Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tutorial: Gratitude Jars

Transform an ordinary glass jar into a Gratitude Jar!

When something beautiful happens in my life, large or small, I jot it down on a slip of paper and stick it in the jar. On New Year's Eve, sit down with my beloved and go through the jar to see what we have to be grateful for.  (Here's 2013.). In the meantime, I think it is a quite decorative item to have on my desk.

Here's how I made it.

I washed and dried the jars.  Jars with lids like these work best so you don’t have to spray paint the lids to cover up “Joe Bob’s Spaghetti Sauce” on top

I used Goop Off to get rid of the expiration date info.  

Click here for more information on removing the ink.

Putting the jars on rags so they don’t roll works best. 

I used paints designed for making stained glass windows.  (Plaid Glass Acrylic Paint) It’s best to paint in sections.  When the section dried, I rotated the jar to do the next section.  061

For some jars, I added black between the color patches to make the piece look more like stained glass.

You can do a variety of patterns.

I’ve had my current one for a year and a half. (The first image.)  Not all of the paint is the Plaid on this one which is why you can’t see through all of the shapes.  Some of it is left over enamel paint from an auction.  It’s been on my desk, reminding me to be grateful.

The paint, however, even when dry, tends to stick to fabric and paper.  No big deal if the Gratitude Jar is for you---just put it where it goes---but if it is a gift it would be hard to wrap in a way to protect it from breaking without using paper or fabric.  (If paper does stick to it, a little cool water and gentle rubbing will get it off.)

So either a different brand of glass paint or a protective coating of ModPodge is in order.  I’m going to try the ModPodge.  I’ll keep you posted.  I’m hoping to sell these at upcoming craft fairs so they need to be something people can give as gifts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Investing Update

I was planning to do a blog post on how my tiny account designated for investing for income has finally broken even.  I had invested $250 back in February (here is the post) and of another $20 somewhere along the way.  I was all excited because the account had finally gotten to $270.65.  I went in today to check the exact amount... and it is now down to $269.85.  That is .15 cent less than what I've put in so far.


Living off of invested income is the bedrock of most early retirement/financial independence plans.  However, you evidently have to invest a heck of a lot more!  (Plus my initial investment was pretty conservative.)  This is turning into a learning experience instead...  But that is okay.  I am into learning!

I am making tiny progress-- the dividend for March was .82 but the one for June was a whole 1.06.

 Someday I'm going to look back on this and smile while contemplating my steady stream of passive income, right?

Right now my plan is to wait until our other (IRA) investments with this particular company reach a certain dollar amount at which point the percentage that the fund takes goes down.  Also the year-end dividend is supposed to be higher.

I'll keep you posted...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Teasers.... or "I Have Too Many Craft Projects Right Now!"

I've got four craft projects I'm working on at the same time.....

Yeah.  I need to just pick one.....

Here's some snapshots from what I've got going on, one from each of the four projects:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Thoughts: Gratitude

Today I'm grateful to God for some quiet time in my studio.  I'm sewing!

It leads me to think of how much I can be grateful for what did not happen.  I haven't had computer troubles or car break-downs in a long time.  No major house repairs, either.  I'm not ill (mental = questionable, but, hey, join the club!) or suffering from a cold sore, or wearing a cast. 

Now if only my gratitude to God will lead to generosity to others....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

This week I....

... received this dress form from Singer as a first prize in a creative competition!  I can make a mini-me now.  (Only it will be exactly the right size.)

... played Bohnanza, also known as the bean farmer game, with some good friends.  The Magician and I both enjoyed it, which does not always happen!

.... harvested fat stubby carrots.  Apparently we need to really soak them when we water them?  Remind me to ask Doug the Master Veggie Gardener....

.... was given this by my niece Arwen.   Isn't it lovely?

.... unpacked canning supplies.  I'm hoping it isn't as complicated as it looks...

.... noticed that the rain barrels are now empty.  Yup, we used the last of the water up watering our garden.  Now we're back to the hose until it rains....

.... thawed some frozen strawberries to add to my oatmeal.  Mushy, but still tasty!  For how I froze them, click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Stores Now!

