Monday, April 30, 2007

Speaking of Bean Bag Toss ...

The party was a great success. Whew! All the kids had a good time and Son No. 1 really enjoyed the time with his friends.

Just what do you do with a group of eleven- and twelve-year olds? They are at that awkward age where kiddie games are too 'babyish' , yet you need to fill the time with something. The gang played soccer for quite awhile. Then we took a break and hit the cooler. Bottled water and lemonade were the two popular choices.

Then it was on to the bean bag toss. Nothing special, but the wife and I felt that it would be a good game to wind down before the pizza arrived. gave the kids a chance to work in teams.

All it takes is a bucket and eight bean bags. I made them up the day of the party and they worked out really well. Here's a picture:

[Bean bag game toss equipment]

The bean bags were made from some 'flame' fabric from the stash. I cut eight pieces 10" x 5-1'2". I folded them in half and sewed up the three open sides (but left an opening for the beans). I used a 1/4" seam. Each bag has approximately 3/4's of a cup of dry Northern beans. After they are filled, I sewed the opening shut using the sewing machine (no need for hand-sewing -- there's plenty of room for the presser foot.) We already had the galvanized bucket, so the total cost of the game was the cost of the beans -- about $3.50. Not bad!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fabulous Friday -- Gearing Up For the Parties

Woo's Friday! Go do the happy dance and then come back for more.

[Everyone stands up and does the happy dance.]

Okay, welcome back. Yes, it's the start of another weekend. And it's gonna be a busy one. My oldest son is having a birthday party on Saturday evening. His official birthday is May 1st so, yes, that makes him a "May Day" baby. He's invited seven or eight classmates to share in the celebration. There will be food, fun, and (crossing my fingers for good weather) frolicking in the backyard amongst soccer balls, bean bag toss games and other pre-teen-appropriate activities. Assuming I make it through the ordeal, I'll let you know how it goes.

Then, on Sunday, it's the official "family birthday party". More food, fun and outdoor activities. One of his favorite foods is sloppy joe sandwiches. So that's what we're having (along with some homemade macaroni and cheese, and other party food). I'm hoping for a sunny day on Sunday too.

Wow. Twelve years old. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12. Where has the time gone? It's crazy. Okay, I'm going to stop now before I get all weepy and stuff.

Have a Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

After the rain ...

...come the rainbows. Yes! Two of them. First a single, then a double rainbow. See for yourself:

Thankful Thursday

And yes, it's been a rainy, windy kind of week so far, but I'm okay with that. I see all the nasty weather that ripped through other areas of the country and I'm thankful that my family is safe.

I'm also very thankful that my two boys are good students. The oldest will be going into middle school next year -- that's a big step (for him and his parents!). He just received an invitation to a recognition banquet. He has maintained a very high grade-point average all year and will be given a certificate for Academic Excellence. Woo Hoo!!!

My little guy just received the April Citizenship Award for his class. He is a very well-mannered six year old and helps out in the classroom. And for a red-head, that is a major accomplishment. (I'm kidding. Not about the red hair, but ... you know what I mean.) Keep up the good work, buddy! You're on the right track. Mom and Dad are very proud of you!

I'm also thankful for a wonderful blogging community. It continues to amaze me that so many people have such wonderful skills. Design skills. Sewing skills. Knitting and crocheting skills. And writing skills. It brightens my day to log on and catch up with all of you.

I appreciate the time you spend here.

Wow...another week almost over. Have a good one.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Marvelous Monday!

It IS a marvelous Monday. The temperature was 65 degrees at 5:30 a.m. Now THAT is marvelous! Perhaps Spring is finally here to stay.

No crafting this weekend (much to my dismay). There were lots of spring clean-up tasks that needed to be completed. We went to the lake on Saturday and raked and raked and raked and cleaned up all the leaves and pine needles that had accumulated since last November. It's a lot of work, but looks so nice when things are neat and tidy.

Then it was time for the "inside cleaning". For those of you new to the blog, our family has a park model that we call our 'summer cottage'. It's at a campground about 35 minutes for our house. We try very hard to spend as many weekends as we can at the lake each summer. It's amazing how just a 35 minute trip can be such a get-away. It's like living in a whole new world. Here's a picture from last summer:

[Summer of 2006]

Luckily, we have never had mice or other critters get into our park model over the winter. But there is always a good share of dead bugs and bees that make their way in -- but don't make their way out. The boys played outside while my wife and I tackled the cleanup chores. There's still a slight hint of mothballs [we leave mothballs in and around the unit to keep bugs and mice away], but everything is now sparkly-clean for the new season.

