Friday, September 28, 2012

Scary, spooky, stitching time!

Sometimes I forget what time of year it is!  Embarassing, but true. Today I'm working on some Christmas designs for 2013. WHOA...that's next year! I'm planning a monthly series of Christmas ornaments for 2013. Yes, that's one ornament a month for the whole year. More about that later...

Meanwhile, to make sure I'm firming rooted in reality, I've been decorating my house for fall this week. Since my daughters are grown and gone, friends ask why I do this time-consuming job. Because I LOVE it! I make a giant mess, hauling totes from the basement full of autumn accoutrement...leaves, spiders (real and fake), haunted houses, and pumpkins...lots of pumpkins.

Sometimes I repeat entry hall table has looked the same for several years now. Several years ago I did an arrangement I really liked, so I photographed it. Since I've finally figured out how to store photos in a logical way (thanks, Memory Manager!), I can find the photo and recreate the scene. I've had that funky Halloween Santa guy (right side, under cloche) for over 20 years, and he still makes me smile, with his bag of pumpkins on his back.

But this year, something new happened...PINTEREST!  Oh my, I should never have consulted Pinterest for Halloween decor ideas. Pinterest had SO many beautiful pics that took me to even MORE blogs where these ladies are SO creative. Where do they find the time??? And how do I choose what to do?

In all this internet cruising I got stuck in a rut looking at "Halloween Mantel" arrangements? I didn't know there were huge postings devoted solely to mantel decor...for all seasons! If I knew how to post my pic on one of those sites, I would. But, since I only know how to post it here, here's my finished mantel. At least I think it's finished...additional tweaking may occur.

My mantel is really wide, deep (a good thing) and high off the ground, so kind of an interesting challenge. But here's the good part...I only spent $3 on this grouping. I moved some little lamps I usually have in my kitchen, moved a painting from the living room, and filled in with stuff from my stash. The only additions were the 3 little black crows (right side) I saw on Pinterest ($1 each at Dollar Tree - love that place!).

Above is my new kitchen grouping. I brought out my favorite feathery owl (which my grown daughters think is truly creepy) and found him a place of honor in the front The only new addition is the BOO sign. I already had the frame, so I did some letters on my computer, added a border and printed it, and dropped it in the frame. EASY peasy!

Have you ever used blackboard paint? Everyone on Pinterest says it's a snap. Well., I still have black fingernails and even black blotches on my feet from drippy paint, but I think the finished product was worth it! I wanted a big blackboard surface to doodle on, but I didn't want to buy anything. I used a giant metal tole tray (I collect these and this is the biggest tray I ever scored on Ebay) and painted the BACK side. Now it's resting over my stovetop, conveying seasonal messages. Some bright (fake) leaves from Dollar Tree complete the little scene. This was my first attempt at seasonal messages...improvement will (hopefully) follow. 

But I digress...this post is called Spooky, Scary Stitching, and that was my intention when I began. I was going to post a bunch of photos of my Halloween projects. But hey...just check my website at to see the whole scary collection. Just go to the Categorical Listings button and click on Halloween. Meanwhile, here's one of my faves from my sampler friend Flora McSample. It's a L*K sampler-ish take on Halloween, and comes with some beautiful lavender linen and orange pumpkin button. It's quirky, quick and fun!

Happy Halloween stitching...and decorating!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A pig tail, or pig tale!

CAUTION: WARNING! Please read BEFORE proceeding!

This blog contains images of a real live PIG ROAST! If you don't want to see pics of our porcine friend - in his pre and post cooked condition - don't read on. If this offends your vegetarian/vegan sensibilities, please stop reading. But, if you want to smile and laugh at our hilarious, certifiable "Miracle of the Perfect Pig"...then read on and join the fun!

It all began innocently enough several months ago. I'm the "social chairman" for our Sunday school class at church. I was asking for some ideas on future events. The one thing we always agree on - events involve FOOD. We started with the idea of a luau, and some tasty grilled foods on sticks. Then the discussion leaped forward when Eddie suggested "let's roast a whole pig!".

Of course, no one in class had ever roasted a pig! A few had eaten at real pig roasts, but we had no documented pork experience. Fast forward to this weekend, after months of online pig roast research, we found ourselves on Friday evening at the Mack's rural home with a giant cooler in Eddie's pickup. Inside was our 90 lb. suckling party pig, very pink, hairless (shaved) and slightly deflated looking. I cautiously raised the cooler lid to get my first look at my new buddy, and he was.....EWWWWW!!!! (I have pics, but I'm not posting the cooler shots, in hopes that you will keep reading).

The first big job was digging the pig pit! Six manly men took up the challenge and got to work with shovels in the hard, drought-stricken Kansas soil. Thankfully it was a cool evening, and they dug and measured until the hole fit our pig's proportions. 

