Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bean Bag Compresses

A few years ago, I made a bean bag compress for my grandmother to help soothe her aches and pains and warm her up on a cold day.  When I visited her over the holidays, I noticed she is still using the bag but it has seen better days. When I got home, I made her a new one. And while I was at it, I made myself one.

The process is easy. All you need is:

Two 12-inch squares of sturdy fabric
2 pounds of dry beans
1 pound of dry rice
2 Tbsp of herbs such as thyme, mint, cloves, lavender, etc. (you can substitute 25 drops of essential oil)

With right sides together, stitch three sides of the square to form a pocket. Turn right side out. Mix the beans, rice, and herbs in a large bowl. Scoop the mixture into the bag and sew the fourth side shut. Heat the bag in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes and use to bring comfort to the body. The herbs make a lovely fragrance!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cooking with Family

One of my fondest memories about my childhood is the time I spent in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother (now age 95). As a young mom, my daughter was also a member of the kitchen staff both at home and at her grandmother's and great-grandmother's. It thrills me that this tradition is continuing in my daughter's kitchen now that she is a mom. I was invited over for a kitchen craft day with her and her son this week. Here are some of the things we made: I especially love the gingerbread sock monkey my daughter made.

Here's the little apprentice chef busy at work:

This is the gingerbread the house we made. Hansel is alone with the witch now since the smallest chef ate Gretel.

Since this is my second year to participate in this marathon cook off, it is now an annual event that I enjoy immensely and look forward to each holiday season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fingerless Gloves

These are for accident-prone people who have no fingers. Not really. They are for those who need to text or use their phone on cold days. The phone doesn't "feel" the cloth of a glove, so best use your ungloved fingers for that.

They also come in handy for wearing indoors like I do when I'm typing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Gift-giving Ideas

Instead of buying stuff for folks on your holiday list this year, why not think outside the gift-wrapped shirt box and make something for them? Most people enjoy getting a handmade item from someone. It shows that someone took the time to actually sit down and think of you. The energy and love of the creative person is in that object.

Okay, so you aren't very crafty (although there are plenty of ideas on this blog). Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. My daughter-in-law had a party last weekend and invited guests to come see (and purchase) her exquisite hand-made jewelry. You could try some of these unique ideas:
  • Everyone gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?
  • Gym membership? It's appropriate for those who are thinking about some health improvement.
  • Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
  • If you are in Nashville, give a certificate to Wheel Fix It Mobile Vehicle Maintenance and Repair 615-496-2544.
  • Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on a foreign-made electronic device? Perhaps that gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
  • There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants—all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
  • How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?
  • Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
  • Could someone's computer could use a tune-up? Find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
  • Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
  • Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seven More Crocheted Hats This Year

My grandkids requested three of these hats.

You know me—I can't stop once I get on a roll—so I made a Buzz Lightyear hat for another one of my four 2-year-old grandsons and an Iron Giant for another 2-year-old grandson.

Then, my 10-year-old grandson, who originally said he didn't want a hat this year, decided he would like to grow a beard—thus, the sixth hat.

Then, while I was in South Carolina over the Thanksgiving holidays, another 2-year-old grandson needed a Lightning McQueen hat.

Seven hats and counting. I've gotten two more requests from people who have seen my grand-kids wearing these. You want one? Let me know.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making Stevia Syrup

I didn't get a huge crop of stevia from the plant I managed to kill at the end of summer, but obviously it doesn't take a lot of stevia to do a lot of sweetening.

Rather than putting the leaves in my tea, I decided to make a syrup using vodka and water. Here's the recipe I used:
  • 1 teaspoon of dried stevia leaves
  • 4 ounces of vodka (the cheap stuff will do)
  • 8 ounces of water (used to dilute the syrup after infusion) 
Add stevia to the alcohol and let it sit overnight. Test for sweetness within 24 hours. If you want it sweeter, let it sit another 12 hours, but not much longer or the stevia will have an aftertaste that I personally don't care for.

