Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We have the Swine Flu

Or at least the biggest little does. Poor Abbi.

We've been just trying to take it easy and keep everyone as calm and relaxed as possible. Sometimes its easier than others. Overall Abbi has been a trooper, but its never easy when you're stuck at home and feel like poo.

Rest is important for all of us right now, so I don't have much to update with, unfortunately. More will be coming, but before all that... coffee is much needed.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I love granola.

It is healthy, it is filling, and it lasts for what feels like forever. Its also pretty.

I thought I would share my granola recipe with you all, since I have found a way to do it that is both frugal and delicious.


~ 1-1/4 cups brown sugar
~ 1/2 cup water
~ 2 Tbs. vanilla extract
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 8 cups oats
~ 1 package of dried "tropical" fruit from Dollar Tree
~ 1 package of nuts (your favorite ones - I got sunflower seeds) from Dollar Tree


~ Preheat oven to 300* and line 2 pans with parchment / wax paper.
~ Pour brown sugar into a bowl and top with water. Stir well and microwave for 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Stir.
~ Mix in vanilla and salt. Stir.
~ In a large bowl, mix together oats and sugar mixture.
~ Spread oats out on 2 pans lined with parchment paper. Bake at 300* for 45 minutes (or until golden and slightly crunchy)
~ Let oats cool, and then pour into a large bowl and mix with fruit and nuts. Store in an airtight container.

Making granola is one of our favorite past times and always a reminder of fall. Do you have a favorite fall recipe?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Has Arrived.

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone, and left in its wake beautiful weather and the sights and smells of fall all around us.

Anna went on a nature walk through our back yard and arranged all of her findings on a piece of drawing paper the other day.

We had a great time looking at all of the different pieces that she brought in. She loved inspecting each piece individually, looking for anything that made each piece unique.

We have also been cooking a bit lately. I made some Peach Cobbler today using this recipe from Recipe Zaar. Our grocer had a large stock of peaches on sale so we got quite a few. I decided that since today was rainy and cool and the first day of really chilly weather for fall, it was a good day to make this lovely warm dessert. It was absolutely delicious.

Last, but certainly not least, I wanted to share a photo with you of Kevin and Abbi out by the fire pit last night. It was the first night of the season that we lit it up, and it was so incredibly amazing to cuddle up together and let the warmth of the fire warm us. There is nothing like the smell of firewood to really solidify the fact that autumn is here.

What signifies the start of fall for you? Happy Autumn everyone!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Craft Nectar's Giveaway Winner!

I had SO much fun reading everyone's responses! Wasn't Week's interview amazing? I loved getting to learn more about her and her lovely life as a homemaker and business owner.

I know there were many of you hoping to win the beautiful giveaway that Weeks offered up for the readers of Reclaiming The Home. I used a random number generator to help me pick who won. The generator picked the 20th comment!

That means that Michal is our winner! Congratulations! Michal, please email me (homegrownrose (at) gmail (dot) com) and send me your shipping information so that Weeks can send that beautiful gift your way.

Thank you so much everyone, and don't forget to stop by Week's blog to say hello from us over at RTH. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Craft Nectar's Weeks Ringle, and a Big Giveaway!

Hello Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for you. I am introducing the first installment of a new feature on Reclaiming the Home. I am going to be sharing with you a detailed look at the people who inspire me most. My hope is that this will help to inspire each of you, and to share the wealth of information and creativity out there in the blog-world.

The first feature is on Weeks Ringle and her gorgeous blog, Craft Nectar. She also has a companion business, FunQuilts that is both an incredibly creative endeavor, and highly successful. She works with charities and helps to support those with Special Needs, qualities that are near and dear to my heart. She is also a published author with another book on the horizon in the near future!

As far as modern homemakers go, she is one of my heroes.

She graciously accepted when I asked her if she would do an interview for the blog and even offered to do a pretty amazing giveaway to the readers of Reclaiming The Home. She went all out with this piece, so I hope that you all will enjoy getting to know her, and find yourselves as inspired as I have.

The Bio:

My name is Weeks Ringle and I live in Oak Park, IL with my husband Bill Kerr and our daughter Sophie, whom we adopted from China when she was a baby. For the past 10 years, Bill and I have run FunQuilts, a contemporary design studio that makes contemporary quilts, designs fabric, sells patterns, writes books and teaches. Before meeting Bill I lived in Japan for nearly eight years and that experience continues to be one of the strongest influences in my life.

