Recycled ACU Ruffled Tote

Remember a few weeks ago when I used part of the hubs’ uniform to make ruffles on a tote bag?  Well, I’d already cut up an ACU top to make those ruffles, so I decided to make a whole tote bag, as well.  Then I found a remnant of a floral fabric that I’d snagged for 63 cents at a clearance sale…and it was perfect colors for the ACU pattern.

Here’s the resulting totebag:


Here are the supplies you’ll need to make your own:

  • 14×28” fabric for the bag
  • 1/3 yard of ruffle fabric
  • 5 feet webbing trim for the handles

1. From the ACU top’s back I cut a piece of fabric 14” x 28” and from the floral fabric, three strips, each 2” wide. Ignore all those wrinkles.  I ironed them out after I took the photo.


2. To make the ruffles:  Fold each strip in half, right sides together, and sew along three sides, leaving one end open.  Clip the corners to make them crisp after you turn the ruffle.Tote-Ruffle-Sewn-ChaosServe

3. Push a pencil against the sewn in and use it to turn the ruffle right side out.


4.  When the ruffle is turned right side out, iron to make the edges crisp and flat. Tuck the open end inside and sew across so no raw edges show.


5. Sew a line of loose stitching down the center, lengthwise, then pull one thread to ruffle the piece.  You can see more details on that in my post, here. Do that with all three ruffle pieces.


6. To make the totebag, fold the fabric to make a 14×14 square.  Then pull the fold inside about an inch and a half, making a fold.  Sew along both sides to form a bag, with the folds making a gusseted bottom.


7. Hem around the top of the bag if needed.  Pin the trim in a continuous loop, starting on the bottom of the bag, up the bag, about 4” in from the side, then leave the handle loose, then down the bag, again about 4” in from the side. Repeat on the other side of the bag, using the remaining trim.


8. Sew that on.  Try to sew it as straight as possible, although small imperfections won’t be noticeable when it’s finished.


9. And you’re almost done!  Place the ruffles, one down each trim stripe and one in the middle, and sew them on.


There you go…a totebag incorporating a little of your soldier’s uniform. If you don’t have an ACU on hand, you can follow these same measurements to make a tote out of any material you’d like. I have a t-shirt one that I keep my current knitting project in…how cute would that be, made out of some vintage tees you just can’t throw out?


Throwback Thursday: Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

I know, it’s hotter than the surface of the sun in most of the country, but I’m craving comfort during this whole moving process!  This is my friend Kristy’s Tomato Soup with a twist…I didn’t want to pay her royalties on the original. Kidding. I kid.

Long ago and far away, my friend Kristy shared a fabulous recipe for Cream of Tomato Soup with me. She’d learned it from a local while stationed in Italy. When my friends and I are making this for dinner, we refer to it as “Kristy’s soup,” it’s so well-known.

I’ve made it countless times, and it’s the basis for this recipe. I’ve changed the flavor profile a bit, just for variety, and swapped vegetable broth for chicken. Not because yours isn’t perfect, Kristy, if you’re reading this!


Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

2 cans (28 oz each) crushed tomatoes
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups finely chopped onions
3 bay leaves

Cream Sauce

4 Tbsp butter (half a stick)
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp prepared pesto
3 cups milk
2 cans (14 oz each) vegetable broth
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

1. Combine tomatoes, celery, onions, and bay leaves in soup pot. Simmer 20 minutes, covered.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add pesto, sugar, salt, and milk, stirring constantly. When thickened and bubbly, add to tomatoes.

3. Stir in Parmesan and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top.

Serves 8 and freezes well

Add a green salad and some crusty rolls, and have an amazing supper. Mangia!

New-Fashioned Banana Pudding

Sometimes, you just need a classic comfort food. But maybe not all the fat and calories and generally unhealthy stuff in the classic. This version of Banana Pudding from Cooking Light has remained a favorite of mine for years. I can’t stand fake banana flavor, or instant pudding in general, so the homemade, creamy, rich custard, layered with vanilla wafers and lots of bananas is my idea of perfection in a pudding!


New-Fashioned Banana Pudding

(from Cooking Light magazine)

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sliced ripe banana, divided
  • 45 reduced-fat vanilla wafers, divided
  • 4 large egg whites (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine flour and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milks and yolks; stir well. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Arrange 1 cup banana slices in bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon one-third of pudding mixture over banana. Arrange 15 wafers on top of pudding. Repeat layers twice, arranging the last 15 wafers around edge of dish. Push cookies into pudding.

Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue evenly over pudding, sealing to edge of dish. Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until golden.

Note: Banana Pudding may be a bit soupy when you first remove it from the oven. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving. If you chill it overnight, the girls at your Bible study will think you’re a big hero for bringing it to share. I’ve heard.

I chill mine for a few hours because, along with fake flavors, I don’t enjoy warm bananas, either. Unless they’re coated in butter, brown sugar, and rum and served flaming. Who could resist that?


“Go Gold” Zipper Pulls

If you read my post from yesterday, you already know why I made gold zipper pulls for the hooligans.  If you didn’t read it, you should!  The pulls are to show support for Childhood Cancer Awareness in September, and yesterday’s post included a personal account (written by a family friend) of the effects, as well as the statistics, of childhood cancer. But I promised to show you how to make these zipper pulls today, so here we go!


Supplies you’ll need:

  • 550 or 325 Paratrooper Cord (I used 325)…4-1/2 feet per pull
  • Zipper pull or tiny, cute carabiner (the boys got zipper pulls, Princess Thundercloud the carabiner)
  • A charm or inkjet ShrinkyDink paper
  • Scissors
  • A lighter

First for the charms:

I adore using Shrinky Dinks, even though I feel guilty if I don’t let the kids help. I still make them while they’re gone, though, so I don’t feel THAT guilty.  And my favorite Shrinky Dinks are the ones for an inkjet printer. Super easy to use, you just design something on your computer and print it (at 50 percent opacity, which is important to remember!). Then three to five minutes at 300 degrees and you’ve got a cool charm or whatever!

And what’s supercool? They can be double-sided!  First, I designed the front of my charms.  They’re 2-1/2” circles, so I could punch them out with my Stampin’ Up! punch easily.  I printed those, saved them, then designed the backs right over the same circles, so I knew they’d print correctly. I printed out the back design, punched out the circles, and punched a 1/2” hole for the cord to go through. After shrinking them, it was the perfect size.



And check it out…you can download them by clicking here for the front, and here for the back. See how easy I make this?

Now your charms are made, so let’s get to the zipper pulls. These are so addictive, and they took about five minutes each to make. I kid you not.

1. Cut a piece of cord 4-1/2 feet long. Thread the charm onto it and center it. Thread the ends through your zipper pull or carabiner, leaving about 4” between the charm and the zipper pull. This will be the length of your finished pull, so make it whatever length suits you.


Begin tying your knots. I clip my zipper pull to a clipboard, just to help hold it.  I think it’s easier that way.

1. Pass the right cord over the middle two cords and under the left cord.


2. Pass the left cord under the middle two cords and over the right one.


3. Pull the knot tight.


4. Reverse steps 1 through 3, passing the right cord under the middle two cords, then over the left cord. Pass the left cord over the middle two cords and under the right cord. Pull tight.  Zipper5-ChaosServedDaily

Continue to tie knots until you reach the charm.  Tuck the ends under in the back, cut short, then use a lighter to melt the ends to prevent fraying.


Attach to your backpack or jacket and wear it with pride, showing your support for Childhood Cancer Awareness!


Are You Going Gold in September

…in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness?  In this household, we certainly are!  And here’s why, in the words of my friend, Leigh, a long-time friend and fellow Army wife and mom of the most courageous boy I know. My kids will be sporting these zipper pulls we made on their backpacks…check back tomorrow for a tutorial on making them. For today, I’d really appreciate it if you would read Leigh’s account of Tommy’s journey and consider “Going Gold in September.”


Here’s her heartfelt and information-filled account (Leigh is also one of the most intelligent women I know, and if she writes it, she’s researched it…you can believe her!):

Everyone knows the meaning of a pink ribbon. We see the remarkable campaign for breast cancer awareness starting in the early fall, and by October 1st, local and professional sports teams proudly outfit their players in pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Are you aware of the meaning behind a gold ribbon? Neither was I until last year.

I would like to share my son’s remarkable journey over the past 15 months. Tommy is a now 9-year-old boy who is the ultimate sports hound. He has played soccer for many years, so anxious to play at the tender age of 2, that his sister’s coach allowed him to practice with the 4-year-old team, even bringing him in on the last game of the season. A “boy of summer”, Tommy plays baseball locally while he follows the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians with great passion. He tracks collegiate and professional football like no other, with his gridiron heroes residing at Texas Christian University, Ohio State University, and Army; his NFL allegiances are broad, cheering for the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, and New England Patriots. Tommy is an “Army brat” and has lived in three states, has two parents in the military who are from different states and who attended different colleges. Cheering for multiple teams is inevitable.

