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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

One Man's Trash . .

I don't know about you, but after a trip to the grocery store, I often come home and feel like I am drowning in plastic bags.  I keep reusable bags in my car (and they are great ones), but it seems that more often than not, I forget to take them inside with me.  I try to keep my plastic bags neatly tucked away in my tiny pantry to re-use, but there is no way to re-use them all, so I found myself just throwing many of them away.

One morning, while working at our church's food pantry, I was reminded of what I SHOULD be doing with my bags. One of our regular pantry workers spends her free time crocheting these wonderful sleeping mats for our local homeless residents.
A little larger than a twin bed, they are attractive and thick and water-resistant---and they are made from leftover plastic bags! Yep, that's right.  The very same bags that I kept throwing away.
Intrigued, I was shown how I can help at home.
Perhaps it is something you want to help with as well.  Before the crocheting can begin, each bag needs to be converted into "plarn"  (plastic yarn). While the process is extremely simple, it is time-consuming for the person that is doing the crocheting--and a way for me to get involved, and get rid of my plastic bags.  Watch my short video to learn how to create "plarn" for a project such as this---it is so easy!
Any of the scraps left after cutting up the bags are turned in to one of our local grocery stores for recycling, so every single part of the bag is used.  If you want to begin creating plarn yourself, I would be happy to take your finished balls to our food pantry to be crocheted into more mats.  As you can see, she tries to make them as attractive as possibly, as well, so I try to keep the colors separated into separate balls.

If you want more information about how to make your own mats, there are several websites with directions here and here.  The only supplies needed are scissors, a large crochet hook and a bunch of bags.  The larger the crochet hook, the faster this project goes, so be sure to choose a size 10 or larger. It takes a TON of plastic bags to complete one of the mats, but what a blessing it is to provide a softer spot to land for someone in need.

P. S.  I just posted my very first Instagram "Moment", so check it out if you want.

Monday, January 30, 2017

February Instagram Challenge

Here it is, the end of January, and time for a new Instagram challenge.  Pick up your phone or camera and play along by posting a photo each day that fits the prompt.  You can interpret the prompt any way you wish and if you need to skip a day, or rearrange them to fit your schedule, that is fine.  Just do what works for you!

If you want to join us for the first time, leave me a message below or leave a message on my Instagram post.  I usually save the photo below to my phone as a "favorite" for easy access.

By the way, I'm working on something a little different for our March challenge, so be sure and check back in from time to time.
Sunday, January 29, 2017

Pizza Anyone?

I can hardly believe it, but BabyB has his second birthday coming up very soon.  For Christmas, he received a state of the art "Kitchen" (that he calls his "house") along with lots of dishes and cookware.  He has a great time cooking for his mama and daddy, however, most of his toy food consists of wooden likenesses of milk, waffles and juice cartons.

I did a quick search on Etsy and found some really great in-the-hoop embroidery designs for felt food.  For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "in-the-hoop" designs refer to the fact that the entire object is stitched on an embroidery/sewing machine, within a hoop.  The backing is even attached during the process and all of the edges are finished.

Looking for the most bang for my buck, I decided to make miniature bags of food, pizza and sandwiches and purchased the designs from Sewing For Sarah and NewfoundApplique.  After a quick trip to Joann's for additional colors of felt, I set to work.

They are so cute and while a little bit time-consuming, they are quite easy--and fun-- to make.
By the end of the day, I had snacks ready for a toddler's kitchen.
Pizza, anyone?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ever Been On A Swamp Tour?

My good friend Debbie invited me to join her for a Swamp Tour. We had several dates lined up that  were rained out, but were finally able to make it this week.  We drove down to Breaux Bridge and easily found Champagne's Swamp Tours,(pronounced "shawm-pawn" for those of you that aren't cajun). 
We met our guide, Captain Morgan, and got settled comfortably into our boat.  Having lived his whole life in the area, he was very knowledgeable about the history and ecology of the swamp and you could tell how much he enjoyed the outdoors.
We were the only two people on the tour that day, so we were able to use one of the small boats, which allowed us a little more flexibility in where we could go.  The skies were mostly overcast and the wind was quite chilly, so we were thankful for our sweaters and jackets.
When you hear the word swamp, mud and mire probably come to mind.  And that would be true in this case, as well.  But there is a beauty in this place that is so quintessentially Louisiana and very peaceful.  
From the tall cypress and gum trees draped with moss, to the small green water plants, to the green algae swirling atop of the water, it was definitely a treat to see.
One of our main goals of the trip was to see the birds and other wildlife and we weren't dissapointed.  While I was not able to get a clear picture, one of the first birds we saw was a bald eagle that unexpectedly flew over us.  
There were plenty of egrets and many different varieties of herons as well.
We saw a few kingfishers and other smaller birds, but the owls that are often found on in the trees, were apparently taking shelter from the cold weather.

