Friday Finds: One More Step to Martha-dom

There are many ways that I wish I were like Martha Stewart. She has exquisite taste, a seemingly endless amount of energy, and really cool ideas.

Plus, when you know how to make everything from scratch, your post-apocalyptic life can be really tasteful and lovely.

Here's something that I never (in a million years) would have considered making from scratch and yet...

A simple recipe that is pretty and would be really impressive to other people (and has the added benefit of being customizable to your taste):


Have fun and happy holidays!

- Alex

Where are the elves when I need them?

I love that story of the cobbler and the know, where the cobbler goes to sleep and the elves come in and finish his work for him by morning. Yeah, that would be killer right about now. I am up to my eyeballs in knitting needles, cooking pans, and wrapping paper.

Oh yes, there are many crafty things I have to talk about. But they will have to wait for me to come up for air. In the meantime, I am going to leave you with an old post of mine from last year. It's about an inspiring artist who's art is enchanting and so fitting for this imagination-filled time of year. Take a minute during this frantic time and search out some of her actual films on YouTube, it's totally worth it.


Years ago, when I was an art student, it always bummed me out that we spent such a small amount of time on women artists in art history class. Now, please don't misunderstand me here, I don't feel the need to root for "the ladies" just because they are my people. It's simply that I connect with the artistic process of most women artists. Most likely this is because on some level we have a shared life or possibly emotional experience.

I have to say, I sort of understand Camille Claudel's crazy.

Lee Krasner ran with the big dogs.
To supplement my college education I would sit for hours in the library pouring over big books that included the work of well-known female artists like Cindy Sherman, Lee Krasner, Camille Claudel (my daughter's namesake), Frida Kahlo, etc. In the days before the interwebs this was really the only option. Nowadays online, in a few click-throughs I can stumble upon a mind blowing artist that I never knew existed. It was on the herzensart blog of a German handmade art toy designer the other day that I was introduced to Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (1899 – 1981).

Lotte at work.

Wow...I kinda love her work, if I had to put a name on her style/meduim it would be: Paper Silhouette Animation Artist. The first of it's kind. Her work is both enchanting and dark, I think largely due to the fact that most of what I have seen is inspired by fairy tales. It has a hand-made feel to it that I find so appealing and yet (especially for it's time) it is amazingly technical. She had talent and brains. Love.

This is really inspiring. I am particularly taken with the idea of mixing my crafty pursuits with my highbrow art training. Hmmmm...I need to stew on this for a while.

Here is a brief video showing her inspiring creative process. Enjoy!

The Art of Lotte Reiniger (1953-1971) by baraqueafritz


Accentuate the Positive

This morning I told Cassandra that I didn't want to go down the rabbit hole.

The weight of last Friday's tragic shooting in a Connecticut elementary school has been suffocating me for three days. I spend a lot of time in denial - actively not thinking about it and forcing it out of my mind when it tries creeping in again. One can only cry so much.

But, when you write a blog and are committed to posting on a regular schedule, it's often hard to avoid talking about whatever is consuming you. I honestly thought I'd be posting about The Hobbit in IMAX 3D today since I saw the movie on Friday. Unfortunately, I saw it WHILE the tragedy was taking place and when I came out of the theater and realized that something huge had happened while I was enjoying Middle Earth, it made me feel horribly guilty and took the wind out of the Hobbit sails.

So, I don't want to go down the rabbit hole any further. I don't want to wallow in the incredible pain I feel when I think about what happened. But, by the same token, I don't want to pretend it didn't happen.

Enter my wise friend Cassandra who said, "Talk about positivity."
She's right, you know. She and I both believe that we create our own experience through how we approach the world. What you focus on grows. If I'm a Negative Nelly all the time, I will only see more negativity in my world. If I stay positive and focus on the good, more good with come with it.

