Archives for November 2012

Sewing this week: more pot holders

I’ve been having a lovely time sewing pot-holders this week! Here are some of the colors I’ve made. Can you think of folks who’d like something along these lines as a Christmas gift? If so, check out the ones I put on my Etsy shop. They’re not too hard to make, but I know not everyone is comfortable with a sewing machine or inclined to take time to sew.

One more little note for friends with adopted kids or kids with challenging behavior issues  (and really, who doesn’t now and then??) my friend Lisa Qualls at One Thankful Mom is doing a Karyn Purvis giveaway this weekend. You may remember that I heard Karyn Purvis speak a few years ago (links below) and found her information tremendously helpful. So go check out the giveaway!

Karyn Purvis:  Helping Children Attach

Karyn Purvis: Real Hope and Help for Healing

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Giveaway: Bee Raw Honey

Today I’ve got a fun giveaway for you!  It’s a gift set of Bee Raw Honey in three different flavors. Bee Raw Honey gets their honeys from family-owned apiaries across the country, and each variety is derived from a single floral source. Colorado Star Thistle, Wild Black Sage and Maine Wild Raspberry were the flavors we were sent to try.

We aren’t honey experts around here, and to be honest, the price point of this lovely stuff wouldn’t fit into our budget too often.  But we really loved all three varieties, as I’m sure you will if you win your own stash. If you’re feeling generous, you could even tuck a jar in a basket with some muffins as a sweet gift to a friend this Christmas. Or you could choose to eat it all yourself, like we did.  I’m not judging. 🙂

So, the giveaway.  You can enter three ways:

1. Go to Facebook and ‘like’ the Owlhaven fan page, then come comment here to tell me you did so.

2. Go ‘like’ Bee Raw Honey on Facebook, then come back here and tell me you did.   (You might also tell them thanks for supplying this giveaway.  It’s because of vendors like them that I have fun goodies to offer here.)

3.  Finally –here’s an option for folks not on Facebook — tell me about a favorite item you give to teachers, neighbors, and other folks who you want to bless in a small but thoughtful way at Christmas time.

And yes, it’s perfectly OK to enter all three ways– just be sure to leave three comments so that you’ll get credit for all three entries.  I’ll choose a winner of this giveaway early next week.


My review policy



Tutorial: Making kitchen towels that won’t fall down

With 6 kids and a Malamute swirling through our house at any given moment, it seems like there’s always something knocking my kitchen towels on the floor. I finally decided to revive an idea from my grandmother: towels with loops.  She crocheted her loops; I opted to sew mine.

To make one loop-towel you’ll need:

  • a kitchen towel, cut in half
  • 1/4 yard of coordinating fabric
  • square of quilt batting (about 10×12 inches)
  • 1 button

I started by cutting a kitchen towel in half. Then I experimented with shapes cut from newspaper to come up with the shape below. The wide end is about 10 inches, tapers down to 4 inches at the narrow end, and is about 12 inches long total.

Once you’ve made a newspaper pattern that looks similar to the shape above, use the pattern to cut out two pieces of your coordinating fabric and one piece of your quilt batting. Stack the three cut pieces together with the quilt batting on the bottom and the two fabric pieces on top, with right sides (pretty sides)  facing each other.

Sew together the three shapes on both curved sides and the narrow top edge, as shown below.

Make some small snips in the curved sides almost to the stitching, be careful to not cut through the stitching.  These snips will help the curves lie flat once you turn it right side out.

Turn the piece right side out and press flat.  Top-stitch around three sides as shown below.  Notice that I left 1 inch not topstitched on both sides at the wide end of the piece.  You can use a decorative stitch like I did, or just do a straight seam, either way.

Now there’s only one edge of the shape left with unfinished edges. (You can see the white peeking out at the bottom of the above picture.) Tuck those raw edges  inward to create a hem.  Iron so it will stay in place until you can sew it

Now set the loop piece aside and get your half-towel.  Fold in the sides of your half-towel, adding a pleat or two if needed, so that the folded towel will be the same width as the bottom edge of the loop piece.  Scroll down to see the finished picture of this towel if I just confused you; hopefully all will be clear!  🙂

Tuck the cut end of the towel into the open end of the loop piece.  Pin in place, and then sew through all layers of towel and loop piece.

I chose to sew twice across to make the connection, as you can see below.  Then it’s time for a button-hole.  If you’re not up to button-holes, you could use snaps or even velcro.  I chose buttons since they hold up better in the wash and don’t wear out like velcro.


Here’s the finished product, read to go on my oven door.   No more towels on the floor for me!  (A girl can dream…)

If this tutorial was useful or interesting to you, I’d love a pin on Pinterest!  And please feel free to ask questions.  Tutorials aren’t easy to write, and this one got finished at 1AM, which makes it even more possible that I thought I was being clear when I wasn’t.  Thanks for reading!

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Things I’m mulling over…opinions?