We treated ourselves to Applebee's for dinner, then came back and roasted marshmallows on the campfire. Then it was inside for some late night TV and then off to bed. We were t-i-r-e-d.

I hope you had a great weekend too!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Days of the Week

Okay, this may sound a little hokey, but here's a little mind-trick I use on my six year old son to pry his sleepy little butt (and the rest of him) out of bed most mornings. My wife and I really don't like to threaten the little man so we try (oh we try big time) to use positive reinforcement to get him (and his brother) to do things. That's what all of us good parents do, right? Okay....moving right along!

So here are the days of the week:

  • Marvelous Monday
  • Terrific Tuesday
  • Wonderful Wednesday
  • Thankful Thursday
  • Fantastic Friday
Tuesday is also the day he has music class at school so sometimes that helps his feet hit the floor too. And Thursday is "library day" and that is a big help most weeks too. Like his Crafty Dad, he is very fond of books and is an avid reader. Not to brag, but the kid is reading at the highest level for first grade -- in fact I'm guessing it's quite a few levels beyond first grade. I'm sure it's old news to you folks with kids, but let me just tell you that first grade is way different than it was when I was in school. do you get your kids out of bed in the morning? Or are we the only set of parents with this daily problem?

Please....leave a message. And have a fantastic weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crafty Dad Tip - Organize Your Linen Closet

Here's one that just sort of 'happened' the other day. The flannel sheet set on Son No. 2's bed was exchanged for some lighter-weight sheets. After the flannel set came out of the dryer, I got the idea of stacking up the set [fitted sheet on bottom, flat sheet next, then the two pillowcases]. keep things neat in the linen closet, I cut off a 2" strip of fabric from a sheet I found at the thrift shop and tied the bundle up. Now all the pieces will be together in the closet. When it's time to put them back on the bed, we can just grab the bundle and go.

I'm sure this is not a new idea, but I'm feeling pretty good about it. So, please leave a nice comment, okay?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

MSL "Color Issue" is a Good One

The newest issue of Martha Stewart Living is a good one. Once you get through all the advertisements, the articles on color are all very well done. As always, the photography is stunning. Make sure you get a copy (if you don't already have one).

Way to go Martha!

[Martha Stewart Living - May 2007 Issue]

Proud of the Boys' Artwork - Cubicle Gallery

I promised the boys I would hang their Easter bunny pictures in my cubicle. Okay guys: here's proof that I made good on my promise:

Since Easter was two weeks ago...I suppose I need some new artwork. I'll have to see what my artists in residence can create next. (Love you guys!)

By the way: the "M" and "H" (on the green paper) in the lower right-hand corner of my cube are courtesy of Allsorts, the blog site of Jenny B. You can download the letter templates here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On My Wish List: Islander Sewing Videos

[Industrial Shortcuts for Home Sewing (left) and Shirts, Etc. on VHS]

My birthday isn't until October, but ... if you're a "plan ahead" shopper, then you'll want to start looking for these. (HINT: You can usually find them on eBay.)

The videos pictured above belong to my local library. I've been watching the Industrial Shortcuts (Parts One and Two on a single VHS cassette) for the past few nights. There are TONS of tips on this video and if you sew at all, I highly recommend that you grab a copy and watch it. It's one of those videos that you watch over and over again, and then say, "I want that. I need that." Surfing eBay I've come across these gems a few times. But, I'm a tight-wad and don't want to spend much for them. That's why I think they would make a perfect gift -- for me.

Assuming that you make your own shirts, The Shirts, etc. video (two VHS cassettes) is also great. I made matching shirts for the boys a few years ago for a trip to Disney World. (I'll have to dig up a picture.) I knew there would be lots of photo opportunities and while it's a tad bit trite (I know, I know) I wanted some pictures of the boys in their matching shirts.

Making shirts was a bit daunting at first. There are several pattern pieces, interfacings, button holes and buttons. And some of the techniques are WAY different than your run-of-the-mill sewing. And, since I seem to always be in a hurry (so many things to do, so little time to get them done) I goofed and had to rip and re-do a few times. And, (once I find the photo) if you look really close, you'll see that one of shirts has the pocket sewn on upside down. I mean, the opening is at the top, but the pattern of the fabric is running the wrong way. Oh well.

