Tuesday, August 28, 2012

home again

I am home from my great adventure in Vermont and Massachusetts and thought I would share a few pictures I took along the way. Vermont is ruggedly beautiful and definitely worth revisiting in the future. I met a great group of women and together, we hefted ourselves up seemingly endless steep rocky inclines, down challenging tilted granite slabs and saw some of the most miraculous beauty our country has to offer. Here  is a sample of what we experienced!

 Expansive views, miles of rushing streams and clear rock bottomed mountain ponds:

Walking through a rare flat stretch of pine forest:

Scenic spots to catch our breath after hours of uphill climbing!

cozy shelters to cook some dinner and hit the sack. No matter how crowded the shelters might be, by about 9:00 pm not a soul was awake. Hiker's Midnight!

The Forest presented an exquisite art gallery

Crossing a state line from Vermont into Massachusetts via mountain trail was an unusual experience

I can hardly wait until next year when I hit the trail again and I so hope to see some of you out there.
Until then, I hope you are enjoying the last few weeks of summer and sweet warm sunshine---happy trails to you!

Friday, August 10, 2012

call of the wild

In just a few hours I will be on my way to the Green Mountains of Vermont to hike a 75mile section of the Appalachian Trail. I love the trail. I love spending time in the wilderness where there is no traffic, white noise, congestion, media or daily grind. Even if the daily grind is productive and rewarding. I have learned over the years the importance of getting away for a few days from all that is familiar, including my sweet family, in order to recharge and restore. When I come home, I am a better partner, a better mother and a better friend. I rarely did this when we were raising children but I should have and I encourage every mother who still has children at home to carve a few days out of each year to retreat and regroup. I'm not suggesting a 10 day trip to the wilderness, which happens to be my cup of tea, but anywhere that you can find peace, simplicity and protected time to decompress. Once a year I strap my house, bed, clothes, food, water and generous supply of snicker bars onto my back and take a long walk. The more I walk, the lighter I feel. The stress that life has served up begins to melt away. I look out at such miraculous beauty that has been untouched and unspoiled and I feel gratitude, peace and rejuvenation.
All of this:

is replaced by this:


So that I can be transformed from this state of mind after months and months of stress (good and bad) to my mind, body and generally cheerful outlook:

to this:


Seriously, everybody needs a little break now and then. Find what brings you peace and indulge for a day or two. You will be amazed by how little it takes to recharge so that you can view all the plans, responsibilities, challenges and adventures that lie ahead with enthusiasm and perspective.
See you in a few weeks!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

an end of the summer tale about sleep deprivation and vapor lock

We just packed up our youngest daughter and drove her 1400 miles back to school to begin her senior year of college. This is a two day trip, unless you are my husband who insists that he can still drive all night. He is well rehearsed at functioning on little sleep. He is often up late writing lectures, writing chapters or articles for medical publications, or typing notes about the patients he is caring for on that particular day.While he is doing this, he is often on the phone with the organ donation medical team (his other job) giving them guidance for managing and stabilizing patients for the OR. He finally climbs into bed, which I have already been warming for hours, and unwinds with several ridiculous relaxing games of RISK on his iPad. Around 1am he will doze off and begin blissfully snoring. I nudge him to reposition and he is quiet. His german shepherd who is sleeping in her bed in our room begins snoring which wakes my husband who loudly calls out to her to quit snoring. I am fully awake by now. An hour passes and, just as sweet sleep begins to envelope my mind again, his pager goes off and I listen as he discusses sodium levels, x-ray results and a myriad of other pertinent scenarios. This sometimes goes on all night long. When the alarm goes off, he is awake, alert and ready to take on the world. I am in a groggy sleep deprived heap and have to drag my crabby self downstairs to make coffee, lots of coffee, in order to see past the fog to plan my day. This sleep pattern of ours is the norm in our less than normal life! I have adapted to it over the years but you might understand, now, why a 22 hour drive-all-night trip would not be appealing to me. Chronic sleep deprivation also causes me to become easily distracted with connector stories, so, back to the main event.
After a family gathering before everyone goes their separate ways

and a final farewell,

we hit the road.

At my insistence, we stopped at a hotel on day one of the trip after driving 12 hours. The next day proved interesting and challenging. We were 150 miles away from our destination when the van completely shut down as we were driving down the highway. Thankfully, we were in the middle of nowhere so my husband was able to coast us safely off the highway onto the shoulder.

