Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New earrings and my first giveaway

I got a package in the mail last week! So exciting. It was a little early birthday gift I decided to give myself. I always admire the jewelry that artists make and sell on, but I tend to not be so careful as I should be with earrings. (I'm working on that- plans are in the works for an earring holder.)

When I found Sara's shop, Simple Serendipity I knew I needed to order a few "basics" to spice up my wardrobe. Everything in her shop is $5 or less! Amazing... I was so happy to see that there are cute jewelry options out there that won't leave you broke.

According to Sara's blog, affordability is important to her:

"I started making jewelry during the poverty stricken years (not quite through them yet) of my husband's graduate school. I know what it's like to not feel like you can spend any money on yourself."

"That's why my jewelry is what it is. Simple, because I'm a plain Jane kind of gal. Affordable, because I want everyone to feel like they can break free from the silver hoops and find something that makes them feel a little more feminine. "

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One ingredient ice cream

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto this post about one ingredient ice cream on the kitchn blog. I'm so glad I did! I love ice cream - be it frozen yogurt - custard - slow churned- or soft serve from Dairy Queen.
But, it's not so good to eat every day. (Well it's good, but not so good for you).
So this recipe for one-ingredient-ice cream sounded perfect - and healthy!
The secret ingredient? Frozen bananas.

Monday, June 28, 2010


We traveled to Des Moines this weekend to celebrate a wedding. It was lovely, particularly the second reading in their ceremony. I like going to weddings, because it gives all the married couples in the pews a chance to reflect on their own vows and renew them, silently, with just a small hand squeeze.

Jessica and John Zaegel

An excerpt from The Gift from the Sea
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment.

It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand.

We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return.

We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even.

Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.

Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits - islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides."

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Interview with a Creative Few: Phyl Quance

I know so many creative people and talking with them about their projects often inspires me to try new things. So I've decided to introduce them to you all in a format that I like: an interview.

Phyl Quance is a life-long artist who hasn't ever stopped creating. For years she made clothes for herself, for her kids, knitted and painted. She's held a number of jobs over the years, including working for the Louisiana State Senate and at an advertising agency.

These days, she lives in Wauconda, Ill. near her two daughters. She enjoys hanging out with her dog Tess, who is deaf, playing music and renting movies.

“Sometimes at night, whenever she’s in the mood, Tess and I will sit on our respective couches," said Phyl.  "The TV will be on and I’ll be doing something or another and we’ll take a few minutes out and blink at each other back and forth. Silly, huh? But I love it. She sits, and grins and blinks. That’s how we communicate."

Phyl, whom I know as Aunt Phyl, is my grandmother's big sister. I never knew her very well growing up, but then we became friends on Facebook. She posted these beautiful, quirky paintings, knit creatures and talked about practicing ragtime music. What incredible talent exists in my family that I never even knew about!

Aunt Phyl was one of the reasons I started this feature. I wanted to talk to her more about her creative process, and learn more about continuing to grow as an artist throughout your life.


What do you create?
Well, I've been creating one thing or another for as long as I can remember.

I was a very shy kid - spent a lot of time with coloring books, paper dolls (making my own clothes for them), and besides my two best friends, the pencil and paper was my other best friend. Later, the piano moved in, at first under protest, but for an extremely long time it has been the best stress reliever I've ever had and such a good friend.

Music. I have started playing ragtime again. I used to play Scott Joplin at a catfish house in Louisiana. It was a night job after the Senate got out, during the interim. I have been told by several professional musicians that ragtime is difficult to play, including one big-time piano teacher who couldn't play it.

For some strange reason it's not difficult for me (except that octaves are a little harder to reach than they used to be.) So, I figured I'd take it up again and be ready just in case a market pops up. I'm ready!!! (Or will be soon!)

Besides, even a market doesn’t pop up, it's happy, fun music to play. And we all need that so much nowadays.

Other stuff. Lately, I've been making a bunch of different things: knitting, crocheting – little amigarumi critters, just finished an afghan I'd started years ago, hats, market bags, blah, blah.

I used to sew - taking a hiatus, along with computer graphics. I used Illustrator and Photoshop, but my new operating system won't take Illustrator anymore – bummer.

Now, it's drawing and painting after hundreds of years. The reason, other than completely enjoying making them - is trying to make a living in these days.

How did you get started?
Other than escapism as a kid – necessity. Money was always a problem, and I found it much cheaper (back then) to make my clothes - and my kid’s clothes. Dadden Quance (my grandmother) was a seamstress at one time, and she made all of our clothes when we were kids. She always tried to get me to learn to sew - but dummy me, I wasn't interested at all.

