Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spiced Pecan Cake

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Has it seemed like Monday all day to you?  It sure has to me!  Those Monday holidays mess up my week, especially since I don't go to work everyday.  Sometimes I have to look at my phone to see what day it actually is.

Hope you all enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend.  We celebrated with family and friends with a cookout enjoying the first of the summer bounty from the Farmer's Market.  Fresh strawberries, corn, green beans, and peaches are in.  Yum.  One of the most enjoyable things about summer is the bounteous fare of fresh fruits and vegetables we get to enjoy.  And, then, there is the beautiful sunshine, warm weather, and summer evenings to top it all off.

Fresh local strawberries are the absolute best don't you think?  It's nice to have access to strawberries all year round, but they just don't taste like the smaller, juicier, sweeter, local berries.  They are just a little taste of heaven as far as I am concerned.

I made this beautiful pecan cake with some of the fabulous pecans my new friend Dianna sent me from Texas.  They pick them up off the ground by the pounds.  There are pecan trees everywhere in the Dallas area.  Yes, I said pounds. Wouldn't that be wonderful?  My daughter told me there is a company you can take them to and they shell them for you.  Amazing!  Who knew?  It's sure better than cracking hundreds of shells and trying to get the nuts to come out in something other than little tiny pieces.  Look at these beauties!
We have bags of them to enjoy.  Lucky us!  So, I decided to make this fabulous pecan cake I found on Food Network.com.  The recipe was posted by Pat and Gina Neeley and is really, really good.  Makes a super "shortcake" for fresh fruit.  Here is what you need:


1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Stir everything together in a bowl until all the nuts are coated.  Set aside.


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.


1 package golden yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, grease and flour a 9x13 pan

Beat all cake ingredients together for 4 minutes.  Pour half the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Spread the pecan filling on top of the batter.  Pour remaining batter over pecans, spreading batter to cover the filling.

Bake about 30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 30 minutes.  Drizzle with glaze.

This cake is as good by itself as it is with some beautiful strawberries!  Makes a perfect "coffee type cake" that could be served for brunch.   Or, it's absolutely delicious eaten just as it is.  Give it a try.  It's delicious.

 Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

 A special thank you to my dad and his two brothers who all served in World War II.  As a mother, I can't imagine seeing three of your sons go off to war.  What a sacrifice.  Fortunately, they all returned.  Others were not so fortunate.   Thank you will never be enough for their service and sacrifice for our freedom.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Restaurant Style Salsa Roja Made At Home

 Do you love Tex-Mex food as much as we do?  Especially the chips and salsa?  Oh, we always eat too many chips and way too much salsa and then are so full we can't eat our food.  Guess that's okay really, because then we have some leftovers for the next day.

Did you know that salsa is now the number one condiment in the United States?  We eat more salsa in this country than ketchup.  Hard to believe, but it's true.  Salsa is the spanish word for sauce and there are many, many kinds of salsa.  When we refer to salsa, we mean the red kind served at most Tex-Mex restaurants with chips.

Eating salsa at home is a different story.  The biggest problem for me is we don't like jarred salsa.   It always has green peppers in it and Dan can't eat green peppers.  It also doesn't taste like fresh salsa.  You can get some fresh salsa's that are pretty good in the fresh food aisle at the grocery store IF your grocery sells it.  If you can't get it, I have a solution for you!

I have been messing around trying to find a good home made recipe for salsa and I have finally hit upon it.  Dan LOVES this salsa (and he's kind of picky).  It's made with canned tomatoes which means the tomatoes have been cooked and that actually makes them better for you!  Did you know that?  Yes, there is more lycopene in cooked tomatoes.  Lycopene inhibits cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans.

This recipe is really quite easy to make, but you need a blender or food processor to make it.  It is not chopped like pico de gallo which is called salsa fresca and is made from fresh tomatoes, onions, chilies, and lime juice.  Good pico depends on good tomatoes which only happen in the summer around here.  It also takes a lot of chopping.  Salsa roja can be made year round because you can always get canned tomatoes and you can use a blender or food processor.  Guess which one I prefer?

