Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Handmade happiness

I wanted to show some pictures of this embroidered table runner I found awhile back in a second hand store. Most of the things in our home are from second hand stores or flea markets. I've heard that's very trendy now, or "green", since you are recycling. Still, my sweetie and I have always loved "old, dusty stuff", as our kids put it.

But I'm getting off topic. I wanted to share this because every bit of this piece has been hand-stitched and appliqued, along with its cutwork and scalloped edges. Oh, my.

Look at the delicate stitchery. I don't know whether to sigh or cry.

And these wee stitches - how long do you think it took to make something like this? How long ago was it made? I'm guessing the 1930's by the floral design, but that is just a guess.

I think about the woman who made this. Were you a young homemaker, a granny, or a little miss practicing her needlework? Whoever you were, I admire your craftsmanship.

When I went to pay for this, the cashier exclaimed,"Oh look at this - no one appreciates this stuff anymore!" "Yes they do," I smiled.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


holy experience

Counting blessings

98 - the glow of forsythias on a cloudy day

99 - curiosity

100 - taking time to smell the flowers

101 - favorite reading spots

102 - red pears

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pysanky - Easter eye candy

This is my friend Laurie. She makes exquisite Ukrainian eggs. Laurie's not Ukrainian, but she is talented and generous with her knowledge. She will teach anybody who wants to learn how to make them.

Laurie is also hospitable, and served us pysanky students a delicious lunch beforehand.

Everything Laurie makes is pretty

Can you believe we're going to learn how to make these?

The tools - egg, beeswax, and kistka (writing pen)

dyes especially made for pysanky

she demonstrated how to heat the kistka in the candle flame, dip the hot pen into the beeswax, and scoop it up to write on the egg, like a waxy ink.

Both the colors and the designs on a pysanky egg are symbolic. At one time the designs were a form of pagan folk art but later took on Christian meaning.

You dip the egg in dyes from the lightest to the darkest colors, covering with wax any parts that you want to preserve.

After the final dye bath, with black traditionally being the last color, it's time to melt away the wax.

Carefully holding the egg near the candle flame, you melt the wax and gently wipe it away with a cloth.

"Humpty Dumpty had a great fall..." Yes, my egg broke shortly after I finished it - one of the risks of pysanky which make it so exciting - sort of like an extreme sport...

More of Laurie's artistry

Gorgeous. Laurie has been making these eggs for her family for many years. What a gift!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seeds of Kindness

Around this time last year, my son Alex, his then-fiancee Michelle and I were having a discussion about the importance of kindness, and how you never know the effect it may have. I began telling them about a time...

...when I was a kid, there was an art supply store in the town where we lived. Most days after school you could find me there. Arts and crafts were my hiding place. The shop was owned and operated by a British couple who were very amiable, especially the wife.

One day while I was buying some drawing pencils and a paperback book on how to draw the human figure, she said, smiling, "You're in here all the time. You must be an artist." Feeling both startled and pleased, I answered, "Yes, um, I mean, I want to be." After that, she seemed to take particular interest in me. She never minded whether I bought anything or not, and always patiently answered any questions I had.

I'll never forget the time she gave me a box of modeling clay, saying, "Why don't you see what you can do with this, and I'll display it in my shop window." I sculpted a child swinging on a tree limb. I'm sure it was awful. But oh the joy of walking past that window and seeing my handiwork in all of its plasticine glory :)

That dear woman could not know just how healing were the seeds of kindness she sowed in the heart of an anxious, clumsy, angry adolescent. I wonder if she had any idea where her encouragement might lead.

As I finished my anecdote, I noticed Michelle's face became quite serious. "Where was this shop?" she asked. I told her the town. "What was the shop's name?" I told her. "Those people were my grandparents! They had emigrated here from England and opened an art store." Amazing. I as a twelve-year-old met the grandmother of my future son's future wife! I suppose if we had all lived in the same neighborhood where everyone knew each other, it wouldn't have been such a surprise. But we hadn't.

At their wedding, we were able to recounte this memory with my daughter-in-law's father and his siblings. Michelle's grandmother is still alive, but her memory has given way to Alzheimer's. Her adult children were so happy to hear this story. "Yes, that was our mother," Michelle's aunt cried. "She was always so caring and kind to everyone." God is good.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


holy experience

Counting blessings

92 - welcome mats

93 - a gift of homemade candy from friends

94 - our first baby sharing a laugh with his first baby

95 - first blooms

96 - Saturday mornings

97 - another wonderful word learned from a blogging friend: Sahtayn! (Double your health in Arabic.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Her Hands

A few years ago I traveled to the Ukraine as a short term missionary. One of the highlights was meeting this amazing woman. Kristina was in her late eighties at the time, and she ran the family farm by herself. Her grown children worked in the city of Kiev. When I look at the picture, I'm always struck by her hands - how large and strong they were.

We were unable to speak each other's language. But we communicated with smiles and hand gestures. She wanted me to take home to the U.S. some beans and garlic that she had grown. When I tried to explain that customs would not allow me to bring it in, she waved a hand at me as if to say, "nonsense", and gestured for me to hide it in my bra :) It took me awhile to explain without hurting her feelings that I really really couldn't. She just shrugged and smiled. Two years later, her granddaughter Lena visited us bearing a beautiful gift from her grandmother...this rug.

