Giving gifts

Confession: I once wrote a blog post called The Great Bird-Dog Mystery, about some puzzling wooden objects that kept popping up around my town, nailed to fences and signs. The post was a little bit sassy and a little bit tongue-in-cheek, and I had it all typed up and ready to publish (Where do they come from? Who makes these things? What are they exactly?) when my husband glanced over my shoulder (a thing he is strictly forbidden to do, but – you know how that goes) and said, “Oh, don’t you know?” and pulled up a news article in the Meadville Tribune explaining the phenomenon.

Which is, simply, that an elderly Italian man who lives very near to me likes to make dogs out of wood. He hand-cuts them and hand-paints them (each is unique) and leaves his gifts in prominent places around the neighborhood, for people to enjoy.

In disgust with myself (and the non-mystery of my mystery, and the sacrilege of having almost made fun of the work of a respectable man old enough to be my grandfather), I deleted the blog post at once, unpublished.

But I still think of that man from time to time – especially when I see his creations, but other times too – and somehow it gets me, the way he labors quietly in his shop over a bit of fallen tree, and sands it smooth and paints it, and leaves it around town so that the people will have joy. Probably sometimes he goes back to check on one and finds that somebody has removed it, and he doesn’t know where it went. Maybe into the TriCounty waste bin.

I imagine that in between his unpretentious dog-planting he is quite a regular old Joe, and pays his taxes and stops at stop signs and helps his daughter around the house.

He is a wise old man.

As I grow old, I too learn that when you must give something surprising and non-status-quo, because it felt good to paint it and there it is in your hand, it is best you should do it anonymously and without asking. Because sometimes people don’t know what to do with it or can’t be troubled to get back with you or have no room, or it’s against the institute’s policy or it’s at a bad time of year, and then you are standing there with a wooden dog in your hand, his painted spots a little lopsided, and no one wants him.

That must hurt. If you are a quiet old man.

Sometimes we give gifts to convince ourselves we have something to give.

T-shirt dresses for little girls

Confession: I love to sew, but when it comes to little girls’ dresses I’m a cheater. I often start with a T-shirt.

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Do you gals do this too? My sis-in-law Kim is the one who taught me how, and got me hooked on it.

All you have to do is buy a T-shirt for a couple of dollars, new or second hand, and raid your fabric stash for something coordinating. You can use a plain T and smarten with a fabric flower for a little pop of color and texture…

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Aw, she grew up! This picture was taken last fall.

Or buy a polo for a dressier look.

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Cut the shirt off short, for a high-waisted look. Nothing worse on this pattern than having the skirt starting down around her hips.

Now it’s time to choose a skirt! You can go a couple of ways: a slim, flared skirt, or a gathered waist.

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For a perfect fit, measure the width of the T-shirt at the bottom (it’s usually 12 inches, in Kelly’s 5 T size), and cut fabric to match. Don’t forget to figure seam allowances, for a total of 13” or so. Now flare the skirt wide—I like it about 22” wide at the bottom.* This is important so your little lady has wiggle room to sit modestly/ run/ climb trees/ things like that.

(*I mean on both front skirt and back skirt, for a total of 44″)

I kept the skirt too straight on this one from last year—you can see it pulling up around her legs instead of draping nicely. She couldn’t wear it very long.

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Sew the skirt seams first, then stitch the finished skirt onto the T-shirt bodice.

I usually prefer the look of a slim tapered skirt, unless I’m trying for something sweet with ruffles. Gathering fabric onto an already loose T quickly becomes elephantine, so be carefuland add a tie-belt to tuck in the fullness.

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(Simple tip: Use store-bought ribbon for a belt, melted at the ends with a flame to prevent fraying.)

T-shirt fabric can stretch when sewn, but sewing it against a durable cotton fabric actually holds it in place very nicely. Pin it in plenty of places to make sure, before you sew the waist.

Hem up the skirt, and add embellishments if you like. A flower, a pocket, rickrack, whatever you please.

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Yes, I pulled that blue one out of the laundry hamper for this picture. Sorry about that.

And now all your sewing problems are solved, right? Unless you have brainless moments like I do, and still sew an occasional seam inside out, with the raw edge on the right side. Ugh. Been there, done that.

But most times? Easy peasy. And you have a whole new dress without worrying about sleeves or necklines or facings. Awesome!

I am not very good at explaining these things, so if you have questions please ask.

Giveaway: White Hill Pottery

As of Tuesday, March 3, this giveaway is CLOSED.

