Category Archives: Family Stuff

I grew up with four funny, fabulous sisters who couldn’t be more different. We’re loud, creative, rambunctious, hilarious and competitive, especially when croquet or boardgames are involved. We’re a mixed bag, but we fit together really well. Yes, my family is kind of kookie, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Rest in Peace, My Sweet Boy

RIP Ziggy

26 Comments

March 28, 2013 · 2:55 PM

Photo Tutorial: How to Make Felt Mice and The One That Got Away

Felt Mouse Tutorial - 1Header with Text

You asked for it; you got it. Following my post on the felt mouse invasion we launched upon my sister’s new home in the country, some of you requested a step-by-step tutorial on how to make them. Here’s my attempt. If you have any questions at the end of this, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to clarify.

To start, print my mouse pattern on an 8.5″ x 11″ standard sheet of paper.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Printed Pattern

There are two patterns on the page – one for a large mouse and one for a small. Cut the page in half, and then you can decide if you’d like to make a large or small meeska buddy. For this tutorial, I’m using the large.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Pattern Cut in Half

Carefully cut out the pattern pieces. I like to cut just outside the line since it will be trimmed off as I cut the felt. I’m a visual person & this helps me somehow.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Cut Out Pattern Pieces

Next, you will need:
1 felt square in the color of your choice for the body
1 felt square (or piece of one) in a contrasting color for ears
embroidery thread (also called floss) that matches the body color
quilt batting or cotton balls for stuffing
an embroidery needle with a sharp point
black beads or buttons for eyes (2 per mouse)
small black pompom for nose (1 per mouse)
black embroidery thread for whiskers
sharp scissors & clear craft glue

I decided on a pale grey felt for this tutorial because it photographs well. For the ears, I chose black to show off the stitching. So, let’s get started.

First, fold your body felt so that it’s wide enough to fit the main pattern piece.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Place Body Pattern on Fold

The long straight edge on the left should lay directly on the edge of the fold. You can pin the pattern pieces down if it helps, or simple hold tight and cut along the arched edge of the pattern. Sharp scissors are a must for me.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Body Cut on Fold

At this point, I like to go ahead and cut out all the pieces. I’m a process girl – cut all the pieces, stitch all the pieces, connect all the pieces.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Pattern Pieces Cut Out

If you’re not a certified anal retentive like me, you can cut & work one piece at a time. It’s really a matter of whatever you’re comfortable with. Once you’re ready to sew, the first step is to pick a thread color that matches the body.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Pick a Thread That Matches the Body Color

I chose this nice grey shade; it’s a great match. Did you notice the spool? It’s actually a foam wine cork. Can we sidetrack for a minute? I want to show you how I reorganized my embroidery thread. I was inspired by a bag of horribly tangled embroidery thread and some heavy cursing (don’t ask).

Felt Mouse Tutorial - My Organized Thread Box

After untangling all my embroidery thread, I grabbed my jar of foam corks and a sharp paring knife. First, I cut a slit in the top of each cork; then I cut out a shallow “V” notch at the top of the slit.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Corked Embroidery Thread

Using a strip of blue painter’s tape, I secured one end to the side of the cork. I then wrapped then entire skein of embroidery thread around the cork, leaving approximately 1 1/2 to 2″ as a ‘tail’ to tuck into the slit on top. The ‘V’ helps you find the slit in the top of the cork (because corks tend to self-heal when cut) and the deep slit holds the thread firmly in place. Once all your thread is corked, they can be easily stored in a metal tin or plastic tub with a lid. I used this metal tin because it was big enough to lay all the corks flat, which made it easier to see which colors I have. It also gave me enough room to store a pin cushion, extra packages of needles, a pair of scissors and a small embroidery hoop. I love it.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - My Embroidery Box

Now back to the mice! I like to use an embroidery needle with a nice deep hole because I’m turning 50 in March and it would take me all day to thread a smaller needle – even with reading glasses. Here’s a snap of what I’m talking about, in case you decide to pick some up at your local craft store.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Embroidery Needle With Deep Eye

That deep, wide hole makes it easy to thread embroidery thread through the eye of the needle. It’s especially handy if you’re using all 6 strands at once. Did I just lose the beginners? Let me clarify. Embroidery thread is made up of 6 strands of thread twisted together. If you want bold stitching, you use all 6 threads. If not, you can separate out threads to use as many as you like. For stitching up these mice, I used 3 threads (except for the whiskers, when I used all 6). It helps to cut the length of thread you want to use BEFORE trying to separate threads. I like to work with a piece about 18″ long most of the time.

