Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Here I Am

Thanks, everyone for your concern.

Since the end of August when I was recuperating from several biopsies and surgery, I have been coping with changes in my body chemistry, which resulted in the undoing of my mental health medications.  I suffer from general anxiety disorder, including intrusive thinking, and some obsessive/compulsive tendencies.  These have been controlled for years by medication (and I've done my time in therapy.)  When my iron levels shot back up, and my metabolism kicked back in, I was a nervous wreck and, frankly, spent a lot of time in bed.

I've been working closely with my sweet and gentle psychiatrist, and am finally able to face the computer and work again.  I had really gotten to the point where I would just sit down at my computer some days and stare at it, unable to do any work at all.  I wasn't stitching at all.  A combination of four different medications now means that I can sleep properly, function much better, and can face the things that I need to do and want to do.

I used to be able to juggle a shop and an online store and design under two different companies, and I think that has really gotten to be too much for me to handle.  My shop has closed, and I am scaling way back on my online store in order to spend more time designing and stitching samplers and working on other creative endeavors.  I probably won't be doing much more designing for Raise the Roof Designs anymore -- look for the "odd" chart now and then.  The back catalog will (mostly) still be available for Raise the Roof and Shakespeare's Peddler, too.

One of the things I started dreading about designing was the idea that I had to try to fit my designs in a box.  Some shops refuse to carry designers' graphs if they use certain thread or fabric companies' supplies.  There's also that added pressure of what will sell ... August?  Better be putting out some Halloween things.  Is this sampler too big?  Too small?  Too many colors of thread?  Will it fit on a fat quarter?

I've had some grand ideas for designs that I have continued to put off, knowing they wouldn't fit someone's criteria for what makes a good/sellable design.  And I think designers, as the cross stitch world has gotten smaller, have felt more beholden to the opinions of the outspoken.  That's robbed us all, I think, of the grandest things a designer can create.

This week, I am starting work on some of those dream designs of mine.  I'm not going to be using anything discontinued in terms of supplies, and will continue to do conversions on the charts to other thread lines.  I hope you like them.  I know that I will.  And I feel really good about moving forward and being my most creative.

Please check out my clearance on my Etsy shop: Letters Great & Small.  Anything marked CLEARANCE is 15-85% off the regular retail price.  None of my designs are on sale, except for some discontinued Raise the Roof charts.  Everything is limited to what is in stock.  I have more in storage that I will add as things disappear.  It will be great to start the new year with clear space and a clear mind.

Thanks so much to those of you who have stuck with me the last (almost) 18 years.  I still value you as sisters in stitches, and continue to appreciate what you give me -- business, advice, support, inspiration, and the chance to be doing something so fulfilling.

God bless,


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thrift Shop Thrills Numero Dos: Hollow Books

Volunteering at the thrift store always gets my creative juices flowing -- I see so many things that don't have much purpose as they ARE, but do have purpose in what they COULD BE.  Last month, my new Thrills piece showed how to take cruddy old cookbooks and turn them into gift wrap, tea towels, gift cards, stickers and more.

And now, I'm showing you how to make your own hollow book (for keepsakes or to use as a pincushion.)  Simply find yourself a couple of these babies:

Yes, the old Reader's Digest Condensed books.  They were published from 1950-1997 and came out four to six times a year.  These were classics and other books that were edited for length and put all in one volume.  We get them all of the time at the thrift shop, and only really sell them to people who do this with them:

And yes, those are very cute, cool, and clever, but seeing as I like having 10 fingers, I will leave the power tools to someone else.  My idea was something more like this:

Huh?  What do you think?  Who needs a $50 frame for a little piece of needlework, when a thrift shop find can become a frame with a little elbow grease.  (The darling golden strawberry was made by Stacey Nash -- love it love it love it!)

In my instruction book, you will get all of the tips on the best way I came up with to hollow out these books and make them into needle-works-of-art.  This is definitely a weekender project, and I can see all kinds of fun applications with these -- especially depending on the covers you can find.  There are some that are wintery/Christmasy, lots of kitchy covers, and old-fashioned almost calico patterns.

(Side note: the SUPER COOL piece of pottery I scored while hitting garage sales with my friend Jennifer two weekends ago -- $8!!!  It's brand new and hand-thrown!)

