Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Fall Wreath Non-How-To

This is a re-post in honor of the first day of autumn. 

I could probably come up with a better post title, but it's late and the heat wilted me today. So I went for the straight-forward approach, tell it like it is. 

First: The "Non" How To Make a Wreath that doesn't cost $50.
Why is it a Non-How-To?
Because I am NOT an expert. This is my first attempt at making a wreath. I don't even call my self crafty, unless we're talking about hiding chocolate. But I wanted a fall wreath and one that didn't cost more than a trip to see real foliage. So this is what I did. And if you are brave enough to copy my non-expert craftiness, please send me a picture -- I'd love to see new and improved versions of my beginner's luck. 

Straw wreath - a couple of dollars at WalMart
One bunch of fall foliage flowers and leaves - $5 - conveniently next to the wreaths
One roll of burlap ribbon - $5, maybe a little more
One package of wreath making pins - totally forget how much but they were also right next to the wreath bases. 

And heavy duty wire cutters. I borrowed a pair from the kindest neighbor on the planet. If you don't own any, you will have to use different flowers that don't require cutting.

I clipped the flowers and leaves from the bunch that I wanted to use. I removed the plastic from the straw wreath. A lot of straw went flying. Probably could have made the wreath in a barn instead of on my table, but that's hindsight for you. One note of caution (this is code for how I almost ruined the entire project): don't cut the twine that is responsible for keeping your straw wreath base in tact. It's not pretty. 

I chose to wrap the burlap ribbon around the entire wreath (mostly to help secure the section I cut loose--see above caution) - but if you want to conserve ribbon, you could wrap the exposed side only-(this is a personal choice somewhere in the realm of how to organize your sock drawer--at the end of the day you are the only one who will know or care :)

Secure the flowers with the extra long looking wreath pins as you see fit. That's right, I don't have a flower placing pattern for you to follow. This feels like stating the obvious, but I don't have any flower-arranging credentials so you are better off figuring out this step on your own. 

Tie or create a bow with the burlap ribbon. 
Hang on your door. Pretend it isn't 100+ degrees and enjoy!

Written in the fall of 2011 in AZ while reminiscing about the fall seasons of my little growing-up years in MA.

Hand Picked Fun

I don’t know what happened to my bathing suit
Summer up and left                                                                                       
Mom moved the sweaters
From my big sister’s drawer
To mine
And the sun inched west a little sooner each day
Taking all the fun with him

Until we piled into the maroon station wagon
And drove north
Long enough for us to wonder if Dad got lost

We found the trees. Green leaves gone to yellow and orange.
Did the colors bring the cool air?
I thought so, but they told me it was the other way around.

Rows and rows of heavy laden trees.
We picked for hours, climbing, stretching
Dropping, joking
With cold noses and fingers
We filled our bags and bushels full of red, ripe apples.

And the country store had heated, fresh pressed cider.
One sip and my brother laughed at my eyes
Popping from the burst of flavor
Sweet and spicy
And warm.
Like those apples had figured out a way
To store all the rays of summer sunshine.
Just for me.

Tamara Passey

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Monkey Bread and What's In a Name?

Is it Monkey Bread? or Cinnamon Pull-Aparts as my cookbook describes it? Or is it ooey-gooey sweet bread waiting to be devoured, like it looks on my counter? Does it matter what we call it? What's in a name anyway?

Before I tackle that question with an illustration from the Nordic Ware company- here is the recipe I follow, without the optional nuts. [Nuts are never an option at our house. It's okay, really. We manage to get enough protein and for some of us, we don't even know what we are missing. For those of us who do know what we are missing - we eat peanuts on the sly when we are far, far away and will not be within hugging distance of our class-six-peanut-allergy-cuties.]

 Now, here is the recipe:

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 to 3 (12 ounce) cans refrigerator biscuits, quartered
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup brown sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put cinnamon, sugar, and nuts, if desired, in a resealable plastic bag. Add quartered biscuits to bag and shake to coat biscuits. Place biscuits in a greased 10 inch bundt** pan.

