Saturday, June 30, 2007

Slow progress - - - here's why . . . . .

For the past few days I've been trying to work on a Fourth of July themed project ---- it's going a bit slow --- partly because of one of my "production assistants" who's been laying down on the job. Come on, Daisy, -- I like to roll around and lay on all that great fabric, and buttons and trim as much as the next gal, but at some point we have to actually WORK ON THE PROJECT ! ! ! SHEESH ! ! !

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Betsy Ross shows who's BOSS ! ! !

This article was in our local paper, The Times News, last July. It's about Betsy Ross making the first U.S. flag. According to the article, Betsy was approached by a committee , which included George Washington, to sew a flag for "the fledgling republic". Supposedly, the first sketch was given to Betsy Ross by George himself. It had 13 stripes, 7 red and 6 white and a circle of 13 SIX pointed stars. Well, our Betsy looked at the SIX pointed stars and asked why the stars couldn't be FIVE pointed. The committee protested that it was too hard to make FIVE pointed stars - - so............ faster than a speeding bullet Betsy WHIPS out a piece of paper and her trusty scissors, and with a few well placed folds and a single snip of her scissors, produces - - yes, gentlemen of the committee -- a PERFECT, SYMMETRICAL FIVE ( count 'em) FIVE POINTED STAR ! George and the rest of the committee were so impressed that they agreed to Betsy's suggestion to use 5-pointed stars for the flag -- - and , with that, Betsy blew the smoke off the tips of her scissors , said "see ya later, boys" and strutted off into the sunset . Way to go Betsy !!!

Betsy Ross's 5-pointed star

OK -- so here's how to make Betsy's famous 5 pointed star (compliments of the Betsy Ross House and our local paper The Times News). It took me a couple of tries to get it, but once I figured it out, it was easy! Step 1) Fold an 8 and a1/2 x 10" piece of paper in half. Step2) Fold and unfold in half both ways to form creased center lines ( be sure paper is still folded in half). Step 3) Bring top left corner right to meet the center line. Be sure to fold from the vertical crease line. Step 4) Bring that same corner (from step 3) left till edges coincide, then make fold. Step 5) Bring top right corner left and fold. Step 6) Bring that same corner (from step 5) right until edges coincide. Then fold. Step 7) Cut on the angle -- (see picture). Then unfold the small piece - - and .......... TA DA !!! a perfect 5 - pointed star !!! Thanks Betsy !!! You ROCK !!

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A real Cinderella (fella) story ! !

I was sent this You Tube about a week and a half ago and I just never get tired of watching it -- every time I see it I get major goosebumps! (click on Paul Pott's highlighted name and see !) YEAH !!! Nice guys really CAN finish FIRST !! (you know even Simon was in awe -- just look at his reaction!) Meek, mild, shy, unconfident Paul Potts went on to win the British version of American Idol !! YEAH Paul !! GOOD FOR YOU !! ! ! !

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Quilter is Born !!!

I am pleased as punch to announce the arrival of a new quilter . On Saturday, June 23, 2007, my best pal Beth was bitten by the quilting bug and decided to learn how to do hand piecing. Location: the Very Pink Sewing Room . I was happy to show her what I know (and at the same time, hopefully not scare her away from a hobby/passion/addiction that I really enjoy and pretty much eat, sleep , and breathe !!!). WELCOME to the SISTERHOOD of QUILTERS , Beth !! May it be a long and happy addiction !!!!

Of course a Girls' Day also just HAS to include lunch and some shopping --- so earlier in the day Beth, her sweetie - pie daughter Jenny, and I did just that !! . . . and there's a picture of Beth and Jenny trying on the "latest" style of sunglasses (didn't we wear those huge bug-eye sunglasses in the late '70's early '80's? I think I just threw some of those out not too long ago -- being so sure that they'd NEVER come back in style!! I guess I was WRONG !) Anyhow, check out the BLING Beth and Jenny are also modeling !! (Liz Taylor eat your heart out !) .

Beth and Jenny --- thanks for a really FUN day ! ! !

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy first day of SUMMER !!!

Happy first day of SUMMER !!!! In the good ol' summertime..... in the good ol' summertime......(humming the rest of the song because I can't remember the words........) Anyhow, yes, 2 blogs in one day --- because I just couldn't let the day go by without acknowledging the day staying light until 9 PM, the lighting bugs, the daisies growing wild at the bottom of the driveway by our mailbox, the butterflies, my flowers in bloom, the breeze coming through the open windows, and that cute little kid with the lemonade stand who sold me the best glass of lemonade served with a toothless smile and a dirty face (that kid is making a KILLING -- the cuteness factor is a great selling strategy!) . ENJOY !!

