I have been teaching a week-long class at a summer program for middle-schoolers this month, and have one more week to go with this program. The class is all about getting kids engaged with nature and the outdoors, rather than always looking at a screen. It is geared toward ideas for outdoor play if one is babysitting or goes into the career path of early childhood education (or eventually being a parent who wants their child to benefit from outdoor play).
The class is organized around the topic of fairy houses and we had a great week creating fairies and accessories, doing some other fun projects, and finally today building a Fairy Village in the classroom (because of the circumstances, we can't really take the class outdoors - ironic, I know!).
The ultimate experience of fairy houses can be found at fairyhouses.com but here are some pics of our crafts, and the fairy village we built in my class.
I want to thank each and every one of my students for being a part of our class. You all had so much creativity and imagination abounding! So much fun, and I can't wait to do it again!
Click on a picture below to enlarge it:
Every birthday when I was growing up, my mom would make "yellow cake with
chocolate frosting" for each of us kids. With five children in the family, this became the cake most associated with a family occasion.
I still love to make this cake, because it has a lovely texture and most of all, tastes delicious! The recipe makes a nice-sized 13x9" cake or 16 cupcakes.
Of course, our all-time favorite frosting for this cake is chocolate buttercream, but the vanilla-flavored cake works well with other flavors too. It makes a great foundation for whipped cream and fruit also, because of the tender texture.
I hope your family will enjoy this recipe as much as mine has!
Yellow Cake or Cupcakes Recipe
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13x9" pan.
(Cupcakes - 16 cupcake liners in a 12-cup and a 6-cup pan. Spray the liners with release spray.)
Sift together the following, into a bowl:
1 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
2 TBS. cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
In a separate large mixing bowl, beat for 1 minute:
2 large eggs
Add and beat 30 seconds:
3/4 c. sugar
Add and beat 1 minute:
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. vegetable oil
In a small bowl, mix and let sit 2 minutes:
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
Now combine the mixtures using the alternating method. To the large bowl with the egg mixture, add half of the flour mixture and mix slowly until it is just combined. Then add half of the milk, mixing slowly. Now add the second half of the flour mixture, again mixing slowly until just combined. Finally, add the last of the milk and mix slowly until it is just combined.
Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake it at 350°F for 20-22 minutes. (Cupcakes - Fill each cupcake liner a little over halfway full. Bake at 350° F for 12-14 minutes.)
Cool completely, then frost with your favorite frosting. (We like chocolate buttercream best, as mentioned above.)
In the middle of December, in the middle of the night, we got a call from Iran. My husband's father had passed away. My husband was heartbroken. He had been hoping to see his father over the semester break, after his teaching duties were fulfilled, but Daddyjon passed away a few days before the semester ended.
He was a good father, in that he never stopped caring for his kids, being concerned for them, thinking they deserved every honor, and wishing them every worldly success.
Because we only saw him periodically, when he would come to the US for a two or three-month visit, our children and their cousins, all my father-in-law's grandchildren, did not really have the opportunity to develop a deep relationship with him. But he would hug the kids and fuss over them when he was here, especially over my oldest daughter. She was the first-born of his first-born, my husband, and Daddyjon himself was the first-born of his generation.
He treated me, his daughter-in-law, with respect and mild affection. I think he would have liked my husband to marry a beautiful Persian girl with a background of infinite intellectual and business success, but instead there was me. A country girl from Oklahoma, with short legs, thick glasses, and an introverted manner, and a little on the heavy side.
As the years went by, I think he began to respect me because I loved his son and tried to be a good wife and mother. I could cook some Persian foods with success. And then he had a soft spot for my children, the oldest because she was the first-born, and the youngest because she was a little blue-eyed blond-haired cherub when she was little, and because she was the baby out of all of the cousins.
As a tribute to him, I have started working on a watercolor portrait of my father-in-law. When I work on a portrait, I work from a photograph blown up on my laptop screen. The normal looking portrait becomes a mottled map of splotches and shadows when you blow it up on the screen, but somehow, as I paint what I am seeing, a human face emerges, little by little.
I have done a few portraits before, and I try to start with the eyes of the subject. I think if I get the eyes right, the rest of it doesn't matter so much, as clothes, hair, and skin texture changes through the years. But the eyes stay the same, and so with Daddyjon's portrait, it has been strange and yet it also has felt right, that as I paint his portrait, I feel his eyes on me.
