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Grammy’s Craft of the Month Club Strikes Again: Yarn Pumpkins, Messes, & Pinterest Fails

Creativity and Crafts
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Living to be over fifty and all, you’re bound to pick up a few life lessons.

Here’s one of them: when it comes to crafting, Pinterest can either be a trusted friend or a misleading purveyor of emotional breakdowns and lies. Sometimes the result is just so, so good. Other times it’s what I like to call a #PinterestFail.

Before we get into my recent crafting project and #PinterestFail, here are a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve accrued during the 2,452,856,818.50 hours I’ve spent on Pinterest. continue reading

Pumpkin Decor Inspiration for your Front Porch and Your Table

Creativity and Crafts, Home Matters
pumpkin decor

For all of you super organized ladies, you probably had your pumpkin Pinterest boards ready for action since August, so this post might be old news to you. But, if you are anything like me, and haven’t had time to spruce your nest with bright orange pumpkins and autumnal glow, go ahead and keep reading this post. This one’s for you.

So what’s the big deal about pumpkins, anyway? Well, around the world, they are considered a symbol of the harvest season. For me, they remind me of childhood, and New England, and pretty wrapped pumpkin bread and too many pumpkin spice lattes.

This past week, I got to take three of my grand-darlings to a real-life pumpkin patch. We bought too many pumpkins to count and had the best time. Stay tuned for next week to see the fun kid-friendly crafts we did with them! (Spoiler alert: it was messy). continue reading

Best Day Ever: On the set of Christmas Everlasting

Books, Celebrate Life
christmas everlasting
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Have you been reading my newsletter or reading my Facebook posts over the last couple of weeks?

If so, you’re undoubtedly aware that one of my books, The Second Sister, is being made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie with the title Christmas Everlasting.  (I’ve only posted about it around ten thousand times.)  It will air on the Hallmark Channel on November 24th, 2018 at 8pm Eastern Time, 7pm Central. I hope you’ll watch it!

In fact, I hope you’ll watch it with me! But more about that in a future post. Suffice it to say, plans are in the works. Stay tuned.

christmas everlasting continue reading

Garage Makeover Part 2 (And Why an Organized Life Pays Off)

Home Matters
garage makeover
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Okay, first things first.

Several months ago, I wrote a post about my big plans for a garage makeover, saying I wanted to finish it by the end of summer.

As is so often the case when it comes to construction projects, it took longer than I thought it would. But we did wrap it up before the end of summer. I think it turned out really well! Take a peek! continue reading

Beautiful homemade wreaths for Fall!

Creativity and Crafts
homemade wreaths for fall
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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on quite the Fall crafting kick. So when my daughter in love recently called me up to tell me that she just made two amazing homemade wreaths for Fall, I had to share.

She may not be over fifty (that would be weird, right?), but she is fierce as can be and crafty to boot! How did I luck out on a daughter-in-law that loves crafting as much as I do? I’ve enjoyed bonding over our love of crafting and it’s fun to see my grand-darlings joining in on the fun as well.

I certainly hope my son appreciates how beautiful his doors look like this season. He would be a fool not to.

Wreaths are the ultimate symbol of hospitality and festivity. And fresh wreaths made with local foliage mirror the season’s colors better than anything you can buy. Plus, store-bought ones or wreaths from the florist don’t come cheap!

So why not try your hand at making your own wreath? My daughter-in-love promises that if you can safely wield a hot glue gun and are tall enough to trim leaves off of a magnolia tree, both of these wreaths will be a cinch.

Perhaps she will mail one of these to me. Wouldn’t they look lovely on, say, my front door?

I’m heading out of town for a few days but cannot wait to give a wreath a try when I return home to The Pinery!

 

Acorn Wreath

It’s that time of year for many parts of the country where acorns scatter the ground and squirrels run wild. So why not pick up a few acorns and make something wonderful? The squirrels have enough acorns.

