

I blurted, " It's because the boys have duct tape on their jackets!" My issue. The boys have these wonderful, perfect-fit, expensive ski jackets that they are very attached to. The fronts split at the the outer layer, just a few inches but in an irreparable spot. We covered the rips with a strip of tape and they happily went back sledding. While the fix is frugal, environmentally friendly and it helps them keep jackets they (oddly) love, I feel weird about it. And I was positive it was why they thought we could use the money. Flaw to my theory was that the kids weren't nearby. Oops.

Here's a pic of the duct tape on Avery's jacket:

Fun Angle

My mom would say God was blessing us and rewarding our diligence.

I think it's less than that. I think some very sweet, generous people saw a nice young couple and wanted to make our Christmas special. Thank you anonymous ladies.

But, FWIW, this is why I prefer targeted acts of kindness. By using appearance as your criteria to determine need, they chose a family that was economically stable but was having a casual day (and let's face it, with my back how it is right now, everyday is casual day). That money could have made a real difference to a struggling family this Christmas.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you would have done in our place. Would you have been embarrassed? Humbled? Would you have kept it? Given it to another random shopper like you were playing Hot Potato? Donated it? Is it more honorable to give a random person $100 or pay down your debt by that amount? Would you be embarrassed if a friend gave you cash because they knew you could really use it? Should we have done something random ourselves - Bought 100 chocolate bars and handed them out all day? Do you think there was a moral dilemma at play here or were we over-thinking it?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vegan Sausages - You Bet!

Sometimes I think we're "bad" vegans. I mean really, aren't we supposed to barely survive on a diet of lettuce and raw almonds? But instead, in our house, we eat tiramisu, stroganoff and mocha muffins - yum.

The last thing I ever imagined making a vegan version of was sausage. I assumed meat was a critical ingredient in sausage but it turns out, as is often the case in vegan assumptions, I was very, very wrong. Lucky me.

This is what we had for dinner:

Vegan Sausage Pasta

The official recipe is in (the incredible) Isa Chander Moskowitz's new book Vegan Brunch, but you can find a similar recipe on Vegan Dad's Blog. I can't say how they stack up against the fake meat in the freezer aisle as we've never tried those (have you seen the list of ingredients? Ew!) but according to my very omnivorous teenager they are his favorite sausages ever.

I'm going to surprise him and make maple and sage breakfast sausages fried in margarine and maple syrup. I think his head might explode from joy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Money and Health

Thought on this glorious payday I would give you an update on the budget.

We are still dropping between 40% and 60% of our income on debt. We've also sold a lot of extraneous household goods and popped every blissful surprise windfall onto our bills. What have those rolls of dimes, seven dollar eBay sales and a diet of rice and beans, bean and rice, lentils and rice, lentils and potatoes... (you get the picture) accomplished?

We've reduced out debt by 25,000 dollars since July!

********************** SQUEAL!!!!!! ****************************

Our Credit card hasn't been used since July 27th and amazingly a person can live without one.

For Christmas we put our Christmas money in an envelope and stopped spending when the envelope was empty. Easy as 1,2,3. Or was it? To be honest, it wasn't. Chris doesn't like gifts under a hundred bucks (we'll, maybe a Mighty Mouse) and there wasn't room for such things. But I shopped creatively and I think everyone will be pleased.

We manage online shopping by keeping a deposit envelope in the car. Whenever we buy online we drop the cash in the envelope and deposit it in the bank when we're doing errands. So far it's been virtually fool-proof.

Change is another positive area. We throw it in my piggy bank calaca and roll it at the end of each month. That money further reduces our debt.

I can't fully articulate how excited we are to be making such a huge dent in our debt. To have gone from spending approximately 110% of each check to about 50% has been a big lifestyle change, but it's one we feel really good about.

Sorry for the internet silence this past week. Something went wrong in my tailbone. As far as I can tell, it may have crumbled or broken an additional time from the trauma of the injection. I'm receiving a lot of medical care but all they can do is make things bearable until surgery. I see my doc on Monday and the surgeon on Wednesday. Hopefully I'll be recovering early in the new year. Since life is rather bleak right now, I've decided to have less of an online presence until I can report happy things. Like say....

$25,000 DOLLARS!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gauche Alchemy

I blogged over at Gauche Alchemy today with a cute, some what versatile project. A lady on Flickr said it's:
"cool blue- an altar, a shrine, a sculpture? Anyhow i really like the blue house-y thingie...."

Here's a peek:

If you want to see the whole she-bang then CLICK HERE :-)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Daily December Pages

Just a quickie post of my Daily December pages as we all have fevers and flu. Yuck. Me I understand as the steroids lower my resistance to germs. The boys are just unlucky I guess. But, they are finally sitting up and have consumed a huge pot of soup and a pot of hot cocoa. That's a good sign, right?

