Friday, February 26, 2016

Thrifty Acres: Old Grammar Books

Hello! Earlier this month I showed off valentines I had made, seen here  and here. All the cards included scraps or words from my set of vintage grammar books, and so I thought it'd be fun to talk more about those tomes in this post. 

Here are my four books, which are all in the M.O.S. (Maintenance Of Skill) series, published by Scott, Foresman and Company. The skill maintenance they're referring to is "...the fundamentals (spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence variation"). 

Yes, they're a little beat up, but that's to be expected due to the thin paper they were printed on. Age is also a factor in their condition: one of the grammar books dates to 1926, one from 1929 and two from 1930.

Nevertheless, I grabbed these books when I saw them at a local college library's used book sale a few years ago. I had nothing to lose since they were free. Even at that "price", I guess no one else had seen any use for these worn-out volumes. But as for me, I've gotten plenty of use out of them!

These books contain hundreds of sentences for grammar students to work through, and the randomness of what these sentences convey amuses me greatly (guess that shows I'm easily amused?) As a creator of greeting cards, collages and other paper-based projects, there's an endless variety of words at my fingertips.

It can take a little while to find that "just right" sentence to cut out and glue to a card, but it's always fun when I come across a good one. For instance, a few years ago I made a small collage in honor of the local tulip festival, and a phrase about tulips blooming in May from one of the grammar books was perfect for this piece. 

And here's a few examples of some sentences I can use in the future:

"He seemed to be a peculiarly ignorant person, though he said he had a degree from Cornell". If I knew someone who had graduated from Cornell, this would be funny to put on a card for them. 

For the cat lover: "The worst thing about Marjorie was her dread of a cat". Add vintage images of a horrified woman and a cat and you'd have a card sure to get a laugh from a feline fancier. 

But for the cat hater - or bird lover: "A cat seems a wicked animal to birds". 

Perhaps you know someone who never took cooking seriously until they set up a household: "Soon she hoped to learn more about cooking. Then she would be more comfortable. Her husband would not have to start the day on soggy muffins". Maybe she'll burn the eggs or toast instead!

After awhile the honeymoon wears off, so then it's "Are you listening, try to look as if you were". Ha!

As I'd mentioned, these grammar books are definitely vintage, so some of the sentences seems funny due to dated content:

"The vast dish of milk-toast, with its golden streaks of butter on the creamy milk, was a pleasant sight to the hungry lawyer". It's hard today to picture a lawyer eating milk toast - or anyone else, for that matter. Do people still make it? 

I had this dish a few times, when I was in junior high in the early 1970's. I had a friend whose grandmother and great aunt lived with her family. Both ladies often made homey foods like custard pies and milk toast. I was skeptical about that milk toast, but it was actually pretty good. However, I've never heard of anyone serving it ever since.

Another oldie:

"Out of the tunnel thundered a train of Pullmans". I know that "Pullmans" refers to passenger cars. As befitting books of the era, many of the sentences refer to train travel. 

An unfortunate turn of events: "By the time I got home for supper, not only was the honey all eaten, but they finished the biscuits, too". Oh dear! Well, I'd be bummed too, since I do like homemade biscuits, fresh out of the oven and dripping with butter and honey.

What was true decades ago can still be true today: "Last year he batted his way to the heights of baseball fame, and then seemed to lose his eye, and next year he toppled far down the list". So, which batter will go bust this year? Hopefully not anyone on the Detroit Tigers!

Okay, I think I've shown enough sentence samples, so now I'll show off a small collage I made a few years ago:

On a scrap piece of mat board, I layered vintage paper and a piece of vintage ledger paper. Next, I cut out images of a man's head and three forks from a vintage Sears catalog. Lastly, I cut a sentence from one of the grammar books: "A steward laid three extra forks at my plate". It was just a fun little thing to make and leave out on display. The vintage paper I used for the background is getting a little beat up, so I should put some decoupage medium on this collage to protect it. 

Or I can just make another collage, using other images and a matching sentence from one of my vintage grammar books. After all, I do have hundreds of sentences to choose from!




