McCall's Hippo pattern M6484This cute little fellow is currently sitting at our county fair, admiring a Lego creation.

My 7th grade daughter made him as her 4-H sewing project, using McCall’s pattern M6484.

The pattern was fairly easy for her to create, with a little help from mom (of course). Our county requires a 7th grade sewing project to use at least five skills from a checklist. This was a bit of a challenge with Mr. Hippo, because many of the skills are things that you’d expect on an outfit rather than an animal (when is the last time you made a stuffed hippo with cuffs or sleeves, for instance?).

The skills we used were: making darts (this pattern had many darts) — sewing on buttons (actually the buttons used for the eyes and nose were called “Safety Lock” and were positioned and popped into place rather than sewn; nevertheless, this was a new skill for her) — using fiberfill — applying trims (we counted the yarn tail as “trim”) — and hand applique (more on that later).

The pattern was easy to follow, and you can also use it to create an elephant in two sizes.

mccalls 6484We chose the hippo because honestly, I think he’s cuter. An elephant in a seated position just doesn’t look natural (or maybe that’s just me).

So we planned to make the big hippo, until we looked and discovered that big hippo is 33″ long. That’s a whole lot of hippo to put someplace. At 15″ long, small hippo seemed like a better choice. When patterns went on sale at .99 (please buy your patterns on sale, which happens frequently around here at JoAnn’s. The list price on this pattern is $18.95. I am not making this up), we purchased it and were ready to go.

A visit to an enchanting nearby fabric store resulted in a choice of two coordinating fabrics. It’s hard to see from the pattern, but Mr. Hippo is made from two fabrics: a main one, and another one that makes up his underneath/stomach.

The pattern was easy to cut, with just four pattern pieces (actually three if, like us, you use yarn rather than fabric for the tail). You’ll also need fusible fleece interfacing. We had never worked with that before, but it was not difficult (here’s a video we watched showing how to use it).

Directions were clear for making the darts and then sewing the hippo together. Dad helped with popping in the eyes, and then it was time to stuff.

Stuffing can be a challenge. You’d think you could just stuff in fiberfill and that’s that — but you would be wrong. It’s important to tear the fiberfill into small pieces, and to stuff extremities (like the little ears and feet) first and firmly, before moving on to the body.

Going back to our applique skill — we needed to decide on something to applique onto Mr. Hippo. What better than a heart? (remember the “I Love You” heart appliqued to all Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls?) So daughter looked online to find a heart shape she liked, cut it out double, adding a seam allowance so she could sew it and turn it (no easy feat there) before appliqueing it on with a primitive-look stitch suggested by Grandma.

McCall's hippo pattern

Then, all that was left was to stitch him shut. This was one of the biggest challenges, since he was so full of fiberfill. I held him between my knees while my daughter took some stitches (and to tell the truth, I took some myself — it was hard!).

Voila! Mr. Hippo was completed.

I would recommend this pattern. It was easy to follow and make, and it turned out really cute. It would make a fun baby shower gift.

Thanks to Purex Insiders for the craft kits reviewed here and for the giveaway set. All opinions mine.

Spellbinders Celebra'tions CollectionPaper crafting — it’s so much fun. For years, I scrapbooked. Now my scrapbooking is largely done digitally, so I think that makes it even more enjoyable to occasionally pull out paper, pens, glitter and glue to create a personalized card-making or stamping project.

It was a treat to find two ready-made papercraft kits in my mailbox the other day. They’re part of the Spellbinders Celebra’tions Collection by Richard Garay. Garay designed the line to help paper crafters achieve beautiful results every time. Everything is coordinated, so this cheerful, bright and exciting collection makes creating cards and other paper crafts not only easy but also fun.

Celebra’tions includes a complete collection of papers, inks, stamps, dies, and embellishments.

Spellbinders Celebra'tions
I must say that my favorite way to create paper crafts is with ready-made kits like these — everything is pre-cut, pre-stamped, colors and designs pre-decided. All I had to do was stick them together. Didn’t the results come out cute?

Spellbinders Celebrations polymer stamps many wordsI also received “Many Words” polymer stamp set to send out to one of you. This is a great set, because it contains such a nice variety of phrases. Just think of all the cards and tags you could create with all these sayings.

