01 February 2015

Sew a hanging dish towel in 10 minutes

I'm always looking for easy, fun sewing projects that I can do with Ellie.  A couple years ago mother-in-law saw this idea at a craft fair and told me about it, and it's become one of our go-to projects for a quick and easy handmade gift.   There is very little sewing involved -- one straight line and a button -- so it makes an awesome beginner or kid sewing project. 

I get the towels and potholders from the dollar store.  The potholders come in packs of two so you can easily make this project for less than $2, counting your button.  I use old buttons or mismatched ones that I can't use with anything else and they work great. You can jazz this project up with applique, hand embroidery, rickrack, or fabric paint.  That's what I love about it, the simplicity and versatility.  

Here's what you'll need to do:

Sew a hanging towel in 10 minutes -- Easy beginniner sewing project
Gather your supplies.  You'll need 1 kitchen towel, 1 pot holder, 1 medium button (about 1"), matching thread, marking chalk or fabric pencil, a sewing machine, pins, and a needle. If you don't have marking chalk, use a pencil, pen, or marker.

Step1: Cut all the tags from your towels and pot holders. 

Step 2: Turn the pot holder over so the side with the tag remnant is facing up.  Find the center and draw a line with your marking chalk.  I like to fold the holder in half, place a pin where the fold is, then mark my center line.   You'll want the loop to be at the top, not on the side.   

Hanging Dish Towel in 10 minutes--Easy sewing project

Hanging Dish Towel in 10 minutes--Easy sewing project

Hanging Dish Towel in 10 minutes--Easy sewing project

Step 3: Fold the dish towel so that it's the same width as the pot holder.  You'll have overlapping sides like the photo shows below.  Pin the towel down the center where the edges touch so it stays together. 

Sew a hanging dish towel in 10 minutes--Easy sewing project
Sew a hanging dish towel in 10 minutes--Easy sewing project

Sew a hanging dish towel in 10 minutes--Easy sewing project

Step 4: Find the center of the towel and mark.  Just like the pot holder, fold the towel in half and place a pin on the fold to mark the center.  Open and on the top of the towel (not where your folds show) mark the center across.   Place the pot holder on the towel, right sides together, and match the center lines.  Make sure that the edges line up as well. Pin in place and stitch on your center line.

Step 5: Fold the potholder in half and pull the loop over the top.  Mark where the loop opening touches the other side.  This is where you'll put the button.  I like to use buttons with a shank (that little hook on the back) but you can use any button.  The shank helps the button stick out a little bit so that the potholder loop can grab on more easily.   

Sew your button on with matching thread. 

Hang on your oven bar and enjoy!  

Sew a hanging towel in 10 minutes -- Easy sewing project

Here are a few towels that Ellie made (with a little help):

Sew a hanging towel in 10 minutes -- Easy sewing project

For more easy sewing projects and tutorials, click here:


15 August 2014

Simple things that make me happy

When I was 16 I was diagnosed with clinical depression.  It's not something I talk about often to many people, and when I do it's only to people with whom I'm close to and who I know won't judge me. There are times in my life when my depression is just a speck, a fragment of who I am, a quiet little element that almost disappears until I forget that I ever once was unhappy.  Those times are like sunshine after gray clouds.  There are other times when my depression takes a hold of me and I can't escape, can't be free, can't look past the darkness for even a moment.  It is during times like that when I have a hard time being myself, opening up to others, being free with who I am meant to be.  
For a long time I kept this a secret because of the stigma that surrounds depression and mental illness: "Just be happy", "Don't be so selfish", "You're crazy".  Society has long been judgmental of mental illness and depression--disorders and illnesses that can't be seen with the eye.  But I think that society is starting to change and understand as more and more people talk, as we remind the world that nobody is immune and that it affects so many people.   I firmly believe that the stigma will disappear slowly over time but we all must do our part to talk, to be open minded, and to empathize. 

One thing that I have learned over the years that helps manage my depression is keeping a journal and writing.  Sometimes I write just a quote, other times pages and pages of thoughts, often times just a list of things that I'm thankful for or that make me happy.  The latter exercise always helps me put life into perspective and that's what I want to share today.  Whether you suffer from depression or not, learning to be happy with life and learning to be thankful is a value that will all serve us well. I challenge anyone reading this to make  list today of what makes you truly happy in life and then read it often to remind yourself.  