So, starting with a needle threaded with 3 strands of your embroidery thread, grab the body felt, fold it in half (just as you did when you cut it) and let’s start at the bottom (or wide) end. I use a straight stitch for this.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Evenly Spaced Stitches are Key

Unless you’re planning to fashion a costume for your mouse, it’s important to keep your stitches evenly spaced. It makes a big difference in how the finished mouse looks. Just take your time. When you reach the tip of the nose, tie a good knot, then run your needle through the felt into the cavity of the body. Cutting the thread inside the mouse hides any loose ends when it’s knotted. I do this to all the pieces to make the finished part neater. When done, it will look like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Body - Stitched on the Curved Side

If you have a bag of quilt batting (fluffy filler) lying around the house, grab it. If not, you can use cotton balls. They’re much cheaper than a bag of quilt batting, and you won’t need many to stuff a mouse. I find that 6-10 cotton balls are usually enough to stuff a large mouse. First, I like to stretch them out and fluff them up a little. It makes for a less lumpy mouse.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Stuffing - Cotton Ball Stretched Out

Grab a cotton ball ‘strip’ and gently stuff it down into the nose. If it helps, you can close your scissors and use the pointy end to gently push the cotton into the tip of the nose. Then add additional cotton until the mouse is filled.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Stuff Lightly With Cotton Balls or Batting

When I first started, I overstuffed my mice to the point that they were too firm. I didn’t think much of it until I tried to sew on the other body parts. If your mouse is overstuffed with filler, you’ll have a hard time running your needle through the body to attach other pieces. Plus, I’ve found that a less-stuffed mouse just looks better. When I’m happy with how stuffed my mouse is, I like to form a ring of cotton to put at the very bottom.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Stuffing - Finish with a Cotton Coil

That little cotton ring forms a base so your mouse will sit up properly when he’s done. Now grab your circle you cut for the bottom and let’s put it into place.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Bottom - Placing the Bottom Panel

Grab your needle and thread and stitch the bottom onto the mouse. As usual, if you start your knot inside the body cavity it won’t show when it’s finished.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Bottom - Hide Knot Inside Before Stitching

Watch your stitching so it’s evenly spaced again. This part is going to show.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Attaching the Bottom

When you’re done, tie a good knot to secure it and trim the loose threads at the end off. If you start and end at the ‘spine’ seam, you won’t have to worry about the knot showing. We’re going to cover it with the tail later.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Parts - Prepped & Ready to Assemble

And now you’re ready to assemble the other body parts. Try not to notice that some of mine are already finished in the background of that photo. We’ll get to all of those in a minute. For now, let’s start with the ears. Grab one of your ‘outside’ pieces and center the contrasting center piece on top.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Matching Ear Pieces

Feel free to move the inside color around until it’s centered and you’re happy with the way it looks. If it overhangs the outside color at the bottom edge, just trim off the excess felt. Once you’re happy with it, grab your needle and stitch it down. I love to use the body color so it shows up as contrast stitching on the ear. Again, I like to start with my knot on the back side so it doesn’t show.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Ear - Hiding the Starting Knot

I’m not sure what this stitch is officially called, but I like to run my needle past the next stitch, then come back to make each ‘loop’. Why? Because it allows me to barely run my needle through the depth of the grey felt so my stitches aren’t as noticeable on the back of each ear.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Ear - Detail Stitch Shown

If you’re not concerned about the back of the ears, just do a regular stitch to secure it. You’re using embroidery thread in the body color, so it’s not a big deal. Again, I’m anal retentive and I tend to get hung up on little details like that. I apologize. Here’s what it looks like when it’s done:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Ear - Finished Detail Stitch

You don’t need to worry about tying a knot at the end, because we’re going to immediately fold the ear in half at the bottom edge and stitch it closed.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Fold Ear in Half at Bottom Edge

Stitch across the straight edge at the bottom of the ear, just as you did when you sewed the body together, then tie a knot to secure it. All done!

