Making Matters: Crafty Confessions

I recently signed up for Jennifer Priest's (of Hydrangea Hippo) latest project called Making Matters. She is offering a weekly email newsletter intended to inspire people to make and create, with ideas covering everything from "creating a space you love to make in to shopping for craft supplies in a different way to challenges to make from the resources you already have."

The first prompt arrived today, and I thought I would blog about it. The theme is Crafty Confessions: "this week is all about being super truthful with yourself about what your biggest challenges are when crafting...Whatever things interfere with your ability to be creative, identify those and write them down."

  1. While I do create projects for my Etsy shop, and did make a few things for Christmas, I still struggle with feeling like I'm letting my "crafting superpowers" go to waste. I let the fact that I work full-time, have a family, and want to exercise take precedence over being creative. 
  2. Working full-time seriously cramps my crafting time. I mean, I have to go to work EVERY DAY and stuff. Bummer.
  3. Speaking of my Etsy shop, I let crafting for profit overshadow crafting for fun. I often feel like the time I do spend crafting should be "productive" (read: profitable).
  4. I let my perfectionist nature dictate whether I even try new techniques or crafts. If I don't think something will turn out well, I don't do it. Which is ridiculous - there are so many crafts I really do want to try. But because my time is limited, and reason #2 (wanting to feel "productive"), I often stick with things I know I'm good at. In 2015, I want to try more new things and feel ok when they don't turn out great at first, and not worry about "wasting" supplies on trying new things.
  5. My craft room is my personal dungeon. I hate even going down there. I have too much stuff and feel completely overwhelmed by what to do with it. I know I have bought multiples of things because I couldn't find the first set. It's very hard to feel inspired to create when your creative space zaps your mojo before you even start a project! So often I have been sorely tempted to just donate everything without even looking through it, just to clear the space. Seriously - here's a picture I should be ashamed to share, but maybe you can relate:

    Cluttered craft desk

  6. Related to #4, I think I have hoarding tendencies. I have so much product still from when I was teaching scrapbooking, over 10 years ago now. Product never opened, but held onto because I'm sure I'll *need* it at some point, and how would I feel if I needed it, and didn't have it?? How could I possibly go on? I need to let go of that mentality AND the STUFF. I did make strides in that direction a couple of months ago when I donated two huge totes of scrapbooking supplies to a support group for 10- to 12-year-old boys at a grieving center for children and families - now THERE'S a good use for those supplies gathering dust in my dungeon! I've already prepped a bag of punches to donate next.
  7. I am currently struggling with The Next Big Thing. I've written four books, traveled around the US to teach classes, even gave a keynote to 1500 people. But I'm not sure what's next for me. I know I love crafting, and I'm good at it, but don't have a clear purpose or path. And it weighs on me. But I do know that I am open to possibilities.

I haven't always subscribed to (or followed through with) the One Little Word movement, but maybe this year's One Little Word should be "open" - open to letting go, open to trying new things, open to making messes and mistakes. Open to possibilities. Thanks to Jennifer and Making Matters for *opening* my eyes to that!

  Be open frame

Digi-scrap credit: Aug20 Freebie frame 1 by Leora Sanford; Fonts: Toreador & Amertype

Handmade Christmas: Reusable Fabric Gift Bags



In 2008, I started experimenting with using fabric for some Christmas present wrapping. Reading this post, I had forgotten my woeful first experiment, but in the past several years, my family has adopted using fabric for at least some of our Christmas present wrapping. It's fun to see some of the bags I created come back to me from other family members.

Until the bags drift back in, though, I usually wind up making a few each year. This year I got fabric to make three, using Lori Holt's tutorial for a Lined Travel Bag. See the result of my first bag with this tutorial above! I'm so impressed with myself for making a lined bag!

My brother also got me the book, "The Wrapping Scarf Revolution," which offers instructions on how to wrap items with large squares of fabric. In addition to reusable fabric gift bags, I have made some double-sided squares of fabric to wrap some items, but think I may need to practice my tying skills a little. I am less-than-impressed with my wrapped results.

Have you tried using fabric for gift wrapping? Please share your experience below!


A Very Doctor Who Birthday


I recently celebrated my birthday and my family showered me with gifts related to Doctor Who - they know me well!

I wanted to share pics of the two custom items - the images are gorgeous and make me smile.

Doctor Who wallet
Exploding TARDIS wallet by Faith on Earth
Watercolor TARDIS phone case by Jessie Adrignola

 We completed the birthday experience by seeing the premiere of the new Doctor Who season in the theater! Very fun seeing it with other Whovians! I wore my Van Gogh TARDIS tshirt, which is sadly no longer available via Red Bubble - glad I got it ordered before it went away! I love this shirt and wear it almost every weekend.