How do we find the "good" in something this devasting? One ray of positivity came from a reprint of an old Mr. Rogers piece on talking to kids about scary things. This has been making the round on Facebook since Friday and, while I'm sure that many of you have already seen this, I think it bears repeating (over and over.)
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mothers’ words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
Full of wisdom and always looking for the positive in the world, Fred Rogers kept us (children and adults alike) focused on what mattered - love and light.

I'd like to encourage you to visit the Fred Rogers Company's page "Tragic Events in the News". It's full of wonderful guidance for how to help your children deal with tragedy. Frankly, it's advice that we can all use.

Chin up friends. Stay positive. Look for the helpers.

- Alex

Friday Finds: Chocorooms

Chocorooms. Gorgeous little chocolate and cookie mushrooms. As pretty as they are delicious.

St. Nicholas left some at our house for the kids on the 6th...and we had to go to World Market a few days later for some for the big people. They are that good.


Creative Community

We makers tend to find each other. Before the interwebs, we had knitting groups, sewing and quilting circles, and canning parties. But, with the advent of social media, we've REALLY come together.

Knitters meet, share, and create on Ravelry. Aspiring home chefs find friends on Food52. Crafters of every ilk convene on Craftsy.

And the best part is that physical boundries don't matter! I can do a Knit-Along with people from all over the world. I can learn how to make perfect Birani rice from someone living in India. And I can get sewing tips from that cool quilter I met who lives the next state over. The only thing we're limited by is our abilty to communicate. The Internet makes me want to learn ALL the languages.

Let me take this small space to thank all the people of the world who have chosen to learn English as their second language. You're spoiling us but I really appreciate that I can talk to you. :)

This brings me to what I want to share with you today -

I totally stumbled on this site when I was looking for an example of how to make something that I wanted to make as a stocking stuffer.

Here's what I love about Instructables:

1. If you can conceive of it, there are probably instructions on this site about how to make it.
2. The site is VERY simple - more of an expanded forum than a slick social media site like FB.
3. There are tons of opportunities to connect with other makers - provide feedback, get help, etc.
4. And there are so many projects that I want to try, I don't even know where to start!
5. It's a deep well of inspiration.

A couple of things I'm not crazy about are:

1. In its simplicity, it can also be a bit clunky and a little difficult to navigate.
2. There seem to be a lot of ads that are not clearly ads (ie: they're mostly text and are, randomly, in the middle of the instructions sometimes.)

That being said, right now I'm lost in the Play section. There's a whole "channel" called Handmade Toys with instructions for everything from making your own Play-Doh to how to make your own light saber. This is holiday heaven! My next stop is going to be the section on holiday crafts.

Oh! And I totally forgot to mention that YOU can contribute to Instructables (of course) and they have contests that you can enter or participate in by voting for your favorites. I'm thinking about entering the Soups and Stews contest or maybe the Reuse contest or maybe the Holiday Gift contest or... yeah. All the contests.

So, if you're looking for a last minute project for the holiday or you just need some inspiration, check out I promise you won't get bored.

- Alex

Woodland Creatures Redux

Hi gang!

I have recently decided to update our popular Woodland Series Embroidery Templates. There are small copy tweaks to make the directions clearer, the artwork has been fussed with a little bit here and there, but the biggest change as been the addition of a second design transfer option. Each animal can now can be embroidered in a rectangular or a circular design. Here is an example of both versions of Fox:

The amount of downloads and mentions for this series we've had across the online crafty community makes us blush with pride. The thought of someone taking the time and effort to stitch one of our designs is really an honor. Please don't hesitate to send us pictures of your finished objects! We'd love to see them.

Speaking of finished objects. I've chosen to sew a little fabric around my embroidery before framing. Sort of like it's matted. Here are some quick camera-phone photos I snapped in Little Bear's room this weekend.

So, if you're a stitcher, check out all four updated designs from the Free Patterns tab above. Bear, Fox, Hare, and Owl are all available individually as printer-friendly pdf downloads. Also, if you're new to embroidery, please check out our Embroidery Lessons to help you get started.