Here is what you need for this salsa.
1 large can whole tomatoes, drained
1 can Ro-Tel original, undrained (unless you like it really spicy, then get the hot kind)
1 small onion, cut in half, chop 1/2 only
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 or 3 limes (depending on size)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

To make the salsa, drain the can of large tomatoes and put them in the blender or food processor.  Add the Ro-Tel liquid and all.  Cut the onion in half and chop only one half of the onion and toss in the blender.  If your garlic cloves are large, start with 1, use 2 if small.  Peel, chop and toss in blender.  Now for the fun.  I use the "grate" setting on our blender.  Whir it around just until the ingredients are mixed.  You do not want ketchup consistency, but want some tomato pieces in the salsa.  Next, add the salt, sugar, and juice of two limes, and a large handful of cilantro rough chopped.  Whir one more time.   Now taste.  If it needs more salt, add just a pinch.  The sugar is important because it helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes, but don't make it too sweet.  Adjust lime and garlic to your tastes.

We had a big old bowl of this salsa with dinner tonight.  It's delicious.  Also, a serving of salsa counts as a serving of vegetables, so if you have children who are picky eaters but will eat salsa, let them eat away!!

This recipe makes about 4 cups of salsa.  I keep it in the fridge most of the time.  You never know when you might have some unexpected company, want a snack, or something to serve as an appetizer before dinner.  Salsa roja = perfect!  Give it a try.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.  Laurie Colwin

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Donna's Barbecue Cheeseburgers

Memorial Day weekend is upon us folks and that means the official summer grilling season is about to begin for real.  What is better than summer grilling season?   I can't think of too many things actually.  There's nothing better than warm days and evenings when it stays light late into the evening and you can fire up the grill and toss on something quick and easy.    That's what I'm talking about.  Quick AND easy.  Outdoor grilling and eating can be casual, no muss, no fuss,  using paper plates to eat on  and that is Okay!!  It's important to enjoy every moment of the summer, sharing time with family and friends.

A while back we were going to grill some good old fashioned American burgers for dinner, but I had a bit of inspiration and decided to doctor them up just a bit before they went on the grill.  This is my pepper jack barbecue burger and are they ever tasty!  Wow.  We all loved them, so I have been making our burgers this way since.  I'm not sure Dan would want to go back to just a plain older burger and he is a real connoisseur when it comes to hamburgers.  He may hold a world record for the number of hamburgers eaten in a lifetime.  As for the kind of "cheese"burger you make, you can use any cheese that you like as long as you can buy an 8 ounce block and grate it because the cheese in these burgers is mixed in the cheeseburger, not melted on top.  We have also made these with cheddar cheese which are just as good, especially if you don't like spicy foods.  Next, we are going to try them with mozzarella and some marinara sauce.  How good would that be?

Here is what you need and how you made Donna's barbecue cheeseburgers.

2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 8 ounce block cheese, grated
1 large egg
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's original)
1.5 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients in a bowl using your hands.  You don't want to add too much salt because the cheese and the barbecue sauce contain salt.

To make the patties, I scooped out about a tennis ball sized section of the ground beef mixture, rolled it between my hands to make a ball, and pressed it into a burger patty with a bit of a well in the middle.  This helps make sure the middle of the burger cooks at the same time as the edges of the burgers.  I got 10 good sized burgers from this mixture.
See all of that delicious cheese in the burgers?  After they are cooked, the cheese oozes out of the burger and you enjoy that delicious flavor with ever bite.  Yum.  Yum.

Cook the burgers to your liking -  rare, medium, well done.  Dress them up anyway you like.  We had ours with lettuce, tomato, pickle, sliced onion, and just a little more barbecue sauce.  Yessirree Bob they are fine.  Cheesey, barbecuey, slightly oniony, deliciousness.