My instructions tell you step-by-step how to prep and hollow out your book, and I include two patterns to put inside (but encourage you to find motifs that are meaningful to YOU!)  This is such a fun project.  And you can do it!  It was also a neat way to use up some trinkety trinkets and trims that I had lying around hither and yon.

Speaking of hither and yon, I haven't shared any kitten pics for a while.  Everyone has been sick for weeks, and we finally had to go to the vet to get everyone kitty Z-Packs.  They're on the mend now.  Right now at home, I've got Shrimp, Lister, Stephen and Colbert, and these two fluff balls -- Gelato (with black ear) and Sherbet.  They are FUNNY kittens.  When Sherbet plays with the others, she screams like she's being mugged or something.  They'll soon be up for adoption.

Our shelter completed 1,006 adoptions/live releases in June and July this year.  We're hoping for another 500 for August, as we are participating in the Rachael Ray $100,000 shelter challenge.  Seeing all of those happy animals and new pet owners really makes the hard work worth while.

Yes, I'm working on other things.  No, I didn't do market releases.  This summer, I had a few different biopsies (including breast).  I had to do some medication adjustments on my psychiatric drugs, and got bifocals.  Oh, and after finding out I have been anemic for probably the last 8 years or more, I was put on iron pills and yesterday had a D&C/oblation surgery.  So...this summer has been my "tune up" summer.  Get ready for some good needlework designs coming up, especially now that my energy is back!!!

Thanks for reading -- stay well.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Clearance

Last night I had the shocking realization that summer is almost over!  In the south, that's a big deal.  This morning, when I was getting dressed, I looked at my long-sleeved shirts and sweaters and thought ... soon!

Getting ready for a market season and new fall designs, I need to clear out some of the more than 700 items on my Etsy site at  Everything is 20% off today through Sunday when you shop and enter the word hooray in the coupon code area.  HOORAY!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thrift Shop Thrills and Free to Be

Long time, no write.  I've had a busy, crazy, up and down summer.  Nearing the end of it, though, and I'm feeling renewed and happy.

Earlier this month I went in for an exam, and ended up having a uterine and a breast biopsy.  The uterine situation may require surgery (but is not life-threatening...I'll spare you the details), and the breast biopsy had great results.  I also found out my hemoglobin was NINE (should be 12-15), which would explain why I've been surviving on Coca Cola and caffeine and needing early bed times and naps.  I was exhausted the last few years, and figured it was just old age.  Nope...I started taking iron pills, and about a week later, I had several "vroom vroom" moments where all of the sudden my whole body would go flush and hot.  They lasted just a few days, and I asked my friend Jennifer (who teaches anatomy and physiology) what those were.  "That was your metabolism kicking in."

I am finally awake, only drinking Coke for enjoyment, and feeling much better.  Thank goodness.

Oh, so the cupcakes above were made by Harrison's girlfriend Christiana in celebration of my breast biopsy results...can you tell what they were supposed to represent?  (They were yummy!)

So, I have a new graph under "Raise the Roof Designs."  I've been volunteering twice a week at the Thrift Shop that supports our shelter, and see loads of items that don't sell, but that still have some quirky life in them.  I've got ideas already for three more in this series.  This is "Thrift Shop Thrills: Cookbooks."  I give instructions for five projects: stickers, wrapping paper, notecards, recipe cards, and tea towels (and there are seven designs for tea towels, two of which are below... I haven't made the Crock Pot yet, but it's on the list.)

Above is a box I bought on sale at Hobby Lobby for $3 decorated with stickers made from cookbooks and scanned and shrunken copies of my grandmothers' recipes in their own hand.  They're stained, which makes them look really cool and legit.

I made my own tea towels out of muslin, so they were extra cheap.  You can also buy tea towels pre-made at most craft stores.  I used the opportunity to try some fancy borders, and did mine in black, but hey, to celebrate this "era," use avocado green, goldenrod, or rust.

The wrapping paper was super-fun to make, and you can see one of my notecards above, too.  I bought carnations (of course) for the above gift decoration, but would love to see people use those little fake vegetable and fruit picks you find in the floral department of a craft store.  My boxes were too small to support those.  This is all meant to be something crafty to do, where you can't really screw it up, and where you finish in a short time.  

