Copper Countertops at Camp More

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“If you are careful…if you use good ingredients, and you don’t take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day…                                                     ― John Irving, The World According to Garp

I’ll admit that we do most of our cooking at the cabin (aka Camp More) outside on the grill.  However when we are inside, it is the amazing copper counter tops that serve as the stage for our recipes.   

I’m lucky that my husband was able to fabricate these with his exceptional skills and access to tools and materials. Because we were able to DIY these counters, they were fantastically inexpensive! (Have you priced counter tops lately?)  Copper counter tops are always changing, as they react to the acids from food.  We love the dynamic quality of our counters, and I think they look like well-worn leather.  We wax them periodically to protect them and give them a fresh shine.  They do require some maintenance, but it’s a small area, and because it’s the cabin, we don’t mind the extra care that they require.

If you’re thinking about trying copper in your kitchen, hopefully you will be inspired by our country cabin!  Whatever you cook today, enjoy your kitchen time!

My New Love…

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“Words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man.”
-Louis Nizer

The above quote is certainly true, but lately, the comfort I have been enjoying is that provided by my soft, cozy, warm new neck warmer!

Valentine’s Day is just a couple of days away, and all of the people I love the most are getting their own cuddly bit of comfort.  I have always wanted one of these, but just never broke down and bought one because I thought it would be easy to make.  So, I searched for some simple directions and liked the one on a cute blog called “Make It Do” (http://www.make-it-do.com/make-it/make-it-do-gift-cozy-bed-warmers/ )  I have been experimenting with the directions and trying different shapes as well.  The picture I am sharing is one I made for my best friend’s mom who has been in terrible pain from a shoulder injury and is anxiously awaiting her 17th birthday…on Feb. 29th.  (Actually, she’s in her 70’s! Since she’s a leap-year baby, she professes to be much younger than the rest of us who get to celebrate our birthday each year!) I hope this gift will bring her some therapeutic relief and that the cheerful fabric will bring a smile to her face.

I stopped at my favorite thrift store and picked up some really cute pajamas in soft flannels and pretty patterns.  I have been repurposing the fabric for my warmers, which makes me feel very thrifty.  Furthermore, the $13.00 I spent on the 50 pounds of feed-corn at a ranch-supply store is significantly less expensive than using rice from the grocery store and will be enough to keep me busy for quite awhile!

The bags are made out of 100 percent cotton and filled with whole feed corn. To enjoy the neck warmer, simply pop in the microwave for approximately 2-3 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave and delight in the way the corn holds the heat for such a nice, long time.

Here’s what I have planned for the rest of the day…. a cup of tea, a good book, a warm, cozy neck-warmer = I’m in LOVE!  Happy Valentine’s Day 2012!  Wishing you all much warmth and comfort.

Finding the Perfect Balance!

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Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.                 -Robert Fulghum

I wanted to whip-up a little birthday gift for my friend, and this is the perfect quick and easy handmade present!  I don’t know if it’s a by-product of being a former English teacher, a librarian, and of course, a lover of books, but I adore any project that uses letters and words. So, I’ve been collecting board games from the thrift store and using the pieces to make Scrabble tile message boards for the special people in my life.  Today, I met my dear friend for a birthday breakfast, and wanted to reminder her to cut-back, just say “no”, and quite simply make more time for herself!  (Good advice, wouldn’t you say?)  Just take a Scrabble tile holder and a little glue (I use E-6000) and admire your “instant message.”  Once you start, you will be thinking of all the important words you want to share!

A Place to Hang Your Hat….or Coat….or Scarf…..

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The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.  ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

Check out my handmade yardstick coat hanger!  I ran across this project idea in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and I instantly loved the look of it, so I set out to collect as many vintage yard-sticks as I could find.  Ultimately, I was hoping to find them all from our local hometown businesses, as well as the small towns where my husband and I grew up, as that would be more sentimental.  However, they were hard to find!  I did find several at some consignment shops from far-away places, but they still had some unique and interesting “patina,” so I picked them up from $5.00 – $10.00. With help from my in-laws, I was able to get one from the Coast-to-Coast store in my husband’s small hometown in Eastern Montana, and of course, I found one in Grandma’s Attic!  (I’m always giving thanks to my Grandma for her collecting spirit!)   I found some antique black coat-hooks on E-Bay that came from an old school.  I love the look of these, because you can see flecks of different colors of paint and a few chips here and there.  We took a board and cut it just slightly larger than the layout of the rulers and painted it with several coats of black spray-paint.  This way it peeks out just a little around the perimeter and “frames” it.  The black also highlights the lettering on the yardsticks and the hooks as well. We have enough yardsticks to make another one, and we’re going to hang them side by side on the long wall in the entry-way at Camp More (the cabin). I think it’s going to add a lot of character to the room, not to mention, it will give us a place to hang our coats after we come back from snowshoeing!