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

The Breakfast Club

We have a variety of friends who drop by on a fairly regular basis for breakfast. This tree and bird feeder are in our back yard -- I can see all of these critters from my kitchen window while I'm getting my cup of tea. That deer surprised me yesterday -- because this one has ANTLERS !!! We've had his sisters/mother/girlfriend in the yard, but NOT a buck with antlers !!! We have a nice variety of birds , including 2 big fat wild turkeys (who were rude enough to waddle away FAST when I made too much noise trying to take their picture). Then we have the entire squirrel population of Jim Thorpe dropping in to hog all of the bird seed (look at that one hanging by his toenails to get at the bird seed -- now that's determination!! I've been known to go to the same great lengths over chocolate chip cookies or a hot fudge sundae.) Our other distinguished guests include a bear or 2 and their cubs -- they usually just rip the entire bird feeder down out of the tree and lay down like a big dog with a bone and chow down -- they don't share with ANYBODY (and I'm not about to argue with them!) -- (sorry , I don't have a picture - they're usually midnight snackers. They also enjoy tearing through the garbage cans and dragging the garbage all over the yard and driveway --- Now I know how that park ranger felt when Yogi and Boo Boo kept stealing the pic -a - nic baskets !) Well, time to go fill up the bird feeder again !

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quilting in the dust (aka Extreme Quilting )

Like our pioneer sisters who hand pieced quilts in extreme conditions while crossing the dusty plains in a covered wagon, I experienced the same determination to quilt, no matter what,during the 2 hour delay at the kids' dirt bike race on Sunday. There I was, trying to see through the dust in my eyes to take that next stitch, to thread that needle, to chase after the pieces that kept blowing away, to take a break and walk to the porta potty - - - life is rough and not for sissies out there on the wide open plains -- I mean dirt bike races ! ( No quilts were harmed in the filming of this blog.)

Anyhow, this quilt is a hand piecing project I started last summer during our driving vacation to Florida and back. The pattern is Hexagon Chain ( I found it in Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine volume 12 no. 2). This is the project I have ready to take with me at anytime -- this is my hurry up and wait project -- hurry up and wait at the orthodontists' office, the dentist office, those endless wrestling tournaments, and now, to add to that list, dirt bike race delays. This is my third hand piecing project and I must say I really do enjoy it -- really keeps me from wanting to strangle somebody while I sit and hurry up and wait and wait and wait and wait ........and, I'm actually making progress on a quilt -- what a deal !

Also, since Evan (kid #2) was such a good sport using my pink/purple paisley umbrella for shade (see previous post for picture) while all the other dudes had cool, sporty racing logo shade umbrellas, I just have to post a cool action shot of him racing his dirt bike (last picture) -- (the action shot of the rider in my last post is of big brother, birthday boy Matt) . OK -- now EVERYBODY is COOL !!

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy 17th Birthday , Matt !!!

This is Matt's idea of the perfect birthday -- racing his dirt bike -- so, that's how we spent his birthday/Father's Day today-- at a very hot and dusty dirt bike track (where both Matt and Evan raced.) There were quite a few delays today (the race was supposed to start at 1:00, but due to delays, it didn't start until 3:00). To try and keep cool, some of the riders had big , red and white striped, or black and white striped racing logo umbrellas to stand under for some shade - - - well, I didn't have one of those, but it was so hot that Evan wasn't above using my pink/purple paisley number I keep in the car for emergencies! Anyhow, to round out Matt's perfect birthday -- he came in 4th in his race -- the BEST he's ever done!! YEAH Matt !!!

Well, I'm pooped and covered with an unbelievable amount of dust -- I can't wait to take a shower and go to bed !

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Aunt Irma's Peanut Butter Icing

Tomorrow is kid #1 (Matt's) 17th birthday (yup -- 17 years ago my husband got a baby boy for his very first Father's Day present -- do I deliver or what !?!). Anyhow, the kid has requested chocolate cake with peanut butter icing -- so, I looked through my recipe box and found my Aunt Irma's recipe. (Aunt Irma and Uncle Tom have a little cabin with alot of land /woods and a little lake. When we were kids, we spent many, many Sundays there slopping around in the mud, chasing ducks, catching frogs, being eaten alive by mosquitoes , rowing the boat out to the little island, doing cannonballs off of the little floating dock and always having a piece of Aunt Irma's chocolate cake with peanut butter icing for dessert .)