Something about the Christmas season always gets lots of projects aswirl in my brain. Here’s some of what’s been going on around here.

  1. I’ve been working on a really fun bathroom cabinet project that I’ll show you soon. After doing a bit of hunting online, today I bought what I hope will be just the right drawer pulls to jazz up the project. So much fun to see something new coming together in a space that has looked tired for awhile.
  2. I’m in the midst of my yearly struggle to keep gift-giving moderate, to not go overboard on spending.  But it’s really hard.  Gift-giving is one of my love languages, and when I see things kids would enjoy, I just want to buy them all the moon, hang the cost. I do try to keep to a dollar limit.  But just today I found a great price on an item that I KNOW one of my big kids would use and use and use.  After some discussion, John and I decided to go for it even tho it was over the budget for that kid, and maybe do a bit less when that one’s birthday comes around.  If I remember.  Ha.
  3. I’ve also been gradually collecting little stocking-stuffer items.  Actually, I started this summer, and am almost done.  Things I’ve done in past years include chapstick, stretchy gloves, toothbrushes, mechanical pencils, peanuts, Hershey’s kisses, and flashlights.  What do you like to put in kids’ stockings?
  4. This year Erika and her husband and baby will be with Israel’s family over Christmas.  So we’re planning a before-Christmas mini-celebration so that we can all enjoy watching the babies open gifts together.  Erika and Israel will be getting their gifts from us then.  All the kids will be doing a gift exchange that day too.  When they were small, John and I brought them to the dollar store to choose one gift for each sibling.  A couple years ago, after some discussion, they decided to go with the name-drawing system and buy one larger gift for one sibling each instead of tiny ones for everyone.  It seems to be going well.  Much excitement is buzzing here among the kids at the idea that they’ll be getting to open at least one item each before Christmas.  I imagine this will all get more complicated as our family grows and more of the kids get married. What do you do to get together with family when some of them are traveling?
  5. Christmas always gets me thinking lots about traditions.  I want traditions and warm memories more at this time of year more than any other. Teenagers don’t always appreciate my efforts to do the same things over and over each Christmas.  They look cranky when I suggest the yearly viewing of  ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’  They’re not so thrilled about helping with cookie-baking. They’re bored with puzzles. They do tend to enthuse over our annual gingerbread houses– but that’s mostly because of the candy and the fact that we do that activity with friends, not just family.  I’ve just decided to ignore their resistance, and gently require their presence during family times.  Our grown kids like the traditions just fine– in fact, they seem to appreciate them more the older they get.  So we’ll hope that this current batch eventually gets over their boredom and come to appreciate what I’m trying to do with these little routines.  But still, I’d love to hear your hints for encouraging teenagers  (especially 14 year olds– heaven help me, I have three!) to appreciate traditions and time spend with family during the holidays.

Christmas books for teens, preteens and reluctant readers


Is there a preteen or a teenager on your Christmas list? Have you thought of giving them books but wonder what they’d enjoy? I’ve found it can be especially challenging to pick books for kids who don’t enjoy reading much in the first place.   Here are some books that my preteens and teens have loved, both the avid readers, and the ones who’d rather be playing video games.  These books are lively, interesting page-turners that appeal to both boys and girls.



1. Inheritance 4-Book Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini is about a farm boy who discovers he is really a dragon rider.



2.Percy Jackson and the Olympians (5 books) by Rick Riordan is a story about a boy who has adventures with Greek gods and sea monsters.



3. Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix is based on the premise of a society where each family is allowed only two children, forcing any subsequent children to live in hiding.


4. Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke is about a girl catapulted into peril when a story read by her father surprisingly comes to life. These books have some bad language, but the storyline is utterly intriguing.


5.  The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games. This series is about a boy who discovers a world under New York City where he is forced to fight giant rats, spiders, and bats, and in the process becomes an unexpected hero.

I hope some of these book ideas help you with your Christmas shopping.  If you know of books that are inspiring and interesting for teens, I’d love for you to tell me about them in comments, below.  As always, I encourage you to do some research and don’t be afraid to trust your instincts when deciding  what is appropriate for your kids to read at various ages.


Related: Why we skipped The Hunger Games 

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Sunday: The Upside of Down


A week or so ago, John and I took the kids to Winter Jam, a big Christian rock concert that made a stop in Boise. Among others, we heard TobyMac, Jamie Grace, Sidewalk Prophets, and Group One Crew. One of my favorite songs was one from Chris August’s new CD The Upside Of Down, featured on the youtube video below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The downside of being up is,
My inside is empty of
The one thing my heart truly needs
When I feel invincible,
A million miles from miserable
It’s always all about me…



And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And there are more, including you dear reader– yes, you, the person sitting here and choosing to spend this moment with my family and me. You bless my life with your presence.