Now, the  middle-of-nowhere posed a problem in that we had no idea how close the nearest exit with any kind of service would be. The van would start and sputter along at 20 miles an hour for a few yards and then quit again. After several inspections under the hood ( I could see his intensive care gears spinning in his head) he phoned our mechanic 1250 miles away for a consultation. He was frustrated that he couldn't figure out the problem so that he could fix it. He was about to throw in the towel when a highway patrol officer pulled over to lend a hand with a cheerful, "How are you folks doing today?" Really?! Are you serious? How does it look like we are doing? By now, you can see that my good attitude was beginning to take flight across that vast expanse of sky and grass that we were stranded in. He helpfully informed us the next exit was 11 miles away and then went on his way. Since the van wasn't completely dead and our mechanic could see no reason not to try to drive it to the exit, we began to make our way there. One hour later, at speeds of 10-15 miles an hour along the shoulder of the highway with frequent episodes of shutdown, we arrived at the Colorado Welcome Center.

We called a tow truck, took the fully loaded-down-with-college-stuff car we were pulling off of the tow trailer and began thinking of how the heck we were going to transport two car loads full of moving-in-to-her-first-house stuff 150 miles away. Big dollar signs were already flashing before my husband's eyes because,by now, the check-engine light was on. One can certainly understand why he was not at all pleased when, in addition, the U-haul Emergency Assistance woman told him that he would have to pay an extra $100 to come pick up the tow trailer. It was past 6:00pm and most businesses were closed for the day. After-hour emergencies cost extra, you know. I'm glad we had all been able to get a good nights sleep in a hotel the previous night. I'm just sayin'. Then, out of the mists of heat vapor, emerged Tow-Truck-Man-Dan. He listened to the symptoms of our failing vehicle and diagnosed the problem--Vapor Lock. What?! What is vapor lock? How much is that going to cost us and how long will it take to fix? Evidently, when you fuel up in Nebraska with premium gas ( we were hoping for better gas mileage because we were towing a car) and the heat index is over 100, it is not uncommon for big vans and Ford vehicles to experience vapor lock---a condition where the extreme heat vaporizes the gas in your tank so it doesn't have enough pressure to get to the engine. Nebraska's premium gas can have up to 80% of highly evaporating corn ethanol so it exasperates the problem.
The treatment, cure and short tutorial for resolving Vapor Lock:
1.Pour a quart of transmission fluid into the gas tank.
2. Refuel with regular gas.
3. Go eat for an hour to let your vehicle cool down.
Brilliant! What about a vapor locked attitude? I'm thinking food in an air conditioned restaurant and a quart of something liquid, restorative and fruity to refuel my waning enthusiasm will definitely do the job.
There happened to be a gas station right across the street AND our hero, Tow-Truck-Man-Dan, was also a U-haul dealer! His place of business was only .3 miles away. Oh happy day! We made our way to our destination without further mishap. We had planned to sleep at our daughter's house because her roommates had not arrived yet. We pulled up to her abode at about 10pm and------SURPRISE! One roommate had returned early and was having a big party! My visions of crawling into bed within the next half hour vanished as I watched several groups of college students, gleefully carrying full size ice chests, go up the steps and into the house. Our youngest went in to see what was happening and moments later, trying very hard to restrain her joy that she is now 21 and life had just become good again, informed us that, indeed, a party was under way. No room at the Inn. We drug her mattress out and a few boxes that she hoped had her clothes and clean underwear so that she could salvage the day college-style  sleep in her new home. My husband and I found a hotel. We had only the next day to help her unload, shop and get settled in before we had to hit the road for the 2 day trip back. Her dad had to be at the hospital in 3 days to start his week of service in the PICU and teach the residents. I didn't have the energy to insist on a hotel so he drove all through the night which made him happy. I was too tired to care one way or the other and have since recovered!
Now that we have successfully executed the back-to-college pilgrimage, it is time to wind down my arts and crafts summer. It has been a great season that I have loved sharing with you and my friends here at home. It is now time to begin planning for Autumn, but first, a little vacation. More about that tomorrow---I have to finish packing!

Friday, July 27, 2012

cowgirl cornbread muffins

When I was 18, my dad offered me my first dip of Copenhagen tobacco in a can. I was perched on the fence over looking the pasture that was home to his black Angus cows and he was leaning against the fence post beside me. We had just solved all local and national problems related to politics, economics and morality and I suppose I measured up because, suddenly, an odoriferous mound of spicy sweet grounds were floating beneath my nose. I looked from the can in his massive hand to his twinkling blue eyes and, desperate to prove my grit to the man I admired above any one on earth, took a pinch and plopped it between cheek and gum. Oh merciful heavens, it was nasty. My dad had the decency to keep his gaze directed forward as my eyes began to run, my complexion turned to shades of moss and my facial expressions morphed between brave smile and a highly unlady-like gag. That summer I was home from college marked the first and last time that I got to be a real cowgirl. I was my dads right hand gal. I helped mend fence, went to rodeos, rode a horse, drank coffee that would curl chest hair and blissfully rode on the tailgate of his Ford pickup truck shaking a coffee can full of sweet feed to entice errant cows to mosey on home from feasting in the neighbor's watermelon patch. His favorite dinner was b-b-q brisket, red beans and corn bread dripping with butter. That, of course, was my favorite dinner too.