So...go online to your library's website and reserve these videos. You won't be disappointed.

Here's the link to the official Islander Sewing website.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

As Promised

[My New Baby]

As promised, here's a quick photo (please excuse the dirt) of the latest addition to the sewing machine family at my house. This is a Singer Fashion Mate Model 237. This particular machine was made in Italy. I found it at a thrift shop for a whopping $5.00. (Hard to pass those up!).

It's a great machine. And in excellent shape too!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Crazy, Crappy Weather. Welcome to Indiana.

Driving on the interstate on my way to the office.

The worst winter-weather driving all season was today!

Finally! I made it to the exit.

Snow-covered trees in April? Where was the snow in December?

We interrupt this program to bring you a late-breaking weather update.

Okay, the calendar says April 11. would assume the weather might be cool, rainy, cloudy. You know, spring-like. But NO!, it's 32 degrees out and snowing like a son-of-a-gun. My drive in to work this morning took forever. Traffic was moving at a pokey 35-45 m.p.h. (and that's on a major interstate, folks!). Wait 'til you see the pictures I took. Yep, I was driving (slowly of course) and taking pictures through the windshield with the wipers flapping back and forth. Oh, and I rolled down my window to catch a couple shots too. We'll see how they turned out tonight. Watch for them. [UPDATE: SEE PHOTOS ABOVE]

And now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Monday, April 09, 2007

More Easter Preparations

Water + vinegar + color tablets + 9 coffee mugs + eggs = F.U.N. !

[Note: Son No. 2 on the right is not six feet tall.
When you're small, a kitchen chair is a handy thing.]

As always, the boys had a good time coloring eggs this year. But...a word of warning. My wife picked up the egg coloring kit at Target this year. Nine colors seemed like a great deal. Well...we were slightly disappointed. The instructions said to NOT add vinegar to three of the colored tabs. There was a packet of three tablets and a packet of six tablets in the kit. We assumed the packet of three contained the colors that were supposed to be sans vinegar. We were wrong! So...there were a few colors that turned out horribly. We will never buy the Dudley brand again. I guess when your name has "D-U-D-" in it, it means something. It was truly a dud.

But...we overcame the obstacles and still had a successful time as you can see from the eggs in the photo.

P.S. I searched the web for the kit we used, and CANNOT find it. I found several other kits by Dudley, but not the one with the nine color tabs. Hmmmm, maybe Target got a good deal on these crappy things.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Preparations

Last night was a busy time. We boiled 36 eggs and made pickled eggs and beets (have you heard of them? Recipe to follow.) The boys made Easter Bunnies for me to take to work so I could decorate my cubicle for Easter. How thoughtful! Need some quick bunny (or kitty) whiskers? Recipe to follow!

Easter Tradition: Pickled Eggs and Beets

You know how it is, there are just some things that you expect at each holiday -- a tree at Christmas, hearts for Valentine's Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, etc., etc. Well...for us it just wouldn't be Easter unless we had pickled eggs and beets. It's a treat that my grandmother made for all the Easter dinners I can remember (and there were a bunch of them). She passed away several years ago and I vowed to keep the tradition alive.

[Boiling lots of eggs, making pickled eggs and beets.]

Here's the (simple) recipe for Pickled Eggs and Beets:

2 cans of sliced beets (including liquid)
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of white vinegar
10-12 hard-boiled eggs (peeled)

In a large non-reactive pan, cook the beets, eggs and vinegar. Bring them to a boil and stir occasionally. If you feel the mixture is a bit too vinegar-y for your taste, you can add another 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to boil and stir for about 10 minutes.

Place the peeled eggs in a large glass container (we use Grandma's jar that has a screw-type lid.) You can use a class cookie jar or canister, as long as it has some sort of lid that fits nice and tight.

Carefully add the beet/sugar/vinegar mixture to the eggs. Beet juice stains, so be aware!

Stir the mixture to make sure the eggs are as far down in the jar as possible. You want them to become nice and reddish-pink. Leave the lid off until the mixture comes to room temperature, then stir again and place the lid on. Open the jar and stir the mixture every hour or so to make sure all surfaces of all the eggs has a chance to become dyed.

We like to make them a day or two before we eat them as the 'pickling process' takes awhile to penetrate the eggs.

When your ready to eat them, just slice the egg and give it (and the beets) a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Try them! They are WAY better than the rubbery ones you see in the deli counter at the supermarket -- trust me.

