Friday, August 31, 2012

Blog Angel reveal

I can't believe August is already over and it's time to reveal who I've been helping as a Blog Angel this month.

I have been helping the lovely Celeste from Crazy Beautiful Unique.  She is also the creative mind behind A Girl and Her Clay.  I'm sure this comes as no surprise to her since my efforts during the second half of the month have been less than stealthy. 

As far as what I did over the course of the month, I started by following her blog, Facebook, and liking her Etsy shop.  I did all these a few days before the beginning of the month, hoping that my cover wouldn't be blown by just showing up on August first.  I tried to comment on most of her posts and just be supportive.  Her shop was on vacation when I first discovered it, but by looking through past sales I was able to get an idea of what she offered.  I decided I could kill two birds with one stone once the shop opened and support her financially as well as getting some Christmas gifts for my girls.  I then had the brainstorm to request a custom chibi-style Lil Red charm for Little Miss Sunshine. (See this post)
The other big thing that I managed to pull off was getting her free ad space on one of my favorite blogs.  That was a frantic day on my end since the free code was only applicable to the first person to claim it.  I didn't have the time to be super secretive, so I just fired off a message to let her know her blog angel wanted to give her this opportunity.  I tried to make it sound like I was sending the message for someone else, but I'm almost positive I didn't pull it off.  But, Celeste ended up with the ad and I'm thrilled for her!

So, with all that said, would I participate in the Blog Angel program again?  Definitely!  I'll be planning on round 2 in October.  (Sign-ups will begin September 15, if you're interested in making a difference to another blogger.)


Monday, August 27, 2012

Am I making a difference?

I've always thrived on the approval of others.  Getting a simple "Congratulations" or a "Job well done" made me try harder and put forth more effort. It's not in an attempt to be showy and make sure everyone knows what I've done, I just get motivated when my efforts are noticed.
Several months ago I read a message to the ladies in my church encouraging them to be aware of the influence they have to bring about good and encourage and support others.  This got me thinking about the various groups and organizations that I associate with and my role within those groups.
 I'm a member of our elementary school PTA.  I have been for as long as I've had children in the school.  By now, I know most of the teachers and staff by sight and vice versa.  It's easy to feel appreciated when the staff is vocal in their appreciation and the students enjoy the planned activities.  The same idea goes for Cub Scout leadership.  I can see that I'm making a difference.
I was recently asked to serve on a parent advisory committee for our school district.  A few days later when I was at the middle school, I was approached by the principal and thanked for accepting this position.  Until that moment, I wouldn't have even thought that the principal knew who I was, let alone recognized me.  Obviously something I've done has been noticed and appreciated.

Outside of my family, the area where most people would probably say I have the most influence is as the leader of the children's organization within my church.  This is also where I felt the least appreciated and felt like my efforts were going unnoticed. I was ready to give up since my efforts didn't matter anyway.  Then, it happened:  one of the mothers saw me in the hall and expressed her appreciation for all that I did.  The next week another mother did the same, then I got a thank you email from a different mother.  These ladies probably never realized what a difference their words made to me.  It was just a simple thing, but it changed my perspective.
As I've reflected on blogging, I've wondered if I'm making a difference.  Life has taught me that my efforts do have an influence, even though I may not realize it.
What can you do to make a difference today?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bucket list


I've seen a lot of 30 by 30 posts floating around blog-land.  Honestly, these make me feel old.  I've decided that I must be an old blogger since my 30th birthday is long behind me.  I recently saw a 35 by 35 post.  Yep, past that one, too.  Still, the concept is a great idea to get those goals written down and make them concrete. (I remember reading one time that a goal left unwritten is just a wish.)  So, I'm making 40 goals to complete by the time I'm 40 bucket list goals since I'm realizing that not all of these can be accomplished in the next 2 1/2 years.