You might want to make the patties ahead and let them sit in the fridge for an hour or two because they are softer than burgers made with plain ground beef.  This will help keep them from falling apart on the grill when you flip them.  Even if they do split, it doesn't matter.  Just scoop up all the pieces because you won't want to waste one bite.

Hope this gives you an idea for a different version of the All American favorite - the hamburger.  I think you're gonna like them a lot!  Happy summer grilling season!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Grilling takes the formality out of entertaining.  Bobby Flay

Monday, May 20, 2013

Americana Banner

 Hello everyone!  It's Monday once again and I am happy to be here after a few day's absence.  I was down with the creepy crud for the second time this spring.  Guess that's what school aged grandson's give you when you are not looking.  Whew.   Glad it's over and I'm more than ready to move on with life.

The day before said "crud" set in, I spent the entire day outside working on a project for our mantel to celebrate Memorial Day.  I was "in the zone" as they say, working away while enjoying the beautiful weather.  I had my paints, brushes, glue gun, and huge box of craft sticks (better known as popsicle sticks) and I was on a creative bent.

I started making stars and flags galore and had absolutely NO idea what I would do with them, but I liked them and they were fun to make.  That was enough reason to continue, so I did.  I simply hot glued sticks together in a pentagram shape for the stars.  For the flags, I put two sticks parallel to each other vertically with about 1.5 inches between.  Next, I glued 9 sticks across them horizontally.  I decided on 9 because it made the best looking "flag."  It took a bit to put them all together, then it was time to paint.

Since I was going for patriotic Americana, red, ivory, and blue were my colors of choice, with brown paint used to "antique" everything.   First, it's necessary to paint everything in the color and design you want before "antiquing."  Americana is about simplicity.
After letting the paint dry, I dipped a paper towel in some water just to dampen it, dipped the same towel in some brown paint and rubbed the entire flag or star with the brown paint.  While still wet, I then used a dry paper towel to rub the entire surface, actually removing some of the paint to get a really vintage look.
Makes quite a difference.  If you like the true colors, stick with them.  As for me, I like the rugged, worn, vintage look.  The bottoms of the parallel sticks were clipped off with cutters after everything dried.  This is how the stars and flags looked when finished.
 All painting was done just as it was time to prepare dinner, so everything was left to dry overnight.  Then, the - dun, dun, dunnnnnnn,  creepy crud laid me low for a couple of days.  Gave me some time to contemplate what to do with said stars and flags.

The banner on the mantle is what I came up with.  Glad I had time to contemplate, because I really, really love the way it turned out.  All I used was a length of burlap ribbon that you can buy at craft stores.  I laid out the pattern of flags and stars I wanted to use and hot glued them to the burlap.  Easy. Then, I stenciled USA in red, white, and blue between the flags and stars.  The banner is hung with some clear push pins.  Done.

As a major lover of all things Americana, this banner is one of my favorite projects I have done in a good while.  This banner will hang on the mantel until after July 4 and maybe longer.

You can get a big box of craft sticks very reasonably at any craft store or Wal-Mart.  They come in the popsicle stick width or tongue depressor width, it just depends on which size you prefer.  There are lots of things you can do with them and they are great fun for kids to use.  It's almost summer vacation time, so they can be a great way to keep kids occupied when you need a craft project.

This weekend, we will remember all those who have served our country or given their lives for our freedom.  We can never thank them enough.   Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

My father lied about his age to join the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He was only 17 when he enlisted to serve our country and served for 5 years in Italy and Northern Africa.  He didn't talk about it much, but he was proud to have served.  We will honor his memory this weekend.  Thanks Dad.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Grilled Honey Garlic Pork Chops With Grilled Pineapple

It's Monday once again and I am hoping you had a wonderful weekend celebrating Mother's Day.  My day was fabulous, spending time with Dan, our children, grandsons, and sons in love who live in Nashville.  We certainly missed our son, daughter in love, and grandson who live in New York City.  I did get to talk with John and Roman.  Hopefully, we will get to spend some time together soon.   We enjoyed a lovely brunch on the porch of the West End Cafe.  The weather was spectacular.