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Ear

Now do the same to the other ear, and we’re ready to stitch them onto the body. I like to start by placing the first ear (facing forward, of course) about 1″ from the tip of the nose, and about 1/3″ to 1/2″ from the seam of the ‘spine’. Then stitch it down (be careful not to go through the mouse and out the other side or you’ll sew your mouse shut); knot it and snip off the end. Like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Attaching the First Ear

To make sure I get the second ear in the correct position, I line it up like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - To Place 2nd Ear - Line Up with First

You can pin it into place if that helps. Just make sure you reach inside the mouse body to make sure you’re not pinning or sewing all the way through the other side. Once both ears are attached, you can pry them open and move them up or down a little until you like how they look.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - The Ears Are On

Ready to make a tail? Me, too! Grab your tail piece and make sure you have enough thread in your needle. I hate to start a piece and have to stop and tie knots in the middle. Once I start a piece, I like to go to the end without stopping. I know! I told you I have issues! Don’t be like me. Just grab your tail (heehee)… I mean grab your mouse tail, and fold it in half at the bottom edge. We’re going to sew it up just like we did the body.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Fold Tail in Half & Start Stitching at Base

Do you have a problem with your nails getting brittle and splitting and breaking off in the winter? I do. Drives me crazy. Anywho, stitch up your mouse tail until you get as close to the tip as possible. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Fold Tail in Half & Stitch Edge to Tip

The more narrow that tail gets, the tougher it is to stitch it shut. When it’s done, it should look something like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Tail

Now grab your mouse body, and we’ll attach it at the ‘spine’ seam.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Attaching the Tail

I find it easier to flip him upside down.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Tail - Line Up Tail w Base - Tail Pointing to Head

And now your tail is attached. Here’s the bonus to all that tail stitching – it gives it enough structure to bend and shape the tail any way you want, which gives your mouse more personality. You can thank me later. So now you’re ears and tail are on. Congratulations! You’re almost finished.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Almost There

Let’s move on to arms. I think the arms are what makes these mice so adorable. And versatile. A mouse with arms can do just about anything. More on that later. For now, grab an arm piece and we’ll stitch it up just like we did the tail – starting at the flat end. Stop when you get to the part where the palm flares, and secure with a strong knot. I like to run the thread back down through the arm before I cut it so the knot doesn’t show.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Tuck the Thread Tail Down Into Arm

Here’s where I just get crazy stupid excited. I LOVE making these arms and hands. It adds so much personality to your mouse. And it’s seriously fun. Grab your scissors, and let’s start cutting fingers for your mouse.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Hand - Cutting the First Finger

Using sharp scissors, remove little curved triangles to form 4 fingers.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Hands - Trim Triangles Out to form Fingers

Gah! Isn’t that adorable? I just love these little mouse hands.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Arm

When both hands are done, we’re ready to stitch the arms on. I like to attach them both at the same time by pinching them together on the ‘spine’ seam.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Arms - Attaching to Body at the Spine

I really stitch these down well, so I’ll go over it twice before I knot it off. Here’s what I mean when I say arms give these mice such character.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - One Body Down - One Face To Go

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Yo - Can a Mouse Get a Face Here

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Papa Can You See Me

See? They don’t even have faces yet, and they’re starting to come to life. This must be what being an animator feels like. Please say you’re just as crazy about this as I am so I don’t feel like a total craft geek. Please.

Maybe we should just move on to faces. Every mouse needs whiskers. For this, I use all 6 strands of the embroidery thread. Tying a knot about 1″ from the end, I pull the needle through the end of the snout (about 1/4″ from the tip). The knot stops the whiskers from pulling all the way through.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Sewing Whiskers Onto Snout

Once it’s through, cut the second side to the same length as the first (1″). To secure them, I use a toothpick and apply a small dab of clear craft glue at the base of both sides of the whiskers. Tip: just as wax is used by men to keep handlebar mustaches in line, so goes Chapstick for wee little mousetaches – keeps those whiskers separated & stylish.