Friday, February 19, 2016

Eats: Psychotic Cookbook #2 And A Recipe From It

Hello! My previous post featured a chocolate cookbook whose author had created cookies and cakes loaded with gobs of candy or topped with gobs of frosting. The brownies I'd made from the book and gave the recipe for were so rich, I got tired of eating them after a couple of days. 

Yet as excessive as the recipes in that cookbook can be, I have another one that is even more over the top:

Margaux Sky's Beautiful Breads & Fabulous Fillings. As with the chocolate cookbook, I first encountered this volume at the library, then purchased it at a greatly discounted price.

How "fabulous" are Sky's breads and fillings? I'll start with the sandwich that made Sky famous. Apparently Oprah Winfrey was in attendance at a lunch Sky catered, and Winfrey raved on her show about one of the sandwiches Sky had supplied.

In my cookbook, the recipe is titled "Curried Chicken on Spicy White Pepper-Jack Bread (aka the "O" Special). That title's quite the mouthful, isn't it? Perhaps that's fitting, because the sandwich is quite a mouthful too: somehow 2 cups cubed cooked chicken, 1 cup Curry Sauce, 1 cup shredded carrots, 1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds, 1 cup mesclun and 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes are supposed to  fit between two slices of bread (Spicy White Pepper-Jack, of course). To be fair, the chicken, carrots, almonds and curry sauce are combined, with the sauce doing its best to hold everything together. But I'm not sure how you'd be able to fit the resulting conglomeration between two slices of bread - and still have room for the mesclun and chopped tomatoes. 

Would you rather eat "Barbequed Shrimp On Three-Cheese Bread"? All you need for your sandwich, then, is 1/2 cup red onions, 1 pound jumbo shrimp, 1 cup Sweet Red Wine Barbecue Sauce, 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, 1 cup mesclun and 1/2 cup diced tomatoes. Yes, that's one pound of shrimp - for one serving.

I had an egg salad sandwich for lunch today, but I only used two eggs in mine, not the five eggs Sky's egg salad recipe lists. 

Forget the usual peanut butter and jelly! Sky's "Peanut Butter, Honey and Caramelized Bananas on Brown Harvest Bread" gives the diner a whole half cup of peanut butter per sandwich - plus the same amount of honey. But strangely, only one banana per serving is used. I'm rather surprised Sky didn't try to cram more in with this recipe. 

But perhaps the most excessive sandwich is the "Turkey Breakfast Bun", featuring a full pound of turkey, 1 cup of Tangy Apricot Pineapple Sauce, 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes and 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese - on one sliced English muffin. Again, this is one serving, folks. 

Sky's comments about this sandwich: "This is a healthy portion, and eating both halves is enough to fill you for the entire morning and and a good deal of the afternoon. Since it's very good reheated, don't feel you must eat it all at once. "

"Healthy portion"? Sounds like an unhealthy portion to me! But luckily, it reheats well, so we don't have to eat that monster all at once! 

Needless to say, Sky's English muffins must be gargantuan to hold that much food - and they are! Her recipe calls for eight cups of flour - but the yield is eight English muffins. How different is that from the usual English muffin recipe? Well, let's put it this way: I made the recipe once - and got 19 normal-size muffins. I can't imagine what English muffins made by her directions would look like - maybe the size of a pillow? 

Yep, there are many psychotic recipes in this cookbook - breads baked with a filling of peanut butter and a chocolate fudge sauce (2 cups each), breads filled with salsa and grated Pepper Jack cheese (again, 2 cups of each), or with 1 cup each of three different cheeses). Each bread is meant to be the 9x5 loaf pan size. 

Fortunately, one bread, Sweet French Loaf, isn't meant to be stuffed - instead, its large mass of dough (like the English muffin recipe, it starts with eight cups of flour) is merely shaped to fill a large baking sheet. It makes an impressive loaf of bread, great for parties.

The chapter on sauces and salad dressings is more reasonable, although offbeat at times. I haven't mustered up any interest in making the Lavender Mint Love Sauce. I do love lavender, but more in my toiletries than in my food! 