Strain the vodka through cheesecloth (I use double netting like the kind grandmothers use to make tutus for their granddaughters).

Add pure water to the strained mixture and pour into dark bottles. Store in refrigerator for up to three months.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Recycling Candles

Save your old, used candles to make new ones. I collect the scraps until I get enough to make this project worth while because it can be very messy.

I use a coffee cup warmer to melt the wax at a low temperature, but you can use a double boiler. My method takes all day, but it doesn't need much tending to, which means I can go about my day and not be confined to the project. I work from home. Use your brain; and don't leave this unattended all day while you are not home.

Stir every few hours to ensure even melting. I admit I like to play in the wax and stir it about ten times an hour and make a huge mess on the counter top. I've learned to tape thick layers of newspaper to the counter to make clean up easier.

I purchase non-smoking wicks online and set them into the jar after the wax melts. That way, I don't have to pour the hot liquid.

For more information about making candles at home, download my free PDF with instructions

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making Echinacea Oil at Home

Echinacea is well known for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Recommended to reduce symptoms of scratchy or sore throat, lymph node inflammation, stomach cramps, and urinary tract infections, as well as lessen the symptoms and duration at the onset of a cold or the flu.

Taken in a tea up to 6 times per day, or as an oil at one drop every 2-3 hours or so. The oil can also be used for treatment of insect bites, burns, skin ulcers, herpes sores, cold sores, and yeast infections in women.

Seeing how this stuff is good for just about whatever ails you, I used the leaves of the echinacea purpurea (coneflower) that I grew in my garden this year, to make an oil infusion. In this photo the leaves are in a net bag, which makes straining unnecessary.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Repurposing Items and Re-Gifting

This year, my family and I are making a lot of the things I'm giving to those on my holiday gift list. There's quite a bit of creativity floating around and I thought I might share a few ideas.

Use your stash of printed photos and made greeting cards like I did here.

Don't throw away cut flowers when they just begin to wilt. Put them between the pages of a book and stack heavy books on top to press the flowers flat. You can laminate them to card stock using clear contact paper.

I made some nice candles from the scraps I saved when an old candle was too burned down to use. I get my family members to save their old candle chunks and then they get a fresh candle as a gift.

Remember all those herbs I grew (okay, tried to grow) in my garden this year? Those that survived are now being given as gifts. Here's what I've done so far:
  • Sewn silk stockings and put the dried herbs inside; then crocheted strings so they can be dipped and dunked in a cup of hot water.
  • Concocted echinacea oil for treating whatever ails one this winter.
  • Made stevia syrup using vodka and water. That one made me a little tipsy, so be careful if you try it at home. You
My brother is refinishing the coffee table my parents used when we were kids. My son is refinishing a piece that belonged to my mom's uncle. These have been in storage for years. Won't mom and dad be surprised to see them again, looking all spiffy!

Of course I'll get out my crochet hook and make a few pieces that have been specially requested.

Elegant Silk Stockings for Herbal Infusion

I wanted a creative yet functional way to share the herbs that I grew in my garden this summer. "How about herbal infusions?" says I. "Good idea," says my other I.

How much do those metal tea balls cost? Probably two or three dollars each. That would have sufficed, but "Noooooo," says I. "Let's make this difficult and call upon several skill sets for this project." 
  • Gardening for growing the herbs
  • A sewing machine to create "silky stockings" for the herbs. Better than a paper tea bag, right? 
  • Crocheting to make the strings

Now if I can just figure out how to package them. Right now they are in plastic zipper bags to keep the herbs fresh.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Photography Greeting Cards

Creativity has struck me again. This time, I am creating my own line of greeting cards using the photographs I have enjoyed taking since I got my Canon One Shot camera. I have made about a dozen sets of cards with 4 and 6 designs each. Here is a sample of some of them:

Beachwood Blues

Cut Flowers

Perry Wink

Woodland Water

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Year of No Harvest

Okay, I admit that I let my husband plant enough corn seed in a 10x5-foot plot to plant an entire acre, and that's why we only had about ten scraggly ears of corn. (He said he was going to thin in out but he didn't.) But, the green beans had no reason not to bear fruit. The vines were healthy, they were kept watered, they had plenty of blossoms, but we got only enough beans from a dozen or more plants to cook one time for two people--not even enough to fill a can of Del Monte.

