Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Birthday to...Piggy??

 There's always one of those toys that, after all the other ones have been given away, tossed, donated, or broke, still hangs around. We have a little pig, given to Evelyn when she was a baby, that has always been a favorite of one of the kids at one time or another. It goes in the toy bin awhile, then gets rediscovered and played with. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Lately, Piggy has been a heavy favorite between Gretchen and Sylvia.  They have him dressed in baby doll clothes, set him down for naps, bring Piggy to the table for meals.. Then a few days ago, they announced that it's Piggy's birthday in a few days. They set about drawing pictures and putting together some presents.  I thought it might be fun to surprise them and secretly make a cake for Piggy's birthday:

And were they surprised!!

 The Birthday Pig and his guests.

 Piggy seems pleased.

I think Piggy wished he could always be loved by us, which most certainly will come true. He's a keeper!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rag Rugging It

I grew up around rag rugs. My mom made several-- one in the room my sister and I shared, one in the hallway, one in front of the door...  My grandma was a big believer in keeping idle hands busy, so Mom and her sister learned a lot of crafts growing up.

I always admired the rugs, though. I have fond memories of the one in our bedroom-- large oval in those typical 70's colors- brown, mustard yellow, and white. I remember it being huge and running into the room, landing on the rug and sliding a few feet.  I saw it years later, as an adult, and was shocked at how small it was!

I asked my Mom to teach me how to make my own rag rug a few years ago, and I hit the ground running, making several one year, but something always bugged me-- they didn't look like how I remembered Mom's rug looking like.  I had no example to compare notes to, so I just kept making them.

Then I found an old rug at a yard sale-- in decent shape and she let me have it for 50 cents. I grabbed it so I could at least have an example to refer to.

Here's the vintage rug.  It's a nice example, shows some wear, but it's still in pretty good shape.

Folded over to show the back side.

Here's the one I made several years ago, I meant to make this room-sized, but I didn't finish it because I couldn't shake the feeling I wasn't doing it right.

See how up close, the stitches look different? The vintage rug has nice, chunky, fat stitches. Mine are thin, plus mine is stretchy, as if I made it with elastic instead of cotton. I have a very hard time getting the edges to stay flat instead of rolling up, too.

So I studied the vintage rug. And studied it some more. The edge was kind of worn and starting to unravel, so I kind of picked at it, hoping to figure out how to make those fat, chunky stitches. Mom couldn't explain why the rug I made was so different from the one I found-- it's been nearly 40 years since she last made a rag rug, so she can't remember how she did it. She pulled out one of her rugs and sure enough, it matches the vintage one!

We both studied it, tried to decipher it, I crocheted a chain, tried a stitch, unraveled it and tried another one. I went online and looked up rag rug directions. I sent an email to a fellow blogger that posted a picture of her rug that also had chunky stitches. I couldn't sleep! I went through all my books looking up stitches. My mind just wouldn't let it drop!

Then, while lying on the bed, resting, talking with Andrew, my mind making imaginary rugs, I had a sudden image of how to do it! I ran for the needle and started stitching a chain.  I turned and made the stitch I saw in my head and I did it!! I got nice, fat, chunky stitches! Eureka!!

This is the result of one afternoon, frantically crocheting, making sure I commit that stitch to memory. I received a response to my email and she described it just the way I was doing it-- It's called a Double Chain Stitch!

Walter the Kitten approves!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I can't even begin to tell you how much I love yard sales.
The things you can find, both useful and not, quality and cheap, new and old, there are all sorts of items! I especially love when they're big with a variety of stuff, even boxes you need to dig through-- those are the hidden treasure finds!

A trip into town yielded a yard sale on a Monday (?!) which was quite large, inside of three storage spaces. I happened to be solo, which meant no children begging for toys-- of which there were plenty of, and I was able to quietly hunt. The only downside was I had only $2 cash in my pockets, oh, let's hope I find something that doesn't cost too much! And I did! An old shoebox full of embroidery thread! For exactly $2-- what luck!

(Sorry for the blurry photo) Once home, I went through the box and arranged by color and brand of thread. Most of them were J & P Coats, a few DMCs, some Peri-Lusta Filo, a couple of Bucilla, and A.T.CO'S Silkine Red Star brand.
I love the label of the Red Star Brand. I have never seen this brand before.

Digging further, I found this old Bucilla embroidery pattern of a basket of flowers and on the back..

..instructions on how to do some of the stitches.

Love this old A & P needle book.

Can you see the spider web pattern on the foil? Love!

My best guess at the age of this stuff is from the 50's, as dated evidence of a newspaper ticket showed up. Can anyone remember when the daily paper cost 5 cents and the Sunday paper was 15 cents? 45 cents a week?? I pay $2.50 for a Sunday paper now!
The thing I found most fascinating, was threaded needles left in nearly every color thread.