Next, we’ll place the eyes. If I’m not sure where I want to put them, I grab a few straight pins with the balls on the end. I just keep jabbing the mouse in the head until I like how it looks. If you need to, mark the spot with a pencil.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Testing Eye Placement With Pins

I buy shiny round beads for the eyes and tiny pompoms for noses. (They love me at Hobby Lobby.) Once I sew them down, I hit them with a dab of clear craft glue just to make sure they’re securely attached.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Beady Eyes & PomPom Nose

You’re done! Now you’re free to embellish your mouse any way you see fit. For this one, I created a flower from an antique button. I thought it would be sweet to have her holding a flower, since she’s making new friends here.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Mouse - Hello Cutie

It almost looks like a bridal bouquet. Which is an insight into how my mind works. Now that I’ve seen her and thought ‘bridal bouquet’, there’s a good chance I’ll end up making a wedding dress and veil for her. Because in my mind, more is more; and more is better.

And that brings me to The One That Got Away from Sister #4.

My Big Sister and I started this mouse project separately, but there came a time during the summer when Mom decided to visit and Big Sis decided to join us. At that time, we committed to combining the mouse tribes into one big happy family and finish it together so we could tag them and box them up in one tidy bundle. We made the last few mice together while sipping cocktails and chatting around the living room coffee table.

And that’s where Grandpa FisherMouse came to life. He was the very last mouse I crafted, and I fell so head-over-heels for him, I told the girls I wasn’t sure I could turn loose of him. I mean… could you?

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Grandpa FisherMouse - Basket Side

I just love him. He has a fishing net with a few small fish in it. And a fishing pole with one on the hook (and there’s a bobber on the line). He even has a fishing vest with teeny tiny buttons and a trout basket.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Grandpa FisherMouse - Vest Close-Up

This is where that anal retentive attention to detail comes into play. Sometimes I can’t stop myself. He has a little print bandana, a black felt hat, and I even braided a band to go around the hat. He reminds me of the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’ – which may be why I’m obsessed with him. There’s a slight chance it might be tied to my deep and abiding love of Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and the great state of Montana. Maybe-ish. Whatever – he’s mine (my preciousss).

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Grandpa FisherMouse

Sorry, Sister #4. I love ya’ and all, but you’re not getting this one. :)
Maybe I should make him a canoe out of toothpicks & popsicle sticks…

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Filed under Craft Projects, Family Stuff

We love meeces to pieces.

I have four sisters. I am #2 of five. This fall, Sister #4 and her husband built a new house in the country, so for Thanksgiving the entire family gathered to celebrate the holiday at their new place. Being the mischievous crafters we are, Big Sis and I decided to break in the new house with an invasion. Of mice. Don’t panic. This collection won’t require pest control; just some of #4’s time. You see, before everyone left for home – these were hidden all over her new house.

House Mice - The Full Line-Up

This might very well be the first time she’s seen the entire line-up. At last count, one or two still hadn’t been found (4 weeks later). Heh heh. I think everyone in the family is laughing except for her. From what I’ve heard, Baby Sister got pretty creative with hiding places. Those last few may never be found.

I’m sharing this with you because it has been almost torturous to keep this to myself for this long. Our little project started this summer when Big Sis and I found a photo of felt mice on Pinterest which got us thinking. What if we made all types of mice and gave them themes or specific rooms to hide in?

Enter the Kitchen Mouse:

House Mouse - Breakfast Over Easy

Her apron, bottle cap skillet and toothpick wire whisk inspired a legion of others – all hand crafted with love and attention to detail. For instance, Big Sis created the Country Mouse complete with overalls, a bucket & straw in his mouth. Perhaps he could sit on a windowsill overlooking their back meadow.

House Mice - The Country Mouse

Sister #4 loves embroidery, so I made her a Crafting Mouse.

House Mice - The Crafter

And since they are voracious readers and the new living room is filled with big beautiful book shelves, Big Sis upped the ante with a Book Worm Mouse.

House Mice - The Book Worm

I responded with The Artist Mouse, because while our brother-in-law is a fire captain by trade, he is a painter at heart and has a new art studio at the house to show for it. Every studio should have a mascot. Right?

House Mice - The Artist

For fun, Big Sis added a few colorful hippie mice.

House Mice - The Hippie Sisters

And I pulled together a teal sweetie pie bearing flowers as a housewarming gift…

House Mice - The Florist

and this little Glamor Puss for their granddaughter, Zoey. This mouse is a diva.

House Mice - The Glamor Girl

Not to be outdone, Big Sis went for broke with the Racy Lingerie Mouse. She’s the floozy of the bunch. It was hidden in #4’s undies drawer.

House Mice - Racy Lingerie Mouse

She followed up with some really psychedelic party mice.

