Thursday, January 30, 2014

felt eyeglass cozie

I am joining in a craftbook sew along this year.  The purpose is simple, USE all those craft books you have hanging around.

So, first I gathered my craft books....not all of them, some of them.  Each time I took a photo, I remembered where more books were stashed.  Okay, so maybe I have a hoarding problem.  Let's just say this is a good representative of the books I have.

Then I made myself a cup of this....

Then I picked out this cute I'd bought years ago to make gifts from (hahaha, riiiight)

and since I joined the challenge Wednesday, I picked this out to make...something quick to do since school was closed due to weather...

I just eyeballed everything and used what I had on hand....and since I'm on a green and purple kick, here is how mine turned out.

The colors are better than this but all my photos are suckish so this'll have to do.  It took me longer than I anticipated but I did some reinforcing and additional things not called for in the instructions.   And the fact that I "lost" my glasses while setting the button hole....yes, they were IN the case...yea, that didn't help.

Oh, and just in case y'all are wondering if I'm into embroidery...

the answer is no....too much fiddly thread...which is why I quit cross stitching a zillion years ago.
Happy Friday!!!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Val's Needful Things!

Before I start, it goes without saying that I need God and my family above all else.  Without them, there is nothing else.

I need warm socks because my feet are always cold, even in summer.  People shouldn't have cold feet in the summer time.

I need orange in my wardrobe because it makes me feel cheerful when I wear it.  Orange is such a yummy color... it reminds me of Brach's orange slices and Fanta and summer and Halloween!

I need zombie dolls because their vacant eyes and crooked smiles are oddly cute.  The fact that I put them out at Halloween, which kicks off my favorite part of the year probably helps.

I need to have twinkle lights on SOMEWHERE all year long.  Each night, I turn them on and each morning, I turn them off.  They brighten up the room, just a little and make me feel young.  They remind me of stars and fairy dust and NeverLand....

I need hugs from my family because they make me feel warm inside.  Every morning we have "morning hugs." It was something I started when they were itty bitty babies.  It was an awesome day when my kids started to initiate the morning hug ritual!

I need to garden because I love green and growing things and having a beautiful yard.  I love seeing little green seedlings popping up out of the soil.

I need to say a prayer whenever we hear or see an ambulance or firetruck on it's way somewhere....or when we see a wreck.  I have my family doing it too.  If I was in a wreck, I would want someone to say a prayer for me too.

I need to crochet with lovely yarn because I can't sit still and creating helps me focus and slow down.  Okay, so I can crochet with crappy yarn too, but lovely yarn is SO MUCH BETTER.

I need to drink wine out of a pretty glass because after daddy died I realized that life really is too short to drink wine out of anything less.  Now I drink out of a pretty wine glass EVERY time I have wine...

I need polka dotted toadstools because they ALWAYS make me smile. They make me feel like a kid again.

I need Starbucks salted caramel hot cocoa because it is my favorite all time treat.  Even. In. Summer.  I'm not much of a sweets eater but this is one treat I've never turned down.  

I need to take care of my feet because I like having pretty feet.  I don't EVER want to have crusty "french bread" feet! That being said, no one is allowed to touch my feet except me or my sweet husband, Dean....he will rub them after a long day.  I'm lucky.

I need to go into yarn stores and just take it all in.  It is such a great need that if I am broke, I refuse to go into a yarn store.  I am not talking about general craft stores.  I'm talking about a REAL YARN STORE, the kind of store that has nothing but yarn everywhere, in all types and colors.  Yarn is my crack.  

I need to go into the library even if I'm not looking for a specific book.  I love the smell of the library.  When I was a kid, I would flip straight to the back of the book.    I knew it was a good book if the card had a lot of names on it. Then I'd take it home and read it. 

I need to cook and bake for my family because they enjoy what I make and that makes me happy. I grew up in a household of good cooks and grew up equating good food with good times.  Plus the process relaxes me.  Or maybe the wine relaxes me.  I cook with wine.  I drink it a pretty glass, of course.

I need to take care of lost animals.  I've done it my whole life.  I bring them home and look for their owner.  If I find them out and about and they are sickly, I take them to the vet. If I can't get to them, I say a prayer.  Again, if my own pets were lost, I would want someone to do the same for them.

I need unique pieces of yard art in my garden because they look like jewelry in a sea of green.   I love it because I'll forget that something is there and when working in the yard, I rediscover it and it is like a gift, a little surprise hidden away. 

I need silly notepads because grocery shopping is a pain and using a cute notepad makes it better. I'm a bit oc because I have to rewrite lists before I go to the store if someone wrote something out of place....or if someone crossed something off the list.  The list has to be PERFECT before I use it.