Travel goals
* Get a passport
* Visit Hawaii
* Travel outside the U.S.  (needing the passport)
* Take my family to Yellowstone National Park
* Mine diamonds (in Arkansas) with my hubby
* Take my family to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah
* Visit Washington D.C.
* Visit Laura Ingalls Wilder sites
* Visit Philmont Scout Ranch with my family
* Visit Alaska
* Visit Mt. Rushmore
* See the Statue of Liberty
* Ride on a train
* Take a cruise
* Ride a subway
* Take my family to Disneyland or Disneyworld
* Visit a tropical island

Health & Fitness goals
* Achieve my goal weight (lose 10-15 pounds)
* Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day
* Improve my fruit and vegetable consumption
* Experiment with adding seeds and proteins to recipes
* Make more whole grain foods

Personal goals

* Learn to knit
* Finally read all of the Old Testament (I get as far as Psalms and give up)
* Learn to swim
* Go "Over the Edge" (local scouting fundraiser/rappelling experience)
* Perform "The Spirit of God" piano duet with my daughter
* Apply for grad school
* Earn a Master's degree
* Surpass 100 followers on my blog
* Finish personalized Christmas stockings for all the kids
* Crochet afghans for Princess and Bugaboo

Household goals
* Declutter my house
* Host a Christmas sing-along party
* Landscape back yard to incorporate a garden space
* Make a farmhouse table
* Remodel entry with a nook instead of the closet
* Finish the basement
* Add shelving to laundry room
* Add shelving to garage

Do you have a bucket list?  Share it with these wonderful ladies, or just look for ideas:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sewing lesson: Drawstring gift bag tutorial

For today's lesson, I thought I'd share one of our latest sewing projects.  The Artist has been trying to earn money to finance her big school trip to France next summer.  She was hired to do some custom sewing for a local shop.  We made drawstring bags to be used as take-home bags for some beautiful beaded purses.  Making the bag part was pretty easy.  But, in my prototype, we hit a brick wall when it came to making the casing for the drawstring.  How to get the cording in and out of the casing?  The solution (I thought) was to leave an opening at the bottom edge of the casing, but this turned the top of the bag inside out to get to the drawstring.
My prototype also utilized French seams to encase all the raw edges since the fabric the shop owner chose frayed very easily.  Yeah, that worked, but was pretty time consuming and made the bag a little too narrow.  So, we settled for simply overlocking the seam and went from there.  That made the casing issue an easy fix by just leaving an opening at the seam to thread the cording through.  But, that left a nice frayed out hole.  I finally came up with a workable solution.  Hopefully I'm not the only dunce out there that couldn't make a simple drawstring bag, so I've created a tutorial.  Hope it helps someone.

Supplies needed:
Desired fabric
Thread to match
Cording to use for drawstring

I started by cutting my fabric.  For these particular bags, I wanted the finished product to be 12" x 12", so I cut with one edge on the fold and cut a 12.5" by 13" piece on my high-tech self-healing mat with my low-tech shears.  (A rotary cutter is next on my sewing wishlist.)  Cut with right sides together.
That fabric looks way wrinkly in the photo.
 The trusty overlock setting on my machine.  (Use a serger if you're lucky enough to own one.)
 I left a 1/2" side seam allowance, so I stitched . . .
. . . then trimmed the seam for a nice clean look.
Overlock the bottom seam with a narrow (1/4") seam.
Finish top edge  by overlocking (ends up about 1/8" wide.
I love the rich fabric choice!
At this point you should probably press all your seams to one side.  Since I skipped this, pretend the seam pictured below lays nice and flat.
Now, to solve the problem of how to get the drawstring in the casing, I basically made a buttonhole about 5/8" from the edge as close to the seam as I could.  I tried the buttonhole foot, but got better results with a freehand straight stitch.  This is about 1/2"-5/8" long.  Use a seam ripper to carefully slit the buttonhole, trimming away any loose threads.
Here you can turn the bag right-side out, making sure to get the corners squared out.  Or, you can wait until after you stitch the casing down.  It would depend on whether you prefer to work from the outer layer or inside layer as you stitch.
Turn about 5/8" to the inside of the bag and stitch following your overlocked stitch line.
Cut cording to desired length.   Push one end through buttonhole opening and thread through casing around to buttonhole opening again.  Tie ends in an overhand knot to secure.  Turn right-side out if you haven't already done so.

