For a while my mother would give me a calendar for Christmas each year. And she would really find some uber cute ones that I would love to hang up and gander at as the year passed by. But when it was time to take it down I was just a little sad that the pretty artwork was going away and went into pack-rat mode and tucked it away in some obscure spot. I had that "I-know-I can-use-this-for-something-in-the-future" anxiety attack and my house was one more item closer to being on the tv show "Hoarders".

BUT... I was recently blessed with a new ScrapBox and while transferring all my cra(p)ft items over I came across this cute calendar again! My mission: to find a crafty something to do with this item to justify keeping it five years.

I took this...

And turned it into this...

This is two sets of four cards with matching envelopes and holder. You need a pretty calendar that is at least 12x12, some coordinating card stock, embellishments and some creative mojo (even if you have to borrow the mojo).

First, take the staples out and cut it in half. Take two of the full sheets and make the holders:

Fold it in half to make a triangle. Score at 5 1/4" on each end.

Then score down the folded edge at 3/4". My calendar paper was pretty thick so I had to open it up and make about four turns/passes before it was sufficient enough to fold neatly.

Now, with the middle score line horizontal, bring in the left and right sides and set the folds.

Then bring the bottom up and set the center fold line with your bone folder. It's starting to have so many layers that this tool will really be a huge help. It should be the solid paper side of the holder facing outward.

You technically have an inside-out holder at this point so all you do is set the two score lines that are along side the center fold by bringing each side right-side-out. I hope the pictures will make some sense if my description is lacking.

Now you can put a little adhesive on the tip to make it easier to embellish.

I used a 1 1/4" circle punch to make the handle. I've done it a little different in the past where I just simply used a brad or a grommet. It's really up to you and what you have on hand so be confident in choosing your own method.

I embellished with a scalloped circle and a piece of ribbon.

So on with the envelopes...

Start out with a 8 1/2" square. Then my Martha Stewart scoring template told me what to do.

Score two sides (opposite each other) at 3" and then the remaining two sides at 3 5/8". Use your bone folder to make nice, neat, crisp folds. Decide which is the top of the envelope and snip those little triangles off. This picture should adequately describe it:

I looked at my envelopes that I had in my supplies and based my folds according to that. But I don't think it really matters *that* much.

I chose to take that notch off so I used my scoring tool and ruler and folded it under.

Then put the adhesive on the edges...

A pretty legit envelope, wouldn't you say?

I put a white label on the front of the envelope and tape without removing the backing on the flap. This way there is no need for random supplies if I give it away or if I use it myself - ready to go. I did use my corner rounder to trim the tip of the flap just to give it a detail of intention.

Cards always take me a loooong time to design. But once I have my layout it's pretty quick. My method was to use a 1 1/2" circle punch to choose little scenes from my calendar scraps and then mounted them on scallop circle mats with dimentionals. I gave the scallops a little sponging on the edges to get some depth.

Paper piercing is a nice way to add more texture/interest/detail to cards.

I cut 3x4 1/2" more plain scene rectangles for a back ground. I embossed the card and then set off to put them all together.  I like to use more than one texture for cards to keep them interesting so I added some ribbon pieces to the front and just a couple little pearls to that.

Again, here's the cuteness in finished form...

Over the past several years I have tweaked my whole wheat bread recipe to see if I could improve the process and fluffiness factor. And I was a little crazy about not "losing" a loaf of bread so we ate whatever I wound up with in this process. It wasn't so bad. Whatever was "brick" status just got popped into the toaster and well buttered! Ha ha.

Fluffiness is of utmost  interest because whole wheat anything seems to immediately call to mind an absence of this character. Being an individual who grew up on the Wonder Bread of the 70s/80s/90s it is a habit and expectation that is difficult to set aside! I know... I am weak. Honestly, I didn't want to complicate my recipe with a bunch of additives and make the process a pain in the hiney - whether it was an additional, potentially costly, ingredient or whether or not it was an item that was easily found. Well, after you see the comparison photo I think you will understand why this addition was so readily accepted!

