Archive for August, 2011

Shopping bags are hardly considered stylish accessories, but I have to admit, mine are cute and unique. Completing two weeks of serious and ruthless closet cleaning left me with a stack of clothes that didn’t qualify for the normal “rag, donate, or save-for-weight-loss piles.” I couldn’t toss out Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary shirt or my “Art Breaks the Rules” t-shirt. And what was I going to do with the rainbow-colored tie-dyed shirts I made with my kids? I thought to myself, “What would Martha Stewart do? What would she do with all of these colorful, well-constructed and memorable t-shirts?” Instantly, I knew! Recalling an episode from her show, I set out to make shopping bags from t-shirts. After about 30 minutes, I’d recycled my t-shirts into sturdy, machine washable and definitely unique-looking shopping bags. It’s a win-win situation: no need to use store bags, no harmful materials used to make these reusable bags, and no additional waste went to landfills!

T-Shirt Bag
Adapted from directions by Martha Stewart

Tools and Materials:
Heavy-weight cotton t-shirts
Sewing machine
Medium-sized bowl, plate, or pot lid
Water-erasable marking pen or tailor’s chalk
Fabric scissors


Turn t-shirt inside out and pin bottom of t-shirt along the hem. Using a sewing machine, sew the bottom of t-shirt closed. For additional strength, sew a line parallel to the one just sewn.

Turn t-shirt right side out and lay flat on table. Place medium-sized bowl (or plate or pot lid) about half way over the neck hole. Using a water-erasable marker or tailor’s chalk, trace along edge of bowl.

Cut along the outline, making sure to go through the front and back layers of the shirt.

Lay shirt flat on a table and line up the hems on the front and back side of the sleeve and cut the sleeve off on the outside of the armhole stitching, making sure to cut through both layers of fabric. Repeat with the other sleeve.

Your bag is now complete.


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Being a creative person is a joy, but it also gives rise to odd looks and a lifetime of explanations. For example, one time at work someone presented me with a box of wide, purple, satin ribbons. “What should we do with this?” she said. Off the top of my head came this answer, “We can weave them together and make clutch purses!” The look I received in return translated to “Are you crazy?” In my mind, anything is doable if given an appropriate amount of creative thought. Today’s post is dedicated to all the creative people who think outside of the box, who envision things as others can’t, who are the problem solvers of the world, and who often say, “What about this?”

#1 – Create For Free
Finding this site was like a dream come true! From Everything Etsy is a list of 101 links for printable gift tags, recipe cards, labels, thank you notes, baby shower invites, sayings, travel games and more! Not only are some of them really cute, they are also FREE! You’ll want to bookmark this page for your future creations!

#2 – 365Q
365Q pairs photos with inspirational sayings and is a project by photographer and graphic design student Julian Bialowas. His goal is to post one of his own photographs everyday for an entire year. We are the lucky recipients of his endeavor!

#3 – Escape Motions
Drawing is just not for kids. Create a piece of art that moves and changes color just by dragging your cursor in a black square on your computer screen. You’ll escape temporarily from your daily drudgery and duties. Amber Starfire of Women’s Memoirs writes, “Drawing engages the right side of the brain while relaxing the left side, allowing visual, emotional, intuitive expression. And when you draw, if only for a few minutes, it improves your ability to problem-solve, including your ability to understand and see into yourself.”

This is so true for me – doing something creative energizes and rejuvenates me. To create something beautiful just for yourself, click here first, then click on the play icon and start moving your cursor around. Just like magic beautiful swirls appear! To check out other escape motions by Peter Blaskovic, click here. Take a moment and enjoy yourself!

#4 – Hotel Tips
Escaping to another place altogether? Create a perfect hotel stay by checking out these tips submitted by readers/travelers on Gadling before you go.

#5 – Don’t Stop Playing
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Create a weekend that rejuvenates your soul!!

Note: The photo above is a screen capture of a “Wordle” that I created. Make a Wordle using your own words or a favorite quote by clicking here.

