Archive for December, 2012

Yesterday over on my personal blog I posted  a photo of a beautiful old hand-painted wooden tray that came from my mom’s side of the family. I also commented on how I love to be surrounded by “stuff,” meaning things passed down from both sides of my family, or my husbands family. These things bring a smile to my face and I have good memories of them.

Wooden Tray 1

I also mentioned that there are times I am bothered by the clutter around me. Not the clutter of things from the past, but the clutter of projects that I am in the middle of or hoping finish soon, even dishes that need to be done.

Yesterday came and I had a bit of motivation in me, instead of working on a presentation I have coming up in January, I tackled an armoire in our bedroom. Ok, part of an armoire. I have more clothes than I could even need or use and it was time to chip away and decrease the piles. About 2 weeks ago, I took several boxes of clothes and other things over to a thrift store  and it felt really really good. Today I managed to fill one trash bag full of clothes.

cleaning out the closet

These clothes have a lot of life left in them and I need to let them get on with it. Live their life. Move on.

I know when I am met by a bit of motivation, I need to run with it. I get absolutely not where when I am not in the mood and I also know that I need to tackle things like this in small steps or it becomes too overwhelming and frustrating and then nothing gets done at all. So, I was in the mood, had a bit energy and got a lot done.

A laughed a bit, because as I went through the clothes, ever single piece was something that was handed down to me, things I didn’t spend a penny on and I don’t think I wore any of them. I hope someone else can get some better use out of them. They certainly aren’t doing anybody any good folded up in my armoire.

I still have way too many clothes, but it fells good to go through some of it and move it out. This journey continues.

What do you find is the best way for you to clean out a bit of stuff?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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Grams yarn hangersI am taking a chance and posting this before Christmas, hoping that my nieces are not reading! This is all about Gram’s hangers. Now, I know my Gram wasn’t the only person out there making these, but she was the only person out there making them for me when I was younger… hence, Gram’s hangars.

When I got a bit older (I’m guessing 10 or 12 years old), she taught me how to make them. I searched all of our closets looking for one of Grams hanger. Do you think I found one? NO!  I just wanted to look at it and work out how I was going to make them. Do you think I remembered how to do them?  Yes, and no! I worked it out rather quickly, but I knew mine are a bit different. In fact, when I took the hangars I finished to MN this past fall to wrap them up and stash them away for my nieces, my mom came in to see what I was doing and then started pulling hanger after hanger out of her closest. All Gram’s hangars! She has all of them! I couldn’t help but laugh.

Started at the base of the hookWhat I love about using these hangars is that my clothes don’t slip off the hangar (and I made them by recycling old wire hangars and gave them a new purpose in life)

You start with two metal dry cleaner hangers that are of equal shape and size.  Tape them together in a few spots so you are fighting to keep the hangars together as you are working your yarn around them. You need two balls of yarn. They can be the same color or different colors, that is completely up to you, but the yarn does need to be in balls (not skeins). I could not remember how much yarn it took to make a hanger, so I bought two skeins of blue (for one niece) and two skeins of pink( for the other niece) and started wrapping them into balls. Make your yarn balls a manageable size so you can handle it easily enough and not be fighting with it to get it through the triangle form of the hanger at each pass. I made two hangers for each niece and have TONS of yarn left over. I could probably make them two more hangers each year for several years and still not run out (and hope they still like the colors I have!)

Make a loop

Make a loop

I started at the bottom of the neck where the hanger branches out and the worked my way around the hanger ending up back at the neck and then worked my way up to the top of the hook and back down to the neck. I know working my yarn over the hook and back gave it a bit of extra bulk, but I didn’t want to end at the top of the hook and have loos ends and knots up there where it gets most of its wear as it is put on your clothes rod and taken off over and over.

pass you yarn over the hanger and through the loop

pass you yarn over the hanger and through the loop

Tie both balls of yarn onto the bottom of the neck of the hangers leaving about a 6″ tail to work with later.  You want to keep one ball of yarn on one side of you and the other ball of yarn on the other side of you. I hold the hangar between my legs so that my hands are free to work with the yarn balls. I will mention that the chair that I sit on in our living room is an old swan neck rocker. It has open arm rests which isn’t the best situation because there isn’t much room on either side of my body to rest the yarn balls without them falling through the arms rest, off the chair, and unrolling out on the floor.