And there is your beautiful bag, all ready for packing cute shop goodies for customers or for gift giving or whatever.
We're now pros at making drawstring bags.  Let me know if this tutorial helps you. :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sewing lesson: Kindergarten rest-time mat

Princess is starting kindergarten.  They are supposed to bring a beach towel to lay on for rest time.  I don't know about you, but I wouldn't think just a towel on the hard floor would be all that comfy.  But, the commercially available mats are too big to fit in their cubbies.  So, I decided to make her a padded rest-time mat.  My first idea was to get two beach towels and sandwich a thin batting between them before sewing the edges.  Great idea, but she didn't want a beach towel.  She fell in love with a princess fleece because it had "Tangled" on it.  I figured fleece would stay nice and soft and could be padded just as easily.  This is really my first attempt at machine quilting, but I don't think it turned out too badly.

Here's what I did:
You will need 1 to 1 1/2 yards of 60" wide fleece and a crib-size package of low-loft batting. (Also, matching thread.)
(Note:  You may or may not need to include all steps, especially if you are more organized that I seem to be.)
* Pre-shrink fleece.
* Trim the edges of the fleece to remove any printing or funky edging.
* Fold the fleece in half, matching selvage edges.
* Cut a piece of batting to the same size as the fleece.
* Sandwich batting between fleece layers.
* Pin in place, taking care to match edges.
* Search for the bag containing matching thread that you know was right there yesterday.
* Look again since the thread must be hiding.  It was right there yesterday, you KNOW it was.
* Give up searching for the elusive thread and check thread stash for a close color.
* Find old spool of thread that will work.
* Wind new bobbin, stopping when bobbin is half-way full because you can start to see the spool beneath the layer of thread.
* Sew around, stitching one inch from all edges.
* Check amount of thread and mentally calculate how far it will last. (Wonder if you should have put less on the bobbin.)
* Decide three quilting lines across should probably work.
* Eyeball 1/4 of way down length and position for first quilting line.
* Sew all the way across the width.
* Repeat quilting at midpoint and other 1/4 point.
* Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for finishing before you run out of thread (barely).

Voila, here is the finished product.
How does it work, you ask?  Princess gave her approval, although it took some convincing that her semi-wet hair wouldn't ruin anything. (Maybe I really didn't need that extra 1/2 yard.  One yard probably would have done it.)
So, there you go, if you ever need to make a rest-time mat, you have an idea to start with.  The nice part was that this was a quick project (if you don't include the time spent trying to find that thread).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is that really made from clay?

I recently found a fun Etsy shop that I wanted to share with you -- A Girl and Her Clay.  I was blown away by Celeste's creativity and talent with sculpting clay.  I jumped on her 50% off sale (still going through August 18 with a free shipping code, too) to snag some fun pieces.  These photos don't do justice to the pieces.  They are exquisite with teeny, tiny details.  I purchased one of her grab bags that contained this cute bunny that Princess has happily adopted.
Love the detail on the strawberry
 This cute ring was another grab bag treasure.  I must admit, I'm not sure exactly what it is supposed to be, but I can appreciate the details.
I couldn't resist this cute s'more charm set. These charms are so tiny, but look so realistic and detailed.
Or how about this pop-tart charm.  It looks real enough to eat. All this yummy-looking goodness is only about an inch long.
After seeing Celeste's creativity, the wheels started turning in my head.  I thought it would be great to see if she could make a Husker-related charm for Little Miss Sunshine, our self-proclaimed Husker-a-holic.
Celeste was super excited to get a custom order and went right to work on a chibi version of Lil Red. She really captured his cuteness.  This little guy in only a couple inches tall, but that was enough to make Little Miss Sunshine squeal with delight.
I'm sure glad I opted to give him as a "Back-to-school" gift rather than waiting until Christmas like I'd originally planned.  Now Lil Red can be worn every game day.

