Monday, December 28, 2015

Date-Nut Bars

Our Christmas was wonderful and relaxing. My husband and I slept in (7:30 am- is sleeping in for us) and ate biscuits. Well, cinnamon rolls. My Grandma's recipe. Growing up my Mom would make a double batch- that is about 12 pans- and give them to our neighbors and each of my sisters and I would give a pan to our teacher. We would eat those "biscuits" every Christmas morning and my Dad would make "Christmas eggs." (A big pan of scrambled eggs with lots of cheese!) When we go to my parents' this week, we will have them when we celebrate Christmas with all my family.

One gift I was really surprised and happy to receive was the box set of Little House On the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love reading about life in the 1800s and how simple, yet extremely difficult it was. Thank you to my wonderful, Mother-in-law!

This year, I didn't bake as many Christmas cookies as I normally do. I'm afraid to even tell you that I didn't make cut-outs this year. I know! What is wrong with me?? I participated in two cookie exchanges and that gave me the variety I needed for the Season. Because of Christmas parties and gatherings, I've had a cut-out or two, so my craving for them has been met. (And not having cut-outs in the house is better for my lack of self-control.)

There a few cookies that make me think of Christmas: frosted cut-outs, Spritz, Pepperkakar (Swedish gingerbread) and Date-Nut bars.

I don't think my Mom always made Date-Nut bars. I don't remember them much growing up, but then again, I was a super picky eater and so I probably just blocked them out of my memory because they had dates in them. I didn't even like raisins as a kid. What was my problem??

Now, being almost thirty, I love Date-Nut Bars! They are chewy, with a wonderful blend of spices. Even though my Mom has made them and they will be at her house when we visit, my husband wanted me to make a batch. The recipe is my Grandma Waite's Molasses Crinkle cookie with walnuts and dates mixed in. To make them into bars, the dough is shaped in a different way.

Date-Nut Bars
3/4 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. dates, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix shortening and sugars. Add molasses and egg. Add dry ingredients.

Stir in walnuts and dates until well incorporated.
Divide the dough in half and flatten out each half into a rectangle.
*My Mom usually brushes water on top of the dough, and sprinkles on sugar. This step was somehow left out when I asked for the recipe. Waah, waah...
Bake for 14 minutes.
Once out of the oven, cut it in half down the middle and into small bars.
The dough will continue to bake on the sheet, so if it looks under done in the middle, it will set up just fine.
Allow to cool before breaking the bars apart.
Or don't.
It's really hard to wait.
What cookies make you think of Christmas?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas [post]card for 2015!

Here is our Christmas [post]card for 2015!
"Let every heart prepare him room"

Transferring my image to the wood.

Starting to carve...
 This year, I used a piece of wood for the print in lieu of linoleum, so my letters aren't as crisp or sharp.
I changed the "2015."

First proof.
I added more hearts afterwards to fill in some spaces.


I opted for a rainbow roll because they are wonderful. The print looks entirely different in a rainbow roll compared to the solid black of the proof.

Every year, we add more people to our Christmas card list. Last year, I printed 40, this year was a little over 50. (I need to invest in a small relief press, so I can crank these puppies out with more efficiency and even pressure. If anyone knows of a place to get one, let me know!)
From our family to yours,
we hope that you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Grandpa's shirt

I recently made two pillows for a coworker. Her father had passed away last year and wanted something for her family to remember him by. She found a picture of a shirt turned into a pillow.

She gave me two shirts and I bought two throw pillows for the forms. I cut the shirts into two squares and sewed them right sides together. Because of the buttons I could turn them right side out. If they ever need washed, you just unbutton the shirt and throw it in the washer.

I made little tags for them that say:
"This is a shirt I used to wear.
Whenever you hold it,
know that I am there.
Love, Grandpa"
This is something you could make in time for Christmas. It's only straight sewing- easy peasy! Make something memorable this Christmas <3

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas party fun!