This was obviously someone's working project that was never completed. I love this idea of leaving the thread on the needle and sticking it in the label of the thread, then using another needle with another color. That seems so much easier than pulling the thread out of your one needle and re-threading with new thread, often losing the other color or it gets tangled. This would be so convenient, especially with a project that causes you to change colors often and not having to re-thread  every time. Plus, the needle keeps the label from falling off the thread. I think I'll adopt this practice for my own!

No wonder there were several packets of needles that were nearly empty!
Don't you wish you could still pay 19 cents for 12 needles or 30 cents for 16??

Monday, February 20, 2012


Fifty percent of the time, Peter is clothed.

The other half, he's 'nakey' and running around the house whooping it up.
Even when it's cold.

There have been too many times to count, when he has gone outside with no shoes on, or no coat, or he starts out with boots and coat on and ends up naked in the little duck pool, boots discarded and coat lost in the yard somewhere. We had a nice day recently, and dragged all the kids outside for fresh air and a walk in the woods. Like clock-work, Peter was soon naked and romping in a puddle in the garden, then in a small pool of water in the canoe before he ended up splashing in the duck pool. By "nice day", I mean it was in the 50s and sunny, and still needing to wear a light coat or jacket, so that water was pretty cold.

I've heard of other people talking about their own toddlers doing the same thing, running about naked in the cold, seemingly not feeling the effects of frostbite nipping at their toes. I swear, if I didn't keep an eye on him, Peter would happily lounge about without clothes on everyday, all day long! He'd fit in nicely at the nude beaches!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Unexpected Surprises

I really must get a camera for the kids.
Too many times, I check and find photos like these:

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Random Tidbits

It's nearly mid-February and I have hardly done any crafting this new year. I'm itching to do something, but haven't figured out what it is yet.  The flower embroidery I haven't finished is calling my name, as is the rag rug I started, um, 2 years ago. But I don't feel like doing them. I'm looking for something quick and easy, the sort of project that, hopefully, will give me a jump-start into crafting again.

Andrew broke out our old nintendo and super nintendo games a couple of weeks ago, while I was out for the day and he stayed home with the kiddos.  What a flashback it's been seeing games I haven't played in years! I remember many days of my youth spent playing Super Mario 3, Donkey Kong Country, and Zelda. I'm surprised at how much I remember and the girls are awed at my mad nintendo skillz. Actually, playing some of those games remind me of the frustrations I had back then, when my best friend could whiz through some of those levels and I failed over and over at the same stinkin' level, unable to move on. I was playing a round of Donkey Kong Country after the kids went to bed, stocked up on 99 lives at an easy level, then, I kid you not, I died 99 times trying to complete ONE lousy stop on the next highest level. I actually wished for my best friend to be by my side and handing over the controls saying, "here, you do it!"

Crazy, freakin' weather here. One day it's a balmy 50 and the next it's 17 degrees and we're freezing our butts off! Now that my little greenhouse is up, I need to set up a thermometer in there and check it daily, recording the temperature, deciding when is a good time to get my seeds started. Andrew and I are determined to make this year's garden the best yet, and we are planning to buy a new tiller with our tax refund money.  Fingers crossed we get back a nice amount.

Our current tiller is the kind that gets hooked up to the back of the tractor and tills 4 foot rows. Nice to start and end the garden soil with, but lousy to till between rows during the growing season. We had a little pipsqueak tiller, but it went kaput and research tells us that to get it repaired, the parts will cost as much as buying a new one. So we are opting for a medium-sized tiller, not too big for me to handle, but big enough to till between rows and keep the weeds down.

Previously, we used an old carpet as weed block between rows, which worked great the first couple of years, but now weed seeds have buried themselves in the rug pile and when pulling up the carpet at the end of the season last fall, it was quite an effort to yank them off the soil.  Weeds grew on top and their roots held fast underneath the carpet. I was sore the next few days from all that yanking. Plus, much of the carpet just deteriorated in my hands, which made it harder to pull up in some places. Going to start saving newspapers for weed block and along with the tiller, should do a good job in keeping weeds at bay.

Couponing has been good for us lately, our pantry is full, the freezer is packed, the bathroom closet is over-flowing with toiletries... Sure came in handy when we got a call from a friend, asking if we could help out a family when their new house burned down yesterday. Lost everything. They needed clothes for their 2 boys, 1 year and 4 years old.  I didn't have very much baby clothes left, but I managed to dig up some 18 month sizes and some clothes for the 4 year old. Some toys our kids no longer played with went to them also.  We also gathered up a box full of shampoo, body washes, toothpaste, and some other things they might need. My heart goes out to them and I count my blessings that we were able to help out just a little bit.

Valentine's day is tomorrow. We don't normally make a big deal about Valentine's Day, but I happened to have some left over valentine's candy after making goody bags for the birthday party last week, so we're going to make a scavenger hunt for the kids tomorrow.  After they go to bed tonight, Andrew and I will make maps and clues and hide little treats around the house.