Both of our daughter's were promised some "me" time by their husbands which they got to enjoy together.  They both have busy, busy lives and those of us who are past the years of young children, school, teams, jobs, and so many activities it can make your head spin, know how much a little "me" time is appreciated.  I know I'm prejudiced, but our daughters and daughter in love are all wonderful, caring mothers and certainly deserve every second of peace and quiet they can eek out of their hectic schedules.

My Mother's Day was spent doing nothing but enjoying time with family and whatever else I chose to do for the rest of the day which was a whole lot of nothing.  If you know me, you know I don't do a whole lot of nothing well.  I am really working on staying present, not being busy, busy all the time.  I spent most of the afternoon on the deck enjoying the weather (which was amazing) and putting together some craft projects I have been working on.  Creating is the best way I know to spend a day.  It was an absolutely wonderful afternoon.  We should all do more of a "whole lot of nothing" whenever we can.  Adding beauty to our lives and the world by creating is so good for the soul.

Then, of course, it's the reality of Monday once again.  Time for routine and all the things that need to be done to keep life flowing.  Our 2.5 year old grandson came and spent time with us this morning while his mother went to write.  It was very cool this morning, so we played some games indoors until it was warm enough to go outside.  It was another fantastically gorgeous day.  Look at this picture of me leaning on the deck rail watching Adrian and Pawpaw playing baseball.  The sky looks photoshopped, but it isn't.  That is how the sky looked today.  Simply beautiful!
After Holly picked Adrian up, we had lunch on the deck and then I spent the afternoon working on my projects.  It was cool enough that I had to wear a light sweater, but that was okay.  These are the days we live for.  Dan mowed the grass, I crafted.  Fair enough don't you think?

Before I knew it, it was 4:30.  Then the proverbial question arises, what's for dinner?  Ugh.  No idea.  Time to stand and stare in the refrigerator.  My first thought was chicken, but there were pork chops.  Yes, pork chops!  Quick.  Easy.  Perfect.   Grilled pork chops - even better.  No turning the stove on and we can stay outside some more.  This is a simple recipe from Allrecipes.com with an easy marinade that is delicious.  The chops sort of have the flavor of Asian barbecue.  Yum.  Here is what you need:

6 pork chops
1/4 + 1/8 cup honey
3 Tbsp soy sauce
4-6 garlic cloves, minced (depends on how big they are)

Mix the honey, soy sauce, and minced garlic in a small bowl.  Lay the pork chops in a shallow pan.  Pour the marinade over all the chops and turn to make sure both sides are coated.  Let sit for 15-30 minutes.  Grill until the juices run clear and the centers are no longer pink.  Look how beautiful they are  ( and tasted even better).
For the grilled pineapple, cut a fresh pineapple into quarters, remove the core and the fruit of the pineapple by running a knife between the outside skin and the fruit.  Rub a little olive oil on the pineapple so it won't stick to the grill.  Grill on each side until the pineapple begins to caramelize.  Remove and drizzle with just a little honey.  BEST PINEAPPLE EVER!
I cut the pineapple into small wedges and put 3 or 4 pieces on a pork chop when serving.  Deeee-licious.  Tomorrow, I will make a mango, pineapple salsa with the left over pineapple (if there is any).
Mm mm mmm.  Wish you could taste it.

Everything we had for dinner was cooked on the grill.  One of the things I love best about warm weather - cooking and eating out of doors.  The weather is perfect right now and it is so relaxing.  Makes it easy to just "be" and breathe in, breathe out.   No hurry, no worry.  Tomorrow is supposed to be much warmer, so hopefully we will spend as much time out of doors as we can.  There are more flowers to plant before it rains again.

