Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feeling Elfish

On the last day or so from Christmas break, the Christmas Elf usually shows up at school.  This year the elf came on Friday even though we had a half day of school on Monday.  The elf just didn't want to take the chance of there being a snow day or getting sick or something on that order.  

So, for the secretaries the workshop first appeared to look like this...........

Looks pretty colorful doesn't it?  What was to become of all that?  

Snowmen in hats and scarves.

And tucked inside..... a little bit of candy.

Thanks to Laura Haffke's post found here, I simplified her snowman by using paper for the scarf and drawing the eyes.  I also used my petal punch to create those "carrot" noses, just trimming one end of the petal to be a little more rounded.  I also added real blush for the cheeks.  Inside each one was a Lindor Truffle - one of the white varieties.  These little guys were delivered via our interoffice mail to all the secretaries and clerks in the district.  

I, er, um, the elf also toyed with the idea of making these for the staff at our school, but the elf never seems to leave herself much time to do these things so another plan was hatched.

What can you do for 70 people at a very little expense?  Not that the elf is cheap, mind you.  She's just not rich, so she's always on the lookout for something cute, clever, and inexpensive.  And in this case, practical.  

The elf had her helper pick up two cases of water from Costco because there were 35 bottles in each case for $4.99.  And this is what she created to put on them..........

A little work with Print Shop and a paper cutter and tape and into the staff mailboxes they went.  She toyed with the idea of putting lemonade in one of them, but decided against it not wanting to single anybody out.  (Note:  I only added my name to the picture in case this gets pinned anywhere.)

It was much easier to sneak back into the school office after everyone left and put these labels on while there than taking them out of their shrink wrap and bagging them at home, er, in the workshop.  

It's fun to see the reactions of the staff as they find their little "gift" in their mailbox.  Most of them assume it's from me, but I'll only admit to it being the work of the Christmas Elf.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas!

My two main cards for this year.  The color is a little off on the bottom one.  It's more green than turquoise.  The snowflake made it a card suitable for all faiths.  

I'm definitely going to be doing the Jingle Bell challenge next year.  I did not keep up past the first month in 2013 and was rushed to get my cards done and even though I am pleased with them, doing them little by little does alleviate the pressure of getting them all done at once.  

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December Birthdays

Well this first one above isn't a birthday card, it's a little punched Santa rocker that I made for some little quick gifties.  I found the directions here.

The card below was for my office partner.  She likes the brown and red combo so I thought this would be a good choice.  The flower was made by layering some scrunched scallop punches over the punched flower.  I curved the petals and put a dimensional under each to make it really pop.

The next card was for our mail lady at work.  Her favorite color is yellow and although that's not a color I would go to at this time of year, I thought this was quite cheery.

Finally, this card was for one of our good friends that was celebrating his 60th birthday.  You will find that you will be seeing a few cards with this tree theme for these special birthdays coming up.  It's a long story, but it has some significance to us.  The challenge for me will be not repeating the design! We had a wonderful time at his party and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Flying in From California

I don't know if that video is working and if you can see the solar dancers that I have on my counter at work.  This is the winter holiday crew.  Dollar Tree has had quite a few of these come out for the different seasons and holidays.  They really do help make people smile when they come in to the office.  I just wish there was some way that I could get credit for all the calories that they burn all day long.  

Also on my desk recently is this lovely little paper crane folded by my blogging friend Clare who works in a school office in California.  Clare has a couple of blogs, one of them called Peace, Love, Cranes which chronicles her ongoing project of folding and distributing 1000 paper cranes.  You must read about it here.  Now this is not one of her project cranes but it is a crane that she folded and sent to me along with another surprise or two.

(I've put it on my desk at work alongside some of my piggy things.)

She sent me this beautiful bird pin that her husband found.  Yes found.  She remembered that I had posted about the bird pins that I was collecting and thought I should have this one also.  It looks like mother-of-pearl and not at all green like the photograph.  I can't wait to add it to the "flock".

