Friday, November 18, 2011

Be Careful Little Eyes What You Read...

Just a quick thought today.  Actually, this thought wanders around the vast cavity of my brain often, I've just never actually put it to computer.

I've been thinking about all the millions of "Christian" books that make their way into a "Christian" bookstore.  What is the standard for a book being "Christian" anyway? Is it simply enough to be stocked on the shelf in a Christian book store?  If we define a Christian as someone who follows and is disciplined by the teachings of Christ, then it is reasonable to say that any book bearing the adjective "Christian" should do likewise, yes?

So in order to judge whether a book adheres to the teachings of Christ, we would have to argue that the reader must first have adequate knowledge about Christ and his disciplines.  "Adequate knowledge" assumes there has been a certain amount of time invested in the research and studying of a particular subject, in this case the Holy Scriptures.

Side note:  ... I watch a sweet little boy a few days a week for a friend of mine.  He's nine months now... and as you can imagine, EVERYTHING he can pick up or grab goes right into his mouth.  He is new to this world and hasn't learned what is appropriate to eat, and what is harmful.  Those around him who have more understanding and knowledge will make that decision for him.  Meanwhile, he is being taught what is good, wholesome, and pure, (and edible!) so that eventually, he will know for himself.

I have two children.  One daughter who is nearly seventeen and a twelve year old son.  It is no longer necessary for me to watch everything that goes into their mouths.  They have been taught that you don't eat paper.  They do, however, still need to be reminded about what is good for them and how they should strive to consume a balance of protein, vitamins, fats, etc.  I correct them when I see that they are indulging themselves too often in sweets, or aren't getting enough vegetables.

So it is with what we allow to marinate in our minds.  In this case we are contemplating spiritual** books.  If the knowledge we have of Scripture is in its infancy, we should rely heavily on someone who has greater knowledge than we, watching what they read, and allowing them to instruct us.  If we are further along in our understanding of Christ's disciplines, we might only need an occasional correcting or pivotal directing, planting us back on the good path.  In our maturity as Christians, we should recognize quickly any errant teaching and avoid it.  Unfortunately, the Christian bookstores are more in the business of making money than disciples, so asking a faithful pastor about specific books in question would be very appropriate.

Because I want only what is spiritually consistent with Scripture, I often ask my pastor/husband what he is reading.

Here are a few of his personal recommendations:

Grace Upon Grace by Dr. Rev. John W. Kleinig
Spirituality of the Cross by Dr. Gene Edward Veith
On Marriage and Family Life  by St. John Chrysostom

**Though I am speaking mostly about books pertaining to spiritual matters, these thoughts also apply to Christian fiction and secular fiction as well.  We love good fiction in our house and see it as a wonderful exercise in imagination and fantasy, but disciplines of God's Word are still vital in judging what stays and what goes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Chore Box

A friend has asked that I write a post about our chore box.  Before I get to the actual box, I want to preface this with some advice about moderation.

I am an "all or nothing" kind of gal.  I am easily distracted, yet I can become uber-focused on the most inane details.  This affects all aspects of my life:  homeschooling, parenting, housecleaning, church... you get the idea.  After 20 years of marriage to THEE most consistent man IN the world, I have learned a little about moderation and a TON about grace.

I've learned to prioritize and make difficult, conscious decisions about frivolous endeavors which might steal me away from the good work that God has for me to do. (Yes, laundry IS a good work.)  I've learned not to allow discouraging thoughts decide how I behave or think.  I know to counteract those thoughts with God's truth from His Word.  Most importantly, I have been shown that there is always forgiveness and grace waiting for me when I fail.  My goal is no longer to do everything well all the time.  Rather, my goal is to grow in the knowledge of God's Word and not to hinder His work done through me, that I might be a blessing to those he has given me to serve (my family).  When we see our life through this lens, we cease "trying" and we simply allow God to be God.   This is a wonderful resource for those who are really drowning in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome).  While I appreciated many of the ideas that the Flylady suggested, I found that this was just another extreme for me.  I gleaned many good habits and ignored what didn't seem to be a problem in my world.  Learning what my "hot spots" were and establishing a morning routine were two of the most helpful tips.
Sidetracked Sisters Happiness File
My mom read a book back in the '80s  (The Sidetracked Sisters) and I believe the Flylady adopted some information from the two sisters who wrote the book.  I have never read the book, but I love the creative approach that they gave to house cleaning. Inspired by this book, my mom had a box with 3x5 cards of every color.  On each card a single chore was written.  The color of the card determined how often the chore was done.

