How-To: Spiced Chai Concentrate

How-To: Spiced Chai Concentrate:


As fall settles in, I find myself moving from fruity drinks to spicy drinks. Chai is a favorite of mine, but buying it on a daily basis can get expensive. Making a concentrate at home that I can mix and drink as I please is very appealing to me. Get a recipe for making your own over on A Wooden Nest. [via Jessica Okui on Pinterest]

QUIT?!?!?!? Are you crazy?!?!?!?

Me and Doodle at Raingutter Regatta 2010 

Last night was the first Den Meeting of the fall for our Cub Scout Pack. And it was exhausting! But there was a really good reason WHY it was so....NEW BOYS!!! With only two "veterans" (my son and the cubmasters son) in the pack, the new incoming scouts don't yet know what is expected of them and how they should behave in a den meeting.

So last night wore me out trying to hold the attention of 11 Cub Scouts, 1 Girl Scout and 2 younger siblings, pretty much on my own. OF COURSE, there was another leader present, but he's just as new to it all as the boys are.

I often post comments on Facebook about my pack or my own scouting activities, and I suppose since I don't really DO much else besides work and scouts, it may appear to some that I am spending too much time on this. Perhaps its the fact that I not only lead a Cub Scout pack, but also a Girl Scout Troop, it may seem that it really is all I ever do.

Apparently, this has caused my grandmother to be concerned that I'm wearing myself out and she keeps telling me to quit.

Well, Grandma, I probably won't quit for several reasons. Doodle has really gained a lot of experience and life skills from scouting, he gets to make new friends, and personally, I have a lot of fun showing the kids cool things to make from recyclables or doing fun science experiments, but that doesn't make it any less exhausting. Doodle has this year and next as a Cub Scout, then he'll cross over to Boy Scouts and I won't be going with him. I'll still participate, but I won't be a leader.

What I really don't talk about is the reason it wears me out. For 1 hour, twice a week, I have to bury my depression very deep, plaster on that phony smile and crank up my "stage presence" to keep the attention of those kids for just that single hour. It is physically draining and after I leave, I crash.

I don't remember exactly what stroke of insanity first prompted me to volunteer to be a leader, but when I commit to do something, I do it to the very best of my ability. How can I stand up in front of those kids and tell them to do their best, if I haven't done mine.

I have taken all sorts of training classes, done hours and hours of research online finding new and exciting ideas to share with my scouts. And the pay-off???? Seeing those kids run up to mom or dad after a meeting saying "GUESS WHAT WE DID?!?!?!"

I think the most important reason that I volunteer with scouting, is that as a parent who actually takes the time to enrich my son's life, I like to meet other parents who also care enough to put their kids in a program like scouts.



Not really feeling the blogging spirit move me today. I've got a conference call in 10 minutes with the printer bidding on the job for the project I'm working on. Then I get to reformat a 600 page multi-document book! I go from no work for months, to OHMYFRICKINGAWDIAMGONNALOSEMYMIND in a matter of days.

Tomorrow, I pack up our camping gear for the weekend to watch the boy participate in the Webelos Outdoor Challenge. One of the few events that I don't have to be "leading" and I can just enjoy being a parent of a Scout. The Boy Scout Troops not only conduct all of the activities, but they have to do all the cooking too!!! 

Next weekend, the plan is to visit home. Mom is rehabilitating from knee replacement surgery and if it goes well, she should be getting home just before we get up there. It's also the annual fall festival weekend and a good chance to see all my friends. The drive from Tennessee to Indiana is always a pleasant one, but I'm hoping for the early signs of fall colors. 

Ah well...time for the conference call! 


Left behind

I don't recall how exactly, but this morning I got hooked on a blog photo-documenting various haikyo. Haikyo (廃虚) is a word that means "ruins" in Japanese.  

Some of the photos were of a school house that still had books on desks and it looked as if the kids would come bustling in at any moment. I have no explanation for why ruins fascinate me, but they do. Perhaps it's the moment, frozen in time, when someone decided to just walk away and never look back.