Accompanying the pin is a doily that was handmade by her grandmother.  Clare had read one of my posts where I mentioned that I would have loved to have one of the doilies that my grandmother had crocheted and so she shared one of her grandmother's doilies with me.  Is that not the sweetest thing!

I have been so very fortunate to have made a few wonderful acquaintances from all corners of the world through this blog and it always touches my heart when things like this happen.  Bloggers share so much in many ways.

Thank you Clare for thinking of me and sharing these wonderful treasures.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pierogi Day

Looks like quite a mess.  This is where it starts the afternoon after Thanksgiving day.  My family - my mother, sister, and brother, along with HWNSNBP and I and Rachel (who was allowed to be absent this year).   Everyone has one or more jobs in the production line - the doughmaker, the roller, the fillers, the pinchers or crimpers, the prickers, the boiler, and the packager.

The Dough  

5 cups flour
1 heaping tablespoon Bisquick 
1 heaping teaspoon sour cream

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) margarine melted in 1 cup of very hot water
1 egg

I start with the first three ingredients in my KitchenAid with the dough hook on.  The margarine and water go in next at a slightly higher speed so as not to cook the flour.  Then in goes the egg.   If it's too dry, more hot water.  Too wet, more flour.  When it pulls from the sides of the bowl I turn it out on the counter, kneading it just a bit to make sure that all the dry ingredients are absorbed and it's not too sticky.  Then it goes into a floured bowl, gets covered with a clean towel and sits and rises.  Then another batch.  And another batch.  And another batch.  Turned out to be 5 batches of dough this year.

While the dough is rising the fillings are prepared.  We make two kinds - potato cheese and cheese. The potato filling is usually what is left of the mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner at mother's house with perhaps a few more made on Friday morning.  To that we add....... wait for it.......... Cheez Whiz.  Two jars that were heated in the microwave with some shredded cheddar and salt and pepper to taste.  When mixed together it should be easy to work with and not sticky so it can be easily molded with spoons.

The cheese filling consists of 3 pounds of farmer's cheese, 28 oz. of large curd cottage cheese (drained if it's really watery), two bunches of scallion tops chopped, a couple of eggs and salt and pepper to taste.  This is the harder filling to work with as it is not as easily molded with spoons.

My brother and HWNSNBP take turns rolling the dough on the counter - the most labor-intesive part of the process.  

We used to use the open end of a two-liter soda bottle to cut circles until I saw this pierogie maker on QVC.  Jeez, it has to be over 15 years ago now as my father was still alive when I got it.

The rollers keep one on the counter to help measure the spread of the dough and the other, with it's dividers goes on the kitchen table which has been covered with a plastic table cloth.

You see below the depressions in the mold where the filling is being placed.  Two of us are responsible for filling and wetting the edges of the depressions with water so when the second sheet of dough is laid over the filled pockets, it will stick together.   There's another rolling pin on the table used to roll over the filled pockets - kind of like using a big shot to die cut the semi-circles.  The excess dough is peeled away and the filled product is dumped onto the table.  

The edges get crimped to make sure none of the filling will escape and then they are pricked several times with toothpick.  I'm not sure exactly why that is, but I guess it's so they don't blow up when heated.

From the table they go into a pot of boiling water and will stay there until they rise to the surface.  

Once cooked they're scooped onto a jelly roll pan and rubbed with margarine.  This will help them not to stick together as much during the packaging process.

From there they go outside onto the covered picnic table to cool and be packaged.  No more than 6 to a package or they're almost impossible to pull apart after freezing.  

We prepared 7 dozen cheese and 9 dozen potato cheese in just about three hours thanks to the assembly-line we had going.  Three dozen of each are put in the freezer to be defrosted and cooked on Christmas Eve.  The rest get divied up for a meal over the weekend or to share with friends and colleagues at work.  

Of course, any casualties (those that may have opened during boiling) are used for tasting purposes but there only happened to be one of each kind this time. 