Friday Finds: Comfortable and Cute

Yeah,  yeah. I know we're supposed to be shopping for gifts for other people right now but, even if you decide that one of these awesome skirts is perfect for someone's holiday gift, you are TOTALLY going to want one (or more) for yourself.  Embarrasingly, I now own four of them and have my eye on two more. And I bought one (guess which) for Cassandra for her birthday. :)

Ladies (and gentlemen who buy gifts for ladies), I present the Best.Skirt.Ever. from RecreativeCrafts.

Okay... the pictures don't really do them justice. I picked the top photo because it shows the "waistband" (which is just a wide piece of elastic). But, trust me when I tell you, once you put one of these on, you'll never want to wear anything else. Made from t-shirt material, with aforementioned elastic waistband, these comfy-cute skirts are hand silk-screened with original designs. And, they wash up beautifully. I get so many compliments when I wear them too!

I've worn my bare-legged with flip flops, with tights and boots, and over a pair of leggings. They come in XS to XL (I'm a solid size 12 and wear a large comfortably). If I had one modification, it would be to add a lining. When I wear them with tights, they tend to stick so I've been wearing a 1/2 slip with them. I may just grab some material from Joann Fabrics and pop a lining in them at some point.

The next time I have one on - probably tomorrow - I'll take a pic and update the post. :)

Happy shopping!

- Alex

Creative Update

Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day, and as a rule, I try to fill my children's pots and pans (see a previous blog post on that) with fruit, a small amount of chocolate and something handmade. My plan was to make them some adorable knitted animal finger-puppets and a zippered pouch to store them. Yeah well, that was before I decided to knit my boys new holiday sweaters. Total knitting time-suck. This mama only has so many hours in the day she can devote to her pointy sticks. (More on these sweaters when they're finished!)

Sweaters in process.
Being the project-oriented gal that I am, I soon hatched a plan B. A simple sewing project. My boys are always trying to wear my "big people" aprons in the kitchen so I decided it was time they had some of their own. For a couple years now I have been eyeing the free child's apron pattern from Sew Liberated so I went with that design. Total smart move. Easy and turned out super-cute.

Aprons are the perfect opportunity for novelty fabric.
The two best features of this pattern is the elastic at the neck strap and the velcro at the hip for fastening the waist strap. Both of these features ensure that a child can put this on without assistance. I love that. All-in-all I think it took me about 3 hours to make both aprons. I will try to update this post with a picture of them modeled by little boys after they are gifted tomorrow.

I feel really, really at home doing applique. Who knew?
And of course, the quilt sewing goes on. I am on block 3 of the 6 applique blocks required to complete what I need to do in order to assemble the neverending quilt. Lucky for this project, it doesn't get too neglected during the holidays because it's not "sneaky sewing" (see above aprons that had to be sewn in the wee hours when little people were fast asleep). My sewing area is next to the playroom so I can sew while keeping an eye on the shenanigans that go on in that den of crazy.

When the holidays are over, my main thing is going to be getting this quilt finished. Because I have two other ones to start! Hopefully I've learned enough during this process to make the next two go faster. :)


UPDATE: Some quick snapshots of the aprons this are a little blurry because the kids were so jumpy!

Hillcrest Handmade Bazaar

This weekend Mighty Distractible participated in the Hillcrest Handmade Bazaar, hosted by our amazing friends Gael and Ginny. They have a perfect house for this type of sale - lovely, open, and beautifully furnished. And, because they are both wonderfully creative people, they have a large group of wonderfully creative friends who could contribute. It was an honor to be in the company of such talented people.

Having only participated in a few of these kinds of events in the past, I was amazed by the turnout for this one and with how many sales we generated. Granted, some people sold significantly more than others (one woman is walking away with about $700!) but everyone sold something and we had a steady stream of people through the house all day Saturday. Sunday was a little lighter but we did have a couple of good rushes of folks and, actually, generated more credit card sales than on Saturday. It's also important to note that this was the first year that Gael and Ginny did this sale so it's not like there were people waiting for it to happen.

