Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rediscovering Jane

Yesterday evening I was reading "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen, and this morning I happened to stumble upon the information that her birthday was just a few days ago, December 16, 1775. A few years ago I read "Pride and Prejudice" (I think I read it all the way through) , and I love watching the movies based on her books and her life, but now I am rediscovering her.

She was only 41 years old when she died. I am 41. Wow. To think that she wrote all of those lovely books before she reached the age I am now! What an accomplishment! And the language! The beautiful, complicated way she expressed herself on paper, while here I am, writing in incomplete sentences (and not even on paper)! Did people really speak like that in her time? Or did she just have an amazing way with words? I like to imagine it was a little bit of both. Reading her work brings to memory the reason why I love reading books written in a time other than my own. It's like being transported to a more elegant, romantic time. Yes, I understand that I am reading fiction, but it is like a looking through a little window into the way people thought, spoke, and conducted themselves during that time. Reading Jane Austen always inspires me to attempt to speak, dress, and act a bit more eloquently. I think we all could use a little dose of Jane once in awhile.

Here is a video of the home in Chawton where she spent the final years of her life. It is now a museum preserved in her memory.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why I Love Hanukkah

This is the third year that my little family and I have celebrated Hanukkah together, and I absolutely love it! Here are eight reasons why:

1. I love the history of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is different than most of the other "Jewish" holidays, because it is not one that was appointed by God. It is, however, full of meaning and historical significance. Here is a very brief history of Hanukkah:

The events we commemorate at Hanukkah took place around the year 164 B.C.E. There was a Syrian/Greek king in power over the land of Judea, who ordered the Jewish people to reject their God, their religion, their customs and their beliefs, and to worship the Greek gods, including defiling the holy Temple in Jerusalem with pagan idols and sacrilegious sacrifices. The penalty for disobeying was torture and death. There were many Jews who did what they were told, but some refused. One who courageously refused was Judah Maccabee. Judah and his four brothers, the grandchildren of the Temple high priest, formed a small army. They were miraculously successful in driving out the powerful Syrian Greeks, and they reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to purify the Temple and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the Temple was rededicated.
Legend says that when Judah and his followers finished cleaning the Temple, they wanted to light the Eternal Light, the menorah. Once lit, this oil lamp should never be extinguished. Only one container of oil was found with the high priest's seal; only enough for one day. They went ahead and lit the lamp, and a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days, which was the required amount of time to prepare new oil!

2. I love that Hanukkah is a celebration of light.

Hanukkah is called the "Festival of Lights", referring to the flames kindled each night, and the "Festival of Light" because of the victory of light over darkness. The menorah is the symbol for divine light. I love the fact that Jesus (Yeshua) proclaimed Himself to be the "Light of the World" in John 8:12. The menorah is a symbol of Yeshua, Light of the World!!! I think of this whenever I look at the hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah).

3. I love that Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles.

It was a miracle that the Maccabees triumphed over such a powerful force. I read that the opposing army even had elephants at their disposal! It was also a miracle that the oil lasted for eight nights instead of just one. In John (chapter 10), Yeshua was in the Temple during Hanukkah, and he spoke of the miracles He performed while here on earth. At Hanukkah we remember these miracles and the many miracles that God has chosen to perform throughout the Bible and throughout our own lives.

4. I love that Hanukkah is the Feast of Dedication.

"Hanukkah" means dedication. We remember the rededication of the Temple, and we remember that we are God's temple (I Cor. 3:16). Hanukkah can be a time to examine our lives and make sure we are not letting ungodly things in the "temple", and rededicate ourselves and our lives to God.

5. I love the food we eat at Hanukkah.

A holiday when we can eat foods fried in oil? YES! Yum! I love the jelly filled doughnuts and latkes...especially latkes!

6. I love the family traditions of Hanukkah.

We are developing our own family traditions during Hanukkah. We like to exchange a special gift each night. I love choosing just the right gift for each person. We try to have a special dinner or treat each night. We say the blessings, light the Hanukkah menorah and have a nice family night at home while the candles burn. This is a good reminder to us of what is important in our lives, as it can be a challenge in today's busy world to spend eight nights in a row at home with family.

7. I love that Hanukkah is an opportunity to shine!

Yeshua told his disciples "You are the light of the world." and "...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:14, 17). As a follower of Yeshua, I want to let my light shine for Him! Hanukkah presents a wonderful opportunity to do this. Many people don't even know what Hanukkah is, and when they find out we celebrate it, they want to we tell them!