I am able to buy these cookbooks for 33 cents and $1 at the thrift store, but try garage sales and estate sales, too.  Don't limit yourself to cookbooks -- make wrapping paper for a graduate out of an old textbook or dictionary.  Use a 1960's travel book to make notecards and stickers for a friend who likes to see the world.  Make stickers out of fine art books and decorate a box to hold your goodies.  

You can purchase the pattern now from me at  The distributors will have theirs soon.

Southern Pines Animal Shelter asked me to design a t-shirt to sell to help fund lifesaving surgeries for feral cats.  Until this summer, the shelter has always been required to euthanize any feral cats that come in through animal control.  The trend now in sheltering is to practice trap-neuter-return, which means those cats, after being fixed, can go back and live their lives where they were.

It has always made me feel so sad to see animal control come in with animals in the back.  Possums, raccoons, armadillos, and other wild animals are released out in the wild.  But all of these beautiful cats with shiny coats, bright eyes, lean muscles and strength have been killed for years and years.  Why?  People tend to think of a feral cat as a "bother," but somehow adoptable.  These cats are too dangerous to handle (mostly, they stay clear of people.)  They could not be adopted (I've been bitten a few times by a feral cat, and let me tell you, they bite HARD!)

Everyone would think we were crazy if we were euthanizing squirrels or snakes, but for some reason, it's sensible to euthanize wild cats.  So, I designed two t-shirts (the purple one is a ladies cut, and the grey/green one below is in men's sizes.)  Proceeds from the sale of these t-shirts will literally save lives by providing spay and neuter surgeries to feral cats coming in to the shelter.

The design shows that there are two different kinds of cats -- those who have made it into homes and are living their lives as pets, and those who live outside as wild creatures...both kinds are beautiful!)  Free to Be means that these feral cats will be free to live their lives just as they are, hooray!

Briar says: "Deese are de links, and what your money will do, pee-pulls.":

Help save a life ($13.00 from the sale of a $20 t-shirt will add to our pot of funds.)

Save a Tom ($32 purchase of this t-shirt will save the life of a male cat)

Save a Kitty ($57 purchase of this t-shirt will save the life of a female cat)

In the meantime, I'm busy working on some fall graphs and more Thrills.  Thanks, as always, for your support, and I hope you are having a wonderful summer.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sweet Temper and Sweet Kittens

Kittens have been coming and going lately -- five kittens have gone back to the shelter in the last week or two, and we have three new ones.  Ace (aka Prince Eric, above) was always the biggest in his litter of six, and so he was ready first.  He's having a good time at the shelter playing with lots of new friends, and I have no doubt he'll find a home soon.

Dear Smee was my little sweetheart, and when I go to visit him, he gets happy and purrs like crazy.  He was almost adopted yesterday by a young girl and her parents, but she decided on a girl kitty named "Grasshopper."  Smee won't be there long.  Gentle Ben (aka Dwarf) and Ursula are also back at the shelter waiting for their new families.  

Of course one of the downsides to having so many kittens around is that it makes it very difficult to stitch.  I'd sit down with my new sampler design, put on my cheaters, and immediately, I'd have a lap full of squiggly, rambunctious fuzz balls.  Still, I pushed through, and have a new sampler to present.  It is called ....

The Sweet Temper Sampler

The sampler is slightly larger than my Mercy Goodehart Sampler, and measures 301 by 297 stitches.  It was so much fun to work on.  When I design a sampler, I think of it from a stitcher's point of view, and give the chart lots of little surprises....

Like a heart-in-hand, spool and needle....

Or some pretty spiderweb roses....

Or a house tucked into the border.

I realized when I was stitching the sampler, that I gravitate to verses with the idea of humility.  This is an old verse I found and tweaked a bit.  I was going for a summery sampler in dusty colors.  The border seems to be a favorite element to those who have seen the sampler so far.  I also included the sentence: "Jesus wept."  As children, we all knew this (very short) Bible verse, and would joke about having "memorized" it.  I like the idea that it conveys the idea of humanity in Jesus -- that he had the same emotions that we do.

The design is available right now in my Etsy shop at  Separate listings for the linen and threads are also on my site.  Some of these items are on order, so if you order them now, you get first priority when they come in.