Usually we order pizza for afterwards, but this time we just had leftover desserts and I finished cleaning up after they all left.  We had pumpkin, apple, cherry, and butterscotch pie to choose from, and my pumpkin roll of course.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fall in Love

Fall in Love - that was the theme of the bridal shower that Rachel recently took part in.  Her friend is getting married on New Year's Eve and last Saturday was the shower.  If you remember the piles of leaves from this post you'll now see what I did with them.

Four different leaves of different colors, each stamped with a different pattern and then the leaf veins were embossed with a stylus.  You can't see from the top that they were glued to a 1" circle of cardstock.   I used my computer to print up "Fall in Love" as well as the bride and groom's names and the date of the wedding on Very Vanilla cs and then punched out with a 1 1/8" circle punch layered onto a 1 1/4" circle of black (off-white and black are the wedding colors).  I added a simple bow in Very Vanilla, stuck a dimensional on the back and they were ready to go.

Rachel and her housemates who are also in the wedding party, were responsible for putting them on the boxed cupcakes they had ordered as favors.

They did a nice job, don't you think?  

I've got some additional leaves that I diecut from the scraps I had leftover, but of course I have not done anything with them yet and now they will be put away until next fall.  Someone remind me about that next August, okay?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

A surprise sighting of the Thanksgiving Chipmunk.  I think he was looking for his Thanksgiving dinner.  We've never seen them out and about this late as cold as it's been here.  He makes me smile but I worry about him being scooped up as someone else's dinner.  Hopefully he will settle in to hibernation soon.

Today I am thankful for .................... everything. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frost Feathers

Monday morning.  On the windshield.  Feathers of frost.

Can one drive through a pillow fight?

Only until the sun illuminates them and they take on their crystalline sparkle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coloring This and That

Oh sure, you look innocent enough trapped there in the corner of the box.  Standing side-by-side looking pretty.

Then someone took you out and look what you did!

And look what happened.

Someone should have used gloves.  

What's going to become of all those leaves?  Can't share just yet.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

National Button Day, My Gypsy Rod, And What I'm Thankful For

Saturday was National Button Day.  I happened to have a jar of buttons on the table that contained these buttons that I found at a rummage sale back a few years.  The colors reminded me of fall and had wanted to do something with them rather than look at the in the little jar they were in.  

I played with some patterns and finally decided on this one.  I started with a square of white felt larger than the buttons as they were laid out on the table.  Then I started by finding the center and sewing that first button there.  The buttons were slippery and just a wee bit too small to hold onto and be able to take those stitches in so I decided to turn them all over and one row at a time, I dabbed a tiny bit of glue on the back of each one.  This gave me just enough stability to be able to keep the buttons in a straight line as I sewed them onto the felt.  

When I was done sewing on the buttons, I carefully cut away the excess felt to get the hexagonal shape.  I took another piece of felt (this time in dark yellow) and cut another hexagon from that. Then, using brown floss, I blanket stitched the felt together.  

I'm having mixed feelings about this finished product.  I intend to use it as a coaster, but every time I look at it the colors are taking me back to the 70's.  Gold, olive, and orange were very popular back then.  

The following pictures are of my "gypsy rod" in our kitchen.  It's my excuse for a window treatment.   We have lot's of windows in our house but most of them have very untraditional and sometimes no window treatments.   Our neighbors are far enough away not to be able to see in, and we are quite a distance from the road, and I love having all the natural light.  

So for the kitchen, I had HWNSNBP install a drapery rod complete with hooks and I purchased this beaded garland from the Scandinavian shop in Cape May.  There are three strands of garland loosely wrapped around the rod.  And using the drapery hooks or in some cases green wire, I have hung windchimes, glass ornaments, ceramic birds, and various other pretty things.  

Everything has a story and there's always room for more.  

I'm thankful that HWNSNBP puts up with most of my creative decorating and I have freedom of expression.  It's anything but traditional.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Today I am Thankful for............ Days 13 & 14

My view from the office window where I work. 