What You’ll Need

  • 1- to 14 inch straw wreath form
  • 16 cups of acorns
  • hot glue gun and a ton of hot glue sticks
  • ribbon for hanging and general flare

Instructions

  1. Collect around 16 cups of acorns. You will need more than you think. Look for acorns that aren’t half eaten by squirrels or bugs. Try to have some of the acorns still “wearing their hats.”
  2. Clean and roast the acorns. Here’s a tutorial that explains how to do that and why you should.
  3. Using a generous amount of hot glue directly on the straw wreath form, place each acorn individually. Try to use glue under and in between the acorns to help them stay put once it dries.
  4. Mix up the angles of the acorns, because perfection is overrated. Plus, the variety masks any mistakes you might make! 
  5. Work your way around the entire front of the wreath until completely covered on the front and sides.
  6. Remove any visible hot glue strings.
  7. Loop ribbon around the top and display on your door with pride. You did it!

Note: If squirrels are especially pesky in your neck of the woods, spritz finished wreath with clear acrylic spray. You really can’t blame them for wanting to make a buffet out of your acorn wreath. Just try to make it as unappetizing as possible. 

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Southern Magnolia Wreath

My daughter-in-love has a giant Southern magnolia in her front yard, so trimming 100 leaves was no problem for her! Here in Bend, a Southern magnolia is about as common as a palm tree. But a similar technique could be used with all kinds of leaves or greenery. See the note below.

What You’ll Need

  • About 100 magnolia leaves, with as much of the stem intact as possible
  • 10 to 14 inch Styrofoam wreath form
  • sharp object to poke holes in wreath (like a kebab stick)
  • Ribbon for hanging and adornment (navy gingham and frayed burlap ribbon were used here)

Note: If magnolias don’t grow where you live, try boxwood, spruce sprigs, or other local foliage. You can’t go wrong! 

Instructions

  1. First, sort out your leaves by size so that wreath will have a more uniform appearance.
  2. Starting at the outermost side of the wreath, Using a sharp object to “pre-drill” the holes on the styrofoam wreath form, pierce wreath at an angle to ensure that leaves arrange themselves at a uniform angle throughout. Drill holes every 3/4 of an inch or so. Do four or five concentric circles until close to the innermost part of the wreath. 
  3. Now it’s time to add those pretty, shiny leaves! Start with the largest ones on the outermost circle and work your way around. You might need to trim the stem to more of a tapered shape to help it fit in the hole.
  4. Keep going ’til all the holes are filled with beautiful foliage and the form doesn’t show any more.
  5. To help the bright green stick around a little longer, spritz leaves with foliage sealer.
  6. Wrap a generous amount of ribbon around the top and put this beauty on display!

Note: If wreath form is still showing, you can use a foam brush with green paint to make it blend in a little more. 


 

Another Fun Fall Craft Idea: Candy Corn DIY Coasters

Creativity and Crafts
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As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my favorite things about the beginning of the Fall season is the excuse to craft away and spruce up my home with simple, easy, low-cost seasonal decor.

And why stop at cute leaf mason jar centerpieces and pinecone swags? continue reading

Fall Craft Ideas: Mason Jar Leaf Lanterns and Pinecone Door Swags

Creativity and Crafts
fall craft ideas
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There are so many reasons to love crafting.  For example, I love how crafting lets me give my home decor a face-lift without spending piles of cash. (That’s money I’d just as soon spend updating my wardrobe, thank you very much.)

We only moved into our home a year ago, so it really is too soon to be talking about redecorating. Still, especially when the seasons change, it’s nice to change things up and give your home a bit of a decorating boost.

I spent a lot of last weekend doing exactly that.  After a trip to town for craft supplies and a trip upstairs to raid my craft room, I got to work creating a couple of fun, easy craft projects to dress up my home and welcome the fall season.

continue reading

Gearing Up for Deer Resistant Flowers this Spring (the Time to Plant is Now!)

Home Matters
deer resistant flowers
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I’ve almost always lived in the country, so I’m used to dealing with deer.  But the deer in my new neighborhood are different.