 I don't know what they chose for colors but here are mine:
White= Daily, Blue= Every other day, Pink=Weekly, Green= Every other week, Purple= Monthly, and Yellow=Seasonal.

Inside the box, I have written the days of the week for two weeks on tabs and made them into dividers. I've also made dividers for the months.  On each chore card I have written instructions about how the chore is to be done.  The newer the chore, the more instructions needed.  If it is one that I can do in my sleep, there might only be a single sentence.  If it is one that I think my kids need specific directions and reminders about, then I write that on there.
I started out with basic chores and have added more as I go along.  Everything from daily sweeping to assembling my rain barrel in Springtime.  What I determine as a chore and how often I'm willing to do it... is totally up to me.  These are my flexible boundaries.

You might be saying, "Wow, that doesn't sound flexible to me.  I'd hate being bound to a chore box everyday."  Yeah, me too.  Which is why it is only my guideline.  Most of my house cleaning is done when I see that it needs to be done, this is how my mind gets "inspired".  But in my natural ebb and flow of life and business, I often get into ruts where I don't do much cleaning at all... the inspiration isn't there.  Then all of a sudden, I'm looking around and seeing messes everywhere.  THAT is when I reach for my crutch, my chore box.  The chore box isn't out everyday.  I might use it for three weeks straight and then forget about it for a month.  But I know it is there and when I feel swamped and flailing... I go to my box, move some cards around so I can visually see what I can reasonably accomplish that day.  It is a visual prioritizer for me.  It allows me to work back up to my routine.

What I do with my chore box is this: I set out the day's chores on our dining room table.  I group them according to color and let everyone pick what they want to do. We homeschool so it usually takes all day to get the chores finished, and each person does what they can when their schedule permits it. Every person is responsible for their own morning routines; making beds, personal hygiene, feeding pets etc. These are posted on my kid's doors and mine is in the chore box.  As the chores in the box are accomplished, we put them back into the box in their next spot.

 Now, when involving your kids in the chore box, keep in mind that instruction must happen before you can expect them to successfully accomplish a chore.  My kids are 16 and 12, so there isn't much they can't do.  But they can do them because they have been taught.  There are chores for any age.  Even if you have to make up some chores.  Washing baseboards, light switches and doorjams are great chores for preschoolers.  Holding the can of Pledge while mommy dusts is a perfect chore for babies... just make sure the cap is securely fastened! :)

Note: If a chore doesn't get done that day... FALL APART IMMEDIATELY!!  hee hee... just put it back into the box for tomorrow.

There it is.  The chore box, pretty simple really.  Hope it helps.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finding Nancy Beth

Nancy Beth was my aunt.  I suppose I want you to know this, because up until a few months ago... I didn't even know it.  I didn't know Nancy Beth.  I didn't know my dad had a sister.  My dad didn't know he had a sister.  

Nancy Beth was my aunt and she had down syndrome.  

It's quite unreal how this all came to the surface.  Back in February I started researching my ancestral roots.  I joined a website ( and started rifling through census reports, obituaries, and marriage certificates online.  I felt as if I was combining my interest in history with my love of mystery novels.  I enjoyed it.

Researching my mom's family was easy, even predictable, but I knew my dad's family would yield some interesting finds.  He never knew his biological father, instead he was raised by his biological mom and his adoptive father.  He had a warm and loving childhood, but it was made clear that he shouldn't ask questions about his "real" father.  So he didn't.  