This man, who I only knew well through the stories told in the family about him, because in person it was only courteous exchanges between us . . . I feel I have looked into his eyes more this past few weeks of painting him than I did in the 25 years my husband and I have been married. I see something there now that I missed before.
Always before, I felt when he looked at me, that I didn't measure up to the standard of Persian perfection, and so I would end the polite conversations as soon as I could, to go help in the kitchen or be with the children. I always felt judged before, but now, looking into his eyes in this portrait, I feel he is saying, "Thank you for taking good care of my son and my granddaughters. I see you now for who you are, not for who you aren't."
I hope that he can still see all of us, from wherever he is in his spiritual state. After I finish the portrait, I will have it framed and then hung on the wall, right beside the portrait I painted of the best man I have ever known, my husband.
The finished portrait - my husband loves it and I feel 100% at peace now with my father-in-law. Art has a way of opening our hearts and minds.
About six months ago, I answered an open call for blog writers from Oklahoma City Moms Blog, and I was delighted to be selected as one of the new contributors. Although I had been blogging here since prior to 2013, I did not post often, being one of those people who is much more productive and does better generally when I have a deadline (imposed by someone else!). On this post, I am linking to my OKCMBlog posts to show a little about my side hustle. I am also working on a blog for sharing diabetic recipes (TheDiabeticKitchenandCook.com).
Here is a link to my latest from OKCMBlog, and I will link to my earlier posts over there as soon as life slows down a little. Enjoy!
Everyone needs a little creativity in her or his life. Creativity satisfies something within us, in a process that is both expressive of our inner vision and at the same time, nourishing to our most authentic self.
Creativity is also good for our health, helping us to relax by shifting our focus away from our problems for just a little while. Creative pursuits help to lower your blood pressure, help you feel more content, and can add confidence and enthusiasm to your outlook on life!
Whatever your chosen outlet for creativity, I have a simple system that breaks the creative process into five easy steps. We all lead busy lives, and it can feel like you can't possibly fit in the extra time for creative pursuits. But it IS possible, with a plan in hand!
An outline of my SPACE plan follows - with a brief description of each phase of the creative process. And keep in mind that it is a process - that is what keeps it from taking over your life! One deterrent to people starting a new hobby or creative project is the idea that it will clutter up their house or garage, and end up being a source or stress or just another unfinished project.
By starting off with the mindset that this is a process that is broken down into smaller segments, you are less likely to go full-blown obsessive with enthusiasm over your project. You are more likely to put thoughtful time into planning, instead of just randomly plunging in and not feeling a clear direction. And you are more likely to finish your project, and to experience the deep satisfaction that comes with completing something creative!
I will be talking about this process more in future posts, and showing real-life examples of the SPACE plan in action. For now, here is an overview of my SPACE plan for creative projects:
S - SHOP - this means finding and obtaining all the raw materials, even if they are free or thrifted
P - PREPARATION - these are the preliminary steps that have to be taken before the actual creating begins, including organization, opening packages, washing/drying/ironing material, etc.
A - ASSEMBLE - this is the actual act of creating, sewing, knitting, painting, cutting/gluing, assembling components like quilt blocks, etc.
C - COMPLETE - this is the final act of assembling the main final product, there may be multiple stages of this as in a quilt, or when glue/paint has to dry.
E - ENHANCE - this is when the small final details are added, such as polishing, cutting threads, packaging jewelry on cards and in bags, etc.
One of the nicest things about being a mom to older children is how their tastes for food have matured since they were little kids. There was a time when "just plain food" dominated our meals. Nothing too spicy, with too many ingredients, or with "canned mushroom soup" sauces worked for us. We ate a lot of plain chicken, ham, turkey, and a few dishes made with hamburger or beef stew meat. My husband and I could always add condiments to liven up our own plates.
As my children grew up, their palates did too! Eventually a variety of great international cuisines became some of our favorites. These three recipes from around the world take basic food leftovers and turn them into something a little more adventurous than an everyday salad. I love that they use up leftovers to create something totally new and delicious!