The new Doctor will take some getting used to - I'm looking forward to what the new season has in store!

How I Do Menu Planning & Grocery List Making


I recently posted on Facebook that I had planned my dinner menu through December 29th (about 3 weeks of dinners, at the time), and several friends asked me how I did it. So I thought I'd write up a blog post on the subject.

My menu planning starts with Google Calendar. Everyone in my family has their own calendar and we sync them all up, so I can see my husband's, my daughter's, and my own calendar all at the same time. At the beginning of the month I print out that month's calendar, with everyone's events listed.

Every Saturday I get up, have a little coffee and breakfast, then sit down with the calendar. I plan a week at a time, from Sunday to Saturday (though as I mentioned, earlier this month I just happened to be on a roll and planned for 3 weeks, to get us through the holidays). I look at the week ahead to see everyone's plans (and also verify nothing has changed since I printed it out by looking up the current calendar on my phone), to get an idea of when we will be home for dinner, how many people, and if we need to eat dinner quickly to get to some event or activity. 

For example, here's a typical week:

  • Sunday - plan something that may take a little longer to prepare, to take advantage of weekend availability, such as Cider Beef Stew, Beer Cheese SoupBaked Ravioli, or Sausage & Sweet Potatoes.
  • Monday - Band concert; my daughter has to be at school by 5:45, so I will make sure there is something she can fix for herself, like Easy Mac or PB&J, and plan something for just David and I (we've been enjoying Beef Lo Mein recently, and it makes exactly enough for two). 
  • Tuesday - David has to work late so I will plan for my daughter to eat something he doesn't particularly care for (such as mac & cheese or baked potatoes).
  • Wednesday - everybody home, so I plan something we all like, such as Sloppy Joes, Sausage & parmesan couscous, or spaghetti. 
  • Thursday - I'll be out at a Social Media Club Happy Hour, so I'll make sure there's something that's easy for David to fix for him and my daughter, such as what we call a "bag dinner", or something crockpot like Chicken Noodle Soup or Beef Barley Soup, so he just has to scoop and serve. 
  • Friday - always frozen cheese pizza on Fridays, a nice no-brainer to start the weekend
  • Saturday - another chance to spend a little more time in preparation, so maybe Chili

Once I have the week's menu, I'll make the grocery list. I use an amazing app called Our Groceries. Seriously. This app has changed my life. It makes making the list a breeze, as it remembers previous entries, so it's like a master list. I made a separate "list" for each aisle in my local grocery store, so I can whip through the store and not have to backtrack (not too much, anyway - I always forget something!)

To make the list, I go through each evening's dinner and make sure I have all the ingredients. If I don't, I add them to the grocery list. Then I'll make sure I add elements of lunches for the week (deli turkey, sandwich bread, fruit, something sweet). Then I'll inventory our soda selection, and add any that are low. Finally I'll ask my daughter and husband if there's anything they need, usually some drug store item like shampoo or shaving cream. Or my husband will tell me he's running low on hot cocoa that he puts in his coffee every morning, so I'll make sure I have all the ingredients to whip up another batch. (I use my grandmother's recipe for cocoa mix) Oh, and I'll also check our prescriptions and see if any are running low and need a refill (since we fill them at our grocery store).

Oh and I should also mention another menu planning resource - EMeals. I subscribed to the low-fat plan for probably 8 months, and was very pleased. While I didn't use every meal they suggested, it definitely gave me some solid ideas, and I got some great keeper recipes. Then after 8 months of weekly menus, I figured I probably had enough ideas to last me a while, so I unsubscribed. But I definitely recommend it - totally worth the $5 a month (if you sign up for 12 months). Be sure to check out all their sample menus for a taste!

OK I think that about sums it up. Let me know if you have any questions.

Father's Day Aebleskivers

Tomorrow is Father's Day, so I'm reacquainting myself with how to make aebleskivers (also sometimes spelled abelskivvers or ebelskivers), a Danish puff pancake. We've been making them for a special Father's Day breakfast for several years now - we invite both our dads over and have a 3-dad breakfast. But because I only make them once a year, I always have to look up a video on how to make them.

The video below is by aebleskiverarne, so I figure he knows what he's doing. The finished product looks right, so that works for me.

Here's our family recipe for aebleskivers.

New Book Cover for Angst by David Pedersen

My husband (@got_angst) recently worked with an artist he found on DeviantArt to create a new cover for his first fantasy-adventure book, Angst. We love how it turned out!



