Saturday, February 27, 2010

O Garden Where Art Thou?

There is a lot of snow outside my window right now. Everything is laden with white and it's snowing as I type. Yesterday we were in the midst of a "winter storm warning". Schools were closed. Roads were slick. Boots, hats, gloves and shovels were in high order. Our neighbor so kindly helped us snow-blow our piled-high driveway. What a blessing that was!


Tomorrow is the last day of February. I welcome in March, because March brings the first day of Spring (which also happens to be my birthday). I always look forward to the first crocus and daffodil that poke their heads out of the thawed earth. 

But all this white snow has me missing and longing for green. Green grass. Green leaves. Green buds and flower stems. On this snowy winter February day, I want to take a walk through my garden, in full bloom seven months ago. Remembering the beauty of the seasons that were, and the seasons to come.

Brilliant geraniums.

Delicate poppies.


The fragrance of a beautiful rose. Hello ant.

Stunning pink, blue and purple hydrangea.


My Dad always grew these in our yard.

The taste of fresh basil.

I know the snow will eventually melt and spring will come. Just as it does every year. Grass will grow. Trees will burst with new leaves. Flowers will bloom. God is faithful in every season. No matter the weather conditions.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Isaiah 40:8

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Composition Notebook Makeover

Turning a composition notebook into a beautiful journal makes a great gift, or a nice way to keep your own notes and thoughts. I have seen a few tutorials on this idea, some using fabric to make a cover. I used scrapbook paper, mod podge, and some stickers.

Purchase the notebook size of your choice. Standard composition notebooks are usually $1 or less. This smaller pocket notebook was about .79 cents, and was too cute to pass up.


One sheet of scrapbook paper is usually 12 x 12 inches, which is not large enough to cover an entire notebook. I used portions of three pieces of scrapbook paper, in corresponding patterns/colors. I started with the inside cover and wrapped it around to the font. I did not trim the scrapbook paper to size until it was completely dry. I found that it was easier to trim the edges with an x-acto knife when the paper was already attached and in place, rather than trying to cut exact size pieces before attaching them. I applied mod podge only to the back of the paper (I did not apply a top coat, but you may do so if you wish). 

Where the paper ended on the front, I added the next piece of paper and wrapped it around to the back of the notebook. Then I added another piece to finish the remaining back inside cover.

The scrapbook paper pack I used included matching stickers and border strips, which are perfect for covering the seamed edges and embellishing. I propped the books open to dry on a tissue box. It may tend to warp a little, because of the mod podge applied to both sides. After it was dry, I piled a few books on top to help flatten it back out.


Here is how the little one turned out. Perfect size for your purse. 

The styles and color combination's are endless!

I used a green oval sticker to personalize this one by writing my nieces name on it.


I made this hardcover notebook for my Dad (not a composition notebook).  I added stickers with his initials in the bottom corner. 

This is a fun and relatively easy project. Aren't these covers so much more appealing than that old black & white speckle patten?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Little Sarah, Little Pillows

Back in the day...around age 9 I think, when I learned how to sew by hand, pillows were the best thing ever to make. At least they were to me. Not your everyday couch pillow or bed pillow. Mini pillows. Small little rectangles, stuffed with cotton, that fit in the palm of your hand. Not big enough to rest your head on. When I got fabric scraps from my great Aunt Virgina, it was like winning the lottery. And pieces of new felt = gold. You had to save those for really good pillows! Like this one.

Then I got fancy, and learned how to sew words onto my pillows. I was using typography way back then. Future graphic designer in the making.

Then I got really fancy, and added lace trim. And a photo. Of me. Where did I come up with this stuff? Just look at the heart theme going on. And those stickers. I was very creative. The best part is that my parents still have these hand-crafted masterpieces. I'm pretty sure there were more, but what do you do with a collection of mini pillows?

Those early years of practicing sewing mini pillows did paid off. I still love sewing pillows. Only now they are practical life-size pillows for my couch  and chairs.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentines Day Heart Cookies


These heart shaped sugar cookie sandwiches with strawberry frosting are a perfect treat for Valentines Day! They are easy and fun to make. 

You will need 2 packages of sugar cookie dough:
1 can of strawberry frosting:
 One large heart shaped cookie cutter and one small heart shaped cookie cutter:


Follow the directions on the sugar cookie dough for rolling out the dough and making cut-out cookies. 
Bake for 7-9 minutes, cool, then frost and make cookie sandwiches. 

For non-frosting lovers, make some plain heart-shaped cookies. You can use the small heart from the cut-out sandwich toppers, and place them on top of the plain hearts to make a double heart design.