Tommy started a battle that was bigger and more important than any World Series or Super Bowl on 5 March 2012 when doctors found a large mass in Tommy’s brain. He was transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital where surgeons successfully removed it, led by a brilliant neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen. We could not have asked for a more skilled physician leading the team, and despite the devastating diagnosis, Tommy was impressed that the co-Chair of the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee would perform his surgery. After we received the pathology report with a final diagnosis of cancer, he was referred to Massachusetts General Hospital for proton beam radiation treatment. Tommy’s strength and resilience were remarkable through the entire ordeal, arguably stronger than his entire family. He and his two sisters are adept at dealing with hardship brought on by war and multiple deployments, perhaps contributing to his courage and inner-strength. Noteworthy, during Tommy’s radiation treatments, he would envision the tumor being crushed, much like he crushes the soccer ball in the goal, and “CRUSH IT!” became his mantra. The radiation treatments were complete in June 2012, and we returned to Tacoma, WA to attempt to resume a normal post-cancer life.

Over the course of his treatments, Tommy lost hair on the side of his head—in the shape of a heart, which I found apropos—but this was his Achilles heel. Not the brain surgery, not being strapped down for 32 radiation treatments in a plastic mask conformed to his face, but the hair loss. He endured children pulling off his hat and at one time was called the “grumpy bald kid” after someone ripped the hat right off his head. It was devastating to him and it broke my heart to hear for the first time his profound sadness as he asked God why this happened to him. Even after the surgery and radiation therapy had passed, we were dealing with the second and third order effects of his treatments. His hair has since grown back, though his scar is still quite visible, as he insists on keeping his hair as short as his dad’s Army cut. I am happy to report that Tommy is doing extraordinarily well, and has remained cancer free for the past 15 months. He continues to get quarterly MRIs, a day that brings intense anxiety for us because while life has gone on as normal, we as parents never forget. We cannot show our fear, but the unimaginable nightmare of recurrence will remain for years. While this was one of the most difficult periods of our lives, we were able to get through this with the support of so many people in the local area, across the country and overseas. People made contact with us to get Tommy to sports people and places that have brought him tremendous joy: TCU and Army football; the Red Sox, Patriots, and Seahawks. His love for sports is driving my desire to bring greater awareness through sports organizations.

The gold ribbon I mentioned at the outset represents Childhood Cancer Awareness, recognized in the month of September. Even as a healthcare provider, I was completely unaware of this until Tommy’s diagnosis. I am happy there is a month designated for childhood cancer, but I cannot help but wonder why there are not exhaustive efforts towards this cause. I never see campaigns to “Go Gold” for the month of September to raise awareness or raise money for research. There are small non-profit organizations, but not of the magnitude we see with breast cancer awareness. As September approached this year, I got a wild hair and embarked upon my own personal CRUSH IT! Campaign for Childhood Cancer Awareness. Long term, it is my goal to see sports teams and sports men and women wear as much gold in the month of September as they wear of pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness. For now, I am starting with my friends and my kids’ coaches, asking them to wear gold laces for the month of September while I navigate the bureaucratic hoops of bringing awareness at the collegiate and professional level. I am hoping that gold laces will appear on kid’s soccer cleats, running shoes, ballet slippers, lacrosse cleats, hockey boots, or anywhere on a uniform for the month of September to stand in solidarity the peers they do not yet know who have cancer, as well as every other child across the country whose family has been shattered with this diagnosis. I also had hundreds of gold “Team Tommy” bands with his mantra, “CRUSH IT!” made, and through a social media and direct requests, these gold wristbands will be worn for the month of September in all 50 states!

Of course this awareness campaign is of particular interest to me as a mom, but also as a researcher. When the pathology report returned with a diagnosis of “ependymoma”, I immediately went to the computer to seek information on clinical trials and evidence for best treatments, but was frustrated with not only the minimal research on ependymomas, but also the conflicting information on the optimal treatment. I also found that the disparity in Federal funding between childhood cancer and breast cancer research is staggering. I write all of this knowing that this is not a story just about Tommy McGraw. It’s about every family we have met in our journey whose child is being treated and about all the children who will be diagnosed in the future. I never imagined that my children would ever need to see the inside of a hospital unless it was coming to see me at work or related to a sports injury or perhaps a mishap from an intense desire for thrills and adventure. What I soon learned is that cancer does not discriminate among education, socioeconomic status, or healthy lifestyle. Tony Snow wrote about his own diagnosis of cancer that eventually took his life in 2008: “We don’t know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.” I do not know the end of the Tommy McGraw story. Whether 9 years or 90 years, his legacy will always be “CRUSH IT!” It is my hope that there will be increased awareness of childhood cancer among the sports organizations and teams that he so admires and across the states with the gold laces and gold CRUSH IT! wristbands.