There is a beautiful dogwood tree right outside to the right.  In the spring the flowers are pink and breathtaking.  In the fall the leaves turn the most gorgeous shade of deep red.  We have two bird feeders and one suet feeder and HWNSNBP usually comes by on Sunday to refill everything.

The temperatures have dropped considerably this week and there has been a slew of feathered friends looking for a quick meal.  We've had male and female cardinals, blue jays, wrens, sparrows, and a few types of woodpeckers to name a few.  The dogwood berries are still on this tree, not like the ones at home which the squirrels have busied themselves with.  (I wouldn't mind it if they ate the berries but they just start pinching them off in late August leaving none for the birds in the winter.)  As we get further into the cold weather season, the birds will go for those fatty-rich berries.

Across the horseshoe driveway is the little piece of land that is really not that little as it can hold the population of the school at least times two.  Directly across from me is the school sign that lets the community know what's going on here each month.  It faces the road coming and going so I only see the end view.  There is a nice planting of shrubs surrounding the sign and off to the right we have several young trees that have been planted in memory of a few of our staff members who have passed on.

To the left of the sign and a little closer towards the building is the post with the bluebird nesting box that HWNSNBP and I got permission to install.  I do keep a pair of binoculars at my desk to help me monitor just what kind of birds are hanging around that box. 

Yesterday, even though by the calendar we are still in autumn, we got a taste of winter.  The temperatures were below freezing and the wind, well the wind definitely had a bite.  My eyes were drawn to the nest box as I saw one bluebird sitting atop the post and the other attempting to hover over it.  So I grabbed my binoculars to see what was going on.  There was another bird in the box. I guessed it wasn't a bluebird which was why the blues were so seemingly upset.

This was happening while there was a discussion going on in our office, a gripe session, about the heating system and how cold some of the classrooms were with the air blowing and the temperature registering 69º.

That poor little bird in the box was trying to shelter itself from the cold wind.  The "feels like" temperature had gone well below 32º.  Bluebirds will congregate in nestboxes in the winter to keeping each other warm while avoiding the wind.  My guess is that they were not willing to share their box with another bird species and were trying to coax it out of there.

I bet they all would have been happy in a 69º room.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Today I am Thankful for..........Day 11

Today I am thankful for our veterans, those men and women who have laid everything on the line for our freedoms.

My daughter-in-law posted this link on her facebook page today and it really touched me so I am sharing with you.

Fallen Soldier on My Delta Flight

Today I'm Thankful for............. Days 6-10

A little self-indulgent time off.  

Here in New Jersey the first Thursday and Friday of November are traditionally Teacher's Convention Days which means no school...........for the teachers and students.  We 12-month employees do have to go in unless we use personal time, which I chose to do.  

I don't really have the opportunity during the day to do anything personal at my desk like scheduling appointments or repairwork at for our home so I did some of that one morning.  

Since we brought our oven back into the house after the new floor was put in, the temperature has been screwy and baking has been kind of hit and miss and with Thanksgiving approaching I did not want to have one of those 10-hours-to-cook-a turkey catastrophes.  So, next Friday someone is coming to look at it.  

I also hadn't rehung my "gypsy rod" and took advantage of a sunny afternoon to get that done.  (I'll try to get a picture once the windows are cleaned..... that was something that didn't get done.)  

And after I had some medical tests done early Friday, I spent the next few hours at Walmart transferring pictures off my photo card to disks and doing a little shopping.  I hadn't realized that I had so many pictures on the card and learned a lesson too.  I didn't set the date feature up on the camera probably for about the first year I had it and until I did, all the pictures taken before the date was enabled wound up in one file which caused some problems trying to save them to disks which became multiple disks.  

Because I can't find the disks with the software for my Canon camera I can't seem to transfer directly from the camera to the new computer, and I realized that my new computer doesn't have a card reader, so I had to purchase one of those.  