8. I love that Hanukkah lasts for eight nights.

We have eight nights to remember, rededicate ourselves, spend family time together, eat great food, open special gifts, and be encouraged to stand up for what we believe in and shine our light! I love Hanukkah!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ocean City Getaway

This past weekend, my hubby, two daughters and I went to Ocean City, Maryland, for a nice little mini vacation. The trip began with Haley (who is 16 and now has her driver's license) driving us there. The trip takes about an hour. A very nerve wracking hour for me!!! She did a great job, but still...she's still getting comfortable driving, and I am not comfortable at all! Her Dad was in the front seat coaching, and I sat in the back. Here she is driving:

She got us there safely! The hotel we stayed in was right on the beach with a gorgeous view. We got great off-season rates.

The weather was beautiful! It was sunny the whole time, and warm for two of the days. It cooled down Monday and Tuesday, but was still nice and sunny. We had a great time walking on the beach, shopping along the boardwalk, and just relaxing.

Robert even went swimming in the ocean in November, crazy guy!

The best part? We saw a beautiful sunrise every morning from our comfy room!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fun With Superstars!

This week I have been busy teaching a class to some of the Central Elementary "Superstars". This school is a balanced calendar school, where they start school earlier in the year, end later, and have more breaks in between. During some of the breaks, they have "intersession" classes. These classes are both educational and fun, and many are taught by volunteers in the me!

My class for this session was called "Jean Fun".

I taught my third grade students how to make fun things out of old jeans.

We made a drawstring "Superstar Lunch Sack" out of the leg of the jeans, and we sewed yellow felt stars on our bags.

We made coasters out of the hems and seams of the jeans.

We also made braided bracelets, flowers with button centers, and bookmarks.

My students all did a great job cutting, gluing, and learning to sew.

We had a lot of fun making cool things with our old jeans!

P.S. I am assured by the principal (my husband) that it is okay to post pictures of the students on my blog, since all of their parents/guardians have signed a release.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Knitted Cotton Dishcloths

I don't know about you, but my dishcloths tend to get very yucky looking after a while. I really needed some new ones, and I remembered the crocheted ones my sister made for me once, several years ago. They were so cute, and they lasted much longer than the ones I usually buy at the store. I decided I wanted some again. After a failed attempt to special order some on Etsy, I had the idea that maybe I could knit some. I have never been able to get the hang of crocheting for some reason, but I do know how to knit. Well, at least I used to know how when I was 14! So, I searched the internet for a simple but cute pattern, bought some cotton yarn and knitting needles, and brushed up on my knitting skills.

These colors are perfect for my kitchen. I especially love the varigated one. It's called "Field of Dreams".

I found a waffle weave pattern here:

Aren't they cute? And I've found that knitting is a little addictive! Just one more row...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

One Constant Thing

This last week was one that was full of events: a birthday, a funeral, and a wedding, and I've been thinking about how much our lives are always changing. Sometimes things change slowly over the years, and sometimes shockingly quick, in just a moment. Sometimes changes are planned, but oftentimes come completely unexpected. We experience joyous occasions and we go through horrific hardships. Through all of this, there is only one thing that remains forever constant. That is the love of God. He is with us through every change, every event, and every emotion we experience. Whether it is a lifechanging moment, or a tiny little detail that no one else would notice, He is with us. He brings people into and out of our lives, He has a way of using the circumstances around us to communicate His love for us, and he speaks to us through His Word and to our hearts if we are willing to listen. He is always there. He will never leave us. He is with us. I love this song sung by Mandisa that illustrates this point so well:

So, will you take a moment with me to say a simple thank you?

Adonai Eloheinu, Lord our God, Creator of the universe, thank you. Thank you for being with me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sewing Studio in Progress

I'm so excited! At last I have a much needed sewing studio! We decided to re-do the guest room so I could have a space to work other than the dining room table, and daughter number one could have a bigger bed. So we moved the big bed into her room, and her single bed into the new studio, so there is still a place for a guest to sleep if we need it. I pushed it into the corner and propped up some pillows to get the day bed effect. Then, I moved out the big antique mirror above the dresser, and moved in a hutch from the attic. It was a strange brown color, so I painted it white. Now I have a cute storage area for my fabric. I love the way the fabric looks all stacked up on the shelves. For my work table, I am using an old interior door from our house. The doors in our house are beautiful, and I've been saving this one especially for a table. I set it on the two nightstands that were in the guest room (also from the attic in the previous form of a dressing table), and voila! A cute, shabby chic table, and it's the perfect size for my needs. Now I just need to get a big piece of glass for the top of my table, and my sewing studio will be complete.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


