Monday, December 15, 2014

Vintage Doily Christmas Ornaments

You may call me a Grinch, but there are days I get fed up with all the Holiday hullabaloo.

At this time of year, it feels like the whole world has gone a little insane with the "gimmes". Stores are lit up with new shiny products, packages of toys, decorations, food, and even more ornaments than someone could ever count.

Don't get me wrong, I love the festive spirit of the season. However, there are days I cringe at all the commercialism and waste. I relish the personal and special connection family's have with Christmas- not all the bobbles and gadgets exclusive to each shopping season!

This year I decided to make a few new ornaments for our personal tree and to give as gifts. It is a tradition in our family to add a new ornament each year so this year I wanted to make something special. I wanted to take vintage and discarded elements to create something new with some jewelry making supplies I received from House of Gems.

It was easy to order from House of Gems with fast delivery and wonderful customer support. I was amazed at the assortment of wholesale beads and jewelry making supplies available on their site. As bead crafts tumbled through my head, I was able to order ALL the supplies I needed in one location. I definitely enjoyed my package and would recommend purchasing beading supplies from House of Gems.

I created these homespun ornaments with a few snips of the scissors and a couple of drops of glue. They turned out beautiful and this method allows for several creative embellishments while having a universal theme on your tree. The doilies tie everything together and make the tree cohesive.

To make your own vintage doily Christmas ornaments you will need:

  • 1 unit of 5 mm Freshwater pearls
  • small doilies- I found several handmade ones that were priced fairly cheap at a local consignment store or you can raid Grandma's yellowing stash
  • vintage or solid color ornaments- I used ones from a garage sale
  • hot glue sticks
  • hot glue gun
  • soft touch beading wire
  • embellishments: ribbon, wholesale beads, holly, garland, etc.
  • scissors
  • ornament hooks
Follow these steps to craft your ornament made with jewelry making supplies:
  • Measure your doily and trim the middle for a better fit. I placed it on top of the ornament and decided to cut it in half for the desired fit.

  • Carefully, attach the pearls to the doily with the soft touch beading wire. I chose this, because I was afraid to hot glue pearls. Do what you feel is the best!

  • Remove the top of the ornament and glue the doily around your ornament.

  • Replace the top and add embellishments.

  • Hang and enjoy!

Happy Holidays from us here at Plain Graces!

*Disclosure- This post was sponsored by House Of Gems. They compensated me with free product to create a craft of my choice. All opinions of the product are mine.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Heirloom Spoon Necklaces

Do you remember your 16th birthday?

Did you receive a present? Was it something special that could be stashed in the garage?

On my sixteenth birthday, instead of a set of keys and four wheels, my parents had hidden a cedar chest in the garage. I was ushered to the garage all those years ago and sitting in the empty space was a... box to store all my "hopes".

That's right- a hope chest!

Granted, I was probably the only 16 year old in my high school with a carefully curated assortment of spoons, towels, and blankets.

However, many years later, I am so thankful that I had these treasures passed down to me from my parents and grandparents. Unlike a car, these heirlooms appreciate over time and won't be rusted out leaking oil in a forgotten salvage yard. 

My Grandmother Opal had given me a collection of silverware that once belonged to a great aunt. Over the years, I have misplaced a few pieces and the wayward cutlery has not been seen since. I decided to preserve the memory of my Grandma's spoons by making a necklace with some jewelry making supplies I received from House of Gems.

It was easy to order from House of Gems with fast delivery and wonderful customer support. I was amazed at the assortment of wholesale beads and jewelry making supplies available on their site. As bead crafts tumbled through my head, I was able to order ALL the supplies I needed in one location. I definitely enjoyed my package and would recommend purchasing beading supplies from House of Gems.

However, I did make a few novice mistakes- I ordered clasps for the necklace, but forgot to order the opposite ends. I also underestimated the talent and time that go into making great jewelry pieces. Making jewelry is not as easy as it looks. Oops!

