Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bags and Business ideas

I made another bag. This one isn't really a hand bag. It is similar to a backpack, but I wouldn't exactly call it that. It has long straps that could work like backpack straps (though I wear them together over one shoulder). The straps weave through the top of the bag and pull it closed draw-string fashion.

This bag is smaller than my last one but still has plenty of room and customized pockets on the inside (it just won't be able to double as a diaper bag).
I have been amazed by the response to these last two handbags. I had been told before that I could sell my tote bags. I knew that I probably could but wasn't too excited about it. However, after making these last two bags, I have received a flood of complements and requests for custom bags or bags just like the ones I have.
The enthusiastic response of so many of my friends combined with my love for sewing bags (and the necessity of finding something to do with some of them so that they don't take over our house) got me thinking. I'm thinking about starting handbag business. I plan to start small, probably selling on Etsy.
Perhaps over time I can build up to having a decently sized business, but for now, I really need for it to be small. My priority will still be my family, and meeting the needs of my husband and growing boys must not take second place to a business venture. I do hope to be able to sell some of my work on the side, though.
I am very excited about this but am trying to take the time to think things through and go about it in a sensible, orderly way. I still have planning, organization, and footwork to do before all my thinking and ideas can be put into effect and my store is opened. In the meantime, I will be thinking about this to help keep everything in perspective.


Remember those extravagant 80's Jessica McClintock and Gunne Sax dresses? The ones with elaborate lacy trims, pouffy sleeves, and yards and yards of fabric in the skirts? Well, my mom and I worked together to make a semi-crazy quilt from some of them, and it we just finished it last week.
First my mom cut out 12 inch squares from the skirts and decorative sections we wanted to preserve from other parts of the dresses (like sleeves, collars, and bodices).
Then I attached the smaller decorative pieces to the squares along with additional ribbons and pieces of lace. My mom laid it out, sewed it together, and put the backing and binding on. (Yes, she did most of the work on this one, but we did work together, so it's still teamwork, right?) last of all, I helped her sew fancy buttons on it to tie it.

Soon we will pack it into a box and mail it to a dear friend. I think she will like it.

Monday, October 26, 2009


It all started with an old sweater. Well, I suppose it wasn't really old. In any case, I loved it. The texture, the was perfect--until it started shrinking. It kept getting fatter and shorter. Oh dear. I decided it was time for the sweater to go; I put it in the give-to-the-thrift-store pile, and then I thought better of my decision. After all, if it's too short for me (I'm 5' 2"), who is it going to be long enough for? I decided, instead, to cut it up and make it into a couch pillow.
The pillow took me a long, long time to finish, though. Part of the reason could have been that it was a more involved project than I had originally anticipated (I had to carefully attach it to a woven back to avoid a wildly fraying, very stretchy pillow cover). Part of the reason could have been because I was tired while working on it and kept having to rip out incorrect seams. And part of the reason just may have been because I kept getting distracted.
First came the idea of making a small hat for Brother out of a sleeve. (It just looked like the right colors for him, and sleeve was the perfect size for his little head, how could I resist?) The result was a funky-fun little four cornered hat.
Then I started thinking about the other sleeve...the result was another hat of a different style. (It is a little bigger, and will fit him longer.)
And then came the rustic, raggedy-edged pot holder out of the pieces that were left from the pillow.
And finally I finished the long-anticipated couch pillow complete with ribbon button loops and vintage wooden buttons. I like it. I find it satisfying to see it sitting there in all its plump new-pillowy goodness, perfectly coordinating with the previously existing pillows.
And now I am full of new ideas for the other sweaters in my give-away pile. Oh dear. What have I started? : )

Sunday, October 25, 2009

weighty, weighty words

"let not many of you become teachers,"
he said.
teachers fall under stricter judgement

"if any one does not stumble in what he says,
he is a perfect man"
one who is able to control his tongue
is also able to control his whole body.

our tongues are like the bits in horses' mouths
or the rudder in a huge, sea-worthy ship.
they are so small,
yet they set the course.
they affect so much.

however, our tongues are not like horses or ships,
which can be trained or controlled.
the unruly tongue can defile the entire body.
it is fiery and full of evil.

as I ponder, I realize the truth presented.
I grieve to remember times
when my words have been scalding, fiery, evil.
when they have set a course of destruction and death
instead of truth and life.

and I am a teacher.
I teach my sons.
day in,
day out,
they hear my words.
weighty words.