But starting this spring, I did.  I asked all kinds of questions as I unraveled the mess of secrets that had been knotted for decades.  I found that in the center of it all was Nancy Beth.

In 1939 families didn't raise "special needs" children.  Doctors advised new mothers to abandon their imperfect children to the custody of the state.  They convinced parents that the social stigma of raising an abnormal child would be too difficult for other children in the family to bare.  And often parents, still reeling from the wrenching pain and disappointment of dreams dashed,  listened to these professional advisers.  

 My grandparents listened too.  At one month of age, Nancy was entrusted to the state.  She was put into a foster home until she was two and a half.  From there she was sent to a state home and institutionalized for the rest of her life. In 1966 she was baptized, and she died in 1993 at the age of 54.  

 These are the facts as I have learned them, and I hope to discover more about her.  Someday, I hope to see a picture, but even if I never do, I have a strong suspicion that one day I will finally meet Nancy Beth.

Nancy Beth was my aunt and I'd like you to know that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Celebration Cinnamon Rolls

Today is my baby's 12 th birthday.  My "Bubby";  my boy;  my sweetness.  Every momma should have a son as huggibly delicious as my Eric.  Can I just say... I love my kid?  This child will jump up at the chance to help you with groceries, LOVES to make you smile or laugh, and can't pass kissin' a baby's cheeks even if he wanted to. I mean, c'mon, they just don't make them like him anymore.  I s'pose I get to take some credit for him, but really, I think God just gave him to me like this.  I am blessed.

So, it's no secret that I work very hard in the garden and once in a while I get pooped before I'm really finished.  Cleaning up my tornado of weeding isn't my strongest point, so I often strike up a deal with my dear son in order to get him to clean up after my gardening garbage.
This week, the deal was a week long menu of breakfast dishes.  I'd like to be able to say that I make a piping hot breakfast for my kids every morning, but the truth is... I don't.  I'm more apt to make breakfast for dinner than for the actual slotted time for breakfast.  So I agreed to make Eric breakfast every day this week, beginning with Tuesday.
Tuesday we had french toast.
Wednesday was scrambled eggs and bacon.
Thursday saw Chocolate chip waffles.
But today is my Bubby's birthday, so we are going all out with homemade cinnamon rolls. He's beside himself.  I think he might have even had trouble sleeping last night. ;)

Celebration Cinnamon Rolls
I made the dough last night by using my "Favorite dough recipe" dough with an added teaspoon or two of lemon juice in with all the wet ingredients.  I let it cycle through in the dough cycle on my bread machine, then I went to work making the sweet rolls.      

 I rolled out the dough into a rectangle.  Betty (Crocker) says to make the rectangle 15x9...  Well, I don't have a ruler, but I guess this will do.  

Then I softened about a 1/4 cup of butter (half a stick) in the microwave and brushed it all over one side of the dough.  You don't want to get butter too close to the edge because you don't want the sugar to get in the way of the dough sticking to itself when you roll it up.  So keep a good inch or so clear of butter and sugar.  I cheat and use the cinnamon n' sugar combo you can find at wal-mart.  I hear brown sugar is a pretty incredible alternative... it's supposedly what Cinnabon uses, but we're fine with white sugar here.  

Roll the dough up so you have a really long snake of dough.

Next is a trick Betty taught me:  Use a piece of string to cut the rolls instead of a knife.  A knife will squish the dough, but a thick piece of string will just pinch the roll right off.  I like to use a thick coated piece of quilters thread, but really any kind of thread will work. 

See. :)

Keep the thickness of each cinnamon roll the same.  You want to make them a little thicker than you might first think.  I like to squish them down a bit once I put them into the pan to rise.  

Now, cover these and let them rise for an hour, or cover them and put them in the refrigerator to bake the next day.  If baking them the next day, take them out an hour before baking, and continue as normal.  They won't rise quite as much after they have been refrigerated, but it sure beats trying to do everything early in the morning!!