Mix butter and brown sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Can also be put in a saucepan and heated together [I cook mine in the microwave.]) Pour sauce over top of biscuits, distributing evenly. Bake 30 to 40 minutes (Check at 30 minutes--3 cans of biscuits may take 40 minutes.) Turn pan upside down on serving plate to release the biscuit ring.

That little gem of a recipe is from Diane Wilson, out of the book "Remedies for the I Don't Cook Syndrome," compiled by Janet Peterson. Great book and great title, isn't it?

I must be waiting for the "Remedies for the I Don't Sew Syndrome," or the "I Don't Scrapbook Syndrome."

Oh well. Until those hit the shelf, my family and I can enjoy some Monkey bread.

**By the way, according to my handy research over at Wikipedia (don't judge)
 "The people credited with popularizing the Bundt cake are American businessman brothers: H. David Dalquist and Mark S. Dalquist, who co-founded cookware company Nordic Ware. In the late 1940s,Rose Joshua and Fannie Schanfield, friends and members of the Minneapolis Jewish-American Hadassah Society approached Dalquist asking if he could produce a modern version of a traditional cast iron Gugelhupf dish. [I looked this up to, but I won't go into it here, except to say it's something like a fruit cake.] Dalquist and company engineer Don Nygren designed a cast aluminum version which Nordic Ware then made a small production run of in 1950. In order to successfully trademark the pans, a "t" was added to the word "Bund". A number of the original Bundt pans now reside in the Smithsonian collection."
"Initially, the Bundt pan sold so poorly that Nordic Ware considered discontinuing it. ... did not gain real popularity until 1966, when a Bundt cake called the "Tunnel of Fudge", baked by Ella Helfrich, took second place at the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off and won its baker $5,000. The resulting publicity resulted in more than 200,000 requests to Pillsbury for Bundt pans and soon led to the Bundt pan surpassing the tin Jell-O mold as the most-sold pan in the United States. In the 1970s Pillsbury licensed the name Bundt from Nordic Ware and for a while sold a range of Bundt cake mixes."
"To date more than 60 million Bundt pans have been sold by Nordic Ware across North America. To mark the 60th anniversary of the pan the company designated November 15 as "National Bundt Day"."
And so what's in a name? How many people wanted to cook their cake in something called a BUNDT pan? Maybe not too many. But how many people wanted to be able to bake something called the "Tunnel of Fudge?"  Who wouldn't want to have the pan that could make that a reality? Looks like I have more research to do. Meanwhile, enjoy the Monkey Bread!

Monday, May 12, 2014

And Then There Were Fifty

Another Mother's Day, another Care Packages miracle!

Easter came later this year and Mother's Day followed so soon after it felt like we hardly had time to get ready, even though we'd been talking about and planning for this project for months. At one point I thought, 'Well, at least five special moms will have a care package this year.' Then I re-posted with a project update and Wow! what a response.

By noon on Thursday we had enough donations and goods for FIFTY! care packages. 

And this is what they how they looked, all lined up in a row, ready to go.
50 Lovely Care Packages

This would not have been possible without the time and generous donations of so many! 

for caring and making a difference 
in the lives of 50 moms this Mother's Day!

This year we donated all the gift bags to Phoenix Children's Hospital - the bags were able to be delivered to mothers who have had an extended stay with a sick child. 

And notice something about this last picture? We donated quilts too! Handmade by the incredible women of the Arizona Chapter of American Mothers Inc.