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Healthy cookies? Really? Other than a “dieting baker” there may be no greater oxymoron in the world of sugar and flour than the term “healthy cookies.” Since one of my sons is getting married next year, I’ve started watching pesky calories, which in turn, means not a morsel of cookie has passed through my lips in a while. Well, that is until this morning! I whipped up a batch of these soft, yet crunchy, cookies earlier in the day, sampled one and totally enjoyed my wholesome and almost guilt-free treat! Made with cooked quinoa, whole wheat flour, oats, coconut, and a trifecta of seeds – sunflower, sesame, and flax – they are indeed “healthier cookies.”

Healthy Cookies
From Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming

2/3 cup water
1/3 cup quinoa
1 cup butter, softened
1-1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/3 cup flax (ground or whole seeds)
1/3 cup sesame seeds

1. Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for an additional 6 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Cream the butter with the brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Add the oats, cooked quinoa, coconut, sunflower seeds, flax and sesame seeds to the flour mixture and stir until well blended. Combine with the butter mixture and stir until well mixed.

5. Roll the dough into 1-1/2-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand.

6. Bake on the center oven rack for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are light brown. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet.

7. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 5 dozen.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Don’t forget to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. This needs to be done to remove the saponin coating on the grains or else they will taste bitter.

2. I only stock steel cut or rolled oats in my pantry, so to make quick-cooking oats, I just put some of the rolled oats into my food processor and whirled them a bit to break down the flakes.

3. Like walnuts and pecans, sesame seeds are more flavorful when they are toasted. Toast some in advance and then put them in the freezer for later use.

4. Cover the cookie sheets with parchment paper to make sure the cookies don’t stick. Don’t forget that parchment paper can be reused. After baking and cooling I wipe the paper down and store them on the baking sheets.

5. To handle the sticky dough, moisten your hands with water first. Re-wet hands as often as needed.


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He Did It!

No Friday’s Fresh Five! today, but a few thoughts to share while riding in the car.

“I have big doubt that he’ll ever be successful.” Those hurtful words uttered by a relative years ago replay in my mind as I think about the upcoming weekend. I think about how someone, who should be in a position of love and support, could declare such discouraging and dismissive words about someone still so young. At the heart of the matter is my son’s chosen life path – art. In defense of my son, I try to reason with this relative. I explain that my son has not chosen art, but it has chosen him. I am told that I should have forced my son to become a doctor. There is no reasoning with this person. If my son ignores his gift, he would deny his authentic self and would be unable to truly share himself with the world.

This weekend my oldest son will graduate from a prestigious art and design college and will start a position with one of the top advertising agencies in the country. Filled with zigs and zags, his path has not been an easy one, but with perseverance, belief in himself, and supportive parents, he’s on his way to living his dream. So bravo! Hip-hip-hooray! Congrats to you, son, for staying true to yourself and not listening to the naysayers.

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.”
Charles Horton Cooley

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Summer isn’t summer unless watermelons are on the menu. There’s nothing quite like biting into a slice of crisp, juicy-sweet watermelon on a hot summer day. To that end, I double your delight by presenting two recipes that highlight the qualities of watermelons and create surprising melon moments at the beginning or at the end of your meals!

Recipe Number One: The Beginning
Watermelon for appetizers? You betcha! This appetizer has it all: a salty and tangy dip juxtaposed against the sweet crunchiness of melon, with an added a kick at the end. So unexpected, but so delicious!

Watermelon Appetizer with Asian Dipping Sauce
Adapted from an August 1992 Sunset Magazine recipe

1 small (6-8 lb.) or 1 cross-cut piece (4-5 in. long) watermelon
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar*
1 T minced pickled ginger
1 T sugar
1 T fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla) or soy sauce
About 1 T crushed dried hot red chilies

1. Cut melon into small 1-inch wedges (with rind) and place on serving platter.
2. Make Asian Dipping sauce by mixing together the lime juice, rice vinegar, pickled ginger, sugar, and fish sauce.
3. Place dipping sauce in a small, shallow serving dish next to watermelon platter.
4. Place crushed red chilies in another small, shallow serving dish and place this next to the watermelon platter as well.
5. To eat, dip melon into sauce, then into chilies, as desired.