40 count Creme Brulee Linen by R&R Reproductions
Au Ver a Soie Silks 1441, 3833, 2516, 4525, 3815, 2542, 2635, 3735 (2), 1814 and 4534
Needlepoint Silks 693, 333 and 203
Gloriana Silk Floss Vanilla, Hazelnut Dark, Antique Black and Spanish Moss

There are several specialty stitches: spiderweb roses, satin stitch, and Smyrna cross.  The rest is cross stitch over-two (there are no over-one areas.)  I hope you like it -- I LOVE IT!

Two of my new kittens were happy to have their pictures taken today (the third was very busy!)  Above is Cinder, and below is his sister Ella.  Cinder's two favorite things are to get his belly rubbed and clean someone's face.  He's very social and friendly.

Ella is a bit of a fuss-pot.  She has a LOT to say and likes everything just-so.  She's a beautiful diluted calico -- pale orange and pale grey with white.  These two have about a half a pound to gain.

Two of our flock will fly the coop next weekend -- Wendy (above) and her sister Ariel.  They've been good company the last two months or so, and it is always an amazing experience to see them grow and develop.  They leave my house about the time their ears get crazily big for their tiny little faces.

I hope you are enjoying summer so far -- we will be going to a blueberry farm this week to pick blueberries, and we've got corn, grapes, pumpkins, and sunflowers growing in the backyard (among other things.)  It's hot, but hey, it's summer!  A very good time of year.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New sampler coming soon, and oh my gosh, a house full of kittens

Kitten season is definitely here -- I took two phone calls today from people who had found small (bottle-feeder) kittens.  They needed advice on what to do.  And earlier this week, PetSmart called me...some guy had run in with a box of kittens, set them on the counter, and hustled back out.  (That's what I get for becoming known around town as a crazy cat lady.)

The whole litter received rock star (ladies) names.  They all looked similar, and three were bobtails.  They are going into foster care at the shelter for a few weeks, and except for some fleas, these babies are healthy and happy.

Our little Mercy isn't so little anymore.  She's nearing the two pound mark, which means she'll soon go up for adoption.  We've had her since the day she was born, so it has been a joy to watch her grow.  She originally was about the size of a roll of quarters.  Now she's leaping, bounding, meowing, playing, wrestling her friends and enjoying the heck out of life.  She's definitely got a joie de vivre!

My bottle feeders took up so much of my time the last month.  But I was happy to help them.  They still have a ways to go, but they're developing, learning, and having a ball.  Plus, I'm like the Pied Piper around here.  Everywhere I go, I've got a gaggle of kittens following me.  I have to mind my feet and walk softly.

Above is Smee napping with Ty (who we adopted last year.)  Smee is my faithful little companion.  If I'm out of sight, he meows and meows, and he loves a good cuddle.

As proof to his cuddling abilities, please notice Smee (nose and cheek visible) sleeping with his sister, Ariel.

Ursula is a black beauty.  This picture was taken right as her eyes were changing from blue to green.  She's independent, quiet, and even keel, and she will have medium-length hair.  This whole litter has been very sweet.

We interrupt these kittens with a brief sampler announcement.  This was taken a while ago, but I am making good progress on a new (original) sampler design.  I'm stitching in silks on 40 count linen and will release a supply list soon.  The look I was going for was "dusty summer," and I've used brown/rose, a root beer color, a caramel color, a deep sooty grey, a few rusty's really turning out nicely, and it's been fun to stitch.  Lots of little surprises in this one, and a few specialty stitches.

The working title is "Jesus wept."  It is often quoted as the shortest bible verse.  The thing I like about it is that it shows Jesus' humanity -- it is a human condition to feel sad and weep.  It says volumes about his humanity to show sorrow and grief.

I'll also take this opportunity to plug my Etsy shop:  I've been busy adding new things every week -- now I've got over 700 items in the shop, including almost 300 different sampler designs.  I've been able to get more of some old (classic/beautiful) Carriage House Samplings designs that the distributors aren't carrying anymore, as well as some Scarlet Letter samplers, the new Lizzie Kate designs, and some fabuloso scissors by Bohin (they're lime green, cherry red and sunshiny yellow.)

I'm also having a CLEARANCE, so if you type the word "clearance" in the "search this shop" bar on my shop, you'll find everything that's on sale (up to 50% off!)