However, I currently have a jar of Sweet Horseradish Sauce in our refrigerator, as I've found it goes well on a turkey sandwich. I'd already given this recipe; it can be found here. 

And for this post, I'll give another easy recipe from that chapter:

Red Wine and Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing (adapted from Margaux Sky's Beautiful Breads & Fabulous Fillings)

1 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup deli or spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well with a wire whisk. Store dressing in airtight container in the refrigerator. Mix well before each use. 

As in my previous post, I'm using the word "psychotic" affectionately. Here, I'm just referring to the immense serving sizes and other extravagances in this cookbook. The recipes and presentations certainly are unique!

After all, who else would put two cups each of peanut butter and chocolate sauce in one loaf of bread, or concoct a sandwich with a pound of shrimp or turkey in it? Well, Margaux Sky did!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Eats: Psychotic Cookbook #1 And A Recipe From It

Hello! I need to begin this post by explaining what I mean by "psychotic cookbook". I have a nice little cookbook collection, ranging from vegetarian (Moosewood volumes) to budget (More-With-Less)to old standbys like The Joy Of Cooking and a retro Better Homes And Gardens. There's certainly plenty of delicious recipes in these cookbooks, but no real over-the-top indulgences in any of them. 

For that, I have this:

Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate.

I first encountered this cookbook at the local public library, where I was taken in by its heft (almost 500 pages) and lush photography. It's rather like a coffee table book, so I would check it out on occasion to swoon over the recipes and drool over the pictures. I even baked a couple of recipes from the cookbook, but there were too many I wanted to try to make it worth my while to photocopy them. 

Then a year or so ago I couldn't find it at the library, even after repeated shelf checks. A glance of the online catalog confirmed that the cookbook was no longer in the library's collection. 

I kept an eye out for Chocolate Chocolate at thrift stores, but before I encountered a copy there, I came across it at Autumn Leaves, a used book store in Ithaca NY last summer and bought it as a "souvenir" of our vacation.

So, why do I call a cookbook I thought enough of to purchase "psychotic"? I'm actually using this term affectionately, as Yockelson is an accomplished baker and cookbook author. But the recipes in this cookbook really are incredible. They are among the richest I've ever seen in the chocolate category! Thus, I joke to my husband that Yockelson must have been on some sort of psychotic drug when she wrote it

For instance, the recipe for "Peanut Butter Candy Caramel Bars". It starts with a rich brownie-like base loaded with over 1/2 pound chopped Butterfinger candy bars. After the baked bars have cooled for an hour, they're crowned with "Turtle Topping", a concoction of melted caramels, milk and vanilla. 

Not into Buttefinger candy bars? Not to worry, there's a similar recipe, "Coconut And White Chocolate Dream Brownies", which has Mounds bars, plus the two ingredients mentioned in the recipe's title added to the batter.

Or maybe you'd rather make "Chocolate Nougat Squares", in which Milky Way bars add flavor and texture to the goodies. No added chips or sauces, but I'm sure it's still plenty rich!

How about a three-layer chocolate cake with a chocolate pastry cream filling? Two frosting recipes are suggested for topping this cake, one of which calls for nearly 6 3/4 cups powdered sugar. Wow! (the other recipe looks closer in proportion to frosting recipes I'm more used to; it calls for only 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.)

There's an intriguing chapter called "Chocolate Bread", which includes a double-chocolate version of cinnamon rolls (chocolate-y yeast dough, chocolate filling), and a pastry that calls for chocolate chips in the dough, the cream filling and the streusel topping - what a trifecta!

I could write a lot more about this cookbook, like "Deep Chocolate Pound Cake" (a full cup of baking cocoa in that one) or the "Chocolate Fudge Sauce" that Yockelson says to rewarm to a "soft, compassionate bubble" (another goofy charm of this cookbook - her extravagant prose!)

But since I mentioned a recipe in this post's title, I'll supply it now, the dessert I made my chocolate-loving husband for Valentine's Day: (my notes will follow the recipe).