Bake at 375 degrees about 25-30 minutes.  Spread rolls with glaze while they are still warm.  

Simple Glaze:  
1 cup powdered sugar
1 TBS milk 
1/2tsp. vanilla. 
 Mix until smooth.  Remember the glaze will thin out when poured over hot rolls, so leave it a little on the thicker side.

Cinnabon cream cheese glaze:... should be illegal it's so good. ugh!

4 tablespoons softened butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

ENJOY and Happy Birthday Eric!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dogs Will Be Dogs

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a dog house makes you a dog…”  I’ve heard this said many times.  Usually by someone trying to justify why they don’t regularly attend church.

Okay, so  it might be shocking to hear that I  agree.  Sort of.

A dog barks… a dog scratches its ears with its hind legs…  A dog wags its tail.  These are all things a dog DOES, but doing them doesn’t MAKE him a dog.

I can bark.  I might be able to scratch my ear with my leg.  I could even wag my… tail.  But DOING these things doesn’t MAKE me a dog.
A dog is a dog, not because of what he does… but he’s a dog because of how he was MADE.  He’s only doing the things which he was created to do; the things God created him to do.

So, sitting in a church doesn't MAKE you a Christian....But it is what Christians DO.

Within His creation of man, God has built in certain designations; meaning, we were designed a certain way for certain tasks.   Sin has DE-formed us and has led us away from those things which God created for us to do and be.

No, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian… but it is where you hear God’s Word. It is where you receive God's Word. By God’s Word, faith is created in us.  God's Word is the antidote to the sin that infects us.  When we have faith, we are restored and are able once again to DO the things which we were created to go to church, love our neighbor, train our children. It is the Creator who MAKES us to believe and it is HE who continues to CREATE and strengthen the faith within us.

So, going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a dog house will make you a dog... However, you stand a better chance of becoming a Christian by going to church, than you would of becoming a dog by sitting in a dog house.

Just sayin’.

GIANT Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was on a quest for the best Giant chocolate chips cookies, EVER. 
 I decided to gather information from across cyber space and see what I could do in my very own kitchen.

 Here's what happened.  
After reading several articles on what makes the best cookie... I opted to stick with a tried and true to nearly every American household recipe.  Yes, I speak of the TollHouse cookie recipe on the back of your Nestle chocolate chips package.  Remaining true to my collage-kind of cooking... I took the recipe and added a bit from here and there and everywhere. 
 Here are my alterations:


  • Instead of all purpose flour, I used 1 cup cake flour and  1 and 1/2 cups bread flour.  
  • I sifted all the dry ingredients together.
  • Instead of Nestles chips, I used Ghirardelli's bittersweet chips. (really any 60% cocoa chip works)

  • I grated the cold butter in order to get it to room temperature faster.
  • I put the two eggs into warm water (inside their shells..duh) in order to get them to room temperature.
  • I refrigerated the dough for 36 hours.  (at least 24 hours).

  • I used a silpat baking mat. 
  • I used an ice cream scooper to scoop the dough.  Yes, they were THAT huge. 
  • Before baking, I sprinkled each ball of dough with a little sea salt.
  • I baked them until the outside ring was golden brown and the middle ring was golden and the center wasn't quite golden.  In my oven it took 11-12 minutes.  
  • Test your own oven temps by watching the first batch carefully.
  • I made 15 giant cookies.

After baking, transfer the entire silpat off the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack.  I meant to take a picture of all the cookies piled high on a platter, but I wasn't fast enough.  They were gobbled up! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Water Babies

So this post isn't going to be about a favorite recipe, or how to make your own curtains.  I'm not going to gush about my garden or even sing the praises of the homeschooled experience.  I doubt there will be many pictures to post...

 Nope,  today I have baptism on my mind.  In fact... I woke up at 5:30 this morning with baptism flooding my brain (pun intended).  Here is how it started.

I woke with a verse in my head.  "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10).  Be still... be passive... and know that I am God... that I am active.  It made me remember my baptism.