Olovieh, Persian Potato Salad - using leftover rotisserie chicken, boiled/baked potatoes, green peas
1/2 leftover rotisserie chicken, or about 1 1/2 c. chicken meat, removed from bones, chopped into 1/2-in. pieces
3 leftover baked potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1/2-in. cubes
1 c. leftover frozen or canned peas
1/2 c. chopped dill pickles
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 c. mayonaisse
1/4 c. Italian vinaigrette salad dressing
Salt & pepper to taste
Sliced green olives and pimento pieces for decoration
Mix all the ingredients together. Line a medium-sized bowl with plastic wrap and pack the salad into it. To serve, upend the bowl onto a plate, remove the bowl and the plastic wrap, and decorate the mound of Olovieh with the olives and pimento pieces. Persian cuisine serves this salad with toasted flat bread. Serves 6-8.
Nordic Salmon Salad - using leftover baked boneless salmon fillets
2 leftover baked boneless salmon fillets, 4-6 oz. each, skin removed
1 TBS. minced white onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1 TBS. fresh dill, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried dill
1/4 c. pickled banana peppers, roughly chopped
1/2 c. mayonaisse
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Chopped hearts of romaine lettuce or your favorite mix of fresh greens
2 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to break up the salmon fillets. Add all but the lettuce/greens and tomatoes, and mix well. Refrigerate salmon mixture for 1 hour. Put a serving of lettuce/greens on the plate, spoon about 1/2. c. of the salmon mixture in the middle, and place tomato wedges around the edges. Serves 4.
Tex-Mex Nacho Taco Salad - using leftover meatloaf, white rice
2-3 slices leftover meatloaf, each about 1-in. thick, crumbled into 1/2-in. pieces
1/2 c. - 1 c. leftover white rice
2 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 TBS. chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. water
Salt & pepper to taste
Lettuce and tomatoes for salad
Toppings such as grated cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and chopped green onions
In a skillet, heat the oil over med-high heat. Add the onions and cook for two minutes. Add the garlic powder, chili powder, and oregano. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the meat loaf, white rice, and water. Stir and cook for 5 minutes until heated through and then add salt & pepper to taste. To serve, put a layer of tortilla chips on the plate, and spoon 3/4 c. of the meat/rice mixture over the top. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and other desired toppings. Serves 4.
Are your children adventurous eaters? What foods have they not only tolerated, but LOVED, that surprised you?
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog in 2016)
One beloved and well-used item lost in the tornado was my 33-year-old Kenmore sewing machine. Given to me by my Grandpa Wynn for my 16th birthday, it was my creative partner through four decades of fabulous fashions. I made some emerald green satin pants in 1979, some corduroy baggy jeans in the 80's, sundresses for my first daughter in the 90's, Halloween and Medieval Fair costumes for both children in the 00's, and what seemed like a whole forest of burlap tree costumes for The Wizard of Oz musical in the spring of 2013.
Although my sewing machine did not blow away, it was rained on at our house site for three days after the tornado, and the carrying case had several inches of water in it by the time we were allowed back to the wreckage of our home. I drained the water, set it out to dry in our rental home's garage all the hot summer long, unable to dispose of it as there were so many memories of my hands guiding one vividly remembered fabric or another through the machine. When it was time to move into the new home, I finally put the ruined machine out with the other tornado debris that I had been reluctant to actually throw away. Yes, we had good insurance and I had been reimbursed for the value of a sewing maching, but the thought of a new machine just left me unimpressed, as I had loved my old one so much.
As time passed, I searched for a metal-bodied sewing machine like my old Kenmore, but found only plastic-bodied models. After hemming and hawing, and complaining so much out of proportion to the issue to my patient husband, I went ahead and bought a plastic-bodied Singer. Of course, it sews just fine. And I have started a new parade of fabric swatch memories as I have sewn cream/blue toile curtains for the new house's kitchen bay window, cream lace frilly cowgirl skirts for the flower girls in my nephew's upcoming wedding, and started a quilt for my oldest daughter in red/white/black scrap fabrics.
Red and Black were the school colors of her elementary school, Plaza Towers, that was so horrifically demolished by the tornado. I found a black-and-white gingham fabric shirt at the thrift store, with colorful flowers embroidered all over it, so I have been cutting little squares of the embroidered sections, to put at the intersections of the strips connecting my nine-patch blocks. I also am appliqueing seven little raspberry-red pinwale corduroy hearts randomly on the quilt-top, for the Plaza Towers students whose short lives ended that day in May 2013.