Then, I got married, and pregnant! And it definitely became a necessity then. That's when I learned. Once I got started, I really got a feeling of accomplishment and enjoyment! I do remember when I'd made a really special dress, I took it and showed to Dadden – and she told me I did a great job. Imagine how proud I was!

What inspires you?
Well – that's hard. Getting started is the hardest part for me. You know, the blank-page syndrome. Once started, the ideas slowly start coming.

Another hard part for me is knowing what direction to go. Either serious: pastels, watercolor or (seriously wish-I-could-do) oils, or the ridiculous: caricatures or mixed media. The kids think I have a quirky side. I think the words "skewed" and "off-center" were used!

How do you market your work?
Obviously I have no marketing skills! I have tried craft shows without much luck. Everything wound up as Christmas and/or birthday presents.

Phyl is planning to start an etsy account soon, but until then, if you'd like to order one of her creations, leave me a comment and I'll put you in touch with her! Thanks Aunt Phyl!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Day of Summer

For me, summer is best summarized in the book, "Dandelion Wine" by Ray Bradbury.
Here's the first paragraph:
"It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer."

Summer was about freedom from homework and early bedtimes as a kid. Catching fireflies, eating ice cream, playing baseball, riding bikes, going swimming.

As an adult, summer has become a celebration of freshly grown fruits and vegetables, home improvement projects, weddings galore, drinking beer at Growler's with friends, trips, barbecues, and gardening. There are a few things we do every year - pick strawberries, go to Shakespeare in the park, see shows at the Muny (outdoor theater), celebrate the fourth with friends.

But summer isn't about just tradition. It's all about making new traditions too.
This year, I'm reveling in my garden. I planned and plotted what I would plant in the empty space out front for months last spring. I tried to pick the perfect blend of  tall and short native Missouri plants. I dug holes, placed those plants in the ground and hoped to see them blossom. Some did, others didn't do so well, and eventually bugs moved in.
This year I wasn't sure what would come back. I've been so pleased to see that almost everything has. My marsh milkweeds are almost 4 feet tall! The hydrangeas are fluffy and the bright purple poppy mallows offer a punch of pink in the midst of all that green.

I'm also enjoying planning for backyard barbecues on my soon-to-be-completed deck. Having a deck seems to have inspired a whole new level of creativity in my planning process. Before, we'd drag a couple of tables outside into the backyard and instruct everyone to bring their own chairs. It worked just fine, but didn't fit my dreams for outdoor entertaining and decorating. With the new deck, we can have places to set a sweating glass of tea, and hanging planters overflowing with color, and twinkling lights, and cozy cushions to curl up on for late-night chats.

Then there's Chris and my "to-do" list that we have sketched out on our chalkboard in the kitchen. So far it has:
- go to Botanical Gardens
- attend the Whitaker music fest at the outdoor gardens with good friend Kara and her main squeeze.
- take Chris' sister out for dinner to celebrate her pregnancy (she's already 4 months along already, yipes!)
- play more candy land
- make homemade ice cream
- get a pedicure and wear sandals
- go on a picnic along the riverfront
- catch lightening bugs
- go canoeing
- ride bikes
- take our friends camping
- do some yoga

Here's to a good summer of enjoying the weather, good friends, great family, music, food, life!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


One of the stories my mom often tells is about how she thought she might not ever have kids. She was a career woman with a master's degree and just wasn't sure if children were something she wanted. Somehow she ended up with five.

First, my dad convinced her to have me. And once I was born, she wasn't sure she could have another. Would she love a second child as much as she loved me? (This is where I butt in and say Hey you should have stopped when you reached perfection!) Four years later, Shannon was born. Then, my mom asked my dad, do you want to try for a son or get a dog? My dad picked the son.

Two years after they had Logan, my parents found out they were pregnant. Unexpectedly. And it was twins! I was elated. I hoped for two more sisters, but God answered my mom's prayers and gave her twin boys (she already had a lot of boy baby stuff). Moments after they were born, my mom briefly thought "How many more wonderful children could I have?" She came to her senses and realized, five was enough.

For as crazy as a family of seven can be, I can't imagine life any other way. People say your siblings are the people who will know you the longest in life. My siblings are fabulous.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baked Red Snapper

Fresh fish of almost any kind is great - but sometimes people can't appreciate the goodness. I've found that people who are a little unsure about fish can be coaxed into trying it if it has some kind of breading - even just spread on top. I picked up a 5 pound red snapper and had it filleted. It fed 9 people and everyone liked it! amazing!