Little Jars of Light

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Live in rooms full of light.  ~Cornelius Celsus
I thought I would share with you the creation my husband and I came up with for light fixtures at our cabin (which we refer to as Camp More).  A friend had shown us her Pottery Barn catalog, and we fell in love with their Canning Jar light fixture, but it’s hard to convince DIY’ers to hand over the credit card number when something looks like the perfect project!  We ordered these blue tinted jars from e-bay, and found the new, vintage-inspired electrical cord online. The ceiling canopy came from a porch light that we removed at our house, and we painted it with a hammered metal finish.  We love the way they turned out, and think they add just the right touch to our rustic little get-away.  I’ve seen Etsy shops that sell similar items, and they make such a unique conversation piece.

Perfectly Pumpkin

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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”   -Henry David Thoreau 

I’ve had a lot of fun lately, enjoying some fruitful thrifting, some bountiful fall blooms in the garden, and some happy crafting for Halloween.  First of all, let me say that two years ago, when I toted home a small Chinese Lantern plant from my farmer’s market, I had no idea that it would spread so eagerly.  I has literally taken over my front flower garden.  So, what’s a crafty girl to do?  Find a way to use them for fun fall decorating, and to make cute decorations to give away! I found this cute idea in the Martha Stewart magazine for turning Chinese Lantern pods into small pumpkin favors.  I’ve also had some exceptional luck at the thrift store lately.  The orange pot in the background is McCoy (I’m kind of a pottery snob!) and the pumpkin is a vintage Haeger planter.  I found these things just hiding among all of the other Halloween “crappity-crap.” (thanks for the term, Dottie Angel, it’s perfect!)  Fall decorating is my favorite, and I only wish the season wasn’t so short.  Right now I’m pressing some leaves for another crafty idea I saw on Martha’s website… I’ll be sure to share the results.

Crafty Team Spirit…. Princess Lasertron Style!

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“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  -Helen Keller

So, I work at a high school, and this week is Homecoming Week.  I don’t care how old you might be, you probably remember the buzz and energy of Homecoming.  The team building, the buzz, the energy, the traditions…..  It’s about theme inspired dress-up days, and class competitions, and parades and of course, the game!  That’s why I’m so excited about the prize ribbon I made at The Creative Connection Event.  I was so fortunate to be able to take a class by Megan from Princess Lasertron.  We all made these enormous, over-the-top, but oh-so-cute, prize ribbons.  In my daily life, I just don’t see myself donning it for groceries or the mall.  However, Homecoming is the perfect occasion to sport some extra big team spirit.  I was so excited to choose my school’s blue and green, as well as embroider a big “G” on the center button.  All of the ladies who attended this class were so much fun, and we truly enjoyed each others’ company.  It reminded me of what old-fashioned sewing circles must have been like.  I’m going to stock up on some more felt and ribbon, some fabric covered button kits, and I’m going to make some more of these beauties to share with my colleagues for next year.  Who says that team spirit can’t be crafty? Go Team!!

Brilliantly Brilliant Dottie Angel!

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“Never doubt your instincts in a thrift store.”  -Dottie Angel

Yes, I’m still talking about the Creative Connection Event.  (It may never end, so hopefully you’re okay with it!) While I was there,  I had the amazing opportunity to meet with the publisher of Uppercase Magazine Janine Vangool for my Pitch Slam.  Her company published the book I want to tell you about….. Dottie Angel: the Peachy Crafty World of Tif Fussell.