The Blog:

The purpose of Craft Nectar is to inspire people to make things for their home, their family and their friends. I think everyone needs to have a creative part of their life, even if it’s trying to rethink the system for office memos at their job. Some of my favorite posts became my favorite not because they got the most traffic (who knew that people would get so excited about a tutorial on cleaning a sewing machine!) but because my heart was so in them and I was happy with the tone of the writing. I can’t tell you how touched I was, however, by some of the lovely emails and comments I got before and after my Cowalunga ride. I think about those people and their stories often. I just felt one of those beautiful and genuine connections with them.

(Click the photo to read more about the CowaLUNGa ride that I took part in this year!)

The Interview:

1. How long have you been crafting, and what was it that brought you to it in the first place?

I did not grow up in a crafting family but was always drawn to it as a child. I did what I could but it wasn’t really until I graduated from college that I had the time and money to be able to buy my own sewing machine and fabric and take classes in ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), ceramics, drawing, knitting and the care of bonsai. It was in graduate school, however, when I gained the design education I needed to take my interests to the professional level.

(click the photo to read "The Mystery of the Embroidered Pillow Cases" and find the pattern!)

2. How do you Reclaim your own home?

There’s no way I can answer this succinctly. There are two homes that I was a part of that contributed to my vision for the kind of home I wanted. From 1984 to 1990, I spent most of the day every Saturday at the home of my flower-arranging teacher in Tokyo. Although I was paying her to learn flower arranging, I ended up learning how to be the woman that I really wanted to be and how to create a welcoming atmosphere in my home.

This 1914 bungalo is our home. Those are our two cats on the back porch lounging the day away.

My teacher is the oldest of nine siblings and lived through World War II in rural Japan. She’s seen hardship that most Americans cannot even imagine and she knows what’s important. Although her home was not fancy by any stretch, I learned from her the true meaning of hospitality. The notion of hospitality that I grew up with was closer to the Martha Stewart model of perfectionism, which was often tension-filled. Sensei’s (and yes I have only called her sensei for the past 25 years!) home is one that welcomes you at the drop of a hat. It isn’t about whether or not things are ready or what she or the house looks like.

When I would go there it was about our friendship. She was always interested in what I had been up to each week and made me feel as though she had been waiting all week to see me. There was always enough food for someone to stay for dinner if our lessons ran long. Although I was there week after week for all of those years she made me feel special, appreciated, understood and welcome in good times and bad. Her goal was to put you at ease and make you feel comfortable. That place was all heart and I took a big piece of it with me when I moved back to the States. I keep a picture of her in that room hanging above our kitchen table to remind me of what I want our home to feel like.

This is our living room with a huge weaving woven by my mother-in-law on the wall.

The second home that influenced me was my late mother-in-law’s home. When I met her she had become a widow and was very ill. Later Bill and I would quit our jobs and move into her house to care for her for eight months as she transitioned to assisted living. Although I never witnessed the happy, fun atmosphere before Bill’s father died and before she got sick, I heard story after story after story about it from countless friends and family. One childhood friend of Bill’s talked about Bill’s home as the place he went to feel safe when his own parents were going through a messy divorce. Others recounted the fun public radio fundraisers when she would have hoards of people bring a bowl and she would make huge vats of soup. There were always interesting and creative people dropping in and there was a vibrancy to the house that so many remember. I was so inspired by the wonderful times that had been had in this house that I suggested that before we sold the house that we have our wedding reception there as a sort of farewell to the house.

I should note, however, that Bill’s mom managed to create a similar environment when she moved to the assisted living facility. Despite the massive oxygen compressors and tubing, her little apartment was charming and welcoming.

Inspired by these two homes I have sought to create a comfortable, welcoming and fun environment in our 1914 bungalow. I am also the chief prankster and mistress of fun in our home and am constantly playing practical jokes on and planning small but fun little celebrations for Bill and Sophie. When Bill kept saying that he was worried about forgetting his dentist appointment, I wrote out in Cheerios “dentist 7 am” on the kitchen table. On Election Day I printed up a family ballot with ballot initiatives that included choosing the food we would serve for Thanksgiving and what type of vacation we wanted. There are Easter Egg Hunts, special gatherings and our annual Luck and Love party at which we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. I make a special point of inviting single friends over for casual family dinners during the week and on the weekend because I remember how nice it was when I was single for people to invite me over for a larger, family-style meal that wasn’t practical to cook for one.

(Click on the photo to read all about "Valentines Day for One.")

