Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Turning Old Into New (Bow Making 101)

I've been spinning my wheels around here trying to get unpacked from our trip, catch up on everything and get the house looking like fall. I finally spent a few hours this afternoon working on the latter. I tend to keep things and reuse them when it comes to decorating. I have tubs of ribbons, bows, flowers and our storage room has nails with wreaths hanging all around it. I went to the basement and grabbed a large grapevine wreath from a few years ago. The first thing I did was tear off all of the old, ugly fall stuff and throw it away. I did keep a few of the leaves.

I had 8 tall stems of leaves with golden berries that I had once used in a tall vase and I slipped them into the wreath forming a circle of leaves and berries all the way around. I secured them with my glue gun. I then added a few of the salvaged leaves, and a few bright orange berries that I had saved from another project, again using the glue gun to attach the items. The final touch was making a new bow from fall ribbon. After I attached the bow with wire, I added a few extra streamers, using the glue gun to hold the ribbon in place. The picture below is what I started with. The top picture is the finished product.

If you can make a decent bow, you can dress up the Christmas tree, make plain wreaths look beautiful and make inexpensive gifts look upscale. Bow making is awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will be asked to make bows for everyone. I can't tell you how many bows I've made for people. It is easier to show someone how to do this than to tell them, but I'll try with the help of a few pictures my husband took last December. I'm sitting cross-legged on my couch, please ignore everything except the bow!

Get your "ingredients" ready. You will need ribbon (wire-edged works best), some fine wire (I have used extra pieces of ribbon, twist ties from bread, hair ties and rubber bands, but wire is best), and scissors. This is a roll of 5 yards of ribbon I picked up for a quarter after Christmas one year. You can make a bow with 3 yards, but I like to have at least 5 yards. If you are making huge bows, you will need more.

I am right handed, so I take the end of the ribbon and roll it to the back with my right hand, while holding the rest of the ribbon about 2 inches down in my left hand.

Make a complete loop and hold it tightly with your left thumb inside the loop and your other left fingers under the ribbon.
This step is very important. It is what makes a florist bow look good, and the ones we all make look slightly "off". Twist the ribbon behind the loop completely over. The above picture I'm starting to twist. When the twist is complete, grab it with those left fingers. Yes, your hand will be starting to cramp, it will get worse.

Above I am still holding the loop in my left hand, the ribbon has been twisted which keeps the pattern to the top and I'm starting my first bow loop with my right hand.

The loop is made by folding the ribbon under the piece extending from the small loop my thumb is holding, and you catch the underside of the loop with your fingers. See how tightly I'm holding it? The next picture is important!

We have made one loop of our bow, and we are holding it tightly in the left hand. Now we have to TWIST it again, completely over to bring the top/pattern of the ribbon to the top again.

After you twist the ribbon after the first loop, you make a loop on the opposite side the same way. Make the top of the loop, and fold the ribbon under and catch it with those left fingers.

Then you TWIST again, the secret is in the twist. and make another loop, grab it and twist until you have four loops on each side. You can make a bow with 3 loops per side, I think 4 looks better, but I have certainly made many bows with 3 loops each side. The more loops, the more full the bow. The bow on my fall wreath has 6 loops per side.

At this point there are 4 loops on each side of the bow.

Grab the tail of the ribbon that is still on the spool, and extend it as long as you want the streamers to be, then fold it up and bring the other end up to catch in your left hand. See above and below.

What you are seeing above is the back of the bow, held tightly in my left hand. The 8 loops are on the underside, the "tail" of the ribbon has been brought up into a loop of its own and I'm holding it in place. The ribbon that is left over that I'm going to cut off is extending to the right.

Take a piece of wire (8-10 inches) and bring it up through the streamer loop from back to front, insert it into that small center loop that was the first loop we made in picture number 1. See below.

This is where it is easy to lose the bow, so hang on tightly. The wire has to be twisted behind the small original loop and hold all of the bow loops in place as well as the streamer tails.

When it is twisted tightly and everything is in place, cut off the extra ribbon (still attached to the spool or lose if not on a spool. See below.

Next, you can either cut the streamer loop to have 2 streamers (cut on an angle) or you can leave it as a streamer loop for a different look.

Fluff up the loops, and you are done. This isn't my best, as I was posing for pictures rather than thinking about the bow, but you get the idea. Don't be discouraged if you let go and it all falls apart, just start over-wire ribbon is very forgiving. It takes a little practice to be comfortable with it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cold Season Is Coming-Have 3 Ingredients In Your Kitchen

I tend to be a bit old-fashioned when it comes to cooking. I like the real deal. Sometimes you just don’t feel well enough for the good stuff, and you really just want something to make you feel better. I know that when I have a cold or sore throat, I just wish my mom would appear with a bowl of chicken soup. Well, my mom lives 1000 miles away and while she is sympathetic when I’m sick, she can’t make the soup. In an earlier post I gave you the old-fashioned recipe for chicken soup, and it is delicious. It is also the last thing I’m going to do when I’m sick. Instead, I keep 3 ingredients on my shelf during cold season. I can make a fairly tasty chicken soup in less than 3 minutes. It opens up your head, soothes your throat and certainly is better than anything you will get out of a red and white can.