Keeping the DD pages simple and not time consuming has been hard. I keep struggling with the concept and then I don't want to do them at all. Focusing on the memories is key.

Dec. 3rd and 4th:

December 5th and a card I got from my mom. I don't know about you but I never know what to do with holiday cards. This year I'm hole punching them and sticking them in the album. We'll see how it goes:

As you can see, I didn't take any pics. Oh, well. My twitter feed is a good glimpse into our lives too.

December 6th, the hats and scarves side of the page (left) is glued right onto the back of the card from my mom. Weird but makes me happy.

Also, a special thank you to Nina for the shout out. You are a sweetheart!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Warm, Soft and Handmade

As you've all heard, ad nauseam, we're on a fierce budget trying to take down our mountain of debt before we get clobbered by spinal surgery bills. It's going well, in fact this month we've budgeted 40.3 % of our income to debt reduction - which is major.

You can't throw that sort of money at a problem without squeezing other areas of your life pretty dry. I needed a scarf, but our clothing budget is routinely chewed and swallowed whole by boy shoes and boy jeans. Those children grow each and every month - it's nutty. At first I went to Micheal's and picked up some yarn on sale with plans to (knifty) knit it into a scarf. $7.48 isn't much of an expense, right. Good one. Well, no.

I looked through our scrap bag and saw a lot of wonderful, soft t shirts and promptly returned the wool. Instead I made a totally awesome, very "me" Pearl Jam themed scarf. Both sides are equally finished so it can be a gray and black striped scarf if Pearl Jam isn't appropriate for the setting. I even put a lot more stripes on the plain side for interest.

Pretty neat, huh? And Chris's holey Pearl Jam shirt and a Google swag give away have new life.

Tips from the project:

* I cut my pieces about 8 inches wide. It is a nice width but if you like your scarves skinnier or wider go for it.

* The length is roughly 68 inches.

* By mistake I cut a piece 7 inches wide - OOPS - and then didn't have enough material to finish the scarf. Since old t shirts are all faded differently I couldn't find a match. Instead I used the sleeves, cutting each into a ring that worked beautifully as stripes. I had no idea that sleeves don't have pesky seams to work around.

* Once I had sewed it all together and turned it right side out, I topstitched around it again about 5mm in from the edges. It gives the scarf a very finished look.

* I used white thread on top and black in the bobbin. The adds to the reversible feel as even the stitching is different on each side.

Hope you like my scarf and maybe you'll be inspired to make one of your own. It's a great use for classic but battered shirts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cute Stocking Stuffers

I love finding a cute project that meets a real need I have. Seriously, love it!

My boys are really into hand sewing right now. They keep making the cutest toys and having a blast doing it. I'd share pictures but they're never done, as an artsy person myself I know the feeling.

The down side of this creativity is keeping an eye on the needles and thread they have lying about. Right now they carry around a magnetic pin tray but there is only one tray and two boys. Plus it's unwieldily and huge.

In this weeks Cloth, Paper Scissors there was a tutorial for itty, bitty bottle cap pin cushions and I had to try one.

I made two in under fifteen minutes, on strong meds with shaking hands. These are SO easy. I could see making a dozen of these for gifts.

The basic instructions:

* Take a 2-2.5 inch circle of fabric and whip stitch around the edge. Pull closed (into a puff) and knot off leaving a little space to add stuffing.

* Stuff with fiber fill fluffy stuff (I know, I'm no expert at this). I used one of my BG mini files to pack it in tight. Don't worry if fluff is showing at the bottom. It'll be glued in to the bottlecap.

* Take 4 inches of elastic cord and tie the ends. Trim off excess. Put a lot of glue in a bottle cap, stick knotted end of cord in glue and then plop the cushion on top. Check to make sure no fabric edges are hanging out. Hold between thumb and finger for a couple of minutes.

* Let dry.

My boys haven't put their "rings" down all morning. They just love them.

In other news, I'm hatching a plan. A plan so user friendly I can do it while I heal. Hopefully it'll catch your fancy too.

Will post my Daily December and more later. Just had to show the cutie cushions.

Love to you all :-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Daily Album

Last night I spent some time consulting with my pain management coordinator. He's the guy who has me running off for surgery etc. It's his job to keep straight all the fun I'm having. The conversation was depressing to say the least. My medication was increased again as the coccygeal injection was a cataclysmic disaster. His words, "Occasionally a spinal injection completely ruins a person's life. You're that person." It did something nasty to the bone and now I can't sit for more than seven minutes or stand for more than ten. The pain is exponentially worse and my quality of life is really in the toilet. I'm supposed to keep in mind that this is short term. "Only about a month longer" But that's a lot of special days with my family I'll be missing out on. I have to get the nerve to walk across the room - decorating trees and making gingerbread is way outside my scope right now.

