Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An Easy DIY Fall Table Runner Anyone Can Make

 This scenic picture was taken during one of my trips to New Hampshire.

Seasonal craft fairs are my kind of fun. But I’ve found something almost as good: a friend who frequents the "Sugar Plum Festivals" in Southern Cal and buys items which transforms the atmosphere of her home, inside and out. You can be sure whenever a holiday approaches I pay her a visit. 

Every year she seems to add something new. Last October it was several strands of orange pumpkin lights hung above the entry way. Very cute.

The table runner goes perfect with the sign which my sis gave me.

Another time it was an eye-catching table runner (similar to one in above photo) with colorful flowers and leaves. It was so charming I had to ask: “Where did you get that? It’s darling.” If I remember right, she told me, “Oh, I bought it online after the holidays. It was the last one and I got it for 90% off!”

A few weeks later I got to admire it again and took a closer look at how it was made. Then it dawned on me: “Ah, this is my type of craft! No sewing machine required. I could make this!” Being that Nancy and I are good friends I asked her if she would mind if I created one for myself. A short time later she was at her printer making a color copy of her runner so I’d have a visual from which to create a pattern. 

A few inexpensive supplies are all you need!

When chilly weather arrived, I gathered together my supplies and while I watched TV each evening, began to work on the table runner. I’m not a great seamstress, but the end result of this homespun project came out better than I expected. It's not perfect, but it got my sister's seal of approval so that's good enough for me. 

It's been tucked away in the buffet since last November, but earlier this month got to return to the ol' maple table. I love how it brightens up my kitchen.

Then last week, while sitting at the table to plan future blog content it struck me: this table runner might make an interesting story. Maybe even be the easy DIY project someone is hoping to find on Pinterest! One that is pleasing to the eye, doesn’t cost much to make, and can be done quickly . . . or over a span of weeks.

Each flower design uses different colors of felt.

Only a few materials are needed (felt, thread, and needle) and the required skill level is minimal. If you can thread a needle and know three simple stitches you are good to go. Don't know the stitches? Pretty sure instructions can be found online, or in a book at your local library. Better yet, if your grandma lives nearby ask her if she knows how to embroider. Most likely she does and would be delighted to help you with this project.

So, what will it be? Go to a holiday craft fair or create your own fun and make a table runner?


P.S.  I do have an instruction sheet for the table runner I made. If you'd like a free copy leave a comment below, and also enter your email in box at top of page + click “submit” button.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

7 Books Worth Your Time and Money!

Enjoyed the photos in this unique book: "Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their books"

Seven books have my attention these days: a memoir, a non-fiction work, four novels, and one novella. 

Curious to know their titles and what each is about? Good, because that’s what I came to write about today.

Let’s start with this new release.

Product Details

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon – They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Not in this case. “Come Rain or Come Shine's" attractive cover sparkles and so does the story inside!

This new title, #13 in the popular Mitford Series, returns us to that quaint town (Mitford) where Father Tim and his wife Cynthia reside, along with a few eccentric characters guaranteed to make us laugh. But in this delightful page turner, the upcoming wedding of Dooley and Lace is the focus. That is until “Choo-Choo” the bull makes his appearance, along with an endearing new personality, Jack Tyler. 

As always, Karon weaves wisdom, along with humor, sweet surprises, and tender exchanges in her writing. By the books end I wanted to pack my suitcases and move to Mitford. Pretty sure you will too. Page length: 287

(Note: I do not recommend the audio version. The quick changing scenes in the story are hard to detect creating confusion at times.)

Product Details

The Source by James Michener – This book is not new, and not short. Anyone who tackles the 1,104 page tome (equal to over 50 hours on audio) deserves a reward. Whew! I'm at the 40 hour mark and determined to make it to the end.

The novel starts with an archaeological dig at an unearthed city discovered in 20th century Israel. Soon, though, the story shifts back in time when evidence turns up at the site, revealing multiple levels of civilization. You acquire an expansive view of history as Michener develops his story using various findings at the dig to move us through the centuries. 

Yes, it’s a long book, requires perseverance to finish it, and may not be 100% biblical, but it’s giving me exactly what I wanted: a better understanding of Israel’s past. 

(Note: Audio version is quite good!

Product Details

Daddy’s Gone a Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark – She’s been writing suspense novels for years. But unlike many books out there these days, hers are free of foul language, sex, and other objectionable material. How refreshing! This particular title I listened to on audio and though it isn’t exceptional, it kept my interest and made for enjoyable reading/listening each afternoon by the pool. I always like to see if I can solve the mystery before the guilty party is revealed and Clark usually keeps me guessing to the very end. Length: 9 hours

Product Details

The Pilgrim by Davis Bunn. – I’m familiar with this accomplished writer so when I spotted his latest book, (released in September, 2015) at my library I snatched it up.