As you can see from the 2nd picture , the birthday boy tried to snatch a cupcake before I had a chance to get the icing on (I decided to make cupcakes instead of a cake since the birthday boy also wants to spend the day racing his dirt bike in a race that's about a 3 and a half hour drive from our house --so, I figured cupcakes would be easier to transport AND easier to handle at a dusty , noisy dirt bike track).

Here's the recipe (this is not low fat or Weight Watcher friendly, but if you can stop at just 1 cupcake, I think Weight Watcher's would approve!)

Aunt Irma's Peanut Butter Icing

1 pound confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup softened butter or shortening
1 tsp vanilla
milk (enough to make the icing spreadable -- about 4 or 5 Tbsp)
1/4 cup peanut butter (or more)

Mix all ingredients together with mixer until smooth and spreadable.


Oh -- yea -- (last picture)--Elsie (my sewing machine) and I had a little bit of time to work on my niece Maura's quilt today -- with the supervision of Daisy (kitty) , of course! (her job is to test the quilt for comfort and coziness -- I guess the quilt passes the test since Daisy is looking pretty content!)

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What's the Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz?

HONEY BEE blocks -- that's the buzzzzzzzz!! I've been working on sunny, summery HONEY BEE blocks!!! The honey bee quilt block pattern is one of my favorite quilt patterns -- I love how it includes both piecing and applique. I found the basic pattern at Quilters Cache , a really great resource for about a gazillion different quilt block patterns and techniques. As I was working on the block, I decided the green "bees" in the corners of the block would be fun to do with a contrasting center AND in 3-d (or would that be 2-d ? ) instead of flat applique. So, as you can see in the 3rd picture, I made the "bees" double - sided and only stitched them down around the middle green checked sections . These blocks are, of course, part of a bigger project involving Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks that didn't start out to be a big project -- but, like I said before -- I can never leave well - enough alone!

Oh ! and there are a couple more of those pesky little drawings I do instead of doing whatever else it is I'm supposed to be doing -- (and , apparantly it's hereditary because many time this past school year I had to tell Evan to stop doodling/drawing in the corners of his math homework!)

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Baking day - - the lemon bar experiment

Yesterday I finally had a chance to try and make the lemon bars I bought lemons for a couple of weeks ago - - - FYI I've learned that lemons keep pretty well in the fridge for a couple of weeks until you actually get around to using them. I used a Weight Watchers recipe , so each bar is only 3 Wt Watcher points ! YEA ! Anyhow, the recipe tells you to mix the dry ingredients up in a food processor --- well, we may or may not have a food processor (my husband goes through phases where he'll buy a new kitchen gadget, it'll sit on the counter collecting dust for about a year, nobody has the time or patience to actually read the directions, so then it gets put away somewhere --- currently we have a crock pot , brand new , big enough to make enough food to feed a small country, just sitting on the counter collecting dust.......) So, if one does not have a food processor, how do you make this recipe? I consulted the person I always consult for stupid cooking questions -- Mom. She suggested using a pastry blender - - - - - - a what? Well, I went to Kmart and went to the Martha Stewart doo dads section and lo and behold, there it was -- a handy dandy Martha Stewart pastry blender. Now I figured, even if I didn't know what the heck to do with this thing, the pastry blender itself would know -- after all, it's a Martha Stewart. Turns out, you just kind of roll and smoosh this thing around your dry ingredients to blend them together -- it worked really well! So, what do you know -- I learned a new cooking skill. Well, here's the Lemon Bar recipe if you want to give it a try:

Lemon Bars

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold , cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (you'll need about 3 lemons )
2 tsp lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust, mix flour and light brown sugar using a food processor until fully incorporated. Toss butter into flour mixture and pulse to combine using short bursts of power until butter is cut into tiny pea-sized pieces and dough appears lumpy. ( I did all of that with the pastry blender) Sprinkle crust mixture onto an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking pan as evenly as possible; press down with a spatula to creat a packed surface. Place crust in middle of oven and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make lemon topping, beat eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until well blended. Add vanilla extract and 3/4 cup of powdered sugar; mix well. Add lemon juice and remaining powdered sugar; mix until powdered sugar is completely dissolved and then add zest.