House Mice - The Funky Bunch

I thought we needed a mouse nesting in laundry lint to hide behind the dryer,

House Mice - Dust Bunny

and this one for the pantry. I call him Mr. Beans.

House Mice - Mr. Beans

And there were more. Twenty-two mice in total. All bearing sweet little tags that said “Congratulations on your new home. We’re so happy we could SQUEAK!” I don’t know which mouse was found first, but I do know it made cleaning up after a house full of company a lot more fun. And we had a blast making them.

House Mice - The Whole Gang

Rumor has it they are now populating a Christmas tree. Enjoy your new friends, Sister #4. Congrats on your new home. We can’t wait to visit again.

Until then… leave a light on.

House Mice - The Watcher

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Deep in the Heart of Texas

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. No phones. No internet. No distractions. Just peace & quiet. The Complete Package found such a place – a respite from the big city – deep in the heart of Texas. It’s called St. Clare’s Cabin and it was perfection. Here’s a photo journal of our week in the country.

LeakeyTX - St Clare's Cabin

Nestled in a valley near the Sabinal River, St. Clare’s Cabin is between the towns of Leakey and Vanderpool, Texas and only 8 miles or so from Lost Maples State Park. Everything about the cabin’s location is scenic.

LeakeyTX - Cabin Entry

LeakeyTX - Welcome to St Clares

What a wonderful surprise to walk into such a warm, cozy and beautifully decorated home. I think I want to live here. Permanently.

LeakeyTX - Cabin from Bedroom Doors

LeakeyTX - Cabin View from Front Door

I love the dining nook table. It is handcrafted with an inlaid state of Texas in the middle and a star marking the cabin’s location. It’s all about the details.

LeakeyTX - Dining Nook

Here’s a close-up of that equestrian collage hanging over the dining table.

LeakeyTX - Equestrian Collage

This is what it means when someone says “the decorator paid such great attention to detail.” Every touch at St. Clare’s Cabin was thoughtfully placed.

LeakeyTX - Front Porch Love

LeakeyTX - Retro Picnic Decor

LeakeyTX - Cozy Kitchen

LeakeyTX - Gorgeous Dishes

LeakeyTX - Cute Country Bath

LeakeyTX - Bathroom Touches

I’m not ashamed to say I squealed like a little girl when I saw that the cabin was decorated in retro Christmas. I absolutely loved it!

LeakeyTX - Holiday Fireplace

LeakeyTX - Christmas Mantle

LeakeyTX - Pinnochio Tree Topper

Speaking of Christmas, as soon as we got there, Dobie (our Christmas Shelf Elf) found a fun new buddy to hang out with. Literally.

LeakeyTX - Wild Boar & Elf

When he got bored with the boar (ha-ha), he stayed busy pranking the kids. He was found swinging from the shower rod, soaking in a mini-marshmallow bath, and climbing a decorative shutter in the kitchen. I think he was motivated by that little Hershey bar. He’s definitely my kind of elf.

LeakeyTX - Elf Climbing for Candy

After snacking on chocolate, we found him napping in the tissue box. I think it was the only time he sat still all week. He’s an active, mischievous little elf.

LeakeyTX - Elf Treats & Nap

Speaking of sleeping, St. Clare’s Cabin has two lovely bedrooms, each with a queen bed (one firm, one soft). The first was decorated in a cowboy theme.

LeakeyTX - The Cowboy Bedroom

The second paid tribute to a long-lost relative and his military service. Both bedrooms had limestone floor, quilts made by the owner, and hand-embroidered pillow shams. Again with the details. Love, love, love it. Very sweet.

LeakeyTX - Second Bedroom

Also sweet? The cabin’s large front porch. I love a screened porch – a love directly traced back to my maternal grandmother who lived on the Red River outside of Denison, Texas. I have many, many fond memories of playing on her porch. I’m not sure there’s anything better than a cabin with a big screened porch, unless it’s a porch with a swing. Ever slept on a screened porch on a beautiful summer night? It’s a little piece of heaven.

LeakeyTX - St Clares Cabin & Kids

LeakeyTX - Porch View of Front Yard

The fenced yard is huge, and I loved this cute tin-topped table & chairs.

LeakeyTX - Porch Table at Cabin

We invited our daughter, son-in-law and two grandkids to join us for a weekend. I think they enjoyed the cabin as much as we did, but Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug reeeeealy loved it. They took full advantage of the great outdoors.