We live with just a few guidelines. The house is always tidy, not super neat but clean enough for someone to drop in and for us not be embarrassed. Everything has a place. Dinnertime is sacred. No phone calls, TVs or computers during meals. There’s always extra food for visitors who drop-in. It’s always OK to invite someone for dinner at the last minute. Mostly, we don’t allow anyone to be disrespectful or hurtful anyone in our home. Period. A big part of my definition of success as a wife and mom has to do with keeping our home comfortable, relaxed, safe and welcoming. All of us want that and I want that for people who visit as well.

3. What advice can you offer to others who enjoy crafting and home life?

I would advise people who enjoy crafting and a home life to organize your spaces and your time really well. You want to make sure that you have the time to do things that bring you pleasure and you don’t want to spend your crafting time looking for supplies. Also look at every time you are waiting for someone as an opportunity to make something. I always take a knitting bag to gymnastics registration, swim practice or the doctor’s office and never get on a plane without a project. Even if you just spend that time planning a project rather than reading a magazine in the waiting room, you’re making progress on a project.

(Click the photo to see "Oh Nancy Drew, Won't You Please Come to Our Sleepover?"
Below, click to read more about "Get a Clue")

4. Can you tell us about your business, FunQuilts?

I can’t be succinct about FunQuilts either. Having been in business for 10 years now, we’ve learned so much. I still love, love, love going to work everyday but it’s not what people think. They think that we’re just sewing all day and that’s just not the case. We probably only make quilts about 20% of the time. There’s a tremendous amount of time spent dealing with contracts, making travel reservations, doing bookkeeping, writing, answering emails, booking gigs, taking orders and the list goes on and on.

My best advice to people who want to start a business is to find a way to apply the creativity you have for your craft to the business side of it. Like it or not, you will spend a huge amount of time dealing with the business part of it and I’ve seen a lot of artisans say that they don’t care about the business part or that it’s boring. Like all businesses, technology is always a challenge as is the economy. We are fortunate that we are booked for months and sometimes years ahead but we are constantly revisiting the business plan and trying new things.

We’re just finishing making the quilts for our next book, writing the text and illustrating the diagrams. Next on deck is a quilt for the cover of Quilts & More magazine, three quilts for a client in the British Isles and a one-of-a-kind wedding quilt for someone in Hollywood.

This is the floor-to-ceiling cork wall in kitchen that we installed to keep all of the things that we want to or need to remember. This wall is constantly changing. You can see some details of the cork wall below as well.

5. Tell us more about the blog. What started you blogging, and what keeps you at it? Do you ever have writer's block?

I never, ever have writer’s block. It’s only a matter of finding more time blogging. I want to have original content that is inspiring to the readers so that takes awhile.

(Click to read all about "Sight Word Daddy.")

I first started blogging on WhipUp and really enjoyed it but I wanted to be able to talk more about what we were doing at FunQuilts, not just about a given project.

I love hearing from other people that something I’ve written about has inspired them. The thing I struggle with the most and Bill and I discuss endlessly is how much of me there should be in it. I want to inspire other people to make things and I really don’t think that I’m an important part of the equation. In other words, I think it’s about the project. Bill and others tell me that people want to know the writer more and that I should put more of myself in it. I just don’t want it to be one of those blogs where people are talking about how many loads of laundry they did that day. I just haven’t figured it out yet. I’d love some feedback on that one.

6. What is a fun fact we may not know about you?

When I get discouraged I visualize Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music on the bus en route to the Van Trapp family home. She gets off the bus and she starts swinging around her bag and her guitar while singing “I have confidence in sunshine. I have confidence in rain. I have confidence that spring will come again. Besides what you see I have confidence in me!” And then she jumps up and clicks her heels together and for a moment I think I can do anything. Pure magic I tell you.

7. Anything else you'd like to say?

I guess I’d like to say how appreciative I am to have so many readers and how much I enjoy dialog with them. Even more, I’d love to know what topics they’d like me to cover or what’s of interest to them. In other words, let me hear from you.

The Giveaway:

Weeks has been so very generous to offer up a gift to a lucky reader here at Reclaiming The Home! Included in this prize package are the totem quilt pattern, a beautiful package of fabric charm squares, and a gorgeous set of note cards from her online store.

In order to win this amazing prize package, simply leave a comment on this post with some feedback for Weeks.

If you would like to multiply your chances to win, then blog, facebook, or tweet about it and then come back here to let us know in another comment. You can gain another entry into the contest by heading over to Craft Nectar and saying hello (though you will need to come back here and tell us in the comments so that we can give you another entry). That is a total of 5 possible chances to win this amazing giveaway.

The giveaway will end Sunday September 20th at midnight CST, and at that time I will do a random number drawing and announce the winner.