*or 1/3 cup rice vinegar and 2 teaspoons sugar

Recipe Number Two: The End
Eating watermelon for dessert is not unusual, but this recipe for Watermelon Icicles shines because of its simplicity. It’s a perfectly refreshing and low-calorie treat for a hot summer day.

Watermelon Icicles
Adapted from a 1992 August Sunset Magazine recipe

Wooden ice cream sticks or “Popsicle” sticks
1 Seedless watermelon

1. Cut watermelon into triangular-shaped pieces about 1-inch thick and 3-inches wide at the base. Remove rind.
2. Push an ice cream stick into the wide part of the slice, almost all the way through.
3. Cover a flat baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.
4. Lay the watermelon wedges in a single layer on the baking sheet.
5. Cover with plastic wrap.
4. Freeze until solid, about four hours.
5. Serve, or transfer to a freezer container and freeze up to 1 month.


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Full Moon Rising - Manarola, Italy - Adam Chang 2007

Day or night? Which time of day do you prefer? There are some (not just vampires and werewolves!) that feel a sense of renewal during the evening. Maybe it’s the peaceful quiet that envelops them as the day’s rhythm shifts and settles down or maybe it’s the sight of the calming moon replacing the fiery sun that soothes their souls. Where I live, evenings are the best part of the day during the summer; pleasant, often-breezy nights replace high-temperature days to create perfect scenarios for outdoor activities. Years ago, before the trees grew tall and before the ambient light from surrounding homes and local businesses grew bright, stargazing was a favorite summertime activity for my family. With blankets to lie on, we would settle down on the steep slope of our driveway and enjoy the spectacular stadium-like view of the dark night sky. Although our neighbors must have thought we were crazy, there was magic in just being together and identifying summer constellations and wishing on shooting stars. I wonder how many of those wishes have come true?

#1 – Starry Night
Ever wonder what prompted Van Gogh to paint his famous Starry Night masterpiece? Here’s an artist’s concept of what Van Gogh’s inspiration may have looked like. Compare the two by clicking on their links. Which “starry night” do you like better?

#2 – How to Save Time
Do you want to save time during the day, so that you have more free time in the evening? Start by being more efficient at everything you do. A video titled How to Do Ordinary Things Quickly shows creative time-saving tips. The clothes-folding segments are fascinating, but I don’t recommend trying to park a car as shown!

#3 – Life Lessons
I’ve linked to Marc and Angel Hack Life before, but here’s another one of their lists that made me stop and think. It’s called 111 Lessons Life Taught Us and it centers around  “. . .  all the things you would love to tell yourself if you could travel back in time to give your younger self some advice about life.” If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self? The list is comprised of submissions from a sister site Everyday Life Lessons. Here are a few examples:

You are capable of loving and of being loved. You deserve nothing less. You are not perfect. There may be parts of you that you would change if you could, but accept that some things cannot be changed. This acceptance isn’t easy, but it makes you a stronger person. Try your best not to dwell on your imperfections. Instead, try to see them as just part of a beautiful whole. The same things that make you different make you beautiful.

No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.

There is a difference between giving up and letting go. Giving up is sacrificing what was rightfully yours, letting go is forgetting what was never yours. We can’t gain if we can’t let go. There’s no love without tears, there’s no happiness without sacrifice, and there’s no forever without goodbye. It’s not giving up, it’s more like . . . letting go.

Complaining is like slapping yourself for slapping yourself. It doesn’t solve the problem, it just hurts you more.

There will be two dates on your tombstone. Everyone is going to be looking at them, but all that’s going to matter is that little dash in between them.

