The ballerina kitty and the black ghost ready to trick-or-treat in what’s left of a rather early snowfall. Last year’s ninja masks got reused with a few minor changes. Most everything else came out of their closets or from the Goodwill store. Ballerina kitty was inspired by the cat eared headband and got a black tail sewn on from a length of black feather boa from the craft store.

adult Luigi and Mario hat costume

Here’s Rich coming home from work wearing his Luigi costume. One of his co-workers was Mario. I made their hats. Rich’s was made from tee shirt material leftover from turning a short sleeve tee into a long sleeve tee.

And here’s the candy corn wig I made for answering the door. The pattern is Hallowig by Megan Reardon.

candy corn wig hat


shelter for lawnmower/snowblower/bicycles/chairs

Rich and I built this shelter for the snowblower and the lawnmower, it’s big enough to hold bicycles, chairs and a few other odds and ends. It took us 3 hours and about $75 worth of lumber. It went together quite smoothly and we were pretty pleased with out efforts. We were especially pleased with the top which slants away from the house. This may not be obvious in the picture. It did involve some math and the two of us arrived at slightly different angles, so I split the difference when I set the miter saw; turned out perfect. Below is the original sketch. I know it looks horrible but we knew what it meant and it worked. We are still figuring out how we might want to enclose the sides and perhaps add a drop down tarp to the front. And we plan to paint it the same color as the house. After it stops raining!

sketch for snowblower/lawnmower shelter


Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

sour cream chicken enchiladas with fresh pico de gallo

I learned how to make this dish from my friend Stefanie quite a few years ago. It’s one of the few things I cook where I follow the recipe, mostly. The notebook paper is torn, faded and stained but I still get it out when I make this. It’s hard to go wrong with sauteed onions, chicken, and shredded cheese baked in a sour cream white sauce but we love it all the more because it reminds us of old times and old friends.

And because I’m obviously behind on posting what I’ve been doing so I might catch up a little faster if I just dump a bunch of pictures into one post. Not as much story but you get the idea.

This is a basket/bag (Ravelry link) knitted in the technique called mosaic knitting which I did for a KAL (knit-a-long). The boy has claimed it for his own. The technique creates a thick two color fabric without the usually gyrations required of colorwork.

mosaic knitting two color basket

I had a black tee-shirt left from the boy’s Ninja costume last year. The boy has always liked owls, but we recently watched the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole which refueled the owl interest in our house. I handpainted just the eyes, top of the head, beak and a bit of shoulder to suggest an owl staring out of the darkness. I really like how this turned out.

hand-painted owl in the dark tee shirt

owl face hand-painted on black T-shirt

And another skirt for the girl, recycled out of a pair of my old corduroys. I used the fabric but I only kept the hem and side seams and carefully recycled the back pockets. There are pleats in the front and elastic in the waist. It’s in a longer length as requested. I also used some of the fabric from the pants to lengthen a favorite pair of pine green corduroy pants that still have a lot of room in the waist. No picture of that, oops! but similar to what I did to the boy’s pants here.

hand sewn brown corduroy girl skirt

back patch pocket detail on handmade corduroy girl skirt

And the reason behind all the sewing? Besides the motivation of school starting and cooler weather, I spent about a month and a half knitting a sleeveless sweater for myself that turned out . . . well, about the way I expected but I didn’t care for it at all. Sort of turned me off knitting for a bit. I’ve also been working off and on with a bench the boy and I rescued from the side of the road. One corner was in quite poor shape but the rest of it was well made with good quality hardwood so I decided it was worth some work. I’ve cut mortises and tenons, drilled holes of all sizes and mixed and shaped epoxy type filler and sanded, sanded, sanded. I’m not quite done yet but there will be a post with pictures of the transformation when it’s done, since we have about a month left to enjoy it before it gets too cold for this year.