Lecithin: derived most commonly from soybeans, is used in baking for its ability to moisturize, preserve and emulsify.

For no other reason than I just wanted to see what happened I went ahead and made two batches of bread: one the regular way, one adding lecithin. I noticed right away that when I added the lecithin that the liquids looked more mixed (emulsified) than without. Hmm. At the time I wasn't sure that was so great. After all, water and EVOO technically do not mix, right? Then during the rise time it appeared to be a little taller than the original recipe. And lastly, after baking there was a significant difference.

Here is the result:

See? Do I really have to indicate that the one on the right is the lecithin batch? And it was a lovely elastic texture that was closer to my preference. So - there you have it. Documentation/justification of the addition of LECITHIN to my recipe.

Here is my updated recipe:

2.5c warm water
1/4c EVOO
1/3c honey
1T red palm oil
(if you don't use red palm oil simply increase the EVOO to 1/3c)
2t salt
2T powdered lecithin 
(I tried liquid as well and it was identical results)

- mix for 4 minutes.

2c hard white wheat
2.5c hard red wheat

- add to wet ingredients.

1 heaping tablespoon of dry yeast

- add to wet ingredients.

-knead in mixer for 6-8 minutes. 
(the bowl will be quite tidy and dough elasic-y)

Let the dough rise for an hour in an EVOO coated bowl covered. Then punch the dough down and divide into two pieces shaping it into two loaves and place in large bread pans that have been rubbed with EVOO. Allow to rise for an hour. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven at 350.

After the bread is baked let it sweat slightly for about 5 minutes and it should slide right out of the pans without any issue. If you notice that it's not coming out easily give it another five minutes. Otherwise you probably didn't oil the pan well enough. Oh well, just slide a knife down the sides and remember next time to be a little more liberal with the EVOO.

Don't leave the bread in the pans much longer than 10-15 minutes because it may get soggy. Let it completely cool on a rack to room temperature. You'll find that the top of the bread is crusty but as it cools it will begin to get more tender. I don't butter the top because that is my preference - no other reason. I keep my loaves in plastic bags and four loaves usually lasts my family of eight about a week.

Good luck and I'd love to hear from you!

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“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (emphasis mine)
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I like to use this as the foundation of decorating my home. Scripture is so rich and beautiful that it makes my home so lovely, peaceful, so... ahhhhhhhh to me. I was mulling around the idea to put something up in my dining area to kind of update the room and it wouldn't hurt to see something new after the past year.

I have been watching the blogs and Pinterest posts these past weeks and noticed a trend of chalkboard art. So I got a few new font ideas from here, a free chalkboard background here, and chose a hymn to chalk up!

My family has a tradition where we sing the Doxology as we gather around the dinner table in lieu of a dinner bell or, well, my hollering, "Come eat!".

I noticed that the lyrics were patterned in such a way that I could make four pieces of art that had "praise God/Him" as the repeating theme but that each one could stand on it's own.  But, oh, as a set... lovely.  

Here is what I came up with...

I am pleased with how the layout looks. Now I need to send them off to have some prints made. I am going to look for some interesting framing/mounting ideas. I have been seeing frames, wood, canvas, fabric/burlap... soooooooo many ideas. 

I will get to that and get back with you as I make progress. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them.
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I have always been a fan of Claussen brand pickles but with a large household it wasn't cost effective to keep them around at all. But I have stumbled across a combination of spices by chance (providence - wink wink) that has me giddy with excitement.

My grandmother made the BEST pickles. They were the *best* because they were what we were used to having for a pickle. They were simply pickle cukes, vinegar, salt, garlic cloves and fresh dill. All packed in a crock lined with muslin on the front porch. We would take the lid off, lay back the muslin, dig through a couple inches of fresh dill and garlic to find a treasure swimming beneath... mmmm... the memory is pretty vivid. I canned some pickles years later with my grandmother's recipe only to discover that processed cucumbers don't stay crunchy so that's where Claussen pickles came into the picture.