1 package ramen noodles (remove the seasoning packet, and throw it away)
1 can chicken broth or ½ of a 32 oz. carton (I use low sodium, but any will do)
1 can chicken (on the store shelf near the tuna)

Boil the broth either in a pan, or in the microwave. Crunch up the block of noodle and put them in the boiling broth. Drain the can of chicken and dump it in. You have chicken soup, and you will be amazed how good it tastes when you are sick. If you have time and feel good, make the good stuff from my other recipe.

Where Has “Mom” Been?

I have been without the internet for a couple of days and I’m going through blog withdrawal. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. I’ve actually been visiting my daughter who is living her dream working for "The Mouse" in Orlando. After picking her up, we went to spend a few days with my parents who live on the coast. We had a great time, with one exception. It was hot! We had gotten used to our fall temperatures in the Midwest, and it was a bit difficult adjusting to those temps in the high 90’s.

We ate too much!

We played too much!

We also took time to just enjoy the beauty of nature around us. My heart remains in Florida, but tomorrow I will be back home and getting my house ready for fall.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Short, Sweet and "Peanutty"

You know how your mom would tell you not to eat peanut butter straight from the jar? Well, did you know that a heaping teaspoon of peanut butter will cure the hiccups? Creamy, crunchy…any kind will do. Just load your spoon high and enjoy. Calories from peanut butter used for “medicinal” purposes don’t count, do they?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Definition: French abbreviation for répondez s'il vous plaît (please reply).

Over the past few years I have noticed that people tend to ignore the RSVP on an invitation. I confess that I’m guilty of it myself when I get invited to one of those parties where I’m supposed to buy something. I tend to wait until the last minute to decide if I’m going (because I don’t really want to) and/or I simply tuck the invitation somewhere and forget about it. It isn’t the right thing to do, but I justify it by the fact that the hostess wants something from me and most likely will just be serving drinks and cookies anyway. If I show up or not won’t really matter to her, other than in her sales figures. Really, there is no excuse for my being rude.

However, when someone is having an actual party, I do RSVP. It is really important to the hostess that you do so. We’ve all been there. We’ve invited 20 people to our homes and we’ve only heard from 8 of them. How much food do you buy? How many bottles of wine? How many places do you set at the tables? Do you call the person and ask them if they are coming or is that too pushy?

I have learned that you should never assume that someone isn’t coming, simply because they didn’t call. My own opinion is that if you haven’t heard from your guests and it is time to buy the food or prepare party favors, call them. If they are too rude to let you know, it certainly isn’t too pushy to call and ask them. I resent it when I have to do that.

I have a friend who recently hosted a party. Two people volunteered to come early to help, they didn’t show up early. People who said they were coming didn’t show up. People who said they couldn’t come, did. For the most part, no one came on time and a meal was being served. Luckily my friend is the type who can “go with the flow” and she got through it. It is so difficult for a hostess when those things happen. It takes two minutes to make a phone call. It can save your hostess time and money if you do so. The way I see it, people don’t have that many parties anymore. If I’m lucky enough to be on someone’s guest list, I want them to know I appreciated the invitation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mom's Homemade Vegetable Soup

My mom makes this soup and so do I. I thought we did it exactly the same way until we compared notes when I was making mine for the blog. I’ve made a few adjustments over the years without even knowing it. I’m sure you will make your own adjustments to my recipe. That is what cooking is all about.

I actually used a nice pot roast to make my soup. I cooked it the night before (slow roasted in the oven with potatoes and carrots) and used the leftovers for the soup. You can do that with any kind of beef roast. I haven’t tried it with chicken, it would probably be different, but good. When I was newly married I couldn’t afford a pot roast. So I would make this same soup with a pound of ground beef that I browned. It was delicious. I still do it that way on occasion, simply because we like the flavor.

Let’s talk a bit more about the beef used in the soup. You can use cooked leftover roast, hamburger that has been browned or a raw roast if you are going to cook your soup all day. It tastes best if you are using a raw roast to at least brown both sides in the pan in a little bit of vegetable oil before you add the other ingredients. I have been known to take a raw chuck roast, dump in the rest of the ingredients and let it cook for hours, it tastes great. You can also put it all in a crock-pot. In other words, it would be difficult to ruin this one.