After all these years, I won't mention the exact number BUT Clinton was in office, I decided to take an old spoon and apply wholesale beads to make a piece of jewelry that I can wear to keep my Grandmother close.

To make your heirloom spoon necklace you will need the following:

  • a favorite old book or novel
  • 7 fresh water (6mm) peacock pearls  (or similar wholesale beads)
  • an old spoon
  • wire cutters
  • memory wire
  • gray ribbon (or coordinating color) 
  • hot glue gun
  • glue sticks
  • stainless steel chain (about 2 feet)
  • stainless steel trigger clasp (15x8 mm)
  • soft touch beading wire (stainless steel nylon coated)

Here is how I made my heirloom spoon necklace:

  • First, I chose my old spoons and snipped the handles off leaving a little to bend over to create a hook. If you need to, recruit someone with muscles or power tools to help with this step. I had to use my husband...

  • Next, I found an old novel to create some beautiful miniature roses. My Grandmother was a schoolteacher, librarian, and avid reader so I chose a text that would remind me of her.  
  • Then I crafted paper roses using the pages from the book. I found a great tutorial over at 100 Layer Cake to make them.
  • First, cut out small arches, similar to "church windows". You will need 4 or more of each size and it would be a great idea to cut a few extra.
  • Roll the edges under and pinch the bases to make the paper look more like petals. Don't worry if they aren't perfect.

  • Cut a piece of wire a few inches in length. Take a pearl and stick it on one end of the wire. You may need to bend the wire over to secure your pearl.

  • Take the smallest petals and "roll" it around the wire. You will need a small bit of hot glue to keep them in place.

  • Keep rotating the petals and attaching them in increasing size. Feel free to manipulate the paper roses to get the shape you desire.

  • Finally, cut the rose from the remaining wire and start another one.

  • Keep working until you have the desired amount of roses and then arrange them into your spoon.
  • Carefully, hot glue the roses in the base of the spoon.
  • Take snippets of ribbon to fill in the extra spaces and fill out your design.

  • Next, take the extra pearls and attach with wire or glue to add pops of color and balance your piece.

  • Finally, attach your chain and clasps.
  • Voila! You have created a one-of-a-kind homemade jewelry piece with wholesale beads!

What do you like to make with beads?

*Disclosure- This post was sponsored by House Of Gems. They compensated me with free product to create a craft of my choice. All opinions of the product are mine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rest In Peace

It's a Wordless Wednesday post, and here is a snap shot of a small "pioneer" cemetery and the historical Church in the background at Stuhr Museum in in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Four Facts Homeowners Should Know about Horizontal Blinds

Blind slats can go in 2 directions: vertical and horizontal and they are usually controlled by different mechanism, such as cords and pulleys. Some methods are manual, while others are remote-controlled. It is obvious that customers will pay more for complicated systems or vertical blinds made from unique materials. There is a lot to know about this type of window coverings, and how they should be ordered.

Here are 4 of the most common facts homeowners should explore before making a purchase:


1. Combine Elegance and Efficiency
If you want window treatments that are resourceful and beautiful, you should consider buying blinds for your house or office. These solutions look great, and allow you to control the amount of natural sunlight entering a room. Another amazing feature is that you are in charge of your privacy. Depending on the settings of the blinds you can allow passersby to look inside, or you can shut them out completely. It is a great benefit when you are trying to avoid unwanted visitors.

2. How to Order
The easiest way to purchase window treatments is from an online shop. Find a dealer with an excellent reputation. There are 2 different ways to measure blinds. The method depends on whether you want an inside or outside mount. First-class online sellers publish easy-to-understand measuring instructions on their website. They explain exactly what you have to do. They also supply a phone number that potential customers can call if they need assistance. Check various dealers to ensure that you get the best price. Do not skimp on quality, as that will be a decision you will, eventually, regret. Cheap, inferior blinds break easier. Their appearance fades fast.