Don't tell my husband, but I love the little bald spot on the main character on the cover. Also, even though I read the book several times while editing it, I never envisioned the sword (aka "Chryslaenor") that big, so this new cover helped me imagine it correctly.

In case you hadn't heard of Angst before now, you're in for a treat. :) Angst is the story of a "mid-life crisis during medieval times". Be sure to read my completely unbiased review of it for the full scoop. Then whisk yourself over to Amazon to pick up a copy: Angst by David Pedersen at Amazon.

What do you think? And what are some of your favorite book covers? How much does the cover influence whether you buy the book?


Going Paleo & Cleaning My Plate

Oh, the horrible sacrifices of the Paleo diet

[photo credit: Jose C Silva]

At the beginning of the year, I decided to cut out artificial sweeteners and processed foods.

I started with my 1-a-day diet soda - I tried to switch from Fresca to Zevia, a stevia-sweetened soda. I tried Lemon Lime, Grapefruit, Cream, and Cola, but haven't found a flavor that I actually like. 

I also stopped drinking my morning coffee. I generally like my coffee pretty sweet and milky, so I used to add 2 packets of Vanilla Splenda, Torani sugar-free Vanilla syrup, and skim milk. But with no artificial sweetners, that had to go. So for a hot morning beverage now I drink about 3c green tea with mint - a bag Bigelow Green Tea with Mint, and 2 bags Celestial Seasonings Spearmint. I've found I like it chilled just as well as warm.

In mid-January, a friend of my husband's decided to complete a 30-day Paleo challenge, wherein she ate only "paleo-friendly" foods (PDF) - lean meats/protein, fruits, and vegetables. It was really interesting to read her posts and status updates, so I started researching it.

Like other healthy eating options, it's a "lifestyle change" - Paleo is about rewiring how you think about food and what you need to feed your body. It's about breaking yourself of unhealthy addictions that are gumming up your system and causing all sorts of health issues. Here are some helpful FAQ pages to learn more:

Loren Cordain's Paleo FAQs

Robb Wolf's Paleo FAQs

For the past month or so I've been following a mostly-paleo diet, with some elements of a Green Smoothie diet and Raw diet thrown in. I haven't been stritcly paleo - I'll have an occasional glass of milk, a cup of yogurt, sweet potatoes, corn, or peas. I just don't think those choices are going to derail my healthy eating success.

Along with artificial sweeteners, I've cut out most baked goods/gluten and processed foods. No more fruit snacks, chips, muffins, ice cream, or frozen diet lunches. I mostly eat fresh foods, or foods that are "whole" from the source (e.g. frozen green beans, nothing added).

I feel fuller and more satisfied after eating than I ever have before. I'm eating so much less - though this could be a mind trick I'm playing on myself. I started tracking my food on PaleoTrack today, so we'll see what my food log proves.

I have many other thoughts to share about all this, but I'll close for now with a few questions. Have you heard of the Paleo diet? Do you know anyone who has tried it? How has it worked for them? Any recipe links or suggestions?


Thoughts on Warrior Dash Kansas City

Warrior Dash after photos Warrior Dash Kansas City after photo

My husband (above, left) and his good friend ran the Kansas City Warrior Dash today. What a grueling event! And I hear it was hard for the race participants, too! :)

Some thoughts from today's race, in case you're looking for Warrior Dash tips:

  • Parking is $10 cash. You can buy food there - BBQ sandwiches, giant turkey legs, water, lemonade, beer. Water/lemonade is $2 a bottle. 

  • Shuttles leave the parking area every few minutes, so you shouldn't have to wait long. The ride took 15-20 min.

  • Hopefully you have at least one person coming to root you on - they will be handy for holding your stuff while you're dashing. I kept my husband's phone, ID, race tee & his Viking helmet in my backpack.

  • If you have cheerleaders/stuff-watchers coming, suggest they bring lawn chairs. There is no seating available - I sat in the hot itchy grass for about 45 min.

  • Also bring an umbrella - there is NO shade. Waiting in that sun was brutal. WEAR SUNSCREEN.

  • If you don't have a stuff-watcher, you can check stuff at one of the tables, but word was the line was about a 45 min wait.

  • The race is 3 miles long. My brother ran it in 54 minutes, my husband in 1h:18min.

  • After the race, there is a giant water truck with a fire hose that sprays people off in a crowd. It rinses most of your top half, but people still had pretty muddy legs & feet. 

  • Some people wore two layers of shirts, so they could pull the top muddy layer off and have reasonably dry clothes ready to go.

  • Bring stuff to protect your car seats on the ride home - like plastic trash bags & old towels.