Simple things that make me happy:

Being at home
The smell of baked bread and warm yeast
Wet earth after rain
Shaved legs on fresh sheets
A clean house
Finishing a good book
Holding hands with Matt and Ellie
Going for long walks with my family
Mornings when I accomplish things early
Sewing and completing a beautiful item
Painting--anything: canvases, paper, wood, fabric, rocks, journals
Smiling at a stranger and seeing them smile back
Ellie's belly laugh
Being called "Mommy
Being called "Mrs."
Clear skies and autumn leaves
Fresh-cut flowers on the kitchen table
Picking produce from the garden
Doing something "handy" around the house
Seeing an old friend
Music that uplifts the spirit
Getting older and growing wiser and more mature
Being married
Realizing that I'm not alone
Giving someone a handmade gift or homemade food
Being self-sufficient and self-reliant
Seeing Ellie and Matt succeed

I wrote this list almost a year ago to the day but I needed it today and dug out my journal for a quick reminder.   As you can see, none of these things are material but instead, elements of the human experience, the love of family, and the simple, fleeting moments of life.   

Don't take your life for granted, don't take happiness for granted, and most of all, don't be afraid to talk to others about your struggles.  We all are suffering in some way and all rely on others in our growth and healing.   And always remember: you are loved and essential to someone else's happiness. 



22 July 2014

Basic Pancakes from Scratch

Last year I posted my recipe for Vegan pancake recipe but realized that it's not a very simple or accessible recipe.  It has a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps that many cooks who are hurrying in the morning probably don't want to bother with.  

I don't always make my pancakes Vegan, only about 1/3 of the time because they do take a while.  Most of the time I make this basic scratch pancake recipe.  It's quick, has only 7 ingredients (all of which are pantry staples), and allows for customization with easy optional add-ins.   

So now I have two pancake recipes on this blog, which might seem like a lot considering there are maybe only 15 recipes on here thus far, but, I make pancakes at least once a week.  I have never bought a boxed pancake mix and I have promised myself that I never will.  Boxed mixes cost too much, are full of preservatives, and take almost the same amount of time as these basic scratch pancakes, plus homemade food always tastes so much better. 


Basic Scratch Pancakes

1 C.flour (whole wheat or white)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 C. to 1 C. milk (can use almond, soy, or regular milk)
2 Tbsp. oil
1 egg, whisked

Optional add-ins:
1/2 tsp. cloves or allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. flax seed, wheat germ, or chia seeds
2 Tbsp. nuts, dried fruit, granola, or rolled oats

1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. If you are adding any of the optional ingredients, add them to this mixture.
2. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.  
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry mixture until just moistened. If the batter is too thick, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time to thin it. You may need more milk if you added any optional ingredients. 
4.  Heat a skillet to medium and add cooking spray.  Add pancake batter by 1/4 cupfuls  and cook for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden and sides are no longer wet. 

Serve with syrup, jam, or butter. 

**Note:  These freeze well and can be reheated for a quick breakfast.  Wrap stacked pancakes in waxed paper, then in foil.  Remove from foil and microwave each pancake for 1 minute.**

For more recipes, browse the Recipe Box.   

12 October 2013

Seeded Pumpkin Bread

I love fall. I love the colors of the crisp leaves, the late sunrises, and the coziness that the season brings.  Pumpkin bread seems to capture the comfort of autumn so I only make it during this time of year.  It's seems a little more special that way.
I like to buy raw pumpkin seeds in bulk and then toast them in the oven instead of buying seeds already toasted. Toasting nuts and seeds is really simple and makes them taste so much better.  Just lay them on a baking sheet or in a glass roasting pan, toast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, stir, then toast 5 minutes more.  Some nuts require slightly less time and some need a little more--soft  nuts like cashews take about 12-15 minutes total baking time while pumpkin and sunflower seeds take about 8 minutes.  Pumpkin seeds are especially delicious toasted: they puff up and have a nice "pop" with each bite giving this bread a wonderful texture.


Seeded Pumpkin Bread

1 1/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. oil or shortening

3 eggs (or 6 egg whites)
15oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla
3 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
3/4 C. toasted pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large loaf pans with cooking spray or shortening.
2.  Mix sugar and shortening until fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, until mixed well.  Add vanilla and pumpkin puree and blend.
3.  Add all dry ingredients until no lumps are present, but don't over-mix.  Stir in  1/2 C. of pumpkin seeds.
4.  Pour into loaf pans and sprinkle remaining seeds on top.   Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 2 large loaves, about 24 slices.

For more recipes, browse the Recipe Box.   

21 September 2013

How to survive being married to a car guy

When I married Matt, I knew that he loved cars.  I knew that many of our weekends would involve spending time at car lots test driving vehicles for fun without ever intending to buy them, or spending time driving through car lots looking at the newest models.  I knew I would have to go to car shows and give him subscriptions to car magazines as a birthday gift (he still acts so happy and surprised when these show up in the mail every month) and listen to him talk about the car blogs he reads and nod when he points out new or interesting cars while driving to the grocery store.  I knew all of this.  What I didn't know what how hard living with a car guy can be.
Cars are boring. Really, really boring. But, if I want to be a good wife I have to tolerate them and learn things about them so I can converse with my husband.  Here are a few things I've learned throughout the last 9 years of being with a car guy.

