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No Water! A Not-So-Uncommon Problem

Imagine my horror when I got out of bed this morning (which will be yesterday by the time you read this) to hear Grandpa say, “No coffee this morning.”  No coffee???

What’s worse than having no coffee?

Having no water.  That’s worse than having no coffee!Our water pump was dead.

Grandpa called our plumber while I poured drinking water from the fridge into a saucepan for tea.  I would have to put off my shower until later, brush my teeth with icy cold water,  and wash my hands with hand sanitizer.  Oh, the inconvenience of being without our usual comforts!

 “Nearly one billion people lack a source of clean, safe drinking water.”

My pastor is in the midst of a series of sermons based on this book, The Hole in the Gospel, about our responsibilities as Christians to do what we can do to meet the needs of the suffering ones around us and around the world.  Our pastor is a great guy and a great preacher, but these sermons and the accompanying videos are a little hard to hear and see.

I don’t like to see people who are suffering or in pain.  I most certainly don’t like to see children who are dying because of starvation and disease.  And it’s not easy to deal with the idea that I am responsible to do whatever I can to alleviate their suffering and pain.  Turning away from the plights of others doesn’t erase their pain or their suffering or relieve me of my responsibility.  It just makes it easier for me to pretend that everyone enjoys the same blessings that I do.

As I was reading my Bible and praying this morning, and waiting for our plumber to arrive, I was thinking of the billions of people around the world who have no clean water ….. EVER.  Not just until the plumber arrives, but they never, ever have a drink of clean water.  How can this be?  What must it be like to live without clean water?

The bigger question is … what can I do about this?

It’s easy for me to bury my head and say, “Nothing!” in response to that question.  But the fact is, I can do something.  Other people … other individual PERSONS like me have done something.  They have gone to these places where there is no clean water.  They have set plans in motion to change these situations. They have given time and money.

They have loosened their grip on all that I hold so tightly, and they have made a difference.

I did some online research and found several charitable organizations (some Christian, some not) which are actively meeting the need for clean drinking water.

Samaritan’s Purse is one of my favorite charitable organizations because of the good works they do in the name of Jesus.

Here’s a link to their website and their plan to “Turn on the Tap Water” for those who have none.

Here’s another Christian organization that is all about the water.

Our plumber just arrived …

Soon we will be taking showers, drinking clean well water, flushing our toilets, making coffee.  Business as usual at Grandma’s house.  Would that this were so for everyone.

What will we do to help?

You have this grandma’s word that we will do something.  If we can pay the plumber to fix our pump, then we can share what we have with those who don’t even need a pump because they have no water.


Please …  leave a comment and tell me what causes stir you to action.

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Grandpa’s Best Financial Advice


Jack and Elaine circa 1980

Jack and I have been happily married for nearly 32 years.  We started out the way most young married couples do, except for the fact that he was thirty-eight and I was twenty-two at the time of our wedding.

Like other newlyweds, we were young and in love … and in debt.  I had a small student loan and he had a car loan and some consumer debt.  Big deal!  We were in love, he had a good job, and I had just been hired as a teacher for a one year sabbatical position making $13,500.

The first thing we did after getting married was buy me a brand new economy car, and you guessed it.  We borrowed the money to do so. By now, you have an idea of the direction in which we were headed financially.

Fast forward to last night …

While we were having dinner, I asked Jack to tell me the best financial advice he’d ever received after we were married.  I knew what he was going to say, because the best financial advice that he ever received was also the best financial advice that I’d ever received.  And here it is:


Whoa!  You mean not even a car?  Or a vacation?  Or a computer?  That’s exactly what we mean.

Folks, this piece of advice, and our commitment to follow through with it has saved us thousands of dollars in interest and untold heartache and stress over the past thirty-two years.

Some people think it’s impossible to pay cash for everything, especially vehicles.  But it’s not impossible.  What’s usually impossible is being content with the kind of vehicle you can afford with the amount of cash you have to spend.

Here’s how we did it.  We paid off the last car we had bought on credit, and when we were finished paying it off, we continued to make payments in the same amount.  But instead of making the payments to the bank, we made the payments to our own savings account.

By the time we really NEEDED a new car, we had enough cash to buy a very basic used car.  From that time on, we decided we’d rather drive a paid-for used car than a brand new luxury car, and we’ve never regretted it!

Jack’s free truck

Don’t just shrug off this advice that we’re sharing with you.  Think about it.  Perhaps it’s time for you to make a commitment to debt-free living.  Jack and I highly recommend it!

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Bottle Bags–Not Another Baby Gift

Earlier this month, I toyed with the idea of setting up at a craft show in November to sell some of my handmade goods.  After stressing for a week or so about how little inventory I had to sell, I decided to give up on  the craft show idea for this year. 

The whole craft show thing wasn’t a total waste though since I got several good ideas from friends for items to make and sell.  One of those items is a gift bag for bottled gifts like wine, flavored oils, sparkling juices, etc.

I’ve made two different styles and like both of them.  The first one I tried is an insulated bag with a handle. 

For this bag, I downloaded this pattern and chose a grapevine print that I bought at Walmart.  I used a tan leafy tone on tone for the lining.  This bag has a layer of batting between the bag and the lining for insulation.  The handle is a nice touch, but this bag while not difficult to make, was not a simple pattern either.  Taking into consideration my time and my materials, I would have to charge approximately $10 for this bag.  That’s a higher price point than I was looking for, so I decided to try again.

I found several other tutorials online for bottle bags.  I tried this one next using a Christmas fabric that I bought at Joanns. 

I liked it, but with no lining, it felt flimsy and I didn’t like the seams showing on the inside of the bag. 

Since I make lined purses all the time, I figured I could make my own lined bottle bag using the measurements from this tutorial with the techniques from my purse patterns.

The results were just what I was hoping for!  For my first one, I used the grapevine fabric again pairing it with a gold vine fabric for the lining. 

Here it is again.  All of the bottle bags that I looked at were tied with a length of ribbon.  I fully intended to use ribbon, too, but I found that I had no ribbon that coordinated with any of the fabrics I wanted to use. 

That’s when I thought of making a fabric tie.  As soon as I tried it, I liked it better than the ribbon.  The tie coordinates with the lining and is stitched to the back of the bag to hold it in place. 

Here’s one I made using a fall print with a leafy lining in fall colors.  This would make a perfect bag for a Thanksgiving dinner hostess gift. 

My friends who gave me this idea recommended making bags for various seasons and in various theme fabrics. 

This snowman print is a winner for Christmas and winter.  I  love it with the black lining and tie!  With these lined bags, there are no exposed seams inside the bag, and the double layer of fabric makes them feel sturdy and substantial.

The last one I will show you is this one in an Americana theme.  My sister requested this one for a friend of hers who is celebrating her 60th birthday soon. 

I am selling these lined gift bags for $8 each, and they make any gift personal and special.  These are so much prettier than a brown paper bag, and these can be used over and over again.  

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Cat Lady’s Autumn Tote

Question:   What can  you do when someone buys you a T-shirt
                   appliqued with trick-or-treating cats?

Gray shirt sporting an autumn cat scene

Answer:    Have your friend turn it into an autumn tote bag!

At least that’s what my cat-loving friend did.  Her daughter bought her this cute T-shirt because of the adorable applique, but my friend didn’t think she would get much wear out of this long sleeved shirt. So she decided to have me turn the applique into a panel for a tote bag.  We’ve done this before with cat appliques, but not with an entire scene from a shirt. 

As soon as I thought about the project, I knew that I wanted to use a pattern that was simple.  I didn’t want any pockets or straps or zippers on the purse front that would disrupt the appliqued scene.  I chose this pattern:

 This pattern, Baja Traveler, designed by Penny Sturges doesn’t look like a simple design, but if one ignores the instructions to divide the front panel into three pieces, it is a simple design.

Normally, I put a pocket of some sort on the outside of a purse, but this time, I decided that clean and simple would be best.

After I’d cut away the Tshirt from the scene, my next step was to decide which fabrics I would use for the body of the tote bag.  My friend didn’t want a bag that looked especially Halloween-y, so I tried to go with more of an autumn look. 

The gray backround fabric, however, did not lend itself to being used with most of my fall prints.  You can see in the picture above on the left that I chose fabrics that would pick up the brown and black elements in the embroidered scene.  I also wanted to use a bit of orange, but not too much orange.   

The “orange” that I chose in the picture above right, is actually more of a dark red or rust color.  I like it.  It picks up the pumpkin color without screaming “Halloween!”

My next step was to “build” the front of the purse.  I ironed fusible interfacing to the backs of each piece of fabric before I sewed them together to give stability to the piece, especially important for the knit t-shirt fabric.