For many years, especially as a young person, I was embarrassed of being so domestic. Cooking, gardening, and sewing are my great passions, and I always felt so dorky when asked what my hobbies were. Sometimes, it seemed as if I were born 100 years too late, but as I have grown older, I truly treasure my knowledge and skills in the humble domestic pursuit of sewing. Knowing how to mend, tailor, innovate, and alter garments, costumes, and home furnishings has given a richness to my life that I wouldn't want to do without. Nowadays, when someone asks what I do for leisure, I am proud to say, "I like to sew."
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog in 2016)
I haven't made any blog entries since my announcement that we lost our home in the May 20 tornado. Recovery took precedence over creativity, and truly, I just didn't have it in me to continue at that time. So here we are months later . . . Several nudges this past couple of days have inspired me to take up my blog again and the first day of the new year seems like a perfectly appropriate time to start.
I am sitting at the kitchen bay window that looks out over our backyard, at the "new" house. We have been here now nearly three months, and for me, it has begun to feel like home. My children are taking longer to feel a connection, but they are usually gone all day at school, and the other house had been their only home. My feelings of being connected to a homeplace are more grounded in functionality - where do I cook? where do we return to sleep? where do we feel a haven from the world? Both kids made more of a connection to the rental house we stayed in while we were house-hunting, while my husband and I were too freaked out by the bustling insect kingdom that was part & parcel of the neighborhood full of old and established maples.
My hope is that downtime spent just hanging around the house during the school break will foster a little more of the home feeling for my children. Now that the usual round of holiday gatherings are over, there are more free evenings to tuck in with blankets on the couch with a book or movie marathon, more meals at home with both Mama and Daddy here together, and a whole new year ahead of us to look towards as we plan and dream.
New Year's Day usually involves some incarnation of black-eyed peas, to ensure prosperity (perhaps through frugal living) for the coming year. My family is not really that fond of the humble black-eyed pea, and I really only have two ways to serve them. One is to open a couple cans of them, and simmer them on the stove for an hour with a little chopped bacon, some shaved onion, a bay leaf, generous salt & pepper, and a half-tablespoon of vinegar added at the end of cooking. They DO NOT reach the full glory of baked beans, but they are not half bad, either. The second way we eat them is as part of "Texas Caviar" - mixed in with the basic Pico de Gallo recipe: a can of black-eyed peas opened and drained, 3-4 good tomatoes chopped, green onion and white onion minced, 1 raw jalapeno seeded and minced, a couple tablespoons of fresh lime juice, small bunch of fresh cilantro chopped, and salt & pepper. Mixed and refrigerated for a couple of hours, it's good with tortilla chips or alongside meat as a savory condiment.
Black-eyed peas always remind me of a story told by my Grandpa Wynn. Growing up poor as a sharecropper's son in East Texas, he ate plenty of beans growing up, cheap and filling and easily grown in his mother's well-tended kitchen garden. After church one day, he overheard another lady say to his mother, "Well, we better get home, I need to check on my beans. Lord, I am so tired of eating beans! Don't you ever get tired of eating beans day after day, Rosie?" Grandpa's mama replied, "Why, no I don't! We don't just eat beans, we have black-eyed peas, green peas, pinto beans, butter beans, pole beans, lima beans, and more! We eat something different every day!"
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog in 2013/2015)
Living in the Tornado Capital of the World, I have come to regard Spring with one eye on the daffodils and irises, and the other on the thunderheads building in the west. What is for other parts of the country, a gradual awakening of Mother Earth, can be for us a season of nail-biting and being afraid to go to sleep in case a storm strikes in the night. While my husband and kids go on to bed, I spend the late hours of the night with the "other men" in my life - my local news station meteorologists.
I trust these guys with my life, as I have seen over and over their dedication in staying on air for 12-14 hours while storms wheel across the state. The feeling I have towards them is somewhat like my feelings for the OB doctor who delivered my two babies - they really have protected the lives of people here with their devotion to getting it right on these critical days. In the 19 years we have lived here, we have had 4 tornados hit in the vicinity and so a spring thunderstorm can make for a sleepless night. Once I get the all-clear from "my weather guys", I am off to bed to dream of the quieter days of midsummer.