I was baptized in infancy in the Catholic church.  Somewhere between then and my preschool years, my mother left the Catholic church and began to attend a church that didn't practice infant baptism.  But I still "remember" my baptism.  I do this by remembering my passive state and God's activity in my baptism:

I was still, and He was God.  I was held, without my consent or willing participation, over a font of water.  A priest, appointed by the church with the responsibility of bringing God's Word to His people, sprinkled water over my head and spoke God's active Word over me: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit then took me, made me His own, and began the work of faith (salvation) within me.

Then I thought of Job.  I thought about all that had happened to him.  And I thought about when he questioned God... and how God gave him this verbal smackdown:

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
     Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements
     ---- surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its basses sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
   and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut in the sea with doors 
  when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
   and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
 and said, 'Thus far shall you
 come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?"
Job 38: 4-11

.... you get the idea... this tongue lashing goes on for a while, and you begin to understand just how active God is... and how passive we are.  And I am reminded that this is a good thing.

We read in Genesis the account of creation.  We are told there was a void, darkness, chaos.  God speaks His Word, and life is created.  And what was our role in this act of creation?  We had none. Our salvation is no different.  I was brought to the baptismal font by those who had faith.  I was dead in my sin, cognitively unable to make any kind of decision; dark, chaotic, void.  But through the spoken Word of God and the washing through water, God created faith in me and gave me life.  I was passive, He was active.

Then I started to think about all the ways Christians attempt to be active in redemption; justification; salvation.  Like Job, we make ourselves the center of what's happening... I thought of familiar phrases I hear many Christians use.
"I gave my life to God."
"I asked Jesus into my heart."
"I have decided to follow Jesus."
"I made a commitment to Christ."

I got to thinking about the ramifications of a doctrine that puts our action as the center of our faith instead of acknowledging we are passive in our justification.  I thought about how damaging it is to make salvation about the words I speak, instead of  about the Word that God speaks. Scripture tells me in Eph. 2:1 that I am dead in my sins and trespasses.  So how does a dead man speak?  or think? When I decide that salvation can only come through my understanding, I am contradicting scripture.  Salvation doesn't depend on my intellect, or my cognitive ability.  It doesn't come after I fully understand the weight of my sin and my need for a savior.  In fact, it is only AFTER faith is received that a sinner can recognize his sinful state.  A dead man's heart doesn't begin to beat until AFTER his heart is started again.  Faith starts our heart... and faith is given through God's Word.  Baptism is God's Word.

...So, I woke up this morning remembering my Baptism.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up thinking about Holy Communion ;)

Ephesians 2:8-10

English Standard Version (ESV)
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ready for the oven.
Lasagna Rollups

Lasagna is one of my favorite meals to eat, but not so much to make.  I have watched oodles and noodles of teevee chefs make their version of this classic Italian dish in hopes of discovering an easier way... then --Giada.   Yes, THEE Italian cheftress did it.  And what did she do that was soooo great?  She ROLLED the noodles.  That's it.

Well, to be fair, she does her little "Giada magic" using fresh pasta and prosciutto pronouncing it all in her oh-so-authentic Italian accent.  Yeah, well, I'm Irish, so it's not gonna happen.

So this is my take on Giada's recipe. If you're just dying to try her version.. humpf... here's a link to her recipe.  Giada's Lasagna Roll-ups

Make Lasagna noodles according to package directions... You want them flexible, but not all the way done.  Work fast at the rolling part, or the cooled lasagna might get inflexible.

Cheese filling:

1 package of frozen chopped spinach- thawed and squeezed dry
1 container of small curd cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
couple of handfulls of grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
2 eggs beaten

mix all the ingredients and set aside

My easy "doctored" sauce:
  • Heat some olive oil in a skillet; soften some diced sweet onion and green pepper.
  • Add a drained can of petite diced tomatoes.  
  • Sprinkle in some Italian seasoning and garlic--either chop the garlic fresh, sprinkle in some garlic powder or squeeze in the ready minced stuff... I've done it all! 
  • Now, what I normally do is just open a can of Hunts ready made spaghetti sauce.  You could just use plain tomato sauce, but I like the extra seasonings.  Let this simmer for a while.   
When the noodles are ready:

  • Spoon some sauce in the bottom of your lasagna pan. (13x9)
  • Take the lasagna noodles out of the water and let them cool slightly. -I usually lay them across some parchment paper over a kitchen towel. 
  • Spoon the cheese filling onto the noodle  and roll up.  
  • Place rolled lasagna seam-side down into baking dish. (You could also stand them on edge. This is pretty, but they don't stay rolled as well as laying them flat)
  • Continue until baking dish is filled with rolls.
  • Pour the rest of the spaghetti sauce over the lasagna rolls and top with shredded mozzarella.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes.

If you're worried about the cheese burning, spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and loosly put it spray side down over your baking dish.  The spray keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Looky Loo!

Hey guess who has a new bathroom???  Oh yeah!
Gotta love a wooden toilet seat... not.

So this wasn't a total remodel.  More like an updating.  My dream would be to install a shower, but for now making the tub look more appealing will have to do for our guests.    The floor, while not in the greatest condition is at least a neutral pattern.    

This bathroom was designed around the fabric I bought for the shower curtain.  I looked everywhere for a ready-made curtains that fit my vision, and it was only when I searched for fabric online that I found this beautiful pattern. It was a bit expensive, which is why I decided to make two smaller panels instead of one long curtain.  I mean... c'mon, there isn't even a shower... it's a TUB.  I also like the way two panels frames the window leaving no reason for window coverings... so really, I saved money... right??

The fabric.  I had serious trouble with the fabric
company, so I refuse to post a link to their site.
I simply pressed the edges of the fabric 1/4 in. then
 1/4 in. again and hemmed it. At the top I used a wider hem
 and I ironed fusible webbing up at the top to give some
 strength to the fabric, then had my machine do button
holes for the curtain rings.

I matched the paint to the fabric.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this color.  It is Martha Stewarts "Ice Rink".   THE best color for a bathroom.  You walk in and never want to leave.  It's beautiful. 
The chrome fixtures just give such a crisp and clean feel, I'm really happy with them.  Because I didn't want it to feel too industrial or cold, I went with a more feminine looking chrome.   

Vanity and sink combo. found at Home depot.
Really reasonable from the St. Paul collection.

The chrome finishings were bought at Home Depot.  The hand towel hook is actually the robe hook, but I liked the look of this better.

The tub needed some serious re caulking.  We pulled
away the old yellowing caulk strip and reapplied a
clean white silicone caulking.  This is where my years
 as a cake decorator come in handy ;)

We kept the medicine cabinet because it
would have been a pain to remove...
 it works.
These lights are sufficient, not my favorite,
but a girl's gotta stay within her budget.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blue Bag

So, I decided to attempt the Flower burst bag according to directions.  While I followed them more closely this time, this bag is not without errors... for sure! But it is much closer to the original pattern.  It ended up being shorter than the other one I made, but very cute.

Flower Burst in blue

I also added a simple coin purse to go with the bag.  To make the coin purse, I just chained 17, then starting with the second chain from the hook, I hdc in each chain.  I put a second hdc in the last chain and stitched hdc along the other side of the chain.  When I got to the end and back to my first hdc, I did NOT connect.  I just stitched a hdc in the first hdc.  I continued in a round until the coin purse was the size I wanted.  To make the flap, I switched colors and turned.  I hdc across the back, turned, then stitched two hdc together (decrease).  I did this at the end of the row as well. Continue back and forth being sure to decrease at the beginning and the end of each row until it was the length and shape I wanted: like an stationery envelope.  I realize that if you don't crochet, this last paragraph makes absolutely NO sense... and even if you do crochet... it might not make sense! I never professed to be a pattern maker, that is for sure!