From Left, Susan Ray, AZ AMI President, Peggy Glass, Treasurer, Tamara Passey, 1st VP, Melody Wagner, Secretary

Susan Ray, Tamara Passey, Peggy Glass, Sharon L. (from Phoenix Children's) and Melody Wagner

I wish I could name all the contributors but that would present a few challenges - so let me just say again THANK YOU to all those who told their friends and family, those who remembered from last year and offered help early, all those who lent a helping hand to help this come together again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Make a Difference this Mother's Day

Join with me and AZ American Mothers by giving care packages to 
a special group of moms during our 

2nd Annual 

Care Packages for Care Givers 

Mother's Day 2014

**Project Update: As of 5/6/14 we have enough donations for 36 care packages. Cash donations or gift cards are the best help right now so we can make sure every bag has all the right goodies!**

Right now there are hundreds of children who are in our 
Phoenix area hospitals for extended stays due to illness or 
procedures--some for lengthy efforts to be diagnosed, 
others to receive treatments, and some hoping their life will be preserved. 
And next to that baby or child in the hospital bed, most often, 
is a courageous (and worried and tired) mom
She is usually the first to advocate for her child, but maybe the last 
to ask for anything for herself. If it sounds like I'm speaking 
from experience, some of you may know I spent some time 
in the hospital with our first child. I blogged about this 
(and included before and after transplant photos) last year. 
You can read about it here

Mother's day helps us celebrate and honor the women 
in our lives that have loved and cared for us, watched and waited for us,
and sacrificed so much. Help us reach out and make a difference 
in the lives of mothers who are facing difficult days with their child.

Last year the generous contributions of so many allowed us 
to deliver forty (I still can’t believe it!) care packages. 
Twenty gift bags went to mothers in the NICU at Phoenix Children’s 
and twenty more went to the antepartum unit at Cardon’s in Mesa. 
(You can see pictures of how we did it here.) 

This year our goal is fifty. Fifty care packages for mothers 
caring for children with special needs. 

Will you help us meet that goal? Can you help us exceed it? 

Also new this year, if you would like to make a donation in 
honor of a mother or sister or friend, we will send a Mother's Day card 
to her with the donation details. See the details below.

For monetary donations

Use PayPal and email address:


Put "care packages" in the comments

To donate items, or to contribute by check or cash, 

please send and email to

For gift donations to honor a mother or friend

Please include the woman's full name and address in 

the body of the email. 
(Deadline for cards to be sent in time for Mother's Day is May 1st)

Needed Items:

Gift Bags (any color; no birthday theme)

Blank note Cards

Candy Bars –no nuts

Gas Cards ($10)

Restaurant Cards ($10)

Grocery Cards ($10)

Hand sanitizer 

Lotion - white, non perfumed

Mints, gum

Small journals 

Care packages will be delivered to the mothers of currently hospitalized children at Phoenix/Mesa area hospitals or around May 9th, 2014.

100 % of donations used for care packages.

Arizona American Mothers, Inc. is a non-profit organization. Receipts of cash donations furnished upon request.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Woodland DIY Spring Wreath and Digressions

Woodland (Simple) Spring Wreath 

and a few digressions

There are days when you have to blow the whistle and stop the madness, don't you? And by madness I mean the demands of life. The mandatory list of be here, go there, do this and make 643 calls before 5 pm Mountain Standard Time. Yes, I'm exaggerating on the last one. Drop the 6 and 4, but three calls can feel like that many when you are cooking dinner, rotating laundry, and trying to NOT forget your child at the bus stop.

If life is so crazy hectic, why add a project to the mix? A project like making a new wreath? Deep breath here. It is because life is so full of demands, or rather non-creative demands, that every now and then a DIY wreath becomes an island of serenity in a sea of commotion. Right? Right.

That, and it was late March and I finally noticed the wooden Valentine's Day wreath was still hanging on the door *Sigh* Not saying that love can't be in season at our house year round, but when the holiday is over, it's over. The decorations lose something, like oh I don't know, the point!

So I found the pictures and instructions for the wreath here. These butterflies caught my eye and drew me in. Different from the other florals and yarn wreaths, this one appeared so simple. And yes it is, thought it takes a bit more time than it appears- but who are we kidding, what craft doesn't?

There are two main ingredients. Three if you count the glue, which I don't because hopefully no one will see it when I'm done, if I know how to handle a glue gun, that is.