Enjoy! (Try not to eat them all, like I did!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Last weekend, I made this sinfully-rich chocolate truffle cheesecake, for one of my chocolate-loving friend's birthday (that could probably be a few of you!). I must say, I was very impressed that it came out so beautifully. And it was every bit as rich and indulgent as it looks. This was my first time making a cheesecake from scratch. The real deal. Water bath and everything. I will say, this recipe was quite involved. The entire process took a few hours from start to finish. But it was a Saturday, and I was in a baking mood. I found a recipe at It got 5 out of 5 stars, so I figured it would be a good one. Click here for the recipe or read below. I used my new spring form pan from Williams-Sonoma, similar to this one. Having a good pan definitely contributed to my success. I added my own touch at the end, by melting semi-sweet chocolate chips and drizzling chocolate across the top, and adding chocolate chips along the outside edge. It was almost too pretty to slice! It actually reminded me of one of those decadent desserts from a nice restaurant. *Note: I now realize why a food processor is recommended for this recipe. I used a hand mixer and it was...challenging. But I managed to mix it all together. Ok, here's the recipe, should you desire to make something that will send you to chocolate-lovers heaven:



  • 1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs (about 20 wafers)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oi
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water


  • 24 ounces 1% cottage cheese (3 cups)
  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (1 1/2 cups), cut into pieces
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, melted (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 16 chocolate-covered coffee beans (optional)


Preheat oven to 325°F. Put a kettle of water on to heat for the water bath. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Wrap the outside bottom of the pan with a double thickness of foil.
To prepare crust: Blend crumbs, sugar, oil and coffee in a small bowl with a fork or your fingertips. Press into the bottom of the pan.
To prepare filling: Puree cottage cheese in a food processor until very smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides. Add cream cheese, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa and cornstarch. Process until smooth. Add egg, egg whites, coffee, vanilla, salt and chocolate and blend well. Pour into the crust-lined pan.
Place the cheesecake in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1/2 inch up the side of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake until the edges are set but the center still jiggles, about 50 minutes. Turn off the oven. Spray a knife with cooking spray and run it around the edge of the pan. Let stand in the oven, with the door ajar, for 1 hour. Transfer from the water bath to a wire rack; remove foil. Let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled.
Before serving, garnish the cheesecake with chocolate-covered coffee beans, if using. (Or in my case, chocolate chips and melted chocolate).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hand Painted Wall Art & Custom Curtains

Young House Love is at it again, sharing more great home decorating ideas. This time, the topic is no-sew curtains for their soon-to-be baby girl's room. I made some no-sew curtains, over a year ago. I certainly wasn't the first to think of this, but it sure boosted my creative confidence to see a project featured on their site, that I have already tried. And without a how-to guide at the time. Thank you very much.

When my husband and I decided to re-decorate our bedroom, I wanted to design a window treatment that would add visual interest and a little bit of luxury. The odd sized window, on the down-slope of our cape-cod style roof, took up so much of the wall, I figured I might as well make it a focal point and something that I would enjoy looking at. Because the wall is so short, the curtain rod looked a bit odd,  butting right up against the ceiling. I really like the tidy look of a cornice (a.k.a. window box), so I recruited my husband to help me build our first ever project together. We used pieces of pine, nailed together, to form the box. I wrapped the box with a few layers of cotton batting, secured with a staple gun. Then I wrapped it with pale blue fabric with a nice sheen. We hung two curtain rods underneath the cornice. The back rod held the leaf printed sheers (purchased at Sears, years ago). The front rod held the brown satin-like taffeta fabric, which was on clearance at Jo-Ann's. I used Heat-N-Bond iron on hem tape to hem all of the edges, and it worked like a dream. No sewing! Especially since it was somewhat delicate fabric, and I was afraid of snagging it with my sewing machine. I love how the whole piece turned out. Lacey cat loves it too. This is her favorite place to nap.


Here is a BEFORE picture of our former red bedroom. The room was red when we moved in, so we just went with it for a while. See the white blinds and tan curtains that used to be there? I wish I had a better picture. It just wasn't very appealing. I always wanted a red room, but now I have a red kitchen (which I love). I like the "Nuthatch" brown we painted our room, with light blue accent walls. I say "we" painted, but it was really all Andrew. Thanks Honey, for painting every room in the house! 

The other side of the bedroom, with a walk-in closet, was missing a door. At first, I planned on installing a door, but I liked the idea of hanging a curtain much better. There was enough fabric left over from the window box, so I "no-sewed" another curtain, and hung it on a cute little rod with decorative ring clips. Instant decorative closet coverage.

I couldn't wait to hand-paint my own wall art. Have you seen those wall decals you can purchase? I was inspired by Apple Pie Design and miraentuinterior (I think that site is in French) to create my own wall art. I printed out a branch with some birds that I liked, and copied it onto a transparency. Using an overhead projector, as well as free-handing additional leaves, I drew the design onto the wall in pencil, then I painted it. I love how personalized and fun it looks!

There you have it. My version of how to create a window treatment, closet curtain, and custom wall art. What do you think?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Soap Dish Nostalgia

I remember certain places and things about my childhood so vividly. One of those places is my Papa Eramo's house. I realized not too long ago, that I have always thought of it as "Papa's house," instead of "Nana and Papa's house". My Nana Eramo passed away when I was just two years old. I wish, so much, that I could have known her. I will see her again one day in Heaven. I know that so much of her is who my Mom is, and my Mom is an amazing woman.