I thought I'd share some of the tactics we used so, if you participate in a similar kind of sale, you can try them and see if you can replicate our turnout. Obviously, we would need to do this a few more times to prove that these tactics are what contributed to our sucess (and not just that the weather was nice that day) but, logically, I think that this particular combo of things certainly helped a lot.

  • Facebook Event - Gael created an event and each of us were tasked with inviting people from our Facebook friends list to the event. Cassandra created a flyer which we used as the avatar for the event and we could each copy that flyer and post it occassionally into our Facebook stream to remind people of the event.
  • Pinterest Page - Ginny created a Pinterest page with photos of the items that were for sale. We posted a link to the Pinterest page on the Facebook Event and we were all tasked with "pushing" the Pinterest link out to our friends/followers on social media.
  • Craig's List - Ginny posted the event on Craig's List
  • Flyers/Postcards - Cassandra created a PDF of an 8.5x11 flyer that could be emailed to friends/family or printed and posted at our offices. She also made a 1/4 page "postcard" sized version that could be printed, cut out, and put on the counters of local shops. We each got electronic copies of these and were tasked with doing what we could with them.
  • Yard Sign - Cassandra created a version of flyer for the a yard sign and Gael had it printed at Kinkos.
  • Credit Cards - By using Square (you can get a credit card reader from PayPal too) we were able to take all credit cards - and all it cost us was 2.75% per transaction (no additional fees and the reader was free). When it was all said and done, 39% of our total sales went on cards. Plus, people are inclined to spend more if they can use a card.

Somewhere along the line, someone from Gael and Ginny's neighborhood learned about the sale and posted it on their neighborhood list-serve (email group). A number of neighbors walked over having seen it there.

I need to add that I believe that the mix and quality of available items really contributed to the success as well. The people who had greeting cards, jewelry, accessories, and ornaments did best with sales. I think this is obvious because these items are the most "gift-y".

As often happens with these kinds of events, I find a lot of inspiration and a lot of things to buy for myself. I'm a little embarrased to admit that I only purchased one gift for someone else. Very, very selfish.  Here are a few of the items I walked away with:

Gorgeous silk scarf, hand dyed with botanicals (for me)
The one item I bought for someone else. A pillow for my neice made by Gael.

I'm completely enamored of these beautiful paper ornaments which came with handmade boxes!
How's this for cool "yarn"? This is made from "spinning" fabric.

Overall, we had an amazing couple of days. I met some incredibly talented and good-hearted people and enjoyed the comraderie of a house full of "makers".  If you ever have a chance to do a sale like this, I encourage you to try some of the things we did to generate interest. It really worked for us!

- Alex

Friday Finds: Little Lamb, Have You Any Wool?

Anytime I can indoctrinate little people into my crafty world, it's a good day. So, when I saw this children's book by Isabel Minhos Martins (Author) and Yara Kono (Illustrator) at the library yesterday I snatched it up immediately. One little boy's conversation with a sheep. And I love the fact it's a boy who is knitting...let's break those gender stereotypes people!

Love this book!
It is charming and the kids really enjoyed it. If you're like me and want your children to understand where their everyday items (in this case wool) come from...this is a great opportunity for that.


Handmade Holidays

I love handmade gifts. I love to make them - and to make them perfect for the person receiving the item. I love to give them because I'm very prideful of my work. And I love to receive them and see other people's work.

Last year's holiday scarf for my niece

In that spirit, we're going to feature a number of our tutorials in the Mighty Distractible sidebar during the holiday season. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make gifts for the people on your list. As Cassandra is fond of saying whenever we knit a gift, "Every stitch is knit with love".  Of course, she's usually saying it sarcastically while knitting something problematic but there is a smidge of truth to it regardless.

Also, today's post contains links to a number of my favorite holiday craft resources. I found some great ideas around the web and really wanted to share them.

Happy holiday season - regardless of which one you celebrate. :)

- Alex

Pinterest is always an amazing resource:

Meant as crafts for kids, this is a nice post of Winter Solstice craft ideas - The Crafty Crow is one of the best online link resources for crafters. Here are just two of my favorite posts:

And, of course, no one does it better than Martha!