You are the Great Giver of Life.
the Holy One.
the Word.

help me to abide in You.
to be so connected
that my words reflect,
always reflect You,
the Living Word.
help my tongue to be controlled,
to always give life
and never fiery death.

thinking of many connected scriptures today but dwelling on James 3

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have a dear friend who lives in Oregon. Our birthdays are only three days apart, and we have been friends since before we could walk. We have so many sweet memories of our growing-up years. She was even able to come and be the maid of honor for my wedding.
Well, last Saturday (my actual birthday) I was taking some trash out late in the evening when I found a package on my side doorstep. It was a thoughtful package from my dear friend.

A sweet card, magnetic notepads, lightly scented green candles, homemade biscotti in a special "i love cookies bag, Good Earth Chai tea, a giant bar of chocolate...all packaged in a charming tin. She managed to include some of my favorite things. It reminded me just how delightful being friends can be--not because of the things (as nice as they are) but because of the thought and care that she put into it all to let me know she cares about me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Elinor Bag

When my parents were on vacation last summer, my mom found a pattern for a Very Cute bag. She liked it so much, that she bought the pattern for me. I purchased the fabric for the bag with a gift certificate that Benjamin got for me to buy some fabric at our local quilt shop. I have been hanging on to this project, waiting until I had some other projects finished before starting it. Last week I was finally able to make my long-planned bag. I was oh, so pleased with the results. I love the vintage-look lily of the valley print, and I love that this bag will go with my brown shoes or my black ones.
I also love all the customized pockets; I have a special pocket for everything I usually carry in my purse. No more digging around in the bottom of my purse searching for the chapstick! The only problem, if it can be called that, is all the extra space. For a few minutes I wondered what I was going to do with it since I had pockets for everything I carry in my purse.
I didn't wonder for long! In went some diapers, a spare sleeper, a couple of burp cloths, and the necessary snacks. Voila! I had a perfect purse/diaper bag combination!
I have made quite a few bags before, but I learned several new and very helpful things as I followed the pattern for this one. One thing is the value of Pelon Fusible Fleece. It is marvelous for adding a little substance to a bag without making it bulky! I am sure I will be using it again and again. I also learned how to make boxy corners. All of my previous bags had two dimensional corners; this one's corners are three dimensional. I have already used this knowledge for another bag (more on it later) and hope to use it for many more bags in the future.
Little Man enjoys helping me sew. He likes sitting next to me, playing with my pin cushion, and handing me pins as I need them. Sometimes he even is still enough to sit on my lap and watch me sew (he especially likes watching button holes be made). And sometimes he is just plain goofy-fun, as I managed to capture with my camera.

Two Months

Brother's two month birthday has come and gone. It is amazing how quickly time is flying. We have settled into what routine we can have with a new baby and are enjoying watching him grow and change.
We have very few photos of Little Man and I when he was an infant, so I decided to set up my camera on its tripod and make use of the self-timer feature. It was a good experience; I learned a lot and got a few good photos to boot!

His favorite things still include eating and sleeping, but the things he enjoys are expanding. He absolutely loves making eye contact and "conversing." He has such a sweet little voice and says charming things like: "a-GOOO," "hiiiiiii," "boooo," "aaaah," and "cooo." The two children my mom babysits after school love trying to figure out what he is saying ("He said hi to me!"). He also loves interacting with his big brother. They "talk" and smile at each other, and Little Man narrates what Brother is doing. Brother has also discovered that he likes his play mat. He squirms and smiles and maybe even tries to bat at the dangling toys with his hands (I'm not sure he is doing it intentionally, but sometimes it seems like he did).
This month has been so full and good, and I am looking forward to seeing what new things he learns and does this coming month.


raindrops falling all around
pattering on my roof
providing life-giving moisture
as they soak into the earth

reminding me of God's love and grace
as He pours out His rain on the righteous
and the unrighteous alike

inspiring me to love like He does
not only those who love me
but also those who hate

thinking about matthew 5 today

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kitchen Ramblings

This has been my week of large kitchen projects. I started out on Monday by making apple butter. Two different friends had apples from their trees. Did you know that the small sour apples that grow here in Montana make the best apple butter? I think they do, at least, so I sat and peeled and cut apples. And peeled and cut apples. And peeled and cut some more apples.