Pull tight

Pull tight

To make a “stitch” make a loop with your yarn and then pass your ball of yarn over the hangar and through the loop. Now pull it tight. The tighter you pull the more loops you will need to make to cover your hangar. The loosen your “stitches” the lass yarn. I made mine rather tight. From time to time you can also push your “stitches” so they are tighter together also. There are no rules here, do what ever you are comfortable with.

You can do one “stitch” with each color yarn or more. I did one hangar with single “stitches” and the other with two “stitches” with each ball of yarn before working the other side.

used single stitches on left and double stitches on right

used single stitches on left and double stitches on right

I finished by knotting my ends together and leaving about a 6″ tail on each end. I added pom poms that I made out of the same yarn and used the tail ends to attach them to the hangers.

Crossing my fingers that my nieces will love them.

Have you ever made yarn hangers?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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When I was in my 20s, I managed a nonprofit art gallery.

Aside from just being a really amazing job, one of the perks was that galleries are on really great P.R. lists, meaning we would get the most beautiful posters in the mail.

Some of them ended up on the walls, but far more of them received a more, shall we say, ephemeral and, ahem creative, use.

Wrapping paper.

Sounds a bit horrifying, I know. Full color, quality paper, beautifully designed museum and gallery posters, torn to shreds on Christmas morning. But we would get dozens of these things a month. It was always a good day when I got to the mail first, because I learned this trick from the gallery director, and we would try to beat each other to the best ones. Granted, some of them we kept– I framed a gorgeous Agnes Martin “poster”; it’s actually a full color offset lith on rice paper. I gave others to friends.

But most of them ended up under the Christmas tree. To give you some perspective, I worked there from 1981 to 1986. I still have several posters from this period, rolled up and waiting to be used.

The point, of course, is that most of these, even the very beautiful ones, were bound to end up in the trash. The thing with “creative re-use” is that you can’t be afraid to creatively reuse things, just because they seem so, well, useful.

What do you “creatively re-use” for the holidays?

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A community of crafty DIYers? Yup, knee-deep in Christmas ornaments.


We gave up the tree. We’d actually experimented with this a couple of times while the kids were still around, largely due to my (Xan) discomfort with the holiday, but they weren’t ready to relent. However, with the kids living on their own, we’re now on our third treeless year, and having a blast finding creative ways to use the dozens and dozens of ornaments. Being a slightly obsessive organizer, I’ve got them sorted into little box according the theme: skating ornaments, animals, ethnic, artsy, religious, santas, etc. So far this year, though, I’ve only managed to decorate the goat.Goat Xmas


Treeless here at our house too. When we lived in Palm Springs, I (Sincerely, Emily) was still at a point where I decorated the house. As the years went on, I was working full-time and doing art shows on weekends and some evenings. Eventually, I was beading non-stop and doing arts & craft shows full -time. January was the start of a busy season of art/craft shows in my area and the tree and decorations seemed to still be up in April. There came I point that I just didn’t go all out with the decorations anymore.

I truly enjoy the decorating part, I love seeing all the ornaments and the memories as I hung them on the tree, but I really dislike the take-down part. So, even though we are in Texas now, and I am not beading up a storm and doing arts/craft shows every-other minute, I still do not put a tree up (unless my mom visits). I MAY still wander up to the attic this year and dig out some things to put around the house, and then again, I may not.

For this post, I did manage to unearth one of my favorite ornaments (I have several). I love the clear sparkle of glass or crystal on my tree with the white lights. I have many other ornaments of color, but love the mix in the glass & crystal for the sparkly factor they bring.


I found these ornaments at a store in Bayfield, WI one January long long ago. Oh, I think I will head up to the attic now and find one of the smaller trees to bring out.


What are your favorite Christmas decorations?

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The past two weeks have kept me more busy than normal. Volunteering, working on things for a banquet, a party here, meetings, etc., all mixed in with doctors appointments. I was really ready for these past weeks to be over.

A few nights ago was one of the parties and a group of us have been working for several months to get the decorations finished. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.


Bringing a group together and working to come up with ideas that we all can agree with and be happy with can be a challenge. We really wanted to keep the decorations simple, but make a statement with an old-fashioned Christmas theme in mind. From a center piece on each table that was a simple as a stack of wrapped presents, to foot after foot of red and green paper chains. From a small handmade box with a treat for each person to other die-cut things on each table, I think we were successful.