So, with all that on my mind I decided to jump on the Daily December bandwagon. I'm terrified that I'm going to miss this winter entirely. Or at least not lock in memories of the moments.

Ali Edwards popularized the concept. Basically you make an album or notebook and add a note and picture each day. People often include envelopes for receipts, cards etc. I didn't want to spend any money and I can't go shopping so I made the album in about an hour from the chipboard back of a used legal pad and scraps from my paper file (including some awesome ouchless cardboard from Gauche Alchemy). You'd be amazed at how many piece I've saved that meet the 5x7 requirement I set. The covers are 5.5 x 7.5 to make room for odd sized items (like scallops).

This is a great recycling project. I plan to make some more inner pages from discarded manilla folders, cereal boxes etc. And don't think you need to be crafty for this. If you can keep a journal, you can do Daily December.

What I'm not doing is stressing out, spending a lot of time or expecting much of myself. I am adding at least one picture and a short note about what we did. Sounds good to me.

Here's some pics:

And here's my page from yesterday. As you can see, I haven't done my inside covers yet and I'm keeping it very basic. Simple is good.

Monday, November 30, 2009

48 Hour Bombshell Stamps Sale

Wooooooooo-hoooooooo! Did you hear that happy, happy sound? Bombshell Stamps, my favoritest, the most awesomest, the one-thing-I-really-really-hope-Santa-puts-in-my-stocking stamp company, is having a big, big Cyber-Monday sale.


Read the NEWSLETTER. Even better, subscribe then you can get coupons and the inside info too. In case you aren't a big link clicker, the gist is that you can get 25% off for two days only:

25% off! Use coupon code “CYBR30” at check out.
Coupon expires Tuesday, 12/1/09

Does Shannon rock, or what? Now go shopping.


Still here? Want further motivation to get some Bombshell Stamps? How about this:

Bombshell Stampers Flickr Pool

My Bombshell Flickr Gallery


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gauche Alchemy Sale

There's a huge Cyber Monday sale at the Gauche Alchemy ArtFire shop!

Here's a coupon code good from now through Monday, and get 20% off your entire order: CYBERMONDAY
P.S. You just may find an extra little something packaged up with your order.
Did you know you can add Gauche Alchemy goodies to your AMAZON WISH LIST!

You know your friends and loved ones like to be pointed in the right direction – help them out.

This button is located in the price box on the upper right side of each listing page. Simple as that!

GA has a lot of great stuff coming in December ( without me *sob*) so subscribe to the newsletter, RSS feed the blog, get excited :-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to those who are celebrating. Hope you had a wonderful feast yesterday and are enjoying additional family time if your employer is generous enough to provide it.

Chris is working today. But we packed in a whole weekend's worth of family time yesterday so it's sort of like having two weekends this week - not bad at all.

We ate overly well. A hot, rich apple crisp for breakfast after a brisk walk in our mountainous neighborhood. Baked Potato and Greens (kale) soup with rolls for lunch.

After lunch we made acorns. We haven't done these since the boys were tiny but they were still a lot of fun. All you do is frost the top third of a donut hole with chocolate icing, peanut butter - anything sticky. Then you roll the tops in toffee bits (like Heath baking pieces or you can smash your own Heath or Skor bar). Next, break a piece off a pretzel and stick it in the top for a stem. The kids could make these when they were toddlers, in fact, Brayden was amazed at how small they are as he remembers them being fist sized. So cute!

After the acorns we goofed around. My back ended up being way, way too sore to make Thanksgiving dinner (which just killed me!) so we all made do with pie, punch, pomegranates and leftovers. The kids loved it and Chris had a mock salisbury steak on a roll with gravy and mashed potatoes so "leftovers" wasn't too large a hardship. Tonight *crosses fingers* we'll have the intended meal.

Brayden asked me to show him how to thread a needle on Wednesday. He took off with my scrap bag and returned with this:

In case you're wondering, it's a Hippocamp from Greek mythology. He is one cool kid. Since that picture he's redone a bunch of seams and added a bit more stuffing. Avery was so inspired by Brayden's creation he asked Brayden to show him how to sew and now he's up to something too. What was interesting is Brayden sewed and then turned the piece right side out and stuffed it.