  • You might also want to bring some wet wipes to wipe down with. Leave them in the car so you can clean up for the drive home. 

  • You also might bring a spare pair of shoes - the shoes you run in will be toast. There's even a charity table at the end where you can donate your shoes.

Good luck, Warriors!

Low-fat menu planning with E-Mealz


And I really do {heart} them!  I just downloaded another great (low-fat!) menu from E-Mealz for this week. Here's the lineup:

  • Smoky Orange Chicken with steamed rice
  • Lemon Parsley Turkey with Angel Hair Pasta
  • Bacon Mushroom Quiche
  • Sweet & Tangy Dogs
  • Spicy Honey Chicken with Lemon Roasted Potatoes
  • Grilled Pork Medallions with Baked Sweet Potatoes
  • Fiesta Chicken with Cilantro Rice

I'll be trying several of these recipes!

I've been using E-Mealz menu planning program for about 3 months and so many of the recipes have been picky-eater-approved and added to our rotation! I have been really surprised by how accepted they have been - usually I have to give the disclaimer, "Now, this is an experiment...", which is usually met with very wary and skeptical looks from my family. I still give a disclaimer, but can now instead say, "This is a new recipe from E-Mealz", and everyone digs in. I think every one I have tried has been approved. That's really saying a lot at my house.

A selection of approved recipes:

  • Orange Teriyaki Beef Noodle Bowl
  • Crock-pot French Dip Sandwiches
  • Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes & Spinach
  • Crock-pot Italian Beef Subs
  • Creamy Roast Beef Pitas with horseradish cream sauce

Another disclaimer: The E-Mealz links above are affiliate links - I get a 25% commission if anyone clicks the link and signs up for their service. But I wouldn't write such a glowing review if I hadn't tried it myself or didn't believe in the program. Give them a try! You really can't beat $1.25 a week for someone else to do all your menu planning for you!

Recipe: Angie's Svelte-Inducing Spiced Vanilla Latte, and Amazon Subscribe & Save

In addition to my 2 PointsPlus (PP) omelet/scramble (omelet or scramble, depending on my skill with the spatula that morning), I also have a large mug of what I call "doctored" coffee. Generally, I like my coffee to, well, not taste much like coffee, so I have to "doctor" it. :)  My favorite fancy coffee ever was the "House" coffee at St. Louis Bread Company, and this is my Weight Watchers friendly version of it (or "svelte-inducing", if you prefer).

Angie's Svelte-Inducing 2-Point Spiced Vanilla Latte

Pour Splenda packets into mug. Add Pumpkin Pie spice. Fill mug with prepared coffee (my big mugs hold about 12oz). Add honey, Torani syrup, & milk. Stir with spoon & enjoy!

What's really cool is that I discovered recently that you can set up "subscriptions" at Amazon so you never run out of grocery staples. Here's how Amazon explains it:

When you order through Subscribe & Save, you'll automatically receive a new shipment of the item in intervals you select at a discount on our everyday price. Plus, all subscription orders ship free. We'll charge your credit card for each order only when the item is shipped, and you may cancel at any time.

Grocery items at Amazon are usually bulk quantities - the Splenda Flavors for Coffee, for example, is a 6-pack of 30-count packages. I use 2 packets of the French Vanilla in my coffee every morning, so each box lasts me about 2 weeks.  A 6-pack would last me about 3 months, so I set up a subscription to receive a shipment every 3 months. It will auto-bill to my credit card, and auto-magically show up at my door, just when I'm about to run out, AND at a 15% savings.  Nice!

I also use Crystal Light Green Tea Honey Lemon in my water every day at work. Amazon ships that as a 6-pack of 10-count boxes. I use 1 packet every week day, so each box lasts me about 2 weeks, and a 6 pack would last me 3 months, just like the Splenda. So I set up a 3-month subscription for that too. What's nice about this subscription is that I have trouble finding that particular flavor locally, so now I don't have to go to multiple stores hoping to find it - it will just show up!

I'll probably also set up a subscription for my husband's favorite granola bars (Kashi GOLEAN Crunchy! Bar, Chocolate Almond). It's 17 cents more expensive per bar at Amazon, than the best sale price locally, but the subscription "locks in" that price, so I wouldn't have to keep watching for the sale, and stock up.

Have you used this subscription program at Amazon? Do you like it? What would you order by subscription to make your life easier?


[FCC disclaimer: the links above are Amazon Associates affiliate links, so I would make a small referral fee, should you order anything from Amazon, after clicking on the links. But I would also smile at the next stranger I see, and hug a puppy, which would make the world a better place.]