Okay, back to kitties, because there are more!!!  This is dear little Wendy.  She has been one of my favorites, because she's quiet, calm, gentle, and humble.  She was the only one who didn't scratch and bite for the bottle (she sat on my knee and waited her turn.)

And this is Ace, aka Prince Eric.  He is HUGE (already at about 1 1/4 pounds.)  He's got long legs, a long body, and LOOOOOONG hair.  I had made a comment on my Facebook page that he seemed a little slow -- that was confirmed by our shelter vet who did some tests on him.  She said she believes he has a slight brain abnormality, which means it takes him a while to catch on to things, but he eats, cleans himself, uses the litter box, and is absolutely darling.  He will make someone the most lovable cat!

My husband loves Dwarf (we call him Gentle Ben.)  He has a very, very gentle demeanor and loves to just sit with you.  I think he'll be pretty big, but he has got a great personality and is a really attractive little cat.  In this picture, he's getting beaten up by Ariel, but you can see he doesn't worry too much about that.

This is Ariel.  She has been one of the most demanding, grabby, bite-y, complaining-est kittens I've ever had.  Well, she had been.  (One day while I was bottle feeding her, she lunged at my face and bit my nose so hard I bled, simultaneously gouging the bags under my eyes with her needle-like claws.)  Now, though, she has about 30-50 kisses a day for me, again and again and again.  She's calmed right down, is very polite and loving, and she is a doll baby.  She's been a good lesson in patience for me.  And of course I love her.

Life is so good.  It makes me happy to see these little boys and girls grow and learn about the world.  I opened the window one day, and little Wendy just sat looking at the big, big world, marveling at it all.  I am so gosh darn blessed to have time with them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kitten Season

Kitten season always starts around Easter, but of course, there are always a few who make it into our care early.  We've already got one success story this year:

Flossie came to us (already named!) a few weeks ago.  She and 24 other cats were taken out of a hoarding situation, and almost all of them were immediately spayed and neutered.  There were a few small kittens and poor old Flossie.  She was just 1 1/2 pounds, and a little thin and pretty dehydrated like the rest of the cats the shelter took in that day.  She was also too small for surgery and hissy to everyone...well, everyone but me!  I took her home, and we only had her a few short weeks.  In that time, she turned into the sweetest thing, utterly calm, trusting, gentle and quiet.

During my Friday volunteering time at the shelter (when I do adoption counseling), I met a woman and her daughter who were looking for a kitten.  We didn't have any young ones at the time, but I showed her a picture of Flossie.  She said like she felt it was meant to be, and I met them on Saturday with Flossie, who had come up to weight.  They fell head-over-heals for her, and Flossie has been spayed and is now in their tender care.  It was so neat to see her new teenage girl cuddle her, and kiss her gently on the nose (over-and-over).  I know she is in a good home, and I am happy to have been part of the process to get her there.

And you may remember about three weeks ago, I took in Trulia and her newborn baby kitten (we took mom and Mercy home the day Mercy was born.)  She was an only child, which is rare.  So the next time I went to the shelter, I looked in Trulia's file.  It seems Trulia, who is less than 2 years old, had just had her SIXTH litter.  Her original owner didn't want her anymore, because "she kept having kittens."  So, all this poor young cat has done since she was probably five months old is be pregnant and take care of kittens.

It made me feel very sad for Trulia -- her growth was stunted (she is a small, 6-pound cat), and her body was so worn out from having kittens, that she could only muster one this time.  Still, she is a devoted mother, fiercely protective of her kitten, and a strict disciplinarian.  I promised her that Mercy would be it.  Then she could go be adopted and live a happy, much easier life.

Then along came Little G (short for "Goodness" and "Geoffrey.")  He came into our care as a single, and at three weeks of age still needed to either nurse or be bottle-fed.  Trulia took to him immediately, and she has been caring for two kittens.  Mercy is happy to have the company, and they get along famously, except for when it's time to eat (then they're fighting for space.)  I have been supplementing with a bottle, and both youngsters got their first taste of real food yesterday...and they loved it.  God bless sweet Trulia.  She is amazing.

Her daughter, Mercy, is quite a looker.  She has grown quickly, and wobbles around, peeping and exploring.  She likes to be held, and will have longer hair than her mother.  We'll get to hang onto Mercy for another six weeks or so -- Little G may go back to his original foster who was having trouble getting him to eat.