I ended up getting fourteen cup jars and three pint jars of delicious apple butter made and processed (and oh, did the house smell good while it was simmering!). The full jars are still sitting on the counter waiting in all their autumny glory to be stored in the basement for our enjoyment this winter.
I also made another batch of tomato soup from the garden tomatoes that have ripened since being brought into the house. The tomato soup is still waiting in the kitchen to be stored in the basement too.

Little Man and I also made an enormous quintuple batch of banana bread from some sale bananas (they were 43 cents a pound!) that were getting too brown to eat. Benjamin helped by mashing the large quantity of bananas, and I said something to Little Man about how big and strong his daddy is. Then when Little Man took his turn on the bananas, he exclaimed that he was strong too. : ) It is so much fun seeing him grow and try to be just like Daddy.

Tackling all these big cooking projects was fun and rewarding, but I think I'm ready for a few weeks of small, normal kitchen projects. I think I'll attempt things like making a single batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and attempting to stick to my menu plan again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Word Games

searching, thinking
reaching, seeking
the perfect word eludes me
synonyms dance
adjectives play
words twirl though my brain
as if playing a teasing game
of blind-man's bluff
here it is
i have grasped the ideal word

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Passing on a soupy tradition

Last year I posted the recipe for the home made tomato soup that my mom and I make each year. This year I am excited to post an update to the recipe along with some photos from this year's soup making experience.
Last year I wrote about cutting the veggies into quarters or eighths, boiling them, and putting them through a chinoise though what we had sounds more like what is described as a "china cap" in the article. After that, we'd stir in the flour-oil thickener and herbs. It was a labor and time intensive process. This year my mom and I both were crunched for time and needed to develop a more efficient way of doing soup. We developed variations on the same thing. Both are faster.
My Mom's Variation:
Seed the tomatoes and juice and other vegetables. Puree the tomatoes in your blender until they are liquefied, dump it all in a pot, bring it to a boil, and add your thickener and herbs.
My Variation:
My blender didn't do so well at pulverizing tomato skins, so I cut the tomatoes in half and popped them and other veggies into the blender, seeds and all. After they resembled a tomatoey smoothie, I strained them through the food mill my mother-in-law handed down to me. I then added my thickener and herbs and proceeded as outlined in the recipe.
I enjoyed Little Man's help this year. He "threw" the tomatoes into the sink or blender, pushed the buttons on the blender, and delighted in "dumping" any measured ingredients into their proper place.
He loved the food mill.
He also loved peeling the onions.
Working on the kept him entertained
a long, long time.
Oh! And lookee!
In addition to using my own home-grown tomatoes,
I got to use my own home-grown red bell peppers!
I am excited to be becoming a better gardener.
We have already been enjoying the "vintage 2009" tomato soup.
And we are looking forward to enjoying it all winter.


A friend from church commissioned a calligraphy project. She had stripped an antique window frame and painted it teal with a crackly looking cream-colored paint on top. She asked me to calligraphy six words; one for each space in the window. She had a general style of font that she wanted and also asked for the following to be included in the finished product: rough edges, an antiquey feel, all-capital letters that one would have to think about a little to read (no plain Roman type here), a rather random layout (to go with the mismatched, antique feel). Oh, and the colors she uses most in her decor are teals, burgundies, and browns. Here is what I came up with:
I was pleased. It was my first experience using a very wide nibbed pen; I tend to like making very tiny things (my handwriting is small, any sketches I make are small, I like using small stitches on my sewing machine, etc.), so this was out of my comfort zone. But oh, did I enjoy making those large, flowing letters! I just might be addicted. : )

When she saw it she was pleased. But she did comment, "It doesn't look quite like I pictured it." I think the more she looked at it the more she liked it, though. Perhaps it looked better than she had expected.

She was delighted with the colors and said they would coordinate perfectly either at work or at home, so she could choose where she wanted to hang it.