#4 – Somewhere Over the Moonbow
If you’re out for an evening stroll and the conditions are just right, look to the part of the sky opposite the moon, and maybe you’ll see a moonbow. A moonbow or lunar rainbow is a phenomenon that occurs when light is reflected off the surface of the moon. According to Wikipedia, Moonbows are most easily viewed when the moon is near to full (when it is brightest). For true moonbows, other than those produced by waterfalls or sprays, the moon must be low in the sky (less than 42 degrees and preferably lower) and the sky must be dark. And of course there must be rain falling opposite the moon. This combination of requirements makes moonbows much more rare than rainbows produced by the sun. Camping.com claims that “The two most famous viewing spots in the U.S. are at Cumberland Falls, near Williamsburg, Kentucky and Waimea, Hawaii. In both places, sign up for a guided hike to see the moon bow.” Add this to your list of things to see during your lifetime!

#5 – Dream By Day
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.”
Edgar Allan Poe

May you find ways to renew your soul this weekend!

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As the images of people flocking to refugee camps, of pleading eyes and emaciated bodies, and of anguished mothers weeping over their dead children haunt me, I feel extremely guilty about having plenty of food to eat. With every bite of food I take, I am ashamed of not helping those who are starving. Today’s newspaper carries additional news, “Hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in East Africa’s famine unless more help arrives.” HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS is a heart-breaking and unfathomable number, but one person starving to death is already one too many. It’s easy to remove ourselves from this news, because Africa is so far away and because we do not witness the daily struggles and tragedies of these people. But we must find a way to help them, because they desperately need our help.

Find 20 minutes in your day to watch this TED video featuring Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN’s World Food Program. Learn about the issues surrounding world hunger and the concepts to alleviate it. She challenges the people of the world to “draw a line in the sand and say no more.” If you don’t have 20 minutes to spare, you can see the faces of hunger and learn more about the famine in East Africa by reading this article in the Atlantic.

What can I do or anyone else do to help? Plenty! It doesn’t take much if everyone helps. According to Caryl Stern, the president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, “Just $10 can feed a child for 10 days.” That’s all – just 10 dollars! For many people 10 dollars is not a make or break amount of money, so here’s my idea: what if everyone gave up some form of daily, weekly, or monthly personal indulgence to help end world hunger? I call it Give Up to Give Help! What are you willing to give up to feed someone who is starving? If you gave up one luxury on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis and donated the money you would have normally spent, think of how many people you could feed. To put it in further perspective, this is what your money could buy, according to the UNICEF site:

$10 can provide 321 sachets of Multiple Micronutrient Powder containing essential vitamins to give a powerful boost to infant survival and development.

$40 can provide a practical and easy to transport scale used to monitor children’s weight.

$80 can provide 1000 sachets of Oral Rehydration Salts to help children combat dehydration.

Here’s a list of things to Give Up to Give Help that I made to jump start everyone into action. Again, the frequency of giving up something in order to donate is up to you:

1. Starbuck’s or any other routine gourmet coffee treat
2. Manicure or pedicure
3. Car wash
4. Dry cleaning and laundry services
5. Dining out – fast food or fine dining
6. Buying new clothes or accessories – instead of buying a new item, donate the cost of that item.
7. Going to a movie
8. Recycling bottles and cans – start a fund to help the hungry by putting the money you get back from recycling into it
9. Admission to entertainment venues – sports, concerts, lectures, etc.
10. Massages
11. Tanning salon appointments
12. Cut back your Netflix subscription or the number of DVDs you rent
13. Waxing – eyebrows or bikini!
14. Instead of an impulsive purchase at the grocery counter (think magazines, candy, or gum), donate the money!
15. Buying a new toy for your child or pet
16. Bouquet of flowers
17. One cocktail or glass of wine
18. One bottle of wine
19. Stretch out your hair appointments by one week and donate the savings
20. Greeting cards – it’s the sentiment that counts, so make your own. The cost of two greeting cards could feed a child for over a week!