They fell in love with the creek that lines one side of the property.

LeakeyTX - Creek at the Cabin

Or maybe it was the plethora of limestone rocks they could toss into the creek.

LeakeyTX - Kids at the Creek

Over and over and over again – for two straight days.

LeakeyTX - Jonah Tossing Rocks

And then there was the hammock. Those kids loved that hammock.

LeakeyTX - Jonah & Lilly Hammock

LeakeyTX - Lilly in Hammock

We also loved exploring this part of the Texas Hill Country. The Complete Package and I took a different scenic drive every day we were there. I had no idea this part of the state was so lovely.

LeakeyTX - Sabinal River Cypress

LeakeyTX - Scenic Drive - Bluffs

LeakeyTX - Preparing to Cross

LeakeyTX - River Crossing near Concan

LeakeyTX - View of Bluff at Sunset

LeakeyTX - Longhorns

LeakeyTX - Gang of Wild Turkeys

Those are wild turkeys, folks. We saw gangs of them – running amok, causing trouble and tagging cars late at night. It left me wondering how good one of these would be baked up for Christmas Dinner. And then I found myself craving a whiskey & Coke and a turkey sandwich. {heehee}

Each night, I found myself looking forward to sitting by the fire pit with a roaring campfire, or swinging in the hammock as the sun set over the valley, or gazing at a pitch black sky late at night with the brightest stars you’ve ever seen, or curling up in my favorite spot by the window gazing at the mountains.

LeakeyTX - My Baby in the Window

That’s My Baby. She’s keeping my spot warm. Thanks, honey! She’s a good girl.

And now that we’re home, I’m already thinking about our next visit to St. Clare’s Cabin. It’s so lovely in the fall, I want to see it in the spring when the creek is flush and the wildflowers are blooming. And I want to go back in the summer when the rivers are running at capacity and everyone descends on the Frio and Guadalupe Rivers to float in inner tubes and getting a little too sunburned. I want to soak up the fresh air, enjoy the peace & quiet, and watch those gorgeous Hill Country sunsets. And I want to do it as often as possible.

LeakeyTX - Sunset at St Clares Cabin

Want more information on vacation rentals? I highly recommend our two favorite “By Owner” websites – Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and HomeAway. As with any ‘by owner’ site, the key is to do your homework, read descriptions thoroughly, stick to rentals that include plenty of pictures so you see what you’re getting, and rely on the reviews written by others who’ve stayed there. We’ve rented on these two websites at least 8-10 times, and we have never, ever been disappointed. If you’d like to visit the St. Clare’s Cabin Retreat website, click here.

So… where do you go when YOU want to get away?

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Filed under Family Stuff, Travel Tales

Tuesday Tidbits

Is it just me, or is the week after a holiday a little depressing? No more turkey. No more dressing. No more pie. Just laundry and dust bunnies and empty pantry shelves. In an effort to recapture last week, I’ve been pouring over last week’s photos. Some were taken in Tulsa, where we spent a few days with The Complete Package’s family. Others were taken east of Dallas, where my family gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving & Christmas (we call it Thanxmas) and my sister’s new house in the country. Here’s a sampling from our week.

Tulsa Fall Color – this year the trees were glorious

Tulsa Tradition – No trip to Tulsa is complete without a stop downtown at Coney Island, where they’ve served the best chili dogs I’ve ever eaten since 1926. I don’t mean that I started eating them in 1926. I mean they’ve been serving them since 1926. Although I’m pretty sure I could 1926 of them, given enough time. And Fritos. And Alka Seltzer.

Tulsa Rose Garden – Surprisingly, there were still roses in bloom. Lucky me!

In the country, east of Dallas – nothing but peace & quiet & family

Sunsets in the country are just more spectacular somehow. So is star gazing. We don’t get to see the stars much in Houston with our bright lights and our urban sprawl. But out here, away from town, the sky seems darker and the stars shine brighter. Add a campfire and a cocktail, and it’s almost perfect. Oh, wait. The grandbabies were there this year, so it WAS perfect!

You had to know there’d be a gratuitous shot of the grandkids in there somewhere, right? I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with the people you’re thankful for. And I wish you a happy holiday season as December approaches. Which reminds me… have you finished your Christmas shopping? Have you started? Are you sending cards this year? Or should we not go there?