The setting for this historical fiction is Israel during the time of Roman rule when persecution of Christians was rampant.

The main character is Helena, former empress who has been stripped of her marriage, title, home and more but as a believer responds to God’s call to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is a perilous journey which she anticipates will result in her death. Though based on legend Bunn did a masterful job in creating a novel where you too feel like a pilgrim, walking for days on the hot, dusty roads to Jerusalem where the cross of Christ awaits . . . and altered by the experience. This is a book I would read again! Length:165 pages

Product Details

Life Lessons From the Hiding Place by Pam Rosewell Moore -- Among my library at home are 13 books either by, or about, Corrie ten Boom. Why do I need to read or own another? Simply because this title is by someone who traveled and cared for Corrie more than five years, and includes information other titles about Corrie do not contain. There's also this reason: I never tire of learning about this woman whose life continues to inspire others and honor God. Though I've not finished this book I've already benefited from it and have no regrets in buying it. Page length: 241

Product Details

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett -- This 120 page novella was added to my “Want to Read List” a year ago. I kept seeing positive reviews about it and since literature was its underlying theme I had to give it a try.

The Queen of England is the story’s central character who, unexpectedly, discovers the joy of reading when she spots a mobile library outside her residence. Curiosity takes over and as she becomes acquainted with the option to check out books, she becomes an avid reader, much to the dislike of her staff and advisers. As she reads a variety of titles she is transformed by their content which alters how she sees herself and her role as Monarch. Sounds like a serious read, but trust me, it’s not.

It’s a charming little book, well written, and expands your understanding of the British ways. But I must warn you: it contains some objectionable content. I hesitate to recommend it for that reason, but wanted you to be aware of its good qualities and let you decide whether to read it or not.

Product Details

Life is Mostly Edges by Calvin Miller -- I've not reached the end of this very candid memoir but what I have read I like. So much so that I want to give it a separate post, plus tell you about the time I heard this gifted writer/poet speak at a Christian Booksellers Convention who silenced us with his words.  

While today's post has been all about books, next week a DIY table runner for Fall will be my topic. Hope you'll return to see this colorful craft.

P.S. Any of the books today pique your interest? If so, do let me know in the comment section below! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

How I Chose a Great Children's Book for Story Time

I read more than 50 books last month! Impressive, huh? Well, you won’t think so once you hear most of them were children’s books.

There was a reason for my reading so many titles: I was asked to do Story Time for a group of preschoolers and was searching for a book they'd enjoy. I actually wanted to read more titles, but with only days left before the scheduled event I forced myself to stop and make a choice. “Duck and Goose” ended up the winner. Runner up was “It’s (Not) Mine,” another fun read. 

Enjoyed reading to this attentive group. All attend Community Christian Academy, Hemet, CA

Now that Story Time is past it seems a shame to not pass along my findings. If you are like me, I lean on book recommendations from others. With so many titles out there it’s wonderful to have others steer you towards a good read. So, with that in mind, here are a few titles which merit recommending from my recent hours of research and reading, plus a few of my all-time-favorites for beginner readers.

What is my criteria?

For anyone interested, the criteria I keep in mind when evaluating a children’s picture book is noted below: (Not interested? Just skip this section and go right to the book listings.)  
  • Story: Does the book keep child’s interest, entertain or teach a lesson? Is it too wordy or long for little ones who have a short attention span? Is it an exceptional story and truly original, or is it predictable and boring?
  • Writing: Did the author use correct grammar and words familiar to intended age level of audience? Are concepts easy to grasp/understand for age of reader?                                   
  • Visual appeal. Does the art assist in telling the story or does it distract? Is the type easy to read? Too small? Placed wrong on page?  

Enough criteria. Let’s get to the books.

Duck and Goose by Tim Hills. This book succeeds in every way. Colorful. Not too much copy. Fun story with a teaching element about sharing, but a few words are too advanced for pre-schoolers. The "frog who burps" offers a bit of humor making up for the book's one weakness. Yep, both parents and kids will go for this title. Note: Best to read this title first, which introduce the characters, before going on to 11 others in series. 40 pages.

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, also by Tim Hills. Very few words in this simple story. Suggest you read it to your child prior to heading to the pumpkin patch this October. Ideal for children, age 2-3, or any beginner readers. Graphics are rich and colorful. This is a 22-page, large, board book. 

That’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang. A big shout out to the book’s designer who knows the value of white space, proper size type, and drawing characters with expressions that tie in perfectly with copy. A terrific book for a parent trying to help their child learn to share. 

You Are (Not) Small also by Kang is equally good. Comical and interesting way to teach children how to see themselves correctly. This 32-page book is the winner of the 2015 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award. 