These items are luxuries for most of us, but considering food is a luxury for others, I think we can collectively help by sacrificing something! If you have any great ideas for my Give Up to Give Help list, please let me know!

Finally, here are two links to donate directly to the African Famine efforts:
Doctors Without Borders

What will you give up to help?

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Reminding myself that “sharing and encouraging joy in life” is the intent of this blog, I quickly scanned the entries for today’s post. At first glance, perhaps a few did not reflect my goal, but after careful consideration, I decided I was over-thinking the issue. How could thinking about others, sharing with others, or helping others not create joy?

#1 – TED
Since I’m an idea person, I enjoy watching TED videos. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas. For no cost, people around the world can watch humorous or thought-provoking lectures.

TED is owned by the Sapling Foundation whose goal  . . . is to foster the spread of great ideas. It aims to provide a platform for the world’s smartest thinkers, greatest visionaries and most-inspiring teachers, so that millions of people can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world, and a desire to help create a better future. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea. Consider:

* An idea can be created out of nothing except an inspired imagination.
* An idea weighs nothing.
* It can be transferred across the world at the speed of light for virtually zero cost.
* And yet an idea, when received by a prepared mind, can have extraordinary impact.
* It can reshape that mind’s view of the world.
* It can dramatically alter the behavior of the mind’s owner.
* It can cause the mind to pass on the idea to others.

Here’s a brief three minute video to wet your TED whistle – Jok Church presents A Circle of Caring.

#2 – 13,138 Dice
What do 13,138 dice have in common with artist and designer Tobias Wong? Sadly, that is the number of days he lived. In memory of his friend, artist Frederick McSwain constructed a portrait of Wong using this exact number of dice. It’s a special tribute to a friend and an incredible art installation.

#3 – Kitchen Substitutes
I received a call this morning from one of my neighbors asking to borrow some milk. Because I didn’t have any, we started brainstorming about what she could substitute in her recipe. It’s hard to be a spontaneous cook these days unless you have a full refrigerator and a well-stocked pantry. This list of Common Ingredient Substitutions offers help by providing alternatives. Check out what’s listed as substitutes for milk and read that the substitutes for ricotta cheese are silken tofu or cottage cheese!

#4 – Where in the World?
Do you like puzzles, photographs, geography, and geology? Then this site is for you! Take a look at these photographs and guess where in the world these areas are located. Bits of information are provided as clues and the answers are at the bottom of the page. Good luck!

#5 – Which Way Are You Going?
“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”
Henry David Thoreau

Wherever you go this weekend, have a wonderful time!

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If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? Well, just maybe Peter made some of these light, summer-fresh, pepper pizzas and ate them all up!

Pepper Pizzas
Adapted from a recipe in the July 1989 Sunset Magazine

6 English muffins
1 small yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
2 cups (1/2 lb) Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
1 small fresh Anaheim green chili, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
Olive oil
Pinch of both salt and pepper

1. Split English muffins in half and lay, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until lightly toasted, then turn muffins over and toast other side, about 4 minutes total. Remove and set aside.

2. Put a little olive oil in a small fry pan and when the oil is hot, add the onion slices. As soon as the onion becomes golden-brown, add the yellow peppers. Stir. Add salt and pepper and then stir until onions are caramelized and peppers are just slightly limp. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. With cut sides up, evenly cover each half of English muffin with bell pepper and onion mixture. Top with shredded cheese and then Anaheim chili slices.

4. Return to broiler until cheese melts, about 4 minutes.

Makes 12.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. For a less spicy pizza, shredded Swiss cheese can be substituted for the Pepper Jack.

2. The original recipe called for raw onions and peppers to be placed on top of the English muffins. I’m not a fan of raw onions, so I sauteed the onions to caramelize them and then added the peppers to cook them slightly. Caramelizing onions brings out their flavor.

3. Of course I used more onion, yellow pepper, and cheese than the recipe called for!


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