I need song birds in the yard because they remind me of daddy and Peppy. I love that we are on a migratory path for many birds....we get some gorgeous ones here as they travel through.  I love to watch them play in the birdbaths or look for bugs in the yard.

I need to move turtles out of the road so no idiot runs it over....on purpose. I've been doing it since I was 9, by then I was old enough to harass my folks into pulling over so I could save them.
A few years ago, we pulled over so I could move a turtle out of the road.  Some jerk in a truck verred out of his lane and clipped the turtle on purpose, just a couple yards from me.  The poor turtle flung out like a slingshot and landed upside down in a rain filled culvert so I couldn't reach it.  I was so mad and upset.  It upset my whole family that someone could be so mean.  Needless to say, now everyone in my family moves turtles out of the road.  Except when it is too dangerous because it is on a merge lane or super busy road or something.  Then, sadly, poor Yertle is on his own, but I say a prayer.  I always say a prayer.

Monday, January 27, 2014

crochet cozy...

My inability to decide what to do with the Noro yarn forced me to finish a couple WIP this past weekend.    That was good because it turned into a bit of a stash busting weekend.

 These two long things are part of a yarn bombing I am doing with the school.   These are the "tops" of the bike rack we are covering.    I leave all those long tails on to help whip stitch in place.  It makes it easier than using one super long piece of yarn.     I used up lots of leftover yarn on this project.   
No rhyme or reason here, just measuring it every now and then to make sure it was long enough.   

I also made myself a new little cell phone cozy...the one I had was pretty beaten up from several months of use.
Front and back, all in purple and blue and again, no real pattern in mind.  Just using up what teeny bits I had left.   I busted 233 grams for these 2 projects. (One of the long things was counted previously.)

Mindless crochet over a cold weekend in between loads of endless laundry.  Mundane to some people, relaxing to me.   About the only time my brain shuts up is when I am crocheting!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Grow Your Blog Party!

Welcome to the Grow Your Blog party hosted by Vicky at 2 bags full!

2 Bags Full

My name is Valerie.


I am married to my sweetheart Dean 

and together we have 2 amazing kids

Oh, and 4 fur babies!  

I started blogging in 2008 after moving to a new place.  I don't have just "one" thing I post about here.....Life is full so my blog is stuffed with....


Mosaics and gardening

Family events and outings

Cooking and recipes

Crafts and tutorials

I've made some wonderful friends through my blog too.
Some like Tammy, who I met through our blogs years ago.  Then in person last summer when she came to the states for a month!  We had a wonderful time together.  I was sad to see her go home but we stay in touch!

Others, like Kerry and Jill I've not met in person but got to know when I was hosting a swap and we've been friends ever since.  I couldn't imagine not having these wonderful ladies in my life.

As a thank you for your visit and to celebrate making new friends, I am giving away this set of coffee cozys on February 15th.  You get two, one to keep and one to share with a friend.  

One winner will be chosen at random from the comments left on this post.  Edited 2/15: Patty from "Patty's Pretty Things" is the winner and has been contacted!

Thank you for popping by and again to Vicki for putting this party together!

Friday, January 24, 2014

homemade cinnamon rolls!

These are what you make when they cancel school because of ice and sleet....

and yes, they are almost gone!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oh! What To Do?!

Awhile back I was on a quest to find some yarn for my sister.  Well, during that quest I bought this yarn and thought I'd use it if I never found what I was searching for.  As luck would have it, the week after buying this yarn, I FOUND the yarn I had been searching for.    If you want to see it, check out this post.

So now I have 6 skeins of this glorious, gorgeousness that I am DYING to use.   The colors are FAB and are definitely me so I'd like to make myself something.  

The problem is WHAT do I make with these 6 skeins...oh and I don't knit well enough to sacrifice this stuff to a learner project.  Double oh, the wrappers fell off in the bag and I didn't bother saving them so I can't buy more....*sigh*  

I mean, look at all the yummy colors entwined in each skein......Noro Kuryeon (wool)...thick and thin, soft and oh so lovely.

I have thought of fingerless gloves but I have I need more?  I could make several and have gifts for others....hmmmm.

I have thought of a slouchy hat....but I don't look great in hats...small face, curly hair...I look like Bozo the Clown's demented little sister.  Not a good look....but maybe I would look good in THIS because the colors are amazing.  I love hats, maybe I should just TRY....maybe not.

I have thought of slippers and started to make a pair.  Well, that is until the boys in the household called them a warmer for a certain part of the male I ripped them out.  I couldn't have ------warmers on my TOES for crying out loud.  Maybe some that are less pointy?  

I have thought of a scarf but this is so much like the one I already have.....but maybe, you can't have too many scarves.....

I have thought of a felted bag but am just not I need a felted bag?   What would I use it for?  

It needs to be something yummy and darling and unusual.  I think I'll have a margarita and think it over some more.    Maybe two?

 In the mean time, if you've got an idea, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Monday, January 20, 2014

more curlygirl art

Kaela had another project to do for her art class...and again, she decided to go with an elephant.

I think it is quickly becoming her "go to" mammal.   Good choice, they are highly intelligent, beautiful creatures!

This time around, she had to do a zentangle.....

Isn't it lovely...this is another one destined to be "stolen" by me!

Friday, January 17, 2014


Daddy's birthday is today.  

I had an idea about writing a sweet post to honor him.  It sounded so good in my head but I could never get it here.  I can't put it down....the words in my head are GREAT but I simply can't get them into any cohesive unit to put down in a post.   They won't behave.

Instead, I'll just say that I love him and that... 
I miss our calls and our talking about the birds... and 
I miss how he would shake his finger at me when I rolled my eyes as he waxed poetic about a recipe he had told me about 18,000 times before.....
I miss how he would snap a towel at me when I stole sauted mushrooms and then ask me why I wasn't stealing those same mushrooms 3 minutes later.  
I miss how he twirled his finger when talking about a foreign country....oh MAN, I gave him SUCH a hard time about that and he would always say, "I don't know why I do that, I just do!" 
I miss how he would preface a dirty joke with, "Now Valerie, you might want to cover your ears because THIS is a dirty joke!"
I miss how he would walk me through the yard and show me where the turtles I brought home came to eat each day and he would tell me how many were still there and how he "fired the damn yardman that had run one over!"
I miss how he would point to his beloved Shamrocks and ask me if I needed a starter knowing I had been growing Shamrocks for years and had begun long ago to give them to him.  
I miss how he would make a martini with LOTS of extra olives in it to ensure that he got at least ONE because all the Russell girls stole his "damn olives!" 
I miss how he would insist we drank wine with dinner instead of that "sissy crap" margarita stuff! 
I miss how he would rub my arm when he first greeted me and would try to smooth the curls poking up from my scalp.  I would always remind him that I got the curls from HIM.
I miss how humble he was, always saying, "I am a jack of all trades, master of none" when someone complimented his many skills.
I miss how at the end of each phone call, he would tell me to go look into the mirror and tell myself,  "Your daddy loves you."

There are so many more things I miss.....

Happy Birthday Daddy.  You are soooo greatly loved and missed by us all.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Here is Kaela's latest for art can read about it here....

I had to have her, I REALLY had to have her....such a perfect little wee Ellie-Phant.  She is only 3 inches long and 2 inches tall.  But she is perfectly perfect, even though Kaela didn't like making her.  Not. One. Little. Bit.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Infinity scarf and other stash busters

I kicked off January with some stash busting projects....Total stash busted:  3,442 grams!

I am finally done with the Christmas blanket.  It is heavy and soooo warm.  It sure came in handy with our 16 degree weather we had this week!  

Matt's girlfriend wanted an off white infinity scarf.  I had some yarn in my stash so I surprised her with one last week.  I used the pattern I found here and modified it a bit.   Kaela was happy to model it for me...see that smile....she was on the way to get her braces and was super happy.

Then I made two little scarves for two little boys....they are so cute! 

I'm glad I got so much done because I'll be watching the Saints game later today with a glass of wine in my hand instead of a crochet hook.    Maybe next week I'll start a new project.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Toasted Coconut Haystacks

When we lived in Fort Worth we would take the kids and head in to town once a month.  We'd go to the museums and lunch and then walk around Main Street.   We would ALWAYS, without fail, go to Schakolad, a wonderful chocolate boutique.   It was Matthew's favorite treat.  (Kaela always wanted ice cream!)

We moved here and after almost 7 years of living here, we still haven't found a chocolate shop we like as much.  In fact, we haven't been able to find a shop that is consistently open.  So weird.  You go into town and the hours are posted and no one is there....or they only do weddings or promotional stuff.

Anyway, once or twice a year, we all get a hankering for chocolate haystacks like we used to buy there so I started making them at home.  I thought I'd share the process.  They aren't made with artisan chocolates but they are REALLY good!

Here is what you need:

A double boiler
1 small bag (7 oz) of flake coconut
12 oz of semi sweet chips
1 Tbls of canola oil (optional)

First, turn your oven on to 300 degrees and spread the coconut out  onto some parchment.   

Toast until light golden brown.   It will take forever to start toasting but WATCH it because once it starts to toast, it burns fast.  If it burns, you have to throw it out and start over.   

Stir it every couple of minutes to get everything toasted evenly.  Here is what it looks like when it is perfectly browned.

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate chips and oil (if using) in the top of a double boiler over very hot water.  Stir constantly and turn the heat off.  Don't let water get into the chocolate or it will seize up.  