This got me thinking, what places, in our own lives have we abandoned and never gave a second thought. Perhaps not physical places, but emotional ones or even intellectual ones. Did you ever jot down an idea with the intent of coming back to explore it more later, only to find the note years later tucked into a book with no recollection of what inspired the thought? 

As long as I can remember, I've loved notebooks and use them all the time. Often, they are misplaced, victims of spills or commandeered by the boy (whose nickname is Doodle for a reason). When I do run across an especially old notebook, I can't help but flip thru it and see what ideas I may have thought were worthy of writing down. You never know, I may have once had a stroke of brilliance that could change the world...but probably not! :)


To paint or not to paint?

Still Life
I can't recall a time in my life where I wasn't doing something creative. These days, it tends to be more "arts & crafts" with my Scouts, than "fine arts".

I took my first real art class when I was about 4. I learned calligraphy with my mother at our favorite local art supply shop. I couldn't print very well, but I could write elegant letters with a pen and ink. Well, "elegant" for a four year old I suppose. I don't think any of my work survived. 

Many years (and a few classes) later, I started college. Funny thing was, my mom had been attending classes at the same college since I was 12. All of the instructors knew me and mom pretty well and for some reason, they assumed that because mom knew what SHE was doing, that I must automatically know too. Perhaps it was my familiarity with the various mediums and technical terms, that made them think that, but after listening to mom "talk shop" for eight years, I picked up on a few things. That didn't mean I knew how to center a lump of clay or etch a steel printing plate. 

I found myself reminding those instructors that "I'm not mom" when they expected more from me than I produced. I had to remind them that it was my first time taking a drawing class, despite the many hours that I sat for mom while she drew picture after picture of me...usually sleeping or laying my head down. Sitting for a drawing does NOT teach you how to draw, it teaches you how to sit still. To me it seemed that because my mother was a talented artist, I was expected to be as well. 

So, do I consider myself an artist? No, not especially. I consider myself a person who has been taught to draw, paint, throw pots, make prints, etc. Can I paint? Sure, anyone CAN paint. Am I any good at it? I suppose so. 

When people see the paintings I've done, I'm often asked why I'm not painting and selling my work. Well, that I can tell you...lack of purpose. I was taught to paint to fulfill an assignment. "Paint this bug" or "Paint this still life". I don't even know what MY "artistic style" is. When I was taking classes, I was always told exactly what I was expected to accomplish, and I did it. But on my own, what do I WANT to paint...I don't know! I have NO CLUE!!! If I'm going to create a painting to sell, I have no idea what someone might WANT to buy. I just can't imagine anyone but my mom or maybe my sister wanting to even hang one of my paintings. In fact, the only reason I hang them is because I don't know what else to DO with them. I don't see any of them as finished. As are most artists, I'm my own worst critic. 

When will I start painting again? Hmmm, I suppose when I finally get to retire from Scouting, my house is all clean, when my "to read" list is all read, the good movies are all watched, after I've caught up with all my dear friends, when I've walked the dog and scooped the cat poop, when the stars align just so and when I finally have the confidence to put my heart and my work out there to be loved or hated for what it is. 


Meet Radar...

Radar found his way to us about 3 months ago. I don't know where he came from, but he appeared one day hanging about in the yard of a vacant apartment across the street. My next door neighbor had a female dog that I'm sure was his reason for hanging about. He wouldn't come near anyone and the kids down the street kept chasing him. 

On the fourth day of his visit, I decided he was probably not going anywhere and he looked like he'd not eaten in quite some time, so I sat some food and water out for him and I went back inside to keep an eye on him, but give him his space.

A few hours later, I went and sat outside in my chair and keep an eye on him. He trotted over and laid his head in my lap and looked up at me with the most beautiful golden eyes. Well, that cinched it, he'd adopted me!


Good luck catching me!