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I think those are the right descriptive words. I’m proud of myself for making quick work of the math it took to make this pattern. I may need to make a few adjustments but it worked out pretty well. And I used up some chambray remnants to achieve the look of denim without the weight. The girl had requested a jeans skirt, but one that she could play in. Since she’s quite the monkey, that meant it had to have lots of room to move in.

rounded yoke, flared circle skirt for girl

Here’s a detail of the waist which I made adjustable by putting elastic in the back and sets of snaps in the front. When she grows past the smallest snap I can cover the one that will show with a brass cap which I think will look fine. It would have been better with buttons but this machine does not make the best buttonholes and I was more interested in getting the skirt finished.

adjustable waist skirt using snaps

I take neither credit nor issue with her choice of accompanying garments and accessories. . .

flared chambray denim jeans skirt

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I think my mother learned to make lumpia from Filipino ladies whose husband’s were stationed on the Navy base in Iceland at the same time we were there. The filling is made of various cooked vegetables and ground meat wrapped in a thin wrapper almost like a crepe and then fried quickly in hot oil. As a child, I remember it was difficult to buy the wrappers and the packages had likely been frozen and thawed more than once. The paper-thin wrappers were often stuck together and it was my job to carefully peel them apart and hand them out to the adults who rolled the filling into the wrappers.

rolling lumpia filling

A few weeks ago my parents came down to see us and my mother cooked up a big batch of filling and three of us rolling made quick work, allowing us both to stock pile carefully bagged lumpia in the freezer for later enjoyment.

homemade lumpia and rice

My mother’s recipe for Lumpia

makes 75-100

1 1/2 – 2 lb ground beef (or other types of meat)
2 medium carrots (I use peeler)
1 medium cabbage, cut very thin
4-5 stalks celery, chopped small
1 bag of beansprouts
1 lb (approx) string beans, cut very thin
1 medium onion chopped
5 bay leaves
1/4 tsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp salt
small amount of black pepper to your taste
1 Tbs vegetable oil

1. Fry garlic in oil; add gound beef, salt and bay leaves
2. Add onion and let it cook until translucent
3. Add cabbage and cook 2 minutes
4. Add bean sprouts
5. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir constantly until everything
is cooked
6. Add a dash of pepper
The total amount of cooking time is approximately 10 minutes.

Cool and drain the filling. Place 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of filling on a wrapper and bring up the bottom corner first. Fold in the sides and roll. Brush the last corner with beaten egg to seal.

To cook, heat two inches of oil in a heavy pot until a dry chopstick bubbles when dipped in the oil. Have a cooling rack of paper towel covered tray ready for the hot lumpia. Gently slide lumpia into the hot oil, turn as necessary to fry evenly to golden brown. Remove to rack to cool slightly before serving. I usually cook 4-6 per adult. Two per adult for an appetizer.

Did I get all that right mother? :^)

Then I decided to do a search on the term. Apparently the dish I have been calling shrimp en brochette for at least 15 years is only somewhat related. En brochette is French for food that is cooked and possibly served on a skewer. Generally that means grilled. And in the case of shrimp, at least here in the United States, it is accompanied by bacon, jalapeño pepper and cheese.

There was a little restaurant in Oklahoma City in the early ’90s called Pearl’s and they served up New Orleans style food and music. On our working part-time through college budgets we still managed to go a few times and enjoy their gumbo and shrimp en brochette. Here’s my home-cooked version of what Pearl’s called shrimp en brochette.

shrimp en brochette breaded with cornmeal and fried

Pearl’s Shrimp en Brochette (for 4 – 6)

20 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and cleaned
20 1/2″ cubes of a sharp cheese such as cheddar
thin sliced bacon cut into 1/2 or 1/3 strips, whatever will fit around your shrimp

I put the cheese in the middle of the curled shrimp and then wrap the bacon around and fix with a toothpick. You can also butterfly the shrimp and insert sliced cheese. Some recipes also call for a little strip of jalepeño with the cheese. I’ve never tried that and I don’t recall that Pearl’s put it inside either.

how to make shrimp en brochette battered with cornmeal and fried

Prepare one bowl with a beaten egg and a bowl with about 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, salt and pepper. Coat your skewered shrimp first in the beaten egg and then in the cornmeal mixture.