If you don't have an outdoor grill, you could make these pork chops and the pineapple on a stove top grill.  Quick.  Easy.  Delicious.  As for the grilled pineapple - if you've never had it, it's a must try!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Where the pineapple got it's name:

Christopher Columbus discovered this fruit in 1493 during his second voyage when he landed on the island of Guadaloupe and brought it back to Europe.  He called it "pina de Indes."  (pine of the Indians)
 When European explorers discovered this tropical fruit in the Americas, they called them "pineapples" (first so referenced in 1664 due to resemblance to what is now known as the pine cone).  Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Gift Of Friendship And A Doily

 When the Texas Troupe came to visit last weekend, my friend Linda brought me the most beautiful gift.  Her son owns a construction company in Dallas and one of the things he does is tear down old houses and buildings for the city.  Recently, he tore down a house and found an old trunk inside that had treasures in it.  Real live bonafide treasures.   At least Linda and I agree that they are treasures.  There were old handmade crocheted doilies in the trunk.  He brought them to Linda.  She saved the ones she could and she brought me one of the  beautiful white doilies as a gift.  

You see, we both crochet and have since we were quite young.  My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up and she would sit down with a ball of cotton string and a tiny little crochet hook and start making her own pattern as she went.  Her nimble hands seemed to fly as they created stitch after stitch.  In no time, she would have a beautiful doily with all kinds of intricate patterns in it.  No book.  No pattern.  Only her hands and her head created these beautiful pieces.  What a gift.

Linda said her mother taught her to crochet when she was about 7.  That is quite an accomplishment for a 7 year old.  I was starting to embroider at that age, not crochet.  But, I did watch grandma working away with her needle and thread creating, always fascinated with her skill.  I wanted to create too!  Always have, always will.

I started to crochet when I was in high school.  I used yarn and made scarves and hats mostly.  Then when I was expecting our first child, I crocheted a rippled afghan and made a white hair pin lace afghan that was so beautiful.  I made things for our children, for gifts, lots of afghans, and on and on through the years.  I truly admire and appreciate the skill it takes to make something as lovely as the doily in the picture above.  That is something I have never made.

I was so excited to receive this beautiful gift and told Linda I knew exactly what I would do with it.  It would be framed under glass and hung in my bedroom where I could admire it often.  That is what I did today.

My daughter Annie had given me an old frame she did not want any longer when they moved recently.  You see, I am kind of like that old commercial with Mikey - the kid who would eat anything.  I take anything and will turn it into something at some point.  I used that frame for my beautiful doily.

The frame was old and brown with kind of goldish highlights and that is not my style, but it is really lovely otherwise.   It has lots of detail and I knew I would paint it white.  Here it's laying on the ground ready to be painted.
Here is a closeup of the detail.  It's very intricate.
All I used was a can of white spray paint and gave it one light coat.  I didn't want it to be too finished or slick.  After it dried, I waxed it with Annie Sloan dark wax.  LOVE how it turned out.

I pressed the doily nice and flat, then cut a piece of acrylic I already had for the backing for the frame.  Using a piece of white burlap, I cut it a bit bigger than the acrylic and folded it over and taped it down to the acrylic.  Then, I laid the doily on the burlap, centered it, and placed it in the frame under the glass.  That's all it took.

I put in on the wall with my "dahlia" book page wreath and an old candelabra Annie had also given me that came from Anthropologie many moons ago.  It is what I have been needing to finish the vignette.  It's perfect and beautiful.
Thank  you  Linda for this wonderful gift.  I will cherish it always.

Life has such a funny way of bringing you full circle sometimes.  Linda and I were friends from high school long ago.  We reconnected when my daughter moved to Dallas where she lives.  She and her friends came to visit over the weekend.  We may have gray hair and grandchildren, but in our hearts we are still those same high school girls laughing and talking and having a great time together.  Thanks so much for coming to visit and introducing your long time friends to me who are now new found friends. Thanks for the beautiful gift.  I will look at it every day and be grateful for your visit and your gift.  Hopefully, we will see each other again soon.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.  Anais Nin

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cinnamon Bread, Picture Frame, Recipe, Gift

To welcome my friends from Texas, I wanted to make some gift bags with home made goodies they could enjoy in their hotel room.  You know what it's like to be hungry, or want a snack, and there is literally nothing to eat, or only expensive machines in the hall that have nothing you like and you have no change.

