Happily Ever After…

Everyone loves the old fairy-tale ending: “And so they lived happily
ever after.” But in my opinion the best part of any true-life story
begins with these words. Certainly life’s greatest challenge is
raising a family. My own life has been exciting, 
rich and immensely
rewarding in every way. I have been lucky enough to win fame 
fortune beyond my dreams. An yet, the greatest and most satisfying
by far that I have enjoyed lies in my children. Helping them,

watching them grow, has been my greatest joy and privilege.
~ Art Linkletter, 1959 ~

Very true words from Mr. Linkletter! Raising children… and then watching your children raise children… has got to be the most rewarding thing we’ve ever experienced! This week our family added another bit of “happily” to our “ever after”… Another grandboy!

ZekeWelcome to the world, Ezekiel!

Stretching Chickens and Raising Kids…

A slightly quirky blog post title, I know. I’m not quite sure if I’ve had too much coffee this morning… or too little. But there you have it. The things in my head at 8:00 a.m. And Hubby escaped into the world of hammers and nails before I started exponderating. Lucky readers.


Along the thought line of making do in the kitchen, have you ever heard of “Rubber Chicken” recipes? Go ahead… google “rubber chicken recipes” and you’ll find LOTS. I can’t quite remember where I first learned the term, but the idea has been passed down for generations by frugal homemakers. How to make a single chicken last and last and last. It’s quite a fun game. One night last week, Hubby and I were pondering dinner way past the time dinner should have been, and we decided to just run to the store for a couple of TV dinners. We walked past the rotisserie chickens and changed our plans. Out we walked with a skinny little $6 chicken and a package of microwave garlic mashed potatoes. I had applesauce at home to round it out. Fast food dinner for two for under $10. At least I knew I could pull another dinner out of the remains of the chicken the next night.

Since it was so late, we really didn’t eat much of the chicken. So, the next night, I pulled it out of the fridge, warmed up the rest of the white meat, and served it with broccoli and a package of brown rice pilaf  which I had purchased in bulk a few weeks ago when they were on sale for $1 a bag. (They make a great side dish for those just-the-two-of-us dinners!) So, a second dinner for about $3, counting up the broccoli, rice, and leftover applesauce.

Two nights later, the thought of dinner came up again, and I knew that bird was still hanging out in the fridge. As I was picking all the meat off the carcass, the kids called and said they were on the way over. Chicken soup was offered if they hadn’t eaten yet, and they hadn’t. The bones and skin went into a pot to boil, and I scrounged the kitchen for soup-makings. Several carrots, some celery, an onion, a potato, brown rice, and some spices were thrown with the leftover chicken once the broth was strained. Added in some homemade bread and opened another jar of applesauce, and we all had warm and full tummies.

And then last night, instead of heating the leftover soup, we opted for rolling out a pie crust and turning the soup and the leftover broccoli (from Dinner #2) into a chicken pot pie. Sides were corn and leftover applesauce. (We both really like applesauce, by the way.) We only ate half the pie, so dinner tonight is leftovers again. I stopped trying to figure out what the dinners cost after the first two nights, since all they “cost” was a bit of elbow grease and stuff that was already in my fridge threatening to mold if we ordered out. I do know that skinny little chicken ended up being a part of five dinners…one with company. Chicken stretching… favorite sport of frugal homemakers.


And in the area of raising kids… Mom and I have been taking my youngest daughter, Kate, who is great with child, on looong walks in hopes that the grand baby will be born soon. Last week we went to an antique shop that takes several hours to peruse, and I was very well-behaved, coming out with only a $3 book that looked interesting. And it has been. Absolutely, utterly refreshing, and rather funny… which couldn’t be helped considering who the author is. Common-sensical wisdom on child raising combined with humor and whit, written over 50 years ago. I’ve read a lot of books on parenting, but I’ve never laughed quite so much or agreed any more than I have while reading this one…


I have to put the disclaimer that I don’t agree with everything Mr. Linkletter writes, but Oh. My. Stars. he sure hits the nail on the head in so many areas. It’s like having a great conversation with your grandfather about how to raise happy, healthy kids. I may be sharing some of it with you in the next few posts.