Heat oil in a deep skillet or dutch oven. Oil should be hot enough to make a dry chopstick release air bubbles. Have a metal rack or paper toweled plate ready. Lower the coated shrimp into the hot oil. It will only take a minute or two to fry to a nice golden brown. Remove to rack and allow to cool a bit before serving. Make sure to remove the toothpicks or at least warn your guests to do so!

Pearl’s served these with a cherry horseradish sauce which I’ve never tried to make, but I would guess it was similar to basic cocktail sauce but with puréed cherries and possibly tiny diced jalepeño, instead of ketchup or in addition to ketchup.

This is really too rich to eat as an entrée but it makes a tasty appetizer or a light addition to rice or a large salad.


I’ve been working pretty hard on a rather important project for a while now. It’s more than halfway along but it will still be a few months before it’s finished. I don’t have much to show for it just yet but here’s a hint:

tie dye shirts and baby onesie

left to right: for Dad, big brother, little brother due 12/5.

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scrunch painted paper washable markers

This is a super easy project for rainy or sunny days. This can be done by any kid old enough to grab a washable marker! (And not immediately stick it in the mouth.) It’s fast so you can work with several kids at the same time and each can do several pieces and experiment with different techniques and colors.

First scrunch a piece of tissue paper into a ball. (You can experiment with other kinds of white paper, we actually used exam table paper in these pictures. Tracing paper works well too especially for younger kids, because it doesn’t tear as easily as tissue paper.)

Pick out a few colors of washable marker and scribble all over the ball, getting as much color on the outside and in the cracks as possible.

scrunch painting tissue paper

Carefully open your wadded paper ball and smooth it out with your hands. See how the color is now randomly distributed all over the paper? Scrunch it up again and color again using the same colors.

tie dye paper

Open, scrunch and color again. About three times gives a good amount of color. (You can also color the whole ball with one color per scrunching.)

wadded paper dyed with washable markers

You can stop at this point and use a warm iron to flatten out your paper. A smaller piece can simply be glued to a little larger piece of contrast color paper and hung as art. A larger piece can be used as wrapping paper or cut up for other projects. Laminate it and cover a book or a journal.

spray water on scrunch painted paper washable markers

If you want to go one step further . . . take your flattened out paper outside. If it’s raining you can experiment with holding it flat on a cookie sheet for a few seconds or holding it vertically and see what happens to the colors! Don’t keep it out too long or your colors will run away in the rain! Bring it inside to dry. If it’s a sunny day, use a spray bottle filled with plain water to squirt your paper, put some rocks in the corners and let it dry in the sun. This project even works in the snow! Lay your artwork on a cookie sheet and let fat flakes fall on it for a few minutes or throw a loosely packed snow ball and then shake off the excess snow. Water softens the colors for a different look, as seen in the first photo above taken before ironing flat.


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monster stuffie supplies, wool felt, buttons, zippers

This started out as a project to make monster stuffies. The boy and I had done some sketches several months ago, so I pulled those out and made patterns. The girl and I pulled out colors and colors of wool and rayon felt, the jar of buttons, snaps, zippers and other odds and ends. The original idea called for using a functioning zipper for the mouth which would create a belly pocket. This took a little thinking but it wasn’t all that hard. I had hoped this would be easy enough for the kids to do a lot of the work. The wool felt is pretty thick to sew through so they did parts of it but some of it was just too hard. We stuffed the bodies lightly with poly pellets and wool stuffing.

We each made one stuffie and it turned out that we each chose a different one of the three patterns I had made. The girl stayed true to the original monster theme but the boy’s morphed into a caricature of Spider-Man and mine turned zoomorphic and became an owl. For some reason we have had a lot of owl “sightings” lately—Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (an excellent movie by the way), a non-fiction book about owls from the library, the kids have been hooting at the neighborhood owls, and when we went to get the girl her first backpack, she chose one with a cute forest scene, complete with . . . owls.