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I see none of you were brave enough to say “Forget the story; gimme the giveaway.” Thanks for that. You’re sweet.

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Hello there.

A week or two ago I asked you to share a cup of tea with me, and now I’d like to offer you—the cup!

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I {almost} don’t need any words at all for this giveaway; the product speaks for itself. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful handmade from clay.

White Hill Pottery is based in Virginia, run out of the basement of Darrell and Alison Hershberger. Alison does the pottery making herself; every piece is hand-thrown. Do not ask me how she manages this alongside being a pastor’s wife, a true friend, and a mother of three—she just does. She’s continually exploring new items or styles, and perfecting her existing ones.

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She and I are offering one of you readers a mug, your choice of the two. There’s a beautiful blue…

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and a rich earth brown.

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I love the textures and varied glazes Alison works into her products, and the perfect, perfect shapes. The one shown here happens to be a new shape for her. Isn’t it a beauty though? So petite in appearance, but able to hold a full 12 ounces of your favorite hot beverage. I measured.

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(Do you want this cup yet or should I keep talking?)

I was given one of Alison’s mugs last year, and I use it nearly every day. Her pottery is microwave and dishwasher safe, and like stoneware, holds the heat of your coffee. She also makes vases, pitchers, and bowls. On her White Hill Pottery website, you can take a look at the other products. {Click here.}

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Only one of you can win. But it’s Alison’s wish, and mine, that you keep her in mind when you need a new piece of pottery, or a pretty gift for a friend. She’d be happy to ship you one!

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To enter the drawing to win, please leave a comment stating WHY you think you should win, and who you think should definitely NOT win. Just kidding.

Please leave a comment with the simple recipe for a hot (or cold) drink you love. It doesn’t have to be precise, or fancy, or from scratch—Hot milk and a packet of Swiss Miss with a mound of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel works for me. Then we can get ideas from one another, you see. As we speak, the outdoor temperature at my house is negative five degrees Fahrenheit and I need to think warm thoughts.

I’m not *requiring* you to share the giveaway with your friends, but please do: we are NonSnatchers, remember? So we think of others who might want cheese. And we tell more people about Alison’s work.

I am so happy to share this chance with you. Enjoy!

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Terms, Conditions, & Disclaimers:

  • The only item available for giveaway is a mug. Chocolates, hot drinks, great books, fraying burlap, and old crate not included. Or cheese either, just in case anyone was confused about that.
  • The beverages shown above were inserted into the mugs for photographical purposes only. This pottery is brand new and has never been drunk from. I promise.
  • It’s okay if someone else in the comment section shares the idea for the same drink as yours. You can’t be an original ALL the time…
  • Persons of any gender, age, race, criminal history, religious preference, and geographical location are permitted to enter this giveaway. The only requirement is a US MAILING ADDRESS. If you live off the continent and know of a friend who wouldn’t mind storing (using) your mug for a few months until your furlough (if you win)—please enter. I’d be honored. (Your friend would too.)
  • Giveaway closes in one week, at midnight on Monday, March 2, 2015. Winner will be chosen by random.org.As of 12:00 am Tuesday, March 3, this giveaway is closed. Thanks for joining!

Mod-Podge-n-Yarn candle holders

Guess what?

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I just found a cheap, simple, and thoroughly cute craft for any occasion. Found, I say, not invented. My mom introduced me to it over Thanksgiving, but our original source is my friend Renee Shafer (A Beautiful Captivation), and her sister Andrea Graybill.

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Renee made these for a bachelorette party two years ago already, so … let’s just say it takes some of us a while to catch on. She and her sis also made them in fall colors this year. My mom, organizing a family craft, chose Christmas colors to match the season.

I think they’re darling.

You will need:

Balloons – any color
Yarn – any color
Mod Podge
Styrofoam plate
Latex gloves (optional)*
Battery-operated tea light

Blow up a balloon. Cover your workspace with newspaper or something disposable to catch drips. Pour some Mod Podge onto a Styrofoam plate and dip your yarn in it to soak, wrapping and crisscrossing it around the balloon. Hang up to fully dry. Pop balloon. Insert a battery-operated tea light into the yarn globe and hang somewhere pretty.

*(We did ours barehanded, but we were sick of Mod Podge by the time we were done, and picked shreds of it off our hands for the rest of the day…)

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Now I think that’s a pretty awesome craft, and customizable for any size and season. Thanks again to my mom and Renee Shafer!

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Posted with permission.

If you want some inspirational words for moms in the thick of it, don’t miss this beautiful post of Renee’s: “Why NOW is the Time to Speak.”