As soon as crust is finished, remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Immediately pour lemon mixture over hot crust. Bake completely (about 30 minutes until no indentations remain when touched lightly in center). Cool, and cut into 24 bars. Yields 1 bar per serving.

............And, there's a picture of the finished result. YUMMY!!

Well, I guess I better remove myself from the computer and get to some of the other chores and projects around here -- for example, that last picture is of the poor geraniums and marigolds (or are they mums?) -- that I bought more than a week ago. They've been sitting there on the side porch, waiting patiently to be planted into the big pots that go on either side of the front door. (but I do think they look pretty just where they are........ but they're still in flats and are drying out too fast , so I guess I should put them in bigger pots.)

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

More little drawings.... (instead of my paperwork!)

I did these 2 little drawings yesterday while sitting at my desk, totally bored, doing yet more paperwork for my job. I didn't copy them from anybody else, this time -- just drew them ! ! (a total pleasant surprise to me !) Anyhow, now you know why it takes me sooooo long to get my paperwork finished ! I guess I can now add drawing to my list 0f paperwork procrastination activities -- which also include: 1) plucking my eyebrows 2) polishing my toenails 3) getting a magnified mirror out and inspecting my pores close up and 4) filing my nails.

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Learning to draw beyond stick figures !

A few years ago I decided -- actually I was determined -- to learn to draw. I bought the book "Drawing for Dummies" -- can't tell you if its a good way to learn to draw because after 2 pages into it, I was not disciplined enough to follow their step by step , day by day method . Instead, I happened to notice the artwork on a roll of paper towels I had sitting on the kitchen counter -- there were cute little tea cups scattered here and there on the paper towels. As I stood there waiting for my tea kettle to boil, staring at my roll of paper towels, I said to myself -- "I can draw that. " -- so I did. I have found copying to be my best method of learning to draw. (which means I have to copy , then memorize how to draw something -- i.e. doesn't really come naturally to me -- I guess I'm not using the correct side of my brain -- I play the piano the same way -- I can play the piano as long as I have music to read , but take that music away and I'm lost! Now , to me, my approach is very "academic" -- not like a true artist who can sit down at the piano and compose an original song.) Anyhow, after drawing by copying other people's artwork for a couple of years, I'm happy to now say I have come up with quite a few of my own original drawings (which I'm not yet ready to show anybody) -- SO, here are a couple of my drawings that fall into the category of "not original ideas" -- the first one I copied from one of my favorite artists, Susan Branch . I just love her sweet little drawings and artwork --- and now she has fabric, too! ( I'm salivating just thinking about it!) . Anyhow, after I drew it and took a picture of it, I decided it needed a border, so I added the hearts and curly-q's (second picture). The tea cup drawing is a new version of that first tea cup "revelation" drawing I had while staring at my paper towel roll. Now, I have an actual drawing /drafting table (in the corner of the pink sewing room) -- a birthday gift from hubby and kids a few years ago. As you can see from the picture, it gets tons of sunny daylight -- which shows off all those great colorful crayons and colored pencils. Just makes ya want to draw and color something doesn't it? Maybe I'll try to be like Vallen and try to do a drawing a day --- or maybe every other day.....

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

He's "Movin' on up!"

He's Movin' on up (just like the Jeffersons --) except he's not movin' on up to the east side, he's movin' on up to high school! Last night was kid #2's (Evan -- aka my baby) 8th grade Moving Up ceremony. I had to bribe him to go (all week he said he wasn't going because it was stupid and boring -- spoken like the teenager he is -- however bribing him with food -- especially Kentucky Fried Chicken -- always works.) So , in the first picture you see him receiving a special award that only a few other kids in his class earned -- The Presidential Award for Educational Excellence --- YEA EVAN !!

As you can see from the last picture where I made him pose with Jim Thorpe (the olympic athlete for whom the school and town are named for) -- neatness and decorum are completely out the window -- (note untucked shirt).

Anyhow, just like Jethro Bodine from The Beverly Hillbillies, Evan can now brag that he "gradiated" from the 8th grade ! I can't believe it --- my baby will be a freshman in high school next year !! -- and his older brother Matt , kid #1 will be a SENIOR !!! How did they grow up so fast?!? I'm certainly not any older ............

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Strawberry shortcake !!!