While "cruising" Pinterest recently, I had seen this idea which was so cool.  At least I think that's where I saw it.  Couldn't find it again.  Baked individual loaves of bread were tied to a picture frame containing the recipe for the attached bread.  Perfect for gift giving.  How great of an idea is that?  That was my starting point.  They would definitely be getting this awesome cinnamon bread that I had found at redflycreations.com.  This bread is amazing and so easy to make.

I found adorable picture frames to use for holding the recipe.  The recipe was all typed and ready to print.  The biggest problem was we were out of printer ink.  NOOOOOO.  So, I had to write out the recipes at the last minute.  
It may not be as neat as printed recipes, but it did the trick.  No one complained.

To their bags, I also added home made Mr. Goodbar Bites that you can find on my blog.  Basically, they are chocolate covered peanut mounds.  Yum.  There were some nice cups with lids and straws that could be used over and over that I filled with different flavors of Crystal Lite.  In addition, there was trail mix, peanut butter crackers and other assorted goodies.  Hopefully, all things they would enjoy.

The Texas Troupe arrived on Thursday evening.  We met them for dinner and I gave them their "welcome" bags.  They let me know they did enjoy them!  Linda had eaten her cinnamon bread before breakfast on Friday morning.  The others wanted to sample and she told them they would have to eat their own.  I don't think the Mr. Goodbar Bites lasted much longer.  They all came in drinking out of their cups, so all in all it was a rousing success.

To make the cinnamon bread, here is what you need:

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk  (add 2 tsps. vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk if you don't have buttermilk)
4 cups flour
2 tsps baking soda

Cinnamon/Sugar Mix

2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
mix together in a small bowl

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

This recipe makes 2 large loaves or 1 large loaf and 4 small loaves.  Grease and flour loaf pans and set aside.

Cream together butter, 2 cups sugar and eggs.  Add milk, flour, and baking soda.

Fill prepared pans 1/2 (or slightly less) full with batter.

Sprinkle 3/4 of the cinnamon mixture over the top of the batter in the pans.  Add remaining batter.  Sprinkle with last of the sugar.  Swirl with knife.  (I forgot to do that, but it didn't make any difference - other than how it looks.)

Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool 20 minutes.  Remove from pan.

Since I was giving these individual loaves as gifts, I left them in the disposable aluminum pans and wrapped them in a clear cellophane party bag and tied them to the picture frame with twine.

This.  Bread.  Is.  Beyond.  Delicious!  Oh my, it is so, so good.  We kept the big loaf and shared it during craft time on Saturday.  This is one I will make again and again.  Yummers.
When you need a gift, give a gift of home made love.  Bake your favorite bread and give the recipe with it.  Using the picture frame is such a great idea.  Then, they have a keepsake and something wonderful to eat.  Great idea for teachers, new mothers, neighbors, or anyone for that matter.

Also, you will definitely want to make this recipe for you and your family. They will LOVE it.  It won't last long and you will wish you had more.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.     Khalil Gibran

Monday, May 6, 2013

Texas Friends And Some Stars!

 Howdy y'all.  How was your weekend?  Mine was spectacular.  Why, you ask?  Because I had friends visiting from Texas and we had an absolutely fabulous weekend.  There was so much food and laughter and creating that it makes me wish you all could have been here to share in the fun.

You have to remember I graduated from high school many, many moons ago - like 1966 - moons ago.  Linda has been my friend since high school, but she has lived in Texas for 35+ years.  I had not seen her except at one class reunion way back some time ago.  Then, my daughter moved to Dallas and we reconnected and would have lunch when we were in Dallas visiting.  It was so good to see her more often.  Then, our daughter and her family moved here to Nashville a year ago last December.  That meant no more trips to Dallas.  But, Linda and I stayed connected on Facebook and a year ago we began to plan for her to visit Nashville.  A YEAR ago.  Now, it has come and gone.  She brought three of her long time friends with her and now I have three new friends.  How fabulous is that?