I had no idea he remembered the little bit of sewing I've done in his presence. Proves children learn what they live. Scary :-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Meal Planning

I'm working on our menu for the next two weeks. Since the start of our budget, we buy groceries twice a month (plus little trips for produce and soy milk) and I have to plan a lot better. Right now I need to lean heavily on easy meals because of my back. Plus, I have to include a few things so simple the dog can cook them for when I'm completely laid up. While this isn't completely "normal" for us, it is a little glimpse into our life

Here's my list:

1. Tofu Cacciatore: browned seasoned tofu, lots of veggies, spaghetti sauce
2. Faux Riccotta and spinach stuffed shells topped with leftover cacciatore sauce.
3. Curried Lentils and Potatoes with fresh chapati bread served over rice
4. Tomato, spinach, lentil curry soup: made from leftover curried lentils, tomato paste, broth and an immersion blender
5. Corn Chowder: with rice, tortilla chips and salsa
6. Bagels and Ramen with carrots and apple slices (easy meal)
7. Vegan pizza: homemade crust, canned spaghetti sauce, topped with faux spinach ricotta, mushroom "meat" balls and vegan parmesan. YUMMY!
8. Thanksgiving: Chickpea cutlets with red wine and shallot gravy, roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, rolls and vegan lime cheesecake
9. Curried Tofu Sticks: They look like fish sticks and you dip them in peanut sauce.
10. Boca Burgers: with fries and gravy
11. Italian Style Homemade "Hamburger Helper": I love Hamburger Helper and didn't think being a vegan, whole food person should stand in my way; so I made a home version from scratch with tofu, tomato paste spices - it's amazing. Also made a vegan Hamburger Helper style stroganoff.
12. Baked Potato and Greens Soup: Tastes very sausage-y for a vegan soup. Delicious!
13. Thai Peanut Pasta:
14. Date Night eat out or sloppy Joes.

Here's the recipe for Thai Peanut Pasta. It's delicious and tastes great with chicken, shrimp, tofu or a combination of meats.

Thai Peanut Pasta

8 oz of udon noodles or linguine
2/3 C creamy peanut butter
2/3 C water (or more if you like it saucy)
4TBS soy sauce
3TBS rice vinegar (we use the one with garlic)
1 tsp chile paste with garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (divided)

cooking spray

1/2 pound peeled deveined shrimp (Frozen is fine. If used, place in a colander under hot tap water until thawed- about two minutes. Little ones love this job!))
1/2 pound cooked sliced chicken breast


1-2 packages of tofu marinated (we use soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic) and baked or fried

1 red bell pepper
3/4 C chopped seeded cucumber
1/4 sliced green onions (optional)
3TBS chopped roasted peanuts

Lime wedges (optional but delicious)

Cook noodles. Drain, saving a C of cooking water. Set water aside.

While noodles cook, combine peanut butter and next five ingredients in a large serving bowl. Add 1/2 tsp of the salt and stir well.

Heat skillet, spray with cooking spray, toss remaining salt with shrimp and then saute the shrimp and chicken until done (about 6 minutes)

Add shrimp, noodles, and veggies to sauce. Toss well. If it looks dry add some of the reserved cooking water.

Enjoy with a squeeze of lime

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Embellish Magazine

There is a challenge going on at Embellish Magazine:

To be perfectly honest, I really don't like primary colors. Brads are nice, primaries... not so much. So of course, this challenge was irresistible to me as I love doing things I find difficult.

The Best Fishes card is for my Step Dad. He has terrible S.A.D. and he loves fishing so I thought a bright cheerful fish card would be right up his alley.

For this card I pulled out my markers and free-handed the scallops. I love adding some doodled touches to projects. It makes them more personal. The yellow ribbon was repurposed from a present wrapped by Amazon. I wasn't excited about the pale yellow so topped it with some Sassafras Lass DP. And I finally used one of the cool loteria cards I bought. It's about time.

Good Things:

* I won a GC at Elle's Studio. Yippee. Sending cards to Operation Write Home was reward enough, being chosen as one of the prize winners was icing on the cake.

* Bubby's pathology came back clean on his tumor. He's cancer-free. We are so relieved.

* Brayden was diagnosed with asthma. While not a good thing, as an asthmatic myself I feel a lot better with him having an inhaler and being under a doctor's care.

When he was wheezing Wednesday morning I gave him my favorite cure, a cup of hot coffee. My allergist and ENT(s) have all recommended it for asthma. He is the most hyper kid I know and the coffee calmed him right down. Just like me. He focussed on his school work, had it done in record time, wasn't disruptive - we were all stunned. I checked with the NIH and they said coffee doesn't stunt kid's growth etc. The worst thing they said was it was empty calories and they should be drinking something nutritious. To be honest, I was expecting something a lot more scathing. I was thinking about it though; many parents allow their teens and tweens to drink cola, rootbeer, Mountain Dew etc. It's interesting that there isn't a stigma associated with sugar-filled soft drinks like their is with a small cup of coffee. Next time he's wheezing, if it's early in the day, I'll probably offer him a half cup of my coffee again.

EDIT: I mistakenly posted the card without a brad. Oops. Not so great for a brad challenge. Fixed now :-)