Grapevine Wreath Base -Hobby Lobby 4.99
Cardstock Cut-Out Butterflies - about fifty of them, I used this template and printed 3 pages onto cardstock.
Glue Gun and sticks

I knew this involved cutting. I did. That didn't stop me because ever since I learned to use scissors in Kindergarten, I've been set. No accidents, no disasters (well as long as we don't count cutting my own bangs on picture day in the 7th grade.) As long as I'm using scissors to cut anything else but hair, I'm safe. 

(Confession: I did invest in a good pair of Fiskars Mirco-Tip with a nice little "Ease-of-Use Commendation" from the Arthritis Foundation, because you know, the right tools make for a happy crafter.)

The directions? The list + the picture = a pretty clear idea of what to do, yes?
Well, just to prevent being sent photos of a wreath base with full sheets of butterflies glued to it and asked what went wrong, I will specify a couple of things.

Cut out the butterflies. After you've cut three, you'll decide you don't want a new wreath. After you've cut twelve, you will wonder if you know any good carpel tunnel doctors, once you've cut about fifty, you will feel like naming each and every one of them. Resist that urge because once you are done cutting, you'll be gluing - as many as you want - to the wreath base. I used all of mine. None of that cutting was going to waste, I tell you. 

The great news - no pattern here of how to place the butterflies. Think of nature and let yourself have fun. One little tip - place the large ones first and so on until the smallest ones, otherwise you won't have space on the wreath for all of them. (This sounds very much like the sand, rocks and jar object lesson on managing our time and taking care of important priorities first. This has nothing to do with the the butterflies, but maybe it's not too much of a stretch to say this: Create something every day, a craft, a story, even a delicious meal  - treat your creativity like the big important rock that it is in the jar of your day. Plan it, look forward to it, and I promise all the other needy grains of sand will find their place. See, not so much of a digression after all.)

Okay, done cutting, done gluing and guess what? It's finished! Hang it up and try to contain the giddy, fluttery feelings you have every time you see it on your door.


One word (or two) about spring and why I like butterflies.
One year that shall go unnamed, I suffered not one, but two miscarriages. The way the dates all lined up, it worked out that around the time of the due date of the first pregnancy, I miscarried again. And it was Spring. The time of year when all the world is draped in pastels, celebrating birth and rebirth, and eating Peeps. Meanwhile, I was grieving. I didn't feel springy. Or chipper. Certainly not cheerful. Mostly I was trying to keep it together and take care of the two children I did have. And living in Arizona didn't help matters. I wanted a two week soaking rain, but no. It was all sunshine, pleasant temps and birds. Lots of chirping birds. 

Speaking of birds, on Mother's Day morning of that year, while sitting with my children at table next to our glass patio doors--a bird tried to fly into the kitchen. He flew into the glass and unlike the birds in the Windex commercials, this bird did not live. There I was cleaning up a dead bird on Mother's Day while grieving two unborn babies. How does that happen? If I wrote it into a piece of fiction, critics would say it was too contrived. Given the choice to laugh or cry, I chose to laugh and file it in my folder of life's little ironies. Between the cheerful chirping and ill-timed death by clean glass, I'd had it with birds. 

Enter the butterfly. Colorful but quiet, and wings that would flutter, not dive-bomb. Hmm. I could like butterflies. And they reminded me of inspiration, coming and going in quiet, unexpected ways. Like the words to this poem that descended upon me that Spring, in the middle of painfully sunny and disappointing days.  

Loss Cannot Own Me

The wind is too gentle, the air too sweet
The sky too blue and filled with flight
For loss to take away all my love and might

My children, they still laugh
My husband, he still looks at me 
With his eyes of liquid green,
As if I'm the sweetest girl he's ever seen
Loss cannot own me

It can change me
It can rearrange
My life and dreams
It can deprive me of some peace
For a time
As permanent as it tries to be
It can seize and clutch and grasp but
No, loss cannot own me

It's most gripping power comes in grief
But even it's longest marathon of misery
Is still, after the finish line, too brief
To keep me from this life I love
I will claim my rightful victory
So it will be clear to the conquered
Loss cannot own me

T. Passey

Music for the video from American Authors, Best Day of My Life.
Chirping Birds courtesy of Arizona in March. 


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