And, I can't leave out Brows.  She has a sad story, too, like pretty much all of the dogs and cats we take in at the shelter.  She came in during an ice storm with six other siblings.  They were newborns, and she is the only one who survived.  Several of the employees tube-fed Brows, which is tricky, and once she was a pound, I took over, and she's been a handful ever since.  She's lively, silly, energetic, crazy, and so, so loving.  I love this picture of her with our cat, Ruby, because Brows almost looks like she's thinking: "Just look innocent, and she'll never know what you did earlier."

Brows will soon go for adoption, and the family who adopted Flossie is meeting her on Thursday to see if they'd like to adopt her, too.  It'd be nice for Brows to go live with her good buddy that she grew up with here (they had a ball together.)  Either way, she'll soon be ready for adoption -- just a few more bouncy, crazy days.

I hope your days are filled with happy moments just like mine are!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mercy Goodehart's Sampler

Mercy Goodehart's Sampler, an original design by Shakespeare's Peddler
Finally, Mercy has finished her sampler.  This was definitely a labor of love, and this was a lot of fun to stitch.  I love the colors and am really pleased with the finished design.  Mercy is a fictitious stitcher, and I have sprinkled fictitious initials throughout the sampler (including RW, the initials of her instructor.)  Simon, Mercy's faithful tabby cat is up in the righthand corner, and you may notice tiny initials in each of the four corners: M, M, L and I -- for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ("I's" and "J's" were sometimes used interchangeably.)

The entire sampler is worked in lovely shades of green, gold, dark chocolate, cream...and even a pale teal blue and a vivid red...all are Needlepoint Silks.  I have also included a DMC conversion, for those who prefer to use these threads.  (See below for the supply list.)

Everyone who sees the sampler is enamored with that crazy striped bird.  He was fun to design, but even more fun to stitch.  The stitches are primarily cross stitch over-two and over-one (for the verse and other words).  I also used Algerian Eye stitches for the large alphabet.  I toyed with the idea of NOT filling in the background behind the smaller alphabet (it added considerably to my stitch time.)  I think anyone could leave the background out, but I'm actually really happy that I decided to plug away at it, as I think that cream stripe adds visually to the piece.

Supply List:

Stitch count: 315 by 273
(about 17 by 15 1/2 inches on 36 count linen)

Fabric: 36 count Vintage Exemplar by Lakeside Linens

Needlepoint Silks:
315 (I used my first skein down to the last few might need 2 skeins.)
336 (2)
587 (3)
851 (3)

Frame is by Neblitt's, my local frame shop (isn't it gorgeous?)

The chart retails for $18.00, and you can get it and the supplies on my Etsy site: Letters Great and Small.  Or ask your local shop to order it from Norden Crafts or Hoffman Distributing.

On to the next!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


It's been a busy few weeks here at the house.  My friend Sue came for a visit from Minnesota last week.  She enjoyed the MUCH MUCH (MUCH) better weather here.  Minnesota has pretty much been a frozen wasteland this winter.  

I took her one afternoon to volunteer at the thrift shop and then the shelter.  And there was a kitten who needed fostering -- she came in during an ice storm about a month ago, and several of the employees tube-fed her and her siblings.  Only Brows survived, and she is thriving.  We'll have her for four weeks or so.  She's funny, sweet, gentle, and very loving.  And what a face!

Sue suggested we tackle a craft project (something we could finish in an evening.)  I dragged out about 20 of my craft books, and she settled on a book called "Fanciful Felties from Mummysam: Sew People to Meet, Places to Go and Things to Do."  (Mummysam is also known as Samantha Cotterill...she used to sell some of her figures on Etsy, but now you can find her at  

You can find the book on Amazon (and yes, it qualifies for Prime) for about $8 now.  Well worth it if you like to craft.  Above are the two buildings we made.  I had a bunch of felt here, batting, thread, buttons and pins.  We weighed them down (so they'd stand up straight) with those flattened glass marbles you get for floral arrangements (I had a bag of those in my closet.)  I think they turned out really cute, and although we muttered our way through a few of our ineptitudes, we ended up with something cute that will remind us of our time together.

(These are some of the projects you can make using the book -- it really is fun to look through.)