Still Thankful

Over the past couple weeks there has been a lot of blogger talk about gratitude. Rightfully so. Thanksgiving is the time of year where we all take a moment to examine the bounty in our lives. I'm a little late to the game this year because, frankly, I've been too preoccupied to smell the roses.

But it's time. It would be a sin not to express gratefulness for all that I have and the opportunities that have gotten me to this place. These days I'm smitten by unexpected inspirations, children, friends, laughs, snuggly little birds, kind and generous husband, and what's on my needles and under my presser foot. Life is mysterious and wonderful.


Recipe Repost! Dip It.

Here is a repost from last year with a link to an easy and delicious dip that is perfect for the holidays...

We had some holiday fun at Company X yesterday. The creative and marketing groups decided to have "Dip Day". A whole bunch of folks brought in different dips and we just sort of grazed (exactly like cattle) from 8-4:30. Yes, this is the sort of stuff we have to cling to...please don't judge the corporate drones.

Anyway, in my opinion, the best dip of the day was brought in by my friend Amy. She found it on and it was called "Festive Cracker Spread". Oh my! Cream Cheese, mayo, green olives, onions, red is like a festive party in your mouth! Here is a link to the delightful dip.

Festive Cracker Spread photo courtesy of
So simple and easy. Great to bring along to parties this season.

On a side note, you know what is awesome about You can put in the amount of people you need to feed and it will recalculate the ingredients so you can make the perfect amount. Lazy people like me love that.

I'm off to do some frantic last-minute holiday knitting of my own! Later!



This was, without a doubt, the tackiest GIF I could find

I think it's ironic that the sound the turkey makes (in American English, anyway) is a synonym for the act that is perpetrated upon his lovely cooked carcass.

I know. I'm weird.

Anyway... Happy Thanksgiving to all our U.S. readers! And, to those who do not partake of the annual display of gluttony, Happy Regular Week!

Normally, my Thanksgiving is spent with friend and/or my son and his girlfriend. Last year, we began what I had hoped with be a wonderful annual tradition - Pajama Thanksgiving. This particular incarnation was one where my son and his girlfriend came to my house (with dog in tow), in their pajamas, around noon. I (also in my pajamas) completed the cooking and laid out a buffet - upon which we grazed for the entire day in between movies and naps. It was pretty blissful.

This year, my nuclear family decided to get together so we're all piling on planes and in cars and converging on my mother's house (and the satellite condo) in Naples, Florida. We'll be expected to "dress" for Thanksgiving dinner and, I guarantee, we will not be watching movies or napping. While not as lazy and blissful as Pajama Thanksgiving, I expect it will be nice to spend the week with my siblings and their respective families.

So, in honor of the holiday, I'd like to share a couple of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you. Note that they both have booze in them - because that's how I roll, baby.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday (or plain old week). Eat lots and be grateful.

- Alex

Jim Beam Sweet Potatoes (with buttered pecan crust)

6 large sweet potatoes
1/4 C Jim Beam (or some other bourbon)
1 stick of softened butter
2 C pecans - halved are best but you could do a very coarse chop on whole
1 tsp kosher or sea salt (something coarse)
2 Tbl brown sugar (I use light but either will do)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and then bake them on a heavy cookie sheet or baking pan until tender - about one hour. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle them.

Peel potatoes and put in a bowl big enough to mash them in. Add the Jim Beam and 6 Tbl of the butter and mash until smooth. If you like your potatoes pureed or whipped, go for it. Adjust the bourbon (I usually end up adding a bit more) to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the potatoes to a 2 quart baking dish (or appropriate sized casserole dish that will allow for you to put a layer of buttered pecans on top.)

Reduce the oven temp to 325 F. On a cookie sheet, toast the pecan until fragrant - about 10 minutes. Toss the hot pecans with the remaining butter and the coarse salt.

Arrange the buttered pecans on top of the sweet potatoes and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake the dish until the potatoes are heated through and the pecans are slightly browned - about 30 minutes.