As we cruised around the swamp/lake, Captain Morgan pointed out a small black patch to the right of one of the trees and we soon realized why.
The gator never moved, so all we saw was his back, but he appeared to be quite large.  As we moved away from him, Capt. Morgan explained that he had waited to tell us one fact---the length of a gator is usually almost exactly how far he can leap through the air to reach him.  Yikes--we were about 8 feet away and he was probably 8-10 feet long. 
It is almost nesting time (when parts of the lake will be closed to boats since it is a preserve), so many of the birds were carrying sticks as they flew.  The double-crested cormorants and herons nesting side by side atop the cypress and gum trees.
The wide open lake was the coldest part of the tour.  There were some die-hard fishermen out that day, but not much of anyone else.  
Cormorants were spotted on many of the bare trees throughout the lake.  They reminded me of the vultures in the Disney movie, Jungle Book.  
The few turtles that were brave enough to crawl out onto the logs were very quick to slide back into the water when we approached.
We surprised a bunch of black-bellied whistling ducks
and saw a smaller egret resting on what appeared to be a ground nest.
Just as the tour was about to conclude, we rounded a corner and saw this.
We slowly made our way around behind him and were able to get quite close without him moving a muscle (although he did seem to have quite a smirk on his face).
We had such a good time together and can't wait for our next adventure!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Coffee and Drink Station

It's January, and I, like many people, are in organization mode.  I started small yesterday, with the medicine cabinet in our kitchen.  It is very narrow space and has been perfect for this purpose, but goodness, it had become a mess.  I took every single thing out of the cabinet, purged the things that were no longer useful and put the remaining items back in a more organized manner--cold medicines in one basket, analgesics in another and vitamins on the bottom shelf.  I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I had 3 bags of calcium chews hidden in this tiny cabinet that had never even been opened! The baskets are probably not the most idea for this space, but they are fairly functional, so no need to replace them unless I find something better.  Trying to decide if I should add labels to the baskets--I know where everything is, but no matter how many times I show him, Ron will inevitably ask me where the cold medicines are.  ;-)
Today, I tackled the small table in my kitchen. I've had this table for years and the girls spent many of their mornings eating their breakfast here when they were growing up.  However, since they have been grown and gone, it really has been more of a catch-all space than anything else.  I attempted to make it my desk to work on my dad's estate business, but it just didn't work well and just accumulated piles of papers. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of the before, but trust me--it was not pretty!

This morning, while babyD2 napped, I cleared everything off and turned into a drink station.  I've had most of these things on my butcher block cart, but the cord from the coffee pot had to be plugged in on the counter and it really did pose a hazard when I tried to move the cart in any direction.  Since there is an outlet under the table, this really is the perfect spot for the coffee pot.  I also wanted to include a setup for hot chocolate for these cooler days.
In the little drawer, I will keep spoons for stirring and some napkins.
I think I would eventually like to add some hooks for cups on that wall by the coffee maker. Maybe something like this?

(unknown source)
In the next couple of years, we plan to remove the wallpaper in this room and go with painted walls, and all of the cabinets need to be repainted, as well, so at this point, I am trying to work with what I've got. However, I've been brainstorming ideas for the future of this little nook.  Since we don't really need a table here anymore, I would like to have some sort of cabinet that provides more storage.

Here are few inspiration photos for what I might be looking for:
I love this little table with the drawers and baskets--I would need something wider, though.
(source: In Pursuit)
Here is another one that uses baskets for storage:
(unknown source)
I like the space for pet bowls that is recessed under this cabinet. Emmi's bowl is currently kept in front of this table, so even a drawer to hide it would be an improvement.
(source:  HGTV)
Do you have any ideas for this space?  Let me know if you run across anything that I should consider.

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