You should check out Celeste's shop while she's running her fabulous sale, especially if you love sushi.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm a Blog Angel

A few months ago I saw several of the blogs I follow post about their experiences as a blog angel.  I was intrigued with the idea, and checked out the host blogs (Craftbotic and Dreamy Meadow) for details.  I was bummed that the sign-ups were closed.  So, I was ecstatic when I saw that they were making this a regular event and I decided to join in the fun for August. The premise is fairly simple: find ways to support your assigned blogger over the course of the month, but stay anonymous through the process.


I can't reveal who I've been helping yet, but I can say that it has been a great experience to get to know a new blogger and offer her support.  At first I was a little nervous since I thought it would be obvious that I'm the Blog Angel when I just show up at the beginning of August and start commenting on posts.  However, I'm finding that there are other commenters that say they just found the blog, so I think my secret identity is safe.  All in all, it hasn't been very difficult and really doesn't add much time to my daily blog reading habit.  I feel like I am helping my blogger to feel supported and encouraged. And, I've made a new blog friend.  I'm hoping to find other ways to support her through the remaining half of the month, but that might give away my identity, so I'll save those details for the wrap-up post in a couple weeks.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, keep your eyes open for the next round of sign-ups starting September 15.  Make a difference to another blogger for the month of October.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cooking lesson: Cranberry + Pork loin + crockpot = YUM!

Last week I found a recipe for Cranberry Pork Loin in the crockpot from The Crafted Sparrow. We love a good pork loin around here, and any time I can use the crockpot instead of the stove, I'm game.  Besides, doesn't this photo just make your mouth water?
Granted, mine wasn't nearly that pretty.  And I used whole berry cranberry sauce since I didn't have the jellied version, so we had little berries studding our meat.  But, Rebecca's recipe has the right sweet and tangy flavor combination to complement the pork.  This will definitely be a recipe we use again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stuck in a rut

Every day when I check my emails and check on my blog, I think that I really need to put up another post.  Then I tell myself I'll do it as soon as I come up with a good idea.  It's in the back of my mind until I wake up the next morning and repeat . . .
I've seen a lot of ideas floating around blogland lately about being a "real" blogger.  I knew when I started this venture that I probably wouldn't become one of the huge bloggers that everyone has heard of.  I knew I probably wouldn't post every day.  Some weeks I'm lucky to get a single post in.  I did (and still do) have visions of being successful, although the elusive definition of success isn't very clear to me.  I could define it by the numbers: followers, page views, comments, sponsors, etc.  In that case, I'm no where near "successful."  If I look at it as being happy with what I post to the world, I'm pretty well on-track.
I'm creeping up on my 1-year blogiversary at the end of this week.  With my tiny little following, I'm not in a position to throw a huge party with lots of sponsored giveaways.  I probably won't even recognize it as a special day. I still consider myself a newbie blogger trying to get my feet wet.  I have to remind myself that I started blogging for myself to have a creative outlet, not to become famous.  I've made some great bloggy friends along the way and found some great inspirations in many of my favorite blogs.
However, since the "blogging ideas" section of my brain is still empty, I'm throwing myself out to the world.  Do you have any questions you'd like to have me answer?  Anything you'd like to know about me?  Any post suggestions?  Leave me a comment and maybe I can come up with a post for next week. :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I've had a makeover.  No, nothing has changed physically.  I had a country makeover. 

So, in my last post I talked about how our family adopted countries to cheer for in the Olympics.  (This has been a great success, by the way.  It's so fun to see Little Miss Sunshine and Princess get excited whever someone from their country competes.)  My adopted Finland isn't doing so well.  My Finnish athletes just aren't at the same level as the rest of their international competition.  Even Mr. Adventure's Sweden finally managed to get a medal (plus another today).
The Author suggested that I just trade countries.  A little red marker magic and voila:
I'm now cheering for Norway!  They may only have two medals, but that's better than zero.
Here's a look at our latest medal counts.
As expected, Bugaboo is in the lead with China.  We're also tracking USA medals for a family ice cream trip or something.  This has been a fun way to get a little more out of the Olympic Games.