If you’d like to enter, you can do so using the Rafflecopter form below. Enter by July 23rd, and I’ll choose a random winner July 24. Happy papercrafting!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Menu Plan Monday

menuplanmondayHappy Monday to everyone! Fair judging is over, and a good thing this year was that the girls all avoided red ribbons. The foods projects all went well, with … hmmm … I think a blue ribbon and 3 honor class ribbons for the strawberry freezer jam, microwave Milky Way candy, yeast rolls, and Old German Butter Cookies (recipes in last week’s MPM post). Two projects will be going to state fair. It’s always fun to look for something you’ve made at the state fair! And, the two girls who were able to sell their baked goods in the foods auction Friday made a total of $95. Not bad for 90 seconds or so of walking around a large room with a plate of food. Thanks to the bidders!

So, back to cooking this week.

Monday: ??? Younger two daughters are in charge since the oldest, her friend, and I are off to a local baseball game.

Tuesday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole — made it before; good.

beef and bean taco casserole

Wednesday: Parmesan Crusted Bruschetta Chicken — I have made this before also, and enjoyed it.

Thursday: Make your own pizza — I make crust in individual pizza sizes, and each person adds their own topping choices.

Friday:  Hamburger Vegetable Soup — maybe using some garden veggies.

More menu ideas at OrgJunkie’s.

Childhood Memories FridayDid you make scrapbooks as a child? I did. Some of my childhood scrapbooks include pages where I cut out ads of movies I went to see. I also cut out the write-ups of weddings I went to. Some were quite long, with photos of the couple (or often, just of the bride), and descriptions of the dresses, flowers, etc.

My mom made scrapbooks as well, and she has given one to me. It’s filled with clippings of news events of the day, including — Queen Elizabeth’s coronation:

Queen Elizabeth coronation scrapbook I read an article recently in Smithsonian magazine, about … scrapbooking and its history. Some tidbits gleaned –

  • “Scrapbooking” of some sort went on even in the 19th century. Penny newspapers debuted in 1833 and photography was new as well, and people wanted to save favorite bits of information on paper.
  • For centuries, readers had kept “commonplace” books full of favorite quotes they copied by hand. But witht he advent of newspapers, people cut out favorite quotes and glued them into scrapbooks — early “cut and paste.”
  • A schoolteacher with dreams of marrying a farmer and moving west compiled clippings on things a farm wife might want (remedies for rashes, details about lightning rods), while a 1920s housewife clipped articles for a database on stain remove and recipes. “Little Women” author Louisa May Alcott said, “The habit of reading with a pair of scissors in my hand has stood me in good stead for much of my literary work.”
  • Mid to late 19th century saw color print, and many people clipped even more items, feeling they were too precious to throw away.
  • Mark Twain developed a “self-pasting” scrapbook with gummed strips pre-installed By 1885, sales of these scrapbooks accounted for 20% of his publishing income. Twain popularized the term “scrapbooking.” Prior to this, clippers said they were going to “scrap.”
  • Newspapers noted the clipping craze and began printing short quips ideal for scrapbooks; some even had sections called “For the Scrapbook” and “Scissors and Paste.”
  • By the early 20th century, people began saving not only paper clippings, but bits of memorabilia as well: tickets, room keys, etc.
  • Scrapbooking as a modern hobby surged in the 1990s, and now it’s becoming largely digital. Pinterest is another type of modern scrapbooking, where you can collect (or “pin”) images and organize them onto boards. Currently, more than 30 billion items have been “pinned.”

I have to say that, although I’m a bit late to the Pinterest party, I do love it. I recently sorted through some of my voluminous stack of Princess Diana clippings. What to do with them was a huge dilemma. No, I didn’t really look at them anymore, but it seemed wrong to throw them away. With Pinterest though, I can create a Princess Diana board, and ‘collect’ all the lovely photos I want, right in one place.


Yahoo Voices Closes

Sad news last week: Yahoo Voices is closing.

You may never have heard of Yahoo Voices. It began about nine years ago, and was named Associated Content at the time before being bought a few years back by Yahoo.

Even before Associated Content, I wrote for a site (now defunct) called Themestream. This was probably around the turn of the century (wow — that sounds ancient!). I was a mom with two or three little girls at home at that time, and it was a respite to let the kids watch Barney or the Teletubbies for an hour while I wrote up an article on this or that. I was writing! And my work was published online! How fun!

Around 2007, I began writing at Associated Content. I began by writing an article about how to succeed with piano lessons. Then I wrote one about tips for having a hedgehog as a pet. Where things really took off, though, was when I began writing about the Gosselin family of “Jon and Kate Plus Eight.”

I was shocked at how many people wanted to read about the family — first they were sweet and cute, and then they devolved into a dysfunctional mess. Along the way, I entered (and won) a contest to sit in the front row at an appearance by Kate at the Indianapolis Home Show. I wrote about it, and the views poured in (I should probably mention that at AC, and then YV, we are usually paid an upfront amount for each article, but also a small amount for each time an article is viewed).

Yahoo Voices began choosing “featured contributors” in various fields, and I applied to be one in arts & entertainment. I was thrilled to get to do that, and spent happy hours learning about SEO (search engine optimization), and deciding which topics and phrases lots of people would be searching for. A recent phenomena is the Duggar family, of “19 Kids and Counting” fame. They’re highly popular, although I’m not sure they’ve reached “Jon and Kate” level.


Yahoo Voices homepage

Maybe a year ago, the Featured Contributor program was dropped. Google continued to fiddle with its algorithm, wreaking havoc with page views (basically, any article on Yahoo Voices was penalized with less page views than similar articles on other sites such as eHow. Why? That is a mystery, known only to the man behind the Google curtain).

Then last week, the news that Voices is closing up shop altogether, with July 31 being the last day.

It’s bittersweet news. I’ve learned a lot writing there, made some great online friends, launched my own blog, and written 5 books. I’m not sure any of those things would have happened had I not begun writing online.

So, if you’d like to earn me a few pennies and have spare time this month :), feel free to peruse my articles. Actually, I’m busy copying them and you’ll most likely be seeing some of them over the coming months here on the blog. One good thing about the shutdown is that the authors get all the rights to our pieces back.

Have any of you written for Yahoo Voices? How about other venues, either online or off?

Thanks to for a review copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven 10th Anniversary Edition, which contains affiliate links.

90 Minutes in Heaven Anniversary EditionImagine you were in a car crash so severe that medics on the scene determined that you were dead when they could find no pulse. You are trapped in your mangled car, until, for some unknown reason, someone comes upon the scene and feels led to come over to the wreckage and pray for you. Even though he’s told that you’re dead. Sure enough — the man praying soon began yelling at the EMT’s, “This guy is alive!” And he was — then.

90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life is Don Piper’s tale of this accident, his trip to heaven, and his lengthy recovery period which followed.

When I was a child, I seemed to spend lots of time in our church library. It was just a room adjacent to the choir room, but I was often stuck there when my mom had a choir rehearsal or my dad had a church meeting. I probably have read more books from that room than any other church member (I say this not to brag, but because I’m not sure I ever saw anyone else even looking at a book there). When I was in junior high, I came across a little book about someone who’d been clinically dead for a short time. He (or she? I hate that I’ve forgotten both the book’s name and the person’s gender) retold his experiences in heaven. I was really moved by this book, and remember loaning it to a (gasp! Catholic!) friend, and discussing it with several friends. It was the beginning for me of an interest in reading about near-death experiences. I’ve read many since then, some of which have become quite famous, and some that are even disturbing. I think they’re fascinating, because, since Christianity is such a huge part of my life, it’s understandable that I’d be curious about where I’ll be spending the vast, vast portion of my total existence.

“90 Minutes” is pretty typical of the genre. Piper tells about his accident, then his time in heaven, which is unfortunately brief. That tends to be the problem with most books of this type. The time in heaven isn’t too long, because let’s face it — if it were longer, chances are the person wouldn’t have come back to earth. But what Piper does see if no doubt good: he’s greeted at the gate by a huge horde of people. He recognizes many as those who’ve died before him. They all look quite happy and healthy, and all of them — even those he didn’t know — are so happy to see him. There’s only joy; no sadness at people left behind or anything like that. He hears music which can only be described as “heavenly.” It is so beautiful. He hears hymns he grew up with, but notices that they all focus on happy themes and praises. None are about Jesus’ death and crucifixion, for instance.

Then, Piper is inevitably brought back to earth. His recovery comprises most of the book, and that isn’t too pleasant. He spent months in the hospital, endured dozens of surgeries, depression, and well, the whole period was just a downer. But years later, he wrote his story (with the help of Cec Murphey, who will always be special to me). It began affecting many people, and in the opening of the book, Piper talks about all the countries he’s traveled to to tell his story. Really, the impact it has had has been unbelievable.

I recommend the book. It’s a good reminder to us Christians that earth isn’t our final destination. And it’s a good nudge to non-believers that we’d all do well to consider that earth isn’t an ultimate home to any of us.


Menu Plan Monday

menuplanmondayMenu Plan Monday again, on a very busy week. Tomorrow is judging of non-perishable 4-H projects (posters, crafts, sewing, etc), and Wednesday is judging of the food. Youngest daughter has decided on these yeast rolls and has already made strawberry freezer jam. Middle daughter is making microwave candy, Milky Way Balls.  And oldest daughter is making an international baked food — Old German Honey Cookies. Wish them success — it’s always kind of nerve-wracking to wait your turn to sit with the judge as he/she critiques your work.

milky way balls

So, with last week being busy as well, some of last week’s menu was interrupted and will be re-appearing this week.

Monday: Chicken Stir Fry – I just fix chicken, a bag of alfalfa sprouts, a chopped carrot or two and snap peas (now ready in the garden!) in soy sauce, and serve with rice.

Tuesday: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole — a favorite, and great for busy days because it’s made in the crockpot. I’ll need something easy today — morning spent at judging, 7 piano students in the afternoon … Ai yi yi …

Wednesday: Spicy Potato Casserole — – from an Amish Cook column in our newspaper, and daughter #1′s favorite — probably green beans from the garden as well. I picked them this morning when I noticed a rabbit beating me to them. Really not enough now, but maybe by Wednesday there will be more.

1.5 lb browned ground beef

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 small onion, diced

8 medium potatoes, boiled and shredded (or use a bag of hash browns)

4 T butter, melted

2 cups shredded cheese

1 t. salt

1 pint sour cream

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 soup can milk

2.5 cups crushed corn chips

Combine ground beef, taco seasoning and onion.  Put mixture in bottom of 9 x 13 dish.  Mix potatoes with butter, cheese, salt, sour cream and soup.  Mix with milk.  Spoon over hamburger mixture.  Top with remaining chips.  Bake 45 minutes at 350.

Thursday: I give up: frozen pizza ;)

Friday: It’s Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Day, so you know where we’ll be eating, for free! Maybe we’ll see you there?

More menu ideas at OrgJunkie’s.

 **This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Invited to a baby shower? Want a cute outfit for a niece, nephew, or grandchild? If you haven’t shopped Tea Collection before, do yourself a favor and check it out. They have such cute clothes for newborns up to size 12, and women’s clothes as well. They deliver to your door, eliminating the need to fight the heat and humidity on your way to the mall.

Now, Tea Collection’s Semi-Annual Sale is going all out and marking sale items down an additional 40% off starting today (7/3) and ending Monday (7/7). Sweet dresses, tees, onesies and more all filled with the rich colors and intricate patterns of faraway Morocco.

Simply use the promo code MORE40 when you checkout.
Some things I especially love –

Tea Collection Mosaic Rose Twirl DressThis adorable Mosaic Rose Twirl Dress — so sweet, and a bargain at under $20.

Got a boy to buy for?

Tea Collection Peli Stripe RomperI love the Peli Stripe Romper, with its summery stripes. At under $15, you can’t go wrong.

Shipping is a flat $7, or free if you spend $150 or more. With these prices,  styles will sell out as the sale is almost over. Have fun shopping!

Coming soon: one of my favorite holidays of the year. No, Christmas is months away. Easter is behind us. What could this day be?

Why, it’s Chick-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day.

Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation DayThis day is held once each year at all Chick-fil-A restaurants. This year, it’s July 11.

To participate, just go to your favorite Chick-fil-A, dressed as a cow.

Yes, dressed as a cow.

Don’t feel embarrassed. The restaurant will likely be full of other kids and adults in full cow attire. And don’t worry about struggling to make a cow costume using a pattern, zipper, and yards of fur. You can create a cow “costume” by wearing clothes in white or black and adding paper “spots.”

Chick-fil-A has a website with information and printables to help you become a cow for a few hours. I’ve created a Cow Appreciation Day Pinterest board with more ideas to inspire you (yes, there are even cow manicures you can give yourself, if you’re feeling you want to go the whole nine yards).

If you dress like a cow from “head to hoof,” you’re entitled to a Chick-fil-A meal (basically, an entree, a side, and a drink). Bring you entire family as a herd of cows, and dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) in on Chick-fil-A. If you just can’t  handle being a full-blown cow, wear a single element (a cow hat, cow mask, etc) and you’ll get an entree of your choice.

Cow Appreciation Day is Chick-fil-A’s way of thanking its customers, who are so moo-velously loyal all year long. Treat yourself to a little fun and some delicious food on July 11. You have plenty of time to prepare, so get busy!


In other Chick-fil-A news, our local Fort Wayne Jefferson Pointe Chick-fil-A will begin selling THRIVE coffee July 7, with the official roll-out set for August 18.

Chick-fil-A’s new coffee will be sustainably sourced by THRIVE Farmers Coffee.  It originates from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras — three of the countries with the highest-volume producers of specialty-grade coffee in the world.

THRIVE Farmers Coffee business is based in Roswell, Georgia. They pioneered a new “farmer direct” business model that gives coffee farmers a real ownership stake and returns more of the profits to the farmer than traditional models (including fair trade coffee).

Michael Jones, THRIVE Farmers Coffee Founder and CEO, worked with Ken Lander, an American who had retired to Costa Rica and bought a coffee farm, and local coffee farmers, to develop the THRIVE Farmers model. Ken is now Founder, President and Chief Origin Officer for THRIVE Farmers Coffee. THRIVEWorx International is the THRIVE Farmers Coffee farmer organization that supports the farmer by providing processing and logistics at the local point of origin.

Do you plan to try THRIVE? I must confess I don’t enjoy coffee, so I probably won’t. I’d love to hear comments from those who do, though.

menuplanmondayHappy Menu Plan Monday! What is going on in your kitchen or garden this week? I have kind of given up on my garden. Apparently, there are a few rabbits and a few chipmunks who have pretty much decimated my strawberry patch (which was to have begun producing this year). Not sure if I’ll try to plan another patch in 2015 with hopes of strawberries in 2016 or not … The critters have also eaten all the spinach. My zucchini plants are still tiny, so not sure I’ll get anything from them.

On the bright side, the snap peas look good (I’ll be using them in stir fry this week) and I noticed green beans out there as well. I better pick them fast before someone else gets them! The tomato plants look good too, although it will probably be a month before tomatoes are ready.

Here’s the plan:

Monday: Chicken Curry – I like this and have not made it in a while.

Tuesday: Beef Nacho Casserole -- this recipe is from the “Amish Cook” column in our newspaper. A friend made it last week and recommended it.

Wednesday: Chicken Stir Fry – I just fix chicken, a bag of alfalfa sprouts, a chopped carrot or two and snap peas in soy sauce, and serve with rice.

Thursday: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole — I make this a lot, so I decided to make a fancy (for me) graphic (with my youngest daughter’s help, I might add) and type the recipe for you:

Cheesy Tater Tot casserole crockpot


2 chicken breasts (uncooked but thawed)

1 bag tater tots

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup milk

salt and pepper as desired

Cheesy Tater Tot casserole crockpotFirst, arrange half the tater tots in the bottom of your crockpot. Cover with half the cheese.

cheesy tater tot casserole

Cut chicken into pieces and arrange over this. Salt and pepper as desired.

Add other half of tater tots and cheese. Pour milk over all.

cheesy tater tot casseroleCook on low until chicken is done. On my crock pot, this takes about 4 hours.

So delicious! The tater tots kind of fall apart and are creamy and delicious.

Friday: July 4 — going to a neighbors’! Fun! I hope you all have a fun holiday as well.

More menu ideas at OrgJunkie’s.