We toured around town, ate, talked, laughed, ate, and laughed some more.  These women have traveled together for years and do they have some stories to tell.  My sides hurt from laughing.  I have lived such a quiet life in comparison.  They are adventurous to say the least.

On Saturday, we had craft/creating time.  Since Memorial Day and Fourth of July will be coming up, I thought something for those holidays would be nice.  I came up with the idea to make these stars from some of the lattice replacement strips that I used on my sign I posted about last week.  Also, Texas IS the lone star state.  There can never be too many stars in Texas (or my house).

Dan cut strips 18" long, 5 per person.  That is where we all started.  We worked at the kitchen table and everyone came up with their own creative idea.  I had paints and brushes, hot glue, decorations, scissors, needle nose pliers, and treats.  All settled down with cinnamon bread and coffee, it was time to begin.

Suzie offered to glue all the stars together while I got all the supplies ready.  Excellent.  She just laid the stars out by overlapping the sticks to make a pentagram and hot glued each point of the star.  Now, we were ready to decorate.  Here they are at the table.
From the left we have Diana, Cathy, Suzie, and Linda.  Everyone chose their paint, method of application and went to work.  There was never a quiet moment - and lots more laughter.

It's so interesting to see the creative ideas that everyone comes up with.  That's the part I really love and appreciate.  Diana decorated her star in honor of Texas.  Cathy made hers adorable with polka dots.  Suzie went for a very shabby chic look and even added some buttons and jute to hers.  Linda went more traditional with a red star, white stenciled stars and blue dots, and mine is red, white and blue.

I had some berries with rusty stars on them and burlap that we cut into strips for bows.  Look at the picture above.  Aren't they all fantastic?

For my star, I painted the front and back with an ivory color to cover the raw wood.  Then I painted the left side with a blue color, some red, and red stripes on the top.  I painted it with a paper towel to give it a rough look.  After stenciling some white stars on the blue field, I "antiqued" the whole thing with a paper towel using brown paint.
This shows you some of the detail.  To finish my star, I made some loops from burlap and tied them at the bottom with some cotton twine and jute.   After attaching the "bow" to the left side of the star, I glued some of the berries to the star and used one of the rusty stars.  LOVE it!

Ta da!  Finished.  Here is a close up of the finished product.
Such an easy project and everyone's looked great!  I would be happy to hang any or all of them in our home.  Great job ladies!!

We all discussed where we would hang them or how we would use them.  I think I might put mine on a wreath to give it more bulk so it shows up better on the front of the house.  I also know that I will be making a few more of these to use other places!!

Linda and my new friends left on Sunday morning, heading back to Texas.  I was sorry to see them go. They let me know they arrived home safely.  They are new found friends forever.  We are already talking about a return trip.  Can't wait.  And, I'm sure we will head to Texas at some point.  We definitely know how to get there.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Make new friends, but keep the old
Some are silver and the other's gold!

Thanks Linda, Diana, Cathy, and Suzie!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Make A Rustic Trellis From Fallen Tree Limbs

 So today, we are going to talk about making this rustic trellis.  My inspiration came from a picture that I saw on a Facebook page for Two Women and a Hoe.  Do you follow them?  They post beautiful pictures with lots of inspirational ideas.  Be sure and check them out.  They have a landscaping business and have a lovely web page by the same name.

If you have never been to middle Tennessee (Nashville), you may not realize how much foliage and how many trees there are here.  There are SO MANY trees and I am a big fan.  Trees are free for the looking.  They not only help us breathe by taking our carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen, but they add to the beauty of our lives.  They give us shade, and comfort.  Nothing like spending a summer day under a huge shade tree with your favorite book.   This is our view from our deck.  How beautiful to sit and watch the trees.