Don't you just love to get together with friends to craft, eat good food or participate in a cookie exchange?

[I pick D- all of the above.]

Last Wednesday, our ladies at church got together and did just that.

For the exchange I chose,  Mom's Molasses Sugar Cookies. These are one of my favorite cookies. They spread out nicely with good cracking throughout. Around Christmas however, they take a slightly different form...

The sprinkles came out a little fast...

Cookie exchange!

For our craft time, we made cute ornaments, fueled by [lots of] hot coffee.

I'm doing another cookie exchange at work and I think I'm going to make the same kind.
Isn't it the most wonderful time of the year? <3

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hello, Minion!

I have two gifts done so far: a Hello Kitty hat and a Minion hat.

I think hats with earflaps are [SO] cute!

This hat pattern is from and I looked at for the Hello, Kitty hat.

I'm still trying to figure out what to make for the other two nephews and four nieces. My family isn't getting together until after New Year's to celebrate, so I do have some extra time.

I'm all about practical gifts; things that can be used or worn.
(Preferably sewn or crocheted.)
Any suggestions? <3

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Gramma Cather's Oatmeal Dinner Rolls

Gramma Cather's Oatmeal Dinner Rolls
2 c. water
1 c. quick oats
3 T. butter
1/3 c. warm water
1 package yeast (2 1/4 t.)
1 T. sugar or honey
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
4 3/4- 5 1/4 c. flour
Vegetable oil
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add oats. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of butter. Allow oats to cool to lukewarm.
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup of warm water (110-115 degrees) with 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Let it proof for about 5 minutes.
Add oats, brown sugar, salt and 4 cups of flour. Mix well.
Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 5 minutes.
In mixing bowl, pour a tablespoon of oil (any neutral cooking oil).
Place dough in bowl and turn, covering all the dough in oil. Rise for 1 hour.
Punch down and let rest for 10 minutes.
Shape into 18 balls. Place in 2 greased 9" round pans.
Let rise for 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Brush with butter and cool on wire racks.
This recipe was requested by my sister, Alice.
When my husband saw what I was typing he said, "You're giving away the family secret??" If other people can be enjoying this homemade bread, then yes. <3

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dining Room: Before & After

I seem to always forget how busy the months of November and December can be.

Especially when you and your husband decide to repaint your dining room and kitchen before your Thanksgiving guests arrive.

Our dining room was due for a facelift. If I had to guess, the room was painted in the 90s sometime- a soft cream color complete with a country blue heart shaped stencil border. [And also because when we took everything off the walls, you could see where they had hung for years and years.]


I love color. If you remember, my craft room is bright yellow. I dislike white, cream, tan and beige. So boring. I had picked out a color for our kitchen (back in May!) and my husband thought we'd do the dining room the same color. That idea was busted when my parents brought down a stained glass light fixture that my Dad had made that used to hang our kitchen growing up. When my parents renovated their kitchen, the light fixture was shunned in the basement. The light fixture is very bright and colorful. It was not going to work with Maine Sky, the grayish-blue I had chosen for the kitchen.

After looking at paint swatches, we decided on a deep, rich orange with a brown accent wall.

I got bored cutting in, so I had some fun. When my husband came home from work he said, "With all the time you spent doing that, you could've had it all done."

People have said that the dining room looks smaller. I prefer the term "cozier." We still need to decide what we want to hang on the walls, but that can wait for now.
Today, I'm going to work on painting the second coat in our kitchen. (We only got one coat done before my sister and her family came to visit for Thanksgiving.) Now I want to paint all the rest of the house. We're already talking about what to paint the living room...
Thanksgiving was so nice this year. My husband and I hosted and it was delicious. Here are the rolls I baked for it: Gramma Cather's Oat Meal Dinner rolls.
I'm working on Christmas presents for my nieces and nephews, too. I'll post pictures when I get them done.
I also need to make our Christmas cards. Oh gracious, I hope I have enough time! Who else is cranking out the handmade gifts this year? <3

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

more rainbow rolls!