Easter Bunnies for Dad's Cubicle

The boys wanted something to do while my wife and I boiled eggs, so I suggested they make some Easter bunnies for me to take to work. They took the idea, hook-line-and-sinker. We figured out a really fast way to make whiskers: run a plain piece of paper through the paper shredder (sorry folks, cross-cut shredders won't work). Our shredder made perfect little whiskers that only needed some trimming. (See them on the table below?) A little bit of rubber cement (I love that stuff) and the boys had some great-looking rabbits.

[The boys making Easter Bunny decorations for my cubicle at work.]

[Son No. 2's Creation - The Easter bunny in his bedroom.]

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Easter !

Hey everybody...wishing you all a happy Easter weekend. Have a great time with the kids - coloring Easter eggs, hiding Easter eggs, and finding all the eggs you hide. We're going to have a fairly quiet day. My wife and boys will be sharing Easter dinner with my dad (who is doing SO GOOD these days).

We're coloring eggs tonite. And I'm baking the traditional lamb cake. The cake pan set is apparently no longer available from Wilton, but here's the instruction sheet. The boys will get their Easter baskets on Sunday, but we're cutting back on the candy. Too much of a good thing!

My Easter treat this year comes in the form of a vintage Singer sewing machine. Yes, I was at the thrift shop earlier this week (with NO pre-conceived ideas, mind you). I was leaving I saw what appeared to be a sewing machine case on a table. So I just HAD to go look. And I looked. And I took! Here's a picture and review of this model from It's a beautiful Singer Model 237-MA. Made in Italy of all places. I took it home and fired it up. I adjusted the bobbin tension and it works like a charm. It is flawless. No scratches, no dings. Amazing! And it weighs a TON. It's all metal except for the part that covers the head. I'll try to get a few pics of it posted soon. What a find!

Have a great weekend.

UPDATE: Click here for more on the sewing machine, including a photo.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What a Day!

Yes, what a day indeed. It started with a monster headache. It was so bad that I stayed home from work for almost three hours. I took some sinus headache medicine, tucked myself back into bed and slept. I slept like a baby. Very was almost weird. Apparently I needed the sleep. It took me several minutes to wake up and feel like I was part of the world again. On my way to work I was so out of it, that I turned down the wrong road. Dang!

So enough about my troubles. Can I tell you about all the things I accomplished last night? goes:

  • Ate supper (not a big deal, but it's my blog so I'm making it a part of the list. Okay? Okay!
  • The wife and I took the boys to the library. The boys are on Spring Break this week. And since we're staying home (no big deal) we decided that each night we would do something unique. Last night was Library Night and everyone found something to take home.
  • Made supper for tonight (penne pasta with yummy semi-homemade pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese baked in a casserole)
  • Made supper for Wednesday night too! Meatloaf (recipe can be found here). It is the BEST I've tasted. It's a bit more involved than other recipes, but it is SO GOOD. Try it!
  • And last, but not least, I was bitten by the craft/sewing bug again. And it was a really big bite too. So...we'll see what transpires. Maybe it's the change of seasons....I'm not sure. But my wife is probably gonna say something like, "Oh God, here we go again." LOL!

Oh...and speaking of my wife. She just turned 45 on Saturday. A milestone of sorts. I want to publicly declare my love and admiration to my high school sweetheart. all started many, many years ago. I love you honey! Here's to many more years!

That's all for today! Go do something crafty!

Check this out. Another photograph from our get-away weekend.

Notice the shadow of the windmill? It PERFECTLY surrounds the trunk of the young tree. Wow! How's that for timing a photograph? I was certainly in the right place at the right time. ;-)

Monday, April 02, 2007's been a long, long time.

Yes, almost two months. TWO MONTHS since my last blog entry. Isn't that pitiful?

I've been very, very busy with work and other things during the past several weeks. I promised myself that I would spend my time on what absolutely HAD to get done. No offense, but a blog just doesn't quite fit into that category.

But...I'm back and (hopefully) will be posting much more frequently.

It's spring time here in Northern Indiana....the daffodils and hyacinths are in full bloom. The trees are sprouting their tiny leaves and the grass is growing so fast that it'll need cut by the end of this week. That's a bittersweet moment: the first grass mowing of the season. It starts now and won't end until November. Oh well.

My family just returned from a close-to-home- get-away weekend. I think I only took about three pictures the whole weekend (since we've been there before). Here's the link.

[Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center]

Ok...back to work.

P.S. It's good to be back!