Childhood cancer by the numbers:

*10,400 children <15 years old are diagnosed with cancer each year….

or 28 children every day

*4 children will die from cancer every day….

or 1545 children each year.

*328,000 survivors of childhood cancer live in the U.S. today

BUT they suffer from secondary side effects of their treatment: cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, endocrine, psychological, neuropsychological, secondary cancers or tumors, infertility

*Federal funding for research:

$197 million: All childhood cancers

$296 million: Lung cancer

$625 million: Breast cancer

(Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

Simply Pressed Clay Flowers…on a Bag!

As you might have noticed, I’m a little obsessed with cabochons, those little resin flowers, since I’ve used them to make specimen art, earrings, on cards….you get the idea. Needless to say, when I was prerusing the May/Junes issue of Stampin’ Success (Stampin’ Up!’s demo magazine), I was beyond excited to see clay and molds to make my own buttons and flowers, in whatever color I wished!


Stampin’ Up! Supplies:  Really Good Greetings and Hello Doily stamps; Whisper White craft ink; Rich Razzleberry Marker; Whisper White and Rich Razzleberry cardstock; Organza Ribbon; White Embossing Powder; Heat Tool; Razzleberry Ink Refill; Simply Pressed Clay; Simply Pressed Flower Mold; Large Oval and Scallop Oval punches; Epic Day DSP

The molds and clay really proved to be quite east to use, just as the name implies. I mixed a few drops of Razzleberry ink into a bit of clay, pressed it into the mold, and carefully popped it out.  When the directions say to wear rubber gloves while mixing the color into the clay, heed them. I had purple fingertips for a couple of days.  I also tried putting some clay and ink into a snack-size ziptop bag, and that worked great for mixing while keeping my fingers clean, too!

After drying overnight, I had a custom-colored embellishment for this cute bag of candy. I adhered it using Crystal Effects, just to be sure it stayed on really well.

For the bag itself, I used a small paper bag from the craft store. After stamping the doily design with craft ink, I embossed it using white embossing powder and my heat gun. I always love it when I can incorporate a power tool, and the embossing adds so much texture and interest.  The hubs thought I’d somehow glued an actual doily on it, it looks so cool. Boys!

I stapled the ribbon and DSP on then hid the staple with the oval sentiment. Be sure you fill your bag first with your goodies! These would be great party favors, or for anytime you have a “Thanks” to give.


Throwback Thursday: Stamped Soda Can Plant Markers

It just occurred to me that I really should have taken a photo of these this year, before I put them away for the movers to pack.  They still looked fabulous, if I do say so myself!  I was surprised that even the twine and skewers made it through the winter and spring, considering we had more snow and rain that pretty much ever. Anyway, on with the how-to (these were really fun to make!).

Yes, if it doesn’t move, I’ll stamp it. Actually, I’ve stamped on my hooligans cheeks for parades, so I guess that means I’ll stamp it even if it does move!

Way back before Christmas, I won an online giveaway at Northridge Publishing’s blog…some alphabet stamps for metal that I’d been craving. And it’s a good thing I won them, since for Christmas, my GI Joe thought a cast iron grill pan was the equivalent of metal stamps. Go figure.

Anyway, I needed some markers for the herbs in my Leaning Tower of Pottery that I made and posted about in May.

To make them, I first cut open a soda can (I used a seltzer water one so it wasn’t all sticky and needing to be washed). I flattened it out a bit, then it was easy as pie to use the Modern Label punch from Stampin’ Up! to punch out a bunch of labels.

Next I stamped the names of the herbs on the labels, using my letter stamps and a hammer. It’s pretty technical. Not really. After stamping the names, I punched 1/8” holes in either end with my Crop-a-Dile.

For some, I used kitchen twine to tie them around the rim of the pot, but it was even easier to use bamboo skewers to make these stakes. Please ignore the dying basil. Apparently it’s not a great idea to leave your plants to thirst for water while you go on vacation. But who knew it was never going to rain again in Wisconsin?