3. Double Roller Blinds Are Popular
Made from high-quality moisture-resistant materials and finishes, double roller blinds perform well in humid and wet environments, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas. Look for designs that have anti-static and anti-fungal features if you have people living at the house with breathing problems. Asthma sufferers will be grateful for your selection. Leaders in this industry offer a wide range of attractive sizes and colors. These blinds can also be custom-made.

4. Eco-Friendly Solutions Protect Future Generations
A lot of today’s consumers are very careful about the products they buy. They are very selective in order to reduce their carbon footprint. It is crucial to care for the environment, and give future generations a decent chance to live happily ever after. Select horizontal blinds that are eco-friendly. Non-toxic materials are just as durable and appealing as their competition, yet make you feel much better about yourself. “Green” solutions also help you save energy. A dedicated dealer selling blinds can tell you exactly which products in the shop fall within that category.

Michael Gubby is the owner of iSeek Blinds, a leading online retailer selling high end blinds at affordable prices. Michael understands blinds and their various benefits. He has developed manufacturing techniques that allow the best quality custom products. To learn more about Michael visit him on Google+, or his company site

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nebraska Hay Bales

Another Wordless Wednesday is upon us. I found a few bales the other night on a walk and I couldn't help but snap a few pictures. These lone bales pale in comparison when you consider the hundreds of golden bales spread out over acres of pastureland that you find in ranch country, but they reminded me of home. Hoping you have a great Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Nebraska Sky

It's Wordless Wednesday, and I wanted to share a picture I snapped the other afternoon on a walk with Teddy Kent.  It was a wonderfully hazy day and the sky was very photogenic.  Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Nebraskan Barn

It's been a great week and I have been busy with the kiddos, the County Fair, and I am finally getting some produce from the garden to can. 

I wanted to share this picture of the big red barn.

I really miss seeing these giants dot the landscape and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to restore their barn to it's former glory.  It has been said that the barn was typically built better than the house.  Farmers and Ranchers painted them red, typically, because red paint was the cheapest.  This photo was taken at Stuhr Musem in Grand Island, Nebraska earlier this summer.

In honor of my love for the State, I thought I would share a fun post, shared by Christine at Movoto, about things a person should know before moving to Nebraska.  Some tips are truer than others, but I think it depends what side of the State you live on. 

Please check it out-  it's a fun read-  especially if you are from "The Good Life" State!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Can Green Beans Safely

"My Dog Green likes to roam.  One day he went far from home.  He came back squeaky clean.  Oh, Where has my Greeeen beeeen?  Greeeen Beeeen, Greeeen Beeeen.  Oh Where Has My Greeeeen Been?"

I have this song stuck in my head and it keeps replaying over and over.  If you have never heard this children's song, consider yourself lucky.  This song is becoming my theme song as I pick and pluck beans from the garden.  I am desperately trying to can as many pints and quarts as possible this year and singing in the garden is one way to pass the time.

I thought I would give a detailed post about how to can green beans safely.  I am amazed at the number of people I have encountered that don't know the right way to preserve beans.  I thought I would share the pressure cooker method, just in case you were curious about it. 

A lot of people shy away from this method, because they have heard stories about a pressure cooker that exploded or the fact that Grandma never used one. 

"We've always done it this way and nobody has ever gotten sick," is the mantra I hear over and over.

I promise you that it's not scary

Actually, it is scarier if you don't use a pressure cooker for canning green beans.

Germs and bacteria are killed at the heat only a pressure canner can achieve.  If you don't properly seal and heat the jars, a surprise of deadly bacteria can flourish inside your harvest.  Don't risk it-  do the job properly and everyone wins. 

Would you risk your family's life for a can of beans?

I hope not.

So-  here is the lowdown on how to safely put up green beans. 