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“Avast, Ye’ Scurvy Dogs!”

Avast, ye dogs! We’re here to blunder yer booty & yer ice cream freezer!


Ahoy, matey! I just got back from 11 days in Austin with my kids/grandkids and now I’m off again for another week of travel. If things don’t slow down, I’m going to need a vacation from my vacations. What a terrible problem to have, right? While The Complete Package and I are off celebrating our 30th anniversary (yes, I got married at the tender age of 7 – wink, wink) I’ll leave you with these little scallywags. Fair warning – hide your wallets. These tiny pirates must be in search of treasure, because they’ve already stolen our hearts.

Captain Jack Sparrow & Elizabeth Swan in their early, more formative years.

PS – Yes, they are the greatest grandkids ever. PPS – Yes, I am totally biased.

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Mom’s Fudge Drops

Or in this case, Mom’s Fudge Balls since I rolled them. These were one of my favorite treats as a child. Mom would make them and my four sisters and I would devour them like a plague of locusts. Then we got old enough to make them ourselves so we made them all the time. And we devoured them like locust.

Mom’s Fudge Drops – no one can eat just one. I’m serious.

Anywho… did I mention this snack was always one of my favorites? Well, I made them again just so I could share them with you. Because I think you need these. No, I KNOW you need these. And while they look totally decadent, they’re really not bad. Okay, stop laughing and shaking your head. I mean it – there are whole oats in there. Old-fashioned oats. So they’re practically a health food (she says with her fingers crossed behind her back). Okay, judge for yourself then.

Mom’s Fudge Drops:
1 stick butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar (Mom used 2 cups; I use 1)
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats (I love Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup shredded or flaked coconut (optional)

Grab a large saucepan with a heavy bottom and melt the stick of butter over medium heat. While that’s melting, combine the sugar and cocoa in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the sugar/cocoa mixture and add the milk, whisking until blended. Turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Don’t walk away while this is cooking, or it will burn! Stand there and whisk it until it comes to a boil and has the texture of glossy hot fudge sauce.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth, then turn off the heat. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, add the old-fashioned oats and coconut, stirring until well combined. Using a cookie scoop or a metal spoon, scoop and drop onto parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Allow them to cool to room temperature. Once cool, they will still be soft and pliable. If you want to roll them into balls, now is the time. Gently roll each drop in your hands until a ball forms and put them back onto the waxed paper. Or, if you like them just fine as drops, leave them as is. Either way, pop the baking sheet into the refrigerator for about an hour to allow them to firm up completely. Once firm, you can layer them into an airtight container. These will keep in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

If you really want to get fancy, you can roll the balls in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, ground peanuts or even graham cracker crumbs before you refrigerate them. Talk about getting dressed up for a party!

Pop a few in a plastic bag, and these make a perfect lunchbox treat for school kids or a great afternoon snack for a working girl or the perfect easy breakfast for a stay-at-home mom. At my house, they’re all mine. The Complete Package won’t touch them. And that, my friends, is what they call a win/win.

Fudge, oats, coconut & peanut butter for the win!

Now DROP me a line and let’s talk favorite childhood treats. Was yours homemade or store-bought? Do you still make them as an adult, either for yourself or for your children? And if your favorite was the ever-present never-perishable Twinkie, that’s okay too. No judging here. I grew up eating those, too. Although, for the record, I will always be a pink & fluffy Snowball kind of girl.

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Howdy, partners!

Pardon my absence, but our wagon was hijacked by these rowdy cowpokes.

The Complete Package & I had an absolutely fabulous week with the greatest grandkids on earth. As we say in Texas, “it ain’t bragging if it’s true!”

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Friday Fun: The Sock Monkey Project

Who doesn’t love a sock monkey? They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they’re colorful. When Mom & one of my four sisters were here last week, Big Sis threw down a crafting challenge. She brought a pattern for sock monkeys. She should really know better than to throw down a crafting challenge for several reasons:

1. I love a challenge.
2. I love all things crafty.
3. I love my grandchildren.
4. I love making things for my grandchildren.
5. We all inherited the ‘Artsy Fartsy’ gene from our mother.