My little family observes the Sabbath on Saturdays. "What? Are you Jewish?" you ask. No, not Jewish...but...this quote about sums it up: "I am not Jewish. But I follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I am a disciple of the Jewish Messiah. I live as a Jewish person lives. Messianic Judaism is my faith. But I was born a gentile, and by grace I have been grafted in." (Rick Spurlock of Because we put our faith in Jesus (we like to call him by his Hebrew name, Yeshua), we are able to be a part of God's people, so we follow his instructions for life, the Torah. We are learning more every day how to do this. Because the Jewish people have been following Torah since it was given, we have adopted many of their traditions and customs, which are full of SO much meaning.

All that to say: Every Friday night we have a special Family dinner to welcome in the Sabbath. I light the candles and my husband says the blessings over the wine (well...juice) and bread and prays for the children. On most Fridays I do as many Jewish women do and make two braided loaves of challah. As the mother of the family kneads and braids this bread, she prays for her loved ones who will be eating it. I LOVE this! It is a special privilege for me to make challah for my family and entwine my prayers for them within the braids. I recently learned how to make a six stranded braid, and it turns out so beautiful! I learned by watching this video:

Shabbat shalom!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ode to Oranges

Ok, so I guess this isn't an actual "ode", since it's not a poem, but lately I have been really wanting my favorite fruit in the world, so I thought I would write about it. This is not just any average orange, at least not here in the United States. The orange I am talking about is called the "Tarocco" orange, and is found primarily in Italy. When my husband and I were in Rome about two years ago, I tasted the most delicious, juicy, sweet oranges I have ever tasted, and I am usually not a big fan of oranges!
My first taste of this wonderful fruit was the in the juice they served us on the plane from Paris to Rome on Alitalia Airlines. It was early in the morning, and the flight attendants came by with the beverage cart and asked us something in a different language. French? Italian? Or maybe just heavily accented English? I was too groggy to figure it out. I just said "juice?" and was served some kind of red liquid and a mysterious pastry-looking thing. The pastry was positively yummy. Then I took a sip of the red juice, and was introduced to my new favorite juice ever. I wish I could remember the name of it. It may or may not be this:

Sadly, this juice is not available in the U.S. They also served the juice in our hotel at breakfast. I was a regular juice-aholic! Oh, how I miss that juice! We then were able to find the actual fruit at a little fruit stand not far from the Colosseum in Rome. So yummy! Later I found out that Tarocco oranges are the most popular "table fruit" in Italy, and I can definitely see why. My question is, why, oh why can't I find these oranges where I live??? I love them so much, that I may have to go back to Italy just for their oranges...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mount Vernon

George and Martha Washington are two of my most favorite people in history. My family and I had the pleasure of visiting their home this Labor Day Weekend. Mount Vernon has been restored to look like it did the year George Washington died, 1799. It is SO beautiful! My favorite part of the house is the veranda with the columns and the sweeping view of the Potomac River. The rest of the house is absolutely gorgeous, too, and the grounds are amazing. We weren't able to see the flower garden (the "Upper Garden") because it was under reconstruction, but we did see the "Lower" vegetable and fruit garden. What a design! The whole place was so impressive! It was a self-sufficient farm, almost a little town in itself. We also took the little river cruise on the Potomac, and toured the Grist Mill and Distillery. And the Education Center and Museum were so interesting! George and Martha Washington were truly admirable people.

One of my favorite quotes is from Martha Washington: "I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition."

Beautiful veranda.

View from veranda.

Grist Mill.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sock Monkeys!

I love sock monkeys! Yes, I love the old-fashioned ones made with the gray and red socks, but I especially love making sock monkeys with bright and fun patterned socks.
I first made a sock monkey last December when I was asked to teach a sewing class to elementary aged students at the school where my husband is the principal. Hmmm, I thought, what to have them make? I wanted to do something fun and easy, but that would also give them a challenge. I decided sock monkeys would be perfect. Just to be sure, my daughters and I made some first for practice. We sewed them completely by hand, just like my students would. So much fun! We laughed so hard with each new monkey part we completed. They were just SO CUTE! We sould hardly stand it! Those monkeys had to be the most fun project ever! And my little students did a fantastic job and had a lot of fun making their little monkeys.
I had so much fun with those monkeys, that I decided to make some to sell in my Etsy shop. These monkeys are sewn by machine first, then the individual parts are sewn onto the body by hand. I like to embroider the face so that little ones can play with the monkeys without worries about small parts like buttons coming off.