I met with the lovely and charming Myra this morning at Out of the Box, a wonderful, locally owned store that sells reclaimed building materials and architectural details.  They will be carrying three of my tiered trays.  (Click on the "Tiered Trays" tab above to see them with more detail.)  Check them out at 48th and R, Lincoln, NE or at their website:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Today we harvested our first....

... cucumbers!

The plant is dying of something or other, so I'm glad we got at least something. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Economics of Breakfast

Frugality adds up most when it is daily.  That's really about the only place where pennies matters---over decades.

And what is more daily than breakfast?  (At least for folks like me who like to be healthy and have reasonable control over our weight.)

Both of these look pretty good from the front.

But from the back we see that oatmeal, at $2.48 a package, costs .08 cents a serving because there are a whopping 30 servings per package.  However, cereal, at $2.50 a package, costs .19 cents a serving because one box boasts only 13 servings.

And seriously, who puts only a cup of cereal in her bowl in the morning?  The box probably has more like 8 servings in it, further driving up the price.  Oatmeal offers better portion control.

But what about taste?  Good point.  The really, really cheap oatmeal, the kind that has to be soaked overnight or cooked for an inconveniently long time tastes like wallpaper paste.  (Even soaking it in applejuice over night was insufficient.)  I'm not cheap enough to start off my day grouchy!

My solution: raisins.  Granted, they drive up the price of oatmeal close to the cereal price.  But I'm slowly putting less and less in my cereal. And they have more nutritional value than sugar.  Honey is also an option.  In the summer, I'm planning on fresh strawberries from our garden.

But what if oatmeal is inconceivable?  What if you are still trying to wean yourselves off of expensive sugary hyper-advertised preservative-laced ickiness?  Check out this post on how to eat boring cereal.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

This week....

.... we harvested and ate purple beans!  (They turn green when you cook them.)

... The Magician tore out spent plants from the veggie garden (peas and lettuce) and then replant the squares with new stuff (kale, carrots, peas, and beans).  I'm thinking we are about a week late on some of those, but we'll see.
... he also started on what I'm calling our "Us Painting," designed with help from our readers:

... I played with papier mache.

.... I played with tissue paper.....
.... and I played with wood.  (I got lots of help from dad with that.)

Too many projects in progress and not enough getting done!  (I'm also going to turn cardboard in stained glass.  It's on the agenda for next week, in theory.)  But next week I should have some more time..... And when projects are done, I'll post tutorials with photo, promise!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thank You for Your Support!

Thanks for supporting the blog by starting at the Amazon portal on the right to make your on-line purchases!  It doesn’t add a cent to your price, and we very much appreciate the ad revenue it generates. It keeps us finding fun stuff to blog about!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
~ Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Part of the fun of this quote is, of course, that "vain" has two possible meanings: vain as in "conceited" and vain as in "pointless."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don't Throw Away.... Little Dabs of Leftover Paint

Subtitle: Hanging a picture isn't so scary after all!

Yes, I REALLY hate to throw anything away!

A discarded board from my father's workshop hangs by my easel for me to get rid of my leftover paint on.

Or at least, it did before I sold it:

Part of the cool factor is that it has two years worth of paint on it.  And when you mix up colors, you never really get the same color twice.

So I got another unwanted board, and decided to try to actually hang it properly with picture-hanging wire rather than just drilling a hole it.

I followed the instructions here to do it.

I primed it with ordinary leftover primer from when we painted the front of the garage.

My nephews added the first paint when they were playing in my studio last week.

Nothing seems to make children happier than: 
"Do whatever you want.  You can't screw it up.  Just go for it!"

Actually, adults like that too...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Upcycling Metal Sculptures -- Amazing!

I saw this on and thought: WOW!

Here's a link to the artist John Lopez's website where he has some more pics.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Weekly Round-Up: The Social Whirl

This week I....

.... got flowers from my husband... from our garden.  Thrifty and lovely!

... had lunch with my exceptionally good looking friends. Check out these beautiful smiles!

... went with Mom and Aunt Glenna to the botanical gardens in Omaha.  It was Railroad Days.