The banquet went very well, and we had a lot of very nice complements on the decorations. That put a smile on my face.

Have you come up with some simple and creative ways to decorate for a large party or banquet? 

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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(In which Emily from Tanglewood reaches out into the NDiN for GF guidance…)

In the words of the great Liz Lemon, “Blerg.”

Three months ago I decided to drop gluten (and as a result, wheat) from my diet just as a sort of… experiment. I’d had a number of friends tell me I should give it a go, as I’ve always had issues with lethargy, anemia and general grumpy-wumpiness (official terms, here).

I had actually thought for a little while that I had blood sugar issues because, as I was constantly sampling a number of my very-sugar-oriented baked goods while balancing recipes (for the market-bakery business that lasted a season before I discovered the following) I would feel seriously ill… the only way I could describe it was feeling “poisoned”, like the effort to move the muscles in my body was too much to handle.

So, for whatever reason I never actually believed the problem could actually be wheat. In fact, I think I was in blatant denial.

I’ve now been almost three months without any wheat at all (cold turkey) and with only a handful of accidental-glutenings (damn, you barley malt!). I can’t tell you how amazing I feel physically, and how emotionally depressed I can get. HAH!

You have to understand, one of my favorite smells in the whole world has always been the warm wheaty smell of fresh bread. I’m one of those people who would shove my nose into the bread case at the store even if I wasn’t buying bread. I’m one of those people who pokes my finger into the crust of a baguette (after buying it of course) just to enjoy the crisp flakey crunch and squishy, webbed gluten-y interior. I’m one of those people who had a serious breakdown when I finally realized just-how-REAL this sensitivity to gluten thing is.

I’m being honest here. There was crying, moping, extra naps, slacking at work… in fact, there still are on occasion. (I admit, I’m a woman of serious tantrums.)

So today I come to you, readers, looking for others who might have suggestions for a GF newb.

I haven’t been tested for celiac because I can’t bring myself to go back on a wheat-diet that is going to make me sick for six weeks before getting tested. I just know that wheat=icky and gluten=also icky.

What are some of your favorite gluten free holiday recipes? I’ve been so depressed by this whole revelation that I’ve put all of my baking on hold and only today have I ventured into the realm of GF baking (with some uber-chewy banana bread muffins). I hope to get into more of the confections aspect of my love for sweets later this winter… (my plan is to learn to temper chocolate and then make the perfect truffles using local fruit jellies and creams).

Oh! I’ve heard that some people who are only wheat sensitive have found they can go back to stone-ground ancient-grain-wheat (as opposed to modern variety) after a long period of eating wheat-free. Has this been anybody’s experience?

I will admit, living gluten-free has been frustrating, but I have had serious health benefits from it. My chemical depressions is nearly absent (despite also being a SAD sufferer), I’ve lost 11 pounds in a very trim-and-healthy way, I have more energy than I’ve ever had and I am down to one migraine a month (where before I was having at least one a week). I’ve also got my regular headaches under control as well. Before all of this I found myself dreading taking on new horseback riding students. I put off answering emails, returning phone calls, accepting training clients… mostly because I couldn’t be sure that I wasn’t going to feel up to following through with the scheduling I was going to have to make.

Now I’m just about booked solid in a comfortable, healthy and energetic schedule, and as a result I have more inquiries than ever just from word of mouth. Obviously it’s worth it… but still… I could use some serious coaching in how to get past the longing… and craving… and daydreaming.

Anybody? Anybody?


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The Onion

It all started last Tuesday at work… a little tickle in my throat, then a few coughs, tightness in my chest.  By the time I was heading home, I was coughing like crazy, had a fever, and was so tired I was afraid I wasn’t going to make the 15 minute drive home.  I went straight to the couch to lie down, covered up, and I was out for the night.

Long story short, our family of 6 was hit hard and fast by the dreaded flu bug.  We’re still fighting our way back from it, but for the most part we’re all on the mend.  The funny thing about this time around is how differently we handled it than the last time we were struck.  Normally we would down cough medicine and pain meds/fever reducers, and go to the doctor right away.