These are my latest monkeys. I love them!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shop Visit

I recently visited the shop where my bags are being sold, "Postcards From Delaware" in the Delaware Welcome Center. I was very impressed with the place. It is a very busy center, and very well done. It was fun and exciting to see my own creations displayed there for sale! I stood in the background and watched people browse, and pick up the things that I had made and look at them. Many of the bags had already sold, and when I returned home from this trip I found that they had ordered 24 more!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Magnificent Niagara Falls

We recently got back from a family vacation to beautiful Niagara Falls. Absolutely magnificent! If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it! The falls were the most powerful, amazing and awesome sight! On my birthday we rode on the Maid of the Mist, which was a wonderful experience. While we were there, we also took the walk behind the falls, rode on the "Whirlpool Aerocar", and went on the whitewater walk. All were great experiences, but my favorite was definitely the Maid of the Mist (and I usually don't even "do" boats!) It was an absolute delight to be down on the water right next to the falls, and get soaking wet! I feel so blessed to have been able to be there and share the experience with my husband and daughters. We all had a great time. The town of Niagara Falls, Canada, is very much a tourist trap, but we still enjoyed it, and even had some fun playing mini golf, going to Ripley's Believe it or Not, and playing arcade games. But the big attraction was definitely the falls. We could stand and stare at them for hours!

We also drove to the nearby town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a lovely drive past vineyards, orchards, and beautiful homes and countryside. The town is very cute and historical, and has nice shops and restaurants (a little pricey, though). On our way back to our hotel we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and bought delicious peaches and cherries. We also saw Lake Ontario, toured Old Fort George, and visited a historic home that survived the war of 1812. It was a fun vacation, and one we will never forget.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Big Birthday Party!

I've been busy, busy lately, getting ready for my eldest daughter's 16th birthday. She decided she wanted a big, tropical themed party, so we gave her one! We had a lot of fun planning, getting party supplies, making decorations, etc. The plan was for the party to take place in the pretty little courtyard at my husband's school. The day of the party came, and we decorated it beautifully. Then, a little over an hour before it was time to start, we found out that a big thunderstorm was on it's way! OH, NO!!!! The forecast had been for a clear, sunny day. But it looked like a storm really was coming, so we decided to move everything inside. We were NOT happy. We quickly took everything down and tried to make the school cafeteria look nice with our decorations. It did look cute, and the birthday girl and all of her guests had a great time. Oh, and guess what? It didn't rain.

This is the cake I made for her:

not perfect, but it turned out pretty cute, I think! It was the first time I ever used fondant, and I even made the fondant! It was pretty easy to make, and not too difficult to work with once I got the hang of it. I found the recipe and directions here:

This is the purse I made for her birthday. She picked out the cute fabrics :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another great vintage remake!

I found this great pink and yellow floral fabric in the form of a vintage bedspread. It reminded me of a pillowcase I had when I was a little girl. (Does that mean I'm vintage???) It was only $2.50, and I just HAD to buy it! I thought about it for a long time before I finally decided to make this baby bag set, which I think turned out so adorable. I even made a cute little dog to go with it :)

I still have a lot of this fabric left. Hmmmm, what shall I do with it?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pantsuit Transformed

This is the latest item I listed in my Etsy shop: a tote bag made from repurposed jeans and a flowery fabric from a vintage pantsuit. I was searching the racks at Goodwill for interesting fabric, and I came across an extremely outdated, unfashionable three piece pantsuit. It was a pair of pants with an elastic waistband, a very large vest with gold buttons on the pockets, and a pair of shorts, again with the elastic waistband. I had to have it! I could just picture the huge blue and purple flowers made into cute, fun purses and bags. I checked the tag, and the fabric was 100% cotton, and it was in perfect condition. I don't think the owner of this suit ever wore it at all. Maybe she re-thought her fashion choice? Good news for me. So far I've made three bags from it, and I have fabric left for more. My husband was with me when I purchased the pantsuit, and he felt the need to explain to the check-out clerk, "She isn't going to wear this. She's going to use the fabric to make some purses." She replied with, " I wasn't going to say anything. I've seen it all here!" I think she may have thought it was for HIM! Poor guy. Maybe I won't make him come along on my next shopping trip.

I wish I had a picture of the pantsuit before I cut it up, but here's one of another purse made with the fabric: