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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Crafty Angel

I went to our Library's Christmas Open House a few days ago.
One of the crafts I made was an angel from a page of a songbook.
They are easy to make and beautiful.

First gather supplies.

Take out a page from an old songbook and tear it in half. Fold one half accordion style for the wings. Fold the other one into a cone shape and glue together. Make sure the top of the cone is small and pointy, so you can insert the head onto it. For the head I used small wooden beads with a hole in the middle. Or, you can use small heads with a hole in the middle of them. Put glue on the top of the cone and inside the hole of the bead and insert and allow to dry.

Tie a small ribbon around the middle of the wings and smash it flat in the middle, so it can be glued onto the back of the angel. I tied the ends of the ribbon for the hanger.

Tie a bow with the ribbon. Cut a strand of pearls. Glue the bow and pearls onto the front of the angel underneath the angel's head.

Thin a little bit of glue with water. Brush onto the wings and head and shake on glitter.

Here are three different ones I have made. One has a doll head, the other two have wooden beads for the head.

I love them! I think they are very pretty. As with all crafts, you can vary the way you make them. If you don't have strands of beads, you can leave them off and keep the tails of the bows long. In fact, I think I will make some that way. You could also use white or colored paper or card-stock for the angel instead of a songbook page. . . or maybe even pretty gift wrap paper. . . or pages from a newspaper or old book. With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless!

These can be hung on your Christmas tree or used as present toppers. That way the recipient of the gift will have the gift and an ornament!

If you have a little extra time, have fun and make a few before Christmas. 

Posted by Janet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Deck The Halls

We have three holly trees, but this is the only one with berries.We braved the brrrr cold and gave our decked out tree a little trimming. If you notice, the deer have been eating the berries off the lower branches.

But there are still plenty of limbs filled with berries just waiting for us to trim.

The red berries pop out against the shiny green leaves.

They will brighten my porch on cold days.

Have you been decorating your porch with nature?

Posted by Janet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mason Jar Snow Globes

First, a little update.

My Christmas tree is up! It is filled  with vintage, handmade and special ornaments given to me.

I love this vintage one. If you hang it in front of a light, the heat from the light makes the little fins spin around and around. It is so neat!

We've had lots of snow already this season . . .

 and I have been crafting - just a little.

I gathered supplies, such as mason jars, glue gun, fake snow, fake trees and ...

 real pine cones to be used as trees.

I put a little fake snow into the mason jar. I placed the trees on little wooden spools so they stood up higher and glued them onto the flat jar lid. I then twisted on the outer ring and we have a waterless snow globe. 

Below are three of my creations. In the smaller one on the right I used a pine cone and glitter for the snow.

The small jar on the left was filled almost to the top with distilled water, a smidgen of glycerin and a few dashes of glitter. I glued a plastic doo-dad (a small child holding a Christmas tree) to the lid and twisted the ring on tight.

The first thing I did before making it was put water in the small jelly jar and turn it upside down to make sure it wasn't going to leak.

These are very easy to make.

Have you been getting ready for Christmas?

Posted by  Janet F. Smart on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Made In America - Fenton Art Glass

I told Charley he could buy me a pair of Fenton teardrop earrings for Christmas.  He took me straight to the factory where they make them.


The man who makes the teardrop earrings wasn't there today. But, we went in back and watched some of the ladies make beads and paint them. People buy the beads to put on necklaces and bracelets. They are very pretty.




I didn't realize that almost everything in the showroom was 50% off! Oh my! But, I was good and didn't buy anything. That is, we didn't buy anything except my Christmas present. . . and I bought a couple of items from the clearance shelves.


I'm in awe every time I visit Fenton. They make the most beautiful pieces! If I had the room and the money, I would buy one of everything. 

I am lucky to live fairly close to them. I have went on signing days when family members signed my Fenton pieces. 

They don't make the vases, baskets, bowls, fairy lights, etc. any more. Now all they make is the jewelry.

 Fenton started in 1905.You can go here and read about them.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Special Day for Teddy Bears!

I saw in TV this morning that is was National American Teddy Bear Day. After a little research I found out there are other days to celebrate the Teddy Bear. Teddy Bear Day is September 9th and Teddy Bear's Picnic Day is on July 10th.

I loved stuffed animals and Teddy bears when I was a child.
I loved them when I was a teenager.
I love them now.
Contrary to what some may think, I don't think you are ever too old for a stuffed animal.

 The Teddy Bear has been with us since 1902. We have Teddy Roosevelt to thank for the origin of the Teddy Bear. Go here to read about him and his love of hunting and how the Teddy Bear came to be.

I used to craft a lot. Now I write. Neither of these endeavors pay very well.

When I was crafting, I went through a spell of making stuffed bears. I can never make one of anything - so I made a lot. Unfortunately, I never sold a lot of them. I love them, so I still have my stuffed bears.

I made these from old quilts and an old chenille bedspread.

These are my calendar bears - 1984 and 1986. Made from old cloth dishtowels.

Old jeans are wonderful to make crafts from. 
I have Eeyore and Piglet bears, my USA bear (which I love) and a bedtime bear.

One from a sock, a  fuzzy brown bear and the one on the right made from my mom's old tablecloth that was full of holes. It sits on an old chair in my kitchen.

A special bear in my dining room. 
It was made from a twin size quilt my aunt gave me when I got married. The quilt was used a lot and it finally gave out. The backing was tearing up and my mom and I replaced many of the blocks. It got so it couldn't be used on the bed anymore. I decided to make a bear out of it so I could look at it and enjoy it every day.

Two more special bears. They were given to me by my husband. 
The old one on the right is dirty and worn and was given to me on my birthday when we were dating (1970s). The one on the left he brought to me when I was in the hospital in February 1998.

As you can see, I love Teddy Bears. I am glad they have special days set aside for them.

Do you love Teddy Bears, too? Do you have any  bears or memories to share with us?

Posted by Janet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gathering Hickory Nuts

I love hickory nuts!

Until recently, I had not harvested the delicious morsels since I was a child.
They are small, thus it takes a lot to get a lot. Plus,  they are hard to crack just right in order to get them out of the shell. I have never found them in the store for sale. I searched online and found a few places selling them already cracked. They varied in price, but one place sold them for $26 lb. + shipping. Most places were selling the nuts still in the shell.

Our neighbor's tree is full of them this year. He said, "Take all you want."

We're are still  gathering nuts off the ground, and the tree is still loaded.

We took them out of their husk and spread them out on the driveway. You are supposed to let them dry for a while before cracking them. (If you can wait that long)

We have the perfect nut cracker. I just happened to look in our closet in our family room and found  this. One thing about us - we do not throw away much - we figure it might come in handy some day. This was (I'm sure) bought at a yard sale and tucked away and forgot about.

 Just place the nut and lower the handle. 
The shell cracks all around the nut and most times the nut comes out in perfect halves.

Hickory nuts are high in oils and do not keep well at room temperature for more than a couple of weeks. The best way to store them for long term  use is to freeze them.

We've got a quart bag full and ready to go in the freezer, and we have many more waiting to be cracked. Just look at all  those pretty 'butterflies.'

There are still more to gather off the ground. 
When they are this easy to  crack,  we are not going to let any go to waste.
Their taste reminds you of pecans and they can be used in any recipe that calls for pecans.
Or just eat a handful of them.
They're good!

Have you ate hickory nuts before?
Are there any trees in your area?

Posted by Janet Smart on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Building a Sturdy Clothes Rack

Do any of you ever get in the spring cleaning mode in the fall?

I do.

I have been complaining about our bedroom closet for many, many years.
We do not have the luxury of a walk in closet.
A few years ago I put in a closet organizer - shelves down the middle and two hanging poles to the left (where my husband hangs his clothes) and one high hanging pole on the right (where I hang my clothes). That doesn't seem fair, does it? He gets two poles and I get one.

A closet pet peeve of mine is that the opening to the closet is a lot smaller than the actual closet. (I would like to know who designed these type of closets) So, a lot of my clothes hang back behind the wall - in the deep recesses of our little closet.
I have to stand on a small step stool (so I can reach the high pole where my clothes hang from) and peer and stretch to look at my hidden clothes. I was complaining a few weeks ago, so my husband brought me a flashlight. :o) That is all it took for me to finally go into action and do something about my problem.

I bought one of those two tiered garment racks at the store. I soon found out they were too dinky (for  lack of a better word). So, my son volunteered to build me a sturdy, steel clothes rack. I moved things around and found a spot large enough in my laundry/craft room to put it.

Here is a link to the site that inspired us. Of course, we made a few changes - we used 3/4" pipes, added the extra pole, made the poles 5 feet long and added the extension for my purses. My son demonstrated how sturdy it was by hanging from the top pole. I wouldn't advise doing this with one of those store bought racks.

To make it less costly to make, my son bought 3 - 10 foot steel poles at the store and had them cut down to size and threaded on the ends (They did this for free). He said is cost a lot less doing it this way. The pipes were black, but he scrubbed that off when he washed the finished rack.

You can paint it if you want.  I thought red would be nice. But we decided to leave ours as is.

I love it! (I think my husband is jealous.)

 I couldn't get back far enough to get a picture of the entire shelf in one pic

 this shows the extension on the left where I hang my purses

It doesn't bother me one bit that I have to go out there to get my clothes. Why?
I can see all my clothes at once. 
My blouses are on the top rack.
My jeans, sweaters, shawls and skirts are on the bottom rack.
They are not crowded and bunched up.

I found clothes that I didn't know I had when I dug them out from our 'cave' of a closet and hung them. Previously, my skirts, sweaters and shawls were stuffed in dresser drawers. I usually just picked one skirt from the top and wore it. And they were usually wrinkled. Now they are all hanging, nice and neat and wrinkle free, on my clothes rack. In fact, I wore a skirt on Sunday that I didn't even know I had until I hung it up on my new clothes rack.

The only garments I have left hanging in my closet are my dresses.

By doing this project, I emptied four drawers in our bedroom to store other items.


Do you have any closet pet peeves?

If you have somewhere to put one of these - do it! I think you'll like it.

Some ideas would be to make one for your out-of-season clothes or coats and jackets. If you have a nice and  neat garage (which we don't), laundry room, or extra room, you could put one there.

Posted by Janet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Apple Dumplings!

I confess that I have never made apple dumplings before tonight.
I do not know why I waited so long to make  them.
They are soooo delicious!

I will correct myself and say that my son and I made them.  It was his idea.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 13x9x2 inch baking pan.

I made the pie dough from scratch (which is something I don't usually do).

2 cups of self rising flour
3/4 cup of Crisco shortening
1/2 cup of milk.

Cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and stir with a fork until dough leaves sides of bowl. Turn dough onto floured wax paper and knead gently just until smooth. Roll out to an 18x12 inch rectangle. (Or as close as possible - I'm not very good at rolling out rectangles)

In the meantime, combine 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, 1/2 stick of butter, 1/4 t cinnamon and 1/4 t nutmeg in a large saucepan. Stir and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted.

Pick 6 apples from your tree. We used a peeler - slicer - corer and pealed, sliced and cored the apple. It looked like a little round accordion when we were finished.

Slice the crust into 6 pieces. Place an apple onto each section. Then shake a mixture of cinnamon/sugar onto the apples.  Lightly moisten the edges of the pastry with water and bring the corners up and over the apple. Pinch all  the edges together. My son made them look like big dough balls.

Place them into the baking dish and pour the prepared syrup mixture around the dumplings.

Bake for 45 minutes or until  golden brown.

If you don't have one of those apple peelers, you could just peel and core the apple . . . or peel and slice them. It will  still  taste the same - delicious!

 This is what they look like coming out of the oven.


Very yummy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

I was only going to eat half of one. But after the first bite, I couldn't. I ate the entire dumpling.

I like this better than apple pie and it is easier! I am thinking it would also be good using pears.

Try it. You'll like it!

Posted by  Janet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pear Pickin' Time

Our pear tree out-did itself this year. 
It is tall and skinny and close to thirty years old.

Her limbs are hanging low. One limb has already broken off this year, 
I am afraid more will break.

A lot of the pears are still  small and most of the largest pears are out of reach, 
so we got  out our 12 foot ladder and climbed up, up, up after the big ones.

We worked as a team. 
The person on the ladder threw them  down and the one on the ground caught them in a fish net to keep them from bruising.

We picked quite a  bit. In addition to filling Mom's old pan, we filled two large baskets.

What will you be doing this week?
I guess we will be canning pears.

Posted by Janet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recording our Past V

In 2009 I started posting articles about recording our past.
Today I am posting a long overdue part IV post.

Recording memories.

Senses play a large roll in our memory.

The sense of smell is perhaps the strongest. A whiff of perfume or aftershave, the smell of a certain soap, flowers or a special food can trigger a long forgotten memory.
When you encounter a familiar smell, it may spark an entire memory from your past.
When the memory returns, write it down.
I remember a scene from a Waltons show concerning the family of Grandpa's older brother. His wife was reminiscing about her husband and remembering the smell of Bay Rum on her wedding day. Her soon to be husband had went to the barber that morning and the barber had applied Bay Rum after giving him his haircut and shave. (Bay Rum aftershave has been around since 1838).
Honeysuckle grew on the path down to my Grandpa Woods' house. The scent of it brings back  memories of visiting him when I was a small child.

The sense of taste brings back memories. Foods from when you or your family were young, such as a certain medicine, candy, baked bread, stacked applesauce cake, etc. can spark memories from the past.

The sense of sight also brings back memories. Going back to where you used to live or attended school, looking at old pictures or home movies or watching old movies may bring in a flood of memories.