For one thing, there are a lot of them. I’m starting to suspect there are more deer per square mile than people here. Okay, maybe not that many.  But every time I go outside for a walk, or bike ride, there they are.

The other thing about these deer? They aren’t afraid of people. Not one bit.  continue reading

What to read next

Books
what to read next
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Because I write books for a living, I may be biased. But there are few things that elevate the spirit like curling up with a good book. As I mentioned in a recent post, reading helps us combat stress, live longer, sleep better, and be more empathetic. All good things, right?

Most of my novels are uplifting works of women’s and historical fiction. However, my personal reading interests run the gamut. I read almost as much non-fiction as fiction, and like to challenge myself to try new genres and authors.  A couple of years ago, I’d started reading mystery and have found some wonderful reads. Spiritual, devotional, and self-help books are also on my regular reading list.  (I don’t care how Fierce you are, you never outlive or outgrow the need for inspiration and guidance, am I right?)

At a minimum, I endeavor to read one non-fiction and one fiction each month. Finding time to read isn’t always easy, especially when I’m juggling deadlines, triathlon training, recipe testing, dog walking, and husband wrangling.

Still, reading is a necessity for me. In the midst of my crazy, go-go life, reading is a gift I give myself and an important means of maintaining my sanity.   By penciling time for reading in my magical Living Well Spending Less planner, just as I would an appointment to get my roots done, I make time for it.

How to Pick a Good Book

So how do you decide what to read next?  No one wants to waste time with a book that isn’t a good fit, right?

Choose books that pique your interest. There’s lots of great best sellers lists and the Oprah Book Club, but what other people like might not be what you like. Find books with settings that interest you, themes you can relate to, and values that inspires you! For me, that includes books on gardening, or quilting, or glamping, or even yarn farming.

(Yes, you read that right. Yarn farming. It’s an actual thing).

Apart from a long, leisurely browse in my local bookstore, my favorite way to find books is through recommendations from girlfriends. Also, if I fall in love with a book by a particular author, I’m highly likely to read her next book, and the one after that, and the one after that.  (A particular perk to my line of work is that several of my favorite, must-read authors also happen to be my real-life friends. How great is that? I love my job!)

Here are a few titles I’ve read at the recommendation of others and absolutely loved. I think you will too!

Married to my Garden by Barbara Blossom Ashmun

This year, an unusually hot and smoky summer, a gang of ravenous deer, and the high-dessert location of my new home has made gardening a challenge for me.  Needing a gardening fix, I sought inspiration in the pages of this simply charming, beautifully written little book, Married to My Garden  (How perfect is it that the author’s middle name is Blossom? Clearly, she was born to write about gardening.)

The short vignettes throughout this book walk you through the stages of the author’s romance with her garden.

At first she’s obsessed, dreaming of plants day and night. Like a woman in love, she’s possessed-until weeds, and slugs make her question the whole affair. Yet even a brief absence makes her realize that she can’t live without her hands in the dirt. In the end, she surrenders to her garden, even with all its faults.

If you’re short on time, these brief, bite-sized essays are perfect for you.  Each one is a delightful little bon-bon, a wonderful way to reestablish a reading habit, and possibly, spark or reignite a love of gardening.  But you don’t need a green thumb to enjoy this book.  Married to My Garden is filled with wisdom, insight, and life lessons that will make you smile, pause, and reexamine everyday joys.

 

MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook by MaryJane Butters

If I could spend a day with somebody famous, I’d want to spend that time with MaryJane Butters – preferably on her farm.

However, it’s probably is a good thing that I haven’t met MaryJane in person. If I did, I’m sure I’d turn into a dithering, stuttering, Fan Girl Mess. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t. Or at least not for long.  Because MaryJane seems so completely down-to-earth. She seems like someone who would offer you a cup of organic tea and some cookies made with butter from her own cow, and sit down for a nice long chat, putting you totally at ease.  One thing I am certain of, if we ever do meet, MaryJane and I will have lots to talk about. We have so many interests in common!