I did ten Christmas cards the other day, but because I wanted to print more, I inquired if there were more cards that needed to be done. I just did about twenty more and I did more rainbow rolls!
Rainbow rolls are magical.


Make something beautiful today. <3

Monday, November 9, 2015

rainbow roll

At our church this year, we're participating in the Christmas Cards for Inmates Program. People were asked to take some blank cards that make a Christmas card. There were some stipulations- no glue or glitter.
I took our Christmas card design from last year and just carved out the "2014."

I also did a rainbow roll with red and green.
I love rainbow rolls.
My first test print after I carved out the date.

I think I'm going to do a rainbow roll with our card this year [which I still need to finalize the design.]
Who else is already thinking Christmas? <3

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Apple-Raisin Cookies

Over the weekend, I visited two [out of three] of my sisters and their families.
It was great! I got to meet and cuddle up with my newest niece and play a lot of silly games with my other niece and nephews.

Yesterday was my get-back-in-the-groove day. I cleaned, did dishes, laundry and meal planned.

Yes, I am a meal planner.

I have a budget for groceries every week and I go into town to grocery shop once a week. (That is what my mother-in-law did and I adopted that idea also.)

As I was trying to think of ideas for meals this week, I decided to peruse our old issues of Everyday Food. ::sigh:: That was my favorite magazine, only the size of a Reader's Digest, with lots of delicious recipes on every page. I was so sad when they stopped printing it. Well, we have four years of back issues, so I pulled out all the Fall season issues and started flipping.

I was also keeping an eye out for a good cookie recipe since our jar was almost empty. I chose to make some Apple-Raisin Cookies from the October 2010 issue. (Let me preface that I did a food swap with our neighbor yesterday morning- his apples for our squash, so pretty much anything with apples is a go. We have A LOT of apples...)

These cookies are softer and more cake like, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I like these for something different. It may surprise some, but these don't have any cinnamon like every other apple recipe- only nutmeg and cloves.

Apple-Raisin Cookies

1 c. flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
pinch of cloves
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 T. milk
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced small
1 c. raisins
3/4 c. confectioners' sugar + 2 T. water, for the glaze

-Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together.
-In a [stand] mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time.
-With mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Add the milk and then the rest of the flour mixture.
-With a spatula, fold in apples and raisins. Drop dough in 2 tablespoons mounds, about two inches apart, onto parchment lined baking sheets.
-Bake cookies for 14 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. Let cookies cool completely.
-In a small bowl, whisk sugar and water and drizzle over the cookies.
Makes about 26 cookies.

Now what to do with all the rest of the apples? <3

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Last sewing class

Last night was my last sewing class.

Sadly, only two students showed up out the original four I started with.

Our goal this last session was to sew a tote bag. I was hopeful that the bags would be completed in the two hours given, but just in case, I had typed out the steps to make the bag.

One student had some thread tension issues and I could not figure them out. I just kept rethreading her machine until I found what was wrong. Above the tension dial, a tiny little wire was out of place. After we fixed that glitch, she was good to go.

The other student kept saying about her tote bag, "She ain't pretty, but that's OK." When the bag was all sewn, I think I saw some tears from this student. During our first session, I had asked everyone to share why they wanted to learn how to sew. She had said that she wished her Grandma had taught her how to sew before she died. Now, this student made a tote bag all by herself! That was such a great moment. The student then put all her sewing accessories in her new tote bag as she was packing up to leave.
I hope she continues to practice this new skill.

I may offer a second sewing class if there is enough interest in one.
Three two hour classes hardly seems like enough. I should've made the sewing class five weeks long. Every class I felt like I was giving the students way too much information to retain.
I'm glad that I took this opportunity to teach this class, however small it ended up being and I hope that more people will continue to educate themselves on self sufficiency.