We had a big wave of cucumbers come on the past week or so and I had to figure out what to do. I didn't really want to dehydrate a bunch of them... I didn't think my year of dill dip was going to warrant such a task so with the previous memory in mind I searched the web for refrigerator pickles. I like to can stuff because it doesn't take up precious refrigerator/freezer space but in this case if I could find the right recipe I would be willing to make some concessions.

I found this one and this one that were the basis of my rendition. There were others that were much more basic that gave me the encouragement just to try the counter top/refrigerator method but ultimately these narrowed the vast playing field of pickle making.

We don't grow pickle sized cukes and I think we let them get a little too large in general so I went ahead and cut them into deli spears and they packed quite lovely.

I only made a couple of jars because I didn't want a bunch of gross tasting pickles on hand if my recipe went awry. But only after the second day I was sure that my concoction was an overwhelming success!!

Here they are pickling away!!

Okay, so here is Settles Pickles (no more Claussen)...

Combine on stove top until all is dissolved:

2 quarts of water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

I used large pickle jars that a friend gave me from her deli (I think they are about a quart and a half) and in the bottom of each jar I put:

2T minced garlic
2t dill seed
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorn
4 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick crumbled
pinch of red pepper flakes

Pack your cukes in each jar and pour the *cooled* brine over the top to cover the veggie. Give it a gentle couple of flips to get all the spices moving around and let sit on the counter for four days giving them a flip occasionally. Then transfer into the fridge. I've read different accounts of how long they will last - any where from six months to a year. I'll just figure that you're wise enough to make that determination.
I decided to take advantage of a local co-op that was delivering Georgia peaches for a good price. I chose #2 grade for the cheapest option with references from other folks who were pretty pleased with their previous orders. So I plunged into 75 pounds of fruit with my mother-in-law working away with me to successfully process 47 quarts of peachy goodness. Then I decided to do it one more time because the deal was so enticing... only this time I went for an even hundred pounds! But the quality was far from the first and wound up with about the same amount of quarts and with the badly bruised stuff I strained and made Spiced Peach Honey.

The two days of canning did not include *one* photo. It was labor intensive in terms of the constant flow of steps and, well, I just was not in a prettified way to encourage my hubby or boys to click away. Vain... don't judge me...

All this is explain why I DIDN'T can tomatoes. Yup. I was burnt out and just didn't want to. But the garden was yielding an ample supply and we just *couldn't* let them go to waste.

So I checked out this video from Bread Beckers and decided that dehydrated tomatoes turned to powder sounded interesting and... easy.

We gathered up our Amish Paste Tomatoes from the garden and sliced them about what we would do for sandwiches and laid them in a single layer on my two dehydrators. I didn't bother to skin them or anything. Just gave them a good wash - that's all! After letting them go for about 24 hours (on the back porch - didn't want to smell it) I let them cool down to room temp and then pulverized them!

There they go! The smell of the powder was so lovely. There were five trays per dehydrator and I wound up with 15 total trays that gave me 3/4 of a quart of tomato powder.

Pizza Sauce: 1/4c tomato powder, 1/2-3/4 cup of water, 1/2t garlic salt, oregano/basil to taste.

Add to soups. Makes wonderful Spanish Rice according one of my foodie friends. Add to anything to add a little depth of tomato flavor and will thicken a little as it cooks. That pizza sauce would make a great dip as well, don't you think?

Here's a resource for using the tomato powder and I'm guessing this is not at all exhaustive online! Go ahead... pulverize away!!!