This time we filled the plug in warmer with Himalayan salts mixed with eucalyptus oil, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the bottoms of our feet, and drank tinctures of local honey and cinnamon.  Instead of taking a fever reducer at the first chill of a fever, we let it run it’s course to fight the baddies out of our bodies.  Where did we learn to do these things?  Some I remembered from growing up, some are things I’ve learned from this awesome blog, and some from my hugely embarrassing Pinterest addiction.

While I’ve still shied away from some of the “serious” cold/flu remedies on Pinterest (containing onions and cayenne pepper, etc), my mom brought an interesting one to my attention… the onion.

NBG Onion

Simply cut an onion in half, and put it under or beside your bed to relieve coughing and congestion for a better night’s sleep.  I’m just going to say it… I thought she was nuts!  I decided to try it anyway, and it worked!  My coughing was greatly reduced, and I actually slept (until 4 coughing kids woke me up at various intervals through the night)!

While I realize this isn’t much of a holiday post, I thought it was still relevant as I seem to get sick around the holidays every year.  I’m guessing a lot of others have the same problem due to the stress and business of the season.

Hopefully this is it for us, and we’ll continue to improve as the next couple of weeks fly by.  I’m looking forward to some time off to relax and spend time with family and friends.

Do you have any “not so normal” cold or flu remedies you’d like to share?  I would love more ideas to add to my list!

*PLEASE remember that onions can be  EXTREMELY toxic to dogs (not sure about other pets as I’m pretty much just a dog person!) so make sure you leave your onion out of your canine companion’s reach!


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During the Hannuka festival I like to drive slowly through my heavily Jewish neighborhood and look for the menorahs.

It’s one of the more charming traditions of Hannukah (which is a tradition with much charm), that the menorah is placed in the window, so everyone knows “we celebrate this here.” Judaism has many public expressions of private faith; it’s a religion of bravura and courage, which I suppose it has needed to be.

While my parents were raised as Christians, I was raised to mistrust religion, so I’ve been somewhat on the other side of the windows for all of the winter traditions. I see the candles and the lights and the stained glass from the wrong side. No question, it’s beautiful from either perspective, but I’ve always imagined the interior of worship places to be a warm and mysterious communion where everyone knows the same thing; something I don’t, and can’t know.

Religion is a foreign language to me.

When my kids were born, I vowed that they would at least understand what was going on on the other side of the window, and we marked all the Judeo-Christian holidays with outward accoutrements: food and stories and decorations. We read the Hannukah story and lit the candles. We had a tree and presents and read Dylan Thomas and St. Luke. Easter and Passover, Hallowe’en and Purim. If I had it to do over, I’d add Ramadan and Diwali, as well as Solstice and Equinox celebrations. Oh well, I’ll have grandchildren someday.

Strangely, my husband, also not a Christian, has worked most of his adult life as a worship musician, in both the church and the synagogue. He knows the rituals inside out. He’s good at it, too.

Even though the kids are gone, and there’s really no reason to do it, I still light the Menorah and say the prayer. Yesterday I made challah. There are Christmas lights in my window and my yard.

Because the thing about the holy is that there is no “outside.”

Hannukah 1

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You have an official pass to eat goodies– it’s Christmastime! But in January, you have to be good. Here are some of the yummies, we’re making:


I (Xan) really just starting baking a few years ago. Baking is one of those things that one does with one’s mother, and since mine died right at the brink of my adulthood, I didn’t really feel confident in doing it. Plus, it made me sad. But when I changed my food buying habits and diet a few years ago, I had to learn to bake, or no bread. And I really did kinda figure it out. I’m slowly figuring out bread, am something of an expert now, or at least fairly fearless, at scones, and last year I taught myself to make pies (including the crust). Here is one them, and it fits in with last Tuesday’s post about baking with my mother.Pineapple apricot pie


Well, I (Sincerely, Emily) had wonderful intentions of making some cookies over the past few days….   ahhhh, that just didn’t happen.

Pecan Pie Bars 2

So, the only sweet treat you are going to see from me is in the post I did yesterday about the Pecan Pie Bars that I made. Oh, and there is the batch after batch of zucchini muffins and bread that I have been making over the past few montsh (and stashing in the freezer – and other people’s freezers too).


What sweet treats have you been baking? Comment and add a link if you posted about them.

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