They rustle and blow in the gentle breeze or whip about and gnash in fury during storms, breaking and falling.  Trees provide homes for many animals on our planet.  Trees provide food, fruits and nuts, for us to enjoy.  Fall foliage is a delight to behold with the leaves blazing gold, red, orange, and rust.  Bare, solemn winter trees show us their skeletons and their inner beauty while we wait for spring to bring us beautiful blossoms and leaves once again.  Trees are a true representative of the cycle of life and nature.  As Joyce Kilmer wrote, "I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree."  I couldn't agree more.

Many of the trees in our yard are well established - actually, quite old.  Every time the wind blows hard, we get some big sticks dropped in the yard.  We also have a ton of small sticks that have to be picked up every time the yard is mowed - that's a minor price to pay for all our lovely trees.  As the limbs fall, Dan takes them to a pile at the back of our yard right at the edge of the woods behind our property.  Woods = more limbs.  : )

You know how you keep looking at something and wondering what you could do with it?  All those fallen limbs had to be good for something besides fire wood.  Well, here is the perfect solution.  A very rustic, hand made trellis.  It's easy to make and adds a lot of character to the yard.  I was so excited to get started on it.

First, we picked out a bunch of limbs that were close in size for the vertical pieces and the horizontal pieces.  (I can't tell you how many you will need, just choose quite a few.  It all depends on the size and look you want.)  Then, I laid them out in the grass to get the look I wanted.
I moved the horizontal limbs around a few times to get them in exactly the right place.  Next, I used zip ties that I got at Home Depot.  They are black and will not disintegrate in the weather.  The colored zip ties will, so be sure and get the black ones for doing this project.

I started with the outside limbs first, where the horizontal limbs intersected with the vertical limbs.  Using needle nosed pliers, I pulled the ties as tight as possible.  After securing the outside limbs, I went up the inside limbs and secured those the same way.  I used this method so the trellis would not get out of shape as I worked.  It is easier than trying to work straight across each limb as you go.

After all the limbs were secured, I cut the long tails off the zip ties.
 To hide the zip ties, I cut lengths of jute several yards long, folded each length in half and tied them around each zip tied intersection to give the trellis a more rustic look.  Plastic does not always lend itself to "rustic" if you know what I mean.
The trellis looks like it is tied together with twine instead of zip ties.  That is much better for a really rustic look.  My trellis is about 6.5 feet tall and 4 feet at the widest point.  You could make yours any size you want.  The inspiration trellis from Two Women and Hoe looked to be about 3.5 or 4 feet tall.  It was on a fence between upper and lower cross bars.  Mine sits on the ground.

I knew the trellis needed "something".  I had a grapevine wreath that I hung from one of the protruding limbs, but that didn't do the trick.  Birdhouses.  That's what it needed and I have a thing for birdhouses and birdcages.  Michael's has lots of unfinished birdhouses that are quite inexpensive.  I found two that I liked and painted them in bright colors to go with Mr. Drag N. Fly from yesterday's post.  Dan put a couple of screws in them and I made wire loops to hang them with.  Yes, that did the trick.

It was very exciting finding a bird house in the shape of a star (my other obsession).  Aren't they adorable on the trellis?  Our grandson wanted to know where the birds were for the houses.  He always asks the hard questions.  I told him we would have to wait and see if any of them could get a mortgage. He looked at me very strangely.

Today, we went to the Farmer's Market and I bought a vining plant called a candy corn plant that will vine up the trellis.  The tag said it is quick growing - I hope!  Most vining plants require full sun, but this one will work in partial sun.  Our yard is very shady.  We'll see what happens.  The plant is called candy corn because it produces orange blossoms with yellow tips.  I can't wait to see it bloom and  grow.

Now, we have another little "meditation" garden spot that is so inviting.  As the begonias grow, and everything fills it, it will be so lovely all the way to the first fall frost.

Take a look around your yard.  How many natural elements do you have that could be used to decorate your outdoor living space?  Don't throw away all those fallen limbs.  Put them to use.  Make a rustic trellis for your yard and decorate it to suit your tastes.  Have fun.  Be imaginative.  Let me know what you make.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

119.  Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer  1886-1918