Once again I would like to thank Weeks Ringle for taking the time to do this amazing interview with me and for being so generous to the readers of Reclaiming The Home. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FRG and a Halloween Party!

As of yesterday I am now the Special Events Chairperson for our FRG!

For those of you who have no idea what I just said, my husband is in the Army. Every unit is supposed to have a Family Readiness Group to help support the families of soldiers (most do), and I am honored to be a part of the inception of this one. I was elected to the Special Events Chairperson position, and that means that I get to plan all the fun parties! (Among other responsibilities... but still... parties!)

The first big event that I will be scheduling is the Halloween Party. I absolutely love everything about Halloween: the weather, the smell of fireplaces burning, the sight of children dressed up and cheerful, candy (ahhh the candy), and of course... pumpkins. I love this photo by Darwin_Bell over on Flickr. I can't wait until we can go back to the Pumpkin Patch this fall!

I have about 6 weeks to plan the Halloween party. I have been trying to come up with some thrifty ideas since we are a new FRG and are having to work within a very small budget. I have been trying to focus on recycling items to use for various crafts, activities, and decorations.

One idea I had was to use Pringles cans or two liters as "bowling pins" and let the kids bowl a ball at them to get candy as a prize. I'm thinking of possibly having face painting as well, and a photo booth with pumpkins and a scare crow. There will hopefully be a costume competition, pumpkin painting, and more.

Do you have any suggestions that might be able to help me on my search for new ideas? What are your favorite Halloween activities, foods, or decorations?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lulu's Jailhouse Cafe 4 lb Cinnamon Roll

What about that doesn't sound appetizing? ;)

On Friday last week my loving hubby decided to "surprise" us by bringing home a 4 lb Cinnamon Roll from Lulu's Jailhouse Cafe. He had seen the enormous pastry on and episode of Man Vs. Food and for $5, you can't beat the experience, or the taste

I was afraid that for the size it would be lacking a cinnamon roll's traditional delicious qualities: soft chewy center, crisp outer layer, ooey-gooey cinnamon and icing all over. Let me assure you that it more than met our expectations. The only negative thing I have to say is that I wish I had a family big enough to eat it all.

If you would like to give this bad boy a try yourself, head on over to Lulu's at 918 Main St here in San Antonio. You can eat it fresh there at the cafe, or take it home like we did, and warm it up in the oven.

Even though this crazy amazing cinnamon roll was worth every penny, I would like to try making some from scratch. Have you ever made cinnamon rolls? Do you have a favorite recipe or any advice you could share about making them?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Printable: What's for Dinner List

I was thinking about all of the changes that have been happening around RTH and how much I appreciate each of you who have helped to make RTH what it is; a community, a resource, and so much more.

Since I am unfortunately unable to send each and every one of you a REAL hug and RAK like I want to, I thought I would share something special with each of you here on the blog.

I find that keeping a weekly or monthly menu can really help me with home management planning. I designed this cute 50's style dinner menu to print up and place on my fridge each week. You can pin it to your message board or put it in your home management binder as well.

You can download the full version here. Enjoy, and if you get a chance, let me know what you think!

Thank you all again, for making RTH such an amazing thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th, 2001

We will never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Knead Bread that Melts in Your Mouth

(this is a repost of a recipe from several years ago that has been tried, true, and loved by many. I hope you enjoy it!)

This tasty recipe first appeared in the article The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work, by Mark Bittman in the November 8th, 2006 New York Times.

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours rising

- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting [I used bread, also suggested is substituting 1 cup whole wheat flour*.]
- 1/4 teaspoon instant [aka Rapid Rise, QuickRise, Instant Active Dry, Perfect Rise, or Bread Machine Yeast] yeast
- 1 1/4 [1 3/4] teaspoons salt
- Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 [1 1/2] cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. [I put it on top of my fridge.]

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal [rice flour was suggested as it won't get gummy]; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart [about a 4-quart pot is preferred] heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 [10 or 15] minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

Free Fabric on Donna Downey's Blog

Hi everyone! I wanted to post to let you know about an amazing giveaway going on over at Donna Downey's blog. Pickled Pear Lane is giving away 16 fat quarters of their new line of fabric called Mezzanine. It is just beautiful!

To enter, leave a comment on her blog by 10pm tonight (Thursday September 10th)!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some Eye Candy

*warning* - very image heavy!

I had some trouble bringing over the posts from the other blog, and while the text transferred really well, I couldn't seem to get the photos to come through. That said, I thought I would share some of my favorite shots and hilights with you from the past two years. Enjoy!