We had grand plans to tackle this together – the three of us. But food, antiquing and Cocktail Week got in our way. You see, my big sister was just here for a long weekend. Mom came for 9 days. That meant Mom and I had more down time. So in the same way we tackled Cocktail Week research, we jumped on that sock monkey pattern – like it was our mission in life.

Quick fact about the females in my family – we’re addicted to Target. While there, we found a rack of cute socks in coordinating stripes, patterns and colors. Of course, we looked at each other and squealed “Sock Monkeys!”

Making these for Lilly & Jonah was, well… more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

The only thing cuter than sock monkeys? Sock monkeys in stylish outfits. Lilly Bug’s monkey has a lacy skirt with antique button detail; Jonah’s monkey has grey flannel shorts with a star button pocket. It’s what all the fashionable sock monkeys are wearing these days.

Feeling crafty yet? Here’s the link for the sock monkey pattern. It’s from CraftPassion.com. If you enjoying being creative, you’re going to love this website. Thanks for the pattern, Big Sis! And thanks to my Mom for helping sew them up. We had the best time bringing these little cuties to life.

The twins really want you to make sock monkeys. Like right now.

I can already tell I’m going to spend WAY too much time browsing CraftPassion’s fun projects this summer. Care to join me? Bring your socks!

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Republic of Texas Bike Rally (ROT) Austin 2012

The suns sets over the Texas state capitol during ROT 2012


If you read my blog, you’ve occasionally heard me reference The Complete Package (my beloved husband) and his girlfriend (his beloved motorcycle). Each year, TCP takes his girlfriend… er, motorcycle… to Austin to participate in the Republic of Texas (ROT Rally for short) Bike Rally. And every year, I pack my Jeep full of his gear, my stuff and our Boston Terrier and fulfill my destiny as the driver of the support vehicle. Lest you think I’d rather be riding on the back of said motorcycle, think again. But that’s a story for another day.

Each year, approximately 50,000 motorcycle riders and 200,000 participants join in the fun at the largest motorcycle rally in the state of Texas. One of our favorite events of the weekend is the bike parade from the Austin fairgrounds northeast of town where the rally takes place to downtown Austin in front of the state capitol. It is really something.

With the parade route stretching about 11 miles long, bikers riding 2-across will stretch the entire length of the route for more than an hour. To give you an idea of how many riders take part, when the first riders pass the state capitol and turn onto Congress Avenue, there are still riders parked at the fairgrounds waiting for their turn to leave. That’s a solid line of riders stretching out for more than 11 miles riding across Austin, revving engines, honking horns, flashing lights and high-fiving onlookers as they pass. Even if you’re not a motorcycle enthusiast, it’s an impressive spectacle.

Here are a few photos from this year’s ROT Rally parade into downtown Austin.

Here they come! Escorts lead the first riders down Congress Avenue.

Lilly Bug, our granddaughter, takes in the parade from atop mommy’s shoulders.

Bikes of all shapes, sizes & colors parade past.

Some are stretched out choppers…

Some have stretched out riders…

Some get a big ‘thumbs up’ from event staff when they pass.

Some bikers share their ride with pink-haired cuties…

And some ride solo while rocking a spiked yellow helmet for color.

Some like to hide their identities like these mysterious luchadores.

Some represent the ‘older’ crowd on an ultimate trike…

While others represent the younger crowd like this green Ninja hottie.

Some riders are too cool for school…

While others are too fabulously outlandish for words.

As downtown fills with bikes, the first riders into downtown fill Congress Avenue starting at the state capitol and parking their way down to the river.

When a traffic jam occurs, some riders are friendly enough to stop and chat with our grandkids and pose for pictures.

Eventually, Congress Avenue becomes a giant parking lot filled with thousands of bikes and people begin to mingle and take it all in.

I love that the downtown parade is a family-friendly event. People of all ages, races, backgrounds and tastes come out to see this once-a-year event. Rally organizers throw a giant party downtown each year. There really is something for everyone – from bikes to live music to stunning architecture.

When all else fails, you can always break out the light sabers and battle to the death, as My Baby learned at the hands of Jonah Bear. Lilly joined in, too.

Every year, friendly riders show off their bikes to anyone who asks. Some will even let the kids sit on them and pose for photos. Jonah Bear loves that part. I think he likes dreaming of the day when he’ll be big enough to ride a bike into downtown Austin with his Papi. And to that, I say “let the boy dream!”

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