Lena explained to me how her grandmother had made this at age eighteen. It's made of linen. She grew the flax, beat the flax into fiber, spun the fiber into thread, dyed the thread, and wove this lovely work. Even though it is a rug, there's no way I could put it on my floor. I'm honored to have it hang on my studio wall. Kristina, I will always remember you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bottling Green

Do you see this beautiful bottle of Boot's Rose & Lavender Bath Oil? I LOVE this stuff! My sweetie gave me my first bottle at Christmas. I'm now on my fourth. I go through this product like nobody's business. You know, the directions say to use one capful per bath - less is more. But I'm just not a one capful kind of girl. I'm a more-is-more. Anyway, to throw away these lovely glass bottles seemed wasteful, so I've been looking for a way to repurpose them. Here's a great idea I found at DesignSponge:

This is a really easy project, even for kids, and a great addition to your nature table, if you have one. I dug up some moss from my backyard, and made both a jar and a bottle terrarium.

Putting moss in the bottle can be a little tricky. Using a chopstick was really helpful to move the moss around and arrange it the way I wanted. Chopsticks are great - not only for eating, but also for their versatilty. They're one of my favorite craft tools. Only be sure to keep your craft chopsticks separate from your eating chopsticks :)

Ta - da!

Place your mini-terrariums in bright indirect light. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I come from a long line of domestics

1910 -9- March - scrawled on the back of this photo taken of my great grandmother - exactly one hundred years ago today. Wow - I had no idea of the date until I flipped it over to scan it.

She came to this country at age fifteen, her passage paid for by a French woman for whom she became a personal lady's maid. She left her family behind in Ireland. From what I understand, my ancestors were a tough people. The family motto was "Inimicus Inimico", roughly translated "I am hostile to those who are hostile to me"...*ahem* Apparently her employer was good to her, so good in fact that my great grandmother named my grandmother after her.

This is my grandmother. I lived with her off and on when I was little. She didn't like many people, but she liked me and I liked her. She rarely ever called me Jodi. Her two favorite names for me were "Mabel" and "Maggie May, you bold brass article". She was one tough cookie and one fabulous cook. From what I remember, she spent most of her life in the kitchen. She made three hot meals a day from scratch, something I didn't appreciate as a child but I'm amazed at now, considering the amount of work it must have taken. She loved african violets. Her favorite color was pale lavender. And she made the best pork chops with pan-fried gravy that I've ever tasted. I believe my love of cooking came from her. When I look in the mirror, I see her face.

Here's her recipe for Irish soda bread:
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Mix together and form into a round loaf. With a sharp knife, slash an 'X' across the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A means of happiness

holy experience

Counting blessings

84 - the windy days of March

85 - Being read to

86 - sleeping with the window open

87 - waking up to bird song

88 - the spicy smell of carnations

89 - roasted garlic

90 - bluebirds and pussy willows

91 - these words:

He is jealous for me
Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden, I am unaware
of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful You are
and how great your affections are for me.
Oh, how He loves us so

from He Loves Us
by John Mark McMillan

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What's in your pantry?

I have a habit of sometimes buying food products because of what's on the outside--gorgeous graphics, colorful bits of happy art to decorate the larder. I once bought a blue tin with a charming Dutch girl holding a bouquet of white tulips on the label. Found it in a little Euro market and looked at it for a long time to try to figure out what was in it, since the language on the can was unknown to me. The shop owner was a handsome Bulgarian woman with an intimidating air of no nonsense about her. So imagine the scene..."Umm, excuse me...yeah, hi...I want to buy this because the label's pretty...can you tell me what it is?" Blank stare...right--got it anyway. It turned out to be canned milk, by the way.

Last year I bought a package of Easter egg dye there. The colors on the package just grabbed me. "You want this?" she asked with a quizzical look on her face. So what if Easter had gone by two weeks ago. I only cared that it had a beautiful painted rooster on the box, and was only ten cents. Who could resist?

My pantry closet is a regular United Nations. I love experimenting with ethnic recipes from everywhere. Like, if ever I were to go to Italy, yes, I'd want to see the statue of David, yes, I would want to see Venice, but first I'd want to visit a local grocery store. I find food and foodstuffs from different cultures fascinating. When I meet people from different countries, one of the first things I like to ask them is "What is your favorite food from home? What are you homesick for?" You'd be surprised how eager people are to tell you, and how delighted they are to teach you how to prepare it. Over the years we have been privileged to host cooking get-togethers representing at least twenty-some nations. The deal is that we purchase whatever our guests tell us, and in return, we learn how to make their favorite food and share a wonderful meal together. It's been a blessing to us because we have made some lasting friendships and we have gained a knowledge of the world beyond our own backyard.

So how about you? What's your favorite culinary journey? Or has anyone else out there ever bought some mystery item just because the packaging was pretty?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

She made some tarts

"The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, All on a summer's day: The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them quite away."

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

So, company's coming for tea in fifteen minutes. Unexpected company. Cookie jar empty. No time to bake a cake 'cause if I knew you were coming, I'd a baked a cake (heh, heh). What to do, what to do...Let's not lose our heads. I know - we can make a tart - in 15 minutes.

If you have these--ready made pie crust, a jar of jam, and an oven--you're good to go.

Roll out the crust on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Spread the jam on with a spoon.

Fold up the edges, then pop in a pre-heated 450 degree oven. Bake for 11 minutes.

After baking, the jam will still be liquidy. With the back of your spoon, spread it around, covering any bubbly, uneven spots. Let the tart cool. The jam will set.

When the tart cools, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Welcome, Alice. Do sit down....

Also for you readers with wee ones, head over to Erasmus Our Alaskan Cat's blog. She has an awesome crafty-craft-craft for the kiddies.


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