Chocolate Chip Essence-of-Chocolate Squares (adapted from Chocolate Chocolate)

Fudgy Chocolate Batter

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
16 tablespoons (two sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
4 large eggs
2 cups  granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Chocolate Frosting

3 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
6 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325. Film the inside of a 9 by 9by 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix The Batter

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. In a small bowl toss the chocolate chips with 1/2 teaspoon of the flour mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk together butter and chocolate until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended, add the granulated sugar and whisk for 30 seconds to 1 minute to combine.  Blend in the melted  chocolate/butter mixture and the vanilla extract.combined.  Sift the dry ingredients over the liquid mixture and stir the two together until all particles of flour are absorbed into the batter. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

 Bake until the center is set, about 35 to 37 minutes. Remove and set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes while you make the frosting.

To make the frosting

In a large mixing bowl, add confectioners' sugar and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together butter and chocolate until smooth and pour over the sugar. Add the  the milk and vanilla extract. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the frosting on moderately low speed until creamy. Scrape down the the sides of the mixing bowl once or twice to keep the frosting even-textured.

Carefully place dollops of the frosting  layer evenly over the surface of the just-baked chocolate layer and spread it over, using a spatula or flexible palette knife. Use smooth, quick and light strokes. Be careful not to dig into the fudgy layer beneath.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 4 to 5 hours, or until completely set. Cut with a small, sharp knife when cooled.

My notes: more typically, brownie recipes are baked at 350, so that's what I did. Perhaps my vintage 9x9 baking pan is shallower than modern pans; this batter filled the pan up to its brim. But then again, I've seen brownie recipes with identical ingredient proportions baked in 13x9 pans. Thus, I felt if I didn't make some adjustments, I would surely end up with a soupy mess instead of brownies. Brownies can be tricky to bake as it is since the edges can look done before the center has a chance to set. I baked these brownies at 350 for 30 minutes; the edges were done so I pulled them out then.

I don't know if the higher oven temperature at a slightly reduced time made any difference in the finished product, for I had a bit of trouble with the frosting. I made it as specified and followed the five-minute cooling period for the brownies. But in spite of my careful dolloping/spreading, the weight of the frosting caused it to sink a bit into the center of the brownies. Not the end of the world, just a bit messy to deal with. 

For ease of melting the butter and chocolate, I melted them together, double-boiler style: a mixing bowl placed in a pan of simmering water. While the brownies were baking, I wiped that mixing bowl out and repeated the step for the frosting. In both cases, I just whisked the melted butter/chocolate mixture until smooth in that mixing bowl, rather than transfer the mixture to another bowl as mentioned in the recipe.

Here's how the recipe turned out:

You can see in this piece where the frosting had sunk down into the partially-cooled brownie. I think next time I'd cool the brownies longer before frosting them. I think they'd still taste fine and would have a more even appearance as well. 

And yes, these are just as rich as they look - but what else would you expect from a psychotic cookbook named Chocolate Chocolate?



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Get Carded: One More Valentine's Day Card

Hello! After the flurry of activity making cards for the Valentines for Vets program (discussed in my previous post), I made several more valentines to mail out to friends and our daughter away in school.

But since it didn't have to be mailed out, I saved my husband's card for last. The materials I'd used for the other valentines were still out, so I added them to his card, plus another bit of ephemera as well:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • scrap of page from 1926 grammar book (in my previous post, I'd incorrectly said the book dated from the 1930's)
  • vintage playing card
  • image of boy cut from February 1966 children's magazine that had belonged to my husband
  • "the valentine" cut from same grammar book
  • "Love" stamped in red ink
  • red and white heart sticker

I liked how it turned out, and it's always fun to use ephemera from papers my husband had had as a young boy. My mother-in-law had saved school papers from when my husband was in 1st grade and second grades, and I am certainly glad she did! 

Apparently the magazine was part of his curriculum then, since there was one for each month of the school year.  The publications's charming illustrations more than make up for the rather hokey stories meant to promote proper behavior, upstanding citizenship and all that. The above illustration is from a story about triplet brothers Jim, John and Jerry presenting their grandmother with Valentine's Day gifts. They had shopped for the occasion separately, and so each boy bought the grandmother the same gift, a particular jar of jelly.

