Curtain: Out on a Limb

A friend and I took a walk around the block. When we came to the woods behind the graveyard, I stopped and said, “Hey, I want a branch for a curtain rod. Do you want to help me find one?” My friend, intrigued by the odd request and always ready for adventure, tramped through the woods with me to find a curtain rod. After finding a branch we thought would work, we headed back to school.

For weeks, the branch balanced above the plain metal curtain rod. Decorating a birthday cake, taking a field trip to Washington, D.C., and keeping up with homework took obvious precedence.

But finally I took action. I cut off part of the sheer curtain I picked up at a dollar store. Soon I had strips to be sewn on for loops. I tea-dyed narrow lace and sewed that to the loops. After a bit of maintenance, the branch was ready for use. Before hanging, I twisted twine around the branch to hold the greens I planned to add. Once all was hung properly, I went out with a scissors and chopped away at the holly bushes outside my window. The greens and berries gave the curtain the final touch it needed.



Now the curtain is finished…until spring, when the holly is only a reminder of cold winter months.


Belligerence and Butterflies

Following is an essay I wrote for English Composition this semester about a neighbor at home. His name has been changed.

            “Don’t mess with Ronnie Piper. You get in his way and he’ll curse you off the property if he doesn’t shoot you off.” This was the warning my parents received when they bought a rundown house a quarter mile down the road from the Pipers. He and his wife had lived on that corner for years; our house was once owned by her grandmother.  A coarse, sailor-like appearance and a belligerent attitude made Ronnie seem like a neighbor to avoid, but seeing him as the ‘butterfly man’ revealed an unforgettable contrast.

            The coarse, sailor-man neighbor towered over me as I stood timidly at his front door. My eyes, focused on the floorboards, saw scuffed, brown, work shoes. My eyes traveled up and up. His thin, checkered shirt hung well below his waist, noticeably so because his pants were hitched up over his stomach. Huge, thick hands held open the screen door. He looked down at me through wire rimmed glasses held up by a hook nose. “You need some Worcestershire sauce?” he bellowed over my head. Shyly I held out the small, Tupperware container my mom had sent. “I’ll let Sheri fill this up. Hey, I’ve got some ice cream bars out in the freezer. You and the rest of the kids at home want some?” So it became a tradition; we borrowed from them and never left without ice cream. As we walked home licking Schwann’s ice cream bars, we giggled over his frequent question, “How many to home?” We could predict his question, but he never could remember how many kids there were.

Stories of Ronnie’s reputation were woven into my community’s recent history. Ronnie and Sheri had eloped in their late teens, their first child already on the way. He had little chance of making a good impression on his mother-in-law. His size, brusque manner and lack of respect for God’s name thrust him neatly in a truck-driver stereo-type. To his distress, Amish neighbors came over to borrow the phone; it was one of these men who warned us to avoid him. Although he was respectful around my family, I knew by the stories Ronnie told that the Amish man’s caution was valid. There was the time the coyote hunters requested to hunt in his woods; in no uncertain terms he told them they could never hunt in his woods. Another time he heard noises outside his house at night. He kept a gun handy for a while, not to shoot them, but to let them know someone was home.

            Ronnie as butterfly man began almost by accident. In a conversation with Ronnie, my dad casually mentioned my mom’s hobby of collecting and raising monarch caterpillars. Ronnie was hooked. First, he brought worms to our house to add to my mom’s nursery. He asked for information and did his own research. Soon he was going on caterpillar hunts with my mom. He called regularly or puttered in in his gray, beat-up Ford like a little boy, thrilled with his latest find. He found his own gallon jar and filled it with milkweed and caterpillars. He Facebooked, posting what he found in the field and online. His wonder grew when my mom started tagging the butterflies headed to Mexico. Seeing the big man searching for caterpillars in a field of weeds did not seem to fit his character.

            Ronnie’s looks were not deceiving. Some people experienced a quarrelsome, cantankerous red-neck.  When he drove past on his motorcycle, it was easy to imagine him as part of a wild gang. But how many people have seen his heart, softened by the deaths of his son, mother, and wife in the last five years? When we stepped away from all the labels stuck onto him, we found a nice neighbor, one willing to do chores and lend cupcake liners.




Vintage baby dress

One of my friends had a baby girl. Clothes for little girls can be a lot of fun! Like this outfit…

First I was imagining an off-white dress. I knew there would be lace somewhere. But I had a problem. All I was finding was bright white stuff. The off-white stuff didn’t feel child-friendly. It wasn’t working into the vintage dress I had in mind.

Then I tea-dyed. First I dyed the lace I found in a box upstairs. I found white fabric with yellow polka dots with the baby cotton at Jo-Ann Fabrics.

I was a little nervous about throwing the whole piece into the water, but that’s what I ended up doing. I boiled a pot of water with two tea bags. The fabric was only in the water for 3-4 minutes, just enough to take away the clean white look.

Next, I threw it in the dryer on high heat until it was dry. I washed the dress when I was finished and it didn’t fade.

I used a Kwik-Sew pattern, but any bodice pattern would do. I added to the bodice to make a long dress. The sides were flared a bit to give her room to move. The tucks were sewn before the bodice was cut. I sewed lace to the collar. The dress was hemmed with lace. I sewed two tucks along the bottom, and sewed lace in the top tuck.

Then I made shoes. I used a pattern from Fleeting Things called Mila Shoe. 

Finally I made a headband. I used cotton yarn. It was a two inch band with simple crochet back and forth. I joined it at 12 inches, the size I found for 0-3 months. The flower was a 1 inch strip of fabric folded in half. I started by bunching it up on top of a circle of fabric. I sewed that down and twisted the fabric as I went around. Try it sometime, it’s much simpler than it sounds. 🙂

One other thing I did… I’ve been printing on fabric. It’s really easy and fun if you have an ink jet printer. Print it first on paper, then tape your fabric securely over the printed word or phrase. After it’s printed, iron it with high heat. It’s a personal, professional touch.

Woodland Terrarium

All you need for this project is a bottle, a woods, and a few creative juices.

I found five girls, ages 6-10, Starbucks frappuccino bottles, and a trail in the Erie Wildlife Refuge.

We had lots of fun looking for tiny things that would fit in the bottles.

We collected moss, tiny ferns, baby trees, sticks, pinecones, ivy… I loved seeing their creativity!

We stuck our plants into the moss and jammed the moss in the jar with a fork. These little ecosystems take care of themselves. Just don’t put them in too much sunlight or there will be too much condensation.

Crazy Buffalo Chicken Soup

Jonathan has been asking me to make Buffalo Chicken Chowder since I’m home. I guess he gave up on me because he made it today. Way to go, kid.

This recipe was simplified because we didn’t have everything it asked for. Here’s our version.

Crazy Buffalo Chicken Soup

Crazy Buffalo Chicken Soup

An innovative way to chop onions without crying. I’m not sure about it’s success rate.

Buffalo Chicken Soup
Jonathan raised his eyebrows at the first taste. “It causes nice second degree burns in the back of the throat. It’s a good pain.” :]

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup carrot, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • * hot sauce to taste (I used 1/4 cup Tabasco sauce, plus a few shakes of Marie Sharps habanero sause)
  • 1 large yukon gold or other boiling potato, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup milk (original recipe asked for cream)
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (original recipe asked for blue cheese)
  1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the chicken and saute until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and flour and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
  5. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan.
  6. Add the hot sauce and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, mix in the cream and blue cheese and remove from heat when the cheese has melted.

Serves 4.

Posted by: Hannah