Have a great Tuesday!

The Cookie Section…

I had an unexpected quiet hour this morning, and decided to tackle a pile of recipes that I had pulled out of my old recipe binder a while back. I’ve been slowly adding them to the new red Martha Stewart binder that I filled with cute Susan Branch recipe dividers from another binder.

Yep. I do tend to collect binders. And dividers.
And various other paper organizational materials.
And switch them out and rearrange them a little too often.


Anyway, I’ve been avoiding the “Cookie Section.”
It seemed just a tiny bit overwhelming.
Is it a major character flaw if the “Cookie Section” of
your recipes is the biggest and most used section?

I think not.

One thing that really impressed me when snipping out these old recipe pages and pasting them in the new binder, was how many ladies are represented in my “Cookie Section.” My Mom and my girls. Grandmoms and Teen-agers. Old and Young. Best friends and Ladies I just met. So many memories in a rather large stack of cookie recipes. Those recipes represent Christmas from my childhood, tea parties with my girls, “Wow, I really need that recipe,” mega-cooking adventures, Civil War balls, snow days, dinner with friends,  and because-we-need-cookies-right-now-why-won’t-the-butter-soften-any-faster?

Cookie Section

If you look closely, your name might be in that pile!


If not, it’s probably in the “Dessert Section.”

A Mood Board, of sorts…

One of my girls enlightened me on “Mood Boards” this past year.

I think I sort of knew about them, but for some reason never saw the importance of creating a mood board when coming up with a new design, a fresh brand, or a  snappy decorating scheme. Jo uses them with her graphic design clients to get a feel for who they are and what they are looking for in a logo or blog header. And today, while shuffling stuff around (Expert Stuff Shuffler here.) I gathered a few things that I LOVE and that have been an inspiration for Something-In-The-Works.

I’ve had this wonderful calligraphy mat for a while…


…And lots of Verbage/Words/Signage…


…And am slowly adding to a collection…


…And a historic print that I have LOVED since childhood
has been developed into textiles…


… which jumpstarted the Something-In-The-Works!

Any guesses?


A Love/Hate Relationship…

Contact Paper.

Need I say more?

Nothing freshens up old cupboards like brand new Contact Paper.
One of my girls bought me several rolls of this happy
vintage green Magic Cover Contact Paper at the
Dollar Store because it looked like me…


I saved it for a while because it had to go in just the right spot.

And I had to be in just the right mood.

Because there are a several important
steps to applying Contact Paper properly.

Step #1. Measure Carefully, taking note of
indentations in the structure of the cupboard floor.

Step #2. Cut out the first piece of Contact Paper
completely backward just for practice.
(This piece can be used later for a smaller area.)

Step #3. Cut out a new piece of Contact Paper
with the proper dimensions, right side up.

Step #4. Peel off the backing carefully and prepare
to apply the contact paper to the bottom of cupboard.

Step #5. Stick Contact Paper to your head, arms,
and any other available extremity, as well as to itself
before applying to the surface you had planned on covering.


After the battle is over application is complete
you will love the results! Fresh cupboards!

I Always Wanted to Remodel an Old Farmhouse…

… But I was thrilled when we were able to build our new home…

…Nearly twenty-three years ago!

And the last couple of years, as we’ve been making
a few changes here and there, guess what?

I get to remodel an “old” farmhouse!


We’re trying our best to employ our “Thistle Dew” motto as we switch things around. Minimal cost… Maximum use. No wasted space. Use what we have to the best advantage. Over the years, we’ve swapped bedrooms few times. The attached garage became an art room. The original art room (the Work Room, as it has been called over the years) became a sewing room, and then a catch-all room. The Grand Plan now is to create a master bedroom downstairs, with as little new footprint as possible, but also without deconstructing the entire house at once. Why? Because us empty nesters need two empty bedrooms upstairs. Really. We do. There’s a Reason. And for now it’s a one-step-at-a-time process.