“Peace”-filled Summer Bracelet

As I wandered through the beading section at the craft store one day, a string of starfish beads insisted on going home with me. Really, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Once I got them home, I mused over what to do with them for at least a month. As I was bagging up my beads for our upcoming move, I ran across some silver bar beads with text on them. “Peace” seemed perfect for a summery, starfish beaded memory wire bracelet. And here’s the result:


To make one for yourself (or a friend) you’ll need:

  • Memory wire
  • A strand of starfish beads
  • Silver beads (mine looked like little flattened disks)
  • Sea-glass-looking beads
  • A bar bead with a word on it (I ordered mine from Consumer Crafts)
  • Jewelry pliers

To make it, first bend a small loop at one end of the wire, so the beads don’t slide off. From the other end of the memory wire, string the beads. I did silver-glass-silver-starfish then repeated. When you’re about half-way through, string the word bead on, then complete the bracelet with the same pattern of beading.  When you’re finished, make another tight loop at the other end, to secure the beads.

And you’re finished!



Light Peach Raspberry Crisp

Now, y’all know how much I love pie, right?  So much that I rarely make a pie, because they’re so full of calories and I have absolutely no willpower. Pie is my Achilles heel.

I do, however, make crisps frequently.  I tell myself they have a much higher fruit to crust ratio, so are better for you. And it’s true, which is even better!


Come August, I try to use peaches as often as possible.  I don’t even bother buying fresh peaches when they’re not truly in season, but I do cheat a bit and buy frozen ones to use when I want a bit of bright, peachy flavor any other time of year. This crisp works with either fresh or frozen, so indulge anytime you’d like!

Peach Raspberry Crisp



  • 2 pounds peaches, peeled pitted and sliced (5 cups), or frozen slices
  • 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon chopped almonds or walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat an 8-inch-square baking dish (or similar 1 1/2- to 2-quart dish) with cooking spray.
  2. To prepare filling, combine peaches, raspberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl; toss to coat. Place the filling in the prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make topping. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl with a fork. Add butter and blend with a pastry blender or your fingertips. Add oil and stir to coat. Add orange juice concentrate and blend with your fingertips until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. After 20 minutes, stir the fruit filling and sprinkle the topping evenly over it. Sprinkle with almonds (or walnuts). Bake, uncovered, until the fruit is bubbly and tender and the topping is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes more. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8 (1/2 cup each)

Per serving : 208 Calories; 4 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 4 mg Cholesterol; 42 g Carbohydrates; 3 g Protein; 4 g Fiber; 23 mg Sodium; 342 mg Potassium

Notepad Holder from File Folder

These folders are another “oldie but goodie” that I first made several years ago, then forgot about until I saw some cute file folders at the $1 Spot at Target. I mean, I have as many loose papers that need filing as the next person, but you can only use so many folders.  Hmmmm…my brain started whirring….

My purchase was justified, though, when I remembered these cute folders. What a perfect use for them…and I’m not squandering a whole dollar now! Justification, people, that’s what crafting is all about, really.



  • File folder (preferably in a cute print)
  • Bone folder
  • Scoring board
  • Sticky Tape
  • 5”x8” notepad
  • Velcro dot
  • Ribbon

1. Cut 1/4” off the bottom of the folder (with folder closed, tab to right). Open the folder, tab to the right, and score it 1/2” left of the center fold.


2. Cut off 2-1/4” from the left side (from the widest point, if there is a tab on that side). Also cut the tab off the right side.


3. Score at 12-1/2” and 13”. I forgot to take a photo of that step. Then turn folder sideways and score at 3-1/8” from the bottom, all the way across the folder. You might need to close the folder so it fits on your board.


4. Fold on all the lines you’ve scored, and cut out the rectangle formed by scores in bottom right corner.


5. Add Sticky Strip on lower part of each side, as shown.


6. Remove Sticky Strip liner and fold bottom up from scored line.  Press firmly (burnish is the technical term!) using the bone folder, to adhere well.


7 Cut a small slit halfway down the spine and another in line with it, where the flap laps over the front.  Run (don’t rub, as my photo says…silly me) through it and tie a knot. This is just for decoration. Add a Velcro dot to the front and the foldover part to hold the folder closed.


8 Use a scrap of file folder, cut to 3/4” x 5”, to embellish the notepad (attach it with some sticky strip).


9. Enjoy using it! (or it makes a fun gift for a friend or teacher)