Baked Red Snapper
Adapted from a recipe posted on by Diana Rattray
four red snapper fillets 6-8 ounces each
8 tbsp butter
2 cloves minced
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp Old Bay spice
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 green onions, chopped
6-8 tbsp plain or seasoned bread crumbs

place fillets in a buttered baking dish

Melt butter in skillet with garlic, Old Bay, cajun spices, pepper, and green onions. Saute for 1-2 min.

Add 6-8 tbsp bread crumbs.

Spread mixture on top of the red snapper, top with lemon slices. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.

Enjoy! it was great.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Panama City Beach Mojito

My sister Shannon is a bartender at a restaurant called Pi - President Obama's favorite pizza place. She recently joined the United States Bartender's Guild and has started competing in bartender events.  The other day she whipped up a twist on an old favorite and was kind enough to explain exactly how to make it yourself at home.

Panama City Beach Mojito

Agave Nectar ( 1/2 ounce)
Fresh limes cut into eighths
Bacardi rum
ice cubes
8-10 mint leaves
top with soda water

Friday, June 18, 2010

The best summer salad ever

Last summer, I visited a nursery near my house and learned that they sold fresh vegetables grown at a farm in Florissant. I wandered into the market area and saw rows and rows of colorful tomatoes- orange, red, dark yellow and even green.

I bought a bunch and when I got home, I thumbed through one of my favorite cook books and I found a recipe for the perfect summer salad. I have made this many times since then. It's my go-to recipe for barbecues and events. It's so good, so satisfying, so pretty. You will thank me if you make this.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An interview with a creative few

I know so many creative people and talking with them about their projects often inspires me to try new things. So I've decided to introduce them to you all in a format that I like: an interview.

Marge David is a retired teacher who lives in Columbia, Mo. She likes to cook, collect fabric and read for fun. She also enjoys bicycling, working in the yard and refurbishing her home.
When I was about eight, Marge taught me to sew. Marge was one of my mom's closest friends. She lived in our neighborhood and was a part of our lives for as long as I can remember. Marge is a quilter. One Christmas, my sister Shannon and I went to her house and she helped us make quilted pillows for our mom as a gift.

We each got to select the fabrics - pretty peach, dark green, pink floral. She guided our hands as we used the sewing machine for the first time. I was so proud to give that pillow to my mom. It was something I made myself. She still has those pillows in the living room.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fabric pom-poms

I put up these shelves in my kitchen to handle the overflow of mugs from my cupboards. But for the longest time, I haven't been able to find something tall and skinny to put in the middle of everything.
Then I saw a very interesting idea on the Prudent Baby blog - DIY fabric pom pom hydrangeas. Imagine the possibilities- flowers that don't die, and that my kitty, Lily, won't try to eat. She loves to eat flowers, so we have to hide them in our bedroom and keep the door closed while we're at work.

The women who write the Prudent Baby blog picked up the idea for pom pom hydrangeas from the Clover booth at a Quilt Market event in Minneapolis recently. Clover makes a pom pom maker which isn't that expensive, but when you're wanting to try something right now, sometimes you have to improvise. So, for my version of the pom-pom, you just need some fabric, cardboard and scissors. There are lots of other tutorials for how to make these in a low-tech manner, if mine doesn't work for you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Herbed Risotto

Some foods you think you love until you actually take the time to make them, then realize they are perhaps more trouble than they're worth. Other foods you stay away from in fear of the recipe, only to learn that it's quite simple.

This is the story of my past few days. Chris and I picked 22 pounds of cherries Saturday. I was so excited when I found the orchard where you could pick fresh! tart! cherries! I went crazy. We filled small boxes and dumped them into the flats, piling the red shiny orbs on top of one another.
The whole hour-long drive home, I daydreamed of my grandma's cherry jam! and cherry pie! and fresh cherries! that I would eat.

I did not realize how long it takes to pit 22 pounds of cherries.

I also didn't account for not having access to my grandma's cherry jam recipe. I went with Martha's. She may have great ideas for party decorations, but I now have serious doubts about her cooking skills. Let's just say the cherry jam did not so much work out. Now I have cherry tar. My enthusiasm for cherries has somewhat diminished.