I finished the sweater for my almost one year old niece.
It's a bit bigger than I expected, but my sister-in-law reassured me that my niece will grow into it.
Oh crazy Aunt Colleen and her handmade clothes.
You're welcome. <3

Monday, October 26, 2015

90th birthday card

Last week was my husband's grandpa's 90th birthday, so of course there was a party!!
On the day of the party, we had lots of hors'dourves and delicious cake.

In preparing for the party, I made little signs for all of food. And as I printed them out and cut them out, I realized that everything-- except for the cakes-- had some type of cheese in it.

I still needed to make a birthday card for Grandpa. Does a ninety year old want a card that says "90"? They know how old they are, so why be redundant? I'd done this design before, but it just seemed perfect for him.

It's true.
[handmade cards are best. <3]

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lots and lots of fringe

It was Saturday and my husband and I were going to a Halloween party.

Earlier in the week I asked, "Do you want to dress up??!"
"Oh, ok... I just thought it would be fun..."

Friday night, he says, "I think we should dress up."

"REALLY?? I was at the thrift store all day.  I could've gotten something to work with..."

We came up with the idea that my husband could be a cowboy and I could be a Native American. Great for him because he could wear a plaid shirt, jeans, hat and bandana. Me? I needed to sew my outfit...

Good thing I didn't work Saturday.

And good thing I have a bunch of random fabric to work with.

I found a couple yards of a tan cotton fabric and draped it on my dress form. I had gone on pinterest to get some ideas. I'd need lots and lots of fringe. And then more fringe.

I cut a V-neck and short sleeves. I made fringe around the neckline out of the main dress fabric. After I had sown up the sides, I decided to cut a v-shaped hem line.

The sleeves turned into fringe. (I just cut the sleeves up.)
I fringed up the hem, too and added a brown trim.

The dress fit, but I wanted the waist cinched a little, so I made a belt out of a contrasting fabric and made button holes to lace it together.
I added the little brooch at the neck to dress it up.

I had brown boots with faux fur trim to wear and put braids in my hair.
Too bad I didn't have any feathers I can use to put at the ends of my braids. 

Here is my cowboy and I.
Not many people dressed up for the party, but that was ok.
We dressed up. We're fun. <3


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Nessa's sweater & other good stuff

I have abandoned the baby sweater I started two weeks ago. I think I will tear it out and restart at a later date.
I found a cute (and easy) baby sweater to crochet in the meantime via called "Nessa's Sweater." This pattern is the same for all sizes- preemie to twelve month- only changes being the yarn weight and hook size.

The yarn on the bottom is called "Peruvian Print." It's turning out pretty funky and random. I wonder if someone goofed and the company decided to name it something cool sounding to sell the yarn. (Side note: I did not buy this yarn because of its cool name, it was given to me. I have a lot of "interesting" yarn that people didn't want.)

No, this is not some roundabout way of saying that I'm expecting. This sweater is going to be for my niece, Nora, who will be one next month.
The sweater pattern does have sleeves. I think the sweater looks cute without the sleeves, but because Winter is coming, I will add sleeves.

I have been wearing sweaters everyday. It's that time of year, but I'm always cold. Always.
Last week, here in western PA, we had close to six inches of snow. Now? We have partly sunny skies with highs in the 60s. My sinuses did not appreciate such a change and I was feeling miserable yesterday. This morning, I woke up with the ability to breathe out my nose and am feeling refreshed. (I did take allergy medicine, so I'm blaming my sudden sickness on said allergies.)

When I woke up Sunday morning to a yard full of bright, white snow, I wanted to hibernate.
I still want to hibernate.
I'm ready to hunker down in front of the fireplace, get my crocheting, and have my cat Alfie cuddle up next to me.

Chicken update: Our three new hens are starting to lay eggs. We now have white, brown and blue eggs. It's fun when we get double yolks, too.

My second sewing class is tonight. I will be explaining how to read a paper pattern and how to construct various seams and hems.
Good stuff, right?
What good stuff are you working on? <3