As a stay-at-home mom, you might think I have loads of time on my hands. You would be WRONG! Ok, well I do have plenty of time, but it seems that now that the fall Scouting season has begun, I have less and less of it. 

This upcoming weekend my son will attend Webelos Outdoor Challenge and learn a lot of great new skills from some dedicated Boy Scouts. And I will spend 2 days sitting under a tree reading to my hearts content, letting Boy Scouts cook for me, and enjoying the wonderful deep sleep I get when I camp.

Weekend after that is a brief, but long-awaited trip home to see the Teen and my momma who is recovering from knee replacement surgery.

And then, the next weekend is Cub & Family Campout! This one won't be as lazy a camp out for me since I'm a leader, I'll be...well...LEADING! I suppose I need to get some activities planned and such. (The photo is from Jamboree last year. No matter where he may be, there's never a pen and paper far from his grasp) 

So that's three consecutive weekends that I will not get to sleep in my own bed and I will be living out of a backpack. 

Well those are just WEEKENDS, right?!?!!? Ha! Who do you think is going to do laundry and pack for those weekends??? Hmmmm??? Oh yeah, that would be ME! 

In between all this camping and packing and laundry and packing and camping and driving and camping and laundry and packing...I have some projects to work on, both paid and volunteer. Even if it was necessary for me to go back to work, I don't know when I'd find the time to do it! I'm so glad I can be a stay at home mom for now. 

(I need a housekeeper!)


A Tender Heart ...OR...What's in a Name?

Parents put a LOT of thought into naming their children. What was once a simple task of picking a biblical name or one of a grandfather, now seems to be a requirement to be as original as you possibly can. That was NOT my goal when naming boys. Nathaniel James just happened to get named when I was in a very literary phase of my life. His name came to me very easily. I don't even know the meaning without looking it up.

Several years later when I was faced with the task of naming another boy child, I was at a loss. I wanted him to have a name with a good meaning and I was partial to Celtic names at that point. I came up with a list of about 5 first and 5 middle names that I liked, but couldn't choose from. I handed the list to my mother and said "Here YOU do it!" That was nine and a half years ago.

So, what did we get? Torin Drake. Torin means chief or tender depending on the source. And Drake, well, that's dragon. You can't possibly begin to imagine how accurate that name has been.

Last week, Torin's friend cut his foot on a piece of glass in our back yard. Torin was devastated! He felt so bad for his friend. I think he cried as much as the injured boy. He was so far beyond sympathy and deep into empathy at that point. While I was cleaning and bandaging the kids foot, it was all I could do not to reach out to my own son and comfort him and reassure him that his buddy would be ok. Torin even gave the boy the dollar he'd found on the ground earlier that afternoon. He would have done ANYTHING to take away the pain.

I tell him all the time that I love his tender heart. But it doesn't always serve him well. He gets his feelings hurt easily. He misses his big brother something fierce! Torin loves with his whole heart. And that heart is very fragile. But would I want a child that is unfeeling, not compassionate, or distant? NO WAY! I'll take my Tender Dragon any day!

Now for the "dragon" part. OY VEY!!! "Mood swing" doesn't even begin to describe! He has a ferocious temper and boy, oh boy can he be stubborn! And my mother passed on the name Aiden because it means firey! 

I think Mister Destructo might have been a better name for him when he goes into a fury! But it generally doesn't take him long to calm down, apologize for his behavior and return to his tender sweetness. THANK GOODNESS!!!

So I have to wonder, did his name determine his character? Or did mom and I just happen to do one heck of an accurate job picking his name?


I think I forgot, but I can't remember

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense" ~ Emerson

This quote has really had me thinking lately. Especially the part "forget them as soon as you can". For the past couple of years, I have felt that my memory is slipping away from me. The reason? I have some theories, perhaps it's depression, maybe something neurological. But regardless of the cause, the fact is, I'm not nearly as smart as I once was.