Once the coconut is browned, let it cool just a little bit.  Then toss it into the chocolate and stir well.
Use a *cookie scoop and make little mounds on parchment or wax paper.   

I used a middle sized scoop and got 18 haystacks. You can use a small cookie scoop to get more but we find that those little haystacks don't satisfy our craving so I make bigger ones.

 I let them cool in the freezer because no one can wait to eat them.  It only takes about 5-10 minutes. 

And here is one, a toasty coconut haystack, all wrapped up chocolately goodness!

In the south, chocolate melts super fast so I keep them in the refrigerator to be safe.  Some days, they don't make it to the fridge though....they go that FAST!

 Just bring them out for a minute or two before enjoying!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

a little garden....

The little lettuce garden we planted in the fall has proven to be just what we needed....

Just look at this lovely salad.  Everything green came from our little garden!

Topped with some grilled chicken and we had dinner!

 We had some basil cheese bread on the side using some of my basil butter....delicious.  A garden is the gift that keeps on giving!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Gunter in the kitchen!

I baked all sorts of goodies over the holidays but when I said the word "pfeffernusse," Gunter jumped up and exclaimed that he wanted to help since pfeffernusse are German cookies and he is a German gnome from the Black Forest (ya know...)

The recipe is a new one to us as my regular recipe went missing.  I was devastated!  How do you lose a recipe?  He didn't let me hear the END of it...and I'm still wondering WHERE it went!

Notice the flour on his face, he was a little eager with the flour...

he helped stirring and scraping the bowl...

And then, into the refrigerator the dough went....he was so sad to see it go.  Here he is trying to reach the top legs, no luck!

The next day, we pulled out the dough and rolled it into LOTS of snakes and cut it into lots of tiny little cookies!

After 3 hours of rolling, cutting and baking, we ended up with hundreds of tiny cookies....

of which Gunter dove HEAD FIRST into!  Ya gotta do extreme things when you have no hands!

The recipe isn't quite as good as the original I had, but I can tweak it over the year to get it where it needs to be.  As for Gunter, he had plenty of fun this holiday season and declared the best time of all was when he got to BAKE!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Black eyed peas

In the south, Black eyed peas are pretty common....and a must have for New Year's Day.  Gotta have'em for prosperity y'all!

Everyone has a way to make them but I thought I'd share my way.  You don't need much.

1 lb bag of dried black eyed peas
ham bone or salt pork or smoked turkey wing
*1 tsp salt (see below)
*1/2 tsp cayenne (see below)
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

First, take your beans and soak them overnight.  Before preparing, rinse them in fresh water and set aside while doing the next step.

Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil and add the veggies and seasonings.  Stir til soft.  Add the meat you are seasoning it with.  
BTW, Dean doesn't eat pork...his grandmother was raised on a pig farm and ruined him to pork.  *sigh*
Okay, so since he doesn't eat pork, I always add a smoked turkey wing instead of pork.
*When Dean isn't looking, add a few tablespoons of bacon fat, don't tell him.

Add the beans and cover with water.  I cover the beans with a good 2 inches of water.  Okay, so the turkey wing looks like some alien claw...just ignore it and get back to cooking....

Cover and bring everything to a boil, then turn it down to medium low and let everything simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring every now and then.  Check the water level every 30 minutes or don't want them to dry out.  Also, Black eyed peas don't take as long to cook as other types of beans.  

After about an hour to an hour and a half, remove the lid and check for tenderness.  If they are tender, remove the bone and discard.  (Some people shred the meat and put it back in, but we eat our peas with corned beef so I just pitch it.)    

At this point, remove the lid and let them simmer about 10 minutes to evaporate some of the water.  These are a little bit TOO soupy, see?

During this time, taste them and adjust for seasonings.  I usually add another teaspoon of salt and another 1/2 teaspoon of  cayenne.    

This is how we like them.  A little bit soupy so when they thicken, they don't dry out but not so soupy as to run all over your plate....

We serve these with corn bread too....super good.  Some people will drizzle with vinegar, me?  I use a little ketchup....something I started as a kid and it just stayed with me.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

flora and fauna

Here are a few photos from the Botanical Gardens we saw Christmas night during our Celebration in the Oaks walk.  

and some exotic flowers....

The next morning, we headed back into New Orleans and went to the zoo.   It was another cold day but we bundled up and headed in.   We arrived right at opening time and most of the animals were very active.

This peacock was drinking from a large sugar cane pot.

The gorillas were all facing the sun.

All the rhinos were up and moving around.  They are usually WAY out in the field but had fresh hay in closer so they were munching away....

We spent three hours at the zoo, just walking and enjoying the day.   Matt and his girlfriend ...

It was so nice seeing all the activity.  By the time we left, the animals were all starting to relax and take naps so going in the morning was a great idea.

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