1. Forgive. When he comes home with a truck without telling you, even though it will be your first instinct, don't kill him.  Don't even yell at him.  Just look at him with disappointment, then smile when he tells you about how awesome and what a great deal that truck was.

Matt brought home a truck the other night.  He bought it, called friend to help coordinate the ride home, drove home, and then told me about it.  Worse, the truck was kept on a ranch way outside of town for the last 20 years and reeks of manure and hay.  And while I wanted to kill him, I didn't. Instead, I gave him my best mad look, let him tell me about it, looked it over with a seemingly fair amount of interest, and handled the paperwork to title, register, and insure it.  And that's just what you have to do.

2. Likes and dislikes.  Pick a couple cars to like and learn about them so that you can talk to him about those cars.  I learned this early on in our relationship and it saved me when I had to go to car shows and car lots with Matt. I decided that I would take an interest in Aston Martins, Dodge Rams, Mercedes, and Land Rovers.  I also picked a few cards to loathe--Porsches, Dodge Magnums, and Kias.  I don't really like or hate any of these vehicles (except Land Rovers--I love those)--I'm disinterested in most cars in general--but by having a handful of cars I resolve to like and dislike, I have something to keep myself busy at car lots and car shows, and it also makes me sound like a know a little something about cars when we're together.

Also, it's important to know the difference between car features, like V8, V6, four wheel drive, all wheel drive, front wheel drive,  and which vehicles these features might be in.  Or at least try.  It's boring but you'll sort things through eventually.  If nothing else, ask him and I'm sure he'll be happy to explain every single detail to you and how it works and spend an hour telling you.  Actually, maybe you shouldn't ask. 

3. Smile, nod, say "Oh yeah? That's cool.", smile again, repeat. This formula will get you through any car conversation, car lot escapade, car magazine or blog reference, or long drive on the freeway when you're feeling too tired to actively listen or engage him in a car conversation.   Most car guys don't want to actually converse much with you when cars are involved anyway, but they do want to talk at you  about cars. It makes them feel smart.  It makes them feel like they know everything about cars, and in reality most car guys do.  And even if they don't, let them think they do.  In fact, this might be a good formula for any marriage. 

4.  Look for the best in cars.  If you don't care about what's under the hood, look at the interior or paint color.  Most cars are pretty or have something aesthetically interesting about them.  If he asks your opinion on a car and you're not sure what to say, just tell him you think it's pretty or ugly and why.   If you do this, he won't ask for your opinion for a while and this is usually best.  At a car lot recently I told Matt that I think the Nissan Leaf he was oogling over looked like a mutant frog and he didn't bother me about it again for the rest of the trip.

5. Make a game of it.  If you have to go to a car show or a car lot, make up a game to keep yourself entertained.  I like to pick out a particular paint color and find as many cars as I can in that color.  This is especially fun at car shows.  This allows me to walk around, inspect cars, and ooh and ah at them without ever having to know a damn thing. Pure bliss. 

Another fun game to play is to count how many times your husband veers off course while on vacation just so he can see an exotic car or special car dealership.  For us, this usually happens at least a dozen times each vacation.  Even in Panama Matt found a car dealership worth taking a photo of, using precious space on our memory card all for the sake of preserving this glorious vehicular moment.

6. Love him as he is. Even if you don't like cars as much as your spouse does, and even if you don't like cars at all, let your husband indulge himself.  He probably hates going shopping with you or hearing you talk about decorating and fashion, or all the gossip and what-not that we women engage in, but you know what? He puts up with it.  And he still loves you and lets you be yourself.  Do the same for him.

19 September 2013

Lemon and Herb Roasted Potatoes

When we planted our garden this year we planted a few different types of potatoes--red, Russett, purple, blue, and Yukon Gold.  There were probably 16-20 plants and each yielded about 8 pounds, maybe more, of potatoes. I harvested 6 plants one afternoon and posted this picture on my Facebook page.