Have you seen this? I made one for Andrew for Valentine's. Nothing fancy, nice and simple and we could always use matches around the house, so when I saw it, I knew I'd make one. I had enough to make two, so one for him as a surprise, and one I'll keep near the wood stove, for those few times when I have to start my own fire.

Oh look-- it's bedtime for the kids! Time to go!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I think I once heard ducks being called the bullies of the barnyard.
Whether or not that statement is true, it seems to apply to my ducks. Goodness, they chase the chickens, the cats, and poor Maisie the dog. It's gotten to the point where Maisie doesn't like to go  outside anymore, which is a problem when she needs to relieve herself. One of us has to be her bodyguard and shoo the ducks away, but several times this week, we have woken to little accidents on the living room floor (thank goodness for wood floors!). Something must be done about these bullies. Too bad a lecture wouldn't do the trick!

Cheese and Quackers seem to be innocent and sweet, but underneath those lovely white feathers are some pushy ducks! The hubs has started saying, "Never getting ducks again!" and I'm inclined to agree. I think if we were to ever get ducks again, I would make sure we had a pond and that it was sort of far from the house and away from where the chickens are. In the meantime, though, I'm not quite sure what to do with our ducks now. I plan on fencing in the chickens as soon as the ground thaws and I can put posts in the ground, so the chickens won't be terrorized by the ducks once that's done. I originally planned to fence the ducks in with the chickens, but am having second thoughts about that. I hate the idea of putting up a second fence for the ducks, I don't want my homestead to be all about little fenced-in areas, but the way things are going, I may have to.  Any ideas? These ducks are really becoming a problem in keeping the peace among the animals.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Homemade biscuits are the perfect vessel for eating my homemade Cherry Almond Jam!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Years past, when I tried to start my seeds indoors, something always happens to mess it up--
new puppy got into the trays; toddlers toddling around, knocking the trays over; too cold, too hot, not enough water, too much water.
Ugh! I usually end up buying flats of young plants and transplanting.

This year! I vow to do better! This year, I want to get my garden started earlier! This year, I will build that greenhouse!

Taking advantage of the mild winter, I finally did it-- I built a little greenhouse.
Nothing fancy, just a cattle panel bent between two t-bars and then plastic we saved from a mattress and box-spring set. I backed it against the pole barn and stapled the plastic to the wall, then tied down the plastic in certain spots to keep it tacked down. It got quite warm in there, when I was fastening the ties, so I'm hoping future trays of seeds will thrive in there.

I need another bit of plastic to cover the bottom of the doorway there, and then it's good to go.  If it works out well, I'll tweak it and improve it some more next year and possibly make it a little larger using a second cattle panel. I'm trying to use materials I already have.

The bottom of the plastic will be rolled up if it gets too warm in there, I'll use clothespins to keep the plastic up and to keep the plastic closed, in lieu of a door.  If it works out, I'll spend a little more resources on it, make a door from scrap wood and make it more sturdy. For now, we're using an old shelf and looking for another one to slip in there on the side to hold more flats. I want to get gravel for the floor later, but for now, I'm using those floor mats you find in playrooms.  Just something to keep the weeds down. 

Nothing fancy, but it should do the trick. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I was playing Chinese Checkers with Evelyn the other day. I love Chinese Checkers.
I played a lot when I was a kid, and when no one wanted to play with me,
I played against myself. I think I'm a pretty good player, I can get from one side to the other quickly.

I played two games with Evelyn and won both times.
She got quite upset.
I told her to keep trying, to pay attention to how I play and she may pick up some winning moves.
The third game, she just started imitating my every move, but it only confused her and she lost again.
I showed her some tricks, that it helps to make what I call a "ladder" with her marbles.
The fourth game was close, I helped and moved a few of her marbles to help her understand the ladder trick, and it ended with her one marble behind me when I put my final marble home.

She nearly burst into tears because I won again, but I gave her props for being so close behind me and almost winning. She started feeling better when I told her that we'd play again the next day and she just might beat me then.

I don't believe in letting kids win all the time.  It was different when they were toddler-aged, when winning a game encouraged and motivated them to play more and in playing, they learned sportsmanship and whatever else the game taught.  As they get older, they need to learn that there are winners and losers. Sure, it'd be nice to win all the time, but it isn't realistic and it doesn't teach them anything, except maybe to get cocky.

Of course I don't like to see my children cry, but I also know that I can't hand them everything they want. Losing gracefully now, at a child's game, may someday teach her how to deal with something in real life, when she is older. We don't lord it over them when we win, we give encouragement and compliments on a game well-played, and offer tips and tricks for next time. Hopefully they get fired up and try harder next time, learn from their mistakes and someday, they'll beat us for real, not because we let them win.