They lined the hole with a layer of bricks, and put large rocks in the corners to hold the pig away from the fire. My husband, Alan, (inexplicably dressed in his Gilligan's Island hat) tested the pig pit for size and comfort. Then they loaded the pit with wood for the fire later that night.

Meanwhile, in the garage, another crew was prepping the pig for his big night. He was lifted on his special (never to be used again) table cloth. Then he was (and we're not picturing this!), laid out flat, stuffed with seasonings, rubbed with olive oil, more seasonings, an apple in the mouth, and then wrapped "to go" in lots of aluminum foil. Turns takes a lot of foil to fully wrap a pig!

We lifted him and slid a specially made (thanks, Eddie) metal pig roast grate underneath him. We wired him to the grate (in case he had a restless pre-pig roast night), packed him in ice, wrapped him securely in a tarp, and said goodnight. 

At 2 AM, the faithful homeowners, Linda and Stuart, went to the pig pit and started a roaring fire. Stuart had already OK'd this with the fire department. They enjoyed watching the blaze so much, they spent the night chatting around the campfire like kids, spinning tales of future pig roasts, while the rest of us slept. Later, at 6 AM, reinforcements arrived to escort the pig from his garage hotel to the pit in the pasture. The pig was carefully lowered into the pit, covered with wet burlap and cardboard, and sealed with a piece of corrugated tin, then more dirt and rocks. No turning back now!!!

Later in the afternoon, before the party goers began coming, we arrived to inspect the pig, still imprisoned in his underground pit. We cautiously peered and sniiffed. (That's our shadows, in above photo.) I ran through several scenarios in my head 1) the fire went out and pig is still raw,  2) pig is done beyond recognition, and is now crunchy pork toast, and 3) pig is edible, tender and delicious, and I am a social chairman "rock star"!

The guys uncovered the pit and pulled the hot critter out, using the chains and wires we had left exposed. 

The men cautiously smiled as they loaded the pig for the trip to the house and his date with his adoring, carnivorous fans.

Just like all those reality was time for the big pig REVEAL!  In front of all the guests, we slowly opened the foil. He definitely wasn't raw, and he wasn't crispy either. Our party pig appeared to be entirely edible!

While the party-goers waited, we recruited some extra hands to "pull the pork"! WOW...pork really is the "other white meat". After we pulled back the beautiful browned skin, there was a pile of tender, white meat just waiting for our forks. 

We lined up to fill our plates with pork and all the covered dish fixings....

and the verdict was in. Our great pig experiment/adventure got "thumbs up" all around!

After dinner we had a little added entertainment with some pig-related contests. I coaxed an appearance from the official Kansas Hog Queen Emeritus (also known as my sister-inlaw, Donna). Donna grew up on a hog farm, and she REALLY was the state hog queen, back in the day.  She found her sash (it still fits) and her tiara, and showed up looking very royal. Check out her pretty pig belt buckle!! Who knew my friend Suzanne (right) was a fabulous "pig caller"?! I'm sure her high school English students would love to hear a replay. Check out our pink piggy bank trophies!

The happy bunch above shared prizes for doing the best "pig sound" imitations. Finally, Alan found a use for his infamous 4H pig imitation! I've been enduring this questionable talent for years. Rewards (and pig trophies) come to those who wait. 

Alas, the fun was over, and we're left with our happy porcine memories. The whole thing was just such a crazy, fun adventure, that I'm still smiling. And so is our smoky, toothy, apple-eating pig, if only in my photos! I'm officially dubbing this "The Miracle of the Perfect Pig"!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sewing and cross stitch are NOT the same thing!

Just wanted to clarify this, in case you were wondering. Cross stitch skills do not necessarily guarantee sewing skills! (And no, contrary to the phone call I just received, you cannot hire me to cross stitch for you!).

Last weekend the fearless craft ladies were at it again! Fueled by fabulous paninis from Jozelle's wonderful panini press, we tackled a new purse project. This tote looked so cute, and deceptively simple, on the pattern cover. Even with a lot of chatting, and with Jozelle's expert guidance, we should be able to whip out these totes in a couple hours.

We weren't trying to set any speed records, and we sure did more chatting than sewing, but these were a bit involved. Friday night spilled over into Saturday morning, and more food was required! We spent alot of time on the "cutting table", poring over the incomplete instructions, looking for lost pieces, and snacking for creative fuel.

Finally, the ruffle was made, the handles were completed, 3 outside pockets were added, everything that didn't move was fused for more body, and it was time for the big reveal. It turns out, when you put a lining in a purse, you have to construct it inside out, and then pull the whole thing out through a hole left just for this purpose! Who knew?! 

As we struggled to pull all those bulky layers inside out, Jozelle mused that we were finally "birthing our purses". It took some heavy breathing, a small "episiotomy" to make a larger opening, and one giant effort to complete the much-awaited purse birth! WHEW!!!

It's funny...but it sure gives me a feeling of accomplishment to complete a new project like this! My sewing machine (my old Kenmore from high school) doesn't get much action these days, but it still works.