My husband I exchanged gifts of candy to each other today, plus I made a special dinner. No jars of jelly - but it was a nice Valentine's Day anyway, and he enjoyed his card as well. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Get Carded: Valentines For Vets 2016

Hello! With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I got my set of 24 Valentines for Vets cards mailed out to a regional VA hospital. Why 24? I don't know, it's just a number I settled on several years ago when I began participating in the Valentines for Vets program. 

There's been years when I've made rather elaborate valentines, with hand-painted papers and various embellishments adding flair (or so I thought) to my cards. But currently I have a big home improvement project going on, so I had neither time nor energy for fancier cards.

Still, I think the simple design I created this year is pleasing:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • vintage playing card
  • scrap from page in 1930's grammar book
  • heart stamped in red ink, using a stamp I'd made
  • red and white heart sticker
  • "Love" stamped in red ink
I like the deck of circular-shaped playing cards that I found at a thrift store a few years ago; that shape doesn't seem very common. Many playing cards have a red and white design on the back, which I think makes them perfect for Valentine's Day crafting. 

And the use of the vintage grammar book? Just to be different, I guess, since I've more commonly used vintage sheet music or ledger paper in my card crafting.

The heart sticker was from a set also found at a thrift store. I was looking for a little something to add to the cards and the stickers turned out to be just the right size! 

A close-up:

Yes, a simple design, but I hope the recipients enjoy their valentines. I enjoyed making them for this worthy program.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thrifty Acres: Birthday Bargains In Ann Arbor

Hello! My birthday, which was this past Saturday, is often a day that has horrible weather - as in blizzards that keep everyone home.

This year was different, though: the forecast called for sun and above-normal temps. So as a birthday treat to me, my husband planned a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a bonus, we picked up our daughter on the way so she could spend the day with us. 

Now, despite being a college town, Ann Arbor isn't exactly known for being an inexpensive place to shop. But being thrifty-minded, I went to a couple of places that do have bargains: thrift stores run by the Kiwanis and Ann Arbor PTO organizations. 

I only had a short while to shop at the Kiwanis thrift store located at the edge of the downtown area. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but when you go inside, you encounter a rabbit's den of rooms on several floors, each with its own "department". And unlike other thrift stores I've been to, you pay as you go in each department. As I was waiting to pay for two craft magazines in the book section, a woman came up with her purchase, a saw she'd found in the nearby hardware "department". So of course she was told to pay for it over in the hardware section. 

Like I'd said, this is different than the typical way of ringing up all the purchases at once, but this store is in an old building and is rather crammed full of merchandise, volunteers and shoppers. So perhaps their pay-as-you-go system is meant to prevent backups at checkout time.

One reason why this store is crowded with shoppers is its limited hours: Saturdays, 9am-noon. That's it. However, another location has been added, on the west side of town. Its hours are Fridays and Saturdays, 9am-1pm. Still pretty limited hours, but that's how they roll, apparently. 

Lots of stuff to see in this store; my meager purchase is indicative only of the little time I had to spend there. If you'd like to see for yourself, learn more here.

Fortunately, I had more time allotted at the Ann Arbor PTO thrift store. Unlike most thrift stores I've been to, there's really not a lot of housewares, and the book section is nothing special either IMO. So why would I want to spend my birthday at this particular thrift store? For me, the following photos are the reason why:

Fabric remnants
More fabric remnants
Craft patterns on the bottom shelf

And this is just a small portion of what was available - there was more fabric and more categories of sewing patterns too. There's also a selection of craft/sewing books, arts/crafts kits in various states of used/unused, rubber stamps, scrapbooking supplies, and a long wooden cabinet with drawers on each side. Each drawer is for a different arts/craft supply, like sewing notions, purse handles, dollmaking supplies, and much more. If you like to save money while stocking up on arts and crafts supplies, this is your place! 

(While looking through the sewing books, I encountered a woman who said she comes to this store several times a week. She lives only about a mile away, lucky her!)

Like with any thrift store, prices can be hit or miss. I happen to think the prices on kits are a little high, but the fabric and pattern prices are reasonable, so that's what I zeroed in on.