Beef-I used about 3 cups of cooked leftover pot roast with the pan juices. It made a very meaty soup. You can use more or less meat, whatever you prefer or whatever you have.
½ medium head of cabbage, chunked into pieces
2 potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large bag of frozen mixed vegetables (you can use canned veggies, or fresh ones…frozen is easier)
1 cup V8 or tomato juice
Approx. 7-8 cups water

In a large pan (soup pot) put the beef, cabbage, potatoes, and frozen vegetables. Add water just to the level of the other ingredients, add the tomato juice or V-8. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. If your meat is cooked, this can be done in about an hour, but I really prefer cooking this for several hours to let the flavors blend. If your meat is raw, it will take several hours. You want to cook it until the meat is very tender and falling apart. If you use a raw roast, use 2 forks to separate the meat into bite-sized pieces before serving. Salt to taste. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mom, Why Don't My Rice Krispy Treats Taste Like Yours?

It is funny the things you become "famous" for making. I often am asked to bring "my" Rice Krispy Treats to things, even adult things. I can actually cook. I can cook complicated, gourmet things. But, it seems that people think I have a secret recipe that I use for these easy treats, and they request them. There is no secret recipe, but there are a couple of things that I may do differently than others when I make them.

I use real butter. It tastes better than margarine. You can tell a difference. I make double the recipe for the same size pan that others use, so mine are thicker. I also leave out 1/2 cup of Rice Krispies, so mine are more gooey. I also don't mind if I leave an almost melted marshmallow or two in the mixture. It adds texture and no one minds biting into marshmallow goodness.

Spray 9x13 pan with Pam or lightly grease with butter

6 T. butter

11 1/2 cups Rice Krispy Cereal (you can use store brands)

80 regular sized marshmallows (that is 2 standard bags)

Melt the butter over medium heat, stir in the marshmallows and keep stirring until they are melted. They will scorch easily, so keep stirring and turn them down to low heat if necessary. Remove from heat and quickly stir in Rice Krispies. Scoop into the greased pan and pat down with fingers. Cool slightly (if you can wait that long) and cut into squares. Enjoy!

*Mom hint-It works very well to wet your fingers under the faucet before pressing the mixture into the pan. You may need to wet them a few times as you press. It will keep your fingers from sticking to the treats.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Travel Tips I Learned The Hard Way

It has been close to 2 years, but I remember every detail of that morning. We were on our way to spend Christmas with our daughter and my parents in sunny Florida. We were so excited to get out of the cold of Illinois, knowing we would have 2 weeks of swimming, sunning and family. The trip was well-organized as they always are. It is “my thing” to really plan well for vacations. I make lists of the things I don’t want to forget, I had the packages all wrapped and in shopping bags. The suitcases were filled with enough clothes for the entire trip so that we wouldn’t have to think about doing laundry at the hotel. We packed an overnight bag for our nights on the road, as we have always done in our 30 years of family vacations. It was what my parents had always done and it made it so much easier to pull into a hotel exhausted, and grab just the overnight bag. We were staying at a Marriott Courtyard hotel, in an upscale area with a Marriott resort and golf course. It was almost new, and we had stayed there a few months earlier. We were on the first floor, next to the exit.

I slept in my ugliest pajamas, the gray ones that my husband put in the dryer and turned into highwater pants. After all, it was just for the hotel on the way there. I was still sleeping when he went out to take something to the car the next morning. The first thing I heard was my husband opening the door to our room, looking at me and saying “it is all gone, I have to go to the front desk” and then he was gone. Stunned isn’t the word for how I felt. I couldn’t process what he was saying. I called my dad and couldn’t even speak. He talked to me while I walked (in my pajamas and barefoot) out to our SUV which had a broken window…and everything inside was gone. All of our Christmas presents, all of our luggage, my husband’s laptop which he had hidden under the seat, the CD’s which I had downloaded from iTunes, they even took our dirty clothes bag from the night before. They took the bag that held my scissors, and extra wrapping paper in case we bought more gifts while in Florida and my knitting bag. We had nothing left. We had the clothes that we had in the room to wear that day. They left our winter coats and our cooler. Everything else was gone and we were alone in a strange town on a Sunday morning, 8 hours from our destination, with a broken window.

I wandered into the lobby sobbing, where the front desk manager offered nothing except saying “bless your heart” way too many times. The desk clerk told us the same thing had happened to someone else parked in the same spot the week before. I found they were a bit late with that information. My husband went to a Home Depot store nearby and got plastic and tape to cover our window, the store opened early for him. The manager on duty didn’t even offer to help with covering the window, on a blustery cold morning with winds of 50 miles and hour, so I helped in my pajamas. He did finally offer us breakfast for free, as if we could swallow food. The actual manager of the hotel eventually gave us a free night’s lodging, and was very nice. That was after I wrote a letter complaining when I got home. The front desk manager should have been fired. He never walked out to look at our car, nor did he go talk to the police when they arrived.