I used just a narrow strip of the rust/orange fabric directly under the picture.  To keep that little piece of fabric from flipping up, I used the decorative blanket stitch to secure it to the bag front.  This makes it look almost like ribbon.

The next decision was zipper or snap closure, and I opted for a magnetic snap, mainly because I wanted people to be able to see some of the lining fabric.  I did make a velcro closure for one of the interior pockets so that my friend would have a safe place to carry money or important cards.

The lining fabric matches the orange/rust trim on the front of the bag, and the interior pockets are cut from the black basketweave fabric that flanks the appliqued scene.

Here’s a shot of the back of the bag where I used the main fabric for the large portion of the bag back.  I used a coordinate to that fabric to make the handles. 

The orange ribbon-like trim is repeated on the back of the bag, too. 

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the final bag.  I hope my friend likes it since she hasn’t seen it yet.  I love combining fabrics, so I enjoyed the creative process involved in making this autumn tote. 

An autumn tote bag that any cat lady would love!
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The Cupcake Diaper Bag

Cupcake print diaper bag for Aaliyah

 Last Saturday, Justine’s mother-in-law hosted a surprise baby shower for her.  I’ve had this diaper bag finished for a few weeks, but I haven’t posted any pictures of it because I didn’t want Justine to see them.  Justine actually picked out these fabrics which are Heidi Grace coordinates from Joanns.  I love the colors together, and I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. 

I used this Purse-O-Nalities pattern from
Palm Harbor pattern company.   When I first made this pattern a couple months ago, it reminded me of a carpet bag.  I thought that it would make a cute diaper bag with those side pockets, and I was right. 
This pattern does require more fabric than any other tote that I make which is why it is also the most expensive tote that I make and sell.
Because this particular bag is for Justine, and she just happens to have a very special place in my heart, I added some extra details that I thought she would especially appreciate. 
 On the inside of the diaper bag, I added a gathered pocket that is divided into two sections.  The other side has a larger flat pocket that is also divided into two sections.  A small pocket on one end of the bag is the perfect size for a pacifer or smaller items.  And the other end of the bag sports a removal bottle holder which is perfect for a baby bottle or Mom’s water bottle.

I can only imagine how harried Justine might be when trying to juggle her busy life with baby, so I added a swivel hook on a short strap for the elusive pacifier or for Justine’s car keys.

 Here’s a closer view of the front of the bag which is pleated and trimmed with the contrasting fabric.  Those elasticized side pockets will hold bottles or cups.

The zippered pocket on the outside of the bag is a feature that is included in most of the Purse-O-Nality patterns, and I love it!  Justine could safely carry her wallet or checkbook or any other valuable items safely in this zippered pocket eliminating the need to carry a diaper bag and a purse.

Here’s a shot of the matching changing pad that I included with the diaper bag.  I found an online tutorial for this project, and I like the way it turned out, too. 

Here’s the happy mama opening her presents at the shower.  It was a beautiful shower, and she got tons of lovely gifts! We are all looking forward to the arrival of the little princess.

Stay tuned for more handmade baby gift ideas!

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Baby’s First Dress

We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new great-granddaughter in October.  I’ve accepted the challenge of working up a wardrobe of hand-smocked dresses for the little one.  The dress you see here is a white baby bishop smocked in a pink and white geometric design.

I used Imperial white babywale pique since she may be needing something warmer than batiste.  My pattern is Tiny Bishop Baby Layette by Kathy Crisp.  I love the pattern and have used it more than a dozen times. 

Hand smocking is one of my favorite kinds of sewing.  It makes a baby garment extra special, but it really isn’t hard to do at all.  And I love old-fashioned baby clothes so much better than some of the baby girl clothing that is available now. 

Here’s a shot of the dress after the smocking was completed but before the construction had begun.

You can still see the pleating threads in this picture, too.  The fabric is drawn up using a pleater like this one .  The threads are then drawn up to the appropriate size, and the smocking stitches are made by hand on top of the pleats.  When the smocking is complete, the pleater threads are removed, and the pleats are held in place by the smocking. 

This bishop style dress is perfect for tiny babies, and this is nearly always the pattern I use for a newborn baby gift.  Since this new baby is so close to my heart, I’m hoping to make lots and lots of handsmocked dresses for her. 

And just in case one of her baby friends tries to take her dress, I’ve added her initials to the hem of this garment.  This is the first time I’ve used the monogramming stitches on my new Janome Memory Craft 6600 sewing machine, and I am pleased with the results.

I can’t wait to meet you!