Happy Monster:
monster stuffie character wool felt button eyes and zipper mouth

Intense Superhero:
Spider-Man inspired zipper pocket stuffie

Silly Owl:
wool felt hand sewn owl stuffie with zipper pocket belly

This was a fun project and I think we’ll make more of these to give away as gifts. I’d particularly like to find some patterned wool to turn into felt to use on these stuffies.

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swim skirt

The kids are taking two weeks of swim lessons and they needed goggles and a swim cap for the girl. Goggles I can see getting a good bit of use out of and they seemed like a good incentive for the boy who was a little cautious about swimming in a pool. We generally have our summer water fun at the beach.

Frantically looking around the house for a bit of swimsuit material to make a cap from lead me to the little skirt that matches the girl’s swimsuit. I found an adult size swim cap pattern on the internet and sized it down to fit her head. I made myself sew a rough draft from part of an old tee shirt. There was so little fabric in the skirt that I had only one chance to get it right. I even had to undo the seams in order to have enough fabric rather than simply cutting the seams off as I would usually do when repurposing. I managed to eek out the pieces, sewing up the cap using the elastic and lycra waist trim to finish the bottom edge of the cap. The sewing itself turned out to be quite easy and I’m glad I decided to be frugal because I think the matching cap turned out much cuter than anything we could have bought.

Voila, my bathing beauty!

toddler, little girl swim cap

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paper hat worn by cat

Paper hat made in the “French style” according to the boy. He had just finished reading a version of the fairy tale, Puss in Boots, with lots of froofy clothing. Hat modeled patiently by Duke the cat.

plumber's tape and water bottles

I have these small water bottles that don’t leak when they tip over and are just the right size for the kids. Unfortunately with much use the lids no longer screw down tightly. On a crazy whim I pulled out the plumber’s thread seal tape, read the box (it is food-safe), and wrapped a length around the threads of the bottle. I screwed on the lid and tested it out. Super, watertight once more. They’ve been through the dishwasher twice and I haven’t had to replace the tape yet. I think they’ll make it through the rest of the summer.

hand knitted lunch bag

I knit this “lunch sack” from a pattern I found on Ravelry. The pattern was written to be knit flat and then sewed up after. Although I don’t mind sewing, one of the things I like about knitting is the ability to create shaping without having to sew seams. So with a little math I converted the pattern to knit in the round, preserving as much of the original details as I could. It turned out pretty well although it is a little too stretchy to hold a full water bottle and a piece of fruit. But it would be just fine for a sandwich and a snack.

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Last year we built a 4×8 foot raised bed for vegetables and herbs. I’ve been cooking with some of the herbs for at least a month now. It’s wonderful to walk out and just snip off what I need, rinse and chop it right into the pot.

Small leaf basil and curly parsley, we also have dill and chives

fresh basil and parsley from the garden

zucchini and summer squash picked small at around 5-6 inches, delicious fresh or cooked

fresh zucchini and summer squash garden

In a few more weeks I hope to have peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden as well as blueberries and strawberries from other spots in the yard.


heirloom primroses – probably been here since the house was built

yellow primroses

baby squash – planted last month

young yellow squash

the first Stella D’Oro daylily – planted last year

stella d'oro daylily


fashion dolls shirred top hand sewn dress

The girl chose this fabric out of my scrap bin for a new dress for her Liv fashion doll, Alexia. I decided to try shirring the top since I’ve never done shirring before. I couldn’t find the elastic thread anywhere so I ended up couching a line of zigzag over cord elastic. That worked out okay but it’s a little heavy at doll size. I also used the black elastic cord for the doubled shoulder straps which makes it easy to put the dress on the doll.

Next to Alexia is Roger (named by the boy), who is sadly still wearing the polyester duds he came with. The manufacturer didn’t even give him shoes, poor guy. I think sandals are in order for both dolls.

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