Today, I was in search of a way to use up the rest of my CSA share from last week, when I found a recipe online in the New York Times Health section for herbed risotto.This week our CSA share was pretty light- we had a fennel bulb, sage, mint, chives, thyme and radishes. On Saturday I used the fennel and some sage in a pasta dish, but that left me with a ton of fresh herbs to use.

I haven't made a ton of risotto, but for some reason I always had the impression that it took forever to make. My previous attempts at risotto had been 1-2 hour fiascos and sometimes ended up crunchy.

But I was pretty excited to find something in which I could use up all of my herbs. And, this took probably 35-40 minutes total to make and it made for a nice satisfying way to use up those herbs. The taste is creamy, bright, interesting and the best part, a pretty purple color with bright green bits mixed in.

Monday, June 14, 2010


'Twas a glorious weekend. Warm (Hot!), stormy, filled with lots of doing

Chris beating me for the first time EVER in candy land (Kalen 4, Chris 1).

Cherry picking at the orchard.

Cherry pitting while watching world cup games.

Lots of cherry-treat making. Cherry freezing. Cherry preserves, cherry tarts, cherries in your oatmeal.

Cherry pies.

Dinner with friends.  

Hanging out with family and, of course, Mr. Cutie.

There was also some pizza eating, deck building, painting, crafting, kitten loving, and not enough sleeping. Ahhh, time for a break.
What did you spend your weekend doing?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Can't beet these brownies

Mwahh ha ha. I'm so funny. So instead of looking for something to enhance the flavor of my beets from the CSA this week, I copped out and added them to brownies. The result was brownies with slightly more vitamins? The brownies were pretty good. I was expecting to see them have a little bit more red color, but they turned out looking like and tasting like chocolate cake. Check out the recipe here
The bad thing is that these have 1 1/2 cups each of sugar and flour, plus a whole box of chocolate pudding and faaaarrrrr too many calories to allow them to sit at my house. So I sent them to work with Chris with strict instructions not to disclose the secret ingredient. His coworkers were none the wiser!
So here's what I did: wrapped each beet up in foil and cooked the crap out of it in the oven for about an hour. When they came out, the skins came off easily and I had this:

Aren't they pretty? I tried a tiny one at this point and I have to say, it tasted OK. Kind of a dirty, earthy, sweet taste. I might have been convinced to try making something else that highlights the taste a little more. Maybe.

Shred them up in the food processor ( best Christmas gift ever!). Add a bunch of ingredients that are bad for you.

Bake, then eat.

This is a good way to use up beets you have laying around because you are afraid uninspired by them. Also, it's a good way to sneak in some healthiness into something that's inherently unhealthy. I think next time I try this though, I'll look for a less calorie-laden recipe.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Potage Parmentier

I first stumbled on to Julia Child's recipe for potage parementier- that is, potato soup - in the book Julie and Julia, which is a story about a woman named Julie who cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In the story, Julie is having a particularly bad day at the office, goes to the grocery store and buys a few random things and then proceeds to make potato soup, which is heavenly.
This week, I seem to have gotten some mysterious upper respiratory thing - which is unusual because A. It's June and B. I never get sick.
I get sick so rarely that when I do, I become a big whining baby who mopes about feeling tired and sorry for herself. So I was rereading Julie and Julia and read the part about Julie making potage parementier and thought, "this is exactly what I need right now."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Shirred Summer Dress

Our good friends, Jeff and Michelle, had a baby girl, Alyana, just over a year ago.
She's a darling little girl who is smiley and sweet. When she was about 6 months old, I made a little dress for her based on some online tutorials I found. I used my teddy bear to figure out how big to make it.  I figured they were about the same size.
When I went to try it on Alyana, it didn't fit around her diapered booty. And those britches definitely wouldn't fit. Dang. I didn't ever get around to making it bigger, although I promised her mom I would. So my goal was to get a new dress done in time for her first birthday at the end of May.

I used this tutorial on the Prudent Baby blog to make a shirred summer dress for her. The secret to making something look smocked without actually smocking is elastic thread. You wind it in the bobbin on your sewing machine and sew and the fabric wrinkles up. I woke up early on the day of Alyana's party and spent much of the morning working on it.

Hopefully she'll be able to wear it this summer. The bonus about this kind of dress is that it can be used as a shirt as she gets older.

 If you've never sewed clothes before, it's worth trying out. I also made her a matching hair bow and a little stuffed animal based on this tutorial from Ruffles and Stuff. It's crinkly inside. I hope she liked it! She was a little overwhelmed with all of the gifts and wrapping paper at the party.

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