As you know, the watermelons were miniatures or watermelon-wanna-bes, the stevia died, the dill plant rotted, and the cilantro refused to grow leaves (rather funny looking). Even the parsley gave me sad face look whenever I went out to check on it.

We get the fail whale on our gardening efforts this year. Go figure.

We do have lemon balm, echinacea, mint, bee balm, and enough oregano to stock a chain of Italian restaurants. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year . . .

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stevia Plant Failed

The stevia plant never did really take off and grow well, but I decided to harvest what little I had. That did it. The whole dang plant died then. It didn't put back out either; I left it for about three weeks hoping.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Update on Watermelon in Planters

The eleven watermelons that the six plants bore were very small, but they would have tasted fine if I had harvested them sooner. I let them stay on the vine too long hoping they would get to at least the size of a football. Nope. They are softball size as you can see in the photo below.

This smaller variety is like having a mini or personal watermelon that you can put in your lunch box. Aren't they cute? Don't let the USDA hear about this or the government will pay farmers to mass produce (or not) genetically modified mini watermelons for this purpose.

I think that if we had only put two plants per pot (at most three) they would have produced larger fruit. And, I'm sure the fact that I forgot to water them before the vines wilted several times didn't help production either. I finally put some mulch in the pot to cover the dirt so the moisture was retained for more than 24 hours. That helped. Wish I had thought of it sooner in the season. I saved the seeds, wondering if they will produce full-size fruit or watermelon-wanna-bes next year.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cloth Training Pants Part 2

A few weeks ago I started making cloth training pants for my four grandsons who are turning two this year. You can see the original post here:

I thought this would be a less expensive way to help my daughters get through the potty training experience with their boys, but so far it has cost me $200 and I still need more PUL fabric! I'm not complaining. With the cost of bumGenius at $17.95 each and one Fuzzibunz at $19.95, to purchase 48 pants (one dozen for each grandson) would be $864 and $960. I'm happy with the outcome.

Now if the boys will do their "job" right, we should have four happy mommies with potty trained boys, hopefully before they outgrow them or start kindergarten!

By the way, had the size 20 plastic snaps and application device I needed.

I have plenty of the non-waterproof training pants available for purchase. They come with a separate nylon waterproof pant. Each set (cloth and waterproof panties) is $10.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harvesting Herbs for Drying

The herbs were getting huge so I decided to harvest them in bulk. I cut off stalks of stevia, basil, dill, and spearmint (also known as bee balm or monarda).

I used pipe cleaners that I had in my craft box to tie the herbs into bundles. I had planned to dry them in the garage, but my husband made a good point about them getting dusty and possibly eaten by pests. So, my dining room is now an herb drying center. Smells great!

These should be ready to grind or chop for use within a month or so.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Another easy-to-grow perennial is the sunflower. We have a variety that volunteer to come back each year from the seeds they drop--that which the birds don't find. These attract small song birds such as golden finch and nut hatch chickadee in the fall and early winter.

Ours is a small patch, but with great variety.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Watermelon Update

We had five tiny watermelons last time I posted about them, but only two are still there. They have grown as you can tell in these photos. There's one more new baby coming on.
The vines are healthy, so maybe we will get at least three watermelons out of the five plants we are growing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cleome: Gardening in Nashville, Tennessee

Also known as cat whiskers, cleome does well in our area (6b). Even in poor soil and without collecting and replanting seeds from last year's plants, we have about a dozen stalks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

There's Corn in Tennessee

We have a small, but nice stand of corn in our backyard garden. My husband planted it really close--closer than I've ever seen anyone plant it. We've keep it fertilized and watered; and lo and behold it is putting on ears! My grandson and son-in-law will be glad to know there will be corn on our table soon. Corn is one of their favorite foods.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cosmos - Perennial

Cosmos is easy to grow. It comes back from seed each year and is prolific in bloom all summer. One of our favorites.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Straw Bale Garden Week 11

The straw bales are falling apart and the roots of our vegetables are getting too much air. We compressed the bales and added soil last weekend. That helped the tomatoes and peppers, but it's too late for the squash and zucchini. There's only one plant left of them and it's not looking too good.