Yesterday at the grocery store I bought organic strawberries with no particular plan in mind. Today , while running around between house stuff and work and squeezing some exercise in, I had the ridiculous and unfamiliar desire to make a decent dinner , including dessert ! What the heck is that all about?!? Maybe because this morning I caught a little bit of Martha on TV and it rubbed off on me? Anyhow, making a complete dinner including dessert on a week night, especially Monday, is as remote an idea as me having tea with the Queen on a Thursday. Anyhow, I decided to try and make a Weight Watchers friendly version of Strawberry Shortcake. Never one to do things completely homemade, I pulled out my trusty box of Heart Smart Low Fat Bisquick and followed the recipe on the box. (the only change I made was I substituted Splenda for the sugar.) Well, they came out really good ! and they were very quick and easy to make. (by the way, that blob on the top of the shortcake is low fat coolwhip -- it wasn't quite defrosted there which is why it looks a little stiff.) Anyhow, here's the recipe if any of you would like to try it -- oh, and by the way, it's only 3 Wt Watcher points per serving -- which is a good thing!

Strawberry Shortcake


1 pint of strawberries
1/4 cup Splenda
1/3 cup fat-free skim milk
1 cup reduced - fat baking mix (eg. Bisquick)
2 TBSP Splenda
low fat cool whip

Wash and cut up strawberries. Mix strawberries with 1/4 cup splenda. Heat oven to 425. Stir Bisquick mix 2 TBSP splenda, and milk until soft dough forms. Drop by 4 spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Split warm shortcakes; fill and top with strawberries and cool whip. Makes 4 shortcakes. Enjoy!

I also thought I'd post a picture of my VERY slow moving granny square afghan project. I purposely leave it in the kitchen so that when I 'm waiting for the tea kettle to boil, I can pick it up and work on it for a few minutes -- which doesn't happen as often as I'd like it to -- I usually end up getting distracted by a million other things - - - but, this morning after I got back from the school bus stop I purposely ignored the mess in the kitchen sink and picked up the granny square instead -- just until the tea kettle was whistling up a storm --- so I made a teensy little bit of progress , at least!

The last picture is of a bouquet of BEAUTIFUL roses my husband gave me over the weekend -- they really are the prettiest roses I've seen in a long time. They look lovely there posing with those 2 new quilting magazines, don't you think?

Well, I better get off of this computer and out of the kitchen (where this computer is located) so that I don't inhale the last left over strawberry shortcake --- and it's really , really calling my name . . . .

Mary Anne (aka Mare)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

More WIP's - - - How many can there be?!?!

WIP = works in progress . . . . and to answer the question of "how many can there be?" . . . . . . WAY TOO MANY !!!!! Now I don't know if that's a sign of creativity , delusions of grandeur, or just plain short attention span. Anyhow, the first picture is of yet ANOTHER bright idea of mine -- it's part of a quilt that started out as a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt -- but could I leave well enough alone? NO! ! -- instead of being finished with the darn thing, I just had to add to it and now, of course , it's mushroomed into a major project -- like the other 6 or 7 "quick" quilting projects I'm in the middle of. ( I swear sometimes I'm my own worst enemy!)

Also on the WIP list is the ongoing front yard/planting of all those zillions of shrubs and flowers I bought last week, and that the grounds keeper (aka Dave, my husband) has since added to. Now, I started out happily planting some coneflowers where I wanted them. Since then, the grounds keeper has decided he wanted boxwood shrubs where I planted the coneflowers, so he has since moved my coneflowers . He did let me decide where alot of the other plants and shrubs should be , but he has taken over the actual digging and planting (since apparantly I wasn't doing it correctly --- I get to water --- oh well, works for me! I was also fired from paying the bills back when kid #1 was 6 months old and I hadn't slept in 6 months -- ). Anyhow, the second and third pictures are of all the planting that has been going on around here over the past week -- still have more to do PLUS the entire back yard !!! The last picture shows our front porch (which I love!) badly in need of SWEEPING !!!

Well, I better get back to some of those projects (and a ton of laundry) so I'm not late to pick up kid #1 who is taking his SAT's this morning (and not with a smile on his grumpy little face!).
Oh, and I've been tagged by Doe to list my "to do" list -- well, the above is just the tip of the iceberg! I promise I'll bore you all with the long version soon! I also was tagged by Revka awhile ago to list my kids' names and their meanings, etc -- so I haven't forgotten about that either --- just knee deep in WIP's !!!!

OK --- back to work!!

Mary Anne (aka Mare)