There was once a time when I could recall hundreds of phone numbers, useless trivia tidbits, lyrics to songs I'd only heard once, peoples names! Now, most of those thing elude me. BUT, it occurs to me that I don't HAVE to remember all those things anymore, I can just look them up in my iPod or Google it! So perhaps my failing memory isn't from depression or a tumor...maybe it's the result of technology! As a movie buff, I no longer have to recall what movie "what's his name" starred in with "that blonde chick" where they went to that one place...I can just IMDB it! That great recipe for no-bake cookies...it's online too! And if I don't put a date on my Google Calendar, it's as if it doesn't even exist!


Conflict, Social Media, and Decluttering

One of the benefits of today's social media, is that it allows us to reconnect with people from our past. But what to do when you have reunited with someone and you discover that they are no longer someone you want to know? Do you "de-friend" them with no explanation? Or perhaps write them a long, heartfelt email explaining why they do not fit into your life? Maybe just ignore them and hope that, on their own, they will lose interest in being friends with you. 
And what if that person becomes a source of conflict? We all know the saying "Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks." Social media is the perfect format for everyone to publicly share those opinions and last I checked, they still have the right to do that. So if I say what I think, and you don't agree, somehow in your mind, that makes ME a bad person. 
This isn't about being right or being wrong. It's about peacefully coexisting with others who do not share the same world view that you have, but at the same time allowing others to HAVE their own opinion without judgement. 



I always thought that Bowie's lyrics were "Learn to face the strange, Changes". And that made perfect sense to me. Learn to face the strange? Sure why not!

In forming my thoughts for this post, I was thinking that the past 2 years have been loaded with change. No, the past 5 years! No, wait, the past...ehhh, screw it! I'm pretty sure there has never been a time in my life that I felt things were "settled". Maybe when I was 7. Maybe!

Suppose that nothing ever changed. That every day was just the same as the one before. That every meal was the same, every movie the same. How boring life would be! Change is GOOD! Even if it isn't a change we like at the moment, it IS something different. and it will be something different again, time after time after time. And I'm so glad that things are constantly changing. Life is an adventure!

I love TV, I won't lie about it, I love it! And every year at this time, we are blasted with new shows. Some will stay and some won't make it past the first episode. Kinda like the people who enter our lives. We all have that person that is the "longest running soap opera", right? Someone who has been there forever and seen the ups and downs thru to the end with us. I've got mine. Then there's the sitcom that is really funny for awhile, then it turns all serious on you and isn't what you thought it was at the beginning. Or the crime drama! Never a dull moment with that person and lot of bloodshed, perhaps not literal (man, I HOPE not literal) but figurative blood...lots and lots of it.

Ok, I've rambled long enough. My point, LEARN TO FACE THE STRANGE!


Sandwich box made from Milk Jug – and a few more fun crafts

Sandwich box made from Milk Jug – and a few more fun crafts:

Even using coupons, the back to school supply lists can take a toll on your weekly grocery budget. I found a couple neat ideas on reusing items around the house for school lunch supplies and can’t wait to try them out! These look like items even a non-crafty person like myself could successfully create!

This first idea is from Family Fun magazine. Don’t throw out those used milk jugs!

With just a few snips, you can create a set of cool, eco-friendly, reusable snack and sandwich containers from juice cartons and milk jugs. They’re food-safe, easy to rinse clean, and absolutely free, so it’s no biggie if they get tossed accidentally. Let your kids decorate the boxes with stickers and permanent markers for an even more personalized look.


How-To: Bleach Art Table Runners

How-To: Bleach Art Table Runners:


Dora from Show Tell Share created these lovely Bleach Art Table Runners. In her post, she shares ideas for designing and making your own, including some great tips on successfully using bleach pens to decorate woven fabrics.