Added as a postscript -- On Monday, May 20, 2013, the unthinkable happened. Once more, an EF5 tornado ground its way through Moore, Oklahoma, and our home of 19 years was destroyed in 60 seconds. That day left some enormous wounds in our hearts, lives, and our community. We are all moving forward as best we can, trusting God with our futures, knowing He is always with us and working from within us.
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog in 2013)
Thriftstores . . . aaahhh, the seductive lure of saving money on necessities, finding abundant fodder for my creative machine, discovering a lost treasure amongst the castoff cake pans and plaster plaques, and vintage clothing to make my inner 80's teen very, very happy. But there is a dark side, too . . . I make myself watch a couple of episodes of "Hoarders" every week so that I remember to keep myself in check. The thriftstore can be a goldmine in savings for people on a budget or for a high school drama department that is rich in talent but poor in money. At a sewing day yesterday for my oldest daughter's upcoming musical, some of the other ladies and I were sharing our attraction to the fabrics, colors, textures, the POSSIBILITIES!! . . . to be found in the clothing racks at the thriftstore. We are opportunists walking a sheer cliff, discovering, snatching up, and showing off our unique and fabulous finds, but we have to use both foresight AND restraint, because you can only fit so much of this stuff into your closet or costume room.
From the time I got my driver's license, I could roam around our four-state corner looking for great thriftstores. I still visit my first and favorite thrift - the Friendship House in Miami, Oklahoma, when I go home for a visit. Great memories of shopping thrifts with sisters and friends - once a friend (Hi to Judy D**a!) and I went to a small town in Kansas in 1982, where an old decrepit department store building was being emptied. We found heels, dresses, sweaters, and jewelry from the 50's, and then we went out to lunch and had Monte Cristo sandwiches (the way they are SUPPOSED to be made, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar).
When my first daughter was born, I wanted everything new, pristine, and clean. No used clothing for my children, please! It only took a short while to understand that 100% cotton stains, not everything can be bleached, and that $24 onesie looks like a hand-me-down after one wearing and an encounter with baby carrots. As the holidays and seasons went by, the realization sunk in that the $50 holiday dress and faux fur baby coat, worn for one Christmas party in 1998, might not even FIT the next baby at the right season, and thrifting began to look very smart. Over the years, I've bought clothes, boots and shoes, toys, decor, furniture, and costumes at various resale sites - whether consignment, antique malls, garage sales, or straight-forward thrift stores. A favorite photo of my husband and first daughter at age two shows her wearing red baby cowboy boots I bought at a thrift store on my lunch break at work. I loved those boots and so did she; when she outgrew them, I donated them to charity and kissed them good-bye.
One of the great treasures found at thrifts is the handknitted or crocheted afghan. I'm thinking they were handmade as gifts, then people took such good care of them that they were never used, and they have ended up in new condition on a hanger in a thrift store. Naturally, you have to inspect everything carefully and be sure items can somehow be cleaned before using. In the case of afghans, they are almost always made from acrylic yarn and machine-washable. I recently ran across a Hudson's Bay wool blanket for $5, but it had several moth-eaten spots. For someone who was willing to dry clean it, and then cut it up and use the good parts creatively, it would have been a steal, but it wasn't worth it to me that day.
I am fortunate to live in a large metro area where there are several thrift stores - and they all have their version of a sale, whether it's Wacky Wednesday, brown bag day, or buy-it-by-the-pound day. I do try to go on these days, so if I buy something and have second thoughts later, I haven't invested too much money. Lately I am fascinated with ladies' brooches, something our mothers, grand-, and great-grandmothers would have worn. I may not ever wear them, but they don't take up much room in my jewelry box, and I get a lot of pleasure from looking at them. Some day my daughters may raid my costume jewelry looking for just the right accessory and find them there . . . waiting to be treasured again.
I am Kelly - a wife, mother, cook, gardener, sewist, and much more. Creativity is the gift that I have been blessed with, and it has been a river of blessings to me. A creative outlet is good for you, body and soul. This blog is about helping you find ways to fit more creativity into your life, to enrich your own life and that of others.