Let’s Go For a Drive by Mo Willems. Take one elephant and a pig and what have you got? An adorable series. This one starts with one great idea that requires a wonderful friend and teamwork. Length: 64 pages. Ideal for a young reader. (Note: Anytime you see a Theodore Seuss Geisel Award sticker on the cover of a book take notice. Those books rarely disappoint.) 

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamarra. One of my favorite titles I read to classes who visited the library each October. Book is loaded with oodles of information. Got good participation from students when I brought in a pumpkin and asked everyone to guess how many seeds were in it . . . and later disclosed actual seed count. Author wins my vote for how she incorporated math and science while telling a good story. 40 pages.

10 Little RubberDucks by Eric Carle. I'm a fan of this artist/author who wows kids with his unique style. In this title children are taught their basic numbers (1-10) via a story about a box of yellow ducks which topple off a ship. As they drift and separate from each other, one little plastic duck ends up part of a “real” family of ducks. Like the surprise ending.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. I can see why this book is a bestseller and award winner. It is charming, funny, and imaginative -- due mostly to the clever writing found in letters penned by various crayon colors to their owner, Duncan. Parents will enjoy this title as much as kids. Best suited for children, age 5 and up. Length: 40 pages.

Books for young readers

In a future post I will give you more recommendations for young readers. But for today, here are two books by an author who is on my favorites list.

Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo. Love this 6-book series about a winsome pig. The short chapters and artwork appeal to kids and adults. 80 pages.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo. This is the first title in a new series she has developed called:Tales from Deckawoo Drive, 96 pages. Illustrations are super. 

Now it's time for me to get back to my normal reading material: wholesome novels, a couple biographies, and quite a few non fiction works. 

Late last night I started "Life Lessons from the Hiding Place" by Pam Moore. It's a captivating read and I've barely begun. But then, I cherish learning about this remarkable woman called Corrie ten Boom. Though no longer alive God still uses her life and words in profound ways. 

Enjoyed telling you about my world. Thanks for giving up your precious time to read my words. 

P.S. If you were asked to read at Story Time what book would you choose? I return to those preschoolers in November so suggestions are wanted. So too are people to "subscribe" to my blog at top of page. Hint. Hint. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to Make Apple Cider the Old Fashioned Way

Lake Winnipeasukee region in NH is where this red barn still stands. 

There’s a big red barn in New Hampshire that I reminisce about each fall. The large structure sits on a lovely plot of land with a huge garden area and apple orchard out back. Whenever those trees produce a stellar crop the owners send out an alert to friends: “It’s time to make apple cider!”

I happened to be visiting my close friend, Wini, who lives in the picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee region, when I learned of her invite to come join in the fun. Guess who got to tag along?  

The family who live in this house love to share and bless others. 

The weather was crisp and chilly that October day so we bundled up in jackets, slipped on rain boots, added stuffed mittens in our pockets, made sure we took a camera before we zoomed down the road. A few minutes later we pulled into the driveway of a lovely two-story house whose porch was all spruced up with fall d├ęcor: pumpkins, corn stalks, gourds, and more. Out back stood the big red barn.

In a matter of minutes they go from apples, to mush, to apple cider! 

I mingled awhile with others until crates of vibrant colored, handpicked apples caught my attention. Out came the camera. Next, I noticed a large contraption which I gathered was a very old cider press. Standing nearby were a few college-age students dressed in their finest: grungy t-shirts, jeans, shoes and baseball caps. Apparently cider making is very messy so clothing destined for the trash bin is preferred. (Must keep that in mind for my next trip east.) 

Toss 'er in and press 'er down. Then watch out for flying apples.
A short time later someone switched on the press and from then on it was non-stop-action. The students tossed apples into the top of the machine to be ground up and pushed down into screened boxes below. Now and then an apple would fly back out the top and occasionally a guy or gal would not duck in time and get clobbered. Ouch! 

She may be old, but this cider press works perfect.

While some tossed apples, two guys closely monitored the machine. It was their job to constantly empty out and then replace the screens full of apple “mush” once the juice was extracted by the press. Gravity forced the juice to flow downward onto a tray and then via a spout to a waiting empty container. Once full the jug, or make-shift recipticle, quickly got switched out and just as quickly an empty one appeared. 

Having no desire to get creamed by a dislodged apple or slip in mush, I opted to take photos that day. Other guests watched from inside the barn while enjoying sips of cider and tasty snacks. 

Here's to our friendship of 45 years and the season called Fall!

At the end of the day the crop produced over 20 gallons of cider! Each of us was given a free gallon to take home. Unfortunately, I had to decline as I knew TSA would confiscate the jug at the airport. They had done it before when on a previous return flight from NH a security person stole took my store bought, unopened and sealed tight, large jar of pumpkin butter. The stinker.

Thankfully, no one can steal my red barn memory. Not even the TSA.

Happy October everyone. Now go have some cider or buy a pumpkin!


P.S. Have a favorite fall memory or tale involving the TSA? Oh, do share, please!