Saturday, August 20, 2011

Europe or Bust: The Crafters Journey Begins

Born in the US to Portuguese immigrants, I was raised in the old world ways.  Fortunate enough to travel there several times with my family, I got to appreciate the lure of Europe and from whence my heritage came.  I have always loved it there.

Since marrying an "American" who isn't interested in seeing other countries, the only trip I've made out of the country was back in 99 to Brazil.  I took my Mom to visit a brother she had not seen in 36 years.  An incredible trip.

Then came the 2010 Family Reunion.  I was at my sister in law Mary's, who I love to create and craft with.  We were looking through books and she excitedly showed me "French General Home Sewn" by Kaari Meng.  I loved it instantly.
 Little did I know that one day in Mary's living room would be the catalyst for one of most amazing adventures of my life. 

About 4 months later, I picked up a book about successful career craftswomen.  Kaari was mentioned.  It encouraged people to challenge themselves and interact with other creative women when possible.  It referenced a fantastic trip: The French General Chateau Getaway.

A week in the south of France with Kaari & twelve friends in a 150 year old Chateau.  Within minutes I was Googling.  The trip was completely booked, I was too late.  I shot out an email asking them if there would be one in 2011.  Yes there would.

The next morning I called my sister in law, sharing my excitement and trying to plant the seed.  Why not go next year?  I know she thought I was crazy.  She placated me by telling me she'd think on it.  I wasn't going to miss out.  I was going.  After telling my husband I doubted she'd go but was prepared to go alone, he let me in on a secret about Mary, his baby sister. 

He said I should absolutely go regardless but that if I told Mary that I was going without her, she wouldn't be able to stand it.  She was never one to miss out on the fun.

I did and she called back the very next day, "I'm IN!".  We planned, figured out how we'd save for it and decided we would use this as a chance to see more of Europe.  Paris and Rome quickly made the list, then Venice was last to be added.  Could we do it?  Absolutely.  The year flew by!

The girl raised in Russell County, KY, never having been out of the country, and having only dreamed of going to France, was about to trust me to guide us across several countries to a far away place. 

Poor schmuck.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Pilgrimage to Prada

pil·grim·age[pil-gruh-mij] Show IPA noun, verb, -aged, -ag·ing.

1.a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion: a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
2.Islam .
a.the Pilgrimage, hajj.
3.any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage: a pilgrimage to the grave of Shakespeare.
That last one is ME.
Those who know me understand I have an obsession with handbags.  I've always really liked them.  Even though my husband has never quite grasped it, he's finally figured out that after 23 years...I'm NOT going to change. 

Boy, do I love a pretty purse.  I cut my teeth, so to speak (I would NEVER actually harm my handbag ) on Vera Bradley then Coach, but escalated.  I bet my husband has regretted buying me that first Vera for Christmas so long ago.

About 8 or 9 years ago I walked into a PRADA in Vegas and it was probably like what happens to a crack addict the first time...I was hooked.  Since then, it's been about "ALL PRADA all the time".

The leather is the most magically scrumptious and buttery feeling of any bag I've had (and that's quite a few).

Oh, I might take out one of my seasonal quickies for a month or so....but it's only to give my PRADA bags a little respite.

No surprise that when I made the plans for my dream trip to Europe, Italy made the list.  Any country that can design a handbag like that deserves a visit.

The Roman Coliseum?  Oh sure, of course that too, while I'm there anyway...and why not the David in Florence, I mean I should get in some culture, right?
But the first MUST DO I wrote on my list was a visit to PRADA!  No Sir, not even a hesitation: I was absolutely coming home with a new bag to add to my teeny but growing collection.  My own Personal Quest.

I did my research the minute we arrived in Rome.  The handy dandy Frommer's travel guide book Jerrica got me for Mother's Day even listed the street the it was on.  Right by the famous Spanish Steps. 

Cool.  Now all I had to do was convince my sister in law, Mary, that she absolutely wanted to visit the Spanish Steps. 

Couldn't look too obvious.

So the day after we had walked what felt like million miles through a guided tour in the insane heat, I gently nudged her to walk, AGAIN.  On our tired legs to make another 4 mile journey, but at a nice soft, leisurely pace.

She might become suspicious if I lassoed her legs and dragged her across the crazy intersections.  

The crowd was huge at the Spanish Steps, but I aggressively pushed our way down and made a beeline for the store front.

Oh WOW, I could swear the heavens parted when I pushed open the door.

It might have been the rush of frigid air conditioned coolness after being in the intense heat for hours. 

Ahh, the smell of leather and of very expensive perfume.  The clerks all looked like runway models.  It must be a policy or something. 

I, in my sweaty shirt, runny makeup and tired feet in Jesus sandals didn't have eyes for anything but the bags. 

Mary thought she saw a movie star.  I thought I found a new hobo style.  Yes, it was glorious!!!  =)

I narrowed it down to two a boxier one and a ruffled one.  They had to be tried on to ensure it didn't become too heavy with all my crap in it.  I contemplated.  Sweet Mary never once complained.  "Bless her heart".

After holding them both, it had to be the gussier ruffled looking one. The tag?  It read Gaufre, meaning "waffle" absolutely perfect!!! 

Can one have a religious experience in 45 minutes?

Uh, just one thing.  A tiny thing really, no biggie.  It's just that my little "Personal Quest" forced me to cash out all my Holiday Club money to pay for my delicious bag.

Are 99 cent reindeer socks still an acceptable gift for Christmas?  =/

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sewing Craft Organizer – Mod Podge Gets Some “Street Cred”

What do a yard sale diva, old sewing patterns and Mod Podge have in common?  We make cool stuff! =)
I found a small wooden chest with drawers at a yard sale for $3.  I didn’t like the color or the knobs, but for three bucks?  I can’t get a latte for that.  The pack rat in me felt it held promise.
It was the right size to hold a bunch of smalls in my sewing room, so I had to make it cute.  Creative powers….ACTIVATE!  
This idea would work on ANY organizer.  I started with buying some nice knobs at Hobby Lobby when they were 50% off.  (You might have some in your craft stash).  Then I grabbed a good old jar of Mod Podge.  It’s a product that doesn’t get enough credit for all the possibilities....  I heart Mod Podge!

It was off with the old knobs...with a pair of pliers I broke  off the cheap, glued on knobs.  Then I went to my stash and dug out an old book of vintage wallpaper reproductions.  I decided to mod podge the frame in a pretty print I liked.  
While that was drying I took the sewing instructions that come with patterns and cut out some busy areas and mod podged those to the drawer fronts.  I was heavy handed with the final coat to give it a good shine.  I drilled tiny holes in all the drawers to hold the new knobs.  I used my handy dandy screwdriver with a drill bit (Yes, I actually have one of my very own).  Put the new knobs and voila!  Almost done.
Then it was a matter of having my husband cut off the remainder of the bolts off so that they didn’t stick out so much in the drawers.  (I usually stay away from the really sharp electrical gizmoes).  
It’s now got a proud place in my creative space and it didn’t cost me very much!   What do you think?

Got any cool “repurpose” project ideas for your sewing or craft room?  Please share!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Scrap Quilt Instructions & Other Prison Secrets

Like any good sewer, I save A LOT of scraps. I keep two wooden boxes handy by my cutting table and sort them by patterns VS solids.  Then every few weeks I put them into two giant bags in my attic. 
I often wondered why I save so many?  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely dig in my scrap piles and they’ve saved me on more than one occasion, but would I ever use all those scraps?

Thanks to The Quilting Coop shop in my town of Asheboro, I KNOW I will!!!  A few weeks ago, I noticed in their newsletter a “Scrap Quilt” class.  By the picture, I thought it looked really nice and I had to sign up.
Last night was my first class.  The first thing that struck me is just how lovely the actual quilt was.  I never would have thought that those tiny scraggly pieces of willy-nilly fabrics would make an amazing piece of art worthy of any grand quilter’s home.
So off I went, slicing and dicing all those little pieces.  I asked Cindy, my instructor:
“Christmas scraps?”  Absolutely!!  Halloween?  Definitely.
In fact, she said that the ONLY rules to this quilt, is that there are positively NO rules.  As wide as I like, or as thin, the more varied, the better.
Should we stay in color families?  NO WAY!
Hmm. That seemed like fun!  No rules, no matching colors, no rhyme or reason.  Why can’t life be that easy?
It took me a little bit to embrace the concept.  The organized person in me was screaming to get out.  I had to shut her up.
I kept trying to cut every strip exactly 1.5 inches.  I noticed someone else cutting hers precisely 2 inches.  Some of us took to the idea right away.  Others, like me, struggled a little bit and had to consciously think: Wait!  Stop matching! 
A few just really couldn’t grasp it.  It felt WRONG in some way.  Like they were breaking all the great “quilting commandments”. 
Place Christmas beside polka dots?  It’s just not done.  No way, no how.
It gave me an “AHA” moment.  Why do we do that?  Struggle so hard against what feels wrong?  Many of us go through life coloring between the lines and always trying to do what’s right and living a peaceful life, not breaking rules or any laws.  A nice, calm, color-complimented and orderly existence. Yet here was something lovely that could come out of a total mess?
It got me thinking.  Criminals don’t worry about order.  They break all the rules.  They are completely oblivious to what “should” be or how it’s supposed to work.   They could care less if they fit in with society’s standards. 
That’s when it hit me:  maybe I’ve been missing out.  Just maybe, in the life of a quilter anyways,  sometimes it's good to be bad.  
Yes ma'am, when it comes to scrap quilting, I need to think like a hardened criminal on a road to the penitentiary.  Break more rules.  Worry less about right or wrong.  Don’t think too much.   Yeah, I like that idea.  
So I flung in a strip of Halloween right next to some red polka dots.
Threw in a scrap of snoopy and slapped some camo on there for good measure.
Oh Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Put the Easter floral next to the batik.
Then I chuckled to myself.  I’ll be ready for the prison yard in no time.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's Salsa Wonderful

Who doesn’t love a jar of homemade salsa made from fresh picked tomatoes?  Another favorite hobby of mine is canning.  Living on 9 acres provides plenty of room for a garden and about 6 years ago I decided to give preserving a try.
Of course, being somewhat OCD, I became hooked.  Suddenly I was canning pretty much anything I could get my hands on.  It's like an art form!
I love making something to feed my family that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals and preservatives.  Plus, I can control the amount of sodium or spices.  Since we like a lot of flavor in our food, I pre-make yummy spaghetti sauces and soups for those days when I can’t think of what to cook.  Throw together some pasta sauce, ground turkey and a box of whole wheat pasta (a friend got me hooked on Dreamfields pasta, it's great and low carb) and voila, a quick delicious healthy meal.
Want to give home canning a try?  Here is the perfect starter book:
Preserved goodies are terrific last minute gifts.  Grab a cute basket, put in a jar of canned salsa, an interesting pottery bowl and a nice card with the recipe.  You'll have a memorable housewarming present they will use often! 

Or bake some frozen croissants and take them to a sick neighbor with a jar of your homemade strawberry preserves.  Trust me, they'll appreciate it more than flowers.
Here’s a favorite salsa of mine that is usually on several of my friend’s wish list for Christmas.  It's easy to make and doesn't take a lot of ingredients.  

Take a jar to work with a bag of tortilla chips and shredded cheese for quick nachos in the microwave.  It has a wonderful flavor.  I canned about 70 jars this past weekend:

Devil’s Delight Salsa:
8 Quarts of cored, peeled & diced tomatoes (you can drain them but don't have to) quick note: I have made this salsa smooth (no chunks), by running a hand blender in the pot while it's cooking, but I usually leave it chunky.  It's really a matter of preference, it tastes the same.
2 Large green peppers (seeded)
3 Chili Releno peppers (leave the seeds in if you want to crank up the heat)
6 Cups of chopped onion (I prefer the red, but use any you have on hand)
8 Jalapenos (leave the seeds if you want it hotter)
10 cloves garlic, peeled & finely diced
12 - 6oz. cans of tomato paste (yes, it really is 12 cans-it makes the sauce rich)
4 CUPS lemon juice (in caps because it's not a typo- it's one of the unusual ingredients that brings out the flavor of the peppers)
3 Tbs cumin
4 Tsp brown Sugar
14-16 crushed cracked peppercorns
4 Tsp salt (It's important to use Canning/Preserving Salt).

Add all the ingredients into a large pot, bring to a simmer.  Simmer 30 minutes and then put into sterilized pint jars.  Yields about 25 pints.
Leave 1/2 inch of head space (from the top edge of the jar) and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 15 minutes.
Since I make so much of this salsa I put mine in quart jars and process for 25 minutes.
If you try it, please let me know how you like it, I'd love to hear.

Do you have a great canned salsa recipe?  Be sure to share!

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Sew Empty Birthday House

Ok, I’m saying it.  I miss my diva girl…um, I mean grown daughter.  I know she’s an adult now and married in fact.  I know this because I was there.
We even threw a party.  A GREAT party.  But oi vey, I didn’t expect that I would miss her 22nd Birthday. 
That she’d move so very far away (2,046 miles to be exact).  The same year I’d used up all my vacation for a “Bucket List” trip to Europe.  Yup, didn’t plan for that.
It seems I blinked and she grew up. 
I’m not saying that I miss her drama or her tantrums, (whew, she had some doozies).   I definitely don’t miss her running up my credit card bill. 
Or explaining to me why she absolutely needed some this or that from Anthropologie “in her life”, or a new cell phone that was going to run me $100 bucks and another two years on my contract, just so she could tweet with her buds. 

But I miss her.  The sarcastic sense of humor and her hysterical belly shaking, falling down laughs that would make me start cracking up at nothing, most times, I didn’t even hear what the heck was so funny!
I miss her picking at her dad,”ZIPPING” the side of his face with her palm, appropriate pay back for all the years he tortured that child.
I miss watching all the “younger shows” like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars with her.  When we’d just turn to each other in synchronized fashion screaming “SCANDALOUS !” over some shocking scene.
I miss her catty remarks too: 
“Are you REALLY going to leave the house in that outfit?, The fashion police will arrest you!”
“The 70’s Disco called and the want their shirt back”
“Is that dinner?  It smells like death”.
“Thanks for putting doo in my pasta momma, (she hates green peppers), I’ll just eat bread”

Everyone says I’ve done shockingly well.  I’ve not had any crying jags, or sat in her old room and felt sorry for myself.  Or felt lost really, in any way.  I haven’t felt like half of me is missing, either. 
When I’ve gone into her old room, (it’s our relaxation/sewing overflow room now), I walk out smiling with thoughts of her.  She’s been a great joy to us both.
Oh the fun we’d have on her Birthdays! The things I made her do! LOL.  
Like dragging her and a girlfriend on her 16th to Carowinds, making her ride every single roller coaster with me.  I convinced her we had to commerorate the special day.
She hates roller coasters. 
I love them. 
She screamed her lungs out until she was hoarse. 
I laughed until my sides hurt. 
Yeah, we’ve had some great times.

Her dad will sass a lot and act like he’s thrilled she’s up and out of the house.  The same tough guy who wrote her the sweetest letter on her first day of school and teared up when he had to leave her in her classroom.  He always says he’s raised three kids and he’s ready to be alone. 
But I’ve just raised the one.  My only one.
So on this very unusual birthday, I say to you, my darling, most precious Girlie Girl:
Have the most amazing day!  Try something new!  Surprise yourself!  You are capable of so many great things, never allow a tiny shred of doubt in who you are and who you want to be.
And I’ll be thinking of you, sending you lots of smiles and hugs….from only a few  thousand miles away.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Time For The Family Reunion!!

Over the past 23 years of our marriage I've attended the Wilson Reunion as often as I could.  It's a  wonderful time and 2 years ago, my husband, his sister and cousin were asked to take the baton and organize the annual event.

What we did to refresh the event:

It's All About the Location - Air Conditioning in June?  THANK YOU!!  It wasn't easy, but we found a place that would hold all of us, a clubhouse in Frankfort.  It was much more expensive than the previous shelter at the park, but worth the investment.  Being able to be out of the heat and in comfortable chairs was great.  It made the day more enjoyable and we didn't have to fight flies off our food.  It also had a good  outdoor, but secure area for the kids to play.

Silent Auction - this was a huge hit!!  We needed to be able to raise money for the better location and the idea came from Mary.  We had about 40 items, all donated and we made enough to rent the building for next year.  Some of the things donated: handmade aprons, homemade wine, family mementos (I bid HUGE on my mother in law's old canning jar), gift baskets, etc.

Traveling Awards - Farthest traveled, youngest attendee, senior attendee, etc.  I purchased some inexpensive plaques from a local trophy shop for about $7 a piece.

Gift - Custom printed magnets and buttons with the year.  I found these inexpensive ones on eBay.

Family Tree Share - As the keeper of the family tree, I preprinted some really cool diagrams and held  a 40 minute mini-class with tips on how to search for geneological information.

We got such great feedback and had a fantastic time, so we're planning to outdo ourselves again.  Strap in clan, it's going to be a blast.

Here's a tiny peek:

The Photobooth is coming! - My daughter and I had my husband build this for her Ever-After Party and it was the hit of the day!  We're packing this massive thing up with all the props to take it 600 miles.  These pictures are just so much fun and my niece, a budding photographer, has agreed to work the camera. 

Face Painting - For the youngest attendees, always popular, I'll be asking my tween granddaughter to help and perhaps her amazing brother could show some of the younger boys how to make origami.

Online Family Searches - I'm working through the details, but we are planning on having a laptop hooked up to allow all the newest additions to the family to be entered on to  Who knows how many new contacts we'll find?

Most importantly, we'll get to reconnect with family we haven't seen in a while and meet all the new babies that have been fortunate enough to be born into this amazing group of people.

I can't wait!!