Before we took off for California earlier this month to see our Grandboys, Hubby and I tackled the upstairs “work room,” that crazy, pretty, big room that has been a little bit of everything to our family. We crafted up there, homeschooled up there, sewed up there… it was even a makeshift bedroom when a daughter decided she needed her own space. It was time to get that room under control!

Room2We gave it a fresh coat of paint and put in a window…
…Which Hubby accidentally ordered by mistake for a
construction job he was doing a while back.

When we returned from our trip, we tackled the floor…

FloorBeforeThe floor held evidence of craft projects from the past.
Tiny graffiti artists had left their marks as well.
However, the tongue and groove floor is also the ceiling in the art room below,
so I was reluctant to brush liquid stain on it in fear of it dripping through.

PaintI opted for using black semi-gloss paint, applied sparingly with a brush.


It actually turned out better than I expected,
and took less than half a quart of paint!

Floor MidwayThis is what the surface looked like… Almost finished!

deskareaAnd now the fun of putting everything back
together and organizing my art stuff!
Yep… The studio is moving back to the work room!

Thistle Dew…

Thistle Dew

This’ll Do.

That little phrase… a play on words, really…
first gave a name to our little farmette,
and then to our business.

That phrase had connotations of contentment,
of making do, of being satisfied, of just enough…
of a Goldilocks sort of not too big, not too small,
not too hard, not to soft, not to hot, not too cold…

…Just right.

Thistle Dew was a balance our family was seeking, of living life at a speed in which we could enjoy the moments. A merry-go-round that was moving along at a good pace, but going slowly enough that you could step off from time to time without fear of injury. Where you could grab a friend and jump back on for a bit of fun, walk around on the ride and choose a different horse, and even wave and talk to those on the ground.

Somewhere along the way, the merry-go-round
morphed into a dizzying tilt-a-whirl.

Activities became obligations and our calendars filled to the brim. Every day held something important… sometimes several somethings. The To-Do List was growing by leaps and bounds and seemed to be taking on a life of its own. At the same time, our closets and cubbies and attic and under-the-beds became over-stuffed and overflowing. We multi-tasked and scheduled and organized and pedaled as hard and as fast as we could, but eventually realized we were getting tired of the too much and needed the just enough again.

Just enough for what really matters…



Angels Unaware

A while back, we realized we needed time to laugh and drink tons of coffee and hold little hands and take naps and bake cookies and just plain be. We began the process of clearing clutter and our schedules to make some space for real living, as well as the possibility of new and exciting adventures. We wanted to be able to say “Yes” to the right things instead of “Sorry… there’s no room… I don’t have time…” Not that our lives would not be sometimes hectic or that we would reach some sort of slow living utopia, but so we would have time to breath and enjoy life.

Last year, I chose “Home” as my one word for 2013. Looking back, I think focusing on Home, and everything it meant to us, was an important step in us getting back to just enough….

…to “this’ll do.”

Thistle Dew…

…My new/old One Word/Phrase for 2014


Day 30 – Think on These Things…

We’ve spent a month’s worth of posts thinking about ways to Take Joy! (Though that month stretched out quite a bit!) We’ve thought about what Joy! is, and what Joy! isn’t. About the source of true Joy! About ways to fill ourselves with Joy! and share a bit of it with others around us. And I think we’ve just scratched the surface… especially in the sharing area.

There’s one thought I’d like to leave you with before wrapping up this series. It’s been very important to me over the years. It’s a thought about how we think. Because what goes on in our heads every day affects our lives and those around us. And what goes INTO our heads on a daily basis affects what goes on in our heads.

Kind of like the “garbage in, garbage out” principle.

That’s an old computer programmer line… if a program is badly written, it won’t work smoothly and produce the desired result. Our bodies are like that too… If we fill them with junk, we can expect to get run down and feel yucky. Same goes for our heads. If we fill our heads constantly with the “bad”… and there is quite a bit of “bad” out there to be had… there won’t be much Joy! to tap into when we need it.