Why do we remember some things and forget others? We have selective memories. Our firsts, events that had a big impact on us or a very emotional event will  likely be something that we remember.

I have found that when I would ask an older  relative a general question such as, what was it like when you were younger - they won't remember a thing. So I ask specific questions.
Both of you will be surprised at the memories that flood back.

Laura of Little House fame had a memory book. We should all have a memory book to write down our memories in and to write down the memories of other family members, so our past will not be forgotten.

The next time you get a whiff of something and it brings back a memory - write it down.
The next time you taste a familiar food and it brings back a memory - write it down.
The next time you see a picture of days past and it brings back a memory - write it down.

Make a Memory Jar. Type a list of questions, run them off on your computer and cut them into strips. Fold them and put in a mason jar (I like to use a wide mouth one). Take one question out each week and glue or tape it onto a page in a notebook and write down your answers.

Make more than one and give them to other family memories, especially the older ones, and tell them to do the same. Soon you will have a collection of memories.


I have two word documents I would be glad to email to anyone who wants them. One tells you how to make and  label the memory jar and the other is a list of questions. All you have to do is print them off, cut into strips and put into your jar. You can add to or delete any of the questions to fit your family better. Either email me or leave your email in a comment if you want me to send those files to you.

We need to keep family stories alive!

Go here for my other posts about recording our past.

Posted byJanet Smart   on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.


Thursday, August 1, 2013


This is the time of year for blackberries. And, as you all know I am the Blackberry Patch lady.

Well, my blackberries are not doing too well this year. As a matter of fact, they are doing horribly.
I think I am going to start a new row where our garden is. It will get them away from my other two rows and maybe I'll be able to keep the weeds away easier.

In the summer,  the weeds take over my patch. It is hard to use the lawnmower up too close for fear of cutting up or damaging the vines. So, I end up pulling away a lot of the weeds by hand. That is very time consuming and tiring. Plus, in one of my rows are two sections where pesky poison ivy likes to hang out at, so I need to wear my gloves at all times when I'm weeding.

I went down to the patch a few days ago to try and start new ones.

This is what I did.

I got Styrofoam cups, added dirt and put the tip end of a new vine into the dirt. The tips will take root, then you go up three feet or so and cut off the vine and replant it where you want it to grow.

This happens sometimes on it's own, without my help. The tip will touch the ground and start roots. But it doesn't always start a new plant where you want it to.

Another way I tried this is to punch a hole into the sides of the cup, slip the end of the vine through the first hole (making sure that a section where a little leaf is, is inside the cup) and keep pushing until it goes through the other hole on the other side of the cup and then fill with dirt. I tied a string around the cup and attached it to the wire on the berry trellis.

I'm hoping these will also root and I can plant them in a row in my garden space.

Do you love blackberries?  I do!

Go here and here and here for some of my favorite recipes. And go here to see what it is like in the blackberry patch when they are having a good year.

Posted byJanet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What Kind of Tomatoes do you Grow?

Our garden is growing in leaps and bounds - and lots of overgrown weeds!

All day yesterday we cut and weed whacked the garden. At the moment I am a little sick of our garden. I wish you could just plant and pick. But there is so much more to do.

We have tiny tomatoes, regular tomatoes and what I call Whoppers! The whoppers are heirloom tomatoes our neighbors keep the seeds from every year. They are delicious.

The tomato on the left is approximately 2 lbs. It is nowhere near the world's largest tomato that weighed 7lb 12oz. Can you imagine a tomato that large?

I never realized how large and spindly a cherry tomato plant can get. They are driving us crazy trying to keep them tied up. I was letting most of this one just lay on the ground, but when we were cleaning up the garden yesterday, my husband wanted it tied up.

These are the tall plants the whoppers grow on. They are taller than I am (which my cousin jokingly said, 'that wouldn't have to be very tall').

I sliced a tomato for breakfast this morning. I ate so many slices that I had to slice two tomatoes. They are so good!

I peel, cut up and cook my tomatoes for 20 minutes, then cool and put in freezer bags. When I have lots, I also make spaghetti sauce and salsa out of them and freeze. I then use my frozen tomatoes to put in soup and chili. I make breakfast tomato gravy with them, I have a recipe where I mix chopped up tomatoes, cooked cubed squash, sauteed onions and a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper in the skillet and simmer for 15 minutes. I make tomato and mayo sandwiches, tomato cucumber and mayo sandwiches. And best of all, I eat them fresh off the vine.

How do you eat your tomatoes?

What kind do you grow?

Posted by Janet Smart  on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.