... am listening to shouting in French in the background as my husband watches the World Cup on-line.  The English-speaking site was too slow.

Have a great week, everyone!

The Tempest: Shakespeare on the Green in Omaha

A week ago I attended Shakespeare on the Green in Omaha with my sister Rachel and my Uncle Steve, two people who are very dear to me.  (Uncle Steve took these photos, except for the last one which was Aunt Amy.)

 My facial expression is entirely due to the coolness of my T-shirt, which I bought in Stratford-upon-Avon 19 years ago.  My wonderful BA graduation present from my parents was a study trip to England to study Shakespeare.

The production itself was OK.  Some of the minor actors did particularly well, such as Trinculo, whom we could clearly understand.  (Ariel was good, too, and so was Gonzala.)  But generally the play suffered from the director having only one very clear idea: "Let's make it Italian!"  He added Italian everything every chance he got, regardless of period.  He did touch on the question of forgiveness.  But generally, Shakespeare's writing saved the play despite the direction.

However, it was delightful to crash with Uncle Steve and Aunt Amy.  How can you not LOVE a visit wherein you have brownies and ice cream dripping with chocolate syrup for breakfast?

We're definitely doing this again!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Yesterday we picked our first royal purple beans!

Today we emptied a 50-gallon rain barrel watering the garden.

Tomorrow I'll be posting pics of Shakespeare on the Green, the beginning of my latest project, and hopefully a trip to a botanical garden.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style

New York Fashion:The Evolution of American Style
By Caroline Rennolds Milbank
303 pages

This isn't just a pretty coffee table book.  It is an exhaustively researched and detailed look at American fashion, starting in 1800 and going all the way up to the 1980s.  It has plenty of pictures, and I like the way it connects history and ideas with clothes.  I think, in fact, that it was probably originally a textbook for a history of fashion class -- it is that detailed and thorough.  It also traces the history of particular designers through the different eras, so if you want to know what Bill Blass or Oscar de la Renta was up to in the 1960s, here is a great resource.

The book focuses on New York City, specifically as a rival to Paris, although since New York designed for the whole country, the book would be useful to clothing historians and costume-makers studying any part of the country.  The New York details are so extensive, though, that if you were writing a novel set in New York in 1880 you could talk about shopping on this particular street in this particular store for gloves, and then going around the corner to see particular couture designer at particular address.  It is that well researched.

I'm going to lend it to my Aunt Monica, but I'll ask for it back if I decide to set a romance novel in the United States at some point in the past.

Oh, and I want this dress:
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Semicolon is Italian!

Aldus Manutius was credited with “inventing the semi-colon, and establishing the modern book trade with his easily transportable pocket-sized version of Greek philosophy and literary Latin  (page 79).

I wonder if anyone has ever written a history of the semicolon?  You'd only have to go back, according to Garfield, as far at the late 1400s.  I'm curious because as a Victorianist, I can't help but notice that nineteenth century writers were pretty flexible with how they used the semicolon whereas we have really only two uses for it: complex lists and linking independent clauses.

~ From Just My Type:A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield.

Freeezing Strawberries

I posted here about my adventures freezing strawberries.

Not quote a month later, I thawed my first batch:

They are darker and mushier than fresh strawberries, as I had expected from the Collective Wisdom of the Internet. 

But they tasted just fine in my oatmeal.  (I put 2-3 servings in a container at the time I froze them.)

I'm going to let some stay frozen longer and see how long before they aren't edible.  If freezing turns out to be workable, next year I can freeze enough strawberries from our garden to hopefully buy less raisins for my oatmeal.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.
~  Stephen King, On Writing, p. 147

Skirt and Shorts Mash-Up

 I upcycled this skirt from discarded thrift store denim shirts.

But I didn’t like it.  No pockets and a bit bulky at the waist.  (It all adds up to The Worst Selfie of All Time.  Or at least, of this blog!)

So I combined it with these shorts which were too short anyway..

… to get this:
So what's in your closet that you never wear?  If you already hate it, you can't really make it worse, can you?