All in all, I would definitely give straw bale gardening another try next year. I just wouldn't start the decomposition process before planting the veggies. Instead, I would cut holes in the bales and use them as planters. I love not having to weed! 

Here's a video update/tour.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Althea Rose of Sharon

This tree-like shrub is called althea or rose of Sharon. My grandmother had this in her yard when I was a child. I lived next door to her when I was raising my children. She shared a clipping by "laying by" a low limb and placing a brick on top of it to make sure it maintained contact with the soil. Once it rooted, we severed it from the parent plant and I had this beauty in my yard as well. Now, almost 20 years later and after moving five times, I still have this hardy old-fashioned plant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Alien Communication Towers in our Garden

At the beginning of the growing season we pre-planned for our half-runner green beans to have a way to express themselves as they explore the heights. We wired two tomato baskets together end-to-end and stood them in the ground. It would have been better if we had gotten the wire stems into the ground farther. One of the "alien communication towers" fell during a storm we had, but reception has been restored and we have lots of foliage. I'm still wondering where the blooms are, and if we are actually going to have any beans.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We've Got Baby Watermelons, Baby!

Our experiment with planting watermelons in a container is working well. We have about five babies now. Same type of soil, same amount of water, but the cantaloupes we planted in the same size/type container are not making it.

Homemade Toddler Training Pants

So far I've prepared six training pants from cloth prefold diapers for my grandsons who are just starting to potty train. I will add the snaps to them tomorrow after a trip to the fabric store.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cloth Toddler Training Pants

I'm trying out two new things with this post. One, I'm making training pants for my toddler grandsons, and two, I'm posting this from my iphone! I love technology!

So here is the inside of the training pant. You can see it is made from a 6-ply prefold diaper.

This is the outside. I wish I could rotate the photo so it faces front, but learning to do that on my iphone will be my research project another day.

I stuffed it with a plastic bag just to get it to stand up so I can show the leg holes and side flaps where I plan to add velcro, which is cheaper than the hammer-on snaps I plan to use once I perfect my technique and know the garment will fit the boys.

Here is a photo of the velcro added. I gave it plenty of room for adjustment and know the waist will fit. I wish I had my two-year-old grandsons here to try this on for functionality regarding the leg opening. I added elastic to help hold in the yucky stuff that toddlers are prone to produce and carry in their pants—that is until mommy discovers the bomb.

Now compare this creation to the plain old white ones you can buy in the store. The tot must wear rubber pants with either but the designer ones are much cuter.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day Lilies Gardening in Tennessee

An old-time favorite of many gardeners is the common day lily. Our is the red-orange and yellow varieties.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Herbitoire: Echinacea

I have at least a dozen types of herbs growing in my garden. Until last year, I only sought them for their beauty, but his year I seem to be on a health kick and have found many of these treasures very beneficial for detoxing and strengthening the immune system. I'd like to share my "herbitoire" with you and tell what each one is used for. I'll do this in a series of videos as we tour my garden day by day.

The first one is for echinacea, which is a botanical immune system stimulant with a very good long-studied safety record. Part of the daisy family, it is great for treating bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. It is also a blood purifier for spider or snakebites as it speed rejuvenation of new tissue.

I bought a book titled An Herbalist's Guide to Growing & Using Echinacea by Kathleen Brown to learn more about this immune-boosting plant. You'll also find information about echinacea at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Making a Grapevine Basket for Ginger

I love ginger root so I've decided to grow the plant. It won't winter over in Tennessee so I needed a pot to put it in. I searched the yard and shed and didn't find one suitable, but I did find an empty metal stringer that didn't have a coir. I did have some grapevine so here is a video of me making the liner from this organic material.