I absolutely must borrow from Tif’s super-fun vocabulary to tell you that this book is, “peach, fabby, and brilliantly brilliant!”  I had been saving this treasure since I got home from TCC.  It was perched on top of a pile waiting for a really quiet, special moment when I could settle in for an extended amount of uninterrupted time.  When you hold this book in your hands, you will understand that trying to read it while commuting, or perhaps cramming in a few pages at the doctor’s office, just won’t do this sweet little volume justice.  This book has so many special touches, it feels as if it were handmade just for me.  It wasn’t just rolled off the presses and put in a box.  No,  I’m not going to give away the surprises.  You’ll just have to order one for yourself from Uppercase.  I could go on and on about why I love this book, but most of all, I love that when I read it, I feel like I’m sitting in the Airstream with “Dottie” (Tif)  on a lovingly weathered chair, covered with hand crocheted doilies, drinking a cup of tea,  in a beautifully chipped cup from the thrift store, and gazing at some of her handmade treasures.  When I read the description of the book, I must say, she had me at “thrift store.”  I confess — I’m a complete thrift store junkie!  Tif and I have exactly the same passions:  crocheted covered vintage hangers, ceramic animal figurines and granny squares!  We both have “crafting epiphanies” and an appreciation for anything with “granny chic!” She is “utmost kind” in sharing ideas for fun little treasures to make, and she tells you about her special little world where tools have names and bunnies wear capes.  “Thank you kindly,” Tif, for the crafty ideas, the walks down memory lane, and for letting me into the perfectly blissful world of my new best friend, Dottie Angel!

ReMake It…. from books, of course!

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“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come.” –Chinese proverb

At The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul, I took a class from Tiffany Threadgould who just published a unique and thoroughly inspirational book published by Sterling called ReMake It!  So, this post is part book-review, and part show-and-tell.  In her class, Tiffany taught us how to do several of the simple crafts from her book, and we had a blast whipping up paper beads, envelopes, gift bows and coasters.  All of the crafts were “green,” but they were much more than that…. they were cool!  They had a hip graphic vibe and could be tailored to fit into any person’s design style.  Personally, I am in love with words, letters, and anything that has to do with books. As a result, this book, and Tiffany’s ideas, really appeal to me, as many of them were made out of old magazines and book pages.  I also have plans to try making a button bracelet, a case for my cell phone from a men’s necktie, and a t-shirt skirt – SO CUTE!  Her book is full of great pictures and easy templates to follow, so many of these projects can be as sophisticated or a simple as you want them to be.  I would definitely recommend picking up this book to use with children for school art activities or craft time!

So, after I returned from the Event, I decided to turn my inspiration from her class into my own unique art.  I went to the local library’s book sale where they were selling thousands of used, donated books to raise money for the Friends of the Library group.  (I brought home a LOT of books, which I have just decided is a sickness I will have to live with.)  I took graphic images from these books, mostly used children’s stories, and cut them out to create note-cards.  Then I went out to my stash of old Saturday Evening Post magazines in the garage (once again, thanks Grandma) and used some of the pages to create envelopes for the note-cards. (Both of these ideas are outlined in Tiffany’s book.)  Together, the cards and envelopes are a visual delight of vintage images, type, words, and graphics.  I’m going to fill them out and get them in the mail.  I hope the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as I enjoyed making them!

Opening Doors.

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Otis likes to get in the picture!

All doors open to courtesy. Thomas Fuller

Figuratively speaking, the goal of this blog is to help me exercise my writing skills – informally of course, as well as to possibly “open some doors” in the line of writing and presenting for the “artsy-craftsy” community.  So, I’m sharing a hodge-podge of my creativeness for those who want to check-out my catalog of creations.

On my grandmother’s rambling, mountain property, lie numerous “treasures” including…. old rusty cars, abandoned sheds, barns, outhouses, etc.  When my husband and I built our small cabin nearby, we were not impressed at the glaring white sight of the side of the refrigerator staring out at us in the kitchen.  So, when we were wandering Grandma’s junk yard this spring, we decided to take the door off of an old shed sitting in the trees.  It has already been overtaken by small animals and pine-needles, so we didn’t feel too guilty.  We took it home, dusted it off, and retro-fitted the doorknob, so it only protrudes on one side (so it will fit).  Then we cut a piece of wood t fit where the window sat and painted it with chalkboard paint.  We didn’t have any chalk yet, when I snapped this picture, but now we do, and the message says, “The Huck’s are here.  Gone to Miller Creek!” This was such a fun project, and it barely cost anything.  Re-purposing old items and taking finds from trash-to-treasure is one of my favorite hobbies.  Thanks for letting me share!