This transferring of files from one computer to the next is proving to be a bit of a nightmare.  Some of my pictures files have gone missing from the old computer and the guy who I was relying on to do this for me swears that he didn't delete anything.  I probably have them all on disks somewhere.  I think I need a few more days for all of that.  But I don't know when that will be.

We purged a big box of VCR tapes and I've been trying to get Rachel's old room cleaned out so she will come home for Thanksgiving (she's threatened she won't until we get that done and I really can't blame her).  But we seem to be working in the reverse domino effect.   You know when you can't do something because you have to finish something else first, and before you can finish that thing, there is something else that needs to be done.  

There was some fun stuff accomplished too.  I've got a little Thanksgiving project almost done and I made a prototype for a favor Rachel needs for a bridal shower for a friend of hers.  HWNSNBP and I both needed new winter coats and found something suitable for both of us today on a quick trip to Flemington.  And it was just after that when we stopped at Wegman's to do our weekly shopping that I realized how much I love the fact that HWNSNBP usually does this on his own. People are crazy pushing grocery carts on Sundays!  And there's so many of them!

So I am thankful to have had a few days to make a dent in some of this stuff. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Today I am Thankful for.......... Day 4

Today I am thankful for the sound of birds in the morning.  Our neighborhood is relatively free from traffic sounds.  There are cars and buses that pass by the house in the morning but we are set up a hill about 100 feet from the road so the backyard is pretty sheltered from noise.  When I leave for work in the morning, when I step outside the back door, I am greeted by the sound of the birds. 

If you listen carefully you can tell what the mood is.  If there are crows or jays around it is usually very noisy.  The goldfinches make such a sweet happy sound when they're gathered around the feeder and get very agitated when I interrupt their morning meal and they quickly disperse from the feeder to the trees.  Occasionally there will be a hawk in the area causing a silence that will only be punctured by it's scream sending all the other birds for cover.

If I'm lucky, I will catch the call of the bluebirds.  We've learned over the years to identify their song and calls.  When I hear them, I stop in my tracks and search the treetops for a glimpse of them, but they are usually well hidden and I need to get on my way.

If I'm very lucky, as I was this morning, I will hear the bluebirds when I get out of my car at the school.  The parking lot is adjacent to a wooded lot and their song resonated in the cool of the morning.   The tension of facing a Monday morning was suddenly erased.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Today I am Thankful for.......... Day 3

Today I am thankful for Nature's miracles, big and small.  Sunrise over the bay -  

a prelude to a partial solar eclipse. (Click on the picture for a better view.)

And then there was a lone rose blooming after the killing frost in the neglected garden.

Turning the clock back today made it much easier to get up to view that sunrise today.  There was a bit of a bite in the air, right around 40º but the chance to view the eclipse was too hard to resist.

Later, as HWNSNBP was running the tractor and collecting the leaves he noticed the rose.  Funny thing is we don't remember ever having planted a yellow rose in the garden.  

There are many beautiful surprises this time of year.  Hope you are enjoying some.

Today I am Thankful For....... Day 2

Today (Saturday) I am thankful for friends.  Our Table 7 crew (minus 2) met for our annual fall dinner at Mud City.   We left early in the day for Barnegat and once we were there HWNSNBP took full advantage of the beautiful autumn day and did some surf fishing while I did a little shopping with my friend J.

I had mixed up a batch of pumpkin fudge on Saturday night and quickly put together the batter for some chocolate molasses cookies before we left B-burg in the morning.  I've been having a problem with the temperature in our oven here since we moved it back into the kitchen after we did the floor, so I took advantage of having an oven in Barnegat to bake the cookies without fussing about them so much.  Some fudge and cookies would be our contribution to the after dinner get together.

As I was baking the cookies I was running from the front to the back trying to see where the best view of the sunset would be.  In the summer months it is perfectly viewed from the back porch, but as we near the winter months, the sun sets almost behind the end of the building making it almost impossible to see unless you hang out the back window..... which I did.  