I wasn't sure how symbiotic ginger and grapevine might behave. I planned to use a plastic bag as a barrier between the grapevine material and the soil, but then I found an old Halloween candy bowl in the garage that fit the diameter of the basket perfectly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lemon-Gingerade Green Tea Recipe

As promised yesterday, here is the recipe to make a delicious and healthy green tea lemonade with fresh ginger root and honey.

1. Add three small green tea bags to one cup of boiling water.
2. Add one ounce of raw honey to the hot tea and stir to dissolve. (You can substitute stevia for sweetener.)
3. Squeeze the juice and pulp from two fresh lemons (or equivalent of Real Lemon juice).  Add to a small pitcher with one quart of cold water.
4. Grate one inch of fresh ginger root. (I use the smallest-sized side of the grater.) Add to the pitcher of lemon water.
5. Stir the hot tea and honey mixture into the pitcher.
6. Chill and serve over ice with a sprig of lemonbalm.

It's not only delicious, but very healthy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Herb Gardening

Early in the spring this year I completely renovated our garden hardscape and created an herb garden. I have bee balm, lemon balm, oregano, stevia, dill, parsley, basil, onion, garlic, chives, and cilantro. All of it is doing quite well except the cilantro. (I think I got it into the ground a little too late.)

 To the left is a still shot of my herb garden earlier this year. I'll post it in case you don't have time to watch the short video clip above.

I'm going to plant some ginger now that I've learned that it can be grown in a pot in Zone 6 and carried indoors during the winter months. See for how-tos on growing ginger in your area.

I harvested some stevia today to use as a natural sweetener for ginger lemon tea. I'll share the recipe in the next post. But for today, here is a link to where you can learn how to grow and harvest and use stevia:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Straw Bale Garden Week 6

Snapshots of our straw bale garden about six weeks after putting the plants into the bales. We have lost two squash plants because the bales are breaking down too quickly and the soil is disappearing as it composts. I think next year we will simply cut 1-gallon pot-sized holes into the bales and add potting soil and use the bales as containers rather than using high-nitrogen fertilizer to prep the bales.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Straw Bale Gardening Plants Entered

We scooped out some of the straw in order to make the hole bigger and deeper. Then, we added potting soil and put the squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers into the straw bales earlier this week. They are doing quite well.

We also have corn and beans planted in the ground nearby, but these have not sprouted yet. Will post photos when that occurs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Straw Bale Gardening Experiment

Over the past few years, our crops have been producing less and less. The soil is worn out so we decided to give it a rest and do something different. We are trying straw bale gardening in a small section of our yard this year.

In this first photo, we have treated the bales with a fertilizer containing a high amount of nitrogen and water them well. Since we are so late in the year getting started, we have covered the bales to keep the heat in. This speeds up the composting process. This is day 4.

In the second photo, I have punched holes in the bales and added some top soil and watered it in. This is day 5.

I'll try to add new photos, about every 3 or 4 weeks, to show the progress of my experiment. In the meanwhile, see for info about straw bale gardening.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No More Tangled Ear Buds

My iPhone and iPod came with a private listening device (a.k.a. ear buds) on a thin white cord. Every time I started to use it, I had to untangle the cord. Not only is this aggravating for me, it's not good for the cord as it can damage it. So, I crocheted around the cord to keep it from wrapping into a knot in my purse.

I fall asleep most nights listening to my iPod. No more waking up tangled in what one might think is a spider web for a tarantula on steroids! Now if only the hot flashes would stop waking me up.

Pretty and clever. I bet you could do this!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fun & Funky Shaggy Scarves and Hats

My friend Vickie is a fan of my crocheting. She asked me to make her this adorable scarf. I had enough material left over to make her a hat and make myself a scarf and hat set.