If you aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of MaryJane’s Farm and its fierce Farmgirl founder, Mary Jane Butters, you are in for a treat. Living on a five-acre organic farm in Idaho, she embodies the spirit of the American farmgirl, with an empowered do-it-yourself attitude.

She also publishes a magazine (my absolute favorite), sells line of organic food products and linens, and has authored an entire shelf full of books.

I own every single one of them.  (See what I mean? I’m a total fan girl.)

This month, I’ve been re-reading two of my favorites.

Like all of her titles, MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook is written in a cozy, conversational, girlfriend-to-girlfriend style that makes me feel like MaryJane and I are besties. It’s loaded with projects, ideas, recipes, eye-candy, and inspiration for living a genuine, gracious, homespun life.  The photos are gorgeous and the instructions clear. I love everything about this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know, I had an adorable RV a couple years back, Glinda the Glamper, that I had to sell when I moved to Oregon. I really miss Glinda, and the camping fantasy that accompanied her. The time isn’t right for me to get a new RV, or even a cute little trailer just now. But re-reading Glamping with MaryJane has allowed me to scratch that glamorous camping itch from the air-conditioned comfort of my own home.  There are so many wonderful ideas for camping graciously in these pages! I’m gobbling up inspiration for my next camp fantasy like a girl scout ’round the campfire gobbles up s’mores.

When I get my next trailer (and there WILL be a next time), I’ll be ready, thanks to MaryJane.

 

 

 

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

Summer always goes way too quickly for me. But we’ve still got a few weeks until fall, just enough time for one more juicy, delicious beach read.  If you’re looking for a book to accompany your poolside lounger, lawn chair, or rocking chair on the porch, look no farther than The Sunshine Sisters.
This is the story of three sisters, Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy. The three have never been close. But when their mother, an aging movie star whose narcissistic personality marred their childhood, becomes seriously ill, the sisters return home. The jealousies, scars, and family secrets each face aren’t easy to confront but a satisfying, tear inducing redemption at the end.
I’m lucky enough to count a lot of writers in my circle of friends.  Sometimes I read their books, sometimes not, and vice versa. But Jane Green is both a friend and an author whose books I reach for again and again. When it comes to women’s fiction, she’s at the head of the class. She writes characters I want to know (and occasionally want to slap! Or at least give a good talking to), drawing me in emotionally and introducing me to new worlds, but always with a touch of glamour. Best of all, Jane always gives me that hopeful, satisfying ending I long for.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups had been hidden for decades in the Canadian wilderness, with no outsiders ever entering its walls. The beautiful music – Gregorian chant – was said to be praising God in the voice of God, a musical tradition that has such a profound impact on the singer, its known as the beautiful mystery.

For monks who had taken a vow of silence, their voices merged together in beautiful harmony and eventually, their chants are shared with the world with a CD. When the world-famous choir director is found dead, Inspector Gamache and his colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir of Surete de Quebec are called in. What they find is a not so black and white case with layers of deception they never imagined.

The Beautiful Mystery is another beautifully written and captivating novel that kept my heart racing until the very end. Until I found Louise Penny, I rarely read mystery but she turned me on to the genre. She is, quite simply, an amazing writer.  Every book she pens is a winner.

Easy and Fun Craft Ideas for Grandkids: DIY Magic Bubble Wands & Rock Monsters

Creativity and Crafts
craft ideas for grandkids
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If I do say so myself, I was a pretty good mom. I’m also a pretty good Grammy.

It’s not that I’m a totally indulgent grandmother. There are rules in my house and certain things I have no interest in doing.

For instance, I’m really no good at pushing toy cars around the floor and making motor sounds. Also, I’m not big on activities that involve dirt, danger, or the possibility of encountering insects or reptiles.  And when it comes to hide and seek, I have a limited attention span, especially if the other players aren’t really big enough to hide properly.

However, if you want to read a story, bake cookies, or have a tea party, I’m totally on board. That’s part of what makes me a good Grammy.

But the real secret to my popularity as a grandmother is that I’m all about crafting.  continue reading