One of my friends asked what I was going to do with all those potatoes.  My response: eat them.  
I've always loved potatoes indiscriminately.  As a little girl, some days mashed potatoes with brown gravy was the only thing my parents could get me to eat.  Even when I was pregnant with all-day sickness (morning sickness never ended) and couldn't keep anything down and had no appetite, mashed potatoes and gravy saved me.  My boss would make a quick drive to KFC and get the little sides of potatoes for me so I could keep working.  
But we don't just love mashed potatoes; in fact, we hardly ever make them because Ellie doesn't like them (weird).  Instead, we turn our potatoes into hashed browns, baked fries, add them to soups and stews, put them in hobo packets,  eat them as simple baked potatoes, or make this delicious side recipe, Lemon and Herb Roasted Potatoes. 
 Lemon and Herb Roasted Potatoes
4-5 cups chopped potatoes, with skin
1 Tbsp. herb-infused olive oil (I use Sotto Voce's Olio Basilico)
1 tsp. dried, crushed rosemary (or use 2 tsp. fresh rosemary)
2 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Note: If you don't have any herb-infused olive oil, substitute with T Tbsp. oil and 2 tsp. dried Italian herbs, or about 1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs
1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat a 9x13 glass roasting pan or baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. 
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and coat potatoes well. 
3. Spread potatoes evenly on pan and bake for 1 hour.  At the every end of baking time, broil on high for 1-2 minutes (watching very closely) to brown and crisp the tops of the potatoes.
Serves 4-6. 
For more recipes, browse the Recipe Box

12 September 2013

Dinosaur Plant Markers

I love cooking with fresh ingredients--fresh garlic, fresh Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, fresh veggies--everything tastes better when it's not dried or canned. Since summer is starting to wind down and our plants will soon die, I planted an indoor herb garden to get us through the cold weather months (which in Idaho seem to be the better part of the year). We planted parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and, my favorite, basil. They look so pretty and add a nice pop of green to liven up the kitchen.  

All herb gardens look best with cute little plant markers jutting out from amidst the leaves, they kind of remind me of old fences or road signs over grown by nature, just on a very small scale.  I searched and searched for little sticks or old tiles or something to use but couldn't find anything in my house. Of course I could have bought some at a craft store, but that would have meant waiting and I'm impulsive and like to do things when I have the urge to do them. On the verge of frustration I remembered that I had some little wooden dinosaurs left over from Ellie's third birthday party. It's important for little kids to have a dinosaur-themed party at least once during their childhood, and it's important for a woman to have a dinosaur of some sort somewhere in her house. My dinosaurs are in my kitchen.  Ellie and I painted these little guys and stamped them with some miniature alphabet stamps from Michaels. To prop them up I used clothespins (because that's what I had lying around--no sticks and severe impatience, remember), one end pinned to the dinosaur, the other in the dirt. 
 And so we have a dinosaur herb garden. It's like a tiny prehistoric jungle only less dangerous and more delicious.

10 September 2013

City of Rocks

In south-eastern Idaho near the Idaho-Utah-Nevada border, farms and grazing pastures sit nestled up against rolling hills and picturesque towns. Mountains merge with valleys, plains with hills, prairies with deserts, farms with nature, and everything seems to fit right where it belongs.  If you drive far enough south from Albion or Oakley, Idaho, out into the desert where the roads turn to dust, you'll find the City of Rocks.  Huge domes of stones dot the landscape, out of place and time, surrounded by silent, thin air where sound carries effortlessly.  It is one of the most unique places I have ever seen. 
I first visited the City of Rocks as a teenager and fell in love with the surreal beauty, the juxtaposition of rocks against desert and mountains.  I was visiting some friends in Oakley when I was 18 and decided to drive out to the City of Rocks by myself on a late afternoon in November.  I didn't see any other cars or people; it was just me and the quiet, still rocks.  Beneath a gray sky heavy with snow I stood on the rocks and looked out at the expanse and at that moment felt like the only person in the world, so free, so wild, so sacred.
Over Labor Day weekend we took Ellie to see the City of Rocks, her first time this far south in Idaho, and she was enthralled just as I was that first time. We saw a cactus, found a tiny jaw bone from some poor creature since passed, chased a speckled lizard, and climbed until we were too tired to do anything else.  It's a diverse place where rock climbers, hikers, nature-lovers, and horseback riders thrive and some of the rocks can be scaled by kids to which Ellie took every opportunity.
Everyone had fun climbing, even Matt's parents.  Ellie loved having Grandma and Grandpa high on the rocks with her.  You can barely see all of us (minus Matt) waving from the very top. 
Matt and Ellie sat for a while taking in the view.  Far off in the distance is a rock that we named "Stegosaurus Rock" with spikes made slowly over time by erosion.  I love seeing shapes in stagnant forms--it somehow brings movement and animation to those things that are still and without a voice. 
Places like this always stir thoughts about existence and time.  This place, formed over thousands and thousands of years, time chipping away the rocks and molding new forms, will be here long after we've left this life, our presence nothing more than an instance in passing. It's hard not to think about who might have been here hundreds of years ago--all the eyes that have born witness to a fragment of something like eternity. 
As I took photos of my family, I couldn't help but think how precious this place might be for us someday and how Ellie will remember spending time here with her grandparents. Like those who came first and those who have yet to come, we've left pieces of ourselves in the form of memory on the rocks and in the sand.