For the embellishments I simply crocheted another flower like the ones on the bag and attached it to the flap of the coin purse.  I added a little loop under the flower to catch the button that I stitched on with thread.  Lining the the coin purse was a sinch. Just fold a rectangular piece of fabric in half and use the purse as pattern.  Stitch the sides and leave the folded edge alone and the open end... open.   Put it in the coin purse and fold over the fabric edges at the top. Stitch along the edges of the fabric to the yarn.  There ya go.

I decided to also line the bag with fabric.  I don't like the idea of my keys, pens, and whatever else poking through between the stitches, and since I was making this for someone, I really wanted it to have a finished look to it.

This material was used in making aprons several years ago.
I'm so glad I keep scraps!!
I wish I could describe how I lined the bag... but even I'm not sure how I did it.  I tried to just think about the shape of the inside.  This bag has a base, so I did make a base and then stitched two other pieces of fabric to the base and to themselves.  This really was just done by trial and error.  It doesn't need to be perfect as it just sits in the bag.  Try not to over think it! Obviously, the important thing is to remember that the printed side of the fabric needs to be seen in the bag.  ;)  I folded over the fabric at the top, pinned it in place and stitched it right to the yarn.  
Another added bit was the "lanyard" type dealie that I crocheted in order to keep the coin purse connected to the bag.  I just chained and stitched single crochets up and down the chain, making a loop at the end.  I fastened a key ring to the end of the lanyard and attached the clip to the coin purse.  

Like I said before, this is a gift.  I made it for my mom in law, Pat.  She'll be over tomorrow and I'll get to give it to her :)

What's the best part about crocheting?

... getting to give the stuff away.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Too Much Chocolate??

Is there even such a thing as "too much chocolate"?? I seriously doubt it.

I came across this recipe for "Almost Too Much Chocolate Cake" online, and I must admit, it hooked me.  I recently made it for a friend's birthday and it really was as good as it looked, but I can hardly say it was "too" much :)

The site I found the recipe on was Make it and Love it.  However, I believe someone else is to be credited as the author/baker.  Either way, this is one recipe that will be repeated in the Pool household.
Find the Recipe HERE

Here is my quest for too much chocolate ;)

I followed the recipe and found the batter to be really rich and thick.  This was great as I was concerned that the chocolate chips might fall through a thinner batter.  This way, they will stay in the center and not sink to the bottom of the cake pan when baking. 

 One thing I recommend: weigh your cake pans as you fill them. 
 This ensures that you will have evenly sized layers.  

About this time, I was second guessing the "8-inch" pans that were suggested in the recipe. 
 Seems like an awful lot of batter to me...

Yup.  Next time I will bake in 9-inch pans.  This will prevent the "muffin top" look that you see above.  
 Now this is where I deviate from the recipe.  It says to leave cake "in the pans" for at least 30 minutes before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.  Well... My experience is that this only leads to dry cake.  See, the cake continues to bake while it's in the pan.  This is fine if you're the kind of person who takes the cake out before it's really ready.  I personally only use the timer as a suggested guide, and instead let my nose tell me when it's finished baking.  This can be tricky, but the rule for me is:  When the first kid comes to me and says...

" MMMMmmm are you making cake??".. I have about 5 minutes before I need to take the cake out. ;)

I then immediately wrap the cake in overlapping layers of plastic wrap.  Yes, while it is still hot and steamy.  This seals in the heat and condenses the steam back into the cake, creating a moist cake no matter how much you've over baked it... well, within reason,  I mean c'mon, if you burn it... it's burnt.
Next put both layers in the freezer.  Yes, the freezer.  Ever try to frost a fresh cake?  One word.  CRUMBY. For three years I worked in a bakery and learned a few tricks about decorating cakes.  First lesson. It's much easier to frost a frozen cake than a fresh one.  I like to make my cakes at least a day in advance.  
Before frosting, I needed to de-muffin my cakes.  I used a serrated knife and just cut off the cake that was sticking out to make two round layers.
I have never made, used, or eaten ganaache before... oh what I have been missing!!  I will use this easy peasy frosting again for sure!  The corn syrup gives it a beautiful shine that butter-cream, whipped cream, and fondant just can't give.  Plus, it's just plain YUMMO!