To begin you will need

  • a  pressure canner-  To ensure you don't have an explosive experience remember to add plenty of water when you begin.  That is the key to avoiding a catastrophe.
  • canning jars-  Use real jars specifically made for canning.  Please don't use leftover mayonnaise or jelly jars from the store.  You will not get the proper seal and your food will not be preserved. 
  • canning lids and rings-  You will want a new lid for every jar.  You can reuse the rings, but avoid reusing the lids at all costs.  Proper sealing is your highest priority.
  • cleaned and snapped green beans-  Wash and rinse.  Repeat.  Dirt and debris can harbor bacteria.  Preserve all your hard work-  clean it properly.
  • boiling water
  • canning salt-  You can purchase salt specifically made for canning.  It is a higher quality salt, but table salt will work. 
  • clean towels
  • a jar grabber or sturdy tongs
After you have assembled all of your equipment and veggies, you will need to do the following:

  • Place water inside your pressure canner and start heating it on your stove.  I fill mine up about halfway, but consult the manual that came with your pressure canner for the exact amount.  Remember you want to keep plenty of water inside.  If it runs dry, you will get booming results.  Check the water levels before placing the beans in the canner. 
  • Clean and sanitize your canning jars.  You can boil them the old school way, but I prefer to fill them with water and microwave them for a few minutes.  I let them sit with the hot water in them until I am ready to fill.  I have also ran them through the sani rinse in the dishwasher.

  • Fill your empty jars with the snapped beans.  I try to squeeze as many in and fill empty spaces.  I fill up to the bottom of the rim.

  • Add 1 teaspoon salt for pints or 1 tablespoon for quarts.

  • Pour boiling water over the beans and salt.  Fill just above the beans.

  • Burp the jars.  Use a spoon or knife to apply pressure to the beans.  This releases air pockets inside the jar.

  • Wipe the rims and seal.

  • Insert the jars inside the canner.  Check the water levels and make sure no jar is touching the sides or each other.

  • Place the lid on the canner.  Wait until steam starts to come out of the top before placing the weight.

  • Add the weight at 10 pounds.  When the weight starts "rocking" and making noise, start your timer.  20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.  Keep an eye on the canner.

  • Remove the weight with your tongs.  Steam will shoot out as the pressure releases.
  • Wait several minutes and soon you will be able to remove the lid.  The lid will not move until it is at a safe pressure. 
  • Carefully remove the jars from the hot canner. 
  • Place the steaming jars on a cloth towel.

  • Listen for "pings" as the jars seal.
  • Do not move or mess with the jars for about 24 hours.
  • If you notice a jar didn't seal, you can let it cool and refrigerate it for immediate consumption.
  • Wipe down the jars.
  • Remove the rings.  THIS is very important you do this so you can tell if there was a bad seal. 
  • Write the date on the lid.  You typically want to use canned goods within a year.
  • Store in a cool, dark place.  Do not stack the jars-  you want to keep the seals intact or notice if one is bad.
  • When you are ready to use, open the jar.  The seal should make a "woompf" sound.  Smell and examine the food.  Bring it to a boil for at least 15 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy your food all year long!

What have you harvested lately?  Check out other canning recipes in Simple Living.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Ode To The Bean...

Feeling A Little Beany?  You are NOT Alone...

I stumbled across a plethora of funny videos this afternoon when I was trying to find the words to a children's song.  I had no idea that the lowly green bean was such an inspiration to the world.  I was impressed with the variety and quality of some of these videos so I thought I would share some love of the bean with you. 

It will give us something to ponder the next time we pop open a jar of beans or kneel in the garden picking bean after bean.

What are you waiting for? 

Pull up a seat, grab a bowl of green beans, and enjoy these videos...


And here's one not about beans, but sung by String Beans about my favorite state, NEBRASKA!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Colorful Cabbage

Here is another Wordless Wednesday post to brighten "hump day".  I love the vibrant green of this gorgeous cabbage-  if only the humble cabbage knew it could be pretty?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tips On How To Cook Morels


Look at the lovely treasures my oldest son brought home for us! 

Morel mushrooms are a real find and they are only around for a short period of time during the spring.  The first time we tried to cook these little guys up it was an epic fail!  I didn't know what I was doing, so we enjoyed a mouthful of gritty sand.  Fast forward a few years, I am now able to serve up some savory morels that will melt in your mouth.  They are a perfect side to steaks, burgers, and pastas.