Hot Cranberry Compote

2 Tbl butter
2 green onions - chopped fine
1/4 C  Courvoisier (or other cognac)
2 C fresh cranberries (you can use frozen but I find fresh to have a better flavor)
1/2 C water
1/2 C sugar

Saute the green onions in butter until they're soft - about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the cognac. Add the cranberries, water, and sugar. Stir well. Bring to a boil and keep it at a boil until the cranberries pop and the mixture starts to get thick - about 5 minutes. Stir in a little salt (just a pinch really - maybe as much as an 1/8 of a teaspoon). Serve warm. Compote can be reheated gently before serving if it cools too much.

Soup's On! Winter Edition

Over the last couple of years, we've posted a lot of recipes and some of our favorites get revisited - over and over.

The first year we were blogging, I posted two of my favorite winter soup recipes in a post called "Soup's On!" This post reveals my all-time favorite winter soup which has affectionately become known as Three Bean Soup. It also contains a good, basic summer squash and tomato soup that is easy, filling, and super-comforting.

In our second year of blogging, I reposted that original "Soup's On!" post because, in my opinion, everyone needs to try Three Bean Soup.

Addtionally, last year, I posted my great-grandmother's lentil soup recipe which is a standard in my household - both for its healt benefits, its flavor, and for the sentiment it brings to my table. I miss my Nonna.

And, finally, one of my favorite recipes is a White Bean Stew that we developed specifically for a Hoodoo Cookbook. That was fun.

So here is this fall's re-post of these favorite soup recipes. I hope you enjoy them!

Buon Appetito!

- Alex

Applique Blocks - Episode 2

Last week I left you hanging after applying the first piece of your artwork to your backing fabric. Today, I am going to show you how it works when you start layering pieces of your design on top of one another to build your images.

So, after you have sewn the first piece of your design onto the backing fabric, removed the paper template, and pressed it out nicely at the ironing board, it is time to add another piece.

In my project, it is the beginnings of a ship.

I broke my ship drawing up into 3 pieces. This way I can create depth with lighter and darker fabrics along with some hand embroidery to be added when all the pieces have been machine sewn to this block.

I created the next piece in the same manner shown in Episode 1, placed it where I wanted it, and stitched.

Turning the block over to the backside, I cut away the backing fabric and the hill fabric from behind the boat piece (leaving at least a 1/4" seam allowance), ripped out the paper template, flipped back to right side and pressed.

Continue building your images piece-by-piece. If you are like me, after your pieces are all added, you will hand-embroider over your machine stitching for a finished look. (This is why I chose to straight stitch the pieces on.) But that is by no means the most popular way. Most folks will use a zigzag or satin stitch on their machine when sewing on their applique pieces. This creates a nice finished edge and makes it unnecessary to go over it again.

When I'm building a more free-form block like this, I am constantly "mocking up" the block with paper pieces and fabric as I go. Like this:

This is how I realized that my trees need to be thin and sparse and the ship's steering wheel was going to take quite a combination of fabric and embroidery. Those thin pieces don't really work so well with the technique we just went through. But, don't worry...there is a different way.

Lemme talk to ya about something called "fusible web". Yet another technique to create an applique block. Fusible web comes in sheets or on a roll and basically it is paper-backed fabric glue that you can iron on. The process works similarly to the one above.

Iron a freezer paper template on to your fabric:

Cut a piece of the fusible web just a little larger than the size of the template. Flip your fabric over and put the web face down on your fabric and press. (Making sure glue side is in contact with your fabric and paper side in contact with the iron.)

Cut out your template without any seam allowance, peel the paper backing off the fabric, position it on the quilt block and press. At this point you can machine stitch the piece on with a decorative stitch or hand embroider. The edges won't fray on this piece because of the glue. Awesome huh?

Ready to be stitched!
There are many ways to assemble applique quilt blocks, this is just what has been working for me. I would love to hear tips, tricks, products, and techniques that you all love!