So because this was a cake for a friend's birthday, I didn't decorate the top with nuts like the blog suggests.  I mounded deep purple and lavender roses in the center and used chocolate butter-cream to decorate the edge.  

The cake is sitting on a piece of cardboard saved from a frozen pizza and covered in foil.
The doily is a paper doily that I get from walmart in the cake decorating section

My buttercream recipe for roses is extremely simple... in fact I don't even measure the ingredients out!
Powdered sugar
rum flavoring
almond flavoring
I listed the ingredients in order of amount.  Obviously, you want more powdered sugar than anything... Say, half a bag?  About a 1/4-1/2 cup shortening and add the milk a tablespoon at a time, probably 3-4  You want this frosting to be a bit stiff if you're intending to use it for flowers.  The important ingredients are the flavorings.  They make all the difference.  Just a dab'll do ya!
I have to say, this was a very tasty cake and I will most definitely be making it again!!
Oh yea, and...
Happy Birthday, Sarah! ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Braggin' on My Baggin'

Okay, I admit the title is lacking... but the bag makes up for it ;)

I found this free crochet pattern on by "Chocolate Mints In a Jar"... seriously, that is her screen name.  It is sooo cute and a very well written pattern. Find her craft blog here.  Find the pattern here

I started and finished this bag in two days... and it should have only taken one, but I FROGGED so many times.. ugh, it wasn't pretty. For anyone who might not know what "frogging" means to those of us in the yarn world:  What does a frog say?  "RIP IT, RIP IT, RIP IT"... so that's what we call pulling out several rows of stitches. Cute, no?... yeah, but not when it's happening.  First it was miscounting, then it was adding stitches instead of slip-stitching... then after I had frogged the bag to the base TWICE already, I realized how big of an impact one little four letter word has in a pattern.  TURN.  Ugh, I didn't turn after each round, I just stitched in a round...  That was why my count kept getting off.  Facepalm!

Well, I was about ready to croak when I discovered this huge mistake... but I decided instead of dissecting the bag, I would try to compensate for my mistake. I will explain how I did that on my account for anyone who might actually be interested.  But really, my advice is just to follow the pattern!

In the end, I really like the finished product.  Perfect or not, it will serve me well.  It's just the right size for a book or two, couple of magazines, a phone, some eyeglasses (for us aging folk).  It would also be great to put my Bible in for church on Sundays.

I'm happy with the color choice, and I think I'll make a couple more--the right way-- in different color combinations. ;)

If you'd like to find me on, my screen name is "Iowaycrochet" :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My New Garden Cart

So for Mother's Day I usually get some great garden type gifts.  This year was no exception. It's no secret that I love to be in the garden, but I don't like having to dump my 4 cu. ft. cart a bajillion times a day.  Not too long ago I started researching carts for the garden that were a bit larger and more efficient than the one I currently have.  In the end my dear sweet honey, who isn't so fond of yard work, decided to get me the deluxe model (in my opinion) of a garden cart for mother's day.  It reminds me of the cart my dad uses, only his is even BIGGER!
So here are some pictures of my garden cart.  Some assembly required ;)
Everything came in that cardboard box.  I ordered this cart from and within the week, I had my cart.  Awesome!

The boards are plywood and the wheels are solid.  Yea! no worrying about blowing out a tire.

Yes, I'm one of those people who has to check all the hardware and parts to make sure nothing is missing.  My husband has influenced me greatly. :)

This is what is should look like...

Thank You!!
Here's who's gonna make it happen. 

So here it is posing in the "driveway garden".  You can see all my "stuff" that I can tote around now. 

My babies.  

Now we're talking.  With my other cart, this would have been two loads, easy.  But here you can see the new cart isn't even half full!