Natural Cold Kicker Remedy: Not for the Faint of Heart

Natural Cold Kicker Remedy: Not for the Faint of Heart:

You know the feeling, that itch in the back of your throat, the tingle in your sinuses that says you’ve got a cold coming on? It’s at this point that I start downing the Airborne from my stockpile in hopes that it will work some voodoo magic (which, honestly, I can’t swear to ever having happened). When I start to feel like I’m getting sick, or even that one of my kids is coming down with something, I’ll do almost anything to stop the illness from progressing. This feeling of desperation begs the question, What would I do to avoid it? Well, here’s one (hard core!) krazy couponer’s strategy for staying healthy all school year.

You Must Resist the Urge to Quit

You Must Resist the Urge to Quit:
Any worthwhile goal you set in your life will require time, blood, sweat, and tears. It will often be a thankless journey which is why so many people have a tendency to settle for less than what they really want or what they’re truly capable of. They can’t embrace the uncertainty.

The journey can be an emotional roller coaster and as a result people give into their temptation to quit. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being judged., etc., are just a handful of the emotions that most people go through.
But if you can remember that there is usually a light at the end of a tunnel, a reason that the little voice in your head is telling you to move forward, you’ll find it in yourself to get through your darkest hours.

The 10 Best Amazon Reviews. Ever.

The 10 Best Amazon Reviews. Ever.:
Web reviews from online everymen are either low-hanging fruit for DIY marketers, the best thing to ever happen to e-shopping, or bait for angry cheapskates. But good or bad, they're often an unexpected source for entertainment. Here are some of the best.
Like many webheads, I rely on the kindness and cruelty of virtual strangers who write reviews of practically everything sold online. They may not posses specialized knowledge of the stuff they critique. They may be hopped up on unreal expectations or may only have spent money on something because they got it half-off from Groupon. But they're also just regular users like me. For better or worse they've democratized consumer reports, but they've also made reviews entertaining as hell.
Nowhere has funnier reviews than Amazon, the world's largest online retailer. In part, it's due to the absurd array of products you can buy--from a Star Wars jacket to a toy airport security checkpoint for children to a rubberized testicular exam model, Snooki's book, and even uranium ore. It's served as inspiration for scads of reviewers, who have elevated product criticism into a crowd-sourced art form.

The southern lights from space

The southern lights from space:

Astronaut Ron Garan takes photos in space and posts them to Google+. This photo was taken yesterday, aboard the ISS, and shows the Southern Lights.

Real-time astronaut photos may be my favorite benefit of social media networks.


Make a Rose Stamp with Celery

Make a Rose Stamp with Celery:

I'm sure you've seen potato prints before, but how about celery prints? That's right, celery! I'm absolutely amazed at how the cut-off ends of a bunch of celery, a part which would normally be destined for the garbage can or compost pile, looks strikingly like a rose when used like a rubber stamp. Maureen of Maureen Cracknell Handmade used her celery stamp to make beautiful Valentine cards; this would also be a cute and easy way to make hand-stamped wrapping paper, and could have many uses in DIY wedding projects. [how to stamp a rose using celery]

Project estimate:
  • Celery, on hand or $1 and up
  • Ink pad or paint, on hand
Total: Free and up

How To Make A Rug With A Hula Hoop

How To Make A Rug With A Hula Hoop:

hula hoop rug kids craft
Here is the perfect craft to recycle t-shirts -
make a woven rug using a hula hoop! There are
other ideas too so check them all out, and
the directions, at Family Fun.

How-To: Braided Leather Bracelet

How-To: Braided Leather Bracelet:


The illusion in this leather bracelet from Melissa of I Still Love You is really cool and fun. See how it's done over on her blog. [via Danielle Maveal on Pinterest]

Paper Scrap Picture Frame

Paper Scrap Picture Frame:



By Tiffany Threadgould

Here's a great recycling project to subscribe to - transform a few pages from an old magazine into a brand new picture frame. It takes some fancy folding work, but once you have the hang of it, you'll have a new frame in no time.