The memories I do have, of going to stay at Papa's house, who lived about 2 1/2 hours away, will always be dear to me. When you're a little kid, things seem so exciting, new and different when you're in a place that's not your home. I can still picture everything about that house. The carpet, the walls, the sounds of the kitchen early in the morning, the bedspread in the room my mom grew up in, little figurines that lined wooden shelves, the mysterious basement, the smell of Papa's awful cigarettes, the garage door, the picture over the couch, the way the sun shone through the wide metal blinds...

Recently, I spent an afternoon walking through the hundreds of booths at our local Craft Antique Co-Op. I stopped in my tracks when I saw this soap dish, sitting amidst a pile of random vintage items, in a booth that was crammed to the brim with stuff. I hadn't seen this dish in years, and the only place that I had ever seen it, was on the bathroom vanity at my Papa's house. I was taken back with nostalgia, picturing it in that blue carpeted bathroom, where it had always been.

I had to take it home. Just to have a little piece of that memory. It doesn't matter if it isn't the actual one. To me, it might as well be. The bottom of the soap dish notes that it is an Avon piece, which makes sense, because my Nana liked Avon. So do I. After some digging on Etsy, I found out "this charming milk glass dish was once produced by Avon in the popular “Queen Victoria’s hands” form to hold guest soaps". Which is ironic, because I avoid bar soap at all costs. I hate it. To this day. The feel of a soapy bar of soap irks me, like I cannot explain. It's liquid soap only for this gal. I would rather not wash my hands if it came down to it. Think what you will.

It may not seem like anything much to anyone else. It may even look a little creepy (it is pretty life like!). But I am blessed by this little found treasure and the memories it reminds me of.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Big Frame Up

I have been so inspired by the couple at Young House Love. Sherry and John have tackled just about every home improvement and decorating project you can think of. They have fabulous ideas, step-by-step tutorials, and even "How To" videos.

Their site was a great guide in helping me create my own wall of asymmetrical frames. I really like what they did here. I learned some tips for composing a frame arrangement by watching their instructional video.

I thrifted these hideous lovey pieces of framed art (can you sense my sarcasm?). Who would display a rainbow colored illustration of angelic 14 year old's in their home? It's beyond me. But I liked the size and shape of the frame, so for a couple bucks, it was worth it. The same goes for the square "Every day offers many gifts, untie the ribbons" frame. Cute...I guess. In an early-90's-country-kitchen kind of way. I really liked the oval frame to mix up the shapes a bit. The rest of the frames I had at home.

I took apart all the frames and spray painted them flat white. I have to be honest, it took quite a few coats. Like 5 or 6. Tip: make sure you spray all of the inside and outside edges, as well as the main frame area. Try to coat them as evenly as possible. Many light coats work better than a couple heavy (and drippy) coats.

I did have to be somewhat careful with them once they dried. A couple of the frames got nicked while I was working on them. My husband (the expert painter), insists that hand painting them would have looked better. But when I start a project, I want instant results (A.K.A. lack of patience), so spray painting them seemed quicker and easier. He may have been right, but I still liked how they turned out.

This is what my craft room looked like while I was figuring out what to put in the frames and started cutting mats for them. Disaster area. That's what inevitably happens when I start making something. All the rulers come out. Paper ends up everywhere. Every surface is used - floor, table, desk. Ideas and creativity at work!

Of course, I clean it all up eventually. That part is great too.


I think the most challenging part of designing a wall of frames, is the actual selection process of what to put in them. I wanted the compilation to look a little "artsy" with a modern feel. Since the wall would be part of our new dining corner, I liked the idea of cafe images, food and nature. I found this Paris calendar on clearance for $3.49, and I really liked the black and white images. 

This calendar, produced by Portal, with Alan Blaustein's photographs (and ones similar), can be found online here. I cut mats for each frame out of regular white poster board. A pack of 10 sheets was about $4.50. For that price, you can afford to mat quite a few frames. I measured the opening I wanted, and cut it out with an x-acto knife. It's simple and easy enough to change later.


The leaf print on the far left, is a wood cut that I made in college printmaking. I loved that class. Recognize the shape and size of the former angelic frame? That's the one. For the oval frame, I liked how it mimicked the shape of an "O" (like the "O" in our last name). So I printed it out in a lovely font. It instantly adds a personalized touch to the group. And last but not least, there is a photo of us. Andrew and I played with the arrangement on the floor until we came up with a composition that we thought worked best.

Then it was time to take it to the wall. With hammer and nails, I set to work, matching the placement of each frame on the wall. It did take some careful measuring, and if you look behind the frames, you would see a few extra holes here and there. But they're covered up! I used a bit of sticky-tack to hold the corners of the frames down and keep them straight.

What do you think of our little dining corner? I love it! Thanks Young House Love, for inspiring me and helping me to create my own beautiful asymmetrical wall of frames.