As you may have noticed from the two photos from the remnant section, there's a lot of digging around to be done there if you're choosy about fabric. I am, so I found it more worth my while to visit another multi-drawer cabinet - this one seems to focus more on pieces intended for, or left over from, quilting projects. Here, I found several bags of colorful remnant pieces, perfect for my own quilting project. Here's a portion of what I bought:

Colorful fabrics are great to work with on overcast winter days, although I really lucked out, weather-wise on my birthday. Not only was it sunny, but it was in the upper 40's in Ann Arbor. And,  unlike where I live, there was no snow on the ground! 

More fabric:

I think that at least some of these pieces are vintage, which is why I bought the bagful. Since they were jumbled up together in the bag, I'd though these fabrics had been cut in strips, and so I thought they'd be fun to turn into a chain to hang up. But when I got home, I found that hexagon-like shapes had been cut from the fabrics. I can still get a chain-like effect, though, if I put the pieces together like this:

I also bought a kirigami (Japanese-style paper folding/cutting)page-a-day calendar. Okay, it was from 2008, and has a couple of weeks missing from the beginning of January (maybe somebody had tried it but gave up after awhile?), but what do you want for a couple of bucks? It's still fun to do:

Above, a few Kirigami shapes grace our TV stand. Thus far, the designs have been easy to fold and cut, but it looks like the designs become more complicated as the year progresses. 

But my favorite find was this:

Circa 1975, a sewing pattern for toys. This one has a fun twist, though:

The girl's dress has a pocket for holding one of the toys; one cat-shaped toy is in the pocket and the girl is holding another cat toy. This pattern set includes the pattern for the pocket as well as for the toys, which are all sized, of course, to fit in that pocket.

How cute is that? I wish I'd had this pattern when our daughter was young; I think she would have liked it and the sewing is easy too. This would be a good gift: just buy a top or dress in the child's size, sew on the pocket, and add one of the toys. 

Admittedly, the toys look a little funky today, like the cat:

I think I'd shape the body a little differently, and sew on mismatched buttons (or do swallow-proof eyes for a young child). But overall, I do like the concept!

If you'd like to check out the Ann Arbor PTO thrift store yourself, go here here for more info. 

And if you go on your birthday, as I did, there's another bonus: a birthday discount. I didn't happen to see it posted at the register, but figured there was no harm in asking if such a discount existed. By doing so, I saved 25% on my bill.

Of course, we did more spendy things on my birthday, such as lunch at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor (expensive but very good sandwiches) and dinner from El Azteco in East Lansing (where I sometimes went for birthday dinners when I lived there.) 

I returned home, tired but happy - a snowless, sunny day in Ann Arbor, the bonus of seeing our daughter again, great meals and thrift store bargains. It had been a great birthday!


Monday, February 1, 2016

It's Use-It-Up Month Again!

Hello! A year ago I declared February as a "use-it-up" month, which I detailed in this post. It worked so well that I've decided to do the same thing this year. 

As I'd done last year, I'll try to do as much "shopping" as I can from our pantry, refrigerator and freezers. That pancake mix my husband got as a gift? Time to get out the griddle. That farmer's market winter squash I'd cooked up and frozen? Time to get out some cookbooks and look up some recipes for using that stuff. Maybe I can add some to the pancake mix pancakes! 

And it's a good time to focus on using up some of my art and craft supplies, rather than cruising the aisles of thrift stores in the hopes of picking up yet more fabric remnants and back-issue craft magazines. (Admittedly, I made purchases from both categories at thrift stores this past weekend, but hey, it wasn't February yet.)

Last February I labored over a relief-effort flannel quilt as a way of using up some fabrics (mentioned here). Since I have some big interior painting projects coqing up, perhaps I'll use some of my fabric stash for other relief efforts, such as the ones discussed here.

And of course, February means Valentine's Day, so I will dig into my card-making supplies to craft greetings for families, friends and the Valentines for Vets program. 

Sounds like using up, instead of buying, will keep me plenty busy this month! But I think of it as another form of creativity, which makes it fun!