I lost my dad earlier this year and I sure miss him. I do still have his recipe for red beans and I continue to have a great fondness for cornbread. Cornbread is good with chili, red beans, steak, brisket ---just about anything. Sometimes I make it from scratch and bake it in a cast iron skillet but one of my favorite recipes is Cowgirl Cornbread Muffins. When you've been busy all day roping, branding, herding little dogies or, in my case, crafting, there is no time to fuss over made-from-scratch anything. These muffins are so easy to make and taste so good that you could serve them with a bowl of microwave heated spaghetti-O's and still win the admiration of the folks sitting at your table!
Cowgirl Cornbread Muffins:
1 box jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg ( or egg whites from 2 eggs)
1/3 cup milk 
1/3 cup frozen sweet corn
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 4oz. can diced green chilies, drained
Mix batter and pour into a greased 6 count muffin pan. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to make a repurposed scrubby

This is not a craft, but I wanted to share with you how you can repurpose the plastic mesh bags that fruit and veggies sometimes are packaged in. Go green and make a scrubby that works really well on cleaning up dishes or stuck-on particles that have taken up residence on your counters or floor.
Here is how you do it:

1. Retrieve the plastic mesh bag you put in the re-cycle bin
2. Cut out the label. If you skip this step you will find that the label becomes gummy once it is wet.

3. Fold the mesh into a desirable size and zig zag around the edges. I use whatever color of thread that is my sewing machine at the time. Trim the edges and you are done!
And there you go---you have saved some money and been friendly to the environment in about 5 minutes!

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Alis volat Propiis" T-shirts

Arts and crafts summer is still in full swing and I thought it would be fun to design a t-shirt.
Meet my daughter, Kristyn. Isn't she a sweetheart?

 My 3 daughters and I have been so excited about our new  Fe++  Butterfly "We are stronger than we look" attitude that we wanted a t-shirt to remind us that, not only are we strong, but we must strive to live authentic lives that we create from our own passions and dreams---"alis volat propiis"which is Latin for "she flies with her own wings". We like Latin because it is different and sounds intelligent  and we think that being different and intelligent is beautiful.

We are loving the shirts so much that we want to share them with all of you! We want women everywhere to remember how strong, beautiful and unique they are. T-shirts are now available in my Etsy store. Sizes are L, M, S and XS. You can directly access Fe++  Butterfly Creations by clicking the Etsy store badge at the top of the left side bar. I am offering my blog readers a 15% discount if you use the COUPON CODE: BUTTERFLY at the time of your purchase.
I drew out the iron butterfly image and then collaborated with silkscreen artist, Gabe Taxman of ARTEE (website coming soon) to print it onto super soft 55% cotton/45% polyester burn out t-shirts. Boy, are they ever comfy and cute to wear. I like that I don't look like a cardboard cereal box when I wear it and yet the shirt is not so form fitting that I look like an over-stuffed pillow, if you know what I mean. T-shirts are made in the USA by Bella, a company that is committed to social and ecological responsible manufacturing.
You, too can create a t-shirt.You can create original art work and transfer the image onto just about any fabric wearable or home decor. You don't have to have access to a silkscreen artist. You can scan your own design onto your computer and print it onto an iron-on transfer. Iron-on transfer sheets that are made for computer use can be found at most hobby and craft stores. Iron your creation, using manufacturer's suggestions, onto t-shirts, aprons, tote bags, pillows and anything else you dream up. I hope you are all enjoying a lovely summer and are remembering how beautiful, authentic and strong you are!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dress Up Your Table With Ric-Rac Cloth Napkins

I love summer gatherings. Especially when good food and fun casual table settings are involved. When hosting small events (12 people or less), I like to use cloth napkins. They are cheerful, earth friendly, and just feel nice. I came across today's tutorial for the most darling napkins last year but never found time to make them. I finally drug them out of my unfinished project drawer (well, some would say it is actually a closet) and made them for a class I hosted at my house last week. I love them and just have to share them with you! They are a little tricky to make because of the ric-rac, but so worth the little bit of extra concentration. Here is the link to the tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, The Purl Bee. Purl Bee Ric-Rac Napkin Tutorial Actually, I found that after a little trial and error, the ric-rac is much easier to work with if you use the medium or jumbo size. If you are looking for a way to add flair to your picnic, cookout or get-together, you cannot go wrong with these cuties. They also wash nicely and do not require ironing!