Once you've tried your hand at magazine pages, you can move on to other types of scrap paper and match the paper to the photo. An old map makes a great memento from a road trip to frame that vacation photo. Comic book pages make a great frame for your Halloween super-hero costume. Your paper recycling bin is your best source for inspiration.


If you're in New York City for Maker Faire this weekend, be sure to stop by the Craft Demo Stage on Sunday at 2pm. I'll be there demonstrating this project in person and showing examples of other do-it-yourself recycling projects from my new book, ReMake It! Participants will even walk away with their very own frame that they made themselves. Making stuff is what Maker Faire is all about!




2 pages from a magazine
, or other scrap paper

Clear tape

, cut into a 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" square for this project

Markers and stickers, for decorating




Step 1: Measure and cut two pages from a magazine into squares that are 7" on each side. You can scale this project up or down, just make sure your squares are the exact same size.

Step 2: Take one square piece of paper and fold it in half corner to corner. The paper should now look like a triangle. Fold the triangle in half again, straight across the middle. Unfold the paper so it is flat again.

Step 3: Fold all four corners of the paper into the center. Open the piece of paper back up. This is fold A.


Step 4: Now, fold each corner twice toward the center. First, fold each corner so the point touches fold A. Then fold again along fold A so the corner is hidden. There will now be a 3" x 3" open square in the center of the folded parts.

Step 5: Flip your project over, keeping all the folds you've made in place. Fold each new corner back 1" toward the center. Set this piece aside.


Step 6: With the other piece of paper, make the picture frame stand. Start by folding the paper in half long ways down the center. It should now look like a long rectangle. Open the piece of paper so it's flat.

Step 7: Fold each side of the paper lengthwise to the centerfold you made in step 6. It should now look like a long rectangle with two flaps.

Step 8: With the flaps closed toward the center, fold the top of the rectangle 1/2" down and the bottom of the rectangle 1/2" up. Now fold the bottom of the rectangle up to meet the bottom edge of the flap at the top.


Step 9: Tuck the folded edge of the flaps from the stand into the corners you folded on the back of the frame in step 5. Each of these corners has a slit down the middle from the folds you made, so you will be able to tuck flaps at the top and bottom of the stand in at this slit. Tape the stand in place.

Step 10: Cut your photo into a 3 1/2" square. Insert the photo into the front of the frame by sliding it under the folded space. Decorate your frame with markers, stickers, and anything else you wish. Your picture perfect frame is hot off the press!

About the author:


Tiffany Threadgould is a design junkie who gives scrap materials a second life. She's the founder of RePlayGround, where you can find her book, ReMake It! (Sterling Publishing), a series of do-it-yourself recycling kits, and online instructions for projects that you can make yourself. She's also the head of design at TerraCycle where she designs new products from loads of different wastestreams. Tiffany thinks that garbage has feelings too, and sometimes can be found talking to her pile of junk at her design studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Purple Dress

My beautiful niece inherited my share of the sewing gene! Check out this gorgeous dress she made for herself...

Purple Dress: So I went to JoAnns for the Labor Day Sale and picked up a new pattern See & Sew B5478 and a beautiful purple fabric with shiney thread running thru it.
So here it is!

Front and Side views

Unfortunate back view, I don't know why there is a pucker at the end of the zipper, I have tried to steam and iron it out but its stuck.

I had some issues with this dress:

The neck is way to wide, I don't have football shoulders so the dress is almost falling off.
The neckline was too low for me, but I think a wider seam on the shoulder will help that.

Lets take a look at the inside.

Zipper that I am so proud of. It turned out perfectly!


Hand stitched understiching on the armholes and hem.

Well that's all for now, I have to make some jackets for work!

Make A Backpack From A T-Shirt

Make A Backpack From A T-Shirt:

3 Macarrons diy t-shirt backpack
Think twice before you toss out any old t-shirts
because there are so many ways they can be re-used.
Click over to 3 Macarrons to see how to make
this adorable backpack! (use this translator)

One from the Vault