We were lucky that we had a long-term relationship with our insurance agent. I could call her on a Sunday morning. She told us to start making lists of everything we had with us and go replace it. Our homeowner’s policy covered everything except for a $500 deductible. Our automobile policy covered the window repair, after a $100 deductible. We found kindness in the hearts of strangers as the hotel we checked into (another Marriott) guarded our car overnight, until it could be repaired. They also offered to go get us toiletries or things we needed. The salesclerks in the Chicos store that first night, asked my size and what I needed and liked, and they brought things to me…enough to get me through a few days of shock. The waitress in the restaurant that night asked a simple, “how are you”? When we told her, she used her discount on our meal. People really stepped up to help strangers in trouble, and we were so grateful.

We never leave anything in the car that we care about now. It is a pain to carry in all of our luggage for a long trip for just one night, but we do it. I make a list now as I pack of what I have with me. It isn’t easy to remember exactly what you have and how many of each if you have to provide it to the insurance company. We were able to replace all of the Christmas presents with almost identical items. We didn’t let it ruin our holiday, just the first few days of it. We counted our blessings that my husband hadn’t caught them in the act, or they might have killed him. We realized that stuff is just stuff and that isn’t what matters in life. We also learned that there are horrible people who will steal someone’s Christmas without batting an eye. We decided that they must need those things more than we did, although I’m sure that iPod, computer, cell phone and all those gift cards were cashed out pretty quickly. We also realized that there are wonderful people, who will step up and help a stranger.

1) Take everything into a hotel room that you care about.
2) Carry your insurance agent’s phone number (and home number) with you when you travel.
3) Make a list off what you have in your car and in your suitcase.
4) Save receipts when you buy clothing, it really helps when you are filling out the paperwork for the insurance company if you can prove what you spent on your shoes, jeans etc.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Bowl Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

I have made this recipe for many years. I love it because you can make the basic dough, and add whatever ingredients you want to flavor the cookies. The ones in the pictures are raisin and walnut, which are my husband’s favorite. I prefer chocolate chips and pecans. I’ve also made them with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Many times I make the dough and split it into 2 bowls, I add my chocolate chips and pecans to half and his raisins and walnuts to the other.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.


½ pound (2 sticks) of butter softened (you can use margarine, but butter tastes better)
½ cup sugar
1 cup of brown sugar packed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 cups of uncooked oats (old-fashioned or quick oats)
2/3 cup raisins (or chocolate chips, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips)
½ cup walnut pieces (or pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts)

*Mom hint-when I make them with chocolate chips, I use more than 2/3 cup. I like chocolate. I also use more of the fruit or chips if I leave out the nuts.

In a large bowl with mixer (or by hand) cream the butter and sugars until blended, add the eggs and vanilla and keep mixing until creamy (about 2 minutes). Blend in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt until well blended and do the rest by hand. Stir in the oats. Now is when you should split the dough if you are making 2 flavors of cookies. If not, stir in the raisins and walnuts (or whatever you have decided to add). Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 minutes or until lightly browned.

This makes about 4 dozen cookies depending on the size you make them. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Curling Ribbon + Cello Wrap = Gift

I learned in my 20’s that you can make a gift out of about anything if you package it correctly. You don’t really have to spend a fortune on a gift, you just want the recipient to know that you were thinking of them. I always keep a roll of cello wrap (you can pick it up at Wal-Mart, Target or any similar store). I also keep an assortment of curling ribbon in various colors on hand all the time. I can’t count the times I have pulled out the box of ribbon and transformed something I had in the house, or something I picked up inexpensively into a clever gift.

You can mix the colors for special occasions. I use white with pink or blue for baby gifts; red, white and blue when I'm taking a treat to the hostess of a 4th of July party, orange in the fall, red and green during the holidays and so on.

I found this leaf dish at Wal-Mart for $2.50. I added a few pieces of fall colored chocolate, pulled out my cello and ribbon and turned it into a great little birthday gift for a friend.

I always use a generous amount of ribbon of different lengths. Curling the ribbon is simple. As you can see, I simply placed my thumb under the ribbon and drag the scissors under the ribbon, leaving a curled tail.

Dressed up in Mardi Gras colors are 6 homemade oatmeal cookies. (The recipe will be posted here in the near future). These make great party favors for your guests, or can be used as holiday gifts for friends and family with red and green (or blue and white) ribbon. For very little money, you can make several gifts.

You can also dress up a wrapped package. This box is wrapped in a grocery bag that I cut into a flat piece of paper. It was transformed with a bit of ribbon into a beautiful package for my sister’s fall birthday.

You can use this technique to wrap bottles of body lotion or shower gel, various homemade food items, a package of flavored tea or coffee or any small container filled with seasonal candy. You don’t break the bank, and you make someone happy. Who can ask for more than that?