I had so much fun carefully crafting it for her: forming the letters, selecting the papers, and fitting them all together. I hope she enjoys it and is encouraged by it for a good, long time.

Birthday dinner

My husband is an amazing cook. Amazing. Have I ever mentioned that before? His favorite thing to make is Italian food which is not surprising since he grew up in a rather Italian family. For my birthday dinner, he made a four course meal that was not only delicious but also beautiful. I tried to make sure I got photos of everything, but some of them didn't turn out ideally. After all, it was my birthday party not a photography class. I wanted to enjoy the company of our guests and the delightful meal without being too cumbered by a camera.

The first course was Insalata Caprese with crusty bread. Benjamin made the salad with flavorful garden tomatoes topped by thin slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. It was finished by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The next course was baked pears with parmesan and pancetta. The finished pears had a complex blend of flavors. They were gourmet while still being mellow and accessible.

The third course was a free form lasagna. The lasagna noodles were layered with a tasty pink sauce made from garden tomatoes sautéed with mushrooms, ricotta cheese, and a flavorful cream sauce.

The fourth course, dessert, was almost heavenly. It was a delicate homemade tiramisu.

This decadent meal was an expression of Benjamin's love for me and made a truly wonderful and memorable birthday gift.

final calligraphies

Last year I began a calendar for my parents' Christmas present. It wasn't just any calendar, though, it was special. For each month I planned to make a calligraphy version of a verse that would coordinate with photos from the previous year all put together to form a scrapbooked page for each month. It turned out beautifully. The only problem? It took me forever to finish.
I finally finished it last Monday. Here are a few snapshots of the verses I calligraphied (is that a word?). Maybe someday I'll actually take photos of the twelve finished pages to show you all. : )
And closer view of one of my favorites:
It had been a while since I had done calligraphy, and it took my fingers and brain a while to warm up to the task again. Now that I'm in calligraphy mode, though, I can't stop thinking of new calligraphy projects! I thought of five new ones just last night and this morning.

whew, what a week (or two)

Benjamin has a lovely Aunt called Mary. She recently sent a package of gifts for the boys. In the package she included this card especially for me:
It made me laugh. : )
I do love to blog, and I enjoy the interaction I have with all my bloggy friends. I've been missing it, but I have had a very crazy couple of weeks. I'll summarize in list form (lists are so efficient and tidy).
The bad:
~My wisdom teeth were taken out last Tuesday. (It was a lot less scary than I thought it would be, and the dentist did a very good job.)
~I spent a lot of last week on my mom's couch not doing anything but nursing my poor, sore mouth.
~I managed to catch a cold which I lovingly shared with my sons.
The good:
~I am recovering quickly from my wisdom teeth being extracted.
~We apparently only have a head cold and not the swine flu which is going around our town.
~Benjamin made me a marvelous early birthday dinner, and we had fun having friends over to enjoy it with us.
~I have been able to make tomato soup from my own home grown tomatoes!
~I got to play my flute in church two Sundays ago. I love being able to work with Benjamin and minister to others through our music.
~I finished a couple of significant calligraphy projects!
~I got to go to Helena with Benjamin for him to take a final exam. We had a lovely, relaxed time chatting and being friends. And the boys both behaved beautifully!
~My sister-in-law got to spend a couple of nights with us. We always have lots of fun on her visits.
So there's the summary for you. I'll post a few more detailed posts about some of the items on my list as I have time.

September 30

On September 30th, we got our first snow. We were having an unseasonably warm September; it was a lovely extension of summer! Then overnight we were surrounded by a winter wonderland. We seem to have skipped Autumn this year. The temperatures are dipping down to single digits (Fahrenheit) nightly, and we have continued to get more snow.

We have pulled out our winter coats and fired up the furnace. We have began wearing warm sweaters and using our down comforter. I don't think I'm ready for this! Apparently the trees aren't either; they are still holding onto their leaves.

In spite of my grumbling acceptance of the sudden change of season, I have to admit that the snow and ice have beauties of their own. Our carport is wearing a stunning glittering, dripping fringe, and on our chilly trip to church on Sunday morning, I realized that I could see tiny, perfect, individual eight sided snowflakes. I always forget about that and get to discover it new again every year. Seeing those lacy individual snowflakes never fails to take my breath away. They are so lovely.