I have been trying a lot of new recipes lately, using Pinterest as inspiration, and digging through my wonderful cookbooks.  Above is a recipe I've made about four times in the last month (the first time I made it, Harrison asked if I could make it again the next day!)  It's VERY easy and tastes like something you'd get at a great restaurant.  Although it's called "Spicy Thai Coconut Soup," it's not HOT spicy...just flavorful.  A few of the ingredients are going to be things you probably won't have on hand, but they are easily found at the grocery store.  Here is how I make mine (I have made a few adjustments.)

Theresa's Spicy Thai Coconut Soup:

Olive Oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pound white mushroom (fresh -- sliced thin)
1 red bell pepper, cubed
1 inch of fresh ginger grated (or a few shakes of powdered/dry ginger)
4-6 cloves of minced garlic
1-2 tsp. of lemongrass paste (find this in the produce aisle)
4 tsp. Thai red curry paste
6 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
Fresh chopped cilantro
Salt & Pepper
Cooked white rice (prepare this as you like -- I enjoy Jasmine rice, but you can use your favorite)

Cook the chicken breasts whole in some olive oil in a pan on the stove until finished, seasoning with salt and pepper (and you can do a little garlic powder, too).  When the chicken breasts are cooked through, slice them as thin as you can (after they've "rested" a few minutes on the cutting board.)  Yes, you can chop the breasts first, then cook them, but I find that chicken cooked this way can turn rubbery and lose a lot of its flavor and is less juicy.

While the chicken breasts are cooking, you can handle the rest of the dish.  This comes together quickly! Start your rice.  I use a rice cooker, so I just dump in 3 cups of rice and 4 1/2 cups of water, turn it on, and forget about it.

In a large and deep pan (I use a non-stick wok), heat a splash of olive oil (medium heat), then sautee your mushrooms, red bell pepper, ginger, garlic, lemongrass paste, and red curry paste for a few minutes.  Then add the coconut milk, chicken broth, sugar and soy sauce.  Simmer while your rice and chicken finish cooking.  When the chicken and rice are finished, toss your chopped cilantro and cooked chicken into the soup.

To serve, ladle the soup in a bowl, then add a big scoop of rice.  This is a very satisfying and comforting dish, comes together in really about 20 minutes or so, and tastes out of this world.

I received a call from Amanda at the shelter yesterday.  Trulia, a cat who had been in our care in the Cat Cottage for a number of weeks, was a bit of a hider.  And it turned out she was hiding something important -- she was pregnant.  Yesterday, she had one little calico baby, and the shelter was desperate for someone to take mommy and baby in.  My cats don't typically like another adult in the house, but I knew Trulia was quiet and gentle, and she and baby are now set up in our guest bathroom with the door closed.

I'm waiting to see if any other babies show up -- cats can prolong their deliveries over the course of 36 hours or so.  But I think this little sweetie will be it.  We may name her Mercy (or Marcie.)  She is so strong already, and quite large for a new born.

After hiding for weeks at the shelter, Trulia is genuinely happy to be in a quiet home with a fluffy blanket, her own litter box and food, and a lot of love and affection from my family.  And she is taking very good care of her baby, too.

(Here's a better picture of Trulia taken by the Pet Photography Project folks at the shelter. Trulia is about three years old, a petite cat -- around 6 pounds -- and was found by animal control.  She is very affectionate and will be up for adoption in about a month or so.)

Diane and I are thrilled with the results of our charts for charity project to benefit animal shelters in the United States.  We had another drawing yesterday, and Lynda Ruth Bowers from Canada is this week's recipient of these two autographed charts from Diane and me.  We'll have six more drawings, and in order to quality, go to my Etsy shop Letters Great and Small and purchase Neighborhood Friends and/or Cats in the Garden.  All proceeds will be going to six lucky animal care organizations in the United States (read about how you can vote for your favorite with your order on the Etsy page.)

After this busy few weeks, I am finally rounding the corner on the Mercy Goodehart Sampler.  It is beautiful (if I do say so myself.)  I have a little bit of the verse and a few other small elements to finish, hopefully today.  I will update my blog and Facebook page as soon as it's ready (with a supply list.)  It's been a really fun project.

Keep those needles busy -- and take care of you! - Theresa