Black Friday shopping tips


Black Friday. Do you know it? Do you love it? Maybe not as much as I do. I look forward to this day all year. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, I peel myself out of bed around 4am, and head off to find those bargains! Here’s how I make the most of the day:

1. Check out a few days ahead of time. That way you’ll have a little more time to plan your approach, think about the people you need to buy for, and then only buy what you need. Black Friday is only a frugal event if you plan carefully, stick within your budget, and don’t get carried away.

2. Pay close attention to which stores open first, and plan where you’ll go first, second and third. Figure driving time and map out the most efficient route.

3. Write out a list for every store, with the highest priority items at the top of the list. Include name brands and even a photo of items (cut apart your ads and tape pictures to your lists.) This makes it much easier to spot items on shelves.

4. Plan to bring another adult or teen with you and arm both people with a cell phone.  Communication is essential when you’re separated in the midst of a crowd of people.

5. Bring a couple of big mesh bags. Without a cart, you’ll be able to move more quickly through the stores–sometimes there are huge traffic jams, and you will be just standing still if you’re trying to maneuver a cart. I usually leave my coat in the car, and stick my credit card/checkbook/ID in my FRONT jeans pocket so I don’t have to carry a purse.

6. Divide the list for each store into two parts– you and your shopping partner can each shop and then meet at the checkout. Have one person just grab a few things, then go stand in the checkout line while the other person finishes shopping. If you can hit the checkout line within 15 minutes of the store’s opening time, the line won’t be too long yet.

7. If your partner gets to the head of the line before you get done shopping, he/she should call you and just let the next person in the checkout line check out first. Whatever happens, your partner shouldn’t step out of the line– just wait at the front, letting people by, until the partner arrives.

I know lots of people just prefer to avoid the chaos and sleep in that morning. But shopping the day after Thanksgiving helps my stretch my Christmas dollars, which is really important with 10 kids to shop for. I wouldn’t want to shop like that every day. But once a year is fun. I love working out an efficient plan and seeing just how much I can get for my money. It’s also fun to sneak the loot in the house when I finally get home around 11 am. If I’m really energetic, I’ll even get a gift or two wrapped before I collapse for a nap in the early afternoon.

(This article reposted from a previous year.)


More tips

My 2007 Black Friday shopping trip

Walmart 2008 Black Friday Deals

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Recipe: Pumpkin Wat

As you can see here,we had a good pumpkin year. I’ve made cranberry pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie filling. I’ve given pumpkins away. I’ve frozen pumpkin puree.  I’ll be making yet more pies for Thanksgiving. But we still have a ton of pumpkins.

Time to break out a recipe that my oldest Ethiopian daughter taught me soon after she came to America. If you’re looking for a way to add an Ethiopian twist to your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, this Ethiopian wat (or stew) may be just the ticket.



  • 4 cups raw pumpkin, skinned, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, pureed
  • 1/4 cup butter (or vegetable oil)
  • 1-2 tablespoons berbere

Start by chopping up part of a pumpkin into about 1-inch cubes (a total of 4 cups), removing skin and seeds. Mince 1 medium-sized onion.  Puree 3 medium tomatoes.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat, and add the onion. Cook the onion in the skillet dry, stirring often, until the onion is lightly brown. At that point add 1/4 cup of butter and 1 T. berbere. Cook the onion for another minute or so. Then add the pureed tomato and the pumpkin chunks.

Let it cook until it is bubbling. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring every few minutes and making sure the food does not start to stick to the bottom of the pan. If is does, you can turn the heat down and/or add a little bit of water.

When the pumpkin is done it will be soft and slightly translucent, though not falling totally apart. You can serve this over rice, pasta, or injera. This recipe makes a wat that is only mildly spicy. Add more berbere if you like spicy food. I was amazed at how nicely the berbere flavor blended with the pumpkin.

The Story of Us

Last year’s family picture was an exercise in shivering.  We took it at a local park, and with all the time it took to get everyone gathered, then get the shot set up, we were all pretty darned cold by the time the photo got done.

This year when it came time to do our annual family picture, we had two rather simple criteria:  that we take the pictures before it got too cold for the babies to be outdoors, and (hopefully) that neither of the babies would be crying. We decided for the sake of the babies that the easiest place to do the pictures was probably our house.  That way they could stay indoors warm and cozy while we got set up.

After scanning our whole wild wooly 3 acre lot, we decided to drag some logs down to the cow pasture in front of a willow tree that hadn’t lost its leaves yet.  The boys literally had to shovel for cow pies beforehand, to decrease the chances of stepping in something bad when posing. But the end result, I think, is a lot of fun.  It’s especially fun to have our sweet babies in the shot this year!

Photocredit:  Israel Shirk of Avalanche Photography.

Israel also got a few fun pictures of John and me.  This is one of my favorites.

And just for fun, here are links to previous family photos that I’ve blogged over the years:
Our wedding day

Our family in 2005 and 2006

Our family in 2007

Our family in 2008

Our family in 2009