The time spent before, during and after dinner (+ two) with our friends is priceless.  Even though the same stories are shared, laughter is the background music to our get-togethers.  There's always some little detail of something that happened a good 30 years ago now that keeps the ball rolling.  

I think somehow reliving the youthful days of our past over and over is keeping us young in our minds and hearts though our bodies may be betraying us.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Today I am Thankful For...... Day 1

Today I am thankful for electricity.  A year ago we were without power and did not know at the time that we would be for 12 days.  Today a storm went through NJ and there are areas that lost power and are expected to be without into the weekend.  I am so thankful that our area was spared. I still have my 3 rocks under the bed in our room that remind me (sometimes painfully if I accidentally kick one getting in bed) of the measures that we went to to try to stay warm. 

We've talked about getting a whole-house generator but we haven't moved forward with that yet. There have been other projects throughout this year.  Hopefully we're not tempting fate and can this done in the near future.  

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Birthday and the Witches Tea with Pumpkins

My friend L had a birthday this past week and  I tried to use some fall colors in her card.  Pretty Petites and French Foliage were the stamp sets I used along with the hexagon punch and some DSP.  

L and J and I went to the "Witches Tea" at Teaberry's.  We were supposed to go to this last year but the hurricane put the kabosh on that.  The tea room was decorated to the nines in Halloween regalia and most of the participants came dressed as witches.  This was our favor - a rosette ornament used as a napkin ring.  Below was the menu for the evening and you can catch a glimpse of the spiderweb-lace tablecloths that wer on the tables.

I took pictures of our food and I won't bore you with them, but I will tell you that it was delicious. A four-course meal that included a bowl of award-winning soup, a tangy fall salad, my choice of braised spareribs with garlic mashed potatoes, carrot coins, and red cabbage and a final course of pumpkin mousse.  Of course we each had our own pot of tea and over 100 varieties to choose from.  

This owl was in the ladies room.  I wish I could have taken more pictures of the decorations in the main rooms but the light was very low and the seating was sold out.  We were entertained by a lovely witch who told us all about the history of witchcraft in her storyteller way.  

If you walked into the tearoom you really would have thought that it was a meeting of witches. Almost everyone had on black and some sort of witches hat.  

While not exactly a witches pointed hat, this was the hat that I wore.  I picked up this little felt top hat when we were in Delaware visiting Rachel earlier this month and I knew that I wanted to make a hat for Halloween out of it.  I really had hoped to find a pointed hat that size, but it was not to be. I had some fabric from the quilt show (oops, I don't think I posted about that yet), and some beads and fall picks that I gathered along the way and put this together.  

There are hair clips sewed to the brim underneath that I used to pin it to my head.  That white pumpkin is smaller than an adult head just to give you an idea of the size of the hat.  I think I mentioned that I had plans for the pumpkin but it wasn't to use it as a hat holder, though this did work out for the photo and looks pretty cool on the kitchen table.  

I've had a run with fabric projects this fall that I've been trying to complete along with some other things that I've been working on.  These pumpkins below are the easiest pumpkins that I've ever done.  I found the tutorial here.  I opted to use just three strands of jute and found that taking a longer running stitch around the yo-yo made it go faster and didn't leave such a big opening for me.

I had these fat quarters on hand down at the condo and thought it would be okay to make some non-traditional fall pumpkins out of them.  I pulled plates and bowls out of the cabinets to use as patterns for the circles so you see a variety of sizes.  

I'll have to get a better picture of the basket that I used for the picture.  It was a project that I had asked HWNSNBP to do for me - a  wood and wire trug to gather produce from the garden.   I didn't get a chance to use it for that this summer since we let the garden get away from us this year. There's always next year.  

I have so many things on my to-do list that I wanted to get done for Halloween but I've got a stinking cold that's knocked me for a loop.  I was going to bake cookies, try making pumpkin marshmallows and throw together some pumpkin fudge, but I don't want to spread my germs around.  It's frustrating when you stay home sick and can't get to do the things you would really like to take time off for.