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Number four boy is getting ready to turn six this weekend and so he was tasked to make his "birthday list". With his older brother transcribing his wants, it came out like this:

my b-day list

mandalorion battle pack
pharoh's qest flamer runner
scooter ("good" says sam)
spider-man pajamas
Spider-man fuit snack
nerf knife
Star wars figure (anakin and JJ)
ninjago carring bag
star-wars sticker book

powderd sugar
white milk
cinomin toast

the whistle stop

rice and chicken (SOY Sause)
refried beans
boston butt

ice cream

Really?! I picked from the "options" and augmented the "suggestions" and came up with this...

Mama's B-Day List for Sam

Ninjago Bag
Ninjago Sticker Book
Spiderman Pajamas - tell Grandma Settles
Ninjago Figures - Grandma Collins

Pancakes (Nutella or powdered sugar toppings)
Bacon (believe it or not this is a HUGE treat around here...)

Here, I'm drawing a blank...

Boston Butt - because it on the eMeals menu (SCORE!)

Ice Cream Cone Cup Cakes (with Spiderman Flags)

I have never heard him mention a "Ninjago Bag" before but I was kinda excited because I had been thinking of making the boys some shirts with their favorite ninja and figured I could probably do something similar with a bag. And I bought a drop cloth that I made my table runner out of (started out considering making window treatments but caved and just bought some). I had leftover (a lot) and figured I could whip up something pretty basic. And it really didn't take that long! After all the bags and purses that I made this came together pretty quick and easy

Drop Cloth Material:
4.5" x 27.5" for the bag
27.5x3" for the strap

Blue Cotton Fabric:
12.5" x 14.5"

Yellow Cotton Fabric
Black Felt
White Felt

Hem the short side of the big DC material by folding over half and inch and then another one inch and iron. Give it a stitch on the ol' sewing machine. Repeat on the other short side.

Take the blue fabric and iron a 1/4" hem around all four sides.

I went to the Google site for images and typed in in Ninjago Jay and found this image, printed it off and cut it out for a pattern.

I used Wonder Under for the yellow fabric and black felt to make it more stable/durable for each piece (they are small and squirrelly to work with otherwise), ironed them in place and stitched around the edges.

Fold the bag in half to determine where to place the "face" in the middle. Pin and sew a single stitch close to the edge

I considered just leaving it at that but the little white reflections in the eyes really made it seem "finished" so I found this decorative stitch on my machine that did a great job. The other reason was that the blue fabric had a lot of space in the middle that wasn't attached to the bag and I thought it needed to be tacked down somehow (maybe should have used the Wonder Under for this too?) and since the eye reflections were close to the middle it would serve a legitimate purpose as well. Anal? Let's move on...

Now with right sides together match up the hemmed top pin and sew up sides.

When I made this purse I was so jazzed to learn how to make a gusset so I thought it would be fun to do it again for this project. Super easy and looks so "tailored"!

Take the bottom corners and create a triangle by having the seam go down the middle of the triangle from the top apex. Mark two inches down each side, connect the dots and sew along that line. Then trim to about 1/4" - DONE! Cool, huh?

Now iron that seam flat to prepare for the strap.

I folded the strap fabric in half and made a tube by sewing along the long sides and turned it right side out. Put the seam on the edge and iron. I sewed a straight stitch down each side close to the edges along the long sides and ends (closing the tube).

Now, I centered the end of the strap with the seam and sewed a square with an "x" in the center. At this point in the project my attention was waning and I was willing to put up with several "oh, well" mutterings. Yeah, that's why my projects are small... instant gratification is a major character flaw of mine.

To keep his now loot safer I added some velcro to the top. If I would have planned for this project I thought it would be cool to made the blue face a flap to make it a cool, trendy messenger bag... maybe next time. 

I was marveling over the fact that I had all the supplies to do this - not one time did I have to jet off to the store to get that elusive "one thing". Just goes to show that I have *a lot* of stuff in my cra(p)ft closet. I'm thinking it would be cool to get a blue shirt and put the same "face" on it as well as a pillow case? Overkill? Yeah.