Of course, I'd never attempt a project like this without my talented friends, Jozelle (left), and Glenna (right). I spent some time on Pinterest last night dreaming about our next craft project together. I don't think it's going to involve sewing...maybe a nice Halloween bunting (banner). 

Meanwhile, here's my bag! It's hanging out on my kitchen counter, ready for show and tell. I still need to buy a button for the closure, so I'm letting it rest before it goes into service. Meanwhile, Vera have nothing to fear! I appreciate your beautiful bags even more!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Real Housewives of Habitat for Humanity!

...AND ME!

Last weekend I did something I've always wanted to do...I volunteered on a local "Woman-Build House" with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat builds lots of local houses every year with tons of awesome volunteers, but this house is very special. The REAL WOMEN of WICHITA are building it!

I joined a group of gals from my church to drive to the home site, where we found a bunch of charming already completed Habitat houses, and two homes under construction. We got a two-fer, because we got to work on them both!

After a short orientation and prayer, we spent our afternoon doing exterior siding! I was expecting a paint brush or something else that's hard to mess up. (Actually, I love to paint!) But they trusted us with the wood siding and POWER TOOLS!  No, they wouldn't allow us to use a nail gun (wise decision, I'm sure), so we spent a lot of time hammering! But we did use power saws to cut the boards, after we carefully measured. It was strangely satisfying to see those beautifully cut pieces slide ride in around the windows.

Did I mention that when you do siding, you have to begin at the bottom? Above are my friends Becky and Saundra getting a start on the lower siding.

Just in case you're concerned about quality control, there were volunteer "coaches" that helped us find a job, and taught us how to do it..and bailed us out if we were having trouble.

Our last 30 minutes on the site were like Double Jeopardy or the lightning round! They rounded up all of the volunteers, and we invaded the interior of the second home and sanded drywall.  OH MY! The place was a total fog of white dust from the generous volunteer mudding!!! The respirator things we used over our mouth and noses gave me claustrophobia (really!), so I braved it without. Thank goodness it was a cool day and the interior of the house wasn't super warm. 

Afterwards, our church ladies gathered for a group photo with the star volunteer, Jose (upper right). He's the new home owner and he's putting in hundreds of volunteer hours on his future home. He is a concrete worker by day, so he got special permission to pour his own driveway and porch...a real custom job! Can you tell we're still shaking off the white dust from our sanding adventures? That's me in the middle in the pink t-shirt.

I finished the day with a long shower and took my dusty clothes outside to shake before laundering. I was super hungry for a late dinner, even though we had an afternoon break with Dairy Queen supplying free blizzards. There are a zillion things to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but this was truly an adventure to remember!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to school. or not?

Yea, my kids may be grown, but I still like to brag on them! Watching your adult kids do cool things is definitely a well deserved reward!

Our daughter Sarah and husband Jeff moved to Chicago this summer for his new job. (When you return to grad school and get a new degree, it's always great to find employment when you finish.) Unfortunately, his new job put Sarah on the job market...again...4th time in 4 years! She filled out a kazillion of those online forms for teaching jobs, and finally resorted to hand-delivering resumes to nearby schools, just hoping for an interview.

She was thrilled when she got the call from Lane Tech College Prep, a nearby public high school, and even more excited when she got the job! It's a HUGE school (over 4200 students) in a beautiful, historic building. The architecture of the school is "Gothic factory" style, and it's enormous! Sarah was excited when she first visited the campus, because it reminded her of Wichita North, her own alma mater. North High is so old, it's on the historic register! Below is a pic of the historic tower entrance at good ol' North High (also my alma mater!).

I've had so much fun researching this interesting school, right in the heart of Chicago. Lane Tech begin over 100 years ago, and has evolved through the years to meet changing student needs. The building is an art teacher's dream with over 65 giant historic murals dating from the Chicago World's Fair during the Depression 1933-34 and WPA projects. Remember studying Works Progress Administration (WPA) in your own high school history class? I'll give extra credit points for those of you who can define "WPA".

I'm wondering if school lunches would taste better when you're eating in a giant cafeteria, surrounded by beautiful works of art? Maybe....

Sarah began school yesterday, and arrived at 6:30 AM (just to be ready) in her "first day of school" outfit.  When you were a student as a kid, did it ever occur to you that your teacher could be nervous? She had an exciting day meeting all of her AP Art History and Art Appreciation students. Then, a totally new experience awaited her AFTER school. They had a "practice" picket, for the anticipated teacher's strike next week. OOPS - looks like school may have a very early "fall break" this year!

Finally...thanks for your patience...I'm cruising around the massive Lane Tech website this morning, looking for photos of the school, when I find the image above! It's Sarah's cupcake painting (on the right) on the home page for the Lane Tech art department. How cool - she's taught there for one day and she's on the website!

Here's to all of my teacher pals (and I have A LOT of them) and my daughter, Sarah...wishing you Happy Back to School!