I had to ask around the neighborhood and learn a few tricks before I was able to create a good morel dish.  I thought I would share a few tips of the trade so you don't waste a valuable heap of mushroomy goodness.

Here are my favorite tips:
  • Fresh is best!  Prepare them shortly after picking or within a day or two.
  • Store the freshly picked mushrooms in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator if you are unable to cook them right away.
  • Cut the mushrooms in half to make them easier to rinse.  The insides can be full of sand and they are hard to clean unless they are halved.
  • Clean them gently.  I use a colander and rinse them several times with "soft" running water.  If you turn your faucet up high, it might break the stems and tops into small pieces.
  • Rinse and rinse again.  I always rinse them several times, because sand isn't very appetizing in your dinner.
  • Let the excess water drain off or blot them carefully with a towel.  I always let ours sit in the colander for a bit before I cook them so they are dry.
  • Fry them!  I like them sautéed in butter with a little salt and pepper.  My son prefers to dip them in pancake batter and cook them that way.  I have a friend who is adamant that you need to roll them in eggs and Ritz crackers before frying. 
  • Serve and enjoy!

Do you have any tips for cooking morels?  Please share!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Tips to Pack the BEST Care Package!

It's summer time here in Nebraska and my middle son is away at camp for a week.  This is his first extended camp, usually they last for 3 days, but this time he is away for 7 WHOLE days.  His brothers and I decided we would send him and the Troop a package of goodies.  After a few hours of brainstorming and debating ideas of what to pack, we finally settled on a few treats.

Here are a few tips to help you pack the BEST care package!  EVER! 

  • Choose items that won't melt in a vehicle or the summer heat.  Can you imagine receiving a special package from home, only to find a puddle of chocolate inside?  Yuck! 
          Here are a few suggestions (a lot of these are from teenage boys):
Small Bags of Chips
Pop Tarts
Powdered Drink Mixes
Granola Bars
Non-Chocolate Candies
Gummy worms
Pixie Stix

  • Add something homemade or special for the recipient.  We baked up a batch of sturdy cookies for the boys.  My Grandmother used to mail O'Henry bars to my Uncle or his favorite sugar cookies.  If your package is going a long way, store a slice of bread in with your cookies.  This will keep them moist!
  • Include small books or cards.  These could be Sudoku books, word finds, jokes, playing cards, or trading cards. 
  • Enclose a hand written note or letter.  You are showing the person that you value them enough to sit down and write. 
  • Choose a box to fit your needs.  We used a flat rate shipping box from the Post Office, but you can use whatever your items to fit snuggly and prevent shifting. 
  • If you have extra space inside your box, use lightweight materials to secure the contents.  Here are a few ideas that are economical:
air popped popcorn
grocery bags
crumpled newspaper
  • Finally, don't include items that will get you in trouble with the United States Government.  Liquids, alcohol, and fireworks are probably on the no mail list.
I can't wait to hear how the boys enjoyed their care package!  Do you have any tips or suggestions?  Share them in the Comments! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zippy Zucchini Bread

I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini and the recipe below is one of my favorites to use this time of year. 

Zucchini is becoming plentiful and abundant, which means a lot of dark green veggies are needing to be devoured.  I am always on the lookout for a good zucchini recipe and a few years ago we found this tasty and simple zucchini bread.  It also freezes well, which is great if you are starting to tire of nature's bounty.

Here are the ingredients you will need:
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional)
To make this treat, do the following:

  • Peel and grate the zucchini.  Gently squeeze the excess water off the vegetable.
  • Mix eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla.
  • Fold in zucchini.

  • Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  • Mix well.  Add the nuts if you desire.

  • Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool and slice.

What do you like to use zucchini in?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Here's a wordless Wednesday post in honor of laundry day.  I am so very thankful for an agitator and Tide Pods...

I took this photo in Stuhr Museum at Grand Island, Nebraska.