So what to do?

When all you hear about is war and strife
and everyone is arguing about ducks
and movies are filled with violence
and the news is filled with terrible stories
and Facebook makes sure you know about all of it?

When the world seems especially gloomy, the best thing to do is make a decision about what kind of things you want to think about. Yes, we live in this crazy world, and every day we see so much that is wrong. But we need to remember that there is a lot of what’s right and good in this world too. And that’s what we need to fill our heads with, so our thoughts and actions can reflect good things.

Finally brothers (and sisters!),
Whatever things are true,

Whatever things are honest,
Whatever things are just,
Whatever things are pure,
Whatever things are lovely,
Whatever things are of good report,
If there is any virtue,
If there is any praise,
Think on these things.
Philippians 4:8 (paraphrased)


I’ll be posting Day 31 but the end of this week
with the winner of the Take Joy! Giveaway!
There’s still some time to sign up by leaving a 
comment on Day 26! Just click here!!!

To read the whole series,
click on the picture below!

Day 29 – An Open Door Policy

One of the best ways we can share Joy! with others is to open our homes to them. From big family gatherings on a holiday, to a cup of tea and some muffins, to a bed hastily made on the couch because the roads are icy… Hospitality is always appreciated. And it’s not about being the perfect hostess, or having everything “Pinterest Perfect!” (I LOVE Pinterest, by the way!) Hospitality is about making room for others in your life… Offering some comfort and some friendship… Taking the time to read a story to a little person or making a shy teen feel like they’re important. It could be a warm cup of coffee or a cool glass of ice water. It’s all about sharing Joy!

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2

Since our nest became empty, Hubby and I have had this feeling deep down that we’ve been blessed with our home for a reason, and that it needs to be shared. It needs to be open… ready for family, friends, neighbors, strangers… and maybe even some angels. It’s been a lot of work to clear out twenty-some years of clutter and make some room in our home and our lives for the “whoevers” that may come along. But we want to be ready. We want the door to be open.

I know that our house is not “company ready” every day… With a busy life, lots of art orders, and a variety of home update projects, there have been days that our house looks like a Michaels/Lowes/packing supply explosion, but I’ve found a few things that can help keep me keep a ready-for-anything attitude when it comes to someone popping in suddenly…

Morning Chores
Since our girls were little, we had a list of chores
to run through each morning. I’ve found when I’m
consistent with this, the house doesn’t get too messy.
I can even skip some of the chores on many days!

Parlor Mentality
Back in the day, our grandparents kept the parlor ready
for guests… often to the point of not letting the children in!
I don’t believe in going to that extreme, but it does help to have
a room that stays relatively clean when unexpected guests arrive!

First Impressions
Something else that has helped me over the years is to stand at
the doorway and look in the entry to our home as if I’m a guest
or the UPS guy. That usually has me gathering up a few stray things
or grabbing a vacuum to give the entry rug a once over!

Five Minute Pick-Up
If you do get a bit of warning that company is coming,
it’s amazing what you can do in just five minutes to make the house
ready for guests! We’re talking triage here… gather your stray coffee
cups, straighten the stack of magazines, fluff the pillows on the couch,
empty the trash, and put away that last load of laundry!

Clear the Table
For some reason, our dining room table seems to catch things that
come in the door… purses, groceries, receipts, important papers…
…and for some reason, the dining room table is where guests congregate!
It’s helped to set up a receiving station near the door to have a place
to catch the entryway clutter, but I often still need to make a point
 to clear the table so there’s room for good conversation!

Most of all, remember that any guests that come to your home do not usually come to “see” you home… They come to visit with you! Forget the little piles of clutter when they are there and share some Joy! with your company. Open up the door and say “Come on in!”

Speaking of sharing Joy!
Click here to sign up for a free
framed papercutting!
Winner to be announced on Day 31
of the Take Joy! series!

Click below to read the entire series…